Spring, concluding

A banner floated between two trees on the front lawn of our town hall, congratulating the high school graduates. Moments before spying it I had been walking my three month old through the park, where hot pink azaleas dotted the green walking paths; where a preschool had let loose its pack of toddlers. They ran through the grass, plucking wildflowers and shrieking. 

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This new town of ours has become our home, and suddenly I saw it all laid out before me like a map: how my own toddler, just like the ones in the park, will all too soon be one of those high school graduates being cheered on at town hall; how my own infant will all too soon become one of those toddlers. How proud I am of these two beings already; how emotional it is to be a parent and how silly I feel for being so emotional.  

Spring is normally my least favorite season but this one seems to have some new sparkle to it, a sheen I can't shake. Maybe it's me coming out of the newborn fog and back into real life. On my walks with my son I am buoyed by the flowers and gardens and sounds of landscaping. The hum of lawn mowers lulls him to sleep. There is so much beauty and promise. 

I return to work next week, and I love working. I love my office, I love having a career where I can be creative and imaginative and affect people. I get a lot of satisfaction out of my work life and I'm looking forward to heading back. But wow, I'm missing these days already. 

There was once a night way back in the mid-aughts, another lifetime ago, when I was drinking at a surf-themed bar in Sri Lanka and I had to physically step back, pause, and draw the scene into my brain so I could make a lasting memory. Even as I was trying to be present, I was already escaping into what my narrative about my time in that country would be, how I was drinking local beer at a bar that wanted desperately to have a California vibe. I knew I would probably never be in that country again, and certainly never in that bar. I would definitely never be with that group of people again. So I had to mark it down. I had to make sure I would remember it. 

And I suppose that's what I'm feeling now as my final days of leave in a blooming spring pass me by -- like I'm building the story of my maternity leave as I live out my last days of it. Like I need to make memories even before the days have finished. There are lots of "lasts" happening. My second and final baby will never be as tiny as he is now. My smart and sweet toddler will never be so toddler-like again, with her round belly and sturdy, active legs. I will likely never have this unstructured time with them again, this freedom.

Instead of signaling rebirth, this spring is, for me, a conclusion. 

6 weeks later

Hey, I had that baby I was whining about. Finally! 

Related: If you ever want to feel like a superhero, have a baby so fast that there's no time for an epidural. Push three times. Discover your baby is almost nine pounds. Celebrate what your body can do, what it just did.

Anyway, some observations: 

Motherhood, part 2

How different baby #2 is from the first time around! Of course, the babies themselves are different -- they are each unique beings, after all -- but it's mostly me that's changed, chilled. And the changes in me have made all the difference. Motherhood is much more pleasant now; my days with a newborn are much more enjoyable. Now, when I'm up all night, my back and upper arms sore from rocking this little guy to sleep, I have a new mantra: "It's all temporary." This bad stuff only lasts a few weeks (months, really). Which is doable. As my sister always says, you can handle anything when you know there's an end date. 

This is not to say that the hormones didn't crush me, that sometimes I collapsed in tears and wondered aloud why I did this again, how I would adjust, what would happen to me, my career, my life. That still happened. But it's okay. Time passes and those feelings get absorbed into new lines on your body, new plans, new valuations.  

 

Maternity leave, part 2

The first time around I didn't know what to do. Like...do we just look at the baby all day? Change its diaper and feed it? And the answer, I discovered, was yes. But it felt wrong. I felt slothful. I felt like I was wasting time. 

So this time I'm much more relaxed about it all. My house is messier. I wear ten-year-old tee shirts that really have no business still being in rotation. I haven't made my bed in weeks. But I am enjoying the heck out of cuddling this babe. I meet other moms and their newborns -- for coffee, for yoga, for breakfast, for margaritas. I visit family. I eat lunch out. 

The final act

When you know you're done having babies, you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy every part of the process. The pain, the incredible sleep deprivation, all the worries and fears that come with motherhood -- you just kind of acknowledge the process and trust things will work out. 

So here I am, a mom of two. A wife. A suburb-dweller. A professional. A writer. Finding out ways to make sure these can all coexist. 

41 weeks

At 4am today I found myself considering googling "how do I surrender" because I think maybe that's why I'm still pregnant.

I have been pregnant for a long time, enough time to find and buy a house and a car, decorate it, host all the major holidays, and witness what feels like the beginning of our country's demise. My desperation to birth this baby seeps through the various keyboards I use, with embarassing browser histories that I'll delete when (if?) I finally go into labor. It turns out, the underbelly of the internet isn't porn, or crime, or ISIS recruiting; it's overdue women seeking to evict their babies.

