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Mother

Inauguration into their ranks
Came in the shape of a good face-to-face
with the toilet.
Ninety days in a row.

Mother, mother, mother.
Like you, there is no other.
You are the bread winners
And bread bakers.
The diaper changers
And soccer-practice takers.
You are the lunch-bag senders,
The love never-enders,
Behind-the-scenes directors,
Always welcome-and-never rejectors.
Most faithful wife and mother –
Like you there is no other.

After a dehumanizing visit to the OBGYN
The doctor wiped her hands
And heading for the door, as if in afterthought, said:
“Well, looks like you’re having a baby!
…Any questions?”
Well yeah….I did have *a couple*…

Mother, mother, mother
I don’t know why you even bother.
You were the fire-keepers
And story-tellers.
Today, you’re professors, doctors,
Real-estate sellers.
But you remain the sacrificers
And dream trappers,
Devoted bandage wrappers,
Hidden talent tappers,
The peaceful fighters,
Profound emotion divers,
The all-odds overcomers,
The survivors, the survivors.
Among your ranks I stand, so unprepared.
Wondering, like any other,
If one day I may also earn the title:
Mother.

Wiping the last sweat off my brow
After the birth, I’m feeling older
Bolder
I glance up lovingly into the eyes
Of my committed spouse – hand holder
And whisper, “Honey, if ‘ere again you feel that yearn
Remember, dearest, next time – it’s your turn!”

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The other day I was putting Leo to bed. He was just not that into it. We had already brushed our teeth, taken a bath, had a snack, read some books. It was so time for him to fall asleep.

I tucked him in, sung him a song, and kissed him good night. The door wasn’t even shut behind me when, “MOM!!!”

Leo wanted a drink. I brought him some milk, he sipped it slowly, then I re-tucked him in and said another good night. Fearing a repeat I slid into the bathroom and locked the door behind me. Listened for a few seconds, was about to sigh with relief, when BANG!!! on the door. “Mama, I have to pee….”

Another tuckage, another drink, another song.

By this point I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The day had been long and stressful, I was tired myself and needed a bit of alone time before collapsing into bed. Gosh darnit, I deserved that alone time. I kissed my son a shaky goodnight, and with more than sternness reminded him that it is time to sleep, that I am tired, and that if he doesn’t want to sleep he can lay in bed and read his books. He nodded sleepily as I made my way towards the door.

I tiptoed to the living room, turned on the computer, and sank into the chair. I gave it one minute – all was quiet, and I finally exhaled. The silence began to work its healing magic, the short circuited nerves began to slowly weave themselves back together, the spinal disks began to realign themselves. But then, “MOM!!!”

He yelled again.

My heart thumped. I was about to beat my head against the table. I was about to choke myself to death with my own hands. I was about to run out the door screaming and never return. Instead, I took a very deep breath, took another one, and squeezed out of my diaphragm a stiffled, “….yes, honey?”

“I love you.” he said.

Photograph by Liza Ezhevskaya of Juniper Spring Photography

Someone wise once told me that you have to live alone for a while before getting married: not with roommates, not in the garage of your parents’ house, but alone, independent. Pretty common-sense stuff and great advice that I still managed not to take. In college I lived at home with my parents and the rest of the fam, after college I lived with my husband and two children. The only time I lived mostly alone was the year studying abroad in Paris. And even there, the time that I was really, truly alone and independent amounted to no more than a couple of months. Perhaps the happiest in my life.

The turns in my life which led to this situation start looking ridiculous if you think about how much I relish solitude.

Indeed I enjoy to be alone, all the more so, perhaps, because I get to be alone so rarely.

There’s a great definition of what it means to be an introvert and an extrovert: an extrovert gets energized by communicating and interacting with others, whereas an introvert gets drained, deriving his or her energy from time spent alone. For me, it is both exciting and draining to share myself with others, and both fascinating and draining to “feel” others as they share themselves with me. (Seeing as the common denominator is “draining”, I would safely categorize myself as introvert.)

My job as an interpreter calls for a heightened level of “atune-ness” on a continuous basis, thinking and feeling my way into someone else’s mind and heart in order to understand what it is they’re saying, to feel what they want to say, what they mean to say. As I work, my mind becomes a sieve through which their thoughts percolate to come, as formed sentences in a foreign language, out of my mouth.

My role as spouse and parents is no less demanding. Imagine, if you will, emotion-sensing tentacles coming out of you towards each person you are interacting with, either directly or indirectly. Plus you also have sensors that perceive the interactions between the other people in the space you occupy. (This is a complex metaphor of how I feel at home.) So you have me, all nice and coiled up onto myself, and then a child comes home, you start interacting with them, then another, then the husband, then they start interacting with each other, and suddenly you have six sensors blasting information at you (three times two times one) and overloading you, and you can’t just run away but have to interact with everyone and somehow simulate a peaceful, comfortable living environment.

