Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Mammogram

Just in case the world doesn't end tomorrow, I went ahead and had my mammogram today. It's been a few years since I've had one. I've been a little busy having babies and breastfeeding. Which brings us to a couple of interesting conversations at the radiology place.

Tech: Any chance you could be pregnant?
Me: Not a chance. I still breastfeed though. Not much, just a little.
Tech: Oh. When was the last time you breastfed?
Me: I don't know. Maybe three days ago? He's pretty sporadic now.
Tech: How old is he?
Me: Almost three.
Tech: So how many times a day are you breastfeeding?
Me: Oh, not even once a day. Just when he comes in at night and I'm too tired to put him back down.
bbbTech: Um, how long have you been breastfeeding?
Me: Five years.
Tech: No, I mean just this time?
Me: Five years. I have two children, and I never stopped breastfeeding.
Tech: *blank stare*
Me: *stares back*
Tech: Um, I'm going to have to talk to the doctor.
Me: Okay, but they said it wasn't a problem at my doctor's office.

insert Jeopardy music while I wait in my little open front gown.

Doc: So I understand you stopped breastfeeding three days ago?
Me: Well, it doesn't exactly work like that. The last time my son nursed was probably three days ago. I don't know if he will do it again or not.
Doc: And how old is he?
Me: Almost three.
Doc: Huh. I don't have kids. But I have a dog who is almost four. I guess I can understand wanting her to still be a puppy.
Me: *blank stare*
Doc: You know, still my baby.
Me: Ummmmm, okay. It's actually called child led weaning, and it's quite common.
Doc: Well, I don't recommend that you get a mammogram today. I won't deny it to you , but you really should wait three to six months after you stop breastfeeding. I mean that can't be long from now, can it?
Me: *blank stare*
Doc: But it's up to you.
Me: Thanks. Let's get this done.

Yes. I still nurse my son because I want to continue to think of him as a baby. WHAT?

No. I still nurse my son because sometimes he still asks, and it's the least I can do for him to let him decide when to be done for good.

No. I still nurse my son because sometimes I want to sleep as much as possible, and I don't want to get up and sit in his room while he goes back to sleep at 3:00 in the morning.

No. I still nurse my son because I'm lucky to have been able to do so.

No. I still nurse my son because I damn well want to.

We are essentially done. It might have even been a week since he last nursed. It doesn't matter. There isn't any milk left. It's just the comfort of it that I can offer him.

But really? Please.

It didn't make me mad or angry. Maybe a little irritated. I was mostly just surprised. Surprised at how little yet another doctor knew about a real nursing relationship between mother and child.

There is a lot of work to do, ladies.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thank a teacher today

Each December, the children at Arts Together put on a brilliant production of The Nutcracker. A little spontaneous at times, and a little abstract at others, it's a tradition and a treat.


Last year, Christopher didn't want to participate. He was the "music helper." I knew that was what his dance teacher did for him to help him feel included even though he refused to join in a lot of times.

This year, here he is as a Russian Dancer:



What a difference a year makes. What a difference a teacher makes. What a difference a class dynamic makes.

I appreciate that they didn't give up on him. 

Then, tonight, our sweet friend Kara gave us tickets to a fundraiser for the Carolina Ballet (we are so sorry for your loss, Kara). We got to meet dancers, eat cupcakes for dinner, and both boys fought the Mouse King fearlessly. And Christopher? He showed a real Russian Dancer from the Carolina Ballet how to do the Russian Dance, preschool style.



When the dancer asked him how he learned to do that? Christopher said, "Four year olds can do anything."

Thank you, Amy. Thank you, Karen, Renee, Nan, Rebecca, Emma, and Brenda.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Nurse nurse

He slips into my room in the middle of the night. Or in the very early morning. Either way you look at it, I'm still in a deep sleep.

I know he is there even though he doesn't make a sound other than his breathing. He stands at the side of my bed and waits for me to lean over the edge, scoop him up under his arms, and lift him into bed with me.

Most nights, he slips into the crook of my arms and falls right back to sleep. A few nights ago, he quietly asked, "Nurse nurse?"

He is almost three. During the day, he couldn't be bothered with nursing. There are bad guys to fight, dogs to chase, costumes to wear, cars to race. He doesn't have time for the "nuh-nuh's." When I put him down for a nap, he usually likes to nurse to sleep. I let him, and then I slip out of his bed and back downstairs to get some work done.

Only, lately, he has been too busy to nap. No nap, no nurse nurse.

So a few nights ago, he asked, I obliged, and we rolled over onto our sides and scooted into position for a little side lying nursing. I barely even woke up. I don't know how long he tried. All I know is that the next thing I hear Colin saying is,

"Mama? I really want for the milk to come out."

Then my heart broke just a little bit.

My last baby. My last nursling. And the end just snuck up on us.

It's alright. I knew it wasn't going to last forever. I've sold the cloth diapers. The crib and the toddler bed are long gone. Cups don't automatically have lids snapped on them before being given over to the small people. Booster seats have replaced convertible car seats.

It's been a long time coming. He's almost three. I love who he has become in his three years. He is smart and funny and I wouldn't trade him in for a newborn for anything.

But, just, ooooph. It's just a little bit hard to be letting him go. My baby.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thank goodness November is over.

I would blog, but there's a snoring dog on my lap.

There is one thing I can say though, I've been wearing teal mascara this week. Considering I've been wearing teal mascara because I couldn't read the tiny print on the bottle and didn't KNOW it was teal - I'm thinking I might just be too old to be wearing teal mascara.

Just a thought.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham is live!

Can I just say that the Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show is going to be fantastic? We just finished a webinar (a word I did not make up) with the fabulous ladies of the national Listen to Your Mother group, and I am all tingly-ified (a word I did make up).


Our local site is live. It's naked, but it's live. You are going to want to bookmark it NOW so you are the first to know about the date, location, and time of the 2013 show. And you KNOW you want to be the first to know about AUDITIONS. 

In the meantime, head on over to the Listen to Your Mother show website and check out the bios of all the incredible women spearheading the shows in 24 cities next year.

KeAnne and I are working hard to secure a venue and get a date lined up for this. We want it to be a huge success, and given the talent here in the Triangle, I know it will be. 

Please stay in touch with us about the show. This is all about our community coming together to give a voice to motherhood. 

It's going to be AMAZING.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

That last glass

I'm petering out on the whole posting everyday in November. It's just not in me anymore. There is plenty I have spinning around in my head, but not really much I want to put here.

Mainly, I keep thinking about anniversaries. December marks a lot of anniversaries, most of which I'm not terribly excited about.

My last hug from Susan.

My first miscarriage.

The death of my grandmother.

Then there's Christmas. YAY! Happy times. Happy times.

I don't know. It's not as bad as I make it sound here. We have three trees up (so far), my mantle is done, my grandparent's Nativity is out for the first time in years. I'm getting it on with the holiday decor - which didn't happen last year.

I was a little distracted.

Maybe I'll always be a little distracted at Christmas time and just learn how to focus in spite of it.

There are stories that I want to write - moments that I want to put down on paper - of that last weekend I was able to spend with Susan. It's just not for the blog.

When I do that though - have things that consume my thoughts - it's hard to write anything else.

There is one other December anniversary that I don't talk about much. It is an anniversary that I wouldn't have made without Susan. One that I'm surprised I'm still celebrating now that she's gone.

My last drink.

It was a glass of prosecco, in case you are wondering. At Gravy on Wilmington Street. Don't remember what I ate or what I wore, but I remember that glass of beautiful bubbly.

Cheers, y'all. The holidays are coming. Whether you damn well like it or not.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A gift guide for the husbands and partners of blogging women

So. Your wife is a blogger and you find yourself having no earthly idea what to get her for Christmas or Hanukkah this year? I am here to make you look FABULOUS.

Sure, you could just go to her Pinterest page (Yes, she has one. Yes, I'm quite sure.) and shop straight from it. Or, I'm pretty positive that you could also go to her Etsy favorites page, although that would require a little bit of hacking on your part (and if you do that, don't order from her account, or she will know what you got her).

What you need is a fail proof list with links that will set you up right now. I have that list for you.

First of all, you need to get her a subscription to Stealing Time. For reals. It's a new magazine with actual WRITING in it. She doesn't need more magazines that tell her how to orgasm 28 times a night, wear fake eyelashes during the day, or let her know that Lindsey Lohen has gone off the deep end. She needs this magazine. Stealing Time. Go. Order it now so the Genesis copy can be under the tree and she has something to unwrap announcing her subscription.

