Tag Archives: motherhood

incunabula


incunabula n. the early stages of the development of something

Tiffany-Grace-tiara-shop-at-selfridges-fashionhorrors-3

When I came upon this word, I thought of mitosis. My brain instantly snapped to the images I used to stare at in biology textbooks in high school…the ones with the little pink chromosomes so neatly dividing themselves. I suppose the inference is accurate as cells are undeniably the early stages of development of something – whether it be a child or an illness. It can have both a hopeful or sinister context, like so many things in our lives. All of my unfinished knitting projects also come to mind. They are like little physical manifestation of incunabula.

Creating things excites me. My entire career has been about making things and nurturing incunabula into something tangible. Many years ago after my dreams of becoming a writer fell off due to lack of funds, a budding accounting career at Deutsche Bank proved to be the wrong path,and a job writing advertisements for clinical trials was just too boring, I fell into the role of product development for a watchband company in Rhode Island. It was a small, family oriented company. My first months were spent making spreadsheet after spreadsheet. Somehow I had become a computer whiz at Excel and I believe that was one of the reasons why I was hired. I also got to correspond with vendors in Asia, which was my favorite part. I had a wonderful boss who gave me opportunity and the ability to see and learn about the genesis of product. From drawing and concept, manufacturing and samples, to the final packaged consumer good. It was like magic. I loved seeing something come from nothing. Every trip to a store became like a museum visit, looking at things for seam lines and country of origin, trying to figure out how they were made. I fell in love with the process. Back then, I worked on watchbands and some small jewelry items, but I still treasure those years.

Later I moved on to a job at a curtain rod company with more responsibility. This time I was the driving force behind the product vision. I worked with a designer who became one of my best friends in the world and together we came up with so many ideas and worked to make them into tangible goods. I traveled to mainland China and toured the factories for my projects and my life was changed. I remember calling my husband after a long day at a resin manufacturer, crying hysterically having seen the factory dormitories where the workers slept – 6 to a room on bunk beds – in a room smaller than the average bedroom. Yet they were so sweet and courteous – and I was incredibly humbled. All of those products on those shelves were no longer inanimate objects. People made them and when I was directing my projects, these people that were grateful for a crowded bunk and a bowl of rice were responsible for the outcome. To this day I do not view the things I buy the same way.

Later on I went on to work for a tabletop company handling their crystal and glass product. Glass blowing was like watching incunabula in action. I traveled all over Eastern Europe visiting small glass factories and watching small glowing blobs of sand turn into beautiful glass vases and bowls by someone turning a pipe, blowing and making it look so easy. I traveled in cars across the rolling hills of Poland and Romania visiting places that are probably gone as the art of glass blowing and making has shrunk considerably. Even back when I was there the workers would talk about how so many of them had moved to cities to become taxi drivers or other working class professionals as the money was good and they didn’t have to worry about factories closing. The American taste had changed and no one really spent money on handmade, lead crystal or glass. I feel special having been able to witness such a beautiful art and to have met such amazing artists.

The culmination of my product career was at a company best known for it’s signature blue box and amazing jewelry. Way back when I started working with watchbands, I remember coming home my first week on the job, completely excited and overwhelmed, and saying to my husband “Someday I could work for Tiffany.” And then it came true. I worked on dozens of wonderful projects, some of the finest things I have ever held in my hands. Last night while I was watching Downton Abbey and noticed all of the ladies wearing diamond tiaras, I remembered the tiara I last worked on before I left on maternity leave and it made me incredibly proud and happy.

I have been part of many an incunabula over these years. My career was very much my child and now it is all grown up. I made the choice to stay home and nurture a new incunabula – my son, Graham – and the journey will be no less difficult or rewarding. Through these many years of working I have learned how to bring an idea to fruition and nurture it to completion. In a way I was training for this all along.

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fly


fly vmove through the air under control

flywheel

My son is 18 months old and in a lot of ways I am not very much older. When he was born my whole life changed, not just in the theoretical sense but in the actual sense. I gave up my full time job to take care of him, moved from Brooklyn to the suburbs, and went from having a very defined path to a dirt road with no blaze. I don’t mean this in some macabre manner, but when I found out I was pregnant the old me started packing her bags because she knew she was on her way out. So the past 2 years or so has been a kind of painful rebirth. As he’s cutting teeth, I’m learning how to make mommy friends (sometimes more painful.) While he’s trying new foods, I am trying to learn to eat less of them. And as he has taken his first steps, I have found my own wings. But just like he didn’t get up and start walking like a pro from the start, neither have I. I stumble…a lot. But I have found one thing in the past 2 years that makes all the difference in my life. Exercise. Specifically, indoor cycling or spinning.

