urban living

Happy 1- year birthday, dear blog! And my introduction to the Writing Salon.

Screen shot 2015-05-26 at 12.05.57 PMIt has been one year since I launched this blog, which also occurred about 7 weeks before giving birth to child #3. Although the timing of that might have seemed a bit mad, I know, I realized that if I didn’t get it started before the kiddo arrived, it may never have happened. And that was certainly a correct assumption.

Through sleepless nights and the chaotic realization that adding the 3rd is not quite as “easy” as some claim (“As in, no sweat, you’ll barely notice you have another kid…”??), I have managed to publish around 12 entries. Certainly, I had aimed for higher frequency, but honestly, getting individual entries written, edited and published has been a small feat. I have a mountain of ideas all the time and copious notes and limited, dedicated time in which to polish and serve them up. I call this a happy problem, to be sure. Troublesome to me would be the issue in reverse.

The blog pursuit also created an opportunity for sticking a small toe into the waters that represent something outside of the kids and household. Truth be told, there are many moments I want to run headlong back into my old career and aspirations and pursuits, but at least writing has given me back a few moments of individual freedom. And also allows me to enjoy big, important moments with my very small kiddos.

Along the road of my blogging journey, I was lucky enough to find two other mommy blogger friends that have children at my son’s preschool. What are the chances!? We all cover different topics and it’s been fun to have others with which to share the journey. So, I was thrilled when they invited me to take a writing class with them at the San Francisco Writing Salon. The best thing I ever did was to just sign up, despite having no idea how I would figure out child care coverage and honestly, barely reading the description of the class. I did a running, flying leap right into the deep end of the pool. It wasn’t until the 3 of us were walking through the cool corridors of the mixed use building on evening #1 did we start whispering nervously and looking at each other, “Are we going to have to share our writing? Who else is taking this class? What did we sign up for??!!” We had no idea. And then we simply walked through the door.

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Held in the evening, our class met in a modern loft space in the Mission district, a neighborhood that I don’t often get to visit. The class was intimate and comfortable, with students seated around in the living room section of the loft. As this was a journaling class, students held notebooks and journals and pens on their laps, while sipping coffees and teas, legs tucked up and underneath them, perhaps, seated on one of the couches. No computers, no desks. It gave off a very relaxed, creative vibe. Very San Francisco. Urban, cool and edgy, with talent bouncing and rebounding off of the small, art covered walls of the space.

And we were lucky to be surrounded by a group of such talented poets and photographers and journalists and fine artists and hobbyist writers. Everyone was generous in sharing personal experiences and thoughts and ideas. And all were supportive, which created a safe writing environment for generating content, as well as occasionally sharing passages. I loved it. It was exactly what I needed.  It was an awesome, inspiring, invigorating experience.

And it solidifies another key reason why I brave raising my young family in this urban environment: to be able to drive across town and sit with a very talented group of folks on a Tuesday night who either are already doing great things or are working on their next great pursuit. It keeps me motivated, feels relevant and provides rich texture to my life.  I can’t wait to take the next class.

So, happy birthday, dear blog!  It has been a wonderful, interesting year, punctuated by this latest foray into the Writing Salon.  I can’t wait to see what comes next…

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Please check out my talented fellow mommy blogger friends!

A Glamomorous Life

Future Stella, I Love You

And, of course, our teacher, Ben Jackson wasn’t just any teacher, but a professor and poet who just won a prestigious and competitive writing award himself.  Tor House Prize

 

Where ghosts, gold & hipster coffee collide

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After 17 years spent living in San Francisco, I still find tiny slivers of pure paradise tucked around corners and nestled between buildings, just waiting to be discovered. This week found me uncovering one of these hidden gems in one of my very, very favorite slices of the city. I’ve always known it as the “antique district,” though technically it’s the “Jackson Square Historic District.” It’s part nostalgia for me recalling a previous life spent doing some work in this part of town and partially appeals to my personal aesthetic.  Jackson Square is rich in history, coming to life during the Gold and Silver eras in San Francisco.  It retains most original buildings of the 1850s and 1860s and immediately transports one back to that time for a moment.

