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Archive for September, 2009

these pages must show

Thirty days hath September, which means today’s post is my last for NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. As an experiment in pain thresholds, it has been fascinating. As a useful tool for thoughtful daily blogging, however, it has been an unmitigated disaster.

The writer’s life is filled with admonitions and advice, the most common of the latter being “write every day”. This is thought to both instill discipline and allow a safe space for the regular honing of skills. It is important to note that in no way is this daily accrual of written pages expected to be published, kept, or even revised — no, the expectation is “just write” for pure exercise of craft, and if perhaps it survives in subsequent drafts, well that is just icing, really.

And that is the thing with blogging, isn’t it? Certainly the “save as draft” function is useful to many of us, and often availed for one reason or another, but with the “Publish” button so near at hand, and the accelerated, transitory nature of the medium, thoughtful revising is rarely a factor. Certainly it hasn’t been for me, at least not this month.

There are a couple of pieces I’m pleased with, not for their quality of writing but for their initial introspective honesty and the responses they garnered from readers. My post about yelling, for example, happened in a burst of shame but elicited a few insightful and reassuring comments and emails that I truly appreciated. My post about wanting another helped me admit and clarify to myself some conflicting feelings of longing for a third child, and sparked a deep discussion with my husband.

But there are many, many posts that are just filler, just me meeting the daily quota in the minutes between real-life obligations that can’t be shirked or pushed aside. Things like feeding my kids, picking them up on time, getting them to doctor appointments. Buying food, meeting deadlines for paid work. So I’d scratch a few words into the computer and hit Publish, cringing at the lameness but forgetting it in the next minute as I rushed off to carry on with the real business of living.

I don’t know how people balance the studied seriousness of a craft like writing against their regular life. Perhaps if the time I carved out was regular (though, let’s face it, 4am is looking like the only viable option) and there was no immediate publication threat, it would be a richer experience with more useful — if long-term — results.

I’m not sorry I did it — like I said, it was an interesting experience and netted some valuable insights and connections. But I’d rather save my time and my posts for when I have something meaningful to write.

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my secret heart

Last night, Shriekeur, in all his 3-year-old glory, was up every two minutes needing something. You know the drill: water, tissues, potty, nightlight, blanket, and so on. Quiet but insistent calls of “Mom? Mooooooooom” wafted into the living room just frequently enough to ensure I never quite sat down, despite my intention to watch House and figure out what the hell has been going on so far this season.

Finally, after about 40 minutes of this, I got cranky. As I thudded down the hall towards the bedroom, my grumpy stomping telegraphed my mood, and by the time I got there, this is what he said: “Mama? I have somefing to feel you better. Come here so I can give it to you.”

I knelt by his bed. “Closer, Mama.” I leaned in. A damp smack on my cheek and sweaty stranglehold around my neck. “There,” he said, satisfaction in his voice. “I feeled you better, right?”

“Yes, lovey,” I said, all choked up. “I feel much better, thank you.”

I’m SUCH a sucker. Sue me.

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the leaves fall thick

Today in bullets:

Project No Yelling is going quite well, I haven’t shouted at the kids at all so far and have even dialed back my Tone of Icy Death somewhat. Although my husband is probably finding me a little — well, ok, impossibly — smug. But really I’m not being self-righteous, just ecstatic that it is working. And when I say working, I mean not only am I not yelling, but somehow I’m not even getting pissed enough to yell. Something about it not being an option seems to be removing my frustration from the equation, at least before it gets a full head of steam going.

• Now that I’m actively looking for work I’m feeling like a total schlumpy failure. That recent five year gap in my professional history? Those twenty extra pounds I’m carrying? The bitten-off nails? The impossible school/daycare schedule that will only have a very minor impact on my ability to be on site in a prompt fashion on a daily basis? Doesn’t that all just scream GREAT HIRE!? Not that anyone has seen my fat or my fingernails, because of course I haven’t had a single response to the many resumes I’ve circulated. But still, it all contributes to the feeling of high inadequacy.

• Making friends. Sigh. Julia has a great piece in the current Redbook about making friends as a mumble-year-old and it has really got me thinking about the current state of my friendscape. My oldest, closest friend lives a few hours’ drive away and what with life and schedules we just don’t see each other as often as we’d like. I have a couple of friends from a past (work) life I see, but not terribly frequently. When my kid started at the local elementary school I met a couple of moms I really connected with and see pretty often, but those relationships are still relatively new and need some time to deepen. And now that the kid has switched schools there is a whole new social scene to mine, but I know that will take time as well. I guess I’m just feeling a lack, but there’s nothing to do except nurture the relationships I have and cast about for other like-minded souls, but in the here & now, well, I’m finding it a bit lonely.