I have never been good at riding bicycles. I can remember the first time I went to Block Island with my husband crying hysterically because I simply sucked at it and we had no car so I had no choice if I wanted to see the island. I fell off the bike several times, in front of large groups of people, near shorelines, etc. Days after our little excursion, my ass hurt so bad I could barely move and I did not have the urge to do it again for awhile. Many years  later when we moved to Brooklyn, I purchased my husband a bike and he would ride to various neighborhoods, watering holes, even over the Brooklyn Bridge. I desperately wanted to join him…but I was just terrified and completely awful at it. We even spiffed up my old Schwinn ten speed with a gel seat and I got a new, red helmet, but after several riding sessions filled with tears and screaming, we just gave up. My shiny red Schwinn has a place of honor hanging on my workshop wall waiting for me to someday be able to ride it in all of it’s glory…and perhaps someday I will. However, these days my saving grace has been a bike that goes nowhere.

It starts when I schedule my class online. Free time is hard to come by, but I can squeeze in 45 minutes at some point, even if it has to be at 6 am. I put on my spandex and pull back my hair and head to the studio for sometimes what will be the most relaxing part of my day. When I get there, I grab a towel, a bottle of water and put on my velcro shoes with the pedal clips. Then I go to my favorite bike, number 36, and get her set up. My seat is a 5 and pushed all the way forward and my handlebars are usually at a 6. I borrow one of the gel seat covers to avoid soreness and make sure it’s securely positioned for my ride. I hang my towel over the handlebar and wedge 2 bottles of water into
the holder meant for one, snap in my shoes and start to pedal. I check my positions – saddle, second and third – and then take in my surroundings, sizing up the competition and avoiding my reflection in the mirror.

My favorite instructor is a singer and dancer on her bike (I have no idea in real life what else she does) and when she turns down the lights and raises the bass, I forget all about the dishes in the sink and the baby with the fever. It’s me and my bike for the next 45 minutes. My favorite part is at the beginning when we “fly” by turning the torque all the way down and bringing the RPMs all the way to 100 for a full minute or more. The adrenaline pumping and the music blasting makes me actually feel like I am flying. When we’re done with the sprint,  we start the climb. Usually we’ll start in the saddle and my legs feel like I am cycling through quicksand, raising the torque to make it harder and harder along the way. At some point she’ll let up and let us rise to third and use our full thigh strength to be able to pedal quicker. It makes me feel so strong and powerful. Sometimes it’s Journey “Don’t Stop Believing” or “Sweet Child of Mine.” Other times it’s Usher or Jay Z that get me over the hill. Regardless, I feel more like a warrior than a mom.

The leader board in the studio lets us all see who’s winning and I rarely put myself on it. Still, I can tell where I rank amongst those that
do. Most of the time, I come in third or fourth place. Other times I win the class. It’s in my nature to be competitive and I’ve learned that it can be a very powerful force when it comes to getting fit. Throughout the class, we rise and fall like a tide of riders going nowhere. I like to imagine what it looks like to the instructor as she watches an ocean of people pretending to ride bikes. I think it must either be humorous or moving…or maybe both. Either way, it feels good to move so fast and not have to worry about getting hurt…like driving a sports at the fastest possible speed without a worry that you could crash crash.

The class ends the way it started – with one last glorious fly – one last chance to make it count. Then I stretch, I hydrate and I head home a winner. I may not get a shower for a few hours and I might have to wrestle with a diaper genie while my son runs naked in the same room, but for 45 minutes I wasn’t a mom, housewife or trying to be anything than on that bike and feeling the beat. For 45 minutes I flew.

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nostalgia


nostalgia n. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I think that I have Nostalgic Personality Disorder. I have a profoundly difficult time living in the moment. In fact, most of the time I rarely enjoy the present. Take for instance all of my past homes. When I was living in Providence, Rhode Island, all I wanted to do was move somewhere else. These days I would give anything to spend a few months back in my old home. Same thing with Brooklyn. I had just about had enough of pretending to be cool in the “other borough” when I was pregnant, and so we moved to Maplewood, New Jersey. Now I simply hate my new home and long to wander the littered, Brownstone streets of my former abode.

