Karin Mitchell's books on Goodreads
Between Families Between Families
reviews: 5
ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.75)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Letting Thoughts Wander until you swoop them up

I like shopping for things online even though it doesn't get me out of standing in line. In the mountains where we live, the post office does not generally deliver to homes. Which means we all have PO boxes and elicit a certain amount of scrutiny from retailers and banks and also have to stand in line for all our packages that don't fit in our letter-sized PO boxes. It's annoying but it's also a nice time for my mind to wander.

In stores, I find my need to pay attention to everything exhausting. I get overstimulated from an hour of shopping because I simply must look at EVERYTHING and everyone in the store. This is tenfold more difficult if either, much less, both of my children are with me as then I must also be vigilant for their locations and that's no mean feat. It means that in addition to the lay of the store and its contents and sales and customers, I also keep track of my kids and within 15 minutes I need a margarita.

But online, I can focus on just searching for what I want and then the line at the post office is time for my thoughts to be free. I don't have to focus them, they can wander. And I love wandering thoughts. My time to have thoughts and decide which ones are precious enough to wrap up in a cloth and hold dear to me as a babe is as precious to me as writing. But I have to wrap them up and convert them to something or they get jumbled up together. I write to do that. And that's been undone lately. I haven't been in a routine.

Our lives are in total transition. It confounds any attempt at routine, our life right now. I just started a new job as the Disabilities Services Coordinator for the college where I was working as an instructor. It's awesome but a big job with a lot of details to chase. I make more details in the interest of sustainability and doing things right. Damn me! My husband is starting a new job as the director of a small non profit that provides advocates for victims of assault. My oldest son is about to turn 5 and starts Kindergarten on Wednesday. My younger son is 2 1/2 now and starting at Montessori next month.

Thankfully we finally bought a 2nd car so that's helping with this business of 4 jobs and two school changes and soccer practice and soccer coaching and OH MY! How do normal people do this stuff?

I've spent at least $150 on school supplies. I thought things were supposed to get cheaper with the kids going to school but oy! It ebbs and flows and the increase in income always seems to come along just when we need it. So life's good.

Still, I have floater ideas that need time and key strokes and editing to tie them up and make them take shape so I can figure out how to hold them and which ones to keep and which to release and which should be upcycled to something I can craft into a book. Did I say book?

It's time. I said all along that when my oldest started school, that's when I'd work on the 2nd book. So that's this week right? I'll get the whole book done this week right? No? No. But I'm preparing. I've been consuming books like I'm about to go on a diet, which in a way, I am. I don't usually read while I'm writing so I suppose doing all this reading is preparation. I hope I get my voice just right. I hope the bundles of baby-sweet thoughts make their way across dreams, swaddled up tight and warm and delivered to my arms where I can turn them over to you. You know, after sucking the goop out of their noses;)


Cathartic things I've done
Chopped down a tree with a chain saw while standing on a chain link fence
Taken a hatchet to a tree stump while angry
Scribbled furiously on a piece of paper
sprinted full speed

Proud family moments
When my mom and I played swords with the giant dead tree limbs we'd just cut down with the chainsaw
Moving my sons' bunkbeds apart the very day my oldest admitted to being afraid of spiders as the reason he didn't like sleeping on the top bunk
Watching my son pedal his bike for the first time and letting go knowing he might fall and turning to see my husband walking behind us with my other son on his shoulders.
My husband getting a job as the executive director of a victims advocacy agency and doing so memorably by talking about the importance of targeting men and boys to end violence

Things that make me happy
Watching Aspen leaves flutter
Feeling fresh air on my arms
Finding out someone liked my book
Finishing things
Peeling the lint out of the dryer trap
My son whispering that he wants gentle kisses on his cheeks in the morning when the light has just snuck in but he snuck in first.
Helping students find a way to learn and have fun doing it

Monday, July 13, 2015

To Dust We Have Already Returned

As I looked up at the clouds turning gray and showing their dust this evening, I wondered at all the incantations of my cells. How many pounds of times I've made myself over and dropped dust here or there? Whether my dust may have had your finger in it writing "you wish your girlfriend were this dirty" on a car. Or maybe I've been in the way of your bustling Eastern European cleaning woman, who hurries me away in a bucket. Maybe I get dumped out on the lawn, only to feed into... a thistle.

