Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Sphere

12 Weeks

This year, I will lose weight, stay in shape, keep the bathroom sink clean, finish a commissioned play, submit my work, clean out my inbox at my job, make a plan for grad school, meditate more, be a better wife-friend-daughter-mother-writer-employee, paint the kitchen, save money for Ren, be an elegant example of diligence and grace and forgiveness and stop obstructing my son's point of view with my iPhone.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Big Things, Small Packages

1 Day

10 Weeks

Ren is just 11 weeks old now and Greg and I cannot imagine life without him. Every want or desire we've encountered in the past is the tiniest inspiration compared to our love for Ren and our new family. This holiday season, we are counting lucky stars every lucky second and wishing the same peace for all on earth...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Whatever Gets You Through The Night

10 Weeks, 5 Days

"Did you tell him I write plays?"

"Well, I don't know. I'm not sure it came up?"

"You didn't tell him your wife is a playwright?"

"I don't know, honey. Maybe? If I talk to him again I'll mention it. It didn't seem like a natural part of the conversation."

"But he told you what his wife did."

"Yes, but..."

"I'm sorry. Never mind. I just can't think of... I've not done anything but... I haven't been outside of the house in six days."

"I know, honey. I know."


"I know."

Ren went through another growth spurt this week. We think. The Milk Monster suddenly needed boob every two hours to the point that it gave him terrible gas. One night we spent the entire evening trying to get him to burp. Tears, yelps. Poor little belly. We tried everything from baths to walking the stairs and eventually the three of us ended up laying in a huddle—Greg and I cheering Ren on as he gutturally and audibly pushed. Hours. It's amazing the things we take for granted as adults. Can you imagine a bunch of frat guys after a keg party trying to help each other get a good belch out? Crying, group massages, over the shoulder, bouncing carry-walks...

The first day after Ren's growing jag he slept through the night (and continues to do so, knock on wood). He woke up the next morning a new boy. I swear his hands and feet doubled in size. He is suddenly able to reach a focused arm out at books and toys, he can easily put his thumb in his mouth and grasp things, and he burps like a champ opening his mouth in preparation. He's literally growing up before our eyes.

Next week we introduce a bottle to Ren so Greg or a sitter will be able to feed him. I go back to work in a month and Ren will need sustenance from an apparatus not attached to my chest. I have such mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I'll have the freedom to be within a much wider radius from Ren and our house. Physically and mentally. On the other, we will experience a slight separation. Something we've been slowly doing since his cells started dividing inside of my body. It's a little bitter sweet and of course, a good thing. Ren will see that food can come from more than his mom and I won't have to vicariously remind myself that I write plays.

Friday, December 12, 2014

ante meridiem

9 Weeks

Somewhere deep inside I am pushed gently from a soft quiet to a thin wake
I hear a breath
I hear a whimper
I drag my feet between the sheet and mattress and find the rug
This happens before I'm alive
I find myself standing in a small panic, pulling off the wrist brace I wear to correct my new ache

In his room there is a layer of sound—nature uncovering
I feel my way to a soft light and turn it on
I hum
I hush
I say his name so he knows I'm near
He already knows

I go to him and lift
We are both relieved
I feel a rush fill my breasts
The right one mostly

I carry him across the room, holding him close to my shoulder
I notice he's over my heart
I lay his back in my arm and open my night dress while he whimpers
His eyes move from my face to my chest and he widens his little beak
I move him towards me
His lips hunt until they latch and I am overcome with comfort at his chomping chin
Somehow I am able to keep him alive this way

This magical way

In the dark
I doze
He does the same and I shift to nudge him into feeding again
The picture I look down upon burns into my brain

Milky circles
Glowing in the dim
Warm little circles
A bundle of survival and potential and honest, purest love 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Boca Boca Boca

8 Weeks
8 Weeks, 2 Days
8 Weeks, 3 Days

8 Weeks, 3.5 Days

This week, Ren held a toy: Sophie. He promptly got her in his mouth. (Thank you, cousin Lisa.) Ren also managed to get his thumb in there more often than not—a feat he's been battling since birth. He got his first round of vaccinations, which required an oral dose. It was cute to watch him swallow something without a boob attached. It wasn't so cute to watch him writhe and scream in horror from the shots. Greg and I choked on tears and heartache but his whimpers were over in minutes when we sat on a bench outside the doc's office and fed him. He was pretty cranky for three days after the shots. Especially that same night. Stewart and I sat on the couch with him while he cried. Ren also knows how to kiss. We've been practicing on stuffed animals, saying, "KISS!" bringing them to our mouths, then "KISS!" and to his. He puckers, then opens wide and smiles. When we read to him, Greg now introduces a "KISS!" to the book once the cover is closed. Sometimes Ren giggles about that. It's the most fulfilling sound on the planet.

Ren has BEAUTIFUL eyes. As they say—windows to his soul. You can almost read his thoughts swimming around in them. But this week, I'm especially keen on his sweet, slobbery, smiley, frowny, chatty, crying, happy mouth. He can't speak and has already said so much.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Don't Kill the Rabbit

7 Weeks

7 Weeks, 2 Days
7 Weeks, 5 Days

"...and once they are starving, they learn to kill the rabbit. That's why they chase them around the track."

"That's so sad."

"It's how they do it."

"So cruel."

I'm sitting in the wood-paneled waiting room at the Red Hook Vet holding a trembling Stewart. Greg is outside in the cold, bouncing a hungry Ren on his shoulder. I'm trying to do a life chore without obsessing about the comfort of my new son—impossible. As per the usual, someone asks, 'what kind of dog is that?' and then there is a story about Greyhounds and the cruelties of Greyhound racing. I am always baffled by the evils that humans can perpetrate on the weak. What do we gain? It must be about our egos. The ego needs a lift and it's easier to pull the ladder out from under someone else.

I get in the car, turn around to tell Ren a sing-song 'hello' and let Greg know that Stewart needs a few teeth pulled. Poor Stewart. He's now the second most important tiny creature in the house. We didn't even know he was having a tooth problem until he started bleeding on the new furniture. I wonder how long he's been suffering and think about the waiting room conversation. How would it feel to be the person whose job it is to starve a young, scared animal in a windowless room until they are forced to kill another young, scared animal. Is that trainer just as young and scared? Is his boss? What kind of fear and pain causes that kind of ripple effect? If I were that trainer, what kind of damage would I be doing to my soul? What about the dog? What if YOU were the dog? Would you kill to survive? And what kind of survival is that? To become what someone else wants you to be in order to stay alive. Would you think you had a choice? I see our egos as that human trainer. The ego can do twisted things to our souls in order to keep its agenda.

We have to be careful we don't let fear get out of hand. It isn't good for anyone, especially our children. I keep telling myself that in my sleep deprived, new-mother, new home-owner, new life transitions I must turn off that monster ego craving a 'thank you' or a 'good job' or a 'you're right'—not that I don't hear those things from people I care about, I do—but those things aren't fulfilling to the ego in the long run. Once you go down that road there isn't enough 'good jobs' in the world to make a difference. Let's not do something for the applause (says the actor). Let's do it for the journey, the experience, the good of another and the growing world around us.

Please remind me of this the next time someone criticizes my cooking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I get by with a little help from my Zens...

