Monday, March 18, 2013

No Turning Back

My past is everything I failed to be.
~ Fernando Pessoa

I just finished reading a Jen Lancaster novel called Here I Go Again, in which the main character travels back in time - more than once - to revisit the changes she should have made in order to restore balance in her current life (and the lives of those she impacted).  Although the concept of this is certainly not new, and the notion of changing what has happened in the past is not realistic, it is undoubtedly a concept many have pondered.  If given the chance to go back in time, and possibly rewrite your future, would you do it...and where would you begin?

Were I able to revisit my past, I would certainly change the simple things like bad haircuts and fashion disasters (perms and denim on denim, for god's sake), and most definitely some of the dating choices I made throughout high school and college.  I would travel more, try harder, worry less.  I would put more energy into understanding the world around me and less into fear of the unknown.  I would be more outgoing, more well rounded, and more secure.  Granted, these are all things I could actually apply to myself as simple as it seems to tell myself I would do it differently given the chance, it doesn't go unnoticed that I do have the chance to change if I so desire.  Or do I?

I tend to think a lot about the person I wish I were, the things I wish I'd done in my life...but when it boils down to it, aren't we pretty much the sum of our parts, for better or worse?  I'd love to be more adventurous and outgoing, but the fact remains that I'm not.  I adore the daydream version of myself, and while I can certainly strive to make her a reality, am I fooling myself if I think I can can change who I am at the core?

Going back in time and changing instances that have had no long-lasting impact on who I am today, such as prom night when I fell asleep early and woke up to my date making out with someone else right next to me (if I had stayed awake, he still would have cheated on me eventually) seem wholly unimportant.  Larger decisions, such as where to go to college, where to live, where to work....these are the ones that I could see having a more profound impact on where I am today.  But in what form?  Sure, if I had gone to college in another city, or taken the first job offered to me after graduation, I'd likely be in a different place.  But would I be a different person? 

The "what ifs" in the world can be paralyzing if left to roam free in our minds.  There are millions of permutations that can result from any given decision, and it's much simpler to abide by the notion that every tiny little ripple will not result in a tidal wave...but rather, a lazily flowing current.  I have a handful of significant regrets when it comes to the choices I've made...but as they all led me here, how can I question them?  If I hadn't taken that job, I wouldn't have met Ray.  If I hadn't dumped that idiot of a boyfriend for not supporting my decision to take that job, I wouldn't have been single when I met Ray.  If I hadn't met Ray, I wouldn't have Merrill....and so on and so on.  The mistakes I made were part of a learning curve, and I will undoubtedly continue to make mistakes as I continue to learn.  At the end of the day, it can be overwhelming as hell to try to compartmentalize your past into something neat and tidy, something to be packed up in a box and stored on a shelf with all the other boxes comprising the history of who you are and how you came to be.  There aren't enough boxes or shelves to hold the weight of a person.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Everyone has their own mantra.
~ Russell Brand

As a parent, it is certain that there will be times you have to talk to yourself to keep from going mad.  When you've answered the same question seven times (and it's usually a question that makes no sense, has no bearing or importance, and has no great definitive answer), when you've asked your tiny comrade to put their shoes on for the past twenty minutes with no response, or when you're just so completely exhausted and delirious that you've begun to lose your mind...muttering under your breath soooo works.

A mantra can be quite meditative and can transform you to a more peaceful place.  As a mom, I rely heavily on my self-delivered pep talks to get me through the day...or, as I like to refer to them, my "momtras".  Below are the typical "momtras" I frequently draw from:

Slow Down.  I tend to work through my days with the clock as my enemy, in that I cannot get quickly enough to the point in the evening when she is asleep, the house is quiet, the toys have been put away, and I have a glass of wine in hand.  From the moment I wake up, I feel as though I'm aiming at naptime, and once naptime is over, I begin to barrel towards bedtime.  Inevitably, though, once she is asleep at night, I find myself missing her and wanting to wake her up for a chat or a snuggle.  So throughout the day, I try to remind myself to stop gearing for the day to be over, and instead savor the time with her. 

