Breaking the Writer’s Block

“You look tired” said the YMCA employee to me, as she passed me on her way up and down the locker room aisles with a broom and dustpan.  I am running a comb through my hair, pinning it back up into a bun, getting ready to go back to work.  “I am pretty tired,” I say, affixing the clasp on my necklace.  “I just ran three miles, and my knees hurt.”  “Bookie,” she called me, and got away with it as only an old sweet soft black lady could, “you hang in there and have a blessed day.”

Truth is, the run wasn’t what made me tired.  I’ve been worn down by life somewhat lately.  We all have peaks and valleys, and I was in a bit of a valley for a while.  That, plus constant work, has kept me from updating much in the past few weeks.  I get up early in the morning before the boys wake up and have to bill hours.  I open the laptop after they go to bed and have to bill hours.  I eat lunch while billing, pump milk for the baby while billing, talk into my Dictaphone while driving so I can bill even those minutes of my commute.  Also, the baby and I have both been sick, so for several weeks in a row there I was not able to sleep more than hour at a time, without being woken by a grumpy, snotty, feverish little baby – or by my own coughing.

Litigation ebbs and flows, and whenever it flows the whole of my life is consumed in trying to keep up with it.  Add in sick kids and sick self and it’s just a nightmare. The world narrows, my hope and optimism begin to dim, and I realize that even with all of this work, and our care with spending, we are still poor and going bankrupt and the kids are miserable and everybody’s gonna die and aaaaaauuuuuggggghhhhh.

Once the spiral gets to “everybody’s gonna die,” I realize that I have allowed the circumstances of my life to overtake basic self care.  I decide that deadlines can go hang – I must make exercise happen.   I get off the phone with a partner, promising him a draft of a Motion to Compel within the hour, and then grab my gym bag and go to the YMCA to change for a run.  I have to accept that the Motion will be late, that he has not set a timer that will literally ding in an hour, and if I’m late he’ll maybe fuss a little bit but I will not be fired and life will go on.  I have to force myself not to stress out about missing this tiny internal deadline, because if I do not crowbar a tiny little wedge of time for this exercise, I will never interrupt my Woe Is Me Spiral of Depression.

The run does me good – it’s a relatively mild day, and I go out into the world instead of jogging on the treadmill.  I do a slow but satisfying 3 miles – lately I have not managed to do more than that, partly because of time constraints and also because of an asthma flare up that wallops me in the chest if I push too hard.  I’m operating on a pretty serious sleep deficit as well, so I’m not breaking any records with my mile time.  But it feels good, almost like the blood pumping through my body is literally clearing out cobwebs.  I visualize each beat of my heart pushing stress and pessimism right out the top of my head and into the air.  When I return to work, red-faced and with frizzy hair, I feel tired but in a healthier way.

Life still holds its charms.  The Professor does funny accents while putting the kids to bed, and Jack runs to me, breathless and giggling, and shouts “DAD IS SPEAKING FRENCH!!!  It’s hiLARious, you gotta see it!”  Craig learns to pull himself up on furniture, he doesn’t know what to do after he gets up there but seems drawn to do it again and again and again, compelled to develop those gross motor skills.  Liam learns to read, almost overnight – his easy grasp of phonics astonishes everyone.  The first day of fall brings with it some cooler temperatures, and I feel the urge to make stew.  I bake cookies to send to two college students for whom I feel some responsibility to send care packages (our summer nanny, and the sweet girl – now grown woman - who read a passage at our wedding, and whose parents served in loco parentis for me while I was in college when this girl was just a toddler).

I would write more, but Mr. Pull Up On The Couch keeps popping up next to me and insinuating his chubby little fingers onto my keyboard, and his two older brothers are hungry.  I have laundry to do, grocery shopping, the week’s meals to prepare and freeze, and we may even squeeze in one last visit to the pool.  Au revoir, my dears.

Posted in Categorizing Things is Overrated | 2 Comments


I have literally three minutes here, so I default to my norm: cute kid stories.  So boring 4U, so interesting 2ME!

  • Liam moved his (my) ukulele the other day, and said loudly: I hereby decree this guitar does not reside in this room.
  • Craig has had two teeth, on bottom, for a couple of months now.  He has expressed little interest in growing any additional teeth, and my concerned side-eyed glances at his gums have done nothing until this week, when he sprouted 2 on top overnight, plus a horrifying gum-bruise thing that Dr. Google tells me is a teething hematoma, and not terrifying mouth cancer.  Little Buddy isn’t really into food.  He likes milk – boy howdy does he, and in keeping with his predecessor brothers, he is giant.  But I gave him a banana puff the other day and it just sat in his mouth while he stared at me blankly.  I gave him actual applesauce from a jar, rather than the overpriced “apples” you can buy in baby food form, and he rejected it.  There is no mashing of the jaws, no attempts to chew.  He’s perfectly happy with liquids, thanks, which is good, given the teeth situation.
  • Jack just started cub scouts and baseball, and he’s also in piano.  Each is a once-a-week commitment, though baseball only lasts a month or two.  All of a sudden, we be busy.  And by “we” I mean the Professor because he’s the one running around to all the events with three kids in tow, while I work work work all the long hours of the day and night.
  • Craig is happiest rolling around on the floor, chewing on whatever he finds.  He’ll sort of crawl somewhere, then sit himself up, then lay down on his back and roll a bit, then sit back up, then lay down and kick his feet like a little beetle stuck on its back.  As long as he’s in the room where we are, he’s content to do this at all times.
  • Liam has announced he prefers to be called “racecar driver” from now on.  Also, he can write now.  Lord knows how that happened because it sure wasn’t me.