6 Weeks

Five New Born Tips

1. Mozart calms babies and your household. Seriously, it works. When you play it, there is a reason it sounds familiar. (Thank you, Greg.)

2. If you ever doubted the swaddle sleeping technique and decide to let your baby go 'arms free' for a week—slap yourself. This woman who graciously shared her adaptation with the Internet should be sainted. (Thank you, Greg.)

3. Baby Wise feed/sleep schedule. It works. You won't realize it until Week 6 but the first time your little one sleeps in the crib for two hours in the middle of the day you will cry with joy and wander the living room wondering why your wrists feel loose. (Thank you drunk lady who told Greg.)

4. Stop freaking out your baby by pulling poopy onesies up over his head. The collar is designed to be pulled down. Yup. Not just a trend started in prison. Check it out. (Thank you Aunt Brittini and Facebook.)

5. Rake leaves. If you don't have a rake or leaves—find them. Go to Home Depot and hit Central Park. Return the rake after an hour. I don't mean 'get exercise' or 'go outside'. It has to be just that. Raking leaves. Do it for an hour and you'll love your self, your partner, and your new kid all over again. You'll see what I mean. (Thank you trees.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014


5 Weeks

Here's to future new moms. I wish you lots of luck, love, sleep, patience, good health, friendships, plentiful breast milk, uncomplicated deliveries, happy babies, generous family, and compassionate partners.

Know this:



...picking a fight with your mother.

...obsessing that you are going to be fired when you return to work.

...dealing with a new, unsuccessful afternoon of feeding you will start to worry. You will take baby's temperature, you will sing to him, dance for him, you will take your own temperature. You will Google symptoms and discover disturbing poop color meanings. You will realize it's too late to call the doctor. You will spend your precious and rare sleep time that evening wondering if it was Ebola, something you ate, accidentally rubbed on your body, washed with, or spontaneously oozed. You will spend every feeding after coaching your baby for the Milk Olympics. He will finally eat. He will EAT! All will be well! He will then spit everything up.

...finishing a half eaten apple you found in the living room, you chuckle to yourself recalling having started it the day before. Then you will remember that wasn't you.

...peeing on your own hand while attempting to balance your new born undisturbed, suckling a boob. You will have rolled out of bed at 2:30a and immediately attached him before realizing you should have gone to the bathroom first.

...figuring out how to sanitize one hand with one hand.

...picking a fight with a phone solicitor. 

...obsessing that your friends don't like you anymore.

...realizing you have not eaten a vegetable in three days.

...finally handing your baby to your partner for a few minutes so you can take care of things requiring two limbs, you will look at pictures of your baby on your phone.

...picking a fight with your hairbrush.

...shaving your own ankles for the first time in months you will cut yourself and laugh in a way that troubles you somewhere deep inside.

...cursing at the dog for misunderstanding your joke.

...beginning a sleepy sentence that enlists your partner to change a nighttime diaper, you will choke on the word "help" and repeatedly sob-slobber that word over and over again...

Here's to all mothers and their mothers. Especially single mothers. You ladies deserve a genie in a bottle for every day. And here's to remembering that it's OK to have a hard time. Enjoy the hard times. They're good too. You can't have the light without the [cue: blood-curdling, screaming infant].

Friday, November 7, 2014

What's a Little Air Guitar Between Friends?

4 Weeks
4 Weeks, 6 Days
4 Weeks, 6.5 Days

"Well look at that. He really likes his mother." A sweet, elderly gentleman leaves his cart and place in line to aim his bent over stature towards the thing to which I'm cooing. He's disheveled in a wrinkled, tan overcoat, but not in an alarming way—in an, I-have-bad-arthritis-this-is-the-best-I'm-ever-going-to-look-unless-someone-can-reach-my-hair-for-me, kind of way. He has a slight odor and catches his own drool after he speaks. It is not lost on me how a life is beginning and a life is ending all on line at Target's customer service counter.

I return yet another diaper rash cream that does not work and Ren starts to fuss. It's his first time under super-center fluorescent lights. His first ride in a grocery basket. His first errand with just his mom. We both cried a little when we got out of the car and back in it. I'm still not sure how I spent $75 on Purell.

The demographic of the typical Target shopper mid-day, mid-week takes place at each end of the life-spectrum. New moms and old fathers plus a few Robert Smith-a-like teenagers bleeding in from the mall. The perfect sampling of middle-American life on the grid.

"He's a MONSTER!" Ren's doctor tells us after he explains that Ren's weight (11lbs 1oz) is in the 80% and his height (23.75") is literally off the charts. So far, Ren likes to eat and Ren likes to grow. This week was full of milestones for our little guy: he turned one month old; he slept for five hours straight three nights in a row; he moved out of newborn diapers and into fantastic rock 'n roll seconds from his West coast friend, Mick; he went with mom on an adventure to the store and...



I can die now. Except I'd like to be around to watch him do that for the next 100 years or so...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Perfect Day

3 Weeks

It's 3:11p on a Monday afternoon in our new house. Greg is at work, Ren is napping, and I am sitting in our sun-filled living room, typing, as the mail woman drives on after leaving something in our box. Just a few weeks ago, the leaves were just starting to turn and Mondays were still the start of the work week. I couldn't wait to meet Ren and for our new threesome to start a new chapter in our new home. I don't

It's 7:36p on the same day. Amazing how impossible it is to finish anything in one sitting let alone a thought. My days are filled with feeding, changing, and staring at Ren. When I have a moment to myself, I unpack a box for 60 seconds, check on Ren for 30, take a sip of water, check on Ren, unpack, Ren, water, take a picture of Ren, box, eat, Ren, sit, Ren, sit, box, Ren, sit, Ren wakes up and needs

It's 10:07p and Greg is singing Ren back to sleep. I am nodding off as I type. I think my point—the point I was planning to get to when I started this today—I have these flashes of pure joy that I can't define. I step outside of my life and look around and am overwhelmed with gratitude. I've had some pretty amazing experiences since I've been collecting memories, but it's a moment in the sun on a beautiful fall day with my little family that I will carry in my heart as

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lucky Charms

2 Weeks



"Where is the cheese grater?"

"You... you can't... if you ask me again where something is... just don't ask me where anything is. I... cannot... tell you where anything... is..."

[Gulp.] "...sorry..."

Less than a week ago we moved our amazing new threesome into our amazing new house with the help of amazing family and friends. Life has been a pretty wild ride these past few weeks. We are so grateful to have a healthy child and such loving, generous people around us. It's truly taken the village to get us this far. Ren's Gigi and Papa-son have to win some sort of grandparent award for the packing and unpacking they did for us while I recuperated. Greg has juggled work around doctor's appointments and new-house errands. Returning a cable box seems so unimportant when you're told your 10 day old kid needs the frenulum under his tongue snipped. A very small procedure, but hearing the words, "few drops of blood" makes your heart turn inside out.

Ren is exactly two weeks and two days old today and now that our new normal is creeping in, we are juggling how to set up our daily life. Not easy when a new born is in charge. Last night was our first all-night-crying-baby and last night was our first night on our own. No nurses or doctors, no grandparents, no one but us and our lack of sleep. We've done all the reading about those moments: let them cry... don't let them cry... feed them... don't... pacifier... not... over tired? Hungry? Gas pains? Colic? Growth spurt? They give babies whiskey in Ireland, right? I'm a quarter Irish...

