Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The other day a good friend and I mulled over a frustrating exchange she’s been having.  As a favor, she had agreed to work with an organization by lending some expertise on a project, yet the contact person she’s been dealing with has acted as if this is all some kind of huge inconvenience.  My friend has been the recipient of terse emails, misguided accusations, and, worst of all, egregious grammatical and spelling errors.  Completely miffed, she debated putting in a call to this person’s supervisor or just putting up with the annoyance.  In perfectly predictable reactions, she leaned towards a conflict-averse approach and I insisted that something Must Be Done.

Before demanding that she make the phone call right from my kitchen, I did something that is always easier when examining someone else’s problems - step back and examine the bigger picture.  What was the desired outcome of this situation?  Revenge is one, and arguably justifiable in the sense that this person had no right to treat my friend this way, and would probably deserve a conversation with the boss.  Reputation is another, because this organization’s otherwise solid credit is being damaged by a clueless spokesperson.  And then there’s education - what if this person is completely unaware of creating such a negative atmosphere and would be apologetic and amenable if given the chance?  

I used to be a completely pro-revenge person.  As a teacher in San Francisco’s public schools I consider it an occupational hazard to wish ill upon crazy helicopter parents, spineless administrators, and, yes, even small children (mostly just the chair-throwing, defiant ones).  I fantasized about them getting what I thought they deserved (military conscription, fired, no recess EVER).  But I was angry all the time.  I knew that I was right about many of their offenses, but what good did it do me?  On the rare occasion that I confronted someone I always ended up phrasing things in a far kinder way than I imagined, and on those occasions ended up with mostly positive results.  Yet I was annoyed that I couldn’t act as confrontational as I dreamed, except that when I actually did a few times, it felt awful.  I found myself pondering a stupid phrase that I learned from Dr. Phil during my daytime tv-filled afternoons as a second semester college senior: “How’s that working for you?”  I hated that question because I knew it was true . . . no matter how “right” I was, it simply wasn’t doing me any good.

I argued to my friend that the best thing she could do was to call or email this person and frame the conversation as a “check-in,” expressing her feelings about being mistreated and asking if this favor she was doing was somehow unwelcome or inconvenient.  The more I talked the more I realized that this is the right thing to do, the hard thing to do, and what more people should do - give others a chance to know what they’re putting out there.  It’s so easy to go straight to a supervisor and trash someone, but how grateful do we feel when someone forgoes that option and speaks to us directly, usually helping us to realize a completely unknown error and resulting in a positive change.  Condemning and punishing others is so easy, but what does it accomplish?

That same afternoon I found myself in a sudden and unexpected rage-filled haze.  Sitting in an indoor rec center toddler playroom as rain poured outside, happy tiny people crawled and waddled over mats and pillows and plastic slides.  Except for one tornado of a kid who, towering above the rest by staggering magnitude, ran like a hyena throughout the room, throwing toys, yelling, and disrupting the completely relaxed, positive vibe of the space.  Encouraged by the equally concerned faces of other parents and caregivers, I began to approach the young nanny who was feebly attempting to chase him while unpredictably screaming “no!” at him.  Ironically, his name did, in fact, turn out to be Chase.

I’m comfortable sharing Chase’s name because he was clearly a normal, cool kid, who was simply just way too old and big to be hanging out in the tot room.  I told the bedraggled nanny that the room had an age limit and that her charge seemed a little out of place.  She protested that he wasn’t too old, and sat back down, but, chastened, watched me with worry as I warily surveyed the mounting carnage.  To her immense credit, she slowly shifted closer to me and groaned, “I don’t know what to do with him!”  In a flash my rage evaporated and I regretted not having taken my own earlier advice - here was someone who simply needed feedback, moreover wanted it, while I had been dying to ambush her.

I called across the room to Chase, and, employing all of my best teacher skills, reached out a hand to introduce myself.  I explained my concerns to him in a friendly, non-condescending way.  The nanny’s look of desperation and gratitude urged me on as I came up with a quick plan that could work - Chase needed to choose one contained, calm activity like the younger kids were, and pay closer attention to his actions.  His nanny, I told him, was going to help him find something he liked and remind him to chill out if necessary, and if after a few warnings he couldn’t calm down, he’d have to take a time out.  All three of us clearly felt good about the conversation, at least until I became the next focus of parental judgment in the playroom when I realized I had been neglecting my crying toddler, who had just fallen off of the plastic swing.  Classic.