Alright. This one might require a bit of hacking on your part too, but it would totally be worth it. You need your wife's Instagram account username and password. After that bit of espionage, head on over to Canvas Pop and start creating canvas prints of her Instagram photos. If you really want to score big, don't include any of yourself. Just use the artsy fartsy ones or the great photos of your kids. The 12x12 ones are a great size.

You can never go wrong with books written by bloggers. We like to be all community minded like that. There are books that she would love to have like Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (which I've read in one sitting) or Confessions of a Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler (which I haven't read, but come on, it's another blogger book - I wouldn't steer you wrong). Then there are books that she doesn't know she wants, but are awesome, like Behind the Woodpile by Emily Rosenbaum. It's an e-book only, but that's alright, your blogger wife can totally handle that.

Spinning off of books written by bloggers is stuff made by bloggers. You don't get much more awesome than stuff made by Robin Plemmons.

While you are on Etsy, go ahead and search "blog design." You will find tons of ideas there. Maybe your wife would like some new buttons for her posts? Pretty buttons to link to all of her other landing spots on the web? Or maybe a gift certificate for a blog redesign?

Last, but not least, in fact - it's actually the most expensive - buy your blogging wife a ticket to BlogHer. It's in Chicago in 2013. Go ahead and get her the full pass, book her a room, and plan on keeping the kids that weekend. Imagine her finding THAT in her stocking.

Now go. Get thoughtful things for your wife. Tell her they were ALL YOUR IDEA. Don't mention me at all.

You're welcome.

Oh, and nothing here is an affiliate link. I make no money off this, and I didn't get anything free for writing it. In fact, just writing this part makes me feel like I feel every time they ask me at Target, "Would you like to save 5% today and everyday and apply for the Target Red Card?" and I say, "NO. I HATE SAVING MONEY." 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday bullets

It's time for Sunday bullets! Yay! Easy blogging!

  • Thanksgiving was awesome. It makes me feel so wonderful to have friends who will spend the holiday with us. 
  • We are back up to two live trees this year. This makes me ridiculously happy. I would much rather have two smaller trees than one larger, more perfect tree. Of course there are also the smaller artificial trees to put up, but we are getting there.
  • I managed to get the winter dishes out in time to have our Thanksgiving leftovers on them. This hasn't happened in a couple of years. 
  • Not having plans to go to see Susan in December sucks. Hugely.
  • Having our house finished finally is making decorating for Christmas so much more fun. Here's my mantle full of Santas: 


  • Our big lab mix, Gibson, has developed a cough and was coughing up blood last night. We don't know how old he is, but we think he's around 10. He has lived with us for five years. Add in his really bad hips, and Gibby earned himself a place in Kevin's lap on the new couch this afternoon. If you pray for pups, add him to your list, please.
  • I had my first Etsy sale! Granted, it was a friend of mine, but YAY! I'm excited. 
  • Leftovers are gone, minus what is in the freezer. I'm slightly relieved not to be eating dressing again tomorrow. And slightly disappointed.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kids' table

Oh, hi. I totally forgot about the blog. What with the sick kids, the Thanksgiving dinner, and the sick mama today. Throw in several Christmas trees, my first Etsy sale (yay!), and a mantle full of Santas, and I was just too busy to even think about blogging.

I haven't said much about what I'm thankful for this much, but I have a lot for which I'm thankful. Starting right here at the kids' table. We had a kids' table at Thanksgiving. With the four most awesome kids I know.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A few of my favorite smells

My house smells like nutmeg and pumpkin and stock and warm baking bread. I think I like smelling my house the days leading up to Thanksgiving more than I actually like eating on Thanksgiving day. It smells like everything I love in the world.

I've made the pies - pumpkin, pecan, and black bottom banana cream pie. I've made the sweet potato casserole, the shoepeg corn casserole, my friend Carey's marinated asparagus (that's new to the table this year), and the turkey is brining in the garage. I've already run out of stock once tonight, but a new batch is done and in the fridge to put the dressing together in the morning. Dressing, biscuits, and the Autumn chopped salad will all get put together tomorrow.

Oh, and there's this beautiful looking pumpkin bread in the oven for breakfast.

I think we'll eat well tomorrow.

It won't be a big crowd, but some of my favorite people will be here. Papa is coming. He already brought by a beautiful centerpiece that won't actually fit on the table, but will look lovely somewhere. And my friend from down the street is coming with her two children. I love them. They are just awesome people.

I did, however, forget to warn her that I cook for Thanksgiving, but I don't necessarily clean. It's a very relaxed day at my house. We don't dress up, we don't follow a rigid schedule, and there's probably going to be some clutter out and about.

I guess I'm thankful for comfort, time, and life. It's how we roll here on Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Into the ether

Some days I feel like a nonperson. Like I just take up space in the universe, but no one really pays attention to me. Which is ironic, because I am the single person capable of doing anything for the boys. I mean, if I'm gone, and the boys are home with Kevin, the moment I walk in, it's, "Mama! Can I have a glass of water? Please? I'm thirsty. Will you get me something to drink?"


It's like Kevin has starved them, denied them hydration, refused them bathroom privileges, and never ever changed a diaper. All of which is ridiculous, of course.

Other than my superpowers to "get people stuff," I seem to be pretty useless. I say, "Please clean your crayons off the table, it's time to eat," and the sound vibrations disappear into the ether. I say, "Please stop dancing and twirling in the aisles; you are going to run into someone," and the words are mysteriously transformed into magical dance music that makes four year olds unable to control their feet.

I say, "Don't forget to take Mallory her flowers," and my voice is so heavy, it weighs the bouquet down to the counter, and makes it impossible to pick up and carry to the concert.

Logically, I know it's perception. And if I had an appointment with my therapist tomorrow, we would talk through this, I would cry, and we would get back to the fact that my cheerleader, the one person who constantly told me the good about myself, is gone.

So yeah. Maybe I'm supposed to be moving on. Maybe I'm not supposed to still be writing about grief. Maybe I'm annoying and whiny. So be it. 

The truth is, it's been insanely difficult to write everyday this month without writing about grief. And I can't avoid it today. Today is one of those days we would have talked through all of these things and the things in her day, and the words really would have disappeared into the ether. They would have lifted from us and floated away together, leaving us to comfort each other, fortify each other, and laugh with each other.

Surely not everyone has that person in their life. What I want to know is this: how do they manage without it?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Running the board

Tonight I ran the board.

Not for anything hugely complicated, but I sat in the big chair, turned the knobs, adjusted the pre-amps and hit record. I loaded our project into Cubase, changed some tracks from stereo to mono, panned the drums and bass, and then I recorded Kevin's vocals over it.

If you record, you will know this is practically nothing. If you don't, I might sound like a damn genius. Or not. Whatever.

The point is, that I finally had the energy, the will, and the patience to let Kevin start teaching me how to run the controls. I'm finally getting started on not just sitting behind the piano or in front of a microphone. It's going to be his turn too.

It felt great. We felt like a team.

Not too long ago, I told my therapist that I had no idea what I wanted to do next. We decided that wasn't entirely true. I want to make things. Write. Compose. Record. Sew. Bake. Craft.

If I can make things with Kevin, even better. Maybe we will have at least started that album I've been planning by the time I'm 40.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cuddles

I blame Macy Moo. She was so snugly. I just couldn't concentrate well enough to really blog. I had to cuddle. Really. Could you resist her?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Reverend Momma

Today is my momma's birthday. She's 72. This isn't just another, "Yay! It's my moms birthday!" message though. See, every birthday my mom has is a miracle. She has been fighting off cancer since I was 7 years old. To this day, she takes a daily chemo pill for metastatic ovarian cancer that gave her most people would have taken as a death sentence.

Some days, I'm not sure I believe in miracles anymore. Some days, I'm still pretty damn pissed that Susan didn't get a miracle, and if she didn't get one then they must not exist.

Then there is this day. Momma's birthday. And I'm reminded that there is still grace in this world, and that I'm a lucky girl to still have the best momma ever here on this earth with me.

Happy birthday, Reverend Momma. I love you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

25 things I do NOT miss from childhood

Remembering 25 things I don't miss about childhood was harder. I don't tend to remember a lot of the negative, so this took more time and more searching. Luckily, or unluckily, I've been in bed almost all day with some evil stomach flu thing, so I had some time to contemplate.

