Archive | August 2017

Joys of new motherhood

Mom, look I'm telling you 2

photo by Susan Kauffmann

Today women are talking openly on CBC radio about feeling overwhelmed and exhausted as new moms. They’re also speaking of isolation and boredom. We didn’t dare say so when I was young, but it was real for me. They’re now suggesting an app to help moms find others in the same boat living nearby. Maybe, but that wouldn’t have helped me.

When I became a mom, I’d been working at an interesting, challenging job. We were ‘expected’ to leave when pregnant. I did. What a shock awaited me — no one told me how tough it was to be a mom, or how much I’d miss adult conversation.

If baby slept, I was afraid she was dead, if she cried, I knew there was something terribly wrong. I fed, changed, checked and bathed her, and washed diapers. (Disposable diapers didn’t exist) I was exhausted, but the worst of it was — babies aren’t great conversationalists.

My husband suggested I attend a ‘Coffee Klatch’ some of the young mothers in our circle attended. I was desperate. I tried and failed miserably. In those days doctors didn’t encourage breastfeeding, so I diligently packed bottles of formula, diapers, bibs, extra baby clothing, and goodness knows what else — 15 pounds of stuff, 10 pounds of baby. I lugged baby in her carrier and everything else out to my car and off we went. (My children would have a heart attack at the lack of safety available at the time for transporting infants in cars.)

None of us were homeowners. Apartment buildings in L.A. often came with buzzers outside, where your mail was left. Seeing some right there, after buzzing, I carried it in.

“Oh, no!’ our friend cried ‘Jeffrey doesn’t like me to pick up the mail.’

Jeffrey was one of those brilliant men who marry simple women. (That’s interesting in itself.) He didn’t like her to pick up the mail?? He didn’t TRUST her to pick up the mail. She ran outside to replace it immediately. (I could never forget that?)

 

group moms:babies

Looking for a giant headache?

Looking for a giant headache? Try four mothers having coffee

crying baby

If mine was quiet, another screamed

accompanied by four infants. Migraine guaranteed. When my hellion on wheels was quiet, another screamed and/or required attention. When mine wailed and set off a storm of crying, I felt guilty. It’s not rational, but when have I ever been rational?

Following the conversation over the constant noise was beyond me. I missed much which was no great loss. What did they talk about? The best way to wash diapers and how to make spaghetti sauce (the use of the word ‘pasta’ came later). Surprise, surprise. It was the last ‘coffee klatch’ I attended.

I couldn’t take a class because we couldn’t afford a babysitter. What to do? I needed something or I’d go mad. I called the accountant who worked for my former boss, asked if he’d help me find a part-time job. He did. It wasn’t the most delightful of environments, being a locked facility for people with dementia, but I dressed like a real person and went to work two days a week and earned enough for the baby-sitter.

A plus: I learned patience and understanding. I even smiled and thanked the resident who carefully placed her urine sample next to my sandwich on my lunch tray. She was part of what saved MY sanity.

Have you seen my scarf?

She helped save my sanity

We are all different and have different needs. If meeting with other young moms and babies is for you, more power to you. However, be aware it doesn’t make you a terrible mother if you find, as I did, you need time away from your little one.

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Confessions of a (Former?) Book Hoarder

Couldn’t resist sharing this with you. I used to hold on to every book I had and recall once deciding to thin them out, and disposing of only one. One! I do better now, but only because space demands it. It’s either the books or me. Enjoy. Muriel

Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

IMG_1258

By Colin Woodward

“What is this obsession people have with books? They put them in their houses like they’re trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?”

–Jerry to George on Seinfeld

If you are a historian, you probably have lots of books. The same goes for all academics, historians or otherwise. You might have so many books, in fact, that they have become a problem. A problem to store, a problem to move, a problem to get read. Let’s face it, some of us are book hoarders.

I am a recovering one. Or at least, committed to change. It was easy to buy books when I was in graduate school. Much of my time was spent reading. In my first year at LSU, most of my waking hours were spent reading. And that is not an exaggeration. Grad school is intellectual boot camp and…

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A foray into the confession genre

Years ago I took an adult ‘Writing for Publication’ class. Attending weekly required the

teacher

She taught us about all the genres

juggling of work, family, pets, etc. so it was sometimes difficult to complete assignments. Frances Rockwell, our delightfully wacky teacher, usually understood. She taught us about all the genres available to writers.

With little free time, my reading was selective. I enjoyed, as I still do, history, classics, biographies, and novels. I once tried reading six romances with the idea of writing some, but decided if you can’t read it, you can’t write it.

One assignment was to write a piece for the ‘Confession’ market. I didn’t bother. This time, for some reason, Rockwell chose to ask me, as I left with a whole group of women, why I hadn’t turned it in. Why did she pick on me???

embarrassed

I had to open my big mouth

Had I not been so young and stupid, I’d have apologized and said I hadn’t had time. She would have accepted that. That wasn’t what I did. Oh, no! I had to open my big mouth! (Maybe I needed a lesson I’d never forget.) Instead of being wise, I chose to be a smart-ass.

‘I’m not interested in writing that kind of crap.’ I announced. Oh, oh. That did it!

teacher scolds. jpg

You’re not interested?

‘You’re not interested? Indeed, if there is anyone in this class who could bend a little, it’s you. NICE ladies don’t write interesting stuff. It would do you in particular good to climb down from your pedestal. It would do you good to write a Confession piece.’

I goofed

embarrassed, humiliated

I deserved it, but why didn’t the floor open up and swallow me at that moment? I would have been happy to have breathed my last breath if only it would. I was embarrassed, humiliated — and humbled. Right there In front of everyone I had been properly cut down. Demolished.

I’m sure that wasn’t the last time I allowed a thoughtless, stupid comment to pass my lips, but I’ve never forgotten it. I sheepishly crawled back to class the next week and completed the course.

typewriter

It was long before computers

You know I’m too neurotic to forget something like that, so years later, when I finally had some time to write, what was the first thing I worked on? Right. I did that darned assignment and sent it off to ‘True Story’ in New York.

Lo and behold, our telephone rang while we were breakfasting weeks later. They wanted it! They paid me $250. (The most I’d ever been paid for anything at the time.)

Susan, a very clever teenager, looked up over her Cheerios. She had no idea what it was I’d sold. (I hadn’t told anyone about it.)

‘Can I read it?’ She asked. How could I say no? She’d think that strange so I got it for her and she read.

‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this,’ she almost stuttered, and again ‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this!’ Susan, usually so verbal, was almost speechless.

True Story

The actual issue I was published in

Afterwards, I sent a published copy to Mrs. Rockwell, with a note saying I’d finally done the assignment she had dressed me down for, and that I was sure she would find it satisfactory — since I’d sold it.

Her response was a total surprise. Not being as neurotic as I am, she didn’t recall the incident. However, she wrote if she had done so, it was because she felt I was someone especially talented enough to make it. Interesting, I hadn’t realized that.

Well, the ‘Confessions’ genre is long gone. Young people today have no need to read about it — they’re busy doing it themselves. And no. I didn’t choose to write another.