Category: Writing

Writer at Work: Meanwhile, Meet K J Dell Antonia!

Hello All.

While I get back into my blogging seat check out K Js work. She has a wonderful blog that you can register for at the end of this shared post. Enjoy this wonderful insight to the joy of moving the ball down the family field, everyday.

Sometimes it helps to celebrate the very little things.

Last night, as I closed the dishwasher, knowing that the last kitchen straightening was done, that I’d taken the final things off the counter and wiped the sink (the one thing the kids never manage to do when they clean up after dinner), I set its fancy timer and shut its door and happily said “Yay!”

My daughter happened to be standing there, and she looked at me in shock. “Yay what?”

Um, yay everything is done? Yay another pretty good day? Yay bedtime and more summer tomorrow? I don’t know. Just, yay.

I like to celebrate these little things, and apparently I don’t even try to do it in my head any more.

I’ve been talking a lot about How to Be a Happier Parent lately. I’m lucky–I get interviewed, get to be on some podcasts. I get to tell people about it. And they often ask, what’s one big thing you do differently? And I haven’t exactly said, well, I say “yay” when I load the dishwasher, but that is kind of it. It seems to be the side effect of Mantra #10: Soak up the good. I’ve been working to notice when things are going well, and it’s paying off, at least if you don’t mind becoming someone who says “yay” without thinking.

I don’t mind. Because I have a dishwasher, and healthy kids who mostly load it, and pretty much everything material that I need. Of course, there are little things that are less great, but as I learned while talking to a couple of pretty brilliant experts last year, they aren’t tigers. Most of the stuff that plagues me on a day-to-day basis just doesn’t meet tiger level. No bankruptcy, no death, no illness.

At least not right now. Because of course, bad stuff happens. Nobody gets to go through life without some extremely lousy miserable tiger-level stuff. But I’m not there as I write this.

So, yay. Yay for an ordinary night loading a dishwasher. I’ve had other nights where that was all I wanted to get back, so I’ll take this.

If that’s you too, say yay.

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Hey–I HAVE A BOOK COMING! How to Be a Happier Parent lands August 21, and you can absolutely pre-order it right this minute on IndieboundAmazon or Barnes and Noble.

If you feel like sharing this week’s e-mail, you can click HERE for a fun, customizable tweet about this post, or HERE for one about the 10 Mantras for Happier Parents. Also, Facebook for the POST, and Facebook for the MANTRAS. I’m always thrilled by the generous shares–you all are the best.

That’s it from me this week. If you’ve got a friend who’d love to get a vaguely sort of semi-weekly note about How to Be a Happier Parent (even when I’m not), please forward this, and if someone forwarded it to you, sign up here for more like this one.

KJ

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Umm, Where was I?

It’s amazing how differently an adult experiences summer when you are the parent of a small child. Sure, time still moved, it just moved less and less in my general direction, towards my writing.  Much of my waking hours ticked by while running the Julia circuit: Saturday swim lessons, birthday parties, play dates and other dates that always held a nucleus of children.

Gone are the days of my dashing out to the Hamptons, hanging out on the white sandy beaches or sitting among a huddle mass of my friends, planning the menu for our long, languid Saturday night dinners. Of course I know such a house will come back, say, in four or five years, when Julia is a bigger girl. But that future summerhouse experience will be a family house, not the casa di gourmand. 

Ready for fishing with her Barbie pole and life vest, courtesy of Uncle Dan
Ready for fishing with her Barbie pole and life vest, courtesy of Uncle Dan

Meanwhile, Julia had a great summer. She went upstate to The Adirondacks and    got in touch with her inner fisherman. She traveled to the Catskills for a stay at the  Manhattan Country Day School farm through the invite of friends and got to touch with her inner farmer. And one morning she also got in touch with her inner her big girl, as I discovered while running around the house in my underwear, working to get ready in fury. That morning Julia reminded just how fine tuned little eyes can be.

Historians deemed 1967 The Summer of Love. But in the Holmes Household 2014 was the Summer of Change.

B_Girl final
Mommy, look what I made

Our wonderful nanny married the love life of her life, Julia start riffing out communiqués in complex sentences and making up her bed, while I experienced the power of what half an Advil PM can do for the single parent monkey mind that refuses to shut down at days end.