This is the second half of the prompt Issa and I lifted from Schmutzie. You can read Issa's post here, and Schmutzie's post here. Here are mine:

1. That time spent in the doctor's office waiting for a shot.
2. The answer, "We'll see."
3. Falling.
4. Spankings.
5. Being made to eat all of my dinner.
6. School.
7. Not being able to find anyone to play with.
8. Waiting for my mom to get home from work.
9. The movie that aired about nuclear war and how we would all be X-rayed to death. At least, that's how I remember it. I was scared of every airplane that flew over for the longest time.
10. The real feeling that I might actually die from embarrassment.
11. My inability to emotionally communicate.
12. Big, thick glasses.
13. Telephones with cords.
15. Getting yelled at.
16. Being scared of the monster that was going to come up and grab me when the flushing toilet made its last gurgle. Which is what my brother convinced me of when I was six.
17. Being sick on my birthday. It happened a lot.
18. Waking up in the middle of the night, thirsty and lonely.
19. Boring cereal.
20. Powdered milk.
21. Mean girls and boys that teased. I didn't know how to handle either.
22. Having to practice Bach when I didn't understand how.
23. Worrying my period would start.
24. My horrible haircuts.
25. Being put in the middle.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

25 things I miss about childhood

Issa and I are cheerleading each other through the month of November. Today and tomorrow we are spinning off of Elan's prompt of 25 Things I Miss About Childhood and 25 Things I Don't. Only, we are doing them in two days instead of just one. Because we could use the extra post, quite frankly.

So today, we bring you the 25 things we do miss about childhood. Here are Issa's 25 Things (which I haven't read yet because I didn't want to be all, "Oh! Me too!"). Here are mine:

1. Places to hide. There was an empty lot next door to us when we moved into our new house in 1979. It was overgrown in the back half, and although now, I realize it was just weeds and bushes, back then, it felt like I was getting lost in a forest. A builder left some bricks behind, and I built myself a fort. Read: small brick wall. It was my favorite place to read. I would also climb up onto the shelf in my closet above the rack for my clothes. I could sit up there and hide from my brother, or I could pretend it was my very own clubhouse. I always loved a fort.

2. Birthday parties. I miss other people's birthday parties. Mainly the cake. Rather, the anticipation of whether or not I would get an icing rose.

3. Getting a treat at the Tote-Sum. There was a convinence store on the way home from our school that wasn't a gas station - it was just a convinence store. It was called the Tote-Sum, and everyday, we would try and convince whatever mom was driving carpool that day to stop and buy us all a treat. Presumptious, right? But some days, they would do it. And we would pile into the Tote-Sum, pick out a piece of candy, and then pile back into the car. Sans seatbelts, of course.

4. Saturday morning cartoons. Bugs Bunny. The Smurfs.

5. Packing for a car trip. Deciding what would go in that bag was almost better than the adventure itself. Having to entertain myself confined to my half of the backseat was akin to number 1 on my list. It was like having my own little fort back there, and time to read as many books for as long as I wanted to read them.

6. Picking out an animal to hide in my daddy's bag when he had to travel. Daddy had to have some company. I used to sneak into his room while his suitcase was still open and stash one of my furry friends in it so that he wouldn't be lonely in his hotel rooms.

7. Spending the night with my grandmother. Even when she tried to curl my hair, I still loved being with her. She taught me how to make scrambled eggs, bake a cake, and never minded that my favorite thing to do was plunder through her belongings. I loved seeing what she had saved and collected over the years. Speaking of collecting, I miss

8. Watching her sew. I never thought I would miss that, but I do. She collected piles upon piles of fabric that she bought when it was on sale or just because it was beautiful. One time, she showed me how to thread the sewing machine, even though she was mostly blind at the time, and asked me to get the thread through the eye of the needle for her. I miss helping her, knowing now that she was really teaching me all the time.

9. Spaghettios and what I called Raviolios. So basically, pasta from a can. Yeah. Gross.

10. Riding my bike. All afternoon. All alone. All through the neighborhood. Without a helmet.

11. Pretend play. I miss getting lost in a story of good and evil. I miss pretending I'm a Smurf with my friend Amy. I miss the simple improvisation of childhood. My boys play this way together already, and I can't seem to slip back into it again. I was a perfectly useless Princess Lea in the backyard this past weekend.

12. Hunting Eater Eggs with my granddaddy. Every year. Into my 20's.

13. Sitting at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning with my brother. Every year. Even the first year he was married. My new sister-in-law joined us on the landing. We had coffee and groaned a lot, but I'm glad we had that one last time.

14. Sleeping on his floor the night before. My grandparents would spend the night at our house, even though they only lived about a mile away. It was just easier for everyone to come down in their pajamas at the crack of dawn. So I made a pallet and a fort with pillows and burrowed myself down into it to sleep at the foot of my brother's bed. Then I would sleep there for as many more nights as I could get away with past that too.

15. Going to the library and getting a huge stack of books that I actually had time to read. I have always gotten lost in books. Still do. That's why I rarely read anymore. My children have to eat.

16. Playing the piano and getting new music. I loved being able to just sit and play. I could play the same piece over and over and over again, just soaking in the colors and the harmonies that I loved about it - or I could sit with a new book and read straight through it, sight reading my way to a musical high.

17. Talking to my stuffed animals. They each had their own voice. Their own name. Their own story. Elaborate stories that I developed with my friend, Jill, who had moved away to Texas when we were five. We were pen pals, but our animals were pen pals too. Come to think of it, I guess Jill was my first writing group.

18. Peeling the skin off the top of the pudding. You know, pudding that your mom actually cooked on the stove top.

19. Getting my standardized test results back. I loved nothing more than staring at those results. I didn't know how I always did well, but I did. I didn't care that it actually had nothing to do with everyday life. 99th percentile? I'll take it. I would love to be in the 99th percentile for something today.

20. Asking if someone could come over and play. Playdates weren't in existence. Friends were found on a spontaneous basis. If they were home and someone could get them to your house, then you played.

21. A big bowl of peanut butter with chocolate chips stirred into it. Eaten with a spoon.

22. A plate of melted cheddar cheese. Product of the new microwave in our house. Eaten with a fork.

23. Singing John Denver in the backseat of our car. Singing it out of key when my brother bugged me to stop singing at all (yes, the beginning of the "let's sing wrong" game that I continue today). Making up my own harmony when my family would tolerate it.

24. Pretending my bed or the living room couch was a boat. Apparently, I enjoyed being trapped as a child. Perhaps I should bring this up in therapy.

25. My daddy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mother Daughter

I am not her mother.

She is my sons' sister. She is my husband's daughter. I cannot claim her.

I am not her mother.

She is her own person. She is smart. She is talented. She is kind. I passed no genes to her.

I am not her mother, but she is my daughter.

A child of my heart. I love her with the love I have for her brothers. When she leaves, I feel part of our family slipping away, leaving a huge hole where she belongs. When she is here, I curse her teachers for giving her so much homework that she can't spend time with me in the evenings, and I simultaneously burst with pride that she is so conscious of her work on her own.

So I take her M'n'M's to munch on while she studies. I make her a sandwich to take for lunch. I try to remember to get her brothers' things out of her bathroom and make sure they stay out of her room.

It's not much. I'm sure she doesn't know how much I love her. I'm positive she doesn't know how much I'm going to miss her when she goes to college in a little over a year.

I've kept my distance. It is so important that she have a good relationship with her mother. A child needs that. I want her to always have that.

But can it be time for her to know that we are also parent and child? Stepmama and stepdaughter. Family. Friends.

Before she is gone, I want her to know that she can always come back. We will always be here for her, waiting for hugs, playdoh, coloring, TV marathons, family movie nights, and brownie baking.

I want her to know that I love her, and that even though I am not her mother, she is my daughter. My only, quite perfect, daughter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#blognow

Tonight was the night of the monthly Twitter chat, #blognow. The three lovely hosts are people I met have "known" online for years, but only really introduced myself to at BlogHer this past August. I have enjoyed talking with them instead of just listening in - it really has been so nice.

I don't ever really feel like a writer though. I like to write, but I'm not a writer. I like to sew, but I'm not a seamstress. I like to sing, but, well, okay. I'll take that one. I am a musician and have worked damn hard at making sure I was successful at that. Still. Creatively, I'm not exactly excelling.

