Just me

04/26/2010 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Bloggy, Thinking | 24 Comments

This post has been brewing in my head for a LONG time. I need to write it. Bear with me.

I’ve been having a bit of a blog-dentity crisis. The more amazing blogs I discover, the more inadequate I feel. And confused. It’s really hard for me to find my voice in a vast sea of other mommybloggers. And not just find it, but hold onto it.

It’s incredibly easy to convince yourself you need to be like someone else.

When I started this blog eight months ago, I wrote loooong entries and posted daily photos. Then I fell in love with Etsy and unleashed a crusade for all things handmade. I posted daily, multiple times a day, and because I write for a living, I found myself creating little editorial calendars and regimented series, like “Mangia!” every Friday and “Swell Stuff” every Tuesday.

It got exhausting, you guys.

So I’ve taken a big step back. Slowed down a little bit. Decided that quantity most definitely does not equal quality.

And, I’m not writing this blog to please others or to meet an editor’s deadline, so why stress over it? (I’m a virgo, that’s why. But more on that later.)

The blogs I most enjoy reading are just plain real. I admire their honesty, their down-to-earth-ness. Whether these bloggers are wacky, sarcastic, artistic, informative, gentle or loud, they seem to have a firm grasp on who they are and what they’re passionate about.

I want that.

Tonight as I rocked Small Fry to sleep, I had this wonderful burst of clarity. It’s often in those moments of peace that I actually listen to myself.

What am I doing with this blog? How can I make it what I want it to be?

Be me. Just me.

So, here I am, y’all, superfluous commas and all. I’m a grammar geek, and I try to be funny but cannot tell a joke to save my life. I’m 5′ 10″ and I have an extensive collection of flats. I love fashion, but need a shot of courage (or vodka) to wear some of the stuff I’ve bought over the years. I’m a really good friend. Loyal to the core. And I laugh at pretty much everything. It’s like a reflex. It still blows my mind that I’m a mother, especially when I try to discipline Small Fry. I hate that I’m too afraid to publish her real name because it’s really beautiful and unique.

I want pretty*swell to be more ME, not who I think I SHOULD be.

Writing this down is the best way I know how to make it real. I already feel a little liberated! Which may in part be due to the fact that I’m not wearing a bra, but hey, it feels good.

Hitting “publish” is another matter entirely. Here goes …

I suck at being alone

03/29/2010 at 8:21 am | Posted in Thinking, Travel | 13 Comments

You know that mom fantasy, where you just get in the car and drive as far and as fast as possible? To wherever. As long as it doesn’t include a crying baby or a dirty house? That fantasy dogged me for the first few months of Small Fry’s life, when in the throes of postpartum depression, I could hardly conceive of how anybody would want or need me. I craved the open road.

Since I’m better, the fantasy has mellowed out. Now a shadow of its former larger-than-life self, the fantasy mostly involves simple pleasures. Peeing alone. Sleeping through the night. Freedom to eat whatever I want whenever I want. Collapsing into bed when I get home from a long day at work.

I got to live out the fantasy this weekend. Don’t hate me.

With M’s blessing, I booked a room on the coast for one night. Well actually, it was a room on an interstate a few miles from the coast, but close enough.

I could not wait.

My life right now is pretty much in the crapper. Huge personal issues, an illness that won’t quit, a bad back.

I was so sure that escaping everything for one weekend would be just the remedy. To get some sun on my face. To get a break from being mommy, wife, worker. To make my own choices (gasp) and enjoy the simple freedoms that suddenly became luxuries when I entered motherhood.

So it surprised me that I couldn’t stop crying as I drove out of town. That not only did I not escape my worries, but that they all crowded into the car with me. Guilt came along for the ride, too. And eventually, Loneliness.

I tried everything to feel happy. I even found an all-80s radio station. But despite Cyndi Lauper and Tears for Fears, my thoughts raced harder and grew more twisted as the drive wore on.