On a side note, I will say that few things induce these moments of fury more than seeing good kids be shut down by adults who just don’t know better.  It is so easy to pace kids (“we’re leaving the park in 5 minutes”), validate them (“wow, it’s really hard to share your favorite toy”) and redirect them (“this isn’t safe, so let’s go play over there”) rather than half-heartedly screaming “no!” at them in unpredictable variations or imposing a sudden, arbitrary punishment.  Regardless, even in those few moments following the conversation with Chase, it was obvious that his nanny felt a little more empowered, Chase felt a little more reassured, and they both found a common ground to start with.  I left shortly after, so I could only hope that things got better from there, but it was pleasant to find myself wishing her luck rather than wishing her the eternal contempt of the caregiving community (a fate worse than death among San Francisco moms).  

For the record, there are websites where people can anonymously report such incidents to scores of moms who are checking nightly to see if their nanny was “the one in the blue shirt who didn’t step in when a child in green threw sand.”  I had to cancel my subscription to a community forum that ended up mostly being a place where people could list their problems with their nannies and wait for others to assure them that firing them without explanation was the best option.  Which others did, constantly.  All I could think about were these disenfranchised women who had never been given the chance to defend themselves or change.  How vehemently I condemned these mean moms was trumped only by my horror at realizing that on a rainy Tuesday in a playroom I could come so close to becoming one.  I felt even better about my earlier advice to my friend, and deeply relieved that, even in a moment of rage, I still knew better than to post her description on some nutty website.

My final crisis of the day was the least expected of all, as it involved myself and an inanimate object.  Though rude email correspondence and poor caregiving enrage me, nothing inspires in me such deep hatred and explosive anger as BART turnstiles.  No one can attest to this further than my sister, who once witnessed the turnstile closing in on my pregnant belly.  She won my eternal gratitude at that moment for holding me tight and telling me “just cry” as I broke down in tears in the middle of a crowded BART station while the rest of my family looked on, befuddled.  Since then I have avoided BART at all costs and, when forced, I approach the fast-moving gates with growing anger and anxiety until I literally propel myself through it, amazed all the while at the weary commuters for whom this daily experience is not an upsetting or momentous event.  

My approach this time was the same, but somehow the hard red plastic gates closed in on me nonetheless, catching my left hip and right thigh in its painful vise grip and causing me to scream out “fuck this!” in highly uncharacteristic loud, public fashion.  Apparently screaming obscenities in a BART station is normal for the daily commuters, who barely glanced over, let alone offered a sympathetic look.  I was infuriated.  My pleasant baby-free evening at a glee club rehearsal (could I have been more happy?) was instantly ruined by this unprovoked attack.  But somehow my how’s-that-working-for-you revenge-or-educate creed applied even to this dirty metallic machine, so, sighing in resignation, I approached the station agent and asked him to tell me what I was doing wrong.  Educate me.  With surprising friendliness and patience, he asked if I was often carrying a shoulder bag.  “Yes, usually,” I replied, and he explained that when I carry it in front of me (as I had been in order to shield myself) the sensor triggers it to close.  My rage gave way to a genuine smile as he watched me pass, unhurt, through the turnstile, waving me off.

It is so easy to blame others (or, apparently, machines) for things that seem so obviously cruel, unfair, or inconsiderate.  It is easy to shed all blame and lump it squarely on the offender.  We don’t see our role in it at all.  The world genuinely does move so much faster now: we’re tripping over each other with our smart phones or swerving wildly on the roads (again, with our smartphones) and we commit offenses and move on before we’ve even noticed them.  And no one takes the time to tell us, even though in all likelihood we’d probably apologize and learn.  We’re quick to rebuke each other online but find it so difficult to say directly, “hey, it upset me when . . ” or “did you notice . . ?”  

There’s that moment before rage builds to a crescendo when we should stop dwelling on how right we are (which we might be) and imagining ways to punish the offender (which they might deserve), and instead remember that this is a teachable moment, a chance to let someone know how their actions affect us.  There simply aren’t enough self-proclaimed assholes in the world to justify all the complaining we do about these supposedly rampant callous jerks.  If we step up and react to each other with good intent, we might be saving countless others from unintentionally rude emails or unruly kids, or even ourselves from embarrassing displays of public transportation-fueled emotional meltdowns.  

