Friday, January 31, 2014

picking up stories

Jan 31, 2014 004 

He doesn't pick up stories. He picks up books about the Northern Lights or ancient Egypt. Maybe comics, if it's Calvin and Hobbs. But never a chapter book. We read them together, alternating pages, for his school reading. But on his own? Never.

So the other day when he picked up The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and sat quietly on the couch for half an hour, I was shocked. And like it was no big deal he said "Yeah, I think I'll read a chapter a day, Mom."

Jan 31, 2014 001

Phases, I know. He'll go through phases with what he reads, like the rest of us. With what he writes. Like the rest of us. Some days he writes a story about a little lost comet that can't find his family out in space, the comet is constantly looking for his home. His place. Other days he writes nature and world and science facts in his "Book of Things I Know" journal. 

Life inspires art. Imagination. Creativity. 


I'm on the verge of diving back in to my manuscript. I've been dallying about it way too long{and of course after I posted I was going to work on something else thoughts of the first project won't leave my head!!}. 

But breaks can be fruitful. I watched a video interview of John Irving {Thank you again Maggie May for the link!!} and in it he says something about writing novels and screenplays at the same time, and when the call comes in to work on the screenplay you drop everything and do that. So there's a break from the novel. And the best thing about any break from the work in progress is coming back to it with fresh eyes, seeing something that wasn't there before or couldn't have been without a change in pace - a change in life. I love that. I think especially for mother writers we need to be gentle with ourselves about taking time away from our projects, or being able to work on them for moments at a time. Life happens, especially when there are young children around. Take what you can, and take the breaks if they are handed to you {even by way of week long head colds!} and move on and go from there. You never know what life will have inspired during the interim. 


I did want to come here and thank you guys for the support of that last post. It never fails to amaze me how supportive my community is when I share here. It just so happens that the post got picked up by Mamapedia, which is pretty incredible! If you are coming here from there - welcome! 

There's also a few words of mine over on Melanie's Just a Minute: Moments in Motherhood blog site. On stealing the moments for ourselves... somewhat similar to what I was writing about in the paragraph on taking the moments that are handed to us. I wrote the post a year ago, so don't mind the age differences in the kids if you are a stickler for that sort of thing!

And because I'm tired of plugging my own writing... here's a few links that I've really enjoyed lately:

~ From Maggie May Etheridge, on finding your tribe regardless of where you live... even in Suburbia.

~ There's still time to sign up for Alisha's Liberated Lines which starts next week...

~ Kristen's review of the book Notes from a Blue Bike {on slowing down life...}

~ Angie Muresan's piece, Comrade Pauker. Amazing. 

~ Rachel W. Cole's ode to sugar {not quite... more of an ode to moderation!} 

~ Justine's post on getting outside, even when it isn't always convenient.

~ And Aidan's Friday loves {a favorite fun post to read each week!}

Happy weekend, folks. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

four years


Four years ago, the 26th of January was a Tuesday. I think. I woke up with a massive hangover, and an admission via a drunken late night email to my husband with those words... I'm an alcoholic. There was no other way to do it, in my mind. And there was no going back. January 26th is a date that will forever be etched into our minds, a date on the timeline of our lives. Our marriage.  

At first I counted days. Then weeks. Then months of sobriety. We celebrated little milestones, that eventually became bigger milestones, and now we're at the point where we don't look at the 26th of every month as a victory, but each year. Yes, each day is a victory of sorts. One day at a time, right? But for me, in my sobriety, four years in, it's more of a choosing freedom daily, instead of choosing not to drink each day. 

There's a freedom in letting go of the things that harm you. Keep you back. Tie you to your burdens. Make you someone you're really not. That freedom is the biggest gift that sobriety has given me. The knowledge that you can let go of harmful practices, people or things is a powerful gift to have on your side. There's a mental list that I keep of the things I'm proudest of in my life. Our  marriage is one. Birthing and mothering my children is another. But quitting drinking  is up there as well. Most of my daily life as I know it wouldn't be possible if I had kept drinking. If I had kept hiding. 

My story is not unlike many others. I've been thinking of sharing old blog posts from that raw part of my life, here for people who might not know the story, who might need to hear it. There's power in our stories. There's power in our truths. They are not cookie cutter, one size fits all, stories and truths, recoveries and processes - but they can empower others and bits of our stories can be identified with by others. I truly and honestly believe that fact. 