There were a few highlights, though: retail therapy (spring shopping for a toddler is too much fun), discovering jets in the hotel bathtub, sitting at the bar at the local fish house eating and watching basketball, catching an episode of Entourage.

And even though it was cold and freakishly windy, I enjoyed my treks on the beach:

I heart this pier. Good memories.

The foam was out of control. Clung to the beach until the wind pried it loose.

One of the more interesting things I've found on the beach. Looks like a shard of tile. I like to think it drifted over from Italy.

This is the spot where M proposed to me. Sigh.

But I could not wait to get home. I missed my family and thought about what they were doing at every turn. It was all I could do not to make a call or send a text.

Crazy, right? Totally crazy.

Any mother would give her left arm to be alone at the beach for an entire weekend. Believe me, I know this. I’m not ungrateful.

Just disappointed to have blown such an awesome opportunity.

Anxiety: 536. Suzanne: 0

A television birth that’s (gasp) not all rainbows and sunshine

03/05/2010 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Celebri-tastic, Thinking | 5 Comments
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I have a rare free moment while Small Fry sleeps (thank you, antibiotics) so of course, I’m going to spend it here on the Internet rather than face my dirty carpet or even dirtier bathrooms. Motherhood has taught me to prioritize, y’all. Do more of what makes me happy. Cleaning can wait.

There. Guilt has been rationalized into oblivion. Moving on.

Last night’s episode of “The Office” has looped through my mind all day. Did you see it? Pam and Jim had their baby, and I really think it was one of the best episodes ever.

Aside from the fact that it was ridiculously funny (Michael having to wash his eyes after barging into Pam’s room during labor nearly made me pee my pants), the show depicted birth in a way not too common for Hollywood, which typically tends to gloss over the real stuff and portray a glowing mama and peacefully sleeping perfect baby.

I was so pleasantly surprised to watch Jim and Pam struggle to swaddle their screaming newborn. To empathize with insecurity over breastfeeding. To laugh over the delirious night-feeding that was oh so wrong. Even the portrayal of the hospital discharge was completely relatable: screaming baby, car-seat wielding dad, indifferent hospital attendant.

The whole thing was funny and touching and surprisingly real. And it ended beautifully, with a genuine triumph for mama and baby.

What did you think? Did you love it … hate it?

I’m sorry. Well, not really.

02/16/2010 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Thinking | 3 Comments

Have you ever noticed that women say “I’m sorry” a lot?  A LOT. And most of the time, it’s unnecessary.

Last weekend at the grocery store, I was standing in the entrance fumbling with my coat and scarf, blocking the door. A woman trying to come in from outside had to sidestep me, and as she slipped by, she said “I’m sorry.” It caught me off guard, seeing how I was the one in her way.

When I went back to the store just the other day, I couldn’t walk past the Girl Scout cookie table without buying a box. Okay, maybe two.

As one of the little girls counted my change, I chatted with the mothers hanging out behind the table. Suddenly she looked up at me nervously and apologized for taking so long. Really? It had been a whole 30 seconds. But already at such a tender age, she’s learning to overuse “I’m sorry.”

How much is too much?

We’re teaching Small Fry to say she’s sorry when she throws stuff at people. I know, weird habit. She doesn’t hit or bite. But man, she’ll sock you in the face with a tennis ball when you least expect it.

Last night she accidentally swiped me with her hand while we were playing on the floor. And she said “sorry Mommy.” I replied that it was no big deal, that it was an accident, but she kept saying it. Over and over again until I diverted her attention elsewhere.

I know this is nothing to worry about. That she’s just learning a new way to communicate and is figuring out how to use that particular phrase in context. But I really, really don’t want “I’m sorry” to be a regular part of her vocabulary. Of course we’ll raise her to be a kind human being who understands when it’s appropriate to tell someone you’re sorry, but I don’t want her to become an over-apologetic woman. Like me.

