Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Getting a Boob Job at 40

Hear me out. I'm 35 now, but I already know what I'm getting myself for my big 40th birthday: a BRCA test. Usually covered by insurance if you have a strong history of breast cancer in your family, it is a blood test that will tell you your likelihood of developing breast or ovarian cancer. More info can be found here:

After testing, they send you to a genetic counselor, who advises you of your options once your test results are in. If my test were to come back with no BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation I would let it be, and continue to keep up on all of my healthy habits as its still no guarantee that I'm not at risk. If it were to come back positive for the mutation, I'm preparing myself for a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Breasts seem to be a pain in the ass these days for a lot of women, and I'm prepared to replace them with some fakies.

The good news is that my mom is the only one in the family who has had cancer. Also, hers was estrogen positive, likely caused by the hormonal replacement therapy she was on in the 80s and 90s, like so many other women in this country. (There was a steep drop in breast cancer rates once women started dropping their HRT regimens.) I likely do not have the genetic mutation, but if I do, I'm whacking these things off and getting reconstructive surgery. I will not let this effing disease bite me in the ass. I'm sick of seeing pink on every package of Oreos. I'm sick of hearing about breast cancer foundations. I'm sick of women getting sick. And I'm sick of time standing still each and every time I run my hands over my boobs feeling for something that shouldn't be there. A mastectomy may seem pretty drastic, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. And I end up with new boobs, so I have the cleavage of a 40 year old when I'm a healthy, active, alive 80 year old.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A little Urban Archaeology to Start off your Weekend...

A friend of mine just posted this story on Facebook (you know who you are!:), which fascinates me and every other history geek/art buff/europhile in Cyberville. Here's the scoop: an old woman died in the south of France recently. She just happened to be the granddaughter of a 19th century socialite who counted a famous artist among her many lovers. What makes this story so great is not just the fact that they found a 'lost' painting worth 2 million euros among her belongings, but that when they unlocked her apartment, they were the first to step foot in it since the 1930s. But it gets better: the granddaughter had inherited it from Grandma Socialite and barely accessed it herself prior to the 30s, which means that this apartment looks just as it did around the year 1898. Holy crap, Batman! This is a major treasure trove, and I hope they turn it into a museum or something. If you're a freak and into abandoned buildings and secret rooms like I am, I encourage you to google more on this story--there are more pictures out there of this place.

CrabbyGolightly: You Can Have The Masterpiece: I'll Take That Parisian Flat

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I wrote my Mom an email today.

Yeah, you read that right. It just felt like something I needed to do.* I'm one of those grievers who doesn't care what the experts say is the normal time frame to grieve. And if someone tells me that it's been four years and that I should just get over it already, well, fuck 'em. If I need to spend a day talking to my mom out loud, I'll damn well do it. I'm not ashamed of looking like a crazy lady.

Only now do I realize what my Nina told me in the days after my mom's death is true--that grief never really goes away. At the time she told me that, I thought, Well that sucks. My second thought was, That can't be true. All the books clearly state that grief has a one-year average shelf life. Four years out now, and I can attest to the fact that my Nina was right all along. It never really goes away, does it? It just burrows in deeper, settling into your heart like a kitten in a bed of newspapers. There are certainly days when I don't notice it as much--when the sun seems to shine brighter, when I can laugh easily, when I can't recall all the details of an earlier life. And then there are the days like today, when I can hear her voice again just on the edge of my dreams, when memories of a day we spent together or a conversation we had come back with ringing clarity. Those clear memories are both a blessing and a curse. So I toss aside the books on grieving, and I stop listening to the experts, and I just go with that shit. I cry all day if I feel like it, and I talk to her, and turn up her favorite music and I write her an email. It hurts on a level I never could have imagined, but it feels a little like healing.

* No, I didn't get a response. Can you imagine if I did? That would have made the papers. Instead, though, a dragonfly whipped by my face about seven times, the most insistent, persistent, consistent dragonfly I've ever seen. He was all up in my grill. I'll take it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Law of Attraction

Back in February I wrote a bit about what I am sick and tired of as well as what I aspire to. I'm also questioning how much of what I put into my relationships is coming back to me whether I want it to or not. Personal accountability and all that. That was the beginning of what would be an emotionally exhausting time for me, and I'm trying to figure out how it all came apart and back together again.

