10 Things I Didn’t Worry About 10 Years Ago

My Weight

I still don’t worry too much about this. I am a size eight, but for the entire decade of my twenties I was a size four. Plus, things have shifted a bit, as you can…never mind…don’t imagine.

The only time I get self-conscious about my weight is when I hear other women being hypercritical of themselves or each other. Every woman I know has to make a comment every time she puts something into her mouth:

“I really shouldn’t be eating this.”

“It’s okay to eat this because it doesn’t have any carbohydrates.”

“I need to get to the gym.”

Here is what I have to say about it all: SHUT UP! Talking about diets and dieting bores the crap out of me. Can we talk about something more interesting? Over a bowl of chips and dip? Because I’m hungry.

Gray Hair

My hair is about 30% gray, and I actually had quite a bit of gray hair ten years ago. However, like eating, it wasn’t something I worried about until other people started talking about it. I went to a hairdresser about five years ago for a simple haircut, and (while trying to sell me on highlights) she informed me that my gray hair was unflattering. I thought, this woman must have more money than she knows what to do with, because she doesn’t want my tip.

The State of My Boobs

Before pregnancy and breastfeeding…well…I’m not going to say anymore about that topic because my stepdad reads this blog.

Teeth-Whitening

I took an advertising class years ago and we learned about something called an “invented need.” 100 years ago there was no such thing as deodorant, conditioner, and Crest White Strips. It’s the job of advertisers to make us feel very, very insecure. So we will buy things.

The Economy

Speaking of buying things, I had more money when I had no money. That probably doesn’t make sense, but somehow, with three degrees and a good job, I am more worried about money than I have ever been before.¬† I remember having the thought, when was I ten years old, that if I ever made $12,000 a year I would Have It Made. Bwahahahaha…

Global Warming

Ever since Al Gore’s little slide show heard ’round the world, I have been worried. Worried that I am not doing enough to win an Emmy, an Academy Award, and the Nobel Prize. Thanks for setting the bar so high, Al.

Crib Recalls

Every crib that has been manufactured in the past twenty years has been recalled. My crib is from Ikea and doesn’t have a drop down side, so I’m sure it’s safe, but lately Oscar has been getting his legs stuck between the bars. He never gets hurt, just annoyed, but I feel like I am unnecessarily torturing my child, something I was hoping wouldn’t happen until he was in middle school.

Other People’s Children

That’s right, I’m talking about you. You and your 9-12-month-old who is already standing, walking, talking, knitting, speaking Latin, eating Brie, and trading commodities. I don’t want to know! I always swore that I wouldn’t compare Oscar to other kids. I’m sure that he’s very cute, very bright, very advanced, and I have nothing to worry about. Now excuse me while my son and I go over some flash cards.

Organic Cheerios

I always knew that cheerios were a part of childhood, but I never knew that I would agonize over what kind of cheerios to buy. Who knew that they made organic cheerios? If I am feeding organic vegetables to my son, doesn’t it follow that I should give him organic cheerios? Which I am happy to do, except that they cost twice as much and taste like something I found wedged in the tread of my car tires. And please tell me, what in the hell is “evaporated cane juice”? Isn’t that sugar? I’m an English teacher, so don’t try to fool me with your fancy rhetoric. And why don’t they make organic Lucky Charms?

Sushi for Babies

If you are looking for a last-minute gift idea, or just like to read, I highly recommend Matthew Amster-Burton’s book¬† Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.

hungrymonkey

I was hooked from the opening:

“My daughter’s first meal was supposed to be, oh, let’s say organic carrots pureed with homemade chicken broth in a hand-cranked food mill. That’s what everyone wants for their kid, right? I swear I was totally planning a feast of that nature when fate intervened and a doughnut fell on her head.”

This book is filled with hilarious anecdotes about raising and feeding a baby. His daughter is now five, so the stories range from life with an infant to the daily interactions with a toddler. The best part about this book is its refreshing honesty and sense of humor. Amster-Burton never talks down to his readers and never claims to have all of the answers when it comes to raising children or dealing with picky eaters.

