Don’t Be Fooled, This Is Not A Real Blog Post

You know when comic actors try out indie roles so people take them seriously? I feel like that is where I am right now. These past few weeks, I’ve been working on some very research heavy articles that I hope see the light of day (honestly, you can never be sure).

I’m really excited about the opportunities. But it’s also meant that I’ve spent every possible moment on work. Which means that E has taken to washing the windows with tissues as a fun game she likes to play called, “Mommy is neglecting the housekeeping and me.”

And I just changed a diaper from JQ that had an obscene amount of glitter in it, but I honestly don’t even care where it came from because he is happy and hasn’t tried to stab anyone in at least 20 minutes.

Also, we’ve all been sick and every night I soothe my guilty conscience with a serving of Nyquil and denial. “I’m fine. We can do this. My kids are okay.”

I also tried to do a week of no TV, because I hate myself. But that all went out the window on Thursday, when I had an interview for an article and everyone was sick. So, it was just like, please watch the “Octonauts” and don’t scream while mommy is a professional.

And then Dave came home and was like, “Have you heard about Yemen?” And I was like, “Have you heard about me not taking a shower in five days?!” And then, I became a stereotype.

I know. Whine. Whine. Whine. We all have kids (maybe, if not, you do you, no pressure). We all make choices, this is where our choices bring us. And that is right. It’s just that lately, my choices seem to bring me to the end of the night mainlining cake and Nyquil.

Also, Dave thinks “selfies” are pictures that other people take of you.  When he asked me if I wanted him to take a selfie on our date night, I was like, “Yes, I want to see you take a selfie.” Then he took a picture of me and I was all, “SON, DO YOU EVEN MILLENIAL!?” It’s clear Dave has been born in the wrong time. He also wants me to tell you to get off his lawn.

Also, my dear, dear neighbors are moving and I think I might be an emotional mess about this. BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.

LyzyLiberty

So in lieu of any intelligent thing being said on this site, I give you links to other things I’ve written lately that you may like.

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Here are a couple of my Mom.me posts: 5 Things I Didn’t Expect About Having Two Kids–Like enjoying their mutual pain and tandem time outs. Ranting about maternity leave v. paternity leave

And I have a kind of semi-regular thing on Jezebel, which I’m acting all casual about, but really I’ve pooped myself maybe five times. So here is a second installment about the lady who gave birth to 365 babies at once.

Also, the inestimable Jane Marie launched a new beauty site called Millihelen. I may be writing a kind of sciencey feature for her over there. Unless it gets cut, then forget I said anything. But the site launches Monday, so look forward to that.

I did not write this. But it’s a great look at the childcare problem in the US, which is relevant to all people with children or not.

Women and body hair. So fascinating.

Things to Help You Avoid Your Holiday To-Do List

kidpresidentquotedme

 

So, Kid President made this graphic of my words and it might be the best Christmas present for a full-blown narcissist like myself. It comes from something that I said in an interview with CNN’s Kelly Wallace and can be read here. But it’s pretty much cribbed from something GK Chesterton wrote that I have always believed. “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Anyway.  Christmas is quickly approaching and we are driving to Denver to see my family. A trip that might kill us. So, we will see how much I even update this blog.  I hope you all get to spend some time offline listening to your children whine for more cookies, which is what the baby Jesus wanted when he was born this week on Hanukkah and fought the Maccabees with his fists of fire.

Here are some links:

Merry Holidays! Thanks everyone for being so nice to me this week and for reading this dumb site and reading the things I write. I really appreciate it so very much. It means the world to know that the thing you love means something to someone else. Or is at least good for a hate read or two.

The Pioneers Didn’t Have Netflix

JudeSnow

The morning of our first snow in Iowa, we had three meltdowns over putting on snow gear and one of the meltdowns was mine.