With my children, the emotion sensor tentacles are out even if the kids are in a different room, playing by themselves, or even not interacting with each other but watching a movie, or even when they’re asleep. In fact, as I sit here at work (gasp!) part of my mind is occupied with them. I think this is permanent: the umbilical that binds child to mother at birth is never cut, only replaced by an unseen chord which remains for the rest of one’s life*.

Bottom line: this is exhausting.

When I am alone, I feel as if all of these emotional tentacles (or probes – maybe tentacles isn’t the ideal comparison for the visually minded) are drawn in. I feel more complete and grounded.

But I find this at work as well: there is an immense strength in making yourself vulnerable. My strength arises out of my willingness to share my weakness. I wonder then, how to be open oneself and available to receive others, while not losing your grounding in your own emotional identity.

*I think this is the reason why some mothers may have such a hard time when their children move out: they’ve been attached for so long, anticipating their child’s wants, fears and needs, pouring themselves into the child and having the child pour into them, that when they leave, it really does feel like a part of the mother’s being leaves with them.

One day in the life of Anna Sergeevna

Wake up! (wake up)
Grab a brush and put on a little make-up!

It’s 6am, still dark outside, the home is sleeping peacefully. In my near-sleep I go through the familiars of waking up. Of course there is no make-up, and a brush only on a slow day. Which is not today. Waking up has lost its sting years ago, and even now on a good day I will wake up at least 2-3 times. Someone invariably wants to go pee, or drink some milk (the never-ending cycle) or has a scary dream. The problem is not getting up. It’s staying up. But that comes later.

Half an hour sputtering around the house, and now I am driving to work. There, I prepare to interpret at a teleconference on software development for the International Space Station mockups. I have never done this topic before. I brace myself for the worst as 7:30 am rolls around, and the telecon gets underway.

I get what I asked for. The connection with the Russians is terrible, nobody really knows what they want and/or what they’re looking for from their counterparts, I don’t hear half of what is being said, and don’t understand the other half, and towards the end of the conversations, comments like “I don’t think we’re understanding each other” and “I am very confused” start popping up more and more often. I sort of want to shoot myself.

As the US specialist makes closing remarks, the Russians are completely silent. The tension is palpable. Then, to top off an already miserable hour, he throws in: “I just have a last quick question: is the functioning described in single or multiple form?” Say what? I translate, sort of, and wait for a reply. None comes. After a pregnant silence, the US gentleman continues, “Well that’s Ok. You don’t have to answer that today…” Awkward!!! Still silence. Turns out, the Russians got disconnected several minutes ago. I thank all of the interpretation gods for this one bit of mercy, politely close the telecon with the Americans, and schlep myself out of the office.

Then…madly dash to the car, drive home, dress and mostly feed everyone, stuff them all in the car, drive the kids to school, talk to the principal about painting a mural for Miss V’s classroom, back to the car and back to work. An hour passes.

At work I work. This is the slowest eight hours of the day.

I leave work early. Right as I step outside, Hubby pulls up, perfect timing, and we drive home together. There, another whirlwind through the house, as if a perfect reflection of the rush in the morning. Dressing down. Grungy paint-colored shorts, Revolution! shirt, grab them keys and fly out the door. Destination? Climbing gym. (I’ve been here before).

On my way to the Space City Climbing Gym I call Dad. It’s becoming a habit – calling Dad while driving to climbing. I talk to him about the myriad of fascinating information I picked up while not really working at work. Particularly, I dwell on fairy tales and their grotesque nature, and how they were never really meant for children. Dad mentions that the realities were different “back then”, and so perhaps it was not so shocking to think that, for instance, parents would take their children into the forest to be eaten by wolves because there was a major famine in the land. I also mention that haunting tale of Bluebeard, written by Charles Perrault. Great story line for a Hannibal sequel, not so much for a bedtime story. Gory, gory…I cannot fathom what the author or the publishers were thinking (and continue to think…I mean, violence, deceit, rage, vengeance…are these the values we want to be teaching our children?)

Dad talks to me about tilapia.

A few years ago, when I was studying at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, one of my professors mentioned a great, just-getting-started business opportunity: tilapia farming. The key is that it should work as a closed circuit: you grow plants (like tomatoes) in the pools where the tilapia is raised. The excrement from the fish is perfect food for the plants (no need for soil, even), while the bacteria growing on the roots of the plants is perfect food for the fish. In theory, this is a lovely, sustainable scheme. I shared the idea with Dad back then, and he’s been thinking about it ever since.

