i took a walk

My girls have fallen in love with “the puppets,” by which they mean The Muppets lately. No, this isn’t some sort of tie-in with their new show that apparently premiered this week, because I haven’t seen it, and I’m not on the Muppet payroll. (Although, Kermit, call me!) We have a few Muppet movies on DVD, and they’ve been watching those, particularly the newer one with Jason Segel that came out when I was pregnant with them, which Jon and I saw in the theater, which I totally SOBBED through because I was hopped up on double twin hormones and feeling very nostalgic. Anyway, one funny thing that the girls have picked up on from the movie is a song Amy Adams’ character sings while eating alone about “having a me party.” When we were out to lunch the other day, they saw a woman dining alone, and asked me if she was having a “me party.” And I’ve heard them say to each other when they feel like they need a little space or alone time, “could you please leave me alone? I need to have a me party.” I kind of love it. Both the phrase and the fact that these tiny people are self-aware enough to know that they need some alone time once in a while. And I love that it’s phrased positively, like a party, instead of negatively, like loneliness.

As a mom of three-year-old-twins, I don’t get a lot of me time. You know how society is always making us think we need to “do it all” and asks us how we “do it all” and creates a lot of insecurity around “all” and even though we know it’s a giant, soul-killing lie, we just keep buying into it, anyway? We all know this, and yet we keep on tap dancing, juggling flaming swords, just praying that we don’t get maimed too bad when it all falls down.

I’m tempted to say something like “Can I be real?” and make a candid admission, but here’s what I’m really going to say: you don’t need to ask permission to be real. You don’t need to sneakily confess that you’re not doing it all. Because deep down you know no one is, and you know that’s just life, and there shouldn’t be guilt there. I can’t even figure out how to do MOST OF IT, let alone all of it, in one day. I can be a few but not all of the following in a given day: a good mom, a good wife, a good friend, a good cook, a person who exercises, a person who writes, a person who took a shower today, a person with a clean house, a person who makes time for her spiritual wellbeing, a person who gets enough sleep. Which is why I just love love loved this post, “Limiting All” by a woman whose voice I have really come to love lately, Amanda Magee. In it, she writes, “Unclench your hand, let everything fall down, if for no other reason than to give your arm a rest and to regather the things so they fit better in your hand. We are all sitting precariously on towers of our own making. They don’t have to reach the sky or carry the world, they just need to hold us and that starts with us accepting that ‘all’ is not something we even want.”

IMG_0841

So, a great gift my husband has given me the last three days is he’s given me some “me party” time. I know that we both want each other to take time to nurture ourselves, but work schedules and actually taking advantage of the time we do have doesn’t always work out. But this week, it has. Namely, for the last 3 days, I’ve gotten out for 45 minutes to an hour to just take a walk in the lovely finally starting to cool off weather, basking in the sunshine, earbuds and a podcast in my ears. Because while I love doing Zumba in my den, it’s just SO FREAKING NICE after basically being cooped up in air conditioned spaces for the last three months, to get some fresh air in my lungs and just be by myself and listen to stuff that feeds my mind.

The view halfway through my walk.
The view halfway through my walk.

Taking care of my mind/body is something that often ends up on the back burner, because I am taking care of small people, trying to nurture relationships, and also trying to squeeze out time to do the thing I love the most: write. But the thing is, a lot of the time, I feel like all my creative energy gets used up in the course of just trying to create my best self with which to interact and parent my children every single day. I mean, I’m literally writing the character I inhabit all day every day, trying to put affirming, patient, peaceful words and thoughts in my mind and my mouth, trying desperately to construct the reality I want them to live in. And since I’m a person who writes about my life, sometimes being actively in it makes it hard to also observe it and package great insights wrapped in words. I know it’s hip to talk about living your life as if you’re writing a story these days, but man, that’s how I see my world. I’m writing a story with my life all day, and sometimes that leaves very little headspace or energy for actual writing. Which then creates guilt because my writing is this big key piece of my personality and sanity and wellbeing.

So, anyway, these last three days, I’ve walked a total of 8 miles or so, and I’ve been listening to interesting things along the way, and today as I was trucking along, I was straight up moved to tears listening to Elizabeth Gilbert talking to Rob Bell on his Rob Cast (episode 36). You should really listen to the whole thing, because it’s super special, but the part that made me cry as I walked was when a mom of a young child asked Elizabeth about finding the time to write in the midst of motherhood and all the fatigue and busyness that comes with it. And she basically told the woman that she needed to give herself permission to not be writing right now, and to take care of her “animal body” as much as she could, by getting enough rest and being kind to herself. And at that moment, the piece of me that feels guilty that I don’t get to do more writing, guilty that I so often open this page up with empty hands and nothing to offer, guilty that I can’t even do MOST OF THE THINGS in one day, that hard little piece of me broke open a little bit, and some light and some air got into my soul, the same stuff I’ve been basking in on my walks.

