Tag: Blogging


Coma vs. Decapitation

I’m tired of writing about transition. I’m tired of writing about the work-life shuffle. I’m tired of writing about lack of inspiration, and I’m beyond tired of writing about me… which leads to mornings like today’s when I stare at my computer screen and censor my intuition comatose.

I’ve blogged on and off since 2002 (and before that, many of my journal entries found their way into friends’ inboxes) because of a need, every bit as basic as hunger, to experience my world and community through words. Writing for me is half instinct and half response, and there is a custom flavor of satisfaction reserved for distilling my thoughts into language. You’ve savored some form of it too, yes?

However, I have no love for the spotlight, and I wish that authenticity would let me focus on someone else. I would happily post on topics of others’ choosing if I could face the splintery aftermath of forcing wooden words through heart channels. If it were in any way possible, I would cheerfully disassociate from my own cerebrum and find someone more interesting [diverse/confident/fashionable/fill in the ______] to be.

But you already know this, of course… and remembering that you’ve already read a thousand variations on this theme leads to afternoons like this when I give up on censoring and simply close my computer screen altogether.


Despair and Contrast

I’ve been doing a bit of blog spring summer cleaning over the last few days—super-gluing links, spit-shining categories, that sort of thing—and I found myself reading back over the first two years’ worth of entries while gravity slowly condensed in the room. My God.

The summer we packed up our lives to move to Italy, my head was unstable territory. I had been juggling four part-time jobs which suited me not at all, my plans for graduate school had been shot down for the second time, and I had stopped writing… which meant I was no longer checked in to my own life. On top of this was the vast unknown of our future. I was in my second trimester of pregnancy with Sophie, and the delay in getting our Italian paperwork had left us literally homeless and living off the generosity of friends.

It was during one unsteady weekend curled up in the guest room of our friend’s house that I started this blog. I was desperate for the outlet, the perspective, the satisfaction, and the community, though I couldn’t have articulated those reasons at the time. Blogging still only registered as a hobby (I had no idea how much the blogosphere had changed since our first fling; Dooce was now a verb?!), but it got me writing and connecting with kindred spirits again, just in time for the greatest upheaval of my life.

We moved. I adjusted piecemeal to the new culture.  I pined for friends and set up house and gave birth, and somewhere in the rock ‘n’ reel of it all, depression yawned up underneath like a sudden sinkhole. I’ve had melancholic tendencies my whole life, but nothing could have prepared me for the following year and a half. I never admitted here on my blog just how bad my depression was, but the utter hopelessness in mind still left its imprint on posts about frustration, insufficiency, and unrelenting exhaustion. My personal journal entries delved into far darker territory, and reading over them now recalls the pain so intensely that my lungs flail against its memory.

Have you seen those “depression hurts” commercials with the sad-faced people blankly going about their daily routines? I only wish my experience had been so serene. For an eternal year and a half, my mind was trapped inside a darkness that I couldn’t measure, couldn’t make sense of, couldn’t get enough of a grasp on to fight. I couldn’t describe it without sounding crazy, so I tried to pass it off as allergies, nutritional deficiencies, standard new mom tiredness, even weather-related gloom. (In retrospect, maybe my doctor would have helped me more if I hadn’t done such a good job playing down the crazy.) I didn’t know how to ask for help because I didn’t know what I needed except OUT, and I didn’t have the courage anyway to admit my problems to our new Italian friend-quaintances.

I knew the stigma of mental disorders as faux illnesses, socially unacceptable displays of weakness. I had judged people before for not being able to “get a grip” and even for seeking counseling. So I kept the darkness within the walls of our apartment and only wrote about it on the good days… days in which I could handle getting out of bed and putting on some makeup, maybe even taking the girls to the park for ten minutes. On the other days, the not so good ones, life pressed in from all sides with an impossible weight, and continuing to breathe was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I didn’t want to survive.

Yet I did. No matter how unbearable the panic of being, I couldn’t leave my daughters or husband bereft, and flickers of hope from here in the blogging community helped me keep that resolve on days when darkness started to win. Encouraging comments from kindred souls. Liz’s virtual hugs. Nino’s information on long-time postpartum depression (up until then, I had never heard of it lasting beyond six months). Jennifer’s honesty about her own time in the valley. Prayers from people who read between the lines and got what was going on. Together, they lit the way to my freedom.