Problem is, the food provided by the plants is not enough for the fish, and the excrement from the fish is not enough to feed the plants (unless you have a very high fish density…which is not healthy). So it turns out that in practice, much of the cost of this whole enterprise is the cost of the fish food. Dad has been thinking about how to create this fish food for free, and make the whole system more sustainable and independent…A very interesting idea which must be developed and realized. Only not at this moment, as I have reached the climbing center.

There, I am reminded of the most debilitating quality in any adventurous endeavor: fear. A few years ago I went through an experience that made me feel, through and through, that I am, in fact, mortal. Since then I have been more fearful, on a nearly unconscious level, and less eager to take risks. And with climbing, risk-taking is a necessity. I may boulder peacefully over the lower strata of the climbing terrain, but as I clamber higher (note: bouldering is done without a harnass – if you fall, you just fall. There is a limit to how high you are allowed to climb this way, and that limit is a line drawn across the entire gym, about 13 feet off the ground), I begin thinking of the discomfort I may experience if I fall. If I am on a sloping down part of the wall (one that looks like this /, with me on left), I begin imagining how that jagged hand-hold or foot hold will feel as it graces my entire abdomen as I glide down the slope to the bottom. If I am on the other side of the /, hanging on for dear life, I start picturing the breath knocked out of me if I fall flat on my back. Of course, nothing happens. But it does make for a more careful, and thereby less adventurous, climb.

Then…back to the car, drive to pick the kids up from school, rush home for a quick dinner, and out to dancing lessons for little Miss V. While she is plie-ing and tumbling her heart out, Mr.Leo and I hit up the near-by grocery store, load up on cellulose and vitamins A-E, grab a sausage for good measure, and head back to pick up the ballerina.

At home there is grocery unloading, crying, tired children, bedtime routines, books read, teeth not brushed, house not cleaned, lullabies sung and children finally asleep at around 10pm.

Their shell-shocked mama bums around for another two hours or so, picking up a stray sock here, munching on a carrot there, oh yeah, having some dinner at around 11pm, and dozing to guitar serenades by her guitarist husband. Sometime later…

The house is quiet, everyone is sleeping peacefully, and I clock out too. A day well spent.

Those of us who are creative, artistic types, or who are into the mothering bit, or both, have a tendency to start projects and never finish them. The inspiration is there in the beginning, but then you get sidetracked, disappointed with how your project is turning out, distracted by the random crying child, or inspired to do something else. The result: an unfinished, unrealized sketch/draft/idea that could have been a masterpiece . Call it what you will, but I will be honest: what we lack is basic, boring old discipline . But, ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to bring these half-finished creations and half-hearted efforts to fruition!

And so, I hereby pronounce the first ever Week of Project Completion! (I am open to more creative week name suggestions). Over the course of the seven days comprising the week, I will endeavor to finish seven projects that have been idling for weeks or even months in the recesses of my home or my mind. Incidentally, the week will start on Sunday, July 25th, and end on Saturday, July 31st. I say “incidentally” because July 25th just happens to be my sister’s birthday, and she is a notorious procrastinator and project-starter-and-not-finisher. So, my dear Lizard, may this be a twisted sort of birthday present for you, so that you too may participate in this first but not last Week of Project Completion and feel compelled to bring at least seven projects you started to completion.

In fact, I would like to invite all of my 2.7 readers to participate! Feel free to blog and/or leave comments about your progress on my entries during each of the seven days of this week, keeping us updated on your victories over unfinished/unrealized creations. This way we may feel more accountable to do what we set out to do, and more encouraged as we see others succeeding.

All “Unfinished Projects” should fit into one of the three categories below:

– Category One: These are the artistic unfinished projects – a partially painted canvas, a roll of film shot last spring and still undeveloped, a short story, written but not edited, a collection of poetry, edited and revised to death, but not formatted for print…

– Category Two: These are the homemaker unfinished projects – pots bought to plant flowers weeks ago, and still no flowers in them, curtains and curtain rod, neatly stowed under the bed and waiting to be hung for months, furniture fix ideas, interior design alterations…

– Category Three: These are the thought projects, revolving in your frazzled mind like laundry on spin cycle. You and I need to do the things we’ve been thinking about needing to get done for N number of weeks, and get some new thoughts! These include thoughts on trying out new recipes, new bedtime routines, or new discipline techniques. But careful here: make sure these category three thought projects don’t turn into another Incomplete. In other words – you have to finish it in the one day allotted.

A few words about my situation: This Sunday I am working 1am – 4am (hey, up there in space they don’t care that it’s night here on Earth) and Monday I’m working 7pm – 6am. On top of that, Friday evening after work I am flying out to San Diego , and returning Sunday, the last day of the Week of PC. So that bodes well for my success, right? Well that is the point: we don’t finish these projects because there is always something going on, something more important to do, distractions, distractions…

So, let’s think of the project we’ll tackle, post about them over the weekend (like New Year’s Resolutions) and then get to finishing them!

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