Saturday, January 31, 2009

Job Title

I sat in the doctor’s office hesitating over a stack of forms. It wasn’t the health history section causing me such anguish. I whizzed through those questions, checking “no” next to every known medical calamity on the list. It was the place marked “occupation.” At first, I skipped it, but now I had finished the other pages and felt obligated to complete the entire packet as requested. I couldn’t bring myself to write housewife or homemaker or stay at home Mom or even worse, none. I finally scribbled domestic goddess and returned the clipboard to the nurse.

Later that week, a fellow domestic goddess and I decided to treat ourselves to a rare evening out. We gussied up and headed to a fancy restaurant. We sat at the bar and ordered two martinis. The conversation flowed.

“Name one thing you would change about yourself.” She asked.

I thought for a moment. “I wish I could bowl.”

She thought I was joking, so I explained that I had never been able to perform any sort of recreational sport very well. It had always bothered me.

“But you have so many other things you are good at!” She argued. “You are a good writer and a great public speaker. Who cares if you can bowl?”

“You don’t hang around with your friends and write. You play tennis. You ski. I am terrible at all of those things.” I explained. We sparred over the subject for awhile and then roped the bartender into settling the discussion.

“Okay.” I challenged him. “Would you rather be able to bowl a perfect game or speak in front of a large audience?”

“No question.” He answered. “I would rather be good at public speaking.”

Okay, maybe bowling wasn’t his thing. I changed it a little. “Would you rather be able to golf a perfect game or speak in front of a large audience?”

“Public speaking.” He laughed and changed the subject. “What do you do?”

I hesitated. “She’s a writer.” My friend answered.

Was that the truth? He asked me what I wrote and I explained that I had just started a book. Okay, that was true. I mentioned that I was still new to the area and trying to find a place to publish a few essays. That was true too. But was I really a writer? It’s not like writing was my job. To me, an occupation was something you got paid to do. On the other hand, I had been pretty occupied by my writing.

Lately words were spilling out everywhere. Entire paragraphs were forming in my head while I drove through the carpool line, cluttering my mind. I had been getting up at five A.M. just to let them out, my computer screen glowing in the predawn hours while my family was still sleeping. I signed up for a writing workshop. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe you did hang around with your friends and write. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a hobby. So I started reading about writing. Turns out almost all of the real writers started just like me. They felt driven to put words on paper. Sometimes they got lucky enough to be paid for it. A female author from the seventies described her writing as “clawing her way out of the kitchen.” I am sure she was referring to the burgeoning women’s movement of her day, and yet something about her raw need seems familiar to me. I certainly feel like I am scrambling towards something.

I am still not sure I feel comfortable with the label, but I am trying it on for size. I’ll keep writing and submitting. I’ll peck away at my book. I’ll devour stories about other authors. Who knows? Maybe next year at my annual checkup, I will even have the courage to list writer as my occupation.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yummy baby

The little guy is almost 18 months old. He is into everything right now, so he makes my day a little crazy. He is also incredibly cute. He is starting to look like a boy, but his little thighs are still chubby and yummy. So yummy, in fact, that I might slather him with peanut sauce and nibble him for dinner tonight...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not perfect, but close enough for now

"I need a jooooob." I whined to my best friend.

"So, get a job." She replied, handing me a glass of wine. It wasn't that she was not sympathetic. She had just heard it all before. A million times. I was tired of hearing myself talk about it too, so we changed the subject.

A few minutes later, we were laughing about the challenges of getting our kids ready for school. Her little guy started preschool this year, and I have a first grader. The lunches, the last minute potty trips, the wardrobe malfunctions. I admitted to pulling through the carpool line in Pj bottoms a few times.

"I don't know how the working Moms do it." My friend said. "Can you imagine having to be ready for work on top of all of that?"

"No." I replied. And then it hit me. I didn't just want A job. I wanted the perfect job. One where I didn't have to be at my desk before my kids went to school. One that had me home in time to pick them up. One that paid well enough to afford childcare. One that was satisfying and challenging and creative, but not so stressful that I would have to start scheduling those weekly therapy sessions again.

One that probably doesn't exist.

