Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Long Run

Somewhere in the last two miles, I felt it. A shift. Into new territory yes, we were running farther today than ever before, but it was more than that. An internal transformation had begun. A kind of freedom that comes in the long run.

A few weeks ago I, along with my husband Aaron, finished a 10 mile run. 10 miles. I never thought I would accomplish running such a distance. To some, 10 miles may not seem very far, but when you consider that we could actually run from the school Aaron works at, to our house --the distance of two towns away-- it seems more significant. This signified something in the long run that is more than just a sport, fun, a way to get or keep fit, or even accomplish one's race goals. Running is a way to get somewhere! Or maybe to be nowhere in particular. Perhaps something about running this distance represents becoming independently mobile on some level that heretofore I did not imagine.

The last two miles of the 10 miler were, in truth So. Not. Fun. The 9th mile was all uphill, the last back down that same hill and I learned at least a few things that day. First, that much camber on the side of the road makes my foot and ankle very unhappy. To make matters worse, this hill was covered in variegated sharp poky rocks which hurt our feet. I had on Vibrams, but it hurt like nobody's business. I do not know how Aaron managed to go it barefoot! But we survived, mainly because that hill was the way back to our car, so we had no choice but to return by that route. The second grain of knowledge I acquired was that having only 8 oz of water per person on a 10 mile run is a less than stellar idea. We got tired those last couple miles for sure, and it was more of an effort to keep going. But I do think this also relates to running the rocky hill, see above. Note to self: next time bring more to drink. This did lead to stashing a gallon of water in the trunk of our van, for future emergency.

We finished the 10 miler and thought we might die, as we staggered back to the car, as walking was way more painful than running at that point. Only to find that it seemed we had lost the car key, which we so cleverly brought with us in the zip pocket of my running pants. This. The epitome of why I insisted on finding pants with a zip pocket, and then this happens? My oh-so-clever zip pocket was in fact, unzipped. Seems some brilliant person forgot to zip said pocket as we began our run. Since they were my pants, I'll admit it. It was (probably) me. We were soooo thirsty and starving, (ala the lesson-learned, above-mentioned 8 oz water apiece during the entire run)  and the only water was IN our car, we were stuck OUTSIDE our car, miles from a place to buy food or drink. The key was LOST and we were screwed. In a cloud of growing panic, we realized we had no choice but to retrace our steps for possibly THE ENTIRE 10 MILE ROUTE to search for the keys, or else call AAA and wait at least an hour to have them arrive and jimmy the lock and we would then have to get a new car key, adding salt to this fuel-deprived fire. As fate or the gods were smiling that day, we found the key about 40 feet away, but not before a few choice words were uttered. It might have been me who said something like "we're going to die!" Ever so luckily for us, the key was lying in the grass at the edge of the parking lot where our run had begun.

This led to us vowing to get another one of those doohickeys (we used to have one) for a spare key that you attach to a hidden part of your car. We have yet to acquire a new one, however. Lesson three: Zip.The.Pocket.

There was another thing to be learned on this long run. If you are going to run in uncharted areas, bring fuel, and also bring money to buy water or other fluids/fuel at random gas stations and food selling edifices along the way. AND make sure there is at least one such place close enough to run to during our planned route. We did end up bringing the money, (which thank goodness did NOT fall out of the aforementioned wicked pocket) but we did not realize it was so far to a place to refuel. To get there we would have had to continue past 10 miles on the rocky road, we would have had a few extra miles walk back to the car, which I think would have led to hobbling, and a very painful type of unplanned half marathon, don't you agree?

A few weeks later, I was sitting in the car at sunset after a long walk, a day when I'll admit it, I scrapped a scheduled short run. Parked two towns away from home, when I realized it had grown dark. I had stupidly got sucked into an inspiring book on nutrition (which is not bad in itself, but read on) and had been reading with the dome lights on. When it was time to go home, the car wouldn't start. Oy. As if that wasn't enough, Aaron wasn't answering my calls or texts, and suddenly I could not get any cell reception. Which is weird because I have not have had trouble with reception anywhere in that town before. Of course.

