All is Well

We’ve been trying to conceive Baby Two since February.

I’ve been trying to get to a yoga class at Lemon Tree since I moved in to my Advokate office here at the Shirt Factory since August.

One of those things finally happened today. Spoiler: I’m not pregnant.

I wrestled myself away from the guilt that goes along with leaving Henry and Cory on one of Cory’s rare days off. It’s a work day, though, and it had to happen. And so I wrenched myself away from Henry playing with sand in the living room and went, with my workout clothes on. I bought them in January when I joined the YMCA for a hot minute.

Source: http://sauco.deviantart.com/art/The-Childlike-Empress-50409372

Settling in, the instructor gently asked us all to allow ourselves to be there. To let go of the things on our to-do list. I sprung a couple of tears.

I thought about how crazy it is that I don’t allow myself to breathe or stretch or spend a moment on myself unless I pay for a class and have someone to lead me in it.

Some of it was hard, but mostly it felt good to move my body and stretch and breathe and relax.

During the brief meditation at the end, I stretched out and put an eye pillow on, breathing in. We went through relaxing our entire bodies and withdrawing our senses. I found myself swirling up into a cold winter night sky, up into the stars.

There was one that seemed like it was something I should follow. I asked it why it wouldn’t come to me.

A voice, like the Childlike Empress from the Neverending Story, said I wasn’t ready yet. I pushed, what do you mean I’m not ready? It said Advokate needs me now. I need to get it more settled so I can focus on my new baby when the time is right. That’s true. I hadn’t thought of it that way, though.

I said, but I can’t wait to meet you. The star said All is Well. I said, Henry needs you. The star said All is Well. Rainbow colors swirled through the galaxy and the star got further away. I said, when will I know it’s time? We’re all only getting older. All is Well. All is Well. All is Well.

And here I am at work. Now’s the time to focus here, so when it’s time for Baby Two to come to me, it’ll be set up right.

All is Well.

What Earth Angel and Maleficent have to do with one another

As kids, my little sister and I liked to dance to oldies tunes and Disney songs. We’d put on shows for my parents and give them tickets to our performances. I sometimes danced around by myself.

More so in the dancing-by-myself moments, I’d grab a pillow from the couch and slow dance with it, imagining dancing with a real live boy.

Maybe a real live boy who loved me, and would put his arms around me. And who might say he loved me. While we danced to “Earth Angel.” This likely was because I was a young girl, and perhaps had a little something to do with watching Back to the Future a zillion million times.

The "Earth Angel" scene from Back To The Future
The “Earth Angel” scene from Back To The Future

So what does this have to do with the Angelina Jolie version of Maleficent? Well, I’ll tell you.

If you’ve seen it, or if you’ve read any of the reviews, you know that the classic Disney villain starts out as a lovely fairy until a horrible scene where she’s drugged and her wings are cut from her. She awakens and has an awful scream when she realizes what has happened. I was prepared for that moment in the movie, probably too much so, actually thinking maybe I needed to look away — and in over-psyching myself up for it, that moment didn’t hit me as hard as it could have.

But it did hit me.

What struck me most was the power, grace, exhilaration and freedom she was capable of with those wings, and how defeated, crumpled and unremarkable she seemed without them.

I’ve seen reviews equating it to rape. Clearly there’s that implication; she was drugged by a lover, somebody she trusted; and she awakens to a new reality — one where he has taken something from her and she is changed forever. I wonder if the writers of Maleficent have ever read Andrea Gibson’s poem Blue Blanket.

She’s heard stories of Vietnam vets
Who can still feel this tingling of their amputated limbs
She’s wondering how many women
Are walking around this world
Feeling the tingling of their amputated wings
Remembering what it was to fly, to sing

I also felt like the experience of losing your wings could be paralleled to crippling depression. Some days you wake up and you go to wing around and do all the things you think you can do and then realize you can’t. You’re on the ground. It’s going to take so much longer than it’s supposed to. Why even. I hate everything.

Maleficent realizes her wings are gone
Maleficent realizes her wings are gone

The movie hit chords of all kinds. I’ve been with someone the morning they wake up and have that moment of their wings being gone. I’ve gone to the hospital with them and seen them on the ground walking, seen the wall of thorns go up.

I’ve had my hair cut off; lost my wings slowly over time to somebody I thought I trusted. Not to get all the way into it, but I’m fortunate to never have had an overnight awakening where the wings were gone. Instead, they were ripped off, little by little. I thought maybe I lost them myself, even. I did something to ruin them. I didn’t deserve them. Wasn’t capable of having them.

The wings do come back, though. For that person. For me.

