May 31, 2011

The Month of May

May was about decompression and quiet (as quiet as it can be with two little boys in the house) and balance and clarity.

In May:

Osama bin Laden died. The Rapture did not happen. I had a wonderful Mother's Day, complete with a beautiful necklace from my boys, breakfast out, a box of chocolates, an eyebrow wax and bang trim, some much treasured time to myself, a visit from friends, and dinner at my mother-in-law's. Simon started getting on his hands and knees in preparation for crawling and he also started making BIG sounds in preparation for talking. Simon amazed us with his abilities to move across the room at record speed by just wiggling and rolling around. Charlie baffled us (and still does) with his mega nighttime tantrums and as a result, we got little sleep the entire month. But Charlie amused us by starting to say HI! to everything, from the flowers to the ants to his own pudgy little arm. And Charlie melted my heart by saying, "Hi Mommy. I mishu." We went to Sea World and the Renaissance Faire and a wedding at a winery, strolled around the neighborhood, went to the Farmer's Market and to play with friends, and spent lots of time in our "backyard." We had family pictures taken, thanks to Becki, which you will see scattered throughout this post. I went to a free zumba class and loved it. I started taking art lessons on the cheap twice a month and love that too. I did yoga on our back patio early Friday morning under the trees and (guess what?) I loved that as well.

Life is good.

Of course, life also deals out some shitty situations, like the fact that we are poor and on top of that we are having some issues with the birth center who handled my pregnancy and labor. I will probably say more on that when I know more (and by that, I mean when the issue has been completely dealt with). These things are stressful, to be sure. But they aren't everything. Life is full of such annoyances.

Clarity is often difficult in a world that seems designed to keep true understanding at bay. From the depths of the garage we dug out three big Rubbermaid containers filled with my old journals and I read through a few of them. Ten years ago I was an incredibly prolific writer but, as I have already mentioned many times before, I was also existing in the blackest hole of desperation and depression that I have ever experienced. Dealing with sexual abuse and daddy issues on top of being a confused 20-something year old made such a terrible combination. I was just so lost and I had no idea of what I was doing or where I was going and I didn't even have much of a clue that things were going to get better. I made some awful decisions and I hated myself. I hated myself and believed myself incapable of love. And that was all I wanted: love. To love and to know that someone in this big cruel world loved me back.

I proved my hurting and cynical self wrong when I married Roy and had his babies.

But there is another side to the story.

As I grew up and shed the heavy skin of that lost little girl, I not only gave up the ridiculous notion that I would never know real love but I also gave up the idealist who wanted to drop out of college and just write and who for a short while did just that. But then I re-enrolled in college and being a scholar was my religion for awhile. I had already convinced myself that writing for a living wasn't going to happen and so I had to figure out something else. And so once I got my BA in English, I immediately went on to pursue an MA in English because I was still trying to figure out something else to do with my life. We read stories and poems and essays and critical writings and I loved every minute of my education, both undergrad and grad. (Well, mostly.) I was thrilled to be surrounded by all the depth and genius of those writers. Learning is an amazing thing and a gift for which I am so grateful.

But I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I could have been a college professor or a journalist or a photographer or a teacher or even something entirely random, and I could even have stayed at my terrible job that I hated, continuing to proofread boring legal documents while putting up with inordinate amounts of bullshit.

I could have done all of these things and even enjoyed some of them, but the only thing I really wanted (other than babies) was to write, dammit.

I gave up the crappy job after Charlie was born and worked through all the birth trauma and then had Simon, and I find myself deeply and joyfully entrenched in this mothering thing - not just the mothering thing, but this stay-at-home mothering thing. On any given day I get to hang out with my kids, watch them meet another milestone, play outside, take walks, read books, laugh, cry, change ten poopy diapers, go for playdates or to the park. Some days are damn hard but I love it wholeheartedly. And I am fulfilled in a way that I thought I could only dream of. It's a gift, to have this time with them.

My graduate degree remains unfinished. I only have my thesis to go. My course work is set to expire a year from now. I took a year-long leave of absence for this year because of Simon. A few months ago I began to think about going back. I decided that I needed to change my thesis topic because I was no longer interested in the old one (that I've had since 2005). I got the ok from my advisor and was instructed to start researching and reading and putting together a thesis committee. That was almost two months ago, and I haven't done anything remotely related to school.

I don't want to research or read or put together a committee or write a thesis. I know I should want to do it, after putting so much time, energy, and money into the program, but I don't want it anymore. I don't want any of it.

And that is what I said to Roy a couple of weeks ago: "What if I don't go back to school?"

Sometimes all you have to do is ask the question, and then you'll see the answer.

