motherhood, Writing

Pen in Hand (WFAM Origin Story)

When I was young I had no understanding that I was a writer. Creative endeavors were in short supply where I grew up. I had access to the basics in terms of education, and I never questioned beyond what was in front of me.

I had a few splashes of recognition in grade school and high school. A couple writing awards, an essay or two that caught a teacher’s attention but nothing remarkable. I didn’t truly understand how to flow my thoughts on paper until my sophomore year of college. My sociology professor bloodied my written assignments with so much red ink, they looked like crime scenes. As hard as this was to take in stride, at the end of the term I emerged a competent and coherent writer.

I started to notice I could churn out page after page of text while my peers would bemoan the process often coming up short. I loved any and all written assignments. All group reports were designated to me and gladly so.

In graduate school, this trend continued. I had a propensity for spinning analytical papers into fictionalized versions (this was social work and not physics after all) and my professors loved it. This is when I began to understand my writing ability may be something unique. I started to fill notebooks with journal entries, poems, short stories, and whatever else I extracted from the ether of my dreams.

Nothing ever came of it, unless you count the sky-high volume of consumed notebooks as recognition of my authorship, I was still just me.

I got married, paused my social work career, and had kids.

Motherhood changed everything.

It wasn’t all cuddles and coos. It was sleep deprivation, loss of identity, and feeling completely out of my depth. Four years into it my world collapsed as my mom passed away with no real warning. I was faced with navigating parenting without a touchstone. Did I mention my two boys were strong-willed balls of energy that ran me ragged day after day?

I did my best to swim through the grief and be a present and loving mom, but I was woefully overextended. Babysitters and structured preschool helped but what saved me was writing.

After seeing the movie Julie and Julia (about a food bloggers’ homage to Julia Child), I came home and was compelled to start a blog. This was how I began to make sense of my life, my loss and muddle my way through parenting my rambunctious boys. It gave me space to process what I couldn’t see in the moment. I learned I could glean meaning from my wounded parts and find humor in the chaotic absurdity of raising a family.

The first year of my blog I wrote every day. I started to believe I was a writer and that this could be my livelihood.

It’s been over a decade and I’m still waiting.

At some point I had to change my relationship to my expectation of my blog. I realized my audience may be small but the eyes that are meant to find it always do. Sometimes the only benefactor of an entry is Mad Dog, my most fervent and dedicated reader. Sometimes I need the words out of me more than I need anyone else to read them.

WFAM became my growth tool. It helped me practice and hone my skills. On occasion it has led to writing opportunities, and it has given me confidence to submit pieces to numerous publication outlets with varying degrees of success.

WFAM led me to Amelia Island Writers and now I am a published newspaper columnist. This humbles me but I also understand this truth:

I am not special.

I am not more or less talented than anyone holding a dream in their heart or reading these words right now.

I am someone who stumbled upon their creative joy and had the courage to cultivate it. To show up with pen in hand, face the gaping expanse of an empty page, and fill it with words both seen and unseen.

motherhood

From Here on Out

The worst part about having teenagers isn’t the unpredictable moods (mainly my own), its the damaged self-esteem having become the shortest member of my household.

I hate being the shortest.

However, this was what I prepared for, this moment in time when I could no longer intimidate them by being bigger.  I did all I could to earn their respect.  I carved rules into stone and quashed revolt to the best of my ability.  It’s all led to this…I genuinely enjoy them as humans.  

This has pushed me into a new precipice of parenting. While I am still a quiet, constant support in their lives, what they do with them is no longer up to me. I will serve them best if I keep my opinions to myself.  I’ve had my shot at being a teenager. I gave it my all and it’s not up to my boys to fulfill any of my unlived dreams.  And, anyway, I feel like I’m just getting started. 

I plan to appreciate wherever my one, wild, and precious life takes me.

The point of all this, and yes, there is actually a point, is that I want to declare that my boys are in charge of their destiny from here on out.

I want Full Speed to choose his college (if college suits him) and career path based on his own criteria.

No limits.

From what I can see, he is thoughtful in his musings about his future. I trust him and I trust life to take him wherever he needs to go. As long as he is following his curiosity, the answers will come.

As for T. Puzzle, who at this stage remains committed to verbalizing the least amount of words possible on any given day, I support this endeavor. Who I am I to know what he needs? Maybe my penchant for feeling-based talks aren’t the answer to everyone’s problems. What works for me may not work for him. I did recently ask him to at least alter the inflection when he says “good” or “ok” just to give me some auditory variance.  If he decides not to, that’s fine by me, too.

