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Visions of carrying my poop, hidden away in a brown paper bag, into my doctor’s office swam through my head.  Like bringing the kitty poop in each year.

It’s not like that.  Not at all.

I had hoped to do the poop scoopin’ without my toddler around.  I’m an open-minded gal; we talk about all sorts of things.  But I really did not want to have to explain to her why mama was mailing her poop.  Her current trend of reenacting all the events of her life ad infinitum does not lend itself well to the embarrassing possibilities.

But(t), well, to put it bluntly, one poops when one poops.

So yesterday afternoon, with plastic gloves on, the smell of formaldehyde in the air mixed with the stench of yuck, and a little plastic basin balanced precariously on the corner of the bathroom sink, I scooped and mixed and shook while my daughter looked on curiously.

The conversation went something like this:

Mama: “Remember this morning at the hospital?  When the nurse took some blood tests of mama?  It’s to make sure mama is healthy.  Well, the doctor will check my poop too.  So I’m sending him some poop to test.”

Avi:  (Thinking hard.  Wrinkling her nose curiously.  Thinking hard some more.) “You’re cute, mama.”

Nothing like a toddler to make you feel better about scooping your own poop.

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On the way to the concert last Sunday night, my girlfriend Annie put her newly burned cd in to my car stereo and played me this song.  I loved it right away.

But it was only when I heard it in person that I started to cry.  Ani sings with her entire body.  The energy of music pumps from her soul and soars through the air, pulsing with fierceness.

I wanted her concert to go on forever.

Present/Infant ~ Ani DiFranco

lately I’ve been glaring into mirrors, picking myself apart
you’d think at my age I’d have thought of something better to do
than make insecurity into a full time job
make insecurity into an art
yes and I fear my life will be over
and I will have never lived it unfettered
always glaring into mirrors, mad I don’t look better

but now here is this tiny baby
and they say she looks just like me
and she is smiling at me
with that present infant glee
and I would defend to the ends of the earth
her perfect right to be

so I’m beginning to see some problems
with the ongoing work of my mind
and I’ve got myself a new mantra
it says “don’t forget to have a good time”
don’t let the sellers of stuff
power enough to rob you of your grace

love is all over the place
there’s nothing wrong with your face

love is all over the place
there’s nothing wrong with your face

I have made a promise to myself that I will go and see her live at least once a year, if not more.

And I will dance again.

I will find a room, I will put in a cd of any sort I feel, and I will dance until I fall down exhausted.  I will use my limbs, my spine, my toes, my hair.

I will bring rhythm into my heart and use it with glee.

My breath will be unthinking.

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Today is my thirtieth birthday.

It started with a successful visit to a new GI specialist to talk about the ol’ tum-tum.  It means that next week I’ll be having gallons of blood drawn, including some that will be mailed long-distance with an ice pack to somewhere in the middle of the country.  I’ll also be pooping in a bucket and scooping out little chunks to stick in many multi-colored tubes, also to be mailed to somewhere in the middle of the country.

It was a good start to my day.  No sarcasm here.  He took me seriously.  He agreed that I’m “managing my symptoms” but now we need to find the cause.  And my heart rejoiced.  Because why else have I been visiting all these doctors?  To find the cause.  It was a good start to my day.

The middle of my day culminated with my parents arrival with vegan cupcakes.  Yes, vegan cupcakes.  The most delicious chocolate confections that woman has ever known.  So satisfying.

It progressed to a round of Shrek III after a lovingly prepared meal of cheese enchiladas by my live-out hubby.

It was all good until I realized I’d over-indulged in the cheese.  So my tum-tum took its revenge for a while.

I’m all good now.

So let’s revisit this list I made sometime last year.  Let’s take a look at how realistic I thought it was at the time and how unrealistic it really was:

  1. find which grad program i would like to apply for…and in the process, figure out what subject i’d like to study. Okay, actually, I did manage to do this.  I haven’t actually applied, but technically that wasn’t part of the goal.  So….Me – 1, Reality – 0.
  2. pay off my car loan. Ha.  That is all I have to say about that.  Me – 1, Reality – 1.
  3. pay off my credit card. Technically, I did this about three times, possibly even more.  But since my car keeps loving me by breaking and I’m seeing a therapist who isn’t covered by insurance, I’m back up to about $4000.  Me – 1, Reality – 2.
  4. begin a college fund for A__. Well here’s one that made sense.  Okay then.  Me – 2, Reality – 2.
  5. buy a dresser. I guess I’m not doing so bad since I managed this one too.  Me – 3, Reality – 2.
  6. find a spiritual community. Hunh, well, I’m not sure what to do about this one since I crossed it off of my list when I realized it was a red herring.  I guess, though, since it was on the list to start out with, the point does not go to me after all.  drat.  Me – 3, Reality – 3.
  7. decide where i would like to live: here, a neighboring town, or an entirely new locale. You’d think this would be easy.  It’s not.  It’s so not.  Me – 3, Reality – 4.
  8. find a publisher for this book . Right.  Me – 3, Reality – 5.
  9. be able to run a mile. No comment.  Me – 3, Reality – 6.
  10. create the time in my life to do five minutes of yoga every morning. that’s not too much. i really think it can be done. and i really think my back will thank me for it. and maybe A__ will do it with me too which would make it that much more fun :) I’m gonna give this one to me.  I don’t do yoga every day, but Avi and I go once a week and I go on my own once a week so I think I deserve something for that.  120 minutes of yoga, divided by 7 days actually ends up being more than five minutes a day anyways.  Me – 4, Reality – 6.

