12.03.2009

Connecting hand with mind and heart

I'm now over at Wisdom Within, Ink. Here's a little of today's post:

Writing… digested our sorrow, dissolved and integrated our inner rigidity, and let us move on. I don’t even remember what we wrote about. It didn’t matter. The effort of forming words, physically connecting hand with mind and heart, and then having the freedom to read aloud transformed us.— Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning

I read this quote last night just before falling asleep...


Please join me over at Wisdom Within, Ink!

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11.23.2009

Are you a fan or a stalker?

Here's a glimpse at what's going on over at Wisdom Within, Ink:

There’s a fine line between being a fan and being a stalker…

I read this comment just today on a writing forum was referring to Facebook, Twitter, and blog followers. Ten years ago it applied to my life....

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11.03.2009

When your future comes knocking... freak out!

Don't forget I'm over at Wisdom Within, Ink. Here's what's going on over there right now:

I open my email to read this:

…if you’d like to write up a formal query…

Words from my dreams. (Well, in my perfect world dreams the words actually would be: No query necessary! Just send it, we’ll publish it!) I have been waiting for an opportunity like this and what am I doing? Freaking out!...

Come join me!

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10.29.2009

Making it Home, pt 2

Here's a snippet of what's going on over at my new site, Wisdom Within, Ink:

I have heard – and experienced – that it takes about two years to break into a community. When we first moved back to Vermont, although living in a town just 20-minutes from where I went to high school, we might as well as been in the middle of Alaska for how connected and at home I felt....

Come on over... I miss you!

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10.14.2009

I've moved! Come on over!


So, forget getting it just right... my new site is open for business!

Wisdom Within, Ink

Wisdom Within, Ink is the name of my journaling and writing business under which I am offering workshops. The random musings of this blog will continue to ramble on over there.

Please join me...

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10.13.2009

Spinning my new web

Can't stop, but I just wanted to pop in to say I won't be around much because I am working on my new website. I'm so excited to launch it but I have to get it just right. Stay tuned...

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10.08.2009

Finding a theme for my blog (and my career)

So, I've gotten a little off focus lately. Whining about my career path and money. Blogs are supposed to have a topic, a theme, a thread. My sub-title up there says "acknowledging positivity and serendipity while randomly musing my way to publication." Have I done that lately?

Penelope Trunk writes in this post that blogs have to have a topic to be successful and to help your own success. She advises that you use your blog to get known for what you are good at. She asks:

a) What do you want people to know you for?

b) Where do you want to go next?

What do I want to be known for?

I want to be known as a writer. A non-fiction, personal narrative writer. A writer who muses about my life and the paths on which I daily ramble. I, like Anais Nin, taste life twice through my writing. I experience it then reproduce it in words. I find meaning this way. I woke up once in the middle of the night with this phrase banging around in my head:

I am a writer. I have to document my life.

So, while this blog may seem random - kids, money, career, religion, writing - it all huddles under one umbrella: life as interpreted by me, in my words.

I approach my life as a writer. I'm not here to offer my readers advice on how to write or what to write, only to offer myself up as an example of how one writer thinks and lives. The fact that more minutes of my life are dedicated to being a mother, a wife, a housekeeper, and a struggling business woman than a writer, means what I write are these things. My other hats are fuel to my writing fire.

The fact that I look for and believe in Serendipity and Thinking Positively makes these things natural themes in my writing. Due to life's current struggles I haven't focused on them lately, however, and this is where I think I need to make a change. I do strongly believe that if you look for the positive you will not only find it, but it will also find you.

So, that brings me to Penelope's second question: Where do I want to go next?

What I want is to take this blog to the next level. I want to make it a source of Positive Thought and Serendipity from the point of view of a writer. My "outside" writing and the (inner) journal writing instruction will merge with one concrete theme: Helping others to Live Authentically using their Inner Wisdom. This is my focus, my theme, my thread.




In another post, Penelope emphatically states you should not have more than one blog. Oops! I have three. My logic was: one for writing my everyday musings, one to promote my journaling workshops, and one just to have a place to shove various essays or stories that were laying around. I am in the process of launching a real website to promote my workshops and my husband's psychotherapy practice. Writing to wellness and self-actualization and seeing a counselor for such go hand in hand, kind of like him and me, so why not live together in a little patch of cyberspace.

I am planning to launch my new website January 1, 2010 (to give myself plenty of time to conquer the scary HTMLs and other such foreign languages I don't understand). Please stayed tuned!

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10.07.2009

Jour du Journal: Memory of Cabbage


Join me at jlucyjournals for today's thought and writing prompt.

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10.05.2009

Another waste of time


Great. This is just what I needed. Another minute-sucking, hour-gnashing, completely pointless obsession.

On a daily basis - ok, more like half- hourly basis - I check these things:

Email
Facebook
Both my blog's sitemeters
Twitter

I do not play any games or partake in asinine Facebook quizzes. I only check status updates and if anyone "likes" something I've chosen to share that day. However, I still waste probably over an hour a day doing this.

Sitemeter gives me a little thrill every time I see a brand new reader or better yet, a repeat one. And I love to see the google searches that found me. Hot fireman and Husband gone are two popular ones. And how's this one for funny/disturbing?: I hate pooping its so unfeminine.

And now that I am on Twitter I like to see how many of those links are followed (not many). Twitter takes the least of my time because I don't really care what other people are tweeting on about and I assume no one gives a damn whether I am wearing wool socks for the first time this year (which I'm not, but I wish I was - it's cold today!). I post my own blog links and check to see if anyone has mentioned me, and that's it, but it still takes time (and brain cells, I swear).

And now... Examiner.com. I am on my second week as the local Journaling Examiner (talk about a niche) and how many times do you think I have checked to see how much money I've made? Probably 50. Every page view makes me one whole penny and I can't stop myself from checking to see those (very) little cents add up.

Ridiculous! Why can't I just check once a day or week, or even better, be surprised when I get some money in my PayPal account? It's the same with my blogs; why do I need to know who's visiting from minute to minute? Or who's commenting on my Facebook status?

Validation. Acknowledgment. Appreciation.

And that's sad. Very, very sad.

The benefit of the internet is also its curse. Instant networking, instant information, instant publication, instant acknowledgment. Acknowledgment you could never hope to get in real life (not on a minute-by-minute basis, anyway). For an introverted, self-esteem-challenged, compliment-junkie, aspiring writer, the internet is a confidence booster.

But is it wrong to have an inflated sense of confidence? I think not - as long as it gets you where you deserve to be due to authentic talent and not just an over-stimulated sense of entitlement.

But the attention you receive online sucks you in and makes you feel more important than you actually are. And is the acknowledgment real? NO! (Well, sometimes.) Just because someone thumbs up my status update doesn't mean I'm special, a good writer, or wonderful human-being. And my blog? Like-minded, aspiring writers and over-worked mothers like it because they relate, not necessarily because I'm a writing genius. The internet is a playground - some days you're popular, other days you are one click away from being unfollowed, unfriended, unliked.

Where would I be today without the internet? Maybe further ahead. Maybe not. In the hours that I have spent staring at my Facebook page I could have written a novel. Or at least sent out some queries so I'd have a legitimate reason to call myself a Writer. But since I started blogging I have had the audacity to call myself a Writer and it is because of the internet that I am now published.

So while I thank the wonders of cyberspace (which I barely understand) for giving me opportunities and instant feedback, some days I wish my laptop would stop winking at me, luring me in, and causing me to look beyond myself for validation.

And yes, this whole post was actually a foil - an attempt to get you, my dear readers, to validate me further as I watch my penny-counter reach the dizzying heights of a whole dollar.

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9.30.2009

Letting myself go

I have this fear I am going to wake up one morning to discover I have Let Myself Go.

I'll open my closet that day and find only sweat pants, t-shirts, and sneakers. And when I look in the mirror the face reflected there won't have tasted a lick of make-up since the Christmas party (where apparently I wore a dancing snowman-festooned sweater and patent-plether shoes with be-belled toes) and appears to have grown a twin at my neckline. My hair will have morphed into a cross between the giant-banged style of my high school years and the shellacked helmet of my grandmother's. (As unlikely as this hair-do sounds, I actually saw one of my high school classmates with such a style recently.)

