OK, I haven’t actually won the Mega Millions lottery… yet. But I’ve got my stack of tickets right here sitting on top of an empty pizza box and next to a half bottle of Bud Light. Twenty quick picks. So clearly I’ve got way more of a chance than the silly fools who only buy one or two chances. Plus (and here’s the clincher!) my husband found 3 four-leaf clovers in our front yard this week! I feel pretty good about our chances.
Today’s Mega Millions jackpot is over 600 million dollars. That’s a lot of pizzas and beer. Anytime a lottery has some buzz, I can read quaint interviews in the paper in which lotto hopefuls talk about what they would do with the money. It’s almost sad. It makes you realize that most people have so little, that their biggest dreams include “a simple two-story home on enough land for some new four-wheel ATVs to roam.” Another woman said she would build a new building for her church, pay for her daughter’s college, and buy a nice four-bedroom home (The News & Observer, 3/30/12).
It also makes me think that most people don’t have much imagination. It doesn’t occur to them that with that kind of money, paying for college tuition is a nice dream, but why not buy your own college? Speaking of paying tuition, with a grand lotto windfall I could certainly afford to go to law school, and my husband could afford to go to pharmacy school, and we wouldn’t have to take turns going to school and going to work. We could actually attend school at the same time! What a novel idea! But would we still want to? Hmmm…
I always feel frustrated when I hear about the small-town plans of the hopefuls. It may sound cruel, but I don’t think they should win because they wouldn’t know what to do with the winnings. I on the other hand should totally win the lottery because I have big dreams. In fact, I’m afraid I could blow through 600million too quickly. Although, as Brewster learned, the appearance of wasting money can be deceiving; it can be tricky to truly blow through money when you start with a busload of it.
So what would I do? What grandiose ideas do I have?
Buy a new home? Absolutely. Several and in different countries. My homes would have cozy libraries with walls lined with shelves. Volumes and volumes of books: art books, poetry books, history books, women’s studies books, science books, and fiction, so much fiction! And… let me catch my breath from excitement… I would actually have time to read them. Gasp!
My homes would have luxurious spas instead of bathrooms. And the spas would be open to the outside. I would melt into a hot giant bath in the midst of a garden. Needless to say, a well-paid domestic employee would bring me drinks.
My homes would have art studios rich with the smell of paint and filled with sun streaming in from windows and skylights, and I would paint. Did I mention that I would have time to learn to paint? Right now, I do have some paints, one easel, and some paper. But I have no space in our apartment, I don’t know how to paint, and I have no time to paint.
I seem to remember Jerry Seinfeld’s home going for about 47 million a few years ago when I still lived on Long Island. (Incidentally, we had to leave our home and families on Long Island because we couldn’t afford it anymore and the job market sucked.) But with my Mega 600 Millions I could afford to go home to NY. A place on the east end plus a penthouse in Manhattan. Yep, that could be a cool 100 mil gone right there.
Speaking of real estate, I would buy an island. My very own private island with warm tropical breezes and waves crashing against the shore and sand between my toes and deep renewing breaths of salty air. Doesn’t Johnny Depp own a private island?
Of course it would be private planes all the way. No sense dealing with those common people in first class on commercial flights.
I still haven’t mentally spent it all yet though, but don’t worry, I’ve got more ideas. I wonder how much it would cost to buy my beloved NY Mets?
Now don’t think that I would be only all about buying the estates, jet planes, islands, universities, and Major League Baseball teams. I’m not that shallow and oblivious to the plight of non-lotto winners. I have family members who are struggling. We belong to a church that has no building; we rent space for our services. There are several organizations that we already support with whatever $25-$50 we can afford here and there. (Including the First Response Team of America – check them out, they are AMAZING what they do.) We would love to give them more if we could. I’m sure we would give a sizable chunk away to family and charity.
So here’s my plea: I want to win the lotto. In all honesty, I’m tired of being lower middle class. I’m not hungry or cold, but it’s not much fun either. I’d really be completely happy and satisfied with one measly million. I could buy a sweet four bedroom home, a new car, and pay for law school, pharmacy school, and the good schools for Sam.
But how about you? What would you spend your winnings on?
I don’t want to be the stereotypical white person who cherrypicks and steals traditions from other cultures without respecting or understanding the meaning, but just because they sound kind of cool. Yet I’m craving tradition. I also recognize that some of what gets labeled as “tradition” serves to control women and maintain a patriarchal status quo. I don’t need that. But again, sometimes I crave “traditions.” So perhaps some research into my own waspy (boring?) heritage is on the agenda in order to rediscover lost traditions that speak to me. Or perhaps even better – create our own unique family traditions?
