A thing that is frustrating me recently – well, it has frustrated me many times in the past, but it is frustrating me MORE recently, because I am dealing with it NOW – is the complexity of scheduling Things for the Home.

We have had a particularly bad few months of House Things Going Wrong, culminating in our air conditioner being rendered unusable. Couple that with eighty-degree weather of the sort that feels like a wet, sticky dog has just taken up residence right on top of you, and I took a vacation day to deal with it all. What a fun way to spend a vacation day.

It gets MORE fun, let me tell you.

Oh – by the way, if you hadn’t yet noticed, this is a post of the whiny/complainy sort.

The House Things Going Wrong list includes the air conditioner, a series of roof tiles just up and flying off the roof, a screen that sort of fell out of the window, a dishwasher that no longer closes, and, to top it off, the semi-yearly return of silverfish. And also an assortment of large black ants. (Having a toddler may or may not be related to the appearance of the ants.) Also, our front landscaping has devolved to the point where I am ready to just up and move away rather than deal with it.

But it doesn’t really matter WHAT the things are. What matters is how MADDENING it is to try to fix them.

Let’s take the air conditioner thing, first. We have some loose wires just hanging out around the outside of the air conditioner. I have no idea what that means. I suspect some of the delightful (jerk) deer who hang out in our yard are responsible. But does it mean the air conditioner is going to explode the next time I turn it on? Will it catch the yard on fire? Will it electrify anything within reach? NO IDEA.

So I called to make an appointment with the plumbing and heating people we’ve had come out a few times. I needed to make the appointment for this specific day, because I was able to take the time off. (I am deeply grouchy that THIS is how I am spending a rare and precious vacation day.) My husband found a coupon on Angie’s List for a general air conditioner check-up and cleaning, so I made the appointment for two things: the check-up/cleaning AND the repair.

Which was apparently tricky for the company to do. Any time I call back, they are confused about the whole repair issue. I am trying to be understanding about that. Maybe their scheduling software only allows for this specialized Angie’s List deal, and doesn’t really show that I ALSO have something in need of repair. I don’t know. But I can’t be the only person in the world who isn’t able to take off TWO days of work for TWO separate appointments, right?

So this morning, facing a whole day of Waiting Around, I called the company to see what time they’d be here. I didn’t even ask for a specific time! Just a general idea of when they’d show up! And the person I spoke to was all, “There’s no way to know.” Which, okay, I get that. You have, say, ten technicians who are all running around to do this check-up and they have no idea how long their check-ups are going to take – maybe the first one will be an hour, and the second one will be four hours because they’ll find something and have to fix it. So I GET IT. But it is still frustrating.

Anyway, I also used this day to get the pest control people out here. I called and specifically asked for an appointment on this day. The scheduling person called me back and agreed, yes, this specific day I could have an appointment. And then last week, the pest control technician called me up and said, “Are you at home? I can come by in an hour.” And no, NO, I was NOT home. My appointment was for a whole different day. And I just don’t GET THAT. What is an appointment for, if not to hold a specific date (if not a specific TIME, which is apparently impossible)?

Also, this pest control company does not answer the phone. They require you to leave a message, and then they call you back. Which is fine, I get it. Probably cuts down on the cost of having a receptionist. But oh man. When all I want is to find out the approximate time I am on schedule, it is SO FRUSTRATING.

Listen, I know that these businesses are doing the best they can, and that they have dozens of clients to serve – not just me. And plus, some people don’t even HAVE air conditioning so I should count my blessings and all. And I DO. I am fortunate that I can hire someone to come take care of these things. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like a huge waste of time to sit here waiting.

And then the landscaping. Oh boy. We had someone out last fall to look at our yard and give us an estimate. Which they DID. But the estimate wasn’t exactly what we could afford and the proposal was a little more frou-frou than I care for, so we wrote back (responded to an email that the landscaper sent) asking for some adjustments. And we NEVER HEARD BACK. Just… nothing.

So this new person is coming out, and he could only come out at 5:00. And I asked how long it would take – because I have to go get my daughter from daycare – and he said that was up to me; sometimes homeowners went on and on and it could take an hour, but sometimes it just took thirty minutes. Which is exasperating in its own way because I have no real idea HOW LONG it will take, and I guess I should just go pick up my daughter first. But then I will have a wiggly toddler who has no patience for landscaping talk to deal with and the meeting will only take ten minutes and my attention will be divided and I won’t get a chance to really say what I want to say.

The other things I mentioned above? The dishwasher and the roof and the screen? Those things will have to be dealt with a whole OTHER TIME because juggling these three things is already driving me insane. INSANE. You know that the air conditioner people are going to show up at the exact same time that the pest control guy shows up and the landscaper arrives. And I will have to leave them all here so I can go pick up my daughter.

How do people DO THIS?

Do you just… take a few hours off of work every few weeks to handle a thing as it comes up?

Maybe it helps if you can split that duty between two working people. But my husband’s job doesn’t allow for that. He doesn’t get days off – his vacation time comes in two-week chunks and we already used up both chunks for the year. (I wonder if that will be different when fellowship is over and he has a Real Job?) Sure, he has research blocks that are more flexible than the days when he is in clinic or doing procedures. But when your house begins deteriorating around you, you aren’t always able to just wait for two weeks or six weeks or whatever the duration is until a research block comes around.

I am sure there are LOTS of careers that have similar limitations – it’s not just a problem of being a fellow or physician. So I ask again, how do people DO this?

Maybe what the universe is telling me is that I need to take a class in home repairs, or something.

This is an update to the post from a bazillion years ago wherein I requested your advice about getting an iPhone.

My husband and I each got an iPhone. And I mostly don’t regret doing so at all. So I thought it might be useful/semi-interesting to look back to my Pros and Cons and see how they have measured up. Over the past… eighteen months. Which is how long I have actually OWNED an iPhone.