Once again, though, luck was with me, because after many fruitless attempts at calling home and AAA, crossing the street to try to get a signal (no dice) and wandering up and down the block like an idiot, a nice woman was walking her dog past me and I managed to ask if she had a phone. She had an accent I didn't recognize, and I told her my situation. She kindly invited me to her friends house that she was on her way back to right then. Which happened to be the house my van was parked in front. Her friend let me borrow her cell, (same carrier as me but somehow she had reception?) and I after a few failed attempts got in touch with AAA. She invited me in and offered me water, but this time I had the keys to my car with its emergency stash of water (see lesson two from the long run), so I waited outside. Once again, I was starving, it was way past dinnertime, and I was very tired. They told me it could be up to an hour before help arrived, but suddenly I got a text saying they were 5 minutes away! I was saved. They must carry turbo-power car charging devices in those trucks, because the clamps were on for maybe 10 seconds and my engine was good to go! Huzzah!

Lessons learned: do not read with lights or battery on in car after sunset. Especially do not park in car two towns away, when it's been hours since last meal. Maybe keep a food stash of energy bars and such in trunk, along with that emergency water.

When all was said and done, and I made it home to a late, brilliantly cooked dinner a deux by my dear husband, and the kids asleep -- wait, maybe I should reconsider that going out at sunset thing? I was too tired to eat much, but realized something else.  Something that running more than 10 miles had taught me. I could get places on my own two feet. From where I was parked, it was only about 8 miles to home. Worst case, if I hadn't been able to reach triple A or husband, and barring the kindness of local strangers, I realized that I now have another mode of transportation that for most of my life eluded me. For this, and other reasons, the long run grants us a kind of freedom. For a future lesson in mobility, I could have run it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Run Not Taken

After glorifying the infinite beauties of the run, and reaffirming my commitment to running no matter what, as I sit here drinking wine, I find I must write an addendum to that notion. Sometimes the best run is the run never done.

Last week, the hubs and I dragged ourselves out the door and to the trail just before sunset. The air was frigid as can be, at least for us SoCal wimps, and there was no denying January was in full bloom. What we planned as just a short out-and-back, turned into just plain short. A turn-back-around, if you will. We lasted exactly 5 minutes before I (yes I caved before my husband) turned to him and said, "I'm done." We didn't even finish the warm up walk, you could say, since technically we never warmed up.

Just one of the ways running keeps me ever surprised and humbled.

That said, we then jaunted to a local grill and enjoyed an impromptu delicious and rare, quiet dinner a deux. It was the night of the SOTU. I had been wanting to see it, and by serendipity, a TV was on in the place, and while we ate we had prime seats to the president's address.  It was moving, inspiring, hopeful and endearing. And though it inspired some skepticism, it also reminded me of the good qualities of our president and country. However vast the flaws of our system and leadership, (and if you ask me, there are many), there is a lot we take for granted as well.

We then drove to the grocery store for a few items, and I mulled over what I had heard. As a Native American (Ojibwe), Jewish American, Buddhist American, I do not agree with policies or acts of aggression by any nation or people. There is a T-shirt which depicts a group of Native Americans holding shotguns via the 1800's with the caption: fighting terrorism since 1492. This idea amuses me, and also has the ring of a degree of truth to it. On the one hand, you see, fighting terrorism- threats to one's nation and one's people, is not something new. Not an idea only the white man has had to deal with. At the same time, the pacifist in me cannot condone meeting violence with violence. The Buddha said, "Hatred cannot be cured through hatred; through love alone can it be healed." I don't think this bespeaks of a naivete on the part of the historical Buddha. One can too easily imagine the face of the pacifist attitude as a passive, smiling numbskull, who doesn't understand the necessities of such things. Rather, to dismantle nuclear arms, to seek peace for all over gain for any particular country, is to keep the welfare of all in mind. And that is very difficult to do on a global scale. Yet any student of history can tell you that wars only beget wars. I haven't seen the sense in bloodshed, in the murders of millions, of the killing of innocents that official- and unofficial- war has perpetuated. I liked what the president said about America keeping war as an option of last resort.  I don't know how often that has been true of recent history.

Also, by design the speech of leadership (my fellow Americans) is to instill and invigorate in the listener a united by common ground and love of country patriotism. Something I admire in President Obama's oratory is this very ability. Even as I'm aware of concepts expressed for this reason, it moves me nonetheless. Being Native does not make me less American. Indeed, if one defines founders of a country by those who first lived and died and walked its soil, being Ojibwe makes me more American than most! The national policies dictated by its government sometimes make me feel more or less aligned with its principles, but I am as subject to patriotism and national pride as the rest. Yet I cannot let that overrule reason and a certain alliance to the notion of global welfare.

