I cried in a dentist’s office today. The office of a dentist I had never met before, so that will forever be his first impression of me, the frazzled, rain-dampened blonde slinging an equally rain-dampened blonde toddler before suddenly breaking down in a puddle of tears.
But I should probably back up. Because, if you know me, I like to think that it would surprise you to hear that the pursuit of dental hygiene would bring me to hysterics.
My morning started much earlier and several miles away from that fateful office. It started at 6 a.m. in my bed, as most mornings do since Vivi’s determined sleep regression. While not every morning starts quite so early, it’s usually between 6:00 and 6:30, and today was no exception. So she awoke and called me, I went and got her, and we both snuggled back in bed for a few more minutes of dozing. When I went back in my room to get my phone, Joey grumbled sleepily, “Your phone is bugging out.”
It’s rare to get a text quite so early, but this one was from our intended babysitter (who I had asked to watch Vivi while I went to the dentist that morning) telling me that her son was sick, and she didn’t want to infect all of us, so she couldn’t come over.
Not a big deal — kids get sick. The only bummer was that no one else I knew was available to step in. Okay, I thought, I guess we’re all going into Manhattan. That’s fine!
We got up around 7:00, and it was already clear that Vivi was having, well, a day. She screamed for milk, tried to refuse to say “amen” after our breakfast prayer (I waited her out and finally got a begrudging one before dishing out her eggs), and took off her pants ten minutes before we had to leave for no apparent reason.
Not a big deal! Toddlers, amiright? We started to pack up to leave.
Fortunately, I glanced out the window and saw that it was raining before we left. Still not a big deal! I decided to ditch the stroller and wear Vivi on my back (actually much more convenient for city travel anyway), grabbed an umbrella, and away we went. I honestly had no idea what I was going to do with Vivi at the appointment, but I just sort of hoped I could plunk her somewhere with YouTube videos for 20 minutes.
This is what I like to refer to as “the best part of our day.” A walk to the subway. In the rain. With a baby on my back. If that gives you any idea.
We got to the station as a train was arriving, but my Metrocard was empty, so we had to refill. As I listened to the sound of the train pulling away, I soothed myself with the fact that one comes every five minutes or so. We were in no rush! I had factored in cushion time because I’m me!
We finally got on a train and rode the 30 minutes to our stop with little incident. Vivi was intrigued by her fellow passengers and only started to fuss right before our stop. Phew. Is there anything worse than a screaming baby in your train car?
That right there? That’s what we like to call a cruel irony. Remember that.
I arrived at the Empire State Building, snapped the above photo because memories!, and approached the desk and told them who I was there to see.
“Oh, they moved out of the building three years ago.”
Cue: slow blink. “What?”
“It’s okay, though, I think they just moved right across the street.”
Okay, I thought with a sigh of relief. Call off the snipers.
“Oh, I’m sorry, they actually moved [insert address that will probably mean nothing to you but suffice to say it was SEVEN BLOCKS AWAY. IN THE RAIN.].”
My appointment was at 10:00. At this point, it was 9:55.
“RaaaAAAWWRRGGG!” I said. In my head.
Out loud, I said “thanks,” hitched up my baby backpack, and hit the street.
Seven blocks (did I mention it was raining?) later, I got to the building, rode up one floor in the elevator, and stepped into the lobby. I gave them my name and Groupon number (dental insurance is expensive, yo). The receptionist looked it up. No dice. She tried again. Nope. The owner came out and tried it. Nada.
“You had an appointment here?”
I show them my texts confirming, and he asks to see my Groupon.
“Oh, this isn’t us.”
A lot more conversation followed. Honestly, I can’t even explain what happened. As far as I understand it, there are TWO dental offices of the same name (but one has “Management” or something at the end?) in the SAME office space, but one of them (the one I wanted) is only open on Thursdays. Somehow, I had called the number of the other one. I should also mention that, last month, I also thought I had an appointment with this office and they couldn’t find it the week of. I’m now pretty convinced that my original appointment was with the right company (so I guess I missed it?), and that this whole office is a vortex where time, light, and sanity go to die.
Anyway, the point is, I had no appointment. After traveling for an hour on the subway and IN THE RAIN with a now-fussy baby strapped to my back. I couldn’t even make eye contact with the guy because it wasn’t his fault BUT WASN’T IT KIND OF?!?
He sensed my displeasure.
