The red-eye sucks

I'm back from the West Coast. Jet-lagged, cranky, and happier to be in New York than I thought I could be.

Halloween is upon me, and I'm trying to dig out from being gone for so long.

But! Monday I resume Ask Moxie posting. Questions, questions, questions. Thanks for hanging in there with me.


We had a great meetup here in Seattle last night. There were around 15 women who came, with or without kids, to have dinner at the Seredipity Cafe. (Which was excellent, we thought. Mmmm, mac and cheese with truffle oil…)

We talked about a bunch of things, ranging from food allergies to couples' therapy to baby signing to food and politics. But one thing we talked a lot about was sleep.

I've been saying for years that I think sleep is our generation's thing. Our big problem, and the thing that seems to hurt us most and make us feel most inadequate. Past generations had different things–my grandmother was upset that my dad wasn't potty-trained by the time he was a year old, for example. But sleep is ours.

I think there are several reasons for that. Probably the single biggest one is that we don't put our kids to sleep on their stomachs. Our parents put us down on a full belly and we'd fall and stay asleep easily. Since we know we can't do that because of the SIDS risk, we lack the one surefire trick past generations used to use. (I also think this is why we don't get much sympathy from older generations about the sleep thing, because they just didn't experience the same number of problems we did.)

Another factor is that past generations were more likely to have an adult at home during the day, which meant there wasn't that same crazy pressure to get everything Perfect before maternity leave ended. Past generations were also more likely to live closer to home, and have family support. Lots of us now don't have any kind of safety net, and are doing it all alone or close to alone. That makes the sleep thing more high-stakes.

And yet another factor is that we have so many more "experts" now. In the past, there was basically Dr. Spock and maybe one or two others. So if what he wrote didn't work for your kid, you just confronted the Dark Night of the Soul of being a parenting failure, made peace with it, and moved on.

Now, if you absolutely can't conform to what an expert says, you feel like a failure, but you move on to another expert, and the cycle begins afresh. How many times have you heard "Weissbluth made me feel like a failure and Pantley was totally useless but the Sleep Lady Shuffle saved me!" or "Dr. Sears can suck it but Ferber changed my life!"? So much drama, trying to follow someone else's Method. If you'd just been allowed to trust yourself, and given a list of possible things to try, you'd have gotten there in the same amount of time, but feeling empowered by your ability to figure your own kid out. (this is also why there's such passion about CIO vs. not–if everyone just was allowed to figure it out for their own kid without feeling like it indicated anything about them or the kid, it wouldn't be such a huge symbol of everything that we all had to get defensive about.)

Any thoughts? Lamentations? Words of hope for those in the trenches? Other hypotheses?

Checking in

I miss you! I miss questions! But I am knee-deep in work. Perhaps waist-deep in work.

I realized this morning that I'm in the phase of the project in which four hours actually seems like a decent amount of sleep at night, and the work has started doing itself. The rhythm of the project has kind of found its way into my brain waves, so I'm just producing, not really thinking hard about it. It's not flow. It's some kind of half-world of brain activity and typing. Human : vampire :: flow : this state.

Perhaps I will entertain you with some cute kid stories.

My older one came home from school yesterday with a fat lip. I asked him what happened, and he said he got kicked in the lip at recess. But he seemed pretty nonchalant about it, so I asked, "Was it fun kicking, or painful kicking?" "Oh, it was fun, Mom!" he answered. "But then the grown-ups told us we shouldn't play fight anymore, so today we're doing foot races!"

I'm not sure I'll ever understand boys.

The little one makes up songs about everything. The other day I heard him walking around singing, "We can be careful, we can be careful, we can be CARE! FULLLLLLLLL!"

I have no idea what that was about, but I'm glad he's into Safety First.

The class that made me take myself more seriously

Last week I mentioned that part of gaining the courage to quit my full-time job came from a class I'm taking. My last class was last night, so I'm posting about it now.

The class was a class in….burlesque performance.

Yeah, I know. A little, um, interesting. On the one hand, kind of cool, but on the other hand, who takes a class about stripping? Only it wasn't about stripping off clothes, but about stripping off these ideas I had about myself and my body.

