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Sunday, May 13, 2018

I am Paris Geller: an honest Mother's Day

In thinking about stretching my writing muscles once again, I knew I wanted to write about a Mother's Day trend that has been happening in my life.  While sorting through ideas in my head, I somehow stumbled into thinking about The Gilmore Girls.

I can't tell you how many "Which Gilmore Girl's Character Are You?" quizzes I have taken on the internet.  I'm definitely guilty of trying to get a certain answer.  The overachiever in me wants to be Rory.  But the more I think about it honestly, I'm not Rory.  I'm not Lorelai, Lane, Sookie, Luke, Richard or even Emily.  I can admit at this point in my life that I am Paris Geller.

I feel that in my life I have been studious and even ambitious like Rory, but there is such an utter lack of patience in me that I could only be Paris.

Nope. No. Definitely not.

Which is why I don't feel as if motherhood comes easily to me. I have been a Stay at Home Mom for five months. Everyone is still living and breathing and I consider this an honest-to-God miracle. I yell a lot.  And I feel very bad about this.  My four year old is very sweet.  He is also smart and has a stubborn streak a mile wide and is so like me in many ways that I just CANNOT some times.  So I yell.  And immediately feel bad.  And I do it again.  And again. And it's like I just cannot get out of this hole even though I know that constantly yelling at my four year old is A. not helpful and B. probably damaging him psychologically.  Not all days are filled with yelling.  Most days aren't and some are even downright fun.  But I have noticed a disturbing trend in my last 2-3 Mother's Days

For a few days to a week leading up to that Sunday, it's like all possible bad situations and bad parenting habits converge at once.  I am constantly yelling.  I stub my toe or my oldest knocks over his glass of milk three meals in a row.  And so on for days and I am just in a terrible mood.  I get stuck in that tornado of thinking that I am a terrible mother.  A terrible wife.  A terrible daughter, terrible female person.  That I am constantly failing and not good enough- for anyone and especially not these two adorable kids who call me Mom.  

I know I am not a completely awful person.  I know that these feelings will go away.  Since being at home, I have gotten so much better at hitting the reset button after something bad happens and just moving on and starting over.  But all moms go through this.  All women feel these pressures: from society, from our jobs, our kids, spouses, parents, friends.  It crushes us down at times and feels like we will never be able to adequately lift that rock.  It seems impossible most days to forgive myself. 

I will say now what countless other women have said for centuries: you're enough. You're doing fine. All of the stuff that feels like a failure will fade away and be replaced by new crap to worry about.

This part is important.  

I want you to repeat with me: all of the guilt I feel at not being "enough" is BULLSHIT. 

There is no such thing as enough, as perfect, as right when you are a parent.  You are awesome for surviving the day and bringing everyone else with you. 

I know that guilt is just another weight that you carry around.  I know you have 8,000 other things to worry about each day.  But let it go.  Find the way through the day that works for you and just do your thing.  Parenting columns, TV show families, judgmental people in line behind you at the store when your toddler is throwing a tantrum be damned.  They can all go jump. It doesn't matter if you picked up Happy Meals for dinner for the third night this week.  Doesn't matter if your kids are wearing dirty socks or refuse to have their hair brushed.  We can tell other women that they are great all day long but still not extend that forgiveness or understanding to ourselves. You got this.  You're fabulous.  Even when you are Paris Geller.  

Time to return to the things I love

It's been a while.

2018 has been a year where I am constantly running into "Remember when I used to..." thoughts.

Remember when I used to... sing and play music regularly?

Remember when I used to... work outside the home and felt some sort of validation of my education and intellect?

Remember when I used to... write and read and take joy in those activities?

Since we moved from Wisconsin back to Illinois in December, I have been a Stay at Home Mom.  If you had told me, even after I had my first kid, that I would be staying at home with my children I probably would have laughed.

"Are you kidding?!"  I would squeal.  "There is NO way I could do that!  I have such a small amount of patience that none of us would survive the first week!"

