Archive | February 2013

I Birthed A Blog One Year Ago

One year ago, I birthed a blog. Drawing talent not yet born.

One year ago, I birthed a blog. Drawing talent not yet born.

The Onion: Outlaw Mama, Congratulations on one year of blogging.  That’s amazing. So few mothers have taken to blogging.  I am so glad someone finally started a Mommy blog.

Outlaw Mama: I know, right?  It’s like all these mothers were just sitting around with snippets of free time and no one thought to start creating on-line community until I came along.

The Onion: It sure looks like Mommy blogging might become a thing.  I read somewhere that you said you did for Mommy blogging what Al Gore did for the Internet.

Outlaw Mama: That’s right. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Onion: So in these past 12 months, what have you learned?

Outlaw Mama: Nothing.

The Onion: Wow. Nothing? Not one thing?

Outlaw Mama: No, I didn’t learn anything. I was already an awesome writer and a near-perfect mother. I didn’t really have anything to learn.

The Onion: Didn’t you at least learn how to Tweet a few months ago?

Outlaw Mama: Funny story about Twitter. I actually invented that too.

The Onion: I see. Well, you seem pretty open on your blog. Is there anything your readers don’t know about you?

Outlaw Mama: There are a few things.  I might as well say it now: I have never been to Costco.

The Onion: What? Never? But you talk about it–

Outlaw Mama: All the time. I know. I do.  Which, if you think about it, is super imaginative, because, like I said, I’ve never been there.

The Onion: Anything else?

Outlaw Mama: Most of my readers don’t know that I am actually a single man who lives in the Everglades.  I have no children.  I have never even held a baby.

The Onion: Why the ruse?

Outlaw Mama: I thought becoming a Mommy blogger would be a good way to meet chicks.

The Onion: Did it work?

Outlaw Mama: Sort of but it gets awkward when they meet me in person and are all “ooh, he’s so penis-y! He’s not even a mom.” Mothers, as you know, can be very judgmental.

The Onion: Do you have any advice for aspiring Mommy bloggers out there?

Outlaw Mama: I would say just be yourself.

The Onion: That means a lot coming from you.

Outlaw Mama: Oh, one other piece of advice.

The Onion: Yes?

Outlaw Mama: Wait until year two to release your sex tape.

The Onion: Is that something your readers can expect in the next year?

Outlaw Mama: Definitely.  I am just working on some production issues, but it’s in the works.

The Onion: Great.  Congratulations again.

Outlaw Mama: Thanks.

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“Writing Is Hard” and Other (Soon-To-Be) Famous Quotes About Writing

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
—Philip Roth

Question: What’s easier than writing a book?

Answer: EVERY GODDAMN THING I HAVE EVER TRIED TO DO.

But enough about the struggle and the angst!  It’s February– all of us are tired and half three-fourths of us are looking for stronger meds to combat the winter blahs.  Let’s throw open the shades and get some light in here.  Oh, wait, there’s no light? Just gray skies spitting out snain (snowy-rain for those of you who don’t have your Outlaw Mama glossary handy)? Alrighty then, let’s do easy stuff today.  Forget writing a novel– that’s too hard, takes way too much effort and breaks my spirit too quickly.

Snoopy, guys, I put a Goddamned Snoopy picture for you. See? I am all about cheer and happiness.

Snoopy, guys, I put a Goddamned Snoopy picture up for you. See? I am all about cheer and happiness.

 Let’s write quotes about writing.  That’s what I do whenever I get sick of procrastinating working on my novel or obsessing about how much more successful (than I) the women in my writing group are (both of them skipped grades in school because they were so smart so please feel my pain.

Anyway, writers are always saying all kinds of deep shit about writing, so just in case I never finish the book, I’ll have some quotable wisdom about writing.

Here are my gems:

  1. “Writing. It’s hard.” — Outlaw Mama every time I sit down to write
  2. “Writing. It’s what’s for dinner.” — Outlaw Mama, when I am too busy blogging to feed my children
  3. “I want my book to the reason that you bought a book light.”  — Outlaw Mama before Kindles were invented
  4. “”Writing makes me want to drive those things you stick at the end of corn on the cob into my eye sockets.” — Outlaw Mama at a picnic
  5. “Write what you know, right? That’s why my book is about Costco, therapy, and shame.” — Outlaw Mama’s query letter
  6. “I write because I must (and because the TJ Maxx is closed and I had nothing better to do).” — Outlaw Mama at midnight
  7. “A day without writing is probably a day that I enjoyed a relatively healthy sense of self-esteem.” — Outlaw Mama unplugged
  8. “If it’s written on the heart, it should be written on the page, but put the pages away when you are done or your children will try to eat them and stick them in their dirty diapers.” — Outlaw Mama last week
  9. “Writing makes me a better person except on the days it makes me feel grumpy, “less than” and filled with a murderous rage.” — Outlaw Mama yesterday
  10. “The scariest moment in writing is not facing the blank page– it’s when you sit down at your computer and an intruder sticks a machete in your face and asks for all of your money.”  Outlaw Mama trying to convince herself that writing isn’t scary at all

See? Isn’t this more fun than plot and character and editing words that mean so much to you, but readers don’t give a damn about?

