Day Two

February 27, 2015

I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly eight years. What does this have to do with writing you ask? Let me tell you! A lot of the principles that apply to a successful yoga practice are also imperative for writers.
1. Body on Mat for Practice
2. Butt in Chair for Writing
Also with both, it is helpful to have a special-to-you place. When I prepare for class, I put on comfortable clothes, I bring my own mat, and I try to arrive 15-20 minutes early to imbue myself with yoga studio ambiance. When writing, I go to one of two places in my house. I don’t have a dedicated work space, yet, so it’s either the couch or the kitchen table. Both of which I really like. I need silence concentrate, some sort of beverage, and a window.
One of my favorite teachers said something striking that applies to this project, and my yoga practice, that I have yet to be able to incorporate into my writing. Or completely understand, to be honest. What she said was this “our normal tendencies seem to appear when we get on our mat. If we are inclined to hurry and be thoughtless to what we are doing, that will show in the practice”. She advised us to try to do the opposite of whatever felt natural.
How the fuck am I supposed to do that? I thought in the most yogic way possible. In my practice, my tendencies are to push and work as hard as I can. That is not my tendency when writing. Maybe it’s due to the window or something, but a lot of my dedicated writing time is spent staring off into space rolling the same thought over in my head. Maybe what I’m saying is, well I’m not sure. I was about to write that yoga feels natural. But often times at the beginning of class when we are sitting or moving slowly, I feel resistant to getting up and moving more vigorously. I like being still and stretching and feeling calm. But once I get into the flow, I totally go with it. I start to crave the sweat, the edge, the challenge to keep my breath even and full.
When I wrote my novel, it spilled out of me. There wasn’t a ton of plotting or outlining. The words were there. Though as you may recall, not the story. It was easy. I think that’s why I truly and completely believed it would get published and I would become a NYT bestselling author. I didn’t build from the ground up. Meaning, there was no foundation, i.e. no story. When it came time to edit, I did try to wait the recommended minimum of six weeks but only lasted four. I stared at the 67,000 words I’d written and had no clue where to start. I couldn’t even tell which parts worked and which parts didn’t. This was partly due to my attachment to something I had spent hundreds of hours on, but also inexperience. I started with the easy parts. Typos, misused or misspelled words, run-on sentences and the like. So while the book wasn’t polished, it was definitely cleaner. I printed it out, as I had been instructed via On Writing by Stephen King, and went through with my red pen looking for plot holes and inconsistencies. I cleared up the glaring errors, dusted it off and declared it ready for beta readers.
More inexperience crept in here. This is by no means a dis or a criticism of the gracious volunteers who read my work and took the time to make comments. They were all great. In fact, so many of them said they loved it, my delusions of grandeur blew up and I fired off several queries to prospective agents. What I needed was someone to tell me this “this is a good start, but it needs a ton of work.” One person did tell me that, but I chose not to pay too much attention. So many others had praised it, why listen to criticism? I admit, it was a deliberate choice. She was my one writer friend, so she knew what she was talking about. But my natural inclination was to go with what was easy. And that was deciding to be finished. It didn’t work out the way I wanted. That’s on me.
Now that I’m choosing to do the work, I have to figure out what the antithesis looks like. It may seem obvious to you, but it’s not to me and that’s why I’m here. How do I get into the flow and crave the sweat, the edge, the challenge? How do I train myself not to be afraid of the process?
As Vizzini said, you have to go back to the beginning. So I have. Well, sort of.
I enrolled in an online essay writing class. I joined a writing group. I found a critique partner. I think my hope is that if I can put my work out there and have other writers help me see where I go wrong, I can learn to craft my story and find my flow.
Have I chosen the wrong genre? Being an avid and near obsessive fan of Law & Order doesn’t mean I have to write crime fiction. My novel is a mystery, btw. At the time I wrote, it felt natural. And in a way it was. As I said, I wrote a “story” in two months. It was one of those things you hear successful writers say. That it has to come from somewhere as if you can’t help but write the story. And dammit, that book did. I digress.
As I’ve written this out, a little thought keeps bubbling up. Process has never really been my thing. I’m one of those annoying people who buy put-it-together-yourself furniture and doesn’t like to read the instructions. Mostly, I start trying to figure it out myself. This has merits, but if the damn instructions are RIGHT THERE, why wouldn’t I follow them? So maybe my natural tendency is to lean toward instinct and intuition, tools that work for me in many ways, but not here.
Crap.

