Thursday, May 18, 2017

Touchstones

Chris Cornell. Dammit.

We lost another of our grungy, reluctant rock gods who ushered us into the 90s, one of the dirty boys who whispered through our earphones and ushered people like me through the Mickey Mouse surface-polished boy band years, who kept me safe and told me stories and filled my life with the dirty beats and grinding guitars that I craved.

But those boys don't always last. I don't know his story but I do know that we lost another great talent and the word is that it was self-inflicted. A friend shared this video on Facebook and it really struck me.


My generation was taught that "suicide is painless" and "it's better to burn out than fade away" and too many believed it and then there are those of us left behind, scraping up our pain like ashes flying away and we tuck them back in and pull the important things closer to help soothe that pain.

This GenX mom is parenting Generation-I-don't-know-what-they-call-them kids who are fierce and smart and take no bullshit. We're watching 13 Reasons Why together, even though it's the last thing I want to do, because I don't want them to watch it this summer when I'm working without some sort of debrief to discuss the heavy parts. I want them to have the proper context so, yes, I'm totally helicopter parenting them through it because they weren't raised like my generation was.

But my kids have seen some shit—their generation might be overparented and overprotected but real life slips in. And even though I'm the mom who talks about all the things with them, even though I'm the mom who tells them almost daily that I'm here; that I don't judge.

Still, they keep things from me.

They don't want me to worry.

So we talk about that, and about how it's okay if I worry—shit, I'm going to worry anyway, so might as well let me know what's up so I have something real to fuss over—worrying is what I do. As I see it, it's part of my job as their mom.

But I'm doing it wrong because that's how parenting works; I think I'm doing everything I can, but life is like Whack-a-Mole and as soon as I slap down one problem, more will pop up and I only have so many hands. And hammers. And I can't fix everything for them.

I. Can't. Fix. Everything. For. Them.

But I can give them the tools to overcome. I can teach them how to whack their own moles.

So, now we're watching the show about the big issues with the bullying and the suicide and the rape and I'm sad when they say that most of the things they're seeing don't shock them, because that's how it is in their schools. And I'm not surprised because that's how it was back when I was in school. A way long time ago.

Some things never change.

But I sure wish some things would.

Life is hard without making it harder on ourselves, on those around us. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On Calling It a Day

I'm pretty honest with my daughter. She's 12 and I think it is important for her to know that she's not the only one who struggles. That sometimes grownups make it up as we go along just like she does. And that that is okay.

One of these conversations was clearly on her mind a few weekends ago when she assured me that even though I sometimes feel like I don't know what I'm doing, she thinks I'm doing a great job and that I totally do know what I'm doing.

She's a pretty smart kid, so I know I should believe her. And while I felt a twinge of regret that she would feel the need to say such a thing to me, I also think it was profound of her to bring that up out of nowhere when we were just running errands and chatting.

But when I turned it over in my head, framing her words with our current situation, I realize that it's easier to feel less than, easier to feel like I don't know what I'm doing when I'm doing something I'm not meant to do. Sometimes my struggle to succeed is tied to me trying to succeed at something that's not quite right for me.

And that's bullshit. Because hard work that I excel at, hard work that feels good, doesn't feel hard. Going all in physically or mentally on something that I feel is the right thing for me doesn't feel like hard work; it's rejuvenating. Sometimes I push and struggle at something I think I need to do and it's like pushing against a mountain—you can't push through a mountain. Other times I work hard and push and struggle at something and it's like a boulder—it's hard, it takes focus and concentration and sweat and tears, but I make progress.

 
It's important for me to recognize the mountains from the boulders and it's okay to walk away from a mountain that won't move. I'm doing that now. I'm walking away from a freelance life that never quite went over the edge to success, walking away from blogging, from mountains I realize I maybe wasn't meant to climb. Mountains that diverted my attention from the boulders.

I guess I've been preparing for this since January—deciding to strip away bullshit in one's life has a way of revealing hard truths. Without that layer of self-deceptive bullshit protecting me from myself, I see it's time for change.

So, here's to new adventures. To knowing when to walk away. And to no more bullshit.


Sunday, April 02, 2017

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It's been two weeks since my schedule changed and so far, so good. It's been an adjustment but one that everyone in the house has been able to make. Well, most of us.

I think Trixie maybe isn't a fan.

