Move over son! This skeptic is hopping on the bandwagon!

Are you a book person or a movie person?

The way you answer that is going to make a big difference on how you feel about books being made into movies.

CringingWhen you are a book person, the words “They’re making it into a movie” can be cringe worthy ones.

When I hear that Hollywood is taking on one of my favorite authors, I nearly always cringe. Yes, I might feel a cautious feeble flicker of hope, but the trepidation I feel tends to squelch that tiny flickering flame.

Movies so rarely do justice to a good book.

Yes, I know that there are exceptions, Lord of the Rings being the most obvious one, but more often than not, what the end result is is a butchery of a truly good book.

butcheryTake “City of Bones” for example. Butchery, sheer butchery!

And, if it’s not an outright butchery, it still just falls so very far short of the written work itself. “Memoirs of a Geisha.”  “Gone Girl.” Decent movies, even “good” ones, but such a pale shadow of the written work!

Given this track record, you can understand the anxiety I felt when I heard the “Game of Thrones” was going to be turned into a TV series…

I wanted to be excited. I really did, but experience had taught me that I was likely to be disappointed. Very, very disappointed. The fact that it was HBO taking it on, and not some alphabet network, did give me some hope, the flame did flicker, but…this was my favorite series of all time. My favorite author of all time. Even if it was good, it was unlikely to be good enough.

bandwagonYou have to understand, I am a true fan, not a bandwagon fan. I’ve been with GoT since the beginning.

I remember well when my father told me, my freshman year of college, that if I liked Robert Jordan, he was about to wow me with his new find, a guy named George R. R. Martin. I was skeptical, as at that time I thought that Jordan was the best fantasy writer of all time. Still, as it was my dad giving me the tip, and he’d never done me wrong, I knew I needed to give it a try. With a fair dose of skepticism, I cracked the cover…

And felt into the pages, real world be dammed! Who needs to eat? Work? Sleep? I needed to know what would happen!

I gobbled “Game of Thrones” up in a day and a half, great tome though it was.

I was stunned. Martin had ripped my heart out, chewed it into a pulp, and spit it out right in front of me, the great red, pulpy mass that it now was–and I loved it.

oliverI found myself muttering to myself for several days, “I can’t believe he did that! Did he really just do that?!” It was unconventional. It was brutal. And yet I felt a bit like Oliver holding out my bowl saying, “Mo’ please.”

He changed the way I looked at literature.

I anxiously awaited every new release, and I re-read all the books that came before in anticipation of each new release. I found myself waiting on pins and needles–just what would Martin dare to do next?

I converted all my friends to fandom. We would sit around and cast the TV series for fun– a good decade before HBO decided to take it on.

eddard-starkWe would argue over which actor or actress would best portray what we saw so clearly in our heads. We’d argue and debate until we came to a consensus.

We dreamed that it would happen. For years we talked about what if it happened, but a part of me dreaded the possibility of it truly happening, because how could they possibly do it justice?

Then I heard HBO was taking it on…I followed all the news about casting, very concerned. So many of the choices just didn’t fit my imagination. Sure, you had some that were just perfect like Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), and LittleFinger (Aidan Gillen), but then there was Cersei (Lena Headey) and she just didn’t fit what was in my head…

Despite my fear, I found myself excited, but when it came down to it, fear won out. I couldn’t watch the show. It might spoil the books, and I just couldn’t risk it.

GoT-1024x512But then began the long wait.

And more waiting.

And yet more waiting.

And the waiting became so long and embarrassing, that Martin himself wouldn’t even project dates any more. Heck, he stopped even mentioning the book in his blog!

He’d talk about Comic Con. He’d talk about watching the TV series as it was filmed. He’d talk about going here and going there. He’d talked about his games. And all the little side projects he did. Anything except the book.

And I began to wonder if Martin would ever finish his series at all. And not knowing how it ended…well, that would be truly awful! (After all, my friends and I use to joke and worry about Robert Jordan dying before he could wrap up the “Eye of the World” and, lo! Our fears ended up being quite justified (Though I will say that Brandon Sanderson did a wonderful job of wrapping up that behemoth!))

Then I heard the news that the late comers, the bandwagon hoppers, the new flock of groupies, officially knew more than we, the true and faithful.

Unacceptable. Diabolical! A true outrage!

outrage

The true fans were being left behind!

And I kept hearing how awesome the show was. By everyone. And their brother.

Then even my brother, one of the true and faithful from the beginning, told me I really had to watch it. That I wouldn’t be disappointed…

So, I swallowed my fear, made myself a drink (A nice strong one for the occasion), and curled up on my couch with a good dose of skepticism.

At first, I noticed every difference from the book.

Cersei wasn’t pretty enough. Brienne wasn’t ugly enough. Jamie wasn’t blond enough.

But, I had to grudgingly admit it was good. Maybe not great, but good.

And the further I got, it was more than good.

And as it picked up steam, and increased in budget, it became everything that was in my head–it became amazing.

winterfellIt truly did this brutal world Martin had created justice.

