Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#Gratitude Moments

At 11:11 I wish there were not so many dead babies in the news. Sometimes it seems that thoughts are all we have, it makes sense to put them to good use. 

I'm maybe calling quits on my #100gratitudemoments posts. 

Seriously, you're thinking, does she think we really care

But I am trying, in imperfect ways, to teach my almost 5 year old what it means to finish what you start. Or explain yourself. 

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about anatomy & physiology. I've been drinking a lot of coffee. I know it's not the best thing for me, and I have this addictive little personality. But it's so wonderful. 

Gratitude. Mindfulness. Mental health. Hashtags. 

I breathe in pushing my belly over the keyboard as I type. My cat is clawing my skirt. We were away for 6 days and she's glad we're back. 

My chest is tight. #noticethebody

We went to Martha's Vineyard. My husband's family, 18 of us, a reunion of sorts, with lemonade and nieces and nephews and sisters that are mine but not really mine, from New Jersey and California. I could tell you I'm grateful for all of this, family, vacation, children. And that would be true. 

For 6 days I exhaled, mostly.*

There were other adults and other children and this big huge lawn.  There was an activities calendar. Aside from yoga, we didn’t use much of the activities calendar but I’m pretty positive we would never be staying somewhere with an activities calendar, let alone on Martha's Vineyard, if it were not for my husband's mom and step-dad. My in laws. 

I have two father-in-laws. Like I have two fathers.

When my parents divorced, I was close to the age of my smallest son. When my husband's parents got divorced, he was a little older than my bigger son. 

The sum of these things is heavy. 
  
Recently Ben asked some questions about death and whether my stepfather was someone that my mother married after my father died. In reality, my father is Grampie and we've talked about some kids having two daddies or two mommies. 

#wealsowatchedcinderella

Anyhow, I recently had reason to tell my almost 5 year old that some moms and dads don't live together. He didn't say too much more after that. Neither did I. 

As an aside, the president will be on Martha's Vineyard next week. My husband’s step-dad and I feel somewhat differently about some things, so we didn't talk about this. But there was one moment where we were talking about anxiety (mine) and worry (mine) and my wishing my husband seemed more anxious, I guess, on edge. Well we weren't exactly talking about that but sort of, and he told me to relax and at first my skin crawled. I think he saw my tears. Words sometimes feel in ways they are not meant to feel.

But I realized I'm quite grateful for the people in my life that tell me to relax, though it is sometimes hard to hear. And I know that's sometimes hard to be around. #sorrymom

My quest to post #100moments of gratitude indeed helped me take some time each day to focus on something I am thankful for. Here's my deal: I love this exercise. I love reading the posts of others and I love participating, but truth is, you have to do what works for you. For me, I (yes, seriously) sometimes feel stressed to think: "YES. Thank you so much for that. YES, type words about this now. Go on Facebook! Go on Twitter! Go!" 

I've never done this before, bringing my thoughts back to my breathing while also typing. 

I don't write about my marriage ever, but in the toughest of moments, I remember the snow angel he made on my front lawn after our first date. 

Bringing thoughts back to my breath.   

I could tell you I am grateful he and I met, three or four times over a period of a few years, one of them when he picked me up hitchhiking.

If you think about it, you'll realize you hold your breath a lot.

Looking back, I was lucky in lots of ways. 

In very tough moments, I'm grateful my mother pushed me, that not being educated was never an option. (Is that a double negative?) 

Recognizing what you have, what you've earned and what you continue to work for also means acknowledging what others don’t have and what you have been given along the way. My parents were divorced, but my childhood was fine. I grew up in a middle class family in a suburban town. I didn't always know what I was working for and there were times where I wish I worked harder. 

Blessings is a tough word for me. I do believe in the power of manifestation but really, I believe in working hard and being nice.   

Sill, in the tough moments I am grateful to know we have a safety net that so many don't have. In the toughest of moments, I have to think about what we have that others don't. 
#privilege.
See: cycle.
#white.

I often wonder about alternatives and I wish so many. Words feel so small but beyond thoughts, words are what I have.