I’m feeling so cheered up I might just open my novel up and take it for a spin.

What’s your favorite writing quote?

Naked Happy Hour Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

There were two choices TV-wise: German porn and coverage of the unfolding Hurricane Katrina catastrophe.  Neither really suited my mood, which could be best described as jet-lag-meets-existential-angst.   But I had just ordered a room service pizza and was all alone in an industrial city in central Germany, so naturally I went with the German porn. You know, to soak in the culture and to avoid the horrifying scene of impoverished people perishing at the Super Dome.

It seemed rude to the “performers” to eat German pizza (if you are picturing a giant hard biscuit with some brownish gravy splashed over it, then you are picturing German pizza) while they were doing whatever it was they were doing, so I turned it off.  Even my constant woe-is-me monologue seemed preferable to the confusing sexual images involving nautilus machines.

With nothing but the sound of my teeth ripping through the “pizza,” I heard the ambient noises of the hotel and the unmistakable sounds of happy hour: clinking glasses and convivial laughter.  My room must be above the bar, I thought, believing this was a cosmic turn towards happiness and light, because even though I didn’t drink, I liked the sounds of other people enjoying themselves.

I drew back the curtains and saw the hotel pool illuminated from below.  The water shimmered under the dusky sky, and I felt happy to see myself recognize beauty, even as I ate alone a continent away from comfort and edible food.  My eyes focused on the people whose muffled conversations drew me to the window.  Like the pool, they were all illuminated from the soft lighting surrounded the bar area, which was strong enough for me to see that they had no clothes on.  Apparently, happy  hour at the SchwabenQuellen was sans clothing.  My unobstructed view of those naked German people sipping amber liquid in their birthday suits neither excited nor disgusted me.  It simply added to the strangeness of the day that marked the beginning of a new work assignment that was expected to last up to 6 months.

Having choked down my dinner, I waited for sleep to overtake me– to take this day and the terror I felt about the new chapter I was facing.  Through my terror,  I could see that my new assignment looked glamorous on paper.  Other associates at my firm coveted the opportunity to work on the Big Case over in Germany.  Initially, I thought it was the perfect cure for my recently broken-to-bits heart. International work– look at me ex-boyfriend world, I am A-OK. . .  better than EVER!

Except I wasn’t.  I sent my friends funny emails about the naked pool party and the scary German airport officials. Ha ha, I got stopped three times and they lost my luggage. Ain’t life funny?  But, I wasn’t really laughing and I couldn’t keep it up for 6 weeks, much less 6 months.  Maybe one day I would be ready for an assignment that would take me out of the country for weeks at a time and keep me jet lagged 100% of the time.

Maybe.

But not now.

“I can’t do this right now,” I told the partner.  I prepared myself to be fired on the spot.

Within 3 days I was reassigned to a case  in Des Moines, where the days were sometimes long and lonely, but at night I sank into the queen-sized bed at my Residence Inn and took comfort in Seinfeld or Friends.

And when I looked out the window at the paved parking lot and the wheat fields stretched to the horizon I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful.

How Do You Handle Being Sad Or Depressed In Front Of Your Kids?

I try not to diagnose myself with depression on Chicago’s trademark gray winter days.  Those days lend themselves to morose reflection and permeate everything with a sense of gloom and doom.  When the cloud cover is low and the sun is just something that people over in California get to experience, I hunker down into survival mode.

But when the sun comes out, all studly and arrogant, showing off by making the snow look shimmery and lighting up every room in my house like it’s fucking New Year’s Eve– and I am still feeling the funk, then the questions begin.

The first: What is wrong with me? I don’t really ask that of myself in my sweet, first-grade-teacher voice. It’s more like my lifetime-smoker-hungover-alcoholic voice.  And usually there is an F-bomb in there.  It’s not a question, it’s an accusation.  The subtext is hey, Missy, you have your health (physical, at least), two beautiful children, a near-perfect husband so stop feeling blue. 

But you know I can’t always talk myself out feeling the funk.  Actually, I have never talked myself out of the funk (though exercise, good sleep, connecting with friends, medication, and therapy have helped).

