30 April 2014

A Life in Literature

I have a literary career. I went to school to become a writer, and I'm working as a writer.

In addition to writing the collection, I have a day job as a freelance writer. The clients I have vary (sometimes wildly), but the majority of my current work is in the educational/academic field.

The work I do in academic and educational writings keeps me securely in the literary world. I spend a lot of time reading up on literary theory, cracking open my old college textbooks (I've gotten so much use out of my Norton Anthologies....), and studying the relationship between reader and author. At times I feel like I'm still taking college classes, and at other times I feel like I should be teaching classes.

Still, I love my literary life. I love having books around and having a career focused on the things I loved so much in college. I love exploring books I read and loved with a new perspective that adds depth to re-readings.

I love my job.

I'm finding that being surrounded by such quality writing for work has made me a bit pickier in other areas of my life. For example, I've been watching vastly less TV than I used to (not having a TV helps with that, of course). When I do watch something, I find myself turning to shows that have depth to them. I can't watch mindless shows anymore.* I want to be as entertained in watching TV as I am when I read for work. And you just can't follow Pride and Prejudice with The Bachelor. It just doesn't work. When I need something I don't have to think about, I watch shows and movies I've seen many times so I don't really have to pay attention to them. And I'd much rather be reading.

A life in literature changes you for the better.

*There are a few exceptions.

28 April 2014

Not two anymore

Saturday was Tink's third birthday. It was a wonderful day full of not-so-healthy food, presents opened throughout the day, and lots of memories made. She spent the day reminding us that it was, indeed, her birthday, and occasionally breaking into renditions of "Happy Birthday to Me." We played hard, laughed a lot, and took pictures and pictures and pictures.

It was a good day.

It seems that time is slipping by more quickly these days. It could be that my life is a bit more settled than it once was, so the routine of the days makes them seem to pass more quickly. It could be that I've been focused on some big things lately so the ordinary-ness of everyday life seems to fade to the background a bit. It could be that whenever a milestone--like a birthday or holiday--comes around on my calendar I feel like we've just had one, so time must be going by quickly.

After all, my daughter is three, and it seems like just yesterday that she'd just been born. (Isn't that what's most commonly said?) This time next year we'll be getting ready to register her for pre-K.

Tink has changed a lot in the last year. Her strength and mobility have caught up, she's gotten taller and smarter. She's much more communicative (read: she never stops talking). She's developed her own personality and sense of style. And Sister is really good at rolling her eyes.

Welcome to three, Tink. I can't wait to see what it has in store for us.

25 April 2014

Embracing Self-Care: Walking the Walk

I started out participating in a blog series called Embracing Self-Care, which was meant to get bloggers and readers to focus on taking care of themselves when needed.

This can be a hard thing for moms (and dads) and anyone who has responsibilities outside of themselves. I have two small children, a new puppy, and I'm self-employed. There are many times self-care is just a vague concept on my "someday" task list.

It's just what happens sometimes.

But I've been really trying to walk the walk of self-care lately. Intellectually, I know how important it is to take care of yourself (first sometimes), so you can be a better caretaker to others in the long run. So the past couple of weeks I've specifically set aside some time to take care of myself in the ways I've needed to.

As a result, I've not been blogging as often as I'd like. I've tried (I have about four drafts started), but it just hasn't happened.

I'm optimistic that things are getting better. Not only am I getting back into my routine, but I'm working toward answers about my health that I've had for quite a while.*

It feels selfish to me sometimes to be thinking about myself like this. I know I need to. And so I do. But I have friends who are not doing as well as me or have fewer answers than me or who are dealing with their own illnesses and simultaneously dealing with their children's illnesses.... and I feel selfish putting myself ahead of others.

So I remind myself that it doesn't work for me to compare myself to others. I don't know their full stories, and they don't know mine. All I can do is what I know to be best for my family. Sometimes that means staying up late (or getting up early) to get things done, and sometimes that means taking a half day off work to go to appointments and take care of myself.

There are days I get everything done and still have time at the end of the day to play Go Fish with the kids or kill murlocs with Yvaine. There are other days I don't get anything done except talk to the munchkins on Skype.

All I can do is what I can do. And that has to be good enough some days.

*I'm not ready yet to share what's going on. Sorry. When I have more answers and a better plan, I'm sure I will.

09 April 2014

Embracing Self-Care: Health and Spirituality

Note: This is part two of a series. Part one is here.

When I was a practicing Christian, there was a direct correlation between my physical health and my spirituality. If I felt like my spiritual life was lacking, I felt more tired, I seemed to get sick more easily. I fully believed it was my body's way of telling me I needed to keep my spirituality in check.

As an atheist, I have a different perspective on the relationship between my body and my mind/spirit.