Lighten Up.  I'm an exceedingly anal, Type A personality.  This can benefit our lives in a handful of ways, such as always being on time, never running out of the essentials (fruit snacks, toilet paper, wine), and having an organized home.  However, it also serves to our detriment because I tend to take things waaaayyyy too seriously.  One of my sole desires for Merrill is to ensure that she never takes herself or anyone else too seriously, that she is allowed to have a carefree fun childhood, and that she understands the importance of fun and spontaneity in order to keep some semblance of sanity.  It starts with me, and so I have to remind myself to just chill the fuck out at times and realize that in the grand scheme of things, crumbs and mismatched socks really won't cause the world to stop spinning.

Dig Deep.  This one is kind of a catchall for any variety of situations.  Whether it's my need to find the inner strength to play that game again, read that stupid story for the eleventy millionth time without losing my shit (seriously, why don't I ever remember to get rid of the books I loathe when she isn't looking?), or simply to get through the day without the desire to stab myself in the eye with a sharpened pencil, I have to often remind myself to dig deep...very deep...and find the patience lurking within.

Be Better.  Again, this one is pretty grandiose and wide-reaching.  It has a direct tie to "dig deep", except it relies more heavily on tapping into the ambitious part of me and forcing my lazy side to take a damn break already.  (My lazy side likes to dominate.)  I call on this momtra when I am reaching for a quick and easy dinner option instead of making sure it's nutritious and fortified with something other than sodium and saturated fat.  I repeat this one to myself when I'm tired and feel like doing little more than watching cartoons and pretending they are educational.  This is my go-to when I really don't want to do what Merrill is asking me to do (the 437th game of hide and seek, the alphabet puzzle that drives me batty because she says that every damn letter is a "c", etc.), and this is the one that forces me to be aware of my role as parent, guardian, educator, playmate, example setter, and so on.  This is the one that reminds me to be better for her, because damn if she doesn't deserve it.

                                            You know you're crazy, right?  K.  Just checking.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When Trying Becomes Too Trying

The "what should be" never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it.  There is no "what should be", there is only what is.
~ Lenny Bruce

For the past two years, I've been trying to get pregnant. 

Two years.

Writing that makes it seem both finite and abstract, as though two years is simply a number plucked out of thin air, a segment of time in which nothing has evolved...but everything has.  When we started discussing the notion of adding to our family, and when we agreed it was time, Merrill was almost two.  A barely talking, short haired chubby toddler in a crib.  Now her hair is longer than mine, her bed is bigger than the ones I had until I was a college graduate with a job, and she won't shut up.  So yes.  Things are evolving...just not the things I thought about when this process began.

Two years ago, I jokingly said "I hope you're ready", because I got pregnant with Merrill at a lightning fast pace and felt sure it would be that way again.  As in, maybe we should have a baby...and guess what?  Bam.  Now, after months and months and months of ovulation kits, calendars, fertility drugs, doctor's visits, and more negative pregnancy tests than I care to admit, I'm so depleted and discouraged that I want to walk away.  I don't want to try any more.


I'm not done.  I'm not done with this family, and I'm not done with the plans and hopes I had for us.  At this stage, our family feels like a three legged man, and I'm not done hoping that we will find his missing limb.  I'm not done crying, I feel sure of that, and I'm probably not done with the fruitless and meaningless question of "why?" that I throw out aimlessly into the air when no one is even around to hear it.  I'm not done with looking at babies and feeling a sparkling twinge of hope that one day, Merrill will be able to have a baby brother or sister.

I haven't handled it well.  I've existed precariously on edge, riding the wave of roller coaster emotions every given month...determination, hope, excitement, fear, nervousness, disappointment and devastation.  I've marked them off an imaginary to-do list every month, going through the motions and getting downright fucking pissed when I realize I have to start all over again once the page on the calendar is flipped.  I've tried to use sarcasm and forced humor to help ease the bitterness that rises in my throat.  I've enlisted the help of sleep aids to prevent the crushing sadness and anxiety that takes over every night, causing me to lie awake staring at the ceiling.  I've futilely attempted to get all philosophical about it, and pretend that I believe there is a reason for everything, and we just don't know what the reason for this is yet.  I've vaccillated wildly between my desire to keep going, and my desire to give the fuck UP and let it go, focus on what I do have and stop wishing for what I don't.

