Where Have All the Spoons Gone?

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Once upon time, shortly after we were married and all those gifts came pouring in, we had 10 sets of flatware. That is: 10 dessert spoons, 10 soup spoons, 10 salad forks, 10 dinner forks, 10 knives. In the time since, tragedies have occurred and things have been reallocated, leaving us with less than 10 full sets, but such is life. I haven’t taken an official count or anything. But last week I noticed after emptying the dishwasher that the dessert spoon (my personal fave piece of flatware) pile was looking noticeably short.

I knew that one of these brave souls had gone to the trash bin in the school cafeteria one day when I packed spoon yogurt and had no plastic ones left. Aside from that, what had happened? I took count and there were 6. SIX!!! So that means that 3 freaking spoons are unaccounted for. How exactly does that happen? This becomes a problem because the kids and I eat cereal or oatmeal every morning and all use those spoons–3 down. Then I always have yogurt–4. If I forget and stir my coffee with one we are down to 1. One little spoon!

Yes, I am aware that I can hand wash one and use it again or ‘gag’ use a soup spoon instead. But come on, who wants to spend time washing spoons when there are supposed to be 9 in the drawer? I can’t spend $70 per set getting more, matching flatware. Can I buy just the dessert spoons? Maybe on Ebay? Does it even matter?

My parents never had matching flatware. Or maybe they did before we came along and did things like lose pieces in the school trash bins or use them as trebuchets for Lego knights or whatever it is that my children have done with our spoons. Looking at our cabinets, our kitchenware is beginning to resemble that of my parents. We don’t have stacks of white matching Pottery Barn bowls anymore. We have some chipped Pottery Barn bowls and some Spider Man bowls and some plastic Taken N’ Toss multicolored bowls. We no longer have 8 juice glasses and 8 water glasses. We now have 1 juice glass and some pint glasses and maybe a water glass or two thrown in there with a stack of rainbow-hued cups from Ikea.

But when I think back to dinner with my family as a child, I barely remember the dishes we ate on anyway. I remember the food, I remember the way my father laughed at his own jokes as he ate bread with mayonnaise spread on it. I remember exactly where each member of my family sat. If I think hard I can remember my “special fork”–the one with a pointed end and a rose imprinted on it. If my parents had matching flatware would I have even had a special fork?

So maybe I’ll head to Target and pick up a few spoons or even grab some at the Goodwill. Maybe Declan will have a “special spoon” one day to remember when he thinks of how he sat between his father and I at our dinner table with his brother at the head. The mystery of the missing spoons may haunt me till the end of my days or I may find them all waiting for me the next time I get around to vacuuming under the couch. Maybe the universe took my spoons off to another dimension. Or maybe families are just meant to be built on mismatched spoons and chipped bowls and rainbow stacks of plastic cups.

Defeated

Jacob collapses in the chair, tears in his eyes. I swear my brother hasn’t cried since our dog Guppy died when he was eight. His hand slowly opens onto his lap, revealing the blue box, as he chokes out, “she said no.”

Burn Baby

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Burn Baby

The fire that sparked with his birth
Burned for months,
Its flames fanned by his midnight screaming,
Turning the forest of me to ash
And covering me in a shroud of thick smoke.

Those days of smothering heat are blurred,
In my memory,
Punctuated by both of our sobs
And moments of surrender,
That kept us alive.

When the fire burned out and the smoke
Cleared at last,
The bright blue of morning was waiting
Shining sunlight on what remained
And nourishing new life.

The fire took a lot, leaving
Only the oldest trees.
But I know now that it was necessary,
Lovely even,
How that destruction ushered in

Something better.

Reminders

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There are times when signs pop up in your life and you can’t see how they might be related until it is pointed out to you. Perhaps they are never intended to make sense at all, but the meaning is nevertheless created by a common thread.

Last week a college friend posted a photo of a mutual friend of ours on Facebook; a face I hadn’t looked at in years, but that I picture so often in my mind. In the photo the two of them were tuxedo-clad and grinning ear to ear at a wedding. This friend passed away after being involved in a hit-and-run accident 11 years ago. He was 25 and had been married for 3 months. We were all recent graduates at the start of our lives and his was ripped away.

