Follow by Email

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Ministry of Butts

My kids love Harry Potter. And I mean, love. They've gotten to a familial level of love. I knew it when I heard Gomez say he would take seriously "The Ministry of Butts and Defense Against the Dark Farts."

Because when you reach the potty talk level of familiarity, that's when you've gotten all the way to my kids' core.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

An empty gift wrapped box

I listened to my son tell me he'd seen a video where a family wrapped an empty box because they couldn't afford presents. He was worried that would be us this year. His worries are not without basis. The credit cards are maxed with my surgery and awaiting reimbursement from insurance. There's a deductible that won't be reimbursed. There have been so, so many unexpected expenses this year. So there's just a lot we have to say no to. And that brings me shame at first if I'm honest.

No, you can't go ice skating.
No, we can't order from the fundraiser.
No, we can't go out to breakfast.
No, you can't have fill-in-the-blank.

And the shame is there. I feel embarrassed by all the things we can't do.

But then I think of all the memoirs I've read about people with tenacity and I know, in those stories, there were lean times. At lean times like these, the protagonist digs in. She saves for what's needed, does what's needed. The people in her life and the goal are what matter. She stays focused on those things, and is on top eventually.

I'm already on top. My kids have a great life. We talked about that. They will get to ski and ride bikes and swim. They have friends and family. We can go to the grocery store and buy any kind of fruit we want, any grain, any meat. I told him that 100 years ago, a Christmas orange was a real treat. We can, on the spot, listen to any song we want. I couldn't do that when I was a kid. It's a great time to be a human being.

In case you're worried, there will be presents. I bought a few things before any of this and I've got tricks up my sleeve. I'll pull quarters from all over and tape them to a roll of paper and take them to a pinball machine. They'll get presents from grandparents and it'll all be more than enough.

So I also told him not to worry, that there would be plenty of presents but that even if someday there weren't presents, we'd still have an awesome Christmas. I told him, we have all the important things.

And we really do. We have great people and love and health and a beautiful place to live.

It is Colorado gives day. This year, I can't donate. Maybe you can't either and that's ok. But if you can, there are women who are not safe, who need a place, who need help. There are people who don't have$50 for paying for stocking stuffers and there are those who do.

Consider donating

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Own Kooky Mom

My mom moved to Colorado to be closer when I had my first baby. She moved here to help take care of him in time for my husband and I to go back to work. She retired in order to do this and loved her career as a veterinarian. I thought she'd keep working some part time but in the end, she decided she was ready to let her career go.

Except, she still holds on as a kooky animal person. She has 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 7 chickens. She has had as many as 9 chickens. Having a cluck of chickens isn't that odd, it's more the way she has hers.

When one of her chickens was attacked by a dog, she ran into the yard upset with Scarlet O'Hara-like intensity.


The chicken was terribly wounded. But my mother did not give up. Instead, she slept with the chicken inside her shirt with a water bottle.

Did I mention the chicken had a broken neck?

Well, it healed. Crooked.

The chicken's name is Sandy. But I call her Gobbles.

My mom does not appreciate my naming her beloved saved chicken Gobbles.

Sandy/Gobbles has been the best egg producer of the cluck. But the other bitches are jealous. They peck at her.

My mother is always upset at the injustice of the other chickens pecking at Gobbles. She rushes to her defense, swoops her up in her arms and kisses her. I'm not kidding.

My mother's church, a progressive Lutheran church filled with retirees, does a blessing of the animals every year. This year, my mother gave Gobbles a bath and brought her to church.

She just stopped by my house to tell me that one, she'd lost her phone which is why she just stopped by instead of calling, and two, Sandy/Gobbles is sick, her beak is hurt. She thinks the other chickens pecked it. Gobbles isn't eating. My mother is very upset about this. I want to be sympathetic but I just keep looking at her and going, "it's a chicken."

Meanwhile my mom still brings me eggs even though I'm a heartless asshole. She's gone home to forcefeed Gobbles in hopes that she returns to health.