When I owned my business, I was fortunate enough to schedule myself around my family's needs, but spent many sleepless nights worrying about the budget. When I worked as a project manager, I made killer money and put in twelve hour days. Now that I am at home, I wrestle with boredom and loneliness. It is never perfect. It's never going to be.

No, I am not going to work on my resume any time soon, but I am going to work on my attitude.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To Do


Monday, January 26, 2009

Press 2 followed by the #@!! sign

We have have been reviewing all of our financial statements carefully and scrutinizing our expenses. As part of this process we have decided to cut back, but not eliminate certain services like XM and Netflix. There are also a few business related accounts that we are able to close now that the end of year has arrived. While going through all of these statements we also discovered several cases where we were being charged for things we were no longer receiving. In one case it was the New York Times, which inexplicably started billing us again for a paper we haven't gotten in over a year.

These things all mean ONE thing. I have to get on the phone and work the automated answering services. That entails a careful section of departments and account numbers, until finally I get a person. When you want to cancel, you always get a person.

Except sometimes you don't. You get a ringing phone. (I know, a ringing phone?) You get disconnected. You get transferred back into to the original recording and have to start over. In more than one case, I would actually speak to someone, give them the relevant information, and then they would put me on hold or need to transfer me. Click.

I am usually not the type to be a conspiracy theorist, but I have called five different companies and experienced some sort of technical glitch with all of them. I don't like feeling like I have to put forth extraordinary efforts just to end a business relationship. I want a real person who isn't on some crazy incentive plan to retain me at all costs. A sales pitch is one thing, a disappearing act is shady.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Where no WOMAN has gone before...

Today I ventured into new territory. A place where I am as out of place as a nun at a casino. A place as foreign to me as the underside of my car hood. A place I have carefully avoided for thirteen years of marriage.

The Grill.

Hubs was late. I texted him a cutesie message hoping he was minutes away and had forgotten to call. But no, it was not to be. He was working late. I had potatoes crisping in one pan. Spinach sauteing in another. All that was left was Hubs and the flank.

Damn, I thought. It was going to be impossible to eat on time if the meat was still waiting for him when he arrived. I had almost made grilled cheese for the kids, ordered Chinese later for us. But no (again), I decided to cook a yummy dinner. Things were in motion. I was going to have to take action.

So, I poured myself a beer. There was wine open, but I wasn't about to make a cheese plate for the first time. There was fire involved. I needed a manly drink. I went outside, pulled the cover off. I fiddled with the knobs, started the gas, got a flame going. How hard can this be? And then, I grilled a steak.


Now, how to properly brag about this to Hubs, without giving the impression that I will ever do this again?????

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My misspent youth...

After dinner I always struggle with filling that last few minutes of the day. The kids still need to burn off a little energy, and I am, uh, over it. Lately, we have resorted to a little 80's dance party courtesy of XM. I crank it up and the kids bop around the family room. Sometimes we venture to the Hits station, but mostly we stick with the 80's. Often, I join in. I know all the words, and those are some good songs.

Ok, not really. I do join in, but the music? When I really listen to the lyrics... they're kind of dumb, and repetitive. No wonder my generation struggles to find meaning in the world! Sure there was some Morissey and The Cure, early REM for the truly cool. But Van Halen? Might as well jump... JUMP! Salt n Pepa? C'mon push it... push it real good. Bon Jovi? Ohhhhhhh, ohhh, livin' on a prayer...

Not saying too much.

I am thankful for one thing though. We weren't too big into the technology either. Otherwise there would be some utube footage lurking out there, of my gal pals and I dressed as Robert Palmer chicks...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Girlie for president!

We have made a big deal about the elections in our house. I always take Girlie with me to vote, explaining as best I can what it is all about. Yesterday, I told her about Obama and what it meant to America. She saw a little bit of it at school on TV. She knows how I voted and why.

Like any six year old, she now wants to be president, along with ballerina and store owner. Last night after her bath, she strutted down the hall in the buff singing "Vote for me!"

I think she might be on to something.

Monday, January 19, 2009


On Tuesday January 20, 2009. I will join millions of Americans to watch the first black man become President of the United States.