Recently someone told me about the Law of Attraction--that your thoughts create energy, and that energy pours forth into the universe and back again, bringing with it the culmination of your thoughts. Sounds a bit like Positive Psychology to me, or CBT, or even prayer--but whatever it is, it's worth a try. I'm re-reading my posts from this year, taking note of the themes (both good and bad), and trying my hand at some thought-energy-stuff. So the idea is that if I focus on a positive outcome, on healthy relationships, on creating a life that is a culmination of all I believe in and cherish, those good things will come to fruition. Or something like that. Perhaps. And perhaps I'll just make me some hot tea, grab a good book and call it a day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Preschool is not a Talent Show

I've been thinking a lot lately about what kind of parent I am, and what kind of parent I'm trying to be. I second guess myself a lot, but mostly I feel like I'm on track as far as how my parents raised me and how much of that I want to pass on to my kids. For example: I had a conversation recently with parents that I'm merely acquainted with, and that live in a verrrry different community that I do. We're talking $5,000 a year they pay for preschool--a two-day-a-week preschool. I shit you not. And before I could bite my tongue, I laughed and said that my son's preschool is 100 bucks a month. The other parents just raised their eyebrows and didn't say much after that, and if they think I'm hopelessly middle class, well, I hope I am. Because what I'm hoping to pass on to my kids is a different measure of success.

I don't want my kid to feel pressured to read by the age of four--I want him to develop a love of reading, period. I really don't think that pushing them into a program to accelerate reading is going to do jack squat for their love of the written word as an adult--and that is what you hope for them, right? Honey, let me tell you one more thing--if they don't see you reading, they probably won't, either. Based on what these parents told me, there aren't many books in their house. Parents like this introduce books as a means of giving them the edge over other kids, just like they play Mozart and feed them sushi to sophisticate them early. Which is a crying shame, because classical music is awesome and even better when you can talk to them about what makes it awesome and truly appreciate it yourself rather than using it to make you appear more highbrow. As for the sushi--same thing. It is not about making your kid cooler than the next, it is about enriching them with an excitement for trying new things, an enjoyment for the simple act of eating or listening to music or painting or whatever. KWIM?

Anyway. It doesn't matter to me how 'academic' my son's preschool is, or how many languages they teach, or how many college prep courses he takes. Because that simply pressures him to study hard to get into the 'best' college, to get the high-end job so he can make lots of money and afford to send his kids to the 'best' preschool, then onto the 'best' college, and the cycle starts right over again. I just don't believe that this is what life is all about. I'm not saying that I don't want my kids to be academically challenged and ambitious--but ambition can take many forms. I want them to be passionate about something, I want them to love reading for reading's sake, and to dip from a deep well of compassion when dealing with their fellow human beings. I would never dream of limiting his college major choices to med school or law school--I'll be happy with whatever he chooses as long as he's livin' the dream--and not staying on my couch.

I hate the idea of being a 'success'-oriented parent--pressuring a kid to perform at maximum efficiency so you can show him off to the other parents--and it saddens me that there are so many parents out there who live for this shit. Thankfully, I don't see much of this in Concord, which is why I chose to live here. But I live dangerously close to Walnut Creek/Danville/San Ramon, and lemme tell you, that shit is rampant. I hate to be cynical, and I hate to slam parents for doing what just seems natural to them, especially since I hate it when those parents judge other parents. (It's a vicious cycle, isn't it?) But I just have to keep it real for my kids: Life isn't your own personal cupcake, not everyone is going to love everything you have to say, and you don't have to go to med school to make me happy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lazy Mama

That's what I should change my handle to, really. I see the moms out there, jogging their strollers at 9 in the morning all energized, on their way home from the playground. And I hear that lots of moms go to the park daily (WTF?!?), and attend preschool readiness classes with their kids, and make sure to enroll junior in all sorts of activies early so they're not stuck on the waiting list. Good for them. Seriously--I wish I could be more like that. I, on the other hand, rarely leave the house before 10. I realize that is practically lunchtime for most people with little kids, and that it probably accounts for us having a hard time scheduling play dates, but I'm just too dang lazy.

