What’s Next? or Why I’ve Been a Shitty Blogger and How I Plan to Change

from flickr user dbking
from flickr user dbking

You probably remember the days when I blogged five days a week.

And I doubt you’ve missed me.

But I’ve missed you.

See, I’m in this grad program for writing. It’s mostly online. I go two times a year for about a week to get my physical learning on, then the rest of the time I read and write about stuff and post it on the internet where classmates and instructors read it.

This is my first drafting semester for my book-length project that will earn me my MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University.

Next year, around this time, I’ll start a thing known as a “critical paper” that will earn me my MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University.

But I’ve had to shave some stuff down in order to make time for this program, and consistent blogging was the first to go.

But it’s January, right?

time for resolutions and new beginnings and refreshed perspectives.

And I’ve got this great idea.

I’ll be writing for two hours a day on my creative project.

And three times a week, I’m going to post stuff from my journey here.

You can feel free to comment or hate.

It’s not going to be chapters. It’ll be 400-500 words at a slice, edited for the reading habits of screen-lookers.

And it’ll probably often be funny, and sometimes it’ll be sad, and sometimes, it’ll make you scratch your head and go “what the what?”

So I’ll be seeing you on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. EST.

Looking forward to you.

Love.

The Seriousness of Coloring

from Flickr user apdk

Child turned 7 and became a whole new person with a sophisticated set of social know-how, a dazzling sense of humor, and the attitude of a 13-year-old girl.

So, before getting in my face and saying, aggressively, “Mommy, I want to go with Lydia!” in this clenched-teeth voice that was legitimately almost frightening, we had this conversation:

“Mommy, I think I know who’s going to win the coloring contest.”

“Oh yeah? Who?”

“Guess.”

“You?”

“Nuh-uh,” shaking her head with earnestness, “but it’s not going to be Connor, either.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.”

“Then who?”

Her voice got low and conspiratorial, “MaKenzie.”

Then she snapped out if it and said, “Anyways, I just think she’s going to win.”

Friendships

Every other day it’s, “I don’t wanna be friends with Monique anymore.  She’s mean.”

and “I want to be friends with Monique, I forgive her.”

Or out of the blue, she’ll look at me with big, dewey eyes and say, “Mommy, I just really miss BombBomb and JuJuBee.” (man I wish we really had friends who named their kids BombBomb and JuJuBee).

I remember changing my mind about who my friends were, but not till middle school.

Sudden Tastes

Child wouldn’t be conned into having a “chapter book” read to her little by little for anything.  But suddenly she’s thrilled to receive Bunnicula a little at a time (and I’m thrilled to read it).

She asked me to buy her a coloring book this morning.  This is a child who has had dozens of coloring books purchased for her by every breathing person in her life, and has never a single time agreed to color with me.  Just now, she is coloring the second picture of the day, including a love note to grandma and pop pop.

Yesterday, she changed her list of favorite colors from (no joke, I just confirmed with her) pink purple red orange yellow blue black white, to pink purple black white. This new list is lightly revised from two days ago when it was “I’m thinking about changing my favorite colors to pink black white.”

All this to say that interacting with a seven-year-old is often like interacting with a bipolar cartoon character.

 

Open Letter to Women Who Do Not Want Children.

From Flickr user Xinem

Dear Woman,

There is nothing wrong with you. You are self-aware and strong and wise. You are making the right choice. You are the only one who should make that choice.

Sex is fun. It is all right to still want to have sex, even if you don’t want to have children. This does not make you a slut, harlot, brazen, whore, or any other. It makes you a mammal.

If, in the course of having sex and fun, you get pregnant, you have some options. You will know what to choose. You must listen to yourself, regardless of what others say.

Only you will have the right answer. Trust your gut, not your head. Do not trust the billboards that you’ve never noticed, the ones that say, “Pregnant? Need Help? Call Catholic Family Charities.” Those people do not have help. They have guilt-inducing dogma and rhetoric.

It is all right to get your tubes tied. If a doctor tells you he won’t, go to another doctor.

It is also all right to change your mind. If you change your mind post tubal, there are other ways to become a mother.

Maybe you know this, it has informed your choice: Children are devastatingly difficult. When you’re a mother, you reinvent yourself. You become Somebody’s Mom. You become the arbiter of another person’s physical, emotional, and mental health. It is the hardest thing, and not everybody should do it.

It’s all right to hate the people a little who shake their heads at you and tsk and say inane shit like, “You’ll change your mind. Being a mother is beautiful.”