And now, more than two years on the other side of endless night, I’d like to follow Jennifer’s lead and show you a photograph from the very worst stretch:

Tackling sick Mommy

It was taken mere days before I started to get better, and it kills me knowing that the me in the photograph had no idea. I wish I could slip back through a shortcut in time and promise her that spring is already there, even if she can’t feel it yet. I want to tell her that in a few short weeks, she’ll be tossing sun-drenched hair out of her eyes and chasing those sweet little girls through streets full of stories. I want to assure her that she’ll laugh again and that her daughters will forget the tears. I want to show her the beauty masquerading as a demolition project, the grace dissolving her terror of motherhood, and the art whispering promises, and I want her to see this next photograph of an August afternoon two years later on that same red sofa:

We like each other

There is hope.


Pit Stop

(Photo from last summer’ road trip to get me psyched about researching this one.
A photograph is worth 1,000 motivational speakers, right?)

I’m beginning to understand the term “breakneck speed,” caught like a reluctant driver in these days that trade time for whiplash. Good lordy. I stayed up until 1:00am on Saturday cleaning the bathrooms simply because it was the first opportunity I’d had in… uh, weeks. Don’t you wanna come party with me now? ::wink wink, nudge nudge:: (My definition of weekend fun might be a little off, but I can offer freshly scrubbed toilets!)

I don’t intend to keep going so long between posts, you know. My dearly beloved blogosphere is on my mind here and there throughout each day, my thoughts briefly lunging toward it while a work document loads or lesson plans shuffle into folders, but life in the fast lane is teaching to me to reel in my focus and quickly, before any synapses get tangled. Nevertheless, I haven’t forgotten about this space, and your comments and letters have meant the world to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to connect with me, even if I haven’t been able to reciprocate yet. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Over the weekend, I finally wrapped up a huge project and am now embarking on the next: our annual epic camping trip. I always forget just how much work goes into planning these things until we’re three weeks away with nary a campsite reservation to be seen. Plus, Magellan needs some serious TLC before we leave (he still hasn’t recuperated from last summer’s adventures), the line of super-duper-urgent-VIP errands waiting to be run is now winding into last year, and the ironing pile has officially usurped our sofa.

…Aaaand this is also why I haven’t blogged much lately, because pretty much anything I write will eventually degenerate into a to-do list. Apologies, friends. Just know that I’m grateful for you… and if I’m not around much, it’s only to spare your dear necks from secondhand whiplash.



Public Controversy Announcement

~~ This is a public service announcement. Your regularly scheduled Highland Fling dramatization will return shortly. ~~

I’m a little unsure where to start explaining myself… if I even need to explain myself at all. I’m taking a step that tends to invite controversy; plus, I once told myself I’d never do it. On the other hand, it’s so normal these days that you might not even notice, so I suppose this explaining is mostly for my own benefit. Confused yet?

I began blogging in 2002 when only a handful of my friends had even heard of the term and Blogger logo t-shirts were cool. I wrote through my junior year of college, and blogging can take a lot of credit for my decision to switch to an English degree. I thrived on the creative outlet and daily feedback. Around the time I got married, though, my online persona no longer felt comfortable hanging out in real world. Figuring out how to be a fiancée and then a newlywed while still in college was challenging enough without putting the process on show and tell, so I killed my blog in an alleyway one dark night.

When I officially re-joined the blogosphere four years later after a springtime of reading her and her and her and her, the territory was unfamiliar. It seemed that everyone had a blog; even toddlers I once babysat had Xanga accounts (remember those days?). Women from across the world were converging on Chicago to meet friends in person for the first time, learn how to generate income on their sites, and pick up swag from companies eager to advertise to this powerful new demographic. I saw ads on Dooce’s site and initially thought Good for her! Later, I saw Keri Smith’s purposefully ad-free blog and thought Oh… good for her! At the time (and considering my readership base of approximately one and a half), the ethical side of the debate was more relevant to me than the lucrative side, and I preferred an uncluttered design anyway.

