Conflicting Zones

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I know what being in the zone feels like. I know the high that comes from doing things I love, of pouring myself into them and pushing my reserves until they are drained. I know what it feels like to fall into bed aching from a day of fierce gardening, or with my brain a sponge twisted dry from taking a vague thought and giving it access out my fingers.

I know that feeling and I want it now.

This minute.

But it’s not here.

I can’t garden today because I have inside work; I can write but my eye keeps glancing out the window.

At the greening grass.

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Hello, Robin.

At the decay of the blooms that brightened my earth last year and now stand like dried flags trying to get my attention. “Tend me!” “Care for me!”

Some days I get to pick my high, but some days my high is picked for me. And today’s has been chosen.

sukie eli

 

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Hello, Spring

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I knew, in my brain, that it was coming- but my heart (and toes) had a different idea. This winter was long, and cold and seemingly endless.

But end it must.

The first day of spring arrived. The very moment that it did, I turned to the woman next to me, “It’s spring! Would you like to wave “good-bye” to winter?

I was hoping that I had a flipping-off partner, but alas- the Walmart cashier wasn’t up for it.

So I celebrated in my own way.

I stocked up on these. Anyone with a decent flavored vodka collection knows that these are pretty good mixers...and they are water so rehydrated WHILE cocktailing. doublewin.

I stocked up on these. Anyone with a decent flavored vodka collection knows that these are pretty good mixers…and they are water so rehydrating WHILE cocktailing. Doublewin.

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I started stocking up on porch reads a while ago. It’s still too chilly to read outside, but the time is coming. And I’ve almost finished one of these from the couch. Like I could wait to read that…pfftt- no.

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The seed collection is growing, these are ones I put in every year.

Okay, sure I'll have to take them inside when it snows or gets really cold (this weekend) but for one glorious 70 degree day- it was spring and, damn it! I was going to get my hands in some dirt and plant something.

Okay, sure I’ll have to take them inside when it snows or gets really cold (this weekend) but for one glorious 70 degree day- it was spring and, damn it! I was going to get my hands in some dirt and plant something.

My toes are still cold and I have yet to pedicure them, but it will happen soon. I bought strappy sandals a month ago and I’ll be ready to wear them as soon as the piggies defrost.

Happy spring, wanna wave “good-bye” to winter with me?

Alone…but not really

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“I love you, have a great day! Be smart and proud of what you do!”

He grumbled something at me as the rear van door slid closed, put his head down and joined the stream of grade school kids shuffling into school.

It’s been a week since he did that school-shuffle. A week of snow days. We managed better than some, more cabin-fevery than others, but it was time to go back. I had dropped the older two off  at the high school an hour prior and for the first time in weeks I was alone.

A week of snow days.

A week of Daughter sick with some mystery virus.

A week of Husband sick with confirmed flu.

Two weeks of me sick with the flu.

Two weeks of Christmas break.

The last time I was alone as I went about my day and my projects it was still 2013.

For six full hours today I am alone.

At first I went about my Monday chores- I did laundry, changed the  bed sheets, tidied- up the weekend debris field.

Then I sat at my desk, ready to get back to my projects. But I was as overwhelmed by their voices as I had been by those of my family. Adding to the cacophony, deadlines loomed: a self-imposed deadline tomorrow, an editor one the day after and more. I had a long list and nothing stopping me from doing it, nothing that needed immediate attention or a sandwich or fresh glass of water and medicine.

It was just me…alone and alone me was stalled by enormity of the project list. Which was most important? The one due tomorrow, or the one that I had been working on the longest? For a woman alone, there was a lot of chatter at my desk.

“Me!” Said the short story halfway done.

“Us!” Said the women in the novel mid-revision.

“Ahem?” Said the contest entry that was only an idea.

“DUDE!” Said the kids from the novel that I started two years ago and is still  a rough draft.

“Kaching!” Said the paid work.

“Darling? Please?” Said the stack of research books that needed to become organized notes.

Then something at the side of my desk caught my confused and alone eye.

The unwrapped stack of index cards represented me at this moment. Ready and waiting for someone to fill them with story ideas, plot lines, chapter summaries and character sketches. The white cards were waiting for names of women to research, outlines of courageous lives lived and places to explore. The blank pages ready for one line hooks and points of an essay.

But they were as wrapped up as I had been the past month and a half.

I slid my nail along the edge to create an opening, then wrestled the plastic wrapper off .

I unwrapped the potential.

Happy Flu Year

Happy 2014. Yes, it’s a week and a half into the new year and I am just now passing along my greeting. Why? Flu.