FINAL TALLY:  Me – 4, Reality – 6.

Actually, that’s better than I expected when I started this exercise.  To be honest, it wasn’t an entirely heart-felt exercise so I don’t really feel all that bad about any of it.  Except running a mile.  I really wanted to hit that one.  I think I’m up to a quarter of a mile.  Maybe by spring.

And this year?  Well, last year I wanted a Zen year, where nothing happened.  No major strife, changes, or life-upheavals.  I didn’t quite get it, so this year I’m really going for the Zen year.  As of this Saturday, I will have completed my last freelance project of the year.  And so for one full year it will be just me, my day job, my child, and the fun/meditation/therapy/cooking that will kick this stomach mayhem in the ass and let me live my life again.

And so ends this poorly constructed and down-right rambling birthday post.  Here’s to another year and many more to come.

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Like ADD and Colic, I think a lot of children get lumped into The Terrible Twos unfairly.  Sure, there are plenty of children who actually have ADD, colic, and completely unexplained tantrums.  But, for the most part, a lot of patience, research, communication, and coaching can go a long way and allow you to remove the negative label you’ve given him or her.

But then, a couple of weeks ago, Avi momentarily changed all that.

She entered The Terrible Twos.  And I labeled her with gusto.

She threw herself on the floor screaming for no reason.

She looked me in the eye, dropped food over the side of the table and then innocently asked, “Is Avi being naughty?”

She screamed inconsolably.

She pushed buttons I didn’t even know I had.

And one terrible and fateful lunch hour, I slapped her.  Yes, I slapped her.  Not hard enough to hurt; it didn’t leave a red mark, it didn’t make her cry.  But it did make her stop.  It wasn’t planned.  It wasn’t wanted by either of us.  But out it came.

I was heartbroken, ashamed and horrified.

I never knew I could feel so much anger at such a little person.  I never knew I could hit her.  I had become the parent I never wanted to be:  I threatened, I screamed, I fumed, I forcibly stuck her in chairs, I hauled her out of stores.  We were both miserable.

So I gave myself a time out.

Everyone I spoke to reassured me that “it happens.”  In fact, the first person I called was my girlfriend, L__, who had just admitted to hitting her son the previous week without really meaning to (he’s just about Avi’s age) so I knew she would get it.  My mom admitted to slapping me and also reminded me that my dad spanked me several times and I’m perfectly fine, and I don’t remember it.

I let them make me feel better, because I needed it.  But, the thing is, I don’t really believe that.  I don’t believe Avi cries for no reason.  She always has a reason, even if I think it’s silly.  I don’t believe she would push my buttons just to irritate me.  I don’t believe in only one-sided anger: it does, after all, take two to tango. I don’t believe that this hit will not affect her even if she doesn’t consciously remember it.

So I’ve started reading.  In fact, I stayed up reading far into the night because I found this book so helpful that I kept telling myself, “I need to read as much as possible right now so I can put this stuff into practice!”  Eventually, I did go to sleep.  But, even being tired today, Avi and I had the best day we’ve had in weeks.  Not a single tantrum.  Oh, there were disagreements and irritations.  But no anger.  No screaming.  And no hitting (by me, at least.  I can’t say the same for her…yet).

And, just so you know moms, the hardest part of all this?  Admitting to her dad what I’d done.

And admitting it to you.

I’ve committed myself to revealing, in this blog, all the bits and pieces of honest-to-goodness parenting that no one is willing to admit or talk about.  But this was by far the hardest thing to state publicly.  For those of you who do spank, maybe it’s not a big deal.  But it is to me. I will carry the shame of the betrayal of my daughter’s trust forever.

I may forgive myself, as she has already forgiven me.  But I will never believe that I made the right choice at the moment.

I made the wrong choice.

So now I’m trying to fix it.

And, in the process, I think I will discover what I have believed all along: that a lot of children get lumped into The Terrible Twos unfairly, including my own daughter.

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Go Vote

You were gifted this free country.  Now use its gift and place your vote.