Mr. City Mouse recently opened office space in the antique district and I was lucky enough to join him for a coffee one morning. Truth be told, the uber-hipster coffee options are plentiful in this neighborhood. And he literally went down a quick list, debating options, “…the organic café is pretty great or the coffee truck always has amazing coffee…wait!  I know exactly where we should go….” And he led me down a street, around a corner and then abruptly, turned in the middle of the block and walked me through a wrought iron gate spanning two brick buildings. What appeared before me, made my skin tingle. It reminded me of Europe. It was hidden. It was intimate. It was old and new all at once and was ringed on all sides by small office spaces, housing start ups and funds and firms. There was a quiet, almost silent, desperately throbbing energy to the space.  This was Jackson Place and the home of the Jackson Place Cafe.

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It’s billed as …”one of San Francisco’s best kept secrets.”  And I would agree.  It’s idyllic. While sipping a piping hot espresso, one is shadowed by wrought iron railings and twinkly lights. The bricks, climb high above the trees, chipped and uneven, beautiful in their asymmetry with grays and burnt orange, faded to almost white in places.  Flickering gas lamps strain to cast their glow amidst the bright sky, which filters down through the towering buildings.  Strangely, the city ambience largely dissipates in this oasis and one is left listening to a soft music soundtrack of I’m sure, whatever Pandora station was chosen to set the mood by the barista. On my visit it sounded like the selected station may have been “John Mellencamp.”

20150417_092922_resizedIt’s here that one can grab a specialty coffee, made with care at the window. The Jackson Square cafe serves a limited menu of coffees, breakfast and lunches to go: High in quality.  Artisanal.  Expensive. Delicious.

20150417_092005_resizedI do love history and sitting in the plaza, I could almost feel the energy of a long-lost century and evoke a vision.  If only these bricks could whisper their secrets from the past…. I’ve got to think that the energy and pulsating drive of the Gold rush pushes up and through the toes of those now innovating in industry within these walls. The ghosts wander about here, I’m sure, in their tattered clothes and bottomless shoes abandoning boats and salty oceans for dusty hills, under a blazing California sky, searching for sparkle among the rock.  And now I’ve discovered this, too: a bit of brilliance hidden among the concrete.

A few fun facts about the Jackson Square Historic District:

-It’s one of the oldest commercial districts in San Francisco

-It retains almost all original commercial buildings from the 1850s and 1860s

-It recalls the Gold and Silver era

-The waterline previously bordered this district and it partially sits on landfill

-Some of that landfill is made up a hulls of ships, abandoned in the rush to the Gold county

-Now it’s home to interior designers, law firms, creative agencies and architects, to name a few and has undergone a bit of a renaissance of late

I’m very much personally inspired by this space and will be making regular pilgrimages here when I want to breathe in the history of the city and enjoy a perfect cup of coffee.  It’s worth a stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

http://www.jacksonplacecafe.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Square,_San_Francisco

When I grow up…Another “stump the band” question from the 4-year old.

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There are definitely days as a stay-at-home mom or “person on a mommy-sabbatical” as I like to call it, that are a blow to one’s ego.  Having had a full life and robust career before kids, it can sometimes feel like an out-of-body experience to go from dynamic, discerning decision-making to a tedious and tiring toddler tango.  Yep.  I have some rough days.  With that being said, the City Mouse in me, relishes the urban environment and activity that’s just outside my door as it feels like my past life is right there, a grasp away and easily attainable again, should I choose to make that decision.  This is where I grew up in my career and that certainly helps.

So, it was particularly poignant on one of these tough days that I had a fascinating interchange with my little guy.  (Sometimes, I wonder about the mythical power of a child’s intuition.  Have you noticed this?)  Recently, as the welcoming darkness of daylight savings time- bedtime enveloped us and we were snuggled up on the bed, stories in hand, my 4-year old asked, “Mommy? What are YOU going to be when you grow up?” I’m pretty sure my mouth opened and no words came out. I was left, well, speechless. And, no joke, here are the responses that immediately ran rapid fire through my head, “I’m already grown up.” “I’ve already made my choices.” “I once was an… advertising….hmmm.. …. And now I’m a…well…hmmm.” But I didn’t say any of those things. I just paused.  And, after a beat, took it head on. “Well, I’m going to be a businesswoman and a mommy and a writer.”

