Monday, May 28, 2018

8th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge Information!

It's the 8th year of this challenge!!!

Let's do this, people.

Here are the prompts for this year, in the image below. Each day of the challenge corresponds with the date in June. For example, Day 1 is for June 1st, and pictures should be posted on the 1st. Ideally, you will add the picture directly into the album designated for each day in the challenge. Please try to get them into the correct albums. With this many people, it's going to be impossible for me to move all the pictures that aren't put in the right place.



All pictures are going to be shared in the group on Facebook. If you aren't a member yet, please request to be added to it here. It is DeBie Hive's Project 52+ Photo Group.

When you post a picture, please be sure to tag it with the number of the day in the challenge and any pertinent information you'd like us to know about the picture.

We will be utilizing the hashtag #30dayphoto this year. Please add it to the images you post so that they will all be searchable with the hashtag.

Please remember that the group is a public group on Facebook. All images posted will be viewable by anyone.


The Rules

  1. One picture per day per person. Please stick to this rule during the 30 day challenge. There are hundreds of people in the group now. Thanks in advance.
  2. Please try to add the pictures directly to the albums that will be set up for each day. If you can't add them to the album, no biggie, but it would be preferred.
  3. There is no requirement that you participate every day to be eligible for the contest.
  4. You MUST email me your pictures to have them considered for the contest. There is a strict limit of 5 entries per person, and the pictures MUST be sent to me at debiehive@gmail.com by midnight on June 30th. There will be a release you must sign in order to enter the contest. More information on this later.
  5. What is chosen for the contest is entirely at my discretion.
  6. I will remove photos I deem offensive, and reserve the right to do so.
  7. Only post pictures of people you have permission to post images of.
  8. The idea is to take NEW pictures. You may not re-use pictures submitted in past years.
  9. The contest runs after the challenge ends, hosted on my blog, for seven days. It will start July 2nd and run for one week.
  10. Prize details to come.
  11. HAVE FUN!!!! I love photography and started doing these to get people out there experimenting with their cameras.
Tips for taking self-portraits

1. Pay attention to the lighting. Avoid using the flash whenever possible
2. Decide what your best angle is - makes faces at yourself in the mirror if you don't already know.
3. Look just up and to the side of the lens, not directly at it.
4. If you have double chins that you'd like to pretend don't exist (not that you do, of course LOL), look slightly up to take the picture, hold the camera a tiny bit higher than you normally would.
5. Make sure there isn't anything messing up your background, or giving you bunny ears, or growing out of the top of your head.
6. Take more than one picture, with slightly different expressions. Then you can pick the best one.
7. Try to laugh naturally so your smile doesn't look forced.
8. Remember you can always zoom in, but you can't zoom out once the picture is taken.

I will not be posting blog posts with the prompt each day this year. I will post each day's picture in the group and on my Facebook page. They will all be posted to Instagram and Twitter as well. If you aren't following me there, Twitter and Instagram are FAR better at showing people the things I post.

My Instagram profile can be found here. 

My Twitter profile can be found here. 

Finally, if you would like to offer up a prize for the contest, please let me know ASAP. Your link and a picture of the item submitted will be added to the contest post, which is seen by thousands of people each year. My email is debiehive@gmail.com.



Have fun with it!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Birthday on Borrowed Time

Dear Oldest,

I have been trying to write this birthday letter for weeks now. I know that you still want me to do it, and I know that I need to do it, but I've sat and stared at this flashing cursor a few times now, then pushed myself away from the computer and vowed to try again later.

At State. Hair in the air. Heart in the sky.
 Just makes sense, I guess.
It isn't that I don't know what to say to you this year, it's that there is so much inside my head and my heart and I'm afraid that if I start to let it out even a little, the floodgates will open and devour me whole.

This parenting thing, man. It's rough sometimes.


There is a part of me that still sees the little boy getting on the bus for his first day in kindergarten when you look at me. There is a part of me that still sees you running around the house in your Buzz Lightyear costume instead of drumline t-shirts. There is a part of me that still instinctively wants to swoop in and scoop you up and shield you from all the things in the world that are unfair and will harm you.


I'm already crying, by the way. I just figured you'd want to know how far I got into this before the sobbing began. You always have liked to keep track of my sentimental tears, like that time you and I went to see Toy Story 3 in the theater and I sobbed through damn near all of that movie. And not the quiet subdued sobs, either. The loud gaspy ones, bad enough that you had to check on me a few times to make sure I was alright.

I was. I just saw my future on the screen. You've always been Andy.


And back then it was just a preview of that future. We're here now.

As of yesterday, you are officially a Senior in high school, and I don't know for the life of me how we got here. I really don't.