Give others a momentary benefit of the doubt, and I’m sure that we can find more compassion for each other, recognize our own shortcomings, and diffuse future problems.  Hey, if the BART turnstile and I can do it, anyone can.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

the carry-out

A few days ago I went to pick James up to carry him up a flight of stairs in our house.  He would have none of this.  He held his arms tightly at his sides and bent at the knees while yelling an emphatic "NO!"  He's perfected a body stance that makes it almost impossible for me to pick him up when he's not in the mood.  In no particular rush, I assured him that a simple "no thank you" would have sufficed and promptly opened the baby gate for him to begin the climb upwards.  With agonizing slowness he took the steps one at a time with all manner of strategies - on hands and knees, sitting backwards, pulling himself by the railing and dragging his feet behind him.  All the while he stopped frequently to glare at me if I was spotting him too closely or obviously.  His stubbornness gave way to giddy pride when he reached the top and gave me a look as close as an 18 month old can get to "I told you so."  I looked down at him and saw . . . me.

Tales of my stubbornness far exceed painstakingly slow stair-climbing.  My husband Bill's favorite story of my inflexible focus is the day he watched me enter second grade vocabulary words one by one into a Word document, numbering them up to 180 or so manually, realizing I had missed a few and watching me go back without hesitation to renumber each one.  "You can do that automatically, you know!" he admonished.  I didn't.  He showed me how, and I remembered, but the fact that I had been doing it this way for so long clearly stupefied him.  I don't mind manually alphabetizing them either.  And I've been known to wash dozens of dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher.  I will even attempt to carry eight suitcases up the stairs at once to avoid a second trip.  I have no problem doing things the slow way.  My problem is that I do it because I will NOT accept help.

Cue arrival of James.  Watching the world's most stubbornly independent person try to care for a colicky newborn probably would have been hilarious had it not in fact been so depressing.  I insisted on cooking full dinners, hosting brunches, and contracting some time with a nonprofit.  All the while I barely allowed anyone to help, until a few months later I realized that I was sleep-deprived, unpleasant, and unhappy.  During a Trader Joe's grocery run around this time, the cashier asked me if I'd like help out.  Help out?  As if I couldn't handle the baby, 8 bags of groceries, and a cart myself?  Carry-outs were clearly meant for little old ladies.  But wait.  I might as well have been a little old lady . . . I was tired and weak and overwhelmed.  I smiled awkwardly, and with deep resignation, and a crisis of self identity, I accepted.

An eager, tall, curly-haired bagger confirmed "carry-out?" and upon my slight nod followed me out the door.  "I've never done this before," I confessed with the embarrassment of a craigslist personal ad writer.  He laughed, "why not?  We're happy to help . . . it's like a break getting to go out for a few minutes."  "Seriously?!" I asked, shocked that I hadn't just sentenced him to an odious and inane errand.  We chatted about the overcast weather on the way to my car, where he dutifully loaded the groceries into the trunk while I buckled James into his carseat.  I thanked him and drove off, grateful for the help and surprised that after reluctantly accepting help I felt better off than when I started.  Actually, a few moments of chit-chat with someone who doesn't count their age in months was equally as rewarding.

It turns out that accepting help from others is one of the ultimate ways to connect.  It also turns out that a lot of people legitimately do want to help.  I should know - I love giving help (and advice) to others, and delight when I've made something easier on someone else.  I can pinpoint specific times in my memory when I shared a finals study guide with a classmate or picked up strep throat antibiotics for my ever-sick friend.  I've even gone so far as to help myself - prepping chores way earlier than I have to, sometimes so much so that I forget what I've done and arrive upstairs for breakfast with a full place setting and James' bowl of cereal pre-poured and shake my head in gratitude/embarrassment for Past Rebecca who did this for me.  It's actually as if I'm connecting with a past version of myself who was really thoughtful.  It can be amusing.

James is ecstatic when he gets to help me.  He seems to know when he's being genuinely helpful - wiping up water from the floor, throwing trash in the bin, passing utensils to me as I unload the dishwasher - and we share a mutual satisfaction.  Strangers don't squeal with joy the same way James does when they lend a hand, but I know that for a moment we're lifted above the haze of the daily grind when someone less vertically challenged than myself helps hand me the cereal boxes I just couldn't reach.  We smile and joke about James' refusal to assist.  And friends, who we take for granted constantly and feel like we burden with favors already, somehow light up with purpose and affection when we finally accept their repeated offers of dinners or grocery runs or fresh backyard-grown fruit.  Once, stricken with a stomach virus and truly helpless, a facebook post begging for electrolytes netted me offers of 15+ mile delivery drives and, ultimately, the arrival of a Mexican version of pedialyte by a new friend who thereafter became a great friend.  People really do want to help.