I've begun folding myself back into bed on weekday mornings after sending my toddler off to day care and listening to questionable labor-inducing visualizations on YouTube. (Who here is surprised they haven't worked yet?) I've purchased castor oil, but haven't yet found the strength (desperation?) to try it, though I get closer every day. I walk. I do the "labor dance" (again, thanks to YouTube). I do so many squats each day that my butt looks better than it ever did pre-pregnancy. I eat whole pineapples. I eat spicy foods even though I don't like spicy foods. I eat eggplant, which is nice because I love eggplant. I massage labor-inducing pressure points. I lie on the couch, moaning with boredom, and watch season 2 of Laguna Beach on demand, because there is literally nothing else on. 

It is particularly interesting to be pregnant this long when your first pregnancy came right on time. I don't know these feelings, this swinging from acceptance to rage based on the time of day. With my first I didn't have to have these long pleading talks with my baby in utero. She just came. My water broke and then contractions started and then we went to the hospital and I pushed and she was on my chest, her hair tickling my neck. Now, I've had contractions and false starts for literal weeks. I've had multiple membrane sweeps. I stare off into the distance and try to remember what it feels like to not be pregnant, to have full agency over this body, to not be in pain all day, every day. 

I feel sloth-like and pathetic, and sad for myself. Reading the news makes me feel worse, but avoiding the news makes me feel responsible for the impending war we all know is coming. I am hyperbolic and yet fully confident that things in this country, this world, will get much worse before they get better. And this is why I think it's my fault that I haven't had my baby yet. Because I don't want him to have to deal with this place, and I don't want any easy excuse -- dealing with a newborn -- as the reason I can't march, protest, resist. 

But this is not sustainable. 

So at four in the morning I woke up from a Walking Dead nightmare, which is surprising because I stopped watching that show last year. In the darkness I tried to have a real, true heart-to-heart with my boy. I apologized for whatever subconscious stuff I'm projecting onto him that's making him stay put. I relaxed my jaw, meditated, breathed deep, envisioned things opening. I tried to envision world peace, too, but that is more difficult to see than my newborn's face. 

And then I got up and ate some pineapple. Again. 

 

My Year in Books: 2016

This year was a horrible one by any stretch of the word, of course. In these past few weeks since the sham of an election we had, books have been my saving grace; one of two things that've kept me afloat, kept me sane. (The other is parenthood which, with all its tedium and chores and capacity for awe and joy, keeps me grounded and reminds me what we need to fight for, and why.)

There's nothing groundbreaking about saying books save people but that doesn't make it any less true. So I am grateful, again and eternally, for all the people who work to put books out in the world: the writers, the editors, the marketers, the printers, the designers, the publicists, the many many teams that help produce a single book. Thank you for distracting me, for inspiring me, for pushing me forward.

And 2016 wasn't ALL terrible; just the whole of it. We bought a house and I am in love with it, still. I got pregnant again (our boy is coming any week now...). I watched my daughter turn into the sweetest, funniest, smartest two year old you've ever seen. I re-established an old friendship that I missed. I learned, I grew, I loved. And I read.

Here are the books I read in 2016, in approximately the order I read them:

  1. My Brilliant Friend by Elana Ferrante
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  3. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
  4. Spinster by Kate Bolick
  5. The Clasp by Sloane Crosley
  6. The Witches by Stacy Schiff
  7. Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
  8. Food Whore by Jessica Tom
  9. The Forgotten Room by Beatriz Williams, Karen White, Lauren Willig
  10. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  11. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  12. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  13. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  14. Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook
  15. The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
  16. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
  17. How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mylnowski and Emily Jenkins
  18. The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding
  19. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
  20. Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
  21. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson
  22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  23. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
  24. Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle by Katie Coyle
  25. American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Life of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales
  26. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2 by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
  27. Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan
  28. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
  29. The Diviners by Libba Bray
  30. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
  31. The After Party by Anton DiSclafani
  32. A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams
  33. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
  34. The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
  35. Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
  36. Invincible Summer by Alice Adams
  37. Tumbling by Caela Carter
  38. Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford
  39. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbot
  40. The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close
  41. Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
  42. Shadow House by Dan Poblocki
  43. Act Like It by Lucy Parker
  44. The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
  45. How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
  46. Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
  47. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
  48. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
  49. Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
  50. The Lottery's Plus One by Emma Donoghue
  51. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
  52. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  53. Songs Without Words by Ann Patchett
Some of my favorites of the year.

Some of my favorites of the year.

I had several stops and starts this year (and every year), with books I just couldn't get into after 50 pages or so. And obviously, this list doesn't include the hundreds of books I've read to my kid, or the Baby-sitters Club titles I still pick up when I need some soothing. Too, it doesn't include readings of my husband's drafts.

Of this list, my favorites include The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Sweetbitter, Eligible, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, The Lottery's Plus One, Commonwealth, and Today Will Be Different.

All told, I read 53 books, with 21 of them classified as YA or Middle Grade and 6 classified as nonfiction (which may be a record for me!). 

