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You can help a crazy mother out

11 Oct

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve been cheating on you. Well, not you, exactly; I’ve been cheating on Snide Reply.

See, instead of writing about my life, it’s ups and downs, the funny things my kids are doing, the obscene things my iPad is saying, the people who are driving me crazy, I’ve been writing about being crazy. And I’ve been doing it somewhere else.

But I’m ready for you to join me there.

Yesterday, I launched a new blog that I hope will grow into a thriving digital community where parents who have mental illnesses can go to find help, information, entertainment and camaraderie.

It’s called Crazy Good Parent and it was born out of my own frustration at not being able to find the kind of information I need as someone with bipolar disorder who is trying to be the best parent she can. There is plenty of Internet help for parents, for people with mental illness, and for people parenting people with mental illness. But we parents managing kids, work, family, marriage, etc., while also managing our minds? Well, we’re not really feeling the love on the Web.

So, I started my own hangout for people like me—crazygoodparent.com. Come on over and bring your crazy mother (and father) friends, too.

Janice

School’s Out Forever

6 Sep

I did it. I finished. I have a Master’s degree. Actually, I finished a little while ago but indulged in some “west and wewaxation at wast.” This consisted of sharing a large townhouse in Galena, Illinois for a long weekend. Bliss.

I promised never to apologize for not blogging, so no apologies. Just promise to get back to writing.

I seem to have missed the Mrs. Hall boat and that really pisses me off; I SOOOOOOO want to tell her that if her boys can’t respect a girl in a towel, then they can stay the hell away from my daughter. Oh, and Mrs. Hall, pretty sure my son can look at a completely naked woman and still respect her. That was sort of the point behind our teaching him that he really shouldn’t be with naked people unless he respected them and that he should respect the people who get naked with him. But, we aren’t afraid of naked people in our house. Moths and spiders? Hell, yes. Naked people? Not so much.

Please enjoy the video below of Randy Newman’s “Beware of the Naked Man.”

School’s NOT out for summer

24 Jun

At least, not for me. Today is the first day of the last class required to complete my Master of Arts in Teaching. It’s an 11-week course smushed into six weeks. I don’t think I’m going to have bunches of time to post, but I’ll try.

Wish me luck and I’ll see you on the flip side.

 

6000 words

6 May

I’ve been writing from a very dark place for the past three or four weeks. Today, I finished one of the pieces and needed to mark its completion. Sitting in the sun, playing fetch with my dog, I decided that there were tiny details in my garden that make it possible for me to overlook the lived-in, played-in overall mess that is our backyard. Here are some of them.

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Writer’s Block

16 Nov

Write a sentence.

Let the dog out.

Pour a cup of tea.

Let the dog in.

 

Delete a sentence

Read email.

Check Facebook.

 

Write a sentence.

Scrub the floor.

Wash my face.

Pour a cup of tea.

 

Write a paragraph.

Do backbends seated in my swivel chair.

Pull my hair by the roots.

Delete a sentence

 

Let the dog out.

Write a sentence.

Brush my teeth.

Write a sentence

Let the dog in.

 

Write a sentence

I had hoped for something longer today. This will have to do.

 

Room with a view

19 Oct

Sometimes, words fail. Sometimes, it feels like everything fails. And then, sometimes, it takes so little to start to turn it around.

My office window is behind me as I write, so I keep the blinds drawn to cut the glare. This morning it’s gray and drizzly. I cursed the darkness, thinking, I need to get more light in here, and imagining a trip to Ikea. Then I remembered the blinds; they are closed so often I don’t even think of them. I opened the blinds to a scene from the garden I’ve neglected for months.

Lighting Matches

4 Oct

Image: fitsnews.wordpress.com

In honor of National Poetry Day—in England, I think—here is a poem I wrote some time ago.

 
Lighting Matches

He fills his pipe,

scrapes the tobacco into the bowl.

I watch him do it,

wonder how he doesn’t get shreds

of the moist, sticky stuff under his nail.

But he never does.

He lights it with a match,

a wooden match,

never a lighter.

This disappoints me.

My father owned a lighter,

lovely silver basket-weave pattern,

the old kind

with a flint.

I loved to watch him fill it,

loved the smell of the fluid,

loved the danger of the process.

At any moment the fluid could spill.

We’d both go up in a flash of fire.

This man uses matches.

He’s nowhere near as dangerous as Dad.

Running, Writing and the 20-point Shot

1 Oct

Waiting to start

“Give me your hands,” she said, holding her own out, palms up.