Today, Ren has slept most of the day. It's the only reason I have had time to open my laptop and think about anything other than the color of the inside of his diaper. He still needs a boob or two every couple of hours (who doesn't?) but I've actually had time to go to the bathroom and put food in my mouth. Maybe there's a leprechaun around here with a tiny, little flask...

Instructions for Dancing

1 Week

Friday, October 3rd
10:30a - Doctor visit and sonogram. Induction is scheduled for Sunday, October 5th. They don't want us to go past week 41.
12:00p - Phone call from midwife. Amniotic fluid is too low. Go to the hospital tonight at 5p to induce. Bring luggage. Wait five long hours.
5:00p - Arrive at the Neugarten Family Birth Center. Unpack. Eat dinner. Greg and I stare at each other in preparation for the unknown.
8:00p - Doc starts first stage. Cervidil. "This will soften your cervix. Get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we will start the induction. Some patients begin contractions with this and go into labor but it's rare. This process can take up to three days."
9:00p - Labor begins—we are rare. The midwife checks me and my water breaks. We watch movies. Waiting for Guffman and Blade Runner. Greg tries to sleep. I'm up all night with a contraction about every 9-10 minutes and post-apocalyptic visions in between. 

Saturday, October 4th
1:30a - My water gushes and there is meconium present. Ren's swimming in his own poop.
9:00a - My cervix has dilated 3-4cm. They start a Pitocin drip to escalate contractions. Those come and go every 2-3 minutes. Ren's heart rate shows signs of trouble.
5:30p - I scream and cry for an epidural. It is cheered due to lack of sleep, length of labor, small increase in dilation, and Ren's distress. I dilate to 7cm and continue to have sharp contractions on one side. Either Ren's head is caught on my pelvis or the epidural missed a spot.
8:00p - I am fully dilated and told to push. I do. Greg helps. He is AMAZING. He is my hero, my guru, my everything. Ren's head rears and disappears with every grunt. He's at an angle and having difficulty advancing.
9:30p - Ren's heart rate rockets and plummets. The doctor calls an emergency Cesarian. We are whisked off to the OR before we can blink. Unfortunately, I am able to feel much of the surgery as the anesthesia has not taken effect. I yell out with the first cut.
9:53p - I hear Ren's cry. Every uncomfortable moment of pregnancy and labor dissolve into pure joy and gratitude. I pass out.

I wake to being stitched and forget why I'm there. I babble mindlessly, answering questions I've been asked and exclaim, "Wait! I had a baby!!!" I'm told Greg is with Ren and once Ren is clean and I am sewn we will all be together again. Minutes later we are. Ren latches on to my breast immediately. Greg and Ren and I are the only three people in the world. Magic.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ren Thomas Skura

3 Days

October 4, 2014 at 9:53pm
8lbs, 10oz, 21in
His parents are filled with absolute bliss, incomprehensible love, and gratitude.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Reality Show

40 Weeks

About thirty minutes ago I woke with a pain on the left side of my stomach that made me sit up and reach out to stop whomever it was from stabbing me again. I couldn't speak. Something instinctual told me to take a deep breath. I started panting and felt like I was going to throw up. The cramp slowly went away and I realized Greg was awake next to me and asking if I was all right.

It is the early morning of September 29, 2014. The day our little guy is due. Greg is now in the shower just in case he doesn't get to shower again in the next 48 hours. I'm now Googling about contractions that start on one side and if that means anything. I find message boards where women type in questions like, "I'm at 39 weeks and have a pain on my right side every five minutes. Do you think I have appendicitis?" I'm no doctor but I'm going with: YOU'RE HAVING A BABY.  I get it though. I haven't previously felt the same agony that woke me just now so of course there is a part of me wondering if one of my major organs is failing. It is amazing how our minds can get in the way of our bodies and rationalize things pretty irrationally.

My parents are here, staying at a local B&B. We've all been sitting around staring at my belly for two days. My aunt and uncle are arriving today. As soon as I go into real labor Greg's parents and aunt will drive up and find a motel near by. At some point, Greg's brother and wife will show with our niece in tow and another on the way—she's due in February. We will text our close friends and colleagues as we head to the hospital and then, I guess, the show begins...

So when will the house open? When does the pre-show music start? As chaotic and flighty as the acting profession appears on most, there is a lot of precision at play. You all have to show up on time and you better be prepared or you'll bomb before you even begin.

I don't even know what piece we're performing. Where am I supposed to be and when? What are my lines? There is absolutely no way to prepare for what is about to be.

That's entertainment.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We Could Be Heroes

39 Weeks
"Honey. You're in pain and you haven't slept. You don't have to do that."

"YES I do! This is a WEEKLY thing! EVERY week! It's all about THIS! HIM!"

"Why are you crying?"


"Honey, just take it easy today..."

"I AM! I'm just— I have to wrap some stuff up at work— I'll just— it's close now. I mean something is happening. I don't think— I mean— the midwife said this could go on for days."

"I'll call out from work tomorrow."

"No! Not yet. We could use the money. And I'll do some packing tomorrow..."



"We're having a baby."

[Lots of crying.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nesting for Flying Cuckcoos

38 Weeks

I'm pretty much just a babbling idiot these days.
I hear it only gets worse.
I have NO room for any thoughts in my head except day-dreaming about this extra life that is inside of me, coming out of me, and being in front of me.
I'm not even my usual Preparation Polly.
I have star charts and tutorials, treasure maps and magic spells to hand over to the temp filling in for me at work, but I'm having a really difficult time passing them on coherently.
A month ago I was freaking out about letting my understudy go on and today I'm barely checking my climbing ring before I wave goodbye to her as I jump backwards off the cliff.
I'm overwhelmingly calm.
I think it's the intense lack of sleep and the fact I have lost 90% of the feeling in my hands.
Plus, I'm so huge and swollen no matter what I'm doing, people are treating me like I will literally explode if I'm shaken and stirred.
As if they will be rushing me to the hospital within the hour, every hour.
It's funny.
I'm a walking bio time bomb.
When I was 11, my mother gave birth to my brother.
I talk to her now and she graciously tells me all about her pregnancy and the weeks after he arrived.
It is fun to listen to now.
She'll say things like, "He cried all night unless we rubbed his pinky toes. You remember that."
But I don't.
My 11 year old perspective was not that I was curious or responsible for him but rather it was like we had this hyper intelligent new pet.
I didn't start feeling that intense sibling blood-tie until my twenties.
But nothing compares to being a mom.
I know this now and I haven't even started.
All conversations with my mother include reminiscing about my childhood or my brother's.
They always have.
It feels nice to be so loved but also, I never thought it was a very interesting subject.
"Oh? Yeah. Huh. That moment when you first discovered I didn't enjoy okra I made a face and then stuck out my tongue. That's a good story."
Now I get it.
EVERYTHING about this kid I carry around inside is so FASCINATING to me annnnd... only me.
Greg cares too, of course, but I think it is more obsessively different for the female side.
Not even our own son will think twice when I tell him two weeks before he was born I kept feeling his little butt pressed up against the bottom of my ribcage on the left side.
Who cares?
Moms do.
That's a nice thing when you think about it.
That mother's are the glue of the world.
They are the first groupies.
Thank you, Mom, for making me feel important.
Thanks to all moms for perpetuating the human race.
Thanks Dads too, of course.
Thanks trees.
For the oxygen.
Thank you Internet for holding my thoughts.
Thank you— I'm about to break into an Alanis Morissette song...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Join the Club

37 Weeks

"Has he dropped? He looks like he's dropped?"