My jewelry box will be rusted shut from years of neglect, and my large collection of scarves, handbags, shoes will be languishing at the back of the closet praying for just a glimpse of the outside world from which they have been long-since banished.

I'm a work-from-home Mom, in Blue-Collar Town, Vermont. This is the perfect recipe for Letting Yourself Go. Here, if you wear heels of even medium height people wonder "where yer going, all gussied up?" People wear jeans to weddings here! And don't bother to buy a cocktail dress for that party, you'll stick out like a, well, cock-tail.

When I look in my closet now - while I am still cool... I hope - I stand there surveying my mostly practical (but stylish) clothes and ponder the outfit of the day. One morning this week I picked out a pretty hip ensemble of long colored tank, shorter contrasting sweater, and jeans. But after I had yanked down the sweater and up my jeans one too many times, while shivering, to boot, I returned to my closet to dig out the good old fleece sweatshirt. Ahhh, comfy. And warm.

What I wear to walk to the bus stop and then to drop Tator off at pre-school hardly seems to matter. And in the winter when all you can see are my eyes peeking out from between hat brim and scarf, I could be wearing a hula skirt for all that it would matter. For the 5-minutes I am seen by other mothers (all themselves in varying stages of Letting Themselves Go [or just Vermonticized?]) or at the grocery store, my choice of clothing is really meaningless.

But, then it's not about those other mothers, is it? It's about me and how I feel. If I'm having a nifty outfit kinda day then I'm going to wear what makes me feel good. But when it's a sweatshirt day - well, it's just got to be a sweatshirt (but it will NEVER be a Mickey and Minnie or Puppy-dogs or, god-forbid, a 'I Survived Dollywood' sweatshirt).

But if you ever see me at the mall in pajamas bottoms, please feel free to slap me and send me home (to bed), and if the ensemble is accompanied by worn down slippers, please just have me arrested - for the common good. Thank you.

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9.28.2009

Dying rabbit, Blocked brain

As I sit here in the quiet of a child-less house drinking, oh my! hot coffee, I find my mind is scattered. I am trying to write an essay for a contest that is due in 3 days. I don't have to do this of course, but I want to. I want to write something "real," something with a beginning, middle, and end. And a point. And for a reason other than to just hear myself talk, or rather, see myself think. Problem is, I can tell a story but I'm not so good with the take-away. In my writing courses it was stressed that the Why of the article/essay is crucial, otherwise, what is the point?

I write so often just for the fun of seeing words appear and form themselves into sentences, sometimes with no apparent help from me. But when I actually have to think about what I'm writing then I get a bit blocked.

Today I tried Clustering - a mind-map, it is sometimes called. At times this method has worked. While I am busily connecting and circling words, out of the blue an idea will strike me and I'm on my way. The light bulb isn't necessarily (or obviously) connected to what I have scratched on the paper, but the act of associating random words and ideas creates subconscious connections which, in turn, produce the Big Idea.

My cluster of today hasn't produced anything near an idea, let alone a Big one.

Dying Rabbit
Compassion
Life Lesson

Not much to go on there.

And why am I writing this blog instead of working on it? Because I was tired of thinking.

Where did I put that Muse?

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9.26.2009

Ten years ago

September 25 is an important anniversary in my life. I had intended on re-posting the story yesterday but actually most of the history-making events happened after midnight, so I guess today is technically the true anniversary.

Ten years ago...



Two pairs of sandals left by a stream -

Quite unimportant a sight it would seem.
Two wandering children gone off to play?
A couple trying to get quietly away?
What did I feel dart through my heart
As I witnessed those shoes play their innocent part?
Close as two lovers in bed,
They symbolized everything I'd come to dread.
Stifled tears escaped from my eyes
While scanning to see what I longed to deny.
Up and down the river no one was seen,
Only the evidence left by the stream.
I did not see what my mind unwillingly beheld -
How could they continue to be so uncaring and bold?
In the mountains I faced my fear manifest,
Constantly haunting me despite hopeful trust.
Betrayal was laying there at my feet -
Those sandals together, their owners' retreat.
One pair are his who sleeps by my side,
The second belong to my friend - another man's wife.


I wrote this (admittedly horrible) poem almost 10 years ago. I can now share it because the pain has long passed and I do believe - finally - the anger has too. The (happy) life I now have is all due to the events that took place on September 25, 1999, although the story begins two or three years prior to that.

It was almost midnight on the night of my 27th birthday party and all but two of my guests had left. I was woozy but not drunk, and very sleepy. But when B asked me if we could talk I could tell by his tone that I needed to stay awake a little longer. After we finally got the other hanger-on to leave B and I sat down.

Then the tears came.

Now B is a big guy, a funny guy, a don't-show-your-emotions-marine guy, and here he was sitting in my living room crying - to me, and we hardly knew each other. You see, B was married to a friend of mine, not a close friend, just a member of a group of goofy people I had recently become aligned with for the purpose of partying and Sunday morning brunching. I was not particularly close with any of them - I was a friend of a friend. B and I had only chatted about something deeper than the foam on a Guinness one other time (which happened to be religion). Beyond that he was just one of the gang and he made me laugh, as he did everyone (except his wife - but that's another story... oh, actually it's not).

B came to me because we had something in common - our partners were in love with each other Yes, his (very new) wife was in love with my (by then, ex) boyfriend.

B had given his extroverted, gregarious wife the benefit of the doubt for too long and he couldn't take it anymore. He and I had both put up with their "friendship" for over a year - hanging out every Wednesday night (working on a comic book project, they said), even coming home at 6AM sometimes - and in constant denial that there was anything more between them. The awkwardness and insanity of the situation had finally broken up my boyfriend and me 3 months before, although I was still in denial that he could truly be in love with another man's wife - over me! B had never talked to anyone about the pain and feelings of betrayal and anger he was experiencing. But it was time.

That night two very hurt (and slightly drunk) individuals talked and cried together into the half light of morning. We yelled at those who had hurt us and we beat ourselves up for being so naive. We felt like a couple of door mats - stomped on and caked in mud.

I won't deny that I fell in love with him that night. I have never wanted someone to kiss me quite so intensely. I know it was the combination of wine, sleep deprivation, and a very large dose of emotional overload. But it did not happen. He was married. I was still mourning my lost love. We hugged and we said goodbye.

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9.25.2009

Difficult decisions

Again.

Again I am faced with a decision I do not want to make.

Going back to work.

Again.

I've done this twice since I left the full-time workforce in 2004. I was home with Little Lady and, three years later, Tator too, until we returned to Vermont in 2007. At that time, Hubby was making minimum wage while finishing his graduate internship and it was obvious I needed to do my part. As we were living with my parents for a brief interlude I was able to work three days a week with no need of daycare. I was incredibly lucky to find a job in the same facility as Hubby and which ran like a laid-back family. But it was a 40-minute commute up a treacherous mountain road, and with winter looming, Hubby's new "real" job in the offering, and my writing calling, I decided to leave at the same time as Hubby's internship ended.

As Hubby's clientele was growing he was making enough for us to live on but little enough to qualify us for the state insurance plan. But when he reached his full client-load we were over income level and suddenly we had no insurance for us or the children. Having never in my life gone without insurance, and definitely not feeling comfortable leaving the kids uncovered, I began the job search again. My plan was to either find a part-time job that offered insurance or paid me enough for us to buy private insurance. Well, I found a job, part-time, and exactly the kind of thing I wanted to be doing (newsletters, grants, PR), and with access to a group insurance plan. One problem: during the discussion with my new employer she informed me the monthly plan would be $500/month, but it turned to be over $900!

For a few months I worked extra hours in order to pay our insurance premium (and the extra daycare) while facing the insane paradox of not actually being able to afford to use our plan because every trip to the doctor was $30 and many things weren't even covered (Tator's EEG, for example, which we are still paying off nine months later). Finally, after bout after bout of Kindergarten/daycare contracted illnesses and no paid sick days, plus a very high winter oil bill, we just could no longer pull the premium amount together. We canceled the policy and sought out a high-deductible ($5,000) private plan. That was over $500/month and everything came out of pocket, so once again we were had to make the decision with each illness/injury if it was really that bad.