Bottom line: I had a flu shot but, for some reason, it didn’t protect me like it has all the years in the past…and all the years in the future. The last two weeks have taught me that I want to do EVERYTHING in my power to not get this again. This might be shocking, but I don’t care WHY I still got it, I do care that  no one in my family did.

Two weeks- really sick. Not the way I had planned to spend the kids’ winter break. When life got really busy, I’ve often thought, “Some day I’ll break my leg or get sick and then I’ll be forced to slow down. THAT is when I will (insert sedentary activity here…like uploading pictures to snapfish and creating albums, or work on our podcast Pinterest boards). Did I do any of that? No, I did not.

I slept.

And I woke up and whined on facebook.

And I slept some more.

I am married to a germaphobe of the highest order- he took good care of me and my germs by quarantining us in the master bedroom. He’s not much of a cook, so most of my meals looked like this.

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Which was fine since I had very little appetite. Mostly I ate to shut up his nagging to eat. 

I saw high fevers and broke out in hives; I had to work hard to keep from getting dehydrated. I was a mess.

A mess, I tell you!

A mess, I tell you!

It sucked.

Sick bed selfie. The flu is not pretty.

Sick bed selfie. The flu is not pretty.

But I’m lucky.

First off, the flu can kill or send you for a hospital stay. It’s no joke.

I had people to take care of me, and I didn’t have to be any place. My family does not rely on my income for the necessities of life. I wish I could say I took one for the Mom Team and got it for the women who don’t have that luxury, but that’s not how things work. What I DID do is keep the germs to myself. I followed the CDC suggestions to stop the spread to a T. No one in my family got it from me, and I didn’t spread it to anyone.

Of course it looks stupid, but it kept my germs away from people. (And fogged up my glasses)

Of course it looks stupid, but it kept my germs away from people. (And fogged up my glasses)

It’s all I could do, and I am grateful that I could.

Now….back to 2014.  I have a theme. Admittedly it is crass and quite unlady like- but it has a certain simplistic honesty that appeals to me right now. This year is pedal to the metal- I want to see what I am capable of.  I want to toss my excuses and fears that hold me back down the crapper. If I’m heading down the wrong path for me, I want to know it. I’ve learned a lot from this path, but I have to find out if there is more. This year I want to find that out and the only way that I can is to work hard, smart and with purpose.

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November Something Something

I began the month by writing myself a note:

Dear Future Susan,

Welcome back to the party. It’s barely 7AM on Friday, November 1st, 2013. You were out Trick or Treating last night, and slept VERY well (with Noah, he wanted to snuggle). The kids have the day off from school, Luke is watching Sports Center (really loudly, I might add), Noah is playing Minecraft on your phone in your bed, and Bekah is still asleep. You are in your basement office.

 Your hair is a mess, and you have just now (cheers, by the way), celebrated the beginning of Nanowrimo 2013 with your first sip of coffee (light, hazelnut creamer). You are in your pajamas.

You are about to unleash Sukie Abrams and Bess Stanhope.

These two women have been haunting you for about a year.

They brought friends who are lining up behind them waiting to share their stories with you. You might want to stock up on coffee and liquor. Just saying.

Sukie and Bess have been very patient while you did other things this past year, but they want OUT. NOW.

Take another sip of coffee and make it so.

Happy Nanowrimo.

Be kind to yourself, trust the process…and maybe comb your hair.

Love,

Past Susan

Ps: Noah is going to come downstairs just as you type your first word and ask where Brian hid the Halloween candy. Brian won’t tell you because Noah cussed at him. You will coin the phrase, “spawn of an asshole.” Not directed at anyone in particular, it just made you laugh. Use that one someplace.

 For 19 days I stole time to sequester myself from the family in my office. Several beverages (11 cups of coffee, 10 hot tea, 8 ice water, 3 iced tea, 2 hot toddies, and 2 hard ciders) later…I saw this: 

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I forgot to take the picture yesterday, that’s why it says day 20

I love the image of someone alone with their thoughts, able to give in to the voices in her head , getting up to pace and ponder… but the fact is that I stole the time from other things, the kids talked to me sometimes while I typed or they sat on the sofa next to me and read. I missed a few writing days organizing notes and recording another podcast with Beckett…and have yet to do my part in getting the shownotes ready for that episode’s release.

I didn’t watch any TV except one episode of Once Upon a Time and one of Glee and only because they are shows I watch with a kid- even if the kid who is supposed to be watching the former with me really does it so he can steal my phone, snuggle me on the coach and play Minecraft. Family tradition always trumps voices in my head.

