Have you ever noticed how sometimes a certain theme will pop up in your life at one time? Like when you ask a friend for a DVD she borrowed and she mentions that perhaps you let another friend borrow it and that friend, without prompting what-so-ever mentions that DVD and brings it back? It’s like just by saying the DVD title out loud, all of the universe collectively worked with some weird underground energy current and subconsciously effected the mind of your friend?
Or is that just way too new age bullshit?
It’s happened a lot to me. Ok, maybe not “A LOT” but it happens. I’ll mention something to a friend and suddenly that same thing will pop up again in other places. Sort of like when you buy a new car and all of a sudden EVERYONE has that same new car. I know they all had that car before and you just never noticed it because it wasn’t on your radar, but still. You have to admit, it’s kind of weird, right?
When I was in Germany, my host Betty and I had lengthy discussions about being a working mom. It’s hard to explain to someone without kids, or a mom without a job, about the stupidity of combining the two. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but when you talk to a corporate woman who is successful and driven and chose to put off chlidren because she was good at her career, and when you talk to stay at home moms who put off career to be with their children, you end up looking like a buffoon for claiming you can have both. Like a naive asshole buffoon.
I sort of feel a little like a buffoon some days.
Trying to fit in work and doing the best job possible while putting that aside for sick children or anxiety-ridden three-year-olds is complex at best. You can’t do both well. You can do both mediocre but one will alway suffer.
This theme, this realization, has come up sixteen times in as many days. I was standing in the locker room at the YMCA, hurrying from my thirty-minute lunch workout to get back to work when I heard some elderly women chatting. They were talking about their grandchildren and how much they love being around them. “I worked through my children’s entire childhood. I never had the chance to just be with them. It’s like I have this chance, finally.”
I nearly cried.
I spoke with a father at my son’s school who is staying home for a while simply because his son was a preemie. “During the H1N1 scare, I quit my job to be home with him. My job will still be there, but he is only small once.”
I nearly cried.
For my birthday, I received a massage. While face down in the hole of the chair, I started thinking about those things I love to do or study. Alternate medicine. Nutrition. Sustainable living. As much as I love what I do now, my job, I had a brief moment of epiphany. “I WILL BECOME A NATURAL DOCTOR! AN ND! THAT. THAT IS MY DESTINY.”
Funny thing is? It’s not. It’s a layer of complexity over a complex issue. I’m good at what I do now. I am.
I just want to balance that with being a good mother.
And I don’t know how.
So here, at the eve of thirty-five, I admit, in full complete honesty: I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
There ya go, kids. Life: Funny, disturbing, challenging, baffling. Always.
Even still, half way through.
It’s in their genes. The minute a baby cry is heard and a man becomes a Dad, the gene “give your child a ton of shit” is activated. It’s fact, Dads all over the world will suddenly say lines like, “If you eat toothpaste, your butt will fall off.” And, “That makes hair grow on your chest.” And, “Stop it goddammit! You’ll fall through the floor!”
You might think shit my dad says is a hilarious exaggeration, but I can assure you, it’s shit every dad says.
Well, my dad, my father-in-law and my husband at least.
I don’t know about your Dad. Maybe he wasn’t an asshole. Or maybe he just didn’t train your B.S. Meter appropriately.
Once, after our daughter asked why the grass was the only area with fog in the morning, my husband looked her in the eye and said, “The grass inhales all day and only exhales at night. So in the morning you see the grass morning breath.” She looked at me, these big trusting blue eyes, wanting some reassurance. “What do you think?” I asked her. It is in this moment I flashed immediately back to my own childhood hearing my dad hand me some line of crap answer and my very own mother reply “What do you think?” I would look back at my dad who would be shaking in silent laughter gleeful at the gullibility of his young daughter.
My husband calls it the BS Meter. “Look,” he whispered one night over the dinner table after telling our children their food turns in to worms at night so if they don’t eat it, the worms will crawl up to their rooms later and poop on their bed, “They have to learn to distinguish between fact and fiction. I’m simply giving them a meter with which to gauge life’s bullshit on.”
You have to admit, it’s a good argument.
So while my trusting adorable children may think the Tooth Fairy totally dropped the ball on hitting our house because, “It was windy and her wings are made of paper mâché, and honey, paper mâché just doesn’t stand up to that kind of gust,” at least in a few years she’ll be able to look some person in the eye and aptly call bullshit on them.
That’s our hope, anyway.
My daughter was born after 24 hours of labor, both of us struggling to bring her in to this world. I posted photos via moblog in 2004 to update a small and friendly community waiting her birth. They read the day I went back to the hospital sick with infection and read my struggles of post partum depression.
A million years ago, it seems. Or, exactly, six.
She’s grown up like this site, in conjunction, both of us changing, growing, learning.
She’s the fun one at school. The welcoming one. The one without a clue anyone would think badly about her.
She’s moody and sometimes aloof. She’s independent and sole-full. She is kind to her brother, taking care of him in ways he flourishes under. She competes with us telling us she loves us more than. More than the biggest tree, more than the shiniest start, more than the longest song.
