Archive for the 'writing' Category

what do women do all day?

“What do you do all day?” asked someone who reads this blog. Shouldn’t I post more often, since I must have so much time? And then later, in a follow-up comment, this reader wondered why I hadn’t published that book I’ve mentioned working on. What have I been doing instead?

There it was: the question. The moment I’d been dreading.

When I had Eden, I chose to work part time and spend the rest of my time with her. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have this option. It feels a little like a dirty secret.

photo (14)

(yes, this is part of what I do all day)

I am embarrassed, sometimes, that I haven’t gone further in my career by now. I would prefer to have succeeded in ways so obvious and succinct that they would fit on a nametag. I would like to have fulfilled the potential that feminism and social change and modernity have given me. That my mother gave me. That my father believed I had just the same as my brothers.

I know the SAHM rhetoric—this is important work, too. Women’s work doesn’t always pay. You are doing something essential. You are doing the work of shaping an entire person! But it doesn’t stick to me, it slides right off. I feel like I’m cheating on my ambitious self with this new role. And yet I’m actively choosing it. I am unable, somehow, to not spend this time with my daughter, knowing I have the chance. I am unable to believe that work is everything, even as I’m unable to believe that motherhood is everything. I flounder somewhere in the middle, in a gray area where balance and confusion circle each other with territorial defensiveness.

I stared at the question on my phone while nursing the baby. I could practically feel my milk turning sour. I thought about how to answer as I tried for forty minutes to convince Eden that, no, really, she should have a nap. Finally, she was asleep, and I hadn’t eaten yet that day because there hadn’t been time, but under the microscope of the question, I felt abruptly like I was doing nothing.

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Kate on March 19th 2014 in feminism, life, motherhood, new york, work, writing

the Jews in Williamsburg

Rode the backway through Williamsburg to meet R for lunch, and it was bleak and raining and there were no non-Jews for about 15 blocks. No trees, either, except for a few helpless scraggles. It felt like entering a different time, an older world.

The boys, preparing for Shabbat, were all carrying the same tallis bag. They can’t carry umbrellas, though, on the Sabbath, so their hats were wrapped in plastic bags. The girls went with their heads bare. A pregnant woman in the long, traditional black stood at the door of yet another rusty, tired apartment building, staring out into the grim street scene. It must be so safe, though, because I saw a girl who must’ve been only nine or something, pushing a baby in a carriage, alone. Probably not going far. No one seems to be going far—it is a universe in ten blocks, a cosmos in fifteen.

TB 110-B Black

(source)

A building had a plaque by a door that read “ladies’ entrance.” Some signs were in Hebrew. It struck me that I am living right next door to this community. I am within walking distance, though I never walk that way. I am Jewish. I am a married mother, too. My life looks nothing like this.

I sat in the car and stared and wondered what it is like to be a girl here, so close to my home. What is it like to be a woman? To be anyone?

“There are a lot of cities in this city,” Bear said, later, when I mentioned this. He said that NYC is a compilation of all of these little, insular communities. Ours is one, too. It’s strange to think about.

The parents in my neighborhood are always talking about preschools—which are prestigious, which are better, have I signed Eden up yet, for the wait list for the more exclusive wait list for this one down the street? It’s important because of the matriculation rate to Harvard. It’s important to have put her on the path to Harvard, now, at six months. It sounds like a joke, but it actually isn’t. I think I am supposed to have planned for her whole life, already. Or at least through twenty-two or so.

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the one thing you think gives your life meaning

I sang at a bar mitzvah recently. The boy was very nervous, but he did well, and it was all the more victorious after because he’d been so nervous. Everyone was cheering for him. When he finished his Torah reading the whole congregation let out a collective sigh, half laugh, of relief and support. He was pleased, but he wasn’t thrilled. Towards the end of the service, he leaned over and whispered to me, “I was really hoping my friend would come, but I don’t see her.”

There was a certain girl.

He’d mentioned her at the beginning too, assuring me that she’d be there to witness his passage into Jewish adulthood. But hours later, after the bulk of the Hebrew had been chanted, she was still missing. “I’m a little disheartened,” he told me, during the mourners kaddish. “I don’t see her here.” I didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” I said. “But you’re doing an amazing job.”

