Monday, September 19, 2011

I Don't Know How You Watch This Crap

I'm probably not going to see the new movie, "I Don't Know How She Does It". I'm probably not going to read the novel by Allison Pearson, either. Which is probably just fine with Pearson and whichever Hollywood mega-hack made this film, because I'm almost certainly not their target audience.

But who is? Aliens from a distant galaxy, confused by our ways? People who've spent the past thirty years in a bomb shelter, tucked away far underground? Unrepentant morons and dull-wits? Imbeciles? Honestly, who is actually spending their hard-earned ducats (conceivably) to witness such nincompoopery? If you're one of those people, please identify yourself immediately. I think I have a right to know. It's okay, we'll wait for you.

Nobody willing to admit it, huh? Okay, I can't say that I blame you. I mean, it stands to reason that someone is watching this crap, because crap like this continues to get green-lit. But it's not me. Unlike the "IDKHSDI"'s plucky protagonist, Kate Reddy, I don't have the option of [SPOILER ALERT!!] up and quitting my job when the kitchen gets too hot.

If I feel distant from my partner, we don't get to slam on the brakes of life. I don't get to remove myself from my cube for some extended period of time to work it out. Like most everyone on the planet, we have to fight and make up on evenings and weekends, or through furtive text messaging on my lunch break, if we're lucky. Like most everyone else on the planet, I don't get to quit my job when I blink and my child has suddenly shot up a foot in size the last time I noticed. And, like most everyone on the planet, I don't have the luxury of bailing on my employment if I grow weary of being unavailable to take my child to school and pick her up in the afternoon. Instead, like most everyone else on the planet, I have to gird my loins and pay the nanny to do it.

HAHAHAHA! Just kidding! Like most everyone else on the planet, I don't have a nanny.

So, what happens when I, along with millions of other working moms, feel like I'm not fulfilling my motherly duties according to some random, arbitrary measure of such things? How do I cope? How do I do it? Everyone wants to know, but they don't know! How I do it!

Well, first of all, I like living in a house. Have you ever been to a house, apartment or other type of semi-permanent/permanent enclosed dwelling place? They’re neat, aren’t they? Places to live are the best. You can keep your stuff there! Also, I find that my family and I enjoy consuming food for sustenance. Additionally, we are rather partial to warmth within our semi-permanent/permanent enclosed dwelling place, as well as light so that we may see our needlepointin'.

“But how else do you do it?” You ask, because you are clamoring to know. “There must be more ways that you convince yourself to, you know, do it!” Calm down. You will get your answers right now.

I do it because I am an able-bodied, relatively sane-minded individual who has no reason not to be able to take care of myself, should the need arise. What if your husband/wife/platonic life partner drops dead tomorrow? What would you do? I know what I would do. I would continue to do what I’ve always done, which is go to my job.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for a better job than the one I have. I would be crazy not to, because nobody’s job is secure anymore. Don’t fool yourselves by laboring under the misguided assumption that you are indispensible. You aren’t. You are infinitely expendable. Somewhere in China, someone is doing the same job you are doing right now, for $12 a day. But what I have learned during these constant job searches is that there are none out there. I don’t mean that there are no better jobs out there. I mean, there are NO jobs out there. PhDs who previously made triple digits are doing battle for low paying jobs with not only less qualified workers, but other PhDs who are just as good at what they do. It’s a nightmare out there. If you don’t have a back-up plan for your back-up plan, you better get one, and then you should probably have a back-up back-up back-up plan, just to be safe.

I find movies like “IDKHSDI” deeply offensive is the glib pigeon-holing and rampant, unabashed stereotyping. Sarah Jessica Parker is going to Have It All in a super quirky and fun way! Until she decides she doesn’t want It All, just the things that Truly Matter. If that’s not enough to get your gag reflex going, there's more! Like a whacky, scattered Single Mom who is barely holding it together…and SURPRISE! She’s failing miserably and even the most basic of tasks! Oh, and a shallow stay-at-home-mother who is insufferable. Grrr! We working moms are supposed to hate her, no questions asked! Grrrr! That bitch! And no sweeping sexist stereotypical female movie would be complete without the ambitious, conniving assistant. Yep. There’s one of those, too.

Newsflash, Hollywood. These lazy character assignments don’t apply anymore. In the real world of the American Dream Circa 2011, that single mom who can’t do anything right (hilariously, of course) has three jobs and an ex who hasn’t paid child support in months because he got laid off and Family Court hasn’t caught up yet. That shallow stay at home mom we all love to hate just refinanced her house for the third time and that ARM mortgage she got ten years ago isn’t working out quite the way she had hoped, and she’s tending bar on the weekend. That conniving assistant got fired and is an unpaid intern working on her second college degree. And Sarah Jessica Parker, the Working Mom Who Wants It All, couldn’t quit her job, hates her asshole husband but can’t afford to divorce him, so they stay in a loveless marriage for the tax breaks and the sake of the children.

Characters like the ones in “IDKHSDI” are becoming more and more absurd as the economy continues to sputter and blow black smoke. Movies like this are beginning to border on a grotesque minstrel show.

Nothing is clear cut anymore. The days of assigned gender roles and the luxury of choice are over for so many. There are people swallowing their pride/ideals of how things should be every single time they deposit their unemployment check. Up is down, black is white, and millions of hard-working Americans are on Plan B, or Plan C, or Z or Z1a[2].

So, again, I ask, who is watching these travesties? Who are you, mysterious audience member? Are you just a huge fan of escapist, chick-flick dreck that are blissfully devoid of any tether to reality whatsoever? Are you so filthy rich that you don’t care how you spend your money? Are you bored? Because if you are any of these things, you are amazing, and you astound me. Really. I don’t know how you do it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Without Borders

It was 1994 when I moved from Alaska to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend college. I was 18 years old, and I was scared shitless.

Quite a leap, moving from the small Alaskan town of Eagle River to a giant university so large, that you had to take a bus to get from North Campus, where I lived, to Central Campus and the rest of the school. Ann Arbor wasn’t just a college town; the college was the town, and I had to figure out how to conquer this behemoth by myself.

My mother came with me, which was both wonderful and horrible at the same time, because I was eighteen years old, hungry for independence, but terrified of being on my own. When we arrived at my dorm, cars lined the street in front of the door, belongings and furniture spilling out of every window and trunk, and new students and parents bustled about, unpacking, moving things around, figuring out where this lamp should go and whether the rug should go in front of the door or in the middle of the floor. I had almost nothing, save one large suitcase stuffed to near-bursting with everything I owned that would fit. No furniture for me. We flew eight hours to get to our final destination, so all incidental shopping had to be done upon arrival.