Lately, though, we’ve found ourselves looking for creative ways to make ends meet, and I’ve had trouble justifying this blog to myself. We can’t eat it, we can’t wear it, and it takes time and resources that could be spent elsewhere more effectively. However, I love writing here and reading your words in return. Through this, I am connected to a community across the globe that I am no more willing to abandon than I am the friends I see face-to-face, and the inspiration I find here is invaluable. I’m simply not ready to give this up.

That’s why I’m scooting over to make room for some advertising. I understand that this may not sit well with everyone, but if it means that I can post more regularly, comment more regularly, and remain part of the collective wonderfulness of us… well, I’d take a little controversy over another dark alleyway any day.


My Squalor Comes With Binder Tabs

Dust bunnies are procreating under the night stand. Ants march unhindered into the kitchen to nosh on leftovers. The stack of bills on my desk keeps casting reproachful glances in my direction. The wastebasket overfloweth, and my legs are starting to resemble cacti. Welcome to trip planning mode at our house!

Our Scotland-bound campingstravaganza (affectionately nicknamed Highland Fling) is set to start in just two short weeks, and my brain suddenly can’t be bothered with technicalities like bills and housework, not when there are tent pitches to reserve at Loch Ness. I love this kind of organized daydreaming—researching locations, reviewing accommodations, planning meals, compiling packing lists. However, it’s not fast work, and I’m already up to my ears in neglected everyday demands. (Some of them look perilously close to throwing tantrums.)

I just wanted to explain why the blogosphere will need to carry on without me for a bit. Also how the quantity of dust came to be greater than that of all life forms in the house. I’ll remedy the abject squalor situation, I promise, but it may have to wait until we’re back. The castles of Inverness await my search engine command!



We’ve been back nearly a week in a house with wireless internet connection and more computers than human beings, yet my Google Reader is still shouting at me in bold type: 109 unread posts! Now it’s 110! Alert! Social prospects dwindling! (My computer is often as dramatic as I am, coincidentally.) I’ve been working my way back to the blogging bandwagon a few minutes at a time and spending the rest of each day on activities that don’t come with touch pads or hyperlinks… but even as I’ve left my computer to pine away at my desk, the internet community has been a significant part of the last two weeks.

For instance, one side of our guest room is now stacked with bags of clothes—scratchy wool sweaters that look great but make me want to claw my own skin off, favorite outfits from the Stone Age college, and good quality undershirts that resolutely refuse to stay tucked in. As I bagged up a chunk of my closet for charity, I kept in mind the revolutionary (to me) insights picked up over the past year from Reachel at Cardigan Empire. She contends that clothes should work to flatter us, not the other way around, and that a sparse collection of outfits that make us feel truly fabulous is better than a closet bursting with “nothing to wear!” items. Who knew? I applied the principle to the girls’ overflowing and rarely-touched bin(s) of toys as well, and now everyone feels a little lighter. In a very good way.

I’ve been holing up in the kitchen as well with my favorite Starbucks apron (technically it’s Dan’s, but until a good fairy brings me one of these, I’ve claimed it as my own) and inspiring new flavors on the brain. It’s hard to believe that when we got married, my cooking skills were limited to microwave chicken nuggets and canned corn. For the leaps and bounds my culinary ability has taken, I am forever indebted to food bloggers like Pioneer Woman, Bakerella, Molly from Orangette, and Deb at Smitten Kitchen. They taught me how to dice onions and braise pork roasts and decorate cupcakes and melt chocolate, how to make everyday cooking an art, and how to find pure joy on the stovetop. I even like vegetables now; this is no small feat.

In the midst of weeding through clothes and cooking up heart-warming meals and climbing (and sliding back down) the ever-growing slopes of Mount Laundry and busying myself with the million little tasks of a mother, the gentle gratefulness of NieNie and Kindness Girl and Royal Buffet’s Mollie Greene have pulled my attention back to my treasure of a family. I’ve had invaluable moments with my husband and girls over the last few weeks, plopping down on the rug to build Legos, whooping Bowser’s spiky green butt with our Wiimotes, and working out together. Too often, I let busyness get in the way of togetherness, and I’m so grateful for the reminders to love our quirky little household intentionally.