Objection #1: It’s expensive. Yes. True. VERY expensive. So expensive that I had a mini panic attack the day we went to the Verizon store to buy the things. We’d gone in KNOWING we were getting iPhones. We’d DECIDED. We had had extensive conversations about whether or not we should get them, and I’d laid out all my objections, one by one, over and over, for several months. And yet the pros had outweighed the cons, so we were there, in the Verizon store, for the Sole Purpose of obtaining iPhones.

But once we started looking at the pricing – which we’d known in ADVANCE – I started breathing a little bit more heavily. And then it took FOREVER for the Verizon store employee to ring up the order. Seriously. It took us at least an hour to get the iPhones. And we walked in knowing EXACTLY what we wanted, and there wasn’t a wait or anything. But it took forever. Too much time to build up a real Froth of Shopper’s Panic.

And THEN the Helpful Verizon Employee gave us his spiel about insurance and protective cases and I kind of lost it. I was… a billion years pregnant at the time. And it was hot outside. And we were about to welcome a super expensive new member of our family into our lives. And here was this “helpful” guy, trying to sell us insurance, and doing so by talking about all the things it would COVER. Broken screen. Toilet contamination. Stuck power button. On and on. And instead of feeling like insurance was a really good idea, I started thinking that the iPhone must be a Piece of Crap. Because seriously? All these things are likely enough that I should buy insurance to protect against them?!

So my voice started escalating and I started asking my husband loudly if we were really making the Right Decision here. And I got all red and splotchy and I had to sit down. That was mainly because being on my hugely swollen feet at that point was unbearable for more than five minutes at a go. I think I scared the poor Verizon employee half to death.

But! My husband prevailed! We left with our super expensive iPhones! And I haven’t thought about the expense since. Mainly because we’d budgeted for it. But also because I don’t pay the bills. And also because every time I panic about our finances, my husband reassures me with Facts and Numbers. He’s such a good guy, that one.

Objection #2: I don’t actually NEED an iPhone. So. I was wrong about this one. I really DID need an iPhone. The number one thing I do with my phone is take photos and videos of Baby Carla. Who is, by this point, Toddler Carla. But let’s not think about that too much please thank you very much. I feel GRATEFUL to this inanimate, unnecessary, expensive object for allowing me to photograph and film my kid at any time. Okay, at almost any time. Because some of the time my memory is full of photos and films so I don’t have enough room to take additional photos and films. And also Carla is at the age where she is more interested in seeing what’s on the iPhone than in being photographed/filmed by the iPhone, so a lot of my photos/videos of late are of her running toward me to see the screen.

Objection #3: The iPhone “culture” annoys me. I have been Really Good – in my opinion – about keeping my phone stowed away unless I am using it. And to me, “using it” doesn’t mean “keeping it on the table during a meeting.”

The iPhone culture still annoys me, though. My husband and Carla and I went to visit my parents this summer, and I was so excited to just relax in the beauty of their woodland surroundings with good books and good conversation… and everyone was on their devices the whole time. My mom was on her iPad and my husband and father were on their iphones. (Carla was obsessively following the dog around.)

I don’t know why it bugs me so much! If everyone’s doing it, that’s a free pass for me to catch up on blogs, right? But no. Instead I spent the time glowering at everyone – none of whom noticed, by the way, such was their engrossment in their devices. (Engrossment? Engrossal? What a stupid word.)

And sometimes I DO end up being the person I dislike. Sometimes I really want to finish reading an article when I’m supposed to be interacting with Carla. Sometimes I want to be texting when I should be engaging in conversation with another In Person Human. But it all annoys me deeply. ALL OF IT. Even my annoyance.

In addition to my objections, I had some reasons FOR getting an iPhone.

Reason #1. It seems like having an iPhone and being a parent complement each other quite well. Why yes, yes they do. I can’t TELL you how wonderful it was to have my phone in those first few months, especially. I could check (complain on) Twitter while nursing Carla. I could read blog posts about how to survive breastfeeding while holding a sleeping Carla on my chest. I could take photos all day long. I could capture Carla’s first time rolling over and her first time standing up and her first time crawling.

I mentioned FaceTime and apps in this reason and… I haven’t really downloaded any apps. I guess my husband downloaded Google maps onto my phone, maybe? I use that sometimes. And I have used FaceTime occasionally. But Carla really responds to it better if she can see the other person in full size, so we tend to FaceTime or Skype via the computer.

Aside from those long early months of constantly feeding the baby, I haven’t really used my phone for Twitter or blogging. Somehow my phone automatically goes to Swistle’s blog every time I open the web browser, so that’s nice. I DO end up catching up on her blog. But I find it so tedious and cumbersome to actually COMMENT on blogs with my phone, I rarely do.

Other random things I like:

I use my phone as a grocery list. My husband and I have our lists synced, whatever that means, so that whatever I add to my list appears on his and vice versa. This has been LIFE CHANGING. Also life changing? The ability to just tell Siri to add something to my grocery list or my Target list anytime, anywhere. I am NOTORIOUS for forgetting that key item I need to buy at Target, and this has helped cut back on that issue by about a billion percent.

Also, I can just consult my phone as we wheel through the grocery store. The other day, I got Carla all buckled in to her shopping cart cover when I realized that I’d left my phone in the car. It was snowy outside, I didn’t have a purse – just ten thousand reusable shopping bags, the shopping cart cover, and a wriggly toddler. So I left the phone in the car and had to go through the grocery store putting things in my cart FROM MEMORY like Laura Ingalls Wilder or something. It was terrible.

It is pretty awesome being able to look things up at any time. Like, my husband asked me the other day what “copacetic” meant, and I said it means “it’s all good.” (Said by drawing out the “awwww” of “all” and wrapping yourself in a Matthew-McConaghey vibe.) He didn’t seem convinced, so I told him to ask Siri, and she confirmed. I mean, not verbatim. But I maintain that her definition – “completely satisfactory” – is the same thing.