Tired, jet-lagged and most likely arguing, my mother and I explored Central Campus together. My face burned bright red when I spotted a store devoted entirely to condoms and condom-related items on the street where we walked. Head shops abounded. Record stores were everywhere. I was elated at the prospect of living in that environment, but I felt so awkward, so uninformed. I did not know what lay ahead.

My mom and I bid each other a tearful good-bye when she flew back to Alaska when classes officially started, but I had managed to make friends with my hallmates in my co-ed dorm, so I wasn’t quite as deer-in-the-headlights petrified as I was when I arrived just a few days before. I also quickly figured out how to get around the sprawling campus using the bus system, so I spent a lot of time exploring, walking around, going in stores and fondling merchandise that I could not afford. Once, while on an excursion, I stumbled upon a huge bookstore on East Liberty Street. It was called Borders Books and Music. I excitedly went in, and when I realized that I could sit. In the store. And read books without buying them! Like a library but with much more comfortable chairs!! I breathed a sigh of relief. I was home.

I spent countless hours in that store while I was in school, even though it was far from my dorm and the University’s music conservatory. I’ve always felt comfortable in book stores. When I’m in an unfamiliar place, I seek them out. They are familiar in a preternatural way, as if I was a bookbinder in a former life, or one of those guys that held the torches up so some much more talented scribe could write something. Or maybe I cleaned Shakespeare’s chamber pot, I’m not sure. Either way, I adore books and places they reside.

Although Borders was already in the full swing of franchising when I moved to Ann Arbor, the Borders on East Liberty didn’t have that sterile, soulless retail feeling that I get when I walk into my local Barnes & Noble in Kingston, New York. Every employee at the East Liberty Borders knew EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW about the section in which they worked. The periodicals guy could tell you what was on the cover of the Life magazine that came out in September, 1947. The food/cookbook section lady could tell you six different ways to prepare quince, and which book had the best recipes for emu eggs. And don’t even get me started on the music section employees. Those dudes were scary when they dropped music knowledge on you. If you went in there and asked questions, it was best if you just got comfortable, opened your brain and let the esoteric knowledge of every genre of music pour in. They probably played that music, too, when they weren’t working and fighting with each other over which album to play over the P.A. system in the store (which could be whatever they wanted; no corporate suits around to tell them what they could or couldn’t put on).

Madeline’s father, Crispin, worked at Borders stores all over the country. When we picked up and moved to San Francisco on a whim, he immediately found employment at the store in Union Square, where he got Nancy Cartwright to sign his Bart Simpson doll, and told Chuck Palahniuk to write me a note because he knew how much I loved/hated/loved again Chuck’s work (by the way, Chuck’s a weird dude. Not sure if you’re surprised by that).

The Borders in Union Square was also the first call I made when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Madeline. It was the first place I went after discovering my high-rise office building was closed on the morning of September 11, 2001. Most of my daughter’s book collection came from the children section of that store, books that were recommended to me by a very knowledgeable children’s book section employee, naturally.

We moved back to Ann Arbor right before Madeline was born, and once again, Borders became our bread and butter. The pay was shit at the East Liberty Street Borders, but I couldn’t get hired by a temp agency while I was nine months pregnant, so we had to suffer on that pittance Crispin was paid working there. I still remember driving there, in the dead of winter, to pick him up when the store closed at 11pm in our unreliable Volvo station wagon. My stomach was so large, I had to move the seat back to the point where my feet almost couldn’t touch the peddles, just to reach the steering wheel.

The day before Madeline was born, I was a week overdue. That morning, I laid on my side in bed while Leave It to Beaver played on my television, sobbing uncontrollably because I hadn’t slept in weeks, every part of my body hurting, and I felt no closer to labor than I did on her official, midwife given due date. In order to make myself feel better, I got up and applied makeup for the first time in at least a month, and drove myself to the East Liberty Borders. Crispin told me that Anthony Bourdain was doing a signing there. I loved Anthony Bourdain, and I was promised a private audience with him before his book signing started.

We had a lovely chat, and he signed my copy of “A Cook’s Tour” with dripping butcher’s knife under his name. And he smelled nice, too, not at all like stale cigarettes, old beer and fried chicken, the way I had always imagined. I sipped hot chocolate while he read from his book before his signing. Madeline did backflips the whole time, but I didn’t know she was a Madeline. We didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl. Roughly 40 hours later, we found out.

The first place we took Madeline upon her arrival to the planet was the East Liberty Borders. All of the employees came over to her stroller and oo’d and ah’d. They cooed and giggled at her and tickled her little fat cheeks. Those first few weeks were rough. Madeline’s father continued to work a late shift, and I was alone with a screaming baby who cried 24/7. And we were broke. We were always one paycheck away from homelessness. Thank god for WIC, or we wouldn’t even have had peanut butter and eggs in the refrigerator box we were *this close* to calling home.

With Madeline barely out of the womb, I took at job at the East Liberty Borders in their café, working from 6pm to midnight. Crispin managed to change his shift so that he could come home in time to catch the baby that I punted to him on my way out the door to my own shift at Borders, where I made expensive espresso drinks we could never afford to drink and reheating giant pretzels and fancy sandwiches we could never afford to eat. I liked it there, though. It was comfortable and familiar, and my supervisor was almost never around. Deep into my first shift, around 10:30pm, while bussing tables and schlepping bins of plates and cups, and I looked down and noticed that the front of my shirt was completely soaked with breast milk. From that night on, I brought a bottle or two with me to my shift so that I could sneak into the bathroom or the back storage area of the café and make sure such unfortunate mishaps never happened again. Meanwhile, back at home, Madeline was on a hunger strike, refusing to eat any of that expressed milk that I had stored for her, instead choosing to wait until I was home, sweaty, exhausted and covered in coffee grounds before she had dinner. I feel sad sometimes when I listen to my stay-at-home-mom friends talk about what it’s like to spend so much time with their children when they were small. My heart breaks a little, because I never had that, and I never will. But my working kept a roof over our heads, and that was more important.

In 2003, Madeline’s father took a job opening a new Borders store in Poughkeepsie, New York. We would be close to his family, closer to the help we didn’t have in Michigan. Crispin abandoned that job quickly, with almost no notice, and that was the end of our fiduciary dependence on the Borders Corporation. But we still went there, all the time, especially when we were broke, which was almost always. Because Madeline and I could sit. In the store. And read books without buying them! Like a library but with much more comfortable chairs!!

The Borders store at Union Square in San Francisco closed its doors in February of this year. The flagship store on East Liberty Street in Ann Arbor will be closing soon, too. It was only a matter of time. The once-booming company fell prey, then to electronic books available on Nook and Kindle, and stores like Wal-Mart and Target didn’t help, either. There, people could brainlessly buy whatever books Oprah was telling them to buy that week without thinking or needing to ask a knowledgeable employee whose love of books was evident in every word they said.