On that note, I very much appreciated the president's sentiments on waking up to the reality of climate change, improvements of late in solar energy and his stated determination that this progress should continue. To reverse the damage done ecologically, I agree, will take effort on a global, not solely a national scale. That there is even someone in office, and I have lived to see this day, who would acknowledge and express sentiments such as the necessity of universal affordable healthcare, education, childcare, retirement plans, and so forth, not to mention considering and speaking to world health issues and poverty, and peacemaking, makes me glad. However intended for political effect these may be, and however far-off in attainability, I'll take hope where I can get it. In these times, it's good to take stock of all the ways we are fortunate. To have each other in this beautiful, painful, fragile world is a rare and precious thing. Sometimes you find it in unexpected times and places, like the run that never was, culminating in shared impromptu date with husband and geopolitical contemplation.

Driving home, the state of the union address ended, and the radio commentary began- to pick apart and analyze what must be the strategy of various aspects of the president's speech. I turned it off, preferring for the moment to contemplate the possibility of hope and change for all of us, rather than the limitations of historical reality. Just because something has been true since the dawn of mankind does not mean it will forever hold true.

And just because I am committed to running for the long term, does not mean that an occasional flakiness to the trail will hold me hostage to permanent failure. At the risk of sounding trite or offering facile solutions, as many might believe a pacifist would, I'd wager that a certain creativity and flexibility are required both in running and life, both in leadership of a nation and the actions of its people, if we are to dwell harmoniously as a people, with wellbeing and happiness for all. And by that I mean not only Americans, but every one.

In a moment of personal and political sentimentalism, let us raise a glass, make a toast - to a better now for us all.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Running Amok

Why I Run

So the thing is, I love running. And so much of the time, I hate it. The flames of this love are fanned by a really good run. On Sunday I had a great time, ran over an hour, felt stronger the second half than the first, and finished feeling great. The great run only seems to happen often enough to reignite the sputtering flames just before they die out.  In between great runs, there a few good runs, which lately means I felt okay during the run and finished feeling glad I hung in there. There are also the okay runs, during which I may have to cheat and take a few walk breaks for or so, but feel guilty and wimpy for that. Then there are the not-so-good runs. The not-so-good runs are times I can't stand running and wonder what madness made me attempt this ridiculous activity in the first place, and hating myself on weak, rubbery legs as snails pass me by. The truly awful runs are the ones that never happen because I quit 3 minutes in, or 10 minutes in, or halfway through.

It strikes me as odd that I feel so compelled to keep up running at these times. Given that not-so-good and okay runs happen more often than the good ones. Certainly much more than the great times. What is it about running that addicts me, keeps me donkey-stubborn tied to the trail when oftentimes it would be so much more enjoyable to take a nice walk with my husband, or sit in a cafe and stuff my face with a chocolate croissant (my weakness), or put my feet up and have a nice margarita by the spa (a girl can dream, can't she?). Heck, sometimes a poke in the eye sounds a lot better than running when I'm running and hating every minute (yes that happens. sadly too often). And I wonder why I do this to myself.

Running has not improved my life so very much. It hasn't helped me with weight loss (at least not in the past two years). I don't feel younger, or spryer (is that even a word?) or more flexible. I've got even more freckles and moles now on my limbs than I had before, and am not loving this bonus for my skin.  It eats up way too much time now that we live where we have to drive to a trail to run, because after two months of hurting knees, I simply cannot do the hills around my house. Sometimes it seems like it eats up half the weekend, and many Saturday and Sunday mornings I would like to just be lazy and stay home and watch a family movie.

Yet you hardly ever have to drag me out the door. The main time I am reluctant to go is when it gets dark and I get more and more tired as the day wears on dealing with young children, so that a post-dinner run, at least during the wintertime, sounds as appealing as a cold bath. I just don't have the energy by then. As long as it's sometime in the relative morning, the first half of the day, at least before total darkness, I can't wait to run.

What's wrong with me?

Many times while running I am passed by what I think of as the real runners. You know, tanned, sweaty persons, with a great physique, their eyes fixed on the horizon, listening to their itunes, running purposefully, (and MUCH faster than I), toward their unseen goal. Often I envy them. You'd think being not-a-real runner would give me another reason to quit. I don't love it. It gives me another reason to feel inadequate and down about myself, which I do often enough anyway. Who needs another reason to feel bad? I dislike comparing myself to others, yet with as many people out for a run on the weekends, the trail invites it.

Why do this to myself? Perhaps I really SHOULD quit running. Or quit fooling myself that I can call what I'm doing "going for a run."

