Diary of one day

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

5 a.m. ~ The sound of chimes, my iPhone alarm, breaks my dream. My eyes dart open. The bedroom is bathed in darkness. My dog is snuggled up against my husband, who’s snoring blissfully on the other side of the bed. I wrestle myself out of bed; the cool air shocks my body awake. I’d much rather retreat to warmth of my covers, the delight of my dream. Instead I rise. Time to start my day. First, a shower.

5:30 a.m. ~ A few mornings a week, I set aside time to tackle freelance projects and write for myself. My wet hair is drying and I’m dressed for the day, so I flip open my laptop and get to work. I prepare an invoice for a story I wrote for The Everymom and answer a couple emails. I scroll my Instagram feed a bit. OK, enough. I set down my phone and switch back to the laptop.

Finally I start to write. I’m workshopping an essay about my tendency to hover parent and my son’s tendency to stick close to me. I type: He is always in my orbit — I’m the earth, he is my sun. I pause and think. Maybe it’s the other way around? I go on: I’m barely done with my meal and my son is already tugging my hand toward his playroom. He wants to sit in my lap and play with his blue playdoh, make snakes and snowmen and pretzels with it. He wants me to be in his orbit, and honestly, I do too. So why do I feel so ashamed of this?

I keep writing, thinking, writing, grasping for the story.

7:08 a.m. ~ “Mom-my, Mom-my, Mom-my, Mom-my!” My son’s squeals derail my train of thought. I haven’t finished the essay but I’ve made decent progress. I stand, satisfied, and head to his room to start our day. (I don’t always feel satisfied. Some days I feel annoyed, reluctant to leave my work. Sometimes I skip my morning writing altogether in favor of sleep.)

I open the door to Jack’s room. He stands at the end of his crib, ready for breakfast. “Good morning, my love,” I say, striding toward the window. I open the blackout curtains and light spills into the small space. “Mommy, I hungry!” Jack shouts. Before we head to the kitchen I heft Jack up on the changing table, which faces the window, and give him a fresh diaper. He whines and rubs his eyes as they adjusts to the morning light. I change his diaper easily, thinking soon I’ll be doing this less and less, once we start potty training. Now we’re ready for breakfast. My husband is stirring across the hall, but I see Gus, our dog, nestle deeper under the covers, unready to face the day.

Breakfast of champions.

7:45 a.m. ~ After munching on Eggo waffles and fruit and washing it down with milk (his) and coffee with cream (mine), then getting Jack dressed, it’s time to pile on our winter gear and head to Jack’s Montessori school. This, along with getting dressed, is one of the most difficult parts of the day. It’s hard convincing our strong-willed toddler to get ready when he’s too busy exploring the world around him. Today he’s decided to scatter his sock collection around his playroom like confetti. Never a dull moment here.

8:10 a.m. ~ We are finally out the door and en route to Jack’s school, after kissing my husband farewell. Kissing goodbye and hello is a ritual in our family — we try to do it no matter what, even we’re fighting or having a not-so-good day. It’s those times especially when I think we need the physical affection, a little reminder to be softer with each other and ourselves. I turn on NPR and drive cautiously; the roads are icy today.

8:20 a.m. ~ This morning while dropping Jack at school, I meet his new teacher. Now that Jack’s two and talking lots, he’s transitioning from the toddler to the twos classroom. Jack stands waiting at the door to go in his classroom. “Hug and kiss?” I ask. He nods and I wrap my arms around his little frame and kiss his cheek. “I love you!” I shout after him as he bounds toward his peers.

8:57 a.m. ~ I’m logging into my computer now, prepping a file for my one-to-one meeting with my supervisor. I only have a few things on my list for her so it should be a relatively quick conversation. That’s good because my editing list is quite long — it’s deadline day for our magazine’s features and I have several stories to file and another meeting to attend.

Werk, werk, werk, werk, werk, werk, werk.

9:20 a.m. ~ I hunker down in my cube and pull up my first story to edit. I’m refining a second draft of a story about medical justice. The copy’s fairly clean, just need to tighten up a few more turns of phrase here and there. Editing requires one to cut and rearrange words to make a story more clear while maintaining a writer’s voice. It’s a fun job, one that consistently challenges me. I dig in, losing myself in words.

10:35 a.m. ~ It’s time for another meeting, this time with my coworker Allison. Allison runs our brand’s social media accounts and I’m lead for my publication’s social media, so we try to meet on a monthly basis to discuss relevant content for our shared audiences. As we walk through the building, I list off our best articles from our February issue so Allison’s team might share a few on their Facebook account, which has a sizable following.

11 a.m. ~ Back to my desk for another hour of work. I have another story to work on, plus emails to tend, which keep me busy until it’s time for lunch.

12:15 p.m. ~ My coworker Michelle and I use our lunch break to run a quick errand at Target. I have to make a return and pick up a few toppings for dinner tonight — turkey tacos. She has to pick up supplies for a presentation. We move quickly; lunch and work await us at our desks.