Perhaps I'm remiss in my mom duties--maybe I should be leaving the children's museum at noon instead of arriving at noon. And I should probably be putting the kids in bed at sunset like all the other kids in the neighborhood, but these guys are up until 9 and I just can't get my act together enough to push our schedule back any earlier. I'll admit--I love getting up 8 or 9 and taking our time at the table eating breakfast while I plan out our day. And having empty playgrounds/museums/beaches all to ourselves late in the day is also quite nice. I smile wryly every time--while all the tired, hungry masses are leaving the playground in droves, there we are in the heat of the late afternoon, just getting started. If this is what it means to be a slacker mom, sign me up. These kids don't know any different!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ghetto Mentality

So I just called our local neighborhood clean up committee for the city of Concord because of a massive vegetative obstacle that makes me walk the stroller out into the street for the better part of a block. It's been that way for months, and it seems to belong to a house with a gargoyle on the roof and cow skulls on the front lawn. I appreciate how diverse all of the homes are in our neighborhood, and I actually think a few cow skulls or gargoyles are pretty cool, but this overgrown Boo Radley stuff and used-car-lot stuff has got to go. I hate to be all old-lady about it, but there are a bunch of homes on our street that look haunted and that is how you identify the rentals.

My husband says that the houses are run down because they are rentals, but I just can't understand that argument. I mean--sure, it's true and all, but WHY? Just because a person is renting should not mean they have to live like pigs! I rented for ten years and I didn't leave my rental looking like animals had lived there. And when I rented places that included outdoor areas, I kept those looking nice, too. Why? Because I had to live in it, not the landlord, and putting money into my home whether or not I owned it was for my own comfort and enjoyment. I mean, how hard is it to make a home look kept? Would it kill a person to plant some flowers, to get a few gallons of paint and take care of that peeling trim, or to NOT leave car parts and broken toys and window panes on the dead front lawn? And the 'can't afford it' argument doesn't fly with me, because I can guarantee you that these people have cell phones, paid-for bling tones on said cell phones, HD cable, internet subscriptions and I see the $40,000 truck with rims in your driveway! Nope, they can afford it, they just choose to put their money into those other things rather than keep their shit neat--and in the meantime, I'm walking in the street to get around their property, I'm seeing the same chest-high weeds when I pass by that corner house, and I'm finding mice and snakes that my cat brings home from the field of dead grass and car parts that has become their front yard. And just because you're renting doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't put some TLC into where you live. Because it is your home, even if you don't own it, so take some effing pride! And the weeds aren't even the real problem--I have a super hard time keeping up with the ones that attack my yard, and I know they're hard to keep under control. It's the stuff that's in the yard with the weeds that makes it extra nasty. I may not have the time to weed and mow, but at least I'm not throwing crap into it like it's a junk yard!

Come on, people, I realize that you normally don't put energy into becoming better citizens, but for the sake of this neighborhood and all of us who have to live here, please start giving a shit.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Flu, Summer BS

I really hate being sick. But I hate it even more when someone calls just to give me a hard time about not showing up for a party that I only found out about a few hours ago. And said person just can't understand why I don't want to go to a kid's pool party and just 'lay down and rest there.' WTF?!?! Seriously? When I can just, let's see--STAY HOME on my couch and drink tea and soup and take care of my effing self like a sick person is supposed to do?!? You're giving me attitude like I'm doing something WRONG in being home sick? Again, I ask--W.T.F.

This is what I'm dealing with, folks. It just never ends.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hello, Summer

A new season! Lord how I love a fresh new season. I'm not generally a summer person, yet there are so many things that I do appreciate about it. Biting into sun-warmed fruit fresh right off the tree; saying hello to the hummingbirds while I sip my morning coffee on the patio; the rainbow mist of a backyard sprinkler; the mildly warm evenings that lure my neighbors out for walks; putting various fruits and veggies in my salads; dozing in the sun with a mindless bestseller; road trips.
I've been in a between-season funk lately but the longer days are finally giving me the jump start I need.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Well, that wasn't very charitable of me, but a woman can only take so much.