I find it shameful that every time Merrill acts up, or pitches a fit, my first thought is "if she weren't an only child, if she had a sibling, this wouldn't be happening".  Yes, I know that is wholly inaccurate, and sibling rivalries could put her little tantrums to shame, but it still floats through my mind each and every time.  Each time someone innocently asks me when we're having another one, I have to bite the side of my cheek, force a smile, and get through the words of "we're talking about it, we'll see"...words that feel like broken glass in my mouth.  When she conversationally tells me that she doesn't have a baby brother like her friend Brody from class, I can't decide if I want to cry or laugh.  I feel like I've spent so much time lately trying to think ahead, waiting and waiting for what comes next....if anything will come next...and I need to stop.  She is my baby, and she is my world, and while there is plenty of room in my world for more, she needs to be given every ounce of space available in it right now, while it exists for her and her alone.

I think I've traveled quite far past the point of making sense when it comes to this topic.  The uncertainty paralyzes me and the myriad of emotions make me feel trapped in my own mind, as though I've lost a solid grasp on how this all began and where it can go from here.  When it comes down to it, the helplessness and lack of control over the situation are things I need to accept rather than fight, because as much as I loathe letting go, I have no way to shape this to fit the way to put my foot down and make it happen.  It will happen, or it won't, and that's all there is.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake...Balls

If I was made of cake I'd eat myself before somebody else could.
~ Emma Donaghue, Room

I have written much about food before.  I am obsessed, and read cookbooks cover to cover.  I get inspiration from many places, and yet I am a lost cause when it comes to following them, or worse, when it comes to conveying something I've invented.  When someone happens to try something I've made, and asks for the recipe, I can't provide it in finite terms.

I fell in love with this particular cake some months ago, and have relied on it for every occasion calling for a dessert.  Recently, after having excitedly made it for a gathering, I ended up with several pieces on hand.  Admittedly, I'm not much of a sweets person...and neither is Merrill...but I thought I'd try to make the cake fun for her....and easier to eat.  Fun for her, less mess for me.  Enter the cake balls.

This is so damn simple, especially with cake that is a few days old and has ample frosting (which ALL of mine do).  Simply mash the cake in a bowl and then roll it into ball shape.  With these, I added a topping of melted chocolate on top...but they genuinely don't need the additional sweetness, with the frosting and cake mixed together.  Bite sized pieces of cake and frosting...what more could you want?  This works with any type of cake...I've done red velvet rolled in pink sprinkles (perfect for Valentine's Day), vanilla with chocolate frosting (kind of a marble effect), confetti cake for birthdays, etc...they are so versatile and SO damn easy.  Additionally, if you don't have a premade cake, simply bake the cake, let it cool ever so slightly and crumble it, and then stir frosting into crumbled cake before rolling it into balls.  You can also put them onto wooden popsicle sticks to make a cake lollipop. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Believe....I Think?

Believing takes practice.
~ Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

When I was pregnant, and we decided that we would see how long we could make the single income thing work so I could stay home with the baby, I was woefully unprepared for the influx of emotional ranges I would experience as time went on.  In the beginning, I felt an acute sense of fear when I tried to navigate the subtleties of a life outside the professional one I'd come to associate myself with.  There were certainly days filled with quiet yearning for the person I was leaving behind, while knowing all the while that this was also the most meaningful, dynamic, extreme and intensely powerful role I would ever play.  It was a risky gamble in those early days, as I discovered the fine line between apprehension and fear...fear that I may have reached the totality of what I would be outside the roles of wife and mother, and that there may be nothing else to beckon after this.

The notion of being a stay at home mom once posessed a sort of provocative charm.  That notion has now become a permanent hiatus in my career, skewing wildly against the imagined and predicted future I once held within myself.  There have been compromises and reconciliations with what I thought to be my future...and a precise awareness that those truths with which I once defined myself are peculiar at best.  I often find myself maintaining the resolve of my obligations and allegiances towards the path I've chosen, feeling at times as though I have no choice but to remain fiercely loyal in my commitment.

While I had reached a point in my career that there was never a time of feeling truly in love with that work, and it felt more like an expected role to be played, it was nevertheless the definition for a time...and one that seems to be slipping further and further away.  The acute fear has lessened, and in its place is a sort of ache, a throbbing annoyance much like that of a sore limb.  At times it feels as though I'm operating in a ballet of sorts, one in which I have learned when to pirouette away and when to spin in again.  In those times, I can imagine myself on that stage, trying to locate a familiar face in the crowd and finding only the darkness caused by a blinding spotlight.

