How to be a Writer- I’ve Been Doing it Wrong

I haven’t been writing a lot lately.  Anyone who follows this blog (Hi Dad) has probably already noticed that.  I haven’t even been doing any off-the-blog, just-for-myself writing.  I know, sad.  There are a lot of little things that have contributed- bad mood, vacation, needy kids, work, fatigue, lack of ideas.  You know…stuff.  So, whatever, I didn’t do it.  I decided to not feel guilty in March, so I’m not going to do it now.

 

It all comes down to the fact that I wasn’t inspired, at all.  And what do people tell you to do to be inspired to write?  That’s right- read, read, read!  Read things written by people whose writing you admire.  So that’s what I did.  I read articles, I read blogs, I read short stories.  I spent the little bit of free time I had between job & kids (& messy house & destructive dog…) READING.  That’s right…I was reading when I should have writing.

 

I was figuratively slapped across the face yesterday by Tsh Oxenreider in her ‘Dsh with Tsh’ blog at Babble.  (Note: I don’t know Tsh, I actually just discovered her yesterday, but I have a massive girl-crush on her and I think we’d be really good friends.  More on that later…..).  In her July 18 post, ‘Create before You Consume’, Tsh introduced this concept of *gasp* getting your OWN thing done before you dive into checking everybody else’s stuff out.  When I finished reading, I slapped myself in the forehead because it’s SO OBVIOUS…but it’s not my instinct…it had never even crossed my mind.  If the flight attendant didn’t remind me before every flight, I would surely perish trying to put the oxygen masks on my children without getting my own mask on first….I’m one of those people.

 

My normal routine, first thing in the morning, is this:  I grab my phone (before I even get out of bed) and check my email, my Facebook & my Twitter.  Before I get out of bed!  How gross is that?  How important do I think I am?  I am NOT that important.  Then, if I have time after my reading/replying/posting, I look at a quality news outlet like TMZ.  (In my defense, by that time I’ve usually gotten the big news headlines from reading my colleagues Tweets.)  By this time, because I’ve wasted so many extra minutes lazily cuddling with the internet, I’m running late.  So, then I jump up and run around with my hair on fire getting ready for work, getting the kids out the door and cursing the fact that my house is so gross because I NEVER HAVE TIME TO DO ANYTHING.  Then I drive to work thinking about how much I could accomplish if only I didn’t have to work.

 

This morning, on Tsh’s advice, I got up and fought the urge to check my phone.  Instead, I immediately got up, got dressed and made coffee.  By the time the kids woke up, I’d accomplished more than I had all day yesterday.  By the time I left for work, I had dinner cooking in the crock-pot, a grocery list made & had 3 more ideas for blog posts.  Success!

 

So, there you go.  Tsh should be my friend (the friend who makes you a better person).  She shares my love of simplifying life (she’s @simplemom on Twitter), she’s my age and has 3 kids.  She has long, slightly grown out bangs & she muses about whether she’s too old to get a nosering.

 

In fact, I’m thinking about changing my name to Jss. 

 

 

 

I think it’s back.

And by “it”, I mean my life…sanity…sense of well-being.  You know, nothing serious.

 

Since the holidays, I’ve been a mess.  I’ve been okay to function….I just haven’t been able to get it together.

Jason was stressing about getting a promotion, the kids all hit really rough ages, we got a puppy and we, as a family, spent a really fun month taking turns being sick.  As a direct result of all of this, our house has been a mess.  Not just a little “things out of place” mess…we’re talking “Call CPS” mess (please don’t call CPS). 

And so ALL of that starts freaking me out….and I can’t sleep…and I’m wearing myself out trying to get things done…and nothing is getting accomplished completely…and people are frustrated with me…and my tardiness is becoming “an issue”…so I freak out more….and I’m more behind on sleep….

….and it goes on like that.  Really, it’s magical.

 

So, I hit a breaking point late last week.  Baby Z’s first birthday was approaching and I hadn’t planned a party and people kept asking me about it and I was feeling awful.  And then I looked at my phone and I had 3 people asking me for 3 different things, none of which I could help with, and I was feeling awful.  But then something strange happened.  I just stopped feeling awful.

I wish it could be some shining revelation that made me realize that my spirit was stronger than anything else in the world.  I picture me reaching the top of a steep flight of stairs and then pumping my arms and cheering all Rocky-style.  That’s not what happened.  Really, I don’t know WHAT happened.  I don’t think I even realized it at the time. 

In fact, I didn’t really realize any of it until last night.  It was eight o’clock (which felt like seven o’clock) and I’d cooked a really great dinner.  I’d just finished washing the dishes (that alone was impressive), and I looked around and saw…..wait for it…….

….A CLEAN KITCHEN.

*I* had cleaned it.  I’d cleaned the kitchen & the dining room & the living room & I’d cooked dinner & I’d made yogurt & my kids were clean & there was a load of laundry running.  How this had happened, I have no idea.  Truly. 

All I know is that I have a sense of calm and I feel like I MAY actually get caught up.  I’m okay with taking it slowly….but it WILL all get done….and I may come out the other side with my sanity intact.

 

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A 3 Year Old, A Love Triangle & a Little Bit of Incest

Over the weekend, I walked into the bathroom to find Zaven looking at the pipe under the sink. When I asked him what he was doing, this conversation happened:

 

Me: What are you doing
Zaven: I lost my wedding ring down the drain.
Me: Ummm…huh?
Z: My wedding ring went down the sink…I have to to take the sink apart.
Me: Wait…wedding ring? Who are you married to?
Z: (pause) Aunt Phae
Me: Aunt Phae? And what does Uncle Paul think about this.
Z: (turns to look at me…completely calm and straight faced) I don’t really care what he thinks.