In honor of the fresh-faced new year, I wrote down a handful of happy challenges in lieu of resolutions—a habit I’ve picked up from Andrea of Superhero Journal who suggested putting a positive, uplifting spin on goals. Peaceful sleep is on my agenda for 2010, as are creative financial saving and properly-applied eye makeup. (That one’s already checked off with the help of an eye shadow quad and a short video tutorial; can someone please explain why this took me so many years to try?) Megsie and Elizabeth of Bluepoppy fame have written about the yes factor as well, and I’m in good company as I set off into an inspiring new year.

I took Color Me Katie’s philosophy to heart when faced with the drab task of de-Christmasing the house and made a party of it. I rearranged the girls’ room with concepts picked up from interior design sites like Ohdeedoh and friends like Lizardek to open up more focused playspace. I’ve stolen away from the housework to write my monthly letters to the girls, an oh-so-wonderful tradition that I first learned about from Dooce (and have often regretted not thinking up myself back when Natalie was a baby). Inspired by the ability of bloggers like CJane, Christina from MyTopography, and Nina at The Whole Self to distill daily life to its most beautiful components, I’ve been making a list of the loveliest moment in each day of 2010 to look back on this time next year. I’ve also been picking up The Message and searching through its pages for the kind of open-hearted, un-sermonized spirituality that I so admire in Rachelle of Magpie Girl, Rae from Journey Mama, and Sam, the Sunday School Rebel herself.

Perhaps this only emphasizes how much I need to work on real-life socialization, but I feel so fortunate to be part of the “giant pool of wisdom” as Rachelle calls it, the collection of kindred spirits and talented writers who indirectly share their lives with me. So thank you, dear blogosphere… and please keep in mind that my being away from the computer busy with living and loving is most definitely your fault.


Fishbowl Invitation

These summer days have been custom-fitted with a fisheye lens. We unpack, we clean, we eat salad, we sleep in puddles of melted motivation. Our priorities have adjusted to the demands of changing homes, not to mention the brick-baking heat and the reality of two girls at home, and the hours arch and flex strangely. My writing time keeps slipping outside the bubble where it waits, nose to glass, to be invited back in.

I see it, of course. Each day shifts through a hundred nuances I wish I could bottle and share or weave into a Ray Bradbury book. I’d love to invite each of you up to our balcony at dusk, when the fading sunlight plays alchemist on the city. We’d pick mint for our mojitos and debate in whispers over the exact color shimmering off the buildings below. Orange? Pink? Mother-of-Pearl? Enchantment?

I’d have a printout of my thoughts from the day ready if conversation began to lag. You could read how absurdly long it took to get myself and the girls ready for a morning walk to the park and how, by the middle of our steep climb back, I would cheerfully have exchanged my children for a day at the spa. Before you had too much time to judge, you would read on to where Natalie hung socks on the laundry line with me while we sang “Old MacDonald” (and Sophie occasionally interrupted her own “E-I-E-I-O” to point at the sun and shriek “THE MOON?”) and how love for these two girls of mine pulsed against the confines of my sanity. You would read how NieNie’s latest entry pulled my heart into pieces and how a line from Elliot Smith brought back the thrill of diving into the blogging world seven (seven!) years ago.

You would get a little dizzy from the way my mind flits from friend to friend, the way I still miss my best friend at age six, the hopes I hold for current acquaintances. You would reach the paragraph with all the secrets, at which point I would decide it’s time for a chocolate-whiskey-and-beer cupcake and four consecutive rounds of Balderdash. Secrets are secrets, after all. But this is my wish-upon-a-star in writing—to put myself in words and invite you to share.

So in lieu of an Italian balcony blogfest*, here’s a question for you: What would you like to read more about? Any pressing inquiries you’d like to see addressed? A topic that’s been on your mind lately? Something you’d like to know about me? Glassy-eyed summer days or not, this blog is ready for some friendly conversation. (Cocktails optional but recommended.)


*As lovely as the idea is, teensy matters like distance, time, and money make it unlikely. Annoying matters, those. However, if you’re ever coming through central Italy, do let me know, and we’ll try to make some magic happen.

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