• Today both kids are off from school, so on a whim I took them on a surprise outing to do fun and goofy things. As we were loading up, I noticed Shriekeur felt a little warm, but attributed that to the fact that he’d been running around the house pretending to be a lion-robot or something (honestly, who can keep up with another person’s imagination?) but then on the carousel he leaned glumly on the pole, offered a faint “yee-haw” and then promptly fell asleep on the way home. He’s now in my bed and I’m afraid to go check on him, seeing as the thermometer will likely start bleeping a red alert before I can even cross the threshold.

• The oven is broken. The soonest the service people can get here is exactly one day before our one-year warranty expires. So, I suppose if the oven is going to go on the fritz, this is the ideal time, excepting the large piece of salmon I’ve no idea how to deal with stove-side. And the pumpkin bread I’ve been dying to make. And the squash I wanted to roast. Sigh.

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the rim on one’s nose

Today I had a day out, to myself, on my own, doing grown-up things. I’m so happily exhausted I can’t even describe it, other than to say as much of a cliché as it is, parents really, really, really need to take time for themselves once in a while, to refresh and recharge.

It can be hard on the knees, though. Just sayin’.

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the best of times

Driving around with my daughter at sunset, windows rolled down, stereo cranked up, singing at the top of our lungs to Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening” and laughing like loons. Oh my god, what a blessed and pure DAMN-I-love-my-kid moment. So needed that.

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hope for better things

I’ve never thought of myself as a yeller. In fact, I’ve mainly been a pretty meek and mild person, only becoming outspoken with people I’m close to or at cocktail parties after one too many “just to relax” drinks. When we were first married, arguing with my husband was impossible, because he would yell or use an intense tone, and I would shut down and not be able to speak or even whisper, I was so intimidated.

Perhaps his communicative techniques have grown on me over the years, because now I’m shocked to discover that not only do I have an inner yeller, it is not technically even an “inner” anymore. Get my dander up and you will have a yeller on your hands, whether you are an asshole driver, an (momentarily! of course!) insensitive husband, or, unfortunately, one of my children.

God, those poor babies. When they dawdle in the morning: yell. When they sass me in the afternoon: yell. When they run away from toothbrush-wielding me before bedtime: yell. When they are fighting over a toy in the car: yell. When they are whining about this or that: yell.

Yell, yell, yell.

And, funny thing, turns out they are yellers, too!

We all know children make amazing mirrors. Whatever we dish out, they shoot back at us, right between the eyes. So when I found myself becoming first annoyed, then exasperated, then genuinely worried about all their yelling, I had to open my eyes — well, my ears, really — and think about where it was all coming from.

I don’t think I can describe how much I hated myself in that moment when I realized they learned to yell from their parents. From me. And I know we’re supposed to cut ourselves some slack as parents, to recognize we’re doing the best we can with the tools we have . . . and yet, this time, I can’t allow myself that caveat. I realized the only way I’m going turn this around, and help my kids become people who can use their frustration and anger constructively (or at least not de-structively) is to become one myself.

That means, I’ve decided, no yelling. No. Yelling. None, at all. Not at them, not at my husband, not at idiot drivers. That may sound crazy, maybe even unhealthy, but I figure it’s like my version of AA: in order kick the habit, I have to forbid myself any and every indulgence. I may even have to get a sponsor, because at this point, honestly, it is a really tall order. I have become so habituated to blowing off steam or even little annoyances with a yell.

And my kids are suffering. I can’t be the one to do this to them. I can’t be the one they are afraid to be themselves around, the one who helps them build an aggressive shell of protection, the one who makes them cringe when they’ve made a mistake. I have been stressing my kids out, and I don’t want to do it any more. I’m totally crying as I type this, because it is a horrible admission to make, and while I’m still somewhat anonymous here, it is where I am publicly accountable to myself (if that makes any sense).

But, here it is: I’ve been a yeller, but I’m not any more. Starting this week, I will manage and express my negativity without yelling, I will seek help from peers or professionals if I can’t do it on my own, and I will report here regularly to make sure I’m keeping it real.

That is, if I don’t curl up and die of shame as soon as I hit the publish button.

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thinky thots thursday

More gems from my genius offspring:

“How ’bout dis, Mama? YOU get a shot, and I NOT get a shot?! Dat would be AWESOME!”

“Why do they call it a ‘popsicle’ anyway? They should just call it “frozen sticky stuff on a stick’.”

“I not a cuddlebug. I a stinkbug!” *rips tremendous fart*

“I just didn’t feel like choosing to sit in the kindness circle, okay?”

“I did something bad. But I’m not going to tell you. Got it?”

“How do you know Jesus is sweet? Isn’t he dead?”

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