Owning It

January 30th, 2012

owned

I was reading and giggling aloud at Margaret Cho’s blog about her red leather super skinny jeans when I thought, “I remember when I wore leather pants.”

And then, quite suddenly, I was overcome with the undeniable knowledge that the-thing-which-you-dread-when-you’re-23 has finally happened to me.

I have officially become a boring person.

It’s true. I’m a baby-photo-posting, constantly-crumb-covered, 9pm-bedtime-having, blog-neglecting, non-red-leather-jean-wearing, still-post-pregnancy-dieting, always-a-little-bit-tired, ready-with-latest-cute-kid-antic-story, traded-in-my-motorcycle-for-a-scooter, perma-straightened-my-hair-since-I-don’t-have-time-to-do-anything-to-it, writer’s-block-afflicted, formerly occasionally cool person.

*shrug*

Might as well own it, eh?

-Lo, who realizes it’s better to be boring than bored. Because in this new version of my life, I am absolutely positively never ever bored.

From Russia, With Love

December 26th, 2011

russia_saratov

In mid-November, I received an email from Ekaterina (Kate), a high school English teacher in Saratov, Russia. She and her students had found the cinépoems, and “Alice is my middle name” was their favorite.

The class had a school competition coming up, and they wanted to memorize and recite the poem, so Kate asked if they could have my permission to do so, and if I could send them the text of the poem, since transcribing it from the video was difficult.

I was astonished to discover that the cinépoems had traveled all the way to southern Russia. It’s just one more way the internet has made the world a much smaller place. Amazing.

Of course, I gave her my permission and sent the text of the poem straightaway. I also helped them find the music we used for the cinépoem.

And yesterday, I received the most lovely Christmas present ever.

This is a video of Julia, reciting my poem “Alice is my middle name” in her English class the day before the competition. She borrowed the blue Alice dress from a local theater.

julia_alice Alice in Saratov

Kate told me that Julia was nervous when they shot this video and “didn’t feel like an actress.”

I think she’s lovely. And she must have done well at the competition the next day, because her performance won 3rd place!

Congrats to Julia and all of her classmates, and a huge thank you to Kate for seeking me out. I’m so glad Alice made it all the way to Saratov.

Here’s the poem that started it all, for all you Alices out there:

Alice is my middle name

The light turns green and I’m off again
out looking for my wonder land
searching every rabbit hole
turning over every mushroom bowl

the clock gets louder
with each passing year
it stares me down
it finds the fear

so I shuffle up a hand of hearts
I pour myself a stiff blue dress
and the light turns red
(it’s all in my head)

but the plates keep spinning
and the cats keeps grinning
and that most important date
just keeps showing up late

it’s never the right time
it’s never, ever the right time

when the charge runs down
(as it often does)
I jump start my heart
to the marching band,
to the ticking tock

sometimes I could swear
I hear the sound of clouds
slamming on the brakes
slowing down to watch

and every time the sky turns blue
I stop somewhere
I wait for you

and every spring the grass turns green
I take that leap
of faith again

(You go further
when you get a running start)

Watch the original cinépoem

-Lo, who finally did find the right time after all.

Transition Lenses

November 21st, 2011

tunnel_light

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” -Anatole France

Melancholy. That’s the feeling I’ve been trying to name.

I am not sad. I’m not unhappy, or disgruntled, or malcontent. I’m just, ever so occasionally, melancholy.

Several people who are further along in their parenting adventure told me that when your babe turns one year old, you begin to feel yourself again. As if the first anniversary is a magical switch that, once reached, will tilt the axis of your universe back to a more familiar (and less overwhelming) setting.

So as the fated date approched, I waited for a renewed sense of self. Some sort of assurance that I had gotten the hang of mum-hood while still retaining or regaining all the moving parts that made me the person I used to be.

And then September 2 came, and partied, and faded into September 3 and I felt no different than I had on the 1st of the month. Or on the 1st of August. Or July.

Don’t worry, I’m not sitting here all sad-sack thinking there’s something wrong with me. I believe that mothers, like babies, develop at their own pace. Just because other mothers have felt like life returned to some semblance of normality around the one year mark doesn’t mean that my sense of normal will behave the same way.