"Are you tired? You look tired."

"Are you swelling? You're hands look swollen."

"How's the house? Did you get the house?"

I'm starting to feel a little guilty that these are my favorite conversation starters. I haven't slept because my hands are now dead fish stuck to my elbows. I'm uncertain if the little one has really "dropped" because at this point, gravity makes my earlobes feel heavy. The house... well... that is happening. We close in two days and everything I understand about a closing is that, much like a beheading, it is a monumental moment in time where a group of strangers gather around to watch the protagonist and antagonist hold their breath until that moment is complete. The moment being many signatures on many pieces of paper. Lots of milestones that feel as large as my thighs, but all life-events that billions of people have experienced. It's like a first kiss. Which, technically, is the catalyst that lead up to this point in Jennifer and Greg Skura's Shared Life.

During my pregnancy, I've been in touch with several pregnant women—friends old and new. We've enjoyed comparing notes about our journeys and three of them have recently given birth. Of course, their lives are now consumed by their recent, amazing lot. I'm thrilled for them and fantasize about how many diapers they've gone through at certain times of the day. It is strange not to talk to them. Dead air out there. If they continued chatting with me I'd be disturbed, but it's funny how slightly lost I feel now that they've reached THE goal and I haven't—waiting my turn to jump off the same airplane. No one can do it for you. I wish I could follow next to them and conduct an interview on the way down—goggles squeezed over my eyes, forceful wind flapping my cheeks, pad and pen in hand,  "WHEN DID YOUR WATER BREAK? HOW LONG WAS THE CROWNING? HOW QUICKLY DID THE PLACENTA COME OUT? WHAT WAS THE FIRST FEEDING LIKE? WERE YOU SCARED? ARE YOU SCARED? DID YOU CHECK YOUR PARACHUTE FOR HOLES BEFORE YOOOOOOUUUUU JUUUUUUUUMPED?????"

Greg often works out of town and like me, is planning to work as much as he can until the first contraction. Purposely, all of his gigs this month are only a two hour commute away in New York City. It's close enough that he can stop, drop, and roll if I call in need and it's also far enough away that he's living with a daily concern that he'll miss something. Not easy being the partner. I'm the one who's guaranteed to be here when things happen. 


"Congratulations honey!!!!!"

"Hello? Je... Jennifer? Why... WHY ARE YOU SAYING THAT?!!"

Yesterday, we received an email saying the house closing was set. I called Greg in the middle of his work day to share in our excitement and telephonically celebrate all of the effort it took to get there. I have to remember to be more specific when he answers my calls these days. Poor guy. I almost heard him make a silhouetted cartoon dash through the wall of a skyscraper. We should get him a parachute too.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Signs of the Times

36 Weeks

"Careful you don't fall through, Dad."

"How about this?"


"You want THIS?"

"Wow. I haven't seen that in... wow..."

I'm standing at the bottom of a ladder under the attic opening inside the house where Greg grew up. Mom sent Greg up there to see if we could use anything for the baby. Greg went hunting thinking he'd find old Star Wars treasure. Dad went up to prove what he kept telling his wife, "there's nothing up there but dirt and old stuff." We came home with a few rusty toy cars and Greg's first stuffed animal: a late 60's brown and yellow teddy bear named "Teddy Bear", so loved and worn the Velveteen Rabbit would have screamed with jealousy.

"F*&K. YOU."

"It's hard to text like this. Please answer your phone."

"You just want to control me...
     F*&K. OFF."

"You called me first! Please stop hanging up! I just want to help. We all do. No strings attached.
          They have money for you...

"How much?"

"Enough to rent a room if you find one and some for a little food...
     Where should I send it?
               I hope you are OK. Please don't leave the hospital yet. Let them help you.
                          Good luck...
                                I love you."

My brother is in trouble. Real trouble. It's difficult to know—the little bits that I'm privy to every few months or so. For years I've seen the worst coming, but no one can predict the path of a comet. You pray that rare personality he was blessed with ends up a beautiful galactic event rather than one of the billions of dead stars, burnt out quickly before his or her time. He was born a ball of uncontrollable fire and hasn't let up since. Tough to maintain in one human vessel. In the past four years, I'm the only family member he'll connect with and those rare connections quickly evolved into poorly masked pleas for help. I feel it's an honor. I do whatever I can but I'm a useless joke compared to what he needs and he knows it. It's a burden loving someone so much. I selfishly wish I didn't sometimes and my complaints here are NOTHING to compare with what he goes through on a daily basis. He's had to fight to keep his comet lit since he first opened his eyes. One-on-one battles with the evilest of fear and isolation. In many ways he's a hero, but it's taking it's toll now.

After getting Greg's first stuffed animal washed and stitched, I decided "Teddy Bear" should meet my first stuffed animal, a psychedelic black and purple monkey named "Purple Monkey". Perhaps they'd be cute together in our new little guy's nursery. So I asked Greg to go down to the basement and help me open a couple of boxes wrapped in plastic that contained some precious books of Greg's and the contents of my childhood memories. He went to lift one and it mushed together like a bag full of lead dough. The basement flood. It happened over a month ago. We've been down in there almost every day since things were cleaned up—taking care of garbage, recycling, lawn equipment, laundry. We've walked past unwanted furniture and crooked picture frames not caring they were water damaged—we were going to throw them out anyway.  But those boxes...

Greg peeled apart a few layers from the dough. Everything was ruined—a hole in the plastic on the underside of the box and the flood got to it after all. A package of flashbacks just sautéing for days on end, in the wet and heat of a country basement. I got choked up when I found what looked like my ancient art portfolio melted beyond salvation between two pieces of leather. Old ribbons and letters and keepsakes. A note from my best friend, Stephanie, on the back of a sign language chart. We loved to try and sign messages across classrooms to each other. Greg's books and my memories looked like a bag of lumpy oatmeal covered in a few trophies and mold. Science. Neat. I found a stack of 30 year old pictures molded together. Mush. And then another stack with some that looked salvageable. A vintage image of my newly born, baby brother right on top. It was so bizarrely appropriate for everything in my little world right now. Loss and ending chapters and the start of new and exciting ones. Couldn't have been more obvious a statement of transitioning times than if I'd dreamt it on Freud's own couch. I stood there in the basement and sobbed for the first time in a long time. Greg held me and then pushed my shoulders back and gleefully looked me in the eye, "None of this matters. Look around. We are making amazing memories right now."

I am such a lucky woman.

Teddy Bear and Purple Monkey are going to have adorably weird babies.

Friday, August 29, 2014

My baby does the hanky panky.

35 Weeks

I had a Benny Hill moment yesterday as I left work carrying empty boxes at my waste. I passed two men with beers in hand (the boxes between me and them) standing outside on the patio of the restaurant adjacent to my office. One of them yelled an excited, "Hi!" I laughed and said a sheepish, "hello" back. The other said, "How are you doing?" I said a subtle, "fine and you" and he responded, "Great! You have a good night!" "You too." They mumbled while tracing my walk to my car. I felt their stare and set the boxes down to open the door. They laughed (right on cue) and it made me smile.