Well it's been 5 months and no one's died yet (seriously, a miracle).

While I am glad to be closer to our family, it feels just like it did when we moved north over five years ago.  Except now I am feeling all of the isolation of being in a new place while also trapped in a house with two small children and a feeling of paralyzation/ depression that has been growing since 2016.

I've decided it's time to stop dicking around.  Time to make some definitive changes in order to make my life a happier one.  I can't rely on everyone else to do that for me and I can't just sit here anymore.

Future areas of inspection:

I used to love writing so much.  I haven't written a piece of fiction in almost TEN YEARS.  I haven't even written an essay or blog post in more than two and a half.  It's time to look into some online writing courses and at the very least, use blog posts as some much needed practice.

Getting out in my new community and making a difference.
This one has always been tricky for me.  As the years go by, I get more and more socially anxious.  Going to new places I have never been to before makes me nervous.  Going to new places I have never been to before which are packed with people I don't know also makes me nervous.  For some reason unbeknownst to me, I have never had a problem tapping into my acting skills in a work setting in order to appear positive, friendly and confident. But everywhere else? NOPE. At any rate, finding ways to help others is very important to me. I am going to need to try harder to get over those feelings of anxiety in order to go to new places when there are opportunities to volunteer or help others.  Period.

I miss singing.  SO much.  I haven't seriously performed since 2011.  I don't even know if I can even read music anymore.  Seriously.  This is a source of great shame and distress for me.  How can I have forgotten how to do something that I spent the majority of my time doing for most of my life? I was asked to sing a simple hymn along with piano and viola at my youngest's baptism last weekend.  It was a song I have sung a million times, we were only doing 3 short verses and I was singing to a very non-judgmental audience.  But I lost my spot on the page halfway through the last verse and sang the wrong words because I was trying so hard not to cry.  Not because it was a special day for my son, memories blah, blah, blah. Because of that unnamable joy that wells up in a musician when they hear/play/sing. I simply could not handle being drowned by the feeling of AWESOME that is music in that moment.  How on earth do I begin to retrain myself? Ain't got the time/$/childcare for lessons.  Get out my old music theory books?  Who knows.  I can at least start by pulling out some sheet music and singing to my baby.  He won't know I'm singing all of the wrong rhythms!

I will write an essay some day about dealing with bullshit health stuff as a young person.  Long story short, I told myself when I had my first kid that I would not cave to societal pressures to attain my "pre-baby body" and wouldn't even think about working out etc. until my kid turned one.  Well, he turned one, we stopped breastfeeding and my body fell to pieces all within a two week timespan.  I then spent more than six months trying to diagnose the issues and find a treatment that wouldn't leave me constant pain.  After having my second kid, I have decided that it is VERY important for me to establish healthy habits BEFORE we stop breastfeeding.  If I don't, who knows how much time and money I will sacrifice trying to find a new normal.  I don't have the time (or patience) to do that again.   So I've started small but need to continue to find ways to exercise and eat well.  I also need a new rheumatologist.

That's the gist of where I am.  I can't even begin to tell the entire story of where I've been.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why My Dog Deserves a Goddamned Medal

Everyone loves their dog.  But mine is awesome and he deserves a mother fucking medal.

Let me explain.

My Tuesday began with a bit of anxiety.  I had been planning for weeks to go see Jenny Lawson read from her awesome new book Furiously Happy but there were a few complications.  The hubs was away at a conference in Las Vegas which meant that I would have to A. race out of work to make it in time B. take my 1.5 y/o with me to said reading and C. pray to whatever gods were listening that he could sit still and not scream or knock over a book display at the bookstore.

We made it to the event.  The kiddo made it through with so few whiny squawks that it was a bonafide miracle.  Jenny Lawson was awesome and funny and brave and I am so glad that I took the leap and did something outside of my comfort zone.  Since I had the kid with me, we got boosted to the front of the book signing line where I embarrassedly asked her to write her often uttered phrase "What the shit?" on my bookmark in order to glance at the phrase on days when people were being a-holes.

