And that’s OK

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So you know that whole “I’m going to write 500 words a day” thing? Yeah, well, that hasn’t really been happening. I’ve been writing maybe a few sentences most days. I get to the 500 mark once a week, if I’m lucky.

And that’s ok.

I’ve been struggling to let go of a lot lately. It’s tough to forgive yourself when you aren’t accomplishing every little thing you set out to do.

* I haven’t gone running in months- And that’s ok.

* I haven’t worked on my novel in weeks – And that’s ok.

* My house is a disaster – And that’s ok.

* I still have a good 10-15 pounds of baby weight to lose- And that’s ok.

* I haven’t posted on this blog for over a week- And that’s ok.

Some days it’s just so FREAKING hard to see past all of the negatives, all of the crap I’m not accomplishing. I NEED INSTANT GRATIFICATION, DAMN IT. Then I think, there are people in this world without enough food, there are children being abused, there are so many things worse than your stupid middle class white lady problems. And, you know, that helps a bit, having a little Oprah moment (is that still a thing? Because Oprah’s totally not a thing. Who would have thought I’d be dating myself with an Oprah reference?). But then that guilt just gets added to the pile and I end up feeling lousy about the fact that I feel lousy.

So, what was my point? Oh yeah, letting go. Rather than obsessing about not accomplishing things (You’re not making a living writing? Really?? FAILURE), I’m trying to focus on what I am managing to get done. Here are a few things, in no particular order.

I’m raising three awesome kids (with my wonderful husband, of course). My daughter started kindergarten, and my son started preschool this month. That was hard. I know it’s cliche, but they grow up so fast. There are two different kinds of time in this world- Time Before Kids, and Time After Kids. They change and grow so quickly that the years just fly by. You spend your time wishing they would stay little, while at the same time marveling at the amazing people they’re becoming. It’s a mind blowing conundrum.

* I get out the door every day. Seriously, this is HUGE. I’m giving myself mad props for waking up after just a few hours of sleep, getting my shit together, and my two youngest kids’ shit together, and getting everybody to their respective places (somewhat) on time.

* I started cloth diapering. Sounds silly I know. What kind of accomplishment is that? But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do for environmental and financial reasons. I started about a month ago and have been loving it. I feel so self sufficient.

* I’m blogging again. The fact that I’ve taken up with this little corner of the internet again is an accomplishment in and of itself. I’m trying not to get too caught up in feeling obligated to post regularly. I post when I feel like it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

* I have a happy marriage. From what I gather, this is a pretty big deal. We may not have all of the time and energy we once did for each other, but we’re still best friends.

*I started a new story. I’ve given myself permission to let go of the novel, for now. I don’t know if I’ll go back to it or not. I’ve started several other things in the last couple of years, but my focus is always clouded by the guilty feeling that I should be working on the novel that I put so much time into. I’m letting that guilt go and chalking writing the novel up to experience. I’m super excited about the new story I started. It’s a post apocalyptic girl power type thing (I know, I KNOW, not another one. Screw you, Internets, I do what I want.) and I think it has the potential to be pretty kick ass.

And that’s just the short list. The long one includes things like, I’m alive and I remember to brush my teeth twice a day, so I won’t bore you with that. All of these things may seem pretty mundane, but sometimes getting through the day is the best we can do. Why not give ourselves a little credit?

Beyond Belief

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Belief is an interesting thing. It’s personal and subjective, but most of all, it’s incredibly powerful. To say that you think, or suppose, or even know something is true is one thing. To say that you BELIEVE in it is something else entirely.

Cultures rise and fall on the premise of belief. Wars are fought, lives are lost, and hatred is fostered all because of one six letter word. I’m not writing this to rip into religion, or those who practice it. Admittedly, I’m not a religious person; I tend to fall more in line with the science crowd. But I do understand and respect the need people have for it, have always had for it, since the beginning of modern human existence.

What I have a hard time comprehending is the notion that believing in a particular thing somehow trumps basic morals and human decency. This strange occurrence crosses all religious and party lines. Mob mentality takes over without a mob even being present. And it’s always been that way. Blame the anonymity of the internet all you want, when it comes to political and religious beliefs, people have always been more than willing to turn into assholes to defend their cause.

In the last few years we’ve been battered over and over again with belief.  Each side insists they are right, and that you are somehow morally bankrupt if you believe anything else. Family and friends turn against each other without a second thought, attacking each other with shocking vitriol.

The other night I watched a documentary on the tribes of New Guinea (because that’s how I prefer to spend my Friday nights thankyouverymuch). At the time of the filming, the tribes had little to no exposure to people outside of their society. They knew nothing of Western science or religion. They believed that women were impregnated by forest spirits and that cannibalism was the only way to destroy the evil inhabiting a murderers’ body. Their cultures had followed these beliefs for thousands of years, untouched by the outside world.

