Friday, September 23, 2016

So Glad They Told Me -- My essay's in it!

I'm really excited to have a piece included in a new collection of essays published by the HerStories Project Press. It's called "So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real about Motherhood."

The book, which you can order here, contains 60 essays by writers who are also mothers and who have all written about a very useful piece of advice another mother shared -- often at a moment of crisis. At a moment where motherhood seemed overwhelming or, in my case, where impending motherhood was such an unknowable landscape that I was tempted to make all kinds of decisions I would have later regretted.

In my case the "they" is my sister, Trish, who wisely counseled that I may not want to make any decisions about working while raising my son until my son actually arrived. I think she must have intuited something I learned later: I like working. The work that I do is so intrinsically part of my personality and contributes so decisively to my well-being that it's not a negotiable. It's a necessity.

My thanks to the editors of the HerStories Project Press for publishing my essay. Here's a quick excerpt:

I was humbled and amazed by the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. I was also overwhelmed by the demands of being a first-time mom.

My maternity leave days, in the full heat of an Atlanta summer, were often just a series of failed, desperate attempts to coax a nap out of my infant son, Leo. I’d embark on long walks in the stroller in the hopes of inducing sleep. Or I’d walk him around his room for what felt like forever.

I even consulted a sleep specialist. I knew establishing solid sleep routines would be key for his development. But I also needed time alone to think, to be me, to use my brain in different ways. I quickly found most days I longed for any kind of a break. When my partner came home from work some nights, I would go swim laps in our neighborhood pool, and then drive around the park, practically in a trance, as I blasted a Bruce Springsteen song about desperate love.

In other words, I was beginning to realize I could bear being away from my child.

When I returned to my job months later, I remembered I liked work, and I liked interviewing people, and considering proposal ideas, and synthesizing large amounts of information into digestible stories for my audience. I liked having a specialty. I liked living in the world of ideas.

In short, after three months of doing no work, of barely looking at my work email, and avoiding news updates about anything I might have covered, I realized I’m not someone who could stay at home. I’m not someone who can be fulfilled without working for pay. And a big part of being me consists of writing, ruminating, and reflecting—on something other than diaper rash.

It was as if my personality was suddenly, instantly crystallized—for me. One of those moments where all you can do is slap yourself on the forehead, and go, “Duh.”

Friday, September 16, 2016

Leo flipping through an Italian dictionary

A moment that had to be captured! Leo looking at an Italian dictionary I had left out in our kitchen
to help me with a translation I am working on.

(Next time maybe I'll let him flip through my Ragazzini-Zanichelli dictionary -- the special one).

He doesn't need to learn Italian or love foreign languages the way I do but I hope he loves words. Or I should say, I hope he'll always love words. Because he definitely loves them now.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tonight in Atlanta! "MIA MADRE" - A film by Nanni Moretti

I don't go to the movies often -- I certainly don't go see Italian films often -- peccato! But tonight I'm going to see Nanni Moretti's latest film -- grande! The babysitter is booked and stasera, ladies and gentlemen, si va al cinema.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pianos for Peace -- Atlanta edition

Pianos for Peace -- I don't know who you are, I don't know where you're based and I don't need to know. I only know Leo and I were wandering around Piedmont Park one warm summer afternoon recently and we stumbled upon this lovely red piano. We had no agenda that day and were looking for an adventure. For 15 minutes or so, Little Red Piano, you provided it.

Because not only did we sit down and try to play ourselves, we managed to entice others to try their hand at tinkling the ivories, as they say. People were intrigued, like us (can we really just sit down and play this piano? Um, yep, it would appear to be the case!). And taking chance, I prevailed upon a few good sports to see if they could remember their childhood piano lessons.

The man in the picture remembered something -- I think if he'd had more time, he would have remembered all kinds of songs. He was a bit shy, perhaps the way we all are when we remember a past love or a past hobby or some activity we gave up, which now seems lost to time, seemingly with no way to ever recover it.

I think there IS a way to recover it, in this case. Perhaps Pianos for Peace can help. I've since seen another piano that is part of the initiative, stationed under the Freedom Parkway overpass on the Beltline.

Hey Atlanta, if you're not already bothering fellow citizens with your recollection of "Chopsticks," get to it. This one is near the pool in Piedmont Park!

P.S. -- According to the link, the pianos will be around Atlanta until Sept. 18.

Reading poetry on the porch

Diary entry for Aug 7, 2016
Forgotten moments of pure joy: We arrive home one afternoon, Leo and I, to find a plastic bag twisted around the handle of the front door. 

It’s a slew of Poetry magazine issues from our 84-year-old neighbor, Art, the former chemist. Something Leo has become accustomed to seeing (Old issues of The New Yorker make up my part of the exchange with Art). 

So many issues (bound, as they are, like little books) that it appears to be a bounty we must explore immediately. And perhaps one member of the team is particularly snoozy and so we sit on the porch, he and I doubled up in one chair, reading poems from Poetry magazine, as we wait for Daddy to come home from work. 

And he sits so happily, so quietly, absorbing words of modern poetry, while I sit so happily, absorbing a scene of uncommon purity and joy, in my favorite spot in the house, feeling the press of his warm skin against mine, hearing the string of verse spooling out of my mouth and into his ears, and please God, into his conscience, into the part of his brain that forms his being.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

It feels a bit like grief (poem - “Summer’s Wake”)

It feels a bit like grief
The first warnings of fall
The sudden chill in the morning air when until yesterday,
There was nothing but heavy, humid, hot air mugging my every breath

I open the door to the front porch and something like a breeze comes toward me
I may even need a sweater, I think distractedly
The crickets are humming
Where have they been?
Hiding until this moment, this moment where the world signals
It will soon be coming to an end
(A fact forgotten while the days were frittered away)
Something else will begin, something equally wonderful
But what of it?
What we have, what we’ve failed to properly exploit
Is dissolving, vanishing, slipping away

What we’ve failed to properly exploit
That’s the source of the nagging feeling as
I follow the breeze's path across the porch, and across my body
The easy way I settle into the wicker chair
With the front door flung open, then left open
And the sudden desire to live my whole life on the porch
(My refuge, but one that goes on an uncanny hiatus during the summer months)
It’s a thought unfathomable just a few short days ago
It’s been so long
So long since that heavy, humid, hot air’s been molesting me

Not that I truly minded
I’ve learned to love the heat, the few moments ventured each day out of our precious AC
Like some last vital untamed element, savage and unapologetic
I’ve come to consider the heat summer’s blanket, 
Its birth mark
Its guarantee that every submersion in water will be a divine communion
A sign, perhaps, that I’ve assimilated
Into that other country, the South
Atlanta, my adult home

But that’s no consolation now that the chill is there every morning when I open the front door
To search for morning glories and the morning paper
Also of no help: Full knowledge of fall's thrilling rhythms
Not yet anyway
Childhood’s delineation of summer as fun and fall as funeral
Has me weeping silently into the breeze