Wearing my smarty pants glasses today.

1:30 to 4:30 p.m. ~ I eat a salad at my desk and finish editing my last story for the day, then I write and work through more emails with writers. I’m finishing my last assignment for our May issue, and starting on preparations for June. I look out my fifth floor office window. There’s still snow on the ground. The sky is gray. Summer feels light years away.

4:45 p.m. ~ After saying goodbye to my coworkers, I head toward the elevator. It’s time to pick up Jack, and my heart feels light. I also have a 30-minute drive to look forward to where I can listen to a podcast. This evening I choose Modern Love. I’m catching up so I select last week’s episode, which is a replay of the essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal before she passed away from cancer. It’s a beautiful, funny, poignant story, and the reader does an exquisite job capturing the complex emotions in her story. Tears build up in the corner of my eyes when the essay reaches its climax. Eventually it ends; I switch to NPR as I navigate a tangle of traffic.

5:20 p.m. ~ I’m at Jack’s daycare. His teacher opens the door to his room and yells “Jaaaack!” He comes rushing toward me, smiling. “Mommy!” he says. “Hey buddy!” I wrap him in a bear hug and kiss his cheek. “How was your day?” I ask.

5:45 p.m. ~ I unlock the side door and usher Jack into our warm house. I smell turkey tacos, Jay must have started dinner early. I hear Gus whimpering and scratching, anxious to greet us. We remove our winter layers — first scarves and hats, then jackets, finally boots — and Jack is chattering away. “Daddy?” he asks and I see Jay open the door at the top of the stairs. Jack lumbers up the stairs toward his father. We are home.

6:30 p.m. ~ Dinner’s finished and Jack and I are in his playroom, building towers of red, green, purple and yellow plastic blocks. It’s time for Jay to go to the gym. He lifts Mon/Wed/Fri when he’s not traveling for work, and I practice yoga on Tue/Thur, when he’s in town. I feel dread sink in my stomach. Lately evenings with have been hard. Our son doesn’t want to go to sleep, and I struggle with all my might to convince him to do so. Bedtime antics are at an all-time high, “I want milk,” “I want a snack,” “More stories,” “More songs,” anything that will delay sleep, my son will try it. I don’t want to do bedtime alone.

I try to smile as I say goodbye to Jay. I try to focus on the fun I’m having with our son but inside I’m anxious. I pull out my phone and distract myself as I scroll through others’ highlight reels on Facebook. I stop on an article from The Atlantic about “sharenting,” I begin delving into the story, then bookmark it for later and switch attention to my son, who is currently scaling his little gray armchair like a little daredevil. (I finished this article later and instantly checked myself by setting my Instagram to private, but I’m still pondering how I can respect my son’s privacy while also sharing meaningful stories about our lives with friends, family and followers.)

Scenes from The Velveteen Rabbit.

7:40 p.m. ~ I’ve successfully executed the first leg of Jack’s bedtime routine, which includes: bubble bath; diaper; “jamas” (tonight Jack selects a dinosaur pair); teeth brushing, which Jack and I do together; and an extra glass of milk. Now it’s story time, my favorite part of the evening. We select three different books: The Book With No Pictures; The Velveteen Rabbit and Jack’s Winnie the Pooh storybook. Jack snuggles in my lap and we read together in his rocking chair, Gus curled up like a cat near my feet.

I love reading to my son, and sometimes he even joins in repeating words and phrases from his favorite books. I love children’s books; my favorites are the ones with actual stories not just rhymes — The Snowy Day, Corduroy, Where The Wild Things Are. In this moment, reading to my son, I feel happy and present and loved. After we finish I will sing to Jack and place him down gently in his crib. I know this will be hard. I’ll ask him to lie down, and he’ll resist. I’ll lie down next to him and sing some more, encouraging him to quiet his mind and go to sleep. I’ll try to quiet my mind, too.

So. Tired.

9:10 p.m. ~ Finally I retreat from Jack’s room to mine, exhausted. Some nights I go straight to bed after this, others I read for fun and do what I call “evening pages,” essentially journaling stream-of-consciousness to get out all my errant thoughts, write prayers, record special moments during my day, especially with Jack, and make mental notes of to-dos. Tonight I rustle under the covers next to Jay, who’s munching a bowl of Raisin Bran and drinking a protein shake, eager to tell me about his latest PR at the gym. Gus snuggles up between us in the bed. I try to listen but I slowly nod off to sleep. It was a long, full day. A good day.