“Listen, you came all this way, what I can do is give you a cleaning here for the cost of the Groupon. It’s actually a better deal because our cleanings are more expensive. It’s probably a blessing in disguise [Note: He actually said those words. He was probably right, but it still made me want to kick him in the shin.] because I don’t think you would have been very happy with a cleaning with the other office.”
I took a deep breath and said fine, mentally balancing my checkbook with this unexpected expense factored in.
At this point, the correct office returned my phone call (I had tried to call during the “where are you located exactly” mix-up).
“Hi, I missed a call from this number?”
“Yeah, I had an appointment, and I’m at your office, but no one is here and…”
“Oh, no, we’re closed today.”
“I. Know. But I had an appointment and…”
“No, no, you couldn’t have. Tell me exactly what happened.”
“Um, I called and made an appointment, but they said that they can give me a cleaning here so I guess-”
“Oh, good, well then I guess it’s all fine, right?”
And then I reached through the phone and strangled her. In my head. Not in my head, I hung up because if you don’t have anything nice to say….
The guy came back. “Okay, so what are we doing?”
At this point, Vivi grabbed a handful of flyers and threw them on the floor and my throat started to tighten up.
“Well,” I said, picking up the flyers and trying to shove them back into their display, “I came all this way in the rain with my baby, so I guess we’re sticking with this new plan because if I don’t get my teeth cleaned I’m going to start crying.”
And then I burst into tears.
So, yeah, not my proudest. But, to their credit, the people in the office could NOT have been nicer to me. I was handed tissues and bottles of water, and the receptionist popped up telling me about her four grandchildren and how this was her lucky day because she was going to watch Vivi for me. I was quickly ushered into a cleaning room, where a nice (and obviously prepped for the crazy woman in her chair) dentist checked my x-rays and cleaned my teeth (“We’re going to use this water pick because it’s much faster so you guys can get out of here.”). The hygienist kept sneaking me tissues and asking me if I was okay. (OBVIOUSLY NOT BUT I’M WORKING ON IT.)
By the end of the cleaning, I felt better. Calmer. I actually really like getting my teeth cleaned, so that helped. And, hey, no cavities. So that’s something.
I went out to the desk, and Vivi was happily sitting on the receptionist’s lap, watching videos and eating pretzels (they had asked before giving them to her). Basically, her best day ever.
I apologized to everyone for acting like a crazy person (“Don’t worry! It’s just the rain!”) and thanked them profusely. Heck, I booked a six-month follow-up cleaning because I felt indebted to them. Then I quickly strapped Vivi back on and ran shame-faced from the office. (Back into the rain.)
And THAT is where this story should end. But, because I live where I live, I had to get back on the train. I got to the station just as my train was leaving (again)(because of course), so we waited on the platform for the next one to arrive. We got on…and made it two stops before Vivi started pitching the world’s most epic meltdown.
For the record, my kid doesn’t really do meltdowns. She’ll yell and throw a fit sometimes, but always for a pretty easily identifiable reason and almost always with a 2- to 3-minute time limit. I take no credit for this; she’s just a mostly good kid.
This was different. Vivi screamed and thrashed like she had a scorpion in her diaper, and, honestly, it freaked me out a little.
You know who else was freaked out? Everyone else trapped in the train car with the demon baby.
I took her out of the carrier. Still screaming. I offered her a snack. Still screaming. I offered her water. Still screaming. (And hitting me.) We were THANK GOODNESS on an express train home, but it still meant 15 solid minutes of tortured screaming. More than one person got up an moved away from us in the car, but the majority were too polite and just threw me sympathetic stares. Because is there anything worse than a screaming baby in your train car?
I didn’t freak out. I wrestled her thrashing and took off her jacket, not sure if she was just overheating or something. She kicked off a shoe, so I took the other one off too. Nothing helped.
We finally, finally made it to our stop. Vivi stopped crying as soon as we stepped out of the car, but by then it was obviously of little help. There was no where to set my stuff to get her back into the carrier, so we walked the 10-minutes home (in the RAIN) with my juggling the umbrella and my now still occasionally crying baby. I probably looked like a regretful kidnapper.
We finally got home. IT WAS ONLY 11:58 A.M. I called Joey to tell him the story and promptly started sobbing, which freaked Vivi out and made her start crying too.
For everyone’s sake, I pulled myself together.
So, yeah. That’s the end of the story. I’m letting Vivi watch TV while I type this out because catharsis. And, also, I’m kind of done for today? Plus, listening to her actually singing along with the songs (so cute!) is making me love her again, so I’ll take it. Anyway, I’m exhausted, still slightly damp, and pretty sure I’m never leaving this apartment again.