The days seem relentlessly long sometimes, but the years have flown by so fast that I cannot even try and capture how unreliable time is once you have kids. Someday, if you have children of your own, you'll know what I mean when I say this. Time isn't linear, not in any discernible way that makes sense.



As I wrote on my Facebook page this week, if you'd have told me ten years ago that this kid would finish his Eagle, that he'd be drum major his Senior year, that he'd be volunteering at the hospital, that he'd be kicking ass in school, that he'd be using everything in the house as a practice pad, that he'd already be making plans for independent drum corps after graduation, that he'd already know where he wants to go to school, that he wants to someday become a high school music teacher, I am not honestly sure that I would have believed you.


I didn't know who you'd grow up to be yet. I had no idea that you'd turn into this amazing human. I had hopes, sure, all parents do. We all want more for our kids than we had.

My life has been full of potential unfulfilled. Things I should have done and didn't for a million reasons that aren't really relevant for you. I've had lofty ambitions and big goals and huge dreams...I just didn't often make good on them.


I wanted better for you.

I fought like hell to make things better for you.

And now we are here.

And you've done so many of those things already.


You've sacrificed, you've worked hard, you've stayed up late at night finishing work so that you could fit everything else in, you've dropped EVERYTHING when someone needed you to be there. This year has been especially difficult in terms of that stuff. The people needing you thing. It's been a lot.

A ton, actually.


When your family needed you, when your friends needed you, you were always there. Maybe you didn't understand what was going on, maybe it didn't make sense to you, but it never mattered. You never needed an explanation to be there for someone else. You were the quiet support that people have come to rely on. You have learned to check on your friends, your siblings. You observe and pay attention to the nuances and the things they aren't saying. You know already that most of the things that people are preoccupied with aren't really what is important.

You've had to learn those lessons so much younger than I wish you'd had to learn them, and yet, now you have that experience and are armed with the knowledge and power to be a better support for others going forward in your life.



You've dealt with worrying about things out of your control. You've dealt with loving people through traumas. You've dealt with diffusing situations no 17 year old should have to understand. You've been an extension of my eyes and ears and heart every single day.

You've had your heart broken, and rather than opt for anger and sadness, you instead went to compassion and understanding. You allowed other people the space they needed and didn't make it about you. You could comprehend that even if you were hurt, it wasn't about you. It never was. That doesn't make it hurt less, no. I won't lie to you and tell that it is ever easier to be someone else's collateral damage...it isn't. But you had a choice in how you handled it all, and you did so with grace and kindness.


You are a good friend. Truly, a good friend. And this isn't just me saying this because I am your mom and I am supposed to. You have figured out how to give to others without sacrificing yourself in the process, which is something I still haven't learned.

You were put here on this planet to make a difference in the lives of other people, and you have. You do. Every day. You are a joy bringer. You are a breath of fresh air in a world full of negativity. You are an unyielding optimist. You always have a joke or a meme queued up, ready to show someone.


I hear there's an award for that.

You are resilient. You don't let disappointments shape your choices. If you want something badly enough, you hang out there in the sadness for only a moment, then you start taking inventory. What can I do better? What can I learn from this failure? How can I improve for the next time?



You've also learned to walk away from the people and the things that aren't meant for you. Already.

It took me until well into my 30s to have any grasp on those realities.

This morning as you were getting ready to play in the band at the last high school graduation you'll ever play at, you excitedly started sharing details about Battalion for next summer. You think you might be able to make it in with your audition, travel the country playing with drum corps. And you just might be right.


You can do just about anything you want enough.

And it is amazing to watch. Truly.

You haven't just grown older and taller. You've grown up. You've really found what brings you joy. Music. Maybe I knew it all those years ago when I found that drum kit on clearance. I think you were five years old. Your father thought I was crazy. (He's not wrong, by the way.)

That same kit is the one you refinished last year. The one that you've taped together and added rice cooker bowls to and hauled in the back of your car to fundraisers and played and played and played to work out your stress and your frustration and your sadness. You've broken drum heads and sticks, played until you had blisters on your fingers. Literally.



I'm sure that even if you add more drums eventually, that first one will go with you everywhere. It's basically become an extension of you.

When you were talking about Battalion this morning, I smiled on the outside. Asked questions. Encouraged you. All that. The things supportive parents do.

On the inside, though, my heart and my soul were breaking a little bit, knowing that I'm on borrowed time with you. One more year and you'll be off, out in the world, chasing those dreams. We may not even get next summer with you, not if you manage to make it into Battalion.



I know that I don't have much time left with you here.