I had other work to do, food to get on the table, daily chores that needed to be done- life went on as normal and I stole the time I could to cross the finishline.

The part of the fine print of Nano that I doubt most who undertake it the first year realize: 50,000 words is  not a novel. Women’s fiction, which I’ve been writing, is at least 70K (for a Chick Lit) and up to the 90K range. When I  posted the victorious achievement Rocky music on my facebook page the story that I am writing was only 3/4 finished. And 3/4 of a rough draft at that. Like most every rough draft that I write, it was slapped down very quickly. I don’t even know what’s really in there.

Yes, many Nanos have gone on to be published…most have not. But this doesn’t diminish the achievement for anyone. The completion of the act was the goal, working that to a readable condition is a whole other race for another time.

I can prattle on about what just sitting my fanny in a chair and writing towards that 50K line has done for me personally, but I won’t. I’ve done that before- but I will say this: This is my 4th Nano. Each year has personally been as different as the stories I wrote.

Last year, 2012, over 340,000 people participated in Nanowrimo, just over 38,000 finished. That is 38,000 different stories, 38,000 different people with 38,000 different reasons for participating.

And this year I add my fourth story, my 4th reason and my 4th set of challenges to my own personal tale.

Halloweenie

I thought I was soooo ahead of the game. Weeks ago I had my act together and squared away Noah’s Halloween costume.

It’s a long story, but here are the key points.

1. I have always made the kids costumes, it’s my thing- the only thing that gave me Super Mom Cred. I took pride in it and when people said to my children, ” You are the most adorable (fairy/dinosaur/lighteningbolt/spinachcan/Max/goldfish) on the street!” I beamed.

2. This year Noah wanted a store bought Boba Fett costume.

3. He used my own lesson of learning to adapt and roll with it on me. I had no rebuttal.

4. Boba and blaster-weapon (which also went against my usual rules) were purchased and hung in his closet for weeks.

Boba Fett hanging with costumes of years past in Noah's closet (staged. He's EIGHT. No eight year old has a tidy closet with only Halloween costumes in it.)

Boba Fett hanging with costumes of years past in Noah’s closet (staged. He’s EIGHT. No eight year old has a tidy closet with only Halloween costumes in it.)

A week before Halloween Noah had his class party. Why so early? Parent/Teacher conferences were set for Halloween and the day after. Yes, right. No school ON HALLOWEEN or THE DAY AFTER.  Yippee.

But, Noah had his party and I got called to do a work thing right as it was starting and it’s a horrible choice to have to make… but I didn’t go to his party. He got himself in his costume, and according to him, I was the only parent not there.

I found this very hard to believe but when he got off the bus a wave of Mama Guilt busted the banks and slammed into me- I couldn’t argue. He looked so…so…so pathetic. He shuffled his feet home, hand covering the tear in the tushy that showed me he had left his boxer shorts on while the back of the costume was so tight it wouldn’t close. I was awash with guilt, he was flashing the rest of the kids on the bus.

His beloved Boba Fett suddenly was tiny Boba Fett.

A week before Halloween

A week before Halloween

Young Master Noah had a serious growth spurt in October, this costume fit him a month before. The pants went down to his sneakers then, but now? Monster Wedgie.

After having paid for a costume the thought of spending MORE money on Halloween made me feel a Monster Wallet Wedgie.

So we spent a couple valuable days brainstorming costume ideas based on materials we had available.

The thrill of costume making that I normally had was gone as we rushed with limited time and materials.

But we did it together and it’s one of those crazy memories that we will always have.

“Hey, Mom,” 35 year-old Noah will say, “remember that time I grew and we had to make a costume right before Halloween?”

“Yes, Son,” I’ll shout because I am hard of hearing and assume everyone else is, too.” You were the most adorable ketchup bottle with a Star Wars blaster on the street.”

We're making the thing over his face a mask, it didn't have holes in it when I took the picture.

We’re making the thing over his face a mask, it didn’t have holes in it when I took the picture.

On the back lable, he wrote it.  If that sucker wasn't hot clued onto the shirt within an inch of it's life, I would shove it in his babybook.

The back lable-he wrote it. If that sucker wasn’t hot glued onto the shirt within an inch of it’s life, I would shove it in his babybook.