My nostalgia isn’t even accurate. I think about past periods of time quite a bit and my memory embellishes them, making them sweeter than they actually were. I know I didn’t love high school and those were some tough years, but I often find myself longing to go back for a few days. I’d like to think it may be because I have changed, or evolved, so very much since then that I would like to go back and remind myself who I was at that point. I’d like to get some of my old, good habits back…talk to myself and get some advice from the person who I used to be. I think it would be good to go back so I could prove to myself that my memories aren’t honest and that things have gotten exponentially better in my life since then…that I have accomplished things and grown. My former self could sit me down and say “Listen asshole! You’ve done so much since now. Why would you want to return like some psychotic ‘Back to the Future’ wannabe?”

I recently read an article in Psychology Today about nostalgic personalities. I am surprised I was even able to get past the first few lines as it began with a reference to Proust and his “buttery madeleines.” Suffering through Swann’s Way was not my finest hour in college. It was a very painful read…but I digress. Here is a link to the article if you are interested…and this quote which made me take particular note:

“For some people, reminiscing about good times can trigger painful emotions. Recalling a career triumph can make you feel like a has-been, and thinking back to cozy weekends with grandma might be a poignant reminder that she’s gone.

But it needn’t be that way. “It’s what you focus on,” says Lyubomirsky. “Do you focus on how positive it was then, or that it’s over now?” People who see each good experience as permanently enriching are more likely to get a mood boost. But a person who mainly focuses on the contrast between past and present damns every good experience with the attitude that nothing in the future can ever live up to it.”

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200605/nostalgia-sweet-remembrance

And just like that EUREKA. I do this everyday, thus damning my present state of being. Now the advice that this article doled out was to make a “Greatest Hits” of your past list…but I think the more useful thing for me would be to make a Greatest Hits of TODAY list – since that is what I tend to take for granted the most. Perhaps I can trick my nostalgic mind or at least shorten the time period for which I long. Today’s list would look like this so far:

  1. Drank 3 cups of wonderful coffee.
  2. Rocky Raccoon by the Beatles randomly came on my iPod while driving.
  3. Graham looked particularly dashing in his new cable – knit old man/baby cardigan.
  4. I’ve managed to get off my ass and write something this morning.

…and so on. So perhaps tomorrow I will be nostalgic for today – but since it was only yesterday all of those greatest hits will be easily achievable again thus tricking myself into loving my present state.

OR – I could make the Ungreatest Hits of my past so I remember the truth about the things which I remember as so awesome. This might also be a fantastic, yet painful exercise. If I choose to write this particular list I won’t make it a list at all. I will write in the style of Marcel Proust – agonizing over every second in detail so that I will never forget the tragedy and can convert my false nostalgia into the truth about my past. Instead of an agonizing 20 pages of rolling over in bed or the taste of little French crumbly cookies, I can describe the time I went on a job interview in Coventry, Rhode Island which turned out to be a clandestine door to door salesman job. After I told my pimply faced escort I wasn’t interested and that I had been lied to, he left me in the middle of the 30 degree New England woods – no car, no phone, no cash – and I walked around crying and knocking on doors until a lovely family took pity on me and drove me back to my Geo Tracker – whose lights had been left on and whose battery was dead.

Sure – I laugh now and there are some bright spots to this story – but in reminding myself of this tarnished moment of my past I can see clearly how much better things are here in my sleepy, privileged suburban mommy life.

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mansuetude


mansuetude n. meekness; gentleness

Mary, the mother of God, has always had a special, quiet existence in my life. She is a constant, graceful reminder to me of meekness and gentleness and has marked my life from childhood to this day.

I remember going to my grandmother’s house while my mother was ill and my father working. Being an Italian immigrant, she had several religious statues around the house, including a fully dressed infant of Prague who had it’s own wardrobe. Next to the prized infant was a stark painted statue of Mary as well as Saint Theresa. I remember having to sleep in my grandmother’s bed when I stayed over. She snored so loudly and I was up for most of the night imagining that her wheezing and snorting had a rhythmic beat. During those nights I would stare at Mary and she would stare back at me until I feel asleep.

In school, we would prepare for the crowning of Mary with flowers each May. All of the names of the little girls in class would go into a hat to see who would be chosen to walk up the aisle and crown the church statue during our First Friday mass. There was even a song we would sing – “Oh Mary we crown thee with blossoms today…” that I still remember fondly. I never was chosen to crown Mary, but it was always my favorite mass. Mary was my icon of quiet strength and mansuetude as she held up her hands, looked up to heaven and stepped on the snake with such beauty and gentleness.