I’m really glad the movie ended the way it did. They do come back. Phoenixes rise from ashes. Wings find their way back home when you need them the most.

I fell for you
And I knew
The vision of your loveliness.
I hope and pray
That someday
That I’ll be the vision of your happiness.

Still with me? Here’s where it comes back to Earth Angel. After the film, there’s a Lana Del Rey version of “Once Upon A Dream” that plays while the credits roll. Cory and I got off the couch and slow danced. The way we did to “Always” the first time we heard it.

I was transported back to slow dancing with a throw pillow. In addition to Earth Angel, Once Upon A Dream was also one of me and the pillow’s favorite dance numbers (My and the pillow? The pillow and I?).

Kate Austin-Avon
“Fae” by Kate Austin-Avon. Click to read my piece “On Soaring.”

11-year-old Kate zoomed forward through space and time, through painful loss of wings, long years on the ground and re-discovering flight, to being in a living room of her own with a real live boy (a husband!) with arms around her and a warm neck to kiss.  Much better than any upholstery. With our sweet boy asleep upstairs. I’m loved and I have my wings.

Happily ever after does exist.

(Hang in there.)

Snapshot of the day

6:00 a.m.
Woke up and had coffee in bed thanks to my wonderful husband. Henry was the perfect boy and read books in his crib while I showered and got ready in my businesslady outfit and darker lipstick than made sense in daylight. Then I brought him to his grandparents BobbyDeeDee in his jammies for breakfast. They were kind enough to get him ready and drop him off at daycare for the day.

6:45 a.m.
Leave in plenty of time to get to my speaking engagement and set up.

7:00 a.m.
Realize I actually have no idea where the thing is and GPS it. I was at the wrong exit.

Photo credit Pam Fisher of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce
Photo credit Pam Fisher of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce

7:05 a.m.
Arrive and set up, despite some technical glitches.

7:30 a.m.
Awkwardly “network” by clinging to the people I know at the networking event preceding my presentation on branding. Eat dry toast and fruit because I don’t want to be a vegan pain in the a.

8:05 a.m.
Branding presentation. I think it went well. People had nice things to say and I had some good conversations. Pam Fisher from the Chamber is awesome. I have nice friends (Janet Nolin and Shari Olson, while I’m naming names.)

9:30 a.m.
Arrive at the Advokate office. Check email, talk up Matt Funiciello for Congress on Facebook, futz around tidying up.

10:00 a.m.
Artists drop off their work for the shop. Check email and get a few work things done. Appointment with Amity Farm Batik in which we work together creating graphics from her batik to make into scarves.

2:00 p.m.

The Advokate Boutique, now open Tuesday to Friday, 12-5 p.m.
The Advokate Boutique, now open Tuesday to Friday, 12-5 p.m.

Realize I can’t stand it any more and rearrange the shop. Hang shelves, arrange things in baskets, dust, arrange things in different baskets. Put jewelry here. Put jewelry there.

3:30 p.m.
More work. Fast, now. Time’s running out. Work on the Vegan Outdoor Adventures business card and website, and Glens Falls Arts’ November Arts Bulletin, and answer emails.

5:05 p.m.
Pick Henry up. He runs to me with a big smile on his face. It’s the best part of my day, seeing him do his thing in the daycare environment and then have that bright flash of recognition spread over his face like sunshine. I love when he runs to me.

5:15 p.m.
Vote. I teach Henry in the car to say “Vote Green! Vote Matt!” He says it to folks on our way out. While we’re there I bump into Patree, who I used to work with at The Chronicle. She says she just proofed my next article about trying to get pregnant and I ask her what she thinks. She says it will be interesting to people who have had similar experiences, which is my hope.

5:30 p.m.
Henry and I, side by side, make vegan chili and cornbread. He takes a break to poop on the big potty and (after washing his hands) he adds spices, stirs, throws the veggies into measuring cups, pours in all the cornbread ingredients and pours. He helps me do the dishes, too (by pouring water from measuring cup to measuring cup). I put beans in the fridge to soak overnight.

6:30 p.m.

A toast to Matt Funiciello!
A toast to Matt Funiciello!

He decides he is done with dishes and ready to eat dinner and goes and sits in his own chair. I remember that we have Skirts practice tonight and text that I’ll be late. Henry and I raise a Pane Bello toast (because the cornbread is not finished cooking yet) to Matt Funiciello. The chili is really good.

7:10 p.m.
Cory arrives home after voting and we kiss and Henry decides he wants to come to Skirts so we hop in the car and drive. I warm up by singing on the way. Henry just looks at the moon. It glowed tonight.