My chest seems to open with each breath. 

I struggle with how to teach my almost 5 year old about gratitude. When I tell him I love him as I leave his room at night, he sometimes doesn't say it back. #thingsIdon'tpostonfacebook #thisisnormalright? #howcouldI

He yelled at me the other day to not sing Let it Go in the way that I was singing Let it Go. These are things I don't post on Facebook because I feel scared and vulnerable. 

When he says mama I love you while I'm just driving the car, I sink into my smile. #thingsIdon'tpostonfacebook #deadbabiesinthenews #iwishthatmotherhoodwereanoptionforeveryone

I do not feel completely sure about how to raise my kids and that makes me feel scared and vulnerable. 

I think that perhaps one or two of the people saying relax has a point

It is easier to fill up the belly than it is to fill the chest.

I have to help my children recognize a cycle of privilege, and this is stuff I don't post on Facebook because a) scared and vulnerable b) it makes me sad to think that lots of people might laugh at this statement. #weallwanttofitin 

My husband doesn't have it easy around here but I'm grateful that we work to fit in with each other. 

The other night, our last night with this family that was once much smaller, I had a bit of a crying session. Ridiculous, right? Leaving the pool attendant and path to the beach -- the one we wished we used more but, rain. Who complains about a rainy day on Martha's Vineyard? Me, sortof, while trying to communicate gratitude on Facebook. 

Do you ever feel hopelessly misunderstood and yet at the same time, desperate to explain?

Anyway, while I was crying in my room, my niece popped into the space left by the sliding glass door, barely closed during our stay. She asked what was wrong.

"Oh I’m fine," I told her.

She told me where all of the adults were and where all of the kids were and asked why I was crying. I told her, finally, in this way that seemed to flow as if rehearsed for a child, that I sometimes just get sad. That no matter how happy I am, I just sometimes am a little sad, and I can't explain it. Also, that when I spend a lot of time with a lot of people this just sometimes happens. And that even wonderful things can just be so overwhelming. 

She seemed to get it. I was grateful for her hug, and for the chance to tell her that it's amazing what you can learn about your own body over time, even if you don’t become a physical therapist, and that even though I'm your aunt we can talk about stuff any time you need to. <3 

*Did I mention the small man-made pond in the middle of the lawn and the early morning dream I had about my 2 year old?

Exhale and release what you cannot take into tomorrow.  

I'm grateful that I sometimes know when I start to ramble. 

Anyway, I love hanging out with you on the internet and I'm not sure if you'll realize I didn't reach an official #100gratitudemoments. I just may get there. But if by chance you are counting, I guess I just wanted to say, I might not be as explicit, but I’m thankful. And I realize I have a lot to be thankful for.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

10 things I know to be true



1. I was staring at my almost 5 year old’s eyelashes the other day. He has so many and for a moment I saw myself there in that spot where they curl, folded into his body like he was once folded into mine. For a moment, I felt like he could hold me there.

2. I’ve been walking as often as I can, mostly around a little lake.  At the end of my walk, I look into the sky. I know now that the clouds are always moving but once in a while, it seems like everything is still.

3. I’ve been trying to focus on one moment of gratitude each day, something little – and I’ve been trying to document them on facebook and twitter, which are sort of weird places, but I don’t have to tell you that. I just sometimes feel over sensitive on the internet. Or I feel mean. Or I over analyze things I’ve typed, “conversations” I’ve had. 

Anyway.

4. I feel like lots of moms can work at home and be mom full-time and I wish I could. Or maybe I don’t. It’s strange being here when they aren’t, and sometimes I feel alone with my thoughts of wishing they were here. I do also leave the house for work too, and in that instance I probably wouldn’t be able to leave them home or take them with me. So I just do what I need to do, I guess.

5. I talked to a writer yesterday who is a man who is a parent who has a son and who was a son and also who has a daughter. We talked about moms, guns, and super heroes. Not all in that order.

Also, there is a mom I know who feels differently than me about lots of things and all of these conversations make me think a lot even though I am trying not to think so much. Yesterday that mom and I were talking, not about guns but about work. She basically said, own it. So I guess that is what I need to do.