Posted in Jack, Liam, Tex | Leave a comment

Three Day Weekend

My birthday tends to fall on Labor Day Weekend every year.  (My younger sister’s lands on Memorial Day weekend -together, our birthdays bookend the summer).  Back in the old school days, I was always the very youngest in the class.  My birthday literally was the cutoff day – if I’d been born a day later, I would have been the high school class of 1997.  How strange to think about.

I got some money and gift cards to Ann Taylor this year – which I know because I cheated and opened my birthday cards early, because the Ann Taylor half price sale also tends to fall on Labor Day weekend every year.  I’ve really wanted some nice t-shirts and shells that have sleeves, so my suits don’t need dry-cleaned as often.  (I also need suits, but most all of the on-sale suits were white or capris or skinny leg pants, so I didn’t get any suits this time.)  If I waited til Monday most of the mid-range sizes would be gone, and you’d only find XXS or XXL.  So I cheated.  Happy early birthday to me!  Bought a bunch of $8 shirts and a couple of $22 dresses, and one splurge jacket that looks sort of Jackie-O ish and was $75 even half price.  It’s part of a suit but the pants and skirt were sold out, but it will work with a lot of what I already own and I caaaaan’t waaaaait to try it on.  The risk is it’s all final sale and can’t be returned if it doesn’t fit, so I hope I’m still a Medium shirt, size 10 jacket, size 12 pants/skirt/dress at Ann Taylor or I’m gonna be selling some stuff on e-bay.  (PS in the reviews, every single person is like – “this runs big – I’m usually a size 0 so I had to get size 00 for this to fit!”  OR “I’m 5’7″ and a size 2-Tall and this was really flattering.”  I’m going to have to get in there and review some stuff and be like “Hello, I am 5’6″ and 160 lbs and I’ve had three babies and I’m a size 12, and here’s how this stuff fits just in case you are not a delicate bird of a human.  Which if you are, good for you, you’re beautiful – and if you’re not, good for you, you’re beautiful too, but don’t buy this dress because it’ll make you look faaaaaat.”  PPS My dad always says – “the dress doesn’t make you look fat.  Your fat makes you look fat.”  Which never fails to make me chuckle.

So, thirty six is upon me.  I keep gingerly poking at my subconscious, checking in to see “does this freak you out?  Being closer to forty than thirty?”  And my subconscious is like – NOPE!  THIS DECADE IS PRETTY MUCH THE BEST.  CARRY ON.

And it’s true.  I’ve had a few friends turn thirty recently, and in the face of their existential angst over flipping to a new decade I’ve been that annoying person shouting (figuratively, via facebook comments, mostly) No!  Thirties are way better than twenties!  It’s true, and I’ve only slowly begun realizing why.  Mostly, it’s because I expend way less energy worrying about being sexy and skinny and attractive.  It’s only recently that I realized how much of my subconscious was devoted to feeling guilty for not being pretty per the American ideal (i.e. slender, toned but not too bulky, bouncy hair, slim face, staying perpetually young, sculpted legs, tan but not too tan, blah blah blah).  I carried a lot of guilt about having a flobby belly and thighs that touch (even at 125 pounds, which is what I weighed 10 years ago, I had a little belly and some cellulite).  Like, a lot – more than I realized.  In many ways, a huge amount of my resources were going towards chasing some ideal that I was never going to catch, anyway.  And now, I 90% don’t care.  A little bit of me will always care, because I’m marinating in these terrible body-image messages just like everybody else – but 90% of me has decided that I’ve got better things to do than think about how my body looks.  (Like, for example, worry a lot about how it feels, because my lower back is seriously collapsing – one of the few downsides to leaving behind my twenties.)

Another thing I like about my thirties is along the same lines, though broader.  I guess you could say my gaze has turned outward.  It used to be all about self improvement, living a better life through better organizing/eating/wardrobe/exercising/mindfulness.  I thought that happiness and inner peace would come to me if I could get my house designed perfectly, pick just the right color pillow shams, hit on the perfect number of pieces in my wardrobe to assure a fresh and professional look that’s classic and not too trendy, spend just the right amount of time in meditation balanced against the perfect amount of time out being social among impeccably dressed friends.  Eat the perfect balance of protein and roughage.  Drink eight 8 oz glasses of water every day, cut out coffee and alcohol, lay off all processed foods and eat only whole and organic.  It’s just so much to keep track of . . .  I’m finding more peace, at thirty six, from being a good friend, being a good steward of the earth and my resources, being a good parent and spouse, being a good citizen.  Service to others is a higher calling than service to self.  All those things that used to consume me are now still a part of my consciousness, but relegated to the tiny sliver of my time that they deserve.