Or if you are watching SNL and thinking, geez, Jim Carrey looks like he hasn’t aged a day since Ace Ventura, you can just ASK SIRI to tell you how old he is. I love that kind of laziness instant education.

And I know this is old news for all those iPhone veterans, but I use the flashlight function ALL the time. If I have to work late, it helps me not trip over something and wake the entire house when I’m trying to climb into bed. Also, I check my throat for signs of strep a lot. Like, A LOT a lot.

Oh! I use my phone as an alarm clock. As a timepiece. As a distraction for Carla if she’s particularly antsy (in the car or on an airplane, for instance).

I guess the moral of this update is that I really like my iPhone. It was a great purchase. I haven’t looked back.

My blog tells me I posted eight times in 2014. EIGHT. That is really, really sad. I miss blogging, I miss reading blogs, I miss the comment sharing and the camaraderie and… sigh. I don’t know that I can change anything. The only reason I am typing this is because the baby is asleep and I am unable to connect remotely to my work network. Okay, that’s not the ONLY reason. I feel a compulsion to do this recap because I’ve kept it up for five years. Why skip it this year in favor of watching Property Brothers or putting a load of laundry in the washer? Man, I really should throw a load of laundry in the washer.

ANYWAY. 2014 was a year of not much blogging but it was full of other things that I will try valiantly to remember.

(This yearly recap quiz originated with Linda of All & Sundry. If you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.)

NOTE: Since I have been out of the blogging game, WordPress has gone all wonky and I cannot fix the numbering below. ARGH. So, fair warning.

  1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Flew on an airplane with an infant, and then with a toddler (twice).

Baked a cake. Two cakes: a banana smash cake for my daughter’s first birthday, and a lemon cake for the grown ups to eat at her party. Okay, it was four cakes, actually, because I baked practice cakes.

  1. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, this was as close as I got to making resolutions:

I think my priorities for this year (I’m pretending this question asked about priorities rather than resolutions) are keeping the baby alive, my husband, and trying to be better about juggling work, baby, marriage, household stuff. And I know that sentence lacked parallel structure, but I don’t know how else to say “my husband.” He’s a priority, and I want him to continue to be, and that’s that.

I don’t know that I really succeeded on the husband front. We are working on transforming our marriage to accommodate the baby. I am not meaning to say that things are bad – I think they are really good. But we do, as many new parents do, I suspect, tend to focus the majority of our outside-of-work time and energy on Carla. We DID, finally, find a regular babysitter. And we have gone out on some honest-to-goodness actually DATES, so that’s good.

As far as the other priorities listed above: I have to this point kept the baby alive, and I think I am doing okay at juggling things. Not GREAT, but okay.

I think those are pretty good priorities for the year ahead, too: baby, husband, balance. But I’ll add a couple of things:

  1. I want to do better about accepting that I am me, and I am not perfect, and that is okay. And if other people can’t deal with that, fine. I can’t live to make other people happy.
  2. I want to try to DO things with Carla. Most of the time I spend with her is in the evenings or on weekend, which means that most of the time I spend with her is spent doing errands or housework. I would love to do OTHER things, like crafts or museums or walks or… I honestly don’t know what. Just things that we can do together that extend beyond the routine.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A few close friends had babies, which has been tremendously fun.

  1. Did anyone close to you die?

Sadly, we lost my husband’s grandmother this year. She was the last remaining grandparent on either side. She always treated me like her own granddaughter, and I have many memories of her over the past dozen years, AND she got to meet Carla several times. But I still think of her and miss her.

  1. What countries did you visit?

I visited three states besides my own: Colorado, Florida, and my home state. All with Carla.

  1. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

More confidence in myself. More time to breathe.

  1. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

June 29 – Carla’s first birthday, which was much more emotional than I anticipated. For me, only. It felt like a real milestone, for ME, and I kind of went overboard with decorations and cake baking for what was a small, but lovely, party for my daughter. It felt like a rite of passage, somehow, to throw myself into the preparations. And I knew and accepted that I was killing myself for ME – she will never remember that day. But I will.

July 5 – This is the day Carla gave up breastfeeding. What an emotional roller coaster THAT was. I was fiercely proud that I made it a whole year. And so deeply irritated with myself that I FORCED myself to do it for so long. It was so difficult and there are OTHER PERFECTLY GREAT WAYS TO FEED A BABY, why did I have to FORCE myself to do it for a year? And why does it make me cry TO THIS DAY to think about it?!

  1. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I don’t know what to say here. I don’t feel like I achieved anything in particular.

  1. What was your biggest failure?

Oh so many things. Let’s stick to the superficial and go with the care of the outside of our house here. It is just so overgrown and ugly and I have neither the knowledge nor the time to deal with any of it. I tried to do some gardening, and that was a disaster. And the stupid pots with their dead plants are STILL sitting on my stupid deck. The whole thing gives me a headache.

  1. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Just normal Daycare Bugs.

  1. What was the best thing you bought?

This is a recent purchase, but we bought Carla a toy kitchen for Christmas and she LOVES it. Probably there were other things, but I am not recalling them now.

  1. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I am going to go with the same answers I gave last year:

My husband, who really is a rock star. My partner. My best friend. A wonderful parent. And really just a fun, funny, cuddly, genuinely delightful person to have in my life.

My parents. For many reasons, some of which I cannot post here. But in a nutshell: they are supportive and kind and caring and just overall amazing.

Once again, my boobs. Even though I had a lot of mental struggles with breastfeeding, they really stepped up to the plate. They fed my baby for an entire year, despite all my emotional turmoil. My handy little Baby Connect app says that they went through both 321 hours of nursing AND that they produced over 43 gallons of pumped milk. Way to go, boobs!

And I’m going to add Carla to this list. She is really doing a kick ass job of being a toddler.