As it went on, I realized that the casting choices that I had questioned were downright inspired. (Lena Headey, I owe you an apology. You are freakin’ amazing and make the absolute perfect Cersei. I can’t help hating you!)

And I mostly stopped questioning the differences from the book (But,why was Caitlyn Stark not brought back by the Lord of Light? Martin, will you please answer where you were going with that story line??).

The truth is, GoT is one of the rare occasions where the screen version actually lives up to the literary work.

David Benioff and Brian Kirk, you set yourselves up for failure when you took on this behemoth, and yet somehow, you more than pulled it off.

This fan humbly thanks you for not butchering my favorite tale. You won over this skeptic, and I am waiting on pins and needles for the last installment…

I know I can’t hope for a happy ending, it is, after all, Martin, but maybe a semi happy ending?? Pretty please? Just this once?

burningWho am I kidding. The world is going to burn, and yet I can’t make myself look away…

I’m once again sticking out my bowl asking “mo’ please.”

I guess we never learn, do we?

 

 

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Do I really hate that movie, or was I just told I should? The Power of Suggestion

booksAnyone who knows me, knows how much I like to read. Reading is my greatest hobby. There are many things I like to do–draw, play the piano, tennis, re-purpose furniture–but I give so little time to these others, because the pull of a good book outweighs them all. So, over the course of my (gasp) almost forty years, I have devoured many, many books. I bleed my favorite authors dry, and then must find new ones to take their place. As a result, I am always looking for book recommendations. There is nothing worse than pulling a random book of the shelf because you have no idea what to try next–more often than not, you end up with something mediocre or even down right awful. So, I have made it a practice to have several of my friends and acquaintances who also like to read, pass on their recommendations. Typically, if one of them passes on a book, it’s worth reading.

But, sometimes, what one person thinks is excellent, another finds abysmal. Usually, these differences make sense. Perhaps someone tends to expect something different out of their books and movies. Perhaps they are just very different from yourself. Perhaps their education level, background, etc. is different. All of these things make quantifiable sense.

But sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason to the difference of opinion. Take my brother for example. He and I were raised in the same home, have the same education level, share many similar interests–and yet we consistently disagree on movies. If he tells me I’m going to hate it, I know there is a good chance I’m going to truly enjoy it, and vice versa. It boggles my mind. I don’t understand it, but we just don’t agree.

gracekeepers“The Gracekeepers,” by Kirsty Logan, was just such an example. It came to me highly recommended by a friend who has never steered me wrong, so I was looking forward to something great. Unlike my brother, this friend and myself seem to consistently coincide on our literary opinions, so I felt pretty confident that I was in for something good. Unfortunately, this was one of those other occasions. What she thought was great, I thought was terrible.

Fifty pages into the book, I had to tell myself to hang in there, it was bound to get better…100 pages in, I was still feeling, well, downright bored–but I trusted my friend, so I kept going. By  page 150 I had resigned myself to reading a book that I thought was really, really bad, because I was determined to try to figure out what about the book made my friend highly recommend it , so I plodded along waiting for some redeeming factor to pop out at me–it never did. In my opinion, the book was quite simply, really that bad-an utter disaster.

boringI found myself critiquing the book as I read. Boring. If I had to sum it up in one word, that would be it. The plot itself was weak. There just wasn’t a whole lot going on. This can be forgiven with a well written character driven book, which I would assume was the goal of the author, but her characters weren’t even likable, which makes it hard to succeed as a character driven book. If I don’t like the characters, I don’t have a vested interest in what happens to them–and I didn’t.  Good or bad, I felt myself reacting indifferently to the fates of the characters. The only character I liked in the entire book was Red Gold, and he was a supporting character with a fairly minor role.  Add to this the long descriptions and, well, I’m back to that word again–bored.

One of my other big hang ups was the tendency of the author to bring up an idea and to leave it dangling, undeveloped. This can be seen largely with her idea of the selkie, which, though integral to certain main ideas in the plot, is never explained or developed. The clowns would be another example–intriguing premise–angry, anarchist clowns…so develop them already! Or how about the revival boats–potential for some intrigue and corruption, but barely touched on–what was the point of their introduction at all?! All of these were interesting concepts that were introduced, but the author failed to develop them. Had she, I think my response to the whole book likely would have been different.

bonesAs I finished the book, still looking for what anyone could have seen to praise about this novel, I summed up the problems in this way: this was a good initial draft. It had good bones. Her world had potential. Her characters, with a little bit of work and development, could have been intriguing–I think (she really needed to work on the likability factor). It was a good start to a novel, but not a good novel, not even a mediocre novel, as it stands, it was a downright boring novel that I would not recommend to anyone.

So I went back to my friend (remember, she had never steered me wrong) and asked her what it was about this novel that she felt like made it so good. She told me she had difficulty putting it into words and instead directed me to a book review done by NPR.

I read the review, and disagreed with it on every point that was made. I was left to conclude that the book reviewer was either a) sleeping with the author (quite unlikely) b) very unfamiliar with the dystopian genre and so had nothing to compare this book to (it fell so far below what that genre has to offer) or c) he was told that he was required to make a positive review of the book and so spun the little the book had to offer in the best possible light that he could.