Where did this random train of thought regarding traditions come from?
I was reading about the Jewish tradition of upsherin and I liked the idea of it. Never mind that I don’t think of Sam as an unpruned fig tree. I just like the ceremonial nature of attaching meaning to the commonplace.
Upsherin, as I understand it, is the Jewish practice of not cutting a boy’s hair until his third birthday. Its origins are in a verse about allowing the fig tree to go unpruned for three years, and then it will bear fruit upon pruning. Metaphorically, the concept of “bearing fruit” has to do with growth, maturity, productivity, and living out the life God has planned for you and using the gifts God has given you. Upsherin also signifies the official start of the boy’s Jewish education. Of course, I could be misunderstanding this entirely. I only read about it on a blog by actress and celebrity mom Mayim Bialik.
The thing is, Sammy has not had his first hair cut yet. His hair is soft and golden and so beautiful. True, many strangers call him a girl, but that doesn’t bother me. I understand that with small children people look for certain indicators (length of hair, pink clothes) so that they may comfortably categorize your child into a narrow gender binary (which I believe is extra silly for small children.) But I digress. I don’t have any pink clothing for him, but his hair does go a couple inches past his collar and sweetly curl up a bit at the ends. Can you tell that I’m going to have a hard time cutting it off? Those days of having a wee baby passed by quickly. Once I cut his hair he’s going to look that much more like a “boy” and less like my “baby.” On a purely practical level, you should see how he kicks and squirms during the torturous toenail clipping episodes. Like he’s fighting off zombies. There was no way I wanted scissors anywhere near his head and face.
So we decided to wait until he turned two and might possibly sit still for the haircut. (Do two-year-olds sit still? Yeah, I might have misjudged that one.) Now his birthday is only two months away, and I’m already feeling sad about cutting his locks. Like I said, I’m not hung up on strict gender restrictions for a one-year-old. But it’s starting to look scraggly, hang in his eyes, and starting to – just the tiniest bit – resemble a mullet. I think everyone will agree with me that I can’t have my sweet Sam sporting a mullet.
It used to be that I could go several days without talking to a single person other than my husband. I was even a full-time university student at the time. Lest you think that I did nothing but wallow in friendless self-pity, I assure you that I tried various tactics. I joined the glee club. That was an awful dreary experience (and nothing like the much-loved show). The rest of the glee club members, all a decade younger than this “non-traditional” student, mostly ignored me. The tipping point just before I quit came when a new girl joined the club. She strolled in on her first day, exuding cuteness with her blond perky ponytail, carrying a pizza box. “Hey Everybody! I was just walking past a frat house and these frat guys were outside on the porch, and they said they had too much pizza and gave me one! So who wants pizza?” Glee members swarmed around her. I was neither cute nor perky. Frat boys would never offer me anything other than a seat on the bus if perhaps I was looking especially old and haggard. In a few moments this girl had everyone talking to her. Nobody ever informed me of the Bring Pizza To Class Rule in order to make friends. And can you tell me, who ever heard of frat boys claiming to have Too Much Pizza? Glee club and various other tactics notwithstanding, I was still able to go through whole days without so much as a “Hey! How ya doin?”
I wished I had some friends. They didn’t have to be soul mates. After all, I had Jack, and I had my sister. What I missed was having someone to catch a movie with or share a laugh fueled by delicious dinner and wine or even just to walk to class together. I really miss having a shopping buddy who is as happy to spend an afternoon at the mall as I am. Shopping is fun when there are two of you laughing at clothing and arguing over styles. And the dismal failures in the dressing rooms aren’t depressing when there’s a friend to make light of them. A friend and I, both well past our prom prime, tried on a pile of awful poofy prom dresses, just for a lark. But I digress because she was a close best friend and confidant. I’d be happy now with just someone to gab with over coffee.
But, see, I did have friends once. I have photos of tulle prom dresses to prove it! What happened? People move far away. People marry or grow insular in the first years of romantic relationships. People grow apart. People lose touch, and in drifting away the bonds of friendship are loosed until all that is left is a cheery Christmas card exchanging photos of your families. Some friends are meant to reside permanently in your life, while others are meant to enrich your life for a short time and then to exist mostly in your memories. Then there are those friends who you silently wish would drift away, but remain ever annoyingly present through the relationship equivalent of a pacemaker. Of course I’m referring to Facebook. And now I’ve grown gloomy in the company of the ghost of friendships past.
