Wednesday, November 28

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

Time Compresses

At my OB appointment yesterday, I asked my doctor when she thought I should go on maternity leave. I had been planning on 38 weeks, as that is what I did for the first, and it seems to be some kind of standard. I was thinking (hoping?) that she would say I should go out a few weeks earlier, but her response floored me. "How about 30 weeks?" Um, that's just two weeks from now (different due date than I used for my countdown). "Well, how about 32 weeks then, but if you feel like you need to take off sooner, just do it, and we'll make the leave retroactive." Um, okay ...

Well, that certainly puts a new frame on things!

I told my boss this morning that I would be going on leave before the end of the year, that my last day would be December 20. What I didn't have the courage to say yet is that I won't be coming back.

AD and I talked about my reluctance to make my decision final last night. I told him I am scared to do so, but I don't know why. (Does it really matter why? Will naming my fears make them go away?) But when he posed the question, "why would you go back?", all I could come up with is how much work there is still to do on these projects, and my sense of obligation to those projects and to the people involved.

But I also have obligations to my family, and most importantly, to myself.

As the doctor said, "the work will always be there." My boss will find someone to take over while I am on leave, whether I have finished 2 or 5 or 28 things on my to do list before then. And once someone else is handling the work, I'm sure they can capably continue to do so when I don't come back.

Tuesday, November 27

Finally Finished (about books)

Over the long holiday weekend, I finally had the time, leisure, and will to finish reading Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. When I started the book, in April, I thought that it was well written and engaging, relating interesting stories about the 26th president that I had either not known, or not remembered from high school history class. But by the end of the 500-odd pages of prose, I was struggling to finish, and came to the conclusion that the text was several hundred pages too long. If I hadn't realized, about 2 weeks ago, that the last two hundred pages of the volume were end notes, I might have finally given up, and given the book back to its owner without finishing. That says a lot, as I normally hate to leave something unfinished. (Other books that I have found difficult or uninspiring after a while just end up back on my shelf, put aside for a later date.)

After that tome that Teddy himself might have enjoyed, just as, by all accounts, he enjoyed a chewing through a thick slab of meat at the dinner table, I opted for these 450 pages of cotton candy, which I finished in less than 24 hours. An entertaining yarn, if you know about the dragons of Pern, but confusing, and not worth figuring out, as AD tells me, for the uninitiated. Nonetheless, for me, Dragons Blood by Todd McCaffrey was just the perfect antidote to give my mind a break before continuing through my reading list.

Monday, November 26

What Madeleine Albright Told Me

Last spring, AD started working with a career coach. After about a month, as part of the process, the coach asked to have a joint session with me. He asked me to name three people I admire, who could serve as role models for my life. I named my mother and father, and he suggested that I name the third person from outside my family. Quick, the first person that comes to your mind. ("The first thing that comes to your mind" seemed to be one of his favorite phrases.)

Me: Okay. Madeleine Albright.

Why I thought of Madeleine Albright, I don't really know. In fact, I don't really know much about her, at all, except that she was the first woman who held the position of U.S. Secretary of State. I also imagine that she is a strong woman, and I have heard that she attained this powerful position after raising a family.

So then the coach asked me another on-the-spot question of the sort I'd rather avoid: "If you could talk to Madeleine Albright right now, what would she tell you?" (Quick, the first thing that comes to your mind.)

Me: "You don't have to choose."

Coach: "What don't you want to choose?"

Me: "Between work and my family."


(In response to your comments on my previous post.)

Decisions have always been difficult for me. When I took this job (only a little more than a year ago), I thought about it for nearly a month before deciding not to take it, and subsequently changing my mind in light of a change in circumstances. Now, I've been deliberating on the choice to leave the same job for more than six months. I feel sometimes like I am a daisy being picked "now she loves her job, now she doesn't, now she stays at work, now she quits."

I have made my choice, but it is very difficult for me to admit that. Perhaps I am waiting for circumstances to change, or for February, or for the last reservations to fall away. Perhaps I am still waiting for certainty.

I know that I am following my heart. I know that when I choose to leave, I can also choose to return. I know that nothing is forever. But living with that knowledge and accepting it is a daily challenge for me.

Sunday, November 25

I repeat myself

Am I doing a dis-service to myself and society by choosing to opt-out of the full-time workforce? Am I really choosing to do so, or is my choice so constrained by societal norms that I don't even see it?