I grew up in a small southern town where race was, and probably continues to be, an issue. Many of the African American kids I went to school with had it tough. Some of them were angry. Rightfully so. At the time, it was hard for me to understand why everyone didn't get along. Racial segregation seemed like an old song to me, like something from the 60's played on the oldies station. I knew what it was, but it happened then, in the past. Wasn't it over? But still I witnessed the scorn on the faces of the older folks, heard the slurs mumbled at the grocery store. The overt displays of racism might have been gone by then, but the practice was still there. Whether I wanted to believe it or not.

Later, in my early twenties, my husband and I traveled to South Africa. As we rode along the highways taking in the beautiful countryside, shanty villages would peek through the rolling hills. We were shocked at the contrast between the first and third world and how clearly it was divided between the races. We spent some time in Johannesburg and visited the outskirts of Soweto. We read the words of Mandela, listened to songs about Biko, talked to people of both races about the experience. The end of Apartheid was still so new. The trip had a profound influence on me and I think that was the first time I began to understand the American racial situation more clearly. Witnessing South African history unfold, I was able to finally make a connection to our not so distant past.

Now, as I watch Obama take stage I feel such a sense of optimism about how far we have come in what is truly such a short period of time. I am proud of my country and excited about the historic presidency that my children can claim as their own, of their lifetime. Maybe racism will finally become the antiquated concept that I had imagined it to be as a young girl.

Let's get on with it.

ZZZZZZZZZZZ is for zoo

Really? That 20 minute snooze you took in the car on the way home from the zoo qualifies as your nap? Dude, you and I both know that you are going to be delirious by the end of the day. Why don't you save us both some tears, and just take a nap at home too? Seriously.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rock n' Roll baby!

Hubs ran the PF Chang's Rock n Roll half marathon. He came in with a very respectable time of 1 hour 39 minutes. He had a great run and afterwards mentioned that a slightly better pace in the full marathon would qualify him for the Boston. Crazy guy.

Just to prove that he's human after all, I snapped this pic of him going through the race goody bag afterwards.

No worries, I was able to dab the drool off the chair with a few paper towels.

Friday, January 16, 2009

That's AMORE!

Today I made a delicious bubbling pot of cacciatore, a wonderful Italian stew of sorts. Cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian and is most commonly made with chicken, but I tossed in pork, beef, and some fabulous sweet Italian sausage. There are many great recipes for this dish, but I make it like my Momma made it. Simple tomato base with cheap red cooking wine, tons of great herbs, fresh garlic, and whatever meat is on sale. I have experimented with better wine, but the cheapie stuff has salt added and it works really well with the dish. I have tried nicer cuts of meat too, but the pot simmers all day and the discount steaks taste just as tender as the ribeyes.

Thank God I am Italian. The dash of this, touch of that, throw it all in a pot, style of cooking works for my personality and my lifestyle. If I were French, there would be measuring and technique. If I were English, there would be precision and careful timing. But I am not. I am Italian. More is more. Food is love. Pass the wine bottle.

Really, it explains so much.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

She works hard for no money....

If my life were a movie, there would have been a point in the story, set more than a few years ago, when the heroine (me) realized that climbing the corporate ladder was not conducive to a family life. The soundtrack would swell (maybe Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve) as she packed up her desk and turned in her laptop. No longer a slave to the money 'til she dies, the movie gal would smile broadly as she waves goodbye to her coworkers and the elevator doors close. Cut to the scene a few years later when that same gal is snuggling a sweet baby on a blanket in a sunlit yard, blissfully happy to have found her true calling in life. THE END. You might have missed the sequel, though. The one were the beleaguered mother of two runs screaming back to her job just before her brain evaporates.

I know I chose to opt-out, as they call it these days. But today I am wondering why exactly I worked so hard for all those years. Instead of graduating from high school with honors and a scholarship in debate, I should have taken home economics, so I would know how to sew these so-called-iron-on patches onto the Brownie vest. Instead of graduating in the top 2% of my college class, I should have taken child psychology and more babysitting jobs. Instead of working on gantt charts and million dollar budgets, or (later) window displays and payroll taxes, I should have learned to knit. Our plans have me back in the workforce in a few more years, once the Little Guy is a little older. I just hope I can still string together coherent sentences by then.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Girlie lost her first tooth today. It was a tough road for her. Both of her big teeth grew in before the little ones fell out, so she has had the discomfort of an extra set of bottom front teeth for a few weeks. I made a dentist appointment to have them pulled, but miraculously, one popped out on its own before we had to go in. We were all so excited.