This morning I woke up, head full of a cold and mind foggy with congestion. I hugged my babies, who aren't really aware of all of this, of mommy's allergy to alcohol {a phrase that many use to explain an alcohol problem to their children}. I went to the grocery store and bought a cart load of groceries, and also a mini orchid. I've always wanted one... but my inability to keep houseplants alive has frightened me out of buying one in the past. But today I bought one, I figured, why not? I've kept myself sober for four years, giving an orchid an ice cube a week is nothing. 

Freedom in choices. Freedom in mindfulness. There's freedom in it all, even in the choices that seem so hard to make, that are so scary, that seem like life just won't go on after they've been made. But life does move on. The key is how you will move along with it. With fear hanging over your head, or with freedom in your pocket. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

sick days and spinning rings and pops of yellow


Today has been moving slowly, these cold winter days often do. So cold that my wedding rings spin around my fingers, my  hands have never felt this dainty. We go from one thing to the next. This morning it was a book about finding math in art and the kids didn't even know we were doing schoolwork. Next was a craft left untouched on the shelf from last Valentine's day... good thing February is coming up. I spent an hour on skype with a good friend. We talked about writing. Mothering and writing. The desire {or more like the obsessive want} to write. The words that don't get written. The ones stuck in our heads. On our hearts. We say goodbye and then it's another project with the kids. Today is a sick day, but the kids don't realize the best thing about being sick is doing nothing so we are always doing something. Colds and sniffles and snot wiped on shirts instead of tissues. We make potholders, my fingers turn raw from the fabric absorbing any of the little moisture my hands have left. Chapped from rubbing against the weaving loom pegs. I comment on the pops of yellow that brighten his potholder. Brighten the room. Even my smile. Winter is here and we search for the pops of yellow amid the dry, chapped hands... our days silently decorated with spinning rings.


A few links to share today... 

Justine put together a post where a few friends share their favorite physical spaces in their homes... I was thrilled to participate when she asked! 

Melanie is working on a new project where she dives into Moments in Motherhood. She was at our house last week, and her gallery of photos from the shoot is simply divine {and might have left me speechless!} 

Friday, January 17, 2014

fragility of normal


 On the way to a non emergency, but still same day doctor's visit, we are late. I'm driving down the highway wondering how it is that seven plus years into motherhood I still don't allow enough time for delays and a child falling in mud while walking from the front door to the car, and then having to run inside and change pants and shirts and coats. Because mud splashes everywhere and seeps into the cracks between coat and shirt, shirt and skin.

She says she's fine without me in the x ray room. She's five. She looks brave and talks to the radiology tech and when I come back in the tech tells me that my girl has asked to see her x rays. So she's taking her to look at a computer screen. My girl watches as the leg bones are pointed out {fully intact, thank GOD} and she marvels at how small her knee cap is. "In ten years it'll be a full knee cap, just like a grown ups."

Ten years. I can't even imagine. She'll be 15.

Seven plus years in and the worries get bigger and the threats against normal health seem to increase. Maybe because we're all so aware. Maybe because every other day there's a story the pops up on Facebook or the Huffington post about children battling cancer or other scary diseases. And so my mind goes places that are dark. I can't help it. All of a sudden my five year olds shin pain seems like it could be anything from a badly bruised bone to a stress fracture to cancer.

How do we go through days and nights with these little ones without the fear overwhelming us and consuming our hearts and minds? The fragility of my little ones lives is not lost on me. I recently read "The more you know, the crazier you look." It's true. The more we are aware of, the good and bad, the crazier we look - or even feel.

And so I step back. From Facebook and news stories. I filter what I watch and read and hear. If a story comes up about a shooting or car jacking or child abuse I choose not to read the details. I am aware, but I am trying not to let it scare the crap out of me, and in turn live in fear. It is so easy to live in fear.

It takes strength to parent with all of this knowledge around us. With WebMD and Dr. Google. To parent while conscious of both the good and the bad. For those of us who deal with anxiety it is especially hard to be aware but not fear every ache or pain and turn it into the worst case scenario. It take strength to know that whatever happens, moments will continue to pass and life will continue to move forward. Parenting is not for the weak of heart. The moment I saw the first positive pregnancy test nearly eight years ago I knew that. But I couldn't possibly know the extent of what that means. I'm sure I still don't.