Some readers may be shocked by the fact that the author throws out all of the “rules” associated with feeding babies, including waiting 3-7 days in between introducing new foods, and avoiding high-allergenic foods. He feeds his daughter everything from sushi to spicy enchiladas to pad thai with peanuts. All before her first birthday!

This book also contains recipes, which, although interesting to read, are for wanna-be-chefs and “foodies” and contain complicated ingredients that can only be found at Asian markets. However, the author is also a big fan of boxed macaroni and cheese and frozen potstickers, so he never alienates his readers.

The writing is so charming and engaging that even people without kids would love this book, but if you’ve ever grappled with what to feed your child, or if you live with a picky eater, this book is for you.

New Look, New Program, New Features!

I decided to start using WordPress for my blog and have also given it a new look. I learned so much about WordPress in the process (wordpress.org vs. wordpress.com), I feel like I could write a book. Not WordPress for Dummies(I’m sure that one has been written), but WordPress For People Who Are Even Dumber Than That.

Once of the reasons I switched blogging programs is that my old program lacked portability. I could only transfer half of my posts, and I couldn’t transfer any of the comments. However, I will be manually transferring some of the posts and comments and the old blog will remain here for the time being.

Although it is not as simple and user-friendly as the program I was using (GoDaddy’s Quick Blogcast), there are a number of improvements. I can now choose from THOUSANDS of themes and templates (for awhile this was more of a curse than a blessing), and I can now tinker with thousands of widgets and plug-ins (I have to find SOMETHING to do, because teaching full-time and taking care of a ten-month-old is barely filling my day). Because this blog is going to be New and Improved, if you haven’t already, subscribe! All the cool people will (ok, they haven’t yet, but they WILL).

It will also be much easier to leave comments (no more pesky hoop-jumping to prove that you exist). So…um…LEAVE MORE COMMENTS. Please?

Here, I’ll help you out by giving you topic. Which blog program/host do you use, and why do you like it or hate it? There, now talk amongst yourselves…

On the Other Side

Before you got here, you were a constellation
visible only in the southern hemisphere.
I could not travel that far; I could not find you.
You were a favorite song that hadn’t been written.

Months and years passed without your face.
Test after test said, “negative,”
like a bad grade, a disappointing failure,
an essay I couldn’t seem to get right.

All the while the people around me
remained as inaccessible as a sunset,
and your absence lived inside me like a secret,
like a cloud over the moon, like an admonition.

Then I felt your warm heart in my belly.
I heard the galloping of a thousand horses
bringing me the gift I thought I lost forever,
bringing me an open door to life.

Now that you are here, stacking toys and Cheerios
on the floor in my warm office, while outside
snow falls from the trees; I realize that the waiting,
the hunger, and the pain were all part of your story, our story.

Eventually we get to the other side of the earth,
look at the sky, and realize how far we have come.
We see that love is all that matters,
and that we all write our own songs as we go.

Extreme Winter Blizzard Storm Watch 2009!

I was chatting with a colleague on the phone Sunday night when she mentioned offhandedly that I might consider not coming in the next day, as she heard that the weather was going to be pretty bad. I went to Weather.com and saw this at the top of the screen:

Blizzard Warning!

Now, we live in the mountains and we do get snow, but this was ridiculous. I mean, we live in Arizona, not North-freakin-Dakota. I checked again to make sure they didn’t have the wrong zip code. But no, it was really a blizzard warning. Apparently the Storm Watch had been upgraded to an Extreme Weather Alert, which had evolved into a Blizzard Warning. I’ve been a fan of Weather.com long enough to know that a Watch is pretty interesting. We might get some weather. An Alert is even more fun. Could mean a Snow Day! But a Warning means the Serious Shit is coming and it’s time to go into full-on survival mode.

After making sure we had a enough Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, Ruffles, and baby wipes to weather the storm, I kicked back and prepared to enjoy a day at home, completely trapped and unable to reach the stack of papers in need of grading that I had left in my office seven miles away.

