Happy Place

By last weekend, we were counting down the minutes to beach trip #1. Sunday finally arrived and we were on our way. Great weather so far, and we’re having a great time. Daniel has already “found” three starfish, and Jimmy and I have loved sitting outside and talking until the stars came out. We’ve also spotted Mars & Saturn. It truly is our happy place and we are thrilled we are able to return in two months.

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Lustrum, Pentad, Quinquennium

Sweet Boy,

Lustrum, pentad, quinquennium…those are fancy words that simply mean five of something, and I used them because you have 5 of something: you have five years. You turned 5 on Monday, and I hoped all week to write something about it but as happens too often lately, life has been wild for our little household.

We are so proud of you. You have worked so hard this year in Pre-K and have learned so much. You are soooo close to reading, and each week daddy and I have marveled over the weekly work sent home. Last week you came home and informed us that your favorite planets are Mercury and Neptune. You ask questions about everything, with “Why?” being your favorite follow-up to any answer I give. You have learned a lot about religion this year. Last week you asked me why the soldiers hurt Jesus as I chugged my coffee. Today you told daddy that Jesus would help you find the missing Lego piece you sought. We might need to work on this.

You still love garbage trucks, but you have broadened your interests to include any construction vehicle – our kitchen looks like a Bruder factory exploded in it. Earlier this year, you put together your first Lego set (a garbage truck, naturally), and now the kitchen overflows with Lego trucks of all kinds. When you started building the Lego sets, daddy helped you quite a bit but now it is amazing to watch you follow the instructions and put them together with little assistance. I have a feeling this is only the beginning of a Lego phase, which is great except that Legos tend to go everywhere. I even found a tiny one in my bed. I felt a little like the Princess and the Pea that night.

Your imagination is growing by leaps and bounds. Your starfish talk – quite sassily (and loudly)! You’ve given your trucks and Legos creative names, most of which we have no idea where they came from. You still dislike your name and want us to call you something else, something that changes frequently: weekly, sometimes daily. You rename us too. We had to draw the line at renaming the cats because something in the house has to remain consistent. There are days I can’t remember what my name is! It isn’t unusual for you to turn the couch into a pretend garbage dump or to see your starfish, trucks and Toy Story figures playing together. You love Toy Story and Jessie is your favorite. I like to think it’s because she looks like me, but that’s kind of Oedipal, so I’ll stop.

 

Sweet Boy, you are full of sass & stubbornness & curiosity & humor. You make us laugh every day. Earlier in the week, we had to avert our faces because you declared “whatever” with enough attitude that we had a peek into your teenage years. You have a hearty laugh, and your guffaws are rich.

You are also sensitive. When you are chastised, you hide your face, and it breaks my heart. You find so much beauty in our world, be it weeds or trash. To you, everything is a treasure as you demonstrated last weekend when you wanted to water all the weeds. We struggle how to reconcile your love for every living thing while we tell you that things like weeds will not be allowed to survive.

Recently you have started making friends with the neighbor children in the houses closest to us. It has been quite a process and your anti-social parents have experienced lots of anxiety. But it has been great to hear you refer to them as “my friends.” And I promise that daddy and I will back off one day…when you are 20!

I don’t mean to imply that there weren’t hard times because there were. No one is perfect. I swear you talked non-stop in January and February. There were tantrums and stunning selective hearing and infuriating defiance. Sweet Sir, you have a stubborn streak that has been evident since infancy if not before!

I think the bottom line is that I can’t believe you are 5. FIVE!! How did that happen?? Five truly is a milestone year. Age 5 makes me think kindergarten and the final removal of baby things. You will start your elementary school journey in August. College feels only minutes away.

And I hope that we are good parents to you. We try hard, but I worry it is not enough. As time goes on, I begin to accept that you will likely be our only child and worry that I haven’t done enough or been there enough. And I worry that every decision is wrong because there will be no do-over.