But wasn’t there optimism and a hint of happiness in this post title? Yes, there was! And I can thank Sam for that for tonight I went out to dinner with several fellow mamas from his playgroup. We left the toddlers home with the menfolk so that we could indulge in a rare (rare for me!) mothers’ night out. I had a sweet pink martini with a silly name like Razzmatazz Tartlettini, the pan-seared duck breast with raspberry demi-glaze, and a glass of wine, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The food was delish, but that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was that we did NOT spend the entire night talking about our babies! Woohoo for conversation not centered on milestones and poo!
Amazingly, a group of women with nothing more in common at the start besides the birthdates of our babies and yet we all enjoy each other’s company. We get together in parks or meet in our homes for the babies -now toddlers- to play. It’s been wonderful to have a group of women to connect with who were going through the same stages as we were. It’s been great that Sam has had friends to play with. It literally kept me sane during those early months when all I did was rock and nurse; but once a week I could leave the house to go rock and nurse with other exhausted nursing women. Once in a blue moon, we even leave the toddlers at home and go out for drinks and adult conversation. Did we talk some about the kids? Of course. Did we talk about subjects indirectly related to the kids? Yup, like what kind of money markets, 529s, savings accounts we’ve got set up for them. But we also talked about non-kid related subjects! You have to understand, I was so worried that the whole conversation would be around the usual topics, and at times I really crave discussion that is not about toddlers, even my own (gasp!).
But here’s where I start to doubt. Are these women my friends? Or is this just a temporary alliance? Once our tots grow up and begin to expand their horizons, will we still want to spend time together? Or will I have lost another circle of potential friends? How well do I even know these women? How closely can you know someone when 90% of conversation is about your kids? Certainly you can tell by now that I’m lousy at making new friends. So I’d rather not lose these budding friendships. I already sense that some of the women are forming closer bonds. My guess is that maybe they’ve gotten together one-on-one outside of the group play dates to hang out. Maybe I should try and set something up. It might be a little too soon though to try on poofy prom dresses together.
Or am I just deluding myself? Once a playgroup has served its function, do the relationships fade away?
I don’t know what a part-time mother is, but I know I’m not it. A part-time mother is not awake for well over an hour at 4 A.M. climbing out of bed every five minutes to restart the dulcet notes of a magical glowing sea horse. A part-time mother does not tediously cook and prepare nutritious and delectable delights for her toddler, only to have the tasty morsels flung to the floor. A part-time mother does not use her last amount of energy for the day in gently rocking her teething toddler to sleep. A part-time mother does not do all of the above with love and patience.
For the first year of Sam’s life, I easily fell under the category of full-time mother. “Full-time mother” is the moniker given to the woman who often works, without that rewarding deposit in the bank account, to care for her children and home from morning’s light to well past sunset. The use of the employment lingo “full-time” lends deserved weight and respect to the hard work of mothering and home-making.
I was happily a full-time mother until this past spring when a job opportunity came my way. The job is a cozy fit for me in many ways. True, the first several months were difficult due to a steep learning curve. But now I feel I can settle into a comfortable groove of steadily doing my job with an Absolute Commitment to Excellence, otherwise known in the company jargon as “ACE.” I love earning a paycheck again, the scheduling flexibility and part-time hours suit me perfectly, and I genuinely enjoy the work. The feel-good bonus is that I may actually be helping people. But there is one thing that niggles at me from time to time.
Why do I need to give up the “full-time mother” label? Have I somehow been demoted to a part-time mother? How would you even define a part-time mother? I can’t help but feel slighted by the parenting community, if such a thing exists, by this perceived demotion. I don’t feel compelled to defend my working outside the home; that’s not what this is about. It’s the right choice for our family, and that’s that. I guess I’m just thinking about labels, how they can change perceptions in society, how they can influence the images we have of ourselves and others, and how they can invite scorn or respect.
I still consider myself very much a full-time mother to Sam, part-time employment notwithstanding. When acquaintances, during the inevitable small talk that I as an introvert have always dreaded, ask what I do, I always start by proudly saying that during the day I am home with my son. I describe my evening job second. I am firstly Me in all my flawed and brilliant glory. But when it comes to my roles and relationships, I hope that as Sam grows older I will continue to always feel my role as his mother before being an employee. I can’t imagine it any other way: life as a full-time mother for perhaps the next twenty years. That is the ride I happily signed on for!