The thing about November - that month where we torture ourselves with the promise to write everyday - it's a time where I force myself to sit down and post everyday. Granted, I've done a couple of gimmie posts already, but I also have done more writing this month than the past five or six months combined. So it's good for me.

I'm good at goals. Writing everyday for a month. Tracking what I eat through Weight Watchers. Getting the Listen to Your Mother show done. Things with tangible goals and deadlines, I can do.

This book that I want to write though? That's just me, thinking about it? Promising myself that I would write at least 500 words every night before I hit the pillow? That's not going so well.

Accountability. I need it, but don't have it where the book is concerned. I guess I'm not committed enough to it. I don't know.

I do know though, that I sat down tonight, thinking I would just post three lines, and I'm still rambling on and on. I have words. I just have to get them out. And edited. Some editing ever at anytime might be good.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Specraftular

I did it. I finally learned how to use my serger. With this great accomplishment, I did what I told myself I would do when I finally tackled the beast of a sewing machine.

I opened my Etsy shop.

I'm freaked out because I'm scared people will order something and then hate it. Ahhhhh, nothing like dampening your own happy news with the confines of self doubt and craziness.

But it's done. We'll see how it goes. If I can just recoup the costs of my ridiculous fabric habit, I will be very happy. Ahem. Kevin will be very happy.

Please come have a look see: Specraftular. The shop.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday bullets

It's Sunday. We are about to watch Spiderman, so I'm glad I established the bullet routine last week. It will make this quick.

  • There are at least 35 baby albino dwarf pleckos in my fish task. The guppies are keeping their population in check, but the pleckos are breeding like crazy. I'm at a loss as to what to do with them. A ten gallon take really only needs one or two. I have somewhere around 40 now. 
  • Anybody want some pleckos? 
  • I forgot to post yesterday. Instead of quitting or feeling like a failure, I decided to shrug it off and move on. It's not the end of the world, and it doesn't have to stop me from posting the rest of the month.
  • Tomorrow is Circle (the monthly women's Bible study at my church), and I have to give the closing prayer at the luncheon - which is in front of all the Circles combined, not just mine. Praying in front of people is the only thing that still rattles my nerves. No other speaking or performing does.
  • I just made a vegan, nut-free version of the Nut Butter Granola bars that my friend Kara introduced me too. I think the honey will be missed the most, but maybe not.
  • I've been sewing up a storm. Something big is going to happen this week. 
  • Christopher is the special helper tomorrow at school. The line leader. The Super Star. He is beyond excited every time he gets to be the line leader, and he takes it very seriously. For show and tell, he's taking a hand me down toy from Susan's boys who were handed it down from Jean's boys. It is obviously an awesome toy. He will also take a snack to share with his class (hence the nut-free, vegan granola bars). Then, he will continue to try and lead us around at home the rest of the day. Yay.

Christopher at his last line leader day. I love how he wrote his name.
  • Really. Does anyone want some pleckos?
  • We watched Star Wars for family movie night this weekend. Christopher was blown away and can't believe we kept something so incredibly awesome from him all this time. Did you know that he fought Darth Vader? Yes, he did. And he reminded us of this fact every time DV came on  scene.

Vanquishing the Dark Lord at Hollywood Studios. 
  • Today, we played Star Wars in the backyard and decided that Gibby is Chewy, Aja is CP30, and Macy Moo is R2D2. It works out very well.
  • Also, more poisonous spiders in our backyard today. Brown recluse this time. Much smushing was had.
  • That's it. Time for Spiderman with my favorite 16 year old.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Fancy pants

Oh, November. I am so sleepy tonight. I don't think I can possibly come up with a post.

I've been sewing all day in my "ree time." Free time = the time that the boys were either napping or agreed to be occupied for 20 minutes with the Nintendo DS.

Colin demands to choose his own clothes. It's fine with me - I'm just not used to it. Christopher has always been my little fashion model, letting me dress him in whatever I wanted to. But not Colin. He has his own ideas about what to wear.

He's not terribly picky. As long as it's not a smocked jon jon (there goes his entire church wardrobe) or a pair of plain pants, he's happy. Yes. I said plain pants.

Colin likes for his pants to be flamboyant. He likes patterns and prints. All the time. So, I obliged today. I made him a pair of British flag pants, some pants with London double decker buses, and some pants with bicycles all over them.

He's a weird little dude.

And this post should have pictures. But I'm so tired.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham 2013

Today's post is a gimmie.


Thanks to KeAnne Hoeg to venturing on this journey with me. We have an amazing group of mothers and writers in the Triangle area who we will be presenting at one of 24 shows in Ann Imig's beautiful brainchild, Listen to Your Mother.

Details of the show will follow, but for now, please jump over to the Listen to Your Mother website and learn about the show that's been giving a voice to motherhood since 2010. 


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Science fiction and the blonde

Susan loved science fiction. There were whole series of books and authors she collected, scouring used bookstores wherever she went. She found used bookstores in Raleigh that I didn't even know existed.

She tried recommending science fiction books for me, but being the stereotypical dumb blonde, I just couldn't get into them. It was, of course, because I couldn't understand them. We eventually stuck to the other books we read, trading them, discussing them, and every now and then, just randomly mailing them to each other. "This one made me think of you," as the inscription.

After she died, I did so many things to try and hold onto her. Some involved Google, others involved comfort food (read: donuts), but there was one thing I found that actually did make me feel like she was right there with me. Reading. We were always talking what we had read lately.

I bought Madeline L'Engle's Time Quintet on my Nook, and I read them all over again. I have always loved A Wrinkle in Time, and I know I've tried reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet and A Wind in the Door, but I never understood them. This time, I did. I loved them all, and I felt like Susan was right there with me on every page.

This past week, I sent the books to my nephew for his birthday (which was in July, but I'm random that way). I know they will be hard to understand at first, but he is already looking at the stars and asking questions. His telescope sits in the dining room, waiting for him to discover how much is really out there. I find myself hoping that he will be able to have a conversation about books the next time I get to visit him - I do so love to talk about books with someone who loves the stars too.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Vote


Monday, November 05, 2012

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will try again. I will start over in the morning and try harder not to yell. When they prance into my room just before daylight, I will be happy to see them. If they need something even earlier, I will get it for them and remember that they are only little for a short time.

Tomorrow I will start getting everyone dressed earlier so that there is no rushing to get out the door on time. I will put muffins on the table and milk in their cups and sit with them before we start our day. By 8:00, we will be upstairs, picking out clothes and brushing teeth because there is no need to rush two small boys who have been up since 6:00.

Tomorrow I will plan ahead for an earlier lunch so that the littlest won't be hungry before we have to pick up his brother. I will feed him on time so that he won't have to melt down. He will be more comfortable with a full belly, and he won't be so short tempered.

Tomorrow I will vote. I will take my boys to the polls with me and explain to them the importance of what we are doing. I will vote for all families. I will vote for women. I will vote for my daughter. I will vote for continued economic revitalization. I will have hope instead of fear. I will anticipate instead of worry about the outcome.

Tomorrow I will make time to play. I will prioritize my own responsibilities to include at least one puzzle, one round of Candyland, and a half hour of swingset time with my boys. I will enjoy their laughter. When they insert the word "poop" into song lyrics, I will laugh with them and add a verse about boogers.

Tomorrow I will get up and try again. I will try harder. I cannot fix today. I can only hope to outweigh the days like today with days like tomorrow will be.

Because as of right now, tomorrow is all I can do.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Sunday bullets

Sunday isn't a day I usually blog. Couple the scheduling conflicts with the time change and then toss on the frequent night visits from Colin - and you get my November posts for Sunday. Now with BULLETS!

  • The older Colin gets, the more I realize how easy I had it with Christopher. How very cliche.
  • Yesterday, I got to see Mallory's field show for the first time all season. She had a solo and was awesome. I am so proud of her.
  • Christopher is recognizing some sight words now. They are all names of his friends in his class. This makes me extraordinarily happy.
  • Kevin and I had a spontaneous date last night. We went out to see Tres Chicas, who I love.
  • I'm teaching 2 year old Sunday School this year.
  • I would like to make and sell some Christmas pajamas this year, but I really haven't the foggiest idea of how to go about it. Well, the making part, I can do. Past that? Clueless.
  • The boys have already decided what they want for their birthday parties. In January. Christopher wants Batman, and Colin wants Mickey Mouse. So different from last year's Superhero party and Mickey Mouse party. I wish I had saved more of the stuff.
  • One more thing that I want to make sure I remember: Last weekend, I had tickets to take Christopher to the North Carolina Symphony. When I was going over the weekend plans with Mallory, she got excited about the concert, so I gave her my ticket and she took her little brother to the concert. I could spell out how awesome she is, but I think that story and the following picture sum it up nicely.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The jar

Today I put money in a jar for judging myself. It's my work. For myself.