I used NPR's Book Concierge to get started on my list of books to read in 2017. I'll be on maternity leave for the first half of the year which, if it's anything like my first maternity leave, means I won't get much reading done for a while. But here's to hoping. Now more than ever, we need books.

Happy holidays and Happy New Year.

 

This week

I spend too much money at Dean & Deluca, simply because they often have good (expensive) soups and they're right across the street from my office, and these days I have pregnancy cravings that aren't quite cravings (like, I know I want something but I don't know what it is) so I wander around stores a lot. On Wednesday I was browsing the aisles through a particularly crowded D&D and every time I saw a coworker I averted my eyes, pretended to be on my phone, pretended the $12 boxes of plain crackers were suddenly incredibly interesting. 

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I cried in the soup line.

I spent that day after the apocalypse in hiding. I came to work and closed my office door, told my team I couldn't handle any face-to-face dealings, and reminded them I had a bottle of gin if they needed to imbibe. I hadn't slept; I hadn't eaten. My eyes were red. I had some visitors that day, each of whom cried with me. We hugged. And when I watched Hillary's speech, I sobbed, over and over, like I haven't sobbed since my grandmother's death. 

Things weren't much better at home, where my two year old would look at me with her big eyes and I would find myself at a loss for words. Where my husband was so gutted we didn't eat dinner; we didn't turn on the television. 

Since then I've processed a bit more. I've come to some decisions -- longer-term stuff about what I can do, where I can go, to make sure the more vulnerable among us are safe. A plan I had has been obliterated because of some policies Trump has promised to enact, but I've come up with alternate plans. I'm a lucky one, a privileged one. 

I won't forget the horrible moments of this week. And I don't want to forget the fear I feel right now. I hope my numbness turns to passion, to rage even, soon, so that I can get to work.  

Meanwhile, I hope I won't forget the small moments of kindness, either. And there have been some that have lifted me, that have carried me just far enough away from this shock, this trauma -- and yes, this election feels very much like a trauma -- to let me remember that I will process this eventually, and that we will start our real revolution. 

 

Suburb life

The rhythms of my life have changed since our move to the suburbs. I wake up earlier, commute longer, get to work later. I have less time to cuddle with my toddler on the couch in the mornings, when her bedhead hair tickles my chin as she nestles into me, drinking her milk and laughing at Sesame Street. She goes to bed later, now, to compensate for my later return time. I'm pregnant again, and between the exhaustion of moving and the fatigue that should have disappeared a few weeks ago and the incessant heat, I end up collapsing on our couch, unable to summon the energy to even order a new rug, every night. 

So things are different, but better, if you ask me. 

 

We have a house now and it is glorious. Today I worked from home, sitting alone up in our third floor attic-guest room-my office, sitting in a new desk and chair my husband just put together for me, next to a trio of windows offering a view of greenery, of rooftops, of birds landing on my garage, waiting for rain. On Saturday I sat in our yard, resting my feet in my kid's baby pool while she occupied herself for a solid 45 minutes -- if you are a parent you understand what an achievement this is -- and stared in awe at how much she has grown, at how much joy she brings to us.  

It's a long summer. The world, from a grand perspective, is terrible. Things everywhere are crumbling. So tonight I am marveling at how I'm still able to find pieces of good things, small places where things are not just okay but wonderful, in this kind of climate. I hope you all do, too. 

 

A Brooklyn goodbye

I never loved Brooklyn the way you're supposed to. I love the park -- truly a slice of perfection in this city -- but Brooklyn itself, its rhythms and noises, just never felt like home to me. And I've moved before, from apartments I've loved and some I've hated, from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing bodegas and drugstores every two years. But we're moving next week, and this move is different. It's permanent. 

Around the corner from our almost-former place. 

Around the corner from our almost-former place. 

Tonight I sat on the floor of my toddler's bedroom (this is a Thing we have to do now to get her to go to sleep occasionally) and stayed there, not making eye contact with her, for ten minutes. Ten minutes is a long time to sit silently with no phone or entertainment. So I thought about all the things I will miss about this place, about Brooklyn. 

This is the apartment where I labored on the living room floor, knowing it was too early to go to the hospital but demanding we go anyway. This is the apartment where I brought my baby home, where she learned to roll over and sit up and toddle and walk and talk. ("Let's GO! is a favorite refrain.) And now it's time to leave it behind. 

The closing of a house, the organizing of minor construction and painting and cleaning, the finding of daycares and pediatricians, the bills and bookings and phone calls -- all of it means every day has brought with it a full checklist of things to do, the kind of days that keep you up at night. So the leaving itself snuck up on me. But here we are, just a few days away, and already some goodbyes have happened without my acknowledging them.

Today I finally starting counting things off: my last commute on the F train, my last trip to the coffee shop around the corner, my last days with a New York license. Last, final, done. 