On a side note—I haven’t posted on this blog in several months. The job training was time consuming. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had blog post ideas swirling around in my crowded brain jostling up against tidbits and fragments like the forgotten location of Sam’s Mets pajamas and the date of this year’s charity auction and I really must make that dentist appointment. Some ideas to write about include the love of step-parents, my hatred of Rosemond, and sex after having children (does such a thing exist?) So be on the lookout for more posts from this Crunchy Munchy (full-time!) Mama!
A little over a week ago, a monster tornado ravaged nearby counties. Nearly every day this past week I’ve been crying as I read in the paper daily reports of the death and destruction left behind. My sorrow has been for one family in particular. Four children (two sets of brothers who were cousins) huddled in a closet when the tornado came to their home. A tree fell right where they hid for safety. Three of the boys were killed. The fourth one was a six-month-old baby. He died later at the hospital.
The tornado came within 35 miles of me and my family, but I didn’t even know about it until after it was over. I was in a live webcam training session for work, and my husband, who was in the nursery with Sam, had decided not to interrupt me unless reports changed to list our county in danger. I suppose I’m glad I wasn’t aware of it because tornadoes terrify me.
Last month Japan was slammed with an earthquake and tsunami. I watched in terrible awe videos of the awfulness of the tsunami wave swallowing the land, engulfing all with a deathly velocity. I watched in horror the vehicles clearly seen speeding along gray strips of pavement, hoping to reach safety. The annoyances of my day faded away as I was filled with gratitude for the simple blessings of health and safety. That feeling stayed with me for days. I was also filled with sorrow, not only for the many lives lost, but for those devastated souls who must keep living in a new ruined landscape with the fear of radiation. My heart felt heavy as the number of dead climbed higher. But I didn’t cry.
Is it that it was so far away? Is it that the chaos and destruction is so enormous that it is difficult to comprehend? Is it that I haven’t yet heard any personal stories from the survivors sharing their tragedy in their own voices? Is it a self-preservation technique for our psyches—sort of only allowing ourselves to feel so much pain? In other words, not taking on the crushing mutilating weight of all the world’s pain? I know that it is not that I am uncompassionate towards the suffering of others. I know that it is not that I value less the lives of Japanese people in some horrible racist twistedness. Why is it then that I did not cry last month, yet all this past week I’ve been crying over the deaths of four little boys?
Would I have been so affected a year or two ago, before I had my own little boy? I wonder. I keep envisioning myself in the scenario if a tornado comes. I’m on my knees in the bathtub, crouching and curled over. I have Sam in my arms underneath me. I am holding him tightly, trying to shield him. I’m trying to soothe him also, but my tension and tears and primal fear and the cold hardness of the tub thwart my efforts to calm him. I can hear the wind roaring in my head and all around me. I’m shaking with terror that seeps in to my core. There are two stories and an attic above us; does that provide an obstacle between us and the falling trees or does it add to the weight that may crash upon us? I don’t know. That is, if the tornado only throws trees and debris at me, and does not rip my home up wholly from the ground. Sam shrieks in distress; I hold him tightly in my arms underneath me. I would gladly take a tree across my back before I let it crush my baby, but I worry. I strongly suspect my small back is not enough to stop a falling tree in a tornado.
Like I said, tornadoes strike me with terror. We were spared this time, but my heart breaks for the family who lost all four of their little boys, even the tiny baby.
And then your four-month-old baby boy fusses and cries.
I tried to block out Sam’s cries as best as I could. My husband tried to soothe and quiet him and coax him to sleep. Sam finally fell asleep at 10 o’clock; I fell asleep several minutes later. I had to be at the testing center by 8 AM, so that meant waking early enough to be up and dressed, eaten breakfast, nursed Sam, and a 40 minute drive. Even going to sleep at 10, it would still have been fine. Not an ideal amount of sleep, but I certainly could have managed.
But I woke up again at 3 in the morning. I think Sam was making those cute little baby snuffling sleepy sounds that babies make. They used to wake me up instantly during those first few months. Sam fell right back to sleep, but now I was awake. Wide awake. I believe with conviction that one of the hardest things you can do is force yourself to sleep. I’ve been an insomnia sufferer for years. It got much better after buying a luxurious new mattress about five years ago, but it still strikes occasionally. Lying there in the dark, my thoughts were so sharply on the test that there was no way I was going to be able to fall back asleep. As I lied there awake and miserable, the more distressed I became. The more distressed I became, the more difficult it was to sleep. As the red numbers kept changing on the clock, the more distressed I became. It was a vicious circle. I awoke at 3 AM. I never was able to get back to sleep.
