Yesterday, I went through Z's closet with E, who was thrilled at the prospect of being in her big sister's normally off-limits room. Between the bags of hand me downs that will soon fit and the ones that no longer fit, I found a trash bag full of drawings. It is a huge lawn and leaf bag filled with large, loose rolls of paper on which Z drew her likeness, as best she could.

I had completely forgotten about her self portrait phase. There were a few weeks last fall when, every free moment, Z would lay down paper on the floor and sketch herself in earnest. When our easel paper rolls ran out, she attached regular drawing paper end to end to end. Each roll of paper was filled with drawings of Z by Z. Slightly different by design, most of them were larger than life sized. Her eyes, mouth, clothes and hairstyles differed in each one and going through them today in her room, I remembered asking her about them as she worked so diligently. Why were there so many?

Because I'm still figuring myself out, she said.

I didn't have to ask any other questions.


I am 40 today.

I've long been obsessed with sliding doors-type movies, choose your own adventure books and true stories about life-altering chance encounters. Watching Gwyneth Paltrow's life change completely based on a missed train, I wonder about all those seemingly small moments in my life, the ones that we don't even know are happening when they happened, that determined the path I am on.

I used to imagine myself living a different life. In another version of this life of mine, I didn't move to Maine after college to run a bed and breakfast, thereby setting myself up to move to San Francisco with a college friend which essentially set my entire adult life in motion. Instead I went to graduate school in psychology, got intensely interested in ...... something..... and found a deep intellectual calling.

I have struggled so much with feeling a loss of the life I didn't lead, the sliding doors one where I'm a diligent and respected member of some academic circle. (In true sliding doors fashion, I would have a different hair style and wardrobe, which every American woman knows is shorthand for a totally different life.)

But what stops me cold these days: if I had followed some other path, opened a different door, I would most likely not be here in this house, with these people.

I am still figuring myself out but I know one thing without question: that would be the biggest loss.


Z still draws herself sometimes. But mostly she draws towns, cities, flowers, friends, animals, planes, and rainbows.  I asked her last night what she wanted to do with all the self portraits I had unearthed.

I want to keep a few of the best ones. I don't need the others anymore, she said.

And, once again, I totally understood.


Have you ever heard the story about the friendly introvert?

I am definitely an introvert. No doubt about it. After spending many hours with people, I need to retreat, to be alone, to be quiet. If I do not get enough alone time in a day, I wind up hopelessly depleted.

My introversion is a fact and so, in my mind, incontrovertible. But then there is the story that I tell myself and others, the story of how awkward and socially inept I am. I tell this story because in my low moments I wholeheartedly believe it to be true. But also, I tell this story because it lets me off the hook to some degree. It enables me to hide, however feebly, behind the mantle of "awkward."

The revelation? That story is just that: a story, one that is not necessary based on fact, one that is not incontrovertible.

This fall, after campaigning for a political candidate (door to door and on the phone) and going to The Blathering to hang out with a whole bunch of people I've never met, I realized something major: being introverted doesn't mean I can't be friendly. It means I may have to work a little harder at it, and I certainly should rest afterwards (preferably with chocolate rewards for good behavior), but I can do it.

Maybe it means I need to make the conscious choice to do it, even more than other people. Because I don't instinctively seek out opportunities to chat, I can get lonely and isolated. Because I fear I will say the wrong thing, I often say nothing and feel excluded.

Though introversion does not have to equal awkward, I do think they are linked. A big part of what's draining about being in with other people is my own insecurities. I spend so much mental energy worried about the lameness of my social skills that I lose the opportunity to enjoy my companions' company. I've been noticing that when I make an effort to smile and be friendly, right from the start, the whole interaction feels that much more smooth.

This is counter-intuitive. I will require a lot more practice, of the fake-it-till-you-make-it variety.
Since this fall's forced meeting of new people, I've found myself a little more practiced at being friendly. At church, I've been a little more likely to walk up to someone and initiate a conversation.  When I see someone an acquaintance a school function or around town, I've found myself smiling and saying hello and chatting like a.... like a....  like an extrovert?

No, like a friendly introvert.


Baby shower, blue

We helped throw a baby shower for friends this past weekend.

Blue and white streamers hung from our ceiling. Blue napkins and tablecloths were set on tables. Blue baby blankets and blue striped onesies were opened and oohed and aahed over.

I skewered tropical fruit and made tea sandwiches and printed out baby Pictionary clues.  The house smelled like the cinnamon rolls that I made from scratch (which were so amazingly delicious that I don't think I can ever make them again, such was my sugar coma from eating FOUR IN A ROW. I could NOT STOP even after the nausea and headache set in.)

Our most brilliant move: we hired a babysitter. The kids watched a movie in the basement with the sitter while the grownups chatted and ate upstairs. She then took the kids outside to run off their sugar (they had some cinnamon rolls too) while we played games and opened gifts. It was delightful and it makes me think that from here on out, we always have to hire a sitter for parties such as this.