 

Julia enjoying the fresh air fun of a working farm
Julia enjoying the fresh air fun of a working farm

 

Julia on the big day
Julia on the big day

 

 

 

 

 

All in all Julia’s toddlerhood is a thing of the past. She a little girl, a little person with thoughts and opinions and ideas about everything including how she should dress. And that’s okay. It’s the order of things. Yet, a part of that order includes the inability for me to rise early enough, say 6:30 a.m. to write before Julia awakes. Now she’s the official morning greeter around these parts, knocking on my door and announcing Good Morning! with a verve only a four-year-old can serve up. I was never a morning gal, as my mom and college roommates can attest. But to have that sparking salutation, to see that beautiful auburn face, to receive the first injection of love at the start my day, well I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I will say this: welcome fall. Welcome autumn with your golden light. Welcome back school. Welcome. Welcome back to the land of the scribe single baby mama.

Good News, Bad News

Good News.(G.N.) Julia and Mommy are fine, high and dry on the Upper West Side, on day one of the Hurricane Sandy aftermath, Julia decides to done her spare Bumble Bee costume. And Mommy learns the power of play in the tough, emergency situation, an unprecedented event in New York City. Grandma calls three times before noon.

At least Julia’s having a great time through these stormy days.

Bad News. (B.N) Thousands of fellow New Yorkers and many of our friends can not say the same regarding their situation. While Julia naps Mommy sends out text messages. Few come back below from friends and loved ones who live below 30th Street. The Dark Zone.  Mommy remembers Eddie, a co-worker who lives on the water with his family.
G.N. Julia enjoys having Mommy home for days at a time, wondering where the Mommy who runs out of the door each morning has gone.
B.N. Mommy turns off a Baby Einstein video to check the news and tears start to crest in her eyes.

G.N. Julia looks at the same news reports and with each sight of crushed homes in water, broken boats in water, broken people standing in knee-high water, she points to the TV screen and shouts ” Agua! Agua!”

“Yes, lots of agua,” Mommy says and clicks off the tv screen. Then looks out of the living room window at the dancing trees.

While Julia naps, Mommy has a phone conference with her grad school professor regarding Mommy’s thesis, and Mommy remembers she is a writer.

Day one, after Sandy dropped by

Day 2.

B.N. Mommy got cabin fever and she and Julia leave the house.

G.N. Once outside, Mommy  recalls she and Julia are high and dry on the Upper Westside, tons of people are out walking, jogging, sipping Starbucks coffee from clean paper cups with belly bands, chatting like the day was just a normal one in the queue. Almost.

B.N. This street view reminds Mommy of the days after 9/11 when life on the Upper Westside continued on, even with the odor of death riding the air. This time destruction carries the smell of salt water.

GN. Julia enjoys the walk about. When we return we call the nanny and sing Happy Birthday, together, over the phone. Afterwards, Angie’s voice cracks, knowing we remember her important day. Mommy reads The Very Busy Spider for the 49th time, this time acting out all the voices of the animals.

Julia takes her stroller for spin while her conditioner goes to work.

Day 3.

GN. Mommy and Julia have a morning of beauty. Julia, a shampoo and deep conditioner. Mommy applies a Clarins moisturizing masque to her face that she hasn’t used in a year and tries to remember what occupied her mind so much last week, before the storm came. She can not recall.

Confessions of a Single Baby Mama #5

Of the many shifts of focus required to become a mom, for what you gain, there was much you let go of.  Typically, non-parent-people think of going out on the turn of New York minute first. But in truth, for me, I still believed in the words that Sandra Bernhardt said to David Letterman as she discussed her newly minted motherhood, “By the time your thirty-five you’ve had all the going out fun, you’re going to have. I was ready to become a mom.” I nodded in agreement back then and now, a good ten years later. What Sandra didn’t say was the real challenge that came with motherhood… dare I say, the baby clothes.

The first rumble my mom and I had over Julia regarded the matter of  undershirts. She deemed them necessary, I saw them as an extra layer, extra work, not required for life indoors. Since I brought Julia home in early February there were many undershirtless days, and many fish-eyed, sly glares from my Mom from across the living room, over her book of crossword puzzles. Always the same edict. ” It doesn’t look like Julia has an undershirt on. Does she have an undershirt on? If not, she’ll catch cold.”

Then came the nanny, the fabulous Miss Dee, that makes all the difference for me as a working, single baby mama. A every working mom needs an A- team, “the village” spoken of in an African proverb famously quoted by Hillary Clinton. With my mom living out of state, Miss Dee heads mine ( with an amazing assist from Zia Carla and Aunts Sheila and Charlena, who have been called to babysit in the clutch and have.) Then there’s Ronda, and of course, my mom.