But next week starts all the firsts. 

 

 

 

 

Teen, Seventeen, and YM Magazines from 1991-1993

I published a piece on Hello Giggles about binge-reading some old teen magazines from the 90s. It was super fun to write -- I seriously had the best time re-reading these old issues. 

I had a bunch of reactions to them that didn't make it into the final essay on Hello Giggles so I thought I'd share them here. 

Teen Magazine: June 1990, December 1991, December 1993

If you’re a woman of a certain age, do this experiment: block off an hour in your calendar and Google “vintage Teen magazines.” See how long you last before you, too, end up whipping out a credit card. Because there is something addictive about Teen; with its straight-up neon color palette, the covers don’t just beckon you; they scream. They rap. They are a high-wattage high school musical in print form.

My prime Teen years were 1989 to 1992, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I remember every cover—the pinks, the patterns, the bold lips and bigger earrings. Something about those covers feels like home to me. Even now, I want to wallpaper my apartment with them in an attempt to siphon off the energy coming from their pages, the optimism and cheer. Forget coffee; a glance at a Teen cover is all the pep you need to get you through your day.

The thesis of Teen seemed to be that your teenage years are, above all else, fun. Though I couldn’t formulate this back then, I appreciated that notion when I was a pre-teen; it made me less scared. The magazines were busy, a veritable onslaught of ads and advice columns. The models were thin but mostly of average shape; their faces were downright chubby compared to what we see today. I promise you’ll recognize some models—Denise Richards, for one, who starred in a pull-out “dental health” booklet. (There were supplemental mini magazines about dental health!) The hair was big and the lipstick was pink; the models’ brow game was serious.

The advertisements in Teen matched the magazine’s style—sunny and carefree—and I remember them almost more than I remember the actual content: Love’s Baby Soft and Tribe!; Chill Out and Salon Selectives. There were Super Hair Searches and Sports Girl of the Year searches; multiple calls for girls to submit their photos, and I remember studying them intently as a kid, wondering how I’d match up if I were brave enough to submit my own photo. It was the thick of the supermodel generation, after all, where Kate Moss and Christy Turlington and the Taylor sisters were becoming household names. (In the December 1993 issue, Teen published the results of a reader poll, and girls said the women they most admired were their moms, their sisters, their friends, Hillary Clinton…and Cindy Crawford.)

Like many (most? All?) pre-teen girls, I was obsessed with getting my period. (Thanks, Judy Blume.) My memories had me convinced that Teen, too, was obsessed with it, but in rereading these three issues, I was clearly mistaken. Other than the occasional mention, and the Always-sponsored “advice” column (really an ad) in each issue, there wasn’t a lot of period talk.

Maybe that was Seventeen, I told myself after bingeing on three Teens and half a bottle of wine. (I am a lightweight these days.)

So back to eBay I went, for an old issue of Seventeen.

Seventeen Magazine: February 1993

If you follow fashion magazines at all, you know that the September issues are the best of the year. I fell in love with Seventeen during the summer of 1993, in between blaring the “Reality Bites” soundtrack and working at the local arcade. I couldn’t find that particular back-to-school issue for purposes of this trip down memory lane, but I did find the next best thing, which is the issue featuring Andrew Shue on the cover, because what girl who lived through the nineties didn’t have a crush on that do-gooder?

The thing about Seventeen is that it was so clearly talking to a different audience than Teen—older, cooler, more worldly. I distinctly felt like I had graduated from the bright neons of Teen to the plaid shirts, combat boots, mismatched florals of Seventeen; from a tinny tape deck blaring Whitney Houston to a skip-prone CD player blaring The Cranberries. Even the magazine’s fonts were different; more modern. Some of the clothes and accessories were attributed to what were surely expensive, hip stores in New York City, situated on Village corners that even now intimidate me (and I’ve lived here for years).

This particular issue celebrated Valentine’s Day with lots of romance tips and inspiring quotes from Dorothy Parker and Edna St. Vincent Millay. (I swooned at those now, but I’m sure they didn’t register with 14-year-old me.) Seventeen seemed to like its actresses; there was a profile of the three Wagner sisters (Katie, Courtney, and Natasha Gregson, the only one I knew), and there was a long interview with Wendy Benson, who starred in the short-lived drama “I’ll Fly Away” (I never saw it). In both pieces, the writers appeared so sure that these girls would be the Next Big Things that I felt mildly guilty for needing to IMDB each of them.

The Seventeen girl was more sophisticated than the Teen reader; that much is clear from this re-read. She understood things; she read between the lines. She didn’t have many more questions about her period, and she didn’t want Bonne Bell Lip Smackers. The Seventeen girl wore real lipstick, preferably something matte and purple-y to go with all those flannels. She wasn’t afraid to have streaked hair or smoky eyes—in fact, it was practically required. Your mother might not have liked the Seventeen girl, and of course, when you’re fourteen, that is part of the appeal.

