Back again!

Oops, I got a job and had a second child and didn’t breathe for two years. But I never forgot about you, blog. We’re in this together.

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How do people have children? I mean: how can people possibly afford children?

My husband and I were doing pretty well before I became pregnant—two well-paying, full-time jobs, a nice affordable apartment in a neighborhood with trees, plenty of disposable income after saving our monthly 20% for a rainy day. I guess this fooled me into believing life would be easy after I left the commuter class to stay home and take care of the baby. Not so.

I’ve been home with my son since the day of his birth – so almost ten months now – and it’s the most unbelievably wonderful and difficult work I’ve ever done. (That corny “hardest job you’ll ever love” saying is true.) But instead of being paid for my new 24/7 job (with six hours allotted for sleep every night), I am hemorrhaging money.

My husband has a good job, but not the six-figure salary it seems we would need to cover our expenses as a family and live comfortably. I know my experience is specific to a living in an expensive city, but I’ve been trying to do the math on alternate living situations and honestly… I can’t see how any families survive in America without both parents working full-time.

 

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::crickets::

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One of My Favorite Sweet Cold Things

This post is dedicated to frozen lemonade.

I realize that frozen lemonade is not ice cream OR frozen yogurt. I’m actually shocked myself that I would deign to waste calories on a frozen treat that doesn’t feature dairy. But you know what? This stuff really hits the spot in July and August (and apparently September, too.) And it’s light enough that you can justify having ice cream and frozen yogurt and frozen lemonade all in the same day. (At least I can.)

Perfect for schvitzing pregnant ladies and normal people alike. You can try this delightful Lemon Mint Granita recipe from Smitten Kitchen, or go directly to Full Lazy and just buy a jug of lemonade and freeze it in a shallow pan.

I like Simply’s Lemonade and Raspberry Lemonade, though the latter tasted a bit more artificial to me. I got Gourmet Lazy by mixing a few teensy drops of mint extract (leftover from mint chocolate chip ice cream, of course) in with the regular lemonade. It was smashing.

Here’s the basic drill:

Lazy Frozen Lemonade

Frozen Raspberry Lemonade

Ingredients:

– Your preferred lemonade (I used Simply Lemonade and Simply Raspberry Lemonade, but anything you like to drink will work)

Method:

  1. Find a casserole dish that fits in your freezer.
  2. Pour lemonade into casserole dish, being sure not to exceed one inch in depth.
  3. Freeze for about an hour.
  4. Take the dish out of the freezer and use a fork to scrape and smash the semi-frozen lemonade into gravelly bits. I prefer my bits to be on the smaller side, which involves a bit more detail work with the fork.
  5. Freeze for another hour or so, scrape again, and transfer to a storage container, serving bowls, or your mouth. Keeps well in the freezer for at least two weeks.
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Labor Day

I just woke up from my very first birth dream, the morning after Labor Day.

HOW IRONIC.

In the dream, I was recovering in bed at home from giving birth to my son. I had vague shadowy memories of pushing, and of having a painless episiotomy. I must have been drugged or something, because my first thought upon seeing my husband was to ask him about the episiotomy (and not, for example, “where is my baby?”). I was feeling pretty okay down there, and since my memory of the event wasn’t particularly traumatic, I was eager to learn that the procedure was no big deal after all.

He was all smiles as he told me that I would need to see a doctor. “Didn’t a doctor stitch me up afterward?” No. He meant a psychologist. To help me deal with the fact that my vagina had been completely devastated by the birth.

Eek. Writing it down makes it seem much more horrifying than it felt at the time. I guess this means…I’m afraid of tearing? I’m planning to try to stretch the area out in advance, although I’m not sure I believe that it will really help. I’ve definitely heard about people who dutifully attempted to stretch out their vaginal/ perineal tissues and ended up with slices or tears anyway.