As I grew older, Mary took on more profound meaning in my life. During one of my sleepless nights when caring for my dying father I remember seeing a water stain on the ceiling above his bed that had a shape like the silhouette of the Virgin Mary. I hadn’t noticed it before and it comforted me to think that she was watching over my father. As he progressed through the final stages of dying, he would speak to invisible people and one of them was named Mary. He could have been seeing his mother who was named Mary and had died when he was just a child. Nevertheless, in my memories it is was Mary who watched over and protected him; who held him in her arms as he died. It was her song – Ave Maria – that was played at his funeral that I cannot hear without crying and remembering the loss of my father.

Mary is who I pray to when I am most scared and alone. When the plane is taking off or I am in fear of losing someone I love. She is the saint that I imagine quietly standing in my corner through out my life. She watches over me without pomp or circumstance, never asking for anything but my faith in return. As Mother’s Day approaches and I watch my son grow and thrive each day, I pray to become an example of gentleness and meekness in his life…the eyes he can stare into as he drifts to sleep, the arms that will hold him in times of pain and sorrow. Always silently, gently in his corner as his mother.

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hodiernal


hodiernal adj. relating to the present day

Today is a hazy 66 degrees with the sun just beginning to burn off the fog of the morning. Graham has just finished 8 ounces of formula gone down for a nap. I am roasting eggplant which will be assembled into a vegan muffelata sandwich that needs to marinate for at least 3 hours before we eat it for dinner. When Graham wakes up, he will eat something pureed and then we will head out to the mountain for a run. When I am done writing this post, I will check on the eggplant, fold some laundry and eat some soup for my own lunch. Stella is somewhere sleeping and the painters two houses down are done with their annoying sanding machine. The neighborhood is suburbanly quiet as it’s too early in the season for landscapers. This is what is going on today in my life.

In writing the above hodiernal blob, I have started to think about how vastly different my life is as compared to this day last year. I was about 4 months pregnant with Graham and we were living in Brooklyn. My feet had not begun to swell up to twice their normal size yet and I was feeling pretty good (and getting big already.) I would head into work everyday and go about my business. I met with vendors, followed up on projects and dealt with the drama that came my way that day. These days I think a lot about going back to work and lately I am starting to doubt what I should do.

It has taken me awhile to learn that what I have now is freedom. I have struggled with this new freedom over the course of Graham’s babyhood. I always used to say with pride that I have never known a day without work since I was 16. My parents instilled the mentality that if you are not employed than you are lazy. I come from a working class family and I remember my dad working 3 jobs at one point so we could survive. Being busy has always been the goal and I have always been an incredibly hard and dedicated worker. But as I write this I have come to learn something very different about myself and the world. Just because you work hard does not mean you will get ahead.

The working world boils down to about 3 different personality types : laborers, careerists and intellectuals. My parents were laborers, not careerists – and I am a laborer. Laborers are people who work hard and put in honest work, sometime even physically difficult work. Laborers are not good at playing games, gossiping and making alliances. They go to work with the intention to put in a full day of thinking and doing and solving problems. They take pride in being punctual and dependable. They are the backbone of a company but never seem to rise above the middle. They establish deep friendships, but are never seen as popular.

Careerists are politicians. Their entire goal is to climb the ladder no matter the method. Going into work for the careerist is not simply about putting in a full day and getting things done. At all times the careerist has an ongoing campaign. They are always running for the next rung on the ladder. Work and performance is secondary to a true careerist. Establishing relationships, being seen as a leader and making sure the perception people have of them matches the criteria for their next promotion. Careerists are always working on the bullet points listed in their review. They tend to be ruthless in their endeavors. Personally, I tend to think they are of below average intelligence…but I’m a laborer and thus biased.

Intellectuals are the doctors, chemists and professors of our world. They go to school for long spans of time to learn their trade and are the smartest. However, having an advanced degree does not make you an intellectual. Professional students sometimes travel in the guise of the intellectual, but do not be fooled. True intellectuals are able to use their intelligence to provide for themselves. They convert the book smarts and theories into skills that can be used for the good of others and making money. They are the unique minority that is smart enough to make money off of their brain power alone. I admire intellectuals more than anyone else.

In viewing these categories, I have come to the conclusion that I am 80% laborer and 20% careerist. I don’t consider myself incredibly smart. I just work really hard. In order to do well in the corporate world, I need to get my careerist qualities to at least 60% – at least for the line of work I have chosen. I need to smile more and complain less. I need to give more false compliments and tone down the sarcasm. I need to be someone who I am simply not.

So should I strive to have a “career” because the world tells me it’s important? Am I even capable of becoming more of a careerist? If I am successful at doing so, will I even like myself anymore?

I think I am going to focus on the hodiernal task of assembling my eggplant muffelata…

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