Just a Little Somethin

February 27, 2015

I want to be Tina Fey. Wait, wanting to be someone that is not you is creepy. Let me correct myself. I want to write funny, biting, thoughtful pieces that are seen or read by millions. I’ve already got brown hair and glasses, so I’m at least 20% of the way there.
This is probably not a surprise to anyone. Not because you know me and are familiar with my inner-most desires of being a successful comedic writer and creator. In fact, you’re probably scratching your head and trying to think of the last funny thing I said. No. It’s unsurprising because who wouldn’t want or aspire to walk in her footsteps?
This isn’t an homage to Tina Fey’s many, and there are many, accomplishments. This is an exploration in to what it would take to write something I’m proud of and have people read it. And since I haven’t made you laugh yet, I’m reducing my advancement to 10%. So where to begin?
The natural place to start would be writing. Duh. How else can you be a writer if you don’t write? Google advice on how to “become a writer” and you will find multiple variations of the tip “to be a writer, one must read a lot and write a lot”. Also, “write what you know”. But this has recently been disputed. Unless you have first hand knowledge of or experience in sword fighting, nefarious love triangles with people who turn out to be your third cousin, or the new best way to make a PB&J (I would read that), maybe write about something exciting that you made up. Or better yet, stole from someone else. (See? Jokes!)
Being inspired is the best and easiest part for me. I create lists, make loose plans, then sit back and reward myself with a glass of sparkling wine. The next day I’ll check my progress and see that I stopped working before I did any actual work. I like wine, what can I say? What I find difficult is pinpointing the best place to start, going to said place, and starting. I hem and I haw. I ponder and daydream, then my kid is awake from her nap and it’s too late.
Eight years ago I decided to I wanted to be a writer. So I did what any burgeoning writer would do. I began my first novel. It was going to be a book loosely based on my experience as a hairdresser. I got about 5,000 words in before I realized I didn’t know what the actual story was. I had content, sure, but there was no story. No compelling character arc to carry the reader through. This unfortunate metaphor would crop up often for me.
I stopped writing that book and started a blog. Of course I started a blog in the aughts, who didn’t? It was…ok. Throwing together 300-600 word “think pieces” or, more realistically, “here is some shit I feel like saying” made me feel like I was closer to my goal. Though to be honest, I still hadn’t exactly formulated a solid goal. More like a blurred vision with money and accolades waiting for me at the finish line.
It may not surprise you that I stopped doing that, too. Sometimes when I feel like seeing how far I’ve come—AKA OMG who wrote this horse shit—I’ll read back over some of those entries.
Then I moved back to Chicago from the Bay Area and started writing personal essays. Or, longer and more thoughtful versions of the earlier iteration of my blog. Though I’ve added to it over the years, from its inception in 2009, there are only 25 posts. A sad average. While I learned that I liked sharing my thoughts and experiences with people—from afar of course, I’m scared to death of actual people—for some reason, this blog too felt intimidating. And rather than work through things slowly and at my own pace, I stopped writing all together. I don’t know if this is a familiar tale. Person wants to do something, thing scares person, so person ignores it. Person feels guilty, incomplete.
Then I moved to New York City. Wow! That’s where Tina Fey lives! I never met her. But I did write a novel. Yeah, the person who couldn’t even write the occasional blog post wrote a whole freaking novel. It was OK, not great, but a good first attempt. This was just over a year ago. There were a lot of good elements in my book as well as various places for improvement. I did a decent first round of edits, considered it finished, and assumed those aforementioned accolades and piles of cash were soon to come. Sadly, and most expectedly, I was mistaken. I could write all the most popular platitudes like, the market is so saturated, you have to write several novels before you have a publishable one, and people are blind to my novel’s brilliance. Most of those are true. But what I found to be the harshest reality is I don’t know shit about writing long form. I received notes back from prospective agents that while my writing and voice were very good, the story wasn’t there. Dammit. The dreaded non-story again.
Instead of trying to fix the story and create intrigue where there was none, I again ignored it. I thought if I stepped back, read a ton of books and tried to enjoy life, some sort of epiphany would come and my problem would be solved. Four months later, no such epiphany. I can say my writing continues to improve, but where I’m in trouble is story telling. A most essential tool to a good book.
Much contemplation and expensive therapy appointments later, I’ve started to wonder if my inability to tell a decent story is a direct reflection on me. What is my story? I don’t know. So that’s what this is. This being my attempt to formulate a goal, a real and attainable goal, make the list, plot the steps, and then take them. One by one. And tell you all about it. This is my story.

I do appreciate you being ’round

August 12, 2014

As someone who has struggled with both mild and severe depression, Robin Williams’ suicide has affected me deeply. I’m always saddened when a person dies from what feels like a preventable circumstance. But when a person reaches their absolute worst and the only way out is to die, my heart aches for them and their family.

I’ve been there. I’ve felt all was lost and believed I would be better off dead. When one feels suicidal there are complex emotions and feelings involved. It isn’t transient: I don’t feel like eating soup today or I’m bummed that there’s a hole in my second favorite shirt. It isn’t even a feeling really. Depression that severe, that desperate, that powerful becomes you. There is nothing else. Can you imagine what it must be like to be certain that your life isn’t worth living, and that you are also unworthy of love or help? That the people in your life might actually be relieved to be rid of you?

Words are thrown around when suicide is a headline. Words like waste, shame, selfish. None of these touch the reality of a person living a suicidal life. When I was overwhelmed with wanting to die it seemed the opposite of selfish. I thought if I died, it would be selfLESS. Then no one I loved would have to suffer my shitty existence any longer. When life got too hard for me, it wasn’t because I was tired of doing dishes and balancing bank accounts. It was because every single thing I did every single day felt like Sisyphus straining into the boulder. I felt trapped in my own grief and sadness and what sounded like a never ending voice in my head whispering “there is a way out, you know…” It’s excruciating. It’s physical, it’s mental, it’s physiological. Everything in your body is working against you.