If you think I'm weird, I'm just saying, I came by it honestly.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Insecure Writers Support Group

I just joined a group called Insecure Writers Support Group. We're supposed to post monthly about writing. I don't write much about writing, in part because I find that loop a little loony-making. Writing about writing aboutwritingaboutwriting. And in part because I find it a vanity exercise that writers seem to think that the entire world is so interested in the life of writers when, in truth, I find it a trope. So many other professions are far more interesting to me.

But I need to talk about insecurity. I'm driven to be honest and writing and parenting and insecurity all play into one another in my daily life.

Lately, I've had parenting moments where I felt like I've finally gotten it right. Where we've finally conquered my yelling problem, their compliance problem, and we're about to skate off into perfect family land. And isn't it lovely there? I can see it out of the corner of my eye.

I'm a successful writer there. I'm giving piano lessons to my seven year old. My five year old is reading. We laugh like mad while skiing on the weekends.

And truly things are good. But insecurity is very real and it crops up on a daily basis for me and I suspect for most everyone.

I had a bad moment the other day with the kids on the way to shuffle kids around so I could go support a rape victim at trial. I felt really bad and confessed my insecurity to my friend who was going with me. I was in the wrong with the kids. Just when I thought I had it all down. Lunches packed. Everyone dressed, teeth brushed, nails clipped, in the car, dinner in a crockpot cooking. I was just about to win the game of life for that day.

But because I was right there with my friend and confessed my screw up, we commiserated and I moved on. When my son was upset about it later in the day, it was easier for me to be the adult and not let guilt and my own feelings run the show. It helped to admit my minor struggle.

And I need to do the same with writing. I need to admit that on a near daily basis, I hide that I'm a writer because my work doesn't pay our bills. I don't proudly announce what I do often because I'm embarassed at my lack of financial success at it to this point.

I'm currently taking a break from my longer writing projects in order to focus on writing related things that seem more likely to bring in actual dollars to our home and which will then finance marketing and advertising that will help my books make money. I'm working on some of the more businessy things like courting reviewers.

None of these are the sexy, splashy, life-of-a-writer things I thought of when I read John Irving and thought if I just wrote a good book, I could running and figure out how to write more books. But they're what I'm doing.

We are scraping by on our bills so that I can keep at this thing. I'm committed. I've gotten good reviews in this week. But I feel insecure in writing sometimes. And if I fess up to that happening, I can be the adult who lets it pass, says it's okay to move on, and gets back to work.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Count by 10s

My four-year-old, Gomez, told my seven-year-old, Mars, that he was smarter.
Mars: No you're not.
Gomez: Yes, I am.
Mars: If you're so smart, count ten times by ten.
Gomez: Ten, ten, ten, ten, ten, ten, ten, ten, ten, ten

I'd say he won that round.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Why Standing to Pee is Overrated

My whole life, everyone's said how amazing it is to be male and the main advantage seems to be standing to pee. Especially in the woods. And I'll grant you that I have peed in the woods on skis and it did seem like it would be easier if I hadn't needed to squat to do it. But I worked it out. I did not pee down the hill while sliding. I got it done, stood up, pulled my pants up, and skied down the run.

Before having boys, I had no idea how often they pee on themselves. But the main drawback? Males piss on themselves. Often. I do not normally pee on myself and couldn't really tell you the last time that happened. But boys? All. the. time.

Case in point. Over the course of the last 12 hours, we've had three incidents of accidentally getting pee on pants. Not peeing in their pants. No. It seems to be an issue of unpredictable spraying from the penis. I had no idea how unreliable a hose those things are.

At 1:00 AM my seven year old got up to pee and got it on his pants. He woke me up. I told him to change jammies. I was too groggy to realize he hadn't actually peed in his bed so went with him to the extra bedroom to sleep.
At 2:00 AM my four year old sensed he was missing out on snuggles and found us. I slept sandwiched between the two of them who were keen on pressing against me as firmly as possible. And the cat was the icing on top. I was very loved.
At 7:00 AM my four year old emptied his bladder for the morning but his wild penis hose took a spin for his pants so he changed and that was handled.
Then at 7:40, when we were supposed to be walking out the door, it happened to the fully dressed seven year old AGAIN. So he changed again.

I haven't examined the floor. I clean it about every three days and there's always pee there.