Previous post removed--it's not like I used names, but ya never know.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gracias a la Vida

This may sound strange (and sad), but for most of my upbringing I felt no pride or gratitude in my heritage. So many of the folks around me shared my heritage that I saw no way in which I was different from anyone around me, and it wasn't until I was well into my twenties (and away from home) that I realized that not everyone was Mexican (duh!). In fact, there are still things I run across today that are cultural things (tastes, tendencies, issues) that I don't realize are cultural until a non-Latino points it out to me. Crazy, but true. You mean not everyone crashes cascarones on their friends' heads on Easter weekend??? And not every household is stocked with pan dulce for Sunday morning??? Seriously? I have to laugh at myself. I've taken so much for granted for so long that I'm only now aware that not everyone grew up the way I did. And I'm especially aware of this now that I am married to an Indian family. And yes, I am married to the family.

But that's not the point of this rambling post. Bear with me here, cuz I already know this will be a rambling post, as I'm just sussing some of this out for the first time in my adult life. The point is this: that only in being a part of an Indian family as an adult am I able to appreciate the fact that Latinos have been in this country long enough to have created a few in-between generations, thus saving us from the generational issues that seem to plague Asian families. In fact, we've gotten so good at being Mexican-Americans, that we've been able to give a name those in-between generations: Chicanos.

I think that is what has made the cultural aspect of my life so easy while my husband's has been so fraught with familial tension and parental disapproval. Instead of seeing in terms of black and white, here -vs- there, immigrant -vs- American born, Chicanos claim their Americanness and their Mexicanidad simultaneously, unreservedly, and with great love and acceptance. I never had to deal with my parents breathing down my neck to be more "Mexican" and to disregard American culture. We are simply Mexican-American, and that, my friends, is a culture within a culture. We've somehow been able to find a middle ground for ourselves and settle down quite comfortably while embracing both aspects of who we are.

While my husband's parents insist on differentiating themselves from the "Americans" around them, I enjoy a certain amount of freedom within my culture. It's there, but it's not all of who I am. It's my heart, but it's not always my day-to-day. Sure, a certain mariachi ballad can bring tears to my eyes (Volver, Volver, what else?!), and I'll never forget singing De Colores in an overheated auditorium year after year when my parents would make their Cursillo...and of course, my earliest childhood memories are of watching my grandma make nopales in her little kitchen while Cuco Sanchez played on the record player. In other words, my heritage is close to my heart, but I'm also able to get out there and live my American life and eat Vietnamese food and listen to Reba McIntyre, and play with my non-Latino friends and not think once all day, all week, about my heritage and that doesn't make me any less Mexican.

For many Indian parents, this is impossible. You have to think about your culture when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night, and when you fraternize with "Americans" you are supposed to feel out of your element, and you have a choice to make--you're either one of us or you're one of them. You can't be both. What a shame that is--I'm here to say that you can indeed be both. You can embrace both cultures for what they are--and you can embrace yourself for what you are. I'm sitting here listening to Joan Baez sing "Gracias a la Vida," one of my favorite songs, and I find that the singer and the song are the perfect illustration of what just took me far too many words to articulate.

For your listening/viewing pleasure:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Childrens' Books Wanted!

A few months ago I wrote about wanting to organize some kind of book drive. I'd love to get books into the hands of kids who don't normally have ready access to books (sure libraries are free, but some parents don't encourage it, can you imagine?) Now that the holidays are behind us I thought it would be a great time to have a book drive! Everyone is donating in December, but people are in need the rest of the year as well.

So I found this organization, a few blocks away from my house! It is the Bay Area Crisis Nursery and they take in mothers and children who are in crisis. These people are doing great work and if I had more time of my own, I'd love to volunteer there. I also looked into Books for the Barrios (, also a great Concord organization, but they only donate to children overseas, and I'll be honest and say that my point in doing this is helping kids here in the Bay Area increase their literacy.

So...have any gently used kids' books that you'd like to donate? Send them my way and I'll be taking them all over to the Crisis Nursery in about three weeks' time. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mama Alice

I met her one year after I lost my mom. Six months after I had my first son. One month after moving into my new home and the post-partum blues were finally starting to lift. Her name is Alice (well, not really but I'm changing her name for anonymity's sake) and she is roughly the same age as my mom. She has two sons just like I do, although they are now grown with children of their own. Her parents were Portuguese, and I can imagine her childhood might have resembled my mom's, with her Basque grandparents. I believe that everyone comes into our life for a reason, but never have I felt that as strongly as I feel with this particular woman. She doesn't even know this, but she has made such a difference in my life.