IMG_0870

Intellectually I know I can’t do most of the things in the same day. And I need to let that be OK in the season I am in right now. I will write when the planets align, and when I have something I need to say, I will fight to make the time to do it. And when I need to take care of my animal body with a long walk in the sunshine and something inspiring in my ears, I will accept with pleasure the gift of time to do it. Today, because I have accepted that gift, my legs are a little sore, and my heart toward myself is a little softer, and I found the time to write way too many words about it, and there’s banana bread cooling on the counter. That’s not ALL, by any means, but it’s enough. And I’m so much more interested in enough.

how my mombod wound up on nightline

My most recent blog post, “mombod” started out as a rant to my husband. As I was venting to him about how ridiculous it was that people were writing lists about reasons “dadbods” are attractive when there’s a total double standard about moms’ bodies, I realized I was already halfway done writing a blog post with my words. I quickly fired off a post, and since I felt it was timely, I went ahead and submitted it to my editors at Huffington Post as well. They immediately picked it up. I got a lot of positive feedback from friends about the piece, and felt good about myself for holding it down for all the mombods out there.

The next day, the girls and I had a slow morning at home before meeting up with some friends for lunch. When I got home and got the girls down for a nap, I checked my email and saw a message from a producer at Nightline. She had read my mombod piece on HuffPost and wanted to know if I would be interested in speaking on camera about it. That night.

I could tell the producer was looking for sort of a “backlash to dadbod” angle, and made clear that I wasn’t *against* dadbod. I love dadbods! I’m married to a hottie with a bit of a dad-body. My entire message was that if we’re going to accept, love, and admit that we find imperfect male bodies attractive and desirable, we needed to do the same for women, whose general message from society is usually that if their bodies bear any evidence that they have borne children, it is a problem to be fixed, not a beautiful, acceptable new normal. The producer said she liked that idea, too, and within a few minutes, she had arranged for a local ABC camera crew to come to my house at 3:30 to film the interview and get some b-roll of me with my family.

That left me a couple of hours to a) freak out, b) get at least two spaces in my house cleaned up enough to appear on camera, and c) fret about what I was going to wear. I quickly eliminated option c) and decided to just leave on what I had been wearing for a normal day momming it up in my mombod. I thanked God I had showered and fixed my hair that morning. I warned my husband, who was getting off work right around the time of the interview that he would likely be arriving just in time for filming (which is why he appears in his work scrubs in the footage).

The camera crew showed up at 3:00 and did a LOT of setting up. Lighting something for film ain’t no joke. I sat in a chair for most of it and remembered the storyline about the lighting stand-ins from “Love Actually.” When they were finally ready, the producer called and asked me the interview questions via speaker phone while I looked at one of the camera guys to the side of the camera and pretended he was interviewing me. The nice part about being interviewed about something I’ve written is, I don’t really have to come up with points on the spot– I’ve already written and edited them and basically just have to restate them to answer the questions, so I didn’t feel super on the spot or like I had to fish for answers. The most difficult part was trying to remember to include the question in my responses, since the interviewer wouldn’t be heard on camera.

Then they wanted to get some footage of us as a family, so we did some playing in the den, “made a snack” in the kitchen (it wasn’t really snack time, so I had the girls help me pull some grapes off the stems and put them in a bowl to serve later with dinner), and took a walk in front of our house. While the camera guys had won me over by helping make sure my bra straps didn’t appear on film (sleeveless shirt hazard), they lost me a little bit when I saw the final interview and realized that although they swore my tripping did NOT appear in their footage, the one bit of walking they did show was in fact me tripping. I’m nothing but grace.

At that point, I didn’t know who else would be in the story, or really what they would be doing with my answers. When the interview aired after my bedtime that night (I stayed up to watch, though, because I was pumped), I saw it for the first time along with everyone else. I loved the dadbod blogger, because he was sweet and funny, and I immediately worried that he’d get negative comments for being slightly larger than the average dadbod, which really has been one of the most common comments people have made to me– “Isn’t that guy bigger than a dadbod?” To that I say: I don’t care, and it doesn’t really matter. In fact, again, my entire message on bodies is that whatever body you have, it is worthy of love and acceptance, and it can be seen as sexy.