29_IH04523s

(it’s really hard to read Torah. source)

Sometimes you are doing fine but the one thing you most want to happen doesn’t happen so it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel finished.

There have been a bunch of pieces recently, and since I became an adult, about my generation and whether or not we are spoiled and entitled and obnoxious or just totally screwed. Or maybe we’re delightfully free-spirited? I remember when Yahoo started publishing those lists of college majors that would result in homelessness and starvation. My major tended to be on those lists, or wasn’t even important enough to make them.

Next came the articles about how it didn’t matter what our majors were—we were never going to catch up.

Then there were the articles about how we were never going to catch up but instead we were going to sit around complaining about how we deserved to be famous and stuff. Because we had inflated egos and we’d all been given a trophy and now we all thought we all should win.

Now they’re saying we’re all looking for meaning.

I don’t know. I think it’s really hard to describe a whole generation, because of all the individuals in it. Because of all the legitimately different situations.

But here’s me:

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Kate on December 11th 2013 in being sad, fear, motherhood, work, writing

birth story (also my book is officially out today)

My little book is officially out today! Please buy it! Please read it! Please like it! Please don’t tell me if you don’t like it, because I will feel like crying and have to walk around pretending I don’t care when I do care and then I’ll get mad at myself for being so damn sensitive and then I’ll be like, to myself, “Well, come on, you know it’s not even that good…”

I’m nervous because my little book feels a lot like a little journal, and it’s sort of discombobulated and not particularly professional or neat. So I feel like I’m admitting to the reader that I’m not particularly professional and my mind is messy and I am not an expert at all. I hope that’s an OK thing to admit.

Information:

Here is the home page for the book with links to where you can buy it.

You can buy it on Amazon or iBooks, or Kobo  or Barnes & Noble. Oh, or Amazon UK,  and iBooks Australia too.

This is what the cover looks like:

Growing Eden

Growing Eden is an ebook right now. It might be a print book sometime soon, and I will let you know if that happens. For now, you can read it on your phone or computer or kindle or wherever you can read text on a screen. You can download a free kindle app for your phone or computer if you don’t have one.

Here is an excerpt. It’s from the epilogue, which is the birth story (full disclosure: I ended up choosing to have my baby at home. There’s actually a chapter in the book about how I arrived at that decision), but since you guys are special readers, I want to share a bit of the end first, like eating cake in the middle of the day, or right before vegetables.

best_chocolate_cake_recipe_from_scratch(source

My doula said the day before that there was some astrological thing happening and that if I willed something to happen, it would happen. She said it half seriously, with a smile I could hear over the phone. She is really pretty down to earth. I said I was willing to believe, just this once, because I was so tired of being pregnant. Anyway, I was like, “OK. I will myself to go into labor tomorrow.” And then I changed my mind and wished for a billion dollars and a cure for diabetes. But then I changed my mind again and wished to go into labor. It was two weeks before the due date.

But it worked. I mean, I woke up the next morning, and I was in labor.

I was very cool about the whole thing. I met a friend from birth class for coffee. We were both hugely pregnant.

“How are you?” she asked.

“I think I’m in labor,” I said. It was 10:00 a.m. and already ninety-five degrees out.

“Oh my god!” she said. “Are you okay?” Then she said, “Oh my god, I am not ready to go into labor!”

“Maybe you should get ready today,” I said. “Just in case.”

“I probably should,” she said.

I got a peanut butter breakfast bar and an iced coffee. I figured the contractions would go away soon, the way early labor often does, especially for a first timer. I had read so many books.

Walking out of the coffee shop, my friend stopped me and, looking intensely into my eyes, said, “Hey, I know we’re both cynical New York women, but really, you should just be a goddess.”

“I’ll try,” I said.

Then I went home and ordered a pizza.

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Kate on November 5th 2013 in fear, life, motherhood, pregnancy, writing

i wrote a book and it’s coming out (for preorder) today!

So I wrote a little book.

This is the story about it:

One night when I was four months pregnant I was lying in bed and feeling like a failure, as is my tendency. This time, I felt like a failure because I hadn’t yet published a book and I was going to have a baby and it was now too late to publish a book before having a baby. For a lot of my life, I told myself that I had to publish a book before having a baby because I was pretty sure that the rest of life ends when you have a baby. A baby is a lot like a cliff in the mist, I thought. One day you drive your car right over it, and you have to really believe that it’s just a short drop and then there’s an even better road right there to catch you. But, let’s be real, probably not.