And I know that all the parents of grown children out there will tell me that you'll still be around, and that things will be fine...I do know that, but it won't be the same. You won't be here anymore.

You won't be throat singing in the bathroom (that's where the good acoustics are). You won't be drumming in the basement. You won't be eating everything in the house. You won't be here to take your baby brother to the park when he gets extra spicy and needs to run. You won't be here for a lot of stuff. It won't be the same, even when you are home.

I know I am on borrowed time.

The truest element of parenting I have learned, though, is this: it's all borrowed time.

From the moment you were born, you weren't mine. I was just lucky enough to get to keep you around for a while. Kids don't belong to parents, not in the way that most people think. You've always belonged to you, I just was gifted the opportunity to watch you grow up.

And it has been an honor.


So, go easy on your old mom this next year. She's going to be weepier than normal. She's going to hug you a lot. A. LOT. Be prepared for that. She'll be around, doing all the things, watching from the corner like she usually is, watching time flash before her eyes.

I'm proud of you, sweetheart, even if you still need to sometimes find a bird statue.

Love,
Mom

p.s. the video is so getting played at your graduation party next year


Friday, May 11, 2018

Could we just not do this anymore?

Posts like this one always get me a decent amount of hate mail, and I prepare myself for that ahead of time. I know what is going to happen when I sit down to write them. I know.

I know that there will inevitably be a friend or two who sends me a message if they're feeling considerate, who leaves an obnoxious comment if they're feeling spicy, who tells me just how wrong I am, and that what I've said is irrelevant in their lives and inappropriate, usually because whatever I say about my experience and the experiences of so many other people is only supposed to be mentioned aloud if it pertains to their lives as well.

The internet. So fun sometimes.

The privilege inherent in online commentary...

And yet, I'm here, writing this post that I don't really want to write about a made up holiday that I'd rather just erase from the calendar.

From the outside, most people are surprised to learn that I loathe mother's day. After all, I have a house full of kids who mostly don't hate me, at least not yet anyway. They have a long list of achievements and accomplishments and things they love and I'm supposed to have endless gratitude for the honor of being their mother.

And I do, but that isn't what this post is about. And, let's be honest. If you think anything in this post is about me somehow not appreciating what I DO have in this life, then we probably shouldn't be friends in the first place. Move along. This isn't for you.

I know that there will always be people who read what I write and accuse me of being negative, pessimistic, of only focusing on the bad things in life when I'm really supposed to be posting #blessed and humblebragging about how amazing everything is. Social media sure has fucked with our perceptions of ourselves and other people.


While we're at just not doing things anymore, could we never use that horrid hashtag anymore too? It really is the grossest one out there. This idea that you're somehow lucky because some higher power told your family to give you jewelry for a made up holiday, or that you've got good health, or whatever....ugh.

The vast majority of life is boring and monotonous, and for most people the days that are beautiful and perfect and worthy of happy hashtags are usually outnumbered by the awful days. But I digress. We are here to talk about mother's day, and before I go on some long winded rant about the artificiality of internet happiness, I should try and focus.

Hello, ADHD. Nice to see you. I've been seeing a lot of you lately.

So. Mother's day. Let's talk about it.

For me personally, it has always been an emotionally loaded holiday. For my childhood and adolescence, first years of adulthood, it was a day full of obligation. Where I bought the cards and the flowers and made the phone calls professing love and gratitude as I was expected to do based on what all those stupid commercials and ads said. It didn't really hold much meaning to me, aside from the fact that we were all supposed to stop and be grateful for the mothers in our lives for long enough to make that phone call, then go on with whatever else we were doing that day.

Then my husband got cancer and we found out we might never have kids. Then I got pregnant against all the odds in the world before radiation started. Then that baby died. And mother's day went from being about other people to being a day full of reminding me of this thing I was supposed to have and then didn't have and might never have and that so many other people had.

And really, it wasn't just a day, was it?

Mother's day isn't a day. It's an entire month of reminders and card aisles and constant commercials. In the day of social media now, it is a month of memes and posts telling everyone to call their mother and be thankful for their mother and forgive their mother. It is a month of celebrating the people who have normal stable relationships. It is a month of ignoring and shaming and marginalizing literally everyone else.

This month is hell for lots and lots and lots of people.

The people who want to have kids, but cannot for one reason or another.

Those who don't want to have kids for reasons all their own, but something about all the forced gratitude of this month suddenly makes everyone else around them experts on how they should live their lives. Almost as if the pollen carries a confident self righteousness.

Those who have lost pregnancies, lost babies, lost children. And why do we say "lost"? Who decided that is how we refer to dead babies and kids??? They aren't misplaced. They are gone. And "lost" implies that someone is at fault, there is neglect or something else that caused them to go missing. We need to rethink our words, society.