I am not a native Midwesterner. I spent most of my formative years in Texas, before moving to South Dakota, then Minnesota, and now Iowa. In Texas, snow is mythical, like a toddler who eats anything without a fuss—often heard of, but never really seen. As a child, I fantasized about long, cozy winters, filled with snowmen, hot chocolate and Pa Ingalls tying a rope between the sod hut and the barn, so he doesn’t die while feeding the cattle.

No matter how good I become at being a Midwesterner–making tater tot hot dish and passive-aggressively saying, “Well, he’s nice.”–I don’t think I will ever be good at winter. Some Midwesterners view the first snow as magic. I view it as a warning to abandon all hope until April.

And this is why I dread the snow, because winter with children is less sweaters and snowman and more like a five month long scream of anguish.  As I struggled with the sadistic tango of hats, coats, mittens, hats, coats and more mittens. I had to send my three-year-old to time out for throwing off her winter apparel because it wasn’t sparkly enough. Then, I had to grit my teeth against the baby screaming, “No hat! No hat!” He has few words, but the words he does use are lobbed as weapons. “Up.” “All done.” “NO!” And now, I guess, “Screw you, I want to freeze!” Just in time for the winter. Write that one in the baby book.

Of course, when we got outside and the wind whipped around his fuzzy little head, he grabbed his ears and said, “HAT! MOM! HAT!” Like, why didn’t I think of putting a hat on him? What kind of mother am I? Thank you infant son, for making such well-articulated points. Could you do it without pulling my hair?

In High School, I read a book about a pioneer woman, who, left alone by her husband in a sod hut over the winter, goes insane. There is a scene in the book, where the husband returns from his chores to find his wife sitting in the cold, rocking in the rocking chair. I never understood that at the time. Why did she go insane? It’s just winter. But now I know. She had kids and she lived in a sod hut. I live in a charming house, but I’m one rocking chair away from going insane on the prairie and it’s only November.

To be honest, I don’t think my kids could cut it as pioneers either. My three-year-old won’t even put a toe outside unless she’s donned head to toe in pink winter gear. I try telling her that Laura Ingalls never had Minnie Mouse hats and she still survived, but my husband points out that it goes both ways. Ma Ingalls also didn’t have Netflix or a coffee maker or a heating system, so why am I whining?

I could think deeply about that question, or I could just go out and buy a rocking chair.

 

EllisSnow

 

This was originally published in The Gazette as part of my column, “Pants-free Parenting.” I usually republish these on Fridays, but this was too apt going into Thanksgiving.

Don Quixote, Tome Club and links

This is part of the ongoing #TomeClub series, where I and a few of you suckers decided to read Don Quixote together. I am not going to title these in a clever manner. I am sorry to disappoint you.

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I haven’t forgotten you Tome Club and the two people still standing with me. We all had the flu for a week (except the baby, who eats a lot of dirt and thus is impervious to human weakness). So, I’ve been furiously catching up. Kindle says I’m 51% done with the book and my goal is to finish it this weekend. That’s right. Suck it, family time. I’m finishing this book.

Don Quixote is very delightful, when I finally worm my way in. But it is a bit of a slog. Because it’s just people talking and walking, which Dave points out is the majority of The Lord of the Rings, which I remember loving. Here are THOUGHTS. Such important. Much deep.