But, I mean, it’s no big deal, right? Tons of women deal with vaginal injuries during childbirth, and they’re okay. It’s just…I like to respect the integrity of my genitals. It is a little unnerving to imagine potential damage on the horizon.

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It’s Never Too Late (Well, Sometimes It’s Too Late)

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

According to former palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, these are the most common regrets people express on their deathbeds. Maybe I should just replace my Rules for Life with this list and call it a day.

Bronnie went into more detail on her blog, and the Guardian republished her post more or less intact:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. “This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. “Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. “This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

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Why Marriage Still Makes Sense

Given the reputation marriage has for destroying spontaneity, deadening the libido, widening the waistline, and replacing intellectual stimulation with long conversations about laundry and breakfast cereal, it’s not surprising that many people question the value of such an arrangement in today’s society.

I myself have wondered why so many of us willingly condemn ourselves to this infamous fate. Revealingly (in retrospect), I spent a lot of time wrestling with this question in the period before and during my first, brief, incredibly unsuccessful attempt at marriage.

And yet, for some reason, I decided to give it a second chance. Despite everything, marrying my (now) husband felt like absolutely the right thing to do, and it still does. The fact is, marriage fulfills a need that it’s hard for the modern urban young person to acknowledge even having.

I just finished a fantastic piece in the The New Yorker (“The Yankee Comandante”) about an American man who left his family to join Castro’s revolution in the jungles of Cuba in the 1950s. I don’t usually read The New Yorker, and I’m not particularly interested in the Cuban revolution, but a friend insisted and oh, it was worth the weeks it took me to get through all 23 digital pages.

To get to my point, it was this article that perfectly illuminated for me the nature of the need that a good long-term partnership fulfills:

“When Robert Jordan is overcome with love for a woman during the Spanish Civil War, he fears that they will never experience what ordinary people do: ‘Not time, not happiness, not fun, not children, not a house, not a bathroom, not a clean pair of pajamas, not the morning paper, not to wake up together, not to wake and know she’s there and that you’re not alone. No. None of that.’

(The bolding is mine. The article is David Grann’s. The author of the quote, I learned later, is Ernest Hemingway in “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which I’ve just added to my Goodreads queue.)

How perfectly essential is that? The need that marriage fulfills for each of us is comfort. A sense of safety against the uncertainties, evils, and scarcities of the world. The ordinary.

Ironically, it’s this safety that eventually leads to feelings of smothering boredom. After all, we humans do have a natural urge to explore, don’t we? It’s also not very cool to admit that as adults we still crave the emotional and physical comforts that are found primarily in the arms (or the womb) of a mother. It’s needy, dependent. Un-American.

But how beautiful is it to acknowledge that incredibly childlike and vulnerable desire and to actually reach out to another person—another secretly vulnerable, lonely, childlike person—to help you find the comfort you seek?

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the wonder of unconditional love lately, which I’ll save for another post. I don’t think that marriage is a perfect example of unconditional love. After all, we sometimes fall out of love and get divorced. There are certain conditions in marriage.

But more than any other relationship we enter into as adults, marriage (or an equivalent long-term commitment for those who cannot legally marry) approximates the comfort and safety of a parent’s unconditional love for his child.

And in a world, and country particularly, where people are expected to repress their feelings of fear and vulnerability as they age, those mundane comforts of married life can nourish the weak, hidden parts of our souls. They can allow us to go on creating, feeling happy, acting morally. Even in a world that sometimes seems engineered to break our spirits.

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence or purely the result of gender difference that so many of the mass killings of the past few years have been perpetrated by single men.

People are attracted to each other for evolutionary reasons, yes. Without mating there is no propagation of species. But marriage and monogamy, both relatively modern social constructs, exist outside of the evolutionary imperative. They’re here because we need them as a deficient society.

That is why people continue to put a ring on it, despite the minor annoyances, the sexual sacrifice, the love handles. The comfort of clean pajamas and a morning paper help us act like the people we want to be. Even when it’s hard.

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