No matter which way I take it, the book review was not an accurate assessment of the book (imop). So, why did my friend like it and recommend it? She could have easily come to the same conclusions I had, so why didn’t she?

Perhaps she really did like the book. Perhaps there was some merit in the tale that I failed to see though I looked so patiently for it. After all, my brother, whom I previously mentioned, I happen to believe is one of the most intelligent fellows out there, and he tends to disagree with me about the merits of so much that we watch/read. I tend to think he’s wrong, but I think he would say the same about me. Sometimes, people just have vastly different opinions. Is that this case here? Very possibly.

However, I can’t help but wonder if there is another possibility, something different. The power of suggestion. My friend loves NPR–she trusts NPR. If NPR said it was good, well it must be good (never mind the fact that I suspect, if she was completely honest with herself she would have admitted that she found it boring). NPR said it was an intelligent read, so it must be.

How often in life do we approach things like this? We respect something or someone, so we simply accept their opinion. We don’t weigh it, consider it, ask ourselves what we think, we just accept it at face value. I know I’ve done it. I’m told a movie is good, so I go in prepared for a good movie. I’m told a movie is horrible, so I don’t watch it. Someone I regard highly tells me a book is compelling, so I go into it, looking to be compelled.  A professor tells me that this is a fact, and I accept it–without checking the facts, without seeing for myself if what he says is true.

There have been many movies that I have dragged my heels to watch because I was told they were horrible, but when I actually watched them myself, I found them to be entertaining…the power of suggestion kept me away from the movie, but when I assessed it myself, my opinion didn’t agree with the review. I think this is pretty common if we’re honest with ourselves.

bigmediaI think as a society we are becoming sloppy. Instead of figuring out what we think, and what we believe, we simply absorb what we are told to believe. It happens with politics (whether it be the ABC channels and NPR or Fox News and talk radio), it happens with religion (all of them–not just some), it happens as we absorb what our parents, teachers, professors, Imams, Pastors, Rabbis, political leaders, professionals, etc. tell us what we should believe. It is easier to just say, “I trust you, therefore I will believe what you tell me to believe.” I call it the sheeple mentality. It is so much easier to be a sheep, so much more comfortable than taking the time to find out the truth for ourselves.

For me, this book was a reminder. I am not going to follow the masses. I will not believe something because I am told it is so. I will weigh and assess, and determine what I believe for myself. I trust my parents, but they are only human. I respect my husband, but he is not always right. I believe my pastor is a good and godly man, but he is still just a man. If I am going to be wrong about something, I want to know that I at least did due diligence–that I did all I could to determine what I believed, what I actually thought about it, so that the fault of wrong belief would indeed be mine, but mine made in honest error–not error out of the laziness of simply parroting what I am told to feel, think, or believe. I know I have done this, many times, and I want to do better, not give into the easy way.

It is an easy trap to fall into, and we all fall into it in the mundane issues of our life as well as the large monumental ones. I want to be mindful of the influence that others wield over me and my beliefs. I want my beliefs to truly be my own. And I know that means that I have to be very mindful of the influence of others on me and my beliefs.

In what areas of your life is this you? Why do you believe what you believe? Do you really know what you believe?

Sometimes You’ve Just Got to Jump off the Deep-end to See if You Can Swim

kid-writing-600xFrom the time when I was small, I wanted to be a writer. I remember starting my first journal when I was in the fourth grade–when I didn’t have anything more interesting to say than a play by play version of the events of the day.

A few years of maturity gave me the added medium of poems (not very good ones I must admit!) and finally, in High School, I started my very first story. It was awful–and I knew it was awful. It was so awful that for a long time I convinced myself that my dream of being a writer was nothing more than a pipe dream.

I was a good writer in general; I knew that. Every professor I’d ever had told me I was a good writer. My poetry became better as I matured too, and I was even able to publish a few of them. By the time I wrote my master’s thesis, my professors were telling me I should consider publishing. I didn’t take them very seriously though. I was good at things like essays and poetry, but I just didn’t have what it took to write a novel, or so I thought.

Every time I thought of trying a novel, I thought back to that first failed attempt. I was a high school kid trying to write a historical fiction novel without any research…or any real concept of where it was heading. I just jumped in and started at the beginning. My dialogue was stilted, because I didn’t know who my characters were and I hadn’t had enough life experience to know how real conversations went…it was a train wreck!

Add to that my husband who is amazingly gifted and talented. He’s written a fantasy novel and I was his main editor. I marveled at his gift for dialogue and his ability to create a whole new world. My imagination didn’t work like that. I was talented, but not like he was talented.

For years I left it at that, but then I started to realize something. I knew a whole lot more about writing today than I did when I was a kid in High School. Dialogue wouldn’t be a struggle anymore because I knew how real adult conversations played out. Not only that, but I now understood that I needed a plan. And, though I wasn’t talented like my husband, I didn’t need to be. It was apples to oranges. My talent was going to be different than his, that didn’t mean it was less. It was just different. andrewstanton-ted_poster_translated_v21

So I began thinking of all the books I’ve read (and believe me, there are a ton of them) and I asked myself what made the best ones better than the others. I watched what they did. I watched their character development, I watched the dialogue, I watched how plot was built, and I watched how the best had something deeper going on beneath the surface–ways that the reader could relate to them and how they had the potential to change the reader or their outlook on the world.

