27 April 2008

Here's a Title About Plants and Gardening

If there was ever a day to be in Middle Tennessee, today may have been it. Beautiful, sunny, not yet hot. A nice straight rain in the afternoon, right about nap time. Breezy evening. I'm writing this so I'll remember it in August when my skin is melting off-- the mid-south does have its gorgeous moments.

Today we put in our very first for-real garden. I've tinkered with container gardens and even chopped up the back corner of the yard for tomatoes I would later completely neglect, but we've never done this. We've never rented a tiller, planned out what we wanted to plant, fertilized, pulled weeds. It's getting pretty serious there on the south side of our house. This year we hope for bell peppers, squash, zucchini, hot peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and one promising strawberry plant. The herbs are waiting patiently for me to dig up the former flower bed around the pine tree. It's going to be great. I'll keep you posted. And if you live here and things go as planned, you're welcome to some tomatoes.*

Today's adventure to the farmer's market held all kinds of promise, lots of hand-holding and strolling and unhurried chatting, general goodness in the sunshine, and friendly toddler on her best behavior. We got our plants in the ground just in time to get inside for lunch and listen to the rain finish our hard work. We may have skipped church this morning to get our plant on, but be assured we were fully aware of and thankful for our blessings.

A. and I watched the Darjeeling Limited last night, and while it was no Royal Tenenbaums, I still want to watch it again. If I could live in a Wes Anderson film set, I would. Every time I watch one, I want to eat it. That's how frustratingly perfect they are to me.

A. and I were able to watch a movie last night because one of us did not fall completely asleep in Bird's room during her bedtime routine. This was accomplished by the snuggle-then-sit modification to the sequence of events. It also involved using a tiny flashlight to get closer to the end of Middlesex while my big girl drifted off to sleep in the bed across from my chair. It worked so well (and again during nap today) that A. bought me a sweet little book light to continue this adventure in falling asleep (for her) and staying awake (for me). Of course, it's now 9:41 on Sunday evening and A. is fast asleep and snoring in that itty-bitty twin bed of hers, but we'll try again tomorrow. We just got back from Sunday dinner with friends, and they are both extra-tuckered.

Also, I have not changed a diaper since Friday. SWEET FREEDOM, my friends! I also have not peeled soaking-wet peepee pants from a 30-month old or pulled down tiny underpants while a surprise turd rolled out across the floor. No sir, my wonder-child has been accident-free for three straight days. I am literally brimming with hope for tomorrow.

*Here's a story about tomatoes, and I'll make it quick:
A couple of years ago my sweet, well-into-retirement and ultra-green-thumb neighbors (or "the ladies" as they are known in our house) gave us a bag of homegrown veggies. How nice! I chatted on and on, all neighbor-like across the fence about my proven failures in gardening, vegetables from my grandmother's garden, rhubarb in Indiana. It was revealed to me by the ladies that they had been very cautious with their water usage all summer, saving their bath water to water the garden. And come to think of it, I couldn't remember ever seeing them with a hose, always a big, white bucket, back and forth to the house in the evenings. And there I was, holding a bag of gifted tomatoes and cucumbers from that garden, some of the wateriest of produce.

My mother grew up on a farm and didn't seem to think this was at all gross or that these beautiful tomatoes were full of old-lady soup. And really, she's probably right-- bathwater probably doesn't even hold a candle to all of the other atrocious things that happen to store-bought produce. But still. I knew. And the moral of the story is: sometimes it's best not to know.

24 April 2008

Smooth Move.

So, our mornings are looking a little different with the new job. I'm out the door an hour earlier, but without the drama you might expect from a family like ours. I've been VERY good about getting our shit together the night before, and that has been the glue that holds this rag-tag operation together in the mornings. The key to getting our shit together in the pm before the am is not falling asleep in Bird's bed at 8:00, which means we are back to the snuggle-then-sit-in-the-chair-combo bedtime routine. It's going okay. Bird has developed a need to quickly gulp an unreasonable amount of water and then snuggle the cup on her pillow as she falls asleep, but it's working for her so I'm not interfering.

Another change is our PBS time slot.* Where Bird used to warm up to the day watching Arthur while we scrambled to find the least dirty of our clothes, this earlier hour puts her on the couch in front of Caillou, my very least favorite PBS show. But the Big Comfy Couch used to make my brain curdle and now I can watch an entire episode without my eyes rolling back in my head, so maybe I can make some progress with that irritating little whining Caillou. He's such a little shit, though. I can hardly bear to hear that voice even in passing.

