NaNo Freaking Problem, Ya’ll

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I’m not counting my chickens or anything but there’s two days left of NaNoWriMo and my wordcount is 48,385.

So. You know. I’m feeling a little…. INVINCIBLE!

You can’t stop me, life! You can’t slow ME down, priorities! You can’t– oh wait, both kids pooped and it’s almost dinner time and I have to bring the boy to karate in an hour? Right. So… I’m occasionally vincible. That’s ok.

 

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Self-Fulfilling NaNophesy

I met the word count goal 8 days in a row and told myself I’d catch up on Sunday when I fell behind.

It’s Sunday, I have a half-dozen metaphorical fires to put out, and my brain does not care half as much about writing this thing as it does making sure the rest of my life doesn’t burn down around me.

This is what I anticipated when I started NaNo this month. I was kinda just hoping that was the pessimism talking and that it’d all work out in the end.

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It’s only three days in so really, it’s too early to make any predictions but what I’ve got going for me so far:

  • I’ve met the word count goal every day so far
  • I’ve found a way to sneak like 15-20 minutes of writing into my regular routine with only minor changes that my son only sort of notices.
  • My husband is on board so far with helping me find more time by taking the kids on a nap ride in the afternoon without me. This won’t work every day but it’s working so far
  • I’ve chosen a story that I’m interested in finding out more about in a location I’ve been curious about for a while with a main character who reflects some of my current attitudes about interacting with other humans (bad) so it’s been easy to write so far
  • I’m so used to surviving on precious little sleep at this point. Like, why not stay up writing a few extra half-hours?

What I’ve got going against me is:

  • Having two children now, neither or whom will nap without a ride in the car or go to bed at night without a whole lot of love and attention.
  • Two imploding job situations where I’m dealing with two separate sets of problems alongside two teams of people who can’t always handle their shiz
  • Honestly, like three or four non-consecutive hours of sleep at night. I’m on the brink of sleep-deprived madness, for REAL. Maybe it’s fueling my creativity? Or maybe it’s making my husband and children WANT to escape from me for a few hours every afternoon. Hard to say.

Anyway, I’m at 5100 words and the fam’s not back from their nap ride yet so I’m going to forge ahead and make tomorrow easier.

Or I could take a break and watch another episode of A Million Little Things. Can you believe the baby’s father is the other guy? No, because you don’t care? Well, I kinda do… for the 54 minutes I’m watching, anyway.

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Nothing Good Happens in the Extremes

For any endeavor to be successful, you have to have a overarching goal, right? You have to have a way of knowing if you’re getting what you want out of your effort or if you need to make an adjustment because you’re just not where you thought you’d be when you started.

When I started writing with intention, I also started setting goals. I want to write a whole complete novel. I want to self-publish. I want to connect with other writers.

Within that goal, there are smaller goals or mile-markers or strategies or whatever, whatever but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a very general WHY AM I DOING THIS?

Today I was thinking about what the overarching goal of parenting is and my answer ended up being a spectrum of Raising a Successful Adult where the median outcome is “child grows up and is able to care for oneself without my help so I can die in peace or, like, fulfill my youthful ambitions and then die in peace.”

But that’s just where I’m at.

Because where I got stuck in my thinking was at the two extremes of that spectrum where JUST BE NORMAL seems to be staring down BE THE MOST SPECIAL. I started lumping the terrible parents I’ve known onto one of those ends.

On the JUST BE NORMAL side is where you find your “disowned my kid for being gay” parents along with your “my kid doesn’t have autism, he’s just shy” parents and the “what you do with your big emotions is, you just shove ’em way down deep and don’t acknowledge them” parents.

On the BE THE MOST SPECIAL end, you’ve got your Beverly Goldbergs, your “you must be teaching it wrong because my daughter is brilliant” parents, those “go easy on him because he went to bed late and maybe don’t point out any of his mistakes because it’ll hurt his feelings” parents, and your, “you’ll never amount to anything as long as you only take seven out of the eight offered AP classes this term” parents.

Those parents never do notice the irony of their techniques backfiring, do they?

This is all just to remind myself that my kids are who they are and it’s my job to help them figure out who that is in a loving, encouraging, respectful environment with just the right amount of boundary-setting, rule-enforcing, and push toward self-discipline.

I mean, I don’t always succeed and my son is already king of arguing a loophole until I have to give in out of respect for his moxie but, you know, I try.

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Don’t Mind Me, I Just Created That Life

What do you do… when you tell someone how many you kids you have and they look at your husband, wink, nudge, and exclaim, “Hey, you’ve been busy, eh?!”

Because, FIRST OF ALL, *I* been busy. ME. I have been gestating and birthing babies, ok? I have done that work. And “scoring” with your wife isn’t that big of an accomplishment.