  1. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

There are a couple of people who come to mind.

  1. Where did most of your money go?

Taxes, loan payments, mortgage, savings, daycare.

  1. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The holidays this year. Carla is so excited about EVERYTHING, and it is so fun to see that. For Halloween, she became OBSESSED with pumpkins. Our grocery store had a bunch of pumpkins on benches and on the floor outside the entrance, and Carla had to go and hug every single one. So obviously we took her to a pumpkin patch the next weekend. She patted every pumpkin she could see and tried to pick them all up. We brought two home with us and she had to say hello to them every morning and goodbye to them each time we left the house. For the winter holidays, I went a little overboard and bought her a bunch of holiday-themed toys: a menorah puzzle, books about Hannukah and Christmas, a singing Christmas tree, a dozen tiny snowmen, and others. She loved lighting the menorah – and even learned how to say both “menorah” and “Hannukah”! – and when she first saw the singing Christmas tree, she picked it up and hugged it and carried it around the house All Day. Then, on Christmas morning, she literally jumped up and down when she opened her big gift from her grandparents – a singing, talking rocking horse. It was So Fun.

  1. What song(s) will always remind you of 2014?

Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, because it is Carla’s FAVORITE. I mean, I love it too. But Carla says “No” to every other song we play in the car. She wants me to play the video on my computer, and to dance to it in the kitchen when we play it on the ipod.

And also Fancy by Iggy Azalea because it was – and continues to be – played ad nauseum.

  1. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? I don’t know. I have been a bit down in the dumps lately. And I am writing this on the last day of a two-week vacation, and so I am currently choked up about going back to work and leaving my baby, so I certainly don’t feel all that happy right this second. Overall? Not sure. We certainly get more sleep these days, so I’m guessing that adds to the general level of happiness for our whole family.

b) thinner or fatter? Fatter, but not hugely so. I was just on The Breastfeeding Diet last year at this time.

c) richer or poorer? Poorer.

  1. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Going outside when the weather was nice. Taking Carla to Do Things rather than just puttering around at home.

  1. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Fretting. Crying.

  1. How did you spend Christmas?

In my house, with a real tree my husband and Carla and I picked out together and decorated together, with my parents and my in-laws and my sister-in-law.

  1. Did you fall in love in 2014?

This is so corny, but I fall more in love with Carla every day. She is such a fun, funny, happy, good natured, curious, eager-to-learn little girl, and I feel so unbelievably lucky to know her.

  1. What was your favorite (new) TV program?

The Americans. My husband and I started watching this a while ago… maybe while I was pregnant? And we stopped watching for some reason. But we are now back to watching it – with a vengeance! Or whatever. And it’s pretty great. There may be others, but I probably watched them so long ago I cannot remember what they are.

  1. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I can’t really think of anyone I hate.  

  1. What was the best book you read?

Grudgingly, I wound up loving The Goldfinch. Hated it until the last bit. And then… it just hit me, what a great work of writing it is. I think I read some other books this year too… but that’s the only one that stands out.

  1. What did you want and get?

The Taylor Swift CD.

  1. What did you want and not get?

Same answer from last year: Um. Diamonds? I don’t know how to answer this.

  1. What was your favorite film of this year?

The only film I recall seeing – which doesn’t mean there aren’t others, you see – was Wolf of Wall Street and while it was entertaining, I didn’t feel it had any redeeming qualities. So I suppose I should just erase this and say, “N/A.”

  1. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Practically the same answer as last year:

I was 33, and I cannot for the life of me remember what I did for my birthday.

I even asked my husband what we did, and HE couldn’t remember. We did do something for our anniversary, though, so that’s good.

  1. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Same as last year:

Being able to just LET GO and not freak out about EVERYTHING.

  1. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Dresses for work, legging and zip-up hoodies from Costco for home.

  1. What kept you sane?

My husband. My iPhone.

  1. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Matthew Rhys as Philip from The Americans.

  1. What political issue stirred you the most?

So many.

  1. Who did you miss?

The baby, when I was at work.

  1. Who was the best new person you met?

I don’t know that I met many new people this year.

  1. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

I learned two:

  1. You can’t make everyone happy. Just focus on making yourself happy (and maybe your kid and your spouse), and that has to be enough.
  2. Fold each load of laundry as it comes out of the dryer. It makes life better, trust me.

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I’m dancing on my own. / I make the moves up as I go. / And that’s what they don’t know.

Happy New Year, Internet! I hope your 2015 rocks your socks off.

Let Go

I have been holding onto a few things, Internet. They are little things – completely inconsequential and frivolous and don’t have any bearing on anything. And they are even more ridiculous because I can’t change them. Nor will I (probably) have a chance to repeat the circumstances around these things, in order to change the outcome of similar events.

But they are weighing me down. I am heavy with ten thousand worries, big and small, real and imagined (mainly imagined), and I don’t need the extra luggage straining my back and my shoulders.

I read once, somewhere, about something, maybe from a culture different from my own, I don’t know (and apparently this is what I do now, I just type without looking anything up… although honestly if I DID take the time to look things up my typing window might close so there you have it), about releasing little paper boats into the sea with a candle glimmering inside. Like I said, I don’t remember what the little boats or the candles signify, but I would like to commandeer the idea for my own purposes: to put these things I’ve been holding tightly in my fists and rubbing rubbing rubbing until they are smooth, but still solid, still heavy, into little vessels and releasing them into the water to flicker and gleam and gently fade away.

My whole state is frozen solid, so I don’t have ready access to a body of water. So I am going to scatter these pebbles across the page… and let them go.

(These are so small, Internet, and so silly. But they are so heavy.)

(If you have similar things, big or small, that you want to release here: please do so.)