She snuggled into my lap as we marveled over how quickly it had gone from barely wiggling to its new resting spot in the tooth fairy box. As we discussed what the tooth fairy might bring, I rested my chin on the top of her head, inhaling that sweet but sweaty kid smell. I wanted to freeze her at that moment in time, one tiny tooth gone. She is really growing up so fast. As she gets older, my little girl will have so many "firsts" to experience, some she might not be so willing to share with me.

I'm not ready.

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to pick up chicks

The older I have gotten the harder it has become to make new friends. We have moved three times in the last eight years and each time it seems to be taking longer to settle in. I blame it mostly on the children. They keep me so busy that it is hard to take the time to cultivate a new relationship. Anyway, lately I find myself at the park with one eye on Girlie and the Little Guy and the other checking out the chicks. Hmmm, I think. She's cute. I edge closer and try to strike up a conversation. Just when we get into the swing of it, someone falls off the slide or needs a juice or has to make a hasty exit to the potty. We exchange names quickly and hope to see each other next time. This process can take forever and after a few months of pleasantries, I might discover that this chick and and I aren't compatible anyway.

I wish there was a "speed dating" service for new Mom friends. With fifteen minutes of uninterrupted conversation we could find out if we have anything in common beyond our children. If she has a snarky sense of humor, loves wine and coffee as much as I do, and wouldn't be caught dead gluing pictures into a scrapbook, we could go out on a real "date." What do you think?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Run, Cheri, run...

Since New Years I have been keeping a schedule of two days on, one day off, running a three mile loop in my hood. My husband , I can tell, is pretty amazed. I haven't run in years. Like maybe eight years. Maybe ten, but who's counting? Don't be too amazed yourself, I haven't made a full three miles yet, but I am well over two and with some power walking in between, getting a decent workout. Now, if we could demolish the rest of these Christmas treats, I might actually be losing weight too, but that is another story.

My mind is chattering away as I run, trying to keep up a good pace and rhythmic breathing. Oh my God, I think, will I make it to 30th Street? But then, after a few days, 30th rolls by and I have to set up a new goal so that I am sure to make the full length in a few weeks. The trick is, I can't look all the way down the street or I just want to give up, but looking right in front of me makes me a little queasy. So I pick a spot just ahead, but not too far.

Isn't that how life is? Look too far ahead and it seems impossible. Too close and it seems pointless. So, you pick a place in between and shoot for that. Somehow you get there and then eventually, you look back and realize you ran the whole damn route.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Peace out

When I imagined having children, I knew there would be some sacrifices. I accepted the fact that many of my Friday and Saturday nights would be spent at home. I temporarily put aside plans to travel overseas, and traded backpacking across the Irish countryside for walks around the neighborhood wearing a baby bjorn. I even shifted my career to accommodate a family life by working out a part time work week. What I couldn't have imagined or planned for are the millions of little indignities that must be endured to care for little human beings.

Today, the Little Guy and I made a trip to the grocery store. Things were going well. He was happily sitting in the cart singing and babbling and munching on crackers. I had a huge list and was relieved to only have one child with me since Girlie was back to school. About halfway through the store, I started feeling a little rumble in my tummy. Ignoring it, I pushed on determined to restock our pantry and finish my shopping. Several aisles later, I realized that I had two options: use the bathroom at the grocery store or abandon my cart full of groceries and pray I made it home in time. Not sure I could make it home anyway, I decided to use the bathroom at the store. Since I couldn't take my cart in with me, and an empty cart wouldn't fit through the entryway to the bathroom, I had no choice but to unbuckle my Little Guy and take him in with me.