Also, my husband immediately pointed out that I was billed as a “mommy blogger” but the other guy wasn’t billed as a “daddy blogger.” Many bloggers better than I have tackled the gag-worthiness of the phrase “mommy blogger,” but for the record, I was asked to state my name and occupation on camera, and I described myself as a “writer and mom.” I would pretty much never call myself a mommy blogger. I’ve been blogging longer than I’ve been a mom, and I’ve always blogged about many subjects that include but are not limited to parenting. Marginalizing women’s writing as something for “mommies” is offensive and sexist.

That said, I think my message came across, and I thought the piece was a good one. I’m annoyed that the headline is “Mommy Blogger Fires Back Against Dadbod Physique,” when I’m not against dadbods (or any bods) in the slightest. As I said originally, “Whatever body you have, mombod, dadbod, rippedbod, fatbod, YOU are what make your body sexy, not the other way around.”

six years and a lifetime ago

I just realized thanks to Facebook’s new time traveling feature that I started this blog six years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago.

DSC05152
I got to see THIS on the regular when I started this site.

 

When I started writing here, we were still fairly newly wed and our only child was Bessie dog. We had moved to Charleston, SC for Jon’s pediatrics residency, and we were not just in love with each other, but in love with our new city, as well. Jon worked like a dog, but time off was for lazing about on Folly Beach, enjoying bottomless brunches downtown, and hunting down every good meal we could find in one of the best food towns in the world. Things weren’t all rosy though– I had just lost my first real post-college job in real estate thanks to the market crash and recession, and I spent some time on unemployment. I felt like we were starting to be actual adults, not just two kids playing house. We were dealing with real issues in a new place in a time that seemed very economically uncertain. My thoughts were consumed by my infatuation with our new home and also concern for big issues nationwide.

Perhaps because we didn’t know many people well in Charleston outside of the wonderful people we met through residency, Jon often found himself on the receiving end of what can really only be described as monologs– he got all of my thoughts, musings, and rants. And one day, he not so subtly suggested that maybe I needed some kind of outlet, like a blog or something, where I could write through my thoughts and connect to others.

So, I did. I didn’t expect much– I just wanted to do more writing and connecting, and having a little outpost on the internet was a way to achieve that. I wrote in my first post, “I am thinking of starting a blog.  Thinking seems to be all I do, because I’m scared to pull the trigger in case the thing turns into a pit of narcissism and monotony.  No one wants to read my diary.  Not even me.  And yet, I write so little now that I’m a liar when I call myself a writer.  Can’t remember the last time I wrote anything, let alone something worth reading.” I still think of this place as somewhere I do something that’s slightly more organized and edited than a diary. You don’t get the play by play of my life, here, but you do get portraits of pieces of it, both the beautiful and the difficult. And, reflective of those big concerns I’ve had from the start, you also get political opinions, theological musings, and even feminist rants.

ah, the sweet life of two childfree people who get to do things like lounge in hammocks.
ah, the sweet life of two childfree people who get to do things like lounge in hammocks.

It’s funny to me now to look back on posts like this one, where I was considering becoming a mother, and largely terrified of the bodily experience of pregnancy and childbirth, now that six years later, I squeeze in time to write while caring for my three year old twins (first mention of them ever on this blog here). I can definitely say becoming a mother has connected me to my body in deep and meaningful ways, and helped me learn to love myself too. And then there was this one, where Jon had just told he he was ready to have a baby like, NOW, and I pondered the more existential changes that would come along with parenthood. I also worried about how to be a mother and a writer. It turns out becoming a mother has both changed everything about me and also not really changed who I am at all. Sure, I write a lot more about parenting-related topics now, and I think I’ve become stronger and more patient and more vulnerable and more open and and more mature along this journey, but that also generally just happens to a person as they age into their thirties, too.

IMG_1545

Another big change that has been documented over this blog’s lifetime is a major shift in the way we eat after we saw Food Inc.  I’ve journaled through our CSA experiences, mused on the intersection of food and spirituality and the intersection of food and feminism, and even found a way to make a regular spaghetti and meatballs night a spiritual practice.

IMG_0483
An image from the time I discovered Instagram.

 

And, along the way, there were many changes and milestones, big and small. I went from a dog person to someone who definitely favors my cat. I started and quit grad school, because I loved studying literature but realized I don’t actually want to teach it. I witnessed a miracle. We got a scary diagnosis during my pregnancy and disability became a big part of our lives. I gave birth to our twins and almost died.  I struggled with anxietyI stood up for reproductive rights, because even though I have a child with a disability, I’m still pro-choice. We bought a house that might be haunted. I wrote about how my child with a disability is not my hero, went viral, got interviewed on an NPR show, and became a Huffington Post blogger. I claimed my identity as a writer. I gave up antiperspirants and embraced my inner sweaty hippie. I got involved with the American Heart Association.