Somehow, God (or the Universe, or whatever/whomever you wanna call it) seemed to know that I was alone and searching for a soft place to fall. I had been strong all year--for myself, for my new son, for my brother--and I desperately needed a maternal figure, a mama bear, a strong woman in my life with a sense of purpose and a sense of humor. Through various twists of fate, we ended up moving into our current home, relocating to Concord, and I joined the only community of Concord moms that I could find online--the community of St. B, my local parish. I joined the group as a shy new mom, unsure of what I would find, trying to pick up my mom's threads of faith where she left them and trying desperately to rediscover and redefine my own spirituality. I don't recall the very first time I met Alice, I just know that she stepped right in line with me and treated me as if my mom had told her all about me.

The funny thing is this: I seem to run into Alice at pretty major moments, moments that I'd love to share with a mom, a grandma... For example: Suspicious that I may be pregnant with a second child (my son N, as it turned out!), I ran to the Dollar Store one afternoon to pick up a cheapie preggo test. Guess who I should run into? Alice! I told her what I was there for (I hadn't even told my husband yet!) and she hugged me and cheered and celebrated with me, right there in Aisle 2. Fast forward 8 months. I'm on a tour of my hospital's labor and delivery ward when I hear a woman giving birth in one of the rooms. I hear cheering and shouting and realize that a baby has just been born, and I walk into the waiting lobby, when who should I see? Alice! It was her grandchild who was born the moment I walked by the birthing room on my tour that day. And then there are the regular days--days when I'm feeling spiritually dry, those tendrils of grief sneaking back into my heart, tears springing forth at a song played over the sound system at the grocery store. It never fails--I run into Alice. She smiles, she laughs, she shares a story of her own suffering, and suddenly I feel like I do have a mama bear, and maybe my mom sent her to me.

I haven't shared any of this with Alice, and maybe I should. I know she would understand. She's the type of woman who cries as easily as she laughs, and sharing feelings with her is so natural, so unshameful. She has a wicked sense of humor and a huge heart, and although different from my own mom in many ways, she is someone who would have appreciated the kind of person my mom was. One of these days I'll tell her all this. I'll tell her what a difference she made in my life at such a crucial period. I'll tell her that she makes she laugh on days that I've spent crying. Most importantly, I'll tell her how instrumental her soul has been in healing mine.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Housekeeping Fail.

Sometimes I feel like I'm digging a hole just to fill it up again. Or like I'm throwing toys in a bucket with no bottom. Something like that. To begin with, I'm pretty anal. I've become more anal over the years, and am super anal now that I am a homeowner and it's likely that we'll be here for a very, very long time. I hate clutter, I hate dirty kitchen floors, I hate sofa pillows on the floor, and I hate an unmade bed in the middle of the day. But I have kids, and I have a messy husband, and I'm fighting an uphill battle. I have to decide if I'm going to a) keep cleaning three times a day and waste my energy b) hire a housekeeper, which makes me feel weird, or c) just give it up already.

I really want to not care about how my house looks. I do. I want to not look around and feel compelled to organize and sort all of the library books, the socks, the lifecrap. But at the end of the day, a house is meant to be lived in. Books are meant to come off the shelf, laundry is meant to be worn and thrown back into the hamper, and mail is bound to pile up. I know that I can have a clean, tidy house one minute, only to have it a mess again by lunch time. *deep breath*

I suppose my New Year's Resolution this year is to give up a bit of that control. Psychologically, I realize that I'm just trying to control the uncontrollable, and I have to remind myself when my blood pressure spikes at the sight of a mess, that controlling my household doesn't mean I'm in control. To get all Freudian on myself, my messy house is not my mom's cancer. I can't control life's outcomes by straightening every askew picture frame and wiping every crumb. That is what this is all about and I'm ready to give it up, let life unfold, and let my laundry do the same.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Judgey Moms

A few years ago, when I first started this mom thing, I came across the occasional judgey (sp?) mom. You know the type--they invite you out for a play date at the park, only to compare everything they're doing with everything you're doing. But not coming right out and saying it, oh no. This is all very uptight, passive aggressive, weird conversation. Most of all, I observed these seasoned moms walking all over other moms, most of whom were new at this stuff and understandably intimidated. Which is just complete bullshyte.