It is dramatically daunting, at best, to try to categorize myself in such a way that the question of "what do you do?" does not paralyze me with trepidation and an inability to form a cognitive response.  While I'm fully aware that the role I'm currently filling is likely the most important one I'll ever find, and that the benefits not only for myself but for my family far outweigh any selfish or intrinsic need to be "more", there are just times that it's hard to believe that to be true.  The belief that one day this will all make sense, will all fall into place and become neatly compartmentalized, eludes me at times...and yet I know in order to maintain some semblance of sanity, I have to continue to believe it.  Because if not for that belief, what else is there?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I don't have pet peeves.  I have major psychotic fucking hatreds.
~ George Carlin

There are just some things in this world that royally piss me off.  Hiccups, for instance, make me irrationally angry.  Imagine my reaction when I was pregnant and Merrill would get the hiccups in the middle of the night.  When it is hot outside, most people sweat and feel discomfort.  I get borderline violent.

I am, when it comes to certain pet peeves, my own worst enemy and a hypocrite at best.  I loathe anal people, yet I am one of the most anal people I know.  I live in a world where the adorable pencil cup on my desk sits empty because the tiny person in my house loves pens, markers, pencils, etc, and thinks they are free reign.  Every time I see that empty pencil cup, I know I should remove it from the desk, as it makes no sense to sit uninhabited...but I can't...because that is where it belongs. 

In no particular order, these are some of the major annoyances that will set me off:
  • Rudeness...on all tiers
  • Women without bras in public
  • Football announcers that neglect to comment on bad calls or blatant no-calls
  • Passive aggressive behavior
  • People that talk on the phone while in a checkout line
  • Perms
  • Being tickled
  • Touchdown dances in the NFL
  • People that are rude to servers 
  • Hoop earrings so large they can double as bracelets
  • The 500+ page novel with a three page conclusion
  • People that change their God-given name...for no real reason
  • Poor eye contact
  • Indecisiveness (again, ME!)
  • Baby talk...unless you're a baby
  • People that pronounce "frustrated" as "fustrated" (actually, there are a lot of mispronunciations that piss me off, so that should be its own)
  • Bad grammar & spelling in well educated adults (I will let it slide when it's a child, because that can actually be kind of cute sometimes.  Sometimes.)

(Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Pursuit of Hobbyness

The only insult I've ever received in my adult life was when someone asked me, "Do you have a hobby?" A HOBBY?! DO I LOOK LIKE A FUCKING DABBLER?!
~ John Waters, Role Models

It seems we are trained, from a very early age, that having hobbies and multiple interests are an integral part of being an interesting and enigmatic human being.  As children, we are encouraged to try our hands at any number of sports, musical instruments, activities - usually at the urging of our over-involved parents - and it just evolves from there.  In junior high and high school?  You must join clubs and participate in extra-curricular activities...must have a laundry list of credits to your name in order to ensure you'll get into a good college (again, this is our parents).  In college, these hobbies often fall by the wayside as we discover the pure joy of being in charge of ourselves for the first time.  Hobbies are replaced by classes, skipping classes, frat parties, bars, discovering who we are in the absence of our parents and their rules.  However, we still strive to maintain an appropriate level of interests, if for no other reason to appear dynamic and to have something interesting to say about ourselves upon meeting someone new....and this practice will continue into adulthood.

Personally, my list of "hobbies" is admittedly boring and cliched.  When asked what I enjoy doing in my free time (after I pause to lament the lack of free time in my life not already spoken for), I am acutely aware that the typical response is along the lines of reading, cooking, spending time with my family and friends, etc.  Hardly the illuminating list I would have once imagined for myself.  Admittedly, the list of things I wish I did in my free time is not only longer, but more admirable...playing piano, writing that book I've always wanted to write, having the knack to discover great antique finds, gardening, painting, and so on.

I posess a tremendous lack of ambition when it comes to conquering my list of "someday I'd really like to..." list.  I tend to get pretty gung ho when I decide I want to start learning something new, improving at something I'm only half-assed at, doing that one thing I liked that one time in college because that guy I met (and cannot recall the name of) made it look so amazing...and after I talk it to death and decide to give it a shot, I find it alarmingly difficult to maintain the stamina and drive to make it more than a brief occurence. 

I grapple internally (and sometimes not so internally, sorry Ray) with who I want to be, what I want to be doing, and with generally becoming the striking and wholly well-rounded person of my dreams.  I think it can certainly become more difficult in the presence of marriage and parenthood, because there is a propensity to lump yourself into one big pile as opposed to remembering who you were before those things appeared in your line of vision.  It's dangerously simple to define yourself by terms such as wife, mother, stay-at-home mom...especially at an age when the person you were at your most defining times of self-realization (early adulthood) seem to be but a speck in the rearview mirror.