But quitting is unthinkable. And it's not because I'm good. I don't think it's the endorphins. Considering how often a hopeful run turns into a slog, I'm not getting much in the way of a runners high most weeks. Yet there's virtually never a time I  regret finishing a run. I'm always glad I hung in there, even on the not-so-good and okay days. And it's not usually because I finished strong, or felt awesome along the way.

Running definitely helps with stress. My family gets it by now, as they've seen Mommy the Cranky emerge when I go too long without running. It does give me energy sometimes, though honestly, much of the time I feel tired and relieved to be done.

Just when I've had a bad run of running, several weeks when it basically sucks, out of nowhere a great run comes along and smacks me upside the head with a reminder. Oh THIS is why I'm out here. No, a great run every three months is not the reason. The few and far between endorphin rush can't be credited. Feeling strong every once in a while, or not hating the run by itself is not worth the 3-4 times a week effort. I don't know the reason for this love-hate-run relationship when sparks rarely fly.

But when I feel the world open up before me with the spacious sense: I CAN do this, I AM  doing this, and I am HERE. Then I feel strong, graceful, alive, present. The horizon calls to me with a song only I can hear, and seems to go on forever.

Things slide into perspective then, and though I still cannot put my finger on the power of running, I know that I too, must go on.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Me? Maybe

Happy New Year!

And that baby who was just 29 months? is now 33 months. Soon to be the big Oh-Three.

Poetry. That is what I'd really like to let this blog to be about. Poetry. Running. Cooking (though if I'm honest, as I must be, it's baking I love more than preparing meals). If it's true that you can only be truly good at three things, I'm in trouble, since I haven't even touched on Mothering or Spiritual practice. Which is What I Do. In daily life. those last two are the real focus of my life, the broth I am steeped in, whereas you could say for most of us, things like writing, reading, cooking, exercising are mere hobbies. A soup, say, or a dessert. I'd have to say that's true for my life, at least on the surface.

Strangely, since the two things I know most certainly are central to my existence are with me almost constantly, it's almost harder to talk about them, to step back or view them clearly.

Though here and there I allow an obsessive interest in all things running to take me over, my lack of finesse sooner or later jars me back to reality.

Though time and again, I let the flower of poetry blossom in my heart, it rarely makes it onto the page anymore. Somewhere in the attic is a trunk of hundreds, if not thousands, of poems of old. I keep meaning to do something with them. For a shining moment, I have had occasion to share them with others and allowed myself to believe I might share them with the world. Just briefly.

And cooking seems to surface as an all or nothing motif in my kitchen. Only during a mad cookfest such as holiday dinners or birthdays do I cook up a storm, and exhausted, hardly enter my kitchen for days afterward. Not like I would prefer to be: prepare beautiful feasts effortlessly, nourish my family with home cooked quality time, family dinners every night, and perfect organic deliciousness. Instead I find myself baking madly for a day or two, a week or two, a month or two, then lapsing. Getting excited over starting this or that cooking endeavor, new recipe, slow cooking, etc. What I would love to do is stay consistent, cook at least a bit daily, not pressure (cook) myself, be able to relax with what and whom I love.

It seems not to be.

Now it's a new year, a new start, at least fiscally, and I am wondering. Curious to see what I will do, how I will be, where I will fall, what will be the priorities.

Will I cook a bit each day, lose those ten pounds (finally!), bring my poetry back to life, be the mom I wish I was, be closer with my husband? Will I win a race? Run a marathon? Or even enter a race? Will I stay the course and not miss a run, going four times a week (like i did for about 10 months last year)? Will I, per chance, write more than three posts a year on this blog? (Will I ever get my PhD in psychology, or after many years of effort and orientation toward that goal, will I lay that goal to rest this year?)

Will I do anything I set out to do? Or will I, like each year prior, see a sea of missed chances, wasted opportunity, judgements, nonvirtues. The mountain of failures piled high over any small successes.

On Jan 1, 2015, I really don't have an answer for you. I wish I could tell you how it will turn out for me. I'm sorry, I don't know right now.

See you in December of this year for an update...

Only joking. Probably.

Maybe I'm too hard on myself.
Maybe this post is going on way too long. See there's that all or nothing thing again.

I do know that whatever else occurs, I must keep my commitment to spiritual practice, and let my mothering heart lead. I will be kind to my children as much as possible. I would love to be closer with my husband, a better daughter to my parents, a better sister, a better friend. Finally "do something" with my career.  Don't know how often I will succeed.