I bring this up to talk about the new breakfast routine. As much as I would like to recreate the gather-round-the-table breakfasts my family enjoyed even on school mornings, that's just not what works for us right now. Bird slurps a smoothie during the Whiny Bald Caillou Program, and A. and I pack the same smoothies to go. It's a recipe I've used forever but I've made some recent adjustments to bump up the vitamins for my picky little non-green eater. The best to-go containers for this are tall, wide-mouthed glass salsa jars with lids, washed out and ready to travel. This recipe will make about one large portion-- I do this twice each morning and pour a large for me, a large for A., and a smaller version for Bird.

Mama's Breakfast Smoothie, Keeping You Full until Lunch

1 cup soy milk
1 small banana, or 1/2 of a large banana
1 cup Old Fashioned Oats
2-3 large handfuls frozen fruit
1 handful well- washed fresh spinach (don't worry about stems, throw it all in)
Splash of OJ if you've got some

Blend until smooth. Should be thick but drinkable through a straw-- add more liquid as necessary.

It isn't the most beautiful concoction, and NO, you can't really taste the spinach. It's pretty dang delicious if I do say so myself.

23 April 2008

Day Three

My last day of the old job was a week ago today, and not unlike the series finale of a long-running sitcom: old questions finally answered, a peek into a wonderful, promising future for the other characters, last walk out of the building with a box of lamps and framed photos and into my car on a sunny afternoon with a good song playing loud on the radio.

Then, two days off and a relaxing weekend visit from my parents. A lovely Sunday Supper with good friends.

And then a cold dunk into reality-- earlier mornings, empty refrigerator, downtown traffic, and slacks.

And now, I'm midway through my first week. Starting over, meeting people. Missing my little sisterhood across town. I'm wearing my nicest clothes on an average Wednesday and eating lunch in the kitchen by myself. I'm trying not to fuck up. Trying to find a succinct way to tell the story of how I came to be here, a social worker/ writer/ massage therapist.Trying to call people by their right names. Getting locked out of the building, locked in the bathroom. Making dorky jokes nobody gets. Sitting in a bare office. Freezing my ass off. Learning the ropes. And above all, fighting a constant inner doubt about whether or not I'm good at this, whether I'm going to be good at this, how long it's going to take before it's apparent to everyone that I'm not very good at this.

It's not bad, it's the first week. This just happens to be how I do first weeks.

In case you were wondering about Bird and her imaginary friend, Venture Adivans, I have an update for you. Venture Adivans is in the hospital. And also simultaneously living in Birdy's tummy. And "HEY!" she points as she starts to climb into her car seat ALL BY HERSELF and becomes transfixed for the next ten minutes examining the warning labels stuck to the base of the seat. There's a picture! of Venture Adivans! She is a baby in a car seat! And then what's that? Oh, she's NOT a baby? She's a big girl. A very big girl. She's Bird's brother. And she hit someone today at school and that was WRONG CHOICES, VENTURE ADIVANS. Me-oh-my-oh, this Venture Adivans is a mystery.

Here's a bonus tip for anyone starting a new job this week: Don't eat black beans for dinner AND the next day's lunch. Not only did I make that mistake yesterday and today, I went right ahead and had black beans in my tortilla soup tonight at dinner. Musical, indeed! Let's make friends!

And finally, a product endorsement:
If your couch smells suspiciously like a dog's ass (not that I would know anything about that), dig around and find $5.99 and get some of this.

22 April 2008

First Few Days

The new job has started. The old job has ended.
This is really just a placeholder for a post to come, as I adjust to this new schedule and new type of workday. It hasn't been easy but it hasn't been awful.

I'm the first to leave the house now, about an hour earlier than I did at the old job. I walked into Bird's room this morning as it was getting light outside and her room was brightening. Sweaty and still mostly asleep, she opened one eye and then both, sat up in a pink, bed-headed mess, and stared at my face for a minute.

She said, "I don't like you."

15 April 2008

Bird this week

Things Bird has Said or Done Recently

"I'm going to pee in my underpants!"
(this said not as a warning or a sudden realization, but more like a task she would soon complete. And she did, right there, all over the floor.)

"Daddy, you look awesome in those sunglasses."

"There's a baby crawling on my hand! Her name is Venture Adivans."
(she has never named anything-- ever-- and this is what she comes up with?)