I took all this knowledge and I thought of what I have so often heard stated–write about what you know. For this first story, I didn’t write a historical fiction, though someday I could see myself writing in the vein of Kate Morton or Susanna Kearsley, and I didn’t start with a fantasy or dystopian book (well, I have started one, but it’s on the back burner) though that tends to be my favorite genre, I started with what I know, and I spun out from reality and created something different. A character who resembles me, but who makes choices I didn’t make, who responds differently, and who almost loses everything before she realizes what she has.

a-63And you know what, I think it’s good. I started my first book 25 years ago and almost gave up altogether, but I finally faced my fear of failure and tried again. And I’m really glad I did. I am 80% done (or there about) and I likely will finish in the next couple of weeks. And then I will have written a novel–one I actually believe is good. I know that is only the start of the road. The road to publishing and actually getting people to read the thing is one fraught with rejection, but I’m going to stick myself out there, and hopefully, someone will see a book with believing in.

So often in life, we think we can’t so we don’t try. Our early dreams fall by the wayside. Some we’ve outgrown, but some, some we bury because we think we can’t, but the reality is we don’t know what we can do until we try. I’m glad I tried–even if no one ever reads it, I’m glad I’ve taken the chance.

What is it for you? What dreams have you told yourself you can’t reach, or aren’t practical, or whatever excuse it is you apply to it? Is it one you’re really okay letting fall by the wayside? Or is it one that you will always regret not at least seeing if it might be possible?

There is a Parallel Reality in which I Exist as a Hermit

article-1380644-08A5FA8C000005DC-229_468x345It is lucky for me that I have children. If I didn’t have children, I fear I would turn into a hermit. I would be one of those crusty (as in–I forgot to shower for a week), socially awkward (because I have not talked with real live human beings in days), pale skinned (because I would have no reason to go outside what with those nice delivery men willing to bring food to my door) writer types who stares at her screen all day engrossed in a world of her own imaginings.

You have my children to thank that I am a nice smelling, fairly socially adept, non-albino human being. They keep me anchored to the present and to real life.

A_Writer_Typing_Frantically_At_a_Manual_Typewriter_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_110305-168123-861053If not for them I would tumble from one world to another, sometimes my own, sometimes of someone else’s creation: Sookie Stackhouse (excepting the final book which was a disappointment of epic proportions!), to Jon Snow (I was a fan before all you people had even heard of him!) to my own characters to Rachel Morgan (the Hollow series) to Elena Gilbert and the Vampire Diaries (though that obsession has waned over the recent seasons) back to my own novel to…well you get the picture.

This summer, as I have committed to finally finishing this darn book that has been stewing in the back of my brain for the last three years, I have very clearly seen my own pathology. I’ve always known that I have a streak of the obsessive and compulsive in me. As I delve into this world and realize more clearly how my mind works, I realize the proportions of that pathology. My mind doesn’t work in small measures–it’s all about immersion.

I approach writing (and reading or my favorite tv series for that matter) much like a method actor approaches a role. In my pre-children days, I was an actor, and I once was asked by a director how I would explain my approach to acting. I explained it something like this. When I act, I slip into my character’s skin. I see through her eyes, I feel what she would feel, and I think how she would think. In essence, I detach from myself and become someone else.

I write in the same way. I stop being Heather, the overworked Mommy, and, in the case of the novel I am currently focusing on, I become Jen. I think like Jen, I look at the world through Jen’s eyes, I feel what Jen would feel. My best writing comes when I can totally immerse myself in her world–and detach from my own. Like I said, we’re talking hermit–I can’t help but think of Jack Nicholson in “As Good as it Gets.” That could be me.

mom-working-daughter-140310Except for the fact of my children. Yesterday, for example, I was pulled from Jen’s world for a myraid of reasons: because they were hungry, because Arabelle yelled at Lily, because they were desperate for a popsicle, because there was a beetle in Arabelle’s hair–the list is endless. It certainly puts a cramp in my writing progress. I didn’t finish the chapter I was working on; I only made it about halfway through, and instead of hitting the 5,000 word mark for the day, I ended at 3,500.

BUT, as aggravating as it is initially, I am so grateful for those little people who pull me back to my world, my real world, and my real life. Otherwise, I fear I would be so busy reading about someone else’s adventures or creating adventures for my fictitious brain child, that I just might forget that I need to have adventures that are all my own.

With this in mind, instead of diving into my novel in an attempt to hit my goal of 62,000 words by the end of the day (I’m currently sitting at 58,000), I am putting aside the world of Jen and taking my girls to the zoo. Her world can wait. Today, I need to fully engage in my own world. I need to take a shower, talk to some real life people, and feel that hot Texas summer sun bake my bones.

