There are so many things in life that you hear about but mean nothing until you have a child.

The innocence of youth

Unconditional love

The effectiveness of repetition in memorization

The sweetness of watermelon

The huge amount of things that are unhealthy and the relatively small amount of things that are, and the care to tell the difference

The serenity in sitting still

Appreciation for your own mother

The noise in silence

The value of the dollar

The importance of planning

The importance of spontaneity

What dandelions smell like

How infectious a giggle is

The necessity to do it right the first time

The right way isn’t always the correct way. Whats good for you isn’t always whats best for everyone else

How important it is to forgive and how easy it is to forget

All tv really is crap


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Being a mother

A few weeks back I had a small issue with a professor who I felt wasn’t taking into consideration my immense responsibilities at home when he gave me a hard time about completing an out-of-class assignment involving going to a sporting event on campus. I spoke to my advisor about how to confront this professor and to try and get an idea about why he wasn’t cutting me some more slack when I couldn’t go to games because I felt being at home to feed her dinner and for my child’s bedtime was more important.

My advisor looked at me over his glasses and said, “Well, Emma, he has children, and he’s a good dad. But he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a mother.”

I thought that was pretty insightful, and truer than anyone who isn’t a mother could ever know.

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How come i can forget millions of things a day, but when there’s one thing in particular that i don’t want to think about, it’s all that’s there?
Why does it take so much effort to fill your mind with busywork just to avoid one thought? How come it takes 40 just to replace 1? Why do we torture ourselves with nagging thoughts and fruitless ideas? We dont, i guess, but our brains do. I wish itd just let us forget. How come we can’t forget on command, or store away information to be accessed later, like on a computer?
Like when you get a million compliments, you’ll only remember the one criticism. One bad apple spoils the barrel. There are so many things to be thankful for in life, yet we zoom in on the bad part. The one bad part, that may not always be bad, but is horrible right now, is consuming.
I wish i could go all day thinking about my tasks and responsibilities as a normal person and continue being positive when i sit down to watch tv or take a shower once the fuss of the day has ended. But instead, i stand in the silence of the house, all alone, turn the shower as hot as it will go, and feel sorry. Not for myself this time. But horrible.
Why can’t i think about bad things only when i need? It does no use to worry. Its like a rocking chair, right? But i cant stop rocking. I have nothing else to think about, nothing as powerful as the itch that depresses my brain and forces me, tortures me into thinking about it.
Ive never worried about anyone the way I worry now. Ive never felt the sort of raw emotion that comes after seeing someone drowning when you cant save them. I feel it now. I wish i didn’t have to all the time, but the mind isn’t a file system. I cant thumb through my memories and pick out the good ones. I cant edit recent ones to make them a little more colorful. And i cant burn the bad ones. Theres nothing i can do, thats the hardest part.
You always think you are in control of yourself and your surroundings, until someone throws a wrench in there that you cant pull out. It hurts and it grinds and it nags and it breaks your heart, but all i can do is sit in my rocking chair and worry.

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Week one.

In 30 years, when I’m wildly successful sitting on whatever piece of furniture I choose that evening, draped in a cashmere blanket with a hot cup of tea with a robe and reading glasses on, I’ll look back and remember when it was hard; when I did too much and tried too hard and slept too little. And I think in 30 years, I’ll remember this week as being the beginning of it.

I’ve never worked so hard and gotten paid so little (read: nothing). My mornings are full of classes, the final set of my college career. My afternoons are full of interning at the Dayton City Paper, my first job that really matters. Then I come home and spend the remaining hour of my sleepy and sobbing 1-year-olds day desperately trying to feed her something healthy like pesto potatoes and bananas to make up for her refusing to eat anything but crackers and cheetoes at daycare. It’s exhausting. And now, I sit on the floor of my living room, cluttered with baby toys and the DVD’s Kate tossed on the floor, writing this instead of the article I’ve promised to finish by 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, I know it’s just the beginning.

My life is becoming more than I thought it would… in a way that I’m not sure of (good? bad?). I love to be busy but I haven’t yet decided if I’m becoming happily busy at the expense of my child. When I’m at work, driving all over the city as a pseudo-photographer, collecting sources for an upcoming 2,000 word article assignment I just couldn’t turn down (plus I’ll make money off of it), and playing editorial intern as best I know how, it’s easy to forget I’m a mother.

That sounds horrible. But truthfully, I can only have so many things on my mind before it explodes, and I usually pull out the brain-file of whatever the task I’m doing at the moment, reserving all thoughts of dinner and bedtimes and playtimes for when I get to daycare to pick up Kate and start that phase of my day. I feel guilty for giving Kate a time-slot, but it’s all I can do to get through.

Women are supposed to be the multi-taskers, I thought. But maybe we’re not. Maybe we’re just really good at prioritizing and organizing and classifying what we feel necessary in order of importance and availability.

As soon as I drop Kate off in the morning, I’m a student. I spent the drive onto campus this morning hyperventilating over the fact that I had a test this morning that not only had I forgotten about before, but was completely unprepared for, until I got to school and realized the test is next Friday. Once my last class lets out, I’m in work-mode. I make a mental list of the things I have to do, the things I might have to do, and the things I just can’t and spend the next hours slowly chipping away at the “can’s.”

Finally, I leave work and become mom again. I race through the streets as fast as suburban rush-hour will allow until I get to Kate, stuff her in the car, and stress over Cheetoes.

I can’t wait for 30 years from now. When I can look back and remember the time when I did too much. I’ll remember the time that started with this week and ended who knows how far in the future, but hopefully not remember what it felt like.