By this time school vacation was around the corner and I didn't know what I was going to do with Little Lady if I was still working. Hubby was bringing home a good wage at this point and we made the decision that I should leave my job - which I had only gotten for the now useless insurance anyway - and stay home with the kids. Also, I was recently certified as a journal workshop instructor and I was anxious to begin my new career.

Then Hubby's paycheck began to shrink. And then bottom out. We had no choice but to cancel our new insurance policy. We were once again eligible for state insurance - financially - BUT, and here's the baseball bat to the head: Because we purchased private insurance we are not eligible to receive help for ONE YEAR.

Once again we are insurance-less and rapidly becoming penniless.

I have begun to look for jobs, but here is the conditions I (and a future employer) have to consider:
1. I can't get there until 9 (Little Lady gets on the bus at 8:40)
2. I have to skip out at 11:30 every Monday and Wednesday to transfer Tator from pre-school to daycare.
3. I have to leave at 3:30 to get the kids from their various school/daycare establishments
4. I will be called away from work to collect a sick child from school every couple of months
5. I will have to stay home with a sick child (for up to four days) at least once a month
6. I myself will have to call in sick on the fifth day because I have contracted the snotties from my children
7. I have another life as a mother, wife, writer, and teacher so I won't be emotionally invested in your company (unless it's a writing job) - I have dreams and passions which WILL be pursued!
8. I will leave as soon as things get on track again so I can be those above-mentioned things (unless it's a writing job)

Needless to say, it is with little joy or confidence I look at the classified job listings. I am wracking my brain trying to think how I can help our little family. I feel so helpless! I have a new online writing gig - for pennies probably - and I'm trying to get my workshops going. On the one hand I believe in my dreams and the absolute need to pursue them:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined
(Henry Thoreau)
But on the other hand you have to make decisions with proper consideration of risk and timing. If you can't buy food for your kid's lunch your dream to be a soap-opera star may need to be put on hold.

So, that's where I am right now. Stuck between my dreams and a hard place. Do I keep on plugging along my honest, authentic path, hoping it will open up soon onto a sun-lit meadow of success? Or do I take another U-turn back into the working world knowing it won't be forever and as long as I don't abandon my dreams they will still be waiting up ahead?

Goethe said,
... the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
I guess I better make a decision...


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9.21.2009

Bearing my soul

It's not like I write anything personal...

This was me defending my blog. The reaction from a family member was one of disbelief. Griping about my life and sharing my children's antics is apparently way out of the comfort zone for some. But for me, the day-to-day mundanity of my existence on this planet - the struggles and the milestones - are not anything I am ashamed of or feel the need to hide. In fact, I need to share it, whether anyone reads it or not, so I know that I am alive and here for a reason.

At a family gathering this past weekend there was a discussion about the personal nature and vulnerability of art and various other occupations. Among the nine adults present were two writers, five artists/designers, three teachers, two hairdressers, a nurse, two counselors, and a preacher (most of us were some combination of these). It was agreed that the very act of creating of any kind is a bearing of the soul. The teachers/preachers/counselors also felt the vulnerability of their trade as they tell of their own experience to help others with theirs.

... hanging one of my paintings on the wall is like standing up naked in front of everyone...

When I write it is me that goes into those words. Me is all I know. So, on that plane the very act of writing is intimately personal. When you read my blog you are tasting my essence. And I am willing to give this to you. If I wasn't I wouldn't be a writer.

When I open the pages of a magazine like Brain, Child I am sometimes astounded by the honesty of the writing. These women lay their very souls down on the page and allow us, the readers, to poke around in their humanity. But it is this very vulnerability that allows us to understand we are not alone - and there's always someone worse off than us. Recently, a mother told of being arrested for child neglect when she left her pre-teens at the mall with some younger siblings. I have to admit, I myself was surprised, as were many other readers. Consequently, the author has been sorely criticized (beyond reason in some cases) and her story has spread throughout the media channels. She took a chance with the honest telling of her story and suffered for it. At this point in my life I would not have the guts to tell the truth quite so, well, truthfully.

But there is a need for me to tell you things. I feel compelled to. Although, you're not the one(s) I am speaking to primarily - it is myself. I re-live, assess, and understand my life by putting it into words. Anais Nin wrote,

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
I remember reading this in my early 20s and understanding exactly what she meant - I have to record my life to better live and appreciate it. The fact that I have allowed you, my readers, into my world and and believe you care is an arrogance. But it is also a yearning for community. I want to share the truth as I see it so I might connect with others who see it the same way - or don't, but have another, equally valid opinion.

We all yearn to belong, to be a part of something, to believe someone cares about our lives. The meaningful conversations where we actually talk about the way we feel are, in general, missing from our everyday lives. We feel judged and ashamed of the way we feel (we can't help the way we feel) and so we hide behind brainless chatter. I believe this is why Facebook, Twitter, and texting are so popular. But unfortunately, it has gone to extremes: I don't care if you are going to the store to buy toilet paper and I didn't really need to read that a FB friend had "afternoon delight." (Why she felt compelled to share this is not for me to judge. I'm glad she had fun and maybe it inspired some other friends to surprise their partners likewise. She may think my FB status updates about potty-training Tator are more than she needs to know...)

There is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I read when younger which really spoke to me:
We read to know we are not alone.
So I write for those who read so they may know they are not alone. I write to know I have purpose. I write to understand myself. I write to feel alive. And if I happen to inspire someone or help them feel less alone along the way then I have done my job as a writer.

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9.17.2009

37 and going strong... kinda

It is my birthday on Saturday. 37. I don't feel 37... oh, who am I kidding? Yes, I do! I have a pinched nerve in my neck which isn't a pain in the, er, neck, it's a numb in the arm. And after a day of picking up toys and heaving wet clothes out of the washer my back yells at me until I go to bed. My teeth are showing signs of too much coffee and too little dentist, and my flesh appears to be rescinding on its agreement with gravity.

As I was obsessively raking through my mop of hair the other morning, searching for those pesky little gray sprouts, my daughter popped her out of the shower and said, "Did you find one, Mom?"

"Of course, there's always some hiding in here."

"I don't want you to die!"

Great. Gray hair = death.

I'm re-posting last birthday's rant now because, frankly, this talk of death and stiff joints is depressing. Time for a big cup of strong coffee and something gooey and sweet. Damn! I don't have anything in the kitchen that fits that description. Guess I'll just take my vitamins instead.

Tick Tock, The Clock Won't Stop

This is just uncalled for.

On the eve of my 36th birthday I found, not one, not two, but three gray hairs peeking out from under my otherwise auburn mass (not Auburn, Massachusetts... hehe, I'm so funny). How does that happen? One day you have none and the next you have three pigmentally-challenged hairs. Do they suddenly grow or do regular hairs turn gray? I suppose I could look this up on wikipedia but I can't be bothered with that right now. I'm more concerned with why this would happen on this day of all days.

Tonight at midnight I begin the downward slide to 40. I am beginning my 37th year with three holes in my head from whence I yanked the offending follicles. Am I supposed to read something into this? That the time has come for me to face that I am no longer a young woman?

You see, I have this thing about age. I always assume (completely illogically) that if someone is in a high position of power or reached a stage in their career that puts Director or President or CEO by their name, that they must be old(er). I even think anyone who has children - of any age - must be beyond me in years. I can never quite wrap my head around age.

At my new job I am reorganizing the personnel files. It was with shock that I discovered on a list only two or three 1970's birthdates. Other than the really old 'uns - born in the 50's and 60's -the majority of my co-workers were wailing in their cribs when I was Karma Chameleon-ing to Boy George.

Who do they see when they say hello to me from the hallway? Someone who stays home every night -even Fridays and holidays - who is dosing off at 8PM and gets buzzed on one glass of wine? Someone who will never again zip a pair of jeans without first folding in the baby belly, and who didn't like the 80's styles the first time around. I AM one of the older ones to them.

But aren't the 30's are supposed to be the best years of a women's life? (No? It's the 40's? According to Oprah, it's the 50's... ???)

Yes, tonight for the first time in my life I believe I am having trouble with a birthday. Planning our 20th high school reunion and realizing this year's seniors were born the year I graduated certainly doesn't help.

