Monthly Archives: March 2016

31 Flavors

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I just spent the last few minutes scrolling through the 30 posts I cranked out for this writing challenge.  I found interesting to inventory the topics I wrote about it and the writing styles I tried out, my life scooped out in 31 different flavors.

Some posts were journal-entry style chronicling the major events of my day in chronological order.  I think I saved these outlets for the nights I was racing the clock and only had enough creative juice to catalog my day.

Other posts fit the “slice of life” call a bit more appropriately and focused on a single event or moment from my day.  These style of posts most often involved my children, illuminating one of their goofy quirks or one of the many daily adventures of motherhood. These were really enjoyable to write because while I generally began with a random isolated story, I found that I often ended up exploring a more meaningful idea or emotion related to the instance.  I think the process of creating these posts really helped me reflect on my relationship with my children and my role as a mother.

Many of my posts were memory snapshots from my childhood, which almost always hearkened bittersweet reminiscence of my parents.  In the past, I have done quite a bit of writing about my parents’ struggles and tragic early deaths, and I typically gravitated towards the catharsis of documenting some of my most unpleasant memories.  When I would write these tales of woe, I would feel an emotional release but I would also leave the keyboard feeling anxious and unsettled.  But in reviewing the blog posts for this challenge, I was happy to see that I mostly wrote about childhood memories of contentment and illustrated my strong relationship with my parents.  Without even deliberately setting out to do so, I conjured up some of my parents’ best qualities and re-created some of my best childhood memories.

And then there were just a handful of posts where I experimented with genre.  I kicked off with a poem on day one and then snuck in a semi-poem that turned into prose some time in the middle of the month.  There was a silly recipe for a Manic Monday tossed in there too.  If I do this again (or perhaps if I dare to continue blogging regularly without the challenge motivation), I would love to push myself into other genres and styles a little more.  I think I’ve worked the wordy reflective narrative style into the ground!

But all in all, I am proud that I completed this challenge and am so grateful to my dear friend, Deborah, for introducing me to this writing adventure and cheering me along the whole way.  After not writing in my blog for over a year and a half, the idea of carving out daily writing time for myself was incredibly daunting. But now I feel like I have a sense of how one lives a writerly life, how writing becomes a predictable signpost in  your daily routine that offers introspection and reflection.  With that introspection has come opportunities to express gratitude and release anxiety.  The experience has been challenging and therapeutic and incredibly rewarding.

Thank you to all the readers and commenters who pulled me along throughout the month. You were the just the nonthreatening audience I needed to cast my words out into the open waters again.

Slow Mornings

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Slow mornings.  This is one of things I savor most about being able to stay home with my boys right now.  Some mornings can be chaotic, but generally I have the gift of being able to begin each day with a string of unhurried moments, each providing me an opportunity to really connect with my children.

This morning, Everett came downstairs with his bear Smoky wedged under the crook of his arm and a pile of books balancing in his little hands.  I had but a minute to pour a cup of hot coffee before Louie was plodding down the stairs to join the wake-up-and-read party too. There are many mornings when my youngest can’t function until he raises his blood sugar with a handful of dry cereal or nuts.  Often times, putting something in his belly is the very first order of business for the day.  However, this morning he was game to postpone breakfast a half hour and fill up with words instead.

While Louie and I snuggled on the couch and prepared to read, Everett was busy in the kitchen at the art table.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, he is my quirky divergent thinker.  Within five minutes, he came in with the pile of books and began to explain the agenda for our reading session.  He had taken a sheet of heart stickers and strategically mounted different numbers and colors of the stickers on to the covers of the books.  “This is a code,” he explained.  “This one with two blue hearts means it is a silly book.  And the one with one green heart means it is a tricky book.  And then this one, Mommy…this one with the four red hearts is a sweet one.”  I laughed out loud.  He definitely attached the correct mood to all of the books he chose.