Jenny Lawson is delightful!
Unfortunately, my new favorite phrase came in handy less than a half hour after the event.

We were less than five minutes from home when my cell phone rang.  I don't usually answer my cell while driving, but saw that it was our home security company calling and picked up.  The convo went something like this:

"Yes, Ma'am we have an alert that your alarm is..."
*rain, wind and traffic* "What? I can't hear you?  I shouldn't even be on the phone right now..."
"'am the back door alarm is going off..."
"What alarm?"
"Ma'am, what is your security word?"
"My security word?  It's ______."
"Correct.  The back door alarm is going off, would you like us to send the police?"
"I, uh, I'm not even at home right now.  I'm like, 5 minutes away.  I don't think you need to send the cops.  Just turn the alarm off."
"Alright.  Let us know if you need us to contact the police at a later time."

I pull into the driveway and everything at the house looks normal.  Our door sometimes doesn't stay shut properly when you lock it and changes in air pressure can force it slightly open causing the alarm to go off.  I assumed this is all that happened.  I pulled very vigorously on the handle and while it was locked, it gave about an inch or so as I expected. There was a broken off metal mop/brook handle laying on the pavement outside the backdoor.  I shrugged, turned off the security, unlocked the door and brought the kid inside.  Everything seemed normal inside so I went about the traditional bedtime routine and called the hubs and put him on speaker so I could tell him what happened.

After assuring him that everything seemed normal, he told me that it might not be a bad idea to call the non-emergency police.  During the entire call, my adorable (but sometimes annoying) corgi was barking his head off.  While he does bark on occasion, this was constant, super agitated barking.  I assured DJ again that everything was fine and ended the call. I checked all of the rooms in our upstairs; nothing was disturbed. Albus continued to bark.

I texted my neighbor and asked if she'd seen anything strange outside a bit after 8.  She responded immediately saying: "I did.  I was just getting home and saw 4(?) guys by our houses.  It was weird.  It looked like they had sticks or something in their hands."


Guess that explained the broken off broom handle.  With that information plus the continued barking from Albus, I started to feel a chill run up my back.  Could someone have gotten in, seen me coming home and hid somewhere in the house? I dialed non-emergency and went downstairs to look a little closer on the first floor.  DJ had suggested that maybe someone had managed to break in through a window in the back of the house and then exited through the back door (it is possible to engage our deadbolt and then slam it shut behind you, leaving the door locked).  All of the windows were fine, again nothing out place.  As I was talking with the dispatcher, I flipped on the light to go down to our basement and froze.  There was a huge dent on the wall behind the backdoor matching the door handle.  I was sure that dent hadn't been there before and I started to panic.  I immediately went back upstairs and asked them to please send an officer over.  She said to be safe and call 911 immediately if anything happened.

After about 30 minutes, two detectives arrived.  I explained the situation, they took some photos and helped me search the house.  They said that 3 teens were caught a few blocks away trying to break into another house.  The detectives thought that the kids had tried to get into the house but were scared off by the alarm.

I then proceeded to not sleep again ever.

The next day, one of the detectives called me.  Turns out, there were four teens and they caught the fourth one around 1 AM early that morning.  Only one of the four admitted to anything but he did give details about the break-ins.  Apparently they were bored and just started breaking into houses in our neighborhood.  They managed to KICK IN OUR BACK DOOR (mystery of the doorknob dent= solved) but only got as far as the landing before running back out because of the dog.  So the deadbolt was still out, they slammed the door behind them and it locked again.  They broke into four other houses (including one where the owner was home!) before being caught.  And this was all between 8 and 9 PM on a Tuesday night.  Damn.

lt;dr Some dumb ass kids broke into our house, Albus chased them off and is a mother fucking hero.