If all else fails, at least I will cook upon occasion, read every so often, run at least twice a week (please Lord), and maybe by a miracle, I will write a poem.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cook, Interrupted

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I my last post to this blog.  The eighteen month old I wrote of then is now 29 months old. The me that I thought was old last year at 38 is well, in the words of Carey Goldberg facing "biological midnight."

A lot has changed since I've last written. A lot has stayed the same. Do you want to build a snowman?

It's occurred to me that though I spend a fair number of hours in the kitchen, I haven't really shared pic or vid 'bites' with anyone, outside the immediate consumers in my family of said comestibles. Perhaps I should. I could be one of those who perhaps does little how to's and recipes, and photos of finished goodies on my blog, facebook or, godforbid, instagram. Don't get me wrong. I admire such doings, in a way, because I don't have time do them myself, though I think I might. And also because I probably will not end up doing that. So another part of me feels a bit above doing so. As if I am too busy making and we are too busy eating said gourmet fare to talk, er, post about it. But I would like to as well. Perhaps I shall.

Life is funny. And, though it's taken me a year to find a quiet moment and the will to write here again, it's all I can do now to park down such trite, platitudinous, hackneyed, vapidity. Unoriginal repetitudes anyone?

Hope I will be back sooner this time. Even find the space regularly each week. The part of me that seeks the liberation that words can comb through an empty page wishes to find. What I have to say tomorrow.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shabbat Shalom

It's Friday. Shabbat tonight. I'm going to bake a challah today. Even though we are down to one packet of yeast and my mother's recipe calls for one and and half. No idea how I'm going to work that, but a bit of kitchen magic will somehow find its way. As it does. Though we are down to one baking sheet (lost one in the move) and I definitely need at least two for this, and many other cooking endeavors.

I haven't done this for awhile. Can you tell?  I started baking challah on a semi-regular basis seven years ago, and like many things, my baking endeavors ebb and flow over the months and years. A couple of months ago, though, the hubs and I started an unspoken tradition of Friday night fancier dinners for the festival of Shabbat. Though we aren't terribly Jewish by tradition, we are Jewish by family and that is enough for our Jewish pride to wax and wane over the seasons.

Though we walk a tightrope of means, we manage to have a bit nicer dinner every Friday and it's been nice for all of us. We do eat together most every night as a family, and a whole article could be written on that stress and joy-- but it may be the cornerstone of our family togetherness of late. Since DH is a teacher, staying late to attend meetings, talk with parents, do prep work for the next day and other feats of heroism, the older ones stay in after care til late. Then hubs picks them all up and brings everyone home to the table around 5, give or take an hour or two, each night of the week.

The 18 month old baby and I are alone most of the day, which mostly consists of the continual preparation and cleanup of food, wiping of bottoms, changing of clothes, and displays of adorableness (mainly by my daughter), with a fair amount of talking, singing, and washing up in the process. Not to mention time online for mommy and baby... Oy vey! And okay, some picking up, cleaning, organizing, laundry, vacuuming and cooking thrown in for good measure. Occasionally we we take a walk with the stroller (dro dro, my daughter says). And I've been meaning to take her to the park. There are two lots nearby- I really have no excuse-- except that if she falls asleep on our walk I am thrilled. And tired by then from our excursion. And none to eager to stay out longer waiting for her to wake. Waking her from a nap to play, while I advocate much time spent outdoors in fresh air running around for LOs, would be anathema. So we go home. Sometimes my daughter wakes in our apartment, with no idea she'd been enjoying the fresh outdoors for so long.

Oh yes, I forgot the 10,000 times a day she nurses. We do that too. Right now, she's enjoying being naked, clambering on and off my lap, nursing now and then in awkward positions, then running to grab a doll, a teapot and cup from the play kitchen, a ball from brother's toy bin. She takes off, within 5 minutes, any clothes I dare to dress her in. Her favorite toys seem to be a staple remover, a pencil, a computer cleaning cloth, and any other hazards she can seize from the desk. It's so fun to take all the business cards out of the box and throw them all over the floor. Mommy loves picking them all up again! Today she draws with broken beeswax crayons on looseleaf, on desk drawer (ha ha!) on important papers that she can reach when mommy's not looking.

Dinner plans for tonight include BBQ beef ribs (haven't had those in ages, but serendipity found them at the farmer's market last week) butternut squash, salad, perhaps brown rice. And, let's hope, a nice wine.. But if all else fails, challah will make it to the table. It's been months but I'm determined.

