Category Archives: Balance

LAX to JFK

I am currently 30,000 feet in the air, heading home to my family after one long and luxurious week on the west coast.

My jaunt began in Northern California and ended in my old Los Angeles stomping ground where this blog was conceived, along with my children and all the turmoil a 30 something’s crisis can muster.

The trip was for work, although I hardly think singing musical theatre tunes in the middle of glorious wine country could be qualified as such. None the less, I do have my paycheck tucked in my purse, safely stowed in the overhead compartment above me because items do tend to shift during flight.

Santa Rosa, just outside of San Francisco, is breathtaking, along with most everywhere else in Northern California, and my time there was scrumptious. I got to meet naptimewriting and her spouse for the first time after a year of cyber-bonding through writing, and all of us chatted over cocktails and snacks in the hotel wine bar after the performance. We could have talked for hours, but some of us had to get home to put babies to bed. Some. Myself not included. That was strange and amazing, wrapped inside a tortilla of guilt.

I spent the next day meandering through wine country with another dear friend, wondering whose life I quantum leapt into. It was surreal and odd with a devilish splash of Sauvignon Blanc and a side of Brie. Ok. Enough with the food and beverage references. Clearly I’m hungry and they don’t serve food on flights anymore. (I was given a blanket which I haven’t seen in years and I wonder how many got laid off for that cuddly perk)

Once all of my friends had left, I had an evening alone in the hotel before heading off for the second leg of my trip. It’s ironic how much we ache for this alone time, compiling mental lists of all we could accomplish if we had it, but find ourselves rather lost when blessed with silence. Mommy brains must undergo some scientific process of evolution, rendering them useless outside the midst of madness, mess and chaos.

I got nothing completed that evening, other than ingesting entirely too much food off the hotel restaurant menu while emailing a friend about how much I missed my babies.

It occurred to me at that moment that a week is an extremely long block of time. Four days might be the max for mommy-child, bi-coastal distance…just from my experience. But Los Angeles awaited, and the children were in the amazing and quite capable hands of Mr. Mom.

I landed at LAX and immediately felt like I was home. My time there would be brief so I told very few that I was coming. There were girlfriends on my list that had priority. Three of them, all of whom helped me through the insanity of being a new Mom, witnessing first-hand what I now recognize as postpartum anxiety, became pregnant before our move back east and would deliver just after we left.

“Thanks for all the help in supporting me through these couple of years and loving me in spite of all my batshit crazy, guys! Good luck! Peace out!”

How kind of me.

But these cherubs were calling, and had to be met and held by yours truly, If even for a brief moment. I was amazed and a bit humbled by how easy these ladies made it look. One was kind enough to say she learned from me, but I am quite certain I never exhibited such grace and ease with motherhood during my time in LA. A tornado, frantically spinning through the town with no clear path or direction, wreaking havoc on all who meet it, is the only picture that comes to mind.

That said, the juxtaposition during this trip was surreal. I visited all of the special hideaways that brought me peace during emotional and confusing times. I made my way to what we have named “Kennedy’s beach” and had a brief moment with our first-born. But, oddly I didn’t feel any closer to her than I do on a daily basis. It became clear yesterday, that that place was for us, to give us something symbolic to think of and visit. But our actual physical presence there isn’t necessary for her closeness.

I hiked the hike that pulled me, on a daily basis through every step of healing from her loss, trying to conceive again, and finally to a place where hope throughout my pregnancy with Zachary was allowed. If I had left a grain of sand for every agonizing thought and emotion processed on Fryman Canyon, it would be veritable trail of quicksand.

These sacred places, along with every nook and cranny surrounding them, right down to our neighborhood grocery store, brought flashes of specific moments all having to do with these emotionally dense and soul-shaping years.

As I now have some sort of direction, with a new career that invigorates and gives me purpose (I know I haven’t yet told you anything about that. See blogger’s note at the bottom) I feel like I’m visiting these places with a new set of eyes. Everything seems slower. More deliberate.