1. I got flirted with. I'll take it.
2. I'm pregnant. Gross.

One of these days we are going to have to talk to our son about sex. When I found out we were having a boy, I have to admit part of me sighed with relief for the notion of how much easier I perceive it might be to raise a MAN rather than a WOMAN within this Anglican-American looking society, but in truth, I have no real perception to which that notion is relative. Of course I think being a woman is complicated. I am one. The social dichotomies abound. And... they do for men as well.

Greg is on an Elvis kick. We've been streaming concerts and videos—completely enamored by his presence and power. There is and was no one like him. Who else could pull off that jump suit, and not only be taken seriously, but adored? If you were hanging out with ANY other human being on this planet and he/she walked out of a shopping mall dressing room in that get-up, you'd giggle yourself silly and tell him/her they need help. He was truly King. Whenever I hear Garfunkel sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water", I admire the genius and picture a fuzzy-headed nerd singing to his bell-bottomed, waifish girlfriend on a bridge in Central Park. She has flowers in her long hair and tears in her eyes. They hug as the sun sets. When Elvis sings his version, my eyes roll back into my skull and I see GOD as a giant, male, faceless, linen-draped torso laughing like Santa Claus, gathering and wrapping his city-sized arms around hundreds of thousands of tiny people running to him for comfort, safety, and love. "...I will ease your miiiiiiiiinnnnnnd..." That's power. And damn sexy.

You could argue that in today's world, the ability to control one's power, sexual power—indefinable confidence—is key to just about everything. As a parent, how do you nurture that instinct in a world that is losing instincts as fast as the rain forests?

I have about a month to work on that.

I might be getting ahead of myself. Burping after meals first, then extolling the virtues of men like John Lennon. This kid can learn about flirting somewhere in between.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

34 Weeks

Over a month ago, Greg called me at work to tell me he had a high fever and needed to lie down. Two weeks later he was finally able to get through a day without being horizontal for most of it. He had a nasty case of strep throat. This was a tough time on us since I've become increasingly dependent on Greg as the hours pass*(1). During those two weeks, I did what any loving wife and mother-to-be would do: I quarantined him to the bedroom, slid meals under the door, and disinfected everything but the dog's face as often as possible. I developed a rash from hand sanitizer. Greg and I remember the moment we felt it was safe for us to kiss again on the lips—as good as our first, it felt new and adventurous. Pretty romantic, actually.

At the same time Greg was focused on healing, we had a bee infestation and a minor flood in the basement, many baby prepping responsibilities to fill, and a lot of paperwork to give the mortgage agent helping us to buy our first home*(2). I felt like a real mom. I worried over Greg's health*(3) and nursed him as best as I recall my own, kind mother doing for me when I was small with flu. I cleaned, and cleaned, and then cleaned some more. We ate homemade chicken soup until we choked on it. I was the MC of the circus—all with a smile on my face. It felt good and like a taste of the hard work ahead and also brought Greg and I closer together than ever*(4).

Things have changed. A little. I have changed. A lot.

This past Sunday, we returned from a Long Island weekend journey that started with Greg's 25th high school reunion and ended at a celebratory shower in honor of our progeny, hosted by my mother-in-law, and attended by wonderfully generous allies. There are boxes and piles of baby clothes in every corner of our home and I'm penning thank you notes like I'm doing homework between classes. It's a busy week in the land of pre-parenthood and I'm in a constant fog. I've slept very little, given up on housework, injured my foot to the point of limping, snapped at a friend, repeatedly monologued to the heavens cursing "the man" and "big banks", cried twice at work, dropped and left under furniture a variety of things from my numb, swollen, Shrek sized fingers, forgot I let the dog out, forgot I was boiling rice, forgot my own middle name, and made demands on Greg a blind, starving, flower-selling, polio-stricken, angel-faced, singing orphan wouldn't dare*(1).

Hard days make life interesting and I always learn something useful. Things aren't boring right now, that's for sure. I like a challenge*(2). I just hope I don't do anything I'd regret if I were in my right head. Even as I watch my body expand*(3) knowing "every bite of food should contain only essential elements", I cannot find a good reason to give up my new-found addiction to egg salad followed by vanilla ice cream. I'll deal with it later. They make girdles*(4).

*(1) Last night I was undressing for bed and couldn't bend over far enough to get my pants off over my toes.
*(2) Why not throw in another life-changing milestone?
*(3) I've never seen Greg so ill and lifeless—scary.
*(4) You've never loved until you've witnessed your half nude partner in various phases of bizarre behavior. (i.e., a grown, fever addled man stumbling over furniture while chasing bees out a door.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"...don't drink, don't smoke—what do you do?"

33 Weeks

Many moons ago, a counselor once described Greg as a turtle and me as a rabbit. Thanks to Aesop, we all know the pros and cons of identifying with either lifestyle. And thanks to the Chinese "yin and yang" philosophy, we all know the advantages and detriments of being opposites. Greg and I are very lucky. Our core beliefs and interests are almost identical. It's just that our processes begin with one of us in the east and one in the west. Took us a while to learn how to respect that, but our obvious animal avatars really helped us figure it out.

Now that we are focusing on preparing for our new little guy, things have shifted. We're both starting more in the center of things. It's nice. It feels natural. It feels like real progress. It feels right and good and like real teamwork. Productive collaboration. It feels solid and safe and loving and powerful. It also feels kind of dull.

Every week I punch in the number of weeks of our pregnancy into a browser and read all about what the average of my demographic can 'expect while expecting'. As per the usual Internet surf, I receive waving flags for ads relating to my search. They're mostly ignorable but once in a while a few lines of copy will seep into my questioning head like when perusing ingredients. "Corn syrup in chicken?" This week, I barely recall seeing a kitschy, stock photo of a frowny pregnant woman with one hand on her head and the other on her belly. "Bored Being Pregnant?" I didn't give it a second thought after the first: "How on earth could anyone be BORED with this? Are they selling fireworks to pregnant ladies? That seems dangerous..."


Lately... and really only since we got to this week... I think Greg's tortoise and my hare have caught up to the middle only to sit and stare at the same cocoon. And we both sit. And we both stare. And both look up and smile. Pat each other's heads. Look down again at the cocoon. Sit. Stare. Smile. Stare. Sit. Smile. Stare. Stare. Stare.

I think we're... well... bored.

If the baby arrived now, we'd be scrambling like contestants on a game show where naked men and women are released into a killer storm and get to keep anything they can carry. Tornado Trek: Do You Need It or Do You Want It? We don't even have a diaper in the house. Yet, some instinct must be taking over at this stage—we cannot wait to meet our new family member and we both want to meet him NOW.

All mammals go through a gestation period in order to multiply and now that we've joined those ranks, nothing zaps the human curse of 'wisdom' like reproduction to remind us of our equality with all living things on this planet. It is another one of the universe's impressive designs. Yet every day, humanity comes crashing in to battle it out with the natural order of things. Logic must prevail. We have to prepare and control this. We have to get wiper warmers or surely someone will die.

At least Greg and I are going through this together at the same pace. I'm not the lone rabbit waiting around for the sun to come up and Greg isn't crawling through quick sand with a predator on his tail. I hope our baby gets Greg's hawksbill shell and my big, fuzzy ears. Those are useful. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Saint by NUMBers

32 Weeks

"Honey. You'd be proud. I wasn't even adding it up and it was $65.07. I only went over by seven cents."