Maybe I feel this way, in part, because I waited awhile to have a child. My individual personhood (and couplehood with Bruce) was pretty well established for quite a few years. We had it down. And then, at 7am one Thursday morning, everything changed.

I changed.

And in the change, I lost myself.

It’s true that I’ve gained more in motherhood than I have lost. So much more. There are moments of wonder and joy that surpass anything I have ever known, that more than make up for the lack of sleep and the absence of time.

But that doesn’t negate the fact that the me who used to be is gone.

Sometimes I struggle with that. Sometimes I don’t know who, exactly, I am anymore.

After all, the learning curve is steep when you’re becoming someone new. You spend a lot of time admitting that you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. You stumble around. You try and you fail. You get overly nostalgic about the old routine, because this new one is incredibly uncomfortable.

So it’s only natural and fitting that on the difficult days and often in the dead of night, you mourn the you who is lost. Because you knew how to be that version of yourself. You had the playbook, more or less.

Now that playbook is undergoing a complete and total revision. And in order to embrace the new world order, you have to say goodbye to the old.

But sometimes letting go takes awhile.

So while I’m cocooned in this transition phase, while I’m releasing and embracing and fumbling around, I’ve decided to let the more creative parts of myself go into hibernation. It’s the only way to survive, really.

If I tried to be as prolific as I was pre-baby, to write even as much as I did when I was pregnant, I think my skull would implode.

It’s not that I’m not writing at all. I’m here, obviously. Just not as often as I used to be. Weekly posts have been culled to monthly posts. If I’m lucky.

I’m also keeping a journal for Lucette, trying to record all the little moments that slip too easily into the ether.

But I’m not writing for myself. The poetry is dormant for now. I miss it. I miss that feeling when the words start to click and flow and fit into place. I miss the satisfaction of a well-placed line break.

And I miss charting out new ideas for cinepoems. (In fact, I have a gorgeous one percolating that involves me, Lu, and a pair of tiny hats.)

I miss the more simple, selfish things, too. Like having entire Saturday afternoons to read a novel. Or weed the flower beds. Or obsessively re-organize my closet. Or do nothing at all.

Someday the energy, the creative spark, will return. Someday I’ll pull the poems out from their hiding places and build them a home of paper and ink. But not today.

Today I am going to change a poopy diaper. And find the missing white cow for the Little People farm. And read the story about the Busy Horses. And read it again. And again.

And somewhere between the highchair and the crib, I’m going to learn something new about who this mother-me really is.

I think it’s going to be great.

-Lo, who thinks that a world without the Cheeks in it would be a truly miserable place.

Good Gracious

September 28th, 2011

gracious

I’ve been having an epiphany of sorts for the last few months.

Is that possible? To have an epiphany that stretches out over days and weeks? Perhaps a true epiphany is more like that typical “Aha!” moment. The lightbulb winking on and whatnot.

But the mommy brain I’m working with these days isn’t the speediest of creatures. Just this morning, I locked my scooter keys inside the seat compartment before I even pulled out of the garage.

And let’s not even talk about Monday, when I parked the scoot on Mission Street and walked away from it, leaving the keys dangling in the side lock ALL DAY LONG. How people passed up that opportunity for free wheels for 8+ hours is possibly proof that everyone else’s brain is just as sluggish as mine.

So it’s no wonder that this particular lightbulb has taken a looong time to illuminate. But now that it has, I can’t get the buzz out of my brain.

Being gracious. That’s the long and short of it.

I’ve been obsessed with the idea, turning it over and over as if in doing so I will discover some new meaning, a hidden key.

Becoming a parent makes you think of yourself differently. In some ways, it spotlights your biggest flaws, or turns up the volume on small eccentricities that you previously thought of as cute but now realize are just juvenile.

I have never made any bones about being a bold-faced misanthrope. I’m not a people-lover. Especially not en-masse. Crowds make me twitchy. Parties make me crave a quite nook and a book.

In my twenties I wore my misanthropy like a shiny silver badge. I flaunted it. I reveled in it. I embraced my inner grinch and dressed him up in big black boots.