Maryville: Hitting close to home

“Did you see this?!” I shoved the front page of The Kansas City Star in my husband’s face last Sunday afternoon. “Did you read this article? Two barely teenage girls raped- one left in freezing conditions passed out on her mother’s steps- cell phone video, a confession, physical evidence…and the two teenage boys both arrested- and then set free.” I tried to remain calm. My own teenage son walked in the room and I pointed at the paper now in Brian’s hands.

“I want you to read this article,” I said calmly, well, attempted calm. ” I want you to know that ‘no’ ALWAYS means ,’no’. Drunk ALWAYS means, ‘no’.  I want you to be a guy who doesn’t think with his penis, but thinks and acts with his heart and brain. I want you to understand the harassment and victim shaming those poor girls had to endure in their high school and small town; I want you to know what it looks like. No girl should be called a ‘skank’; a ‘whore’. Never. But high school kids did that to these two girls after they were raped. I want you to imagine  how you would feel if this happened to your sister and I want and you to remember that feeling tomorrow.”

Poor Luke, he just wanted to sit down and watch the Chiefs play but he had seen Mama Rants before, he knew it was best to pay attention. “Why tomorrow?”

“Because your football team plays the former team of the boys who raped those girls.”

The very next day that article, (THIS ARTICLE), the story of what happened in Maryville, Missouri went viral. It was everywhere I turned online, in the news…people were talking and a lot of the talk was angry and negative; a lot of the talk was aimed at the town.

Later that day, I traveled the 90 minutes from my home to the football field at Maryville High School to watch my son’s team play.

By the time I left home for the game I was a wreck. I had spend a good chunk of the day reading what the online community thought of small midwest towns like Maryville, like where I live.

While the town where I live is closer to a major metropolitan area than Maryville is ( the closest larger town to them would be St. Joseph. Where? Exactly) it’s not completely different. When giant swaths of stereotypes are painted, I live in Maryville: A small rural town in a flyover state. According to that paintbrush, the residents are morons, the police are allowed to be corrupt, the town is governed by decades long social rule of a group of established families, and local sports are king. The town will do anything to preserve order and outsiders are not welcome.

This is not true. It’s not entirely true of  Maryville, and most definitely isn’t true of my town.

Do shades of it ring true?

Probably.

But that day, after reading what people thought of the town, the people who allowed this to happen to those two girls, the potential cover-up, legal maneuvering that got the charges dropped, the speculation of what really happened…being in Maryville  was the LAST place I wanted to be. I thought that the town would attract the vigilantes looking for a highly visible target, and a stadium in the high school where the kids in the case all attended is very visible.

But my son’s freshman team was long scheduled to play. The Maryville Spoofhounds varsity team had come to our field the previous Friday night and smoked us with a 50-10 victory. The football program at Maryville is beloved by many in the town, their 22 straight victories brought enough visitors 90 minutes away to our school to fill the guest bleachers.

I was a wreck of conflicting thoughts:

I wanted to stay home and keep my kid home.

I wanted to go and make a peaceful statement in support of the girls who were raped then shamed and re-victimized.

I wanted our freshmen boys to kick some Spoofhound ass.

daisys for daisy

I put two daisies in my hair, one for each girl. I didn’t know if this was foolish or bold, but I felt like I couldn’t pretend it was just another day, another game in another town.

I have a fairly overactive imagination. On the drive to Maryville I envisioned many scenarios when locals saw my daisies. As the afternoon unfolded:

No one said anything when we stopped at Burger King for dinner.

No one said anything when we sat in the bleachers and cheered on our team.

No one said anything when I went to the snack bar or the ladies room.

(Probably because I looked like this most of the game. It was rainy and I huddled with my younger son and husband under an umbrella.)

maryvilleDuring the game I looked at the other parents, the boys on the field, the cheerleaders. I wondered if they had participated in any way. Then I wondered if it  came as a surprise to them when they had read the same article I did. I don’t have answers for that, only they know.

Do I want justice for the girls?

Hell yeah.

Do I want those who wronged and got away with it to accept what they did and face the consequences?

Hell yeah.

Do I support broad, generalized strokes of anger directed at every citizen of Maryville?

No, I can’t.

There are so many lessons that anyone, anywhere can learn from this case. So many lessons that we can teach our kids including- and certainly not limited to- victim shaming, rape culture, respect for others, cyber bullying, lying, throwing political weight around, Old-Boys networks, and teaching our kids to accept consequences for their actions.

Mostly I want parents, myself included, to continue to have those talks with our kids- all of our kids. Not just the boys, but the girls, too. And not just once, not when the next Maryville happens, but all through their childhoods and teenage years. As long and as often and as creatively as we can, even if they sometimes come out as rants because variety in presentation gets noticed by our kids; rote repetition gets tuned out.