Those who have abusive parents. Those who had parents that covered for abusers.

Those who have parents who don't accept them as they are, who want to shove them into the boxes of their own expectation, who will disown them or qualify their existence.

Those who have dead parents. Those whose parents are dead to them.

Those who have children with needs that are harder to cope with than the average family, whether those needs are physical, emotional, mental.

Those without partners to help.

Those who have partners who are unhelpful (and yeah, those are two very different things).

Those whose partners walked out on their families.

Those who have to negotiate custody for every.fucking.holiday.of.the.year.

Those without the necessary resources to support their families.

Those who have had to ask a system that detests their existence for help to survive. Don't ever tell me this political climate is a pro-life one. It is a pro-fetus one, but only superficially. Our system does not care for the health of those children when they are in the womb, and certainly not once they are born. Our system does not care for their stability or nutrition or education. Our system does not care for their families.

Those who have to live with the constant fear of being undocumented in a nation that suddenly believes they are all criminals here to steal jobs, not just parents trying to raise their children.

Those who struggle with what they have passed on to their children, whether through genetics or circumstance.

Those who have to sit their children down and teach them how to interact with a world that sees them as somehow threatening because of the color of their skin. A world that will treat them differently because of bias and hate and racism and indoctrinated fear.

Those who society pushes to the fringes even though they raise children, because let's be honest, this manufactured holiday only cares about cishet genetic mothers raising healthy kids in stable marriages with ample financial resources.

Those who are not with their children for reasons outside their control, or for reasons within their control.

Those who have had to draw firm boundaries with their mothers or children for their own well-being and safety.

Those who have lived their entire lives wishing for a normal relationship without even knowing what a normal relationship would look or feel like.

Those who have given birth to children then allowed someone else to raise that child, and those who have taken those children into their homes. Any degree of proximity to adoption is full of emotions that the rest of society cannot possibly comprehend.

Those who have had their children taken away.

Those battling mental health conditions in themselves, in their children, in their mothers. Shout out to the ones doing all three. I've been there. Got the t-shirt and everything.

There are so many people for whom this holiday is a reminder of the inherent unfairness and inequality of the world. There are so many people who go through the motions, giving gifts with empty meaning to people with whom they have shaky relationships simply because the date on the calendar says they are obligated. There are so many people for whom this day is a reminder of all we have lost, of who isn't here, of harms perpetrated.

Motherhood is loaded with expectation. With this entirely unsustainable idea that people are only fulfilled in life if they reproduce. With the belief that all who want children have them, and that all children are wanted and loved. With the false notion that anyone can ever have it all. We've had the idea that we are supposed to put our families first above ourselves at every opportunity shoved down our collective throats so much so that many of us have done it at our own expenses. We're expected to sacrifice ourselves, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and we're supposed to do it while balancing everything and bouncing back into those pre-pregnancy bodies.

And we fail. We all fail.

I don't want to be sold anything. I don't want to buy anything. There is no item that makes this day magically about me. There is no card that can give me a functional relationship with a living mother. There is nothing that can erase the fact that I lost my identity for many years at the feet of expectation, for the sake of the children I very much wanted, at the mercy of postpartum depression.

If we want to demonstrate that this society cares at all about motherhood and mothering and mothers, then we have to understand that one day isn't going to fix anything. Quite the opposite, it just serves to remind us of how much is broken.

We need to make sure there is access to health care, to mental health services, to food without shame, to education that isn't creatively tied to property values. We need to erase the stigma that keeps us from seeking mental health help in the first place. We need to understand that not everyone was given a functional mother. We need to understand the systemic biases that result in treating people differently, confront them, then work to dismantle them. We need to understand that parenting some children is heavier than we believed it would be. We need to know that we're all failing, and that all those images on social media are contrived and momentary.

Most of us who have kids are wondering all the time if we're forever screwing our children up.

We're crying in parking lots and showers and holding back tears in IEP meetings. We are frustrated and tired of navigating insurance companies and trying to find resources that don't exist. We are fighting for answers and reasons and help, and we're failing. Constantly.

The world is full of motherless children and childless mothers and a million other permutations that are consciously not being celebrated this weekend.

Will this post get me some hate mail? Yeah, probably.

Lucky for me, I can handle it. I'm a mother.

-sigh-

If this weekend brings you joy, my love.
If this weekend brings you pain, my love.

I'll see you all on the flip side.

p.s. this is exactly why I do the music marathons on my page...I ask people what they want me to play, then I schedule it and stay off the internet the whole damn day.