So, Happy B00-Hoo To Me.

(I still want cake.)

-----

I just wanted to note that this miserable post from last year doesn't actually fit how I feel this year. I think I've passed into "what's age gotta do with it?" mode. Yes, I would like to have more energy to keep up with my kids but I'm happy... gray hairs and all!

(However, I do notice I was much funnier last year... )

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9.15.2009

Keep paddling!

Warning: if you are feeling down the following post will not help your emotional state. However, if you want to wallow in despair along with me, please read on...


I find it kind of ironic that as a teacher of writing to self-heal I am finding it difficult to heal myself. A couple days ago I wrote a post on my other blog on facing despair. I offered sentence stems to prompt my readers to explore their inner thoughts and intuition so they may work through the chaos and ultimately use it for positive change. I have not followed my own advice.

However, that is why I am here now at my computer pounding keys. The very act of writing helps me, calms me. I could be writing about marshmallows and turnip greens, it wouldn't really matter. Somehow those marshmallow thoughts would still reveal some of my own truth. And I would begin to heal.

A few months ago I left my part-time job to pursue my own career as a writer and workshop leader. I had the luxury of doing this because Hubby was bringing in a healthy paycheck. Then BAM! His boss pulled a doozy on him and drastically cut his pay. Over the two last months we have been scrambling to cut our expenses - and I have remained positive. I believe in Hubby's creativity and ability to think outside of the box. I also passionately believe in passion. I know that if you love to do something and have confidence in your own ability you will succeed.

Eventually.

And there's the problem. In this interim while Hubby works out his job issues and my workshops take off it is very hard to stay positive. As I watch the tiny paycheck seep right back out of the account and I am telling my children that oatmeal will be replacing boxed cereal, my stomach churns and I start to feel nauseous. We had fun plans to drive the six-hour trip to Bethlehem, PA next weekend to visit friends and attend the Celtic Classic. Looks like that's off. It's my birthday on Saturday... gifts not happening (and unfortunately I love gifts!).

Last night I had to cancel another workshop - no one signed up. This is the third one this month that has been a bust. I know it is due in part to the weather - who wants to be inside on these last precious warm September days? - and the economy. Thankfully these two factors are surmountable - wait a few weeks and lower prices. But I'm beginning to doubt that anyone even cares (despite positive reviews from those who have attended). But I HAVE to believe that is just my own fear talking. I HAVE to believe there are potential students. If I don't believe it I will not succeed. Other workshop leaders around the country are doing well. I just need to convince the public that journaling is incredibly therapeutic and motivating - and free! (after my workshop fee, of course).

As I write this I feel the stabs of guilt because I know there are others who are so much worse off than us. Hubby still has a job. A member of my family just got laid-off and has to now find a new job and a new home - a new life. We're not there. But the pain of our close extended family is also hanging over me because I feel helpless. I can't help her (financially) and no one can help us - we can only help ourselves. We all have to keep paddling this leaking boat while trying to patch it at the same time. We must trust we'll make it to shore.

I read in the paper on Sunday the story of a local woman who reinvented her life at the age of 54 and who today is the owner of a very successful cracker-baking business. She said:

It validates to me how important it is to be creative and to follow your passion...
I know this! Intuitively, I know this. Emotionally, today, not so much. But I will keep on writing and living and loving (and cleaning - I still have to keep on being Mom too) and trust my confidence in my dreams and abilities will keep our boat afloat.

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9.12.2009

Do they make flannel teddies?

This morning as we were lying in bed listening to our children, who, despite having woken up barely minutes earlier were already screaming at each other, Hubby says to me:

Are you ever going to wear lingerie again?

As I roll over and yank the seam of my cottony soft men's pajamas bottoms from where it had ridden during the night, I say:

What?

Lingerie, ya know, like you used to.

Oh, yeah. No.

Why not?

Um, OK, well, let's see. A) I would have to still own some. B) I would have to have a body that didn't look like a
stretchy garbage bag - with the garbage no longer inside. C) If I wore it, you would assume I was in the mood. You would be wrong. D) I'd have to get a wax. E) We live in Vermont... do you find goosebumps sexy?

Ha. Ha.

No, really. We're not 20-somethings anymore. We're not capable of staying up half the night because we can't get enough of each other.

I know. But that doesn't mean...

[A door slams.]

(LET ME IN! DADDY! SHE WON'T LET ME IN MY ROOM!)

I know, I know. Of course I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing that anymore. I just mean..., well, come on. Can you really see me going through the bedtime battle, dripping with flung bath water and exhaustion, dragging myself into the bedroom and then... d-da! Paris Hilton?

Well, of course not.

And you. You're usually in bed a couple hours before I am, Fabio. Where are
your silk boxers?

I'd just like to have a little fun sometimes.

I have one thing to say...

(THAT'S MINE!)

(NO! MINE! AHHHHHHHHHHH! MAMA!)

Hotel.

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9.09.2009

One smokin' hot fireman!

Call it luck. Call it coincidence. I call it Mother's Intuition.

Last night I was sogged out on the couch watching TV. I have to admit that once the silence has descended that only sleeping children can bring, the corner of the couch is usually my first - and last - stop before bed. It is here I pay the bills, write my blog, go through paperwork, and of course, eat ice cream.

But last night for no particular reason, I suddenly decided to get off my lazy butt and brush my teeth during a commercial. When upstairs I saw Tator's door was closed and the light still on. So I went in to turn it off. As I reached for the light I realized there was something red on top of the lamp. At first I couldn't identify what I was looking at or that anything was overly amiss, but when I reached for the item I figured out what I was looking at - and what was happening.

The red plastic fireman was slowly melting onto the hot bulb (we hadn't yet converted this lamp to the energy-saver ones). I turned off the lamp and pried the gooey, slightly smoking mess off the bulb.

As I looked at my peacefully sleeping little boy, covers thrown off and padded bottom up in air, the could-have-beens began whirling around my head and my heart started pounding. Why had I come upstairs early? The extra half hour I would normally have been downstairs with eyes glued to the box could have been enough time to turn the smoke to flame. And with his door closed to curb the constant trips downstairs... it's too much to contemplate.

Intuition. Can't explain it. Don't discount it!

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9.07.2009

One of those moms

Yes, I am one of those mothers. I forget when it's picture day and I send my kids to school with bed head and a paisley-print shirt that clashes with the purple splash background. I leave the snacks by the door when we leave the house forcing my daughter to face complete humiliation and disappointment when she doesn't get to be snack leader that day. I neglect to read the "school spirit" day list correctly and send her to school in pajamas on a regular day.

And I didn't read the section of the handbook that clearly stated my son needs to be "bathroom independent" to attend pre-school.

It had crossed my mind that he might need to be (just as it had occurred to me that I should probably read the package of papers that came in the mail two weeks before school started), but I dismissed the thought because he is still so young (three in two weeks) and every mother has told me how much harder it is to potty-train boys. So as I sat with my 36-year old butt overlapping the sides of the tiny chair listening to the teacher at the parent meeting, I felt the sweat pooling under my arms.

... and at 9:30 we will potty them. They will go into a stall and do it all themselves... of course, we'll talk them through it for as long as they need, but we teach independence here...

I'm picturing my baby boy behind a closed stall door crying that he "can't do it" as the pee-pee collects in his pull-up.

A mother asks what happens if there is an accident. If they are just wet they will get themselves changed, including putting their wet clothes in a bag. But anything more solid will warrant a call home and the offending matter and its owner will have to cleaned up by the parent who apparently can just leave work or the grocery store to attend to her incontinent child. The blood rushes to my ears. As I will be teaching in town 40 miles away while Tator is in school, a full diaper would have to wait a very long time to be taken care of. And so it means that my mother, who is scheduled to pick him up after school, will now have to come into town early in case her grandson lets loose his bowels.

OK, I realize it is my fault that I didn't clarify this requirement and work on it over the summer, but I am now stuck. The teacher assured me they would work with me, but it might be that... he's not quite ready.

All my mother-pride comes flying to the surface. I'm imagining the shame of hearing my child is not "getting it" and needs to learn this skill before he will be accepted. I have failed my child. While I was trying to be a good mother not pushing the bathroom issue and making sure he was ready to want to do it himself, I have inadvertently kept him back in another way.