A long exhale.

So, while a week is too long, and I miss my family like the dickens, this trip was priceless in every way.

And necessary.

California will always have a substantial slice of my heart, but now it’s time to go home. My babies are waiting at JFK.

Blogger’s Note:
I will share more about the job, but it didn’t fit in this post. However, I feel it’s annoying to be so cryptic. Especially if I am going to drop off the face of the blog world for months at a time. (Which it seems I may do)

The short version:
I have been offered a performing arts teaching position at a remarkable charter school in Newark. As the top charter school in the country, it is overhauling the face of urban education. Stay tuned for more details, but I am so honored to have been chosen to be a part of this school that is literally changing lives daily…for good.

#couldn’tresist

Advertisements

“Whatcha talkin’ bout Willis?”

I have a friend in Public Relations that likes to throw my writing out to different publishers and casting directors when projects come across his desk.  He called me last night to say that there is a new reality television pilot being cast that is looking for women in New York and surrounding areas who have successful careers, children, friends and spouses, and are navigating through the “have it all” scenario.  He sent her my information and blog link and she wanted to talk to me.

Putting aside the fact that I would rather eat three-week old fish wrapped in road-kill filo dough, than be on a reality television show, (that’s big talk. I don’t eat things that swim) I wanted to get more information.  This is an excerpt from the actual breakdown:

The POWER MOMS of NEW YORK.
POWER MOMS is a new docu-series focusing on a group
of successful women who somehow manage to do it all…
balancing work, kids, home, friends, events, parties and
family!

 

If this is truly a reality show, and not a sci-fi series where days are longer than 24 hours, there are glaring arithmetic errors.  I’ll get Nate Silver on it.

But, lets suspend our disbelief for just a moment while I tell you about this phone call.  It went something like this:

Casting Director: “So, let me describe what we are looking for and you can tell me if you fit the bill.  We need successful, career driven, educated, New York mothers who are able to work, spend plenty of quality time with their kids and spouses, plan events and parties and maintain an active social life.  Also, these women do not need to be wealthy, but can afford some of the nicer things.  For example, vacations homes and designer clothes.  This is a classy version of New York Housewives.  It’s an aspirational show that middle America will be inspired by.  Does that sound like you?”

me: “No.  It most definitely does not.  I do not own my own home, let alone a vacation home and fashion is not my thing.  I am not your girl, but seriously, who are you looking for?  You didn’t mean success in any career.  You meant CEO’s and the like?”

Casting Director “Yes.”

Clearly, she did not read by blog.  And clearly I will not watch her show.  Or maybe I will.  I must see who these women are and how they manage to defy the laws of nature.  Because, it’s going to be a reality show…meaning it is going to be 100 percent real, right?

have a click!

A Call To All Licensed Psychotherapists

Quick!

What are two things that mix as well as water on a scalding pan of oil?

Ok, I’ll tell you…

Paralyzing Need for Order and Toddlers.

I am a self-proclaimed control freak.  A quality that is excellent for paying bills on time, but not so excellent for fostering the young, developing mind and it’s need for self-exploration and independence.

I’m working on it.  Every day.  I promise. My children wouldn’t have it any other way.

My son is potty training.  Actually, as far as I’m concerned, he is “trained”. He lasts during outings without the need for a restroom much longer than I, but still, it’s tricky.  For weeks, maybe months, (although the whole body-cast thing put a five-week hiccup in his progress) he has been asking us beforehand if he can pee.

“Sure!  Do you want to go on the potty?”

“Nope.  Just my diaper.”

So, we haven’t pushed it.  But recently, he has started wearing underwear and taking the initiative to take himself to the potty at home.  Amazing!

However, he seems to have an extreme past-life traumatic recollection involving anything other than liquid being added to a pot of anything – porcelain or plastic.  This is a huge issue, being that he starts preschool in two weeks and there are “rules” for such bodily functions. But that’s a whole other blog entry. Don’t you fret. You’ll hear about my son’s fecal accomplishments in full detail another time.