The hairs and skin and nails I've lost over the years, how many raised beds would they fill? Where have they gone?

Maybe my hair, once tight at the follicle to my scalp, so close to my skull, so close to the buzz of ideas in my brain that simply does not turn off but continues to tell stories as I sleep; maybe that hair has wrapped up in a nest and fed regurgitated ideas to baby doves. Maybe I am part of the cloud I just saw, graying and standing out against the ever bluer sky. Maybe I've made it beyond mountain tops and over oceans.

Maybe you and I have met and made lightening in the jolts of moisture between us as your dust and mine met in a monsoon over India. Maybe I'm flying right now, drifting and dreaming of buzz and idea. Maybe I've landed after all this in the red, red earth and become the dust under bare young soccer-playing feet, scuffling me under toenails and into cuts that will be easily disregarded in favor of more running, more goals.

Maybe that same red earth, dust of me, I've driven it back to the snow where I need to be. Thrown myself up into a cloud and come back to Colorado. I've coated myself in a layer of snow on a powder day, making you raise your goggles, "Is the snow red?"

Maybe I've already been all the places I'd ever want to go. Maybe I'm a rainbow in Maui right now. Maybe I'm in a darkened sky and you're here reading in the pitch. Maybe...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Proud to be an American

In 1993, my father came out.

It was five years later that Matthew Shepard was murdered.

For the first year after my father came out, I didn't tell anyone. I'm not new to openness and honesty so imagine a highly social 14 year old girl who simply does not tell a soul that her father has dropped the biggest shock of her life in her lap. I didn't tell because I was afraid.

I was afraid someone would hurt my dad. I was afraid he'd get AIDS and die. I was afraid someone at my school would find out and hurt me or make my life a living hell. I wasn't over-the-top in these fears. At the time, people were permissible hazed for this sort of thing. I was at a conservative school. I was genuinely afraid of the hate that might come my way.

But then I was at a pride parade where I thought, I can't be here pretending to be "proud" if there I don't tell a soul. So I went home and said, oh well. If it costs me all the social groups in the world, this is who he is and this is who I am. I'm proud and I have to be honest to be truly proud.

And I did.

I went home and told anyone, any time it came up, that my dad was gay. And interestingly no one batted an eye. I was lucky that way. I'd love to take credit for being brazen in the way I presented the information, and I was. Or give credit to the people who didn't let it influence any part of what they thought of me, because good on them. But in all reality, I think I was just lucky. I didn't get picked out as a target for the hate of that time period toward gay people.

So today, and every day that I see progress toward truly equal rights, I feel amazingly blessed. I feel grateful to see where we're headed. I feel grateful that when my son says he wants to marry the guy painting the house (he's also said he wants to marry a few girls his age,) that I can say, "you can marry anyone who you feel is the one and who feels the same way about you."

Make Matthew Shepard and all those who have fallen to the hate that went before proud. Be proud of the progress. And grateful. I am.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Magnus & the Chin Thrust

Last week, at a program I teach with childcare, a bigger kid told Magnus that he didn't like him. I was indignant when he told me, "what a jerk!"
"He wasn't a jerk, mom. Don't call him that!"

Magnus went on to tell me how he'd asked the kid why he didn't like him and the kid had said because he's a little kid. But then said-kid had helped him beat a Mario game and by the end he thought the kid had changed his mind and liked him.

That was Magnus-the-great's response to a kid not liking him. "Oh really, why don't you like me?" And then he determined to change the kid's mind. No hurt feelings, no crying, and it had worked.

This same child post-anesthesia yesterday had to be kept breathing by being held by his mandible in something called a chin thrust while I held oxygen to his face. Trust me when I tell you this is no gentle hold. A nurse means business if she holds someone this way. She means BREATHE.

He spent the night crying and whining and having nightmares. He looked so vulnerable curled in his hospital bed. His body in a wheelchair was impossibly tiny. He's breathing now, oxygen saturation not where we want it so still in the hospital, but no one's forcing him to breath by holding open his airway and forcing life in. He's breathing but I'm still catching my breath. Maybe I should skip over that part and go straight on to the next thing, which happens to be a reading of my book.

I was just about to cancel when I saw myself in the newspaper.