Alright.  It's only day four and I've decided that I'm jumping off of the NANOWRIMO wagon.  You're probably saying "You quit after only FOUR DAYS."  But I've discovered several things:

1. Apparently, since it's been so long since I've written any fiction, I can no longer just sit down and write without a plan. I had a general idea going in but that was about it.  Not working.

B. Having a toddler + mommy brain= CANNOT CONCENTRATE.

So, since I only got several thousand words in, I'm thinking I'll save what I have, come up with some plans and keep it for next year.

Not to mention, this frees me up to write more of the other things I've been working on lately. Like the next post...

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Year of Living Dangerously

I've never been a fan of New Year's resolutions. It always seemed that no matter how gung-ho I was about losing weight or eating healthy or not making dead baby jokes I usually fell off the wagon after a few weeks.  Well not this year, dammit!

A few days after 2015 rang in, I decided to give myself a challenge instead of a resolution: I would treat 2015 as my year of living dangerously.  I would branch outside of my comfort zone and do things that were challenging; things that maybe even scared me.

I started by vowing to take part in the entirety of the Photo A Day challenge from one of my favorite websites, Forever Young Adult. I managed to take a photo and submit it via Instagram for all 31 days of January.  That might not sound like a big deal, but I'm the type of person who can't be relied upon to remember to take any sort of daily medication if it isn't sitting on my kitchen table.  So this was already a pretty big step for me.

Anyone who knows me should be insanely impressed by this drawing I managed.

I had several helpers while working on HP shrink-dinks.

Then there were my reading habits.  There are TONS of awesome New Year's reading challenges out there.  But I was afraid that I wouldn't have the time to commit fully to a vigorous reading list.  So I made my own challenge for the year.  I have a tendency to read books by dead American/British white guys.  So I vowed to read more books by female authors, authors of other races and non-American/British authors.  I am surprised to say that I kicked ass at this personal challenge.  Without thinking about it too hard, over 75% of my reading this year has fit those parameters and I don't think I'll go back next year :)

Another challenge I set for myself and DJ was to watch more movies.  Now, before we had a kid, going to the movies was pretty much our main hobby.  But since it is far harder to get out these days, I thought it would be cool to try to watch all 100 movies on the AFI Top 100 List.  Thus, my Drinking at the Movies blog posts were born.  Though now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever posted any of the AFI films yet.  But we've drank and watched other movies!

With my 30th birthday looming, I wanted to do something awesome.  DJ told me to pick our vacation destination this year and I chose to return to Maine.  I wanted to climb a goddamned mountain!  And to drive into Canada and see the Anne of Green Gables house...  But before I could attempt to do either of those things, I spent 6 months battling a host of weird and painful symptoms before starting infusion treatments for Ankylosing Spondylitis.  What's that?  You've never heard of Ankylosing Spondylitis? Well, it's an inflammatory disease, arthritis actually, but not Rheumatoid Arthritis and not Osteoarthritis either.  It can cause the vertebrae in your spine to fuse together and you get all kinds of painful joints and swelling issues.  Needless to say, this was going to complicate my goal of climbing a mountain.  So... I took more steroids than usual and while I didn't make it to the top of the mountain, that was more due to the fact that we needed at least 8 hours to make it up and down Mount Katahdin  and we didn't get to Baxter State Park until 2 PM than the fact that my right knee sucks.  But we did what I set out to do:  I climbed a goddamned mountain!  Or at least, stumbled around over her feet like a drunken toddler.

Water from a cool mountain stream.

Hey look, a rock!

So tired.

It was straight up the entire hike...