The second question: What brought this on? This question sounds harmless enough. Nothing wrong with doing a little inventory of my moods and pinpointing the malaise, right?  But when it’s an unanswerable question, it starts an endless loop of conjecture.  Is it the stress of my  new job? Is it the transition? Is it the weather? Should I exercise more? Should I cut out sugar? Should I join cross-fit?  More yoga? More sex? More girlfriend time?  More sleep? Less negativity? Less self-absorption (ha! as if!)?

Those questions are annoying but they are like watching a full-cast production of a rousing Les Mis medley compared to what comes next: The questions about how my funk is affecting my children.   I am not myself– I have less energy and less overall vitality.  I know on some level they can pick up on that.  Do they think it’s their fault I am blue?  Are they going to “catch” it from me? Will they only remember this part of who I am?  Is this harming them?  How many times can I let them see me cry before it’s abusive to them?

If you have struggled with depression, then you know that those questions are some of the worst.  I believe it’s healthy for my children to see me express the entire range of human emotions, but is there a line? If so, how will I know when or if I have crossed it?  Honestly, the times when I can eke out some tears feel a million times better to that numb-I’m-not-really-here haze that sometimes comes over me.  Usually, when my kids see me cry, they are fascinated– they move in to study the tears falling from my eyes like little scientists who have stumbled upon an alien life form.

My number one goal with my kids is to be authentic with them– both when I am joyful and when I am depressed (and everything in between)– and I do my best to explain why Mommy is not very peppy and that it is not their fault.  From there, I do my best to focus on what we are doing and pray my ass off that the funk passes quickly.

What do you tell your kids when you are blue/depressed/sad? Have they ever asked about your moods?

 

Some Runs

photo (5)For some runs, I feel graceful–stag-like– as my stride finds harmony with the wind.  I smile at everyone I pass.  I feel like I could go forever.  Those runs are the easy ones. I live for those runs.

For some runs, all I can feel is each ache and pain in my almost 40-year-old body.  Each steps mocks my efforts and erases my concept of myself as a “runner.” Those runs suck.

For some of them, I am all Chariots of Fire– in full possession of glory, endorphins and positive thoughts.  On those runs, I look up and see I am almost home.  Time passed without me thinking about the running. During those runs I compose blog posts or let memories slide in to keep me company or think about the quadratic equation.  Those runs touch my heart.

And there are other runs where I feel rage coursing through my body.  I have imaginary fights with people I haven’t seen in years.  I pick fights with Jeff and myself and with you– all while my feet pound on the pavement.  I use my feet to process the injustices and slights and confusion that otherwise bottle up inside.  During those runs, I keep going until I feel the sweet release of forgiveness and tolerance, even if I have to do a few extra laps.

Some runs are a hybrid of them all– they may start out effortless and end with me in a raging huff & puff.  Others begin with the greatest of exertion and end with the sweet thrill of accomplishment and gratitude for my healthy body.

During some runs I can get out a good cry, but I have to run slower because of the blurry vision.  Some runs I can laugh at a joke I heard hours before but didn’t get until about mile 2.

And sometimes, I just stop in the middle.  I tell myself: “I’ve had enough. No more running for today.”  On those runs, I let myself off the hook. I let myself walk and slow down and breathe.  I let myself be someone who can bail out if she needs to.  It’s hard to stop in the middle of a run, but when I do, I know I’ve done something harder than actual running: stopping. Those runs make it possible to be a runner in the first place.

 

How To Break Your Mother’s Heart: “I Can Walk In By Myself, Mama”

Someone woke up on the melodramatic side of the bed this morning.

You’ve been warned.

Ahem.

One of the things I have missed since starting back to work again is taking Sadie to school.  I miss the time in the car with her: her bossing me around and insisting on her craptastic music, while criticizing the snacks I lovingly prepared for her.  I just don’t get that kind of attention from my colleagues at work.

I also miss communing with (some of) the moms at the school, and I miss watching the kids waiting for that exciting moment when their teacher opens the door and ushers them in for 2.75 glorious hours of circle time, free choice, and book buddies.

Last night, I decided to stay up late to finish my work so I would be able to take Sadie to school.  It was like old times– she complained when I didn’t play the princess songs in the right order, and she blamed me for hitting a bump and making her spill the applesauce all over her pants.  I was all aglow with the familiarity of the routine and the little dance of love between me and Sadie.

Miss Independent

Miss Independent

When we rolled up to school, Sadie casually mentioned, “I walk in by myself now, Mama.”  Like a good mother, I ignored her because (1) I didn’t think I liked the sounds of her not needing me, and (2) I get the shakes when someone changes my routine– and me not walking Sadie all the way inside to her classroom? That’s a big honking change.