I’m scared of what’s going to happen to those employees, the ones that knew everything about everything. Where will they go? What will they do? I hope they open their own bookstores, where people can sit in the store and read books, like a library but with much more comfortable chairs. And if I’m ever in a jam, I hope they hire me to run their café’s espresso machine. Or Madeline, if she needs a job when she’s older. She can stock shelves and talk books. It’s in her blood.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Let's Pretend

I've been feverishly working on a book that entails my struggles with weight loss over the past twenty years, so I've been even more lazy about updating my blog than ever. It's kind of amazing that, after all these years struggling for a book idea, one should come to me (in the middle of spinning class, no less) about something that has been my constant companion since puberty. That being, my giant ass.

I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. Maybe I was just too close to the whole process. Maybe the process itself had become so second nature to me that I stopped thinking about it as a big deal and more of, "Welp, looks like I'm packing on the pounds again. Guess it's time to try 4 billion diet and exercise plans that will have varying degrees of effectiveness but ultimately won't change what's really wrong with me."

Focusing on things that are wrong with me is just soooo me. It's what I do. I see something that is wrong, and then I try really hard to fix it. Sometimes, I succeed. I quit smoking, and I don't mean I just stopped smoking. I addressed the way I felt about cigarettes and addiction, and I changed it. And because I changed the way I felt about addiction, it changed the way I confront other addictive habits. I feel so good right now overall, so much closer to the person I've always strived to be. And yet, one addiction remains: The addiction to constantly focusing on my flaws.

I always felt that if I didn't fixate on some aspect of my personality that I considered to be flawed or bad, it would never go away. But in reality, I was picking at a scab so much that it was never going to heal, no matter how much Neosporin I slathered on it or how many Band Aids I piled on top of it. Remember when Mom always said to just leave it alone? She was right. I wasn't leaving it alone, though, so it got worse.

Now, I'm tired. I'm physically exhausted from hating myself so much for so long. You know how people say that no one will love you if you don't love yourself? It's wrong. People in your life will always love you. Your kids will love you, you parents will love you (or they won't, but that's their problem because that's kind of their job), your dog will love you. Your awesome friends will love you, too. But, although your kids and parents and dog and awesome friends will love you no matter what, they will get bored and fed up with your constant self-loathing. It will make them not want to be around you. Except for your dog, but that's because you carry bacon in your pocket. That's cheating. Anyway, what that saying really means is that people will love you if you don't love yourself, but they'll stop calling you to hang out and won't invite you to karaoke night at their house anymore.

So here's the deal: I'm finished with hating myself, with nitpicking on stuff that might be considered bad aspects of my personality by people who judge and evaluate such things. That doesn't mean that the self-improvement ends. Oh no no no. I will continue to improve because I'm learning to love myself, and loving oneself means taking care of oneself. But you know what? My ass is big. It's probably not going to get much smaller than this unless I start doing things that go against my quest for self-improvement.

I also eat too much sometimes. There, I said it. I try hard and mostly succeed, but sometimes, when I've had a particularly difficult day, I have more than I should. Even when the day is not particularly bad. Maybe something is just tasty and I want more. So what?

Oh, and also, sometimes, I turn people down when they want me to do something or hang out with them, just because I want to be alone or spend time with my family. No other reason. I just don't feel like it.

Occasionally, I am not as direct as I should be. I'm getting better, but I will continue to fail at times. Sorry about that.

I don't always want to exercise. Even when I've been super lazy and haven't exercised in three days. Or MORE, even! Sometimes, I just don't like it. Sometimes, I want to plant my butt on the couch with a giant bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, and watch 37 episodes of "My Crazy Obsession". This probably means I'm lazy, another undesirable aspect of my personality. Meh. Screw it. So I'm lazy.

I have no patience with people who 1) tell me outrageous, unbelievable lies and then tell me I'm crazy for not believing them; 2) try to engage me in an argument just for argument's sake; 3) blame me for things that aren't my fault; and 4) tell me that I'm not working hard enough on something, or that I should have done something different with my life than I have. But especially that first one, about the lying. I probably won't give you more than one chance on that one, which probably doesn't make me the bigger person, but I don't care anymore.

I'm also asymmetrical, overweight, my eyes are bad, I have a slight speech impediment because my two front teeth stick out from chewing on my fingernails for so long, I still chew my fingernails, I struggle finishing things I start, I have ugly toes and I don't like scary movies so please stop trying to convince me that it's fun to be scared.

Some people may consider all of these things to be flaws. I sure have, for a long time. But it's just too hard to feel that way anymore. I've got a pretty full plate. So how about this: Why don't we all just pretend that I'm actually an amazing person full of altruistic tendencies and charitable acts who is endless patient with your bullshit and loves it when you talk about how much you admire the Blue Collar Comedy tour comedians? And in turn, I'll pretend that you don't need to use A LOT more deodorant than you currently use, you look really good in Spandex and the fact that you love crappy country music is an endearing quality instead of just a confusing and baffling one.

Okay? Sound like a deal? Good. I love you, too. Let's be bestest friends forever and ever now for reals.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Jogging Chronicles

My brain yells at me a lot. Loudly, and if my brain had a finger, it would wag it at me with impunity.

Even when my iPod is cranked to the highest volume setting, I can still hear my brain shouting orders at my like a drill sergeant. A squishy, fat-filled, grey, wrinkly drill sergeant. But nicer, really. More encouraging than a drill sergeant. My brain is more Billy Blanks than Lou Gossett, Jr. My brain has never required me to drop and give it 20.

I think weird thoughts when I'm running. Mostly, I think about what I'm going to eat for dinner. I find that I think about food a lot while I'm either running or in spinning class. My food fantasy life is very rich and fanciful. There are so many things I would love to do with macaroni and cheese, and all of them involve jalapenos and toasted bread crumbs.

When I'm not indulging my food imaginings, Brain Billy Blanks comes out and starts barking orders and telling me to suck it up and ignore that giant brick wall that I'm hurdling toward. "Keep your legs moving, come ON!! Like pistons! You're a well-oiled machine! Don't you quit on me, Harris!" Lactic acid starts to build up in the backs of my legs, toward the bottom of my calves, always in the same spot, and it's so excruciating that I want to cry, and here comes Brain Billy again, screaming, "It's an illusion! Someone else's legs hurt, but not yours! Separate yourself! Go go GO!"

