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Exactly What Is

Categories: Best Practices, Fighting the Stereotype, Found Love

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“So you’re a novelist?”

I realize the question is for me. I turn away from the airplane window to the woman on my right, who is studying my face intently. Several hours ago, we’d exchanged pleasantries and I’d mentioned that I was a writer.

“No, not a novelist,” I say.

She and her husband both look terribly disappointed.

“What do you write, then?” she wants to know.

“Whatever people will pay me to write,” I say. “I’ve written for magazines, papers—”

The husband perks up considerably. “Anything we’ve heard of?”

“Uh, well, let’s see. I wrote for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Magazine,” I say. “And I’ve done a lot of marketing materials.”

He nods, but he is not impressed. I am seriously wishing I had ordered the gin and tonic.

“But no book?” says the wife.

“No book. I write plays, though. And poetry. But they don’t pay the mortgage.”

“No. I imagine they wouldn’t,” says the wife.

The husband clears his throat. “So…are you part of a pool? A team of writers?”

I just want to read my book, the book on my lap, the book written by a real writer. I want that gin and tonic very, very, very badly. “No, no team. I have a parenting blog, and what work I do find often comes through that. But there’s not a lot of work right now. Freelancers are in a tough spot.”

They continue staring at me, as if I am an exotic zoo specimen, and they are not quite sure they like what they see.
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Frogs, rabbits, and my bod

Categories: Fighting the Stereotype, Found Love, Hoping for Love

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Post-40 is the new post-30, I know, I know. But the only “post-” my body got the memo about is “post-partum.” There ain’t no turning the clock back on that one. The combination of babies and SSRIs and time has exacted its toll on this body. As a mama of daughters, of course of course of course I try to rock a good body attitude. I don’t hide the softness, with the girls. Flab, cellulite, wrinkles, veins, scars, sag—I tell them what they see is what they will get, someday. I tell them that this is part of growing up, that this is part of being a real woman at the beginning of her fifth decade on this planet.

I do all right, with them, but I can’t seem to keep that fab attitude across the board.
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The complicated stuff

Categories: Found Love

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“At least now you’ve found the love of your life,” my daughter says.

I chew my lip. This is the complicated stuff.

“I don’t know about that phrase anymore,” I say. “I think maybe we get a couple of really special loves in a lifetime.”

“Well,” she says, “at least now you’ve found your soulmate.”

I am stumped. She senses my hesitation. She watches my face.

“I don’t know about that word either,” I say.

“Why not?” she wants to know.

“For one thing,” I say slowly, “I used those terms to describe your dad, once.”

“That didn’t work out,” she says, “so he just wasn’t.”


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Mother’s Day: on forgetting to remember

Categories: Best Practices, Fighting the Stereotype, Found Love

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I am getting better at forgetting what came before.

Or I am getting better at forgetting to bother remembering.

I cannot tell you what happened last Mother’s Day, or on the Mother’s Day before that.

This Mother’s Day morning, it does not occur to me to wonder what came before. I simply lie in my cool cotton sheets and listen.

Downstairs: the girls’ excited voices, the clink of plates, the slam of the refrigerator door, the laugh of a man who is not their father. I hear him chatting amiably with his giggling sous chefs. There is a touch of the South in his resonant voice, a flavor still unfamiliar to me.

I turn my head sideways, close my eyes, and smile into the softness of a pillow.

This is what is, now.

*****

Last night:

“How much do you remember about when you were a kid?” Sophie asks at bedtime. We are lying in her loft bed, the safest place.

“Some things,” I say. “But I’m amazed by how much I can’t remember. A lot of it just…goes away. There are entire years that are almost gone. I have no idea what I did, how the days passed.”

She considers this. “That’s sad.”

“It is, some,” I agree. “Maybe our brains aren’t meant to hold it all, though. Maybe we only keep what we need.”

“I can’t imagine not remembering.” She shakes her head, dismayed that today, yesterday, last week, could ever vanish.

“I couldn’t imagine not remembering, then. When I was a kid. Life is funny, that way.”

