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This Crazy Life

Life with kids is…special. It is hard, it is tiring, and it is crazy in ways I would never have imagined 17 years ago. I don’t know if my strangeness was inherited by my children, if it is a result of “nurture” and they pick up the weirdness from our environment, or if kids are just inherently odd. Likely, it is a fun combination of all of the above. I have caught myself saying things that no one should ever have to say. “Please stop coloring your nipples with that sharpie marker and finish your homework!” for example, or “Who drew this picture of a butt on the baby’s butt?”

In the course of my 17 year parenting career, I have read dozens of parenting magazines, What to Expect When You’re Expecting books, child development textbooks, and mommy blogs. It is only the latter, and only recently, that the authors ever “got real” about parenting. All the books and magazines prepared me for how to pack a labor go-bag, explained the physical changes during pregnancy and the developmental milestones of babies, and gave me Pinterest-worthy toddler craft-time ideas. No one ever explained what to do when my 5 year old sticks a Lego head up his nose, or how to mitigate the damage when my 3 year old loudly explains to his new friends at the library how Daddy likes to wrestle Mommy in the nude, complete with descriptions of body hair and funny sounds.

To that end, I decided it might be fun to write a themed blog post every once in a while addressing the humorous but weird side of child rearing. This morning, I was inspired by my four year old daughter. She proudly exclaimed that she had drawn me a picture. The conversation went like this:

H: Hey, Mom! I drew you a beautiful picture. Guess what it is?

Me: Ah…people in bunny ears dancing around a big…um? With a bunch of smaller…uh…heheheh…

H: Ghosts!

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Finding a Niche

“Those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it. I don’t know all the keys to success, but one key to failure is to try to please everyone.”   -Rick Warren

 I’m really getting into this, guys! Maybe because right now I am using it as a glorified diary. That isn’t what I intend it to be, at least not forever, but it is helping me get off the ground. If you read my last entry about fear, then you know I started this blog partly to function as training wheels for my writing. I spent too long thinking about writing, not enough time actually doing the writing, and had worked myself into a good (un)healthy fear of trying. I’ll let you in on a secret. This isn’t my first time. At one point my husband bought me a domain, I had a nifty website, and for a short time I blogged. Like most of my pet projects, I was super stoked for a little while, and then I wandered away. I guess at some point the hubs stopped paying for my hosting and now maybe mayasmind is floating about in the internet ether. So, here I am again, fumbling my way around WordPress.

How does this relate to the quote I started this post with? I need to find my niche. I am a mom. Is this a mommy blog? I don’t quite think so, but so much of my experience in life is tied to raising my own small army. Is this a blog about writing? I would like that to be an aspect of it, yes, but I’m not a professional and there are people out there who are doing that much better than I can. My last blog site was entirely based on my twisted sense of humor and unconventional parenting style. It got to the point that I felt so much pressure to be funny all the time, I didn’t feel like I could post anything that defied that expectation. I have some pretty helpful (I think) ideas about things that other parents might find useful, but I don’t want to make this a series of lists, either. Just to really mix it up, I like to illustrate comics about some of my misadventures as a housewife/mom/student, and I would love to eventually share some of those here, as well. Is that too much?

How did you find your niche? How did you decide on a theme? Did you pare it down and decide to be consistent with your posts, or did you let the wind take you and just post whatever you felt like talking about? Is it possible to be successful in the blogosphere if you don’t have a focus? Maybe I will go the other direction and really squeeze myself into my own little niche. I’ll be the “Mom/student/aspiring writer who is also sometimes funny and can make lists of low-cost family activities Blogger.” One lesson I have learned in life is that trying to please everyone is only going to lead to disappointment. When I do the things that are right for me, when I am being authentic, people seem to relate to that on a deeper level. What do you look for in a blog?

writing

Fear

What scares you? Let’s not get too deep; I’m not talking about soul-crushing terror here. What scares you in your daily life? What keeps you from meeting your goals, finishing projects, and trying things you think you might enjoy? I’m scared of cave crickets, large fish (yes…fish), and writing.

The cave cricket fear is no biggie. It just means that I occasionally embarrass myself by jumping around screaming like an idiot, and I am not touching that load of laundry until my husband gets home to remove the spider/cricket/alien hybrid from the washing machine. I face my fear of fish, through a careful compromise, every year when we go to the beach. I will not miss out on snorkeling with my kids, so we swim where the ocean is as clear as bathwater, and I can see anything coming in time to panic and climb back onto the boat before it eats me. The fear of writing, though, that’s the one that gets me. I dream of being a published author. I have an English degree. Writing is kind of my “thing,” right?

It wasn’t until recently that I even realized I am afraid of writing. I was in the middle of formulating another reason for why I have yet to finish a project. This time my husband wasn’t going to let me cop out with my go-to excuses. “If you have time to scroll through Facebook, you have time to write,” he said. “The kids interrupt you too much? Fine, I’ll take them somewhere,” he offered. “No, it wasn’t a silly book idea. It was an awesome book idea, and I want to see the finished product,” he insisted. “I spent more money than I will admit buying you an excellent drawing tablet and software so you can illustrate it the way you like,” he reminded me. He just doesn’t get it, I thought. As I was trying to convey my feelings (the surge of anxiety, the loss of motivation after the initial high of excitement, the writer’s block, the crushing exhaustion that descends on me for no discernible reason when I sit down to write) it hit me. I’m scared!