I started to feel the rush of the day ahead creep in as I realized he had cataloged six books of considerable length for our morning read.  “I think we will just read two of these boys and then we better eat breakfast and get dressed,” I said.  I was confronted with a chorus of “Noooo.” and “Pleeeaasse.”  So I relented and remembered that we have the luxury of embracing these slow mornings.  If we are five minutes late to preschool, there are no tardy slips or disparaging glances.  If we have to rush through breakfast a little bit or throw on the same jeans and T-shirt we wore yesterday, no one will know the difference.

The rest of the day was filled with its fair share of tantrums, brother combat sessions, and exasperated frustrated mama sighs.  However, I feel grateful that I could start the day off slow with my boys nestled on the couch on either side of me.  Our day could begin with snuggles and giggles and book after book after book.  I know that our days of slow mornings are numbered.  When Everett starts kindergarten in the fall, we will have to be out of the house over an hour earlier than we do now.  There probably won’t be time for six color-coded books and pre-reading discussions about the feelings associated with each, but I still hope to be deliberate about beginning the day with these connection moments.

Brain Dump at the Midnight Hour

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Ahhh….racing the clock again.  I just learned that I have to post by midnight Eastern time for my “slice of life” to legitimately meet the requirements of the challenge.  This does not work well for my night owl writing prowls.

I’m just now wrapping up another whirlwind day.  I’ll work backwards from my day today just to mix things up.

I’m very late hitting the keyboard tonight, because I hosted an event at my house for my moms’ group this evening.  I’m on the board for our neighborhood moms’ group, so I got tapped to host the new member gathering this evening.  While this involved the typical headaches of getting my house cleaned (and even harder- keeping it clean until people arrived), I always feel a sense of gratitude after doing things like this.  I feel thankful that we live in a home that can accommodate gatherings like this.  While our house is not enormous, the open flow of the rooms is really conducive to mingling.  After spending three years living in small apartments in Nashville, owning our own home is really such a gift.

The beginning of my day was much less fun.  I spent the morning at the doctor’s office getting a brain  MRI.  I’ve been having positional vertigo issues when I lie down for almost two years, so my doctor decided we should investigate.  I have never had an MRI before and I was not really prepared for the experience.  The worst part for me was probably the duration.  I was stuck in that tube unable to move my upper body for over 30 minutes.  And then there was the noise.  Each scan produced an unpleasant rhythmic pelting sound in staccato bursts.  It was like being in a small tin tube while machine gun fire pummeled the outside of my flimsy bomb shelter.  One of the hardest parts for me was my inability to focus on positive thoughts.  When you are lying inside a claustrophobic tunnel absorbing abrasive noise from all directions, it is difficult to daydream of sunshine and rainbows.  I struggle with anxiety at baseline which is triggered by health issues, so I fought hard to beat back visions of dreadful diagnoses.

To be honest, I’m in a season of combat with my anxiety right now.  I personally know three young people battling cancer right now: a grad school colleague, a former Nashville neighbor and friend, and Ben’s cousin.  They are all close in age to me and have young children and their stories are heartbreaking.  This dreadful disease has become my greatest fear.  Health issues have always been what sends my anxious mind reeling, which I blame on the fact that I grew up surrounded by unhealthy parents.  I was always waiting for a dreadful diagnosis to change my world….and eventually it did.  In addition to the vertigo, I’m also struggling with a chronic scratchy throat and hoarseness that’s been nagging for over a month.  I’m having a hard time deciding if these issues are real concerns or just seasonal allergies that are exacerbated by my anxious tendency to fear the worst.  It’s amazing how the anxious brain can manifest itself through physical symptoms.  There’s something about being a mother to very young children that makes me feel even more vulnerable to the cruel unpredictability of illness.  However, I must admit that just taking the time to honestly put my fears in writing does make me feel better, like I am a bit more in control.

Ugh…and by the time I’ve finished this disorganized cathartic dump, it is well past 11:00 CST- which means I’ve technically missed the “slice of life” deadline.  It’s been a roller coaster kind of day in my soul.  I’m still feeling content that I showed up to output.  Now time to power down.

Morning Muse

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I want to be a daughter of the morning.

One who rises easily, fresh and alert

Waiting for the sun to say, “Come, meet the day.”