What are my constraints? The commute that makes it impractical to stop home and see the boys during the day. Available, but limited telecommuting. My energy, which waxes and wanes on a random schedule because of the pregnancy hormones. Then, there's a a household to run. Oh, I'm by no means doing this alone, but there are some details which seem to busy me more frequently, as mom, than anyone else in the house: Holidays are coming - what gifts should we get? When should we have our celebrations? What should we eat? When should we get the groceries? The Inventor's 3-year checkup needs to be scheduled. So do dentist appointments for the boys. And we need to get things for the school food drive.

More insidiously, I wonder if things are being done the way I would do them, if I were at home. How have we gone through so many paper towels and so much laundry detergent in the past few months? Are the boys getting adequate stimulation while I am at work? Is the Inventor learning his letters? Is the Painter getting enough intellectual challenges to supplement kindergarten (which is socially, but not mentally challenging for this one)? Are the boys missing out because D doesn't drive and can't take them as many places as I think I would? Fortunately I don't wonder about these things too much. But I suppose they do affect my thinking when I consider whether I would rather work or stay home.

But beyond the constraints, I think taking some time off to be "just a mom" is my excuse to be me. Societally, raising kids is generally seen as an accepted (although under-compensated) alternative to working, whereas quitting to "find oneself" is seen in a much less favorable light. I say "societally" but these attitudes are apparently well-ingrained in my mind, as well.

Still, I repeat myself. I have twice before left my career with no intention to return. Once was several years before the Painter was born, and once when he was not quite one-year old. I have some idea what it will be like to be home with the boys, although three will certainly be different than one. And I also know that just as I left twice before, I returned twice before. I repeat myself.

I fear that rather than finding new paths, I will lose myself in mothering as much or more than I am lost right now. I fear that I will regret leaving my job at a place others only dream of working. I fear that my mind will atrophy. I fear that leaving my income now will limit our lifestyle and future choices. I fear that moving closer to family, I will miss the mild winters in this part of the country.

But does any of that really matter? I am drawn right now towards freedom and away from the daily grind. I am drawn towards the beauty that my boys bring to my life. I am drawn to the connections of family. I am drawn to explore my dreams, to create, to live consciously. I choose now to listen to my thoughts and dreams and inspirations, and when the opportunity arises, take incremental steps to make them come true.

It's okay that I repeat myself. I have done what seemed right at the moment and I will continue to do so.

Monday, November 19

Today ...

... is a day for working, despite the long garbled post I've been trying to untangle for more than a week. Maybe I'll be able to finish it over the holiday weekend. ;)

Thursday, November 15


Thanks to Mika, I have been tagged for my very first meme. That's some kind of milestone, isn't it?

A. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning.
B. Each player lists 6 facts/habits about themselves.
C. At the end of the post, the player then tags people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
Without further ado:

1. I wake up most mornings without an alarm. Unless you count the sound of the Painter jumping off his bunk. Or the pitter patter of the Inventor's feet. Or the cats scratching at the carpet.

2. When I drink coffee, I drink it fru-fru. With milk, or cream, and chocolate or vanilla or almond syrup and, when it comes from a bona fide coffee establishment, whipped cream on top, too.

3. Reading other people's blogs is quickly becoming an addictive habit. Have you posted something new yet? How about now?

4. Being late. Punctuality just isn't that important to me, although I make an effort for the sake of those around me. I'm amazed that we've actually managed to drop the Painter off at kindergarten on-time most days.

5. Procrastinating. I think most of my previous posts about habits relate somehow to procrastination. Sometimes there just seem to be so many better things to do than what it is I am supposed to be doing. Or, it will surely take a long time to do that, so there's no point in getting started right now. Or ...

... maybe I'll finish this meme later.

Tagging Lilian. You can use some more material for GloBloPoMo, right?

Updated to correct the spelling of Lilian's name. Sorry 'bout that!

Monday, November 12

From the mouths of babes ...

At the breakfast table Saturday morning, as A.D. and I explain to D. the subtle difference between "commercial" and "advertisement".

Inventor: "Daddy, commercials are shows we don't want to watch."

Thursday, November 8

Blog Stew

Where do you keep your links until you get around to blogging that idea that is brewing in your head?