"Yeah... that's good sweetheart. But I said 60."

"You did?"


"Oh. Well, I was still close."

"Ha... yes, true."

"So now for the bad news."

"Are you OK?"

"Oh yes, fine! But I did it again. Baby brain."


"I have no idea how it happens. There is some sort of vortex between the cash register and our refrigerator."

"What was it this time?"

"The soy milk and yogurts. I'm sorry."

"It's OK. Thanks for doing the shopping, sweetheart. Where ever this stuff is going, I hope it's appreciated..."

I forget EVERYTHING now. EVERYTHING. I was once a woman who couldn't bear to leave a closet door open and these days I walk into rooms, forget why I'm there, get caught up in something shiny, and leave behind whatever was in my hands to search for later. It's amazing I arrive at work each day wearing shoes. In the last few months, I have destroyed two frying pans, two cookie trays, and a pot. You know, just cooking and baking things for Satan. Our garbage collector must think I'm a fickle sculptress making kitchen themed works out of dark steel and coal. Jet-black baking pans with a dozen spot-welded, lumpy tar discs placed just so. Three times now, I've come back from the weekly grocery-run with items missing. I make a list, pick things out, put them in a cart, take them for a ride around the store, pay for them at the register, and an hour later, stand dumbfounded over an unloaded car trunk having no idea where/how/when I lost the breakfast cereal. THREE times.

Third time's a charm. They happen in threes. Knock three times...

Both Greg and my father are men that pay attention to details and both are men who use those details to show their love. Greg works his tail off to meet our family budget while keeping the bills paid on time and the ledger organized to the penny. My father once worked a second job as the night shifter at a convenience store and went through a period of years where he saved cans for recycling cash so he could send me extra money for college. Their IQ's are as high as their credit scores. It's nice to share my recent brainless generalities with them. They come to the rescue with a big "S" for "Specifics" on their chests. I'm a lucky wife and daughter.

"do u know what this week is," my father texts.

"Week 32!"

"yes! and it is also the 32nd week if the year"

"How cool!"

"that means something"

"Surely, it has to."

"dOne call me shirley"

"OK Laverne. Cool number thing. You love that."

"i do. numbers are specail."

"Like your wedding date on your license plate."

"yes. your week 32 is alos week 32 of the year! a good number. cuz you'r special and i Love you"

"Aw, Daddy. I love you, too."

"my thumbs are too big for this phone"

"These days my brain is too dumb for mine." 

"don't worry daughter. it only lasts fore  the rest of your life."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rage Against the Latrine

Piazza Weeks

BD: "Not me."

Me: "Excuse me? It happened five seconds ago!"

Greg: "She's pregnant you know!"

BD: "It wasn't, lady."

Me: "What do you...!? I just now got out of my car and walked directly over to you as you were getting out of yours... your car over... there. You cut me off!"

BD: "Not me."

Me: "I almost plowed into you!"

Greg: "Look, she swerved not to hit you."

BD: "Nah. I was pulling out of— I wasn't— I... didn't do it."

Me: "OH MY— just... forget it. Watch out... look out where you're... BE CAREFUL... OUT THERE... DRIVING!"

I pee every hour now. I read it would happen and it has. If I don't have access to a bathroom every 60 minutes, I run the risk of rushing needlessly to the emergency room with 'broken water' in order to protect my dignity. Then I'd have to add to the lie. When I got home from my fake race to the hospital, I'd have to tell everyone it was a false alarm. Then I'd go to work and spin yarns about the possibilities of breaking water and remaining pregnant. "Two amniotic sacs. Yeah. It's rare but, no... yes... I had one put in just in case. Sure... yeah, they are expensive..."

Three times within this past week I have avoided a car accident. I know I'm a bad driving stereotype right now, but I promise, I was not the antagonist for any of these heart attacks. The first two left me strained against the seat belt after brief stream-of-conscious, foul-mouthed slurs. The perpetrators shielding his/her head as he/she continued on his/her merry way. Not even a shruggy-shouldered, scrunchy-mouth-mimed, "I'm sorry" face through the window as they passed by. Grrr. Those left me shaking and in need of the toilet sooner than anticipated.

The last near-collision happened this past weekend when a car full of the cast from The Young Ones whipped around our car to turn left into a parking lot as I was turning left into the same spot. Luckily, I swerved at the last moment - Greg and I cursing simultaneously. I headed in the opposite direction, calmly parked, noted where the clown-car stopped, pulled the keys from the ignition, turned to Greg and said, "WATCH THIS!" I stomped my fat belly right up to the driver as his gang streamed past on either side of us, husband-and-new-father-to-be following protectively at my side.  A kid stepped out of the SUV while wrestling with his shirt over his head and a lit cigarette hanging from his lips. I swear his eyes went in opposite directions after he finally figured out how to dress himself without losing a drag. He took a few steps toward us. It was at this moment I felt the warmth trigger my nether regions. My eyes momentarily matched his googly directions and I almost kept walking beyond him—bathroom first, shaming next. I fought it and squeezed.

Me: "HEY! You cut me off!"

BD: "Who...?"

What came out of my mouth after that wasn't very clear or concise and I felt myself getting more stupid as I tried to rant against his infantile, "nuh-uh" defense. But I had power. It felt good to face my anger. I was overwhelmed with what my dear friend K, calls "Mama Bear", rising inside and I stood up for my family. The confrontation lasted all of 15 seconds when Greg and I realized we may as well be arguing with the brick wall Brain Dead leaned against. We walked into the same store and heard him complaining to his friends. "You ain't dead are you? What are you whining about?" one of them passive aggressively barked as they stood near us on line. I felt the warmth again and squeezed. Nope. I'm not hiding in the bathroom now.

When we got back home I almost ran upstairs to the toilet, but I didn't. I held the urge back yet again and took the garbage down to the cellar instead. That'll show 'em.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eye of the Beheld

30 Weeks

"What you rehearse is what you'll perform."

Big lesson in making theatre. You MUST take the time to rehearse and you must honor that time by rehearsing with sincerity. Otherwise, the time you set aside to rehearse is a social gathering and by opening night what you share with your audience is disconnected from the purpose. You dishonor the point if you don't take it seriously. In the grand scheme of things, is it really that important to dress up in strange clothes, recite planned narrative, and behave through carefully executed choreography in front of a group of people as if it were a spontaneous event? Maybe. Roger Ebert believed that "empathy is the most essential quality of civilization" and he thought the art of cinema was the perfect tool to communally experience compassion. I get it. Film is important, but in my life, theatre is my tool of preference. I dig the live action stuff. There is a large gap between the process of creating theatre versus film. No app for it. Theatre is increasingly more challenging to produce than film and, it, too, is an exceptional tool for teaching civilization's essential quality. I believe theatre is even more powerful than film. Especially when all of the stars align, which takes time and practice. If you're as prepared as you can be, you can make magic. Live souls in one moment riding the same wave, together. There's nothing like it. It transcends.