Whew. Feels like a lot of worry and doubt to place on your small shoulders. Sweetheart, you are awesome. So many people love you, and I cannot wait to see how you develop even if it is bittersweet.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy

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Whirlwind

Somehow, in this whirlwind of a year, the Listen to Your Mother season has come and gone. Raleigh-Durham held 2 shows last week, and they were both sold out and amazing. I can’t believe it is over. It felt like we had just gotten started and that we were building the show, meeting the wonderful women who comprised our cast and conducting the first nervous reading. I took a breath, closed my eyes for a second and months passed while I wasn’t looking. But both shows were amazing. The cast and audience were electric both nights. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

*** 

The two weeks leading up to Listen to Your Mother, I thought a lot about storytelling and what it meant to be a storyteller as I prepared for various media appearances (doesn’t that sound grand LOL). I don’t consider myself a storyteller.  As I have said before, I wasn’t the creative writing type of English major; more the analytical, critical type. I dissected stories. I analyzed stories. I did not tell stories. Even doing theater, the stories I shared on stage were not my stories but merely my interpretation of them. Call me a conduit maybe.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone with something to say which is a little absurd given that I have been blogging for roughly 6 years. But I consider my ramblings and musings to be simply that…ramblings and musings. Surely not storytelling. The bards who spread Beowulf were storytellers. The Native Americans who shared myths around fires and ceremonies were storytellers.  I’m just a woman rapidly approaching middle age in North Carolina with an Internet connection. That’s not a storyteller.

But as my 2014 cast mate and new friend Joy commented on Friday in our Facebook group:

People become the stories they tell about themselves. Rather than having to write at a certain quantity or quality to call ourselves writers, it is through telling the story of us being writers that we call ourselves to the page.

Isn’t that so true? And when I think about it, I’ve been telling stories even when I haven’t been using words.  I morphed from English major to web developer, finding enjoyment in coding and databases. I told people that when I coded, I was using language to create pictures and stories, something that I was unable to do otherwise.  While I code rarely now, I think the same can be said for what I do with data. I say I play with data, but what I’m really doing is figuring out what story the data is telling. It isn’t words being shared in a great hall, but it is story telling nonetheless.

***

Our cast is amazing. Last year’s cast was amazing. I truly consider myself privileged to know these people. I got LTYM last year, but this year I think I truly got it. I have a background in theater, so sometimes I forget how nerve-wracking it can be to be on stage. But it is, especially when you aren’t shielded by someone else’s words but exposed by your own. I am in awe of these women and their bravery as they shared their stories. And how as they shared their stories, they heard the gasps of recognition, laughter, sobs, and thunderous applause.  Listen to Your Mother is important because it gives average, normal people a microphone. We aren’t celebrities or elite. We just are, trying to get through each day as it comesThe power is in the epiphany, the “me too” moment. The empathy. The catharsis. That is its gift.

We are a week out from the final show. I sort of picture it like the final scene in Ocean’s 11 in which each member sort of fades away after coming together to do something amazing. It hurts not to see these women every day. But I also love how the camaraderie continues. Writing groups are being scheduled. And we are planning to get together.  Also, TWO of our cast members had their pieces published in the Huffington Post. How amazing is that? I am SO proud of them and so proud that I am part of something that enables such opportunities.

Bravo, ladies. The second Raleigh-Durham show was amazing, as you all are.

NIAW: Resolve to Know More About Surrogacy

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week and here I am posting at the end of it (non-conformist!). I struggled with wanting to post but having no topic and then having a topic but no time. The resulting post may seem useful or not. Happy or not. So here are a few thoughts I have about surrogacy.

