blogging

Meanwhile…

Believe me, I have a lot to say. Almost too much. I think some people may be rather shocked by how MUCH I have to say, but I’ve always been chatty. Always. My first teachers commented on it frequently 🙂

It’s funny because I don’t think I come across as especially verbose or chatty (or maybe I do?), but get me in the right situation, and I am super chatty (some of you know that better than others). But yes. I have a lot to share. We had a major anniversary as well as what I consider the end of “Deathiversary Season”. That’s not a pretty term, but it describes a not-pretty 6-week period of time this year that almost broke me. It was brutal. I’ll blog about it later. It was awful. I’ll return to that in another post.

So what have I been up to? Well, good thing I didn’t have to decorate the tree since it has been up in the living room for around two years! I know. I know. The cats love it. I have already had to extricate our youngest cat a few times. But hey…that keeps it interesting, right? I did buy three ornaments for it which will be part of another post.

I’m feeling rather generous right now. You’re behind a paywall? Sure, I’ll subscribe. Plus about 10 other sites. You have a favorite campaign? I’ll donate. It isn’t sustainable in the long term, but I like being able to give. I feel very strongly about paying it forward since so many people were so kind to me in the last year. It’s just money. That sounds horribly entitled, but I like being able to donate to good causes and to friends who are collecting. I’m trying to send good energy out into the world. If it comes back to me, wonderful, but it’s more about sending out good energy.

Gah. I sound like I am all over the place. Maybe I am. I am trying to be a better person. A better mother. A better daughter. A better friend. A better coworker. I’m not exactly sure how those will manifest, but I will let you know.

I had to decide whether to end this blog here or decide to let it go on for several…several…more paragraphs and I decided to stop….while I was ahead? Ha!

Thank you for indulging me. And I will definitely be back with more to say.

Just What I Needed

I keep opening up this blog and staring at the screen. I have several posts in draft that I either never return to or the urge or fury that compelled me to start abates, and I no longer remember what I wanted to say.  I shrug and close the browser.

Or maybe it is the busy-ness of work (constantly wild) and parenting (roller coaster) and life (never dull). Although I think I read I’m not supposed to talk about how “busy” I am? That “busy” is condescending.  One author even wrote that we aren’t as busy as we think we are, which infuriated me when I read it but not enough to come here and post a diatribe to rebut her words.

Or maybe it is the weight of things I want to say but remain unsaid or how quickly each day seems to pass until I look up and notice that the calendar is months ahead of where I feel it should be.

Or maybe it is that I don’t think I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said a million other times by a million other people. Especially when I seem to end many days feeling like I didn’t do my best and if I did, my best isn’t good enough.

***

I ran into a former coworker today when I went to get a flu shot. We hugged and exchanged pleasantries – it had been a while since we had seen each other. And then she told me how often she thought about me and how grateful she was for the help I gave her and the distraction of employment during a terrible, awful time in her family’s life.  She reads this blog on occasion, so I will be vague (Hi!).

I didn’t think I did all that much – I gave her a shoulder to cry on, a calm environment, and work in which she could lose herself. But it made a huge difference to her and for that I am grateful and honored.

Thank you for sharing that with me. It was just what I needed to hear.

 

A Mishmash of Thoughts Around Mama, Mommy, Motherhood and Blogging

Last Monday I stumbled across Elissa Strauss’ Longreads piece titled “The Rise of ‘Mama.'” An entire 4000-word piece on a term that is very common in the South? Sign me up! I call my mother “mama.”  Mommy is too childish and “mom” seemed too harsh to me. I called my father “daddy” too.

Strauss’ piece is about how many women on their blogs and other sites starting in the 90s prefer to use “mama” for lifestyle reasons and to reflect the kind of mother they plan to be:

…I noticed a number of alternative moms who referred to themselves as “mama.” This was the radical homemaking, attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding bunch, and “mama” was right at home with their folksy, back-to-the-earth approach to motherhood.

Mothers prefer “mama” over “mommy” because it connects them to the past and has connections with “mama bear.” It is also helps them avoid cliches around motherhood. How many times have you been referred to as Kid’s Mom or subtly condescended to with “Mommy ____,” insert your own hot button term. Mommy blogging. Mommy politics. Soccer mom. Mommy tracked. Helicoptor mom. Strauss points out that “mommy” has become a term that replaces a woman’s individual identity and name.

All of this is very interesting and true I suspect, but I thought the strongest part of Strauss’ piece was the last third when she delves into feminism and how it has influenced current mother practices and behavior.