The greatest superpower a parent has is their ability to witness the incredible, pure essence of what makes each of their children awesome. This will help see you through the conflict particular to raising teenagers.  

And remember, the best way to get them to listen to you is to say as little as possible.

I think T. Puzzle is really on to something there.

motherhood

Little Miracles (2020 Year in Review)

As the year draws to its conclusion, this is the time to reflect on the adventures we have embodied and to highlight the triumphs and glory that made our hearts sing. For our family, we had these moments. Mad Dog’s new job, moving to the beach, Full Speed’s coaching dreams pursued, T. Puzzle’s spelling bee victory, but they somehow pale in comparison to the one simple fact, …

we survived.

So did you.

If no one has told you lately, let me remind you what a marvel you are. You didn’t give up, even on the darkest mornings and the bleakest days. You kept rising to the challenges that erupted like land mines across all your expectations.

I am dedicating this post to you.

What an honor you continue to be a part of our family’s journey. Thank you for all the ways big and small you have shown up for us, for your loved ones and I pray above all else, for yourself.

Now that we have the scars of survival etched in our hearts, this is our roadmap to the turnaround. This is where the lessons learned, the gratitude gleaned, and the hope harvested move us beyond our collective healing.

This is where our survival becomes a revival.

We can’t prevent disaster but now we know whatever happens, we will get through it. 2020 tried everything in its power to stop us. It knocked us down more times than it lifted us, but we kept righting ourselves back to the life in front of us. To all those tiny, precious details we never had time to notice, until 2020 halted our motion and busyness and these little miracles were all we could see.

What beauty to know our strength is infinite and that together or apart, we are one.

Thank you for reading. May the year ahead provide us with all that is needed to grow our courage, cherish what matters, and cultivate love for ourselves and for one another.

motherhood

Coping

This is how I am coping with the pandemic.

I’m not.

Well, that’s not totally true, some days I fake that I am okay better than other days.  So, there’s that, but mostly, I have no idea what I am doing.

Here’s what helps:

1.Taking a million photos of my dogs:

 

2. Cracking jokes with my boys:

 

3. Reading updates on Roho (he’s doing awesome).

4: Watching baseball.  So. Much. Baseball.

5. A gratitude practice.  I particularly love this journal:

Start with Gratitude

It includes unique prompts that make you stop and reflect about your day. This way it’s not a rote listing of the same things over and over.  The only one I struggle with is “Favorite people I saw today.”  The answer is always the same: Full Speed, T.Puzzle, and Mad Dog…it’s the pandemic y’all (I always add that in so if future generations look back at it they won’t be sad that I had no friends).

6. Get outdoors until I remember I live in Texas and it is currently a thousand degrees and I retreat indoors before my face melts off.

7. Question why I live in Texas.

8. Eat chocolate.

9. Eat more chocolate.

10. Allow for bad days, offer myself some kindness, and hug my boys (T.Puzzle LOVES this!).

11. Cardio kickbox my way through some aggression.

12. And last but not least, remind myself that there are awesome people like you in the world.

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family, gratitude, humor, motherhood

Life Lessons (Global Pandemic Edition)

  1. We are more adaptable than we realize. We have settled into new routines and found sparks of hope in unexpected places. T.Puzzle’s new mantra is “less school, more video games!”  Silver linings are there for the taking.
  2. Everyone has unique strengths during times of stress. While my strength lies in cultivating family bonds, I may also freak out a little more than the rest of my clan. Thankfully, I am married to a man who never freaks out.  It actually kind of freaks me out that he is so calm ALL THE TIME. At this point, I am not going to change who I am, but I am forever grateful I feel safe enough to fully be myself and know without doubt, I am loved just as I am.
  3. When this whole pandemic began to impact our lives, to help preserve my sanity, I took a major pause from social media. I simply cannot hold that many stories in my head and function well. It may appear that I am less connected to what matters, but I have found the opposite to be true. I am remembering the beauty of my own backyard.
  4. My imagination runs wild so I have to be mindful of the T.V. shows I watch. Otherwise my sleep will be disrupted and general mind mayhem will ensue. This leaves me with limited options. I have been reduced to watching lots of reality T.V.  This is fine in small doses, but recently I have noticed my propensity to want to walk around in thong bikinis, toss martinis about and speak incoherently in a British accent. Weirdly, Mad Dog has little to no objections concerning my altered behaviors. I am in no danger of being voted off the island.

Thanks for reading and be kind to yourself.

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