These kids are gonna thank us someday.

My kid so desperately needs a haircut. He looks like a yeti, from the ears up. The rest of him is thankfully fur free. But looking at him and his porcupine mop-top this morning, with his array of half-eaten breakfast choices spread before him, I thought, Hey, despite the hair, he’s damn lucky.

His appearance leaves something to be desired at the moment (namely a pair of gardening shears), but he’s got a lot of stuff that so many other kids lack. And I may not be the perfect parent.  I may or may not have dropped him when he was 6 weeks old on to a hardwood floor (the ER nurse was incredibly kind at 3 am, “don’t worry, ma’am, it happens all the time”). And I may or may not have whispered to him, at 13 months after he finally fell asleep following 3 straight hours of rocking (physically and lyrically–after exhausting my meager catalog of lullabies I was singing my own renditions of the best rock songs of the 60’s), that he was going to drive me quack-sh*t, ducking crazy someday–only I may or may not have whispered the bald-faced curse words rather than the PG version.  I think about this little not-quite Mommy Dearest moment often and hope that his subconscious failed to absorb the exhausted menace in my words.

But the truth is he’s got a mom that would do anything in her power to keep him safe, and happy, and fully stocked in the breakfast pastry category.  So, I’ve decided to let go of the kiddie-coiffure failure and my many other parenting transgressions of the past 7 years.

I have another kid who has resorted to keeping her own calendar.  I shared this fact with a colleague in the elevator yesterday as we were both scrambling to make the clumsy transition from litigator to super mom at the end of a harried work day. Continue reading

A different relationship with disappointment.

I didn’t coin the phrase. A wise, beautiful woman who helps lawyers achieve their goals, kind of like a fabulous fairy godmother (for a fee), said this today in a meeting at which we were making an honest assessment of our successes–and disappointments–of the last year.

She asked me to articulate some of my greatest achievements of 2014 and I was stymied. After some coaxing and reflection, I realized it was a great year in so many ways. But my first thoughts were mired in the disappointments. They poured into my thinking chamber and I was drowning in a failure flood. It’s just so easy to focus on the the stuff that sucked, on the moments I sucked, on the times when I was told in sometimes gentle and well-intentioned but still painful ways, you suck.

The meeting was great and emotionally charged, sad and hopeful. It was important.

Our fairy godmother was speaking truth and we were responding with truth. And I came away with so much to think about further, so much to do–all with the aim of doing less of what sucks and more of what doesn’t. I came away with the notion that disappointment abounds but I’m not going to dwell in it anymore.

I’m going to move on from it and not wear it like some ill-fitting shapewear that is riding up in all the wrong places and squeezing the breath out of me. I’m going to learn from it, make a new plan and be kinder to myself. To be as empathic to me as I am (mostly) to others and to be happy.

Coaches, consultants, yoga instructors and self-help authors are full of the kind of phrases that end up set in weird fonts over Facebook pictures of serene waters or close up shots of pale pink roses.

Energy follows intention.

There’s no such thing as luck.

Every disappointment is an opportunity to make a positive change.

They’re all true in some sense or another. Some are worth 30 minutes of pondering while typing out a blog post on your iPhone. And some are worth repeating or tacking up next to your office computer. Some, not so much.

Today though, I’m thinking about disappointments in a new way. And, if I’m lucky (in the self-made sense) and my energy follows my well-designed intentions, this time next year I’ll say to the same group of fabulous ladies (without any coaxing or coaching) that last year was a great year–with more successes than suckage. And I’ll be telling the truth.

Who needs friends?

My then-4 year old announced proudly from the back row of the minivan, “I have lots of friends, but I don’t need any of them!”

We were discussing my still-6 year old’s efforts to make new friends at summer camp. The older sister was stoic. She’d “almost made a friend” that day, but that almost-friend ran in to a full-on-friend midday so the new friendship fizzled. She’d try again tomorrow, with a new friend prospect, and her stated strategy was to be herself and “find a friend that likes math games as much as [she] does.”

It was equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming to hear her process her feelings about friendship out loud. Her sister’s response, eschewing all need for friends carried the same balance in my heart. I was proud of her independence but I was also quick to tell her she was wrong. As wrong as you can be about anything. Like as wrong as a same-day-only free ticket to an all you can eat sushi, store-bought hummus, unpasteurized soft cheese and Champagne tasting buffet for a first-time, 12 weeks pregnant lady.  (I say first-time, because…well, I would have taken the ticket the second and third times around).

She surely didn’t need a lot of friends, but I guaranteed her that she did in fact need some–or at least one.

