parenting

Parenting on a Prayer

You are only as happy as your saddest child. This is a phrase I’ve heard before but have never felt the sharp punch of, until now. As we move further into the teen years, life as a parent seems to get a little harder at each turn. There are the things I am anticipating after feeding my curiosity and need with parenting books about what to expect in these turbulent years. It’s a long way off from What to Expect When You’re Expecting and I sometimes think back, if I only knew then… But what would I have changed? Absolutely nothing. From the moment I first saw the amoeba-like sac that was to become our son in April 2006, after months and months of infertility treatment, heard the steady th-thunk of his beating heart, I was a goner, I was his mom. Maybe it started the moment I saw the word pregnant on the blue and white stick from Walgreens. Yes, that was it. It was love. Immediate and immeasurable.

By the time you hit a wall with your child, that wall where you are no longer the one they want to confide in, the thing that is weighing heavily on them, it is too late to flip through the pages of one of those books for a magical remedy. Here is a foolproof way to get them to talk. I gave him space. Offered him food. Cajoled him into watching a couple episodes of our favorite sitcom which never fails to make us laugh. But when the credits rolled his face slammed shut again, he retreated to his room, needing space. How is this not working anymore?

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Life

An Incomplete Lesson

This morning in a moment of inspiration, as I was beginning my slog on the treadmill at 5:00 a.m., a fresh blanket of snow outside the window, I said to myself, suit up and go get your exercise outside. Surprise your husband by shoveling the walk, clearing the cars, get a start on the snow blowing. The idea built up and a half mile into my workout, I did just that. As I work out, I listen to an engrossing audiobook (Know My Name by Chanel Miller) and I don’t want to stop and so I figure I can continue to listen as I clear the snow.

Bundled up, I start on the sidewalk, continuing to listen to my book. I pause at a particularly good description of what the author is feeling in that moment. Then I move to the cars, clearing the snow bit by bit until the shape of them is visible, clean. Now the snow blower, a thing I have wrestled with in the past and have figured out through Google and YouTube videos, a hulk of a machine I have rarely used. The memory of how to work it is still somewhere within in me and I finally get it going, a sputter, a cough and then a constant heavy whir. I won’t be able to listen to my book after all.

Behind both ears are the devices that transmit the sound to my brain through bone conduction hearing aids held in place by titanium plates and the magnetic ends of the processors. No need for them now as I pluck them and pull open the battery doors to shut them down, fold them into my pockets along with the keys to our cars which I plan on moving as soon as I clear a path so I can complete the entire driveway. I continue on, marching up and down the driveway, clearing a path like magic. It’s a beautiful morning, still dark and nearly peaceful save the loud chugging of the machine in front of me. The exercise is good. My heartrate is raised, a thin film of sweat is developing beneath my clothes. My husband will be so surprised and happy when he sees what I’ve done!

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poetry

Lost Poems in the Night

In the middle of the night I woke as I often do lately and as I lay still in bed, wondering why I can’t sleep through the night, a poem fully formed, a thing of beauty came to me all at once. It made me glad to be awake to experience this moment of unvarnished inspiration. Of course I said I’d remember, don’t we always do that, say it will still be there when we wake for the day, when we reach for a notepad, a receipt, any scrap of something to jot it down? Ha! This is the one thing you can count on, it will be gone in the morning, vanished as though it never existed.

You will try to summon it, call it back so you can write it down and share it with everyone else because it is the truest thing you had ever known and witnessed by the dull glow of the bedside clock. It was alive and full of beauty and breathe and the last thing anyone will ever have to read to know what insomnia really is. But it is only your experience, witnessed by one person, you, in the middle of a vacant night. Gone.

MC

Writing

Therapy

“What is your project about?” is the question that often comes up in the non-fiction writing Mastermind I signed up for last month which goes from early January to late June. Good question, I say. I’m hoping to write about my brother’s suicide and how it changed the course of my life, how I turned to alcohol, how life went on and how it turned out to be actually OK. Tears usually well up in my eyes when I start talking about my brother Jeff as I get choked up explaining what he meant to me, how I feel it’s important to talk about suicide, out in the open. Let’s talk about all the crap. But I don’t want it to be a downer of a book either for there is so much hope in surviving and coming through to the other side. The others nod, understanding what I mean about hope. It’s really a story of resilience, overcoming the shit life throws at you, surviving and even thriving.

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Life

Envy

My humble closet

Envy: A painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. ~Merriam Webster

We were getting a tour of a home in progress belonging to an acquaintance from school. Our kids were in class together and they were new to the neighborhood having moved from one beautiful home to another just months before. The first floor space was in disarray with couches pushed into a corner, other rooms were empty where work was still in progress. She invited me upstairs to take a look at the one room that had been completed, her closet. The closet where she stores her clothes and bags and shoes. I wondered how this could possibly be a feature to highlight in a house tour.

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Writing

Writing a blog in Ulysses

Today I am testing out a new (to me) writing tool called Ulysses. The why behind this is that I am attempting my first draft of a non-fiction book and I have a lot of miscellaneous writing for it scattered in various places and want to corral it into one spot. Ulysses was an option that was mentioned in the writing class I started earlier this month, the class that is supposed to help me tame the wild beast of my ideas and harness them into something possibly publishable, possibly not which is what the critical voice inside my head is telling me.