We did indeed get a blizzard. Here’s how the day went:

7:30 A.M.

I wake up and look outside. It hasn’t started snowing yet. Liars! Then I remember that they said 8:00. Then I remember that I have a 9-month-old and yet the house is strangely quiet. I peek over at his crib and see a lump. He’s asleep! Is he dead? I sneak over and listen to make sure he’s breathing, careful not to make any sudden movements. If he sees me, it’s all over. I crawl back under the covers and get, I think, about seven more minutes of sleep, which is wonderful.

9:00 A.M.

Darin gets up and brings up enough wood from the wood pile to last us awhile. Our house is heated by a wood-burning stove. If you’re tempted to feel sorry for me (everything I own smells like a camp fire), just wait, later on tonight we will be the lucky ones.

Oscar gets his first glimpse of the coming storm.

Yes, my child does own more than one pair of pajamas. And yes, I know it’s cold outside. I only had the door open for, like, a second. Later on, when we sent Oscar outside for more wood, I did put a sweater on him.

11:17 A.M.

I get an email saying that Northern Arizona University is closed. Snow Day!

1:00 P.M.

The snow begins to accumulate and it gets noticeably darker outside.

2:00 P.M.

Oscar gets a bath. Because the only thing scarier than being trapped in the house with a baby for two days? Being trapped with a stinky baby. Eeewww.

Please don’t look closely at our very ghetto sink.

3:30 P.M.

I decide to make a turkey dinner. We had Thanksgiving out of town, which is fun at the time, but depressing in its total lack of leftovers. I had a turkey on hand from before Thanksgiving when they were selling them for like, five cents a pound, so I threw the turkey in the oven for about four hours. It would mean eating late, around 7:30 or so, which is when Oscar goes to bed and we like to empty the contents of the refrigerator into our stomachs.

7:14 P.M.

I start peeling potatoes, thinking that I will pull the turkey out of the oven soon and want the side dishes to be ready.

7:17 P.M.

The power goes out. I almost pee my pants.

7:18 P.M.

The power comes back on. I sigh with relief.

7:19 P.M.

The power goes out.

7:20 P.M.

The power stays out.

7:21 P.M.

Darin begins gathering flashlights and candles while I keep peeling potatoes. The power will come back on. The power WILL come back on…

7:22 P.M.

The power doesn’t come back on.

8:00 P.M.

I decide to take the turkey out of the oven. At least we’ll have turkey for dinner. Turkey with a side of turkey! And for dessert? Turkey!

Here I am taking the turkey’s temperature. Because nobody wants food poisoning during a blizzard. The poor turkey looks like we are sacrificing it on an altar.

9:00 P.M.

Having determined that the power is not coming back on and that he doesn’t want to listen to any more of my charming anecdotes, Darin asks what I would like to do.

What else is there to do when you have no electricity and a lot of poultry to consume?

Don’t be fooled by the fact that I’m an English teacher. I’m not good at Scrabble. In fact, I suck. Darin beats me by at least a hundred points every time. That’s because I come up with words like cat and dog and he comes up with words like Quixotic (go ahead, look it up, I’ll wait).

10:30

The power is still out and I decide to go to bed. Luckily for us, our house is heated by a wood stove, so it’s toasty warm all night. The power doesn’t come back on until after 3:00 A.M.

9:00 A.M. The Next Morning

NAU is closed again, which is a good thing, considering this is what our driveway looks like:

Letter to Oscar–Month Nine

In the morning you always wake before me. I hear you playing with and talking to your stuffed animals, which is much better than an alarm clock. I swing my legs out of bed, stand up, and turn toward the crib. Lately you have been doing a little dance as soon as you see me. It’s like a shot of espresso, heroin, and love straight to the heart. It’s the best feeling in the world.

I am still nursing you, and although it has been a long struggle, and not always the easiest choice, I know it is the best thing for you. You are often easily distracted by everything around you, but sometimes, like this morning, you eat contentedly while swinging your arms to and fro as if conducting an orchestra. Who knows, maybe you will be come a musician. You certainly love making noise! When you are done nursing you always beam at me, as if I have just given you a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Or the world’s largest cupcake.