“I’m going to be a fireman and a circus clown.” He replied concisely.

“Got it.” “That sounds like a great plan.”

Ah. To be young. The simplicity of that question at that age is delicious, yes?  His answer was not filled with the angst and momentary defensiveness of my potential answer. I couldn’t help it, but my emotional response was something that I had to physically swallow down after a day feeling a bit disconnected in mommy-land. “Mommy was someone, too once! Someone important! Someone people listened to and someone who was paid quite well for her expertise. Someone with dreams, ambitions, and frequent flyer status!!” Settle, down, there, momma. Settle down. You don’t need to give him your resume. Yet.

I actually did love that question growing up and through college and through my twenties since I found the possibilities endless and exciting. Starting from a young age, answers fluctuated:

  • a veterinarian
  • an actress
  • an acting coach
  • a lawyer
  • a teacher
  • a sports agent
  • an athletic administrator
  • a speech pathologist
  • an advertising sales rep

And I’m sure many others I’ve forgotten.

Although I was completely taken aback by the question, I paused to realize that I’m still entitled to an answer. It’s not like “it’s all over” for me. I’m still writing the next chapter of “what I’ll be….” Making it easier, in my mind as mentioned, is maintaining our city life at this point. It still feels to me like the possibilities are endless. The opportunities are plentiful and the center of the world is close to where we are. It’s buzzing. It’s invigorating. It’s humming and you can feel it through your feet. There are so many people who I encounter daily who are doing great things and starting ventures and living out passions and that is truly inspiring.

Truth be told, I have a few ideas of “what I’ll be” next. It’s my next endeavor. I’m planning to make a plan. And I can’t wait to start working on what’s next and sharing dreams for the future… with my little firefighter-  circus clown.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Three’s company? Three’s a crowd? The jury is out.

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Because, as I sit here, rounding out the last few dwindling hours of my “due date” and still, formally, the mother of 2, I have some time to write this post, completely in the dark as to the state of the union of the matter of 3. 3 children. It’s been interesting the responses we’ve gotten after letting both strangers, friends and family know that we were expecting 3. Some of the comments or questions we’ve received are as follows:
1. Do you have to move? Or the closely related, do you have enough space? Enough bedrooms? Are kids sharing rooms? Answers: No. Yes. Yes. And Yes.
2. Do you need a new car? Or the closely related, can you fit 3 car seats in your backseat?
Answers: No. Yes. With a little advanced planning I purchased at the outset, the only car seats on the market, capable of fitting 3 across. To answer the obvious question here, yes, we had conceptually planned on a bigger family from the beginning.
3. “Well, god bless you guys.” Shakes head in disbelief. Says the random dad in the park who was with his own 2 who are 18 months apart.
4. “Well, you’ll certainly never walk anywhere with 3 which will make the suburbs that much more appealing.”
5. “Once you have 3, you can just add a 4th and it’s no big deal.” Said by a few mothers of 4.
6. “Once you have 3, you are just really into the kid-thing so it takes the pressure off of pretending like you can have your own life back.” Said by a mother of 3.
7. “All I can tell you is, get enough help. The 3rd turned me into a full-blown alcoholic that first year.” Said the beleaguered, stone-cold, un-smiling, dead serious mom I met at a drop-in gymnastics class. She WAS NOT JOKING. Shudder.
8. “I really want a third child, but I can’t get my husband on board.” Said by a number of San Francisco moms and testament, I think to what happens, particularly in the city. Start doing the math, again, as previously discussed and it’ll never justify going beyond 2.