Every time I judge myself or think, "I should . . ." I'm supposed to put money in a jar. The only problem with it is that when I put the money in the jar, it starts a vicious cycle of, "Why am I such a dumbass that I keep being so hard on myself and having to put money in this jar? I suck at this."

Oh, wait. More money in the jar.

I'm not sure this is really working that well.

Friday, November 02, 2012

And then I melt

He's in my bed again. The little one, Colin. Somehow he knows when I go to bed before his daddy does. Some toddler sixth sense.

"Why you wear Elmo pants to go downstairs?"

Because they're comfortable.

"Can I have some water bottle?"

Yes.

"Do you remember when I was a baby? I a big boy now."

Yes. I remember. You are so big now.

"Mommy? I really want a snuggle."

Alright.

I can't resist him. I can't resist the questions, the requests, or even the screaming. He is irresistible.

"Thank you, Mama, for taking me to Trick or Treat."

And then I melt. He thanks me randomly throughout the day for things that I would think were just passing events. Dinner, a kiss, changing his diaper, buckling his car seat are all worthy of a "thank you"  sprinkled into our daily life.

He is so sweet. Until he's not. I have learned that in my family, you don't get one extreme without the other. The sweet it worth it. Possibly not in the exact moment that I'm being whacked in the face by him mid-tantrum, but in the end, the sweet is worth it.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

November

November. That month where we torture ourselves by promising to post every day.

I'm in. Because I love this place and hate that I neglect it so for the ease of popping a picture with Instagram, checking in on Twitter, or quipping away in my Facebook status.

Thanks to Issa, I'm in this year for posting everyday in November. She is too, and I'll link when I'm not on the iPad.

This is what I've bee doing. Lots of sewing. Some Captain Americas and an outfit for a little girl I wish I got to see more often. Keeps me busy and feeling creative, even when I'm not writing.

Happy NoBloPoMo. I never get that right.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Metastatic Breast Cancer Day

Today, October 17, is Metastatic Breast Cancer Day. Only one day out of the whole month of Pinktober is dedicated to metastatic breast cancer, which is technically, the only breast cancer that kills women. If you die because of breast cancer, then you die from breast cancer that has turned metastatic.


Metastatic Breast Cancer is what took Susan in February. Metastatic Breast Cancer still needs awareness, I think. So today, and every October 17 from now on, I'm going to send you back to her blog to read this:

"I am a woman with metastatic breast cancer.  My cancer was first detected as inflammatory breast cancer nearly 4.5 years ago, although I’ve also had invasive breast cancer, Paget’s disease, and recurrences as the cancer spread to lymph nodes under my left arm (2010), to lymph nodes in the center of my chest (New Year’s 2011), and then to my bones in March 2011.
Metastatic breast cancer means that cancer cells have spread from my right breast to other sites, made themselves at home, and reproduced so many times that now each cell has become a mass of cells detectable by today’s x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and MRIs.  I have those tests frequently now, to determine how well my current treatment is proceeding, whether the cancer is progressing or held at bay, and when we should change treatments to something that might be more effective.  Last week’s tests and scans showed that there is still cancer in my neck, spine, ribs, and hips.  The blood tests had been showing a reduction in the total load of cancer cells in my body, but as the numbers slowed to a standstill, they agreed with the increasing pain in my hips, left ribs, and neck, one that agrees with the scans; we will have to change treatments."

Please. Please click over and read the rest of Susan's post at her blog, Toddler Planet.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Deep enough

Some days, I wonder if I love my children enough. I have had this recurring horrific thought of, "Would I really miss them if they were gone?"

I know. It's awful. I've thought for a long time that it made me not fit to be a mother. Like I would never be good enough to deserve my children.

Then we went to Disneyworld.

There was such incredible joy every time the boys got to meet a character. Christopher learned to be a Jedi and fought off Darth Vader. Jack Sparrow taught the boys how to be a pirate. We rode roller coasters and Dumbo and It's a Small World and Toy Story Mania. We ate with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Goofy, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Chip, and Dale.

Everyday was as magical as they claim it will be.

None of that was what made me realize that I do, in fact, love my children more deeply than I thought possible. It wasn't the fictional Disney magic that confirmed for me that I would be wrecked without my kids.

It was a rain shower on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. It was a sea of ponchos in which my four year old got lost. It was the fifteen minutes I spent battling the logic in my head of, "This is DISNEY. They will find him. They are used to this," against, "OH MY GOD. WHERE IS MY SON?"

One second he was with us, and the next he wasn't. It was raining, so everyone in the park seemed to be wearing identical ponchos. Between the rain and the ponchos, it was impossible to see him in the crowd by the time we realized he was gone. We look for maybe 90 seconds, and then I grab the first Disney employee I see by both arms and wail, "My four year old is missing. You have to HELP ME."

He does. They all do. We were sent to the front of the park who then told us to go back where we were, where they told us to go to Baby Care, which is where Christopher was. That was is it. It maybe took fifteen minutes.

We found Christopher surrounded by young female Disney employees who were reading him books and watching Lady and the Tramp with him. He had his own stuffed Mickey Mouse and only started crying when he saw his mama come running towards him, sobbing.

I did. I sobbed. Big, heaving sobs. The fifteen minutes that he was separated from me and I had no actual control over whether or not I ever saw him again? That quarter of an hour tore my heart to shreds. I wasn't panicked; I was devastated.

But when I saw him sitting there with his little Mickey, and I could hold him again, I knew right then that it was alright. I loved him deeply enough, and I wasn't ever going to lose him again.

The magic of Disney at work, people. 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The weight of it all

Back in April, one of the things I decided to do in the healing process was to take better care of my body. To not take my health for granted and to celebrate aging.

Because, you know, some people don't get to. Age, that is.

I stopped dying my hair so that I could watch the grey come in, and I actually kind of like it. It's interesting. I started getting waxed regularly, which is another story for another day. And towards the end of April, I joined Weight Watchers.

There has never been a time in my life where I needed to lose enough weight to do something like join Weight Watchers. That was part of the reason it took me so long. I didn't want to admit that I needed to do something I considered drastic.

I set a goal of 35 pounds by September 9, 2012. That's tomorrow. And unless I lose seven pounds in my sleep tonight, I didn't quite make my goal. However, I'm pretty happy with the 28 that are already gone. I even bought a two piece to take on our trip. I'm not going to look 18 again in it, but that's not the point.

The point is, I'm going to look like a 39 year old mother of two and look extremely happy in it. And I'll be praying that my boobs don't fall out of it in the pool. Because let's just get it out there that the girls haven't joined in the dieting quite as much as I had hoped they would.

Yesterday, I had to weigh my English Setter, Aja, to get a prescription filled for her. I stepped on the scale without her and then stepped on again with her. As I put her down, I realized that I was putting down all of the weight I have lost since having Colin in 2010. Losing it gradually kept me from appreciating just how much better I feel. Picking up Aja and getting to set her back down again made the weight loss pretty tangible in an instant.

The best part of finally joining Weight Watchers isn't actually the weight loss. It's that I finally feel like I've learned to eat right. I've cut out at least 80% of the sugar I used to eat, and I feel so much better. I've added back more fruit and vegetables than I've ever eaten, and cut out the carb laden snacks and dinners. I've learned to make decisions about what I eat - that everything I put in my mouth is a choice. A choice that will be in line with my desired lifestyle or out of line with it.

The past few months have been about laying down the weight I've been carrying and making decisions that are beneficial to the life I want to have. That is, of course, only a little bit about dieting, and a lot about moving forward. But I probably didn't have to tell you that, did I?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Whims. Grace. Luck. Acceptance.

It began on a whim. August always makes me long for change. Summer isn't welcome anymore at my house. There are coughs and colds to keep us from the pool. Friends are traveling. Sister is busy with summer reading and band camp. Every morning, the boys pelt me with,

"Can we watch TV?"

Yes.

"Do I get to go to school today?"

No.

"Where is Daddy?"

Work.

"Can I have some yogurt with cereal on it?"

Yes.

In writing, the words are neatly spaced and quiet. In person, all questions overlap each other in rapid fire succession. No matter how I dodge them, one always manages to graze me, causing me to lash out, growling at them to just give me a minute.