Back to the impeding emotional wounds…

No. Not the ones from this post. Those we won’t deal with until middle school, and by then I’ll have enrolled all of us into the witness protection program.

We had just arrived from a fun-filled day at the Zoo.  (This particular outing was chosen after one of my anonymous readers alerted me to the fact that I had published a photo in last week’s “Wordless Wednesdays” of my Amex and my Zoo membership.  Naturally, I had to rush off to the Zoo to make sure my membership had not been tampered with.)

See how much blasted fun we had?!

“I will get a happy picture of this God-forsaken day if it kills me! Now spin, carousel, and give me a two-minute reprieve from these tiny urchins who refuse to run off in the same direction, leaving me with the intense pressure of making a snap ‘Sophie’s choice’ of which child to save from swallowing crowds of strangers!”

While unloading the multiple items a two-hour Zoo excursion requires, Isabelle ran off down the sidewalk and Zachary proceeded to pull down his pants in the front yard, facing the bushes. Reacting with a jerk of my knee, I yelled,

“Zachary! Wait! What are you doing?” He jumped, startled by my abrasive tone.

It startled me too, quite frankly. We have had no problem with him peeing in the backyard.  Right now, we are just aiming for him to be aware of his body and what it’s telling him. Is this really all that different?

But, he allowed me to pull up his pants, and stood patiently on the porch steps while I fetched four bags from the car, his 19 month-old sis from the road, and the house keys from my purse. As I turned the key, I looked down to see urine pouring down his leg from under his shorts.  Chin down, eyes up, staring at me through thick blonde lashes, he pouted

“Accidents happen Mommy. It’s OK.”

In addition to the two children, four bags, purse and keys, I then had to collect the teeny, tiny shards of my heart from the cement steps.

I spent the rest of the evening explaining how Mommy is doing the best she can, that she makes mistakes, and what a great job he did by holding it in for that long at the Zoo.

“It was Mommy’s accident! Not Zachary’s!”

Whatever. Damage done.

All Licensed Psychotherapists:

Please send your pro bono offers to

The Padded Room.

Where I once again reside.

Although, the child seems less affected by the incident than the Mother, so be sure to specialize in post, post, postpartum jackassery.

Have a click!

Coin Toss

Tails

Six months ago, we leapt with naiveté from our home in Southern California in search of greener pastures in the Northeast.

One mishap after the other has hailed with vengeance onto our path since we hit the road in our secretly igniting Toyota Sienna.  That first phone call, imparting drastic news of the corroded engine in our freshly purchased mini-van should have served as a warning for the choppy waters ahead.

Forging on, we made our way to New Jersey to start over with fresh optimism.  But, before we could work up our speed to a slow and steady clip, we lost our transmission on the New Jersey turnpike.

Days after, before we could utter the words, “what could possibly be next”, the furnace in our rental home cracked beyond repair leaving us for four days in January with no heat.

The first warmth of spring awoke from its wintry hibernation, and we came home one morning to find the house crawling with termites.

The employment that seemed to come rather easily when last we lived in the East, is scarce and more competitive than a decade ago, and I have now broken my own unemployment record.  Ironically, at 25 and single, I had no need for the generous salaries I made with very little thought.  Now, with a family to support, it is imperative.

Recently, within a matter of one week, I was asked to return to Los Angeles for a well-paying teaching gig for four days at the beginning of July, and then on the heals of that offer, booked a regional show, not too far from home that would run through August and make up the rest of the bills for the summer.

Last week went as follows…

on Monday, I got a call from my agent saying the show wasn’t selling and was cancelled,

on Tuesday, my son broke his femur,

on Wednesday, I had to cancel my teaching trip to Los Angeles to stay with my broken son,

on Thursday, I learned that ambulance services are not covered by our insurance,

and on Friday, with quite a stomach-ache, I looked for a nice green leaf to eat through before burrowing into a cocoon as I watched the dollar signs turn into butterflies and flutter out the window with the remainder of our nest egg.