So, in the interest of becoming that well-rounded person that I so strive to be, I am resolving to step out of my comfort zone, out of myself, and into a place where I can stop thinking about what I wish I were doing and instead, be doing it.  Taking inventory of where I currently sit, as opposed to where I saw myself sitting at this stage in my life, has presented me with a bit of distress and discomfort that most certainly needs to be addressed. 

Let the games begin...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sprout Shout Out

We kids feared many things in those days - werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday school - but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.
~ Dave Barry, Miami Herald columnist

I love Brussels sprouts. Adore them. I'm well aware that is an unpopular opinion, and I could care less, because that means there are more for me. I make them on a very regular basis...and the preparation falls into one of three categories based on my mood. I roast them whole if I'm feeling lazy, do them halved if I'm mildly ambitious, and opt for shredded when I want the end result to be transcendant.

On a recent trip to Vegas, we ate at an amazing steakhouse called Stripsteak (if the opportunity presents itself, this place is a must), and as soon as I saw they had shredded Brussels sprouts as a side dish, all bets were off. (Ignore the obvious pun.) They were simply heavenly. Studded with chunks of thick smoky bacon and tossed in an apple cider vinegar reduction, they practically melted in our mouths. Peppery, slightly sweet, with a bit of char and caramelization...I simply cannot fathom anyone not liking these.

I decided to try my hand at recreating this recipe...and while it wasn't exact, it was close.  I used balsamic vinegar in place of the apple cider, which provided a bit of tang to contrast with the sweetness of the sprouts and the salty bits of bacon.  I finished them with some fresh pecorino romano cheese and that added additional depth of flavor.  This is so simple to make...cut off the ends of the sprouts, halve them and then chop them until they are finely shredded.  Saute the shredded sprouts in a bit of butter, olive oil and minced garlic until they are tender with a slight browned crisp, then toss them with chopped cooked bacon (I used a thick cut peppered bacon) and balsamic vinegar that has been reduced in a saucepan until it is slightly thickened.  Squeeze a touch of fresh lemon juice over them, add a sprinkle of brown sugar, grate the cheese over the dish and dig in.

(These photos aren't great, as I took them with my phone, but you get the drift.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


We often need to lose sight of our priorities in order to see them.
~ John Irving

Around these parts, perspective tends to get pretty skewed on a too-regular basis.  It's dangerously easy to forget how lucky we are, how incredibly blessed we've been, and how we continue to rise on an upward slope when it comes to maintaining an above-average level of happiness.  Every now and then, I have to stop and think...and then stop again, cause damn.  Shit is pretty good.  I'm irrational at times, and guilty of having pity parties on some days (cue the violins while I pout at how much time my hard-working, income earning provider of a husband spends at the office).  In the presence of strain or stress, I have a fight or flight mentality....I stick my head in the sand, or I come out of my corner swinging.  There is no rhyme or reason.

In the event I am feeling sorry for myself due to something completely inconsequential and insignificant, I try to stop it at the source, and subsequently wind up strapped with a massive level of guilt.  The guilt takes over my brain once I remind myself of all the cliches along the lines of "things could be much worse" and "some people would consider themselves blessed to have these so-called issues" and results in a pretty vicious cycle.  I tend to go into overdrive after said guilt enters the equation, getting sappy and emotional with anyone in my direct path.  I'm a tornado during these times, wreaking havoc and upsetting the landscape with my destructive desire to appreciate the shit out of every little thing. 

It's all too true that marriage, and parenthood, and just life in general are not things to be taken lightly and in order to preserve some semblance of normality, we must make conscious efforts to avoid taking things for granted.  It's important to pay homage to the people that make us and break us, and to allow them and provide them the appropriate level of control and entrance into our worlds.  It's crucial to remember what brought us here, what made us who we are and what we want to continue to be as we navigate through the maze. 

It is in the simplest of moments that I find an almost paralyzing peace...catching Merrill concentrating on a tiny task she is trying to master, finding hysterical laughter in an inside joke that no one but Ray and myself understand, knowing that there are a select few who have seen me at my worst and continue to support and embrace me.  No matter what.  Not a bad place to be, if you can find your way there.