Jack drove me to the testing site. I cried most of the way. I cried with exhaustion. I cried with despair. I cried with defeat. And I hadn’t even taken the test yet. They walked in with me. I held Sam tightly and hugged him. Hug a baby for luck, I told myself. Then I took the test. I felt frazzled and unfocused the whole time. I made a lot of guesses, some of them random. Like a few times the words seemed to be hazy on the page; those were random guesses. I was so tremendously fatigued. I didn’t even manage to fill in all of the circles. On the LSAT, you are not penalized for wrong answers; you only rack up points with correct answers. It is always in your best interest to fill in all the remaining circles even if you have no time to read the questions.
When I saw Jack drive up, I climbed into the front seat quietly. He asked how it went. I said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Let me make clear, I was not using the tone of voice that says that I really do want to talk about it. I didn’t say another word the whole drive. I think I might have cried quietly. At home I went into our bedroom, climbed into bed, and pulled the blankets way up.
Sam started fussing again. I didn’t care. Jack could take care of him. I certainly didn’t harbor one ounce of negative emotion towards the baby at all; I just didn’t have any strength, physical or emotional, to take care of him at that point. So, Jack could take care of him. Except that Sam wouldn’t calm down. Perhaps he could sense the miasma of depression and failure in the air. Or maybe he just had gas. Either way, Jack knew that I needed to be left alone, I needed to rest, and that I did not need to be hearing Sam crying. The usual, feeding, burping, rocking, etc. wasn’t working. So desperate Jack—who hates pacifiers(see Battle of the Binky Part I)—gave Sam a pacifier. The effect was instantaneous; Sam calmed down, his face relaxed, and he fell asleep – with the pacifier. Just a one-time occurrence? Or was this the beginning of the slippery slope of pacifier dependence?
(I was awakened when Sam started stirring from his nap. I picked him up, and he gave me one of his sweet smiles. And I smiled. My boy could make me smile on one of the worst days of my life. That was pretty incredible. I was in a funk for days, but it was so much lighter than it would have been if it had not been for playing and laughing with Sam.)
This was odd. I was at Starbucks today chatting with a friend. I was getting ready to leave, Sam was fussing, and a woman started to speak to me.
At this point, Sam being 9 months old already, I’m well acquainted with the looks, the smiles, the harmless curiosity of questions such as “How old is he?” that are drawn out by his wide blue eyes and observant gaze. Once or twice I’ve gotten a question like “Are you breastfeeding?” and then the asker has the good grace to look embarrassed and apologize for asking what they realize was a personal question. Mostly, I don’t mind the attention that Sam brings or the accompanying questions. I figure that moms of young kids like to reach out and connect with other moms. I also reckon that Sam is so incredible that his super baby magnetism just pulls people in.
The woman in Starbucks was a bit different. She stood several feet away at the counter while I strapped a fussing Sam into his car seat. The woman started with a typical question.
“Is he hungry?”
“No, he’s tired. It’s nap time,” I answered distractedly.
“So, he naps twice a day?”
“No, he only takes one nap a day,” as I busily searched for a stray tiny sneaker.
“So what time does he go to sleep then?
“Like 7 o’clock?”
“Sometimes…” I trailed off as I wondered why is this strange woman asking me all these questions. I felt in the sides of the car seat, and on the floor, and then groped around beneath Sam’s butt and behind his back. Where was that sneaker? Meanwhile, Sam had begun to cry. I was getting a little agitated. I knew Sam would calm down as soon as I could get him out into the fresh air. I knew I would calm down if I could find the missing shoe and get away from the weird prying woman. I glanced at my friend, and she whispered, “Do you know her?” “Not at all,” I replied.
Then I found the shoe. Sam’s blue sneaker with the orange thread detail from Carter’s – except I found them in a consignment shop for $3 in perfect, pristine condition. This, by the way, was the same sneaker that just last month I had lost on the side of the interstate. This time it was under Sam’s jacket. His cute, fuzzy blue jacket with the bear ears on the hood. That he was wearing. So I had managed to put his jacket on, zip it up, and buckle the car seat straps over and across his chest, without noticing that I was wedging the sneaker against his chest under the jacket. No wonder he was fussy, but in my defense I was distracted by the weird woman.
The weird woman who, having received her coffee, appeared again as I was exiting. She said “I do that, too.” I’m not even sure what she was talking about.
Do these things happen to anyone else?