My take on it?
Screw standing up to pee. It's overrated. I'll take cleanliness.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Matters in a Messy House is Backstory & Detail

I live in a messy house. On my desk are two prints I haven’t framed or hung, ARC copies of my failing book, a gift bag that instead of holding wine, holds scissors from a lesson I taught, a balled up roll of rerolled paper towels, some photos I meant to hang but haven’t, a legal pad, a sticky note with an address of where I should send the ARC copies but probably won’t today. And that’s just my desk. At least I can see some of that. The rest of the house is worse.

My bed has rips in the fitted sheet. I can see them because it’s not made. I bought a replacement but in a week, haven’t bothered to pull off the ripped sheet and put the new sheet on. The end table by my side of the bed is balanced carefully with stacks of stuff piled high. Things like artwork from the kids’ school year that I mean to put into a keepsake box but haven’t since school let out and we’re fully into July now. The kitchen needs recaulking along the sink where I’ve partially washed the morning dishes. The dishwasher is broken so it operates as a glorified drying rack where there are dishes I rarely empty.

I want to like living in a messy house. I want living like this to be a deliberate choice I’ve made. But truly that’s not the case. Truthfully, I want to control it and make it better but I can’t. I’m not up for it. And my husband and kids definitely aren’t. So I need to find peace with the mess. I need to look at the items that lay strewn about and recall their evidence of a life well-lived, of a life lived in moments where we did things that mattered and or maybe didn't matter in their individual thingness but in their collective.

The mess on the counter. It’s the crumbs from the pizzas the small hands of my four and six year olds helped roll out and topped. We made it all together and it should remind me of the value of time where you slow down and patiently wait for small hands. The prints I haven’t hung should remind me of the young artist with fear in her eyes as I told her again and again how much I thought she’d succeed and how glad I was to get some of her work. A panda vomiting brightly-colored eyeballs and eight balls and rocket ships, graffiti-esque and cartoonish. Not art for a woman in her late thirties but still, cool in that ski-culture way I like to play with my age. The gift bag should make me think of being the kind of instructor who thinks about how to make writing a kinesthetic process. Don’t just cut & paste on a keyboard but do it in real life, with paper. Remember? That’s where cut & past came from, remember? We used scissors and cut apart paper and reordered.

To make peace with the mess, I have to think. Art is messy. Life is messy.

But the truth is I am not there. Without the deliberation of writing, I get frustrated at the disorder. Angry even. I look about and think “Oh my god! We’re pigs!” and I hate it and throw blame around. Glaring this way and that. “Why can’t they ____?” And “Who does this?” Daggers from my eyes. "Clean up this mess!"

Sometimes we work together on cleaning up. It's slower but nicer. Sometimes I don't bother with the clean up.

With time spent on detail and through writing, I recall the snorkel is on the floor because we swam and it was a trip where no one got mad and I didn’t yell even once, and then we rushed in and moved on to go ride bikes. I remember that the beds are never made because we crawl back into our beds so much to hold each other and tickle and giggle and talk.

We’re not happy all the time. Sometimes the beds are messy because the kids climbed on them with shoes on in timeout and I had to say nothing so they could finish calming down and timeout could work the way it is supposed to. I had to let footprints on my sheets happen so lessons could too.

My SLR camera is on my desk because I’m hoping to take pictures we took on hikes this summer and turn them into a coloring book for the kids at the end of summer. I was hoping the same thing last summer. But sometimes we’re living so hard. Without pause and without deliberate attention to the backstory of details. And I get distracted a lot and forget things and don’t follow through on every idea.

There are details and they have backstory. Sometimes it’s just time for us to clean up and begin new stories. But maybe it’s okay to let your mind meander and not be in such a rush to get the job done. After all that’s how the kids made dinner. That’s how they play while they “clean up.” My mind does the same when I write. Needs order and reminders. I have to jot an outline or it’s all over the place. I play with a toy car, figuratively of course, and forget all about the main point unless there’s a mom over me, an outline, gently reminding “you need to put the cars away. The cousins will be here soon. Remember? That’s why we were cleaning up?” 

Yes, I remember. And we will. We’ll live and fight with the tension of order and backstory and detail and organization. And maybe someday I consider balance a deliberate choice to live with a certain amount of mess.