I give up. I always had tenacious faith in the saying “leap and the net will appear”. Right now, I am wondering if that is referring more to a slotted spatula to scrape us off the steaming hard ground after we have hit with a resounding splat.

Heads

These past six months have been interesting to say the least!  We have been graciously caught by too many nets to count as the universe has thrown its humorous curve balls.

The excitement began with a corroded engine in Albuquerque, NM, en route from Los Angeles to New Jersey, giving us an unexpected reprieve from our endless hours of driving. How amazing that that sticky situation turned out the way it did!

The car company who sold us the vehicle took the hit of the hotel and food expenses, 15,000 dollars worth of repairs and a rental vehicle so we could continue our trip while the car was being serviced.  If that wasn’t enough of a blessing,  the hotel upgraded us to a two-bedroom suite for the remainder of our stay.

Shortly after settling into our cozy new home, we became profoundly grateful that we are the renters and not the owners!  The furnace cracked and died in the middle of January, and a couple of months after, we discovered a termite infestation.  Both of these hefty expenses were taken care of by the landlord within a matter of days, we had lower monthly heat bills than the previous tenants, and there has been no sign of creepy-crawlies since.

As far as re-starting the engine of my performing career, after a six and a half-year absence from New York City, I was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome I received from the Business.  I have found myself up for a few jobs with small numbers of extremely talented performers with whom I was humbly proud to be counted.

While I have yet to book a long-running show, I am grateful for the precious gifts of scattered, but lucrative employment in the form of concerts and commercials to carry us through until just the right opportunity comes our way.

I must say that while I am disappointed about the cancellation of a show I was looking forward to being a part of, I can’t help but believe that its demise was a divine intervention of sorts.  Leaving Zachary for long hours of rehearsal in his current injured state would have been heart-wrenching.  How blessed are we to have the savings, (dwindling as it is) to allow us this time at home to focus on the healing of our baby boy?

As far as this injury, I am extremely relieved by our choice in private health insurance.  With a minimal co-pay, every minute detail of the excellent care he received at the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai  is 100 percent covered.  With a lower rate plan, we would be out thousands, making the mere 1,000 dollar ambulance bill seem like pocket-change in comparison.

I am eternally grateful for all of the grace that our family has been shown through these past six months and am cautiously optimistic about the next six!

***********************************************************************

There are many different reasons that people write blogs.

-to practice writing
-hopes to one day be published
-journal therapy
-a desire to have stories preserved for their children

The list goes on. On any given day, my personal motivation falls under any or all of the above.

Because of my desire to keep readers, coupled with my belief that very few want to read post after post of laments and tirades of how horrible things are, I am always inspired to take a situation and spin it to the light as best as I can.

I’ll let you guess which section poured onto the keys with the momentum of raging waters, and which felt like it was yanked while swimming upstream in a river of taffy.  It doesn’t really matter. Both perspectives are valid.

But one makes for a more pleasant read and a more enjoyable life, for sure!

So, I write this to thank all of you for forcing me to keep my “heads” up through a tumultuous six months.

What side of the coin is facing you?

Resurrection of a Neat Freak

Many know the Toyota Sienna story….

….for those who do not, I’ll begin with a very abridged re-cap and get on to the point of this post.

We bought our used (new to us) mini van one week before our cross-country move to New Jersey.  Brimming with two adults, two babies, two dogs, two suit cases, two pack-n-plays, two dog crates and 47 Plum Organics fruit and veggie bags, we waved a final goodbye to our California home and headed for the highway.

We had not yet reached the 405 before a bag of spinach, peas and pear purèe squirted like a laser from the back seat. It was at that moment I realized, for the sake of my sanity, I would have to temporarily tuck my obsessive need for order and cleanliness inside the glove compartment for the duration of this trip.

With a sigh, and a vow to devote an entire weekend to a detailed vacuuming and  scrubbing once we arrived at our new home, I shut her inside the compartment with a click.