Confused, I took them nonetheless. Was this some kind of congratulatory high-five? I wondered. No, this felt comforting, her warm hands making me realize how cold my own were.

Another woman grabbed at my waist, slowing me when all I wanted was to keep moving. “I know it’s hard,” she said, “but we need the bottom part.” Then, she ripped off the bottom of my racing bib and with that, they released me to walk off the momentum and adrenaline of finishing my first race.

I started running a little more than two years ago. I’ve logged probably 2000 miles since then. My first runs consisted of sixty seconds of shuffling like an eighty-year old woman interspersed with ninety-minute segments of walking. I recall the first sixty-second shuffle vividly. Ok, time to run, I thought, as the voice from my C25K app directed. I can do this. I look ridiculous. I hate running. “Walk,” the app directed after what seemed an eternity. I walked, then shuffled, then walked again for twenty minutes.

Yesterday, I ran for thirty minutes and 6/100ths of a second without stopping, except to slow down twice for a cup of water from a Cub Scout by the side of the road. I finished second in my age group.

I started blogging at about the same time I started running. Both were things I did because I thought I ought. Running would get me the bone-strengthening impact I’d been missing swimming laps. Blogging would give me a way of exercising my mind while kicking the cobwebs out of my tech savvy. And, both filled the massive amount of time I had on my hands while looking for a teaching job in a crashed economy.

Running and writing have become integral parts of my life, but for some reason, I’m able to be more disciplined in my running. I find it far easier to get my butt—and legs, of course—out the door three times a week than I do to park my butt—and my typing fingers, of course—in front of my computer everyday. OK, that’s not completely true. It’s very easy to park in front of the computer, what’s not so easy is doing it to write.

I’ve read many stories of successful people translating skills learned from one discipline to another, where they also inevitably become successful. I believe it’s possible for me; I believe my running regularity and success should make it easier to develop discipline, and achieve success, in a writing career. But so far, I haven’t done it.

The stakes are much higher for my writing. No one pays me to run and no one is depending on me to be paid when I run. People are depending on me being able to make money writing. My husband wants to retire, my kids will go to college. We need, desperately need, to be out of debt.

And yet, I hesitate.  The thought of cold calling prospects leaves me breathless with anxiety. Writing letters of introduction takes hours of torment and deliberation over every word. Networking events? Weeks of self-pep-talking to get me there.

I know the answer is going to be something like a C25K program for writers. I could even say I’ve stalled because I’m not good at inching toward a goal; this weekend proved that isn’t true.

When I watch basketball and my favorite team is behind by 20 points, I wish for the 20-point shot. But, there is no 20-point shot, not in basketball, running or writing. I’m going to have to start writing professionally the way I did running,  sixty seconds of shuffling at a time.

 

Yesterday was the second anniversary of starting my blog. I’ve gone from approximately 45 readers to nearly 300 since then and I thank you all for your loyal support.

 

Fractured Fiction: You finish it!

10 Aug

Like many writers, I have attempted writing fiction. I have attempted it so many times that I think there is more fiction on my computer than there are entries in my Quicken files. I have a plethora of ideas and I’m really good at starting. But I get stuck. Maybe, I thought, my loyal readers can help me get over the hump. So, I’m going to start going through the mountain of beginnings I’ve written and throw one out to you every week. YOU finish it!

Here’s the first:

I woke to the sound of the shower running. This was a problem; I live alone. So, either I had turned the shower on and fallen asleep, or there was someone in my shower. My head was fuzzy about the night before. In fact, I had no recollection beyond hitting my head as I sat up too quickly while backing out of the undersink cabinet. The damn disposal had choked on something again and, in my effort to get it running, I’d had to crawl into the cabinet up to my shoulders. Getting back out is never as easy as getting in, is it?

So, my memory was going to be of no use in figuring out why my shower was running. A pile of men’s clothing lay on the chair beside my bed. My own clothes lay on the floor, short black skirt on the bottom, black silk blouse next, then red lace bra and panties. At least I’d dressed nicely.

But this was bad, very bad. Not just because of the obvious; I had had sex with someone and couldn’t remember the act, let alone the actor. I’d done that before.  Oh, crap!  Check for condom.  There, near the panties, a used wrapper. One little bit of good news. No, it wasn’t so bad that I had woken up with no memory of my activity the night before. The bad part was that this time, I’d brought the stranger home. Or, was it a stranger?

The water stopped.  I heard the shower curtain being pulled back. In a few moments, I assumed, the mystery man would make his appearance. I closed my eyes, feigning sleep. Obviously, he wasn’t going to kill me. If he were, I assumed he would have already. Why take a shower before getting all bloody?