  • I love that we haven’t met Dulcinea, I hope we never do. I love the power of a character who never shows. Tom Stoppard did this in Arcadia. Lord Byron is a powerful character, who never has a line. In this way, you see the tension of how people create characters in their minds. How much of these women is reality and how much of them is just the narrative pushed on them by the men? Again, I think of Marcela, who just says, screw you I’m out and walks out of the story, because she can’t win. She can’t compete. She can’t fight. She cannot be who she is without the men around her pushing their own narratives on her, so she walks away. In this way, I hope we don’t meet Dulcinea, I hope she doesn’t play.
  • Also, hello, author anxieties. At the beginning of the second part, Cervantes lashes out against a counterfeit part two of his novel, which I thought was a narrative device. But no, actually, some fool wrote a fraudulent part two and Cervantes got nasty about it. Of course he did. He has every right. But still, it makes me giggle a bit, because even the author of one of the great works of literature had a pissing match. It’s perfect. Team Cervantes.
  • Also, side note: The gross lover storyline at the end of part one? Where the girl who marries the man who raped her? This is why I don’t want Dulcinea to show up. Because, lord love him, when ladies do show up in this book, despite Cervantes best efforts, he still screws them over in the name of “dignity.”
  • But that development of Sancho, right? I love how he corrects his wife’s speech, but still finds himself being corrected constantly.
  • The delusions here. They are frightening. DQ is so entrenched in his beliefs that everything, even the things that prove him wrong, prove him right. And oh, the manifold applications to modern life. I actually feel worried. Like, omg, is everyone around me a Sancho? Am I delusional? Is everything I do a lie? But then, I remembered that you all constantly correct my grammar (AS YOU SHOULD) and only two people are reading this with me, so if I have delusions, they aren’t very grand. But are we all deluded? And what is so wrong with delusions? Why is the truth preferable? Is it better to life a cruel truth than a beautiful lie?
  • And I say that line about who is more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him in reference to my marriage constantly. So, I better stop thinking about that too deeply.
  • I am going to come back to that idea of playing in a narrative that you can’t win at. Don’t play, Dulcinea and Marcela. Don’t play. Walk away. Make your own.
  • I read somewhere that the artist Honore Daumier believed that Sancho and DQ, merge into one. And I see that happening, in a way. DQ is merging toward sanity and Sancho toward insanity. Their folie a deux of grandiosity is so much the addict/enabler prototype. In this way, I wonder if this book isn’t really just about marriage. But you know, gay marriage. Cervantes was so progressive.
  • Before I started this book, I read that DQ was the beginning of the modern novel, because it’s a book where the main character is aware that he is in a book. Meta. Right? But isn’t that just a natural progression of being the main character in your own life? Of doing things just to be remembered. (Also, dear lord, did you not love that digression about people doing terrible things just to be remembered. The guy who wanted to throw himself down on top of the stained glass? Very Kardashian in it’s sentiment, no?) Couldn’t you argue that Chaucer’s character’s are just as “aware” because they are all arranging their lives into a form of meaning through their pilgrimage? Kundera, that same writer who convinced me to read this book in the first place, talks about how we all organize our lives according to the laws of beauty…we all seek a narrative. It’s why we look for meaning in things that have no right to be meaningful. We insist that pain will work for good, when pain is just pain. We demand that everything fit a narrative arc. We ignore those facets of life that don’t. It’s not just Cervantes or the shepherds that push the women into a mold. We do that to ourselves.

Okay, links. Who wants them?

No. Fine.

Take them.

Here. HERE! Eat all of your links before you can leave.

I wrote about why I let my kid sleep in our bed. I wrote about why kidless people know a lot about kids. So, STFU people who say, “Well, because I’m a mom…” A thing is on HuffPost Parents. My marriage is well, a marriage with two kids. I read this wonderful essay about writing. Stassa Edwards on abortifacients. 

 

If You Want My Advice…

lyzjq

Sometimes, I get emails asking for writing advice. I’m not a famous writer. I don’t have any books out. I know, I’m trying. But these things aren’t easy, right? So, I’m not exactly sure why people write me for advice. I do always answer. Always. Even when all I can say is, “Just keep at it. I’m getting rejected too.”

I understand the impulse to write and ask people how they do it. I used to do it all the time. I have some emails from some of my favorite writers, who I wrote to to ask, “How do you do this?” When they wrote back, their advice was very fundamental or generic. It chafed me at the time, but now I understand it. Each writer forges their own way. It’s hard to be prescriptive. I know people who have just been approached and asked to write for places. That’s only happened to me once and it’s because it was an editor I had worked with years before. When I got an essay on the New York Times Motherlode, that was a result of almost two years worth of pitching, writing, rejection and even meeting the editor in person. It’s not always so hard for everyone. It’s not always so easy.