And then something weird happens. I look at the horizon, which is solid and unwavering. Even though I know I'm moving, everything else is not. Everything is frozen, still, encapsulated in a moment where time as ceased to have any meaning whatsoever. Suddenly, I realize that I've been slightly hunched over, which is doing nothing for conserving my energy. My arms have been flopping, too, so I straighten up and calm down my upper body, and my legs just keep pumping and pumping forward, and then I'm floating. I can hear my breath and nothing else. Infinities pass between each inhalation. Galaxies are birthed and burn and die before I exhale. I don't how fast I'm moving, even though I know it's not very. I don't know what time it is or what day it is or my birthday or my eye color. My iPod is still playing, but what? I couldn't pick it out in a line up. This goes on for a while.

Until it stops.

Like an elevator in freefall that suddenly crashes onto the bottom floor, everything slams back down into place and starts moving again. My iPod is way too loud. The backs of my legs become flooded with lactic acid again, and I'm slogging through molasses with hip waders on while wearing a cargo vest filled with D batteries. Brain Billy is back, though, singing a familiar ditty: "Harris! Where were you? Daydreaming about ponies and rainbows and ice cream sundaes? Play time is OVER! It's grown-up time now, bitch!!"

Did Brain Billy just call me a bitch? That's too far. Brain Billy rarely resorts to expletives. I must be getting close to home.

Brain Billy isn't even trying anymore. All he's saying is "COME ON COME ON COME ON RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN...", screaming it into my ear so close I can feel his hot, mean breath on my cheek, repeating it over and over again in time to my footsteps. I'm not thinking about food anymore, and all of the various dipping sauces I'd like to be enjoying with my French fries. Now, I'm thinking about vomit. Lots and lots of vomit. Coming out of me and slopping on to the ground, and I wonder if I'll slip and fall into it. At least then I could stop running.

And then I'm in front of my porch. Just like that. I feel horrible, like someone caned the backs of my legs, and I'm shocked blood isn't pooling into my shoes. It's hard to stop moving from all the inertia. But I eventually do, and I stretch the backs of my legs which feels SO GOOD in ways I'm not sure I can talk about in mixed company.

Brain Billy says, "Stop messing around with these girly stretches. Put down your giant lolli-pop and pinwheel and get moving."

I follow orders and go around again, just one more time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"I Guess I'll Make Time for the Pain" Was the Original Song Title

I threw my back out while lying in bed the other morning. That's not even the worst part. What's worse is that it's not the first time this has happened.

"No no no no no no no," I said, plus about a hundred more "no"s when I felt the pop in my left shoulder blade early on Monday morning, before the sun had come up. I wasn't even awake yet; I had simply stirred from my slumber in order to yawn and stretch my arms when the pop came and the entire left side of my back flooded with pain.

I can only think of three worse things to wake up to on a Monday morning (death of a loved one doesn't count because this is a Fun Blog!):

1) A whiskey hangover
2) A dog taking a crap on your bed
3) Finding yourself engulfed in flames.

That's it, just those three things are worse than starting your Monday off with a big ol' steaming cup of back injury. Trust me; I saw it on the Science Channel.

At first, I wasn't sure what to do. Michael was lying next to me and I considered telling him right away, but he had his own problems. Specifically, a back injury that he got over the weekend. Unlike me, he had no clue how his happened, but the pinched nerve kept him couch-bound all day on Saturday until he had to rally himself to play drums for a show on Saturday night. Sleep was elusive for him afterward, and Sunday night, and after the initial agony of my own back injury subsided into a steady icy grip, I felt guilty for injuring myself. Because it's a well-known fact that when the able-bodied children in a house outnumbers the amount of injured or sick adults, Armageddon ensues, complete with pestilence, locusts and horsemen.

Eventually, though, I had to tell him, because I think the fact that I rolled up on my coffee Quasi Modo style might have given me away. And, of course, I had to apologize. What kind of jerk-faced jerk head gets a back injury before their significant other recovers from their own back injury? A big, fat jerk-faced jerk head, that's who.

It's amazing how quickly a normal looking, mild-mannered desk chair can turn into a torture device that would make the 14th century Catholic church squee like little school girls. Even with the heating pad firmly attached to my back, I was in excruciating pain, sitting in that stupid death chair all day. Usually in situation like this, I call my chiropractor, but I've discovered over the past couple of years that chiropractic adjustments don't really work for me anymore. I end up feeling better in a about 3-5 days whether I get one or not, so what's the point? So for this injury, I decided to try something new for me: Deep tissue massage.

Massage has been strictly recreational for me up until this point. I can count the number I've had on one hand, and at least two of them were gifts. Not that I have a problem with massage. I think they're neat. I just haven't really been in a financial position to get massages with the frequency that very bored, very rich and very relaxed people seem to. So approaching it from a place of urgency seemed weird to me, and it was hard for me to get past the idea that I'm spending a lot of money on something so frivolous. But the pain eventually won out, and after calling half a dozen places in the area, I finally found someone to take me last minute.

Karen, my massage therapist, couldn't have weighed more than 100 pounds, and I feel like that might even be a stretch. I'm pretty sure my left leg weighs more than Karen the massage therapist. But what she lacked in bulk she more than made up for in some sort of anger issue that resulted in her not exactly massage me, but somehow managing to beat me internally with just her tiny hands and arms.

I am loathe to say it was the most painful experience I've ever had, because I do have a child, but I'd say it ranks right up there with breaking a finger. An index finger, even. Except much, much, MUCH slower.

So is it safe to say that it was one of the most painful prolonged experiences I've ever had? Does that still smack of hyperbole? Whatever. It is. Feel free to start a blog and write about how wrong I am.

"Do you ever have a chance to stretch," Karen asked while she dug her wee meat hooks into my pectoral muscles. I couldn't answer at first, as I was too busy sweating profusely and grinding my teeth down to nubs.

"Yes," I finally managed. "I do yoga about six times a week."
"Oh, that's so great! You should be pretty limber then."
At least, that's what I think she said. It was hard to hear her over my silent screams.

She asked me a lot of things, like what I do for work, how often I'm able to exercise, whether there's a lot of stress in my life. One thing that seemed glaringly absent from her line of questioning, however, was, "Does that hurt?" And my answer would have been, "YES!!!! OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY PLEASE STOP TOUCHING ME IMMEDIATELY!!!"

I don't know from deep tissue. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be. Maybe you're supposed to suck it up and take the pain because you'll feel better once you get through it. And honestly, my back did feel better when she was finished, but at that point, I couldn't tell if it felt better because it was better or if it felt better because I had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins that I could have taken a bullet in the kneecap without so much as a yelp. Either way, I managed to hobble myself home and settle into the couch in order to let the magical healing begin.