7:20 p.m.
Chatting in Laura Lightfoote’s kitchen with her and Stefanie O’Brien and Janelle Hammond. I have a Sierra Nevada.

7:30 p.m.
We move downstairs to practice. We’re working on Holding Out For A Hero, which I try not to get too excited about. I’m really excited about it. Henry plays with Laura’s son Mason, who is the same age. They’re adorable. Henry’s a good boy. Henry dumps his snacks in their play kitchen’s sink. It’s funny because Bobby DeeDee started that — they used to keep his snacks in his play kitchen’s sink, and we then followed their habit.

8:30 p.m.
Henry looks at the moon on the way home. We talk about it. I tell him the moon loves him.

8:50 p.m. 
We skip bath tonight because it’s so late and go straight to books and bub. I read Henry a book of poems from the library and he falls asleep on my lap. I can tell it’s coming and intentionally quiet my voice and make the poems into a quiet chant to lull him to sleep. He goes heavy in my arms. I ask if he wants me to finish reading and he says yes through his sleep so I do. It’s precious.

9:00 p.m.
I decide to write my day down while Cory reads The Chronicle and listens to NCPR about the results for the NY-21 Congressional Race. We sit on the couch together.

The Switch Witch saves Halloween!

The Switch Witch tote bag, just in time for trick-or-treating!

Last year, Halloween was easy. We took baby Henry trick-or-treating on our street in upstate New York, and my husband and I ate all the candy! Henry was only one year old, and we gave him a little dark chocolate and he was happy.

Now we’re vegan, and Henry is two. We avoid high fructose corn syrup and prefer all-natural, organic ingredients. How do we navigate the trick-or-treating side of Halloween? We don’t want to suck the fun out of EVERYTHING just because we’re trying to live healthy and cruelty-free.

I’m happy that I stumbled across this Mama Natural video about the Switch Witch.

The Switch Witch is a friendly witch who just LOVES candy. Candy is her favorite. And she loves it so much that she’ll trade you some awesome toys for it! On Halloween night, if you leave a big pile of candy for the Switch Witch, she’ll switch it for a present. Win-win!

(And then you can bring that candy to work and let someone else feel guilty about eating it all!)

I thought this was so clever that I decided to illustrate my own version of the Switch Witch.

Click here to buy a cute trick-or-treating tote bag with the Switch Witch on it!

Perfect boy

imageHenry’s so good. It doesn’t make for funny stories so I don’t often write about how good he is in my Family Time column, but he’s really just so good.

Today after dinner as I was putzing in the kitchen, I heard him playing the slide whistle and beating on a drum. I peeked in on him and he was so cute, just sitting there with all of his musical instruments out. Then I heard silence, followed by light grunting. When I went in to see what he was doing, he had picked up all his toys and was lifting the bin to put it back on the shelf where it belongs.

Two years old and the kid has the put-it-away-when-you’re-done skills that most adults don’t have. I didn’t say anything, not wanting to interrupt a moment spouting unnecessary praise when he was doing just fine doing the right thing for his own personal reasons. I was beaming with pride, though.

The next time I checked on him, he was just sitting in a chair. Just sitting there. I guess that could be a little weird, but my guess would be that he was seeing what it was like to sit in that chair and whether he could get into it himself.

He pushes the limits like a two-year-old should, sure, and we tire of talking like his favorite puppet Charlie or playing hide-and-seek for the millionth time. And we certainly have our moments where he goes jellybones, everything’s covered in poop and peanut butter, the sink is running, dinner’s burning on the stove, he’s screaming and we snap.

But lately he says “Thank you, Mommy” when I hand him something. We had a family portrait session with PJN Photography today and they had me throwing leaves up into the air with him. When I’d hand him some leaves to throw, he’d say, “Thank you, Mommy.” My heart just melts. After dinner I gave him a carrot with some hummus I made and he said, “Thank you, Mommy.” We read three stories every night and I read him an extra book tonight. He said “Thank you, Mommy.” Swoon.

The kid is just so perfect. I guess I should have figured. He’s the offspring of Mr. Perfect himself.

Making dinner
Making dinner

No thank you

unnamedI envy the calm, lilting tone I hear some mothers use. “No thank you!” they recite, gently guiding their child away from climbing the radiator around the perimeter of the children’s room at the library that all kids gravitate toward.

“We’ll get them at the patch this weekend,” they sweetly croon in the Hannaford aisles to their four kids waving their arms threateningly around the pumpkin display.

How are these parents managing to not freak out?

I could blame my Italian blood, my husband’s weekend 12-hour overnight shifts, low blood sugar or my work-frayed nerves, but I have no such patience.