But dang are my teeth clean.
I’ve been putting off writing this post — writing any post — because, honestly, I wasn’t sure how to write it. And I didn’t feel like I could just skip it or gloss over my egregious absence.
I’ve been dark for a while. I decided long ago (never to live in anyone’s shadow…wait, focus, Justine…) that I wouldn’t apologize for gaps in posting because, gosh darnit, it’s my life, and if I want to live it instead of writing about it, that’s my prerogative.
But this wasn’t me being too busy to write. This was me going dark. In a lot of ways.
In short, I’ve been depressed. In the interest of not over-inflating things, I’m okay. I know other people deal with much more extreme versions of depression. Mine is a cyclical thing that I can usually anticipate with the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder. For me, depression comes in the form of exacerbated insecurities, claustrophobic feelings of being trapped, and feeling unloveable. It typically lasts anywhere from two weeks to a month, but this time it stretched over two months time, and that messed with my head. I felt like it would never end.
So, yeah, it’s a real trip.
And when feeling like holding my head just barely above water is just about all I can do, things like blogging about home decor and recipes and funny little things about my day aren’t even in the realm of possibility.
But what am I telling you for? If you’ve ever experienced depression (and I believe most people have and do), you already know.
Again, though, I’m fine. I only share this because, well, it felt dishonest not to. But I honestly feel like I’m finally on the other side of it — we’re on our way up out of the valley; the light is clearly visible. I’ll be returning to your regularly scheduled home decor and recipes and funny things about my day now.
But I wanted to say it. I wanted to share it. Because, odds are, you are feeling that way or have felt that way or will feel that way someday too. And you’re not alone. And it’s important that we all know that.
Last week, I went to get Vivi after hearing her call me one morning and found her covered in vomit in her crib. She seemed totally unfazed (and didn’t have a fever), so I tried to stay calm, peeled off her dirty jammies, and popped her in the tub to clean her off (“A morning bath, Viv! Isn’t this fun?!”).
She smiled and babbled, but didn’t ask for breakfast or even milk (very out of character) and refused water, so I immediately suspected some kind of stomach bug. But without a fever, I couldn’t be sure. A few minutes after we got out of the bath, Vivi started gagging, and I held her over the sink while she threw up again. She handled it like a champ, but was clearly distressed and wouldn’t let me put her down even for a second.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that (fortunately) Viv was back to normal within 24 hours. Whatever bug she had passed quickly after some homeopathic treatment, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
It’s such a scary thing, a sick baby. I’m not one for panicking, but I don’t know what to do with myself when I can’t make a plan or find a solution. Vivi can’t tell me what’s wrong, so I have to guess and trust my instincts that I know this little body inside and out when trying to figure out what to do next.
It’s such a strange thing to have this tiny person you feel so connected to — that you once were connected to — but who is now separate and, in some ways, unreachable. Lord knows how I’m going to handle it when she can really, truly go off on her own.
So I learn patience. I sit by her side with a sippy cup for the moment she wakes up, taking comfort in her steady breathing and telling myself rest is the best medicine when she doesn’t feel well. And I feel so, so, so grateful that this is the first serious illness we have encountered. I’m fortunate that the reason I don’t know what to do is because she normally is such a healthy, happy girl. And, not for nothing, I’m so glad I have a job that lets me be home with her while she recovers.
We probably have dozens of flus and sick days ahead of us in Vivi’s lifetime, but this, the first real one, I’m pretty sure I’ll always remember. But here’s hoping that the next time around, she can tell me what hurts or feels yucky.
Vivi has never been a great napper.
While overnight sleeping has been fairly simple since she was about three months old, daytime sleeping is ALWAYS a struggle. And, like most parenting struggles, it probably stressed me out more than it should.
But just imagine:
Vivi would GENERALLY nap around 10:30 a.m. and then again around 3 p.m. When she was around ten months old, we started cutting back to one nap, which could happen anywhere from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. As you can probably tell, that’s a pretty big range. As a work-at-home-mom, a big nap range means it was difficult to schedule (and count on) work calls, interviews, or even just work time.
For those of you playing along at home, that added even more stress to my life.
Before I carry on with my story, I have a little anecdote for you: Some of you may remember when I was putting together Vivi’s nursery. I made a big fuss about trying to ensure that the room was as dark as possible when Vivi would be sleeping. But when I actually put everything to the test with infant Viv, the black-out shades were not…well, blacking out. Anything.