Maryville may not resemble your town, it might not be near to your town, but as parents the lessons learned from Maryville land very close to home for all of us.

I Tumblr’d but I’m okay

When Tumblr first launched, I played…and failed. I didn’t understand exactly how it was supposed to work and started a blog that didn’t really catch on. Honestly, I can’t remember the concept exactly, it was something about parental victories and kid failures on a day-to-day basis…yeah, lost you already. It’s fine. Lost my interest, too.

But, in the last year my daughter has spent a great deal of time on Tumblr. She kept carrying on about fandoms and laughing at funny posts. I’ve been on social media for years, surely I was missing out on something by not participating on Tumblr. So I created a blog, and told her about it.

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She didn’t follow me.

So I followed her.

She still didn’t follow me.

“Honey, why aren’t you following me? I’m on Tumblr.”

Then she launched into a monologue that I really can’t quote. Something about “boring” and “half of tumblr is fandoms the other half is porn, you really have to be careful with all the porn” and then something else about, “boring”.

So I looked around to find other people to follow, very scared about all this porn.

I never really found a lot of porn. But I did find some really fun pages that told me that, yes, my very occasional posts of pictures of my flowers are, indeed, boring. History, photography, writing…I followed some of my favorite authors and musicians.

A few months in and still have only posted some pictures of flowers. Only two people have followed me, and neither are related. But that’s okay. I think I am going to be a lurker on Tumblr.  It’s not social media that has clicked with me yet. When I first realized this, I felt competitive- like I was losing at something. I am (fairly) intelligent, I understand the social part of ‘social media”, I’ve met a lot of friends via the internet community. I use phrases like, “internet community!” I should *get* Tumblr!

Then it occured to me that life is too short to understand everything, and sometimes the best course of action is to understand something the way that we best enjoy it and not work at it so hard. I doubt I’ll ever use Tumblr like my daughter does, but I am still getting a lot out of it.

But no porn. The closest I get is, Fuck Yeah, History Crushes

MY Boring TUMBLR.

Life a little off-center

Welcome! There is a pitcher of both white and red sangria in the kitchen. I made coffee and hot chocolate (and have the special Adult Add Ins on the bar). Help yourself to cookies, or veggies or a slice of cake and come hang out on the porch with me.

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Find a chair or a railing, make yourself comfy

Let me introduce you to the three people who create the most drama, love, excitement, and rewards and who make this house possible:

Beks snow

Eldest child. Older than she looks, as nerdy as her mom

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Elder son- Jock/Theater Kid Hybrid who eats a lot. This was his first course that night.

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My sweet, ‘Oh, it’s not menopause, it’s a baby’ kid. Knows far more than any child his age should.

Why “Life a little off-center”? I like to garden and have a photography background so I have taken entirely too many pictures of my flowers. When you photograph a flower you have to look carefully -is there anything in the frame that will distract from this beautiful bud? Is the flash off so that the colors will be their richest and most natural? Does what is in the frame show the best part of the flower? And, just when I think what I see in the viewfinder is perfect, I turn things just slightly off-center. Why? It makes for a more interesting picture. Anyone can fill a frame with a flower and it will be beautiful, but I like to set it off just a bit to make it uniquely mine.

Snap.

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Ordinary dahlia (gardening joke, no dahlia is ordinary) on a sunny, bright day

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Same bright and sunny dahlia looked at slightly off center

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Or maybe play with the lighting to add some mood. Same plant, cloudy day

Same plant, same cloudy day, same ant crawling up my leg but a little off center

Same plant, same cloudy day, same ant crawling up my leg but a little off-center

What any photographer can tell you about composition, I want to apply to what I post here. I want to take something ordinary (family joke, no one’s life is ordinary), and look at it a little off-center.

Snap.

Hi. But wait.

Welcome to my new blog home, it’s not really decorated yet, just a shell of opportunity. I have plans, big glorious plans…but I’m in the middle of something else and can’t quite give this space the energy it deserves right now. Life. Hardy har har.

I’ll be back to fill this up, I will.

But not today.

I’ll make cookies and Sangria, maybe some hot chocolate and have a nice housewarming soon. I promise.

See you in a bit!

Susan

Yup, kids...Mom will be back to post all kinds of really great stories and jokes and stuff. Aren't you excited?

Yup, kids…Mom will be back to post all kinds of really great stories and jokes and stuff.  Maybe she can even figure out how to merge her old blog with this one! Classic stories, new site! Aren’t you excited?