Some of the things I write about just need to come out for my sanity. But sometimes they roll around in my mind for a while, brewing and stewing. I read an interesting article, and think that I want to address it, but feel that the post is not ready to spring forth full-formed from my mind. And then I see another post on a related topic. Ok, great, more fodder for the mill. But ... where do I keep this list of articles and links until I am ready to use them? Right now I have a half million (or a half dozen) tabs open in Firefox, so I can keep doing other things without losing reference to or intention to write about the articles I found so interesting. I could bookmark the articles, but I fear I'd never find them, since my bookmarks run off the page. (Well, Ok, I COULD organize the bookmarks but isn't that a little bit like organizing the junk drawer?)

Any tips for the bloggy neophyte?

Wednesday, November 7

Beautiful Boys

Despite my frustrations and imperfect momminess, we have two beautiful boys.

The Painter is exhibiting a delightful curiosity. Last night during his bath, he asked,

"How can the water stay in the tub or go out of the tub just if we touch this button?" To which I responded with a mechanical explanation of the mechanism. "How can the water just come out of the pipes?" More explanation, including the sewer line and water treatment. "How do they get the pee out of the water?"

Later, "How can we feel when we need to pee?" "I don't know, honey."

It's a mystical world at 5 years old, isn't it?


This morning, the Inventor climbed in bed with us. He snuggled quietly for a little while, and then announced "Dis is my middle finner," holding the middle finger of one hand with some grasping fingers from the other hand. "Dere are two finners on dis side and two finners on dis side." There sure are. How did you get so smart?

Next, he said something not quite comprehensible to my still sleepy mind, while holding his index finger. I said "that's your pointer finger." The Inventor corrected me, "No da's my mommy finner. Dis is my pointer finner" (grabbing the third finger on the same hand) "an dis is my daddy finner an dis is my [Painter] finner." Oh. I learn something new every day.

Bad Mommy Moment

An exchange between me and the Painter.

Me: Ok, time to get your shoes and your sweater on so we can go to school.

Subtext: We are already running late.

Realization, as he looks in the closet for his shoes. They are on the porch covered in dog crap.

No problem, he can wear some other shoes today.

Me: I just remembered, your shoes are on the porch because you stepped in dog poop. Why don't you wear your Buzz Lightyear shoes or these neat boots instead.

Show the Painter two slightly small pairs of shoes that he has barely worn.

Painter: Those boots aren't neat, they're just brown.

Frustration, because he said he liked them in the store.

Me: Well, I like them, but how about your Buzz Lightyear shoes then.

Painter: I don't like Buzz Lightyear.

Ditto on the frustration.

Me: Well, your Curious George shoes have dog poop on them, so you have to pick a different pair.

Painter: You can just clean them mommy.

I don't want to clean them. I have my work clothes on, and I don't want to get them all wet and dirty. And I have to get to work because I have a morning deadline, and I did things I wanted to do instead of finishing the work last night. And we're already late, so I don't have time to clean them.

Me: I can't clean them right now. They'd be all wet and then your feet would be all wet and cold.

Painter: That's okay for me.

I go outside and look at the shoes. They're not really dirty, they just stink.

Me: No, you need to pick a different pair.

Painter: No, you can just clean them.


AARGH! Why can't he just cooperate.

Well, you can see where this is going. The situation didn't improve any when A.D. came to support my position, or when I offered the even smaller pair of shoes that the Painter wore all the time before getting his new ones. I'll spare you the rest of the ugly details. Suffice it to say, things got worse, not better, and A.D. and I both left the house with the Painter in time-out, and without taking him to school, leaving D. to clean up the psychic mess.

Mistake #1: Assuming that ANY change is no big deal to the Painter when it is not of his own making.

Mistake #2: Going by hearsay. The shoes weren't really that bad, and in retrospect probably could have been cleaned sufficiently by running around on the dewy grass.

Mistake #3: Mis-judging who needed a time-out. If I had listened to my own subtext in the moment, I might have been able to put it aside and come up with some perspective. What's important, my work deadline? my clothes? or my son?

Update: The teacher says, next time, to bring him in bare feet.

Tuesday, November 6

On better days, I notice the world

I stop to inhale the perfumed fragrance of lavender roses outside the office.

I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.

I look up and with my eyes I trace the barely discernible outline of the mountains through the thick haze.