This may surprise people who know me. I exhausted myself in public pretending everything was normal. Over my near thirty years of life, I have worked to perfect the perky smile, the little jokes, and small talk it required to be around other people. I would return home or put my daughter to bed then cave in on myself. It all became too much. Maybe that’s why depression has such a stigma. Instead of sitting in a corner at a party and crying my eyes out I faked it. Instead of being honest with people, I pretended I was as normal as they. But what if they also were faking? What if they too would rather join me in the corner?

Tempted as I was, and there were days I came close to making the plan, I was able to say loudly enough for someone to hear “I’m reaching the end of my rope and if something doesn’t happen soon, I will die.” I started therapy the next week. I’ve been going ever since. It wasn’t laziness or weakness that kept me from asking for help sooner, it was because I didn’t know if a) I could be helped or b) people would even want to help me. I hope I never get back there again. But I may and hopefully I can find it inside myself, amidst all the pain and evil whispers, to reach out as often as it takes.

Hi. My name is Beka and I suffer from depression. If you or someone you know needs help, don’t wait, drop everything, get help. In the meantime, hug the people you love and tell them you’re grateful they are in your life.

Frittata and More

April 23, 2014

Sunday I got the bright idea to make an Easter brunch. It would only have to feed my husband, two year old daughter, and me so nothing over the top required. I decided to make something I hadn’t cooked before. Not because it’s a difficult or complicated dish, but why would anyone want a quiche with no crust? That’s basically what a frittata is. But seeing as how we had two cartons of eggs and no flour…

The recipe seemed simple enough. Whisk eggs with cream, and sprinkle in salt and pepper. I added a cup of grated cheddar, undoubtedly more than the recipe called for, then slowly poured the mixture over my butter-sautéed onions and spinach. As an after thought I threw in some garlic because garlic/onion/spinach go hand in hand. Right?

I followed the directions in my Cooks Illustrated cookbook, gently drawing my silicon spatula through the eggs, until large curds started to form. I waited “patiently” while the crust formed on the bottom of the pan before shoving it under the broiler. Two observations: first, don’t cook a new dish when you are blindingly hungry and second, read the instructions more than once. How did I read 5 to 7 minutes when it clearly says 3 to 4? That’s a big difference.

The frittata sat under the fire for just 90 seconds too long. When I pulled it out, instead of a lightly browned and bubbly top, it was crisp and unmoving. When I cut into my hastily prepared Easter brunch for my family, instead of fluffy and moist, the eggs were rubbery and dry. I sliced it up anyway and brought out our plates with the frittata and a freshly made fruit salad. My daughter yelled “pizza” upon spying the triangular shaped concoction. Sadly, it was not.

As I bit into my crustless quiche, I was immediately met with an overwhelming garlic taste. For years I have claimed that there is no such thing as too much garlic. I stand here today, head in hands as I admit I was wrong. My quick toss morphed into nothing short of eating a clove of raw garlic encased by burnt egg and cheese. Needless to say, my good intentions also fell a bit flat.

The moral of this story is making a new dish is comparable to writing a first draft. Often times it’s going to be terrible, perhaps even unrecognizable. Perhaps you toss in random things you have lying around in hopes of creating something special, innovative. When you offer it up your inner voices may try to convince you writing (or cooking) should be left to people with innate talent, good looks, and most importantly, not you.

But I tell you now, I will make more frittatas (and more quiche because crust) and I will write more stories. First attempts are meant to work out kinks and find a good balance of ingredients. Keep cooking and keep writing. Garlic blobs or bad dialogue be damned.

Piano Lessons

April 11, 2014

Everyone in my family has some sort of musical talent. And I mean everyone. Both my dad and my step father play the guitar and sing. My mother can still play the flute and sings. My step mom is the church choir director and plays sax. My middle sister Sarah has a beautiful voice and has won state singing competitions. And my oldest sister Lis always got the lead in her high school plays: Oklahoma, Prelude to a Kiss, and some play where they were on a boat. And then there’s me. Sure I can hum and sing along to a song, but only if my slightly nasal voice is masked by a group or I am in the privacy of my home. But no one ever heard me sing and thought, I should try to develop that. 

I’m sure many people can relate to parents cajoling you in to one form of creative musical expression or another. Mine was piano. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to learn the piano, my parents informed me they had signed me up for the lesson slot following my sister Sarah. Sarah could already play pieces that required both hands at the same time. Though I hadn’t asked for it, there I would sit in the back room at Carolyn’s hippie house. Her lesson room was carpeted in old beige shag. Plants and Tibetan tapestries covered every square inch that wasn’t used by the upright piano or Carolyn’s chair, where she would watch and correct. 

“No, no, no,” she would say. “You have to have more of a delicate arch, your fingers should want to move on their own. Your body wants to play the piano.”

Instead of the dainty arches Carolyn wanted, my fingers more closely resembled hands that had gone into rigor mortis. But despite my body’s protest against the piano, every Wednesday afternoon I thumped out Row Row Row Your Boat while her cat judged at me. 

After my half hour of brain-searing torture was over, I would hand her a check one of my parents had written and wait out on the concrete stoop. She welcomed me to wait in her house, but I felt thirty minutes was enough. Plus I ran the risk of breaking things. 