He is socially ready for pre-school. He is good with other children and his teachers are always surprised when he has a rare bad day at daycare. He can count to 10, his speech is clear, and the connections he makes sometimes astound us. But maybe I have babied him. He is my boy, my baby, my last-born. Compared to his big sister, I knew he wasn't capable of certain things, whereas when she was the same age I had nothing by which to judge her skills so I probably set my expectations higher. She was fully potty-trained by two and a half.

The first day of pre-school is two days away and I'm so nervous. We have been working on the issue and Tator is excited when he goes by himself. He knows that is how he will be able to go to what he calls Crystal School. But the idea of getting him to "go" as on demand before school so he can then wait until they are all "pottied" strikes fear in me. You cannot make a child poop, you just can't! (Not without risking some psychological scarring... thanks, Mum).

So, while I should be excitedly anticipating my son's big day I am instead wringing my hands waiting for him to come tell me he needs to go as I have asked (implored) him to do. When I ask him if he wants to go his answer depends on what is going on at that moment. There's no way the potty trumps Elmo or his bike. He gets stickers and lots of yahoos when he does, but he's still got a long way to go.

On Wednesday, I will hand over my son to Mrs. H and pray with all my might that my smart little man will understand that in those rooms he is no longer a baby. I hope he also understands that when he comes home he will always be my baby, no matter how big he is or what big boy things he learns to do.

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9.04.2009

9.02.2009

Women and W(h)ine

I read it on my friend's facebook profiles, I hear it on the phone, I hear it from my own mouth.

Man, I need a drink!

Mothers who have had a bad day with the kids, after the bath and bed, turn to the bottle for relief. And it is accepted that this is OK. And it is.

Within reason.

On NPR's OnPoint this morning the conversation was "Why Women Drink." Two recovering alcoholic mother/authors told their stories and those of others who had found solace in the sauce. Women who hide the empty bottle at the bottom of the trash and buy a new one to fool the spouse, or who get up at 3AM to get work done in order to start drinking earlier. Women who drive with their children in the car after one too many.

Those examples may seem a little extreme, but the point was that when you start centering your life around the drink - thinking about it all the time - you may have a problem. And when you start giving yourself limits (because you are aware you need them) but you can't stick to them or you make up an excuse to have "just one" (Jonny was such a brat today, I deserve it!), then it might be time to think about getting help.

Personally, I have only just discovered the wonders of a drink after the bedtime battle. I have never been a drinker - it was not a social norm in my family - and I somehow escaped the enticement of it as a teen and young adult. Yes, when there is a bottle in the fridge I look forward to enjoying a glass (and frequently I forget when there is one there), but when there isn't one, I don't even think about it and have a cup of tea instead. And I am so grateful! But I do understand.

I have written before about the pressures society puts on women - and we put on ourselves - to be perfect. Perfect mother. Perfect wife. Perfect housewife. Perfect employee. Perfect citizen. Etc. Etc. Etc. Whether we are working outside the home, stay-at-homers, or lounge-by-the-poolers, every situation carries its own stress. Wine is a sophisticated way to dull the anxiety, ease the frustrations.

Who wouldn't want a fairly inexpensive, easily accessible, socially-acceptable form of stress relief? Who doesn't deserve a reward at the end of a long, exhausting, infuriating day? Why shouldn't friends gather and commiserate together in the way reminiscent of their younger, childless days? Stress does need to be exorcised but drinking it away does not make it go away. It just numbs you to it for a while.

And if it is done with other girlfriends it may go unnoticed as a potential problem. "There is no gauge," was the way I believe it was termed by one of the guests on OnPoint. This means that others close to us must speak up - it may not make a difference at first but it will "plant the seed."

Please don't get me wrong! I love a glass of sweet white wine (I know, I know, dry red is so much more sophisticated but I ain't all that) and I am not trying to preach. I am just hoping that through google and my 20 or so readers I will do my tiny part to get this information out there. I didn't know how big a problem "mommy drinkers" had become (has always been?) and it scared me to hear it.

Tonight I won't have a glass because there isn't any in the house. But tomorrow I might. You have one too. But PLEASE be aware! The pressure to do and be everything to everyone is not worth the cost you may be willing to pay.

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9.01.2009

Alone!

I am in love with this day.

Not that it started that way. Far from it.

I woke up to some loud DJ yelling that pointing out hypocrisy made his day (the dial had apparently slipped off the familiar and soothing voices of NPR). When I went downstairs I discovered the kitchen mess was unchanged from the night before - I guess the fairies had gotten caught up elsewhere with no cell phone coverage - and I was faced with couscous crumbs and chicken carcass. Later, while attending to a wardrobe emergency of 1st Grade proportions, my abandoned coffee cup was snatched up by Tator who poured the contents down the toilet and then dropped the cup on the floor - one of my favorite sun-yellow mugs, smashed.

But now. The school bus has taken one away and daycare is occupying the other. I have hung up some posters around town for my next workshop and had a cup of coffee and a moment with my journal at the bagel shop. Now home.

This is my first full day alone since school started last week. And the weather is glorious. It is days like this that remind me of why I love this part of the country. The sun is bright and the air is dry with a hint of fall. The breeze is enough to sway the laundry on the line and make the trees bob ever so slightly. I can sit on the deck in perfect comfort listening to squirrels chatting, Chickadees dee-deeing, grasshoppers chirping, and flies buzzing.

And what makes this day complete? Doing what I love - writing about it.

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8.31.2009

Questions of Faith (pt 1)

If there is a god and he/she/it put us here on this earth for a reason, aren't we looking a gift horse in the mouth to live in constant anticipation of being taken from it and put on a cloud somewhere? Maybe even an almighty slap in the face: Gee, thanks for making the world - nice work - but I think I like your place better.

Personally, I'd like to stay here on earth and enjoy the cool grass beneath my feet, the creamy sweetness of ice cream on my tongue, and the kissable dip at the top of my child's nose. I want to continue to be astounded by fig wasps small enough to fly through the eye of a needle yet are crucial to the massive fig tree's survival (PBS).

I was raised to believe there was a better time coming and that our time here on earth was just a necessary wait at the bus stop to God's Right Hand. (I think our church was unusual in that it believed in a "Kingdom on Earth" and if deemed worthy for admittance we would be transformed.) I remember feeling guilty for not wanting my life as I knew it to end, to be taken from my parents, my sister, from a future husband and children. The idea of being flung into the heavens was a literal nightmare to me (read my fictional take on a dream I had at age six that has stuck with me for the last 30 years).

I no longer wait at that bus stop. I decided to walk away with my feet planted firmly in this lifetime, using and being grateful for the gifts I was born with. And to love this earth and all its people - now.

While waiting for a choral rehearsal to begin in the deep southern town I called home for three very long years, I was chatting to a fellow soprano. The details of the conversation have deserted me but how it ended are etched in my memory:

Ah caint wayt to git mah waings!

I was so astounded I could say nothing. I thought how sad it was that someone who was about to lift her beautiful voice - her gift - in the refrains of the expressed gift of the composer and conducted by a man who was in turn sharing his own gift of musical ability, would be wishing to be somewhere else, someONE else. To me, there is no greater gift than to be given the chance - the potential - to use and share our talents, to express our creativity here in the greatest expression of creativity - this world.

I do believe we are here on this planet to fulfill our potential, whatever that may be. I do believe "heaven" is the high we get from doing something we love and the challenge of learning how much more we can achieve (see my post on "Flow"). I also believe we should be helping others to recognize and pursue their own potential through teaching and compassion. I believe "God" is the creative energy within everyone of us, the spark of intuition, and the ability to heal and comfort ourselves through the inner wisdom we all possess and have access to through prayer, meditation, dancing, drumming, or writing.

You may question how I can prove any of this. I can't. You can't prove a feeling. (Although thousands of fellow artists, thinkers, and former fundamentalists will tell you similar things). And I don't need to. I am living the way that makes the most sense to me.

And I am at peace. Isn't that what any loving father would want for his children?

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8.27.2009

Jour du Journal: Finding Flow


Join me at jlucyjournals for today's thought and writing prompt.