I feel like we became a family before your eyes.
I feel like we became a family before your eyes.

There are a few things I used to do more of that I don’t so much anymore, and I’d like to get back to. Reviewing movies occasionally was pretty fun. I also used to both read more books and write more about them, be they memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love or literature like The Bluest Eye. I’m actually finally, slowly getting back into making time (and having the concentration) to read, and I’d like to share more about how the things I read change my mind and my life. I want to find the time to do some sewing (this crib skirt tutorial is one of my most popular posts ever). I want to do more exploring with my faith. I want to do more food writing and share more recipes. And I want to encourage more women to own their awesome and love their selfies.

I know this means I have to get better about making time to write regularly, which isn’t always easy. But, looking back at what a GIFT this space has been to me over the last six years, a place to grow and connect and find out that I’m not so alone in this world as I might have once thought, I feel inspired to keep working in this space, keep using this outlet, and keep writing, because I really do think that writing keeps me sane. Thank YOU for reading here, be it just today, or for most of the last six years. Your taking the time to read and connect means more than you can know, and I am so immensely thankful for all the amazing people putting these words out there has brought into my life. I’m so glad my husband encouraged me to start this site six years ago, and I have no plans of quitting it anytime soon.

books

epic stories

“Etta fall down. At da zoo. Hurt knees. Hurt hands. Etta cry.” It happened in October, but she still tells me this story of her epic zoo fall at least once a day.

“Claire Bear fall down. At da wi-berry. I bonked my head on a shelf. I screamed. Then Mama had me.” This fall at the library, too, happened in October. This story, as well, is told as frequently and reverently as a great epic from the oral tradition, with all the solemnity a toddler can muster.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a9d/7545081/files/2014/12/img_0499.jpg
Moments before the Great Library Fall of October 2014.

Usually we sigh, the way we all tend to do when someone tells us something we’ve heard before a hundred times, and say something like, “I know baby, you fell down and hurt yourself, but that was weeks ago, and you’re ok now! Your owies are all gone!” The repetition seems to us a little silly– why keep telling the story of such little hurts? Childhood is practically made of skinned hands and knees, of knots on foreheads and bruises that fade slowly, like sunsets that last weeks.

But to our girls, they are the biggest falls they’ve had yet. Their most significant injuries. Big events in the life of small people who lead otherwise routine little lives. To them, they are big stories worth telling.

Continue reading “epic stories”

listen to some mothers

LTYMcastYesterday, I had an amazing experience not even an utter deluge of underarm perspiration could dampen. Let me back up…

I joined a cast of 14 women and 1 man to stand on a stage and tell stories about motherhood. In 32 other cities this month, other casts did the same. And as someone who truly believes in the power of stories to change the world, it was akin to a holy experience. Continue reading “listen to some mothers”

Mother’s Day and telling stories

On Mother’s Day, I’m doing something that scares me a little: joining a cast of unbelievable women and one brave man to stand up in front of hundreds of live people and countless folks on the Interwebs and tell a piece of my story. A piece of my heart. I’m worried about what I’m going to wear. I’m worried about doing awkward things with my hands. I’m worried about maybe crying while I’m trying to read a very vulnerable piece (that I will absolutely share here later). But I’m not worried about telling my story. Because my story is about how becoming a mother has made me fierce and free and strong and maybe even a little bit crazy. Continue reading “Mother’s Day and telling stories”

what’s the frequency, ernie?

Illustrating this post with gratuitous twin cuteness just because I can.
Illustrating this post with gratuitous twin cuteness just because I can.

I continue to be amazed by the response my “Not a Hero” post is getting, and am super grateful to everyone who has read, shared, and commented on the post. Today, it’s featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page, which is bringing a new influx of readers and commenters. To new folks: welcome, thanks for reading, I promise to moderate comments as quickly as I can.

The newest crazy piece of news that I am totally fangirling out over is that I’m going to be on NPR’s Tell Me More tomorrow. Check your local public radio station to see if they air the show, and tune in if you want to hear what my accent sounds like in real life. I will be doing my level best not to talk too fast or bring shame upon my family. If your local station doesn’t air the show, you will likely be able to listen after the fact on the show’s website or podcast.

I’m actually beyond excited about this because I’m a huge NPR fan. I’m also super excited to get to talk about my amazing kids, and about the responses I’ve received to the post. This wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for people like you (listeners like you? Am I on NPR already?) reading and sharing, so again: thank you. And thanks for cheering us on through this whole twins/spina bifida journey– it’s meant so much.