I wondered how, as a mother of two girls, it would feel to throw this party for a baby boy. Would the sight of adorable blue booties make me weep with longing? Would I feel a deep pang for what I will never have:  a baby boy of my very own?

(There will be no more babies here. I'm turning 40 next week. Our reality is that we have two girls and we are done.)

I can't say I didn't have a single pang of baby lust. But it was mild and different than I expected. Our friends will make wonderful parents, and I'm so happy for them as they begin this journey together. But also I'm so happy, selfishly, for me. I will get to hold a baby boy very soon! And I will still get to (mostly) sleep all night!


So while it is true that I will never hold another one of my babies, that leaves my arms and heart open to hold all the babies who will come into my life, whose moms might need a little break.

Oh you guys, I will be so happy to give them one.


The Blathering 2012

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was reading one of the many stellar blog posts over at Swistle. As I scrolled through the comments, I found myself struck by one in particular because it was exactly what I was going to say, only better written. I clicked over to her blog and read for awhile and she started reading my blog and lo, an internet friendship was begun.

I think after a weekend in New Orleans sharing a bedroom where we chatted about breast engorgement in the wee hours of the morning, we can now officially drop the "internet" off that statement. We are now just plain old friends.

(Well she's vibrant and fresh-faced, I'll take the mantle of plain and old.)
I signed up for The Blathering, which is a yearly social event with a bunch of blogging and twittering ladies, basically because Marie Green was going. And Hillary and Michele. And a whole bunch of other women who I couldn't claim to know but whose writing I've read for a long time. One night on Twitter, people were talking about it and it sounded like it would be a fun way to meet a lot of bloggers. (If you were the type of person who is extroverted enough to meet 60 strangers. Which I am NOT.)

I signed up on a whim and almost immediately regretted it. A sour feeling in my stomach deepened as the trip approached. What was I thinking, going to a large group social weekend where I knew no one and most of these ladies already knew each other? Would I spend the weekend awkwardly lurking on the sidelines of the conversations of old friends or sitting alone in my hotel room reading a book?

Some wonderful ladies and me, NOT sitting alone in a hotel room or lurking on the sidelines. (Too much.)
I am so relieved to report that I had a blast. Everyone I met (though I will admit I didn't meet everyone. So! Many! Great! Ladies!) was so friendly and fun. New Orleans was stinky and sticky but full of history and color and delicious fried food. It was the perfect backdrop for our weekend.

We walked ourselves sore and ate ourselves ill and talked ourselves hoarse. And if the amount of facial hair removal that was needed on Monday morning was any indication, I felt perfectly comfortable with these ladies.

It was pretty darn perfect.

You know how you read someone's blog and you think you know them? Or want to know them?

Well, you kinda do. And you definitely do.

(PS. Next year's Blathering is in Charleston South Carolina. Sounds pretty great, yes?)


Good guys and bad guys

On Monday afternoon, I took Z and E to our local library to see a kids play based on Treasure Island.

Z was excited to see it but once the action started, she became very concerned. "Is he a bad guy or a good guy?" she kept asking worriedly about each character.  Long John Silver completely stumped her, as he had a moral crisis halfway through and struggled over whether to grab all the treasure for himself.

"BUT IS HE GOOD OR BAD?!?!" she whisper-yelled repeatedly during Long John's monologue.

I never read Treasure Island and honestly didn't know which way the story would go, but even if I did, I think I would have answered the same way. "I don't know, sweetheart. He doesn't know either. Just watch and think and see what YOU think."


The weeks leading up to this presidential election were full of difficult questions in our house.

"Why is it so important that ------------win, Mommy? Will something terrible happen if --------- wins?"

"Why are all our friends voting for  ---------- but so many signs in our neighborhood are for -----------?"

"We shouldn't trick or treat at this house, they're voting for -------------."

"If --------- wins, will Daddy lose his job? Will we have to move? Will he cut all the money for my school?"

"I don't know if I can be friends with A any more, she said her family is voting for -----------."

Z, at six years old, is a sweet, sensitive kid. She also sometimes fails to see any shades of gray.  She tends to see the world in absolutes, at least at first and she has inherited my knack for anxious extrapolation. (If only it were a marketable skill! I'd be set!) She needs to be reminded regularly that the world is not divided up into good guys and bad guys.

Not surprisingly, I found that reminding her about this truth was very healthy for me as the campaign heated up in our swing county in a swing state. To regularly hear the words "He's not a bad guy, he just has different ideas for how to help our country" come out of my own mouth was soothing to my fears even when it failed to soothe hers.

I campaigned for a candidate in this presidential election. I spent time and money and effort to persuade people to vote for my candidate and I believe in what he stands for. But I don't think the other guys is a "bad guy." Sure, it'd be easy for me to pick and chose some parts of a person's history and make them into a monster, a boogeyman that must be defeated.

But what good does that serve? Even if we "win", do we actually win anything at all?


This morning, 7 am.

"I have good news for you, Z! ---------- won!"

"OH YAY! I'm so glad Mommy!

But Mommy?"


"We'd be okay, either way, right?"

"Yes, sweetheart. Either way, we'll be okay."

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