1. I am letting go of the birth announcement. I really, truly wanted to send out birth announcements when Carla was born. For some reason it was – is – important to me, to mark her arrival in that specific way. I made a point of letting my husband know, in the months and weeks before her birth, that it was important to me. We picked out templates and crafted language and had our announcements waiting online for us to fill them with a photo of our sweet newborn.

But we didn’t ever send them out. Her birth didn’t go as smoothly as we’d hoped, and she wore a nasal cannula for awhile, and then even when her little face was clear, she had an IV on her arm and leads strapped to her chest, so we couldn’t get a GOOD photo of her when she was brand new.

And then in the early weeks, she developed baby acne – which, okay, I realize that is a STUPID reason not to take a photo of your kid, I REALIZE IT – and I wanted to wait until THAT cleared up… And then, even though we took a billion photos of her a day, all of them were gritty iPhone photos and none of them was just right.

My husband did a little photo shoot of her one day, with his fancy non-phone camera. She must have been a few weeks old by then, but I insisted: it was still fine to send out birth announcements! We got a couple from friends a few MONTHS after their babies’ birth and I was fine with that! So he snapped away and got some beautiful artsy photos that I love, to this day. But they were photos where her little face was half covered or half in shadow. And even though we loaded them into our online template, I just didn’t LOVE them. And I wanted to LOVE them.

So we never sent out birth announcements.

I can’t do that over. I can’t do her birth announcement ever again. And that’s fine. We did a holiday card with photos of her and we included her birth details in the accompanying letter and that just has to do.

I have to let it go.

2. This is similar in nature: I have to let go of Santa Claus. It was really important to me that we do the whole “first Christmas, first photo with Santa” thing with Carla. I really wanted to do it. But absolutely NONE of my family members wanted to do it – and for good reasons! Long lines! Traffic! Parking! Gross dude in a Santa costume holding my baby! (Apologies – I acknowledge that not all mall Santas are gross dudes.)

And I let them convince me – I didn’t even really put up a fuss – because I didn’t want to experience this Magic Moment by myself, but I also didn’t want to force other people to have the Magic Moment with me. And it would have required forcing.

I think the reason that this and the birth announcement and possibly other things on this list bother me so much is because I feel like this is My One Shot. We plan on Carla being the only. (Minds can change – we are not closing doors. I never wanted ANY for most of my life, remember?) So I feel this enormous (self-applied) pressure to Do It Right and Do It All. To make sure that we get ALL the experiences in, so we don’t regret anything. I want – I am trying – so badly to Enjoy Every Moment, even the bad ones, even the ones I complain about, because… this is IT. Every moment happens and then it’s gone. Carla is a million of those little candles floating away into the darkness, brilliant glimmers so numerous they outshine the sun, but still: fading, one by one, as fast as they collect.

3. I have to let go of the anaesthesiologist. While I was always pro-epidural, I wanted to see what contractions were like. I really did. I wanted to see how far I could go. (Plus, I didn’t want to do the epidural too early, and with my takes-her-time baby, that was a REAL risk.) So I started having contractions at sometime in the early evening the night before Carla was born. They were very frequent, and quickly grew in intensity. I admit that they HURT, a LOT, and I didn’t handle it very well.

And here is where I say: pain is personal, the same experience affects people differently, and plus no two experiences are the same and blah blah. I had never thought of myself as person with a low tolerance for pain, but perhaps I am. Because the contractions HURT to the point where I don’t remember much of that evening except in snips and flashes. I remember asking for the epidural and then wailing at my husband about wanting it now and where was it, why was it taking so long?

The worst: I remember being SURE that I was progressing! The contractions were so painful, and so close together, and had been going on for HOURS, surely I was practically ready to deliver! So the OB resident came in to check and I was… one centimeter dilated. ONE CENTIMETER.

I feel the need to tell you, in even more excruciating detail, just HOW painful the contractions were. But I suspect that if you got to more than one centimeter without an epidural, or if you went more than a few hours of having contractions, you are giving me the side-eye because I am clearly a pansy. So I am going to reiterate: pain is personal, different for everyone, etc. Maybe I am a wuss, but whatever – I can’t change that.

So here I am, disappointed that I am not progressing and that Carla is continuing to dig her heels in (SIXTEEN DAYS LATE, remember) and in serious pain and wondering where the epidural is.

And the sainted anaesthesiologist or anaesthesia fellow, I’m not sure – in either case, he has worked with my husband before – shows up and angels sing and whatever. And I don’t remember WHY he says it, because I must have held still enough for the epidural to be placed because HE PLACED IT, but he says to my husband, “She sure is making a lot of noise for only being one centimeter.”

It makes me mad to this day! What a jerk! Saying it in the first place, when he wasn’t nor ever WILL HE BE the one in labor, but actually saying it OUT LOUD within earshot of the patient! To her husband!

But it also makes me embarrassed, like I was acting in a way unbecoming of a woman in labor. Or like I wasn’t doing labor right. And, okay, who cares about that guy, but what if my husband thought the same thing? What if he was embarrassed by me?

There is no reason to keep thinking about that. The guy is a jerk with no bedside manner who forgot that he was dealing with a person and her spouse, not chatting about a case in a textbook with his medical school classmate. I tried labor; it wasn’t for me. Pain is personal and different for everyone.

I have to let it go.


* * *

There are some other little fifty-pound pebbles I need to send off in their glowing boats. But this is enough for today.

* * *

Things I won’t ever let go:

My husband, in the delivery room, helping me push. He cheered and encouraged and wouldn’t let me give up. I didn’t know he knew how to do that! It was such a delightful surprise.

My baby girl, once we got home, in those early first weeks: milk drunk, head lolling on my shoulder, purring softly, cream scented breath.


I don’t feel lighter yet. Maybe once I hit publish.

So there’s this other little incident – no, it’s too small to call an incident… it’s more like a minor interaction – that’s been niggling at me lately. It’s not something I’ve been actively worrying over. More like, every once in a while it will pop into my head and I’ll roll it around a few times before something else takes its place.

