A Day for the Books

Today was special, and not for any particular reason. We all had breakfast together and then bundled up and played on the porch. Mae gave us her biggest grins of the days, always in the morning. Jimmy and I actually read the paper for a few minutes each. Mae napped and we both worked some. Then we went on some errands. I know this all sounds boring, and it is, but we went to THREE different stores and Mae was happy as could be. A few months ago, I couldn’t dream of being able to do that. I used some coupons and robbed CVS and Kohl’s, and the most helpful man in the world helped us at Home Depot. Ask for Frank in the paint section. He knows his stuff and is nice about it.

Yesterday at a yard sale, we bought two worn but nice night stands, hence the trip to Home Depot. So while Mae took a colossal nap, I made chalk paint (for the first time) and painted them. Jimmy roasted an entire chicken from Eco River Farm, and the smell of garlic wafted outside as I painted. I listened to reggae the entire time and found myself in a deep trance, not thinking of anything at all. It was lovely.

Then Mae woke up and we went on a family walk, talking to neighbors along the way. The weather today is beside the word perfect in the dictionary.

I painted a sealant on the tables while Jimmy and Mae gathered kindling for a fire, and then we ate delicious chicken around our firepit in the backyard.

That’s it. Nothing special, but wonderfully ordinary. I want to remember today always. Mae’s constant whispering of “da da da.” The way she watches the sunlight through the trees. My husband coming outside to praise my work. The sounds of children riding bikes in our neighborhood. Arthur sunning on the porch. So many little blessings. So thankful.

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The Family Car Sticker: Why I’ll Never Have One

Warning: this is a soapbox post and a rant.

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Am I the only one who gets totally annoyed by these stickers? My instant reaction is to cringe, and this has stayed the same pre and post parenthood. So why do I dislike these stickers so much?

*My initial thought was aren’t people with these stickers advertising to pedophiles? I know that is cynical and bleak, but I did think about how you are telling the world: Hey,we have a baby boy and daughter! Oh and the mommy sticker is holding a briefcase, so she might not be home after school!

*And that gets to my next reaction. So sometimes these stickers go beyond being stick figures and they have little accessories. Maybe the son gets a soccer ball and the daughter gets a pink princess wand (ugh), but the mom, the mom, almost always has a briefcase, a purse, and I even saw a vacuum once! Oh lord, don’t get me started. Yes, these are all the roles of a mother–we either work or shop or clean. The husbands, however, never seem to have a briefcase. I guess because it’s a given that they work, so that’s not a needed symbol. The husbands get accessories like a grill or a football. If women get anything “fun,” it’s a cellphone or a wine glass (because we love to drunk chat). I mean I do love to drunk chat, but that’s not my main focus in life. Could a woman be in uniform? Could a girl be reading a book? Or maybe a mom likes to grill?

What does the woman with the curly hair represent? Hysteria?

What does the woman with the curly hair represent? Hysteria?

* I’ve never seen family stickers depicting a same-sex family, ever. Now I live in the south, and NC just legalized same-sex marriage!, so maybe same-sex family stickers are happening elsewhere. But, I think many same-sex couples/families wouldn’t feel comfortable/safe advertising their family on the back of their car. (You also don’t see mult-racial families represented). There are people who might key their car, smash a headlight, or even worse wait for them in a parking lot, based on knowing that personal information. So, I guess what really bothers me about those heteronormative family stickers is the brag factor and privilege that comes with displaying one. Look at me! I have a family like society says I should! We have a dad, mom, son, and daughter! We fit inside all the boxes! Check!

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* I like bumper stickers that are funny and maybe tell me something interesting or original about a person, but these family stickers just reinforce how unoriginal people are. “We are exactly what we should be” is what these stickers say to me. There’s something sad to me about people who feel the need to express themselves in such a limited way. So you get to pick wavy or straight hair and an accessory? And this feels expressive to you? I’d honestly rather you stick a pro-choice or Sarah Palin bumper sticker on your car; it might say more about you.

Now I realize this post is going to piss off some people. They’ll say I’m a grump, and I probably am, a little. They’ll say they are just happy. And why can’t they just be happy? Well, they can be happy, if ignorance is bliss. And why can’t they just be proud of their family? They can, just be proud in a more humble and decent way.

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Also, I’m not talking about the zombie family stickers. Those are awesome.

To My Non-Judgey Moms: Tell A Mom Tuesdays

Thank the Gods and Goddesses for all of you. For my friend Kristen, who has seen me plop my child down in the middle of her store’s floor and not bat an eye and then proceed to feed that child puff after puff, so we can chat just a little longer.

For my neighbors who understand I need a glass of wine before 5 PM somedays…

For colleagues at work who don’t expect me to remember much of anything beyond the basics.

