Oh, Don. So Drunk, So Wise

I love Mad Men.

I love how well-written it is, how amazingly acted.

I love the set design and covet Joan’s wardrobe.

I eagerly look forward to watching each episode with Mr. Monkey.

I don’t, however, usually think of Don Draper as a professional role model, for reasons that are very clear to those who’ve watched even one episode (my liver couldn’t handle Don as  role model).

That said, allow me to present this clip with the brief note that it has taken all of my self-control not to steal one of the lines to use at work during the last few weeks: http://www.amctv.com/mad-men/videos/mad-men-talked-about-scene-don-lectures-peggy

(It would feel just delightful to scream “That’s what the money is for!” sometimes. Delightful).

 

The End and The Start

I’m turning 34 this week and it occurs to me that I’ve basically spent more than half of my 30’s either pregnant or nursing. I’ve been feeling extra uncomfortable in my own skin lately and perhaps that is at least part of why: my skin hasn’t been my own for much of the last few years. I’ve been a gestating and nursing and carrying and cuddling and care taking for four years straight and I fear that I look like the stereotype of what I thought a frumpy mom looked like.

I try to like this current body, with the stretch marks and breasts that can only be contained in industrial strength bras, I really do but the truth is that I don’t want to look like this.

(Watching the Olympics isn’t helping. The abs. Good Lord, the abs.)

I pretty sure that I’m coming up on the end of nursing soon. I was hoping to go a bit longer but for whatever reason I have, with both kids, four months of abundant supply and then suddenly, for no obvious reason, I just stop producing. Last time I tried to save my supply with fenugreek and increased nursing but it didn’t seem to make a bit of difference.
This time I’m not even going to try. Things are busy at work, I’ll start traveling next month for work related things, I’ve got about six weeks of milk in the deep freezer…the babe will be fine and while I’ve got some mixed feelings about the end of nursing (forever!) I also feel a twinge of relief.

Like maybe now I can really invest in trying to reshape myself. Like I can start over, knowing that any efforts made to get more fit and more healthy won’t be interrupted by childbearing.

I may never have the abs of an Olympian but I can be better than this. Faster than this. Fitter than this.

Let’s get this started.

What I Didn’t Know

Seven years ago today, in a quaint little restaurant perched at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by 80 of our closest friends and family, I married Mr. Monkey.

I woke up that morning filled with love and excitement and certainty. Bone deep certainty that his man was the person I was meant to be with, even though I had never expected to be a step-mother or to marry someone significantly older than me. I was meant to marry this man, the smartest and kindest and most verbal man I’d ever met.

And I knew, for sure, that he loved me.

And, so, we married that sunny day in San Diego and began a life together that, now seven years later, seems both inevitable and surprising. We are together and we have children, those things I expected. But there are other aspects of our life together that would come as quite a surprise to the bride in the strapless white satin dress of seven years ago, the one who felt so prepared, who had an idea of a plan for this life together that would turn out to be all wrong.

Seven years ago, I didn’t know:

– that we’d end up moving to Iowa…or that we’d move five times in seven years.

– that between the two of us we’d have eight different jobs in seven years

– that the certainty that I felt on our wedding day wouldn’t always be there. That there would be times that doubt and anger and loss would crowd that feeling out and that there would come a day where we’d ever have to ask the question “do you still want to be married to me?” and not know, for sure, how the other person would answer.

-That forgiveness isn’t linear. That you have to keep loving, actively and optimistically, that person through the whole process of forgiving or else you’ll never really move past whatever the hurt they may have caused.

– That real love has among its chief attributes that it is flexible and resilient.

– That, despite what my women’s magazines tell me, I can still be sexy even with the post-baby body and that if there is a night I go to bed in something other than a nursing tank top and baggy pajama bottoms, that something other came from Lane Bryant or Target and not Victoria’s Secret.

– That, on a related note, there will be a period of time where approximately 50% of the sex you have is likely to be interrupted by a small person who is supposed to be watching Calliou, dammit.

– That even though you love your children in a heart burstingly painful way, you will miss your spouse sometimes and that thought of an entire day together alone would be the stuff of substantial fantasy.

– That it is possible to married for seven years and have never really fought over money pr politics or big life decisions, but have argued more than once, heatedly and with real emotion involved, about what qualifies something as a sport vs. a hobby.

– That you really can’t overestimate how important it is that your partner makes you laugh.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Monkey. Thanks for still making me laugh, for still making me weak in the knees, for the times you’ve admitted you were wrong and for the times you’ve forgiven me when I was. We’re not where I thought we’d be seven years ago… but I know now that as long as we are together we are where we are supposed to be.

 

Dog Days

45 days.