6. I had a gratitude journal once, full on, wrote every day about five things I was grateful for. I did it as homework for this mind/body class thing I went to for 12 weeks. It was a program of sorts for people with all kinds of issues. There was all kind of homework but it brought me to a better place in my life. I am not in a bad place now but maybe a different place.

7. I’m trying not to over analyze everything.

7 a. I am so grateful for my feet. 

8. A couple of weeks ago I went to the bank in the grocery store at sunset because I needed for my deposit to be posted that day. There was a man at the bank. I saw the corner of his eyes as I passed him – him walking to the counter, me walking to the line. After his conversation at the counter, which was longer than most bank counter conversations are, he sat at the manager’s desk, which is connected to the counter, but lower. 

I didn’t see what it was but the man in line behind me had a piece of money in his hand. A fifty, maybe? Or higher? I have no idea. I only even heard it when the man seated at the desk asked what year it was. (I think something in the 80s). If it were (something else) the man at the desk would have wanted to buy it from the man in line. He said he could turn that money into more money, that people would buy it for a few thousand bucks if it were that other year. After I finished my deposit, I went into the store part of the store for two things. I bought three.  

As I checked out, the man was still seated at the manager’s desk, the lights of the bank had dimmed. He had a sense of notleavingthecounteruntilhehadwhatheneeded in his eyes, one I know well, though from many years ago and not at the bank counter. I felt sad for him. I still do.

9. There is someone else I know much differently than I know that man in the line and she is not at a counter. For her, my sadness is also worry and anger and worry and so many things.  I think about those things late at night, after the sun has set and the lights are off.

10. Sometimes it’s hard to make new friends. And then you do, and they help some things seem more still. 

10 a. I ran away to my parents' house for 12 hours recently. 



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

I met Kristen Forbes in the lobby of what sort of seems like an office building turned college campus and I then got to know her through her writing, which is as she is: beautiful and honest and funny -- and not afraid to  unearth the ugly truth about life. She writes brave essays and excellent fiction. (Linked are just a couple of my favorites. Please check out others!) 


When I finally had the chance to actually spend time with Kristen, in Boston, on the other side of the country from where we met, I felt like I'd known her for years, like we were just catching up. When I saw her name pop up in my inbox last week (shit) recently, I smiled in a way that I really needed to smile, if that makes sense. Her message asked me to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour. And since I can't drink wine with Kristen in person, I like this idea of being close to her virtually. 


You can probably imagine how this goes, but to be sure, I'm going to borrow the description Kristen included - which she borrowed from the writer who passed this thing on to her, Brian Benson, who is going to be heading a book tour by bike! How cool is that? 

Anyway, here's his lovely description of how this works...maybe someone I pass this on to will be daring enough to change it up! 

"A writer answers a few questions about how and why and what they write, and then they ask a pal or three to do the same, and as the weeks go by, more and more of us share our precious secrets about the creative process, until eventually, probably in like mid-September, we all simultaneously self-actualize."   

Kristen shared her answers last week and asked me to share mine this week
OK. 
There are no precious secrets here. 

1.)  What are you working on?
Um, lately I'm writing a lot of copy for a beloved freelance client a little all over the place. Over this past weekend I sort of maybe was able to finish something I started years ago. I guess it's the closest thing to a poem I've written in a very long time. I've also been trying to work on this um, book? I'll report back.  

2.)  How does your work differ from others of its genre?
This is such a huge and difficult question. I am not sure. I try to be me, and we're all our own little snowflakes, right?  Seriously,  My obsessions are mine - even if they're thoughts others share. 
(I've left this question and come back and I've decided, I'm all done trying to answer this question.)  

3.)  Why do you write what you write?

I write poetry, when I can, because I just love poetry. It sounds simple but it's true.  I always want to read more poetry, feel like I'll never have read enough. I love to hear to how the words sound in their moments, and how they make me see the world in a different way -- and I started writing poetry to see if I could do that. But the root of why I write poetry is that it's a way to sort of park a lot of the stuff my brain won't let go of. My obsessions and neuroses and extra feelings. 