For my support group mamas, who know unspeakable thoughts I had about Mae during our exercise-ball-bouncing months, and they replied “me too” and “you’re doing a good job.”

For the woman in the grocery line who didn’t give me a dirty look when Mae started squealing, but instead, let me in front of her.

For my nanny, who understood I needed to just drop off my baby at the last minute sometimes when Mae was colicky and I was about to break apart.

I’m so thankful for women that I can break apart in front of. For women who don’t expect effortless perfection, who don’t expect anything about motherhood to look effortless, who don’t say anything when my baby is without socks on a slightly chilly day because she probably stepped in poop or maybe I just forgot them.
Women who know that parenting differently doesn’t mean better. It’s just different. I’ve met some “sanctimommies,” but I ignore those women, and I’ve found plenty of moms who don’t have time to engage in the so-called “mommy wars.”

Thank you, my sanity-keepers. You are all invited over to my house. Wear your hole-y yoga pants and forget the deodorant. ;) #tellamom

Or we can go to a bar. You wouldn’t judge me for taking my baby to a bar:

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Tell A Mom Tuesday: Shining Light Mama

There are some people who somehow stay positive for the majority of the time. They have difficult circumstances yet they somehow keep their blessings right in front of them, focused on them. These are the moms that remind you how to be a mom. One of these shining lights is Jennifer Gentry.

Jennifer is the mother of two, Kiki and Joey. I met Jennifer before she was even married. I attended her wedding and watched her become a mother, which seemed to happen in an instant.

Jennifer’s first child is adopted and was first her foster child. The immediate bond between Jennifer and Kiki was an amazing thing to witness as well as the way Jennifer fully committed to Kiki from the start.

Jennifer inspires me with her joy and positive attitude. She’s a wonder, a touchstone for what I should strive for every day.

#tellamom

Another Life: Flash Fiction

Often it feels like the person who wrote some of my stories and poems is someone else. I have so little time for writing right now, and when I do have a small segment of time, I’m working on my postpartum storytelling project, not poetry or fiction. However, I just had a few pieces published. Here’s one of them, a flash fiction piece:

                                                                                    Secondhand

“Sit down, girl.” Aunt Penny tapped the rocking chair. “And I’ll tell you about growing up with your daddy.”
I sat down, wary of my Aunt as I was wary of all my Daddy’s people. They smoked Marlboro Reds, drank bourbon, let dogs run wild everywhere, and didn’t pay attention to children.
“Your daddy wasn’t always like he is, you know.” Aunt Penny let a long drag of her cigarette blow like a straight railroad track out in front of her.
“I don’t care,” I said and surprised myself.
She burst out laughing but it sounded more like a cough. “Don’t lie, girl.”
She stared out into her front yard. I knew she was proud of it, but it wasn’t anything—more dirt than grass and cheap statues she bought from yard sales, but she owned it. The only Hale to own anything. This made her wise in their eyes. “Your daddy took care of me, and I won’t never forget it. He always made sure all us kids had at least one gift on Christmas even if it was a doll made from a sock. We didn’t care. It was something to love on.” She took another long drag, flicked her ashes hard. She stared at my face, but I wouldn’t look at her. Everyone said I looked like him. Well, I had his eyes at least. Frost blue. “Shit, maybe you don’t care.”
I turned then and looked sharp at her. “Maybe not.”
We rocked in her old chairs for a few minutes. No words passed between us.
“He ain’t a good man anymore. I know that.” She’d put her cigarette out and her words weren’t glazed with anything but the truth. “You’ll learn that shit happens to people, and they change and you just love them for who they use to be. There’s a lot of that in this family.”
I pulled my hair up into a scraggly bun and made her think that I was ignoring her, but then I said,     “What do you do when you don’t know who somebody use to be?”
Her face cracked a little then. I saw what her eyes might look like without all the wrinkles around them. “You listen to me, girl. You listen to me.”

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The Wrong Reasons

Society places many “shoulds” on parents. You should breastfeed. You should dread going back to work. You should love your baby at first sight. You should make your own baby food. You should let your baby cry. You should not let your baby cry.

And then, we are also expected to do these things for noble reasons. We should breastfeed because it’s the best nutrition for baby, etc.

I had a mom come up to me yesterday and say “Not everybody will understand why you cloth diaper,” and the she looked at me like we shared some secret. I couldn’t bust her bubble, but I use cloth diapers because they’re cheap. They save us money. Period. I wish I could say I love the environment that much or I’m worried about evil chemicals in diapers, but that’s not the case. I cloth diaper for “the wrong reason.”

I also hated breastfeeding and one reason I kept it up for five months was because it burns a massive amount of calories…yep, I said it. I stuck with breastfeeding a cranky, poor nurser so that I could look good in a maxi dress.

What do you do for the “wrong” reason?