Since I see the world through theatre-colored glasses, I would say that I find about 90% of life pretty entertaining. I'll argue that as Buddhist behavior. I don't think cruelty, war, greed, terror, apathy, hate, fear is amusing, but I do think spending more than 10% of my time focusing on those things isn't useful. Even if you are living in the middle of them, how you choose to feel about your world is up to you. Don't mistake me for thinking this means I decide to stick my head in the sand when trouble bubbles up. I don't mean that. I think if at all possible, conflict should be dealt with head on, not ignored, and facing those fears responsibly without letting the emotions of the situation take over is key. Sometimes that is impossible, since we're human and all, but if you practice laughing every time you're cut off in traffic on your commute through the daily circus, maybe you'll be more serene when you find out your spouse needs an operation to save his life. Maybe. Rehearsal is important.

I have a friend whose father has Alzheimer's. She recently told me a-day-in-the-life story about him and she told it with such interest and amusement that we were both holding our sides from laughing so hard. Her father woke from a nap and happily got ready to participate in 'movie night' at the Center. Joined the group. Five minutes in, decided he didn't like the movie and went back to his apartment. Watched TV for a few minutes. Happily remembered it was 'movie night' so he went to join the group. Loved the movie. Had an accident and needed to change his pants. Went back to his apartment, changed his shirt, then joined the group for the start of 'movie night'. Alzheimer's isn't funny. Not at all. But the way she shared this story about an experience with this awful disease was not only entertaining, she made me feel empathetic about her situation. I admire and am inspired by her strength. Strength that comes from practice. I know this because she told me. It wasn't always easy for her to laugh at her father's behavior.

Greg and I often share articles and information with each other we know the other will find interesting. Lately, the subjects are mostly about parenting. He emailed me a link to one this morning about the trend in teaching our kids happiness through self-confidence, self-reliance, self-help, and what might be a rising trend is the lack of instruction on kindness, compassion, empathy, and sympathy. We could be shooting ourselves in our civilized feet—that in actuality, being kind and compassionate makes a person happier, more self-confident and self-reliant. Teach empathy first as a tool for gaining happiness.

I'm starting rehearsals right away. Who needs a helping hand and a good laugh? Moving? I'm there. You can watch me try to lift things off the ground. It's hilarious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Bliss of Ignorance

29 Weeks

Five Reasons I Feel Prepared to Be a Mom

1. A Needy Little Dog Covered in Poop. Standing at the kitchen sink, I look up and rap loudly on the window. Stewart, our 11 pound Italian Greyhound, flinches, glances around the backyard nervously, then goes right back to his favorite outdoor activity: rolling around in exotic feces. I read somewhere that small animals have this instinct as a measure of protection from larger prey. Mother Nature: smart. What I have a really hard time understanding is that this little mammal, who is capable of learning a variety of intelligent behavior that Greg and I have personally taught him, NEVER EVER EVER learns that a) he's a house pet and has no mortal enemies and b) if he rolls around in deer s*%t, I will fiercely yell, scream to the point of seizure, hold him down, spray him with a hose, spank him, gruffly throw him in a bathtub, and scrub him fragrantly. One of the perks of dog ownership in the country—watching your man's-best-friend gallop throughout a plain of grass. One of the irks—watching your little guy go temporarily blind by pushing his head into a cow paddy.

2. Babysitting A Two Year Old Diva. I am eleven years older than my only sibling, Dallas's own infamous Drag Queen, Onya Stereo. The same week I got my first kiss, I played tug-of-war with my tiny kin using one of my white pumps. He won. When he was left in my charge, I would often chase him around the house to remove my mother's lipstick from his quick hands, distract him by letting him roughly brush or style my long hair, and get him to bed by promising to sing a George Michael hit until he fell asleep. He once had to be escorted out of my high school theatrical debut for repeatedly yelling out my name and another time, he put my entire Barbie collection in the oven so they could 'go to sleep'. They did. My parents would bring him to watch me cheerlead at basketball games. Sometimes he joined in. They nick-named him the Tasmanian Devil and started making him wear a leash wherever we went. One Saturday afternoon, I invited the coolest girl in school over to our house. My pubescent nightmare clomped into my room wearing high heels, makeup, and one of my old tutus made of shear, pink fabric. He wasn't wearing any underwear. Today, my brother is thirty and if he set me on fire I would still love him. 

3. The Harem. I'm a woman. I often feel like an 80 year old, homosexual man trapped in a woman's body, but I couldn't prove my femininity any more clearly than my current state. Because of my femaleness, I have the honor of being in the Lady Club. I am lucky enough to have grandmothers, mothers, good friends who are mothers, good friends who are women who have mothers, and I happen to work in an office full of women, many of them mothers who also know lots of women and mothers. I observe, listen, and take in all I can on the subject of mothering. Plus, I'm not afraid to ask for advice or help. I trust the sisterhood. If six months from now I am found babbling to myself through the produce section of our local grocery store without pants, I am confident one of the female persuasion will knowingly take my hand and calmly help me find my way back home.

4. Theatre. If you know anything about theatre, you know that it is a pure collaborative art form that juggles many egos, personalities, ideas, cultures, processes, practices, commitments, and vulnerabilities all in the name of one all-consuming, passionate goal. You also know it has another name: Drama. I have had a fair share of drama in my life and the show always went on. Often with people I love and trust. If I can endure years of death-inducing embarrassments while standing alone, center stage in front of a live audience, I can endure the heartbreak of my teenage son not wanting to be seen with me. Right? Ouch. 

5. Marriage. Yep.

I realize that being an actual mother will be like nothing I've ever known. I can only hope some of my life experiences will be of some use. Then again, Greg just proofread my writing before I posted this and said, "It's good. I put in a few commas... I'm not really sure what those things have to do with your theme." 


Well. I assured him I know enough not to use the backyard hose on the boy if he's covered in poop. At least not in winter.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Who Let the Dogs Out?

28 Weeks

"Mom. Mom. Mo— Mom, mom, mom, mo— MOM!"


"I'm not done with it yet. I'll let you know when I am and you can look it over."

"You've got to finish it soon."

"I know. I will... am."

"The invitations have gone out, you know. And honey, I looked at it today and you didn't even pick out a swing or a bouncy seat or a schmlacka-do-diddly-schlooka. Everyone needs at least four of those. Plus, don't forget the schmoolidly-schlooky-loo and schmloka-moo-moo-oopah-neegla. Those are very important."

"They are?"

"Trust me. You'll need one!"

I sit at my desk at work and my office-mate steps out to go to lunch. I take the opportunity to call the doctor's office to set up yet another appointment. I'm an old mom. They need to see me often. The operator answers and I realize I've reached the switchboard for the entire practice. I tell her I need to be transferred to... "to... awbeh... ohwbsteh... ohwbsterrr-ehhkkee-hhee-TRICKS." She pauses to decipher. Tells me to hold on. I wanted to shout, "Wait! I've never said that word out loud before! I'm not an idiot. Really. I can read and stuff. And I know I'm 41, 6 months pregnant, and should know by now how to pronounce things like that, but— I'm not going to be a horrible mother! I won't. I promise! I'll do better! I'LL DO BETTER!" I sit with the muzak in my ear and wonder what in the world just happened to me. In a flash, my mind was stolen and replaced with one from a talking dog. I remind myself to read more. 

"I don't know."

"Well... what colors then? If you don't have a theme, what do I tell people your colors are?"

"I... I... don't know."

"Ok, sweetie. Why don't you look at those places I told you about online and let me know what set you like. Your father and I want to get the bedding for him. Just pick something out. You've got to do it soon."