Here in NH, it is never too late to register.  You can walk into your polling place the day of elections and they will hand you a ballot.  But it will be too late if you don’t move your tail over to your polling place.

Do not tell me that you are not political.  To care about the fate of your child, the freedoms of your child, the rights of your child–that is political.  To vocalize to your girlfriends that your child deserves more–that is political.  To look at your street and wonder why your town doesn’t recycle–that’s political.  To sigh when you see how much you pay for health insurance, and how little you get in return–that’s political.  So do not tell me that you are not political.  If you were not political, you would not care.  But you do care, so get yourself to a ballot box and help change the world.

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Avi: (Staring intensely) “What is that on your eye?”

Mama: “It’s called eyeshadow.  Do you like it?”

Avi: (Gleefully) “When I is a grown-up fireman, I can wear that!”

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No.  Not mine.

Yours.

You, people I have met with and worked with and then I discover you have become something even grander.

I find myself bursting with pride when I come across an old friend or, more frequently, a short-term colleague (given the nature of theater) who has accomplished something wonderful.

When I was just out of college, I worked on a short play with a young man who, at the time, was approaching his late 20s.  He had a two year old son and a dedicated wife.  His wife had agreed to let him quit his day job so he could pursue acting full time.  He had a year to make sure he could bring home some bacon.  This short play was his first gig.  A few years later, when I returned to that city, I attended an awards banquet, and there he was, up on stage, part of the evening’s honored entertainment.

Just this fall I discovered a girlfriend out in LA writing for Knight Rider.

If I were to sit down and watch TV, I stumble across a familiar face on a commercial or TV show at least every couple of months.

And I feel like my heart will burst I’m so proud of them.  There is, fantastically, no jealousy at all.  I don’t find myself watching them, or reading about them, and burning up with desire.  Going green with envy of what they’ve done.  I just am glad I “knew them when…”

And the inspiration for this post?  This chic over at Living Oprah. She was my director in Chicago.  She cast me in an all-improvised show when I had very little experience and she patiently and determinedly dragged the best out of me.  Learning to improvise for her was one of the best things I ever could have done as an actress.  She is a remarkable woman.  She has spent this entire year taking ALL of Oprah’s advice–and I mean ALL.  Tomorrow morning, bright and early, she’ll be on the Today Show with Matt Lauer.  So freaking cool.

Go read her blog.

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Harvesting Home

There are some things that will always remind me of home, of childhood, of safety, of joy, of love:

my mother’s perfume (shalimar)

those little cans you open and then light in lieu of a gas stove

water stained ceilings

sun streaming through windows, lighting up the dust in the air, making the room sparkle

meatloaf

root beer floats

These are things ingrained in my memories. I’ve revisited them countless times in my waking and sleeping dreams.

But sometimes, I hit upon the unexpected.  Like today.

I took Avi to a Pumpkin festival.  It was hot in the sun and cold in the shade.  Crunchy leaves blanketed the curbs.  Little kids ran around in orange shirts.  Bad local bands filled the air with crooning.  A craft room filled with 25% homespun art and 75% homespun crap.  The smell of sausage and onions.

I may have spent my entire childhood at harvest festivals.  Picking my way slowly through the craft exhibits.  Marveling at golf cart sized pumpkins.  The smell of cow shit and hay.  Fuzzy bunnies.  Wishing I’d remembered to submit that photo I thought was so good.  Fire men hoisting small children into their trucks.  Rock music covered lovingly by local middle aged men, laughing adoringly at their relatives as they sing. Bizarre local competitions like skillet tossing, potato sack races, and pumpkin catapulting.

Harvest festivals feel like home.

This is when my heart soars to be in New England.

This is what I would miss were I ever to move away again.

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Overheard Outside my Window

Nick, you look exactly like your dad; you make me want to shit.

I have to assume there’s an inside joke I’m missing because I hate to think that “you make me want to shit” is now an acceptable positive exclamation.

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Getting my Craft On

Over the past couple of months, I have had this all-consuming desire to create objects of art.  I’m a stitcher, so I naturally turn to fabric, but really I’d be happy doing anything crafty.  However, every time I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “today I’m gettin’ crafty” it never happens.

I made Avi’s birthday dress, but only because I had the excuse of having my mom over for the day and I wasn’t feeling well so we sat around and sewed all day.  And, when did I finish hemming it?  At 10pm the night before her party.

I did manage to find the time to hang out with a girlfriend for some craft time.  She came over for dinner and brought some egg cartons to decorate.  The farm she goes to invites the people who buy eggs to decorate the cartons before they bring them back to be refilled.  Isn’t that an awesome idea?

But, still, I’m not satisfied.  I’m still craving the craftiness.  My hope is that by posting this fact, I will actually find the time to get crafty more regularly.  Since I’m all about getting healthy and counseling and such, I can only assume this desire has a higher purpose of the zen kind.

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