I can't believe how hung up I still am on my own sense of self-sufficiency and independence.  I am certainly no better than James, and, in some ways, worse.  I know how good accepting help can be for both parties involved, yet I still feel like I'm winning a competition if I can do absolutely everything myself.  With James older now I need less help than I did before, but then this week after five straight days of rain I found myself feeling much like late-2010 Rebecca, stuck in Trader Joe's with bags of groceries, perilously close to naptime, and feeling overwhelmed.  As the cashier rung me up, I asked, "do you guys still do carry-outs?"  "Oh sure, let me get someone to help you."  Shouts of "carry-out!" rang out across the checkstands and at least three people relayed the message across the store.  In the past I would have been mortified but I was confident - I knew I could do it myself if I had to, but help was available, and I was taking it.

Appropriately, a short, exuberant Hawaiian-shirt-clad man with the nametag "Bobby" bounded over and pretended to start packing up James instead of the groceries.  James giggled.  I admonished Bobby for leading the way outside without a raincoat, and he joked with James about not understanding stickers.  We ran through puddles across the parking lot and I took care to notice how differently I felt without worrying about how to unload groceries and buckle in James simultaneously, or how I was going to get rid of the cart.  Bobby kept saying how glad he was to be able to lend a hand.  I was so grateful for the help.

As errand-burdened adults, we spend most of our time in grocery stores stepping around each other, waiting for others to move out of our way, standing behind them in line or checking our cell phones in silence as we wait.  The random and seemingly inconsequential moments of mutual understanding, helpfulness, and connection, have become more rare.  But I think we miss them and crave them and feel less human with their loss.  So, my unsolicited advice?  Ask someone for help.  Ask them where they found those dark chocolate peanut butter cups or if they want to cut ahead because they're only carrying a basket and are toddler-free.  You can't go wrong.  And with friends or spouses or even (gasp) your mother, let them do something for you every so often, whether you could very well do it yourself or not.  Allow those moments to happen.

Accept the proverbial "carry-out" every so often, and, like me, your Trader Joe's trips may result in more satisfaction than just what's provided by a box of dark chocolate peanut butter cups.  Although the peanut butter cups can't hurt.  Seriously.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I can recall a question a teacher asked once in middle school: what would you think of a survival-oriented species that sought out food and protection constantly, but in regular cycles simply stopped and laid down unconscious, completely vulnerable to attack.  A chorus of eager tweens denounced the absurdity of the notion until the teacher smugly announced that this was a legitimate description of humans and sleep.  We were stunned.  It suddenly did seem odd that for vast periods of each day we were completely defenseless.  Sleep wasn't something that many of us thought about much, let alone discussed, other than with childish exaggeration.  Sleep merely kept us from everything else we wanted to do.

I have spent one year, 6 months, and 18 days preoccupied with sleep.  Longer than that if you count the days I spent big-bellied, awakened frequently throughout the night by the movements of my in-utero son and my own attempts to get comfortable.  But at the time those wakenings weren't a burden; these were brief periods of dazed consciousness in an otherwise peaceful and deep night.  Then James arrived in the earliest moment of Saturday, August 21, 2010, and after 7 or so hours of celebration and settling in, our small family unit collectively passed out in a tiny, warm hospital room.  2 hours later a nurse burst in with a bright "good morning!" and in groggy confusion I had no strength to argue.  12 hours later I made one of my all-time great New Parent Decisions - I rolled James in his little bassinet to the neighboring nursery, and returned to my room for a truly restful night's sleep.

My earliest days with James are a haze of bewilderment.  I slept in odd positions in unusual places and with the constant paranoia that belongs to new mothers everywhere.  I treated the first few weeks like a college final exam study period - a time of late nights and stress and temporary incoherence.  Until I realized that this was only the beginning of something new and lasting.  While my strength had returned rapidly and my days developed a semblance of routine, my body ached to its core for sleep.  Every few hours of the night my sleep-starved mind, close to entering a rejuvenating cycle of REM, was jerked back to a dark room and the wail of a newborn.  Unused to the regular shock of wakefulness, my body was surprisingly adept at returning to sleep instantaneously after attending to the baby.  At first.  As weeks followed it seemed that my acclimation to the new routine made it harder for my body to trust itself to sleep, to sink into the same depth, knowing that it would shortly be forced to reawaken.