I went and tried out my reading skills amid a friendly crowd at a bookstore that really fits me. It's quirky and dusty with hand-written signs. Two good friends walked up together just before the start of the reading. I had been so stressed with all the ups and downs of Magnus's surgery that I pretty much lost it in relief when I saw them.

I made it through the reading, largely not thinking about Magnus. But figuratively anyway, my friends held me by the chin and I breathed and read.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Alicia Who Sees Mice

I was just in the bathroom thinking my gratitude thoughts like a good little bobblehead. I found boots that fit my skinny ankles AND are waterproof and not hideous at the thrift store and bought brand new leggings that are so soft I feel like I'm in jammies and then I looked down and wouldn't you know? A hole in my crotch. No smartass, not that one. My neck's not that long. A hole in the crotch of my leggings. Grrr.

Which got me thinking how I complain too much and why do I do that? Sometimes it's because I'm a grouchy pants. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm devolving into a family trait of being negative and complaining all the time and I definitely don't want that.

In writing it's more deliberate though. In writing I do it because I hate that fluffy crap that doesn't have the grit and substance of real life with holes in brand new clothes and all the pot holes that get us stuck.

The time I don't feel all that gritty? Teaching.

Especially teaching ESL.

Teaching ESL makes me laugh and laugh. And not fake, polite laughter, but deep belly-hurting laughter. I don't know how great I am at teaching it. Truth be told, I'm not sure I'm great at all. But dang if we don't have fun.

The funniest thing that ever happened was when a man accidentally used Urban Dictionary to look up "bottom," and gave a very strange definition regarding homosexuality that made me laugh so hard I cried and had to take five before I could even explain what had happened. Last week, I was teaching some mamas how to pronounce "brought" and kept using "bra" to get the verb sound right. One woman had forgotten one so every time I grabbed my straps and pulled my tits up, she started laughing. Then I laughed and we all just about died by the end of class.

And then one night, during a break in the high level class, I was trying to prop the door (it had gotten hot in the room from the computers.) A particularly nicely dressed, young Peruvian gal crept down to see if the stopper had gotten under a file cabinet. She pulled out a mouse trap complete with a dead mouse.

"AHhhhEEEEeeee!!!" Her scream pierced the entire lower level of the college.

More laughter, more tears as the class filed back in to see what was going on. Then we sat down to read House on Mango Street. She stepped out for a moment and when she returned and it was her turn to read the very next vignette was "Alicia Who Sees Mice."

I think that's the most fun night I've had all semester. Then I walked in,late, well after 10:00 PM (and keep in mind my bedtime is closer to 9,) and the toddler potty was in the exact center of the living room containing exactly one turd and one apple core. Life's gritty and full of turds and apple cores and soft new leggings and laughter and tears. I'm going to sew the damn hole up. Take that!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One's cheek, so plump, like globular warm Midwest rain drops falling, plop, delicious
The other's taut and unforgiving, it wedges itself against my lips, my teeth get conked, demanding. Mama, mama, love!
And there are all these kinds of love, folding over and on top of one another, like folded used book art. Magnus love, Gavin love, love of being the mama, husband love, loving husband as father-different-from-husband-love, passion love, all these kinds of love and they fall on me in the night, like stars from the sky, peeeshooo, a meteor shower and I can't sleep. I have to teach in the morning.

There's the new love of my students. Each semester I fall in love, like just meeting my grandmother but for the first time as an adult "abuelita" I call her even though I never did. Didn't even call her "mormor" pa svenska it's mother's mother. The love is like meeting my auntie, a new cousin. Brimming with ideas, they leave. But arriving, they're like mice, sneaking, sneaking bites of cookies, or peeks at text messages, nervous. Don't look at me, don't pick me.

But I do pick you. I pry you out of yourself, push you into the middle of the room and try to make you laugh at yourself. I laugh at myself. Let's play the game together. We're in it together, this difficult business of writing. It can be fun. I promise. or class can, anyway.

Writing is what I know. It is the solid ground. I want to snap it and show it to you: words, arrange them, frame them, make them simple but give them a taste and a texture, like ice cream edged with freezer burn. You get through the bite to the taste if you stick with it. I promise.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Well, Brene, you're right. I'm vulnerable.