Notes Strauss:

It’s not an understatement to say that feminists completely struck out when it comes to getting communal protections for mothers; we are one of three countries in the world without a universal maternity leave policy, and we also fall very short when it comes to making sure that all working families have access to safe and affordable childcare. Yet, this doesn’t mean we as a culture don’t place much emphasis parenting, because we do—it’s just all on the parents, and it’s driving them many of them nuts.

Word.

While our mothers juggled their role in the workplace and parenting, often favoring the workplace, we strive to do both and overcompensate with our children. I love that Strauss also ties the pressure to have a drug-free birth, breastfeed and practice attachment parenting to this.

There’s also a link between the stalled gender revolution—we’ve seen a rise of stay-at-home mothers in recent years, going from 23% of mothers in 1999 to 29% in 2012—and the idealization of motherhood. The bigger, and more important, a job we make motherhood, the harder it is going to be for those women who have the financial choice to go the office to do so. Especially as long as our work culture remains so inhospitable to parents with young children. If it is the “most important job in the world” (mothering) vs. some office job where one constantly feels both undervalued and a nuisance because she made the decision to have children, who, if money is not a factor, would choose the office job?

This is not meant to be a knock on anyone who believes in and practices attachment parenting, stays at home, or preferred to breastfeed.  It is about the increasing pressure to do all of this and I’ve felt that in some ways, the rise and promotion of many of these practices are meant to keep women divided so that workplace and societal changes never make progress.

But all the while we are still without real choices. So at what point does this mama pride become, consciously or not, a way to accommodate the fact that mothers still don’t have equal access to economic, political and cultural life?

***

Dooce announced a few weeks ago she was going to stop blogging which I thought was a nice footnote to Strauss’ piece.  Dooce was proclaimed “Queen of the Mommy Bloggers” and helped kick off moms sharing their lives online – the good, the bad and the ugly – what has been referred to as a radical act.

What does it mean that Dooce is shuttering her blog and moving on to other opportunities?  Is it the beginning of the end for “mommy blogging,” that hated pejorative? Just this week, two of my blog friends have announced they are going to quit blogging. They have both blogged for years. Are we facing a mass exodus?

i don’t think so. I think the allure of blogging, the sharing, is what will keep it going. Though derided my many, mothers blogging enables them to connect to a wider world and has provided so much companionship and recognition that you are not alone for mothers around the world. That “me too” epiphany is powerful and not easily done away with.

Maybe Dooce’s exit is for the best. Maybe it will end the “mommy blog” perception and allow a smaller spotlight on the practice so that the bloggers can return to the true point of blogging: catharsis and connection.

Dooce also pointed out that the increase in other social media channels – twitter and its ilk – had changed blogging.  Yes it has. It has increased the number of platforms involved to cultivate community. And that’s hard. We have all talked about how hard it is to have a conversation when some is on the blog, some on FB, and some on twitter. But that’s not going to change. Mommy blogging has reached the point in which its long-time practitioners can remember the “good ol’ days” and long for them wistfully. Change happens even in this sphere.

***

Yesterday I finished Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed, a book of essays by prominent writers about their childless-by-choice lives.  Strange reading choice perhaps? Maybe I wanted to see how the other half lives. It was a good book, and I enjoyed all the essays. I was especially curious to read Lionel Shriver’s because I read We Need to Talk About Kevin late last year, and it disturbed me. It was supposed to disturb me, but I also felt like Shriver got a lot wrong because she does not have children. Perhaps that is presumptuous of me but when one is writing a book about a disturbed child and maternal affection, it might help to have experienced it. Something rang false in the book.

Anyway, the majority of the women did not want children because of terrible childhoods and also because they recognized it would be difficult to achieve their professional and personal goals if they had children.  To be fair, while these women loved children – dispelling the myth that child-free women hate children (duh) – none of them had ever longed to start a family and that is truly the primary reason they didn’t.

I come back to the economic motivations not to have children and how doing so can impact their professional lives. I know that writing isn’t your typical 9-5 profession and might be filled with more economic uncertainty than other professions – I wish she had included non-writers too. But that ties in so neatly to what Strauss wrote in her essay. Most of us know that when we become mothers, we are going to lose a lot of freedom. Most of our freedom. No more sleeping in. No more jetting off to an exotic vacation or any vacation at the drop of the hat. Sometimes, though, I think the professional sacrifices we end up having to make are unexpected. Sick children. School vacations and teacher workdays. Special needs and therapies. Appointments. Inability to stay for meetings after a certain hour. Trying to call in to a meeting with a needy child in the room. I’m not saying those things are impossible, but they are HARD.

You do find yourself making choices that aren’t really choices because they are the only option you have. And as Strauss pointed out, thanks to policies in this country, it is up to the parent to figure out all of this.

I admire these women for knowing what they didn’t want and sticking to their guns. Because being a working mom is hard.

