Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hope This Very Special Day Brings You Lots Of Joy

It's been quite a year, Mr. Baby.

Thankfully, the difficulty, intensity and pain you used to enter this world was not foreshadowing. There has been an ease and joy and familiarity to you since the very beginning. After we got through those first few days of constant, wary brow-furrowing at everything you encountered, anyway.

We've been through a lot since then, but you have remained the happiest, friendliest, baby-est baby I've ever seen. Even in your darkest mood, even in your greatest pain, you are rarely more than ten seconds from a smile. You've endured every change and transition with the same calm demeanor, which I try to tell myself is just a naturally unflappable temperament and not early signs of Nordic repression.

You are so open to the world it both buoys and breaks my heart. As your mother, I worry that your agreeable nature will someday lead you to be taken advantage of, but I also relish the fact that you may grow into a socially confident child and adult, which would be a pretty new phenomenon, genetically speaking. You already bring so much light to me and the people around you. I can feel the tension around me lift when I'm, say, standing in line at the grocery and the other customers catch your attention. Your eager smile and twinkling eyes seem to ensnare and soothe anyone within sight of you. Everyone who sees you thinks you're taken with them and that your delight is specifically directed, and I don't ever try to correct this impression. I don't want to diffuse the natural joy you bring to everyone you meet.

As a second child myself, I know I've already fallen behind in documenting your milestones and developmental highlights. But as the mother of two, I've also learned that the day you started crawling isn't as important as the memory of your tiny fingers unconsciously reaching for me in the middle of the night or the achingly soft dent on the back of your neck. Your first year has sped by so much more quickly than your sister's, and knowing this, I've clung more tightly to your babyhood rather than spending hours on end wishing it would please go faster.

Things are about to change in a very drastic way. We've spent every day of your life together up to this point, and now your days will be filled without me. I'm not sure I can accurately explain how painful that fact is to me, but "surgery without anesthesia" is the closest description I can muster. But I also know I'm lucky. Nearly every mother who comes into my store says how nice it must be to have my baby at work with me, and I know nothing can replace the time that we've been able to have together. I'm going to miss you madly, but it's some consolation knowing that's because of the bond we've formed over the last twelve months.

You're an amazing little man, Mr. Baby. You are strong and curious and quick to laugh. You are thoughtful and cautious and easily offended. You love to eat. You love to play outside. You love to eat what you find outside. You love nearly anyone, especially kids and babies. You don't like dogs and cats as much as you used to (sorry about letting you watch both the critters die). You haven't taken a step but you can climb all the way up a slide or rock wall or flight of stairs. You sleep on your belly with your butt in the air, the way Cha Cha says I used to do. Your sister absolutely thrills you. You say mama and dada and bye bye and, I think, car. Or cat. Or keys? You point and clap and mimic like a little blond monkey. You are, quite simply, delightful.

I wish I could promise to protect you from every struggle ahead, but that's not realistic. What I can promise is that you will have so much love surrounding you that that the falls will always be softened. I believe in you already, in the gifts you have to offer, and I can't wait to see them opened to the world.

Happy birthday, my baby boy. I love you so much.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Planet Earth In The Palm Of Your Hand

Being a natural introvert, my favorite thing about journalistic writing is the interesting people I get an excuse to meet and talk with. I was a little sad when my interview time with Sarah Terry was over because it was such a pleasure getting to know her. I hope y'all will feel the same if you read my story on Sarah's eco-conscious household. I also make regular stops by her blog to see what amazing craftiness she's up to lately.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fathers, Be Good To Your Daughters

The phrase "Just wait until your father gets home!" was never uttered in my household while my sister and I were children. And although this was partly because my mom was the Chief Disciplinary Officer in our home, it was also because there was not a one of us who believed that my dad would ever handle a situation with anger or even the most vague threat of violence. I can't ever remember a day of my life, in childhood or beyond, that I have been afraid of how my father would react to a given circumstance. A little dread at possibly disappointing him, sure, but never fear that I could lose his love or even his patience.

Which is not to say that my dad is a pushover or a milquetoasty man. For reasons I never understood, his demeanor seemed to intimidate most of my young friends, and he still makes most babies and children a little bit wary. I suspect that's because he treats everyone the same, whether they're fifty or five. He is calm, reserved, patient and a bit smart-alecky, which plays pretty well with grown-ups but can be a little weird to kids who are used to everyone playing big and goofy with them. But that temperament was a perfect fit to mine as a girl, when I was easily overwhelmed by loud noises and overt emotions. That's his genetic legacy to me just as surely as the dome nose, anxiety-prone digestive system and love of Fats Domino.

