JJ Keith

JJ Keith is a Los Angeles based mom of two who will be performing in our upcoming show next month here in LA. She originally posted this on her own blog, it’s about the frustration of trying to write with two young kids.

Death Knells of Double Tall Caramel Macchiato.

Doing anything with two toddlers is like walking in ten feet of snow, barefoot, underwater, in 125 degree heat while it’s hailing. Did I mention uphill? And it’s a really steep hill. So running errands with my three-year-old daughter and my one-and-a-half-year-old son is not my favorite thing to do. Every bump in the sidewalk is a potential calamity and every shop door a terrifying barrier. While out and about I struggle to not accost passers by and demand, “DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THIS IS? STOP LOOKING SO CAREFREE AND RUBBING IT IN MY FACE!”

But because I had no choice I took my kids with me to do a string of errands, all of which were on one street so at least we were able to walk from store to store. After navigating four shops with two kids and one false-alarm-potty-emergency, we schlepped to Starbucks to pick up a double tall caramel macchiato, a treat for me to sip when I put the kids down for their naps and could finally get to my writing. As we entered Starbucks my daughter cut in front of my son’s stroller, blocking me from entering the store. “No coffee. I don’t like coffee,” she asserted. Not content to let the point rest there, she continued in her meandering but utterly charming three-year-old style: “You’re not being nice. It isn’t fair. Swiper no swiping. No coffee. I like coffee cake. We have a coffee table. I hit my head and they you say, ‘oh no’ to me and I say, ‘watch out, there’s a bear!’ I’m a princess and you’re a kingdom and he’s a jaguar. Rwar rwar!”

But I wanted that double tall caramel macchiato so I picked my kid up with one arm and pushed the stroller through the doorway with the other. Once my daughter was placated with promises of chocolate milk and coffee cake, I had a moment in line to scope out the store for writers, a dangerous thing to do if you’re a stay-at-home mother hustling to write every moment her children are sleeping. The problem is that I don’t make enough money writing to pay for childcare and thus don’t have the time to write enough to make the money to pay for childcare. I hate that this is how the world works, but despite the inherent frustrations, I love being a stay-at-home mother, or at least I do when I’m not running errands.

As I waited to order, I set my eyes on a man by the condiment bar working in MS Word. I pinned him as a creative type who had time to waste before getting down to working on his assignments, all of which were surely well-renumerated. I glared at him as my children squirmed and whined, and felt such a flood of envy that if I had been pricked with a pin at that moment I would not have bled, but oozed vitriol. As the man gazed out the window and let his document evaporate into a screensaver, I fantasized about grabbing him by the lapels of his finely hewn natural fiber jacket and demanding the business card of his agent. Or better, just pushing him out of the way and filling his screen with words, good ones, probably better than his. I wanted that man to offer to watch my kids while I wrote something huge and spiraling, something that would hurt to read. Then I wanted him to apologize for taking my job, as if there’s some finite amount of work for writers and everyone who has an assignment screwed me over to get it.

But instead I ordered my double tall caramel macchiato, picked it up from the bar, then set out for my car with the kids in tow. The whole way home I thought about the coffee I would drink, the words I would write and the way I would feel completely like myself as I did so. I convinced myself that an hour and a half is enough time to write. Since becoming a mother, I have tended to my writing like a daytime campfire — something I don’t need just yet, but when the night falls I’ll throw everything I’ve got on it until flames lick the sky. As much as I savor the buttery rolls and slippery hair of my babies, I am looking forward to the time when I can be a mother, but also something else.

When we finally got home, I parked my double tall caramel macchiato on the dining room table while I got my kids situated. As I tended to my son, my daughter peed in the bushes and — consequently — her shoes. While I was washing the pee off her feet, my son climbed on the table and sent my coffee tumbling to its death. It’s almost as if he didn’t realize that I’d conflated that cup of coffee with the writing career that I can’t seem to grasp when I already have a kid in each hand.

As my coffee bled out on the floor, I dropped to my knees and cried, at first because I wanted that coffee so badly, but then because I was crying over coffee. After a moment of hideous self-pity, I got myself together, and mopped the coffee up so I could get to work.

2 thoughts on “JJ Keith

  1. As a photographer mom of a 4, 2 AND 12 year old who edits photos half-screen while Toy Story plays on repeat in the other half with 1.5 kids on my lap I thank you for this post! I would cry over spilled coffee as well!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed JJ’s post Christina. I like what JJ said about enjoying her young kids but also looking forward to a time again when she has more time for herself to write. JJ what I like about this too is the idea of being a writer/artist and one would normally think of a brooding person at a coffee bar. But we moms don’t have as much time to brood. Basically makes me think about the image of the artist. -Lindsay

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