Category Archives: Moving Right Along

The Blackberry Behemoth

Standard

The summer after we moved into our house six years ago, these prickly, viney, branches started creeping through the fence. The people behind us were hoarders whose yard had become home to mountains and valleys of every sort of junk, from the mundane to the deadly. Finding the source of those creepers was damn near impossible, and we were two working parents with a toddler and zero time for playing yard detective. So, we let them come; up and over, in and around, decorating the plain wooden fence with a bit of prickly green.

Then, one day, midsummer, we noticed something dark sprouting at the tip of one of those vines. Blackberries; plump, sun ripened, and delicious, nestled between the leaves. At this point, we’d been apartment dwellers for a number of years with no yard or outside space to speak of. Just having a yard to call our own was amazing but having our very own blackberry bushes along the fence? That was pure magic.

The blackberries grew, along with our family, over the next few years. We had a couple more kids, and I watched as the vines turned into bushes that took over our back yard. Suckers sprouted in the grass, thorny arms reached toward the swing set. I was frozen, always with a baby on my hip, a clinging toddler, or a job to get to, incapable of action of any kind. Life marched on, the bushes grew into a spiny death trap, and I watched, powerless to stop it.

Every day in the summer, I’d come home from a fulfilling day as a soulless cubicle drone, and I’d see those bushes back there, mocking me. I’d scroll through Facebook and Instagram pictures of babies crawling through perfectly manicured backyards, or friends gathering for barbecues in carefully maintained, grown up spaces – free from the clutches of weeds and the dreaded blackberry behemoth. And I’d wonder what the hell was wrong with me, with us, that we couldn’t get our shit together enough to do something that everyone else seemed to be doing without a problem.

Are we so insanely terrible at adulthood that we can’t even manage to do something as simple as yard work? Why is everyone else so freaking motivated to DIY the hell out of everything? Why did we even buy a house to begin with?? WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?

I love my husband. I adore my kids. And I truly believe that I do not suck at motherhood. But adulthood is something I can’t seem to wrap my head around. I want to do these things. I can Pinterest ideas with the best of them. When it comes down to brass tax, sitting on the couch, staring at pictures of the amazing things other people have accomplished and hating myself for failing at being a grownup is about as much as I can manage.

I’ve been struggling through this quagmire, hating this blackberry bush for the last five years. We’ve trimmed it back a few times, tried to get it under control, but no matter what we do, it always come back; bigger, bolder, and more luxurious in its prickly grandeur than ever. My fruit fiend kids think the berries are some miracle bestowed upon our yard by Mother Nature, albeit a miracle that comes with various pricks, scratches, and cries of, “Mommmmyyyy!! I’m BLEEDINNNGGG!” To me, it was the physical manifestation of everything I hadn’t accomplished in my life. And it just kept getting bigger.

This past weekend I was standing in front of my house, looking at the dilapidated flower beds, wondering where people get the energy and money to landscape, when I looked over at my youngest, happily attempting to catch and vivisect an ant, and it hit me. She’s two and a half now. TWO AND A HALF. She’s no longer a clinging, immobile bundle, or a barely walking baby who has to be shadowed constantly. She’s a toddler who basically stays where I tell her to and is more than thrilled to help Mommy rip the shit out of some gnarly weeds. And my older kids? Five! And seven! Holy grail ages that know the basic rules of staying within ear/eye-shot and follow them!

I bent and began tentatively weeding, encouraging my youngest to help, “Oh! Are you going to pull up weeds with Mommy? Isn’t this fun?” After about 20 minutes, I had a nice pile of weeds and, I swear, the hosta were smiling at me. I turned, walked around the corner of the house, and confronted my nemesis. The time had come.

After handing my daughter over to my husband, I pulled on a pair of thick, leather work gloves, and stared at the mess that was our back yard. It was so difficult to know where to begin. The vines twisted and turned, wrapping around each other in an impossible array of knots and tangles.