It'd be a whole lot easier if we could just not do this anymore.

Monday, April 16, 2018

To The One Who is (Almost) Officially a Teenager

You were practically born a teenager. The sass. The attitude. The wardrobe requirements. Your age finally caught up to you...well, almost. Technically, you won't officially be a teenager until later this week. You're not 13. Yet.

It makes sense that this letter is early....you've always been in a hurry to grow up.


I'm writing this today, in between responding to your emails. Mostly because most weekdays when you are at school, I am responding to your emails.

You figured out how to talk to me all the time, even at school. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mommmmm.

Your "can we get something to eat" face.
I don't even know where to start with this letter this time around. It has been such a wild year, with ups and downs and scary things.

You had your first broken heart this past year. It won't be the last one, it almost certainly won't be the worst one. I want you to always, always, always remember that you are never responsible for the behavior of other people, that no one who treats you badly is someone you should be in a relationship with, that "it is just a joke" is something that people use as an excuse to be cruel. I hope that you learn that friends will come and go too, and that sometimes friends leave with the people you were in relationships with, and that just blows. There's really no way around it. It sucks. But it's not about you. People do their own terrible selfish things for their own terrible selfish reasons. Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt...because it does.

Of course I put this picture in here.
OF COURSE.
As much as that hurt is real and tangible and significant, it won't last forever. Learning how to navigate friendships and relationships is hard. I remember. Hell, it's still hard now. You're going to screw up sometimes too, and you're going to hurt people. Just admit it when you do it. Apologize. Learn from the experience, then do better. Thing is though, no one owes anyone a second chance, and you don't owe anyone a damn thing.

Sigh.


You have spent a huge amount of time this year worrying about your siblings. You come by it honestly, this propensity to worry. I do it too. About all the things. All the time. There has been a lot to worry about too, and not just the little inconsequential stuff this year. Big stuff. Scary stuff. The kinds of things that shift priorities and make you forget about all your other responsibilities in a hurry. And we did. We all did that for a while. And yeah, your grades suffered a little bit as a result. And yeah, that blip on your GPA radar might mean that you don't get into NJHS next year. It might. And as much as that might suck, and as much as it isn't a fair reflection of what was going on in our lives at that time, it really doesn't matter. No one asks me as an adult whether I got into NJHS when I was 13. They care a whole hell of a lot more about the fact that I am someone they can rely on.


And so are you.

When everything fell apart this year, you were here.

You were here. 

You were here worrying and problem solving and getting things done. Hugging me. Offering to help. Not blinking an eye when things needed to be done. Checking in, asking how things were going. And you missed a lot of school. Life was more important just then. As a result, you got a B+ in math and....so what? That grade should be an A anyway since the basic goddamn logic of mathematical rounding dictates that an 89.96 is an A, but that argument isn't worth having with that teacher and that hill isn't worth dying on. Honest.


Life is as much about figuring out which battles to fight as it is about fighting them. 

Your sister will always know you were there for her. That's a hell of a lot more important than 0.04% in a middle school math class, and it will always be more important. Remember that.

You finished another triathlon this year, already in training for the one coming up in June, hoping to talk some of your siblings into joining you in the competition.


You played volleyball and basketball and are running hurdles again this spring in track, spikes and all. I think you shocked yourself at that first track meet when you kicked in hard, came from behind, and won your 100m dash heat. I definitely wasn't screaming in the stands that day. Definitely not. Nope.


You signed up for even more events at the Science Olympiad this year. We spent hours finding and watching videos on tidal locking. I know something is up when you bring me blank calendars and a pen. If you aren't asking me to design a tri training schedule, it's a unit study schedule for Science Olympiad. All the calendars.


All the calendars, and all the food. SO MUCH FOOD. Where do you put it all? Your ability to cram that much food into that tiny body is an art form, really.


At the very beginning of the year, you came home with a question. Could you play tuba? There weren't any tubas in the band this year and the teacher asked if anyone would volunteer to take on this huge, unwieldy instrument. Without a moment of hesitation, you volunteered, knowing you'd be lugging this gigantic thing everywhere. It's almost as big as you are. Comically huge. And loud. AND YOU LOVE IT.


You've had some health stuff going on, and though none of that is fun to deal with, we'll deal with it...because that is what we do. We'll keep asking questions until we get all the answers, and then we will manage it however we have to. IT WILL BE OKAY. I promise.

At least you don't have to get your nose re-broken again! Whew!

(That was funny. Laugh...)


When I randomly decided to re-launch my photography business late last year, you were the first person to offer to help, even if it means hauling props and shades and reflectors and bags of lenses around. We've got a wedding coming up, so get ready.


