Monthly Archives: August 2012

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.

Are you there, epiphany? It’s me, Jillian

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I’m probably going to be bitching a lot over the next few months (years, whatever) about editing my novel. I apologize in advance to anyone who actually decides to read this because I’ll probably let my inner two year old come out, sobbing and gnashing her teeth as she has a tantrum all over the keyboard. It has to happen somewhere, though, and I’d rather not have my kids witness it. It would really fly in the face of that whole parenting thing I’m attempting to pull off.

Holy crap, though.. this editing thing is tough. I wrote my first draft during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s a fun exercise that basically forces you to have a massive brain dump on your computer screen. Think of it as a laxative for the mind. It’s not about quality, just getting 40k words down in 30 days while managing to tell some semblance of a story. I highly recommend it if you suffer creative blocks like I do.

The result, however, (in my case anyway) proves to be less than satisfactory. It’s ok. It’s taken me over a year, but I’m finally beginning to let go of how badly it sucks so that I can attempt to fix it. And I’m not just being modest. My first draft totally blows. I let a couple of people read it because I felt like I needed feedback and now I’m like, shit. I let people read this? For real? NOT COOL.

Now that I’ve gotten over the utter humiliation, I’m kind of on a role with the editing thing. I’m feeling pretty good about it, like it could really be a good story if I can fix the horrible writing and add some actual character development. The thing that is driving me absolutely crazy go nuts is this nagging feeling that there’s a better way to tell the story right there, lurking at the edge of my mind. I just can’t quite grasp it. Maybe I’m subconsciously blocking it out because I know how much more work it will be if I basically have to completely rewrite it from a new angle. Whatever it is, I can’t shake the feeling that a major breakthrough is right there. Frustrating and motivating to the point that my brain might explode.

You know how, sometimes, the universe sends something your way at just the right moment? Well, this little piece below found me exactly when I needed it most.

Aside

When I was 18 I confessed my undying love for my high school crush in his yearbook. Yeah. I was THAT girl. I don’t know what I thought would happen. Maybe he would suddenly see me for what I really was and love me back. Or maybe he would mock me mercilessly and I would be faced with the reality that he was a total ass hat and not the shining pillar of teen boy I thought he was.

Unfortunately, life isn’t an ’80’s movie. I bared my soul, and you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. Life went on as usual. I didn’t see him again until an incredibly awkward encounter at our ten year class reunion. He was drunk. I was sober. And he did end up being a total ass hat.

My point is.. well I’m not sure. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about the moments in my life when I’ve been bold and brave, those moments when I’ve stepped up to the plate and taken a huge risk. There aren’t a lot of them, or at least I don’t think so. I tend to play it safe and protect myself from any  emotional or psychological discomfort. In the end, I really think that does more harm than good.

Back to bravery though. The moments you choose to close your eyes and fall off the cliff, trusting fate to catch you, those are the ones that define a person. When I look back at mine, I wonder less about my capacity for courage, and more about my inability to choose the right times to say fuck all and dive, head first, into the abyss.

Confessing my high school crush? Sure, maybe it was something I needed to do to find a sense of closure. Or maybe it was just a self serving ploy to create a little boy drama in my otherwise virginal existence. I had the guts to write down my feelings on the way out the door, but I couldn’t let go and try actually interacting with the guy. I didn’t look beyond my media sculpted sense of romance long enough to see that love isn’t like the movies. The real risk isn’t in the confession, it’s in building a relationship from the ground up, putting in time and effort in spite of the possibility that it could all go to Hell.

Therein lies my weakness. My bravery is always quick and fleeting. There’s the initial adrenaline rush (YES! I’m GOING to do this!), then it ebbs away when I realize that this might take more than just one bold move on my part.

I’ve been in a healthy relationship for over eleven years, I’ve given birth completely naturally. I’ve done both of these things with an absolute commitment to my cause. Yet the idea of committing, really committing to something just for me, like the childhood dream of being a writer, terrifies me. It’s the greatest, and perhaps the most important, mental challenge I’ve faced. And always, always, as I press on through each excruciating paragraph, that voice in the back of my mind is whispering, but what if you fail? What if you put in all this work for nothing? What if you are the talentless hack you think you are?

As my throat constricts and panic sets in, a second, much weaker, voice breaks through: What if I CAN? What if time and commitment are enough? What if I can pull it off and live the dream?

What if.. what if.. what if..

Living life bravely, refusing to just be lemming, getting in line and following the herd off of that inevitable cliff, takes a lot more than a willingness to be bold and take a few risks. It takes the guts to stand up, not to others, but to yourself and say “No matter what it takes, I’m going to do this.” Refusing to bail when things get uncomfortable, completely ignoring all exit routes: that’s real bravery. And it’s a lot easier said than done.

To Live Bravely