Why do we say it to freaking often? Is it our innate desire to placate? Or maybe a manifestation of empathy?

I’m going to try to say it less often. Only when it’s really necessary.

And maybe, by my example, Small Fry will be a laid-back Girl Scout who takes her time counting correct change, says “thank you” and goes back to nibbling her Thin Mints happily.

Overdose of mirth

01/02/2010 at 7:56 pm | Posted in Thinking | 2 Comments

Found this today on a scrap of paper, and it made me smile:

Some people measure their lives in pulse rates and sit-ups. Far better to measure yours in licks of ice cream, well-told jokes, mad dashes to be first in the water, belly laughs. And, when you die, it won’t be an erratic shift in your heartrate, it will be an overdose of mirth, fun poisoning, death by laughter.

Off to a good start

09/27/2009 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Thinking | Leave a comment
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Five things that made my weekend happy:

  1. Mexican food and margaritas
  2. The nice lady at the grocery store who always greets me like an old friend and asks how my “lovely” (Small Fry) is doing
  3. Sunday football with M snoring on the couch
  4. Playing Apples to Apples with my family (I heart word games. And competition.)
  5. Small Fry cackling as she draped a washcloth over the dog’s head. Again and again and again.

Bring it on, Monday. I’m ready for you.

Where is my mind?

09/21/2009 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Motherhood, Thinking | 4 Comments
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I’m not going to pretend to know what this Pixies song is about, but I’m guessing it isn’t mommy-brain.

I loved, loved, loved this song in high school. Belted it out with the windows down, behind the wheel of my ’86 Camry, feeling so very invincible. Heady days, indeed.

Today it seems to have become my anthem again, but under very different circumstances.

Thoughts leak from my brain as quickly as they enter, and I swear, if I don’t write EVERYTHING down, I end up wandering the house trying to remember what it was I was looking for and what the hell am I doing in this room?

Yesterday, on the couch:

Me: Who are the Redskins playing today?

M: (Jaw clenched, looking straight ahead) St. Louis.

Me: I’ve asked you this already, haven’t I?

M: Yes.

Me: So, what’s your name again?

M: (Smile barely curling the edges of his lips)  Ha.

We have conversations like this on a regular basis. So often, in fact, that M could start his own blog and load it with daily entries on Shit My Wife Forgets.

I thought pregnancy-brain was bad. Sleep-deprived-brain. New-mommy-brain. But now that Small Fry is 19 months old, I’m running out of excuses.

Shouldn’t this forgetfulness start tapering off? Or am I destined for a life of airheaded moments and repeat questions?

Where IS my mind?

Fat vs. phat

09/16/2009 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Thinking, Watch this! | Leave a comment
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Casey Wilson rocks.

She’s the Saturday Night Live actress who’s taken heat in the press lately for being “fat.” Really? Another story about a “fat” celebrity, who (gasp) weighs more than Hollywood’s requisite 95 pounds?   

It’s just wrong.

Reports claimed that Wilson had been fired from the show for not losing 30 pounds during the summer hiatus.

She had this to say: “I had an amazing time on SNL, and these rumors are completely untrue,” Wilson, 28, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. “And to clarify, the issue isn’t that I’m too fat, it’s that I’m too phat. Can I get a WHAT-WHAT!”

Also, check out this hilarious video of her reacting to Internet haters.

How great is she?

I heart New York

09/11/2009 at 2:56 pm | Posted in Thinking | Leave a comment
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Today in Raleigh, it’s beautiful. Crisp, cool air. Bright sun. And a sky that finally looks blue, after being masked all summer by the thick haze of humidity that washes out the landscape here in the South.

You can stand outside today without sweating. Heck, you could even walk without breaking a sweat. It’s that nice.

This is the exact weather we had on this exact day eight years ago. Which is why, whenever it starts to turn cool, I feel a little sad. Like any other person, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I learned the news. Time stood still. I couldn’t pry myself from the TV, watching the horrifying images unfold, stark against the backdrop of stunning blue sky.