I hate to break it to you, but summer is going the way of the dodo bird…

mean-old-ladyWhen you think of teachers, usually a few memorable ones will pop to your mind, the best of them or the worst of them. For me, the first who always comes to mind is Ms. Putsky, my first grade teacher. She was ancient back then, so my guess is she’s long gone by now, which is a good thing for all first graders everywhere. She was awful. She came from an era of corporal punishment, and though that age had moved on, Ms. Putsky had not. She was known to break rulers over hands, to intimidate and to mock. Political correctness–hell even kindness–was not in her repertoire. I remember her moving my desk to the front of my class, breaking all my pencils, calling me names, and, on one occasion, even throwing away my shoes (they clicked in the hallway when I walked and it annoyed her). I had many wonderful teachers along the way, but sadly, she is always the first to come to mind.

Whether a teacher with a positive influence or negative influence comes first to your mind, the reality is someone does, because a teachers influence us all. There are certain people from certain professions you might go your entire life and have no interactions with, but a teacher, well, none of us can go through life without living day in and day out with them, at least for portions of our lives. Which is one of the biggest reasons I chose to be a teacher, to have influence, to give back, to be a positive influencer, not a negative memory like Ms. Putsky is for me. Most teachers go into the profession for similar reasons (God knows it isn’t for the money!).

teacherWhat people don’t realize about teachers is, though we may love our jobs and love the big or little people we pour ourselves into, there is a large part of us that lives summer to summer. After all, if we’re going to pour ourselves out and into others year after year, we need  the chance to refill, or we too, will turn into a Ms. Putsky in our dotage–that’s what happens when you’ve poured it all out and yet you’re expected to keep pouring from an empty watering can (though, I have to say, in the case of Ms.Putsky, I think she just hated children and derived pleasure out of tormenting us!)

When we first step through the door of our classroom in August, we are already having a few stray thoughts of what we’re going to do next summer (often, the things we somehow didn’t have time for that summer). Throughout the first semester, the thoughts are fleeting, but they’re there. We start making lists. We start noticing all the things that aren’t getting done because of all the piles of grading we have, but those tasks have only been shortly abandoned, and though we might look at the yard work that is needing to be done, the floors that need a deep cleaning, things have only been neglected for a short time, and so they don’t press on our consciousness too terribly much. Besides, we think, with Thanksgiving Break and Christmas Break, surely we can at least catch up on those to-do lists then.

teacherburnoutAnd we do, at least somewhat. The only problem is that this list gets inevitably longer every day that passes, and, if, like me, you have a young family who seems to absorb mommy’s time like little sponges, you can never really get everything done that you had hoped to do, so you start telling yourself spring break, I can catch up on all of this when spring break rolls around.

The only thing is, that by spring break a teacher is starting to burn out. The constant social interaction (especially for the non-extroverts of our profession) is wearing us down. The piles and piles of essays to get through start to feel like a ball and chain around our mental ankle. The school responsibilites and the home responsibilities seem to press in, and by the time spring break hits, well, that to-do list, pressing though it might be, takes second seat to the desperate need for a break. So, instead of crossing things off that list, the list gets longer.

summerThat is when we teachers start thinking and dreaming about summer break in earnest. We start making lists of all the things we will accomplish: the home improvement tasks we will tackle, the deep cleaning we will do, the piles of books we will read, the places we will go, etc.. We begin our countdown and we watch that approaching day in June with at least as much anticipation as the students, and when that day finally comes, we think we will actually get everything we hadn’t had a chance to do during the course of the school year–finally–done.

The only problem is, at least for me, it never seems to happen that way. Here I am, looking up and it’s mid-July, my summer is half over, and my list is still so incredibly long. I blame it on the little people in my life. They seem to add two things to that list for every one I cross off.

mombalancing actI have to admit, I look at my childless teaching friends with a fair amount of envy (yes, Heidi, I have you in mind!). Whereas so much of my time is spent feeding my children (someone should really warn pre-mothers that they will need to prepare three meals a day for those little darlings…that means shopping for said meals, cooking said meals and cleaning up after those said meals…how much of my time disappears in that cloud of smoke?), cleaning the piles of laundry that they seem to go through on a nearly daily basis (how many shirts can my son wear in one day!! And why does he have to change back and forth from clothes into pajama pants throughout the day creating more and more clothing that makes it’s way down my laundry shoot?!), cleaning up after their general mayhem (the debris that somehow ends up scattered throughout my house on a daily basis resembles a small tornado in force, magnitude and destruction), carting them from one summer activity to another (next year I think I am going to keep track of the miles and minutes that I rack up from being the chauffeur…I think it would be quite shocking), and entertaining and spending quality time with those little people (by far the most enjoyable of the time-consuming tasks). There goes the bulk of summer, poof! And I haven’t even touched the things that I want to do or the special projects that have been waiting patiently for me to finally get to them over the course of the long academic year (it makes me tired just thinking about it!).

good-lifeWhereas, my childless teacher friends (Ahem, yes, you again Heidi) get all that time to do all sorts of things: traveling to Houston, traveling to Las Vegas, traveling wherever the whim takes them…going to concerts and shows, fancy restaurants and movies, reading the piles of books that I wish I could read…their time is their own. It has been so long since my time has been my own…

So, yes, here I sit half way through my summer, and my house still has not entirely gone through its deep cleaning. I still have not sorted through and organized my garage, much less my attic. My bathroom is, as yet, unpainted, and the dining room chairs, well, I had almost forgotten about my intention to paint them this summer. The great pile of books I intended to be through by this point sits largely untouched (I’ve gotten through a few, but there are still so many waiting!) and the book that I intended to be done writing by the end of July still has a little less than half way to go, and only two weeks to meet my goal. Sigh…

Back_to_schoolAll of this, and I am starting to see the words “Back to School” pop up in ads and at stores. My children have begun wondering who their teacher will be for this coming year, and I feel the second half of the sands of my summer slipping through the hour glass at an alarming rate.