Apart from fashion, makeup, and boys, Seventeen shared content about real issues. This issue in particular touched on abortion rights and hate crimes; Saddam Hussein had several mentions. And there was a blurb bemoaning the number of women in Congress (54 at the time). Unlike Teen, Seventeen wanted me to give a damn about the state of the world. It just wanted to make sure I was doing it in style.

That said, my memories of this issue were nowhere near as strong as my memories of Teen…and my level of enjoyment was less, too.

Now, listen. I have to bring up the elephant in the room now. And that elephant’s name is YM.

During my eBaying, vintage issues of YM kept popping up like a bad zit. (Or, more appropriate to my age, a stubborn gray hair.) The third magazine in the triumvirate of teen girl magazines (I’m purposely excluding Sassy, which ran for a mere fraction of time that Teen, Seventeen, and YM did, and anyway, Sassy was really in its own category), YM was like the quiet, slightly annoying neighbor that your mom always insisted you invite to your birthday parties just to be nice. It was always there, harmless and nondescript, and no one could quite remember why or how.  

I had to be fair. I bought an issue.

YM Magazine: September 1992

I first came across the August 1993 issue featuring Krissy Taylor (and Dan Cortese) on the cover. I felt a pop in my chest at the sight of her; even for casual readers of teen magazines in the nineties, Krissy and Niki Taylor were revered. Not revered enough for me to pay the ridiculous asking price for the magazine, though, so I had to settle for a Luke Perry issue. Considering I used to unironically wear a sweatshirt with Luke’s likeness airbrushed onto it, boardwalk style, in middle school, this was not the great sacrifice you are perhaps imagining.

Flipping through its pages I was struck by how classic, in a way, YM was. It didn’t feel dated the way Seventeen and especially Teen did…but it didn’t feel fresh, either, and certainly not urgent. It actually didn’t feel like much of anything. I just re-read the issue, and even still I can barely remember it.

Style-wise, the blue jeans were baggy and clinched and very blue, and the hair was shellacked and the lipstick was bright, but there was no defined palette, no personality. Page after page, I looked for something that would strike me – a memory, a model I recognized, an advice column I remembered – but not much of it resonated, then or now. Even the ads didn’t speak to me; I hadn’t been an LA Gear or Gitano girl.

This issue had lots of focus on the actual models, like Claudia Schiffer and Tyra Banks and Linda Evangelista, but even those features about the “real” lives of models felt off-tone. In retrospect I realize it’s because I didn’t care about the models necessarily; I cared about feeling like them, looking like them, imagining the kind of life where I’d be famous like them.

Lest you think I’m ripping on YM too much, I will say this: first, this issue had a whole section on getting a part-time job, which was very relatable and positions YM as a more serious, functional sort of teen magazine; and second, as someone who recently purchased some leopard print flats, I fully appreciated the “how to add leopard to your denims without looking dumb” feature, which was timeless and useful.

Ultimately, though, let’s just say I am very, very grateful that wine-soaked me had the smart financial sense to not purchase the Krissy Taylor issue. This Luke Perry one only set me back a few dollars.

Overall…

In 2014, The Hairpin ran “The Tragic History of Fallen Teen Magazines,” chronicling the rise and fall of these and others. Of Teen, they said, “it never had much of a personality.” I bristled reading that, but it’s probably true.

But maybe that’s why I loved it so much. In its pages, filled with a certain level of inanity but also an accessible camaraderie and a whispered promise that everything was going to be okay, Teen let me find whatever I was seeking at the time. It let me find me. 

 

A day off

March came in a like a stress lion for me; daily I found myself struggling to catch my breath and promising myself that things would settle soon, that I’d find time for a yoga class, that I’d stop hating myself for forgetting simple things.

When I found out family would be in town last Saturday, I called it: a day off. Even reserving it a month in advance does little to stem the mom guilt, that suffocation I feel whenever I leave my house without my girl. Mom guilt is the worst part of motherhood but the good news it it’s fleeting; by the time I picked up a coffee at a local bakery, I’d mostly moved on. I was ready for a day of nothing.

Nothing always begins with yoga. I tagged along to my sister’s favorite class, deep in Park Slope, a hefty hike away in the rain. I had taken a class the previous weekend, but it was at the Y, and it was restorative, which is basically an hour-long nap in various positions, so let’s not pretend that counted as any real workout. This, though, was a real class, one where my legs and shoulders burned and I panted. My head cleared. Poof. Namaste-urday.

Nothing continued with leftover pizza and magazine reading in my sister’s cozy apartment. She had work to do so, still in the rain, I left and found a coffee shop and enjoyed a latte and a croissant and a solitary hour with my laptop and no wifi, and got some writing done.

That is a midday treat, my friends.