Secondly, what kind of manly man patriarchal bullshit says it’s appropriate to congratulate a man for having sex with a woman who then bore a child IN FRONT OF THAT WOMAN?!

Now, I am a firm believer in choosing your battles and pissing off this man has some pretty significantly negative consequences so no, I did not tell him what I thought of him. But neither did I blush and look away because “tee hee, I’m an innocent in all of this. Where do babies even come from?!” No, I flushed–as one does when angry–and took a deep calming breath, reminding myself that old white men only change when they feel like it and this one, he ain’t changin’.

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To his credit, my husband did not accept the compliment. He actually got really flustered and changed the subject then apologized to me later.

And for future reference, you congratulate people on having children, not for having sex. That’s weird and intrusive.

Seriously, what’s wrong with people?

 

Because Underneath, We’re All Wearing Sports Bras

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Sometimes I feel this cheerleader vs band geek vibe with the ladies who Zumba in the studio next to my dojo. Here I am in my baggy uniform, focused on perfecting my technique and translating principles into action, the nerd who wants to do better, be better, learn and understand it all. And there they are in their neon spandex and crop tops, laughing and Instagramming and letting it all hang loose. They came here to party and exercise is the byproduct. And they’re not gonna let anyone forget that.

Back when I was a band geek, I watched those cheery bitches look down their perfect little noses at people like me and I thought, “What are you doing that I can’t do?” And then I said it out loud to anyone who would listen. And then, because I had something to prove, I did it. I tried out. I made the squad. I did everything those girls did! And I hated every second.

Not the cheerleading part. That was fun. But spending all that time with people who obviously had different values than me, who prioritized social events and physical appearance, whose ambitions were so far removed from mine that I questioned whether I wanted to even pretend to follow the path they were leading me down.

Eventually, I quit. I went back to band. I spent my time with people who liked the same things I liked, who wanted to be and to do similar things, whose friendships added to my high school experience rather than taking away from it. That’s where the value was, I thought, in comfort and support and belonging.

And that’s true. One of the things I keep reading about self-esteem in children and teenagers is needing to feel a sense of belonging. I never felt it on the cheer squad. I did in band. I do in the martial arts. Both of those activities helped me discover my strengths and weaknesses, my needs and wants in an environment where I felt cared for and supported. Those are the experiences that help us define ourselves.

The thing is, cheerleading was a valuable experience too and more so for the people it meant something to. So is Zumba. The whole goal of the place next door, their very mission statement, is to empower people (especially women) to feel good in their skin, to feel sexy and confident and to love their bodies in a healthy, productive way. I love it! I love the owner, who is fiery and passionate and inspiring. I love the way the members support each other openly on social media, praising accomplishments and coming together over tragedies. I even think Zumba itself is a pretty cool way to exercise if that’s your thing.

It’s just not my thing. It’s too loud, there are too many people, the neon lights and disco balls are too much for me and I don’t feel empowered by dancing. I feel empowered by fighting. I like moderately-lighted quiet rooms with plenty of space between people. I like to concentrate on what I’m doing and what I’m learning. I want to feel like I have control over my body and my movements and I want to be comfortable in loose-fitting clothes while I do it.

I prefer to spend my time with people who feel the same way as me. I’m sure the Zumba women do too.

And we’re not teenagers. For the most part, we’re middle-aged women trying to find time for ourselves outside of our children or families or work or responsibilities. We’re trying to relieve our stress before it destroys us, keep our bodies from falling apart when it feels inevitable, and we’re trying to take care of ourselves by surrounding ourselves with like-minded people with similar values and goals.

We’re more alike than unalike*, I remind myself when their music gets a little loud. We’re all here for the same reason, I say when someone from my world comments on theirs. We all deserve to feel like we belong and that we’re worth the effort, I stress to anyone who will listen, especially when they take up too much time in the single women’s bathroom we all share.

And also, this place needs more bathrooms.

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*My dojo had the Maya Angelou poem, Human Family, on the bulletin board recently.

Cull It, Cull It Real Good

Squatting in a corner of my living room the other day, on Danger Baby patrol because my girl is a stunt woman in training, I googled “how to cull toys” on my phone.

Not “how to organize” not “how to cut down on”. I asked the all-knowing google how to CULL!

to reduce or control the size of (something, such as a herd) by removal (as by hunting) of especially weaker animals; also to hunt or kill (animals) as a means of population control. The town issued hunting licenses in order to cull the deer population.

 

Apparently, I wanted those bastards MURDERED. I must CONTROL the population. I must DESTROY!

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It’s how I’m feeling about everything these days. There’s too much and most of it is some sort of waste and the best thing to do is open a giant trash bag and shove it all in.

That’s why I had to stop reading one of the books I was trudging my way through. I’m seriously considering erasing the second from my Kindle cloud storage as well. Because they are a waste of my tiny precious reading time.