I've been writing essays recently. I can't seem to get into the headspace for poetry, with two small children and bills to pay. But my obsessions and extra feelings are heightened. I also find myself willing to go into more difficult subject matter. I'm at a point in my life where I'm ready to get into tougher stuff. I'm able to express myself in a different way when less focused on making a poem, and I can immediately jump back into an essay when I find myself with 30 minutes. I'd love to get back to my poetry manuscript, but I'm going to focus on this memoir -- I think it's what I have to do right now...It kind of feels like I want to stay up all night with it. 

I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job with these questions! 

4.)  How does your writing process work?

So to write poetry I need a lot of hours and time to I don't know, procrastinate. I read and look at prompts, and go back and revise old poems. I love to be near the ocean or the woods and be able to walk, a bit of wine is also helpful. I like to be able to stay up all night with poetry. Hence the reason I'm not writing a lot of it lately.

Writing an essay is a different process for me. I'll find a few hours, very late at night, and draft something terrible, like a journal entry. I do this bunches of nights, until I've actually found what it is I'm writing. then I come back to it whenever I can, pick it apart and often, start over. This goes on until I send it to a friend and get some edits. I've submitted essays without heavily revising, and they got rejected, quite quickly. I've learned to love revisions. I'll let you know my process for actually writing a book, if/when I figure that out. I kind of want to just stay up all night with it. 

But, for now, sweet friends, I will send you to two lovely writers, Wendy Fontaine and Lisa Cheby. 

Wendy is the person that reads just about every piece of non fiction that I write. I admire her as a person, mom and of course, writer. You can hear Wendy in all of her brilliance, in a recent interview with a newly launched site called Single Mom Nation, and on her website, you can link to lots of her amazing writing. She'll update her blog next week with her thoughts on writing. 

Lisa Cheby is the person that reads just about every piece of poetry that I write, and she also checks up to make sure I'm still thinking about it. She's also the only follower of this blog. (thank you Lisa!) Lisa herself is a beautiful poet with a chapbook coming out from Dancing Girl Press, and she writes insightful, eloquent reviews as well. Please do yourself a favor and read some of Lisa's poetry. Also, check out her blog, where she'll share her blog tour post within the next couple of weeks.

I can't wait to hear their secrets. 
Thanks for reading. xxooo  

p.s. For now, I'm drinking a lot of coffee out of this wonderful travel mug - inspired by the fabulous Cheryl Strayed -- Santa brought mine but he got it at The Rumpus!  