In said coffee shop I saw a poster for "A Streetcar Named Desire" starring Gillian Anderson and coming to Brooklyn in just a few weeks. I texted a picture to my mom and sisters; last summer, I’d bought us all tickets for that very show and wrote about how it was one of the first times post-baby I’d said yes to future plans.

By mid afternoon, I felt fully restored. Also, my mom guilt had come roaring back. Sometimes it feels like it’s fine to leave my kid if I have actual things to do – work, of course, or a weekend vacation with friends, or a specific event. But when it’s just a Saturday in Brooklyn in the rain, when you’re just looking for something to fill the remaining hours, well…it starts to feel excessive.

It was time to go home.

Also, I couldn't stop playing peek-a-boo with the baby in the cafe.

Dance it out

For about 20 minutes every Friday evening, I am home alone. 

This is not a frequent occurrence in this life I've built. It only happens if I time my work departure well, if I duck out a few minutes early and catch the right train. If that happens, then I get home before my husband and my toddler, who are jamming away at baby music class. I walk in to an empty apartment, a tornado of toys and stuffed animals and sippy cups on my living room floor, to lights on in every room. 

There is always a text from my husband: I left a mess. Sorry. I'll clean it up. 

But I don't care about the mess, it can wait. Instead, I put on music and I throw myself a solo dance party, because goddammit, I deserve it. 

What I look like, probably.

What I look like, probably.

These days I am all into Carly Rae Jepsen, because her new album is poppy and bright and makes me feel like I am running through a field of technicolor daisies, and I blare it and I shimmy and I jump and I slither and I laugh. I get excited. 

I am an old lady but I could move well, once. As a kid I danced and tumbled and cheered, and in my twenties you could find me in hotel bars, moving to whatever beat was playing, powered on dirty martinis and youth. 

When I was pregnant and on vacation with my friends I danced, we all danced, and I realized I had lost my rhythm. My balance was all off, what with my belly and all that excess energy and heat. And I don't think it's come back, because I can't quite find that rhythm-is-gonna-get-cha groove I used to find so easily. But I don't care. 

I love getting older, but if there's anything sad about it it's that your opportunities to dance just decrease. 

So I'm making my own opportunities. 


The arcade

The fact is, the tops of arcade machines get dusty, and someone has to clean them.

The first time I was assigned that duty, the summer of my fourteenth year while at my first job, I was momentarily stunned. Me? Climb on the chairs of the claw machines? Walk up the skeeball lane without slipping? I was so embarrassed, in that 14-year-old way.

But up there, crouching on top of the machines, I was afforded a whole new view. I could see the entire arcade, empty and gleaming. The machines were powered on; their songs were singing. Without the rush of the crowd, the arcade sounds were too loud, the colors too bright, the arcade too dark. My best friend was vacuuming; my sister was cleaning the doors and windows. Girls who would become close friends the next summer, when I wasn’t so shy, were wiping down counters and powering on lights. Outside it was sunny and bright, a perfect beach day, and I knew the shift would drag.

That was the summer Radiohead’s “Creep” played on the radio, and I would try to memorize the words while I was up there on those chairs, those ledges, dust flying. My first summer on my own, sort of. So I dusted and watched everyone else doing their morning chores. My rag turned grimy.

Mostly, from up there, I watched Billy. He was older. Even then I knew he wasn’t cute, but he was hot in that teenage boy way—all attitude and ego, all confidence none of us girls yet had. I didn’t like Billy, not really, but I knew I was supposed to—all the young girls did. Billy flirted with me, a lot. He stood closer than he needed to. Once, he grabbed my ass and I froze, hoping no one had seen. There were children around. Moms. Maybe even my mom.  

So that morning, dusting the machines, singing along to “Creep” and trying to block out the machine songs, I saw Billy come in—late—and disappear behind the office door, smirking. The skeeball and claw machines always got stuck, so certain staffers had keys to unstick them, and Billy would twirl those keys around and around, his other hand nestled in his coin apron. When he came back out to the floor, twirling those keys, he caught me looking and winked. I wanted to throw up.

Listen, he had spiky blond hair and this was the 90s, and my best friend was talking about sleeping with him, and I watched "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" a lot, and I hated that I knew what he was thinking every time he talked to me, or to any of us. I hated that wink.

Creep.

I don’t think Billy came back that next summer, or if he did, I don’t remember seeing him.

 

What kind of teenager would you be

I just wrote a long, thoughtful reflection on this article about a 13-year-old Snapchatter extraordinaire, and then Squarespace ate my draft. It included references to the pastel-colored diaries I used to buy, year after year, at the local Thrift Drug, their keys glittering under the harsh electric lights in their spot next to the Wet N Wild lip glosses. In it, I wondered if I would have been spending all my time on Tumblr, or perhaps on YouTube, if they were around when I was a teenager. Would I have been a content consumer, or a producer? 