I love Brene Brown. I am whole-hearted. I lean into the discomfort. I push myself and believe I am worthy of love and belonging.

Except sometimes when I don't. Sometimes I'm mean. Sometimes I'm unhappy. Sometimes I'm vulnerable in more than one part of my life and then I fall to pieces and need putting back together again. I'm built like humpty dumpty. Ok, not so much with the last part.

So the other night, I had had a really, REALLY busy day. This busy day followed a series of about 12 days where my four-year-old threw screaming fits exactly EVERY time we went anywhere.

So this morning, I get up, pack up the kids for tumbling lesson for Thing 1, then put them in the rec center childcare for 45 minutes while I work out, tumbling lesson for Thing 2, then drop off Thing 1 at gramma's, take Thing 2 for errands and napping in the car... I'm going to stop now because I'm sick of this so I'm certain you've begun skimming by now.

By the time it's evening and I'm to be 10 minutes late for work, I have to jet out still in my work out clothes. I should specify exactly HOW inappropriate for work they are here. On top we have: a torn open t-shirt that says "DOPE" across the bottom in red letters with a tanktop under and who-cares-what-else. SERIOUSLY. Torn. Dope.

And sometimes, especially when I'm teaching a writing lab late into the evening in a small extra use building, I see next-to-no-one and could keep my jacket on and get away with this, sort of. But it's hot in the lab and

Not tonight. Tonight, unbeknownst to me a small group of all the higher-ups and most important of the people who could ever give me a full time jobs are all coming to have dinner with a speaker whose been flown in. So every single one of them passes by the window where I am wearing said inappropriate outfit. Thankfully I am at least working with a student.

A student whose feelings have been hurt by an instructor who was not careful wording strong direct criticism. So after working with this student for an hour, I help him through some tears and hurt feelings and he leaves and I'm left to flail uncomfortably for the next couple of hours through being in my insanely uncomfortable skin.

I fail at: making flyers, blogging, responding to emails, smelling pleasant, and that's just the beginning. In between these failures, I spend my time obsessing about what a shitty mom I am and how badly I've handled everything, um, ever.

As the event lets out, a colleague of mine comes up and we make small talk. Somehow she ends up telling me she'd like to read my book. Instead of having a normal person's reaction to this I say,

"It's a great book." (and it is. But I say this in a voice that squeaks and smells of awkward vulnerability and weird eye contact and probably old sweat since I'm still in workout clothes from approximately 10 hours earlier.)
I laugh and then say, "it'll change you're life. Well, ok that's a joke but it's a good book."
She practically sprints away.

When I get home, instead of asking directly for support from Rob, I whine about our son and he says he can't do anymore talking tonight (it's late and he's right it is.) and instead of saying anything smart, I nervously henpeck about him drinking my whiskey and any number of other things I don't actually care much about and he refuses to sleep with me (which I admittedly deserve.)

I spend hours that night tossing and turning and experiencing the hell of the evening over and over again.

The next day I wake up and cry to Rob about how I am spending a lot of time vulnerable. A LOT. And while I usually lean into it, it's all been too much. I tell him through tears how dumb I was the night before and how much pressure I'm putting on myself and how hard it all feels. The stakes are huge. I want to be a writer. I want to be a good mom. I need people to love this book. My son deserves the best of the best. And what if none of those things happens?

Publishing my book is intensely personal. A friend said when she was reading it, she felt like it was really personal to read it since she knows me and she felt like it was almost too intimate to read what I'd written. I knew exactly what she meant.

I spent years on this. I did the absolute best I could.

Doing the best you can, it turns out, is scary. Because there's no better. So if it's not good enough, that's the top.There's no better. You just failed after trying as hard as you could then.

Sure, the next book will be better than this one. I will grow as a writer for the rest of my life and continually get better at it and so someday I'll look back and think how much better I could have written this book. But for now, this is all I have. This is the best I could do. And I need it to be good enough to get to all those other books I'll write later.

And I get four and five stars. But those four stars are like in a performance review when your boss says, you're great here, here, here, and here and you have room for improvement here. I think oh god, four stars and you're my friend means that you really would've given it 2 if you didn't know me and what if everyone who sees the reviews thinks that too.