I toned it down when I hit my thirties. I got more comfortable in my own skin and discovered that I was fine just being who I was instead of showing and telling all the time.

But I could still whip out the grinch at a moment’s notice, withering strangers with a glare. My sister has dubbed it the “Bugle Boy look” because of the time ages and ages ago when she and I went holiday shopping and for some reason ended up in a very long line at a Bugle Boy outlet. Someone tried to jump the line in front of us and I melted the skin off their face with my stare.

The thing I’ve begun to realize as I’ve gotten older and, yes, as I’ve become a mum, is that I tend to glare alot more than necessary. It’s my default setting, especially under duress.

And it’s not only strangers who feel the sting. I can whip it out on those closest to me, too. Even more so sometimes because I tend to filter my thoughts alot less around the people I heart the most.

But now I’ve had this epiphany about graciousness, and I’m trying very hard to be more selective about my misanthropy and grinchitude. I’m trying to save that withering glare for the occasions that truly call for it, such as keeping the skeeves out of my way when I’m strolling the baby.

I’m finding that I can be really good at being gracious if I stop to take a breath and put some thought into it.

Taking a few seconds to think before I speak or react or even blink gives me a chance to remember that it’s not all about me and how I’m feeling today. The stranger to whom I’m about to give a verbal smackdown might be having a much shittier day than I am, and I, in these few seconds, can either add to that pile of shit or shovel some of it out of the way.

So I’m working on it. It’s hard, especially when that default grinch setting is so easy to flip.

Recently we had a house full of people who have a history of putting me on edge, and that tense, prickly feeling has only increased now that my baby has been added to the relationship equation.

When I admitted to myself that I was going to be unable to defuse the grinch in this particular situation, I opted instead to stay silent so I wouldn’t say something stupid. In my head I kept hearing that old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Going mute isn’t exactly gracious, but it’s a step up from bitchness, so I’ll take it. This new attitude will take some time to cultivate, after all.

But I’ve had the epiphany. I’ve seen the light. And I know it’s time to grow up. It’s time to be gracious.

-Lo, who will still wear stompy black boots, don’t worry. She just might remove a few of the pointier spikes.

Year One

September 2nd, 2011

baby-love

365

For the record, I didn’t really believe everything would change.
I imagined less time, of course, less sleep, less general air of sans souci
but not the entirety of life all upside down, and least of all me.

It seems after 52 weeks of daily miracles
I have become someone completely new.
I am milk maid and diaper genie and an utter fool for you.

Little Light of September Moon, all my selves were made to love you.

-Lo, whose entire world changed for good one year ago today.

With Flying Colors

August 1st, 2011

airplane

By all accounts, Baby’s 1st Flight was a success.

Sure, there were a few bouts of excessive wiggling accompanied by the occasional ear-splitting devilish squeal. And there were also a few crankypants cries when Miss Cheeks was trying to nap and not able to get as comfy (e.g. flat on her face) as she would have liked.

goodie-bagBut those goodie bags did the trick with garnering the goodwill of nearly all of our airborne neighbors, excluding the sourpuss elderly couple who clearly were too good to be sitting back with all us riffraff in coach.

They certainly charmed the 3 teenage boys who sat behind us on the flight home. They received their bags o’ sugar with exclamations of: “No way!” “For real?!” “Awesome.” And my personal favorite, “Dude. I’m totally tweeting this!”

When we landed at O’Hare, I had a few bags left and passed them out to the flight attendants and pilot on our way off the plane.

 Turns out that was an excellent decision, because the day after we arrived home, a special FedEx package arrived for Lucette. aa-letter

The letter reads:
“Dear Lucette,
I received a phone call from the crew on your recent flight from San Francisco to Chicago. They were all so impressed with your grace and gentle spirit on your first flight.

On behalf of American Airlines, it is an honor to include you among our loyal customers.

We wish you a lifetime of safe travel and joy discovering the world.”

The package included a “My First Flight” certificate complete with AA wings and a gold pendant for a necklace.

I admit, I got a little verklempt over that one. Such a nice gesture, and completely unexpected.