It falls into the realm of etiquette, I suppose, or social graces. And it’s not a Big Deal, by any means. It’s just one of those things where I wish I knew the right way to behave, in case I encounter it again.

Anyway: Let’s say you have a group of friends who get together once a month or so at one friend’s house. We do this for my book club (although it’s been a woefully long time since we’ve met), and the host cooks a meal and the guests bring wine. Every guest brings a bottle of wine. Every time. This works GREAT, in my opinion.

But let’s say that YOUR group is less wine-focused. Not to say they don’t like alcohol! Oh no! But there’s a different understanding with this group. Or maybe it’s a lack of understanding. Or I don’t know.

So the host cooks a meal, and the guests bring… whatever they want.

Of course the guests always ASK, “What can I bring?” And the host always says, “Nothing! Just yourself!” But the guests feel (and I am 100% guilty of feeling this way!) like they can’t show up empty handed, so they bring something. Like cookies. Or chips. Or Bloody Mary mix. Or whatever. Sometimes wine isn’t an option!

Let me give you a real-life example. My husband and I were the hosts, and we hosted brunch. So we made a French toast casserole and some other carbs – seriously, there was nothing in the way of meat or fruit or vegetable ANYWHERE, not even eggs – and we had Champagne and orange juice and we were all set. And the guests all asked what they could bring and I said nothing, just yourselves… and then they showed up with stuff.

One guest brought… Champagne and orange juice. Another brought some sort of delicious pastry. Another brought some other sort of delicious pastry. And so on down the line. Seriously, carbs out the EARS.

It is my understanding that the number one rule of hosting etiquette is to make your guests feel comfortable, so even though I’d made enough food for all of us to eat twice, I popped open the extra Champagne and extra orange juice and set out plates and flatware for the additional pastries. The more the merrier, right?

Plus, I am an extremely picky eater. Doesn’t hurt my feelings if you want to bring something you KNOW you will like, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings if that’s all you end up eating.

The non-incident/minor interaction was that, at the end of the day, when the guests had left and my husband and I were surveying the carb carnage of our kitchen, I spotted one of the boxes of fancy pastries that one guest had brought: totally unopened. And it was a store-bought thing, so at least she hadn’t made it with her own two hands. But still, she saw it at the store and thought it looked good; she spent her money on it. And no one even OPENED IT. Ack.

As I roll this over and over in my head on occasion, I usually roll around to feeling like it’s okay, that truly no feelings were probably hurt. I was busy trying to keep glasses full and plates full and babies fed, and I just overlooked that little pastry box and I am sure my guest understood.

But this raises two questions:

1. If someone brings food or a beverage to a non-potluck dinner you prepare, even though you expressly said “Nothing! Just bring yourself!”, are you obligated to put it out?

Listen, I am pretty sure that on the other end of things, the being-a-guest end, etiquette guidelines (which I have…somewhere. I just don’t feel like clomping upstairs and rooting around in my bookshelves to find the appropriate book. Am lazy.) say that you should bring food/wine as a hostess gift and NOT expect it to be added to the menu plan. Your host has planned a specific meal, so you shouldn’t expect that your offering be anything but a gift for the host to enjoy after the fact. That is how I approach bringing things: this wine is for you to enjoy as you see fit. If that means opening it right now, so be it! If you want to save it until later and guzzle it up before you face the pile of dishes your guests created, that’s fine too!

But… I guess I lean toward putting the food out. Because I don’t know that other people have heard of that guideline. Certainly I have been in situations where someone provided wine and was miffed when she didn’t get to drink it during the dinner party. Or even concerned that the host didn’t like the gift.

If the host’s ULTIMATE goal is to make the guest feel comfortable, then I would put the food/wine out even at odds with my own planning rather than cause any potential disappointment or concern or hurt feelings.

It can be frustrating, though, if you have a special bottle of wine you want your guests to taste. Or if you spent all day making cupcakes, and now they have to share the spotlight with a guest’s handmade chocolate truffles or whatever.

Unfortunately, I don’t think you can deter people from bringing things. I have even tried the thing where you give them a specific item to bring: “Please bring a side dish. Please bring chips. Please bring beer or wine.” And they inevitably bring MORE THAN THAT.


Which brings me to my next question…

2. When can I comfortably LISTEN to the host and just NOT BRING ANYTHING?

My husband and I met with our group of friends again recently, and we went back and forth over what to bring. Should he make cookies? No, because what if our hostess made a special dessert? Should we bring wine? Seemed out of place for the meal we were having. What about bringing nothing? No, that seemed wrong – the hostess brought something when she was a guest at our house.

But of course, the hostess had prepared the entire meal, from bread to main course to dessert, and had plenty of drink options to boot. (We ended up bringing store-bought cookies, with the intention to offer them as a hostess gift rather than to expect they get set out with the food. But they were set out with the food anyway.) She certainly didn’t need our contribution. And we see her so often (once a month) that I know we’ll “repay” her for all the time and money she spent.

It just seems pointless and exhausting to keep bringing things that the host doesn’t want.

Of course, it seems LESS pointless if you are the only guest who shows up empty handed. But maybe if you do it enough, at enough houses, you will either get your message across or you will be booted from the group.

Since the baby arrived, I haven’t really made any purchases. (Well, that’s a lie. I bought some nursing bras, on two separate occasions, which was an experience both humiliating and shocking. And I’ve purchased an ENORMOUS amount of stuff for the baby – clothes, baby food, breast milk bags by the hundreds, little tiny socks that look like wee shoes.) And I haven’t really WANTED to, either, which is odd for me, as I usually like to buy clothes here and there all year long.

So I don’t know if it’s that a recent spate of decent sleep has me able to think about things other than work and baby, or if the endless winter has me seeking out new ways to distract myself, but I am in the mood to shop.

First on the list is a whole stack of new clothing items.