At around 5am this morning, I woke up suddenly. I tried to sit up, but every part of my body felt like it had been beaten with a stick, so I sort of rolled/crawled/fell out of bed. I limped to the bathroom and grabbed my handheld mirror and looked at my back. It was covered in bruises. Little, tiny, pointy finger tip-sized bruises, especially down around my lower back. Again, I don't know from deep tissue, but bruising after the fact seems a bit excessive. My back seemed better, or possibly much worse, but it was hard to distinguish the new pain from the old pain. So I packed up my heating pad and headed to work, where my death chair awaited me.

Only time will tell if the deep tissue massage was a good idea. Perhaps I'll wake up tomorrow and feel like a new woman, one free of aches and pains and bruises inflicted by petite massage therapists trained in grappling by the Israeli army. Or maybe I'll break my hip in the shower and sprain my ankle while peeing and check myself into a nursing home and be done with it. It really could go any direction at this point.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Salad Days and Nights

I nearly cried into my dinner last night.

It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that our favorite local Italian restaurant was filled with loud-mouth rednecks sporting goatees, massive beer bellies and construction company teeshirts. It also didn't matter that, while Michael, Madeline and I dined on our entrees, a woman whose g-string was conspicuously displayed well above her butt crack and outside of her jeans was so hammered on a Tuesday night that she had to be carried out of the bar by her three girlfriends. It was 7:45pm. And it was no consequence that the ratio of dudes with neck tattoos to dudes without was surprisingly lopsided.

We come to expect those things in our town, which is why we eat dinner at home most nights and when we do splurge on restaurant food, it involves calling ahead and taking out. The world is just too full of ignorant, racist, very loud douche bags for us.

I nearly cried into my dinner last night because I am officially, 100% sick and tired of eating salad. Which sucks, because I actually love salad. Which seems lame, because how can you love a salad? I love salad because it's easy to make and endlessly versatile, completely portable and an elegant way to get several servings of vegetables in one sitting. Green leaves provide an excellent canvas for everything I like to eat: Black beans, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, all manner of cruciferous veggies, nuts and seeds, and even a little bit of good cheese. I bring one for lunch every day, and frequently have one for dinner many times a week. And since I'm a vegetarian, it's a pretty reliable fall-back option when we go out to eat, and a lot of the places we go will be fairly flexible with what I want to add to a salad that I order.

And that's what I ordered last night when we took Madeline out to dinner to our favorite local Italian restaurant. It's a good one, too: A giant pile of romaine with a house-made garlic and red wine vinegar dressing with feta, blue cheese and Parmesan sprinkled in. Madeline ordered penne with marinara. Michael ordered spinach and cheese ravioli with pesto cream sauce.

"Why do you keep looking at my plate," Michael asked.
"I didn't realize I was looking at your plate," I answered.
"Yeah, you're staring at it like you're in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and you're trapped on a desert island with Daffy Duck and he's starting to look like a giant porkchop."
"Sorry. It looks good."
"Do you want a bi..." Before could even finish asking, I grabbed his fork and sawed off a bit of cheesy, spinachy, basily, creamy goodness and shoved it into my mouth.

It was so good. There's just something about pesto that delights my tastebuds. And I can only get away with using "delights my tastebuds" for a few things without worrying that I'll sound like a moron. Pesto. Any time lime is added to something chili-based. Indian spices. And that's about it. That little creamy bite melted onto my tongue like a tiny cloud of tasty sin. I instantly wanted more.

"Is your salad okay," Michael asked.
"Yeah, it's good. As usual."
"Why are you just pushing it from one side of the bowl to the other, then?"
"I don't know. It's just not the same now. Your bite ruined me."

It was true. One bite of that pesto cream sauce had destroyed my appetite for my salad. Suddenly, my dinner seemed cold and soulless. Devoid of pizzaz, empty and thin and completely without body or substance. It seemed so pointless. I hated my salad. My salad represented all of the frustration I've been feeling lately in my struggle to lose weight. All the hard work and sacrifice and deep, DEEP life changes I've made in a commitment to shed these pounds so that I can feel better about myself and live longer for my family. All of the advice I've taken that has failed to yield results, all of the time I've put in working out, the special meals I've prepared, the things I've wanted but have turned down. It all culminated in the salad that I tried to eat last night in our favorite local Italian restaurant. I pushed the half-full bowl away, unable to stomach another bite.

Perhaps this makes me sound weak, but I'm not sure how much longer I can keep going like this without seeing any change in my weight or at least the way my clothes fit. It's not the working out that's getting to me. I've actually grown to love that part of it. I'm in the best shape I've been in years. My energy is almost boundless now. I feel so strong, and I am stronger. I sleep better at night. I love the feeling of sweat pouring off my of me and my legs burning during spinning class after I've completely maxed out the resistance, the release and relaxation I feel from yoga, even the sore muscles I get in the morning after lifting weights and doing crunch after crunch after crunch. When the snow melts, my feet will be hitting the concrete again, like they used to many years ago, and I'm looking forward to it.

It's the food I miss. I'm tired of the constant preparation and organization involved in planning every single thing I put into my mouth. If I was at least SLOWLY losing weight, it would be enough for me to hang my hat on it, to keep going. But the fact that the scales have not budged in two and a half months has made me contemplate chucking it in. Remaining active will not change, but the restrictive eating is becoming too much, all the time.

Can I do it? Can I stop making it about weight loss and focus on simply being healthy? Can I stop counting every calorie and carbohydrate? Can I accept my size and be happy? Can I not worry that people will look at me and think, "She must be super lazy. Look how fat she is" and be satisfied in the knowledge that I am most certainly NOT lazy, and that this fat girl could probably run circles around them? Can I act as an example to my daughter that size and shape ultimately don't matter as long as you are the healthiest person you can be? Can I fight years of toxic reasoning that drives me into obsessive behaviors and focus on the big picture, which is being completely present, both in mind and body, for my family?

I don't know right now, but I feel like I'm the closest I've ever been in my life to being a whole and complete person, not a pointless, aimless being cobbled together with self-hatred and justifications and diet pills. It's going to be a one meal at a time type of deal, so ask me again at dinner, which will almost certainly not be a salad. And oh yeah, I brought soup for lunch today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Madeline is Nine

Today is my daughter Madeline's ninth birthday.

It's also George Washington's birthday. Perhaps you've heard of him. And Edna St. Vincent Millay, of burning the candle at both ends fame. She's slightly less famous than George Washington.

Other notable birthdays include Drew Barrymore, she of the Laugh-Cry, Ellen Green, the actress/singer who portrayed the ill-fated Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and Edward Gorey, the author/illustrator who drew the Ghastlycrumb Tinies, as well as the classic opening credits of PBS's Mystery! And, of course, scores of sports figures, just like every day of the year.

That puts Madeline in pretty good company, Drew Barrymore notwithstanding, and at least she is in two of my favorite movies: E.T. and Donnie Darko.