It’s all right to not be friends with people who act like you’re some kind of retard because you don’t have kids and don’t want them. The ones who say, “Only a mother can understand.”

It’s all right to cling to your youth, your beautiful, unstretched body. It’s all right not to want to want to be pregnant. It’s all right not to want stretch marks and tits that sag and to be a pod. It’s all right to want tattoos on your torso more than you want babies. This does not make you vain and selfish. This means you have plans.

It is good to have plans. It is all right if your plans do not include children.

If you like to be alone, you’re not strange or a cat lady, a witch, or some kind of progressive weirdo. You’re a person who likes to be alone.

If you want to be married or coupled for the long term, it is all right not to want to have kids, just be sure to pick a partner who also does not want to have kids, and for similar reasons to yours.

Sisters, I am a mother, and I love my child. But I am a mother who is a woman who never wanted kids.

I sometimes say that I’m a little glad that I became a mother in the way I did. That I wouldn’t have made time for it.

But many, many more times, even though my kid is surpassingly cool and funny, and even though I love her more than I love breathing, even though motherhood agrees with me on the whole; I feel good about acknowledging that I’m really sad that I didn’t follow my gut and give my baby up for adoption.

She would have a better life.

I would’ve gotten over it.

Love,
A Mother Who Never Wanted Kids.

People do Zany Shit on the Internet & Notes from the Cosmos

Child started playing this game, Tapfish, on my first generation Galaxy Tab.

I’m kind of into it, too.  I’m babysitting our two tanks while she visits Grandma this week.

This game is mildly frustrating because the cool stuff costs real money (in the form of fish bucks), but I’m in the middle of an “event” right now where you breed these two special clown fish that the game puts in your tank for free over and over again and you get all these other special clown fish.

There are challenges like raising sea turtles which take two weeks to grow.

And selling multiples of adult fish.

And breeding specific kinds of fish that become available as you ascend the levels.

I’m not really sure what constitutes ascension, it just says once in a while, “congratulations you’re on level X! Have some free coins!  Also a fish buck!”

One of the features is that you can visit other people’s tanks.  If you help them by cleaning or feeding their fish (or reviving their dead fish), you earn coins and experience points.

Sometimes visiting someone else’s tank feels a little like snooping in their drawer of underpants.

We visited this tank last week.

Dirty Screen, yeah, but you get the picture.

And all I can think about is some webcam-furry-antisocial-internet-people romance, where Sally Interwebs made this special tank for Henry Interwebs, and paid real money to get the bride and groom divers, and how sweet Lord, the whole thing strikes me as, well, creepy.  Yes.  Creepy.

And I am an internet dater.

But seriously.  Look.

Sally & Henry Interwebs

I picture greasy-haired embrace, awkward, saliva-rich kisses.  I picture acne scars and sweatsuits.  Think People of Walmart.

And that makes me a horrible, horrible snob.  I know it.  Especially since I have done somewhat extensive internet dating.  Especially since I spend more hours than I care to admit staring at screens.  Especially since I am really digging Tapfish!  But my oh my.

Also last week, on the same day, this little fella flew into our house, landed on my bed.

 

The last time I saw a Katydid that close was when I was a child.

Child said, “What is it, mommy?!”

“A Katydid, Child.”

“Katydid?”

“Yes.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a bug that looks like a leaf so it is safe from being eaten.”

“Oh. What should we do with it?”

“We’re going to capture it and put it outside.”

We did.  Katydid lives to die another day.

Child’s totally a city kid.  We visited friends who live in the hills who practice burning of trash, and Child asked, “Why are you making fire?”

And I’m left wondering what the Universe wants me to know about my life, sending me the sensation of being a judgmental ass the same day she sends me and Child the gift of nature and the privilege to free it.

Anybody else with incongruous missives from The Universe (or God or gods or the cosmos or whomever you observe)?

Oh God, the Feelings! And Candy Land.

New Candy Land, From Flickr User NathanReed

It has been an intense month for Child and I.  I am a generally sensitive person with loads of feelings.

But I have been in the midst of this confronting-feelings tsunami for about a month.

There are two things I want to tell you about.

1.  My sister’s wedding.  I already told you about it, sort of.  I am happy for her.  But I am also worried.  I am worried because she does not know how young she is the way I’ll say I didn’t know how young I was ten years from now.  This is a thing.  It is a hard thing.  I don’t really care about marriage.  I think it can be a reasonable pragmatic choice for some people, whether they are in love or not.  And my sister’s wedding RULED.  Here are some pictures.  But oh gosh, she actually did it.  She actually got married.  And oh man, she moved to Texas.  And holy birds, this is just kind of age-making.  I mean, I helped to take care of her when she was a baby.  I changed her diapers.  If it’s this intense when my baby sister gets hitched up, I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when Child does it.  Sheesh.