Once I had waited inside—my parents were always late—and I was inspecting all of her books and ornamental figurines. She had been in the restroom when I accidentally dropped a glass Buddha statue and it chipped. Horrified I set it back where I had found it, put the broken chip in my pocket and stood stick-straight by the glass door until my father rolled up in his blue Dodge. From then on I decided it was better if I just waited outside. 

Carolyn instructed me to practice everyday but it was hard to find time. Between school and not wanting to practice the piano, I really couldn’t fit it in. The one time I did choose to practice outside of my weekly lessons it was 7am on a Sunday morning. This was around Christmas time and I was wearing a matching teal sweat suit with a polar bear on the front and pink and grey striped gloves. My mother and step-father liked to keep the house Arctic cold. 

Given I didn’t often rehearse, my repertoire was limited and somewhat plunky. Our piano sat in the living room off the hallway that led to my sisters’ and my bedrooms. Keeping with the season, I decided to try to play some of the Christmas hymns out of our Hymnal. 

I must have been giving it all of I had because my oldest sister, who had ten years on me, stormed out of her room in her nightgown. Her hair was all over the place and she had made her hands into fists that were held in close to her hips, her arms locked.  

“What are you doing at this ungodly hour?” she wailed at me, her face red with rage.

I thought better of reminding her that it was Sunday, and therefore all hours were Godly. I shrugged and continued hammering away at my rendition of  “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. 

“Stop playing right now, Rebekah.” She used my full name to try to get under my skin.

 I wouldn’t so she took one of her fists and punched me across the face. I was stunned. She hadn’t really hurt me. I mean I was only seven, how much force could she really have used? 

“I’m sleeping. Why are you trying to ruin my life?” She stomped down the hallway, not missing the two by four metal air grate that graced the floor in our hallway and screamed one final time. 

 After she slammed her door, I started to cry. Me and the door, victims before 8am.

My mother’s feet barely grazed the sky-blue shag carpeting on the stairs as she descended down on me. 

“What is going on down here? Are you making all that noise?” she said.

“Lis punched me.” I said.

“What? Why on Earth would she punch you?” she said.

“Because I’m playing the piano at an ungodly hour even though it is Sunday.” Of all people I thought my mother, a Methodist minister, would understand.

“Rebekah, 7am is too early to play the piano on any day. Go to your room and apologize to your sister when she gets up.”

I couldn’t believe it. The one day I had gone out of my way to practice the piano, no one gave a shit about it and I was being sent to my room. 

“Well, I’m never going back to piano if my hard work is going to be met with violence,” I said.

“Rebekah, you don’t want to quit do you?” She said quit with such malice I didn’t argue. I guess I didn’t want to be a quitter.

Lis must have felt guilty for punching a seven-year-old across the face. For the next year, she bribed me into going to my piano lessons with clear Pepsi, Cheetos Puffs, and an on-time pick up. The arrangement satisfied me for a while. But eventually after months of Carolyn’s cat and I scowling at each other, I realized I couldn’t play one more stinking note of sheet music.

I decided to bring this up with my mother on the way to school one day. My mother was driving and nodding along to a story on NPR about recycling and composting. Lightly running my fingers over the peeling window tint, I kept my gaze safe from hers.

“Mom, you know how I hate piano?” I started. 

I felt her eyes on me. “Hate? Hate is a very strong word. Are you sure you hate piano? Don’t you think it would be better to reserve such a strong word for things that merit hate? Like Nazis?” she said.

I dropped the subject, because what could I counter with when Nazis were brought up? But she didn’t make me go the following week. Or the week after that. Or the week after that.

What’s for dinner?

April 9, 2014

It seems so simple. The ingredients can vary. You can choose whatever you like. There are probably one million options to make the perfect burger. You could almost say having a good burger directly correlates to your quality of life.

I take a good meat, cheese, lettuce, pickle, onion, bun concoction as seriously as the next gal. I prefer a toasted bun with mustard but that’s me. I’m simple that way. When I was younger my dad like to grill burgers. They were pretty good. My mom preferred to drive us through McDonald’s or Whataburger. I thought they were pretty good too.

When I was fifteen, I went to Paris on a modeling audition. I had been invited to go after an agency had viewed my portfolio. I know what you’re thinking. Burgers and modeling? Hardly the grilled meat and cheese combo.

Before arriving in Paris I was super excited about being cultured. That’s what I would think as I stood in front of my full-length mirror, donning my most American outfits-smoky eye included-and tell myself. I’m just going to be so cultured and sophisticated. One thing I hadn’t really considered was that I wasn’t what one would consider an adventurous eater. More blatantly put, I was not cultured in the art of fine food. Now, you might be sitting there thinking what’s so adventurous about French food? It’s basically a pound of butter and myriad ingredients. Am I right?

However, it all looked different once having arrived in Paris. I mean, you order a plate of french fries and they bring you a fork and a gravy-boat sized serving of mayo. So after my mom would indulge herself in delicious and authentic French cuisine we would run to the local McDonald’s and get me a cheeseburger. BigMacs were too weird. They have this sauce that isn’t pink but isn’t red. But it’s definitely not food whatever it is.