A few days ago, my sister called me and something was obviously bothering her. She had just found out that a friend’s sister had been diagnosed with a rare, debilitating, and always fatal disease. She will be dead within a year. She will leave behind a husband and two children. There is nothing that will change this.

Sunday afternoon I arrived early for my yoga class, eager to see my favorite instructor who had been away for a few weeks. I greeted her with a smile and asked about her trip. Her usually bright face was distracted as she told me that it was wonderful. As she began class she told us that if she became emotional it was because just before walking into the studio she had gotten an email telling her that a student of hers had passed away suddenly the night before. She was a young mother who had adopted a baby with her husband last year.

“And so,” she told us as we settled into a comfortable seat, “let’s remember today that life is fleeting.” At that moment it came together for me. These little reminders arranged themselves in my mind as a message. “Enjoy today. Remember that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.” Living with anxiety, I am often too focused on the future, constantly running through what might happen tomorrow, or next month, or in a year. Despite my constant recommitment to being present and mindful, I still fall into the “what if” trap and find myself missing beautiful moments.

I made good on this one yesterday by fighting through major anxiety to take my kids to the beach on the ferry. Although I was nearly paralyzed with worry and fear in the morning, I kept telling myself not to let it tear these happy experiences from me. Once we were out the door, I found myself able to breathe a little easier, and by the time we hit the sand all I could see were smiles and sun and splashing in the waves. It wasn’t perfect–there was a little whining, some impatience, and general toddlerness–but it was worth it. We came home sweaty, exhausted, and full of wonderful memories, which was exactly what I needed.

 

Time

Summer has begun. We had a wonderful first weekend with swimming, biking, World Cup watching, and a trip to Sixteen Handles for froyo. This year, summer isn’t just for the kids. I finished up a big freelance project last week and because of our travel schedule this summer, won’t be picking up another right away. It feels weird and sort of scary and also a bit freeing. I’m excited to have time with the kids to do whatever we want, but I’m also a little nervous about having that much time with them. It’s odd not to constantly be feeling like there’s something I should be doing.

Also, my mother-in-law will still be coming to spend time with them even though I’m not working. This gives me a strange thing that I am NOT used to having–time for myself. It also puts a bit of pressure on me. I’m always complaining that if I just had the time, I would really try to get something published. So here is that time just plunked in my lap and it’s almost overwhelming to think of how I should spend it. So far today, I’ve had coffee with a friend, gotten my nails done, and worked a bit on an essay I’ll posting here soon to participate in a weekly writing challenge that was brought to my attention by a reader.

This, of course, brings up my usual conundrum of, if I try, what if I fail? This is the one that usually stops me in my tracks, reroutes my attention elsewhere, and brings me to putting nothing on the page. When I had no work for a bit last fall, I did write and submit two pieces–both of which were rejected. But, I promised myself I wouldn’t let it shut me down and I won’t. I’ll have new things to submit this fall. New things to, most likely, have rejected. But it will be worth it. Right? At least I have the time.

Apparently, I’m Inspiring…Are You?

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Thursday I got a wonderful surprise when I was nominated for a Very Inspiring Blog Award by Anniemation Flow. Thank you, thank you so much for reading, for writing, and for the nomination! Please go check her out because she has a lot to say and it’s always interesting.

Aside from the fact that someone halfway around the world took notice of my blog, I was really happy to get this award because I think one of the things I try to do with my blog is to inspire others. Not that I’m doing anything ever so special here, just that I hope I sometimes get people to think about things in a way that they might not have seen before.

The rules for the award are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. (Did that above!)

2. List the rules and display the badge. (Listing them now, badge below.)

3. Share 7 facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other blogs and notify them.

Here’s the badge.