Which is:

Start where I am. Find a place amongst all the toys, piles of crap, unpaid bills, and dirty diapers, and write. Clean out the office and make a space for writing to happen, and write. Carve out both small and big chunks of time, and write. Start or join a writer's group, and write. Do the dishes and the laundry, and write. Deal with life's stressors and beauties, and write. Love my husband, and write. Mother my kids, and write. Piss and moan about how unoriginal I am and how I have no extra time, and write. Practice saying "I am a writer" instead of "I want to be a writer", and write. Forget what I should be doing (like finishing my degree), and write.

And that is where I find myself at the end of this strange and glorious May. Motherhood has stripped me of the extraneous, bringing me back to myself, and I finally understand that my past self was indeed sad and lonely, but she wasn't wrong about everything. She knew that the dream would never die - and that it shouldn't.

I've come full circle, but this time as a whole person - and a writer. And so I write. Because in writing is where I find my truth. I write and I write and I write and I write.

May 28, 2011

Oh, Saturday

I don't know what to say here sometimes. So let's start with my immediate surroundings.

I use my laptop a lot in the kitchen. We have this big pull-out cutting board that makes a wonderful desk, and also a wonderful place for stacking various things like books and papers, storing toys and half-eaten food, and also does an amazing job at its intended use: cutting things. Often I am cutting oranges or strawberries right next to my beat up ol' Macbook and as a result there is food stuck all over it.

Anyway, next to me is that sink full of dirty dishes that you see in the photo above. I'm lazy and there are a million other things I would rather be doing than cleaning up that mess that's been sitting there since last night. I'm so lazy that I took that photo through Photobooth so I wouldn't have to pull out my camera, take the picture, find the cord to upload the picture to my computer, and post it here.

So let the record reflect that I am lazy, so lazy that the diapers that went through their final rinse this morning are still in the washer, waiting to be transferred to the dryer. It's the weekend. I've already done 10 loads of laundry this week, as well as 10 loads of dishes, if not more. I've put away countless clean items of clothing, swept the floor, wiped down the high chairs, and I'm just done. I hate all this maintenance. I would say it's pointless but I know it's not. The house needs to be somewhat clean so that we can all exist in harmony, and from time to time I do enjoy the act of cleaning. But you know what I enjoy more? The acts of reading, writing, listening to music, watching movies. And sleeping.

Nighttime sleep has been scarce around here this past week. I wish I could blame Simon, but the main culprit has been Charlie, who is going through some weird stage where he wakes up screaming in the middle of the night (not scared, just tantrums) or doesn't want to go to bed at all. There have been a lot of tears and not much sleep. But I've had a nap every single day this week, which is pretty damn rare. One nap is pretty much a miracle, but a whole week of them? Aces.

I am reading this right now.
This has been haunting me for the past few days.
I watched this and this recently and have this and this on deck.
I remain obsessed with this, this, and this.

There's been much on my mind lately. For the past couple of weeks I've been feeling so content, with not the words to describe why or how. But the happy have to fall, yes? Straight into a pit of darkness, which is what happened to me around 3:30 this morning. I feel like life would be so much easier if I wasn't so damn moody. In all reality I know I'm not all that moody, but I'd like to just stay one thing for longer sometimes.

(That's a plant we've got growing in our kitchen. That picture came out that way out of the camera and I think it's perfect. I've been more pleased with my pictures lately, perhaps because I'm becoming more forgiving of my lack of photographic skills. My mind has been elsewhere.)

I guess that's the thing, I've become more forgiving of myself in general. Until I fall into that pit of darkness, and then everything I do is wrong.

On that note, I need to go find my happy place. I'll be back sometime later.

May 20, 2011

this moment

On my mind tonight is a woman I once knew. She taught Psychology and Sociology at my high school, but I didn't have her for either class. I was a PAL, and she was our group sponsor. She was kind and generous, bold and regal and statuesque. She was never afraid of letting us know exactly how she felt, whether it was her bright smile when she was happy or her fierce glare when we'd disappointed her. I only recall that glare happening once in the two years I was a member of the PAL organization. I still remember how it felt to wither helplessly under the angry disappointment in her eyes.

One time, we had to bring something to class that reflected what was most important to us. I brought a pen and confessed to the group my dreams of becoming a writer when I grew up. From then on, my teacher gave me all the creative writing assignments for our group. After I graduated, she gave me a bookmark and the book in the picture above.

I was one student among hundreds, maybe even thousands, that she'd known in her career as a teacher, and she still remembered my dream.

She died ten years ago, in May 2001, just four years after I graduated from high school. Her breast cancer spread and it eventually took her. I went to her funeral and walked up to see her body, and I still can recall the shocking whiteness of her hair and her hands clutching her glasses in her casket. I remember her in death just as clearly as in life. I don't want to remember her dead. I still don't like to think of this world without her.