And finally, self-forgiveness.  Kelle Hampton wrote recently about the identity crisis of containing multitudes, and her post resonated with me.  I can simultaneously reject the impossible standards put on women’s bodies, and also really crow when I look skinny in a pair of great jeans.  I can carry in my one pair of hands both abstract but real grief at the horrible things happening in the world, and also fizzy joy over the fact that Parks and Rec season 6 is coming to Netflix in just a few weeks.  Glennon Melton at Momastery has also in a lot of ways released me to do good things, because she has given permission to do tiny acts of good.  At 36, I’ve accepted that I don’t have to feed all the hungry people in the world.  It’s ok to give what you have.  With these zillions of children and my demanding job, I don’t have a lot to give – but we do what we can.

So.  My navel-gazing birthday post, in all its glory.  I know the best writing contains few – ideally, zero – references to I or me.  By that measure, this is the worst thing I’ve written all year.  But that’s ok.  I contain multitudes.  Sometimes the multitudes = good writer and good steward of her gifts, and sometimes it just feels like blowing some birthday dollars on some cute clothes from Ann Taylor and then blurting an unedited stream of consciousness on her blog.

I’ll leave you with a few more cute kid stories, because if we’re being self-indulgent already we might as well just go the whole hog.

Last night, Liam asked his father to pick him up close to the over-the-door basketball hoop in their room so he could do a “slam dump” (he said it “swam dump,” of course, which made it even sillier).

Friday, Jack told me “sometimes when my teacher puts on soft music and we’re quiet, I put my head down and I think about you and I get a little sad because I miss you.”

Craiggers, 7  months old yesterday, is my little soul mate.  When I come home he stares and then wriggles with overwhelming joy, almost in disbelief that I actually came back and he gets to be with me again.  He is the reason my back is collapsing in on itself like a dying star, but I don’t mind.

Happy days, these days.  35 was good, 36 will be better.  Happy birthday to me!

Posted in Navel Gazing (and I Don't Mean Oranges) | 3 Comments

From the Mouths of Babes

I cannot even keep up with constant stream of ridiculously funny things that Liam is saying lately.  I find all of this so charming – a large part of it is the perky, bee-boppin’ delivery.  He strides with confidence through this world, even though sometimes it means he hugs a total stranger or injures himself with his enthusiasm and lack of fear (case in point, a couple of days ago he lost two fingernails at school because he was riding his bike with abandon, and that somehow landed him in urgent care.  Shudder.)  We worry about our second child a bit more than the other two, because he is so fearless.  But his fearlessness also makes him delightful in a lot of ways – open, funny, confident, and always very, very verbal.

I’ve started emailing myself when he says something hilarious, so I can remember.  Here are a few of our recent conversations.

In the car on the way home from school:

L: God?
* * * * several seconds go by * * * *
L: Go-od!
* * * * more time passes * * * *
Me: What are you hollering about, Liam?
L: Shhh, Mom.  I’m waiting for God to answer.
Me: That’s not how it works, dude.
* * * * a little later once he finally accepted that no booming voice from the sky was going to say “Yes, Liam” * * *
L: Why doesn’t God answer me?
Me: He’s busy.
L: Yeah, but he’s everywhere.  There’s God in the sky, and God in the trees, and God in the rocks, and God in the grass . . . no wait, no God in the grass.  But God everywhere else, so why isn’t he talking to me?
Me: Really?  No God in the grass?
L: Because we step on grass, mom.  Duh.

At the pool:

L: Dad!  Don’t take me out to the steep end!

At night before bed:

The Prof: Have you got everything for bed Liam?  Milk, pjs, puppy?
L: Milk, Check!  Pjs, Check!  Puppy, Not Check!

And his greatest trick (I think he learned this from his father – when you think you might be in “trouble,” start throwing out the compliments!):

Me (mad at him for whatever reason): Liam, you’re about to go in time out.  Stop doing [insert whatever he is doing].
L (sidling up to me with a wounded dog look): Mom, I just can’t be good because I love you soooooooo much, because you are soooooooo beautiful, and your hair looks great.

Posted in Liam | 6 Comments

Challenge Complete

I explain to the boys what we are going to do, and Jack says “Ah.  So when we dump water on your head, then the sick people will laugh, and the sickness will come out of their mouths and they will be better?  Is that it?”  When I explain that no, but it will make them feel better, they will like knowing that people care about them, and also we will give them some money so that doctors can make them better, then Jack literally scratches his head and then says, matter-of-factly, “Well, we better give ‘em some food to eat, too.”


Posted in Categorizing Things is Overrated | Leave a comment