I took the class because a friend had taken it and said she felt it helped her come to grips with some body issues. I have body issues. (So do you, I'm betting.) And being/feeling sexy wasn't really part of my marriage, so I wanted to be able to get past that to be able to move forward with my life. Ruthless, brutal honesty with myself is what I've been working toward, so I thought this class would force me to confront my body images, my mental image of myself, and maybe help me be able to be sexy in the future.

The teacher is amazing. She's a performer herself, and some of what she does is burlesque. She's really thoughtful about the process, and her idea of burlesque is that it's not about dancing, not about taking things off, but about making a connection with the audience, about being honest and being present and giving a gift.

A lot of the work we did was on roles, movement, archetypes, and some acting exercises to get us out of our usual habits of body. The goal of the class is to put together one burlesque performance piece that we finish and then do for the class the last day (the class is only for women). Before the class even started I had my music picked out, and it was going to be this funny piece, with this sort of hapless character that just sort of ended up taking things off in the middle of a funny song.

Over the course of the class, I realized that I've been telling myself this lie for years: That I am this hapless, Lucy-in-the-candy-factory character, sweet and well-intentioned, just trying to make her way through life.

In reality, I am strong and powerful and sexy and smart, and also funny.

I have been using fear as a way to rein in my power and to stop myself from doing what I really can do.

So I decided just to stop being afraid and move forward. It was that same "WTF am I doing??" feeling I had two years ago when I decided to start trusting people. So I started small by changing my music and my burlesque piece, to be one that's straight-up sexy and kind of provocative. And powerful. And also funny, but just because it hits a chord in people (so say my classmates).

And then I lined up my stuff (ran numbers on insurance and other costs and reached out to people about freelance work) and screwed up my courage to displease the owners of my company, and quit. To do what I'm good at doing, and live the life I'm still a little afraid to live.

Here are some other insights I've had over the course of the class:

* My being sexy and owning my power makes other women sexy, too.

* If you think you are, you are, and it has nothing to do with the size or shape of your body.

* Taking off just a little is way better than all the way. In class we went down to what you'd see on the (an American) beach, but that's so powerful when done with intention and presence.

* It's usually easier to figure out what you think you should be doing, but your body is telling you what you really should be doing. Pay more attention to your body, and less attention to the voices in your head.

* It's a process. You're never all the way there. And it's never too late.

The next time my teacher runs the class, I'll post the info and encourage any of you in the NYC area to take it.

Edited to add: She's got some workshops scheduled. The first one is a one-time intro, and the second one (the 6-week workshop) is the one I did.

Intro to Burlesque
Saturday, December 13th, 4 – 7pm
Studios 353
353 W. 48th Street (btn 8th & 9th Ave.)
Fee:  $50 (credit card alsoaccepted)
Max of eight students
Pre-registration required:

In this afternoon workshop, Victoria
Libertore will take you through the basics of stage presence, the
secret of seduction and the art of taking off a glove.  Enjoy being in
your body and tapping into your Goddess energy. (women only)


Goddess Burlesque 
Six-week Workshop
Mondays (Jan 5th – Feb 9th, 7 – 10pm
Studios 353
353 W. 48th St. (btn 8th & 9th Ave)
Fee:  $300 (credit card also accepted)
($150 deposit due by Dec 29th)
Max of eight students

Pre-registration required:

Let loose of your inhibitions and get comfortable in your own skin! 
In this six-week workshop, Victoria Libertore aka Howling Vic will share her unique skills to help
you develop a three to five-minute performance piece that reflects your
individual attributes.   Using tools of physical theatre, archetypal
energy, intuition, character exploration and imagery, you'll build a
solo performance incorporating a striptease and learn how to be
comfortable while doing it!  Come and release the Goddess within. 
(women only)

(Howling Vic) is performance artist, actress, playwright,
improviser, curator, producer and teacher. She has performed her work
New York City and in Boston, DC, Montreal, Philadelphia, Provincetown and Toronto.  She is a 2008-2009 BAX Theatre Artist in Residence.