I read that Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul book once, and for the past ten years it has followed me from place to place. From Texas all the way to California, through my many residences. It's lived a comfy existence on my bookshelf and was never even opened again until just a few days ago. I picked it up, wondering if it was time to let it go. I thought of her and wondered what she'd want me to do with it, felt guilt at the possibility of parting with something she'd given me. And then I put it in our box of things to donate. It's time for some other fledgling writer to read it. Besides, she gave me so much more than that book.

She believed in me. At a time in my life when people had started giving me the side eye when I announced my intentions to become a writer, she gave me permission to hold onto the dream.

I have never let go.

This week Roy and I had A Very Serious Conversation about just what it is I want to do with my life. I told him that I love staying at home with the boys but that I also really want to do this writing thing. I want to write like a motherfucker. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Well then, let's find a way to make this happen."

It's time to live the dream. I think she'd be proud of me.

May 18, 2011

whoring myself out for an iPad2

It's true. Look here.

I want it.

Obligatory copying and pasting of info:

I’m posting this to enter a contest offered by MeridaHome at Design For Mankind! I want to win the iPad 2! (and I love Erin’s shoes!)

Let the games begin.

May 16, 2011

Six Months Old, and Some Rambling

Say hello to Simon. He's six months old today and feeling quite jolly about it.

So my baby is half a year old and I'm still kind of crapping my pants about it. Time is a tricky, sneaky bastard.

Simon is Mr. Happy (except when he's not). He puts his soul into his smiles. He laughs from the depths of his belly. He's super chubby, and I adore all his rolls. He got his first real taste of solid food yesterday (avocado). He can sit up unassisted for longish periods of time (but there are still plenty of faceplants). Crawling is just around the corner. Right now he's really into plank pose. Fine by me; I'm really not in a rush to have two mobile children. (Yikes.)

And his hair. Oh my, I'm so in love with his red hair. It just suits him.

It's been a fun six months. The things I've learned! I've been stretched way past the limits of my heart and I'm feeling good, really good, about this motherhood thing.

Today also marks my six month anniversary of exclusive breastfeeding. I never expected to love it as much as I do, but I find it to be an almost spiritual experience. When Simon is nursing, and he turns his bright blue eyes up to my face, I become small in the face of something that is so much bigger than me - but that is me. It's the best mindfuck ever. I'm so happy to be able to do this, and so proud of myself for sticking with it.

I really wanted to post Simon's birth story today. I was working on it last night and had to stop. I've found that I have to write it a little at a time. I end up getting distracted or emotional or something other than focused. There's much I have to say regarding that whole experience. Much to say about many things, actually, but somehow two kids is 500 times more work. And 500 times more fun. It's true. Life has been good to me, even when it's being a shithead.

A little birdie told me, in not so many words, that I need to update more often. It's true, I do need (and want) to update more often. (See above about two kids being 500 times more work.) The past few days have been filled with epiphany and clarity. I love both things. I love sharing about both things. So it's a good time to write.

I posted at the end of April about my overwhelming feelings of being overwhelmed. I was seriously overwhelmed. Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Because that was me - totally overwhelmed.

It seemed like everywhere I looked, aside from my little family, things were completely out of control, in the worst state of chaos ever. I couldn't find anything. I had no place to put anything. In our house, not everything has a place. Just take a look at the top of our microwave:

Doesn't look so bad, but when you list everything out, like this:

(a bar of lavender soap wrapped in purple tissue paper, the case for a Donald Duck DVD, a body butter container filled with change (and it still smells like shea butter), a CD of white noise, a bobby pin, two receipts, two halves of two separate plastic Easter eggs, a blank greeting card, a pen, and a copy of this biography)

you realize the need for order. That's a lot of stuff crammed into a really small space. So imagine the stuff we could cram into a whole room. Like our home office.

Ugh. This poor room. We've treated it so terribly. It's gone from pristine to dumping ground several times in the two and a half years we've lived here, and I'm just done. I decided on Thursday that it was time to treat it with the respect it deserved, so on Friday I had my mother-in-law come over to watch the boys. I hauled every last piece of crap out of there, and Roy and I spent the weekend going through most of it. I listed 33 books on Paperbackswap and about 15 CDs on SwapACD. I filled up a box full of things to give or return to others and another box of things to donate.

But it still feels like we have too much. We live in a state of information overload, and there is often too much coming in and not enough going out. Too much emails, snail mail, blogs, websites, projects, to-do lists, and not enough time, space, or energy.