She is like her mother. She is so very much like her mother that sometimes her mother forgets why she won’t listen.
She draws in abundance: Rainbows and Hearts and Family and Love and Puppies. She is pure and shiny and loving. Knowing her brings back to mind a swirl of quotes from a pre-child life. “The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born. ....Your life, as you know it… is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk… and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.” -Lost in Translation.
To my daughter, one of the most delightful people I have ever met in my life. I love you. Bigger than the Milky Way, Bigger than the Galaxy, Bigger than you know.
I don’t normally post coupons and things like that but this deal was a good one. I’m probably going to do this myself.
Here is what came to me:
And y’all? I have to tell you, I’m ALMOST OUT OF COFFEE. And yes, it’s an affiliate link and while I do appreciate that, I’m not only a pusher of caffeinated beverages, I’m also a consumer*.
*Just hair club for men? Anyone?
I remember when email was new. I remember writing to a friend the summer before my senior year of college, using PINE. When we met again on campus, I blurted out, “OMG! You’re not just ASCII!” (I’ve been a geek for a very long time.)
Over the years of blogging and communicating via “social media” and other online forums, it becomes apparent we sometimes forget we’re not just talking to computers. I know early on, I personally made that mistake with a snarky comment not stopping to remember there’s an actual human on the other side of the screen. Teaching online classes at a university taught me how open students will be, for better or worse, when you’re not sitting across from them face to face. We see this over and over again, and some people even shut off their truth to protect themselves from the onslot of criticism.
My job includes an online community filled with wonderful people. People who care enough to provide feedback in a respectful way. And I appreciate that. We all do. But there are times people forget we’re talking about humans sitting at a computer reading this feedback, taking the feedback to heart, and trying to come up with an action plan to fix it.
(My favorite SNL skit EVER is “FIXIT” and I hear myself saying this at work right now. “You take a problem, you take another problem, and then you FIXIT. Repeat until it’s ALL FIXED.”)
It’s about this time a friend reaches out and asks how I am. We talk and end up sharing stories of our children. “What *IS* it with night time? They NEVER GO TO SLEEP.” “I know? What IS that?” “The multiple trips to the toilet for no reason only to piss me off really gets me. And when I call them on it, they poop just to prove me wrong. I swear it’s at will.” “MINE DO THAT TOO.”
So while I take my job very seriously, and I hurt for the frustrations the community feels and I plan to FIXIT, I am also reminded I’m a human, a wife, a mother, a friend. All it takes is a little parenting camaraderie to remember the world outside of my computer, and the two little reasons I do this at all.
I’ve started a Liver Cleanse using this PaleoCleanse powder. Instructed by my Natural Path (I’m as hip as someone in California with a shrink and a personal yoga teacher ten years ago) I’m only eating veggies and having two of these here smoothies a day.
Smoothie is a stretch, actually. Thick, pasty goo with a hint of grainy sand is more like it.
I sat there, in my doctor’s office, after a week of drinking and carousing with men who can hold their liquor sixteen times better than I can, nodding in agreement when she suggested this liver cleanse. “Your cholesterol is a concern” she reminded me. I nodded again. “It will be intense but it’s really good for your body.” I nodded again. “If you get stuck you can email me, I have another patient on it right now and she just emailed me, on her Day #2, saying she was DYING.” We both laugh. HAHAHA.
The joke is TOTALLY ON ME.
It’s Day #2 and Internet: I AM DYING.
My liver, my body, it is rebelling. MUST. HAVE. COFFEE. My brain is fuzzy. My synapsis forgot how to work. If it wasn’t so pathetic, I’d email my doctor telling her I’m hungry. I AM HUNGRY.
Hangon, I’ll go grab another tantalizing dish of greens, tomatoes and cucumber.
Out of love and respect and a little bit pressure and threats, Mr. Flinger is also doing this cleanse with me. It is somewhat comforting to look in his eyes and see his pupils dilating in to a turkey. Sort of like the cartoons when Elmer Fudd looks at the “Wabbit” and sees his dinner cooked and ready? Like that. Complete with the chasing of food in my dreams.
We walked around last night, together, in a state of haze. We went to bed with the children. We gobbled up our morning protein shake and laughed at our own ridiculousness. “It’s Day #2” we chortle.
Day #2 and I have to say, this headache is a bitch. I really think my liver will be just fine without all this effort. Someone pass me a cappuccino.
No, don’t, I’m stronger than that.
No I’m not, get me some coffee.
I know some of you have done this whole Paleo Diet thing. HOW THE HELL, PEOPLE. All of you who are strong, athletic, lean people that I look at and say, “I’d do ANYTHING to look like her.” Well, I’m lying.
Look, I get it. I was gone an entire 7 days. I’ve done Europe a total of three weeks in my life and I’ve only been in places where the water is drinkable and people mainly know English, even if they refuse to let on to that fact.
So when I say “World” here, I mean my very tiny portion of exploration. “World” is relative.