I've heard a lot of talk over the years about the "Mommy Wars" (moms who argue over going back to work -vs- staying home full time) as well as what I'm going to term the "Crunchy Wars," (moms who insist that Attachment Parenting is the only way.) Well, guess what--I'm a total Crunchy hippie Mom, and I don't give a fig about whether or not another mom chooses breastmilk over formula. I'm clearly pro-breastfeeding for myself: I nursed my first son for 15 months, and my second son is still going strong at 8 months. We also chose to co-sleep: soooo much easier for those multiple night feedings. And wait--I'm not finished yet--I "wore" both kids (in a sling and in a Baby Bjorn), I make baby food from scratch, and my first son wore cloth diapers. So I think it's safe to say that I'm a pretty Crunchy Mom. Attachment Parenting works for me and I love it.

That said, one of my close friends put her son in a crib first thing, placed him in daycare so she could go back to work, and decided not to breastfeed after a few weeks of that. And ya know what? I think she's one of the best moms I know. And she doesn't read this blog, so I'm not just saying this for her sake. I'm saying it because I like doing things my way and she likes doing things her way and we're great friends. I know for a fact that her son is going to be just fine, and I don't reserve judgment for her whatsoever. Why is this such a hard concept for so many women? I don't understand it, but until women just cool it with eachother, I'm going to stick to my nursing/non-nursing, working/not working, non-judgey mom friends. (And the nice thing is--I haven't run across any judgey moms since my eldest son was a newborn--so maybe their numbers are diminishing?) In any case, say it with me, ladies: A Happy Mama is a Happy Baby!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Going Natural

Enough writing about the toxic people out there. Now onto the actual toxins. I've been on a three year quest of trying to rid my household of as many toxins as possible, and, well, it's impossible. It's one thing to replace the Windex with a spray bottle of vinegar (and a splash of lavendar oil to make it smell pretty!), or to change out the Tide laundry detergent with 7th Generation, but that's just the first step. It gets harder!

Let's take cosmetics, ladies. It is scary and disgusting how many chemicals the makeup companies are able to cram into our SPF moisturizers and blush. I cruise the aisles at Longs (woops--'CVS' now) and feel like I'm making an informed decision when I choose the more expensive but 'natural' Aveeno or Neutrogena product. WRONG. Both brands are owned by Johnson & Johnson, who like all the other big company names use synthetic petrochemicals like formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, and phthalates. I mean, when was the last time you read the tiny print on the back of your foundation or (the worst offenders) SPF moisturizers? It is truly scary, and with a history of cancer in my family, I ain't takin no chances.

Let's face it--there are a ton of carcinogens in our daily lives that we have little control over--our home's carpet, our mattress, that 'new car smell' we so love to inhale, plastics that are everywhere from ziploc food storage bags to drinking cups--those are some of the things that we can only control so much. They're just there, and it takes a lot to replace them completely (Have you seen how expensive chemical-free mattresses are? Egads!) But what we can control is what we spray on our windows, whether or not we use Round-Up weed killer instead of pouring boiling saltwater on those weeds, and what we put on our faces. I like to take the time to find out if some big company like Proctor Gamble or Johnson & Johnson produces my favorite 'natural' cleanser/moisturizer/hair gel, and make a switch to a smaller, truly natural company. (Burt's Bees and Desert Essence are two of my faves.)

So I challenge you to take a look at the backs of those bottles--and then google those ingredients. While the occasional use of these chemicals probably won't hurt, a lifetime of exposure to them via various products will.

FYI: I check my cosmetics against the lists on these sites:

Sunday, January 24, 2010


There have got to me more people like me out there, but I just don't get status symbols. I don't get the McMansion, I don't get the BMW/Audi/Lexus thing, I don't get the I-became-a-surgeon-because-of-the-prestige thing. I have, however, spent a lot of time around people who have spent their lives chasing these things and I have to wonder what it's all about. I mean, do they really care that much about what other people think? One word of advice: if the people in your life judge you based on how many palm trees surround your 'estate,' or on how many times you upgrade your vehicle, those aren't friends. Get rid of them promptly and find some new people that just want to hang out and enjoy some common interests.