Kicked me in the neck while sitting on the potty. On purpose.

In response to my need to get the *%^$$*#& out the door in the morning:
"Really? That's interesting."

10 April 2008


my current job made a counter-offer. You know, to further complicate things. To turn up the guilt. To make me really think about how much there is to like about this little job, working out of a little crackerbox house-turned-office, running work errands on no particular schedule and having the power to make things just the way I want them. Well, certain things anyway. A lot to like about my coworkers and the permission to wear flip-flops to work. I called A. in a wrenched-up panic of indecision. I called my dad. I whined to my coworkers.

And then I turned it down.

It would have meant a position with the title of "Director." It would have been a great resume move if I had decided that non-profit was the path for me. Honestly, sometimes I think it may be what I'm best at, but I just keep thinking about that truck.

It also would have meant finding out what it's like to stay in a job for more than two years.*

Hopefully this counter-offer won't become my new "what if."

Went to the zoo today on her field trip. By herself. Oh my, this big kid of ours.

Coming home from a cookout this weekend (involving many old college friends in town from far, far away for a dear friend's wedding):

Me: Did you have a good time at the party?

Bird: The boys! Drink in a little cup! And they say, "CHEERS!" and they drink it all real fast!


*To be clear, I've stayed with employers longer than a couple of years, but not in the same position-- literally-- for more than a year and a half. I like to wait until I really get the hang of something and really have a handle on which end is up at a job, and then I either change positions or move on completely and start the whole process over. Easily distracted, I suppose.

09 April 2008


So, I quit my job.

And I've been brewing up a post about this transition but haven't sat down to write it yet, partially because I've been up to my ears in other pressing issues and partially because... well, mlech. It's layered and thorny and it kind of makes me want to throw up.

The quick and dirty:
+More money.
-Less time at home.
+Better benefits (in that there are at least SOME).
-Less flexibility.
+Creative challenge.
-Constant judgment.
+Room to grow.
+/-Giving up permission to be mediocre 8 hours a day.
+/- taking a job on purpose, because I want it, not because I need a job while I work on the next big thing. That's the scariest.

The long and muckier:
And then there is the gnawing fact that when I left my desk job to go to massage school, the last place I ever wanted to be again was behind a desk. And now I'm staring at a 40 hour workweek and the words 'business casual.' What I envisioned was something I would love that would allow me to take my time in the mornings and swing by the Goodwill to kill a few hours in the afternoon if I felt like it, drag out my sewing machine, or take my dog to the vet without rearranging the world. You know, a total non-job. Actually, that setup? I think they call that inheritance.

And then there is the part about this being selfish in positive ways, about giving myself permission to find something I like to do, something that keeps my interest. And the part about being selfish in not-so-positive ways, putting my career before my family, giving up my extra day with Bird when I already have a job that makes ends meet, albeit barely. There's the feeling that I have years to be career-minded, that I should trudge through whatever job lets me be more of a mama.

Okay that's it. We're not talking about it anymore. This is boring. Except:

The day before I accepted this job I was sitting at a stoplight right here in Middle Tennessee, next to a semi truck from beautiful Las Cruces, NM. Hold on, this is significant.

Here's what I know about Las Cruces: It's a smallish city/college town near the border of Mexico, home to one of the schools that accepted me into its MFA program in creative writing in 1999. It's the town where I signed a lease on a one-bedroom adobe house and spent a few days meeting the other students in the program and talking with the writer in residence. And it's the place I never lived after my dad had a heart attack that year and I couldn't wrap my brain around not being able to drive home.

I didn't go for a lot of reasons I don't regret, another one of them being my now-husband who was my then-newish-boyfriend. But it has been my "what if" for going on ten years, and it showed up-- a semi truck from a smallish NM town-- right next to me here in Middle Tennessee. A truck from the town that was going to make me a writer appears during the days I spent trying to decide if I'm meant to be one. My 'what if' reminder.

So there you have it. Still making me nauseous, but I believe the hard part is over-- now if I could just warm up these damn feet. Here's to slacks on the 21st. I can't believe I just said that.

And on to the important stuff:

Bird is driving me fucking bananas. TWO. OhmygodTWO. Simultaneously sugar-sweet and raised from the pits of hell. She moved into the 2-3 year old class at daycare: big kid undies, big-kid swings, the whole shootin' match. She's a little person going through a big transition, just like me, and it isn't always graceful. I have a feeling we're driving each other fucking bananas.