I admire the soft sunlight that bathes the still streets outside my window

And long to savor this moment to sit and gaze and create.

But poetry halts as I realize that I did not wake quite early enough today.  Cue cartoon sound effect of creative gears screeching to a halt.   There are two little boys plodding down the stairs.  The news of the morning is Louie’s bloody nose.  His sheets and pillow will need to be washed and his little nose is crusted over with a smudge of reddish brown.

Sigh.  I will just finish this blog post after…

I wash blueberries out of the bunny Pez dispenser (Because mom says no more candy today)…or after-

I wipe yellow dye off the senile dog’s back (Otis bumped in to me while I was blowing my Crayola colored bubbles.)…or after-

The clock strikes 10:00 p.m. and I finally plop down and stare out my windows at the still street bathed in darkness.  There is no promise of day awaiting, but the anticipation of rest is sweet too.  I still cannot seem to lasso the morning for my muse, but the process is still fulfilling.

 

 

 

Golden Eggs & Rotten Eggs

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It feels great to sit down and take some deep breaths at the end of a busy fun-filled weekend.  We had a neighborhood egg hunt yesterday and an Easter extravaganza with all the cousins today that included an egg roll, bunny ear crafts, and lots of candy and ham.

Like most holidays, my nostalgia erupted and I was reminded of the annual egg hunt that my parents would hold in our backyard.  Throughout several consecutive elementary school years, my parents would let me invite all of the neighborhood kids and a few friends from school to our house for an egg hunt.  The eggs were scattered throughout our backyard and included mostly coins, stickers, and candy- but there were also quite a few that had dollars and even one golden egg that held a five dollar bill for the lucky finder.  I remember it being a big deal to invite friends to our home.  Hosting playdates was not something we did very often when I was a kid, mostly because my parents’ health was always wavering.  But I have really fond memories of these egg hunts.  I remember feeling proud at my parents’ initiative, at my moms’ creative surprise eggs filled with confetti, and at how wholesome and normal our family appeared on these spring days.

And just for fun, I’ll share one more egg story that has become a year-round tradition in our house.  As a ploy to get our boys upstairs for bed in an expedient manner, we began the classic idiomatic chant: “Last one up is a rotten egg” or sometimes “First one up is the golden egg!”  Our boys really embraced this game, so it has become a nightly ritual.  But the funniest part about this routine is that our boys have adopted their roles and refuse to waver.  Everett always wants to be the golden egg and Louie always wants to be the rotten egg.  It actually doesn’t matter who gets to the top of the stairs first.  It matters that they can enact their adopted roles.  As our firstborn, Everett plays many of the stereotypical roles of his birth order.  He is a rule-follower, a bit of perfectionist, and generally more serious and reserved.  In contrast, Louie has always been mischievous, witty, and a complete silly goose.  The fact that he chooses to be rotten every night fits him perfectly.

I’m wrapping up the weekend feeling thankful for this Easter filled with sweet memories and the very best golden and rotten eggs around!

 

What will April bring?

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As the end of March draws nearer, I find myself wondering what April will bring.  There’s no doubt that I have enjoyed this writing challenge.  I have found that as much as I consider writing a hobby and even a passion, I still seem to need an external impetus to do it.  At the end of a long day, I don’t finally sit down and think about how badly I want to crack open the laptop.  And I certainly don’t feel the excitement to be creative when my alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. on the mornings that I attempt to rise before my children.  The Slice of Life Challenge has been just the motivator that I needed to create a writing rhythm.  But what will April bring?

In the last year I have taken creative writing classes, both in-person and online, in an effort to force my words on to paper.  I’ve even looked into MFA programs and wondered if the structure and dedicated time would be my ticket to prolific creation.  And yet I have a hard time making the time and financial investment.  My husband points out, “Erica- you are not writing regularly now. What makes you think you will be writing after dropping several thousand dollars?”  I curse his practical mindset, but part of me knows there is truth in this challenging question.  I don’t necessarily need coursework.  I need intrinsic motivation.  And if I don’t have that, maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a writer.