Traditionally I’ve enjoyed often moving locations, lands, homes. The year I spent back in Houston as an adult, taught me the value of community. My lesson that year showed me however much I hated living in the flat, humid land, I still met enough people to miss. I felt nearly grateful for this fact: A place is made up primarily of the people who occupy it.
It is in this vein I travel and recount my stories accordingly.
It’s been said a thousand times, but finding your tribe, your people, is critical. I believe there is a tribe for each of your personas. The people at EECI are my tribe. They are my geeky, hilarious, nerdly, drunk tribe. And I can not tell you how much I adore them all.
Brothers who buy you beer.
These people are giving, smart, and kind. They are funny, sarcastic, and punchy. These are my kind of people. We can talk families, code, business. We can laugh loudly and sing even more so. And the next day we can sit down and problem solve as a team.
If only we saw each other daily, what a productive team we would be. Or a very very drunk one, I’m not sure.
When asked “What do you want to be when you grow up, little lady?” I never would have said, “I’d like to market a small company and an amazing software product that enables people to publish on the web!”
I think I said I wanted to be a ballerina.
My what a long way I’ve come.
The magic, it is there. After hours, well in to the night, we find a space to share bits of ourselves the sunlight doesn’t see. We share stories of children and dreams and business and goals.
Maybe we even cry for a minute, just a minute, because we’re safe.
It’s not unlike other conferences people with similar interests attend. It’s just that this is our space, the unique space of code and logic and sarcastic joy. It’s un-commercialized, it’s raw, it’s pure. It’s real, still.
I love its realness.
Fans and Figures share notes of success. There is no clique one better than another. We help each other push forward in our careers.
I wish the mom community could do the same, asking nothing in return except the joy of knowing you were part of something bigger than yourself.
So, then, what did I learn while traveling? What did I come to think of about Holland?
It’s more than the realization that the world truly is smaller than we think. It is more than knowing the food is better, the culture is open, the bikes are abundant. No, it is much more than celebrating the 3 October with a motley crew of nerds.
It is a sense of home. That… that is what I learned this year in Leiden, a town I’ve spent a total of five days in. Because these nerds are my home, however cheesy that makes me.
**Totally related: I’m doing a liver cleanse as mandated by my Doc starting tomorrow. Care to witness the thrashing of teeth and gnawing of cuss words? Veggies and a protein shake only for ten days. The price I pay for good beer. Totally. Worth. It.
I can’t begin to explain how much fun I’ve had here in Germany. There are no words.
It’s a home away from home that I’ve known intimately, not in any small part to my hosts Betty and Christoph. It it without hesitation that I can confess this has been the best possible experience I could have hoped for. Germany, a home I am familiar with in ways I could not have touched until this very moment in my life.
Today as Betty and I sat at the Hotel Schloss Berg, we practiced my German. I said, over and over and over, “I would like Mint Tea with Rum, Please.” “Ich Hata Gerne Ienen Tee Mit Rum.” I noticed a very handsome man two tables away laughing. “I think he’s laughing at me!” I confide. Indeed, a second later, he says, “Your German is quite good.” I laugh. “Oh?” “Well, the Age makes it difficult.”
“DID YOU JUST CALL ME OLD?” I quip.
He and Betty both laugh heartily. “THE ‘AITCH’ THE ‘H” makes it difficult!” Betty laughs. I blush. OH! I say. “Donka?”
We have a good laugh and are both corrected with our German. He smiled kindly as another group sits between us and an old couple talks a casual German between friends. Betty and I speak English most of the time but turn to analyze the German conversation at random intervals.
I learn German. I fucking learn German. In two days, I am learning German.
I am complete.
Betty tells me it is the space of my brain programmed from childhood. I know pieces of Germany from in the womb or unconsciously, as a young child. I recognize the Glockenspiel, I climb St. Paul’s Tower, I see the same German ornaments I have hanging on my tree since I was a baby. It’s not unfamiliar, this world. It is a cross between Seattle and a life-time ago, a childhood of German stories and tales.
I am not unhappy to be returning home in the morning, but I am not unsure I will return. In fact, I can say with a level of certainty, I will be back. And I will speak in German. A tongue nearly as native as my own.
If I can find it.
I’m sitting at a table in the train station I should’ve have been in. Rerouted from Leiden - Munich through Utrech. If this sounds like Greek to you, it sounds like Dutch to me.
I do not know Dutch.
I’m a fevery, sore throat, flu-like mess. Navigating additional stops and go on the train to see Betty. Feeling a bit like a lame American who only speaks English and one word of Dutch. And while it’s a very useful word (“met” means “with”) it’s not helpful to walk around like Beaker going, “MET MET MET MET”
In twenty minutes I’m on a train and then another train and then another and finally a fourth train that will arrive in Munchen at 17:34. I have learned so much this trip so far, have bonded even more with some of the amazing people of ExpressionEngine’s top developers, and learned one very glaring truth: I am not as young as I used to be.
I hear them calling my train. I think. I have no idea. But I swear the guy just said “Chicken.” Hu.
16 guests here now.