So, do these people, these “savages” who run naked through the forest, practicing their own form of cannibalistic justice, need saving? Are we so much better off?

We eat each other alive every day, online and in the media, under the guise of debating religion and politics. We hide behind belief to justify hatred and discrimination. In our supposedly more “civilized” world, we turn fear of the unknown into an unmovable system of belief that clouds our consciences and warps our morals. We spend our lives screaming at each other, trying to sway the majority to our way of thinking because belief is a static thing that cannot evolve with the changing times.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Belief doesn’t have to narrow our minds and limit our scope. The whole concept of belief is an incredible testament to the ingenuity of the human mind. The world is full of strange and wonderful things beyond our basic comprehension. Instead of holing up in a cave somewhere and living in fear of the wonders of nature, our ancestors theorized and hypothesized, fitting the miracles of this world into a framework that made sense to them, and still makes sense to so many.

Over the centuries, many of the original ideas about our creation and existence have given way to scientific evidence. We know so much now, about ourselves and our universe, it’s mind-boggling. We’ve discovered that the Earth is round and older than comprehension and that we are literally made of star dust. Yet, incredibly, there is still so much to learn. That gap, the space that science has yet to (and may never) explain, is filled with belief.

The notion that people can take an explanation that they can’t see, hear, or touch and believe it with every fiber of their beings  is truly beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s been sullied by people in positions of power who manipulate it to fit their agendas. Belief is the currency with which our morals are bought and sold.

If we were, for just a moment, to reflect on its intended purpose, perhaps we would not allow our beliefs to be dictated so easily. If we were to recognize that we are all merely humans, trying to find meaning behind our existence, trying to feel worthy of the divine spark that lives in us all, perhaps we would treat each other a little more gently.

Inspiration

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I’m drawn to the ocean. I have been since I was a small child, gathering sea glass on the beach with my grandmother. When I look out at the vast expanse of water, I feel a longing that I can’t explain.  It’s more than just the sense that my problems are so very small in this big world, or an appreciation of the pure beauty of it. It’s a tugging, a pull deep in the recesses of my soul, trying to remind me of something I can’t quite grasp. As corny as it sounds, my heart actually aches at the sight of the sea. It is in those moments that I very seriously consider the notion of reincarnation. It seems to be the only thing that can explain the feeling that I’m lost and some little seaside village in another place and time is my home.

This sense, this crazy melodramatic feeling, is always followed by a strong desire to write stories. I just want to hide away somewhere for days, digging into that part of me that has lived a million lives. Instead, I usually just continue as I was, living day to day with a small, clearly defined hole in my heart and every excuse in the book repeating in my head.

The ocean does this to me. I know it, and I ignore it more often than not because, well, I see the ocean every day. Sometimes, though, that need to narrate is awakened by something unexpected; a photograph, a painting, or a song. I love when that happens, when inspiration strikes and I just have to sit down and write something.

The music of Mumford & Sons strikes that chord with me. Now that you think I’m completely insane, I’m going to end my slightly embarrassing diatribe right here, because the music really speaks for itself.

Here’s a little Mumford to start your Monday. Have a lovely week!

Sleep? Is that still a thing?

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My seven month old is teething. Either that or she’s a tiny, adorable assassin sent to kill me by sleep deprivation. Jury’s still out.

The last few nights (ok, the last several weeks) have been pretty hellish. She’s up, she’s down, she’s up, she’s down.. And every time I think I’ve got her totally relaxed and sleeping peacefully in her crib, every single time I climb quietly into my own bed and snuggle in, finally able to convince my body to release its ever present Mama tension, the fussing begins.

My thought process runs something like this:

“Ok, I’ll just let her cry a little bit. She just needs to fuss for a minute and she’ll go back to sleep.”

Five minutes later, as the fussing begins to escalate to a full cry, “Just a couple more minutes. She’ll find her binky and pass out.”

Another two minutes go by and a banshee has now replaced my sweet baby, “Sweet Jesus, is her leg stuck?? Did she poop?? Have I been laying here letting my baby suffer??? MAMA’S COMING!!”

So I go rushing into the room to find her sitting up in her crib, screaming hysterically while the binky sits, literally, two inches from her on the mattress. Every. Damn. Time.

Binky back in mouth, lay her down, she’s relaxed, breathing slows.. Ahh.. we’re good. Back in bed, oh my pillow is so soft and the blankets are so snuggly and my husband is this nice ball of warm behind me..sleep.. sleep…

‘Eh-heh, eh-heh, eh-heh, WAHHHHHH!!! WAHHHHHH!!! WAHHHHH!!!”

On and on until I finally cave and end up sleeping with her on my chest. Let me tell you, a seven month old on your chest is NOTHING like a newborn. As I struggle to breathe with a miniature elephant crushing my lungs, I wonder if I will ever get a full night’s sleep again.