Before, our weekday morning routine was very routine: everyone left for their daily duties and Trixie & I would set up on the couch with our favorite fuzzy Packers blanket and coffee for me while we watched the morning news together.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

An End to Busy

One week ago right now, I was sitting at my desk at home, just like I am now.

Looking out my office window, just like I am now.

A cardinal (perhaps BurgerMeister) is cracking black oil sunflower seeds, I assume happily, swinging to the windy Oklahoma day.

One week ago right now, I was overcome with the weekend I had just spent at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow*, a weekend that was marked by risk, reward, frustration, unraveling, reinvigoration, accomplishment, and clarity.

Clarity is always the last step, right?

I'll talk more about each stone uncovered, each bit of wisdom, each gleaned truth but right now what sticks most with me is the truth that came to me during a walk, talking with Marisa (she was a big part of the unraveling for me that weekend) and I made a bold declaration: It's time to remove the word "busy" from my vocabulary.


Busy is a four-letter word I actually want to avoid.

How have you been? Busy!—really? Because no shit. I think we could all answer that the same. I know I'm not the first to call bullshit on "busy"—there are any number of results if you Google "busy syndrome" going back years. I feel like "busy" has become a crutch to prove how important we are.

So, how have I been? I haven't been busy, I've been ... overwhelmed by the constant gear shifting in my freelance life ... I've been struggling to fill my kids with life lessons and parenting while I still have them to hold onto ... I've been trying to wrap my head around the fact that my job search has paid off and I've got that full time desk job I've been wanting and struggling to figure out how to transition out of freelance work when my first instinct is to say Yes! to all the shiny things ... I've been considering how to start putting myself first ... I've been worrying about all the things just like everyone else is doing ...I've been planning 101 home projects because when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I like to start a new project to divert attention away from the overwhelming thing (succulent garden, coming soon!).

That's more than busy. That's living. Sometimes well, sometimes not so much.

How have I been? Thriving and smiling when some days all I want to do is curl up into a ball with a bottle of wine and a really good playlist. Coming to terms that 50 is coming sofast and I'm not done being 40 yet. Shit, I'm not done being 30 yet but there you go.

You spend too much time being busy, you don't notice what you're missing.

Enough of that, already. I will be "busy" no more.


* I was invited to spend time at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow in return for a fair and honest review of my stay there. This is one in a number of posts where I will share my feeling about the Colony (Spoiler alert: I loved it) and discuss the lessons I learned during my stay. All words and opinions are my own.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

(Not) Sunday Morning

I'm not a morning person, but I love Sunday mornings. I love to wake up when the house is quiet, and I like to get my coffee, clean off my workspace in honor of a new week, work on my to do list and drink my coffee staring out at the quiet morning for a bit. I get in touch with nature, with my nature, with the birds and the squirrels and the trees and the seasonal visitors we get. The bullfrog chorus has begun at night so it's just a matter of time before they visit our porch.

But I'm not sitting at my table staring out at my nature, I'm staring out at the trees and mountains of NW Arkansas. I have no idea what direction I'm facing but based on the lack of sun in my eyes, it's not east. That's not my cardinal in that tree.

This is not my cardinal.

I'm watching the world through a different window. It's still satisfying.

This is not my kitchen window.

And it's not Sunday yet. It feels like Sunday to me but it's only Saturday. And I could really use an extra day this weekend because Monday is going to be the start of all sorts of changes for me, mostly good.

So, this weekend, I've been staying at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow (who graciously invited a group of writers to come and share our experience) and my worst writing-related nightmare came true: what if you go to a writing retreat but your words don't come with you?

I arrived with a great group of bloggers on Thursday night (Marisa, Heather, Bethany and Rebekah) and we all read our work to a room full of people—which was like karaoke for me: scary but invigorating. We spent Thursday night getting to know one another and discussing how productive our weekend was going to be.

Still life: writers' retreat detritus.

But then I spent a lot of the day Friday foundering around for my words and not finding them. It's not a great feeling. Instead I convinced Marisa to go for a walk with me that turned into a really, really long walk where we both fell in love with Eureka Springs for being so hilly and having windy streets and then got really pissed at it for being so hilly and having windy streets. I ate some awesome food. I stared out the window for a good long time. I organized my stuff. I took a nap. I Zentangled. I did the math: to write an 80,000 word book typing at 60 words per minute, it would take less than a day—a mere 24 hours. And when I'm in a groove, I can type more like 120 words per minute, so banging out a book shouldn't really take *that* long, right? I mean, aside from the research and the thinking and the outlining and all the things.