***

As the title says, this post is a mishmash, my attempt to reconcile and connect a jumble of thoughts going through my head. Hopefully it makes a tiny bit of sense.

#MicroblogMondays: Winding Down

I have only 3 work days left in 2014. It was supposed to be only 2, but I had so many conference calls being scheduled on Thursday that it made more sense to work and not waste a vacation day.

We have our first family Christmas celebration next weekend; then we will be in the holiday maelstrom without a chance to breathe until it is all over. I hope not. Truly. I find myself reaching for a pause button that doesn’t exist. We are the most prepared for Christmas we have ever been: tree up; lights on bushes outside (only one non-working strand); wrapped presents under the tree. Yet I can’t help feeling surprised that Christmas is almost here. Daniel is SO excited. He studies every gift under the tree and is jubilant when he spies a new one, especially if it is for him.

I feel wistful. I want to savor each moment of the holidays, especially the build up to them. I want them to be magical. I love being the maker of magic for that little boy who greets me every morning with the latest (and accurate) days left until Christmas. I don’t want to be harried and stressed.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends.

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#MicroblogMondays: Thirteen Years

 

Favor from our wedding

Today Jimmy and I celebrate our 13th anniversary. I joke that I was a child bride, but I was a decent 24 and Jimmy was 25.  We had been engaged for almost 2  years by the time we got married, but our wedding occurred three months after September 11 and I felt nervous about everything.  Jimmy jokes (it isn’t really a joke) that I almost broke his hand during the ceremony because I was gripping it so tightly. I was a much more anxious person overall at that time.

It has been a good 13 years, but it feels like 13 years. That sounds grim, but it isn’t. We’ve been through many ups and downs in that 13 years, but we’ve faced them together, inch by inch and mile by mile.  We’ve invested time and most importantly, ourselves, and I’m proud of that 13 years. I don’t think we had any inkling of what our lives would be like over the next 13 years when we plied our troth at half-past four on December 1, 2001, but there is no one I’d rather be on this journey with.  Here’s to many, many more anniversaries.

 

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Are You Down With Me?

Being of a certain age, I listen to Lithium and the 90s channel (as well as the 80s channel) on Sirius XM every day. Daniel prefers the 80s station (good boy), but I am partial to the music of MY generation, the 90s 😉 Yesterday, after I dropped him off, Naughty By Nature’s “OPP” came on the 90s channel. Ooofff.

First of all, I think everyone I knew in junior high (as it was called in my day) understood the song’s topic: infidelity. Yep, understood that at age 13. However, thanks to my participation on Twitter and overall increased awareness, I think of that song on an entirely different level now.

You’d think it would be the tacit infidelity that bothered me – and it does – but it isn’t the main irritant now. Now, I bristle at the perception of women. The lines:

That wasn’t the thing it must have been the way she hit the ceiling
‘Cos after that she kept on coming back and catchin’ feelings

Oh, man. That line, that shit bothers me now in a way it never did at age 13. Really? You are saying you are soooo awesome in bed that she forgets all of her morals and wants to hit it all the time? Isn’t that impressive. And unbelievable.

The truth is that you aren’t all that. No one is all that. And hearing such an overtly sexist line pisses me off. I’m not naive; I know many, many songs from a variety of genres contain similar lines. And I know the line is the equivalent of guys bragging in the locker room, a bonding tactic. But it rankles this feminist because I know on some level, it reflects their beliefs about women. And I am trying hard to raise a son who isn’t like that in a difficult, challenging world.

I want to say more, but the truth is that my husband sliced a good bit off of his thumb tonight (slicing low-carb zucchini pasta for me) and journeyed to urgent care, leaving me to hold down the fort. This feminist is worried about her man and also keeping an ear out for her little boy who is slowly slumbering. It’s been a long day. Long week.

Ugh.

What song has been ruined for you in adulthood?

Listen to Your Mother 2015

I am thrilled to announce that Marty and I will be producing the 2015 season and third season of Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham. Now that we are in our third year, I feel like true veterans. And I cannot wait to see what submissions we receive and how the show takes shape. We are more curators than producers.

I’m not a trite person, but truly, participating in Listen to Your Mother has changed my life. It has given me a long-desired theater outlet. It has enabled me to meet wonderful people. It has allowed for amazing stories to be told, and I am so proud of helping those stories find a platform. This year, nationally, we have 39 cities participating!

A few days ago, The Atlantic published this story on the psychology of storytelling. I could not agree more. If you are in the Triangle area or, hell, in NC, please consider submitting an essay. If you live in a different state, please consider submitting an essay to those productions. I had one friend participate in a different city last year, and I was so proud. But I know you all have wonderful stories to share. Please consider sharing them. Email me if you have questions.