 

Whoa.

I, for one, cannot WAIT until he starts pursuing real, non-incest, relationships. I’m sure there will be NO drama at all. Nope….no drama AT ALL.

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To Vermont….and Back

I like to think of myself as spontaneous and adventurous….but in reality, my life isn’t nearly as wild as I wish it was. Three kids, a full-time job, a husband that only has one weekend day off…it happens. So, when Jason suggested I take an impromptu road-trip to from Georgia to Vermont, I initially blew it off. There was no way that I could just pick up and drive 1200 miles with a 3 year old and a 7 month old, alone, in a week.

…Is there?

Jason’s mind has no limits. It would have been just as likely for him to suggest I go to the moon for a week (and then stare at me incredulously while I explained why that wasn’t possible). I’m a little more practical. Sometimes TOO practical, I suppose.

…so I went.

I drove up there, stopping at my sister’s house in New Jersey for the night, with no plans beyond the Grace PotterGood Night Irene” benefit concert that I’d procured tickets to a couple days earlier. I didn’t want to fill the week with obligations and plans and hours driving around the state. I just wanted to go. And be. And let things happen.

And things did happen. I had several chance meetings with old friends on the street and in restaurants. I took the kids to a local high school soccer game. I wandered around a farmer’s market with my baby in a sling, with absolutely no other responsibility or schedule. We even caught a Bread & Puppet performance with some old family friends (another family that we’d traveled to Glover with to see B&P’s annual Pageant and & Circus when we were kids…this time we were there with OUR kids).

It was wonderful to be home. Wonderful to be surrounded by so many people who care about community and their neighbors and the state of the world. It’s something I miss so much living in GA. Sure, there are people like that…but they’re few and far between…sigh, that’s a whole other post.

It was wonderful to be able to stop and relax and smile. For some reason, it’s different here. My life is different here.

So, here I am, back in Georgia. I spent yesterday angry at the world because I have to be here and because I have to go to work and because I don’t get to lie around reading books in my everyday life. Tomorrow I’m going to start fresh (Today’s just a transitional day during which I write a blog post about what I’m doing).

I’ve said this before, but I’m going to try and get my focus back to simplifying my life. A re-calibration, if you will. There’s not as much “Simply” in my “Jess” as there should be (sorry, that was corny, but I just kept thinking it).

If I can’t be in Vermont…I might as well bring the Vermont spirit with me back to Georgia.

Doing What We Can

While the East Coast was bracing for Hurricane Irene and everybody was panicking about New York City, Jason and I sat in our Atlanta area home, watched the projected path and remarked “Whoa, that’s going right through Vermont…and those rivers are going to flood.” We had no idea that it would rival the Great Flood of 1927 or that it would literally cut our hometowns off from the rest of the state.

We expected some water damage, but we never expected that rushing water would wipe out entire roads.

We didn’t realize that our friends’ homes and offices would literally fill with water.

(Photo by Megan Schultz)

And we never imagined that the unthinkable would happen.

When the water had cleared, and we’d finally heard from our loved ones, we wondered “What can we do?”. We felt completely powerless and ached to be there to help. Within a day, we started seeing Facebook status updates from friends elsewhere in the country expressing the same sadness, frustration and feelings of helplessness. Once a Vermonter, always a Vermonter.

While I started pitching stories at work, relaying information from person to person about the conditions of roads & pimping t-shirts, Jason realized that he needed to get his hands dirty. He needed to feel his muscles ache from hard work. He needed to be there.

So, that’s where we are. In 2 weeks, Jason will head up to Vermont. He’ll work wherever he’s needed and do whatever he can. By that time, things will be organized enough that a week’s worth of work by one person will make even more of an impact. Exhaustion will be setting in, and he’ll be able to relieve residents.

The cool thing about all these little towns in VT is that a little will go a long way. Please consider donating whatever you can (no matter how small). 100% of this money benefit communities that Jason will be serving.

And if anyone would like to help in any way at all, travel with him, meet up, send something specific (this is all very fluid right now), let us know!!

Peace, Love & Maple Syrup,
Jessica

Rebirth

ab·sence/ˈabsəns/Noun

1. The state of being away from a place or person.
2. An occasion or period of being away from a place or person.
 

I’ve been wanting to come back and write something for a while.  I’d be driving home from work and think about something I’d like to write about.  I’d work the wording out in my head.  I’d think of an image that I’d include.  And then I’d pull into my driveway and be swept back into the swirl of cooking dinner and checking homework.  I’d plan to dig in and write after the kids were in bed….and then I wouldn’t.

And soon it turned into a thing…a big shadow that followed me and pulled on my brain when I would think “is there something I should be doing?”.

There were things I could (and should) have been writing about (I’ll get to that in a minute).  There was a block of time during which I didn’t have to go to work (I’ll get to that too).  And still, I didn’t do it.

But I’m here now.  I’m finally doing it.  There are a lot of things I wish I’d documented here.  I regret that.  But I’m here now….ready to start over.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time recounting everything that’s happened in the last year (although I’ll probably bring it up as it’s needed).  But, there is one thing that I should mention…

I had a baby.

Zaria was born in March.  She’s awesome.  I’ve been on maternity leave for the last 11 weeks.  Now that I’m back to work, I’m looking to dip my toes back into life outside of Babyland.

So…I’m back.  See you soon.