Today we are going, Lord willing and the creek don't rise (as my mother is fond of saying), to bake a challah. I say come hell or high water, dang it, if I do nothing else and the wet sheets sit in the dryer all day and I forget about them, we are going to have challah tonight. If you don't hold a few family traditions sacred, what else have you? L'chaim!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Only a Mother

Argh! Okay, now I've got my dander up. Didn't mean to, but it happened. But I recognize that's mostly not because of any specific incidence of ignorance but is instead cumulative. Since last week, or last month or last year... it's been growing. I read a blog post by a man lauding his SAHM wife-- he was very supportive, and for the first time in a long while I too felt vindicated, validated, and all that good stuff. Which is very important for any human being to feel. And yes, SAHMs are completely human. We have that right. But in response to the man's article were many many responses by "working mothers" stating in various derogatory ways that they did everything a SAHM does and more, that they do it all with one hand tied behind their back, while hopping on one leg, while spinning in a circle while working 30-40-50 hour week? Why did they make it sound like they somehow are knitting with organic wool in one hand, cooking elaborate organic meals from scratch with the other, gardening with one toe, having time with their DH if there is one, while somehow spending 24 hours a day with their kids-- artsing and crafting and outings and adventures--all the while of course juggling a full time job or career? No, you can't. It can't be done. I know because I've tried. You would have to be superhuman, and "working moms" too, are only human. And SAHMs are as human as you are.

Why does it feel then, that so often there is a pervasive sense that we are less than? I am a SAHM. I am also Ojibway Native American by heritage and it's as my mother says, the white man has done what he's done because "Well after all, Indians are not even human!" And it's true. In order to justify their own acts, the violence, enslavement, imprisonment, the slow or swift murder of millions of indigenous peoples, the white man placated his own cognitive dissonance in this mental/emotional and literal dehumanization of those who breathed walked thought felt hoped dreamed rejoiced and despaired birthed and died and suffered just as he did. And at his hands.  And this holocaust is far from unique. And it's far from over.

I have done it both ways. That is how I know it can't be done. When my oldest was a toddler I went to school part time, and then full time and then worked full time while finishing school, as well as doing required volunteer hours and supervision to meet the criteria of a licensing body as well as my Master's program. Did I mention I was a single mother for much of that time?  Then I was also in a courtship with the man who would become my new husband a few years later. And was I able, in this time, to meet my daughter's needs? To be somehow, magically, with her spending quality time while simultaneously in class? At work? Pulling long hours doing research? Doing volunteer time to make requirements? Or when I was home writing long papers late into the night or studying? No. Hell no. But it's not that I didn't try my damndest to make it work. Something suffered. That something was my daughter. And me. Most importantly: the relationship between us. There is an aphorism that states a person can only do 3 things really well. Maybe there is more truth than poetry to that. Maybe we should listen.

Of course I tried my hardest to be there for her. To race during a quick break between classes and work to pick her up from school. To take her on trips to the museum (there was one walking distance from my house). Or the park. And to a certain extent I was. But I was also absent. Missing her, whole days, nights, weekends, months it seems, escaped us. Years. I still remember the time she was 3 til the time she was 6 as an insubstantial blur. I still feel the ache that I've missed that time time to be there for her, when she truly needed me, her only mother. My only daughter. That time is gone forever. But there is time for regret.

Because of the demands of my program, and job, there were whole days I did not see her until picking her up late at night from my parents or sister (I was lucky they could watch her sometimes). I was late so often picking her up from preschool or kindergarten it was a travesty. So embarrassed, the last one to leave. I'd apologize profusely each time. Yet I could not afford aftercare fees. Her teacher was nice enough sometimes to look the other way. I found it so painful trying to mete time for a new relationship against the needs to spend (barely) adequate time with my daughter, that we ended up spending more time as a threesome than I felt was right, in the event something were to go sour, she was already getting so attached. Already starting to him 'daddy'. This sobriquet, the bestowal of which I greeted with both hope and trepidation, proved premonitory, but not before the heartbreak I feared had first come to pass: we split up for a year while the man traveled overseas to fulfill his own longtime dream. The time between his leaving and our eventual reunion was one of the hardest I've bourn. Not merely the sorrow of my own heart, but the longing for that 'daddy' for my girl was the pain only a mother knows, but cannot by will alone provide. I could write an entire essay on that mother's journey, the tension of procuring a father for one's child, no matter how in love you are, the pushpull of allowing a relationship into the mother's let alone children's lives (and of course, in a way they are one and the same for single mothers aren't they?). But I won't say more here.