After I had enough of trying to be a cultured French model my mother and I were having our farewell to Paris dinner at a tiny cafe. My mom was pleased that I was going to try to eat at the same time as her and I was excited because they had burgers on the menu. No, reader, it didn’t matter that I had eaten McDonald’s everyday, at least once, for the previous 11 days.

My mother was busy people watching and smiling and I was busy missing cheerleading when the waiter brought our dinner. My mother’s plate held a perfectly grilled white fish with buttered (of course) green beans. My “burger” was a steak with a fried egg on top. The “fries” roasted potatoes. I burst into tears at the table declaring France the anti-Christ when it came to food. You might be wondering if I ate it. Oddly, I ate the egg and potatoes, deciding it was breakfast.

Looking back now, I laugh at myself. Who wouldn’t want a steak, cooked perfectly with crispy and buttery potatoes? Me. The girl who loves fast food and hates steak. Also, feta. Really hated feta as a young person. Now, I think I could subsist on feta and steak for quite some time.

Once back home in the States, I was able to leave that scary French burger impersonator behind and get back to normal food. You know, bun, meat, cheese, pickle, lettuce, mustard. And fries. Always fries. As time does, one hopes, my tastes matured as I grew older and I began to appreciate what you might say was cultured and fine food. I started eating peppers, eggs, and greens other than iceberg lettuce.

This was fortunate because when I turned 21, I moved to Chicago with my sister who had little tolerance for my unique eating habits. I lived in Chicago for eight years. Chicago felt most like home. I had family, routine, stability, and fun. Everything a girl could want. Except a great fucking burger. Over all of those eight years, I never found the perfect burger. I had tons of perfectly good burgers, some even considered gourmet. Most though were a far cry from a place I would consider going to 11 days in a row.

Now I live in New York City. A city that I should love, by all intents and purposes. This is a place where one can never be out of place. It should be perfect for me. There are more than one type of every single human. Hippie, angry, goth, douche, bro, model, normal, boring, loves food, hates food. Then there’s me. I don’t know what type of category I fall in to so, after being here for 14 months, I still haven’t found where I fit. Sometimes I worry that I’m an alien or a French person. Then I remember how much I love cheeseburgers and sigh happily that I’m just an average American. Self-absorbed, convinced I’m one of a kind, and constantly seeking perfection.

However, in this concrete jungle, I have found the most delicious burger. Maybe one of the best I’ve ever had. My husband and I wandered in to this East Village eatery after being refused from another haughty East Village establishment. “We take reservations, you know,” the 19 year old spat at us from behind the hostess stand.

Anyhoo, they fill my burger with pimento cheese, top it with briny pickles, and grill it to a perfect medium heat. The pimento cheese steams just so that it melts as you bite into it, but not so melty it runs down your chin. It’s fucking perfect.

What does all of this have to do with anything you might be wondering. Well, gentle reader I’ll tell you. Nothing. I love a good fucking burger and don’t care where I get it. I suppose I could also be saying that food is important and has significance in your life. Home is where the perfect burger is or something. For some it’s an aromatic mushroom, others a crumbly gorgonzola, perhaps butter pickles. Me? A pimento cheese filled burger in New York City, a griddled and slathered with tangy mustard burger in Austin, and my husband’s homemade burger salads. Sacrilege, I know.

Don’t Mess With Texas

June 26, 2013

Here I sit in my Upper West Side apartment on my sofa with dog, my husband, a cup of hot coffee, and no one threatening my rights or privacy. I was not up until after midnight last night praying, Tweeting, posting, rallying, or protesting. My senate was not working to pass legislation that affects me and not them. I didn’t have to worry that should I ever face the impossible decision of whether to carry a pregnancy to term, I would have to find clandestine, dangerous, illegal, and possibly life threatening alternatives to the safe clinics in existence.

Last night I closed my computer after fussing over an inconvenient iTunes problem and went to bed at 10:30, safe and sound with no worry of my fellow New York women’s reproductive rights or privacy being at stake.

A different story played out at the Capitol in Austin, TX. In my home state- a state that I love for its beauty, food, kindness, and family- women were fearful that they were not considered humans worthy of making a very personal, a very private, and a very hard decision. Women were fearful their rights were being stripped from them. My sister, my mother, my friends. These women, and some men, prayed, Tweeted, posted, rallied, and protested well into the night to protect their rights and their fellow Texan women’s right to a safe and legal abortion.

No one denies that abortion is a controversial topic. It pulls at our heartstrings, wrestles with our moral fiber, and makes us question when life begins. What is unfathomable to me is another person, man or woman, encroaching on a family’s decisions and personal life. That a pro-life defender believes that a woman can get “cleaned out” in an ER is just plain bonkers. (See quote from Rep. Jodie Laubenberg regarding rape kits.)

What has our great country and my great state come to when our elected officials are allowed to write legislation without fact, reason, or logic? In haste to appeal to future voters and conservative Christians the real issue is being ignored. Instead of inhibiting and drastically limiting a woman’s choice and her options, why aren’t we educating our youth (and elected officials) on sexual education and forcing stricter punishments upon sexual predators? Why are women being denied a choice?

