How to Fill a Page

Before my first child was born, I told my OB/GYN that I was concerned I was a good strong candidate for some hardcore postpartum depression. She referred me to a therapist and suggested I see her before the birth so I could start working on coping strategies before the big event.

I spent three sessions of an hour each complaining about my mother-in-law.

Now, a good therapist–which she was not–would have read between the lines and addressed my issues with expressing emotion and how having a child was scary for me because it came alone with BIG EMOTIONS that I didn’t feel prepared for. My mother-in-law is a frequent expresser of emotions, you see. I did explain that. I did explain a lot of things. But when I said, “I don’t really think these sessions are helping me,” she said, “Well, you managed to fill the hour well enough.”

Let’s skip past the obviousness of her ineptitude and touch upon the most relevant nugget of wisdom for a busy person trying to fulfill a word quota for a Camp Nano project:

If you’re a good enough complainer, you can fill several hours–or several thousand pages–just with that. The good stuff, we’ll leave for next month when the pressure to perform is off.

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Tell me more about my paycheck…

Also, writing is my best therapy. It doesn’t always make for great copy but it does force me to express and examine my issues several times over. And it’s free.

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Ill-defined Fun

In the spirit of John Cougar Mellencamp–because I can’t seem to get away from him lately–here’s a little story about Where I’m supposed to be right now, Why I’m not there, and How come I ain’t never goin’ back.

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When my son was six months old, I took him to Mommy and Me swim classes at a local gym with a small pool and weekday classes. “This’ll be fun!” I told my husband, who is anti-bodies of water and his submergence in them. And for 6 weeks, it was! We had a great instructor who sang songs and provided graduated steps for infant water integration and who I trusted enough to float my son around for 45 seconds.

So we signed up for a second class! “Oh, this’ll be so fun!” I told my little bundle of joy who took to the water like a reverse amphibian. But it was not. There was a new instructor who said to me on the very first day, “I’ve never worked with babies before. Let’s see how it goes!”

Oh. Oh no. No, no. You have no experience with babies and your best reassurance is “let’s see how it goes?” It did not go well for many reasons. But the reason I demanded a refund on my non-refundable class was that this woman encouraged us all to swim to the deep end holding our infants. Mmm… no, danger. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll just swim behind you in case something happens.” No.

Oh but that was years ago. So when I got an email advertising a Mommy’s Night Yoga course, I thought, “Oh, this could be fun!” But then I got a phone call while I was out with my husband this afternoon. He joked, “It’s the gym saying the class is cancelled.” Haha, three hours from start time? No way. YES way. Yes, they cancelled class three hours before it started after I planned my damn day around this thing.

Yes, they gave us a refund and offered me 1 free yoga class at the exact time my son has karate class tomorrow morning. Which is 1 day after the event they cancelled. Which was for busy moms who can’t find a moment to themselves. So… like, logically, said moms might need more than a 19 hour planning window.

In conclusion, this place needs to lose my email address like they’ve lost my trust.

I would like to thank my husband for taking the children out tonight so Mommy could at least get some writing time. You don’t dangle a kid-free evening in front of a stressed out mom and then YOINK it away like so much cartoon sandwich. It’s cruel.

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Russian Bots Aren’t My Problem

There are days I spend away from the internet and while I can’t say I feel refreshed and renewed (because I’m not out camping and enjoying nature so much as running the kids all over town and catching up on To Do tasks), I do feel moderately less annoyed with humanity.

I blame Facebook. For many things, actually, but hating other people has a lot to do with inane and/or offensive garbage I see on Facebook mostly from people I know in real life and the people they know in real life who maybe I need to know a little less about.

Twitter is a different story for me because I’m on there almost exclusively to engage the writing community and stalk Riverdale creators and actors. All of those people are lovely and I can easily ignore anyone who isn’t.

Instagram is fairly new to me, my personal account is private, and I really only engage with a select few people… and Riverdale creators and actors.

Tumblr, I abandoned long ago, back when raging Teen Wolf fans couldn’t handle life and stopped creating adorable memes to lash out in grammatically infeasible ways that hurt my brain.

And I don’t do anything else because I’m a Gen Xer and I’m too busy being broody and polishing my CD collection to learn anything new.

So I will continue to look at the pretty pictures on Instagram and play writer hashtag games on Twitter and feel all peach fuzz and puppies about it.