I hear big band jazz playing at the store, and my feet start to move in time.

I bring back a beautifully contrasting bouquet of red roses and miniature purple and yellow iris.

I feel hunger rumbling in my stomach and savor my lunch.

I feel the baby moving in my belly and I :)

Sunday, November 4

Housework and Hormones

I've been furiously running around the house today, trying to clean things up, trying to organize and hide the clutter that prevails with three two boys leaving a mess all the time, and one very helpful au pair moving it to anywhere there appears to be space. Actually, running around is something of an exaggeration, since I haven't had much energy today. I'm only six months pregnant (approximately) but today and yesterday I feel like I am ready to give birth. Or at least ready to be done with being pregnant. The crazy hormones have me feeling like I'm riding a roller coaster -- right now I am sliding down, down, down.

The truth is, we have a lot of things, but the house isn't in as much a state of clutter as is my mind.

and I had a long conversation last night (date night, courtesy of D.). We discussed such things as why it doesn't really make sense to budget right now although I worry about finances and health care costs after I leave work, how long A.D. will continue to apply for new faculty positions, and where we really want to move if interesting post or a hypothetical one like it does not work out. Among the issues raised in this last part of the discussion was whether we should consider career options for me (in my current career) as part of our move. I said, I don't wish to consider them. I no longer enjoy my work, and I can't see wanting to come back to it anytime soon.

And then these doubts begin to plague my mind again. Why do I not enjoy my work now, when a year ago it was fine, and 1.5 years ago I was having a pretty good time? Is it just the pregnancy hormones? To which Articulate astutely asked, "What do you want right now? Do you want certainty?" Well, maybe. Although I know in my mind that nothing in life is certain, perhaps my heart still hungers for it.

Finding no certainty, I think I'll eat chocolate.

Friday, November 2

My Inner Demons

  • "I don't know ..."
  • "I don't like ..."
  • "I should really ..."
  • "What if ...?"
  • "How can I ...?"
  • "I shouldn't ..."
  • "How did it get to be this late?"
  • "I didn't ..."
  • "But ..."
  • "I can't ..."
  • "I'm wasting time."

They multiply, these demons. One begets another and then another. Without moving a leg, I run from them to distraction and try to hide away, but they follow me, because they are me, and in distraction they multiply some more. They tie me to my seat without any rope because that is where "I am supposed to" be.

Today, all I really want to do is cry.

When I do, perhaps the storm will pass and I will at last be still.


The kitty ghost turned into a regular ghost, and the finishing touches were courtesy of D.

The Inventor is in a state of perpetual motion, so it's difficult to catch him in a pose which not only shows off his costume, but also what a cutie he really is.

Halloween cookie creation was Monday's entertainment.

Thursday, November 1

Lucky I only fear the worst

These scary stories and Lillian's Very Bad News have me thinking about how lucky I am.

I have a job that pays the bills (even though rent is $2000/month) and subsidizes health care premiums for the whole family. We can afford quality child care (and I highly recommend the au pair program as an affordable means of child care, especially if you have more than one child needing care). Although there is no paid maternity leave, I am eligible for short-term disability pay for approximately the first six weeks after the baby is born, and I live in one of the very few states with paid family leave.

Nonetheless, I am contemplating leaving all of this behind. No - I have decided to leave, although I give myself permission to change my mind. I am afraid of what may await me when I leave my career behind, both personally and financially. But I am also drawn to spend more time with my boys, so that I can learn again the lesson that Articulate Dad and I used to practice, "Live each day as though it were your first, with the wide-open, wondering eyes of a child."

Articulate has recently applied for a very interesting interdisciplinary academic post, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will work out. Of course, I want it to work out because it could be very personally rewarding and satisfying for A.D. But I also have selfish motivations in that it would ease my fears, and make it easier to explain why I am leaving work. But what if he doesn't get the position? Is it irresponsible of me (us) to leave my job, this source of stability and security?

I want the freedom to choose my life, but I fear that my choices will not yield the results I expect, that I may end up in a scary story of my own making.

I would do better to remember that security is an illusion, and that all things in life are temporary. In the recent California fires, all we suffered was some bad air quality, but certainly a lot of people learned a lesson in the impermanence of all things.

Fear is a part of life. But I can let go of my fear, and trust that everything will turn out all right.