When it was time for the children to go inside Sadie erupted in her trademark giggles as she dove from the car to the school.   Ahhhh, this is what I have missed, I thought as I watched the tallest girl in the class pat Sadie’s head companionably.  I was holding the door to the school open for the kids when Sadie blew me a kiss and disappeared up the stairs.

Whaaaaaaaaaaa? Wait? What?

She must have been serious about that “walking in alone” thing, because there I was standing on the sidewalk solo watching little kids stuffed into colorful puffy jackets stampede up the stairs.

My tears were right there.  I thought about the last time I walked Sadie all the way to her classroom– it was two Fridays ago. I had no idea it was my last time.

On my walk back to the car, I pictured her standing outside her classroom door, waiting with all her friends in what is more fully her world now– my place in her world now stops on the sidewalk.  Everything from the sidewalk forward? Her territory.

I called a mom friend on the way home, choking back tears, trying to explain how utterly proud and thoroughly sad I feel about having a little independent girl who gave me the big old “I can’t take her from here, Mama” today.

Only a mom could know exactly what to say to my plaintive question “Why does this hurt so much?”

Answer: “Because mothering is all about celebrating the moments when your children move forward while you watch them go with a mix of pride, melancholy, and profound emptiness.”

7 Assumptions I Had About Returning To Work

When I am not busy opining about you-know-who over at the Vatican, I have my new part-time job to tend to. And here, three weeks in, I can already feel the pain of the illusions I brought with me as they shatter and fall to pieces around my feet.

I can’t believe that I actually assumed these things, especially now that reality has spit in my face.

My Assumptions:

1. My kids will miss me so much. Of course I thought this. I mean, suddenly I am gone for two whole days–  missing snacks, wake-ups, and preschool pick ups.  This is a big deal. Except not so much for them.  Honestly, I’ve never seen them happier than they are these days.  I am not taking that too personally.

2. The job will have a nice gentle ramp-up period.   I assumed that the workload would slowly build like an exercise routine for a cardiac patient.  What actually happened is that as soon as I was done with the HR presentation on “What To Do During A Bomb Threat,” I got a nice thick stack of papers to call my own.   With a relatively short deadline. And the next day, I got another stack.  The stacks, they keep coming.

3. I will be extra nice to my kids on my long work days.  Thanks a lot, Universe. Is it too much to ask that when I roll in the door at 6PM, we all just get along? At least a tiny bit?  My vision is to come in after a day of work and scoop up my kids and listen raptly as they fill me in every single thing I missed.  But sometimes I am stressed from work, they are cranky and we are out of milk (for them) and pudding (for me).  Sometimes I limp through our diminished number of hours together, heavy with disappointment that even though I am working now we are all still human. Devastatingly human.

4. My brain will snap back quickly to its former condition.  It was only two years that I was out of the legal game.  That’s not so long right? I assumed that the complicated analyses I did during my time at home (how late can I let Simon sleep and still get to Sadie school on time? or what are the odds that Jeff gets up with Sadie if I just pretend to be asleep?) would keep my mind sharp-ish.   That didn’t happen.  Let’s just say on Day 1 I had to look up the spelling of the word “prejudice.”  And then I still spelled it wrong.

5. A baggie of roasted almonds is all I need in my snack drawer. In the old days when I had a desk job, I had  a modest snack drawer (except when I was pregnant; then I had a snack closet), so naturally I assumed that some roasted nuts (a lil fat, a lil protein) would suffice.  And that still works.  Until about 10:00 AM.  Then, I am all where are the real snacks?

6. I can ignore Ann’s siren song. I am a mom of two, one of whom is in private preschool and one is on his way.  Surely, I am not going to fall for those emails luring me to Ann Taylor Loft for the sales, right? I mean, who needs new clothes when her clothes from 2010 are just fine.  I did hold off, dear Readers, until that pesky 30% off President’s Day sale.

7. Public transportation will be invigorating.  I love the train– I can read, be with my thoughts, enjoy some people watching.  I thought it would be extra fun to join the rush hour train crowd once again.  Not only did the Chicago commuting public NOT open me with open arms, they saw fit to step on my toes, shove my backpack aside and spray their germy sneezy bits all over me.  Not so much invigorating as it is humiliating.

You get the picture right? I won’t even bore you with the assumption I made that I would be able to achieve work-life balance with a part-time job, because hey! It’s only 20 hours a week.  I forgot to include extra time for the obsessing and fretting that I am not doing the job correctly or that I made a mistake.  That extra time? Adds about 20 hours to the week.

Have you gone back to work? Did you have to deal with your erroneous assumptions?