Then I hear, “Mommy! Mommy!! I have to go to the bathroom!”

And I know for certain that sleep is a luxury I won’t be experiencing for another 18 years or so.

Somehow, even after a night of screaming and awkward sleep on a Mommy shaped mattress, my little monkey wakes up bright and early, ready to start the day.

“GAH!” a little voice says, and I crack an eyelid to find her face two inches from my own. As I struggle to accept the fact that I must now get up and get ready for work after 4 or 5 nonconsecutive hours of sleep, she wiggles and giggles and climbs, none the worse for wear.

People without kids wonder how anyone can possibly survive on so little sleep. Hell, I often wonder myself.

I’ll admit, there are times when the days are long, my temper is short, and I would sell my soul for a few uninterrupted hours of rest in my own bed. But there are also days when my son sings Baby Beluga to my baby girl as we rush to get ready to leave, and her face is filled with such pure, unencumbered joy that the night before becomes a blurry afterthought.

Teething, diapers, sleepless nights, it’s all really just a blip on the radar. In the moment, it feels like this phase, whatever it may be, is never going to end. You’re never going to sleep, or eat a hot meal, or sit for TEN FREAKING MINUTES. But before you know it, it’s over. A new phase begins and you’re left with just the memory of being awakened by a drooly baby kiss in the dim light of dawn.

Music Mondays

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Welcome to Music Monday!

Mondays totally suck. I thought that a little music would be an excellent way to start the week. My first Music Monday post is going to be a bit self serving. This kind of goes along with the whole taking risks thing.

I sing to my children every night before bed. Each of them has a separate bedtime, and each gets to choose from my mini repetoire of bed time songs, which includes everything from The Rainbow Connection to Leaving on a Jetplane.

As I rocked and sang one night about two years ago, I found myself thinking about how we connect with our children through music. An idea began to blossom. My initial thought was to create an album of mothers singing their favorite “lullabys”, whatever they may be, and have the proceeds benefit the local children’s hospital. It stuck with me and, over the next few weeks, evolved into the concept of an album of local musicians singing songs inspired by their children.

I loved the idea so much that I contacted the hospital and presented it to them. They were hesitant at first, but gave me the go ahead to try. Needless to say, I had no idea where to start. Things became crazy; I took on a second job editing for a website, and I found out that I was pregnant with our third child. About six months later, my husband, who happens to be awesome, offered to take the reigns. He knew I was overwhelmed and exhausted and that the project was important to me. He also has a passion for local music and was excited to get in touch with musicians and make it happen.

About a year after my initial meeting with the hospital, the CD went to print. The result is better than anything I could have hoped for. To The Moon, To The Stars is a fantastic collection, showcasing some great local talent. Through the process of making it, I discovered that Portland is teeming with brilliant musicians. While I’m happy to raise money for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, I’m also super excited for people to hear the music. It’s something I’m truly proud to have had a small part in creating.

The Great Writing Challenge

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Sometimes, despite our best efforts to accomplish something, stuff gets in the way. When that happens, it can be easy to just throw your hands in the air and give up, citing life in general as an excuse not to pursue something. Becoming a parent magnifies this about a hundred million fold. When you’re responsible for human lives besides your own, your own interests play second fiddle. It takes a concentrated effort to find the motivation and energy to achieve a goal.

Case in point, my son just came in the room while I was writing this.

“Mommy, when you’re done with the computer, can you read this book to me?”

Now, this request would be difficult to deny no matter what, but when you add giant blue eyes in an adorable, sweet little three year old face.. Well, there really just isn’t a choice.

So I stopped trying to get my write on and read The Trouble With Thor to a very happy little boy. Obvious, right? You’re a parent, kids come first. You don’t deny them attention so that you can write a blog post.

It is that simple, and it’s totally not. Yes, parenting your children should always come first. But in order to be the best parent you can be, you need to take care of yourself too. You need to find something you enjoy outside of parenthood, something that connects you to the person you were before you became Mommy or Daddy. It keeps you sane and grounded. It shows your kids that you value yourself. And it insures you will never utter the words, “Well, I COULD have been (fill in the blank), but I had you.”

Since I have a particularly difficult time keeping the ball rolling once I start a “me” project, I’ve decided to challenge myself to achieve a daily goal.

According to Stephen King’s On Writing, if you want to be a writer you should write at least a thousand words every day. Well, I’m pretty sure that Stephen King has never been a nursing mom of three who works full time, so I feel ok adjusting that goal to something a little more attainable.

My goal is to write 500 words a day. Period. No end date, no set time period; just 500 words, every day from here on out. I don’t care what I’m writing about. It can be fiction, a blog post, totally random drivel; it doesn’t matter. My only guideline is word count. Much of it will probably end up on this blog, but I’ll also post updates from time to time just to keep myself in check.