I am not going to talk too much about how difficult it is to dress the post-partum body. Just thinking about it makes me weary.

Suffice it to say: my body, post-baby, is different than it used to be.

And I suspect that it will change again once I’m done breastfeeding.

So none of my clothes fit – at least, they don’t fit well – and yet I am reluctant to spend money on new clothes that I may only be able to wear for a few more months.

But I think I have finally reached That Point where I just cannot bear to go to work another week wearing some combination of:

–          Six pairs of pants that fit well-ish

–          Only one pair is actually dress pants

–          Three dresses that fit and aren’t maternity-ish and are breast-pump friendly

–          Okay, really only two of the dresses aren’t maternity-ish. I wore one of them the whole time I was pregnant, but it’s not an ACTUAL maternity dress, so it seems like I should still be able to wear it.

–          Two pairs of boots (all of my other shoes are inappropriate – i.e. sandals/open toe – or have sky-high heels that are not safe for me to wear while carrying Carla in her car seat, especially on the snow and ice that will not go away)

–          Seven cardigans, in varying states of pilling

–          Two sweaters, identical except for color

–          Three dressy-ish shirts, but I wore them while pregnant so they aren’t the most flattering anymore

–          A handful of shirts that are either too casual or too dressy for my Casual Business Attire workplace

–          Two white button-down shirts, except I can’t find one of them

–          Two other button-down shirts

–          Two of the four button-down shirts strain a bit, across the bust, so I can only wear them UNDER something.

–          A bunch of maternity camisoles that I wear under everything, or sometimes alone (but not to work) with leggings-as-pants (BUT NOT TO WORK)

Okay, looking at that list, it’s actually a decent collection. And I wear it ALL. But I am just SICK of everything. And most of it is ill-fitting, as it is. The pants are mostly baggy in the rear and the shirts strain across the chest area and I have to wear the dresses with cardigans because they are both low-cut and sleeveless, and the boots make everything look more casual than it should.

(I wonder if it would be worthwhile – and more cost-effective? – to take my vast collection of dress pants to a tailor and get them taken in? Would I be able to get them let out if/when I gain a bunch of weaning weight?)

I’m not ready to make a bunch of big purchases, but I do think I need a couple of things to get me through to summer.

–          Green cardigan. I found a cardigan I LOVE in the exact right fit and the exact right shade of green at Banana Republic. It was of course on sale for 40% off, so I bought it. Now I just have to exchange it, as I got the wrong size.

–          Some pants that FIT, and that go with a) flats, b) boots, and c) strappy sandals. While at Banana buying the green cardigan, I found this GREAT pair of grass-green pants that I think fit the bill. They may not go with boots (I haven’t tried yet) but they DO go with flats and heels/sandals! Plus they are beautiful. I am going to wear them with my green cardigan. (Just kidding.)

Oooh oooh! I ALSO found a pair of black pants at Banana that I love! They are a little long – so don’t really fit the bill of wearability with all types of shoe. But I can wear them with heels and I can wear them with heeled sandals in summer. So, okay, just heels. But they fit really well and I want ten pairs.

–          A dress that has sleeves and looks cute with boots. This has been harder for me to find than I anticipated. I have a BUNCH of dresses, but some of them just look weird with boots. And the dress that I wear most often with boots is made of a sweater-y material and has started to pill. Plus, it’s all baggy and stretched out. As I mentioned, I have been pairing the sleeveless dresses with cardigans, and sometimes a belt OVER the cardigan which I see other people doing with great flair, but on me it seems dowdy. I don’t want people to look at me and get hit with an impression of dowd. So I am seeking a new solution to my dress-needs problem.

–          A new pair of dressy-ish boots. Something that’s not as chunky as what I normally wear – maybe with a little (teeny tiny) kitten heel? I had three pairs of boots die on me this year. I took two into the cobbler to be rehabilitated, but a) the pair that needed a whole new heel has disintegrated into flaps of leather. Seriously. It looks like leather fringe. And b) the pair that just needed a heel repair now stabs me in the ball of my foot when I walk. Plus, both pairs have three-inch heels because I used to be insane. So it’s really a good thing that they are falling apart. I need to go in a different boot direction.

–          At least one pair of closed-toe heels with a little kitten heel. I need something that looks professional and I want something pretty, but I need to be able to not fall while I’m carrying the baby. If I find a style I like, I want one pair in black and one in nude.

–          A pair of flats I love. I’ve been on this quest for nearly a decade. No dice so far. Probably the REAL issue is that I don’t like the way I look in flats.

–          A new winter coat. I know, this isn’t the time to be shopping for a coat. But I’ve been on the lookout for a year and haven’t found anything that fits my Very Specific Criteria: grey, belted, knee-length, warm.

–          Boot-length socks that don’t strangle my calves. Socks are one of those items that I hate paying for. I see all the pretty pairs at, like, Banana or J. Crew or wherever and I think, “Really? $10.50 for a single pair of socks?” (Or, “You have got to be KIDDING ME, Anthropologie. I am not paying $18 for something I am going to stuff inside my shoes all day.”) It seems like an item of clothing that should be $5, tops. So I usually end up buying socks on clearance at Target. And they are cute! But they hate my legs. And I am really sick of getting home after work and having huge red welts on my calves.

–          Shirts that are the perfect blend between dressy and casual. Why so hard to find? The girls in my office have, of late, been wearing loose blousey tops with fun patterns. Like, ships. Or dogs. Or fish. I have no idea. But unexpected images repeated over and over. I want a shirt like that, but I’m afraid it’s not the right style for my body type. I have traditionally been a tight-on-top, flowy-on-bottom type of girl. Then again, my body type may have changed. If not for good, at least for now. Argh. Frustrating.

I am also going to need some new bras. But I will spare you by ending this post right now.

Thank you, thank you for all your wonderful, reasonable advice about traveling with a baby. I will report back!