I always want something to change in August.

With the beginning of preschool (finally!) this week, I am now getting dressed everyday, which is new for 2012. It is my change in August so far. I will get up, get dressed, and leave the house everyday no matter how sad I am or how lonely I feel. There is life to be lived.

Back to my whim. My whim was school. Being one to detest school, I was delighted to finish college and never look back. Now I'm almost 40 and wondering what I want to be when I grow up. But I don't want to decide on a whim.

So much of my life has blown in and out with the changing seasons and a shrug of, "Why not? What else am I going to do?" I've fallen into opportunities by tripping over a little talent, a little more skill, and a lot of luck. Fall finds me dragging a Fender Rhodes into back alley night clubs, and by Summer, I'm arranging for the symphony and playing for a little crowd of 10,000.

There is no grace to what I accomplish. I stumble into success much like I run into walls or fall over trying to zip my boots.

This time, I want to plan. I have this desire to make goals and figure out a graceful way to reach them. Saving the whims for trips to the park or a mid morning doughnut date with my littles, I would so much like to reach 40 with a plan in place.

Or, if not a plan for graceful entry into my midlife, then I would like to reach 40 with the peace of accepting my midlife just the way it is. Maybe that is goal enough.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It won't because she was sweet

My Aunt May is dying. She is 94 years old and has been in a nursing home for a few years. She is the last of the Carter siblings for whom my oldest son is named. She is a fireball. She is strong. She is smart. And now, it is her time to go.

Over the past few years, I've experienced death in many different ways. My grandmother had Alzheimer's and experienced a very slow and difficult decline. She was the first family member or friend that I lost. I was sad but not destroyed.

My other grandmother, Honey, moved to California with my parents when she was around 90. I didn't get to see her much or talk to her in her last years. She was 97 when she died. She died in much the same way that her sister, my Aunt May, is going. She was just worn out of living. Again, I was sad - I lost a great champion in Honey. She believed that I was as close to perfect as God ever made, and I loved her dearly for her belief in me and the strength she taught me.

Next to go was my grandfather. He was one of my dearest friends. It was the first loss that sent me to the floor, knees buckled, tears streaming, and actual physical grief coming forth with no way for me to control it. He told me that he didn't want to go just days before he died. I didn't want him to go either. I was pissed off at God for a long time even though Granddaddy was 94 when he died. It wasn't exactly a surprise

Then, my daddy got sick. So very sick. Parkinson's and dementia took him slowly and cruelly. He died in February of 2011, and I felt relief. I felt relief for him and for my mother who was his primary care giver in spite of her ongoing battle with ovarian cancer. I missed my daddy for a long time before he died. I mourned his death, and I still miss him now, but again, I managed.

What came next was completely different. 364 days after my daddy died, my best friend, my soul sister, my person, she died. Gone. Left this world. Left her husband, her kids, her parents, her brother, and her friends. Some days I'm so angry. Most days I'm just sad. Often it feels like we are all just kind of standing still, holding our breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Susan is gone. What happens next?

What in the world are we all supposed to do now?

It's like that when someone young dies. You don't exactly make long term plans with your daddy who has a degenerative disease or with your 97 year old grandmother. But with your best friend of decades? You plan things. You plan trips. You plan things for your boys. You plan retirement. You dream together because you are peers. I can't imagine the plans that she had with her family.

What do you do with all of those plans?

I know I have to let it go. I have to send it down the stream.

It's just not that easy.

*******************************************************
Kevin and I made a trip down to Georgia for him to meet my relatives there. They are awesome people, and I wanted him to spend a little time with them. His favorite story to tell from that trip is about meeting Aunt May. We got to talking about my grandmother, May's older sister, and her nickname, "Honey." Kevin asked Aunt May why we all called my grandmother "Honey," and Aunt May replied without a moment's hesitation,

"Well it won't because she was sweet."

I love that woman. Thank you, Aunt May, for all you did in helping raise my momma to be the woman she is today. I wish you peace and comfort.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The female commodity

Throughout history, a woman's body has been a commodity. Men have used women to buy, barter, and force their way into power.

It's not a new thing.

The Old Testament is full of women being traded for land or livestock. Fathers bartered with their daughters and sought out valuable deals to obtain wives for their sons.

Monarchies used marriages to create allies and gain strength in their kingdoms. Marriages needed to create sons because the son could take the throne, whereas the daughter was possession for trade. A negotiating tool.

Even in Jamestown, the first English settlement in America, a group of women from England were auctioned off as brides to the men who had settled there. For 150 pounds of tobacco, they bought themselves a new wife.

We didn't belong to ourselves for a very long time, ladies.

Now, the Republican party wants to use women's bodies to barter again. They are selling us out to try and gain votes. They are trading away ownership of something they don't own unless we give it to them.

Do you hear that part? We have to give it to them. Republican women, especially. I won't tell you how I think you should vote. That is up to you. What I will tell you is that if you are a woman, and you still want to be a Republican, then you have to start demanding more from them. You have to maintain ownership of yourself and insist that they quit using you as a commodity.

The economy is a driving force in this election. The economy should be about dollars and cents though, not about rights to the female body.

Y'all, it's not an abortion debate. It's not a contraception debate. It's about the fact that Republican men are using women's bodies to buy votes. It's insulting, it's wrong, and we have to make sure that it does not work. We cannot let them continue to pimp us out for their right wing smoke screen.

Terms like "forcible" and "legitimate" in front of the word rape have got to stop. Blaming women for being victims has got to stop. Impeding access to contraception has got to stop. And while we are at it, abstinence only sex education has got to stop. AND let's go ahead and start reforming the birth industry in this country, because I'm pretty tired of that woman as last priority business model too.

The choices a woman has to make regarding her body are so much more than abortion. We have to be free to choose what kind of birth control we will use. We have to be free to choose if, when, and how we will have children. We have to be free to choose the kind of prenatal, labor, and delivery care we will use, birthing those children. We have to be free to feed our children whenever, wherever, and however we see fit.

Perhaps above all else, we need to be free to be women. Free to be women who are not sexually abused and then attacked over and over again for it for the rest of our lives. It's time we were safe, strong, and respected in our own country.

We can do better than this, y'all. We can do much better.

Monday, August 20, 2012

In which I blog about blogging. Again. Sorry.

So. You want to start a blog. Or maybe you have already started a blog. Good for you. Everyone who wants to blog should absolutely do so.

I'm no expert. I have been blogging what is considered a "long time" now. That's funny to me, because I'm still pretty much just swimming in the same little pond with a handful of readers and no ambition to change that.

However.

I have advice for you. You, the newbie. You, the brave soul looking to open yourself up to the internet and see what happens. I have some advice which I offer for free and which you may take or leave. It is what it is.

1. Determine why you want to blog before you start. That doesn't mean you have to have a business plan, an outline, or flow charts of all possible outcomes. It means that you should know if you want to be a storyteller, a memoirist, a reviewer, a tip giver, a fashionista, a cook, a crafter, a parent, or whatever else you might strike your fancy.

You can be more than one at a time. You can evolve from one to the other. You can add or subtract reasons as you go. But know when you start, what your heart's goal is.

Here's why. People want to know who they are investing their time and feelings with. If you are going to be a storyteller, then tell me stories. Don't tell me a tale of your life one day and then offer me a sponsored post about coupons the next day. I will feel betrayed and never come back. If you are going to be a cook, then give me wonderful recipes, and do tell me about your family and life and why you like to eat this. Then I am invested, but I knew from the start that you are going to teach me how to cook.

It's about the transparency. You will hear that a lot if you start going to conferences. Authentic voices. Honesty. No one likes to feel like they have been duped.

2. Determine who you are willing to let pay you for your work. Even the people who "just blog" and do so well deserve to be paid. We pay for television. We pay for music (or we should). We pay for the art on our walls. The stories we read also deserve to earn a living for their authors.

You can be paid a variety of ways in the blogging world. You can post ads. You can write sponsored posts. You can do giveaways. Or so I hear. Honestly, I don't really know how you get paid because it's not on my radar. I do know that you need to be careful about where you sign away your license though.

Here's why. Companies aren't paying you because you are a fabulous and creative writer. They are paying you because in doing so, they think they can sell more product. They are investing something in your blog because they believe there will be a return on their investment. There isn't anything wrong with that, but I'm not going to connect as deeply with a writer who sprinkles in links and advertisements as though they are just natural parts of the essay. In fact, I'm going to click away and not come back because I will feel used.