I’m not sure why I’ve always thought that publishing a book was the most important, meaningful thing anyone could ever do. I think it has something to do with me being essentially uncreative. And reading a lot of books as a kid. And being self-centered. And sort of introverted. And snobby about literacy. But I’ve always been like this. All paths in my fantasy of my life lead to published books. For example, if I start a fantasy with “Let’s say I just won 100 million dollars,” the next thing is, “I could start my own publishing company and publish a book!” And then the thing after that is, “And I could hire really fancy publicists to advertise it. I could get a billboard!” And then the thing after that is, “And I could combat world hunger!” Shit. I’m a selfish prick.

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i am one lucky cow

I am writing with my laptop balanced on one knee, tilted against a stool, as Eden sprawls on my lap, mostly asleep for a few hard-earned minutes.

This is her third diaper in about an hour. She pooped on my leg somehow. Damn cloth diapers. I put a disposable on her, casually contributing to the destruction of the environment to avoid poop on my legs.

I am thinking about Maine. I have never been there, but it is paradise in my mind. Maine is the land of milk and honey.

Not breastmilk, though. It shouldn’t squirt like that, but it does. I walk around, milk spurting freely from my nipples, cascading down my ribcage, unstoppable. I think of myself as a cow. Eden’s cow.

She cries— “Come here, cow,” I say in my commanding Eden voice, “Ready your udder. I require sustenance.”

“Right away,” I say obediently, in my cow voice. “Your cow is here, at your service.”

“I am displeased, cow. You are slow.”

“I’m sorry. I am just a humble cow. I’m not very fast-moving, like a horse.”

“Hmm. Indeed. Still, you annoy me.”

“Yes, m’lady.”

“Enough, cow. Feed me the milk.”

Bear and I imagine Eden as a bit of a future galactic conqueror and possible Empress of All Things. She will command great fleets of battleships, bigger than the Death Star.

wide eyes

I am writing this on a Monday morning, and I feel that I should be working. It occurs to me that this is the first time in a very long time that I have not worked for longer than a two day stretch. It’s been over a month now and there is still no time. But strangely, I’m not as stressed out about that as I expected I’d be. I feel just as ambitious, in the sense that when I contemplate my mortality, as I do with neurotic frequency, I think, “I have to write books! Then I can die.” But I don’t feel quite as sharply that I’m failing right now, or not succeeding enough. Or maybe it’s just that I’m thinking more about other things and so my potential failure doesn’t seem as pressing.

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Kate on September 4th 2013 in life, motherhood, new york, uplifting, work, writing

why personal essays are really important

When I started writing personal essays on the internet, I was half embarrassed, half proud. Even though I grew up in a generation that’s supposedly all about oversharing and facebooking and nonstop blabby social connectedness, I’d still learned that privacy is a virtue, modesty is preferable, and you shouldn’t air your dirty laundry. But I also wanted to talk about things that felt relevant but had been kept quiet. And I wanted to share those things with other women, because I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be facing some of the same challenges that girls and women all over the world deal with, even if those challenges at times felt intensely, well, personal. Even if they felt too small and mundane for the news. I came into personal essay writing open-minded, scared, and determined.

And then I read the comments.

But it wasn’t just the comments. Someone (who kept him or herself anonymous) tried to get me fired from my synagogue job after reading an essay I’d written about a complicated romantic situation. The message was clear: no one who works at a religious institution should write about her love life. I was a whore, wrote commenters. I was never going to be happy. Never going to find love. I was going to ruin every man who came near me. Personal attacks were the result of personal writing. Afraid and humiliated, I apologized to the synagogue president and cried all night.

That was years ago. Since then, I’ve watched critics and commenters alike chastise personal essayists for their vulnerability, their supposed self-centeredness, their apparent fame-mongering. Even as the personal essay as an art form becomes more popular, its detractors are ready with scathing criticisms that suggest it is worthless, superficial, and, god forbid, easy. And it’s interesting that most of the criticism is lobbed at women. Often young women. Because more often than not, it is young women who write personal essays.

(source)

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Kate on March 4th 2013 in feminism, life, uplifting, writing