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8.26.2009

Home is where the litter box is

I wrote this for a contest but then re-read the submission guidelines. Kind of missed the mark - details, details - but watch for the corrected submission when it wins the $5,000! Not wanting to waste a post opportunity, here it is:

Devon and Dorset (named for the southwestern counties of England) began their little lives in a shed in rural Mississippi. Eyes gummed shut and crawling with fleas, they were just hours away from death when we discovered them. And with ears bigger than their heads, they were the ugliest kittens you have ever seen. But into a box and into our lives they went.

After many Ivory soap baths and bottles of milk they began to revive and soon were tumbling and pawing at string and shadows.

A few months later we moved. Crated and mewing they complained as we drove them the 27 miles from their birthplace, but soon they were happily chasing lizards and cicadas at their new home. Our one-year old daughter loved these furry, meowing toys by hugging them real tight or sitting on their heads. Maybe because they were just grateful to be alive, they not only tolerated the tough love but adored her for it. They slept on her bed and purred her to sleep.

Another three years on and we moved back north. Not willing to leave our fur-babies behind, for four days and 1,500 miles, the car became their home. Two southern kitties with English names watched from the window of a subaru as fields turned into hills and hills grew into the mountains of Vermont.

Now five years old, our Ugly Kittens have grown into their ears and are two regal, handsome Cats. They still purr our daughter to sleep and mew her awake. But rather than sleeping in the shade of a Mimosa tree, they have learned to tiptoe through snow drifts and curl up in the glow of the woodstove. They are part of our family and have proven that home is where the litter box is.

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8.23.2009

I am happy... really.

A dear friend of mine (R) called me yesterday. She is the best kind of friend; the kind you can neglect to call, forget her birthday, and lose track of the details of life, but we know we will always love each other. We weren't childhood or even college friends. We met while working in the Trust Department of a bank about 12 years ago.

I wanted her life. She was happily married, I was playing (and losing) the dating game. She was elegant; she knew how to wear clothes with style even if they weren't in high style (she was a walking J. Jill catalog when their look was white-blouse-romantic). Fluid. Sensual. She was stable, grounded and authentic (to my envious eyes) and had the best work ethic I had ever witnessed. I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But we were both searching for something beyond the dingy gray fabric of our cubicles. We talked about books, writing, and living in a spirit of beauty. And so we clicked.

R had called to check on me. She told me she read a bit of my blog and her impression was that I wasn't content, maybe even unhappy. I admitted my summer has been frustrating with both kids home fighting over everything from who has the bigger scoop of ice cream to who gets to hold the expired grocery coupon.

And the noise. Lawd, the noise!

In preparation for Wednesday's return to school, today's big chore was to tidy up both kids' rooms. While I tried to get Little Lady to work through the categories of books, baby dolls, Barbies, vehicles, and farm animals, Tator was "singing" (piglet squealing), then rawr-ing like a tiger on speed, then wah-wah-ing a helicopter around the room. Inside voice, inside voice. Pleeeeaaaaassssssssssse.

And Little Lady: Mama, Mama. I can't do this Mama. I don't know where these books go, Mama. Why isn't Tator helping? Are you helping me, Mama? I'm thirsty. I'm hungry. My hand hurts. Ahhhhh, Tator hurt me. Tator's just messing it up again? MAMA!

But I promised R a positive post. A happy one.

But I'm not actually unhappy. I'm just not estatic. I am a mother of two young children who don't get along. I am a woman trying to work from home while mothering those children. A woman who loves silence, who loves to be alone.

Yesterday I read the blog post, The Incredible Vanishing Woman, by Noble Savage. I could have written it myself - not as well as she, of course - but the sentiments, even the discussions with Hubby. It got me thinking (i.e. writing).

My mother did everything around our house. She put her needs (to be a writer) last because what we kids were doing (going to school) and what Dad was doing (working, then getting his Ph.D.) was always more important in her eyes. I saw her sacrifice and did not want the same for myself. She told me once that whatever pattern you establish in the beginning of the relationship will stick. So I was determined to make it clear to whomever "took my hand" that we would have equality in our marriage.

Hubby won me over with his willingness to help around the house before we got married and I wanted to look after him and show off my "womanly skills." But once our relationship lost its first gleam and the toilet bowl did too, he no longer noticed it and I had to admit I had no womanly skills. And for some reason I'd get really angry every time I did (turns out I have some psychological baggage around cleaning as well as a severe allergy to dust, a combination that doesn't make for a merry maid).

And then the kids came along.

Hubby was raised in the South. Enough said? Children were a woman's business. Besides I wanted to be home with them. Work was his job, children were mine. I'm not saying he didn't change diapers, give baths, or play with them. He did. If he had to. And many, many tears were shed over my plight as an over-worked, under-appreciated servant whose very body was even in demand - for milk or sex.

In the almost seven years we have been parents he has become more and more helpful - the bedtime routine is practically all him now - and for that I am so thankful. But, I am also too controlling. And because of that I am complicit in my own discontent. Take last night for example. Tator came in our room at 4AM, his pajamas ringing wet. Now I could have elbowed Hubby and asked him to take care of it because I always take care of night time emergencies. But my reasoning to let him sleep were as follows:

1. He needs his sleep because has to work in the morning.
2. He wouldn't begin to know where the clean sheets or pajamas were (because 1. he has no idea where the kid's clean sheets are kept and, 2. I hadn't put the laundry away yet anyway).
3. He just wouldn't do it right. He would wipe Tator off with a clean towel instead of one that was ready for the laundry and would probably just pull up the duvet over the wet sheets and somehow wrap him up before stumbling back to bed.
4. I would stay awake during the whole process anyway waiting for them to need me.

But when I tell myself the truth it goes like this:
1. I need my sleep (just as much?) because dealing with two children all day on even a full night's sleep is exhausting. Not to mention that in between their needs I am trying to squeeze in making posters and sending out press releases for my workshops.
2. & 3. Who cares what towel, what sheets, or if Tator goes back to bed in a pink princess nightie?
4. So what if I'm awake, doesn't mean I need to uncurl from my perfect sleeping position and get up.

And so it goes. Hubby sleeps. I get up. I can't get back to sleep. I get grumpy with the kids when the chup-chup splats across the floor.

Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Tired? Yes. But am I unhappy? Truly unhappy? No.

I heard once that parents of young children and teenagers are in general, a wistful bunch. In love with our children and not regretting becoming parents, but not loving the day-to-day angst. Add some money issues to that and it's a little difficult to be all stars and rainbows.

But my dear R, I am OK. Yes, I am missing my coffee shop mornings and our talks about feng shui and simplicity in Barnes and Noble. Yes, I wish I was curled up in my big chair in my apartment quietly reading, uninterrupted. But I am pursuing my dream of working for myself and writing. I have my very own writer's refuge (although I have barely used it this summer), I have a loving husband who supports my dream and decision to stay home and tolerates (to a degree) my monthly meltdowns, and who is happy to do those chores that fire up my nasal membranes and my ire.

My life as a self-flagellating woman, mother, and housewife is not a barrel of monkeys but I know what I need, who I am, and what makes me happy. And I am trying to do something about it...

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8.20.2009

Needing a dose of my own advice

Today is going to be tough.

Hubby left at 6AM to drive to our small capital city to present his case to the licensing board, trying to convince them that the hoops they are making him jump through are not only ridiculous but a potential disaster for our family. Hubby's boss has, out of the blue, decided to change the way she pays him and it has essentially cut his pay in half.

In the very early hours of this morning after I was awoken by a suddenly seemingly mile-long toddler son thrashing his arms and legs in the calm waters of my sleep, I lay awake trying to breathe. I was obsessively writing blog posts in my head. Ally McBeal-esque record needles screeching to silence were somehow included in a paragraph about my life baking fragrant bread in my gleaming kitchen and folding my children's crisp white clothing.

Another was post was about my carpenter friend, who although he works extremely long and hard hours at his own business, the $1,000 it would take to insure his small family is beyond reach. Today, having come down with strep throat he has to resort to over-the-counter meds or even asking a nurse friend to "acquire" samples of antibiotics from her office. My anger at those who don't think we need insurance reform rose into my chest and sat there squeezing my lungs.