There are three areas on this version of Ulysses I find appealing because I use all three to write: My Novel, My Blog and My Diary. For the past year my online diary, or journal as I prefer to call it, has been contained using the website 750words.com and it has worked well for me, especially these last three months as I have committed to daily writing. It keeps track of my word count, makes sure I stick around for at least 750 words, and encourages me with a visual clue to track my days in a row streak. It also gives me the ability to look at my writing analytically (which I rarely use anymore). It tells me if I’m happy, sad, optimistic, looking toward the future or stuck in the past. It tells me if I’ve stayed in PG level words or if I’ve strayed to R rated material (as if!), whether I am obsessed with death, money or food. Pretty cool, right?

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Writing

I went on a walk

Considering it is 25 degrees here in upstate New York, that is an amazing feat! It dawned on me as I was doing my morning writing, reflecting on a writing retreat I took part in yesterday (more on that to come), that I hadn’t completed the assignment she had left us with yesterday afternoon in the minutes just before this country became chaotic and unimaginable. I could not believe the things that were happening on the screen I had tuned into as I was seeking to get an update on the fate of the Senate races in Georgia. Instead, what started out as a normal rite of passage, the certification of the votes for the next President, soon turned into anarchy and violence. So glued was I to the unfolding news that it took a text from my son reminding me he was done with school to rattle me back into my world.

The rest of the day went along, I moved away from the screen, into a book, into conversation with my son, back to my email where a teacher had responded to a note I had sent the day before. The school year hasn’t been without struggles and this teacher and my son have not had an easy relationship this year. She wants him to act a certain way (understandable), but he is bored and unchallenged and there is more stress than ever due to Covid so other options aren’t readily available. Feeling her response was terse, I tamped down the urge to respond in kind, something regretful, and so I put it away. The first response is not always the best, I have found. I decided to sleep on it.

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books

A Roundup of Books, 2020 Edition

A few of my favorites from 2020

One of my favorite things to do at year’s end is to look over the titles I lovingly devoured over the course of the year. Each January, I set up my challenge in GoodReads, based on my previous record and set a goal for the new year. It is my preferred social media platform where I interact with virtually no one but myself, scanning reviews, honing my list purely for my own pleasure. This year, I recently hit my goal of 80 and while not all of them are home runs, I’ve developed a good sense for picking winners based on a combination of referrals, recommendations, browsing and internet algorithms. My favorites, in no particular order, and not necessarily published in 2020, follow.

Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. OK, this was far and above my favorite read in 2020 and I inhaled it cover to cover in the space of two days, grudgingly putting it down to feed my son lunch and dinner in the early days of quarantine. It was galvanizing, awakening and full of useful information and I earmarked the pages on how to explain sex to your children. I am still trying to get up the courage to use the words I wished I could have come up with on my own. This was a book I purchased for my sisters and step-daughter. They were words I wanted every woman I knew to read.

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Life

Craving Normal

This morning as I was driving my son to school, along empty roads that used to be bustling with the morning rush of the workforce and yellow school buses, there was a burning desire in me to turn back the clocks to a year ago when things were “normal”.

He had been doing viritual school for two weeks and I think we were both a little cranky for it. Had he even left the house over these past several days? Had he worn anything but pajama bottoms and a t-shirt emblazoned with his school logo because his face was all that would show up on the Zoom grid beside his classmates? I felt so sad for him and all that is being missed this year. The activities and friendships. The gradual gaining of autonomy that comes with getting older – the new responsiblities and freedom. Yet here we are anchored together more than ever.

It is only in the car that I see the full faces of other people, closed in their own little bubble of safety where the virus cannot break the barrier. Our routines have changed. When we leave the house it is to work or grocery shop or do some other small errand that cannot be done via the internet, and always behind a mask. How often do you forget your mask these days? It is part of the routine.

I live life most fully inside our house, wandering freely from room to room able to take in long, deep breaths as I go. There are the things I have always done like laundry and cooking and ironing but it is now also my gym and entertainment and social life too. Movies on a small screen, books on a Kindle. Girl’s nights on a browser and virtual clinking glasses.

In those brief moments in the car, driving by other maskless people, it is almost as if we were back to normal. We could meet up at the corner Starbucks and catch up over coffee. We could shake hands or hug or just simply smile.

MC

Writing

Searching for words

It has been a while since I’ve written (on the blog) but it’s rarely far from my mind. The words have just disappeared again and even though I’m faithfully (well nearly faithfully) writing the “morning pages”, topics to write about with clarity or usefulness just don’t seem to be on the menu. And so when I was browsing at Target yesterday I picked up a small book called Burn After Writing and felt compelled to add it to my cart. This book ticks all the boxes for me: the cover was alluring, robins egg blue with the image of a red pack of matches front and center, the feel and size was perfect, the pages invitingly blank with simple writing prompts and the intro about engaging in honest assessment (for my eyes only) seemed a call to action at this particular moment in time.

Today I woke earlier than usual, trying to get back into some sort of morning routine again. I bundled in my robe, grabbed a deliciously hot coffee and made my way up to the loft I’d abandoned sometime last spring when the unending days of quarantine left me little space for tending to my own needs for routine. The first order of business was the 750 word sprint on 750words.com so I could get my daily check box that affirms I am writing. Then I opened the book and decided to start from the beginning. The questions were easy, no rigorous honesty needed yet, just a nostalgic meander through my younger years.

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