Friends, I told her, are a necessity. Everyone comes to a point (or a thousand points) in life, when a friend is the difference between being tossed overboard and clear sailing. Friends can carry you over a bridge when you are frozen with fear of falling, or wake you up when you’re unconscious in a sorrow or shame-induced zombie slumber–these are the kind of points in life when friends come in handy. And those points will come, no matter how self-sufficient you are. Continue reading

When it’s time to say goodbye.

I completely lost my shit on the phone.  Hello, ma’am.  Are you there?

Yes, I’m here.  I just can’t breathe.  I am calling the vet for a recommendation for at-home pet euthanasia services and I cannot make the words come out of my mouth.  I can’t say euthenasia.  It sounds like a lost continent.  I’d rather be on that continent.  Even if it’s like a tundra, where even a bug is meat.  I’d rather be standing on the battlefield between two warring tribes of outermost Euthenasia than saying the word euthenasia in reference to my sweet, first, canine baby.

Oh God, that tundra thing is something my mom used to say.  The tundra: where even a bug is meat.  Where did that come from?  I can’t even remember the context.

I can’t.

I can’t say goodbye to Hudson.

But it’s time.

And I’ve been here before.  Saying goodbye when I was absolutely not fucking ready.  Feeling all of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief at the same time in one debris-flying tornado of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I said the word.  I got a recommendation and I made the appointment.  We are going to say goodbye soon.

Here comes the tornado again.  Damn it to Euthenasia, that hell-hole of a continent!

And there goes any chance of making 2015 a less potty-mouthed year.  Good thing that was someone else’s resolution that I was thinking of stealing.  I’ll have to make another–maybe something more positive. Something not stolen. Yup, not stealing is a good start.

So, here’s to more laughter, more love, more making and revisiting of great memories with creatures big and small, and more ice cream in 2015.

Here’s to sweet Hudson.

Hudson, Me, Mom (with Sassy in the oven) and Peanut leading the charge.

Hudson, Me, Mom (with Sassy in the oven) and Peanut leading the charge.

Old dogs, new tricks, toy guns and peace, love and understanding.

Mommy, what’s a gun?

My five year old asked this question after I demonstrated how our sweet 13 year old puppy can still recall the tricks she learned from the kids who regularly played on the porch of our Baltimore row house.  The porch was large and had a huge glass window looking into our living room.  Our dog, then only a few months old, would sit in the window and watch the world go by.  Sometimes the world stopped to play with her–the world in the form of 3 or 4 boys whose ages were between 5 and 8, as far as I could tell.

The boys would hang out on the porch and talk to her through the window.  Sometimes I was home, and would go outside and offer drinks and snacks.  They were sweet kids, never caused any trouble and always said thank you.  They giggled a lot.  And they knew something about guns.

They taught our dog to roll on to her back and play dead when someone made a shooting a motion with their hand.  Bang, bang. She’d drop, tongue hanging out to the side, eyes bright and waiting for praise.  It was only mildly unsettling and mostly cute.  I thought it quite amazing that they could teach her though the window.  I thought that it is was only appropriate that my dog would learn such a thing in Baltimore.

Now, there are no kids hanging out on my porch, except for my own.  They are 6, 5 and 2.  They don’t watch the news and we try to prevent them from watching television shows or movies with any sort of, even comical, gun violence.  Yet they live in a house with guns, with a father who is in law enforcement.  Still, they haven’t really seen a gun.  Ever.  You see, it’s entirely possible to believe in the need for stronger gun laws and own a gun.  Life…and politics…they aren’t so black and white. Continue reading

I could never live in a place without creaky floors.

Not long ago, I drove past the first house we bought together.  A Victorian row house at the top of an inclined street, in a neighborhood more inclined to wrong than right.  Two blocks in any direction and the neighborhood was completely different, far better or far worse.  Baltimore is a funny city that way.  It’s an old city, lovely in all the ways old places are lovely. With grand national history and not-so-grand personal stories behind every centuries-old brick wall and cobblestone paver.  It sometimes felt like such a sad place, with more loss and hurt than feels possible for a place so small.  

Still, I love that city and miss its markets, and row houses, painted screens and Old Bay scented air.  I miss our friends.  And I miss that house.  I miss the way it sounded.

Continue reading

Thankful for all the things.

I’m thankful for my family, for the ones I get to hug everyday and the ones I get to hug every month or so, and the ones I haven’t hugged in years.  I’m thankful for the memories, the good ones that make the corners of my mouth turn up in unconscious glee and sentimentality, and the ones that are hard to relive.

I’m thankful for my senses.  All of them, but especially smell.  I love the smell of a roasting chicken (sorry veggie friends), sea-soaked air tinged with cocoa butter, the smell of my children’s necks in that small curve between the bottom of their hairlines and top of their backs–where the primal loveliness lives, and the smell of cigars (sorry everyone) and tea rose perfume.  I remember how everyone I love and have loved smells, so again…I’m thankful for the memories.