45 days is how long I expect my work life to be at Def Con 4 levels of crazy. I work in higher ed, in a student services area, so while the faculty are out enjoying their summers and occasionally spotted wandering around campus in shorts and flip flops, I am gearing myself and my staff up for the coming onslaught of students. It is stressful and tiring and totally predictable. Despite our best efforts we know this to be true: August sucks and everyone feels overworked and underappreciated. It is a tough time for the front line staff and it is a tough time for me as a supervisor as I know I’m pushing them hard but I also know this is the make or break time for our institution to get our new class of students in.

Last year at this time I was working hard but also looking forward to a trip to Bayfield Wisconsin to do the Point to LaPointe race (I was also busy getting pregnant, but I didn’t know it at the time). This year I am not getting pregnant and I’m not swimming the race either.

I’m really bummed about one of those things.

I know I can’t do the race. I’ve swam once this summer. I’m out of shape, out of vacation days, out of money to travel with. I really am not sure that I’d want to drive 8 hours with an infant and a four year old. But, man, I’m feeling bummed about it today.

It has been a long hot summer already and I wish I had the cool of a lakeside town to look forward to right now.

Next year, next year.

How about you? Any late summer trips to look forward to?

On Getting Political

Mr. Monkey used to be on Facebook but ultimately deleted his profile, troubled by the privacy issues and, I think, by the nature of the interactions. He isn’t one for shallow conversations, my love, and he has no desire to collect “friends” or friend someone who he hasn’t seen in 20 years just out of curiosity.

I get that and I agree that Facebook is probably mostly shady with how it protects or doesn’t our personal information but I guess I don’t care enough to have that interfere with the fact that I like Facebook. I like seeing the baby pictures of friends across the country, like the little glimpses into the lives of people I went to college with, like trying to guess if my step-son is dating someone by the pictures posted on his page (he tells us nothing, of course. We’ll know he is seriously involved when we get a wedding invitation someday). I never post anything to Facebook that I’d be ashamed to have a relative or hiring committee see so I don’t worry as much as perhaps I ought about the privacy issues. I log-in, post something (usually kid centric as I have rules: no complaining about work, no talking about people I work with, nothing negative about family life, etc) and then scroll through other people’s updates, smiling at cute pictures or funny updates.

Until, with all too much regularity these days, I come to something political. Wait. Not just political. Political and mind bendingly stupid or ill-informed.

And I feel great sadness about how long it is between now and November. Because, woo boy, things are going to get ugly in the land that Zuckerburg created.

Facebook is interesting when it comes to politics because I have friends from all stages of my life, so there is huge diversity of opinion. I have a great many conservative Christian friends from my college days (went to a Christian college), I have friends who dislike Obama because he isn’t nearly liberal enough, and I have friends who live in other countries and so see our politics in a whole other lens.

I like diversity of opinion. I like political engagement. I like discourse. I like being friends with people I disagree with. All good things.

But I think I am about *thisclose* to posting this on my page:

Dear friends: I know who I’m going to vote for this year and I bet you do too. Hopefully all of us adults of voting age are thinking about what issues matter to us and which candidate has views that most reflect our values, hopes, beliefs, etc. I’ve done that, you probably have too and neither of us is likely to vote for the other guy. You and I may not be going for the same guy, and that is okay (yay for democracy and all that).

But here’s the thing: Obama isn’t Hitler. And neither is Romney. And neither of them is a fascist or a wannabe dictator or a sign of the end times approaching. Calling either of them a Nazi or comparing them to Hitler doesn’t change A SINGLE PERSONS mind about who they are going to vote for. Not one single person. What it does do is two things: 1. Exhabit a gross disregard for the horror of the Holocaust and 2. Make you seem like a moron.

No, really. I’m not kidding on #2. I don’t care which candidate you are calling a Nazi. Making that comparison means that you automatically lose whatever debate you think you are in. It means that thinking people don’t have to take your opinion seriously.

So, if you feel like you can’t make it from now to November with out playing the Nazi/Fascist card (for either candidate) let’s just go ahead and unfriend each other now because, really, just don’t do it.

******

Perhaps a bit long for a status update and perhaps more aggressive than I chose to be in an online space like Facebook, but I think I am one more eye roll inducing status update from doing it.

*****

On a related note, I’m curious…what, if any, are your self-imposed Facebook rules?

 

Things I’ve Learned (way too early in the morning)

I have to get up early these days.

Really early.

I have to be at work by 7:30am and now that my morning routine involves having to pump milk and trying to do a tiny bit of exercise to start the day, I’m up while it is still dark.

My days start with 20 minutes on the couch, attached to the electric baby, making bottles for my girl who is still sweetly sleeping upstairs. The thing about pumping is that it sucks (ha!). It isn’t painful exactly, but it isn’t pleasant either and it can be a high anxiety thing (am I making enough? How many ounces will I get today?) so I’ve found that is really important to distract myself while doing it.

So I watch TV or scroll through my Twitter feed on my phone. And I learn.