I must just be selfish, because there is no way I'm throwing that much money down for someone else's viewing pleasure. There is also no way I'm spending my cash upgrading my kitchen every three years. My car is 9 years old and I love it. My home is 60 years old and I love it too. It is a place for me to veg on weekday nights, bundle up and watch movies on the weekends, and to sew in, and read in, and just enjoy myself and my family. I'm relieved that I don't belong to an HOA who limits my home paint choices to peach and light peach, and the sidewalks on my street are cracked with the roots of 100 year old trees and I love that kind of charm. I don't think that anyone is a 'loser' for not owning a home, or not having a car newer than 2007, or whatever.

Get over it, people! No one is watching you that closely but yourself! You don't live in Tuscany, so kill it on the "Tuscan" kitchens! Everyone's tastes are different, but when I see these people living this way just to show off to a bunch of other people who live that way too, I have to sigh. I mean, really.

/end of rant.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why are we still talking about this?

Every day when my husband comes home from work, I have dinner waiting. The house is fairly tidy, and the kids are clean and fed. That's where the 1950s scene ends. He takes a few moments to decompress from his commute, changes into comfy clothes, and swoops our sons up and into the other room, leaving me to enjoy some silence, tea, and/or a good book. He thanks me for all the hard work I do on a regular basis, and tells me that I'm a great mom and a great partner. We're a team, and this is what I expect in a marriage with children: that wonderful concept, co-parenting.

That certainly wasn't the name of the game in my parents' day, although my Dad was a pretty hands-on father when I was a baby. He changed diapers, got up at night to feed me, and took over the childcare when my mom worked her weekend shifts at the hospital. I suppose I always assumed that is what men do--parent their children--and I married a man who believed in the same. However, I'm finding that a surprising number of women don't enjoy the same kind of equality in their marriage. Although it is the 21st century and parents today were born after the womens' rights movement, not all are down with the daddy-does-diaper-duty concept. And that, my friends, is a cryin' shame.

I'm just going to say it: I've worked in various office and on-my-feet jobs since I was fifteen years old, and I've never worked this hard. I didn't stop working until I had my first son at 31. So, in essence, I've done my husband's job, and I know it's tiring. But what I do now is downright grueling. I had no idea it would be this hard, this non-stop, this intense. I don't get law-mandated bathroom breaks, or a one-hour lunch, or even much of a chance to check my email. I'm in constant motion, and often eat standing at my kitchen counter with a baby on my hip. That said, I love it. But it's not office work, not by any stretch. Yet these other men (the ones who refuse to change more than a few diapers a month) don't get this at all. They assume that what mothers do is 'women's work' and that as the breadwinners, working full time is all they should be held accountable for. Everything related to childcare belongs to the woman, which is "easy," since she's hanging out at home all day. You see where I'm going with this, and don't worry, I won't continue on this essay. To be short, that attitude just burns me.

However, what bothers me is not just the inequity between the two parents. What bothers me is that these fathers don't want to partake in their childrens' upbringing. That they really would rather watch the game with a beer or go out and see their buddies than spend time playing trains with their son, or teaching their girl how to kick a soccer ball around. I mean, changing diapers and giving a child a bath is bonding time! It's tiring, and it's repetitive, and it's messy, but it's ultimately rewarding and a fleeting moment of their childhood that I'd rather not miss. My husband enjoys his time with our kids immensely, I can see it in his eyes, and that is why we make a good team. Every time he hands them back to me, he says "I don't know how you do it, babe. They're a lot of work! You're doing a great job every day with our boys." (I know, I know, you can stop rolling your eyes. It is pretty sweet, though.)

To be honest, I can't imagine a marriage with anything less than that regard. We are both responsible for caring for our children, he doesn't just bring home money and I don't just raise the kids. The old roles are ever-shifting, interchangeable, and dynamic. And that's just the way it should be, folks. So get in there and raise your kids, men. It's the manly thing to do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Our True Age

A dear friend asked me recently what I felt my true age to be. We had just enjoyed brunch on a beautiful day in her Victorian era flat in San Francisco and at that moment I was feeling about 29. That was the age in which I started to really come into my own. At 29, my mother once said, you're young but the world starts to take you seriously. However, I'd like to change my answer.

I've often thought lately (the last year or two) that I really feel about 50. Not that I'm starting to have aches and pains, but that I've lived a lot. I've played mother to people in their twenties, I'm a bit worn in (like a good paperback) by motherhood, I'm a little sad, a little hopeful, and a lot more tender. I've seen enough of life to know what matters and what really doesn't, and I finally feel at home with myself. I'm not really searching anymore, and I don't play games with people, and I write a nice thank-you card. So, I feel about 50--and in a good way.