My preoccupation with sleep became an obsession.  I counted periods of sleep to the minute, tracking and adding and comparing to nights prior.  Without a thought to examining how I actually felt at a given moment, I based my happiness and mental stability completely on whether or not my first shift of sleep was 3 hours precisely or 15 minutes fewer.  Subsequent 2.5 hour blocks were adequate while 120 minutes alone was a crisis.  I refused to slow down - I cleaned and cooked and hosted social events - but all the while I was tallying minutes of sleep or using elaborate imaginary formulas to predict future ones.  The formerly upbeat rhythm of my steps had been replaced with a slow trudge.  If the Giants hadn't been on a World Series run-up I imagine I may have abandoned my family one sleep-starved night.  Well, technically that did happen, but Great New Parent Decision #2 of throwing the baby into my husband's arms and hailing a cab for my parent's house across town was more a redemption than a crime after 11 hours of peaceful respite.

In the months that followed I marveled at the power of sleep.  I realized that, in fact, sleep deprivation stopped me from few things . . . I remained the do-it-all person I had always been.  But my core enthusiasm, my sense of joy in the world, was somewhat lost.  I resented how I had so taken for granted the restorative powers of sleep.  The way in which you can go about a busy or stressful day and then stretch out across a soft cushion, giving yourself over completely to a period of quiet solitude and deep rejuvenation.  Months later and with great pain I taught James to sleep more restfully during the nights, and saw in him the sudden and drastic changes that turned him from a fragile, high-strung infant into an ebullient and playful one.  I delighted in watching him comfortably embrace sleep and awaken refreshed.  With this my own inner warmth had begun to return as well, but I still clung to sleep in an anxious and greedy way, wisened to its transient nature.

18 months later I awoke one morning to a startling discovery.  I felt deeply rested.  Invigorated.  A new feeling had crept into my life over the course of a week or so, and it was a truly sudden discovery that I had been sleeping, uninterrupted, for many nights.  For many months James had slept admirably, with very brief nighttime wakings every few days, but the complete absence of them had far-reaching effects, my subconscious keen to the notion that sleep each night would be lasting and full.

The volatile sleep of newborns and their families is a common thread of casual jokes, parenting adages,  and the well-intended inquiries of friends.  Some of us never lose, or take for granted, our capacity for easy and restorative sleep.  But I now see this kind of sleep as a treasure, almost a nightly meditation, something to ritually immerse oneself in and cherish with gratitude.  Sleep is something we simply cannot help but do for our bodies.  Its absence cannot be diminished with admonishments that this time will be brief or forgotten or overshadowed by other joys.  For some of us it is an abiding pain and preoccupation, which, unseen by others, suffocates part of who we are.  New parent or not, times in which we are excluded from this strange and precious ritual of daily life are agonizing and even traumatic.  Even for middle schoolers who marvel at its strangeness, these seemingly brief periods of unconsciousness are times to move past the chaos of the day and prepare us for another.  Maybe sleep, like a religious meditation, is something to which we should bring mindfulness and gratitude or, at the very least, awareness.

Sweet dreams.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I can do anything.  If I want to learn to play the guitar, I'll find a great teacher, schlep to practice once a week, and practice diligently at home.  If I want a block party, I'll fill out applications, lobby neighbors, and coordinate the baking of cupcakes and a bean bag toss on what will inevitably be the finest fog-free day in August.  If I want my baby to arrive a few weeks early to accommodate my sister's college schedule I'll make it happen.  True story.

So why can't I install a toilet paper holder?

I pride myself on my competence.  Give me a travel itinerary, crafts, essays on english literature, ten year high school reunions, and everything will come together.  Give me a towel rack, a mailbox, and a large framed poster to hang, and I freeze up.  I do things I almost never do: delay, doubt, hire someone else.  When I suspiciously survey a pile of drill bits and screws, I hear my mother's voice admonish "call someone!"  I anxiously wait for a more qualified family member to show up and take over, stepping cautiously back from whatever crime-scene crisis of self confidence I've piled in the middle of the living room floor.