I’ve learned that:

– I’m probably fat but there are a whole host of products out there that could help. I can have my butt Brazilian butt lifted, I can let Jillian Michael or Shawn T or some other intensely cut and sweaty person get me into shape for 3 payments of $19.99 or more, or I can watch PBS which this morning had a middle age lady doing bicep curls in time to a Merle Haggard song on before the kids show started.

– I probably have stupid hair or wrinkles and could use a hair care or skin care system to fix it. It seems very, very important that it be a “system” and not just that worthless individual stuff one could buy at a store.

– apparently being “expedited to express delivery” is a major perk.

– MTV still shows music videos. And so does VH1.

– The only people up on Twitter in the early morning hours are either A) mothers of infants or B) European

– TLC still really loves the Duggar family

– The Duggar family still vaguely creeps me out

– You can buy cattle off of channel 76 (The Rural Network)

– There is such a thing as The Rural Network

The biggest lesson so far, though?

20 minutes can be a long ass time when you find yourself considering watching a livestock auction as a viable choice because you’ve already watched the Insanity infomercial twice this  week.

(Also, please feel free to make a lot of fun of me if, in the next couple weeks, I announce I’ve purchased the Insanity system. It is wearing me down, that infomercial.)

(or if I buy a cow)

 

Friday Brain

I am having a baby next month. This is both a relief (my belly is continuing to encroach on my boobs and now my it feels like all of my bras are trying to kill me slowly) and a source of stress (we still need To Do ALL The Things!).

But then there is this: sometime next month I will have a little peanut of a baby asleep on my chest and that will be unbearably sweet.

She’d better be cute though. This pregnancy has been kind of a bitch.

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A relative of mine had a Facebook status update today on his upcoming 21 day trip to Europe. I had a brief moment of jealously and “how can he afford that?” kind of thinking before I reminded myself that Mr.Monkey and I could theoretically  jet off to Europe too (not right now, of course) if we really wanted to but that ultimately this is time of our life for staying close to the nest and saving for the future and that Europe or Panama or Ghana will still be there when we are in the place where children aren’t so young and expensive.

And then I watched this: http://consumerist.com/2007/04/snl-skit-dont-buy-stuff-you-cant-afford.html and laughed and felt glad to be married to someone who is cheaper than I am.

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And then I fell down a worm hole of videos that make me laugh:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/38477/saturday-night-live-update-thursday-fix-it (at about 2:19)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qv7k2_lc0M (NSFW language)

Basically, just do a search for “Key and Peele” on YouTube and you’ll know how I spent my lunch hour today.

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And, lastly, to end a post that is in no way organized, a quote from my three-year old that is both wise and true:

(The background: I’ve reminded him for the 1000th time to get a tissue instead of using his finger)

“The problem is, Mama, that most kids like the pick their nose. My fingers fit up there real good.”

Pears

Today is Valentines Day and like many an old married couple before us, Mr. Monkey and I will celebrate by trying to get the kid to bed at a reasonable hour so we can fall into our own exhausted sleep well before the Daily Show even starts.

We have plenty of excuses this year: I’ve been sick with a virus that seems to have no end in sight, I’m super pregnant, the kiddo is dancing on the border of being sick so there is missed work and rescheduled meetings and a messy house and money to be saved for the coming baby. The reality is though that neither Mr. Monkey or I are very big Valentine’s people. I think we used to exchange cards but we don’t even do that anymore. I’ve never gotten flowers at work and Mr. Monkey knows me well enough to know that I would be, frankly, horrified if I did (No judgement if that is a tradition you love, I just don’t enjoy flowers enough to make me forget how freaking expensive they are to get delivered on Valentine’s Day).

Even though we are not Valentine’s celebraters, the sight of rows of freshly delivered flowers on the front desk of our welcome center here at work does make me think a bit about love and marriage and the whole messy enterprise of attaching your life to someone else.

Mr. Monkey and I will be married seven years this summer. This sixth year of marriage has, for me, been the toughest in a variety of ways. We’ve had a major job change and an unexpected pregnancy to deal with. We also had some internal issues that forced us to look long and hard at our marriage and to ask the scariest question, out loud and in seriousness, to each other: “Do you want to stay married to me?”.

FYI: there is no way a pregnant woman can be asked or ask that question without risking dehydration from the crying, crying, crying that comes with it. In the event that you ever get to plan or schedule your serious state of the union talks, aim for a time when both people’s hormone levels are at somewhat normal levels.

We do though. Want to stay married to each other, to make and remake this relationship into something more than just a vehicle for raising small children and providing each other with economic security and pleasant conversation and semi-regular sex.