I hear a lot of mothers comment on the difference they see in how their fathers act around their grandchildren in comparison to how they remember being treated growing up. But when I see my dad around my children and my niece, the most frequent sensation I feel is nostalgia. With these little ones, and especially his granddaughters, he is the same quietly strong, loving force that held up my sister's first two-wheeler and optimistically coached my dismal basketball team. They also get the same half-octave-deeper, half-step-slower Dad Voice if they flagrantly disobey. (My sister can expertly mimic the exact tone of his one stern word: "Girrrls.") And they can bask in the same knowledge that, whatever they do, he will treat them with kindness, fairness and respect. And I hope that, like his daughters, his granddaughters will carry that expectation through their lives, with him and every man they meet.

Happy Father's Day, Pops. I love you.

Pops and "Scooter"

Pops and "Wildcat"

Pops and "Jack"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Have Tried, In My Way, To Be Free

There has been a lot going on at SAM headquarters lately, and one of the biggest chunks of mental real estate has been occupied by my career options. As all nine of you know, I currently own and operate a small retail endeavor that has been striving to keep its head above water for the last five years now. When I took it on, a bit over three years ago, I had a lot of big ideas about what could be done to build on the mission and plans of its devoted founder. But as the years have gone on and life has brought its own variables into the mix, I've come up against some of the same challenges that moved Kristy to leave for the more stable, predictable and benefits-providing world of secure employment. In many ways, things look a lot like they did a year and a half ago when I first attempted to sell the place. There's so much I want to do with the store, so many things that I think could really help it succeed in both financial and community-oriented ways, but I still don't have the time, energy or resources to make those things happen.

And so, in the last month or two, I've been looking more seriously at job openings. In nearly five years of hunting, I've never had much luck finding anything in the Memphis area that could make any use at all of my specific skills (mainly: Googling and smartassery). But then, suddenly, I was practically swimming in them. And more useful yet, the resumes I was sending out were actually getting into the hands of real people. Real people who were calling and emailing me to set up interviews. I had more interviews in the last month than I did leading up to my college graduation (yet wore the same suits for all of them). And perhaps because I didn't have that desperate, earnest fervor of a near-graduate, they went a lot better. I was actually getting second interviews. I thought those were purely mythical!

Somewhere in the back of my head, I was aligning the fact that I had somewhat impulsively given 60-days notice to my store landlord with the sudden emergence of all these other job opportunities, but I hadn't consciously figured out how I was going to handle what happened next with the business. And as the weeks passed and the move-out date drew nearer, I was so embroiled in corporate psychological analysis and mock projects that I couldn't focus on how the store could be kept open. Plus, the self-doubting part of me always assumed the other opportunities would fall through and I'd have enough time to scramble together my next plan before my lease was up.

So imagine my surprise when, in the course of one week, I had two interviews (one a second) that both seemed very promising. And then, wedged in the middle of those, a call from a local ... let's say post-natal services provider who had heard the store may be closing and wanted to discuss the possibility of partnering to create a new type of resource center (keeping it a bit vague for now to protect her identity as well as her idea). And so that, combined with the increasingly serious discussions we've had about joining forces and realty with the midwives, made the possibility of an amazing new version of Mothersville seem very doable and very exciting.

So there I was, with two very strong, feasible job opportunities in front of me, as well as a brand-new and seemingly more profitable avenue for the store. There were intense pros and equally vivid cons with every situation. When I thought about taking one path over the others, I was continually pulled back by the alternatives. I can't remember ever being so torn about a decision. I couldn't sleep, I lost my appetite, my every waking thought was focused on determining the best choice for me and my family. It took up most of every conversation I had during that time, including my therapy session. My therapist said the answer would present itself. She's not usually one for platitudes, so I tried to believe her.

And then it happened. There wasn't a dramatic parting of clouds or a chorus of angels, but the fog of conflicting inner voices started to lift a little. As I envisioned every possible scenario, I kept coming back to the one that offered an opportunity to use my degree and strongest skills, and was willing to give me good money and benefits for it. Working in education was appealing, as was the flexibility of the schedule, but I knew it couldn't sustain me on its own. I'd have to count on a certain amount of freelance work, which is an oxymoronic situation. Sticking it out with the store felt good to my heart, but my head and gut said nuh-uh. My head even clarified a bit by saying, "You've done everything you can. You've run yourself ragged trying to make life easier for a lot of other moms. It's time to make your own life easier." (Always less profound, my gut just said, "Hey, does this look like an ulcer to you?")