It's bizarre that Madeline is 9 years old, just one short year away from her double digits. The fact that she is this age is both surprising and completely understandable, given that there are aspects of her birth that feel like they just happened yesterday, and other things that feel like they happened an absolutely LIFETIME ago.

One of the things that I find quite fresh in my mind is the pain of her birth. Everyone assured me that I would forget the pain moments after she was born. And that your body doesn't remember pain, anyway, at least not vividly. To all that I cry LIES. Giant, stinky, rotten lies. You better believe I remember her painfully long delivery, all 24 agonizing hours of it. Not that others haven't had longer labors. I know women who labored for days, and God bless 'um. But I'm not engaging in a pissing contest. I'm simply stating that I recall the details quite vividly, and it was very painful. That is all.

I also remember what it was like to bring her home. My mother was in town, so when we came home from the birth center, she kindly offered to sit up and hold Madeline while I got a nap in. After sleeping for I'm not sure how long exactly, I recall hearing a quiet knock at my bedroom door.
"Kandy...Kandy, wake up," my mother was saying. "Madeline is hungry."
In my exhausted haze, I thought, "Who the hell is Madeline, and can't she just make herself a sandwich or something?"

I remember my mother finally leaving after helping me for several days, and I think I cried and begged her not to go. "What am I supposed to do with this small helpless thingy?" I wondered. Who in their right mind would entrust me, ME, of all people, with an infant?! What kind of astonishing lack of foresight and responsibility would result in my mothering a child?? Someone probably should have written an angry letter to someone.

And then there was the crying. I remember the endless crying. Madeline was really colicky (I still don't really know what that means, but that's what everyone told me she was) for about the first two months of her life. (This was during the five seconds I got to be a stay-at-home mom before the bills started to pile up and it looked like we'd be living in a comfy refrigerator box if I didn't go back to work soon. You know, because some of us don't get a choice about staying home or working, contrary to what some people might believe). Madeline's father would leave for work in the morning, and I would start to sweat, knowing that I would be spending the entire day alone with Madeline, pacing endlessly around our 400 square foot hovel of an apartment while she screamed inconsolably, and I contemplated throwing myself out of a window in spite of the fact that we lived at ground level. Sometimes, I would just crank up the TV and cry along with her, begging her to give me some clue as to how I could comfort her. Some days were spent never leaving my rocking chair, because nursing her was the only way to keep her from crying night and day.

I got hooked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns. Two episodes would air back-to-back on FX starting at 6am, right after TVLand was finished showing episodes of Family Ties all night. All the other channels were showing infomercials, and I could only watch the one about the Vacuum Sealer so many times before my eye would start to twitch. I still remember the first Buffy episode I ever saw: It was the sixth season finale, the one where Buffy (SPOILER ALERT!!!) sacrifices her life for her fake sister Dawn by throwing herself off of the tower built by Glory's crazy, brainwashed minions. And the one they showed right after that was the pilot episode, so I really had no choice to but to get caught up from there.

One very early morning, just before sunrise, after a particularly excruciating night of Madeline screaming and crying, I remember looking at her while we sat on the futon couch in the living room, and I was once again for the 9 billionth time questioning everything about my abilities to be a mother ("What kind of mother can't get her kid to stop screaming?" was a popular question I asked myself) when suddenly, Madeline just stopped crying. And that was pretty much the end of that.

There are so many other things, too, of course. Like her first steps, her first words, her first birthday, her first haircut. Her first day of kindergarten. All of those milestones. For some reason, though, the little minutiae I've mentioned about her first days and weeks of life are so much more vivid to me to other things. It was just Madeline and me against the world during the day. That was the only time in my life when all I had to worry about was her, and that went away quickly when I got a night job when she was still very tiny.

I'm not having another child, sort of by choice and because it's a little too late. I'm going to be 36 this year and don't really have it in me to start all over again with an infant. And there's something slightly bittersweet about the fact that never again will I be able to smell my newborn's wee tiny head, play with her stubby little toes and fingers, stay awake all night trying to quell her cries. But I really don't mind. All I have to do is stop for a second and experience the near-total recall of Madeline's life as a bitsy, darkhaired squirt of a girl, and it's like I'm there all over again.

So happy ninth birthday, Madeline. You're a great kid, and I have no doubt you'll be an amazing adult when the time comes. And it's a good thing, too, because you're the only try I get at this whole parenthood thing.

Oh, and also, happy birthday, Drew Barrymore. Maybe you'll make some better movies from now on and I won't spend quite so much time making fun of you and your signature laugh-cry.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Yet Another Foray Into Something I Suck At

I am descended from a long line of crafty folk, so one would think the ability to make tangible things is coursing through my veins like coursey things do through veiny things.

I can't. Doesn't mean I haven't tried, nor does it mean that I've given up.
My mother is the Queen of the Crafties. To this day, I'm still not sure there's anything she can't make with her own two hands. She knitted us sweaters, sewed us all kinds of clothes, made dolls and toys and canned and jarred food. I wasn't terribly interested in all of that when I was younger because had other goals, mostly involving music and performing. Not only that, I kind of knew deep down that I didn't have that special kind of mojo, that odd gene that makes you look at a ball of twine, some bark off of a tree, a hot glue gun and some sequins and think, "Christmas presents for everyone!!!" and then dash off something fabulous. Silk purse from sow's ear? Forget it. I can't even make a sow's ear out of a sow's ear.

It's really quite remarkable what my mother can do, and I'm told it's somewhat rare, although I'm lucky enough to have lots of crafty friends who can crank out the homemades on a dime. In fact, now that I really think about it, it seems that I'm the only one I know who isn't good at fashioning beautiful art or clothing or photography or crocheted things or perfume or lotion.

I was once again reminded of my ineptitude recently, when I found myself desperately in need of something to do while unwinding after a long day at work. A bit of active relaxation, if you will. Or even if you won't. Either way, I decided to take up knitting.

Why knitting, you ask, and not something a little less ambitious, like, for instance, cross-stitch? That is SO FUNNY that you mentioned cross stitch just then, because I did, indeed, attempt cross stitching long ago. Back in the sixth-ish grade, I faintly recall, I began cross-stitching while I was competing in swimming tournaments where I would be forced to wait long periods of time between events.

I always began a cross-stitch project with the grandest of aspirations. I'd pick out an insanely difficult pattern, put the stitching cloth in my little wooden stretching ring...and within 15 minutes, I'd end up with a giant mutant ball of string instead of a nifty crissy-crossy pattern like on the picture. My tolerance for painstakingly pulling out every individual stitch until I could start over would only sustain doing it twice, so eventually, after the crying and the cutting of the wrists and blood shooting out of my eyes from looking at something THAT FRIGGIN' SMALL, my tear and blood-stained project would end up discarded and ultimately forgotten.