And you can see how this road of vulnerability can lead to insecurity and how much worse I can make ANYTHING if left to my own devices.

I am through-apnd-through honestly me. All the time. I'm genuine.

So if I feel like I said above, and I try to say "the book's great." It comes out weird. This is the closest I've ever been to knowing what it feels like to have Asperger's. My voice goes all flat and low and my eye contact is off and sometimes I say things as questions accidentally and then I laugh too loud and ... I mean to say, "yes, I'd love for you to read my book. thank you." But instead it comes out "I'm a weirdo!"

So instead of cheerleading and trying to convince anyone I'm anything but terrified, I started with my husband and said, "I'm spending all my time feeling vulnerable. And I can handle that in one area of life at a time but this, this is hard."

And he does what he does. He hugs me more. He tells me I'm beautiful more. He tells me, I am, in fact, not built like humpty dumpty at all but am sexy and that our 4-year-old is hard and we've all had a hard week. He tells me he's had a hard week with our 4-year-old too.

So then, when the next colleague, that very morning, congratulates me and asks about how I feel about the book, I'm honest.

I tell her it's the most time I've ever spent being vulnerable and that's good but it's hard too. And I sell a copy. Lean in.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

No is really a redirection, not a slap on the wrist

My older son is into mazes right now. I loved them when I was a kid too. I remember sitting in the back of the room with the other gifted kid who was never doing his work either (we were really terrible students,) making mazes for each other. It was so fast for me to visualize the path through the maze, especially if I started at the end.

I don't want to get all self-helpy on you or anything, but I've been thinking about the word "no." And not just because my younger son recently turned two. I've been thinking about it since my novel came out.

Since I released the book I've had to do a lot of asking and promoting and tossing ideas out. Nearly all of the time when I've asked things, they've been well-received. But no one's going to hear "yes," all the time. Not every road is a simple direct path, there's bends and turns and sometimes even dead ends.

I have this shame though when I butt up against the word "no." As though my asking were unjustified.

People are generally flippant about asking for things. "You can always ask, right? What have you got to lose?"

But the truth is I do feel like I lose something when I ask. It's generally worth the risk, but the let-down of "no," can be hard to bear. It makes me feel the shame of asking for something I didn't deserve, of stepping beyond my station, beyond where I've earned being.

The feedback on the book has been phenomenal. People are up late reading. They're telling friends. They're reading!

But I knew the negative would happen eventually and so it did. A woman told me in a terse tone that she had put down the book. She'd been offended by a scene in it and refused to read the rest.

And I was devastated and ashamed.

She was a librarian. I realized that I had wanted her to like my book because I'd wanted my passions to come together. It's kind of like when you really like two people and so you want those two people to like each other but they don't.

But after some time to process the whole thing, I decided it was worth it. She's not my audience. The library's job is to create a space where everyone can be and get engaged in reading and the community. My audience has appreciated the story. And not everyone will. At least my first (not-so-constructive) criticism was in person. At least it was direct. At least it wasn't a person who truly needed the story.

The library is not the venue for my book. The library should carry copies for sure. But that's not the place to promote it. The book is about serious problems. It's uncomfortable at times. And that's not what a library is for.

I'd asked and received the answer, "no."

I self-published. No one knows where the publishing industry is headed and I took a risk and put my neck out to do this. I don't have a reputation yet. So book stores see me as a risk. I'm asking them to take that risk and it makes me terribly nervous.

But if I think of the path this book is taking like one of the mazes my son does, I can see the end. In the end, I do well as an author. In the end, I'm moved by women who read my book and tell me their stories of being sexually abused, of living in residential treatment, of finding their paths. Someone notices the line that I loved writing most when Seffra is under her kitchen table carving in the under belly of the wood and how the fibers snapped like teeth breaking. As a reader, I live for lines that I can taste in my mouth or that move my mind across skies, lines that grind grit between my teeth.

When I tell my kids no, I realize how they don't want to hear it. Sometimes I get down on their level in order to try to help them see that "no" is not really a bad thing. They simply need to change tacks.

So I continue to ask. I realize that no is a dead end in the maze. It's the part that tells me I'm going the wrong way; I need to turn around so I can get to the end. No, is simply a redirection. It says, nope, not the library. It says I need to change tacks, try something else, connect with artists, connect with the disenfranchised. That is my path.