Lu’s first trip to her Mimi and Papa’s farm in Illinois was quite eventful.

pizza

First, though, we had to stop at Lou Malnati’s and introduce her to real Chicago pizza.

Safe to say she’s a fan. (And she made her daddy proud with the amount of pie she put away.)

 The week that followed was full of hot July weather, lots of swimming, lap chickens, meeting horses,horse mooing at guernsey cows and winning over a black lab named Charlie, who became Lucette’s devoted servant after noticing the copious amounts of food that were tossed over the side of her high chair.

Even though she’s too little to remember, I showed her the house I grew up in out on Palmyra Road and introduced her to many of the places that were the landmarks of my childhood.

We’ll do it again when she’s older, I’m sure. But this time, her first time, will stick in my mind.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, a business idea for Public Relations Plane Kits for Babies is in the works, thanks to my entrepreneurial sister. I’ll keep you posted.

welcome-to-farm
-Lo, who says that a lap chicken is a chicken who sits in your lap, of course.

365 LeeLoo-less Days

July 26th, 2011

loo_smile

One year ago today, LeeLoo passed away.

For months after, I cried every day. The sense of loss was incredible.

I still miss her and think of her daily, but it does get better with time, as the cliche goes. Perhaps because time dulls the edges of your memory. That, and having a wiggly newborn around just weeks after the Loo died proved to be very distracting.

But I still miss her wiggly butt and crispy tongue and nubbly underbite.

And I don’t think she’d mind, at all, if we added a new wiggly butt to the family. Not to replace her, because that would be impossible. But just because a fur friend is very good to have.

-Lo, marking the days.

Public Relations, Baby Style

July 13th, 2011

plane-bags

The countdown is on for Baby’s First Plane Ride.

Lucette is 10 months old and has yet to meet her Great-Grandma Ruth. In a few days, we’re going to fix that. But the meet and greet requires an airplane.

I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve got some bad plane karma coming my way. In my younger–and much more arrogant–days, I lobbed quite a few hairy eyeballs in the direction of fellow plane passengers who were less than 3 feet high.

To be fair, a couple of them were kicking the back of my seat. Or trying to crawl under it. Or standing on the seat behind me, holding onto my headrest and also a clump of my hair.

So, at the time, I felt my dirty looks and loud sighs were completely justified. (And I still think that if you’re old enough to kick the seat in front of you, you’re old enough to be told to knock it off.)

But here’s the thing that I didn’t understand very well when I was a solo flyer: The only thing worse than a crying baby in the row behind you is being the parent of said crying baby.

I had my own Great Awakening to that fact when I started flying with my sister and nephew, who was then 6 months old. My sister was nearly nauseous with fear as we boarded the flight. Not because she’s a phobic flyer, but because she was so worried about how her baby would handle the flight… and how our fellow passengers would treat him if he handled it with screeches and squeals.

She needn’t have worried, that time. For a 6-month-old, a plane is a giant white noise and jiggle machine, and he nodded off to sleep like a bitty angel.

That was when I first began to understand just how hard it is to travel with kids. Because you’re not just dealing with all the extra stuff required… the bottles and snacks and diapers and toys and blankets.

You’re also dealing with all the unpredictable aspects of air travel (delays, cancellations, lost baggage, endless waits on the runway) and its affect on the sleeping, eating and pooping habits of a tiny human who can’t understand why they’re not allowed to get down and crawl up the aisle.

As if that all weren’t enough to frazzle your overly-exhausted nerves, you also have to deal with the disapproval–and often the outright disgust–of your fellow travelers. The muttering, eye rolling and exasperated sighing will begin as soon as they set eyes on your and your bundle of joy.

And even when you do your best to ignore it, even when you make superhuman efforts to keep your babe from bawling, even when you aren’t some oblivious,entitled parent-type who believes the entire universe revolves around little AshleyCaitlinLouise, even then, it still sucks to be treated like a pariah just because you had the audacity to both breed and travel.

(And for those prickly solo passengers who claim there’s never a good reason to take babies on a plane, consider this: My grandmother is pushing 90. She has bad knees and a bad heart. She can’t fly, take a train, or sit in a car for 3 days to come and visit her newest great-granddaughter in California. And she has been sending me letters for months saying, “Am I going to get to meet that baby before I die?!” Sometimes there are very good reasons to take a baby on a plane.)