After several thousand aborted missions to craftihood, I managed to finish one solitary cross-stitching project, and it was quite possibly more painful than passing a child through my lady-bits. I was asked to do a square that was going on a quilt for my grandmother.
Fun Fact: Did you know that there is actually a law on the books which states that you can and will be tried by a jury, found guilty, sentenced to death and subsequently executed by hanging and lethal injection AND gas chamber before having your useless and naked corpse dragged through the village square for all to spit upon if you are asked to do a quilt square for your Granny and you fail to do such quilt square? Seriously. It's no joke. You will forever be compared to Hitler if you do not deliver. Tea Partiers will hold YOUR picture up next to President Obama's if you cannot finish your square.

Have I gotten my point across that ONE DOES NOT RENEGE EVER FOR ANY REASON on one's responsibility to provide a quilt square for their grandmother's quilt?
So I did it. I picked an exceedingly simple pattern: A yellow flower, I believe. I'm not sure how long it took, but I'm certain that I started over countless times. I was in school, studying music, and I remember sitting in my music history lecture first thing in the morning, secretly stitching under my tiny fold out desktop. I took it to every class with me, every performance, every rehearsal, every bus ride, until that damn yellow flower was finished. I think that flower was about the size of Post-It note, but it seemed so huge when I had my nose pressed up against it for months.

In spite of this, I soldiered on to the sewing machine, with typical results: Balls of tangled thread, yards of ruined fabric, broken needle after broken needle. My sewing machine now lives over at my neighbor's house, where my daughter took sewing classes a while back.

But again, the urge niggled at me, so I went out and bought knitting needles, yarn and an instruction book.

That was my first mistake. The instruction book was absolutely useless. Just in case you don't believe me, here's how they instruct you to knit:

Did you get that? Because I didn't. The pictures made absolutely no sense to me. But lucky for me! We live in the Youtube age, so I moved away from the book and watched this:

I gotta hand it to the instructor in this video. She does an amazing job of making it so simple, even a room full of surly, angst-ridden teenagers convinced to star in her tutorial taking place in a fake coffeehouse could do it! I, however, had to watch this video no less than 2 dozen times before I finally managed to cast off. That's as many times as it took to drive my daughter from the room and to force Michael to put headphones on. Jury's still out on whether there was anything actually playing in those headphones, but if it was anything short of Iron Maiden, he got to hear me swear a lot, too. Probably even more than normal.

Casting on at last, I moved on to part two of the tutorial, where the perky Teen Whisperer teaches us all how to knit stitch.

Given that it's been almost a month since this happened, I'm getting to the point where I can almost talk about it without a nervous breakdown. Were you kind of bad at math in school? I was. Very much so. I remember feeling this ball of nausea cement rise up from my stomach to my throat whenever I would be sitting in class, and a mathematical concept was being explained that seemed so foreign and distant that if I attempted to comprehend it, my head would instantly supernova into a red pastey substance. That's how I felt after around the fifteenth time watching the knit stitch video. Because every single time I attempted it, I would end up with the same result: A sad ball of knotted up, twisted yarn that looked nothing like the Teen Whisperer's magical, pretty knit stitch that was almost as petite and adorable as her. But I kept trying. I even undid the lot several times, starting all over again with the cast on, just in case I had screwed something up there.

Eventually, eyes hazy with hot tears of failure, I stopped watching the video (mainly because I wanted to punch her in her cute little stupid dumb knitting face) and went back to the book:

"Oh, right," I said. "The pictures only make me want to eat blue spaghetti for some reason." So back to Youtube I went.

Did you know that there are about 800 trillion knitting tutorials on Youtube? There are ones that make you stitch with your right hand. There are some that make you stitch with your left. There are ones that tell you to use red yarn. Others tell you that green yarn was woven by Satan's minions but that yellow yarn is okay. Some videos call it a knit stitch. Some videos call it "Der knitten stitchen". And some even call the knit stitch Henry and use it to knit toilet seat cozies. By the time I had watched all of these videos, the only thing I wanted to do was take the knitting needle with the cast off stitches in my right hand, the empty needle in my left, and force both of the pointy ends into my eyeballs until they were sticking out of the back of my head.

And so the yarn and needles sit on the shelf in my living room, shoved carelessly and even angrily into the plastic Joanne's bag in which they came, languishing in the dashed hopes and dreams of scarves that everyone would compliment, mittens that Madeline could brag to her friends at school about how her crafty mother made them, hats with wee little puff balls on top, sweaters to keep us all warm and, most attractively, the prospect of never having to buy a single Christmas or birthday present ever again.

But I'm just not that person. I'm 35 years old, and maybe it's time to accept the fact that I'm good at, like, two things, and making stuff ain't one of them. The world is made up of makers and consumers. Perhaps I need to accept my role of consumer and go back to secretly envying my awesome and creative friends who can say things like, "Oh, that? I made that one afternoon while the baby was asleep."

And don't try to tell me that people who love me will appreciate my homemade attempts. Nobody wants a sad, lopsided ashtray (who even still smokes??) made by an adult, or a napkin holder cobbled with dribbles of glittery hot glue and Scotch tape. Just give me the scotch, and hold the tape. And look for your gift card in the mail next Christmas.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Goaway Getaway

Michael and I have a flirty little love affair with Philadelphia, and it's become our go-to city for escaping. It seems almost silly, doesn't it, what with New York City being just a short train ride away? But last time I checked, New York City is still in my state, too close to my own hometown for comfort. When we go away, we like to GO. AWAY. Meaning we don't want our Spidey senses tingling like they do when we suspect we're about to bump into someone we know, or worse yet, someone we don't like. Like pretty much anytime we walk through the automatic doors of Target. So at least once a year, when things get dicey with the routine, we head to Philadelphia for a change of scenery. More on that in a bit.

It's been an interesting month for me. At the beginning of the year, I kind of got sick of myself. I got tired of my own excuses, my own weaknesses, my own self-imposed stupidity and limitations. The gory details of this discovery are not for public consumption, at least, not today, but suffice it to say, I spent January 2011 replacing bad things with good things, cleaning out the cupboards of my soul and steam cleaning the shag carpeting of my heart while Windexing the black scum off the window of my brain after scraping the black mold off of the baseboards of my existence and what have you.

Because 2010 kind of sucked, right? It was a really bad year for a lot of people, and although it was less bad for me than others, I still got to stand back and watch while people I liked or at least respected got their asses handed to them by a massive economic collapse. People lost jobs, lost houses or were simply forced to accept the fact that because they can't go anywhere else, they will continue to stagnate and rot at jobs they hate indefinitely, everyday a soul-shattering reminder of choices poorly made, or decisions based on not having the luxury of "choices".