The call comes and I take a deep breath. The words normal x ray and cold compress and motrin are a relief. Aware of what it could have been, thankful for what it isn't. Trusting this moment, feeling the fragility of normal.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


This morning I was lounging in bed for a few extra minutes while the kids got themselves breakfast. I was reading my phone, blogs and facebook updates. My seven year old came upstairs and said "Mom, do you ever feel ominous about anything?"

When he was five his favorite word was ominous. Thank you Martha Speaks!

I answered that sometimes I do, and asked if he did today. He said not really. He was just curious.

The day moved along. Hot tea and showers and school and laundry. The normal activities. All through the morning I felt the unsettled, excited and anxious feeling that happens now and then. Finally I looked at my phone, though I didn't really need to. I already knew. But the app on my phone told me what I was guessing - the moon is 100% illuminated. Full moon. Some people think I'm crazy, but I can sense the moons fullness. I walk through the world and feel slowed down by a sort of electricity, an energy. Just around the full moon. I get excited. There are endless possibilities at every turn and a surge of making plans and organizing and energy that won't let me sit still for too long. I feel all of that.

Later in the day we headed out to the library to pick up a few books for an idea I have floating in my head. I briefly explained the Dewey decimal system to the kids, referencing notes on a sheet of paper that I had jotted down call numbers onto before leaving the house. We picked up applications for children's library cards.

I'm excited by this idea for a new story. I need a break from the one I started back in November. Truthfully, I'm not in love with it. I can envision where the story could go, but I'm not ready to force myself through it right now. So I'll follow this other idea for a bit, see where it takes me. I'm jotting notes and paragraphs and I'm writing, just not linearly or coherently yet. Fragments and outlines and even just singular words. Eventually I might go back to the other manuscript. I know what it needs, I'm just not willing to bring it to fruition yet. Though I might feel differently tomorrow.

I've been thinking about how in this day and age it's almost uncomfortable to not share writing.  Almost like "if a writer writes something, but doesn't share it, does the writing exists?"

Does it?

Indeed it does.

And it's not just with writing that I've been struggling with this concept. It's our school days. This term we're reading and learning and diving into all sorts of subjects - but we don't have much to show for it. The kids are practicing their writing, and we do math equations on scratch paper, but at the end of the day not a single work book has been used. Their knowledge is in their heads, and it comes out in conversation and play and life.

But where is anything that we could share? That we can show for ourselves and our time?

Do we learn anything if we don't have worksheets to prove it?

Indeed we do.

Our last stop today was the beach. We drove down the road, marsh on either side, and we saw countless cars pulled over on the side of the road. There were a dozen people standing in the marsh grasses, gigantic telephoto lenses out snapping pictures. We searched with our eyes and finally found the creatures they were hounding. Snowy Owls. Within the course of the afternoon the kids and I saw three of the majestic creatures. They were quiet. Calm. Stoic. Barely moved. We watched one ready itself for flight. The wingspan grew and though it moved swiftly, the owl stayed close to the ground and found a new place to stand. Still in the marsh. Still stoic.

Within a few moments the crowd turned over and the owl and the three of us were the only ones who knew that it had moved recently, that it had changed his or her perspective and took the world in from a new place.

I took a blurry picture with my camera phone and blew it up and posted it to instagram. A white blob amid marshy greens and browns. Tonight I'm left full with the knowledge that even if I hadn't shared the photo, the snowy white owl would still have been there. Breathing and nestling in with its feathers and doing whatever it is that owls do... for their own survival and maybe even enjoyment.

Monday, January 13, 2014



These days I'm reading at a furious pace. A book every two days, if not one a day. I'm going through books like candy. Sometimes I forget who was in what book. Where each was set. I'm reading in a fog, and I'm having trouble seeing headlights and even five feet ahead of me. This time of year is a blur. Coming down from the holiday highs, leaning into the vitamin D deficient lows. So I read. I avoid writing because my creativity feels lost in the fog. I read to keep a hold of words. Some words. Any words. 

And instead of hoping that it will pass, I simply wish to trust that my own words will lead me somewhere. Anywhere. 


Not completely unrelated... I've signed up for Liberated Lines, and would urge anyone who enjoys words and love to do the same. Gift it to yourself, an early Valentine's Day gift perhaps? I am excited to see what Alisha and Robin have in store for us.