And then I was back thinking of the effects a 50% drop in income is going to have on this family over the next couple of months. And my chest heaved and began to implode.

I am so angry at Hubby's boss I alternate between visions of storming into her office and spitting my anger in her face and sitting there dripping in tears and snot as I tell her how her random "effective as of August 1st" means the difference between us paying our next mortgage payment and not. Meanwhile she is paying her husband to lay down a marble patio in the back of their office.

I left my job to leisurely pursue my own dreams because Hubby was supporting us so well. Now, my new enterprise, suffering the normal pains of anything young and growing, is feeling pressure to perform, well and now. Another workshop has been canceled for this weekend due to potential attendee's last minute summer activities and surgeries.

And the car. It is 10 years old. The muffler is going, the check engine light is always on. It is our only means of transportation. The fact that Hubby is driving over a mountain and back today in a car which hiccups and burns oil doesn't help my attempts to catch a breath. Broken car, no health insurance... I can't follow this train of thought.

When I do finally drift back to sleep it is a fitful one. Hubby's kiss goodbye and my mumbled "good luck" just falls in with the panicked ramblings of my subconscious. An hour later I am unceremoniously woken by the cries of Poop, Mama! Its falling out! With eyes barely open and bladder full, I find myself cleaning butts and toilet bowls. Then it's onto breakfast sloped down the clean shirt, new tap shoes on wood floors, moooorrreee ceee-re- al! from one child before I've even had a chance to pour the milk for the other child. And my coffee? Ha!

My whole body is a trembling mass of frog eggs. Every whine from Tator shakes my brain, I feel faint when I stand, and if it wasn't for PBS this morning my next post might just be written from inside the residential therapeutic community where I taught last night.

I have been trying to stay very positive. I am a positive person when it comes to life's potential disasters. And we have always made it. We have been here before. When we owned two apartment buildings and the management company decided to no longer rent out our apartments without informing us (we were 2000 miles away) I had a miscarriage from the stress of coming that close to bankruptcy. We lost thousands of dollars when we sold our starter home. But we made it through. We are now both doing what we love, we have a beautiful home, we have family near by. We were finally financially comfortable (meaning we could pay our bills, keep a full pantry and splurge on the occasional latte). And then, WHAM!

Today it has just all caught up with me. All my it'll be oks are taking a licking when I look at my bank balance. The potential of my business is great as are the collaborative ideas Hubby and I are working on. On that I am trying to focus, but its hard, so hard.

Thinking positively is positively impossible when you can't breathe.

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8.18.2009

Yes, I call myself a writer

Over the past few days I have unintentionally initiated quite the debate on my facebook page. The cynicism, sarcasm and disbelief over the healthcare debate I have posted in my status has riled up my sister-in-law (out of four kids, she's the only one who doesn't have the liberal views of her siblings, including, thankfully, my husband) and a former Sunday School/Bible School (boy)friend. But I have also gotten thank yous and Amens! from high school classmates and current friends.

I am not a political person. I never read the paper and the news is usually background noise to me, but once in a while my ears perk up. When I believe injustice is occurring (opposition to same sex marriage) or people are making insane accusations (Obama is a Muslim), I get really miffed.

However, I'm not a debater. Conflict makes me uncomfortable. Rightly or wrongly, I'm not a fighter. I can't think on my feet, I think with my pen (keyboard). And I think with my heart.

I have many things I want to say in response to the comments that were made on my facebook page. But today's not the day. I only have two precious hours to sit in the air-conditioned bookstore and just write before I have to pick up Tator.

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about when all that "other stuff" was on my mind and I wanted it off. And then I clicked on my google reader and saw this:

Call yourself a writer?

Why, yes, I do. Gotta read this one, thought I. And then at the bottom of the post I saw this:

I’m tagging Blues of a Waxwing, J. Lucy Muses, Motherhood: The Final Frontier, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em and This Is Worthwhile but feel free to do it even if you weren’t tagged.

I've been tagged. Love it! And incidentally, I've been tagged by the one person who makes me feel inferior when it comes to "reporting" opinion on the news of the day. Noble Savage is a journalist by trade. She know her stuff and she's not afraid to tell it like she sees it. She is one of the reasons I'm not quite up to telling it like I see it today (maybe tomorrow after I've a chance to think with my mind and my heart). So, thank you NS for the following meme.

Which words do you use too much in your writing?

Actually, just, and really.

What’s your favourite piece of writing by you?

For its honesty and the response it drew, this one. For its silliness, this one. For the therapy of telling a painful story, this one. And for my mommy world in all its glory, this one.

What blog post do you wish you’d written?

Due to my constant inability to keep up with all the blogs I've already bookmarked and my fear of falling in love with more if I follow too many links, there aren't too many options for this answer. I'd have to say pretty much anything by Noble Savage (did I mention how much I admire her informed rants?) and this honest description of normal, womanly, motherly despair and the self-prescribed solution by Lia Mack.

Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn’t written?

I do regret how much time writing this blog has taken from my family and any "real" writing (for possible publication). I do regret how some posts are not examples of my greatest writing, but I don't regret any particular posts.

How has your writing made a difference? What do you consider your most important piece of writing?

I don't have a large following *yet* so I don't know that I've made that much of an impact on the world at this point. But although no one has told me my writing has made a difference to them I have had positive response to a few of my posts. The one with the greatest response was this one asking mothers to keep talking so we can stop judging ourselves. I believe this to be so important.

This blog has made a difference to a friend of mine. She also started writing one only to discover it is therapeutic and that she, too wants to be a Writer. That makes me cry!

Name three favourite words

Debit or credit

…And three words you’re not so keen on

I'm soaked, mama! (at 2am)

Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?

In the world of writing I have a number: Julia Cameron, Barbara Kingsolver, Madeleine L'Engle, Anais Nin. In my new career of teaching journal-writing, it is Kathleen Adams.

What’s your writing ambition?

Immediate: To write everyday. Near Future: To be published in Brain, Child. Long Term: To make a living as a freelance writer and teacher.

What is the best compliment you’ve ever gotten about your writing?

That I am inspiring.

The rules:
If you have time to do this meme, then please link to my original, then link to three to five other bloggers and pass it on, asking them to answer your questions and link to you. You can add, remove or change one question as you go. You absolutely do not have to be what you may think of as a “published” or “successful” writer to respond to this meme, I hope people can take the time to reflect on what their blogging has brought them and how it has been useful to others.

I tag: Raising Smart Girls, Heidi's Notes from Vermont, and Slightly Irrational


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8.14.2009

Health Insurance = Nazism?

Disclaimer: I am not a political person, neither am I a journalist. I have not researched for this piece, I am just writing what I know. And also, because I am ranting, please excuse the lack of finesse.

I am mad. Really, really mad. And I can't keep quiet anymore.

We don't have health insurance. As of August 1 we had to cancel the $570.05 per month/$5,000 deductible policy. Before that I had a $919/$3,000 deductible per month policy. Neither one of these plans did me jack-shit. During the first policy I was paying $30 co-pays and getting bills for $200 or $300 for various doctor and hospital visits (my son's EEG, for example) that they would not cover. From the second policy I was paying out of pocket every doctor visit - not that there were many of them because after paying almost $600 a month I didn't have a penny left to pay for a $40 back adjustment even though I could barely walk.

So, we have made the difficult decision, that wasn't really a decision, but a forced reality, to go insurance-free. Our children are covered because Hubby's recent pay-cut made us eligible for state insurance. But, because we had purchased private insurance we now have to wait a year to be eligible ourselves. When I called the state's insurance help-line I told them of our new financial situation I was told that no longer being able to afford your premium is not an excuse. If, however, we had taken his employer's insurance at $1,200 a month and his pay was cut, then we would be helped. One problem there: If we had been paying the equivalent amount of our mortgage to some insurance CEO, we would no longer have a house to go home to die when we were unable to pay the medical fees the insurance wouldn't cover.

Yesterday, I received a letter from our previous insurance company asking if, wait for it... Tator's fall down the stairs and Little Lady's tick bite were pre-existing conditions... what madness is this??!!