My mother, I realized as I prepared to wing my way to Louisville some weeks back was the only person I trusted to watch over my daughter with for ten, whole, long days and nights. I was grateful that she was ready, willing and able to come to New York and keep watch over Julia, Dee and the household. What I hadn’t calculated in, what I missed entirely was the notion that Miss Dee, Julia and my mom would go shopping. Together. For my child.

” We all went to T.J. Max today,” my mom announced as I dragged my can from school back to The Brown Hotel, after a long day of lectures, readings and constant rain. ” We picked out some shoes for Julia.”

” That’s great mom” I said, as the tall, elegant doorman swept open the door of the historic hotel with a flourish.” And we bought a holiday dress.”

” Holiday? What holiday?” Easter, the classic roll your kid up in crinoline moment had come and gone months ago.

“We picked out a dress a Memorial Day for Julia.”

A pair of stars and stripes shorts I had as a ten-year old, running through sprinklers on lawns of Detroit, came roaring up from the depths of my memory.

Surely, she did not. Surly she could not.

“It’s a cute dress, small, white stars along a navy bodice, red and white poke-a- dots along the middle, and ruffles of white stars start again along the bottom.  Ties in a bow at the shoulders. Cute.”

I thanked her, clicked off the cell, jumped into the shower, and into fresh clothes to meet my scholar friends for cocktails and dinner. The vision of that star-spangled dress follow me throughout the evening. It trailed me throughout the week, until the last day, on the Delta flight home, back to Manhattan.

“Here it is!” my mom said, not long after I put my bags down and picked my daughter up, lassoing the baby into my arms. I dipped my nose into her neck, her heavenly scented skin, composed of baby lotion, baby powder, and organic carrots.

” Now you’re all ready for the holiday!” Mom said. So happy to come home to my daughter I left the matter of the dress for later.

Now, five days has come and gone, Memorial Day has arrived. The dress started up with me this morning. So I when it came time to dress Julia, I slipped it out of the drawer, and over her crown of dark curls. Whether or not it will leave the house, well, that was still uncertain. I now understand, more than ever, when we have an opportunity to make those we love happy, we should pick up the reins, or the crazy dress, and as the Nike tagline goes, “Just Do It.”

Back in the Writer Game

Writing is about the only activity I love nearly as much as being the mom of the lovely Miss J. So two weeks ago, I stretched the silver cord of connection between Julia and I all the way to Kentucky. As the spring term rolled towards me I decided to register, keeping my steady march moving toward completing my MFA. My wonderful mom came to Manhattan from Michigan, I booked a flight to Kentucky, packed my bags, books and black Mac laptop, and ahead to the airport.

“How are you feeling?” the nanny asked as she trailed me from the apartment, from my daughter, from my home, to the elevator.
“ My stomach is in knots… This is hard,” I said, hoping she’d ignore the sight of my eyes, shiny with tears.

The next morning I woke up at The Brown Hotel, between the cool, luscious, high- thread count sheets to the sound of, well, nothing. No Julia morning chirping, no baby music songs. Solemnly I showered, dressed and checked the time. I bolted from the Brown with my binder of writer selections pre-selected for class discussion by the workshop leader, my workshop sample, ball point pens, highlighters, cell phone and work Blackberry. My clog clad feet sprinted along the two blocks that stretched to my classroom, my cell phone jammed under my left ear, my purse dangling from my right shoulder. Binder jammed under a pit. I hurried past a gnarled, curled tree whose strong bows held pom-pom sized magnolias, spraying out two stories high. The heavily scented air punche my nose. hard. I was far from New York City in so many ways.

“ Hi, Mom,” I said passing the public library, “How are my girls doing?”
“ Julia it’s your Mommy on the phone!” my mother said  with enough volume so I could hear. And with that my stomach formed into a French knot, another loop, and another warm, exquisite torture.
“Say hi Julia! Say hi!”
Heavy breathing followed. Some days, when lucky , a BA ba, BA would rise into the receiver.

A week after Julia and I came home, back in February, Ronda gave my this advice. “When you’re working Mom, whereever you are you think you should be in the other place. Home? Work? You are constantly wishing things were different.”

I thought I understood her edict back in February, and again after I’d returned to work during the last dregs of March. Only now I really did. So, after two days of living solely as a writer, mothering by remote control, dialing in between lectures, and swimming in the warm waters of creatively and literature, I let go. I let grandma, be grandma. I trusted.

I’d forgotten how much I love the company of writers. Grad school, for me is a Petri dish of warm riches. A gift I can’t wait to share with my daughter.