Freelance writing gigs exist. If you have the know how, then you can get them. If you don't, then hire an agent. But if you want for people to take you seriously as a writer, then don't let a product be the driving force behind your blog revenue (excluding sidebar ads, of course). Know your strengths. Not all writers are good business people. That's fine. If you want to have a beautifully written blog that earns a living for you, but you don't know how? Get help. Be patient, get help, and don't dilute your voice by becoming a brand ambassador. It will feel terrific at first to get attention from companies, but I guarantee you, making a connection with a real person and knowing that they care about you and love you? Feels a whole lot better than knowing that a company loves you. Because they don't. Not really.

3. Be alright with who you are online. You are okay. Maybe your blog is small. Maybe your blog is big. What matters is that you are getting the satisfaction of creativity or community or revenue that you want out of it.

You can have thousands of Twitter followers, but if you don't have ten who you could call up, on a real phone, and talk to when you needed them, then what's the point? Because even if you are blogging solely for business reasons, you have to have a network in order for your business to grow. So make friends. Make connections. But don't let the number be your driving force.

Here's why. If you focus only on the numbers and stats, then you will miss the value of the connections you have made. Be alright with your 19 blog hits. Connect with the 19 people who read your post. Be alright with someone else having 19,000 blog hits. They are obviously doing something to which people are drawn. Go there, see what it is. Enjoy it.

Give yourself the chance to enjoy the community instead of competing with it. It has been said frequently that there is room enough in the blogosphere for everyone. It's true. You just have to find a place to root. Then you can grow high enough to spread your branches.

There you have it. Stuff I think about while I'm cutting up fruit for the week. Or while I'm sewing. Or trying to sleep.

I'm okay. You're okay. We are all okay. Just be clear about who you are and what you want. Then go for it.

It's totally worth it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happy birthday, Daddy.

I'm sorry you weren't here to watch Colin eat almost an entire length of Dreamland sausage by himself tonight. He is so you reincarnated.

I love you, and I miss you.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Because they get it

I only met Susan one time. We were at the Type-A-Mom conference, and I had my baby with me. Susan got down on the floor with her and started to play. It was so cool.

"Ah," I say. "You must be @mamadweeb."

This is how is was this past weekend without Susan. I could not sit with her. I could not hold her hand. I could not laugh with her until we both cried.

But she was everywhere. Everywhere.

I remember walking into the Serenity Suite and finding Susan laying on the bed with her hands folded on her chest. She was sleeping, and I was thrilled that the Suite was being used so perfectly. I took out my phone to take a picture, and she opened one eye big just enough to give me the stink eye. The stink eye, and permission to go ahead and snap a picture.

"I remember this. It was right before she was to go speak on a panel. She needed to rest so badly. She laughed about that picture you took, Maggie. She told me about it."

I sat in the Serenity Suite and clutched my tissues as story after story as told from the other perspective. And I realized more and more all weekend long that she had told me every single bit of it.

It's not just that she wanted me to know because I couldn't be there with her that year. It is because every moment of her time at those conferences - no - every bit of human interaction at those conferences meant something to her. She loved people. She loving meeting you. She loved seeing your babies.

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Thursday afternoon, Amy and I were in front of the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge, a place where cancer patients can stay for free while receiving long term treatment. We were about to go in for a reception honoring the #morebirthdays campaign and also honoring Susan.

We stepped onto the sidewalk, and I felt the panic rise all the way from the tip of my toes. In pulses, it moved through my abdomen, calling up my recently finished lunch, made its way to my throat, closing it tightly, and finally tried to escape through the tears welling up in my eyes.

I stopped. Amy stopped. She waited on me. Calmly. Patiently. It didn't take that long. I called up the techniques I've been learning in therapy the past few months, and in few deep breaths, I could move again.

That was how it was at BlogHer without Susan. Without Susan, but with friends who understand.

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Friday morning, the first panel I attended was Blogging for the Love of It. Bon was the moderator. She was one of the first bloggers I started reading in 2006 as per the advice of Susan. We love Bon, and Susan had the privilege of meeting her in D.C. one afternoon. Bon's posts were often a conversation topic for us, and Bon has been a tremendous support to me over the past year.

Walking towards the front of the room to hug Bon, I lost it.

Big, ugly, gasping, sobbing, tears. It came without warning and without being able to stop. I cried on her shoulder (great way for her to have to start her panel), and then excused myself to find some tissues.

With cocktail napkins in hand, and Sarah by my side, I began to pull it back together. Sitting in that session, I realized, this was going to be it. This weekend would be the weekend where I could cry freely because people would get it.

And so I did. I cried when I needed to or felt like it. Jean reminded me that it was okay. Kristen held my hand. Jess cried with me. Amy waited with kindness.

And they understood why I miss her like I do.

The tiles we painted in Susan's memory at the American Cancer Society.
They will be complied into a mosaic by Darryle Pollack, and hung at ACS in NYC or Atlanta.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

BlogHer really isn't that big

And so this happened at BlogHer.

I met Sarah.

Sarah has a fabulous parenting magazine. It doesn't contain one single illustrated recipe for how to make your food look like teddy bears or monsters so that your children can not only refuse to eat it, but also insult your visual artistry at the same time.

What it does contain is brilliant writing and beautiful photographs. Parent centered without being dumbed down and surrounded by ads for hair color and diapers. It's called Stealing Time, and you can subscribe for just $20. I already have.

Anyway, I met Sarah.

There were about 5000 people at BlogHer. Saturday night, nine of us went to dinner together. Sarah picked the spot, and we headed out - me, Amy, Bon, Kristen, Neil, Vicki (who I'm sorry I didn't get to meet because we were split into two tables), Jean, and another Sarah (who I might have mentioned that I met).

After dinner, most of us ended up at CheesburgHer together. Sarah and I were the only ones who had willingly donned paper bag hats. I could tell she was my kind of person. By the hat.

We had not sat at the same table at dinner, so I asked her my jumping off question for the weekend, "Where are you from?"

Sarah was from Portland.

I knew better than to follow up my jumping off question with, "Oh, do you know the one person I know in the very large city from which you come?" Because, no. They do not know that single person who does not blog, is not married, has no children, and plays guitar in a Pink Floyd cover band.

Instead, I was leading into asking her about things to do with kids in Portland because I desperately want to take my children there to see the West Coast and visit this one wonderful friend of mine. And because I'm awkward with conversation in a crowd, over loud music, and with someone I have predetermined to be far cooler than I could ever hope to be, I say,

"One of my very best friends was transferred from the Guitar Center in Raleigh to the one in Portland."

Which is essentially, what I had tried not to do in the first place. That one person I know game. I am so socially awkward. However.

Sarah has a friend in her writing group who works for the Guitar Center in Portland.

I cock my McDonald's bag hat head, raise my eyebrows, and say,

"And his name is Dave?"

Sarah lowers her eyebrows and says that it is.

We both sort of nod in some sort of acceptance that this is one of the more unlikely meetings among 5000 people in New York City for a blogging conference.

And it was.

I know about her writing group. I know there is another mama named Rebecca who also writes and is interested in natural parenting. I know about Dave's story (that one) that we both agreed was our favorite (finish that puppy, Dave).

I told her about our super fast weekend to Portland to see Dave and Crowded House (Dave was not playing with Crowded House, he just went with us). She told me that there were lots of things for kids to do in Portland.

Then, we took a picture together in our hats, and I messaged it to Dave. With no caption. Because what would you do if you got a picture on your phone featuring two of your friends who live on opposite ends of the country, and you have no idea why they would have met? Or why they are wearing McDonald's bags on their heads?


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Next. Take two.

I am back.

The city did not swallow me whole. The conference did not eat my lunch. The women did not drain the life out of me.

Cliche. That was all just cliche.

I know what I need now.

I need to find the quiet space of this empty white box before I take in your Instagram pictures, before I throw in a few quips on Twitter, and before I snoop through Facebook. For this is where I find myself, and all other places are where I find you.

I need to find myself.

BlogHer was huge. I loved it that way. Sometimes, it is easier to find your space in a huge crowd than in a smaller crowd. The odds are more in your favor that you will find like minds.

The last BlogHer I attended was in San Francisco. There were about 800 people there. I had a six month old in tow. I was a mess in more ways than one. Private parties were apparently all the rage that year, and I had been so out of touch that I had been invited to almost nothing. I felt so lonely when everyone I knew got on that bus and went to a party at someone's house without me.