So here we are, with the big day is almost upon us. Bruce and I have been planning for it as if it were a Seal Team Six operation, while at the same time remaining fully aware that babies tend to scoff at your plans. And then barf on them.

We’ve both been anxious about how this whole adventure will go. I have begun repeating to myself a daily mantra that goes something like this: “I don’t care what you think about my kid. I don’t care what you think about my kid. I don’t care…”single-bag

Bruce, being a more practical person, had a better idea.

Bribery.

It’s beautifully simple. We’re handing out bags of candy to all the passengers sitting near us.

 The bags are cellophane, so you can see all the tasty treats inside them and not wonder why this stranger is suddenly shoving a mysterious package in your face.

And they don’t just hold candy, no. That’s where the brilliance comes in. These bags? They contain ear plugs.

cimg2724

Each bag also comes labeled with a little tag which has a picture of Lucette (standing in a cardboard box and waving) on one side.

And the other side has a message that reads:cimg2731

“Hi! My name is Lucette.
I’m 10 months old and this is my first plane ride.
I am going to meet my 89-year-old Great Grandma
because she is too ill to fly to CA to see me.
I will try very hard to be quiet, but let’s be honest,
I’m not very good at it yet.
So I apologize in advance for any squeals, growls, wails
or endlessly repeated vowel sounds that might annoy you.”

I figure that half the battle of not annoying someone is to make yourself more human to them. To say: Hey, we used to be you. Flying all solo and fancy-free. We know you would rather not be sitting by our kid. But hopefully giving that wee growling kid an actual name and story will make a difference. As will the sugar. And most of all, the ear plugs.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

-Lo, working the Baby PR.

My Violent Heart

June 30th, 2011

violent3

Eminem has a new music video out. It’s called “Space Bound” and the violence depicted in the vid is, rather unsurprisingly, pissing a lot of sensitive folk off.

I’m not a huge hip hop fan. My musical taste leans more in the Trent and Tori direction, but I do have a thing for Eminem. He’s witty, he’s provocative, he’s talented and, come on, don’t deny that you secretly loved him just a little bit in 8 Mile.

But I’m here to talk about the violence. Specifically, artistic violence. Yes, there is such a thing.

From a creative perspective, violence is really fun to create. The fake blood recipes. The prosthetic wounds. The squelchy sound effects.

When we shot our bloodiest cinepoem to date, Abbatoir, everyone on set had the giggles in the middle of conversations about the best looking blood splatter.

And, with the exception of “auteurs” such as Michael Bay (who just likes to make things go BOOM while sweaty hot chicks sprint past in slow motion), many times the violence is used as a metaphor.

But there seems to be this whole subset of metaphor-proof people who always seem to get their undies in a bunch about something. Because, you know, Columbine was Marilyn Manson’s fault. And KISS really stands for “Knights in Satan’s Service.” And watching the new Eminem video might make you kill yourself.

Back when I used to attend church, I’d get people coming up to me after a poetry reading, concerned for my mental state. Or my spiritual state. Or some kind of state that was none of their business, since 99.993 percent of them didn’t actually know me in real life.

The thing they didn’t get was that poetry isn’t a diary. You take liberties with the words, with the situations. You exaggerate. You get dramatic. That’s what being creative is all about.

And sometimes when life feels bleak, you take it out in your work. You get dark. Raw. Violent.

Catharsis can be really beautiful.

So let Eminem blow his brains out in a music video. At least he’s not doing it in real life. And only a complete ignoramus would assume that he’s actually advocating a gun-to-chin philosophy.

-Lo, who eats lots of red meat, although there are plenty of YouTubers who think “Abattoir” is advocating veganism.

Sleep is the new crack.

May 27th, 2011

tired

I have a confession of intolerance.

Whenever I hear someone complain, “OMG, I’m, like, soooooooo tired today!” I roll my eyes.

I know you had a late night at the movies or clubbing or studying or sitting on the couch like a lump watching infomercials or writing your screenplay or breaking up with your boyfriend, again.