And you know what I did? I let it go. Yup, me. Of Grand Sux Cafe fame. I shrugged it off and let go and let God.
So time went on. And, as you know, Vivi continued to nap terribly.
AND I NEVER MADE THE CONNECTION BECAUSE I’M A MORON.
Which brings us to a few weeks ago when Viv and I spent a week at my parents’ house. Their guest bedrooms are all in the basement, giving them all a cave-like darkness incredibly conducive to sleeping in. Which I realized when Vivi slept about 14 hours straight her first night there. And again when all of her naps were over an hour and a half.
Perhaps this whole “darkness” thing was really onto something.
When I got home, I immediately went out and purchased an actual black-out curtain. And you know what happened?
Suddenly, my 12-hours-every-night-without-fail started sleeping an additional half-hour-to45-minutes every night. And napping? A few days ago, she slept THREE HOURS. That turned out to be a (magical) fluke, but she hasn’t napped for less than half an hour since updating the curtain.
Basically what I’m saying is that I’m never going to let anything go ever again. (Kidding.)(Kind of.)
As a parent, I’m sure there are going to be a lot of those “if I knew then what I know now” moments. But right now, insist on the black-out curtains is topping my list.
I hate when I start to notice something about myself that I don’t like.
I’m not talking about physically, like unwanted weight gain or a flurry of skin issues. I’m talking about my character.
I like to think that I’m pretty judicious in assessing my own flaws. I can keep things in perspective, sure, but I am self-aware enough to always know every last thing that’s wrong with me. (It’s like the world’s worst party trick!)
Lately, I can’t help but feel like I have the shortest patience of anyone on the planet.
To be fair, this flaw has had a slow build. I blame much of it on living in New York. But I really, really hate when I feel my flaws affecting the way I parent Vivi.
In the last few months, there have been a couple of times that I’ve caught myself totally snapping at her because she is doing something naughty. I do want to discipline her in a way that’s meaningful to her, but in these cases, I was just airing my frustration. To be fair, I’m usually tired or stressed or in the middle of too many things at once, but, honestly, those just don’t sound like good excuses to me. Like most parents, I don’t want to be someone who just yells all the time. I feel like it will just become white noise to the kid anyway.
When I do yell, I want it to strike fear into her tiny heart. #MomGoals
But, again, I don’t want that to be my go-to. I want to take a second first to breathe, collect myself, and parent in a positive way.
I’m probably being a bit naive. I know there is no way I’m going to never lose my patience, snap, yell, etc. Stressful NYC life or not, I’m still human.
But I’m still trying. In the last week, I can’t think of any time I really yelled, and I feel good about that.
Sometimes I forget that I’ve done this mom thing for such a short amount of time. When every moment with your child feels so precious and fleeting, it’s hard not to put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. I’m glad that I can be aware of my failings, not as a way to constantly beat myself up (I really don’t, I promise) but so I can be attune to ways to improve always.
Thank goodness Vivi is so much more patient with me than I am with myself.
It’s a funny thing, this “living your life online.” This blogging about lifestyle (also know as life). This building an “Instagram brand.” This being a brand.
My mother never had to worry about this. I think about that whenever I have a chance to look through my baby book. These 50-odd photos of baby me. Sadly and blissfully all I have to know about what I looked like, what we did. It makes me both grateful for and disgusted by the literal thousands of photos and videos I have of the first year of Vivi’s life. At least 300 are perpetually available with a swipe of my phone.
I don’t talk a lot about how much what I do tires me. How much the internet and technology and the gratuitous, frivolity of it. One because I’m exhausted by over-earnest blogging. Funny, right? Because I also love it.
I love the catharsis of pouring out your heart, the lift in sadness and despair that comes from finding a tribe of people who do so much more than just “like” your honesty; they hold up mirror images of your pain and say, “I thought I was the only one.”
I also have a hard time whining because I recognize the privilege of complaining about the superficiality of what I do. Poor me, working from home on a flexible schedule so I am also able spend hours cuddling my sweet baby girl and dedicating so much time a week to my volunteer work. The internet, in all its obnoxious glory, lets me do that.
I struggle with the self-promotion. I think it’s a difficult thing for Christian, Midwestern, female people to do. It goes against the traits those types are usually bred to project.