She leans her head against my shoulder. We stare at the white ceiling, an arm’s length away from me, an arm and a half away from her. She has said before that she remembers her father made pancakes the morning we told them we were divorcing. She has told me that she will never forgive her father and me for this idiotic gaffe, for connecting sweet goodness with something so terrible.
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Won’t look back

Categories: Best Practices, Fighting the Stereotype, Found Love

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The enclosed back porch is now a staging area.

What once was a pleasant summer room with its jalousie windows is now a curiosity shop, full of the leftovers, the no-longer-neededs, of my life. The chestnut table we used to sit at with the girls when they were small is covered in detritus: old toys, unwanted books, Christmas decorations, artwork, unused tools and wood, broken vacuums.

Once, the table hosted barbecued chicken and roast corn-on-the-cob and summer brew and dear friends and family. We had plans for the porch, back then. We would paint it, put down a new floor, build a deck extending into the backyard.

Every day I am more at ease with the fact that these plans will be someone else’s plans, in the end.
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Happy 2011

Categories: Best Practices, Fighting the Stereotype, Found Love

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I am not going to resolve anything for 2011, at least, not today. I am not even going to be resolute about anything today. I am not even going to think about high or low resolution today.

Today, I am going to pack.

Because I got one helluva Christmas present this year. Maybe the best present of all time. I am beginning to think there is something to that visualization stuff.

Holy freezing magical Northern crap, Santa. Two degrees south of the Arctic Circle, here I come.
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Shifting

Categories: Fighting the Stereotype, Found Love

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My life is shifting.

Tectonic plates of past, present and future do the bump-and-grind, and I have to laugh. There is movement, suddenly, beautifully. And in spite of the churning, as my life redefines itself, I feel more anchored, more grounded to my own earth, than I have in a very, very long time.

I just returned from San Diego, a place I’d never felt compelled to visit. But I have friends and family there. I imagined a 40th birthday bonfire on a beach, right by the surf. Did such things exist? Even wondering if I could make such an event happen was forward motion.


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Single Mom + London = {sigh of Valentine bliss}

Categories: Fighting the Stereotype, Found Love

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So here’s what’s nice about Valentine’s Day this year:

My Valentine? Is London. As in, the city of. It totally hearts me, and I totally heart it back. We’re skipping the chocolate and the roses, but we are totally, totally going to make out, and I might let it go all the way.

No! Really! It’s TRUE! If you are reading this, I’m in London RIGHT NOW! Pip pip! Cheerio! Pints of ale! Pub lunches! Fish and chips! Double-decker buses! Cobwebby bookshops! Oxfam stores! Ribena! Adorable children saying things like “satsumas” and “knickers” in their darling British accents!
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Introducing the New Single Mom at Work

Categories: Found Love, Tentative Steps

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I don’t wish Single Motherhood on anyone.

It’s not a situation that any woman enters into with glee and racing anticipation - no little girl grows up with dreams of becoming a Single Mom.

And yet, I can say with full certainty:  I would not trade the last two years for anything.  They taught me more than four years of University, several trips around the world, and four years in a monogamous, committed relationship ever could.

I say this with knowledge of the risk of sounding trite: those two lonely, soul-searching years taught me how to be happy and confident with my tiny party of two.


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No longer a single Mom

Categories: Found Love

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I’ve been missing in action from this space, struggling for several weeks with what I would write.  This column is called Single Mom at Work, and it’s been a diary of my experiences of heartbreak, hope, balance, and the all-encompassing undercurrents of this life: happiness and stability.

When I started writing for Work It, Mom!, my little boy was just two years old.  We spent our time mostly alone: on the beach searching for scuttling creatures, in the forest twirling in the rain and stomping mud soaked boots.  Looking at the clouds in the air, searching for the future in a promising ray of light.  I made dinner for him and ate the leftovers off his plate.  My Mom took him while I did my business trips: exhausting day jaunts to San Francisco and LA when I’d leave the house at 4am and return near midnight, my Mom asleep on my couch and my still-wee boy entangled in his blankets, dreaming.  I’d kiss his head and creep to my room and set my alarm for two hours later, when I needed to complete a freelance project.  I supported the two of us with no financial aid from my son’s Father: it compelled, exhausted, and terrified me while simultaneously filling me with a kind of pride.  I could do this, I was doing this, albeit sometimes barely.


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