Months ago, Greg and I went for a walk in our neighborhood. I was about 12 weeks pregnant and we were still very new to the idea. On our way up the street, we run into our neighbors. The Perfects. They have a fantastic country home partially constructed by their own hands. Two adorable boys that they rule idyllically. They chop their own wood. They keep chickens for fresh eggs. Since we moved to 'the country', this family has been our ideal. Before they settled down, they both traveled the world and now they have created a happy, modest, beautiful home. All while managing to be good looking, Fonzie cool, and stylish. Greg and I haven't shared our news yet with many, but this time we can't help ourselves for the pride: "We're pregnant!" The Perfects gush appropriately and tell us about their home births and give out advice. We listen with Talking Dog Brain as the wave of information and questions crash against our foreheads. "Are you getting a doula?" I blink a few times and our neighbor repeats himself. He's from New Zealand. I think perhaps I don't understand his accent then realize it's been quiet for far too long and respond, "I... I... don't know... what you're saying..." They explain. I tell myself it's time to pick up some birthing books.

"Honey. You've got cheap diapers listed here."

"Someone told me they're the best."

"What about a breast pump?"

"Mom. I'm not done. I know I should be but I'm just not. I'll finish soon. I promise."

"Jim and Kathy want to get you the changing table and it says here it isn't available online. You need to pick out another one."

"Who are Jim and Kath..."

"And you're going to need a schmoolky-doodle-doo."

"All right. How do you spell that?"

I, just now, as of yesterday, finally finished doing that thing that modern American woman MUST do before giving birth: set up the baby registry. This not only allows you to make a list of things for generous people to buy for your new child, it also gives you an opportunity to hold up a mirror to what is lacking in your mothering soul. You know, showing you just how ignorant you really are about this new world into which you are about to step. I think once you've completed the registry they should mail you a t-shirt from Consumer Affairs that says right across the belly, "I'm with Stupid."

How do you pack for a surprise trip? If I show up in Alaska with my flip-flops and a bikini, well, I'll need a little help from my mothers and friends who are mothers. I'll depend on them to advise, guide, push, and hopefully remind me where I packed my sense of humor. Setting up this registry was a giant slap in the jaw. There is a baby coming. And he'll need stuff. And you might kill him if you bring flip flops. It took me two hours to pick out a mobile. What if the music scares him? If the lights are out, will he even see it move? Which mobile will make him smart, healthy, and protect him from the evils of the world? The devil in the details takes over when you are shopping for something you've never thought about. Ever.

Nursery theme? Right. His room needs furniture and it should probably reflect a sense of our family style. Is thrift-store a good aesthetic? I chose simple: Black and White. Even talking dogs see in black and white.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Grateful Haiku For You, and You and You and...

27 Weeks

There are sublime friends
They smile and slap our tense backs
We give up worry

We don't need it now
Take it home to your new boy
A neighborhood nests

His head lifts to me
If I move, he follows close
Small dog, my BIG guard

Hey little, small one
Take your time and absorb breath
You'll soon do it here

Hello from me now
Is it OK I need you?
"Evermore your root"

Hey there with your thumb
I'll pick you up any time
On we go with love

"Are you needing us?"
"Yes!" we say. "Yes!" Yes!" "Yes! "Yes!"
Their wings close around

I wrote you a note
Like old times, you send all heart
Not a minute passed

There's not enough thanks
In just words that try their best
Please just know and know

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Noooo-bo-dy knows the trouble I seen..."

26 Weeks

I like roller coasters. Not everyone's cup-of-tea, but time and industry has proven their popularity. It's a physical experience which is designed to make you feel something. Something that reminds you that you are alive. Up and down, happy and sad, black and white. Not a lot of grey going on when you take that ride. It's like a condensed mini-life you can track on a line graph. Potentially powerful stuff packed into a cheap thrill.

Imagine, being in a situation—maybe a contest or a dare or a Guinness World Record goal—fueling your passion to strap yourself into a roller coaster for as long as you can stand it. How long would you last? Hours? Days? Weeks? Months? Living your life on that ride—food, phones, eating, and sleeping. (Bathroom breaks included. Let's be practical.) "But Jennifer, that IS life!" you exclaim. To which I say, "Perhaps, but after you've been through the ride once, you basically know what's coming, right? Life isn't always like that." And you say, "Ohhh, yeah. That's true. True." And I say, "Yeah. See?" And you say, "So where are you going with this?" And I say, "I'm getting there. Stick with me." And you say, "I have no choice. I'm not real. You are typing these statements for me. I'm a microscopic, intangible, protagonistic part of this conversation happening in your own brain that is working as a vehicle to choreograph counter actions in an imaginary, metaphorical dance disguised as a philosophical conversation with your ego." And I say, "Now I've forgotten my point." And you say, "roller coaster." Yes. Right.

It's simple. Imagine actually riding a roller coaster for about a day. No matter the circumstances that got you there.  As someone who likes roller coasters, I'm projecting the novelty would wear off for you after a few hours. You'd become numb to the black and white. And then you'd sit and wonder what in the world you are doing, how did you get there in the first place, and what is the point of life anyhow? Welcome to Six Flags Over Existential Crisis.

I have a dear friend I haven't connected with in far too long but I still consider her close to my heart. One of the theatre family members show folk tend to collect along the way. Eva. She is an incredibly talented director and theatre-maker and will always and forever have my love and respect for having been born. She's just one of those people that people love to work with and be around. She's a real, deal human artist living an American life. From my point of view, she's giving all she can to living fully. I can remember years ago when I was performing with a group she led, she found herself in almost exactly the situation I'm in now. Surprise baby on the way... a little later in life than some peers... faced with a whole new set of circumstances on the horizon... a horizon she hadn't realized existed for her until it was at her feet. I clearly remember listening to her while she shared her fears and concerns. Will she have time for her art? Will she compromise her art? Will her art still be relevant once she's divided in two? I remember thinking she was worrying about nothing. How on earth could this amazing and all-too-common action do anything other than ADD to her art? What is she so worried about? I marvel now when I look back and remember her standing in front of us, guiding and collaborating whole-heartedly with our cast while feeding a newborn from her chest. She appeared to easily incorporate her new situation into her work—even be inspired by it. But her worries were still there. 

I get it now.

For me, Week 26 of my pregnancy was all about the 'baby blues'. Week 25 I was happily strapped in and climbing the biggest hill, high on anticipation for what lay ahead. Tink. Tink. Tink. Tink. Tink. Tinktinktinktinktinktinktinktinktink... I hit the top and sped on down with a giant:


I forgot to throw my hands up. I cried a little. I even feel asleep. So, I looked up my new felt phenomenon. It seems normal enough. Hormones and real life worries and all. But my brain wants to figure out the puzzle of feelings. Find the reason. Why do I feel so lonely in the middle of, literally, the least loneliest thing that can happen to a woman? I'm two people right now. Two. Whoa.

My guess? It's as elementary as change.

Cry, sleep, go numb through it enough until it becomes novel again. Because it will. In reality we have no real control or knowledge of what comes at us in the next minute but we've all been on the roller coaster a few times. We can find the peace in knowing that much at least. And we can remember we thought it sounded like a good time in the first place. I'm gonna go buy another ticket and stand on line.