Like when you have a cold, all you can think about is how much it sucks and how much you want it to be over, while knowing the worst that could happen is it will strengthen your immune system. Then, the sniffles finally stop, my head finally clears, the sun comes out and I forget what it feels like to be sick anymore.

In 30 years, I’ll remember when I got colds, but I won’t remember what it’s like to be sick.

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Deep breaths

A lot of things have happened this week.

I’m still giddy about the comments and grade I got on my comm theory paper.

My mom is coming to visit this weekend.

Dave will be out of town from Thursday to Monday drinking and gambling in Atlantic City, and maybe watching a basketball game or two.

I have an interview for Thursday at the Dayton City Paper for an internship.

I have a test tomorrow morning that I haven’t studied for.

I have made an appointment Friday morning at the career center for help with job searching.

I’ve cooked dinner, I’ve gone to the grocery store, I’ve bathed the baby and put her to bed.

I can’t turn off the TV to study hard enough to be confident tomorrow.

And now it’s 9:30 on a Tuesday night and all I want to do is go to bed and not have to worry about anything. Every time I go to bed with worry or anxiety or stress I have dreams all night. The kind of dreams that make me feel like I didn’t sleep at all once I wake up in the morning.

But I have to at least finish my study guide. I have to remind myself that I DO have something to wear to this interview Thursday and I WILL find it. Shoes, too. I have to breathe through the thought of Dave being gone and not resent him for having a yearly vacation that he gets to take with friends even though if I had the money to begin with I couldn’t go on vacation because I couldn’t leave Kate with him because his schedule is not ours. I have to count down from 10 as many times as it takes to be ok with dishes in the sink and vegetable oil in the rocking chair and I will clean it all up tomorrow. Or the next day.

Tonight is the night that I get overwhelmed.

I should probably just put my books away, turn off the TV and go to bed, watch another episode of Law and Order: SVU and forget about life for a couple hours until the morning.

I want to leave my manic panicked state behind for a while and just… crash.


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My house will never be clean.

There are a lot of things I’ve had to become ok with in the past year. I have to go to bed at 9:30. I realize that if I go to bed any later than that, Kate will wake up earlier than usual the next morning and I will be tired.

I know that if I don’t get my reading done for class, the next day there will be a pop quiz and I will have no friend to copy from or even one to complain about it to afterwards.

I realize that I don’t have friends like I used to. I don’t live in a concentration of 20-somethings with a friendly face poking out every other door. I spend a lot of time alone. I keep most of my thoughts to myself, unless its the ones about the Cavs compared to the Lakers last week. I see a friend or two once about every month or two.

But the hardest to reconcile was the fact that the house would never be clean.

After I hit about 8 months pregnant and moved into the new house and started assembling nursery furniture and having to clean my own dishes instead of throwing away paper ones, I gained a newfound appreciation and need for a clean living space.

In college, as my friends (and unfortunately my mom) can attest to, I had a filthy apartment. There was garbage in the closet piled up in bags. The sink had press-n-seal saran wrap covering it because the dishes went undone for so long that flies got to it. I still didn’t wash them so the flies laid eggs. Then the eggs hatched and I had to do something, so I pressed and sealed. I hated to do dishes, I hated to pick up after myself, I hated to move the clothes from the couch next to the front door, tossed aside as I immediately stripped them off during the summer months, to the laundry basket a whole 50 feet away in my bedroom. But I lived alone, and it was a low point in my life, and I didn’t care.

Now, I live with my own new family. And, unlike the family I grew up with, this one doesn’t clean up after me even though they STILL expect clean dishes and the ability to stretch out on the living room floor. Crazy, huh? And now I have to be an active family member, instead of the passive, “I don’t have to clean it because my mom eventually will” daughter that I used to be.

I’m the mom now and if I don’t clean it, nobody will.

I can’t press-and-seal the sink because Dave would probably think it’s gross and baby could get sick. I can’t pile garbage up in the closets because, again, health risks. But mostly, I can’t do any of these things because, physically, I just can’t.

I can’t fall asleep at night with a messy house. I’ve given up on the dining room table- it will forever be covered in papers and bills, but I came to terms with that a long time ago. I just can’t sit and watch tv after Kate goes to bed if there are dishes to do or a mountain of toys on the floor.

After I hit about 8 months pregnant, something in me snapped. My messy bone broke and I’ve been cleaning up after it ever since.

I don’t like that itchy-tooth feeling I get when Dave leaves his soda cans around or spits his fingernails on the floor. Kate’s allowed to throw her books all over the living room all day, but I am not allowed to sit down until they are picked up at night. I can’t stand the tingle attacking the back of my brain when there are cereal crumbs all over the carpet and I haven’t run a vacuum over them at least once.

I imagine it’s what a cat feels when you pet it backwards. It’s like when you bend a fingernail backwards just a little bit, but enough to make you cringe to think about for days. Or when you’re eating with a fork and accidentally stab yourself in the tooth. Or when a single strand gets stuck as you brush your hair and it resists a little before finally snapping in half.

I know how my mom felt back when I was a kid and refused to clean my room but would come home one day and find it spotless. It’s not that she wanted to clean it. It’s that she just couldn’t not clean it.

And even after all this cleaning and obsessing, there are still crumbs on the floor and an entire back room that is stomping ground for dust bunnies and things that should really be in the attic. There is always more to do but I suppose thats why there is always tomorrow.

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at last

There nothing like the baby sleeping soundly, the dishes being done and the toys picked up to make someone feel like their life is finally together.

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