Zeroes by Chuck Wendig. I’m sorry but I do not care. I’m 70% through the book and I couldn’t POSSIBLY care less about what happens to these characters. What are their names again? Why shouldn’t I hate them for being mostly human garbage? What could I be reading instead of sighing and opening the book like it’s a toilet-cleaning chore?

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Yes, this is what I’m reading instead. I read this as a 20-something and it blew my damn mind. It is no longer brain-splattering revelation to me so much as proof that the world is bullshit but Daniel Quinn had no idea what kind of vapid corn puffs would pass for leadership in 2018.

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid. “A smart romance” it calls itself. Dangerously misogynist, I’d correct identify it. Stupid girl with a penchant for Jeopardy-winning memorization of facts wooed by stereotypical rich white guy who “just wants to protect her” but, as far as I can tell, just controls her without her awareness of… like, anything, seriously. The main character is so unbearably negligent when it comes to personal safety which, I think, makes the author complicit in the perpetuation of patriarchal mistreatment of women as naive, self-conscious, entirely lacking in self-awareness, and helplessssssss. So helplesssssss. I hate it with a fiery passion and just now, I realized I didn’t even pay for this trash (I did pay for Zeroes so I feel like I have some obligation) so TO HELL, I say. I’m done. DELETE FOREVER.

Instead, I have to decide between Gone Girl and Wild. Either one backwards and upside down would make more sense than that “smart romance”.

Bad books, consider yourselves culled.

Now, what to do with all those freaking LEGOs.

Come At Me, Aunt Ethel

I’m having one of those days where I can’t or shouldn’t say what I’m thinking to the person I’m thinking about saying it to so I end up having very intense fake conversations in my car. With faces. And gestures. And I’m either sorry for confusing my fellow commuters or graciously accepting their thanks for entertaining them.

These are the conversations that become the dialogue that we make our fictional selves say to our fictional antagonists so our real selves don’t get fired or arrested or knocked unconscious.

“Yes, Aunt Ethel, it’s true. My son is struggling with potty training a full year after your granddaughter gave up diapers for good. But here’s the thing, and let me say this loud enough for your daughter to hear: potty training a child is not an event in the Mommy Olympics. It’s not something you do to prove your own worth. I would rather treat my child like a real person with real problems and real feelings instead of as an accessory to show off to impress people. I don’t care if you’re impressed or not. I care about the health and well-being of my son, which seems to be something your daughter struggles with. And if that wasn’t obvious by her constant attempts to get away from her daughter or by the quick-fix schemes she’s always coming up with to make parenting easier for herself, how about the empirical evidence we are presented with right here, right now. Your granddaughter is currently trying to set flame to her napkin with the centerpiece votive and your daughter is too busy scowling at me to notice. Clean your own damn house, Aunt Ethel, before you come after me about mine.”

I mean… it could use some editing. And context. Some character description and grounding in a location.

But MY GOD, does it feel good to write it down.

 

 

Demi Lovato Has Feelings Too

Can we all just agree that the best response to “I’m sorry” is usually “thank you” NOT “that’s ok” because it’s usually NOT ok?

My boy was traumatized this week by another boy–a stranger at least 2 years and 12 inches taller than him–who got all up in his space before yanking off his hat. I took the hat back and led my son away from the other boy so I could soothe him and talk to him about what happened. Several minutes later, the other boy ran up to me, got in my face and yelled, “SORRY!” Then his mom gave a little embarrassed wave from further away and mouthed “sorry” as well.

I mean, it was pretty obvious that the other boy was on the autism spectrum, that personal boundaries aren’t terribly clear to him, that he definitely didn’t intend to do any harm, and other than being a little overwhelmed by the experience, my son was fine.

But I still feel like the right response to their “sorry” was “thank you” but it wasn’t ok. My son was scared, he had his space and property violated and he deserved an apology. Which he got. And we appreciated. So… “thank you”.

Saying, “that’s ok” to someone who apologizes for hurting you dismisses the hurt and absolves them from wrongdoing. And if you think of apologizing as a way of asking forgiveness, saying “that’s ok” sorta denies them that as well.

It’s a compassionless response. “That’s ok. This behavior is ok. Hurting me is not a problem and neither is your guilt. Let’s all just rush back to a level feeling of okness instead of acknowledging everyone’s feelings.”

But “thank you” is acknowledgment. You made a mistake, it hurt me, you feel bad. “Thank you” is for admitting your mistake, for recognizing my feelings and “thank you” because in light of that admission, I forgive you and we can all move on from this.

Whew.

All that being said, “it’s ok,” I said to the barista who apologized for not having the sandwich I ordered. She wasn’t really that sorry (it wasn’t her fault they were out) and I wasn’t really hurt (I can order something else). No harm, no thank you.

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What’s the right response to sorry not sorry? Probably an obscene gesture.