Over the past couple of years, I have given a lot of thought to whether or not I could get serious about writing.  Despite his pragmatism, my husband is one of my biggest cheerleaders.  He frequently urges me to go update my blog and has even gone as far as doing Internet searches for writing contests I could enter.  While I appreciate his intentions and love that he sees this flame burning within me, I often reject his suggestions usually citing the ever-growing list of life responsibilities that demand my time.  In fact, we had this conversation again today.  The topic of me going back to work when our youngest begins school surfaced again and Ben said, “You could take a year and see if you could get serious about writing.”

There’s that phrase again– “get serious about writing.”  I’m not even sure what that means.  What does it look like to have a serious committed relationship to your writing?  Does it mean I have to do it daily?  Do I have to get published?  Do I need to get paid for it?  Would I try to write a book?  Could I free-lance for magazines?  Would I still enjoy writing if it became a job?  So many questions.

Every time I enter a phase like this where I am grappling with piles of questions, I remember one of my favorite quotes.  I looked it up again tonight.  Reading it always brings me a peace and reminds me that the answers will come.

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
in Letters to a Young Poet

Perhaps this is true about my writing.  I cannot live the answers to these questions now.  It may not be the right time, this chaotic phase when I some days struggle to find enough time for myself to take an uninterrupted shower.  But living the questions now is sufficient and really isn’t that what writing is all about: bringing life to all the questions?

TGIF

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Ah- it’s Friday at last. 6:32 p.m.  My husband is out in the backyard with the boys while we wait for the Chinese food to be delivered.  This mama is Done, with a capital D and underscored for emphasis (although I don’t know how to underline something in WordPress.)

I’m snagging these few moments to myself to eek out this post…and drink some wine.  This has been a harrowing week.  I’ve found that the weeks following vacations are always tough.  This always frustrates me, because I feel guilty when I struggle.  I feel like I should be rejuvenated after having a week away from the normal routine and a week of having Ben around to truly co-parent with me.  However, I often find that my patience is lower than ever as I struggle to get back in the swing of things.

I had one of those awful moments today when I just completely lost my cool.  I yelled, I snatched things away from little hands, and clenched my teeth to prevent mouth-foaming rage.  These moments are the worst.  While it feels so good to yell when you are in the moment, so cathartic to release all that frustration in a physical way, it always feels absolutely terrible afterwards.  I could feel the hoarseness in my voice from my 30 second rant for a couple hours afterwards.  It scratched at my throat like a burning Scarlet “A”, while we played at the park.  And yet, I remind myself that I am human.  And I am exhausted.  And exhausted humans make mistakes.

My biggest struggle right now is that my boys are in a phase where they are ganging up on me.  Yes- that’s right.  My not-quite-3-year-old and newly-turned 5 year old deliberately gang up on me.  I know why it’s happening.  They have learned that it is a lot of fun to be partners in crime.  They actually run around giggling and saying they are going to “make mischief.”  I think the fatal turning point was when I laughed out loud when I discovered my youngest in the bathroom making spit balls and throwing them on the wall.  By the time I got there, he had wet at least five Kleenex at the sink and chucked them all over the wall.  I didn’t learn to make a spit-ball until fifth grade and here was my 2-year old figuring out this act of mischief on his own.  They hide in the pantry together and sneak snacks, whisper ploys to one another, and run out to the van to play jungle gym in the cargo space before I can get out there to buckle them in.  As they do these things, they giggle hysterically and I can watch their bond growing stronger and stronger.  Although these acts of mischief are harmless and sometimes even hilarious, it doesn’t make the deliberate defiance any easier to handle.  And there are times like today when my lack of control over these twirling tornadoes just runs me to the brink.

So that’s where I am on this Friday evening–at the brink.  I’m thankful that the weekend lies ahead and that I have a wonderful involved husband that will step up to the plate to bat at these wild pitches for the next two days.  So I suppose I’ll try to let the guilt go, pour myself another glass of wine, and welcome the weekend as a clean slate and an opportunity to give out more patience as I corral the mischief-makers.