But, as the story goes, our engine nearly exploded 788 miles from Los Angles, on Day Three of our trip, and we continued the rest of the way in a rented Chrysler Town and Country.   I learned to find liberation in stretching atrophied muscles of slop, as the obsessive hemisphere of my brain was still locked inside a glove compartment in Albuquerque, NM.

The Sienna was shipped to us in New Jersey, 30 days after our arrival, but before I had the chance to roll up my sleeves and dig my elbows into the mass destruction that occurred during those first three days, the transmission fell out onto the New Jersey Turnpike.

Once back in our possession, two weeks later, I had little desire to even look at the vehicle, let alone offer it any modicum of TLC.

Winter turned to Spring and Spring to Summer, as less and less of the floor was visible through the overlay of crushed goldfish, graham crackers and other things unidentifiable due to the scientific changes in composition during the natural decaying process.  And every time we loaded the kids in the car to run an errand, a guttural groan would escape from me.

As much as I tried to keep the state of our mini van a dirty little secret, people would catch sight of our disturbing transport all too often.  Each time, these people, newly made East Coast friends who are unaware that I am NOT a gigantic slob, witnessed the science project growing in my car, a little part of me (the part that upon returning from the grocery store, with the intense pressure of an over-flowing bladder, would rather wet her pants than use the bathroom before all the groceries are in their proper place) would die.

Today, after six months and three days (minus the 44 it was in the repair shop) of driving a vehicle straight out of an episode of  Horders , I decided it was time to unlock the glove compartment and let a kicking, screaming and gasping Neaty Mc Neaterton free!

Man, was she pissed!

“How could you have let this happen?”

She asked, with utter disdain, while surveying the floor with disgust.

My head hanging in shame, we agreed that placing blame and making excuses would only distract from the monumental task at hand.  And so we dove in; my Husband, my two kids and my two estranged selves joined together to restore balance, harmony and order within our family vehicle.

While I feel it was beneficial to have allowed this disgusting little situation to happen, as I now understand the importance of lowering the standards when it comes to car trips (especially long ones), I can, with complete conviction, say that six months is unacceptable.  There really is no need for such prolonged disarray and neglect.  Kids or no kids.

Currently, a little waste basket sits under the stereo for used napkins, ripped papers, and toys I find annoyingly disheveling, a dust buster is charged and ready inside the front door of the house for frequent clean-ups, and I sit in the front seat with shoulders back and chest up as we set off on northeastern roads.

Now, when friends ask if I need assistance with getting my children in the car after play-dates, I proudly accept their offer.

The BEST part?

It was more family fun than we have had in weeks!

Family Car Wash!!!

Blogger’s Note:
Those of you who have witnessed the manner in which we allow my daughter to eat her meals are most likely thinking,

“Neat Freak, my a#*!”

It must be noted that the same organizational and cleanliness obsessed facet of my ego spends all mealtimes locked in the liquor cabinet.

She’s happy there.

And totally wasted.

Have a click!

Adjusting the Meter

It’s been just over two months since our cross-country expedition and our nose dive of faith into an abyss of the unknown. So far, that proverbial net has yet to scoop us up and carry us to solid ground.  Thankfully, there have been little plateaus and ledges to help slow down the fall, but we’re still in the dark as to how this will all play out.

I’m finding it difficult to strike a healthy balance between relishing in the “Now”, which is chock full of lackadaisical weeks of everlasting Family Sundays, and pounding the pavement to find work before it’s too late. I don’t want to focus so obsessively on our lack of income that I miss out on the gift that comes with living in this whimsical family bubble with no deadlines and chaos. Nor do I want to ignorantly float away in it until it smacks with a pop into the floor of our savings, splattering us all like soap onto the street!

After the insanity that ensued from day one of our travels, lasting well into month two of our move, I’m trying to permit myself to take a well deserved reprieve and a slow deep breath.  But, in this economy such allowances and luxuries feel like a gamble. Just how long do we have?  Can we really trust that something will come along?  Faith is a huge topic in our household right now. The problem I have with trusting that all will magically work out, is the fact that MANY good people, with much stronger faith than ours, are out of work and still waiting for that perfect (or just fine for now, and is almost enough to put food on the table) job.