Thursday, May 1, 2014

a note to my son, at four and a half

Dear Ben, 

I'm sorry.
  1. I’m sorry that I am sometimes inconsistent with the sticker charts. 
  2. I’m sorry I don’t always tell you how great you are.
  3. I haven’t been writing things down in that journal and I'm sorry I haven't kept that book the pediatrician gave us up to date. I'm sorry I don't always add things to my to-do list and that means I sometimes forget stuff. I’m sorry I don’t write poems for you like I used to.
  4. I’m sorry I yelled at dad.
  5. I’m sorry I yelled at you.
  6. I’m sorry that for almost two years I’ve been unable to give you all of my attention. I know that someday you and your little brother will be great friends, but I'm sorry it kind of sucks right now. 
  7. I’m sorry that, when we are riding bikes, that man across the street sometimes says “Nice to see you” in a way that makes it seem like I keep you locked up in the house all the time. It’s weird for me too, to be here when you are not and it’s hard for the neighbors, I think, to understand that I work here, and that I’m not just lounging around all day.
  8. I’m sorry I don’t go to an office where I can take you to visit. We can visit dad at his office soon.
  9. I’m sorry that not going to an office sometimes makes me grumpy about being in the house a lot. I’m sorry that I move your toys when you aren’t here and that it makes it seem like I’ve been playing with them.
  10. I’m sorry that this winter sucked so bad and we’ve been in the house a lot.  I’m sorry that this means your little brother knocks down your block castle and tries to grab your toys. And I’m sorry that sometimes I get frustrated and ask you to just give him the toy.
  11. I’m sorry I forget about the kindness jar and don’t always see when you do really nice things for your brother.
  12. I’m sorry it’s so hard to play with your little Legos. 
  13. I’m sorry that sometimes I don’t come back to check on you like I said I would at bedtime. I’m sorry that sometimes I have to work, and can only count to 50 after we read books, instead of counting to 100. I’m sorry that I fell asleep the other night when we were counting to 100.
  14. I’m sorry that sometimes I am not here at bedtime and that I don't always take you to poetry readings. I’m sorry I will sometimes leave overnight. Hopefully someday, you’ll have something you love as much as you love your family. 
  15. I’m sorry in advance that I sometimes write about you or your brother, or sometimes, the sister you never met. I'll try to explain. 
  16. I’m sorry that sometimes you will not have everything you want. Your dad says it's good to want. I just want to be a good mother.  
  17. I’m a little sorry you can’t play with guns like some of your friends. I'm sorry I can't really explain why. 
  18. I’m sorry I haven't tried to use the word dead in a sentence until recently.
  19. I’m sorry I sometimes get frustrated when you are pulling at my clothes and when you screech. I know you might not be meaning to screech and just need my attention, but I am super sensitive to loud noises and sometimes I don’t want you to touch my body. 
  20. I’m sorry I get so nervous in the bathroom, but you aren't wearing a helmet and I’m afraid you will fall and hit your head on the sink or the toilet. I’m sorry I will probably fight with your dad about whether or not you can play football. That is, if you even want to play football. I hope you like soccer. 
  21. I am sorry we are on the waiting list for soccer. 
  22. I'm sorry I sometimes sneak outside to smoke a cigarette once you are in bed. I will stop, again, soon. 
  23. I know I'm not supposed to let you see me cry and I did. 
  24. I'm sorry that sometimes, people will make you feel like it's not ok to cry. 
  25. I'm sorry in advance, for not being able to help with your math homework. 
I love you so much. 

Mama

P.S. I came to check on you tonight but you were already asleep! 





Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy Birthday to One of My Dads

Sometimes your parents are divorced, when you are young, like two – you think – but you were so young that you never actually ask how old you were because it doesn’t matter.

And I’m not sure how old I was in the photos, either – the photos of my mom’s second wedding, where her own father almost doesn’t walk her down the “aisle” in the function hall but does at the last moment. 

I don’t really remember being there, but I know I was, not just because of the pictures, though I don’t think it’s because of my own memory either. It’s weird how memories work like that.

Anyhow, the point is that sometimes you find yourself at age 37, trying to explain what you’ve never felt the need to explain before, because you now have a four year old.  The you here is me and therefore the four year old is my son. We have a large family, to say the least. 

Not that long ago a friend pointed out that when we were growing up, it wasn’t that common for kids to have different last names than their moms. My mom answered to Mrs. Fowler when the teachers called and she never corrected them, like it was part of her job not to.

My brother was born when I was five. He’s a half brother that doesn’t feel half way my brother at all. He had the same last name as my mom and step dad but we fought like any set of siblings would – and now we are as close as any sibling could hope for.

I’m starting to figure out how to explain to my kids that they have a lot of grandparents because both of their parents have more than two parents.  I’m not good at math but like I said, it’s a large family. I guess the best way to explain it to a four year old is a lot of love. 

I am grateful for the relationship I have with my father, whom I also call Dad, who my kids call Grampie. And I’ve never written much about this at all so I’m not going to go further now, though I imagine writing will be how I work my way through the explanations.

Today though I’m just kind of thinking about the man that married my mom so long ago I don’t remember the photos. He’s the man that I started calling Dad when my brother was born. The more than six foot tall man with light skin and blonde hair that people would look at funny when he answered to Dad in our little suburban town, where he picked me up from ballet on Thursdays. My mom worked late some nights and I got sick of his chicken cutlets, but they were actually pretty great now that I think of that.

He was Bob before all of that and he’s Papa now. He is always joking that he better watch out or I’ll write about him. So for now, I am.


Happy birthday, Dad.