Was my house clean? Not near enough. Did I cook from scratch? Occasionally. Mostly I bought hopeful, organic things that lay wasting on the shelf, and too many ready made or easy make meals. She ate more meals with other members of immediate or extended family than me. She became an extremely picky eater. I remember coaxing bites of pancakes (with  syrup!) into her some weekend mornings. What parent has to encourage, coax, insist her child eat dinosaur shaped organic chicken nuggets for pity's sake. She spent nights away from me. Did I mention my job entailed working nightshift a few times a week at least for months on end? Dayshift too. The year I finished school my program had upped to FT, working full time, while my ex-boyfriend/future husband sailed overseas and my daughter was in Kindergarten was a craze of neverending busy-ness. I recall being so frazzled, underslept and miserable by the end of that time. Then i graduated, he returned, we re-connected, we eventually got engaged, I was still working, and feeling strangely adrift from my daughter in ways I can't describe. What had happened to us? I had been practicing "attachment parenting" with her since before her birth (natural birth with midwife in hopsital in case you're wondering.  Hey if my mother could, so could I. Not to mention my great grandmother and everyone up there in the woods with her-- they didn't have epidurals!) Babywearing, cosleeping, EBF, you name it. I think it helped our bond, honestly, that I had done those things from the start. Who knows without that, how damaging the later effects of my growing absence wold have had on our diminishing bond? 

Near the end of this, my then fiance, daughter and me got a place together, he and I were both working outside the home and I was still finishing volunteer hours for licensing requirements. Did I mention I was pregnant for about six months of this time?

I was stressed to the max, the breaking point. there were complications in the pregnancy, in the relationship. Luckily things worked out within a few months, we were married and I had my second baby, naturally, at home. And there I stayed. 

Since then we have two more children. That's three children in seven years. Three times I have tried to proceed with doctoral work and three times 'failed'. Or you might say, backed off because I recognized the train of hecticity that awaited me and my children should I board it. I have been there for my babies as no other human can be there. No daycare on earth can be there on the level of need that exists for them as babies and young children. That's what I do. I'm 'only' their mother. And I'm their only mother.

It's not that I don't have the guilt for being there for my babies. It's there. Society, friends, family sends the message  everyday. It's powerful. Oppressive. Never ending. And I hate it. However, I must continue to do what is right for my family. all me stubborn if you wish. Call me stupid if you must. Call me lazy if that makes you feel better. Just call me a stay home mother. I have done the research and there's no denying it.  Not only as a laymom.  But I'm fortunate enough to have a degree in clinical psychology.  All the most recent, stringent, and lucid findings on healthy attachment. It's there if you just look. And there's no denying it.

You see, if you work away from home, if you school, if you just spend hours a day away from your kids then you aren't there for them during that time. I know. I've done it. You aren't simultaneously at a job and being with your child are you? You aren't in class and with your precious little ones. Sure we can imagine a few scenarios for argument, but for most people that's impossible. You can't be in two places at once. Can you? Even the time we spend multitasking, (though society applauds it) it is becoming evident, actually hinders our effectiveness as people. You see, I've done it, I've tried to do it all, and I've failed miserably. Heck, even as a SAHM, on a good day, I don't spend 10 hours in the kitchen baking and cooking elaborate meals from scratch anymore. A baby ago, I used to sometimes.  Even if I did, I could not simultaneously help my oldest with her homework, read my son a story, give my first grader a bath, vacuum the house, be online at MDC, play a game, nurse the baby, scrub the toilet,  calm a meltdown, wash everyone's hands, set the table, do an art project, talk with my husband, grocery shop,  change the baby, freak out about finances, hear my daughter's poem, sneak a snack, organize the desk, listen to my second daughter's fears, pay some bills,  drive an errand, wash the dishes... while tap dancing, and standing on my head.  Not even a SAHM can do all those things in a day. Even if we could, we can't do them all together. Even if can do all those things we still burn out. When is there time to ourselves? We are human we can't do too much or we suffer. We can't do everything at once. We can try but something's gotta give. Something will lose out. What pays the price? Usually the relationship. Spouses. Parent-child.

Strange because to most of us, in our lives, the relationship is the most important, the most precious thing to our survival and to our hearts, and  to our well being. Yet under stress, it's the first to bend. Sometimes break. Don't they?

Of course we can argue, we all need money. Without money, we cannot survive in this society. We need it to have a roof over our head, feed our families, have a car, pay the bills that never end. And that's just the minimum. Isn't it? What about life insurance, vacation, savings, college for children (ha these days), unforeseen emergencies, and all the 'stuff'? Comforts, luxuries. The argument can be made.