The bill that one fearless women, Wendy Davis, stood on her feet for thirteen hours to filibuster doesn’t make special allowances for women in cases of rape or incest.  It is estimated that 1 in 6 women will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime and over half of rapes aren’t reported out of fear and humiliation. Is no one willing to stand up for these victims? Is no one willing to read biology books to learn about reproduction?

I’m glad of the outcome from last night. I’m glad that, for now, women are protected. But I am saddened by the circumstances in which our voices had to be heard. There are countless women and families faced with the option of late term abortion due to fetal abnormalities so severe, some medical professionals would call it cruel to carry them to term. What about those families? Shouldn’t they be allowed to make their choices in private? What hell that must be for those mothers and fathers. How dare anyone in this society inject their opinions and vitriolic hyperbole into these people’s lives and pain.

Some questions and answers are better left to those whom are faced with these difficult realities. That law does more than close clinics and eliminate late term abortion, it denies women validity. My body, my choice.

I stand with Texas women and I stand with Texas parents.

Who Am I?

April 16, 2013

Since moving to New York my whole identity has shifted. I am a real stay at home mom with no job, my yoga practice has suffered and changed, and I feel like a newlywed and not in a good way.

I worked, albeit part time as a yoga teacher, from three weeks after my daughter was born. It was only a few hours a week but it was a way to keep intact part of my pre-child identity. I still got to be there for nearly every moment of Sadie’s first year (is that a good thing?!) but still got to do my own thing a couple times a week. After we moved I’ve struggled to figure out how best to reenter the teaching world. It might surprise you to learn that New York is different from Chicago. Aside from being saturated with teachers itching to book teaching jobs, I don’t know any studio owners or have friends who can make introductions. No one has heard of where I got my teaching credentials and to be frank, the style of yoga here is a bit different.

When relocating to a different state, there are obvious things that you are leaving behind:  friends, family, your home, jobs, routines, familiarity, etc. I get that. My challenge now is the little nuances that made each of those relationships meaningful. Walking down the hall to visit my sister, brother in law, and nephew is no longer an option. Just being able to see them regularly was great enough, but throwing in a last minute baby sitter or a shoulder to cry on or Friday afternoon cocktail hour was pure gold.

I took for granted having a yoga studio be a constant in my life for three years where I knew the teachers, the smell, how to get there, and that each class was going to give me exactly what I needed.

I feel so alone. My husband works and is gone for about fifty hours a week. I don’t know any other mothers with children my age and I am sometimes bitter that I have to make the effort to form new relationships. I feel like I gave up my entire life and don’t know who I am anymore. I liked things the way they were and am mourning my losses. People like to share their envy and excitement for me when they learn where I live. It’s nice and they mean well. But sometimes it’s hard not to shout in their faces that I could care less about moving to New York and sacrificing everything I had. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed the comfort of familiarity until it was gone. My days are spent going through the motions, ensuring that all my baby’s needs are met when they need to be met and doing my best to keep her fulfilled. My days are not spent fulfilling my own needs.

Often, I am resentful of our move and sad. And this is where I come to the biggest challenge of all. My husband wanted this. He wanted this job and wanted this change to better himself and our family. It’s hard to remember that his intentions are noble and meant to improve our lives. How do I support him? How do I grieve and mourn without blaming him? How do I find purpose? This guilt is thrown on to my already large pile of self pity, sadness, and anger.

What does this have to do with feeling like a newlywed? Going through such a big move , with so much sacrifice has caused us to revisit all those new things you learn upon getting married:  compromise, selflessness, over communicating to avoid a battle when your partner didn’t read your mind. These were hard the first time around and they are hard now.

I’m scared. I know adjusting to a move takes time, it’s one of the biggest life changes one can make. When we moved to San Francisco, sure it was hard. But we were able to throw ourselves into our new community. I found a job that I really liked right away, Scott made friends for us that lived nearby, I found yoga, and most importantly we found wine country and good brew pubs.

Most days I know it will get better, others I contemplate the logistics for moving back to Chicago the upcoming weekend. Grief is a process where you explore what was lost and try to find a way to move forward. Letting go of the past and what I had is the hardest part. And the fact of the matter is I have little choice in remaining in the past. Time keeps moving on, so should I.

New York: Day One

March 6, 2013

God, the past two days have been so boring. No offense Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Jersey but I need more to look at than an RV Hall of Fame and signs for a restaurant called A Real Burrito. Gross! And what was up with the hour and a half wait at the Olive Garden? It’s not even real food, people! Not that we ate there or anything.

This traffic is starting to pile up. Where were all you people yesterday? Well dear, I guess this is the last moment before we “move”  our sweet baby and dog buddy with us to New York.  WTF, we have to pay a $13 entrance fee or “toll” as they like to call it?  Mild enough weather, nice to see the sun. Parking spot on the street in front of our home away from home? Don’t mind if I do! This weather not mild enough for my baby to be outside sans jacket and socks.  Get her dressed! Hurumph, dear.

No, I booked this place. Why? How bad can it be? It’s just for a couple of days until we get our stuff delivered to our $17,000 apartment. No it’s fine that I have to walk sideways to get through the entry hall. Hmmmm. I mean, I can see where they are going decor wise with trying to represent every eastern philosophy and using every available square inch of their real estate here, but I wouldn’t have made these decisions. How bad can it be?