Here are the tacks that have gotten me partway through the maze:
  • I did my first live reading at a coffee shop in Breckenridge. It was terrifying and wonderful and people listened and I got one under my belt. Plus, I got to have an evening out.
  • I met the owner of a small book shop who invited me to do a reading at his shop and offered to carry my book
  • Colorado Mountain College where I work will be selling copies of my book and will be featuring me in their Speaker Series where I'll give a reading and a talk and sell books. This will be huge in providing credibility to me as a writer and will also be a tremendous boost to me professionally. Or so I think. I'm not at the end of the maze yet.
  • I have an author event scheduled at Bookbar in Denver and am very excited for the excuse to go to that venue and check out their digs.
  • I'll be having a release party soon and dang if releasing this book isn't something to celebrate the hell out of!
If you hadn't seen it before, here's the link to pick up a copy of my book, Between Families, which I am terribly proud of and hope you enjoy:

And if you don't, change tacks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Collony Collapse- a poemish thing I wrote at Tallgrass Writer's Workshop

If you take a walk on a college campus,
do it on a Saturday in June.
It's a ghost town then.
Students tucked in,
no more dressing in stockings to head down to the Student Union for breakfast,
with hair fresh out of rollers, the crick not yet worked out.
Graduation has moved online.
You wear a cap and gown at midnight and Skype in from Greece and Thailand,
or work's bathroom if you transferred in from community college.
So go to a college campus on a Saturday in June.
Sit in a carefully landscaped courtyard, where your thoughts can settle like the dust on a bookshelf
far from the honeysuckle smells of the countryside which are souring now, fermenting, dying.
Where cottontopped folks sit in rockers and used to give uninterrupted advice,
whether it was 140 characters or *gasp* more.
In the courtyard, you'll find, along with your dusty thoughts,
a concrete fountain turned off and a piano in waiting.
Chiseled in the concrete, evidence of the past in block letters
1932, 1934, 1935
and the piano,
draped with a bright blue tarp begging to be undressed, caressed, keys tinkled on,
it's tied to a street lamp, dimmed now.
Strapped down like the identity of the town whore (then)
or worse, the town bore (now,) pompous and self-interested.
Still telling long tales of who was who and what family wronged which
and which was what one and which ones were who
While millenials zip by in peddal pushers and helmets.
What used to be reserved for Saturdays at home- the pedal pushers
or pilots- the helmets
They're chasing the bees.
They've gone missing, haven't you heard? Colony collapse.
It's all the twitter here
A screen blue, a few taps & the light changes, brightens.
Faces alight, the youth mobilize, ipheromones at the ready

directing them where and when
abuzz the hundreds of followers pass flowers blooming in the bushes.
The birds cheaping and nesting in recovered private.
A statue in bronze, a hornet in World War II attire.
It's not what the swarm had hoped for.
Was a hornet part of the collapse or just honey bees?
They'd wanted a queen.
Someone to order them,
tell them what to do,
how to protest,
how to fix it all.
in 140 characters or less
a brand
that block letter stamps into you
the answers
short and sweet.
Not a relic in a flight suit
male and irrelevant. A drone.
I pull out a pocket knife.
Night falls.
The street light chirps on.
The millenials and bees and ideas all gone off
I settle in,
cut the cords
lift the lid
and play.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Two Moms

I've been reading crap I shouldn't read. I shouldn't read it because it clouds my head with bad writing but I miss reading so bad reading is what happens. I can't read books when I'm writing. I can't hear my own voice well enough when I'm listening to someone else's.

I read this article I won't cite here because it's not worth you reading it really either. It's a nice idea, I guess. It's a set of photos of moms sitting next to each other. The photos each contain two women each holding a sign that says what two divergent choices they've made as moms. "I had a scheduled c-section. I had a planned homebirth."

The idea, of course, being that two women who have made very different choices can find common ground and be friends. And the reason I take offense is NO FUCKING DUH. Of course two women can make different choices and still be friends. We're grown ASS WOMEN.

Don't insult us like that.