Funny, we often hear the "working mother" argument that they do what they do to provide. I'm not arguing against it. You do what you do to provide for their family. Maybe you're a single mom. I've been there. I most often though hear the statement that 'if you're lucky enough to afford to stay home, then..." or "for most of us it's not an option..." Really? Its good to be up on the latest research. Last winter there was an article in Psychology Today that described how the majority of SAHMs are actually working class. The researchers expected to find more lower income families with moms working outside the home but the majority of "working mothers" they found were actually from upper-middle income (usually white) families. Perhaps they have been told or raised from a young age to expect to have "it all" and do what they do to provide or uphold a lifestyle choice, to hold to an impossible double standard for women. Wouldn't be the first time. Believing that they can do it all and do it well... Maybe they can. But they can't do it all at the same time, let alone simultaneously, and well.

A job isn't going to cut you any slack, you must be there to earn your way. You must do what you are paid to do and do it well or lose the job.  If you are in school you must keep up with the program or fail. But to what standard do we hold the halls of motherhood? Who will see us falter? If we fall on occasion, if occasions grow to become norms, if our interactions bear the strain, if our whole parenting style crumbles, and we watch as our dreams and very ideal for motherhood washes away before our helpless eyes. Who will be there to witness the betrayal of our own hearts except our children? And perhaps a spouse? And maybe then we will say "this isn't what I wanted for my kids. This isn't how I thought it would be. This isn't who I am." Something isn't right. But we have somehow gotten to this unfamiliar shore. And we feel powerless to stop it. Or to change. We don't know how to do anything differently now. And who will hold us accountable to the relationship if it suffers in the balance?

Do I have regrets about being a SAHM? Well it does suck barely making ends meet. It's not the lifestyle, or the stress, that I want for my family. I have been with my babies/toddlers/ now grade schoolers and one in junior high(!) nearly 24/7 for the past 7 years. Did I mention we were homeschooling for some of that time? I still have a distant hope or dream of finishing a PhD in my field. That would give me real earning power. And help our financial situation. It would take years and doing to make that happen still. There are a few jobs or services I could do in the meantime, in which the pay is meager, and are not ultimately my goal or my career passion. Whenever DH and I have done the numbers for me to work any of these 'entry level' interest jobs it just does not add up for daycare. Even if I wanted to put my 18 month old in daycare. Which is not okay with me. Still I wonder if I could just forge ahead with school and/or work outside the home again, put my heart in a box somehow, leave my baby crying for me, to do what I need to do to to get ahead with my career path. I can feel the ache of holding my heart's breath, trying not to feel too much, as I do what society tells me is "right". Do something tangible. Make my mark. Earn my livelihood. Become real, in the eyes of the world.

Because words don't exist for what we do, sometimes it's easy for us to believe we aren't doing anything. Reinforced by the eyes of the world, to believe we are selfish, we are lazy, we are incompetent, we are takers, we are losers, we are 'lucky'. Because the world lauds busy-ness we also learn to believe that to be fully human is to be busy. We are anxious if we aren't doing something all the time. We are also taught that to be busy means constantly doing something. I know loads of SAHMs who are constantly busy. And yet they are also, sometimes not doing something. We can be busy to the point of exhaustion, busy in both senses of the term. Doing and not doing. So busy we lose track of ourselves. And feel guilty for needing a break from all this-- not doing.  It's hard to explain unless you've done it. And people who aren't doing it say, I don't get it. Yes we have gotten the memo from the world. That we are not enough. Not doing enough. Not earning enough. Not busy enough. Not real enough. Maybe even... not really human?

There is a danger in this thinking. We have seen it the world over, many times, and nothing has changed, as the genocides of the world continue and violence against women rises unchecked. 

But I am human. I'm a mother. Every human on earth rises from a mother, was born from a mother's body, depends on their mother for food, shelter, comfort, touch, love, presence, nurturing, mental/emotional flourishing. Our very survival as humans depends on countless mothers. And who will be there for the children, if not their mothers? What message does that send to their psyches, that they are not enough worth our own time, energy, involvement, care? That we would put them in the care of others first. That they are not worthy of our attention. That they are not enough. Society already gives that message from every angle. I don't want to perpetuate that message as their mother. I give them what I strive to be the best of presents, though it is at times quiet, loud, happy, sad, it is far from perfect, it is timeless: my presence. I want their first hymn on earth to be a song of constant love.