I have all the tools I need. I never lack inspiration, and if you are a lover of fiction, reading or writing it, you know what I mean. Your brain will grab anything (a picture, a snippet of a conversation, a drainage ditch at the side of the road that looks like the perfect spot to hide a body) and turn it into a story idea. I have time. I mean, I have four kids and I’m a full-time student, so I don’t actually have time, but the hubs is right. If I can make time for Facebook, I can make time to write. I have support and encouragement. My husband expends a lot of effort trying to convince me to write. He really thinks I can do this, and he spent way more than I am comfortable with supplying the materials. It’s not just my friends and family either. My last creative writing professor secretly submitted a piece I wrote for class to a contest. I only found out about it when I got a $100 check in the mail along with the notice I won the Donna Sparkman Student Literary Award. I’m not bragging here, just making the point that there really is no logical reason I can’t accomplish my goal. So, what am I afraid of?

I am most afraid of letting myself down. I have built up this image of me in my head, the self I really want to be, the Writer. I worry that I talk a big game but can’t back it up. I have the ideas, I have the passion, and I am pretty sure I have some talent, but do I have the stamina? Can I keep on producing words until I have an entire story – a good story, with substance? Do I have what it takes to finish a short story, a book, a blog post? If I keep starting new projects, I am indulging my need to create, but by not finishing them, I never have to take a risk. If I don’t even try to finish a piece of work, then I don’t have to face the fear that I may not be able to finish it.  Can you relate to this? What is your secret, or not so secret, passion? Have you had a hard time getting over some obstacle, getting over your fear, and just going for it? Are you afraid that  you will let yourself down? Maybe you faced your fear, you figured out what works for you and finally managed to just do the damn thing. I would love to hear about your experience.

I keep reading that to be a Writer, you have to write. It sounds simple, but when you are afraid of yourself, it’s not. Successful writers say you have to just force yourself to do it. Set a timer, sit down with your paper and pen or your laptop, and just make words – any words. It’s not easy. I have been working on this blog post for two days. In case you haven’t guessed – this is what I am doing to face my fear of writing. I’m writing about it. Ultimately, my desire to write stems from a desire to relate to others. Art is about self-expression, but it is also about connection. Maybe sharing this fear will create some connection, maybe it will resonate with someone out there. At the very least, I have jumped a hurdle here. I don’t know where I am landing, but I took the leap. Fear has loosened its grip just a bit.

I didn’t write this as a how-to, and I am no expert, or as my husband might say, “guru.” I have learned a few things just by writing this. Like my fish-phobia compromise, I’m starting out in the clear, shallow water. I’m jumping in with a blog post, not diving into the deep with a 300-page novel. Start small. At some point you’re going to feel you are letting yourself down more by not even trying than you will if you try and don’t get it just right the first time. When that time comes, talk to someone about it. If you are afraid to audition for a play, go tell an experienced actor about your fear. I bet they will be able to relate. If you want to go back to school and get that degree, but you don’t know if you can do it or even where to start, talk to someone who did and tell them how you feel. They probably had some obstacles to navigate as well. And if you are afraid to write, but you know you were meant to write, well, you have your very first topic. Write that fear out of you and onto an empty page.

P.S. Hey look- I finished a blog post.

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Where am I and how did I get here?

I’m just kidding! I know where I am. I’m unsuccessfully trying to hide on my porch and write something witty while being yelled at by a four year old with an attitude problem. I have been working on this paragraph for at least an hour, during which time I have put the dog out twice, mediated an argument between 2 out of 4 kids, and tried to look concerned while my husband had a nervous breakdown over auto insurance quotes.

I’ll be 35 next week, and today I attended a college orientation I scheduled in May of 1999. I was only 18 years late! Let me fill in a little background: I graduated High School when I was 17, the perfect age for making life altering decisions. About a week before my college orientation, I decided that I would learn a lot more hitchhiking down the southeastern coast with a 26 year old felon, so I disappeared for a couple of years. I did get a heck of an education, but it cost me my dream of earning a PhD in Psychology before the age of 30.  I lost the felon to a traveling carnival, gained my beautiful first daughter at 18, and set off on a very long and bumpy road to our future happiness.

Last year, I finally got my school-related shit together and earned my first degree as a 34 year old wife and mother of four. Somewhere along the way, I realized I like books much more than people, and writing more than talking, so I got an English degree. It’s a stepping stone to a Master’s in Library Science… only partly to justify the ridiculous amount of time I spend in libraries. My grown-up plan is to become a children’s librarian so I can show children the world of knowledge and adventure that waits within the pages of books, and also set up really cute seasonal book displays. My self-indulgent fantasy plan is to become a published author and see my name on a library shelf one day. In the meantime, I’ll do the very 2017 housewife-needs-a-creative-outlet thing and write a blog.