Mr. Monkey isn’t a TV commercial version of romantic. He doesn’t buy flowers or jewelry or chocolate. He doesn’t really buy anything to express his love (save for honoring the pregnancy induced requests for various fast food places). He has been more conventionally romantic in the past and I have a drawer full of beautiful letters and poems that I will treasure forever. But, tangible things aside, I think of Mr. Monkey as a romantic because of what  he thinks marriage and long term committment can look like and the work he is willing to do to get there. He believes in the idea of marriage as a place for both people to continue to work toward being their best versions of their selves. He believes, I am certain, that his job as a spouse is to say “yes” to whatever I say is my dream for my life. He helps me see marriage the place where we figure out how to live our lives on purpose and require more of ourselves than just being good friends who happen to have babies together.

And I love him for that.

So, happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. Monkey. I will always bring you pears if you want them.

We’ll discuss it inside

On Work

I’ve been home sick now for four days. Which sucks for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I am burning through leave time that I was really hoping to save for the arrival of baby girl monkey (note to my past self: sign up for short-term disability, dumbass). I just want to feel better and I want to get back to work.

I was in the drug induced fog of half sleep yesterday morning and lay for a while dreaming (imagining?) multiple versions of the post-pregnancy, post awful infant stage (I love babies, but hoo boy, those first six to eight weeks are not my favorite) of my life. There is the version where I start writing again. I see myself sitting in a coffee shop with the baby at my feet in a car seat, peacefully sleeping. I am writing and jostling the car seat with my foot when she fusses and I’m making a world with words.

There is the version where I am super committed to racing again. I see myself dropping the baby and the kiddo off at the childcare center at the YMCA and hitting the pool where I swim lap after lap, strokes smooth and strong across the surface of the water.

There is the version where I’m back in school, starting and finishing the doctorate degree that I need to earn if I want to move to the next level of my career. This version assumes, I guess, that I’ve decided that I do in fact want to move higher up the ladder. In this version I’m writing, but papers and articles and not stories. I’m armed with highlighters and theories and marching toward becoming Dr.Monkey.

And I want, at various times and to various degrees, all of these versions. And yet I know that the most realistic version is that I’m working at my job, a job that I am profoundly grateful to have and that I am good at,but that seems to fill any available space I have. I see working late and then rushing home at night to see two kids and a husband that already doesn’t get enough of my attention. I probably keep watching too much TV and reading too little and writing not at all.

I don’t know if I am pessimistic about the whole myth of work/life balance or just pessimistic about my ability to make it happen.

 

 

On Doing

I find it all to easy to look at my life sometimes and see nothing but things undone. The Christmas decorations still up, the floors that need cleaning, the pile of paper on my desk at work that just seems to grow higher every day, the myriad things that need to be cleaned or organized or planned for or just dealt with one way or the other. This is especially true at work where I can’t escape the fact that I have, frankly, shit that needs to be dealt with before April when I have to go on leave.

It paralyzes me, this seemingly unending amount of doing that needs to happen. When I am productive and crossing things off the list, I feel high and energized by it. I like the doing. But when I’ve done that all day and then I look at my desk and there is still more to do and then there is a beloved boy needing to be picked up and played with and fed dinner and loved and then there is a partner that I very much want to engage with and talk to and related to as more than the parents of that beloved boy. Add to that a house that isn’t self-cleaning and the writing and exercising I don’t do enough of and then I am exhausted by the doing.

This morning I found myself growing cross with my boy as I tried to get him to school. He didn’t want to get dressed. He wanted to stop and get a cake pop at Starbucks (one time! You stop one time and they never forget). He didn’t want to go to school. There was crying and kicking of the back of my car seat and I could feel my irritation level rising as I looked at the clock and realized that I was surely going to be late to work, again, the third day in a row this week. He whined from the back seat and I could feel my face clenching in response.

And then we got to school and he informed me that he couldn’t remember how to walk. “Carry me, Mama” he cried, a fat tear squeezing out of his eye and freezing to his cheek. I scooped up his bulky, snow suited self and held him against my 27 weeks pregnant belly and quickly started waddling as fast as I could to get him into daycare.

I was thinking about my desk and my email and my busy day when I felt his little face pressing against mine, his breath in a whisper against my ear.

“Slow down Mama. I want to watch you make footprints in the snow. I want to hear the squeaky noise from your boots”

I slowed down and set him down and we walked hand in hand and made footprints in the snow and for a moment I forgot what I need to do and he forgot to be sad about going to daycare.

In a perfect world, that would be the end of the story. Fade out on the mom learning the valuable lesson to be more present and mindful and to slow down and enjoy the sound of boots crunching through fresh snow.

But in the real world, the kid gets crabby again the second he gets inside and drop off takes three times as long as it needs to and then I get in my office and I’ve already missed four phone calls and realize I’ve forgotten my breakfast and then it is donuts from the vending machine and a pile of doing to be done and the persistent sense that life is out of balance and no easy answers to fix that.