Personally, my year sucked in other ways. Michael toured extensively last year, and it put a strain on our lives both logistically and otherwise. During the summer was particularly difficult, given that he was essentially gone from the first week of May until the 1st of August (he got a few days off between tour legs here and there, but that seemed to add to his travel fatigue). When he returned and was home for the rest of the year, it was a difficult shift from the constant movement of touring to the less constant activity of taking care of the homefront. Both are difficult, but they are so differently difficult that being thrust from one to the other is shocking to the system.

As for the other things that made 2010 suck, well, I'll just say that I let some things in my life get out of hand and leave it at that. And some of those things carried over into the beginning of this year despite my most sincere and heartfelt efforts to keep that from happening. But hey, what can you do? Self-improvement isn't a light switch. It's more like attempting to light a series torches set up all over a desert island that has no electricity and is pitch dark and raining 24 hours a day: Before you can even think about lighting them, you have to come up with a way to keep them lit.

Or whatever. I don't know. In other words, KANDY DO GOOD STUFF, BUT GOOD STUFF SO HARD DO!

Which brings us to Philadelphia.

I will be the first to admit to my personal limitations, and sometimes I can only fight the good fight for so long until I need to retreat into a cave. It doesn't happen very often. Usually all I need is to go into my bedroom, close the door, and unleash a torrent hot, salty tears into my pillow, followed by the realization that eventually, 9pm will come without fail and then I can lose myself in TV or sleep's dark embrace before starting all over again fresh the next day. But thanks to a number of things that happened last week that were distinctly Not Part of the Plan, Michael and I decided it wasn't a situation where we wanted to get away. It was a situation where we absolutely needed to for the sake of both our relationship and the ones we have with those around us. Luckily, it was Madeline's weekend to be in Brooklyn with her dad, so the timing couldn't have been better.

It was a fabulous little vacation. We explored quirky shops and comic book stores and one art museum which was inexplicably empty given how good the work was inside. We ate our way across 10 blocks and indulged our love of a good Indian dinner buffet (Michael beat his record with 9 samosas). We fell asleep early and woke up early but well-rested after soaking in an almost intolerably hot jacuzzi tub and then slipping into a coma on the most insanely comfortable mattress I've ever slept on the night before. We didn't take enough pictures, but we bought excellent gifts for the girls. We held hands the entire time. Michael bought me flowers for no other reason except that they were there and so was I. We walked constantly. We stopped in New Hope on the way home because it's a cute town, and we walked some more, despite our tired legs and sore knees. We forgot about the stupid, meaningless annoyances that seem so large and insurmountable when constantly addressed, but so small when confronted when faced with how much we love each other and how mighty we are together.

Even now, as I sit in my back-destroying office chair under soul-destroying fluorescent lights, I haven't really returned. I'm still there, with Michael, stumbling along icy, narrow sidewalks in search of a hot cup of coffee to drink or an interesting building to explore, far from the incessant, niggling drone of my inconsequential weaknesses. They can't touch me, and I feel stronger than ever.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Deep is Your Rut?

I am currently in the throes of what is shaping up to be the longest creative dry spell of my life. Honestly, I feel like I've been bathing in local anaesthesia lately; the dizzying highs and wrenching lows seemed to have been replaced by creamy middles.

Are creamy middles the death of creativity? Can one be content and still crank out the goods on a regular basis? Do I have to wallow in misery in order to produce?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, or whatever, obtaining contentedness requires engaging in some level of routine. And engaging in routine means embracing a degree of monotony. Not that there's anything wrong with a little monotony. But I'm kind of an experience-based writer. I'm not so good with the getting-in-touch-with-my-deep, inner-Kandy and am more interested in taking something I went through and attempting to make it funny. When you're waking up at the same time every morning, eating the same thing for breakfast, alternating between the same 5 pairs of office pants every week, driving the same route to work, answering the same email requests that come in every day, coming home at the same time, working out in the same spot in your home, eating dinner sometime between Cash Cab and the Simpsons every night, tucking your child in at 9pm, and then slipping in to a coma in bed while watching the same Family Guy reruns on the bedroom TV, it becomes nearly impossible to come up with fresh and exciting ways to write about this and still make it seem funny and interesting.

Because it's really neither funny nor interesting. It

WHICH IS GREAT. I wouldn't trade my life now for anything resembling the nightmare that was my 20s. So full of ridiculous self-induced drama and stupidity. Yeah, maybe my little anecdotes were better back then, maybe I could spin a helluva yarn based on the 50 retarded things I did every single day, but I was a trainwreck. I wouldn't go back there if you paid me a billion dollars and promised me a back rub.

So what do I write about now? Do I become part of the throng of "Mommy Bloggers" who fill their virtual pages with stories about how awesome their kids are, how awful their kids are, how glad they are that they're mommies, how miserable they are being mommies? Do I start meting out my life in increments of kiddie bowel movements, of what my kid eat and didn't eat, of wacky outfits and hilarious moments of unplanned lack of supervision (a la S*** My Kid Ruined)? Do I post pictures of the brilliant comic books Madeline has been cranking out with shocking consistency? Do I complain about how she still sometimes whines like a 3 year old and how it sends me to a dark and ugly place I'm not ready to talk about yet? Do I talk trash about her classmates' parents, my ex, all other parents in general who are nothing like me and do lots of stupid things that I don't agree with?

Do I rehash the mental disorders of my youth, or my previous struggles with addiction, just to give readers something to chew on?

Do I relate horror stories about my job? Because THAT'S a smart thing to be doing these days if you have a career death wish.

Do I go on and on about how I wish I could go back to school, how I wish I was a better songwriter, how I wish I could play the one instrument I can sorta/kinda play much better than I do now?

Do I give a daily debriefing on how my struggle to lose weight has been going, including the obligatory list of foods consumed, calories counted and minutes exercised?

Do I gush about how much I love my significant other and how I feel like I hit the lottery every single day?

Do I talk about how overwhelmed I am with love and happiness, so much so that I don't know what to do with myself?

Do I discuss how my daily routine feels so much like a hamster wheel that I could cry just thinking about it, and that I would consider a felonious act just for the opportunity to go on vacation?

Do I write about what I want to, with no fear, about any topic I choose, or do I continue to censor myself because of who may read this?

And, most important to me above all else, would anyone read it if I did?

Because if nobody cares, what's the point? No writer writes in a vacuum. If a hack tells you he writes for himself, he's a big fat double-crossing liar. I'm doing it all for you, readers. All 3 of you.

So tell me. What do YOU want to read?