But that all changed with an IKEA desk.  A slight, curving, elegantly simple black writing desk that I despise because the only things I like in cheap black particleboard have clean straight lines and never an antique-style drawer pull.  But, alas, I found myself awkwardly angled on the rug, balancing one wobbly table leg against a bulky writing surface, or drawer bottom, I wasn't sure which.  When deciding to skip the "hire someone" option, the next option usually involves attempting to barrel through the project, as if failing to thoroughly read the directions and lay out the supplies will relieve me of any expectation to be successful.  If I am rushed and careless, the shabby job will not be the result of earnest effort.  But this damn desk had to be perfect.  It had to look classy and inviting in a home that I was about to leave and it had to sell a new home-seeker on a warm, welcoming image of the flat.  After an hour of occasionally glancing for reference at the wordless cartoon of an IKEA assembly manual, I stopped.  I sighed.  I put everything down.  I laid each screw and tool and nut in neat rows.  And I read through, from start to finish, that stupid manual.  Four times.  Until I knew I could do it.

An hour later I proudly positioned the symmetrical, sturdy desk at the entryway of my home.  No matter that it didn't fit properly and had to be shoved into a corner elsewhere - I had done it.  The wall in my mind of things women seemed good at (teaching, cooking, planning events) had always been a barrier from attempting things that only men seemed suited for (math, cars, tools).  Why had I wasted so much time thinking this narrowly?  I had desperately feared becoming a glaring example of a seemingly competent woman who just couldn't do what most men could do.  Suddenly I realized that what most men can do is easy stuff.  Maybe there's a reason that I can bake a lasagna, bounce a baby, and berate an AT&T wireless employee about a billing error all at the same time.  Maybe "girl things" are the hard stuff.  Hell, I've never seen a man do it.  It's even possible that I can build a shoe cabinet with perfectly aligned hinges while my husband watches TV.  That's what I did the next week.

After that I assembled a 3 foot tall double-decker bunny hutch.  I disassembled a corian kitchen table, moved it down 19 stairs to the basement, and reassembled it.  I put together a two level oval glass coffee table.  I quickly set up four IKEA chairs from about 76 separate pieces.  But still, for that toilet paper holder, I hired someone.  I just knew I couldn't do it myself.  I simply couldn't imagine how it worked, how it seamlessly attached to the wall.  I called a handyman and watched as he moved with the unimaginable and frustratingly slow speed of someone being paid by the hour.  I listened with mounting offense as he carefully explained to me how a drill bit worked and what a level did.  With the motivation that only hurt pride can inspire, I rushed ahead of him to the next project, laid out my now-familiar tool set, sat quietly to read the toilet paper holder manual and with a sigh of instant understanding and regret, realized that I could have done this myself long ago.  Long, long ago.

He never made it to the next project before his interminable, amorphous 'workday' ended.  I spent the rest of that evening fixing the child locks he had improperly installed.  I used my power drill like a pistol, moving from one drawer to the next with precision and focus, all the while replaying the handyman's advice that we would need to "keep a special tool around" to open the drawers he had mis-installed clips on.  Every single time.  As I adjusted his misaligned baby gates, I raged inwardly at his suggestion that I just "keep an eye on my son" rather than bother with all of this childproofing.  From a single guy without kids I probably should have argued my point, but, at the time, he was someone who, we both thought, knew better than me.

A day later, my husband bought me a brand new power drill.  A compact, fiery red (my request for pink was politely denied) Craftsman drill.  That night, I chose the proper bit, marked two spots on the wall, drilled two screws into a simple mounting bracket, and tapped with a rubber mallet until the polished metal toilet paper sat perfectly flush to the wall.

Now, I can do anything.


Name: Rebecca
Hometown: San Francisco
Past town: New York City
Current town: San Francisco
Born: 1982
Husband: Bill, works at Google
Son: James, born 2010
Occupation: Domestic Goddess
Past occupation: inner-city second grade teacher
Favorite music: James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Michael Jackson
Favorite book: The Great Gatsby
Favorite foods: mac n cheese, deep dish pizza, coconut rice, fried zucchini blossoms, south indian dosas
Favorite desserts: anything with chocolate
Hobbies: cleaning, cooking, imovie, staying up late, paper collage, etsy 
Bad habits: talking about myself, giving unsolicited advice
Why I'm blogging: talking about myself, giving unsolicited advice
Really, why I'm blogging: I love to write.  I miss writing.  When I was younger I was an avid journaler, then I switched to all academic writing and I loved that, but now I do neither.  I'm looking for a way to combine it - something in between stream of consciousness and structured essay.  Also, I'm an efficiency fiend . . . as a teacher I was obsessed with streamlining processes, organizing people/things, and helping kids to understand how to succeed at life.  Now I have no one to force my wisdom upon.  So unsolicited advice is born.  It won't always be advice, but with some mix of opinions/thoughts/musings I figure there will be some kind of point in there somewhere.