I suppose it's fitting that my draft disappeared. Because the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I would have been some great, but anonymous, blogger. Like a Gossip Girl, only at a poorer school and with a strong focus on books and cheerleading practice. And I wouldn't tell anyone it was me. 

Anyway, it's a pretty great read (regardless of whether you're horrified or amused by it). 

 

Winter cleaning

Maybe it's my small apartment; maybe it's the way baby items have overtaken my living room, my nightstand, my office...whatever it is, I've become ruthless about getting rid of Stuff.

Most of 2015's bloodletting has been focused on clothes. I had a lot to get rid of or store away, post-baby. But something else happened too: my style changed when my body changed. I went back to work in the late winter and every day I hated my outfit, even if it had been a staple the year before. Bags of clothes piled up. Every weekend felt like a trunk show. I didn't know how I was supposed to dress anymore. Working mom? Brooklynite? Woman-displeased-with-her-body? (How original, I know.)

So I shopped, and returned things, and cleaned things, and shopped some more. I tried on old things and new things and have been working on figuring out what feels like me, now. I just did my final ("final," ha) sorting last week, though that was just of my closet--not my dresser--which generated three more bags of clothes. A friend came over and picked through, took what she wanted.

Now, with the new year here, I'm thinking even more about what to clean, to parse through, to consider. I scan my shelves and realize even some of the books I wouldn't imagine getting rid of just two years ago have lost their importance. This week alone I've decided to sort through my overflowing jewelry box and the mess under the bathroom sink. (Do I need three hair straighteners, considering I don't straighten my hair anymore?)

After I had the baby, I started to feel like the walls of my apartment were closing in on me. We have a homey, love-filled place but when there's more than three people in it it can feel stifling. I want clean lines, the perception of space. I want to come home from a weekend away and not discover all the empty jewelry boxes I keep next to my earrings (why? Why do I keep empty boxes?) have fallen to the floor in a gust of winter wind from the window I left open because the heat in our building is always too high.

Tomorrow is the last day of 2015, a strange year if there ever was one, and I will eat a delicious crab feast with my husband and pop open some champagne but I'll also be thinking of consolidation, of things I don't need anymore. Of how I can focus all of my apartment cleaning into mental clarity, into goal setting, into continuing to build a life I'm proud of. 

Further reading, if you want it: I like this Refinery 29 slideshow (uh, I know, sorry) on a New Year's Pagan Cleansing Ritual.

Happy 2016!

 

Road trip

In the Garden State the trees had caught fire, redder than I'd ever seen them. We drove through the center of the state, near where Washington and his troops crossed, through roads I spent my college years unmapping. See, it can be beautiful here, I said. See, see?

Sometimes it feels very important to me, showing off my home state's natural curves.

There were flocks of birds on our way, each of them fighting the wind. I became immensely devoted to rooting for them. They beat their wings, furious. Under my breath I'd murmur encouragements. They tried so hard to stay ahead of nature, to stay above the burning trees. They were so brave, those birds.

We stayed in a house on a golf course. We got lost. When we finally found it, it was empty, but our names were on an envelope inside the foyer. (It all felt very The Westing Game.) Outside, the trees were less on fire and more roasting, mostly oranges and yellows instead of reds; like how the tips of broccoli curl up and turn dark when the oven is too hot. It was somewhere between afternoon and evening, when the sky is more white than any other color.

This is fall, I realized. This is this particular autumn. Mark it.

 

 

My baby turns one this week. I'm only just beginning to come out from under the wonderment. 

I have a baby, I have to remind myself still, sometimes. I have a baby who is my buddy, who grips me fiercely with one hand while she walks around our house, who leans in and collapses into me when she's sleepy. I have a baby who has two teeth on the bottom and four teeth on the top; who scrunches up her nose when she smiles. I have a baby with eyes that gleam a dark navy, that fill with tears when she accidentally bumps her forehead into my mouth, leaving a tooth-shaped bruise like a third eye. 

Because it's important to be honest about parenthood, I confess: In the beginning I thought Please go quickly. Let the days be fast and furious. Let me fast forward to this day, when she is one, when I won't have to wonder what she wants and why she's crying. Let me zip through 365 days. An entire Rent song. 

Well. It did. And I am sorry about that. And part of me wishes for one early day to be dropped into now so I can relive it. Because I think I'd do it all differently. I think I'd appreciate it more.

I try not to be secretive about the fact that I think I did those first few months all wrong. That I handled things poorly. But I also try to be gentle with myself, because what is the point of all that regret? I did the best I could, those early days. I'll do better next time. 

One year ago today I went into labor, waking up before sunrise, wondering what that sensation was that was causing a low-grade, dull pain to spread across my back. It took me hours to realize this was it, this was labor. It was all happening. 