Obviously, I've given a lot of thought about the question my comadre asked that beautiful day and I'm realizing how much things have changed in the last few years. I am not the woman I used to be, since losing a mother and becoming a mother (in a six-month period to boot). There are so many contradictions in me now--and yet I'm comfortable with them. I'm much stronger than I used to be, yet much more vulnerable. I'm gentler with others' hearts than I ever was before, yet tough enough to shove back when necessary. I certainly don't take anyone's shit anymore (like I used to), but my heart is much more open to forgiveness. My time is precious, too. The friendships I have now are worth my time and energy--and if they're not, I let them go. I say the word No now with a capital N, and sorry be the man (or woman) who asks me twice. I no longer hesitate to leave a situation and I no longer hesitate to help someone. It feels so liberating to have clear boundaries and clear intentions, and I actually like the fact that my internal age is 50. I'm learning to embrace the earth mama, homekeepin', no-nonsense, Paula Deen-esque lady who lives inside me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Better Post-Holiday Thoughts

Enough of the pity pot posts--just needed to get that out, I guess.

So I've had two dreams now that my son K grows up to be a chef. One in which my mom is telling me that it's his destiny. The funny thing is, I've never been much of a cook myself and have only recently been loving spending time in my kitchen. I'm the one who ate top ramen for dinner in college, who had white rice for breakfast when finances were tight. Now, my son has changed all that. I cook from scratch and I cook healthy, for the first time in my life! Partly because I'm cooking for a family now and I'm having to put more thought into our meals, partly because I'm paranoid about getting sick like my mom and leaving my kids behind, and partly because of K's sheer enthusiasm in the kitchen. He insists on helping me cook, bake, mix, whatever. I can't make toast without him wanting to get up on the counter and watch. I was never that interested in what my mom was making (and now wish I had been). He loves sushi, crepes, brie cheese, broccoli, Indian food, you name it. Not your usual toddler fare, but this kid is nuts for adult food.

Because of Kiran, I cook healthier and more often. And in a funny way, it's saved me. A few years ago I didn't know how I was going to get through life without a mom. The last thing I thought about was my own wellness and gastronomic enjoyment. Little K has taught me that preparing, cooking, and eating good food is one of the most life-affirming activities known to man. Thank you, Kiran. Maybe someday I'll eat in your restaurant.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Post-Holiday Thoughts

It is a foggy night outside my window as I type, and I soak in the winter. I love the dark months of the year, unlike most people. The only thing that sucks about the change of seasons is it always makes me homesick. Homesick for my mom's house, which thankfully I can still return to, but will never be the same. Homesick for belonging to a family and not being able to go "home for the holidays," as everyone else seems to do each year. Sometimes I feel like an orphan. My last grandmother passed away recently, and so I am officially at the top of my female family line.

The hardest thing over the last three years has been having no family home. I have lots of extended family, but they all have their own immediate family circles, of which I don't belong. I am so very thankful that my two aunts always extend their home for me to call my 'homebase.' Me and my kids stay with them any time I travel to Stockton, and I just don't know what I would do without them and their hospitality. So I carry on each season, grateful to have the friends I have, and I make my own traditions, and I try not to think about the fact that I no longer travel eastward for the holidays. I guess some people have big happy families and some people just don't.

I also try not to think about how hard it sucks that my grandparents just couldn't get their shit together enough to do right by their kids and emotionally invest in their future. I can trace the dysfunction all the way back on both sides of my family--all the way back to my great-grandparents. We're talking Mexico and Spain here, people--so this shit goes back. I work so hard on making my kids' lives brighter each day, and on making sure that the relationships I build with them today will result in healthy relationships among their children and grandchildren that I just don't understand what made my grandparents blip out like that when it came to basic parenting skills. I mean, what the hell were they thinking? Did they not stop to think for two seconds that their actions (or inactions) would impact their children in such major ways? So here I am, sixty years later, writing about how tough it's been living with the results of alcoholism, abandonment, divorce, co-dependence and depression. Thanks, guys. You're the tops.

Ah, cynicism.