Shit! Baby is crawling over to that broken mirror at perfect baby level. I thought they said this was baby friendly. Baby girl what do you have?! OMG this is crusty roach killing gel she just found under fridge. Sweet baby, you are covered in dust and lint from crawling around on these allegedly clean floors. Buddy, don’t eat that! Hmmmm.

Dear, can you run and take our rental car to a garage, where our fully packed car will remain safe from burglars trying to fence stolen bed linens, the dog crate, plants, and hangers?  I’ll set up the Pack n’ Play in the second “bedroom”, baby is getting tired.  Shit, she just closed the door and some huge and heavy metal thing crashed on her tiny little legs.  I haven’t heard her scream this badly in a while. OK, this could be better but so far could also be worse.

Time to bathe the baby! Is that old soap crusted to the bottom of the their mauve colored, cracked tub?  Gross!  Oh, well.  Came off easily enough.  Great, either scalding hot or ice cold. You gotta wait angel baby, I have to alternate between the water temperatures. This bath water looks kind of filmy. Wait, what’s that floating around in the bath water? Sick! Hair and more dust and lint!  I swear to god that’s a pube. Sick! Gotta get this baby out of there!

I’m going to put your PJs on baby girl, but I don’t really want to set you down because you’ll get dirty.  OK, fine, I guess just get down, you must have gotten most of the dirt of the floor before your bath.  Shit, covered in dust bunnies already.  At least we have wine and can watch the Oscars.  Don’t mind if I do!

Pizza is on the way, baby is in her bed.  It’s kind of cold in here.  I need to find a sweater.  I hope she’s OK.  Pizza is good!  Wine is good!  Oscars are meh.  I’m pretty tired, geeze dear, you still have that cough?  Well let’s go to bed.

Hmmm. I think this is a futon mattress masquerading as a bed.  My feet are falling off the end!  Oh, buddy it’s ok.  I know we can hear every sound every person and every dog makes and every slam of every door, but it’s ok.  Fine, you can come in bed with us.  Shit, there’s not enough covers for both of us. It’s still pretty cold in here. I hope the dog warms me up.  Do you think she’s ok, dear? Buddy, you don’t have to be on high alert for every sound.  Please, let’s just sleep. I’m so tired.

Dog shifting, husband coughing, me freezing. This won’t work. Time to “wake” up, it’s 6:30a. I’ll go get the baby out of her room. Shit, this room is basically an ice box. Didn’t seem to bother her but I hope she doesn’t suffer long term damage. Can you get hypothermia later?

So I see a coffee pot all the way up there but we don’t have any ground coffee or filters or counter space to place the pot. Thanks dear, yes please go find us coffee.  And breakfast. Wow it is really hard to feed a baby with out a high chair. She only had a few bites of food. Hopefully she will eat more at lunch.

Oh crap! I need to schedule our sofa bed delivery time for today so we can get the hell out of this shit hole! What do you mean lady? I was confirmed for today. Yes please, tomorrow at the earliest time will have to do.

Tears, tears, and more tears. I can’t stay here until our stuff comes. It’s gross and cold and uncomfortable and I’m so tired. I haven’t slept a full night in almost two weeks. Sniffle, sniffle, yes an air mattress on the floor of our $17,000 apartment will be fine. I don’t want to move to a hotel and then move out of here and then move into our apartment. I just want to be in our place. Yes, that makes me feel better. Thank you.

OMG, yes please take the dog with you to work. That would be so wonderful. I’ll call you after I get the keys. I’m so excited to go to our apartment! At least she is napping and there is wireless internet here. Call mom, sob, complain, sob. Call sisters, sob, complain, sob.

Time to get the baby up and see if she will eat! NO??? Please, sweet baby. I’m worried about you. You were sick last week, you’re still not fully hydrated. Please just eat or drink. NO??? This is a nightmare! Cold piece of pizza? Don’t mind if I do.

Time to go to our place. Wow, so sunny! This will be a nice walk. Here we are, at our building. It’s so pretty. I forgot to put on real socks and now I have blisters. Oh well. We are home! Home is where our $17,000 is! I wish that saying didn’t end in a preposition.

Hi! Yes I am here for my keys. I’m new. Up the elevator, oh yes I remember those weird but kind of ok wall decals in the hall. I wonder if they are only on our floor. Here’s our place. OMG, I’m so excited. I think Sadie and I should just stay here. She can sleep in her stroller. Wait, why are there men working? Our lease started four days ago. This looks serious. What do you mean we can’t stay here until tomorrow at the earliest? No, no that will not do. Tears are coming, must stop them, tears are coming, must stop them. Yes, we are fine with opening the windows, it’s only 35 degrees. That’s balmy compared to Chicago right now. Sure, fine we will all sleep in the back bedroom. Can I at least leave all the shit in that closet that I lugged over a mile? Great, thanks.

OK, sweet baby. I guess we have to go back to our other place. Please eat or drink, my angel. I’m so worried about you. Please eat something. Alright, well you have to try to nap. Call Mom, sob, complain, sob. Call sisters, sob, complain, sob. I just need to get the hell out of here.