So I try to soften the blow with self-deprecation, humor, and, often, bluster. But I’m still uncomfortable sometimes. Because I’m still acutely aware of every person in my life who hates me for being a blogger. Who hates me for every smiling Instagram photo, every snapshot of something pretty or Pinterest-worthy (which means…what, exactly? Didn’t we just call it “pretty” a handful of years ago?). Of every person who openly refuses to follow me or, even worse, follows but never likes, or, even worse, does none of the above but still looks at my public posts or watches every single Instagram story I post. Those people make me really sad, honestly. And my awareness of the people I do know about continually pokes a finger in another gaping insecurity: How many more are there out there that I don’t even know?
The internet is a big place, and hate is usually only a keystroke away.
This post has been buzzing around in my brain for a while, but it took me a while to find words that sounded right without sounding like I was complaining. I don’t know why I feel like I need to tell you that I’m in on it — I know the promoted posts, the self-promotion is annoying sometimes. I need you to know that I try to make them not that way.
And then I roll my eyes at myself because why do I care so much? I truly believe that, in life, you either attract or repel people. And I would rather repel someone by being who I really am than attract them by pretending to be something I’m not.
Often, I fantasize about stopping it all. You know that. I can’t really, though, because it is my job. It is my golden ticket to stay-at-home/work-at-home mom life, to full-time volunteer service. But I do sometimes imagine a life where I could do those things without doing these things. Because as much as I actually love blogging and DIY and style and cooking, the hate wears me down.
You, person who looks at my stuff and never likes, who mocks and says nasty things and seethes even though I’m not hurting you (or even thinking about you, often times). You wear me down.
But if I pretend to be the person you would be happy to see me be — self-loathing, bitter, failure — I would be attracting the wrong person with the wrong things.
Because there’s so. Much. Pressure. Guys. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to be imperfect. Pressure to be perfectly imperfect. To be raw, to be polished. To be funny, to be sincere. And to be all those things all the time. It helps to remind myself that probably all business owners feel this way. And, in so many ways, this is my business. Entrepreneurism is not for the thin-skinned, the faint of heart.
I started this blog because I wanted to be a writer, and I still cringe a bit at the word blogger. (I mean, could we have picked a word that didn’t sound like loose mix of swampland and mucous?) Today, I am a professional writer, so maybe I’m not doing everything wrong.
But I’m also a blogger, for better or worse.
And bloggers will always bother someone. Honestly, I spend a lot of my life trying not to bother anyone. I speak quieter to Vivi when we’re being silly in public, trying not to be THAT mom that needs everyone to see how great she’s doing. I’m hyper-aware of people on the sidewalk, dodging and hugging the wall to keep from jostling anyone, trying not to be THAT person who is so self-centered. My emails read like a textbook of “woman in meeting” speak, trying not to be THAT in-your-face jerk. Maybe it’s more honest to say that I spend a lot of my life trying not to be a cliché.
The thing is, I really don’t want to bother anyone. So, if this blog bothers you, if my internet presence bothers you, I implore you: Ignore me. Stop following, stop looking.
But if you like looking at my stuff, I welcome you with open arms, fist bumps, and a round of celebratory drinks.
Do other people feel like hate is this visceral, tactile thing? Sometimes I look at a person and feel it radiating off of them like steam. It oozes from nasty comments, sparks out of sharp-tongues. I’m immediately put off when I feel it; I retreat like a spooked animal, a knot in my gut and a rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins. Danger, these people seem to whisper.
Do you know what I think about every time I post anything? Those three people who I know don’t like me. I’m not exaggerating when I say “every time.” They are my last thought before hitting “publish” or “share.” The anxiety those three people give me is embarrassing for me to admit. It would be so nice to not have to deal with that anxiety.
I know what you’re thinking (especially if you’re one of those three people): So, why don’t you just quit then?
I totally get why you think that. Because I want to quit. Often. But I can’t because of Vivi. I can’t teach her that we go as far in life as the people who hate us the most want us to go.
Instead, I want her to be brave. I want her to be kind. I want her to be the antidote to all that nastiness. And the only way I’m going to get her there is by trying to be those things myself.
So I’m going to try to focus on the people I actually like anyway. The people who love and support and get it and get me. Who like what I do, who like reading about the things I like talking about. And, you know what? I think that can be enough.
Whew! That was a lot of feelings. And, honestly, I don’t know if I’m making anything better by calling them out. I don’t even know if this all makes total sense — I wrote it over a series of emails to myself in the car. But I think I feel a little better. The aforementioned catharsis and all of that. The point is, if you feel this way too, you are not alone. And I think we can both be a little bit more of that kindness we want to see. To those of you who do and always have supported me and shown me so much love, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart. You are the greatest.