This year, I was also invited to almost nothing. The difference was, I didn't notice. There were so many people there and so many different things to do, I didn't notice. Either that, or I'm just older now, and I really have found my own feet, my own voice, and my own way in this community.

There is that.

In the sessions, I liked the fact that when the discussions turned to monetization, and they always did, I never heard anyone say that you shouldn't. That you were selling out. In fact, I don't know who these people are who say that. Personally, I don't think they exist.

What I did hear, mostly in my own head, was that you should do what you do in the way you like to do it. What I didn't hear and should have said more clearly when I did try to say it, was that if you want to make money at blogging, you have to work at making money. No one is going to read your blog, love it, and hand you some huge advertising deal. You have to sell yourself or find someone to sell you for you.

I'm not interested in that. I know how hard it is to get someone to pay you well for your artistic work. I have one art form for which I insist on being paid; I don't need another one.

I am interested in becoming a better writer. A writer who actually edits, takes notes daily, and crafts a post instead of pounding out some thoughts and hitting publish.

I am interested in sewing. I love it. I want to make things out of fabric. Which is a weird thing to just say, but it's true.

I am interested in music. Of course. I want to get up in that beautiful recording studio Kevin has been pouring his soul into for the past six years. I want to compose, sing, play, record, mix, and finish music.

The plan in my head was for this BlogHer to be my last hoorah. I really did think I was done with this space and needed to close up shop. It couldn't have turned out more differently.

Spending time with my tribe just reminded me that I love it here. I love this space. I love the people I have met because of this space. I love what this space provided for me and Susan. I love blogging. I blog for the love of it.

So that's what I'm doing here. I'm still just rambling on, but with more focus than I have had in awhile.

It feels alright to be back.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Chocolate and Cows

Around the corner from our house is a delicious and locally owned yogurt store. We used to frequent it at least once a week. The flavors were unique, they always had a vegan option, and we felt like we were supporting our neighborhood.

A couple of months ago, I stopped in at the local butcher to pick up dinner. The butcher is a couple of doors down from the yogurt shop. In the parking lot, in front of the yogurt shop, was a Nestle truck. It was unloading cases of yogurt mix.

I nearly cried.

The first thing I said when I walked back in the house was, "Well, we can't eat at Skinny Dip anymore."

Protests arose. The biggest was from Mallory, who raised the valid point of, "It's just yogurt. It's not like Nestle is really hurt from you not buying yogurt."

It's true. Nestle could care less if I buy their products. If they did care, they would have changed their ways decades ago since the Nestle boycott has been going on since the 70's. Nestle isn't hurting because of the boycott.

Which begs the question, why boycott then?

For me, it's simple. It's my money until I give it to someone else in exchange for goods, services, or the emotional satisfaction of charity. Once I have given someone else control of my money, I don't have any right to say what they should or should not do with it. I have chosen to let them have it, and it is theirs to use however they see fit.

That means, if I believe really strongly in something, like I do breastfeeding and the care of mothers and infants, then I won't give my money to a corporation who makes decisions that are detrimental to that cause. Actions that are repeated with the known outcome of death to babies and the cause of untold cases of failure to thrive and untold cases of undermined breastfeeding attempts - these are actions that I choose not to fund through purchasing products from Nestle.

It's true. The fact that I never buy another Nestle or Nestle family product doesn't matter to their bottom line. It will never change their actions. I know this.

It's about my conscience. It's about me making an active choice not to support such a corporation who does business around the globe without out any concern about the well being of the people. I choose not to support them, and I sleep better at night because of it.

It's also true that I have supported corporations who don't hold the same values that I do. I use UPS, and they have donated money to political candidates who make my skin crawl and my teeth itch. Their choice. I don't see that value difference as actively hurting other people.

And so we come to the chicken sandwich. The chicken sandwich my children love to eat. The chicken sandwich I love to eat. That perfect pickle and adorable cow.

There was a time that I simply disagreed with Chick-fil-a. I knew their position on marriage and their idea of a traditional family. I didn't agree, but I still purchased their tasty chicken and chugged their unlimited Diet Coke refills.

Things are different now, though. Bringing to light exactly where their money is being placed and the fact that the organizations receiving money that I willingly gave to Chick-fil-a are actively hurting people has changed my mind. It took all week, and watching streams of people thumbing their nose to the pain caused by the organizations funded by millions of Chick-fil-a dollars today, but I'm there. I'm to the point where I choose not to give them anymore of my money.

Besides, there are far better things we should be eating in the world besides chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. And when my children ask why we can't go to Chick-fil-a? It will give me the chance to actively show them how to stand up for what you believe and say it's not okay to discriminate against and hurt people.

It's not okay.

Monday, July 30, 2012

BlogHer 2012

Some time last fall, Susan and I had a crazy idea. I don't remember who said it first, nor does it really matter - what with us being of the same mind as we were.

"Let's go to BlogHer in New York. Let's do it. 2012."

We bought our tickets at the super earlybird rate and started making plans for our trip.

Honestly, I was done with BlogHer. It was too big for me. This is my little space, and not many people join me here. I'm fine with it just the way it is. I enjoyed BlogHer the years I had gone in the past, but I didn't feel the need to return.

However.

Susan shone at BlogHer. She was totally in her element. There was this myth that she concocted in her mind that I was the popular one in high school. One glance at the two of us in a crowd like BlogHer, and you would know there was no truth to that whatsoever. She owned the room when she entered. Confident. Friendly. Brilliant. Beautiful. Everyone noticed Susan.

I wanted her to feel that one more time. I wanted to make sure that she got to be in her element again come August. So I bought the ticket with my heart and ignored my head telling me it was fancy.

We made plans to have a handicapped accessible room because there was a strong chance she would be in a wheelchair. We made plans to be in said room a good bit of the time because there was a strong chance she shouldn't be around crowds. We made plans to cart in our own Diet Coke because BlogHer always ends up in a Pepsi place. And Diet Pepsi? No thank you. We don't do Diet Pepsi.

Then came February 6, 2012.

My first thought was to sell my ticket. She was the only reason I was going. But I put it off, and by the time I really started thinking about it, something inside me said, "Just go anyway."

So I am.

I'll be heading to New York City on Thursday morning. It will be three days with women who knew Susan and some women who know me. I don't know what to expect. I don't know if it will be hard, or if it will be healing.

It might simply be fun, like the weekend we just spent with Curt, Widget and Little Bear. There was sadness lingering, but we enjoyed being together so much that the sadness didn't prevail. I think Susan would have been proud of us.

So yeah. While the posts and tweets about clothes and shoes and swag fly by, if you think about it, say a little prayer for me. If you are there, please say hello to me. I tend to disconnect when the sorrow hits, and it's likely that you'll see me just standing around. Quiet. Glazed over. I'll be the one people tweet about as "aloof" or "snobby." But you know the truth.

I'm just wishing my heart had been right this time. I'm just wishing I was tackling this weekend with Susan.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Next

What am I doing here? Not blogging, that's one thing.

I'm healing. Still hurting. Mostly living. Getting help. Finding help for my heart and my boys. Swimming. Working. Sewing. Cooking. Losing weight. Chauffeuring. Vacationing. Hiking. Trying to reconnect with people I adore and miss and have been shutting out.

Considering what comes next.

Nothing makes me miss Susan more than opening blogs. I'm not sure I want to do it without her anymore.

And yet, in a few weeks, I'll be flying up to New York City to attend another BlogHer convention.

What exactly am I doing?

I miss writing. But more than that, I miss knowing that she's reading.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

LympheDIVAs and Liz Lange. In memory of Susan.

Yesterday, yet another of Susan's legacies came to fruition.

Susan connected Crickett's Answer to Cancer with LympheDIVAs, helping provide beautiful and necessary, but expensive, compression sleeves to cancer patients needing them.

It didn't stop there though. Of course it didn't. This is Susan I'm talking about. She then brought Liz Lange, who you might know best for her maternity line in Target, into the mix. Liz agreed to design a sleeve to be sold by LympheDIVAs with the proceeds to benefit Crickett's Answer to Cancer.

A couple of days before Susan died, we spoke about the sleeve. She was so proud of making that connection and helping women in need obtain the compression sleeves they so desperately needed.

This is a great day for Susan's work, advocacy, and legacy.

I hope you will help me spread the good news.