And then, I reread some old stuff I'd written, I let go of some stuff that didn't make sense anymore and came up with a plan.

Because, here's the thing: my words aren't used to me letting them come out and play. I most often steal moments to write when I can—like Sunday mornings when my people are sleeping—and this was middle of the day word time. I needed some time to adjust to that, and that's what yesterday was.

Will today be prolific? Maybe. Maybe not. Marisa and Heather gave me good insight on the story I'm trying to write and my characters hung out with me last night. But for right now I'm going to drink my coffee and listen to some classic country for a bit.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Writerly Road Trip

I'm hitting the road with Marisa and heading east, across the Illinois river and then north, into the mountains of Arkansas, specifically to Eureka Springs and the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. I was invited to go so I could tell you all about it, and I'm ever so excited.

The timing seems poetic; it was 16 years ago this spring when I quit my full time job to do three things: prepare to move from Germany to Oklahoma, get pregnant, and write a book. Two of those things happened and one of those things has been a work in progress ever since.

Life doesn't always go like we want it to. Sometimes it goes better... and then worse... and then ways that you can't describe even if you are a writer. It happens, sometimes when I didn't notice. And then suddenly it's 16 years later and I've got (spoiler alert) a house in the woods in Oklahoma, one kid turning 15 and another one turning 13 and I'm going back to work full time at an office and I still haven't written that book. But then I get the chance to go to a writer's retreat and I realize this is a really good thing.

But I also realize that my brain is filled with reasons why not. Why I shouldn't—go to the writer's retreat, go back to work, put myself first, say yes to an opportunity, say no when I'm overwhelmed. It's a tremendous pile of bullshit, and it's insulating but not helpful. I need to let it go. I need to breathe in the now, the good things, myself; and I need to breathe out the bullshit.


I'm packing my journal and this laptop and washi tape and pens. A bottle of wine and some great snacks and all the leggings (and this is starting to feel like that scene in The Jerk where Steve Martin's character packs all the things) and headphones and music and I'm hitting the road with Marisa. Meeting some other writers. Reading some of my work out loud. And breathing out some bullshit.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

It's March Now

Funny things happen when you're busy obsessively pressing forward with your head down to get through now to get to what's next. I've come to some realizations as I try to stick with the #nobullshit battle cry of 2017.

Major Realization1 : I cannot give what I don't have.

This is one of my favorite bits of wisdom, dropped by one of my favorite no-bullshit wise women. How can you give love, comfort, nourishment, encouragement, anything at all really if you don't have it yourself?

When I'm obsessively pressing forward with my head down to get through now to get to what's next (for the sake of brevity, I'm going to go ahead and call that *busy from here on out), the first thing that goes is considering what I need. That's a slippery slope. I've learned I cannot allow my infrastructure to decay if I want to succeed.

Not taking care to do the things that are good for me makes it easier for me to do the things that are not so good for me. Which leads me to my next life lesson...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Broken Stories

I'm so over the morning news. Anyone else feeling me on this?

I like to be informed about all the things in the world because that makes the responsible adult part of me feel like her needs are met. But some days I just get to feeling like the breaking news is broken. And frankly, a girl just might have to watch the unauthorized Britney Spears biopic on Lifetime on demand while she attends to her morning routine because the irresponsible part of her likes to do such things.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Stress Nesting

My husband actually asked me the other day: Are you pregnant?

Um, no. Most definitely not! But I could see why he asked. I've been irritable. Feeling sick. Major headaches. And the nesting. So much nesting.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Taking Back Thursday and Other Things

Confession: Thursdays are not my favorite.

It's the fourth day in a series of waking up way too early and not going to bed early enough, the fourth day of a week that's starting with peanut butter on toast because it's easy but I know I shouldn't start my day with toast because for me, it's a processed carb domino. Thursday is the day my son sleeps through his alarm, the day when my daughter's attitude is in it's most heightened form, the day when I want to be whisked away to what must be my real real life, more akin to a Real Housewives montage of shopping and sleeping in and primping.

But that is only Real on TV.