So, how can you say, “This is the path”? When you don’t even know what the path is yourself. I once took a writer I admire out to lunch. She has books and a job teaching. I was plying her with food so she could give me some advice. I was surprised, when during our lunch, she started asking me for advice. When I told her I was shocked, she kindly rolled her eyes. “We’re all trying to get somewhere else,” she said.

Right before Ellis was born, I printed out an article (which I have since lost), that was advice on finding time to write. I was so afraid that having children would swallow me whole and I would never pursue the things I wanted to do. Because writing is so nebulous. Success is so scanty. Writing requires an investment of time that is often unpaid. And when it is unpaid, the pay is crap. I don’t remember much about this article, except that it advised me to steal time whenever I could. To refuse to do the dishes during naptime or vacuum during a quiet moment. Write, she said, always write. I’ve taken this advice to heart.

My mentor from grad school, AJ Verdelle, once told me when I complained that I didn’t have enough time, that Jane Smiley, the Pulitzer-prize winner, had four kids and wrote in 15 minute snatches. She also told me that if I took the time I used on my blog posts and put that toward a book, I would have had five books by now (I have three now, two crap novels and a pretty awesome memoir). AJ said she wrote her novel as a single mother working full-time as a statistician. So, I try to whine less. I do my best not to clean when my kids are down. I don’t do dishes. I don’t cook. I pay for my kids to go to school for 8 hours each week. That’s my writing time. And when my kids nap, that’s my writing time too. I’m not supposed to be on Facebook or Twitter (I use a browser extension called “Stay Focused” to limit my time). Just writing. I can cook and clean when the kids are up (sure it’s harder, but it’s better than not writing).

I think there is this myth out there that we are mothers first and everything else second. That we must put all of that after the job of mothering is done. We will write when the house is clean, when dinner is made, when the kids are perfectly calm. But that never happens. Instead, we find ourselves pushing what makes us ourselves to the outer limits of our time and our priorities. Look, the house will never be all clean, the dinner will never be all made, but you have these 15 minutes, hold them, make them work for you.. The truth is we are not mother’s first, we are humans first. We are complicated. We are so much more than a monolithic thing. We are not defined by what comes out of our uterus or our relationships. All of what we are works together to make us who we are. If we want to be something, we should just be it and not wait for permission from time, from the housework, or our kids. Because if we don’t just stand up and take it, no one is going to hand it to us.

I’ve had times when I’ve been on a deadlines and I put a bunch of markers and paper in front of Ellis and said, “Color, mommy is working.” I hate that. But I do what I have to do. And I hope that she see’s an example of a woman working. A woman trying to be the thing she wants to be. Because that’s what I want for her. I don’t wrack myself in guilt over it.

I use Microsoft Word to make lists of ideas I have for stories or articles, or places to pitch. Whenever I read something I like, I stalk the author. I see where she has published. I add those places to the list. I get up at five in the morning to run, while I’m running, I think of things to write, I think about what I am writing, I think about the things that I have read that I love. When I come home from my runs, I go and write those ideas down. First thing, before the coffee, before the babies, before I shower.

I heard my mom tell a friend who was considering her PhD to go for it. “Look,” she said, “time will go by whether you are working toward that goal or not. You might as well work.” I think about that all the time. My mom’s friend was 40 when my mom gave her that lecture, by the time she was 50 she had her PhD and her dream job. Time always passes, grab it. Make time work for you.

I’m writing this in a week that I’ve received two rejections for the book I finished editing and revising this summer. I also am writing this advice this week after receiving an acceptance for a pitch I sent to a site I’ve always wanted to write for and having an essay published on a site I’ve always wanted to write for. Big failures. Small successes. Writing is 10% talent and 99% being stubborn son of a bitch. (It’s also 5% being bad at math.) I want to cry. I want to raise the roof in an awkward white girl fashion. I want to nap. But I only have 15 minutes left of rest time, so back to work.

And if you want my advice, you should do the same.

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