I might have asked for help, but I didn't see anyone nearby to lend a hand. I wasn't sure what would be worse, taking him by myself or asking for help only to have someone standing nearby listening to the inevitable explosion I could feel brewing in my lower extremities. So I was by myself, cramps and all, in the grocery store bathroom with the 17 month old squirming destructoboy. And that is pretty much what gets me the most about being a Mom. I never counted on discarding my dignity to orchestrate a much needed trip to the bathroom while trying to prevent my youngest from touching the shiny box attached to the stall wall, pulling all the toilet paper off the roll, or worst of all, crawling out from under the stall leaving me stranded. I know one day I will be able to look back at this and laugh, especially after that same child backs the family car into a mailbox, or shows up with suspiciously red eyes after a night out with friends. But for now, I long for the days when I can just poop in peace.

Monday, January 5, 2009


My little people are tucked in bed and I am off the clock, so to speak. Hubs left today for a four day business trip and I am utterly exhausted. Girlie had a Brownie badge ceremony tonight, so I had to pick up new khaki's (managed to stick to our plan, more about that later), supervise homework, feed everyone dinner, bake a dessert, and take the Little Guy with us during a time when he is usually being tucked into bed. I don't like to take him out that late in the evening, but my sitter was busy, so we just had to roll with it. The woman hosting the event had a giant uncovered pool in her back yard, right next to where we were supposed to sit and watch the candlelight awards ceremony. Fantastic. I pulled it off, but barely.

I am already in my jammies and planning crawl to the couch and flop down in front of some mindless television. Maybe John and Kate Plus 8 can inspire me to get through the next few days on my own. I don't know how parents with more than two children make it. Once you are outnumbered, things get a little wild. It's a jungle around here and I am just going to try to get through the next few days without eating my young...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Subcompact - a little experiment

For about a year now I have been fascinated with the concept of The Compact. It was started in San Francisco several years ago by a group of people who wanted to make a real change in their environmental impact. They made a pact not to buy anything new for an entire year. The exceptions included food, medicine, and underwear. Everything else they needed had to be borrowed or purchased used. They felt that consumption was the ultimate cause of our environmental problems and wanted to take a very hard core look at how much waste they produced in a years time by purchasing new things.

This year, Hubs and I are doing a slightly modified version of this, which we have dubbed The Subcompact. Like the original group, we will not buy new items for a time period. We are not going to be as hard core as the original group.

The Subcompact Rules are:
  1. No new non consumable items for ourselves. This includes home decor, fashion, etc. Exceptions will be made for new running shoes and anything safety related (bike tires, car parts, etc.). Food and consumables like toilet paper, printer ink, or household cleaning products are not included.
  2. We plan on somewhat excluding the kids from this experiment. We'll try to buy used items for the kids when possible (the little guy has been getting hand me downs from girlfriends since he was born anyway), but we won't limit ourselves entirely on things like shoes or birthday presents.
  3. We are also going to reduce the amount of time to six months. If we make it that far, we'll evaluate where we are and whether we want to continue another six months.

We're trying this for several reasons beyond the obvious environmental benefits. The first is that we already have too much stuff. This became very clear when we moved this year and watched box after box of our possessions being packed onto a truck. I owned at least three sets of plates, not including the set of family china. We have been weeding through our things in order to lighten the load a little, but I still feel like we could do better. Second, money is a little tight this year and I would like to see how much money I can scrape together by not picking up that random new t-shirt at target. I'll bet it is enough to pay for a great trip to California this summer. Third, we are trying to get some time back. Time spent shopping, unwrapping, hanging, and shuffling around new stuff could be spent writing, relaxing, spending time together. Finally, I am hoping to tap in to the spiritual aspects of limiting my purchases. Being forced to buy something used will make me stop and think about whether I really need it. I think we have all taken part in the orgy of spending prevalent during the last decade and I need a break from it.

For me personally, the hardest part will be recycling my summer wardrobe or passing by those cute couch pillows on sale at Anthropologie. When the new stuff appears in stores and magazines, I get a little weak kneed. But the truth is, I have tons of summery clothes in my closet, sandals stacked high, and plenty of cute accessories both for me and my home from the business I just sold. It should be enough and I don't need more.

I'll keep you posted on our progress. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

This just in...

A 36 year old mother of two collapsed in the yard of her central Phoenix home today. She was found by her husband and children who promptly called 911. When paramedics arrived, the woman could be heard muttering "3 mile run... cookies." Medical professionals were able to revive her, but she is listed in critical condition...

Um, not really, but kind of...