But how… do I get away… from Facebook? Honestly? I have business-related pages and an author page and a private friend group comprised entirely of pictures of my children so I can continue minimal interaction with family while still providing life updates. But I want to stop all the rest. How do you just… stop the rest? How do you kill the Facebook feed?

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This is definitely me in a Calvin Klein crop top with my manicured nails and dangling bracelets being all addicted to social media and whatnot. Certainly not a generic pic that google has allowed me to use.

Being the Good Voice

Let me preface this preaching with a musical interlude:

I’ve been listening to a playlist in my car of new songs I’ve purchased in the order I’ve purchased them which is how I heard just now, on my way here, Believer by Imagine Dragons followed by Hall of Fame by The Script. “My life, my love, my drive, it came from PAIN!” followed by “You can be the greatest, you can be the best, dedicate yourself and you’ll be standing in the hall of fame.” As parenting philosophies according to popular music go, there’s a pretty clear winner in this battle.

Which made me start thinking about how children are influenced by their parents long after childhood ends.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, kids actually do listen to their parents and they really do internalize those things we say most often. As teens and adults, a lot of those things we said often become the voice in their head that guides them. For better or for worse.

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I know of too many people for whom the voice in their head is that of fear or doubt, indecision, conformity, derision, punishment, undeservingness, lack of acceptance. It’s the voice that tells you you’ll never succeed, you’re too stupid or fat, too weak or too weird, that you should let someone else do it, that you’re not ok the way you are, that you should just melt into the background because every action is too much of a risk.

And with the lyrics of those two songs echoing in my head, I’m determined not to be that voice.

I want to be the voice in my kids’ heads that says…

You can do it

I believe in you

Make good decisions

Do your best

Try again 

Take care of yourself

Be respectful of others

Brush your teeth

Just try to go pee before we leave the house

Eat more good food than treats

I love you!

And then I hear my son say to himself, “That’s ok. Twy again. You can do it,” and I feel like maybe I’m doing an ok job at this whole parenting thing.

Pigs are for Bacon, Not That… not that

I’ve been hearing all the hullabaloo about Black Mirror and decided to dive in to season 1 the other day. I didn’t get past that first episode.

This is what people like to watch? I mean… besides the part with the pig? That was nasty enough. But… like… people enjoy being judged in such a cruel and demoralizing way on their viewing habits? Or did they just not get it?

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Sadly, probably not.

Because it worked for me. I turned that crap off right quick and picked up a book.

Legit question: does the series get better? Or is it always pointing out how hollow a life lived in front of a screen can be?

Meanwhile, have you seen Kevin (Probably) Saves the World? It’s like, a Black Mirror antidote.

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I… yeah, I’d rather be watching Kevin. The real world is harsh enough.

 

How to Deal with the Indecisive

I have this simple rule with my toddler when I have to ask him the same question more than 3 times: If you won’t decide, then I’ll do it for you.

It always works. Either he makes the decision quickly–which is what usually happens–or I do and the thing gets done.

Meanwhile, I asked my husband 5 or 6 times to help me decide who and in what order to put the emergency contacts on my son’s preschool enrollment application and he has blown it off repeatedly. I don’t have time for this nonsense. I decided, it’s done, and now he has no say in the matter.

So… henceforth… my toddler rule applies to EVERYONE.

Listen up, all the indecisive people in my life:

IF YOU WON’T DECIDE, THEN I WILL DO IT FOR YOU

and guess what else:

YOU GET WHAT YOU GET AND I DO NOT CARE IF YOU ARE UPSET.

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Black Sheep of the Family Friday

For a limited time (that being until I remember to revert it) the paperback version of my latest book (and my winning WIP for last year’s NaNoWriMo), Lay Her Ghosts to Rest, is “on sale” on Amazon.

Consider it a holiday special if you will but really, I want to buy a few copies for family members for Christmas and if I get to control the price, I choose to pay less.

That’s why it’s “on sale” rather than on sale. There’s no real promotion so much as I lowered the price for my own benefit.

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Lay Her Ghosts to Rest is my most recent book, inspired by my dread and hatred of wakes and funerals and my desire to legitimize my fear and justify my absence from them. See, everyone? It’s bad for your spirit to attend these things! It’s bad for your soul to have one held for you! Devastation, organization, commercialization! These are all the consequences of your morbid fascination with grief theater and cadaver puppets!