I’ve often been criticized for my “catastrophic thinking” and have been encouraged to draw forth positive events with a positive outlook. I do believe in this to a certain extent, but I also believe in having a plan in place should things not work out in the desired timing. Does this really make me a negative person?  Because, if I may say so, I think it makes me a smart one.   Except that these smarts have yet to come up with this back up plan.

So, I will continue to have faith in things I cannot see, because what choice do I have? But, I will also use my God-given intellect to continue to prepare for an empty bank account. It would seem awfully silly to wake up one morning to our very last 20 dollar bill and think “What happened?! I had no idea that no income would mean the dwindling of our savings?! Where on earth could it have gone?!”

So, if I promise to do it with the most cheerful and positive spin, may I adjust the  meter a tad?    A little less rolling around on the floor with the kids, as delicious as they are, and just a touch more action?   Yes, we have savings. Thank God we have savings. But wouldn’t it be nice to keep it that way?

My Dirty Secret

Now that you’re drawn in…

After my last few posts, I received a handful of messages via facebook, text and email, stating how my continuing positive outlook during all of the upheaval has been inspiring. My first instinct was to stand tall and give myself a nice pat on the back. I am truly an enlightened soul!  But after some moments, guilt began to bring a slouch to my proud  and cocky spine, as the words of this blog’s “About Me” section flashed across my screen. It seems that I am not staying true to my vow to share “complete and unedited honesty”.  To those who really know me, it comes as no surprise that I am actually quite a negative person.

Sure, I usually walk around with a friendly, (hopefully warm and inviting) smile. So, not negative in that regard. But I have developed a mechanism of so-called protection, which causes me to always expect the worst. I would like to blame the two tragedies in my life that knocked me off my feet in shock, but it’s possible this was in effect long before either of them occurred.   My rational is, that if I conjure up the worst possible scenario, I can somehow be prepared for it. Obviously there are serious flaws in this way of thinking, not to mention the profound effect it has on the ability to fully engage in the beauty that is NOW.

My father once said to me “Emily, when you worry so much about losing the people you love, you don’t enjoy them while they are here”. An excellent piece of wisdom. I’m only slightly bitter that it was imparted a month or two before his own sudden and unexpected passing.  But, although I spent countless hours of my life in panicked worry over how I would survive the loss of one of my parents, I don’t believe I was any more prepared for it when it actually happened.   A lot of energy wasted.

So, I am working on this piece of myself. I truly am. I am aware of it and am setting in motion a daily attempt to reprogram and open myself up to being shocked by life’s curve balls, rather than compile a list of all the balls that could possibly be thrown.

But, as far as my attitude this past month, I can honestly say we are doing really well!  Until someone says “You’re here! Oh my gosh! What you have been through! I’m so sorry!”, I forget that things have been a bit awry.  The strange thing is, we struggled so deeply in Los Angeles, but on a different level. We have friends there whom we cherish and the weather is nothing to cry about, but we felt so misaligned with where we belonged, that although we had operational vehicles (2 in fact), a job, and an organized home with working utilities, we were literally brought to our knees with anxiety and sadness.

I can say now, that I am thankful for that extreme place of discomfort.  Not only did it birth this blog, but more importantly, under no other circumstance would we take the terrifying leap of faith across the country, to start over with no employment. If things were even “just OK”, I believe we would have stayed put to play it safe.

So, although we have had a hilariously difficult past four weeks, and are still unclear of what lies ahead, we are feeling more alive with faith, excitement, and purpose than ever before.  I think it’s a huge testament to the validity of our decision, that we moved to the Northeast in the dead of winter, from Southern California, have had mishap after mishap, and yet STILL feel all of the things just mentioned! Both of us, with all of the stumbling around, feel at home, where we belong. All the other stuff is just silly noise.