I am a crier. I cry when I am happy and sad and frustrated and occasionally if I am hungry.  I cry at weddings and funerals.  Whether I know or love the people or not.  I am still, a week later, occasionally crying about my sister’s wedding.  Especially when I see pictures or think real hard about how my family is different now: Richer, and more interesting, and with potential for greater closeness (but also for greater pain), for having made this milestone, for welcoming a new person.

And…

2.  Child met her paternal grandparents for the first time.  If you’ll recall, she hasn’t met her father.  We spent a lovely late morning with them, had some lunch, played at the mall, chatted.  It was cool and nice.  But it felt kind of similar in terms of adding new people.  In terms of overwhelming love and complicated, conflicting feelings.

They were sweet and loving toward both of us.  They did not have to be.  I wasn’t expecting them to be.  I wasn’t expecting anything.

But this was the third time we’d scheduled a visit.  So I was kind of scared they wouldn’t show up. I was half worried it’d be some kind of ambush.  I remain concerned for Child’s emotional health.  I have had the swell luxury of not really having to examine my feelings about Child’s bio father.  Maybe not about him, exactly, but about this situation as it relates to him.  I haven’t believed I’d have to.  I haven’t believed we’d have to figure out how to give Child that part of her family without giving her him.

I can’t help but think that this intense emotional overwhelm is at least partially responsible for the way I had the first migraine headache in like 15 years, and the way Child spent last night puking and moaning.

So this morning, during her little uptick of energy before she ate anything, she asked to play Candy Land, and so I took a break from playing catch-up and played with her.

I was struck by how absurd that game is.  It’s unfair and ugly (like life), but it’s all swaddled in pink and the excitement and indulgence of CANDY!, and it requires no skill.

The image above is the new version.  I played a very squared-edges, bare version compared to what exists now.  The board is vertically oriented, and just gauche, and the gingerbread man pawns are these wavy, pretty critters, totally unlike the basic, barely-recognizable cutouts of my youth.

Candy Land struck me as a metaphor for lives: It doesn’t matter how pretty you try to make it, or how much candy you eat, it still sucks, will often be boring, and it is more likely than not that you’ll lose, even–or especially–if you do everything right.

So.  Enjoy the cynicism for a Monday afternoon.  Any of you have moments of clarity over kids’ media?

Thanks for being here.

Birthday #7: One Mother’s Oldness

Child says, “Seriously, mommy.” kind of a lot.

It sounds like an accusation.  Like, “How dare you doubt my perfect logic?  I am seven, and therefore infallible.”

 Seven.  Six plus one.  Five plus two.  Wasn’t she an infant mere months ago?  How is this possible?

Here’s Child over her cake.  I like seven.  I liked six.  Five was all right.  Before that, I did what needed doing, but I don’t really know how or what.  I think I’m the sort of mom who will enjoy her kid more with each passing year.  I have little use for the antics of the pre-pubescents.  I am interested in misery and suffering and awkwardness.

Neither misery nor suffering. Pure, toothless joy.

I also like life more with each passing year.  I do not feel old, especially, though I say I do.  I feel jaded and am lately nostalgic for my wide-eyed acceptance and eagerness toward the world around me.  Missing that feels like age, but I am energetic and healthy and only have a few gray hairs.  I am relieved by the way in which being experienced assuages self-consciousness.  I no longer feel the need to apologize for myself.  I no longer judge myself by others’ standards.

Child reminds me of inexperience.  She is so full of energy and hope.  She loves people and living.  She runs everywhere.  I want to put her in a padded box and protect her forever.

She did not notice the shitty astroturf or the teenaged litter or rained-on paint containers and brushes all over the mini golf course we found outside of Baltimore.  She thought the non-flush holes were funny indicators of the adults’ incompetence.  She was thrilled to have another chance at a freak hole-in-one, which she got.  I don’t think it’s freak.  I think I am the arty, uncoordinated mom of an athletic child.

Check it out, now.

It hardly seems possible that seven years have passed; when I try to think through all the specific events, it’s like looking at a blur of growth and conflict and joy. For both of us.

So I leave you with this cake picture which is funny because, like the Sprats, between us, Child and I can lick the platter clean.

Cake Skeleton: my birthday gift to Child