Time to get the baby up! Hopefully she will eat or drink SOMETHING. She’s in good spirits I guess. What was that? Did you just…? Sweet baby, that is some nasty diarrhea. I can only find three wipes! Please eat, baby girl, I’m so worried.

Yes, dear, I need you to skip that meeting or risk the baby and me hightailing it all the way back to Chicago. Please come here now and help us move all our stuff to our $17,000 apartment. Pack, cram, pack. Ready to go!

Sure, I’ll watch Friends.

Cold piece of pizza? Don’t mind if I do. Yay, they’re here! Let’s go right now. Baby girl please get out of the trash. Seriously, we have to go. You drive the car, I’ll walk the babies and meet you there. Do you know how to get there? Great. See you in 20.

Oh, hi. Great parking space! Here is your door key, I have mine. I’ll watch the kids and start airing out the apartment. You bring the stuff up. Hey that’s a lot for the first load! Wait, what? What do you mean you lost your key? I just gave it to you. Where did it go? What do you mean you lost it in the door? How does that even happen. I guess take mine. Shit. Hurumph, dear.

FUCKSHITGODDAMNIT. Well there goes our coffee mugs I so expertly packed so we could have coffee. Oh, hi. Yes, I’m fine. The bottom fell out of this box and I broke some stuff and the baby is trying to escape into the hallway. Totally fine. What’s wrong? What happened? You broke my Nowhere Man. Are you sure? ……………… OK. It’s ok. Let’s just get this done.

Hey! You’re moving at quite a clip! What do you mean you lost the key? My key? That can’t be. Where did you lose it? You think in a bag? What bag? Did you LOOK in that bag? Just move, for fuck’s sake. Stop helping. I’ll find it. Oh, thank god. Here it is. Put it in the same place, every time. Please.

God, that took forever. Ok, you go take the car back to the rental company and I will order food, put the baby down and blow up the air mattress. Please eat sweet baby. I’m so worried about you. Fine, just go to sleep. Please wake up in the morning.

OK, air mattress, let’s do this. I’m so tired. “Place blow dryer directly to valve, put on cool setting and watch your bed inflate!” Uhhhh, nothing is happening. I am going to have to blow this damn thing up manually. I haven’t slept or eaten all day, really. I hope I don’t pass out.

Dear, I can’t get this fucking thing to inflate. What? Oh. Oh, yes I see. Well, fine. Thanks. That was easy.

Want some wine? God, that food was incredible. Yeah, the smell is bad but it’s better than that other place. I hope we don’t poison the baby. Let’s make the bed and go to sleep. I may die if I don’t sleep. You still have the cough, huh? At least it’s warm in here. Nyquil? Don’t mind if I do!

Forgive and Move On

January 6, 2013

Happy New Year. Or is it? For most, the New Year is a time to reflect on the past and resolve to change our bad habits into good in the future. It’s easy to look over 2012 and say, wow I sure did eat and drink too much with out exercising nearly enough and boy I wish I had read more books and not watched that episode of Law and Order for the seventeenth time while drinking copious amounts of coffee instead of water. So this year I vow to fix all of that!

(note: I do not intend to fix all of that)

How many of our well meaning resolutions can we actually take and implement? I, for instance, have a child. That lends little time to self improvement. I don’t mean to imply those with children are incapable of taking the time to make better decisions and improve their quality of life. But let’s be honest, out of the sixteen or so hours that I am awake, ten of them are spent feeding, chasing, getting her napped, and cleaning. Forgive me, but for my remaining six sometimes I just want to sit down and watch House Hunters! And I’m pretty sure people without kids have just as much on their plate.

So what’s with all the pressure to change one’s self at the beginning of the year?

After asking around as to some of my well respected friends and family members, I was surprised to learn that everyone planned to make resolutions! Are we that dissatisfied and/or disappointed with our life that we all have to change and improve each year? Or is it that as we get older our priorities evolve (hopefully) and so each new January creates a new set of values or life decisions that reflect our shifted selves?

The best resolution I have heard, no disrespect yall, was from a friend of my husband who has decided that this year he plans to tell better stories. I love this! Not so much the actual resolution, though it is very laudable and kind to those hearing said stories, but he plans to try to improve on something he already likes doing. He has shoved aside the age old adage of out with the bad in with the good and traded it for hey, I’m already doing alright, but maybe I could do a little better!
My husbands friend has inspired me to change the way I view the gift of a clean slate at New Years. Instead of trying to stop certain unhealthy habits and choices cold turkey, this year I am going to try to just do better. And if I don’t, I am going to forgive myself and move on. Parents, wives, husbands, family members, geeze, let’s face it, everybody deal with enough commitment as it is. The last thing we need is to feel like a failure when an obligatory resolution falls through the cracks as the days of January fade away. I can list a few things I think I am good at, could perhaps enhance a bit and go from there. Having awareness of one’s shortcomings and feeling motivated to be a better person are good things. So to those who are chucking the potatoes for carrots and replacing the couch cushions for yoga mats (shameless plug, get over it) I commend you! But if one rainy Saturday finds you curled up with a fresh bag of Doritos and a marathon of Homeland, that’s OK, call me and I’ll join you.


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