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Now for 7 facts about me:

1. I have three tattoos and I’m planning my fourth, which will have four parts.

2. My biggest pet peeve is people cutting in line.

3. I’m currently obsessed with two very different songs…Chandelier by Sia and Escape Artist by Zoe Keating.

4. While in yoga class, I sometimes plan my playlists for the future, hypothetical, yoga classes I want to teach.

5. I’m married to my college sweetheart and in a year and a half I will have spent half of my life with him. (Ah! I’m old!)

6. I had my first spin as Tooth Fairy last night and it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as being Santa.

7. I will NOT be nominating 15 bloggers. I will nominate as many as I can. I LOVE a lot of bloggers, but the nomination part is always tough for me. Also, a lot of the people I’m nominating probably already got this one, but I’m nominating those who inspire me. So there.

And the nominations:

1. Kerry at Winding Road – She is a constant source of inspiration for me, especially with what she’s gone through recently. She somehow always has a wonderful way of looking at things.

2. Jessica at Like an Apple – She inspired me to start writing poetry again and that is just so amazing. She is a wonderful writer and also finds amazing poetry to share, in addition to being a working mama raising two boys.

3. Mummy Says – She has such inspiring things to say about being a mother and a woman.

4. Amy at Mom Goes On – Life is still very busy when the kids go to college. Amy’s view of life is always an inspiration to me.

5. Bronwyn at Journeys of the Fabulist – Not only does she make me want to travel, but she inspires me to go ahead and do things with my kids that I sometimes think will be too difficult. If she can trek all over Thailand, I can take the subway to Brooklyn.

Ok, I only made it to 5. But they are very, VERY good ones. These five blogs inspire me to keep blogging and, more than that, to keep writing. Please read them.

Off Course?

 

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Once upon a time this place was what you might call a “mommy blog,” back before they were such a big thing. In the beginning I mused on being a lonely, stay-at-home mom of a baby in the big city. It made me feel better. It made me feel connected. And it kept me connected to a big love of mine–writing.

Then things changed. My baby grew. I stopped being so lonely. I took a looong break when my second baby was born and now he’s growing himself. I fell in love with yoga and found my creative voice again. The internets blew up with “mommy blogs.” WordPress became more of a community and with that community came cliques and popularity contests. Blogs started, got big, and disappeared again and again. Everybody got on Facebook and started sharing other mommy blogs and HuffPo and Scary Mommy. Blogs even got their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and Instagrams and Pins. I started to feel better about being a mother and worse about being a blogger. I stopped sharing so much about being a mom on my little blog.

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve gone through a good bit of the process of potty-training Declan without ever mentioning it here. It’s odd, because I documented most of Brady’s milestones with a post. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s not new to me anymore or because I forgot that it’s still new to other people or because I feel like the world is now inundated with mommy advice via the Internet so why would anyone want mine. I began to wonder if I’d gotten off course–with my blog, with my subject matter, with my feelings–or if I’ve simply found a new road to travel.

In the six years I’ve been writing here, so many things have changed. Unfortunately, one of them is not that my blog became “big.” It’s still something that I strive for, no matter how hard I tell myself not to. I think that in some ways I have veered off my path and in some I have found new ones that I want to continue to explore. But I know that the people who have commented on my writing in real life, really did like some of that “mommy blogging” I used to do. Maybe I’ll bring it back. Maybe I’ll find other directions. For now, I just wanted to put something here. Anything.

Inspiration

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Somehow inspiration has gotten a bad rap. I’m always reading about how real writers “do the work” and that those who wait to be struck by genius will never get anywhere. I don’t disagree. Sitting around and telling yourself you have to be in the correct state of mind to write anything will get you a lot of blank pages (or screens). But that doesn’t mean that inspiration is hindering or useless or a myth. You just have to be open to seeing the inspiring things around you. You need to be able to take the things that are given to you and allow them to awaken the creativity that’s already there.

I was recently inspired by a fellow blogger to get back on the poetry bandwagon. If you like poetry, you should really check out Like An Apple. She finds and shares amazing poems. Some, I have never read and some I had forgotten and am so happy to have back in my life. She’s also a beautiful poet herself. I often talk about how I don’t want to let poetry die. I was once a poet. I have been inspired to become one again.