I love gathering all of the perspectives from acquaintances and strangers alike. Although, as a rule of thumb in life, I take all advice with a grain of salt, I do listen to the little nuggets that are given to me and sort through it all to make my own judgement.

Truth be told, I don’t know what it will be like with 3 kids in San Francisco. I’ve never done it before. At this moment, I’m trying to wrap my head around how the pick-up/ drop-offs go, getting 2 kids to different schools, hauling the newborn around and nursing and shuttling to and from activities of the older children. Hmmm….have it figured out yet? Nope. Not a clue how to do it. But it will come. Will the 3-kid thing mean we never walk anywhere again? I’d like to think that’s not the case. That would be a huge bummer. I’ll let you know on that one.

We are about to enter into yet another new phase of life in the city: Parents of 3 children, all 4 and under. And I’m ready to see what the next year has in store. It’ll be a guaranteed roller coaster ride-style adventure to be sure. And we’re about as strapped in as we’re ever going to be. Here we go…..!

Until next time,

The City Mouse

A Follow up~ Should I stay or should I go?

cityscapeIt’s interesting how this topic has opened a line of dialogue on the subject of suburbanites/ urbanites, parenting choices, lack of choices, financial realities. I’ve heard from some that they’re quite happy with their decision to leave an urban environment. I’ve heard from others that they’re resolute on staying in a city. And then, the rare exceptions of those that did indeed leave, but are attempting to come back.

Off the top, as I mentioned before, there are financial realities to most of the top metropolitan areas that can make living in cities long-term, simply out of the question. Quite honestly, this really bums me out. Particularly, when I contemplate the plight of the public school system. However, this is the reality for now and it can’t be ignored.

With that as a given, and moving beyond that for a moment, I do find it interesting HOW people make the decision to stay, let’s say for the purposes of illustration, in San Francisco or choose to move, given that they have the choice to make. And I do think much of it comes down to perceptions and visions of what their life perhaps should be like or could be like. I contemplated some of the many conversations that I’ve had personally over the years and listed some samples of what I’ve heard.

Viewpoints from discussions I’ve had over the last decade include:
– “If have to move out of District X (a particular neighborhood designation in SF), then we might as well move out of the city.” A choice.
– “A proper home for my family includes a large backyard and a room for every child.” A choice.
– “Why would anyone want a yard? I don’t have time for gardening and yard work.” A choice.
– “It’s important to me that my kids can walk to school.” A choice.
– “It’s most important that the parents are happy in their living environment since that affects the whole disposition of family life.” A choice.
– “It’s most important that the kids are happiest in their living environment since the parents are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of their child’s upbringing.” A choice.
– “Small living quarters keep our kids grounded and reinforces the family bond since family members aren’t tucked into far off corners of the house.” A choice.
– “Once kids reach a certain age, you must have more space or you’ll kill each other!” A choice.
– “You must own a home before you have a baby.” A choice.
– “I want my kids to play sports. Where do people gather for school sporting events in the city?” A choice.
– “I’d prefer my kids drive as little as possible. Why would I move somewhere where these new drivers are always in their cars?” A choice.

Given that these discussions are quite timely in our household, I find everyone’s decisions and reasonings fascinating and educational. And the other interesting tidbit I’ve gleaned over the years is how often a household is divided with one, for lack of a better term, City Mouse and one Country Mouse. In my experience, the Country Mouse always wins out, I surmise, due to the pragmatic and logical realities of staying in the city. Put another way, without equal partner support to embrace the intangibles of the city, it IS difficult to argue the math. In fact, you can’t.

Much of what I’ve been musing over in terms of writing for this blog is the celebration of some of those intangibles from my past decade and half here and those situations in our present state. Again, this all representing our thinking as it is today.

I celebrate, recognize and respect those that have made all kinds of living situation decisions for their families as these are typically woven into a rich tapestry comprising emotions, logic, value judgments, life visions and goals. And I do love to hear and witness how perceptions may bend or shift slightly over time.

As such, I’d love to hear any other thoughts on this topic or issues raised above. It seems many of us are already in the midst of the discussion and I’ve love to see it continue.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

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