Sooooooo proud to again co-produce the show for 2015!!!!

#MicroblogMondays 2: Over Pumpkin Spice

In the past few weeks, my FB and Twitter feeds have been inundated w/ mentions of pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice vodka (kidding. For now), pumpkin spice cookies, cakes, doughnuts, cronuts. Pumpkin spice everything. And it left me feeling uninspired and slightly nauseous. I chalked it up to summer’s last gasp as the temperature was close to 100 all week: who can think of pumpkin spice under conditions like that?

Then Sunday I was in the grocery store (again!) and passed the new display of seasonal, pumpkin spice-flavored beer and had zero interest or excitement.

It’s disconcerting because as an Autumn worshipper, I have loved pumpkin spice stuff for years. We go to major lengths to find good pumpkin spice coffee. I make pumpkin muffins. I have loved to compare the various pumpkin beers – and I’m not even a beer lover!

Has pumpkin spice jumped the shark? What does this sudden ennui mean and will it extend to Autumn in general? Maybe I’m just anticipating Halloween and pumpkin carving and the smell of the ripe pumpkin as I scoop out the slimy, sticky guts because that’s my job. Kind of hard to enjoy pumpkin with that visceral memory.

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NaBloPoMo: Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

So long, farewell
Auf Wiedersehen, adieu
Adieu, adieu
To you and you and you

We’ve come to the end of another NaBloPoMo. I made it. I’m very proud that I completed 30 daily posts 3 years in a row.

This year was the toughest.  I really hoped this annual challenge would liberate me from whatever was preventing me from being able to blog freely. Act as Drano for my brain (I’ve seen the wonders it can do on my unlucky sink in the bathroom).  Unfortunately, it didn’t. I never felt like I hit my stride, and every post felt like a struggle. I hope reading them didn’t feel that way although I don’t know if I wrote anything worthwhile this month.

It wasn’t NaBloPoMo’s fault.  The truth is that there is a lot going on that is taking up brainpower to sort and manage. My poor brain is protesting, “No more! I can’t think anything profound right now.”

As always, though, I enjoyed the challenge, and I enjoyed keeping up with fellow participants. I always learn something each year, even if this year’s realization was “there’s no more bandwidth!”

Thank you for following along. I appreciate every reader and every comment. And my tree is still not working 100% despite the MacGyver-ish attempts by Jimmy to make it work today. $%*k!!!!!

(And can we all agree that the only Maria is Julie Andrews and that there is no other The Sound of Music than the one she was in?)

Time to put away the turkeys and the russet colors and break out the red and green.

See you in December 🙂

The Anti-Sunshine Award

My friend Furrowed Fox is letting her sick time go to her head and is nominating several of us to reveal deep, dark secrets. Sounds fun, right?!?!

This is my attempt to be normal and answer the questions I was assigned by Furrowed Fox.

  1. Who/What’s your go to music/song/artist when you’re feeling down and need a pick-me-up?I’m weird and like my weird songs. I prefer my NIN, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Lit, etc. Nothing makes me feel better than “November Rain” on the radio. But I also like hip hop: DMX, Eminem, Mary J Blige, Dr Dre etc. All make me feel more chipper.
  2. What accomplishment are you most proud of? Grad school. I had always wanted an advanced degree. Bachelors degrees weren’t that unfamiliar but graduate were new to my family. Grad school wasn’t difficult, but it took a while.
  3. What is your go to comfort food? Oh wow. So many. Mac & cheese most likely. I’m a sucker for mac & cheese.
  4. What advice would you give your 20 year old self if you could?  If you don’t want to teach school, it is not the end of the world and there is a LOT you can do and the salary is good.
  5. To date, what was your happiest moment in life? Holding my newborn son in my arms after our amazing gestational surrogate had given birth.
  6. And what was your saddest? Saying goodbye to my father. I wasn’t ready. Who is? But he was gone. I wish so much I had been able to have a thorough, lucid conversation with him for closure.
  7. If you were a Muppet which one would you be and why? Honestly, I’m not sure if I know enough about the muppets to answer this question. Maybe Gonzo? Ack!
  8. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Neither. I don’t eat chocolate ever.
  9. Who – person, character, alive, dead, fictional, cartoon – would you most like to have a conversation with? Queen Elizabeth I. I love her approach to politics, and I don’t judge her for not being perfect when it comes to race relations and tolerance. It was the 16th century!!! But I admire how hard she tried to keep everything together and to make sure she was aware of the latest opinions when it comes to, well, everything.
  10. Cake or pie? Cake. A nice pound cake w/ awesome caramel icing.;

That was fun! But I’m going to break the rules and not nominate 10 other bloggers and think of more questions. See… The anti-sunshine 😉