  • You will realize the degree to which our stories about motherhood revolve around the physical: morning sickness, weight gain, stretch marks, contractions, labor, tearing, healing, nursing, leaking, hormones. Despite having a baby, the end result, there will still be times in which you find yourself mute and still unable to participate in conversations.  Articles, stories and conversations about the first few weeks of motherhood almost always revolve around the physical transformation and realities of being a new mother.  I get it – the majority of women who become mothers will experience pregnancy, labor and delivery. But it stings for those of us in the minority – will we always be on the fringes?
  • You will need to develop a thick skin as pundits, trolls, ethicists, attorneys, anyone with an Internet connection and half a brain (or less) debate the ethics of the method you chose to build your family and declare that you bought your child, took advantage of an economically disadvantaged woman and are pretty much a human trafficker.  You try to ignore these comments and opinions because they know nothing of your life and what it is like to live this. To actually make these decisions. While these comments rage on, you look at your little boy playing on the floor in the kitchen and feel incredibly blessed for the gift of him.
  • You will cringe as articles that could do serious harm to the already complex reality and confusing perception of surrogacy gain wide-spread media attention.  The latest is, of course, the rise of social surrogacy and whether it’s OK for women to choose surrogacy in order to avoid pregnancy or avoid harming their careers or if they are selfish beasts who don’t deserve to parent the children they wish to pursue. I have mixed feelings about social surrogacy, but it makes me wonder if it reinforces a belief some may secretly hold that I and other women who went the surrogacy route are selfish and didn’t try hard enough. At the very least, it hurts surrogacy’s perception and causes tongues to cluck.
  • As scientists publish about epigenetics and the role the uterine environment plays in subsequent generations, you will have heartburn and anxiety, wondering if your inability to conceive and carry a genetically-related child will end up changing the genetics of that child and future generations. At the very least, let’s just say guilt over whether you are being a good parent starts very, very early. 8 cells early.
  • You feel exhausted thinking about trying to have a second child because that means finding another gestational carrier, starting the process over again and spending a lot of money. You will wonder if going through the process is fair to your first child and if he deserves the resources and time you would spend more. You will again envy people who have second and third children easily, even if it includes popping down to the clinic for embryo transfer. And you aren’t proud of that envy.

But then you realize how your child has pervaded every area of your life. His art is on the refrigerator. You spend more on his clothes than your own. You obsess over his diet and agonize over school choices. You wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without a plan for his nightly routine. His smile & sunny mornings set your day. Frowns & tantrums make you want to hide.

But he is here and he is wonderful. I thank god or whoever for science Every. Single. Day. I am immensely grateful for the technology that allowed me to overcome my severe infertility. I’m forever indebted to the scientists who pioneered and perfected IVF because without them, we would not have our son. And we are forever grateful and humbled by our amazing gestational carrier who went on to carry a 3rd surro baby.

I am in awe of science and stunned, thrilled that it made me a mother. My experience is why, frankly, science can do little wrong IMO.

Surrogacy is unusual. I get that. But you never know what you are willing to do & accept until you are in that position.

I guess my message for NIAW is that surrogacy isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

I wouldn’t have my son otherwise, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Bring on your comments and debates. I welcome them.

Because you don’t know until you are in that position & that is something we would all do well to understand.

Party Tricks

I need a little levity because one of our cats is very ill and we may need to make some uncomfortable, adult decisions this weekend :-/ Note: sometimes being an adult sucks.

Let’s talk party tricks. I have three:

  1. I was ecstatic when Mel posted last Friday that her daughter is becoming very interested in royalty because *I* have been a devoted regiphile (is that even a word?) for decades and can chatter ad nauseam about the British monarchy from William the Conqueror to present, including spouses and fun facts.  I cannot explain the obsession except that deep down in my black, liberal soul is a long-held desire to be a pretty, pretty princess or queen, preferably in more despotic times. I think I’d be a good benevolent despot!
  2. Thanks to taking Old English for my English degree at Meredith, I had to memorize and recite “Caedmon’s Hymn.” A lot of people think Shakespeare is Old English when it is actually modern.  Chaucer is Middle English (we had to memorize and recite part of the “Prologue” to the Canterbury Tales too), so it can be amusing to recite it for people. And pretentious. And I don’t do it much because who cares about a poem written by a supposedly illiterate cow-herd in the 7th Century?
  3. I can stand on my head. My history with dance could be described as tragic due to my body’s inability to demonstrate coordination, grace or a basic sense of rhythm.  However, one class as a preschooler required us to do a routine that included standing on our heads and doing a few movements with our legs. And I could do it! I can still do it!  OK, I admit I haven’t tried it recently although I threaten to, but I bet with a little practice this old body could still do it. Maybe. And hopefully not have a stroke in the process.