When your little brother was cast in his first show, I think you might have been more excited than he was. You told everyone who would listen that he was playing Tiny Tim, though eventually his constant singing grew on your nerves. "Thank you very much...."

You're still basically the baby's spare mom, and he still asks for you nearly as much as he asks for me. You've got a special bond, you two. When you're at school, he tends to walk around asking where you are more than anyone else.


You're the one always cheering in the audience, in the theater, at the soccer field, at the drumline show. You adore your siblings in a way that I'm not sure they understand or appreciate. I hope that someday they all realize that you're always the one there rooting for them, pushing them to do better, holding your breath while waiting for scores. Wherever they are, chances are you're there too.


You wait around too, at least a little, because you've been eager for your sister to finally part with this R2D2 dress. I can't say I blame you. Honestly.

You're an old soul in this tiny body. You are kind and thoughtful and wise. You're constantly worrying about everyone else so much that I have to remind you at least once a day to focus on yourself. Worry about you. Take care of you.

And you're going to need to remember that, because you are so much more like me in that department than I wish you were. You'll sacrifice yourself for the benefit of other people. Try to be better about following my advice about that than I am. Try. I know you probably won't be great at it. We just aren't programmed that way...but know that when you need a break, it is more than okay to take one. When you need to focus on yourself, do it. The rest of the world will be waiting, I promise.


Stay grumpy and spicy and crotchety. Love your creature comforts without regard for how many times we pick on you about your blankets and your slippers and your hot tea and your general granny-ness. Never let anyone tease your quirks out of you. Stay weird. Stay funny. Keep on laughing at those memes that feel like personal attacks until you snort out loud. Just don't do it while trying to hold that fart in. For real.

You know it's not going to work anyway.

I love you, baby girl.

I'm proud of you.

Happy birthday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hey, look at me trying to write at least once a month over here...

To be honest, I have been wanting to write a lot lately. Craving it, really. The thing is though...I haven't had any opportunities. People in my house have been sick for what seems like 743 months consecutively. I have been voiceless myself for the past week, even needing to call in sub for work because there is no way the hint of a voice I currently have is going to do battle with a room full of drunk people and bad acoustics.

What I have been doing a lot of, though, is reading. Reading. Reading. Reading.

Partially because of the book club I started, trying to pre-screen books for that group, see if they will be a good fit. I feel extraordinarily responsible for what I am asking people to spend their time on, so I want to make sure that I make good picks. The reality of that means that for every one book that makes the list, I am probably reading at least 6.

It's a good thing I am a fast reader, I suppose.

The main reason that I am reading, aside from the fact that I can do it with an ornery sick three year old, is that I need the escape. I've been spending more and more time in other people's worlds because of reading, and right now, that's got some therapeutic value in my life.

There have been so many shitty things this year, you guys. I wouldn't even know where to begin, not that I am beginning to tell you anything about them because I am not, but still, if I was, I wouldn't know where to start. It is literally one thing after another, and nearly none of them are small inconsequential things. When the least of my worries is the fact that my oldest kid just took the SAT for college yesterday and will be applying in a few months, it's reached epic levels.

But hey, the three year old just got his full-leg cast off today, so baby steps. Awkward, tense, weird baby steps.

One of the books that I just read this week was about death. Well, two of them actually were, but one was fictional and one was a non-fiction memoir-ish style, akin to the the book that I will eventually actually publish of my own. Except mine won't just be about death...but I know now that it will have a whole lot more death in it than I was planning to include for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that both of my parents are dead and when both of your parents are dead, it tends to dictate how you walk through the rest of your life.

Like, I have friends who are still hanging on to grandparents....

What the?

I got ripped off.

Anyway. I will be including more death, and more about death and taking care of sick parents and mental illness and weird anecdotes and warnings and advice because the thing about the death book that I read this week is that a lot of the stuff in there, and a lot of the stuff I learned along the way would have been REALLY FUCKING USEFUL to know back when I was in it. Except that our society doesn't talk much about getting old or sick or dead, and so then you don't really have any idea what you are in for until your parents are there and you're trying to take care of them and by then none of the books would have helped you anyway because you didn't read them yet.

And they're not going to do much good after the fact.

So, yeah, I'm going to talk about death more, but in a sneaky way so that people don't realize they are reading about what it is like to deal with privacy rights in a mentally ill aging parent when they really think they are reading a story about my dog.

SURPRISE!

One of these days, I will get back to writing the actual content of the book instead of just adding more and more and more chapters to the list. I have a few written, but I just keep coming up with more stuff to write about. And then I go to the library and check out 14 more books and don't actually write anything.