In the meantime, I feel like I have to confess something. Two things, really.

You know, those things that you keep replaying in your head, over and over, ad infinitum, despite the fact that no matter how much perseverating you do, you cannot change the past? That’s what I’m talking about. I am hoping that by writing about these things here, I will be able to stop Groundhog’s Daying them in my brain.

Listen. I try to live my life according to the principle of Don’t Be an A-Hole. Really, I do. I mean, I have bad days like anybody. And sometimes I pretend not to see the person in the lane next to me who wants really badly to get into my lane just because I am grouchy or in a hurry or whatever. But MAINLY, for the MAJORITY of the time, I try to be Nice and Fair and Not an A-Hole.

I am trying to get away from cursing, so let’s take the next step and change “A-Hole” to “Jerk Face.”

It is hardest, for me, to remain a non-jerk face whilst driving. Because it seems, some days, that EVERYONE is hell bent on not only being a jerk face, but on being the jerkiest jerk face there ever was. Like there’s some big cash prize for jerk-facery that I’m not aware of, and everyone around me is competing.

One of the things that drives me absolutely bonkers is texting while driving. I just CANNOT. It can wait. Seriously. And if it CAN’T? Pull over and give it your full attention.

Let me also add: Ever since Carla arrived on the scene, I have been extra anxious while driving. At any second someone could veer into us and… well, that thought process leads only to tears, so let’s stop right there and just say: I am super nervous driving these days. Other drivers scare me to death. This is not an excuse for my jerk face behavior, but I hope it does give you some background.

So the other day, I was driving home from work and the van in front of me was being captained by a truly terrible driver. Drifting left into the median, and then suddenly swerving back into the lane. Slowing down waaaaaay before an intersection, and then suddenly speeding through a red light. Just terrible.

Somehow, I was behind this person for most of my commute – which takes place entirely on city streets.  Two lanes of traffic in each direction with a turn lane/demarcated-by-lines-in-the-pavement median in the middle. I decided I needed to get far, far away from this person. Luckily, the driver was going 25 miles per hour in a 35 zone (and doing so IN THE MEDIAN for blocks and blocks – I am not exaggerating), so it was easy for me to get into the right of the two lanes and get away.

But. Then we got stopped at a red light at the same time. And I looked over at the driver, just out of curiosity, and – sure enough! – she was TEXTING. Had her smartphone plugged into the car charger, holding it up to her face, and concentrating very hard on whatever critically important thing was happening on the screen.

The light turned green, and I left her behind. Because she was so caught up in her phone that she didn’t notice the light change. I peeked at her in my rearview mirror, and I was half a block away by the time she started. As soon as she noticed that she was sitting at a green light, she ZOOMED forward. And caught up to me at the next red light. So I looked over at her, very pointedly, and when she felt my laser gaze burning into her skull and looked up, I mouthed at her: “STOP TEXTING” and made the international hand gesture for texting.

She looked very surprised, and shook her head vigorously and mouthed “I’M NOT!” but the light was green so I drove off.

My heart was pounding the entire rest of the way to pick up Carla. What had I done? I am not a confrontational person. And this was a STRANGER. That I had chided for doing something that… I honestly didn’t know FOR SURE she was doing!

I still feel like a jerk face. Who am I to judge this woman? She was a grandmotherly type – in her 50s or 60s – and who knows what was going on? Maybe she WASN’T texting and was just a very terrible driver – and I’d seen her just when she picked up her phone at a red light (and who hasn’t done that? I have.). Or maybe she was talking on the phone rather than typing on it (its own form of distraction, but I do it all the time so: glass houses). Or maybe she was having a terrible day and was distracted and not driving her best. Or or or. I DON’T KNOW HER LIFE. And yet I SCOLDED her.

I wish I could apologize to her. Man, how am I supposed to raise Carla to be a non-jerk face when I can’t even lead by example?


So I arrived at Carla’s daycare, feeling like a jerk face to the max, and tried to calm down.

Carla was there, happy as a clam, playing with her buddies. And I collected her car seat and her coat and sat down at the edge of the playmat to perform the acrobatics that is dressing her and putting her IN the car seat.

One of the other parents was there to pick up his son. He has a baby, like Carla, and he also has a daughter who must be four or five. He was putting the baby into a snowsuit and stuffing him into a car seat – a real feat of engineering, as his baby is at least twice Carla’s size.

The daughter came over to me – danced over to me, more like it; I can’t WAIT for Carla to be that age – and asked what I was doing.

“Putting my baby in her coat,” I responded.


“It’s cold outside, so she needs a coat to keep her warm.”

“My daddy is putting MY baby in a coat, too!” she informed me.

“I see!” I said, stuffing a protesting Carla into her car seat.

“Where’s YOUR coat?” I asked her. “It’s cold outside! You need a coat, too!”

I said it because it was part of the conversation, and she wasn’t wearing a coat. Not because I am the coat police. And I know her dad heard me, because he was in the process of hoisting the baby-clad-in-car seat into the air while simultaneously grabbing his daughter’s hand and gently nudging her out the door.

Out the door and into the cold air. Without the little girl wearing a coat.

Which – whatever! I don’t know the story behind the coat! Maybe she had a huge temper tantrum when he tried to put a coat on her and it wasn’t worth the fight! Maybe she was wearing the coat and spilled raspberry jam all over it! Maybe the coat was in the car! Who KNOWS? He’s a good dad, and his kids are happy and healthy – I see them most days of the week – and his car (probably already WARM from his commute) was ten feet from the daycare doors at most and I don’t CARE about the coat! I don’t! Coat shmoat!

But I felt like an instant – though accidental, this time – jerk face because I think my “you need a coat too!” came across as judgmental and scoldy and directed at the father. When really I was just carrying on a conversation with his daughter.


Sometimes I think I should be banned from interacting with other people.


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