I’m thankful for football, the Real Housewives, and peace and freedom.  This is a crazy world and I’m so grateful to live in a corner of it, geographically and metaphorically, that is peaceful.  So peaceful that bone-crushing sport and mind-numbing, makeup-covered cat fights are entertainment.  Of course there is real conflict too in my small corner and neighboring places, and pretending it does not exist is beyond silly–it’s dangerous.  But I’m thankful that there are more ways and places to find hope than there are reasons to dwell in madness.

I’m thankful for friends who lift me up, and extend their hands and their hearts in all kinds of ways.  The ones at work who make a pretty stressful job seem not so bad, the ones I don’t talk to enough but who I think of often, and the ones who are not just like family–they are family.

I’m thankful for my 10 year old coffeemaker and the sound it makes every morning as it pulverizes and soaks those blessed beans into sweet, caffeine-drenched goodness.

I’m thankful for my husband who disagrees with me all the time, and tells me I’m wrong about so many things but manages to do it with a look in his eyes that tells me there’s no one else in the world he’d rather disagree with.

I’m thankful for my kids’ teachers and caregivers and the love they show to these three maniacs.  And to me.  For teachers who bring magic into their lives and make them feel safe and smart and loved. For our Ewa.  Our crazy, wonderful, I-don’t-give-a-damn-what-you-think, every day faithful babysitter.  The woman who I trust implicitly with my kids’ lives, the woman who holds them like they are hers and held me, like I was hers, when my mom was gone and never lets me leave the house with my hair wet.

I’m thankful for my sister, who technically was covered in the first stanza, but deserves one all her own.  Because she shares my heart.  And because all the best and worst-but-important memories include her face, looking up to me, crying with me, holding my hand and one of my trembling and poorly shaved legs as my oldest daughter made her way into this world and laughing so hard she peed her pants with me more times than I can count.

I’m thankful for my babies.

I’m thankful that I ordered what is hopefully the last of my Diaper Genie refills this week.

I’m grateful for all of you who read my drivel.

Love and peace to you all.

Meg

The Brood, circa 2013.

The Brood, circa 2013.

Boobs in New Jersey and other reasons I miss my mom.

We moved to New Jersey from California right before the start of second grade.  We drove across country in a rented moving truck.  The kind with a small space behind the two front seats in the cab.  My sister and I played games, argued, slept and ate all the junk food our mother had never let us eat before in that 6’ by 2’ stretch of rubber lining over metal.  I know it sounds horrible, but it was really amazing.

We were moving from an LA suburb, from an apartment complex with a drained pool in the center courtyard.  There were plenty of kids in that complex to play with and that fact almost made up for the sadness that a permanently empty pool can induce in a 7 year old.  There was a cement drainage ditch in front of the building and the neighbor kids would skateboard in the sloped ditch.  One afternoon, after a massive skateboard collision, there were skinned knees and elbows everywhere.  For some reason I can’t recall, I tasted my blood, finger to knee to mouth.  “It tastes salty,” I said. One of the kids next to me in the makeshift half-pipe had skin of a significantly darker hue than my own.  He put a quick finger in his own mouth and announced, “mine tastes like pepper.” We all fell over ourselves in giggles.

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Quiet.

I never really liked quiet.  Noise means life, people around to talk to, to comfort you, to protect you.  Quiet always seemed scary to me.  Quiet meant alone.  Alone could be terrifying.

After I got married, there was much debate about sleeping with the television on.  I needed the television, I thought.  I needed the noise to help me drift off to sleep.  And some noise is helpful for that purpose.  My kids use sound machines, largely to block out the noises of the world beyond their doors. Creaky old floors, dogs barking, parents engaged in heated discourse about the appropriate reaches of the 4th Amendment and the intended messages in Taylor Swift’s new single [I think its transparent, he credits her with more depth], and the thunderous, predawn grind of coffee beans. Continue reading

They are veterans every day.

In 9th grade, or maybe it was 7th grade…I’m not sure.  I was putting together a poster board for social studies class.  Do they even call it social studies any more?  In any case, I made my poster.  It was about Vietnam.  Not the country.  Not its history or politics. It was about the war, kind of. It was mostly about my dad.

It offered nothing about the experience of the people of Vietnam, the origin of the conflict, or even much about the experience of the American soldiers who fought, lived or died there.  It didn’t say much.

I remember asking questions as part of the project. Carefully scripting the interview and then posing the questions to my dad.  I don’t remember his responses.  They were unremarkable, as were my questions.  Somehow I knew that I wasn’t supposed to ask “big” questions.  I asked about the food and the music he listened to when he was there.  I asked about the weather.  I didn’t ask the big questions.  I didn’t show him the pictures I planned to use. Continue reading