How much of my to-do list will be pushed off to next summer, and then the next, and then the next, until my little birdies fly the coop and my time is my own again?

And yet that doesn’t make me any happier, for if I was to choose between the two, my time or my birdies, I would choose to keep those little loves close every single time.

To-do lists will always be there. Concerts and vacations will always be there, but they will not be, and how I will miss them when they go!

first-day-of-college-cartoon1So, as much as I hate cleaning (and I really do HATE it!), and as much as I beat myself up for the never-ending to-do list that never diminishes, I am glad for the opportunity to spend this time with my little sponges. Soon enough, they aren’t going to want to spend their precious summer moments hanging out with their mom!

Hello, I’m Heather and I’m an addict–a book addict that is

booksnifferI love to read. Anyone who knows me knows this. I always have a book in tow–yes, an actual book, no e-readers for me. I love the feel of the new book in my hand, the weight of it on my palm, the slightly stale smell of old paper that wafts up as you open to that first page.

I have a tablet and I’ve tried reading on it…it’s a whole lot easier to slip that into my purse than a clunky old book–but I just can’t make the change, so call me old fashioned, but it’s a book that I take with me while my tablet sits lonely charging on my nightstand while I’m out and about.

Reading is a good thing. A great thing. Even the best thing–most of the time.

downloadYou won’t hear me talk about it often, but reading does have its downside. Sleep deprivation is most certainly one of them. Despite having three decades to learn how to put down a good book at a respectable hour and get some shut-eye, I find myself repeating the same litany to myself that I repeated to my father when I was a child. “One more chapter, just one more chapter and then I must really go to bed.” Will power has never been my strong suit as the thirty extra pounds of baby weight I’m still carrying around after the birth of my last child (she’s almost 7) will show you. I might say the words, just like the younger version of myself said them nightly to my 2b2eb8669559be5e5ad122677879e6b4dad, but just as they were empty promises then, they are empty resolutions today.

Many a day I have found myself before my first hour class leaning heavily on that cup of caffeine to pull back the reading induced fog I find myself in–my own version of the hangover. Who needs alcohol to produce a hangover when you have books right there, on your bookcase beckoning you into their worlds and plenty able to give you the same headache without the unsightly gut (or the trips to the toilet for that matter)–I call that a bargain!

And lack of sleep is not the only downside, oh no!

I consider myself a writer. I write my blog almost weekly, but sometimes I just don’t seem to have the time! Every once in a while I grab a solid hour or two to plug away at my novel, but not nearly enough. I just never seem to have the time!

I’m always complaining about the little time I have to write…and yet I’ve read easily a hundred books this year. I read and I read and I read. Somehow I always find time to read. Hmmm… I think I spy with my little eyes a great, big glaring inconsistency!

The truth is that I believe reading is the single greatest hindrance to my writing career. Yes, I like to blame the kids, and they do keep me eternally busy with their needing quality time and all (really, how dare they!) and all the chauffeuring about to baseball and gymnastics and football and…well you get the idea. And the job, yes, the job! Must blame the job (because what aspiring writer doesn’t find themselves with one of these to actually pay the bills) as it is by far the largest time sucker of them all! And teaching! Well goodness! Of course I don’t have time to write with those piles and piles of essays I have to grade on what feels like an eternal basis! And then there’s the housework, with a family of five, that never ends, always a load to throw in and a kitchen to clean…

True, true, and true, but I still find time to I read.

Woman walking across landscape of clothes

I can ignore the growing pile (no, not pile, the burgeoning mountain would be more accurate, a mountain with an impending rock slide currently…) of laundry. I can ignore the crusting over dishes in the kitchen sink. I can even shoo away my little darlings and tell them that Mommy needs a little quiet time and that I will read them a story later. All this I can do if I am in the throes of a great adventure.

So why? If I love to write so much why do I allow myself to continually get sidetracked by a good book? Wouldn’t that time be better spent writing my own novel?

Well, if I’m completely honest, I do it because I am innately lazy. Yep. There it is. It’s easier to read a world someone else has created than to create one of my own. It takes no real effort on my part. I get a cup of coffee, I curl up in my favorite chair, and I leave my world and all its problems behind without having to lift a finger. It’s wonderful–BUT, I’m beginning to see that it’s kind of like the Matrix. Books keep me in matrix-pods-680x400those little pods, giving me a whole alternate world to live in–I experience incredible things, get to be so many different people, live so many different lives, but the truth is, I’m in a pod and I’m not living at all.