Head of the Class

9 Aug

Image: Designtechtonics.biz

Not too long ago, in my newspaper column, I wrote about my son’s friends being given cars by their parents. I had heard that kids with cars—and I don’t mean Power Wheels—was pretty common here, but didn’t really believe it until one newly minted driver after another was given a car. And we’re not talking old cars in funky colors, like the mustard yellow Pinto that was my first car. Two of my son’s friends were given new Priuses. Or is it Prii?

I wrote that no kid should be given a car, especially a kid who just learned how to drive. Let that kid buy a car and he’d appreciate it, care for it, drive it with caution, fill it with gas using his own money. Until he could do that, I wrote, my son would be asking to borrow the family car. I mentioned that we can’t afford to buy our son any car, but even if we could, there’s no way in hell that we would.

I was accused of having class envy. You need to understand where I live to fully appreciate this accusation. Money magazine has named Naperville one of the 10 best places in America to raise children—more than once! There are a lot of reasons to like Naperville: good schools, nice houses, lovely downtown near the historic district. A river even runs through it.

In Naperville, you could live here.

With all that good publicity from Money magazine, lots of people moved here in the past 20 years or so. So, you’ve got the old timers who mostly live in the old neighborhoods. Back when I was a kid, houses in those neighborhoods were very affordable for a young family; my own family almost moved there. If you moved here in the good old days, your $25,000 house is probably worth more than $500,000 now. Wealthier people have moved here and built even more expensive houses. And less wealthy people started moving here when builders started turning farmland into subdivisions; I live in one of those. Today, we even have town houses, condos and (gasp) apartments.

Or you could live here.

Or here.

What started as a pretty nice small (white) town has become a city of more than 140,000 people replete with every race, religion and socio-economic grouping. We even have a prostitution ring and a heroin problem.

In that context, I understand the anxiety that pushed an obviously wealthy long-time resident to think that when I said “ there is no way I’m giving my son 24/7 access to something that is a proven killer, particularly of boys” what I actually meant is “rich people suck.”

I don’t think rich people suck—well, not all of them. There are rich people that suck and poor people that suck. I’m equal opportunity when it comes to thinking someone sucks. So, me with class envy? Nah.

I have had several other types of envy. Like kid envy. There are children who make their beds every morning, get their own breakfast and go happily to school. There are children who join in school activities, practice their music lessons, do their homework and help around the house. There are children who respect their parents, walk the dog, get good grades and brush their teeth. These are not my children.

Frequently, I find myself wishing that my son were more involved in activities at school, such as anything. And I would love for my daughter’s room to not look like Lord Voldemort could hide in it. But, then I wouldn’t have a son who calls me on his cell phone and says, “Hey, Mom. I’m sitting on a couch on the corner of Sanctuary and Lowell.” When I drive to said corner, I do indeed find my son sitting on a discarded sofa, kicking back like a football fan on a Sunday afternoon.

I have had penis envy, too. When I worked in public relations, I made a fairly decent salary. We bought our first house on it. But, if I had a penis, I would have made $25,000 more. That would have also made us a gay couple, but we’re ok with that. Hell, we adopted our second child and lived in Oak Park for a while.

Do I even need to mention shoe envy? Massive quantities of shoe envy here. My sister and her daughter have truly gorgeous shoes and they wear the same size, doubling the number of shoes available to each of them. Not fair, right? When my husband finally got his PR business off the ground, I could buy truly gorgeous shoes, too. I paid lots of money for some pairs. I still swoon over the Italian ones made completely of leather. Does that mean I envy myself my shoes? I think it might.

I certainly envy my daughter’s shoes. She has narrow feet. With a lot of obese children in the US, they make cheap shoes really wide these days. So, the Empress—I mean, my daughter—can only shop at the pricey children’s shoe store in town, or Nordstrom.

But the envy I’m most likely to suffer is Writer’s Envy. Like most writers, I read a lot. I read all kinds of things, from crappy fantasy to classic literature. And when I find truly good writing, I want to crawl in a hole and never touch my computer keyboard again. I feel like Mike Myers and Dana Carvey meeting Aerosmith in Wayne’s World. “I am not worthy,” I think, “I am not worthy.”

Being bipolar actually has its benefits in dealing with Writer’s Envy. Reading something truly fabulous will send me into a tailspin. But all I have to do is wait for the next mania train to pull into the station and I’ve got myself convinced I can write a bestseller . . .in a month . . .while still working . . .and raising my kids. You jealous yet?

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