So, who wants to join me? Parent on not, overcoming the daily grind to pursue your passion is tough. I’d love to hear from anyone who is taking on a challenge of their own. Heck, I’d love to hear from anyone who has made it happen. A little inspiration goes a long way.

Note: You may be wondering why I can’t write when my children are asleep at night. I can, and do sometimes. But, when you rarely get more than 5 or 6 non consecutive hours of sleep at night, by the time 8PM rolls around you’re pretty much brain dead. Therefore, I take time when I can get it to write a few lines here and there; lunch breaks at work, quiet time when the big kids are playing and the baby is napping, basically any spare moment I have. It’s not ideal, but it works for now.

The Reality of Rape

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A lot has been said lately about Todd Akin’s horribly ignorant statements regarding rape. People are up in arms over the whole thing, and rightfully so, demanding that he drop out of the Senate race, and politics all together. It’s refreshing to see politicians on both sides of the aisle denouncing his statements. But..

But the biggest thing that scares me about all of this isn’t the fact that a political leader believes this kind of crap. It’s the fact that he’s not alone. No matter what kind of backlash we’re seeing via various media outlets, you know there are plenty of people sitting in their living rooms saying, “Well, I don’t see what’s wrong with that. Lots of women claim rape because they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.” or “He said he talked to doctors. I bet he’s totally right about lady parts shutting down when REAL rape happens.”

There was an opinion piece on CNN written by a woman who became pregnant as a result of rape. The comments on the piece were nauseating and absolutely terrifying. While there were a lot of supportive people, there were several who questioned her story, to put it kindly.

Here’s the thing. I want to hate Todd Akin. I want to hate every right wing nut job who believes that rape is something that happens when a stranger follows a woman who’s hanging around where she shouldn’t be. I want to hate them with every fiber of my being. But I can’t. I can’t because I can see why they are hiding behind their ignorance. It’s not simply because reality doesn’t fit with their agenda. It’s because reality disrupts their entire ethos. They live in a bubble, cushioned against anything that might threaten their black and white views of the world. If they admit that rape happens, that it happens often and knows no socioeconomic or racial boundaries, then they have to admit that it could happen to their own wives and daughters.

A few years ago I was chased through a parking garage in broad daylight by a stranger. I had just left a job interview. I vaguely noticed that a young man was walking behind me, but wrote it off as being my own paranoia. That’s what women are taught, you know. We’re taught to feel guilty for being afraid because there aren’t REALLY monsters lurking around every corner, are there?

Anyway, I decided to take the stairs when I got into the garage because there was such a long line at the elevator. After a couple of flights I noticed that the young man was still behind me. I quickened my pace, and so did he. I began to run, and so did he. Not wanting to be trapped in a stairwell, I ran out the first door I came to, only to realize that I couldn’t remember where my car was parked and the level I’d come out on was completely deserted.

He kept pace, several feet behind me as I continued to give him “What the Hell are you doing?” looks over my shoulder. Finally, an older couple in a mini van came around the corner. I reached out and hit their window, begging them to stop. When they did, the man dodged between a couple of cars, trying to look like he was getting into one.

“I think that guy is following me. Can you take me to my car?” I said as loud as I could. As soon as he heard me say that, he ran.

That incident has stayed with me for the last five years. I still can’t walk through a parking garage without calling my husband and keeping him on the phone.

I wasn’t even assaulted and the entire fabric of my reality changed that day. My fear was no longer unfounded. The idea that I watched too many crime shows, or didn’t trust people enough, held no weight anymore. I learned that a woman, dressed in slacks and a nice sweater, heading home to her five month old baby at 2:00 in the afternoon, could be a target. ANY woman could be a target.

We trivialize rape and scapegoat the victims because admitting that it could happen to anyone hits too close to home. Rapists are going to rape. They aren’t good people who were led on and just couldn’t stop. They are monsters who choose to put their own sexual desires above their humanity. Whether it’s a stranger stalking a woman in the dead of night, a college kid who thinks he deserves a little something for buying dinner, a husband who believes he’s entitled, or a family member who preys on trust, they are monsters all the same.

Unless and until the conversation changes from “how to avoid being a victim,” to “women are people, not sex toys or reproductive tools,” no woman is safe. The long running narrative that teaches men and women that male sexual desire is somehow beyond their control needs to stop.

I have two daughters and a son. My daughters will grow up knowing that they are more than the sum of their parts. So will my son. It is unfortunate that I can’t control what the rest of society is teaching their children.

Hiding behind rhetoric and denial gives rapists more power. It gives them space to continue to victimize women because no one is going to believe them anyway. This isn’t a political issue, it’s a human issue and we are all responsible for making it stop.