This busy life of mine — raising a toddler, nurturing a marriage, juggling full-time work and freelance gigs, working out, connecting with family and friends and making room for me — reading, journaling, prayer, a hot shower — is such a blessing. I thought writing this diary-style blog might make me feel exhausted and burnt out and overwhelmed. Instead it made me immensely thankful for the life I’m privileged to lead. Writing my story summons within me a deep gratitude for everything God’s given me. That’s what I try to remind myself anyway, even when the day feels not-so-good, wasted, ruined, dull, unproductive. Each day is an opportunity to learn, grow, encounter grace. Each day is a gift.

What does a regular weekday look like for you? I’d love to hear from you.

Speaking out for women’s rights

credit: Ted Eytan

I wasn’t going to blog this week. What I wrote was more personal, more political than I intend for this space. When I woke up this morning, nine days out from baby’s due date and on day five of fighting a never-ending cough, my first thought was of my dear friends, fellow church members, coworkers and women/men/others participating in the Women’s March on Washington, in my city, across the U.S. and around the world. I was with them, in spirit.

At home, I scrolled through my smartphone and listened intently as Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Bob Bland and others spoke in the capital via Facebook live; saw pictures of marchers flood my social feeds; and followed news coverage of this historic day. The outpouring of support for women’s–human–rights brought tears to my eyes.

To everyone marching, thank you. Thank you for standing up, speaking up and exercising your constitutional right to peaceful protest. Thank you for your courage, for your civic engagement, for fighting for what you believe in. This country–our world–is stronger when we recognize the rights of women, of everyone.

There’s been a lot of criticism and confusion about what this march means and what will come after it. There were initial concerns about the organizers, which I’m glad were addressed. Others have criticized marchers as sore losers, but I don’t see it that way. In this time of change and uncertainty, I see citizens banding together to voice their concerns about and to their newly elected representatives. This is about raising strong women, fighting against hateful rhetoric and fighting for reproductive rights, civil rights, immigration and so much more. Others aren’t marching today because they disagree with platforms in this march, particularly abortion. I respect that. Everyone has a different story, a different reason to march (or not), to speak out (or not).

This is mine.

The first time I thought about my body was in second grade on the school bus, sitting next to my friend Emily. Our thighs stuck to the hot plastic seats as we rode to school and I noticed my thighs were bigger than hers. They seemed “too big.” I began to worry.

Growing up I kept a journal. Once I was home and stumbled across an old one from middle school. I remember reading something like this: I am fat. My body is so disgusting. I need to do something about this. I need to start running every morning. I need to eat less. I cannot be fat.

At the time I wrote that, I was the skinniest I’d ever been. I tossed that journal out.

In high school my best friend and I read women’s magazines, Cosmo and Glamour.  I noticed most of the articles were about fashion and beauty and relationships and sex. We poured over these magazines, laughing at the outlandish outfits and sex advice. I always felt a little worse about myself after reading them.

The first and only time I was sexually assaulted was in my late twenties. It was early morning, and I was on my way to the gym.

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times that highlighted the results of a nonpartisan post-election survey of ~1,300 individuals. Of those surveyed, more than half of the Republican men said it was a better time to be a woman than a man; the survey also found that all men, regardless of political affiliation, underestimated the amount of sexism women faced. “It’s easier being a woman today than it is a man. … Everybody else is above the white man,” said one man to the article’s author. I know the feelings and stories of these men should not be dismissed or ignored, but these findings, this idea, that it’s better to be a woman than a man today filled me with rage. 

Sexual assault is a wide-ranging issue that disproportionately affects women. According to RAINN, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

What happened to me that Tuesday morning shook me to my core. I was lucky my screams had startled my attacker, lucky that he ran. In the minutes, hours, days, months, years that followed this incident I felt guilty. Dirty. Scared. Angry. Ashamed.

This happened to me because I’m a woman, because a strange man thought my body was his to touch. Because I’m a woman, I grew up receiving messages that my body mattered more than my mind. Because I’m a woman, I’m still afraid this could happen again. So, no, I do not think it is an easier time to be a woman than a man.

To be a woman, even in the U.S., is to live in fear that your body is under scrutiny, is not fully your own. The idea that the government should dictate a woman’s reproductive rights angers me. That a man who bragged about sexual assault is now president angers me. That those words were dismissed by some as “locker room talk” angers me.

For women to achieve true equality, let alone a better quality of life than men, women must grow up learning that we aren’t judged by our bodies, but by our character, and that our bodies belong to us, no one else. We must earn the same amount as men, be represented at all levels equally in the government, military and the board room, we must not walk the streets in fear.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable in my neighborhood, in my body again. It took me a long time to heal. 

I know that I’ve been fortunate. I know there are thousands upon thousands of stories of injustices far worse that women and others have suffered because of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, level of ability and more. We have to do better. We must not stay silent about what matters. Especially now.

This is why today, since I can’t march, I write.

To the thousands of sisters, brothers and neighbors that marched today, thank you for showing up. Women’s rights–human rights–matter. And equality IS worth fighting for. And I hope that’s something we can all agree on.

Update: I’m following this action plan from the national march organizers. Join me?