Reason two for allowing myself to get sidetracked? It’s risk free. I’m not putting my ego, my self, my dreams on the line when I read a good book, but I sure as heck am when I write one. I’ve had this dream for thirty years…for thirty years I have wanted this, thought about it, planned it–but what if I’m not good? What if I finish my novel and it sucks toenails? Or, worse yet, what if I finish it, and it is good, but I can’t get anyone to read it? What then?

There is so much to risk when writing your novel. What people don’t often understand about authors is that we are putting our heart and soul out there for the world to see. We are pulling back the curtain so to speak, into our private world, and we’re allowing you to see into our thoughts, our feelings, and our struggles.

But wait a minute…I thought we were talking fiction? Am I saying that fiction isn’t fiction at all, that it really happened.

No, not exactly. I’m going to borrow from Rainbow Rowell’s “Fangirl” for this one, because it sums it up so well.

“I take something that happened to me in 1983, and I make it happen to somebody else in 1943. I pick my life apart that way, try to understand it better by writing straight through it.”

“So everything in your books is true?”

The professor tilted her head and hummed. “Mmmm…yes. And no. Everything starts with a little truth, then I spin my webs around it–sometimes I spin completely away from it. But the point is, I don’t start with nothing (307).”

In other words, yes, it’s us out there, on some level. I don’t care if it’s dystopian or sci-fi, fantasy or historical fiction, the best writers pull from what they know–they are putting themselves on the line, and the risk in that is enormous! The rejection really is personal.

angry-fansSo, with all that to lose, it so much easier, and safer, to pull that new Sophie Kinsella off the shelf and leave my world to my own imagination where it can live safely without being assaulted by the critique of the armchair coach sitting safely on the sidelines telling me what I’m doing wrong and how I should play ball.

So, yes, I love to read, and I gain so very much through the worlds I have walked, but this is me, admitting to you, that I am an addict. I am a book addict–and if I ever want to finish my own book, I must, dear reader, PUT YOURS DOWN.

So, I’m taking the redpill. I want to see to the end of my rabbit hole, even if it “disparages” me (sorry, I just flashed John Cage from ‘Ally McBeal’) in the process.

MatrixBluePillRedPill

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.Morpheus, to Neo

I’ve got the red pill, and a glass of water…it’s time to stop being a coward. It’s time to see what I’m really made of.

What are you made of?

We all have our escapes–our addictions–our personal “pods.” What are yours? And what are you going to do about them?

Are you going to take the blue pill and continue avoiding the real life that is waiting for you, or do you have the courage–the guts– the gumption–to take the red pill and to find out just how deep your own rabbit hole goes?

Confessions of a glassy eyed, frazzled, (sometimes crappy) Mother

I live in a state of overwhelmedness.

I am not alone. Though I am a newly evolved creature, only evolved in our modern times, there are many of us.

You see us everywhere, though you don’t know it.

Racing from our homes early in the mornings (earlier than many of you even have to be up)…

Dropping our children at day care (preschool, elementary school, etc….insert any of a number of locations, or several different ones as the case may be)…

Rushing to soccer practice (ballet, baseball, gymnastics, football…pick your poison, or more likely poisons)…

Racing around the aisles of the local grocery store as if we were at the roller derby (glancing at our watch and then making a crazed beeline for the checkout while biting back a naughty word we never would have said in public a decade ago)…

We’re everywhere, (doing an endless list of duties) though you don’t recognize us.

We look like everyone else (well except for the slightly glazed look to our eyes that sets us apart if you  pay attention).

Perhaps there is a bit of a frantic, harried air to us, if you know what you’re looking for (Who am I kidding? We probably look frantic or completely dazed depending when our last cup of Starbucks was consumed–easily identifiable, well at least as half cocked!) .

Who are we?

We are working mothers–a new breed of mother. An exhausted, overwhelmed, and often discouraged group of women.

Synonym for working mother?

insainityInsane.

in·sane
inˈsān/
adjective
1. in a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill.
     synonyms: mentally ill, mentally disordered, of unsound mind, certifiable
2. characterized or caused by madness
     synonyms: maniacal, psychotic, crazed, hysterical
3. in a state of extreme annoyance or distraction
     synonyms: mad, crazy
That sounds pretty much accurate. Insanity–caused not by the chemistry of the brain, but rather the chemistry of the circumstance, or more accurately, “Life-stance.”
working momCircumstances imply that it can be changed or altered, but, unless I somehow miraculously end up single without children in the morning, I don’t see that a change of “circumstance” would really alter the state of existence which keeps me certifiably insane (or at least I feel like I could be) half the time.
I am, by varying degrees, alternately crazed, hysterical, mentally disordered, affected by moments of extreme annoyance and/or distraction–all on a daily basis.
To be a working mother means that I am being pulled in a million different directions, by a varying number of sources, at any one given moment, in other words, simultaneously.
Mad_HatterI am wearing so many different hats, that you might call me the “Mad Hatter.” (wink, wink, so very punny!)