I had known for a few months that Jenny Lawson (author of two awesome books) was coming to Milwaukee to publicize her new book.  Having recently listened to the audio book version of her first book, I was in LOVE with Jenny's honesty and her wonderful reading voice.  I had to go.  Two problems: A. hubs was going to be out of town at a conference and I would have to take the kiddo with me and B. I'd never been to Boswell Books before.  See, I don't really talk about the fact that I have what I have self-diagnosed as a mild social anxiety disorder.  I am scared about driving/going to places I have never been before and I have a hard time talking to people I don't know (if they break the ice first, my acting skills kick in and I can fake like I'm normal but inside... it's full-blown panic up in my brain).  Anywhoski, I took several hours out of my day off a week before the book signing and went to Boswell's.  I didn't get lost.  I picked up my pre-ordered book and everything was fine.  When the signing night arrived, we got there in time, the toddler stayed in his stroller for an hour and a half, didn't cry and we didn't knock over any book displays.  SUCCESS!

This November, I've decided to try to do NANOWRIMO.  Why would someone who hasn't written any fiction since graduating college suddenly decide to try and write a novel?  Because this is MY YEAR AND I AM OWNING IT!  I may not finish, but I'm going to try.  Like so many of the other things I've done this year, writing is scary for me but I'm going to push through and try.

Here's to living dangerously!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Review: Between the World and Me

Ta-Hehisi Coates, a journalist who works for The Atlantic Magazine, is a writer who is constantly being mentioned in the realm of African American intelligentsia.  The great Toni Morrison has even gone so far as to consider him the next James Baldwin.  Coates' new book Between the World and Me proves this to be a grandiose but true statement in many ways.

The immediate comparison comes from the mirror between writing conventions.  Coates' work is written as a letter to his son explaining the experience of the damage done to black bodies in America.  This is very similar to Baldwin's "A Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation," a section of his book The Fire Next Time.  A section of "Letter" states:
I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it and I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.
It is this concept of "the Dream" that Coates often refers to- the idea that the country as a whole is complicit in the crimes against African Americans and does not care to admit it- that shadows his words.

Coates follows the themes of exploitation, segregation and violence. What is it like to live in a black male body in the United States today?  What is it like to have a constant threat of violence enveloping your person?  What is it like to live in fear but with a hope that your child will be safe?  Coates explains "I tell you now that the question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream, is the question of my life, and the pursuit of this question, I have found, ultimately answers itself."

He goes on to explain his childhood in Baltimore.  That black children were told to be "twice as good" and yet ended up with half as much. That there was a delicate dance if one wanted to survive the streets but that the schools were no protection nor were they a pass into the Dream.  He says that:
The streets were not my only problem.  If the streets shackled my right leg, the schools shackled my left.  Fail to comprehend the streets and you give up your body now.  But fail to comprehend the schools and you gave up your body later.
 Coates compares the personal discoveries of injustice between himself and his son.  He discusses at length the day when he discovered that one of his college friends had been murdered by an undercover police officer just steps away from his fiance's home.  The author then says this about his son's experience:
That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free.  The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished.  It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished.  But you were young and still believed.  You stayed up til 11 P.M. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, "I've got to go," and you went into your room, and I hear you crying.
Coates' views are only those of one black man living in America today.  He doesn't claim to speak for everyone and he doesn't want absolution.  He writes to wake up his white readers and remind his black readers that their bodies do  matter.  That silence and obedience will not save you from the wrath of the Dream. 

This book has made me want to ask many questions; chief among them being "I don't want to be an ignorant white person who is complicit in perpetuating this terrible system!  What do I *do* next?"  It is a fascinating and heart-breaking read.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Live Blog Post: Tommy Wiseau's The Room- Interview with Tommy Wiseau

OH MY GOD THE INTERVIEW WITH TOMMY WISEAU IS ANSWERING ALL OF MY BURNING QUESTIONS! Why were the actors playing football while wearing tuxedos only standing 3 feet apart??? WHY?????

So... because it was fun to play football in a big field.  Got it.

Q: What did you accomplish?
A: I finished what I started.  

"I am planning on releasing a DVD documentary about HD and 35mm comparison... andalsowriteabookaboutit."


And after this is all over, I am wondering if any of these people EVER acted again.  God I hope not.