The premise is this mamby pamby bullshit I don't like that implies that because women disagree, sometimes vehemently about these choices, that they're being sophomoric. That disagreements among women are to be taken down to a level where we're being adolescent girls fighting over boyfriends instead of adults making profoundly meaningful decisions with vast impacts on an entire generation of children. To degrade our disagreements on decisions like whether to breastfeed or not and what method of discipline to use, is to degrade our next generation.

The decisions we make as parents are far-reaching and meaningful. They are not benign or arbitrary.

If you choose to feed your child fastfood vs. organic home cooked meals, let's not call those two equal decisions.

I'm not saying you can't value a friend or that a mom is a horrible person for making a decision that was in the moment, the best decision she could make. I'm not saying we should fail to support one another and henpeck her to death. But let's neither pretend that the two decisions were equally valueable. One decision was harder.

I cloth diaper my kids. I don't like rinsing shit in the toilet. Not at all. I don't want a totem pole of martyrdom rectified in my honor for it or anything. But when you say, "that must be hard." It is. And I should be doing more. I should be taking the bus more. You should too. We should be preparing our stories for our children of why we made the choices we did. I want to be able to say, "I tried. I bought things used and recycled and used cloth instead of depositing piles of shit in a landfill."

We shouldn't be holding hands and pretending like none of it matters. Neither should we be scrapping over who does what best. We SHOULD be pushing each other to be better. Not every choice leads to the best outcome. Is it really so bad to have to justify the choices you made? Because certainly not all of mine have been good. But I should be able to be proud of the ones I made that were hard-wrought and good. And so should you. And when you made better choices than I did, I hope it made us all better.

Friday, January 3, 2014

I'm thinking a lot about giving birth last year since it was a year ago tomorrow that I had Gavin. Here's what I have to say:

His birth was such a great experience that it made me understand why people video tape birth. I would watch it again. It was amazing to not know he was coming, be trying not to push, and suddenly have it be over and have this squishy beauty in my arms who latched on for all he was worth.

Gavin is the sweetest soul I have ever been attached to. He burrowed in and held tight and I adore him the softest parts of my soul like ... nothing else.

Giving birth both times is the closest I've ever felt to Rob. When things are tough, we work things out together. He helps me breathe and focus and I'm so glad I'm parenting with him.

We have been through the ringer with him lately. He has a reflux disorder that impacts his kidneys and so we've spent the last 2 weeks dealing with major surgery for him. Much like in giving birth, the support you need is there. Breathe. Rob and I can do this.

It really takes a village. I've taken the help. It's led me to new and deeper relationships. I have a friend who has taken my 3 year old on a moment's notice on 3 separate occasions. The kids wouldn't be doing this well without relationships like that. Rob and I wouldn't be doign this well without relationships like the exchange student that lives at my mom's who came and shoveled the driveway when we brought Gavin home after surgery. Or my friend who just came to town and tagged along while we had Gavin's stents taken out semi-emergently and then bought us lunch. We have a good village and a good kid.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I wrote a book. I wrote it a long time ago. And it wasn't very good. But then I started getting my master's degree in writing in order to learn how to edit a book. And I learned how to edit a book. Check.

So then I went back to my book. And that's how I knew the first draft wasn't very good. It wasn't terrible either. You'd read it through to the end likely. But it needed direction and to be more fluid. Plus, I'm a better writer now than I was when I wrote the first draft. So I tackled a lot of the focusing and rewriting this fall.

The book's about a girl who is removed from her home and lives in residential treatment. I wanted a story like this to exist. I felt like people needed it to exist. So I wrote it.

But I've felt weird about writing my book. I feel like someone might slap me across the face and yell "IMPOSTER"

But the thing is, I believe in the story. And I wrote a good book. Those are important. And while I don't know that I accomplished the huge goals I had of making a story for people who've been through it, and also of making a story that will bring some awareness to these stories to the public, I did my damnest.

So who the hell am I to write a story like this or to ask people to donate money to make it great? It turns out, I'm the one who wrote it down. I'm the one who tried. And even if I didn't meet these goals, maybe it will spur someone else on to doing it better. There's far more than one story of kids in residential treatment but if this is the one you read, I wrote a good book at least.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Struggles & The Luxuries

I made friends with my birthing class teacher. I did it because she is the kind of woman you can tear your pants in front of and not bother to change, the kind of woman you don't have to clean your house to have over, the kind of woman you can give birth in front of. It doesn't hurt that she's beautiful.