I need to just start leaving my notebook in the car again. That actually worked.

Anyhow, I hope that my two readers are doing well. I think about you all the time. And I promise I am working on big gigantic things, and I promise that they're going to be amazing when I actually finish them. But until then, you'll have to accept this pathetic gesture of a blog post. xo

Monday, March 19, 2018

On Wanting to Walk Away

A few months ago now, I created something I'd been wanting to belong to for a while. A book club. It was one of those bucket list things, something I'd always felt like I should have been a part of as an avid reader and writer myself, but being as I have never really been the one included by anyone in anything, I had to make it myself.

The subtitle of my life.

And it's fine, really. I'm 41 years old and used to this truth. Plus, the added bonus is that even if sometimes running all the things I run becomes tedious, I get to decide what direction to take and what to focus on, and I happen to think that is worth all the work almost all of the time.

I've been reading so much. So, so much. So much that I couldn't honestly even tell you how much I have been reading, and to make a list of the books I have read in the past two months would be impossible. I'd have to go looking back through my GoodReads updates and IG pictures since I am trying to use that to keep track of what I loved and what I didn't.

Mostly, though, I am trying to pre-read books for this book club because I now feel responsible for the choices I make since they are potentially impacting over 100 people. I need to be diligent and conscious and deliberate. Some of the selections are going to have consequences for people. Some books have nearly undone the seams of my being, the ones that are pieced together and stitched precariously.

One so far had to be removed from the list when news broke of sexual harassment allegations. Is there nothing left untouched by this toxic masculinity running rampant through our culture? Never mind, don't answer that. I already know the answer and it is terribly discouraging. The hope, though, is that since these things are becoming more and more public and people collectively seem to be caring a little bit more, that maybe just maybe we can raise the next generation of children to be better than we are.

All this reading is also something else that I need to admit. Escapism. For me. To keep me here and grounded, I need to run away to distant lands and hear the stories of other people and immerse myself in fictions. I've never in my life needed to read more than I do right now, so maybe there is more selfishness to this book club than I would ordinarily admit.

Either that, or the timing is impeccable.

The thing about reading as much as I have been lately, though, is that my writing has fallen by the wayside. This, just the most recent IT isn't the first time, it certainly won't be the last, and the more I read the more I take comfort in the fact that writing actually comes easier the older I get. I get better at it. It flows more. I still absolutely kick myself over and over and over again when I finish a magnificent book authored by someone a decade younger than I am, but then I remind myself that nothing in my life has gone according to plan and besides which, I never intended to be a writer anyway.

I have pushed back greatly from social media, staying in the limited capacity I have for the work that I do, the work means that I have to be online. For as much as people enjoy laying blame at the feet of the internet for all that ails our society, it has saved my life more than once. I have built and supported and benefited from the connections made online, and I know that there are times that we can become so isolated in the grips of our own inner demons that there is no such thing as an outside world and that the people who live in the computer might be the only ones listening and caring. So I stay.

Reluctantly.

I have been hurt by so many people online, and I keep getting back up and fighting again, knowing what is coming. I have to. If nothing else, I am passionate and stubborn.

I recently was roped, persuaded, convinced, whatever, into becoming an election delegate, mostly because no one else was willing. I sat with it for a moment, wanting so much to refuse the nomination because I am so entirely overwhelmed with life and all the responsibilities I have currently, hardly able to keep all the balls in the air, the balls that I dropped instantly a few months ago of necessity. I wanted to refuse, but I couldn't.

And not because I lack the ability to say no, but because if I refuse and allow my voice and the voices of those I advocate for and fight for to be silenced, I am hypocritical and full of shit.

I'd become what I hate most.

And I can't. I can't do that. I won't.

I'd love to say no. To walk away. From so very much in my life currently. But I won't.

It just means that I have one more thing occupying my time all the time. And honestly the fact that I have even been sitting here writing for fifteen minutes feels indulgent because I got on the computer to set up volunteer schedules for a fundraiser, but my fingers found their way here.

And so, I will go and do the things I am supposed to be doing.

Know that if it feels like I've been distant, I have been. I want to write, but I can't.

Apparently, though, I needed to just now.

---

If you'd like to join the book club, look for The Well Read Introvert on Facebook.

I'll be around, scaring off trolls and trying to keep all the balls in the air. xo

Thursday, February 22, 2018

This Might Be the Hardest Birthday Letter Ever...

Dear Freckles,

You'll be 15 tomorrow. You've already asked me a few times if this is finished. I haven't written this because finding the words is hard for me right now. Too many feelings. As I tend to do, though, I waited until the last possible opportunity and am about to run into your birthday. So, my time is up. I have to do this now.