It’s also about recognizing negative patterns and realizing how difficult it is to break them. Workplace drama, relationship drama, ghost stuff, a kickass apartment complex in a renovated industrial mill. That’s what’s what.

 

I imagine that’s why many small business owners open up shop: just to spend less on the stuff they love.

What to Do With a Full Vessel

Either my son’s pediatrician is just as awful as I think she is or this is a brand new thing baby doctors do but I just barely passed my postpartum quiz at my daughter’s check-up yesterday. Regardless, my son’s pediatrician is awful. I’m negotiating a switch to the new guy. But that’s besides the point.

The point is that I would not at all have passed the quiz after my son was born. I think I’m surviving a little better this time around because my daughter’s birth was very well medicated and not in the least bit difficult. My son’s birth? I think they call it Acute Stress Disorder. It can happen when a child rocket ships out of your undercarriage before you’re full aware you’re in labor. Apparently.

I’m also less afraid of breaking my daughter since I know now how resilient babies are. I’m less afraid of taking her out in public or putting her in a car seat or, you know, her not getting enough food or not breathing unless I’m watching her. It really is easier the second time around.

And yet…

My mental health is still touch and go. I told my daughter’s pedi that it was probably just a fun mix of not enough sleep and desperately needing to go back to work–entirely true, by the way–but there’s definitely more to it than that. I’m just not willing to launch into it with my kid’s doc while he’s shining a flash light in her eyeballs with my husband barely containing my son’s hissy fit right behind us. Not exactly a good time to talk about me.

But when is it? This is what I’m discovering about being a mom of two: there isn’t really any time for me. Sometimes it feels very much like there is no more me. To quote my own book, because I’m conceited like that,

“Does it matter what I want or am I just a vessel for the wants of others?”

Toddlers have limited compassion. Not none but very… very limited. I was told last night that I couldn’t be sad because he was sad because only one person can be sad at a time? And if it’s a toddler, everyone else can suck it. At least until the next episode of Vampirina starts.

I have my own postpartum checkup in a few weeks and that, perhaps, will be Me Time. I will chat with my own doc and see if I pass her quiz. Could be I go back to work before then and find meaning in my life. Could be that I get caught up in whatever WIP I’ve got for NaNoWriMo and don’t have time for non-essential thoughts. Could be I hide under a chair until someone lures me out with coffee and a muffin. Who can tell?

Until then, let me give myself some insight, again from my own book:

“Maybe we are all a vessel for the wants of others, regardless of whether we provide for those wants. Conflict arises when we deny the wants of others. Conflict WITH others anyway. Conflict with ourselves arises when all we do is provide for the wants of others. There needs to be a balance.”

Yeah, the me who wrote that only had the one child. Stupid past me. You’ll learn.

 

I Too Am Non Blond

I’ve got two warring circumstances happening in my life right now that are combining to form an awesome fighting force of malcontentment bordering on mild depression: I can’t freaking sleep (because babies) and I can’t freaking write (because lack of sleep and babies).

To combat that, I take teeny tiny curled up on the couch cat naps until my toddler jumps on my face or my newborn screams bloody murder and I do some musical free writing. When I get 2 minutes, I put on a song and let whatever pent up emotional nonsense I’ve got out onto paper. I wrote a couple of nice pieces to Neil Young this week, actually.

So when I came across the Buzzfeed article 7 Songs That Helped Me With My Anxiety, I thought I scored a handy soundtrack to some creative writing therapy.

Not so. Not yet. Because I got stuck on the very first song, What’s Going On by 4 Non Blonds.

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Instead of my own words pouring out, all I got was theirs. But I’ll tell you what: I am not complaining.

I loosened up that mom ponytail, blasted the volume and sang “at the top of my lungs”, sleeping babies be damned (only one was sleeping. The other is watching Halloween videos on my phone and couldn’t be more invested in Spookley the Square Pumpkin right now).

It worked though. Color me stress free… for the next few minutes at least. My GOD but that song is restorative. They should sell the single as a self-help system.

Of course NOW the baby is crying and the phone battery is running low and I’ve got to put my hair back up into a convenient mom bun to prevent child strangulation, but for those 5 minutes back there, I was starting to feel pretty good.

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