I was always fond of form poetry–something else that has gotten a bad rap. In my experience, beginning with a form can bring ideas to the surface and sticking to a form can lead to some amazing uses of language that you wouldn’t ordinarily see. I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a weekly poem here for awhile and I think I’m going to finally take the plunge and begin. I don’t remember all the types and rules of the various forms and so I Googled a bit the other day and didn’t get very satisfying results. I took a walk over to Barnes and Noble to find even less help. Perhaps poetry really isn’t doing too well and needs my bit of help. Luckily, I saved my Survey of Forms in Poetry portfolio from sophomore year. I knew I had a reason for doing that. I had an amazing professor who is a great poet himself. He founded the university press at my school and honestly, was the first person who set me on the path into publishing.

So I pulled the dusty container from under the bed and got out the old black binder from so many years ago. I remembered that I got an A in the class. What I didn’t remember was the handwritten note from my instructor in the front of the binder giving me that grade. It is such an enthusiastic and encouraging letter that I feel ashamed for not having kept up my poetry. I read the poems that I wrote back then and found them mostly embarrassing and angsty–but I suppose that 19-year-old girls should be expected to write angsty poetry, right? But I don’t think my professor was wrong in his copliments. There are moments of good writing there; nice imagery, clear emotion, good pacing. Once again I found myself inspired, both by the words my professor wrote and the words that I did.

So I think I’ll follow the forms I used in that portfolio and start over again,one poem a week, here on my blog. It’s a scary prospect. I find it much easier to share stories about yoga and destructive toddlers than creative words. But I’m out to save poetry and I’ve got to do the work.

Keeping It With You

The holidays are over. The weather is cold. The days are still too short and the sky too gray. The long stretch from January 2nd to the first nice day in March is often a dreary one. Living in the city I often feel trapped in the winter. I used to think it should be the other way around since there is so much within walking distance, but somehow it hasn’t worked out that way for me. The sidewalk and buildings and sky seem to blend together into a bleary smudge and I can’t help but become a part of it. 

I’ve been struggling with anxiety and feeling a bit lost. I’ve sat down to write so many times and been unable to form a thought to put into words. Yesterday, Brady had pinkeye (yuck) and his first sick day of the school year (not bad). Having both boys at home all day was fun for the first few hours, then it started to wear thin. Since Brady wasn’t really feeling sick, he was bored. Since Brady was home, Declan wouldn’t nap and wanted him to play. But Brady didn’t want to play with Declan, he wanted to play with me, but only if I played the games he wanted to play. And so it goes. By the time the husband arrived home from work I was “mommy, mommy, mommy-ed out” and bolted out the door to the yoga studio.

A nice class focusing on the basics with candles burning, culminating in a long, guided meditation and a savasana where somehow, someway my mind actually got quiet had me ready to face bedtime. I walked home in the cold feeling refreshed, renewed, and stronger. But I stepped through that door and the calm blew right off me. The kids were being wild, their room was a mess, they were begging for snacks when their teeth should have been brushed and all of my meditation and quiet mind were forgotten. Anxiety rushed in and I felt a mess all over again.

So how do I keep it with me? I try to get back to the breath. I sometimes do left-nostril breathing and it does have a calming effect. I tell myself to remember the quiet moments that I’ve had and to put myself back into that mindset. This is nothing new. In the years I have been practicing yoga I have found that it has an amazing ability to calm my anxiety and to hold the depression that follows it at bay. Clearly, I am keeping something of my time on the mat with me as I go through my day-to-day. But I want a way to preserve the wonderful feelings I leave class with, even if life outside of the studio is chaotic. I don’t want that falling apart feeling that I get when it all hits me again.

I remind myself of my intentions from my practice: calm, acceptance, love, understanding. I breathe deep and recite mantras in my head. I remind myself to be present and to look around and find the thing that can make me happy. It isn’t easy. It’s a process. 

How do you get back to the calm when life is anything but? Do you find it more difficult to cope in this long stretch of winter?