I finally made a big realization, one that I've been inching towards for quite some time now. This whole time I have been trying to do things the same way as I did before I had kids. And it's just not possible.

I can no longer write out long to-do lists for each day or even each week. It's a recipe for failure.

I can no longer come home from yard sales with a big stack of books. As much as I want to, I don't have time to read them all.

I can no longer collect fabric, yarn, old clothes, or art supplies in the hopes that I will be some crafty mama. At this stage it's just not happening. Well, just kidding about the art supplies. I do tend to use those sometimes.

I have this tendency to collect ideas and thoughts (in addition to things), write them down, bookmark them, star them in Google Reader, and then not do a damn thing with them. I like to collect because I like to have choices and because I want to do everything in the world. (This is why Pinterest is like crack to me.) But oh, then I got smacked in the face with another epiphany.

All my choices are really what's making me distracted.

Sit down and think about that for a minute. Think about the internet (as an example) and how it's just this big black hole of options. Click here, here, here, and here, and next thing you know it's three hours past your bedtime and holy fuck, you're going to need a lot of coffee tomorrow, not to mention the fact that the kitchen is still a mess and you still need to take a shower and probably spend some time with the ol' ball and chain. Three hours doing absolutely nothing but fucking around in cyberspace.

But real life can be like that, too. Every Monday night Roy and I watch a movie together, usually something on Netflix instant view. We generally spend more time browsing through all the options than we do watching the actual movie. It's so completely frustrating and stupid.

I love options. But I'm also tired of them.

So I sat down and did some more cleaning. I unsubscribed (again) from Facebook notifications and a few other sites that were clogging up my inbox, and then I went into my Google Reader and mercilessly unsubscribed from 150+ blogs. I went from 284 feeds down to 131 in the space of five minutes. And it felt damn good.

(I still think 131 RSS feeds is fucking ridiculous, but give me time. I'm still learning.)

I know that I've talked a lot about purging and uncluttering and all that, but it's in my nature to be a packrat. I've always liked to hold onto things, particularly cards, photos, letters, and books. I am actually quite a sentimental person. But sometimes it gets to the point where all the stuff I have gets in the way of my life, and that's when I know things need to change. That I need to change.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm attempting to change, one box of crap at a time. I am not the same person who could read 15 books in a month, write for two hours every day, keep up with a shitload of blogs, and watch a movie every night. My life has changed.

I'm a mama. A mama! I still sometimes can't believe it. I've never felt quite so alive. But I can't do all I want to. In the middle of the day, I sometimes find myself glancing longingly at the bookshelf, or the bed, or the bathtub, wanting to take a nice hot bath with a good book, followed by a nap. I want a deep creative life, where I write and take photos and paint and do whatever else with wild abandon. I want to travel and eat good food and get massages and pedicures and eyebrow waxes on a regular basis. But when I chose to have kids, I said goodbye to some of that for awhile. Not all of it, but some of it. I've had to slow down and realize that I can have everything, but I can't have everything all at once. My brother told me that once, and I thought he was full of shit. But the older I get, the more I return to it.

I may not have everything, but I have more than I ever thought I'd get. I have my boys, I have my husband, I have love. It's all I ever wanted. And I've never felt so inspired. Happiness suits me.

May 6, 2011

this moment

My mother-in-law and I took the boys to Sea World this week. It was a wonderful, low key day, and we all had a great time. Above is my favorite picture from the trip. When I look at it, I know that it is a good picture of who Charlie is right now. He loves animals and is content to watch them for long periods of time. In this picture, he's looking at the "yions" (sea lions).

We didn't see much of what Sea World has to offer, and that was just fine with me. We let Charlie tell us what he wanted to do, and that's what we did. (We got the educational discount rate so the amount of admission was not an issue.) I've been feeling so rushed and overscheduled and overwhelmed that now, all I hear from my body and mind is "slow down." Our weekends into June have somehow filled up, but now I'm thinking of bowing out of some things in favor of some R&R.

For Mother's Day weekend our original plan was to go camping as a family in the mountains. Then we became a little concerned about the cold, so I said I wanted to spend Mother's Day out at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. But I got a killer sunburn at Sea World, and plus I'm just beat. So all I really want for Mother's Day is a nice, long, uninterrupted nap and perhaps a pedicure. I want to spend the day just relaxing. I really have no desire to go anywhere.

It's time for me to get back to the basics. Inside it feels like chaos and everything around me reflects that. So I'm taking a page from the Book of Charlie. I'm going to stop and watch the sea lions. Or, as the case may be, stop and watch the flowers bloom.

May 1, 2011

Nice work, Mr. President.

Our world is now a little safer for my two sweet boys and all the other children out there.

My humble thanks.