My two-year old son Henry is a sweet cherub 90% of the time, but in the difficult moments, I manage to channel all the gentleness and tranquility of a cat whose tail has been stepped on.

I guess the short fuse is part of being Type A. I’m an overachiever when it comes to behind-the-scenes parenting. I research which sunblock is free of nanoparticles, expertly manage a calendar to ensure proper Henry-care coverage, and buy organic, vegan, nutrient-rich local foods to lovingly prepare.

But when it comes to face-time parenting, I’m graceless.

One Saturday morning, we had a screaming match over shoes. It ended with a sneaker-clad child only due to strategic convincing by Charlie, Henry’s best friend who happens to be a creepy kid-sized puppet. Henry loves Charlie, and thankfully listens to his suggestions.

We went to the library and Henry jumped right in to play on the radiator. I sighed and looked in the other direction, which happened to be toward the shelves.

A book called “ScreamFree Parenting” leapt out at me. It’s by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT. I didn’t know whether it was less screaming from the kid, or less screaming from me, but either way it sounded good.

Henry and the radiator hadn’t hurt one another yet, so I let them play together while I read the first few pages and found myself quickly engrossed.

The main thing the “ScreamFree” method touts is that you can’t control your child (or any other human being), but you CAN control yourself. It says that our society has become too child-centric: Of course we are at our wits’ end catering to our children’s every whim. We’re exhausted and snap easy because of it.

As they say, you put on your own oxygen mask first. You can’t take care of your child if you’re not taking care of yourself. “Grow yourself up and calm yourself down,” it says. I know this will take a lot of practice, but it seems like a solid plan.

I looked up from the book. Henry was okay. His friend Maxwell came in with his parents and they played for a bit. We stayed a while longer and eventually I had to tear Henry away from the toy room.

When he protested, I took a deep breath and said, in a calm, lilting voice, “No thank you.”

Just kidding. I didn’t. But neither of us screamed, at least.

This Family Time column originally ran in the Glens Falls Chronicle on October 9, 2014.
Click here to read “On living the scream-free life” as it ran in The Chronicle.

Talkin' bout my generation

Henry apple picking at Hick'sBorn in 1982, I’m on the cusp between Generation X and the Milliennials, which TIME Magazine recently called the “Me Me Me” generation of lazy, entitled narcissists.

Raised by hippies, I did grow up in the era of Mr. Rogers, talking about my feelings. I knew I was special by just my being me.

The theory of it was solid, but I walked all over my parents. We had frequent power struggles. My mom has told me that she didn’t know how to create respect without also creating fear as a by-product.

Ultimately, by my own conceited set of standards, I turned out awesome, though. They did a good job.

But I’m not sure I want to go through the same hell my poor folks did, or let my son Henry suffer the harsh reality of realizing he may not a beautiful and unique snowflake (even though I think he is).

According to millenialmarketing.com, I’m like others in my generation in that I want my kid to respect the environment, eat healthy, be socially compassionate, and to identify and constructively express his feelings.

But, likely due to the “grass is always greener” effect, I have romantic feelings about authoritative 1950s-era child-rearing. Where respectful, polite children know their parents’ decisions aren’t up for debate. You know, the well-behaved “seen and not heard” kids of black-and-white TV.

I want him to do his chores, wait his turn, save his money, work hard and turn his homework in on time. To say please and thank you. To feel gratitude and not entitlement.

I like to think there’s a balance to be found. Rather than subscribing to the package deal, I want* to combine the firmness of the authoritarian regime with the empathy of attachment parenting.

In reality, though, choosing between taking care of him, versus taking care of myself so I CAN take care of him is an ongoing internal mud-splattered, blistered tug-of-war for me.

I hope that, in time, experience will help me make these decisions.

Decisions like… Is he actually thirsty, or is this some kind of bedtime procrastination trick? Should I see if he’ll fall back asleep if I don’t run right in there to comfort him when he cries? Should we abandon our meal because he refuses to use the restaurant’s restroom, or does being this hangry** mean it’s worth hoping he can hold out while we scarf our fries?

Right now, I don’t know the answers. I’m trying to navigate it as best I can so that we’re both happy and healthy.
I do know that I want him to be bold, independent and confident; to think for himself and question authority…

Just not mine!

* A self-referential footnote: Lots of “I want” in this column, right? Let’s call it dramatic irony.
** Hangry: So urgently hungry you’re angry.

This Family Time column originally ran in the Glens Falls Chronicle on September 25, 2014.
Click here to download “Talking ’bout my generation” as it ran in The Chronicle.