There you have my three party tricks! Of course we’d need to leave the house for me to be able to show them off *at* parties.

What are your party tricks?

Still Here

I’m still here. It’s been a busy several weeks.  In NC, we had two more snow/ice events in March that led to time off from school or delayed starts.  It has been a crazy winter for NC. I haven’t seen precipitation like this for many years, and wintry weather as a parent is very different!

Work….we are going through another re-org.  It was a surprise to me. I didn’t see it coming, and I found out via Skype that my team was moving. The good news is that I really like my new boss, and my entire team moved with me. I think there is a lot of potential in my new group, so that is good.  At the same time, all of us on the second floor have moved downstairs.  The two people on my team are in cubicles and I am sharing an office with someone I didn’t meet until last Tuesday. I wasn’t thrilled to share an office, but it’s OK, and I like my new teammate. She has a MA in English, so I anticipate lots of great conversations :-) And I have to admit that the view from my new office is much better than the one I had in my previous office.

Daniel. Whew. We went through a rough month with him. He was obstinate, defiant, quick to rage, etc. both at home and school. I have read that the second half of age 4 can be rough, and we also think he might have been going through a growth spurt because he looks taller.  The last 2 weeks have been MUCH better thankfully. This is the stuff you don’t read about in parenting books!!!  Our next task is to figure out our plans for summer.  I’m a bit stunned that there are few options for the working mom in my area. Almost everything either ends early afternoon or isn’t all summer. Yay. And we might be switching to a different school for kindergarten, but we aren’t sure. Decisions, decisions.

Listen to Your Mother is moving along.  We’ll have our second read-through next weekend, and I’m starting to publish our cast profiles.  I’m stunned that our show is about 5 weeks away.  Where did the year go? And the next 5-6 weeks will be super busy for me and Jimmy. The good thing is that we go to the beach in June, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I am counting down the days.

I guess this post is to tell you that I’m alive, we’re all still here, and I still want to post. It’s just been crazy.  Good thing is that I’m finally wearing my contact lenses again although I’m on one more week of steroid eye drops. What a year!! ughhhhh. I have lots of things I want to say, but I haven’t been able to get them out. But yay for update.

What’s new and/or good in your world?

Being Enough

We had our first read-through for our Listen to Your Mother show yesterday.  First of all…it is going to ROCK!  We have a wider variety of posts this year thanks to word of mouth, and the show, well, I like to think of it as a diamond with many facets (look at me getting fancy).  Sooo many perspectives of motherhood represented.  I am SO excited about it and love the ladies participating.

Anyway, yesterday a few people mentioned to me that they didn’t know how I did it, managing a full-time job, parenting and Listen to Your Mother. I gave some answer about it being my hobby.

Well, LTYM is a hobby, but the truth is that I don’t feel like a very useful co-producer.  Liisa and Marty are able to handle cast communications and getting sponsors and press. I send a few emails to potential sponsors (who never reply because these are the equivalent of cold calls), handle the web stuff and attend auditions and rehearsals, but the truth is that I feel like dead weight.  I feel like there should be an asterisk by my name as in “sort of” a producer.

And if I’m being truthful, that’s the way I feel about everything. Am I a good employee? wife? parent? My answer would be that I’m fair to middling. I don’t feel like I excel at any of it. Not in the way I’d like to anyway.

The truth is that I don’t know if I have a realistic comprehension of what competence in any of those roles would look like.  Does anyone? Maybe that’s the problem. We have way too many ideals and not enough reality. I know I would welcome a reality check right now.

How do you ever feel like you are doing enough, being enough, simply enough instead of what you think you ought to be or should be?

I’m 36 years old. Shouldn’t I have the answer to those questions by now?