I do believe there is a direct relationship between my physical health and my mental/emotional health. But it's the other way: when I'm not physically well, my emotional and mental health suffers.

I've been trying to focus on physical self-care lately so I can feel better mentally and emotionally. I've been trying to make healthier choices in my diet, exercise more regularly, and keep up with preventative care and check-ups.

It's not always easy to focus on my health when I'm working and have munchkins, but I know that when it comes to being the best mom I can be, it starts with being the healthiest mom I can be. So it's important for me to do what I have to do to be healthier. And (bonus!) when I take care of myself better, I feel better overall. When Mama's happy, everybody's happy!

Are you including your physical health in your self-care?

06 April 2014

National Poetry Month

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
by Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb    disgraced    goes on doing

no diagram the sentence


04 April 2014

The Eighth Day

Early this week I watched a short film called The 53rd Hour. It's by a single dad who gets visitation with his kids every other weekend, and it focuses on that first hour after saying goodbye.

My situation is different from parents who only see their kids every other weekend or just in the summer. I'm lucky that Monty and I have shared custody, so we each get the kids about half the time in a week-on-week-off schedule.

But that doesn't change the fact that it's always hard to say goodbye to the munchkins, knowing I won't get to hug and kiss them for another week.

Monty usually picks them up in the evening, so the hardest time for me is the next day. The evening is okay because I use the time to pick up the house, run the kids' laundry from the week, get myself organized for the coming week. I don't always think about that time being without the kids because it's such a part of my normal Sunday evening routine, whether they're with me or not.

But that next morning can be killer. I only have to make breakfast for one. I don't have to convince Puck that he absolutely must comb his hair before school. I don't have pigtails to tighten six thousand times before lunch. On that eighth day there's a void in my schedule that would be taken up with food and putting on socks and the slow walk to the mailbox and back, stopping at every seam in the sidewalk to jump over it.

The day kind of floats by. Without a traditional job and no pre-K schedule to remind me of where I am in the day, it's supper time before I know it, and I'm scrounging among leftovers for something to eat at my desk while I work. There's no bubble bath and lotion on shivering chicken legs before bed. There's no trip (after trip after trip) to the bedroom to put Tink back in bed to give Puck another hug to tuck them both in one more time. There's no checking on snoring bodies with arms thrown wide once more before I go to bed myself.

There's just me.

I tell myself--and others--that the schedule is good, especially with my job. When the kids are with Monty I put in extra hours and do my cleaning and shopping so that when Puck and Tink are with me, I can devote extra time and attention to them. I don't have to work quite such long hours. We can go on adventures. But I still feel it deeply when I wake up on those Monday mornings to an empty house and go about my day.

There are lots of reasons it's hard to be a single parent. It's hard to be the only parent home taking care of munchkins. It's hard to be the sole financial support for a child. It's hard to balance self-care with child-care when you don't have another parent in the home that can take the kids for a walk so you can shower.

And if you share custody--even minimally--with another parent, it's really hard to get up the next morning and know that those munchkins aren't there to give hugs and kisses and demand a different breakfast from the one you've actually made for them.

The 53rd Hour is geared toward dads. It's geared toward parents who have to wait a couple of weeks to get their kids back. But every eighth day, I feel what they feel: two toddler-shaped holes in my life for another week.

The eighth day hurts. Every damn time.

02 April 2014

Embracing Self-Care: Know Thyself

Listening to your body is a good first step
toward embracing self-care.
This is the first week of my participation in Embracing Self-Care. This week's prompt is "Know Thyself."

Self-care is something I've been trying to pay more attention to lately, especially in terms of my physical health. I'm trying to eat better (plant-based diet) and take better care of myself (exercise) so I can be happier and healthier, which will make me a better mom to Puck and Tink. As I've been taking steps toward better health, I've begun paying much more attention to my body and the signals it gives me when something is wrong (or not). That has helped me better understand what I need to reach my goals.

Knowing your body/mind/spirit and its needs is the first step toward real self-care. After all, you can't take care of yourself if you don't know what you need.

If this is something new to you, one good way to start listening to your body is by keeping a journal. If you journal regularly, you'll know when something is "off," and journaling about how you feel will help you learn what you need to put things right again. I find that the more often I write in my journal, the better I am at gauging what I need and why. Even if you don't journal, make a note of how you feel (both good and bad) so you can start to learn what you need to be happy and healthy.

Knowing yourself is also important on a larger scale in your life. Yes, it helps you take better care of yourself (short- and long-term), but it's also a good way to make sure you're headed in the direction you want to go. Knowing who you are and what you need/want will ensure that you don't get stuck or settle or give up on your dreams.

Take some time this week to think about what you need to be healthy and happy.

Next week: Health and spirituality