I was unemployed, dating M, and my “child” was a burly chocolate lab named Sadie. I pulled her into my lap in front of the TV, trying to bury my sorrow under her weight.

New York has always had a place in my heart. My mother’s family immmigrated there from Italy. She grew up on Long Island and tells great stories of clambakes and sneaking into the city with boys. She and my dad went to grad school together in New York, moving south just before I was born.

I spent summers as a kid at Fordham University’s basketball camp. And I’ll never forget waiting in line with my dad on a skinny spiral staircase in the middle of the Statue of Liberty’s hollow trunk, dripping with sweat and itching to get to the top.

I try to visit Manhattan every December. There is nothing like Christmas in the city. One of my best friends from college grew up in the Bronx and introduced me to the tastiest cannoli I’ve ever eaten in my life. She lives in Westchester County with her family now, but we still manage to get into the city during our visits each year. I can’t wait to take Small Fry with me. Soon.

I just couldn’t let this day pass without sending up a little shout-out to New York from my tiny corner of the blogosphere. Love you. Always will.

The best is yet to come

08/30/2009 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Thinking, Travel | 4 Comments
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Why is change so hard to accept?

Progress wouldn’t be possible without change, I know, but there are certain things that I wish would stay frozen forever.

Like my childhood home with the long driveway that snaked up the steep wooded hill. And my grandparents’ house tucked into the mountains, with orange shag carpet and Peter Rabbit prints covering the wood paneled walls. The basement room my sister and I shared there had a little window at ground level. I always imagined bears and deer and other wildlife would come pay us a visit.

My memories are intrinsically tied to places. That’s where they live. I still have dreams set in those places, distorted by elements of my current life.

So, today, when I pulled the car out from underneath our rental home here on the North Carolina coast, I couldn’t resist delaying my grocery run to hunt down some memories. This is my first visit back in two years.

Instead of turning toward the bridge to the mainland, I headed in the other direction, around the fancy new traffic circle, toward the place where I fell in love with M.

We had just started dating when he invited me to the beach with his family. I couldn’t believe it. This guy must like me if he wants me to meet his mother. I was right.

Since that week nine years ago, this beach has become part of my heart.

The dunes, the reeds along the waterway that change color with the seasons, the sun-bleached clapboard houses – even the quick-stop where M picks up bait and tide charts – hold some of the best memories of my life.

I can show you exactly where M knelt before me in the sand and asked me to marry him. Also, the parking lot where time stood still the night before our wedding, when the enormity of my good fortune bowled me over on our way into the rehearsal dinner. And, Sharky’s. My favorite place for fried shrimp and sweet tea.

It didn’t take long for the lump to form in my throat today.

I drove stalker-style past our old house. Crept along the skinny road that flooded so many years ago, nearly trapping my family on their way to meet my future in-laws. Crossed the bridge for what felt like the millionth time. Smiled at the prop planes sitting in wait on the local landing strip. Pulled over to stare at the little church we got married in.

But, man, so much change. Too much.

Condos are sprouting from pristine marshland like big ugly weeds. A forest near the bridge has vanished, replaced by a sprawling mega-grocery.  And, just a few miles down the road, another new shopping strip hulks over a scarred clearing.  

I was so glad to see a few landmarks untouched by time: the Galaxie roller-skating rink, the “full gospel” church with the peeling façade, the MovieMax where we used to rent (gasp) VHS videos. Hello, old friends.

By the time I eased the car back between the stilts under the house, I’d snapped out of my reverie. I can’t be a hypocrite. After all, I’ve change quite a bit since that first trip over the bridge.

I married the man of my dreams. Got laid off twice, then serendipitously landed the best job ever. Became a mom.

Climbing the stairs to all that’s waiting for me inside, I reconsider.

Maybe change isn’t so bad after all.

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