Of all my reasons for writing this blog, my favorite is the fact that some day you will have a journal of your childhood, a record of the highs and lows of being a little boy, and what a blessing and a gift you are to those around you. You have given me so much joy that I want nothing but joy for you. If I am tempted to think of myself as too busy, if I am tempted to think that anything in this world is more important than you, all I have to do is think about how quickly this first year has gone by, and how much you have changed. The best thing you have done for me is to teach me to stop, put everything else aside, and get down on the floor with you for a little while. Making you laugh is my only job. I had no idea there could be so much joy in the world.

Of course, you also like to make raspberries with a mouth full of applesauce. Or get into the paper recycling and spread it all over the room. Now when I tear those annoying cards out of magazines, I smile and think, “It’s your favorite toy!” You also love empty boxes, hot cups of tea, and climbing the bookcases to get to Mama’s books. No baby books for you, thank you very much, only the biggest, heaviest works of literature will do, because the paper is thinner and easier to chew, and the because the books make a more satisfying thump when they hit the ground.

You have two bottom teeth and the two on top are now breaking through. You walk all over the place while holding on to the furniture, but haven’t yet tried taking an independent step. That’s okay, because Mama and Papa aren’t in a hurry for you to grow up too fast. We are enjoying all of your little stages.  Your papa and I want to be perfect parents, because you are such a perfect little boy. We want to create a childhood for you that is like a poem, or a symphony.

But we struggle. We are nervous and overprotective and overwhelmed. We weigh every decision and how it might impact you, from feeding to traveling to vaccinations to toys. I am constantly grappling with how to cope when my own instincts as a mom go up against the advice and wishes of the experts, the books, family, and friends. Every choice we make, we make with you and your needs at the center. We know that we are making many mistakes, but we are also creating a household filled with love and laughter. We are creating a family.

Love, Mama

My Hail Mary Pass

Wikipedia refers to a Hail Mary pass as “any forward pass made in desperation, with only a small chance of success.”

I love this.

Isn’t this the way we live our lives? I know it’s how I have lived mine, so often closing my eyes and throwing everything I have into some small distant spot in the future, hoping like hell that I make it.

When I moved to Flagstaff seventeen years ago I had no money, no job, no car, and no prospects of any kind except for conditional admission to Northern Arizona University. Because I had been kicked out of the U of A, had flunked out of community college (yes) and had spent the last two years working at one sucky job after another (telemarketing, bagging groceries, cleaning motel rooms…), I felt like I had nothing left to lose. So I packed up my belongings, jammed myself into the backseat of a car driven by the friend of a friend, and headed up to NAU. I had a very short period of time to get financial aid, get housing, get a job, and make decent enough grades that I was taken off of academic probation. I did all of those things.

Now I am a tenure-track professor at that same university and I live with my high school sweetheart and a magical little boy named Oscar. I have always felt like I scored the game-winning touch-down.

Except for one thing…

I haven’t achieved my dream of becoming a writer.

I always assumed that by this point in my life I would be writing novel after novel, selling each one for a high advance and being able to live off of my income as a full-time writer. I’m not even close to achieving that. I’ve tried writing three different novels over the course of the last ten years, and none of them has broken the one hundred page mark.

Then in November I made one last attempt, one last forward pass made in desperation, with only a small chance of success. I tried to write 50,000 words in thirty days. For the first time in a long time I was able to stay focused about my writing, and more importantly I was able to stay excited about my story. The characters I was writing about came to live in my heart.

I finished! My first draft is 53,630 words long. I got this certificate to print out and the nifty winner badge in my sidebar.

My novel is nowhere near finished. The whole draft is currently a huge, unruly mess. The first half is pretty complete and polished, as is the last chapter (I actually wrote the end first), but the middle needs a lot of fleshing out and revising. I’m guessing that the final novel will be at least 90,000 words. I still have a lot of work to do.