And now I am hearing that there are Americans out there who think Obama is a Nazi for wanting "socialized" medicine. This statement makes me so angry! The Nazis killed people. How in the hell can anyone equate Obama and those who want to give all Americans equal access to quality healthcare to people who tried to erase an entire race?! You know who is killing people now? The insurance companies! Obama is trying to help those who, like my family, find themselves in the ridiculous situation of having to deny themselves the very care they are paying for because the insurance company is so expensive and denial-happy.

Oh, the irony.

I grew up in England. My parents never had to worry about such things. After I was born my mother didn't have to leave the hospital after two days and go home alone with no nurse to visit her or go back to work after six weeks without pay. My father didn't have to choose whether his slipped disk was something he could live with because the alternative was being in debt to the hospital for the next 10 years. For how much I love this country and have become an American in all but on paper, I wonder sometimes if I shouldn't uproot this family and plant them back in my homeland where they would be cared for like the humans they are rather than social security numbers or medical billing account numbers.

When the Opposition to the new plan starts spreading falsities (like killing grandma) it does nothing but harm the process and the people they are trying to help. Instead of spending time in these town forums getting real opinions and suggestions from The People, the politicians are having to spend valuable time refuting the crap these "fear mongers" are issuing. Why can't they share their opinion without spreading lies and hatred? Apparently, they have always had a fully-inclusive healthcare package paid for by their employer and really have no idea what us real people are dealing with on a daily basis.

Get out of way and let Obama do his job and let me go get my very overdue Pap so I don't have to leave my children without a mother because cervical cancer wasn't caught early enough (God Forbid!).

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8.10.2009

Conversations in the grocery aisle

As I am trying to find the toothbrush for which I have a coupon while trying to think over the, Mama, Mama, I want the Dora toothpaste! Mama, I want this one. Oooo, watermelon, I don't have watermelon toothpaste. Mama, I need this... what is it?, an old lady approaches me. I think she's going to comment on how cute my kids are or congratulate me on my ability to grab falling tubes while simultaneously remove brightly colored, cartooned products from my children's itchy fingers. Instead she asks me if I know where to find the baby wipes. I tell her the next aisle over. She then proceeds to tell me why she is looking for baby wipes. No, not grandbabies coming to visit. No, not a baby shower. She likes to use them herself, she has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you know.

Thanks for sharing.

A few aisles on, I run into an acquaintance, an older man I knew from my former job. We say hello and howdy-do and he asks me what I'm doing. I point to my cart crammed with two impatient children and far too much food and reply, Doing the mom thing.

He smiles indulgently and says, I meant, what are you doing with your time?

Oh, yea, nothing, nothing at all. Now, where are those bon-bons?

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8.05.2009

The only good thing about him

Yesterday I was taking the laundry off the line. We have had so few line-dry worthy days that I try to schedule the washing around the weather forecast - not a simple task. This summer we have had frequent days of digging deep in the drawer for that last-resort pair of undies. As I took down a fitted sheet and began to fold it I was aware that I was thinking of someone I prefer not to. Unfortunately, every time I fold a fitted sheet this boyfriend of my early 20s is there in my mind. Why? Because nicely folded sheets are his only worthwhile legacy.

I was living away from home for the first time. I had a job as a bank teller and he was a customer. It didn't take me too long to realize he had started coming in daily and manipulating things so he was ready with his transaction just as I was ready to accept my next customer. He would arrive at my window gleaming like the Cheshire cat to deposit his wealth of charm along with his checks.

We began dating. It began as most romances do, all hearts and flowers. I even came home one day to find a bag of marbles on my doorstep with a note that said, "I've lost my marbles over you." Got ya!

Before long I was spending more time at his house than in my own adorable apartment. And not too long after that I was cleaning his dishes and getting instructed on how to "correctly" fold a sheet. His closet was off limits in case I didn't hang the clothes with the appropriate amount of space between hangers. We did not go anywhere or do anything unless it was something it he wanted to do, which meant I went off to Maine for a romantic weekend - by myself. We never sat in coffee shops or walked along the waterfront. We went to parties of his friends where he was the center of attention. But when we went to the one party hosted by my friends he sat there in a big huff and wouldn't let me mingle.

Still I hung on. For a year. Even when he called me and told me not to come over because his ex-girlfriend had stopped by. Even when he laughed at my (incredibly flat) pot belly and (deviated septum) crooked nose. Even when I began to question everything I was about to say in case it annoyed him. He never hit me or anything close to physically abusing me - in fact, you could say I was the abuser after I slapped him and screamed in his face, "why don't you just go and fuck her," after he told me again I had to leave because his ex was coming by. He probably already had.

Over that year I went from having ambitions to go on to grad school to making sure there wasn't a milk ring in bottom of the glass. I began wanting to write and living the artist's life in the "big" city and ended up positioning the corners of the fitted sheet in perfect symmetry. I lost myself.

But I sank so low on the self-esteem chart that the only way was up. My need to write and be creative was so strong it pulled me out of the hole in which I was scrabbling. With the help of two priceless gifts, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance, and the friendship of two people who believed in me, I began to find my way back. I wrote my Morning Pages every day with the commitment of a drug addict. I put together my Authenticity Book with the joy of someone who is discovering a new friend.

I guess, I actually have to thank him. My sheets would be in a right mess if it hadn't been for him.

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8.02.2009

Let's Keep Talking!

So, as you may have read, this has been a difficult week. I usually hesitate to write down the dreary details of my life because I think, who the hell cares about my little life? My anxieties, my screw-ups, my stressors? But then I get feedback from you and I realize just how important it is to share these things. We are no longer a village society and as a result parents (mothers in particular - and on them I will focus because I can only write what I know) are suffering. I feel guilty even using that word "suffer" - as if I have one micro-ounce of right to say I'm suffering when others around the world and around the corner are living in situations I can't even imagine.

But the truth is we do suffer, we mothers. We live everyday under the burden of the responsibilities and expectations of our societies, our families, and most of all, ourselves. And for the most part, we suffer alone.

How many of us would willingly admit out loud that we yell too loud at our children. That we have smacked them in anger. Have you wondered if this precise moment will be The One that sends your child to therapy in 20 years time? How many times have you called a girlfriend and pleaded for her to come over because if you hear one more time, I diiiiiidn't dooooo it, maaaamaaaaa, you may just put your head in the oven. We don't because we are afraid to be judged, judged to be incompetent at our "job." It's the same reason, I'll warrant, that so many of us don't budget for a housecleaner. Who wants to admit they are a slob?

We know:
1. Being a stay-at-home mom is the equivalent of two full-time jobs.

2. In most times and societies other than our own a woman had domestic help. Only when technology lent us a hand around the house was it decided that a housewife could do it alone.

3. Many other societies around the world know raising children takes community effort. No other culture isolates and puts the pressure on its mothers like we do.

4. Stay-at-home mothers of the 1950s spent the equivalent amount of time with their children as the working mothers of today. Why? From a young age children of that decade (and probably the 60s and 70s also) left the house to go to school or to play in the neighborhood, woods, barn, etc. in the morning and only reappeared for meals and bedtime. (I can't give you a notation on that tid-bit except that I heard it on NPR, so it's gotta be good, eh?)

5. Everyone needs to practice some self-care for their own mental and emotional health.

But we believe:
1. I SHOULD be able to do it all.

2. I SHOULDN'T feel this way about my children, I love them. I have no right to get so angry.

3. ALL other women handle it just fine. I am the ONLY woman who locks herself in the bathroom to cry (while the kids are pounding on the door to come in).

4. I am SUPPOSED to be always available to entertain and educate my children. (And feed them organic local food and not let them watch TV and sleep in my bed and breastfeed until they're eight and ...).

5. I am a FAILURE if I cannot control everything (plus, provide brownies for the bakesale or volunteer at pre-school).

6. I CANNOT leave my children to take of myself, that would be SELFISH and irresponsible.


I don't know how to do away with these self-expectations and beliefs. And our society will practically need a revolution before it completely loosens its vice grip on our self-efficacy. But the conversation has begun. All these mommy-blogs and the social-networks are helping us communicate. Reading our own thoughts, feelings, actions, fears, gripes and joys in other women's words - women from all walks and ways of life - brings us closer to accepting ourselves.

And until we accept ourselves we will continue to suffer.

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