“Screw it,” I mumbled, grabbed the nearest branch, and pulled as hard as I could. It wasn’t easy. By the time I was done, my back and shoulders ached, and my arms were covered with scratches and cuts. But I had worked hard. I pulled every last one of those invasive suckers up by the roots. In the end, I lorded over a pile of thorny rubble as tall as my five year old son, surveying the blank dirt canvas that now ran along our back fence.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the space, or when it will be done. It may never look like a suburban oasis, and the plants may start creeping back out of the ground at some point. But, for now, I’m basking in the glow of victory, content in the knowledge that if when they do come back, I’m perfectly capable of ripping them right back out again, one vine at a time.

 

Advertisements

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

Standard

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

Derailed

Standard

I started this blog a couple of years ago, switched to my very own fancy schmancy domain name, then promptly lost all motivation to blog. Well, since life is about fresh starts and second chances, here I am again.

What have I been up to for the last three years (asks the nonexistent interweb audience)? Oh, you know, the usual. I changed jobs, had a third baby (what??), wrote a novel (what the WHAT??).. Yep. I am now the mother of three crazy children under six years old, working full time, and attempting to edit my novel in my free (HA!) time.

And what have I learned? Dude, this shit is HARD. Everything looks all roses and gumdrops when you read other people’s blogs or see news stories about people living their dreams. I always get all revved up and seriously MOTIVATED when I see someone else making things happen. Then reality hits. Kids need to be fed, the mortgage needs to be paid, and Mama hasn’t slept more than four consecutive hours in over seven months. Sometimes, ok, all the time, it feels like getting by is the best I can hope for. Dreams? Passions? I can barely get to work on time.

So here’s to do-overs. It’s never too late to pursue something. No more excuses. Even though most days I’d rather have my eyes scratched out than read one more FREAKING word of my terrible first draft, I’m going to power through it. If that means barely managing to edit a paragraph a day, so be it. At least it’s something.

Please remind me of this in a month when I give up because IT’S JUST TOO HARD and blah blah blah (insert random, whiny excuse here).

The world is my donut..

Standard

This morning I was late for work because I had a meeting with the director of the art gallery at USM. I’m going to be interning there for the school year. The meeting went well and I came out of it with the feeling that maybe this whole elementary school teacher thing might not be the direction I want to go in. Talking to her reminded me of why I chose an art history concentration in the first place. I’m starting to think that the teaching thing is just another crack pot scheme I’ve come up with to distract myself from what I really want to do. Granted, I don’t really know exactly what that is yet, but I do have an idea of the field I want to be in and I think I keep veering off the path because, deep down, I don’t have the confidence to pursue it. I’m like a raccoon, distracted by the shiny new idea for a career that might (but probably won’t) take less leg work to get into. Focus, Jill.. focus..

So I leave the gallery thinking these things and wondering if I’ll ever be able to wade through the chaos that is my own brain. On top of this I’m obsessing about a work situation that is beyond pissing me off, rehearsing the speech I’m going to unload on my boss as soon as I get there. I’m also feeling totally unattractive and frumpy in my super sexy maternity shirt (I refuse to spend money on clothes until I lose more of this baby weight). It’s 80 degrees at 9:00 in the morning so I decide I NEED an iced coffee.

I pull into Dunkin’ Donuts, ranting and raving right up until I open the car door. I tend to talk to myself A LOT so if you ever drive by me and see my hands waving wildly and my mouth moving at a mile a minute don’t assume I’m on a hands free cell phone or that someone is hiding on the floor in the backseat of my car. Nope, I’m just using some self talk to work through my frustrations.. or I’m crazy.. Whatever.

I’m standing at the counter getting ready to order my coffee when I notice that the Boston Cream donuts are staring at me. I try to look the other way but they just keep right on trying to entice me with all their chocolately, gooey freshly frosted goodness. The girl comes up to take my order and I practice a super human amount of self control .

“Can I get a decaf blueberry, cream only?” OK, I got the sentence out and I’m not saying anything else.. She goes and gets my coffee, babbling something about how much she loves the blueberry flavoring in the white hot chocolate. I’m holding steady because I know the next question will be if I want anything else.  She comes back with my coffee and asks the dreaded question.

“Nope, I’m all set.” Whew… I made it through. Now I just have to pay and get out of here..

“Are you sure? You get a free donut with the purchase of a medium coffee today.”

The Universe is trying to tell me something.