I like having beautiful friends. And I have a lot of them. I'm spoiled like that. I hate to admit this, but I really like to have good-looking teachers. The truth is, if someone's teaching you, there's a solid chance you're staring at that person's face for a long, long time and it's nicer to do if it's a pretty face. I bet there's no research on that, but I bet it's true that all other things being equal, we like pretty teachers better. So I made friend with this pretty teacher lady and it's turned out really nicely. I also love her daughter who is a special class of spitfire.

Anyway, my friend came over the other day to have our kids play while we drink coffee and be in this world together. I can be in the struggle with this friend. And that's quality. She and I are having similar struggles. We're good moms who are skilled at finding resources and activities in the community and sometimes we don't get enough sleep and get annoyed with our kids. We both stopped working at maximum capacity and stayed home (mostly) with our kids. We both bought our homes when we were DINKs (dual income no kids,) and then nearly cut our incomes in half and now have two kids. We both enjoy working and enjoy grownup time and trying to figure out how to approach a balance with that is a challenge.

I have cast my lot and made my choice. I quit my job and went to school and I'm finishing my book which isn't as good as I want but isn't bad either. I pursue being a writer. And eventually I'll make a living at it. It may take a long, long time, but I have a long life ahead of me and enjoy working at this so that's ok. Mostly.  Sometimes it doesn't feel so ok.

It doesn't feel great that we buy gifts for birthday parties at thrift stores. Even though it is a more earth-friendly gift giving method, I feel cheap and trashy about our gifts sometimes. A three or four-year old doesn't know where you got a present. He only knows it's awesome. Still, I feel cheap when I get them at a thrift or consignment store. Even though I don't feel that way when someone gives us those gifts. I prefer them. Because it's a more sustainable practice and it makes me feel like the person giving the gift gets our family and its values. But when I do it, I know we have to do it that way. We don't have the income to spare.

And the income struggle is the struggle for us. I feel that struggle when we can't afford to visit family most. When I stress about how to pay for insurance which I haven't purchased yet. When I can't take the kids for an activity like a cool scenic train ride or when I can't buy the expensive coffee I want. Or when I'm deciding whether to attend graduation and not having the money to rent the cap and gown is a problem. Sometimes not being able to do something makes me want to do it more.

I quit my job at the beginning of 2012 and I don't regret it for a second. That job was killing me. And I'm good at tons of things so it's profoundly stupid for me to spend time working in something that makes me that miserable. That said, I feel responsible for the financial situation we're in now.

I fantasize about the day when I'll make a good living and enable my husband to quit his job and play guitar all day. He knows I'd do it and there's a reciprocity there that helps me get through this time when he's supporting us. I feel uncomfortable about that. Him supporting us. It feels like I've done a shitty job as a feminist even though that's not what it's about.

What it IS about is making a good decision for our family. Parenting my kids and pursuing writing. I have to do it. Or what the hell kind of person am I?

When I think back to how I got through it when I very first quit, I remember thinking of all the luxuries this choice provided for our family. So much time to sit on the floor and sing with my boy. Time to make elaborate healthy meals with whole ingredients, including grating my own orange zest and making a rue for pasta. The time I spent with Magnus resulted in him being more secure; you could tell within a month or two he felt that way.

And it's still a struggle. That truth sits in my delicious coffee mug filled with homebrewed coffee with my favorite chip in the side of the mug. I like the way the chip fits against my bottom lip when I hold my spoon to the side and slurp. We don't have money. We've sold our car and tried to sell our house and deferred our loans in order to have this life together. That truth cools my mouth.

But there are these luxuries that you just can't buy with money. I play ring-around-the-rosie and read parenting books that I get time to apply. I stop what I'm doing to run outside and jump in puddles or grab handfuls of the first snow with the kids. I lay in bed in the morning with both boys clambering for snuggles from every person in the bed. Sometimes they bonk heads and laugh and do it again because all those smooches and hugs pad the pain of any struggle. I write. I write and write. I teach and live to inspire myself to write and teach more. I watch videos to see what I can use to inspire my students and catch the bug in the process. I help. I cook and I pet my cat and wear yoga pants while writing my blog. My life is luxurious. It is full and well worth the struggle.