I have been sitting here staring at a blank screen for a good long while.

Where do I begin???

God, honey. This year. This fucking year.



First, before I say anything else, I want to start by saying that I love you more first.

Now that's out of the way....

When I wrote your letter last year, when you were turning 14 and finishing up middle school, life was a whirlwind, and it was all swirling around you, sweeping you up. You had so many projects and responsibilities and obligations, so many plans and hopes and dreams, so many fears about what the next year would hold.



And now, here we are, on the other side of this year. This fucking year.

This year hasn't been very fair to you. I hesitate to be the parent to you that my father was to me, but the reality is that life isn't usually fair. More things just happen to some of us. And, for reasons that don't exist and aren't worth trying to find, you've had more. I know that this truth sucks, and it doesn't help much to know that this is just the way life is sometimes. I know all this.


And yet, here we are.

Rather than pretend that there is some reason things work out this way, I've done the best I can to try and prepare you to cope. I've tried to give you the skills and the tools that will get you through these times.


And I've failed.

We still ended up here.



The good news about being here, though, is that we are still here.

We are still here. 

You and I.

We are both still here.


We're hanging in there. We're fighting to stay. We're forcing ourselves to talk about the things we don't want to talk about. We're doing the things that we have no interest in doing because they keep us both here.

We're a team. Sometimes this team is messy, sometimes we suck at everything, sometimes we're exhausted, sometimes we feel lost and unsure of how to move forward.

But we're here. Your hand in mine. With fingers, even. (inside joke)



We're all in this together. (also an inside joke and poorly veiled High School Musical reference)

I could write a long post about all the things you've done this year, about all the accomplishments, about starting high school and doing marching band and absolutely dominating your classes and about pushing yourself all the time, but I won't.


Because to me, none of those things matter.

What matters to me aren't the grades or the things you can list on a resume. What matters to me aren't the things that can be objectively measured. What matters to me aren't the things that most people seem to care about these days.


What matters to me is you.

Just you.

Your passion and your laughter and your moments of joy. Your eye for the beauty in life, your heart that loves so many and so much, your determination to get through everything you've had to wade through this year.


The way you and your Dad lock eyes in a way that requires no words when you catch the other one doing or saying the exact same thing. Your similarities have truly revealed themselves this year more than any other, and although I know it doesn't always feel like this is an asset, trust me when I tell you that it is. You have each other. You understand each other more than anyone else ever could or will. Always, always, always remember that.



The way your face lights up when you are playing video dancing games with your little brother, when he is asking you for help with his audition music, when he is doubting himself in some way and you are there, cheering him on. The moment you realized just how much like you he is this month, and when you recognized that as much as you worry about and love him, he worries about and loves you. You can get through this together. And you will.


The way that you and your little sister fight like feral cats, but will defend one another endlessly against the rest of the world. The way that you watch carefully as she navigates friends and boys and remind her to take care of herself in your always-sarcastic-but-loving way. The way you've shown her how to perfect her eyeliner wings. The way you push her to do all her own research, not because you can't just give her the answer (because you could), but because she needs to learn it herself.


The way you scoop up the littlest one and play hide and seek with him even when he is absolutely terrible at it. You are the person who always encourages him to build his imagination, to try new things, to work on his letters and shapes. Even when he drives you batty, you'll turn on Boo-bah and relive your own toddlerhood for his amusement.


The way you worry about your older brother, wonder what life is going to be like for him when he goes off to school and what it all means for you. Always concerned with his parking skills and his heart, you and he have a special connection. Maybe it is that whole oldest kid thing, but you two seem to feel a different level of responsibility for one another, even if you'll never ever admit it out loud. He loves you so much. He worries about you. Just like you do about him.


The way you still can curl up in my lap when you need to. My lap will never be too small and you will never be too big. The way you lean over and grab my hand. The way you have learned when you need time and space to be alone with your thoughts and when you absolutely need to be around people, even if you might hate every single second of it. The way that you have forced yourself to do things that are awful because they keep you here.

The way you write me letters and quietly leave them for me to find when you need help, but can't find the words to ask in person.

Thank you for trusting me to take care of you.

Thank you for believing in me.

Thank you.


You're fighting for yourself. You're fighting for yourself as much as you are fighting for your siblings and your friends and the rest of the world.

I see how brave you are.

I see how strong you are.


I see how you can dig deep to overcome all that you struggle with, I see it.

There is this misconception in our society about bravery. It isn't about not being afraid.

It is about being afraid and doing it anyway.

Every damn day, you're doing it anyway.

And I am so proud of you.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

I love you.

Let's go kick 15's ass, okay?

Mom

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