What's funny is, now I know that it's always all happening when you have a little one. Every day, something is happening. A new facial expression, a new sound. A new ability, a new love. 

Yes and no and how they can change you

In the thick of new parenthood "no" became my favorite answer. No, I couldn't meet you for lunch, even though it was literally right down the street, even though I could have easily brought the baby with me, nestled into my chest. No, I didn't want tickets for that concert happening six months down the road; trying to find the mental space to plan a future outing was impossible. No, no, nope. I threw out No's because Yes was buried down so deep, and I was too strung out to search for it. 

That was then. And sometimes when I think about then, I wonder if I'm being retroactively dramatic. Maybe I wasn't that bad? Maybe I didn't cry every time my mom came over, the way I remember it? Maybe I didn't hold my crying girl in my arms, feet aching from rocking her back and forth for so many hours in a darkened room at midnight, wondering when things would get better?

(No. I definitely did.)

Anyway, that was then and now, I have found my Yes. 

It happened gradually, spread out over the past few months, as my baby learned how to point and clap and wave, as spring turned to summer turned to fall. Should I get those Gillian Anderson in "Streetcar Named Desire" tickets for Spring 2016? Obviously. Did I want to go to the Neko Case concert in December? Heck yeah. Could I skip my girl's bedtime one Saturday night so I could toast my soon-to-be-married friend? Yep; I'm sure we'll all handle that slightly different bedtime routine just fine.

The other day I was walking up Broadway after just agreeing to do something after work hours, at night, when I'm usually home. And I felt buoyed by Yes. 

August anchoring

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 9.24.25 PMI am over summer. August feels heavy and long and slow; my office is empty, the park on weekends is empty; there are open parking spots on my block smack in the middle of a Saturday. I used to be one of those people who left during the summers. Pre-husband, pre-baby, I'd pack a light bag and be off from Friday night to Monday morning. My parents' pool; my grandmother's house on the beach; a weekend share in Fire Island with friends. Weeks in San Francisco, in London. Lying in the sun, the radio humming in the background, watching the dragonflies land on still water, daydreaming.

Someone said that summer ends on the 4th of July and I hate that that's true. Summer is mostly about anticipation, now. The bathing suit shopping and the beach house coordinating and the flip flop purchasing and the summer reading lists. By now, we've all already read or discarded our summer reading. We've moved on to fall releases.

So August is a murky in-between, and we all know I have never been good with in-betweens.

Every year, to anchor myself in the month, I start planning for fall. Soon we'll take an autumn anniversary trip -- the first time I'll spend a night away from my baby. (Gulp.) Soon we'll send out invitations for our girl's first birthday party. Soon I'll be buying a fancy dress for a dear friend's black-tie wedding; soon I'll be visiting open houses. Soon it will be Christmas and a new year and a whole new winter, where I'll start planning for summer.

F train reading

Screen shot 2015-07-16 at 2.28.19 PMListen, no one enjoys their time on the F train. (If you do please contact me so I can nominate you for intense psychological analysis.) But this summer I have been so enthralled with the books I'm reading that my hour or so on the train each weekday has become a highlight. TL; DR: there are some amazing books out right now and I need to shout about them.

Here's what I've been reading and LOVING this summer:

Dietland by Sarai Walker: You guys. YOU GUYS. This is the feminist book I wish I'd written but don't you dare roll your eyes at that description. It's not a book centered on a moral issue; it's political but only in a deeply engaging, narrative way; and most of all it's inventive, witty, smart, and pretty damn genius. I've been talking about this title on Twitter so much that the author has joked about paying me but I'm the one who should be paying her because this book brought a type of hope to me that has been much needed.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: I haven't read the first book from this duo (the smart team behind Go Fug Yourselves) but Twitter couldn't stop raving about this one so here I am, in love with it. It's a sort-of re-imagining of Will and Kate, Duke and Duchess, but here's the kicker: I don't give a damn about the British royal family, despite my love for London. But I definitely give a damn about this book.

In the Unlikely Event and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: You don't need me to recommend Judy to you, obviously, but her newest -- Unlikely Event -- was so immersive and reminded me how much I love her writing that upon finishing it I had to go re-read (for the 100th time) Summer Sisters, one of my favorites. Here, listen to NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about it.

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan: Have you ever read a book you thought was about one thing and ended up being about something else entirely? Maybe it's the cover image, but I thought this was a book about the sinking of the Titanic. Pro tip: it's not. It has a plot I haven't seen before in YA and, while I had some slight issues with some things, I still immensely enjoyed it.

Up next: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which I'm hesitant to start because, from what I understand, it's an incredibly emotional book...and not necessarily positive emotions. So I'm mentally preparing myself to be upset. Also on deck: the new Beatriz Williams, Tiny Little Things, because I adore her writing.

So, because I seem to be on a book buying binge, feel free to leave your suggestions for what I should read in the comments.