She is an artist. He is a writer. They are married. They are parents. We’ve come to hear them talk about their amazing collaboration. She wears a silk scarf and smiles widely. He’s got wire-rimmed glasses and walks with a happy gait. The moment they take the stage my husband and I exchange a look, “We are going to like these two.”

They spend the next hour talking about how they left their fancy jobs and their stable incomes to start their own back yard publishing company. His parents’ thought they were crazy. They protested, “this is not how you were raised.” They said, “how will you survive?” The artist and writer ignored the protests. They were going to make it work, no matter what. They grabbed the kids, left the big city, moved to a barn, and set up shop. Now they work together writing storybook after storybook, building off of one another’s ideas, editing each other’s work. They explain that they are broke, but love what they do.

They read us one of their creations. It is brilliant; the kind of story that will only ever be written once. My husband and I applaud loudly, but some members of the audience look concerned. A woman raises her hand, “what about the children?” she asks. “How is there room for them?”  She is clearly suggesting that these two are selfish. How could they possibly have passion and offspring all at the same time? How could they subject the children to the financial instability of their dreams?

The writer smiles, he has heard this question before. “They are our the greatest thing in our lives.” He says, “They are our very best creation. One of us is always with them. We did this for them as much as we did this for ourselves. We want them to have parents who follow their hearts and are happy.” My husband and I take each other’s hands; this is what we hope for too.

At the end of the talk, after we’ve seen more of their incredible books and heard about their plans to change the world we decide we will stalk them.

“We must become their friends.” I say. “We must…whatever it takes…letters, emails, mix tapes. We will write them a song and stand outside their barn and play it again and again until they like us.”

“Yes,” my husband agrees. ” We will tell them funny jokes. I will mention that I am from Alaska. We will invite them over for brunch and they will taste our amazing french toast and meet our astonishing daughter. This will surely do the trick.”

As we wait in the line of admiring fans we practice our opening line, “Hi, we are your new stalkers. We are just like you but not quite as cool.”

When we finally reach the wonder couple we both draw a blank. We rock nervously. We futz with our belt loops. We giggle. Suddenly my husband speaks. “We are cobbling our lives together too,” he says. “We’re trying to do what we love and trying to raise our daughter.”

I begin to panic, this is not what we rehearsed. What about the opening joke? What about the bit about my husband’s exotic Alaskan heritage? I assume we will now have to slink away, never to see this inspiring pair again. I hang my head in shame.

But when I look up I notice that the writer and artist are smiling. They seem to like us. My husband has said just the right thing. We do not need to be funny or intriguing or even mention the unique ways that we are like them – writing together, co-parenting, trying to collaborate in everything we do. As soon as we mention the bit about cobbling things together while also raising a child, they both offer a wide grin. “We must keep in touch,” they say.  “We need friends like that.”

And all at once I see that they are just as confused and overwhelmed as we are.  As we stand with them sighing and laughing I know that we all feel terrified to raise children without the stability, without the nine-to-five jobs and comfy homes that our parents had. I’m sure that they take deep breaths every time someone asks what they do, knowing that it will take them at least thirty minutes to explain and that half of it will sound like they are describing a scene from some Muppet movie. I know that they stay up late into the night wondering how it will all come together. I know that despite the sometimes-paralyzing fear that these dreams will all amount to nothing, they must try, at least try, to do what they love and be parents all at the same time.

As we say goodbye someone from the crowd approaches to offer an idea, he knows of a job, “a real job” that will be just right for the artist and the writer. He is hoping to save them of course; from their patchwork lives…after all, they have children now. What about the children? I can see that he means so well. They always do. The artist and the writer just smile.

I take my husband’s hand and we head towards the door. We are off to see our daughter and make books, and puppets, and songs, and plays, and movies, and try and try and try to make it all work out.


I’ve got one question:  Where is The Chip?



It was not mentioned in any of the discharge materials given at the hospital. And I don’t have hard evidence, but I’m certain they inserted a “mommy chip” when they were sewing me up. I know this because ever since giving birth I am a different person. I act like a parent all the time and I can’t seem to turn it off, even when I want to…even when I’m alone and there is no child anywhere in sight…ANYWHERE. So there must be something controlling me, there must be something calling the shots.

Like the other night, Sage was asleep and my husband and I were having a tense discussion in the kitchen and out of nowhere I put a pacifier in his mouth. I don’t even know where I got the pacifier. Suddenly it was in my hand and I was shoving it between his lips.

Or at the grocery store, I’ll be standing in line holding a gallon of milk and I’ll just start rocking it like it’s a baby. And I’m not the only one.  I see other people doing it too. Last week I spotted this woman in the express lane swaying back and forth with a bag of pretzels. I asked her “Do you have a kid at home?” and she said “Yeah” and I knew right then that she had the chip too. I wanted to say, “funny how the chip just wouldn’t let you stop. I’m guessing this trip to the grocery store is the only ten minutes that you’ve had alone all day. And here you are spending your break gently nurturing a sack of carbohydrates. Fucking chip! By the way have you seen it? Does it look like a mini smoke detector? Somehow I’ve always pictured it to be round.”

And it just keeps going.  No matter where I’m headed I put a diaper in my bag; work meeting-diaper, date with my husband-diaper. Sometimes I even pack little toys when my kid is nowhere in sight. Who are they for?? Why chip, why???

What I want to know is: does everyone get one or is it just some of us? Do the doctors conduct an evaluation right off the bat? Do they have a little conference?

Dr. #1: What about the lady in 3C?

Dr. #2: The one on the right or the one on the left?

Dr. #1: The one on the left.

Dr. #2:  Chip. She definitely needs a chip. No way is she going to pull this off without the extra help.

Dr. #3: I second that. I caught her reading Entertainment Weekly while her baby was sleeping.

Dr. #2: Well that just proves she might go off duty if given the chance.

Dr. #1: All in favor of the chip say “Aye”

Dr. #2: Aye

Dr. #3: Aye

Dr. #1: Aye

All: Done!

So now I’m destined to walk around saying little things like “Oopsy” and “Uh-Oh” even if I’m talking to someone who is forty-seven and has a PhD is neuroscience. It’s just humiliating.

And the worry… THE WORRY!  Oh how that chip makes me neurotic. I can’t stop the thoughts. I be driving and suddenly I’ll start to panic that maybe my car has a hidden airbag in the back seat and maybe it will malfunction suddenly and decapitate my child. And I’ll have to pull over and check. Then five minutes down the road it will occur to me that while I was checking for the airbag a small coin may have fallen out of my pocket and onto my daughter’s lap where it is just waiting to be inhaled. And I’ll have to pull over yet again to make sure that Sage is not about to choke. A sane person would not do this. I used to be chill. My internal monologue used to be all about cool names for  imaginary bands, not terrible mishaps that could befall my loved ones.

But worse than the worry is the guilt, that damn chip makes me feel so freakin’ guilty.  I feel guilty if I buy my daughter applesauce instead of making it from fresh apples that I picked myself. I feel guilty when I answer the phone while we’re at the playground. I feel guilty when I don’t take the time to let her bum fully air dry after a diaper change.

And I’d write more, I’d write about how the chip makes me cry when I see a pampers commercial or how it makes me stay up late into the night just looking at pictures of my daughter because I miss her while she sleeps, but I can’t.  I must put away the laptop. Even though my kid is out like a light I’m suddenly filled with the need to check on her.  After all what if her crib has silently collapsed and she is lying in a pile of rubble and can’t breathe? I better go in there… and I better bring a wrench just in case I need to reassemble the crib.