I used to have those nights, too. Especially in my early 20s.

I’d straggle in to work on Monday morning, hair still smelling of cigarette smoke and stage fog, and whine blearily about how I exhausted I was after a weekend of staying out until 4am dancing blisters onto my soles at The Dome Room.

But then I’d get home from work, pull on some PJs, hunker down on the couch for a sitcom or three and then toddle off to bed early. By Tuesday morning I was all caught up.

So I get it. You didn’t catch your standard amount of Zs and you’re a little crusty-eyed today. I get it, but I don’t feel sorry for you.

Because, I promise you, you have absolutely no understanding of what exhausted really means. Not until you’re a new parent.

Once that baby comes out, you become intimately acquainted with all the hours of the night, all jumbled up and out of order. You never know when you’ll actually get to sleep or when you’ll wake up, jerked unceremoniously out of dreamland by the wail of a tiny crib-bound creature who needs you, and needs you NOW.

Everyone smiles at new mothers indulgently and says, “Awwww. Enjoy it! Newborns sleep all the time.”

Which is only partially true. Yes. Newborns sleep alot. But they also eat alot. As in every 2 hours. Round the clock. And when you’re the one with the boobs, that means that you don’t sleep more than an hour and a half at any one stretch.

“Yeah, but it gets better,” you say. Yes. You’re right. It gets better. Your little one eventually learns that daytime is playtime and night time is sleep time.

And then they learn to roll over. Or sit up. Or crawl. Or stand in the crib and jump up and down and scream like they’re being chased by large hairy beasties.

Or they grow a tooth. Or three. Or they get sick. Or they had a bad day and didn’t take enough naps and now they’re cranky and pissed off and overtired.

Ask any parent what it means when their kid is overtired. (Be prepared that said parent might burst into tears when they answer.) Overtired babies are terrifying.

And speaking of terrifying, as a new parent, you’re a hot mess most of the time. You’ve got scads of wackadoo hormones, none of your pants fit, and by the time you walk over to your to-do list and grab a pen, you can’t remember what it was you were going to remind yourself to do.

You’re afraid to look at your stretch marks straight on in the mirror because then you might have to face the fact that your bikini days are really and truly over. Your hair is falling out in clumps, but it doesn’t matter because you never have time to run a comb through it, anyway. And if you did, baby would yank the hairs you have left straight out of your scalp. So you just rubberband that mop into a knob on the back of your skull and try to remind yourself to wash it before it smells.

But most of all, as a new parent, you wake up every day to the realization that you have created a person. A tiny, awe-inspiring little human being who shits up her own back and can’t pull up her own pants and opens her mouth and squawks for you to feed her like a wee naked hatchling.

And you are simultaneously crushed by the weight of your overwhelming love for this creature and by the responsibility to raise and nuture and teach this brand new person how to be an individual and a good citizen and how to balance a checkbook and drive a car (and a motorcycle) and love herself for who she is and be confident but not arrogant and be kind without being a pushover.

Start adding up all this new parent angst and haphazard snatches of sleep caught here and there over the weeks and months and then factor in 3rd trimester discomfort, tiny bladder syndrome and the inability to roll over into the equation and suddenly you realize that you haven’t really slept a whole night through in OVER A YEAR. (A guy I work with has 3 kids and says he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in 6 years.)

That, my friends, is what being tired really is. That is actual sleep deprivation. It makes you, by turns, a drooling zombie stumbling through the day and asking your spouse a question 6 times over because you don’t remember what he said, and an over-caffeinated, frantic-eyed energizer bunny who is freakishly motivated to fold the laundry. At 2 am.

Ten years ago, five years ago, 12 months ago, I wouldn’t have really gotten it either. I would have nodded and tried to sympathize. I would have quite sincerely said, “Oh man, that must be really hard.”

And I would have giggled at Go the Fuck to Sleep and thought it was clever. But I would not have guffawed until I cried.

I get it now. And you know what? You can keep your Saturdays of sleeping in until noon. I wouldn’t trade places with you for any goddamn thing in the world.

But maybe that’s just the caffeine talking.

-Lo, who will sleep when she’s dead.