I stayed up until nearly midnight on Sunday night working on the next phase of the education job's hiring process, just to be safe. And then the next morning, I got a call from the staffing manager at the company I'd been leaning toward.

And ... I let it go to voicemail.

I still wasn't quite ready. If you've read Slam (as 70% of you have, based on your GoodReads profiles), you may recall the part where Sam throws his mobile into the sea so as to wait just a little bit longer before finding out that his teen-age girlfriend is pregnant. Just to have one more day before his whole life changes. And that's what I needed to do. Although instead of throwing my cell phone into the ocean, I threw myself into a YMCA pool and spent the afternoon bobbing around with Mr. Baby. Enjoying the Monday off, enjoying the time with him, and making peace with the idea that our regular Mondays off were about to come to a close. We dried off, got dressed and I called the recruiter back. A voicemail/callback later, and I had an official job offer.

The feeling after I hung up was complicated. Excitement, fear, anxiety, pride. Overwhelmed by both the positive and negative aspects of the situation. I called my parents almost immediately, and hearing their enthusiastic response helped to tip the scales a little, just as long as I didn't watch Mr. Baby hyper-crawling around with a giant smile on his face and a thought bubble over his head saying, "Really? You're going to leave this all day?" But that's a weepy post for another time.

Point is, I made the decision. I have a job. I'm going back into the full-time, corporate work force. As, of all things, a professional writer. And I am, for the most part, very excited and optimistic about it. The to-do list that's now trailing away from my body and out the door behind me? Still a bit daunting. But the big, dark tunnel I've been stumbling my way through now has a fairly large circle of sunlight dead ahead. Shining, unexpectedly, from the east side of Poplar Ave.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I was just going to do a straight-forward Top 50, but a) that's a nearly impossible task in light of 30+ years of recording, and b) I can't resist an opportunity for at least a little exposition. And so, in honor of Mr. Nelson's 50th birthday, I present
Ten Top Fives About Prince Songs!

I. Five Partyingest Songs
5. Trust
4. D.M.S.R.
3. 1999
2. Housequake
1. Let's Go Crazy

II. Five Least Embarrassing Political and/or Spiritual Songs
5. Planet Earth
4. The Cross
3. 4 The Tears In Your Eyes
2. Pop Life
1. Sign O' The Times

III. Five Filthiest Songs (Darling Nikki barely makes the Top Ten, Mrs. Gore)
5. 319
4. Head
3. Sexy M.F.
2. Erotic City
1. Come

IV. Five Loveliest Songs
5. I Wish U Heaven
4. Still Would Stand All Time
3. Take Me With U
2. The Arms of Orion
1. Forever In My Life

V. Five Least Justifiably Popular Songs
5. Batdance
4. Diamonds and Pearls
3. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
2. Cream ("Sh-boogie-bop?" Seriously?)
1. U Got The Look

VI. Five Saddest Songs
5. Condition Of The Heart
4. When U Were Mine
3. Purple Rain
2. Nothing Compares 2 U
1. Sometimes It Snows In April

VII. Five Kid-Friendliest Songs
5. Uh ...
4. Hm ...
3. Er ...
2. Um ...
1. Starfish and Coffee!

VIII. Five Sexiest Songs
5. When 2 R In Love
4. Superfunkycalifragisexy
3. Hot Thing
2. Anotherloverholenyohead
1. Adore

IX. Five Funniest Songs
5. Vicki Waiting (there's an entire joke!)
4. Glam Slam '91
3. Mr. Goodnight
2. Alphabet St.
1. Bob George

X. Five Songs I Cannot Control The Urge To Sing Along To, Down To Every Exclamatory Noise, Not Already Mentioned Above
5. Raspberry Beret
4. The 1 U Wanna C
3. Little Red Corvette
2. I Would Die 4 U/Baby I'm A Star (required to be played in succession)
1. I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man

Happy birthday to a hometown hero and permanent musical companion. Every stage of my life has had Prince on the soundtrack.

The astute observer will notice that there are a number of albums not represented on this list. That's because those albums are either shamefully forgettable and/or were released during the post-Crystal Ball period when Prince and I were not on speaking terms. We worked it out, though.