So let me get this straight…

I'm working essentially two full-time jobs and keeping up with all the normal October things (school-related, etc.) and managing to stay healthy and in a decent humor, and now the Office of Pupil Transportation decides to cut costs by messing with the bus schedules in a way that makes no sense?

Yesterday the bus was 40 minutes late AND had to stop at a completely different school on the way to my son's school for no reason (no kids were picked up or dropped off there). Today it was 50 minutes late, but only 15 minutes later than the bus driver predicted (with such vitriol that I burst out laughing) yesterday.

Seriously, this is not cool. Joel Klein needs to investigate the OPT, because a third-grader could route these buses better that the adults at the OPT are.

I'd like to give a big shout-out to our awesome bus drivers Alex and Carlos who are rolling with the punches in a professional, kind, and humorous way, and to Tommy at the bus company, who is getting a lot of crap from both ends for something he has no control over, yet still picks up the phone when it's ringing.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the mysterious class.

Seattle, Monday, October 27

My flight's supposed to come in around 4 pm. So I don't know what's reasonable for a meeting time (where the airport is relative to anywhere else).

And where should we meet? Someplace kid-friendly. I know you all have those bridge problems that will be worse during rush hour. So you tell me. I don't have to be anywhere until the next morning, so can go anywhere.

Insitutions vs. individuals

You know how sometimes it seems like the universe/God/chance wants you to get a message, so the same thing keeps happening?

For the past few weeks I've been getting the lesson again and again that while institutions may be inflexible, inhumane, disorganized, and cruel, individual people are kind, resourceful, funny, and generous.

Huge line at airport security? People in line are funny and holding stuff for each other while we take off our shoes.

Baby crying because we've been on the tarmack for 70 minutes? People start digging in their purses and pockets for stuff the baby can play with.

Presentation about to be screwed up because the hosting location lied about their tech capabilities? Taxi driver who drives like the wind and tells funny jokes will wait for me to get backup stuff from my hotel.

Just kind, engaged, helpful people all around. Even when they can't solve your complete problem because the system won't let them.

The reveal


Last Tuesday I quit my full-time job.

Let me back up a little. You all knew I was stressed about, well, everything. And one of the things that was stressing me out was the fact that my job was no longer a match for my talents and interests. I like people at work, so it was a fine place to come every day, but it was not at all the best use of my time. Add to that that I was always late (because of kid drop-off). And feel like my real calling is to be writing Ask Moxie and doing way more stuff for you and with you, and moving into other media. I just felt stuck and trapped.

Then, as happens to so many women going through a divorce, a man from my past called. This man, however, didn't ask me out. He asked if I was interested in doing some freelance work for him (he was a former freelance boss from back when both of us were at a different company).

At the same time, I'd started taking a class that forced me to look at myself in a radically different way and confront the lies I'd been telling myself my whole life about who I am and what my capabilities are. What I can expect from myself. What will happen if I really start taking myself seriously.

Then I talked to a friend I hadn't seen in months, an oncologist. She asked how I was doing, and I started telling her, and she looked me straight in the eye and said, "I diagnose people our age with cancer every week. Some of them make it, but some of them don't. If you know what it is that you're supposed to be doing, and you don't do it, then you're wasting time."

So I ran the numbers and realized I'd be making at least as much freelancing as I did at my full-time job, but with more flexibility to write Ask Moxie and no business travel. And I'm lucky that there are enough options in New York State to buy into almost-affordable health insurance plans for myself and the kids. And I quit. The day after I quit I got offered two more freelance jobs.

The only issue is that I didn't want to leave my company high and dry, so I'm still full-time here for a few more weeks. At the same time, I'm doing what's essentially a full-time freelance project. So I'm working an insane number of hours and doing all the same regular stuff (kids, class, friends, exercise). Which is why Ask Moxie has suffered.

Waaaahhhhh. Stress, but a good kind of stress. I'll tell you more about my last business trip coming up (dinner in Seattle, October 27, anyone?) and the class later on.