What this means in reality is that I am tired all. of. the. time.

I never feel like I am giving enough to anyone (and that is usually, sadly, true), and so most days I feel like I suck.

I suck at everything.

I suck as a mother. I suck as a wife. I suck as a person. I suck as a contributing member of society.

I have an invisible F plastered to my forehead. F for failure. F for fool–for I am a fool to think I can do so much and somehow do it all well.

failureThere are simply too many irons in the fire, and that means that something is going to burn–or so often, lots of somethings.

juggling_momWhen you’re juggling so many balls, they begin hitting the floor, and then, I, the juggler, feel like I suck.

It’s not that there are more balls in the air than anyone could possibly handle.

The problem is me, the juggler. The finger does not get pointed at the ball, it is pointed at me. When that ball hits the ground, I hold the blame. Me. No one else.

I’m not the mother I want to be, the wife I want to be, the teacher I want to be–and I am certainly not the “me” that I want to be.

I can’t be, and I know that in my head, but the heart… well that is something else entirely.

And as if living under that perpetual shadow of guilt isn’t enough, then there are emails like this one from my 6 year old’s teacher:

Dear Heather and Aaron,

Lily has left her backpack in the car today.  It seems that she has a habit of misplacing things.  Please help her to become better organized and  ready to go.

Thanks,

Ms. ———-

It’s the end of May and my 6 year-old forgot her backpack for the second time this year, and I get a “you’re a crappy Mommy” note from her teacher.

parents-to-blameAnd this isn’t the first time.

I get one when I don’t have the opportunity to read with Lily because of one of my son’s late night baseball games.

I get one because I forgot to sign her folder on a night we really did read.

I get one because Lily, wanting to read on her own, misplaced her “book baggie book,” and, for a couple of days went to school without it because things were too busy at home to search the house from top to bottom and find said book that somehow ended up at the bottom of the toy bin.

I get one to encourage me to come have lunch with my daughter, because the stay-at-home Mommies do that and the children of us sucky working mothers are feeling left out.

I get one that encourages me to volunteer in the classroom like the stay-at-home mommies do, after all, it’s not fair that only some mommies do it all.

I seem to get one for ever real and imagined shortcoming this teacher believes I have.

Every time I get one of these notes, I feel the judgment being passed on my parenting. I feel the pointed finger and the scowling face. I feel the recriminations.

Working-Mom-Ecard-e1353971518875But the thing is, I already feel guilty most of the time. I don’t need her help in that. I feel guilty for the things I miss, the things that I am too busy–or too tired–to do, or to do as well as I wish I could–when my kids tell me about a last minute project at 7:00 at night and we have to scrounge around the house to try to make something work, when my daughter is a living painting and I can’t get off of work to see her, when my son has his “graduating from 5th grade Awards Breakfast” in the middle of my fourth period final and, instead of going, I have to settle for pictures.

I don’t need a disparaging note to make me feel like a crap mother–too often I already feel that way.

I am not alone in this. I think all working mother’s exist in this state, though to varying degrees I’m sure. It doesn’t matter that we are doing what is necessary to keep our families afloat.

working mom 2It doesn’t matter that we struggled with low level depression through the “stay at home” years, and this is a necessary component to our emotional well being.

It doesn’t matter that by working, I’m able to provide my children with the big house with the pool. Or that I’m able to pay for football and gymnastics and camps and lessons and all the things that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.

When my children turn sad eyes to me because I can’t go to their presentation, all the reasons for doing what I do, don’t seem enough. When a teacher (who has never had children herself by the way), points out my failings, all the benefits in the world fall short.

All I can do is do the best I can, and pray that it is enough. That my best will be good enough. That the good I am able to do, imperfect though it is, will outweigh the dropped balls and the metaphorical “scorched dinners.”

I may not be able to be the room Mommy, but no one loves their children more than I do.

I might see my husband like a ship passing in the night (much less having an actual date with the man who started me on this whole path to insanity!), but he knows (I think) that everything I do is because I love him and our children.

And it might take me a decade to write my book (hopefully not–I’m shooting for July), but it will get done.

At the end of the day, all I can do is the best I can do–and hopefully love makes up the difference.

I think I’m an endangered species . . . I’m an introvert

New-Years-Eve-Party_1I’ve been radio silent for a while. Have I been exceedinly busy with tons of holiday activities? Have I been dashing from one social event to another?  Maybe I’ve been out of town with a party every night and an activity every day . . . ?

No, no, and no.

I’ve been in my cave. Yes, my cave. And yes, I’m a girl. It’s not only guys who need and have a cave. I have one too.

You see, I am an introvert living in an extroverted world. That’s no easy thing! And sometimes, sometimes, I need to retreat, recharge, and frankly pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist for a while (not easy to do when you’re mother to three little people!).

multitasking-mobile-devices-660x429We introverts tend to be very misunderstood by our extroverted sisters and brothers. You see, for us, parties take work. We don’t thrive when surrounded by great crowds of people. We don’t look forward to the weekend for all of the clubs, parties and events that await. We don’t feel the need to share every waking moment via text or instagram. We don’t keep our phone in hand waiting for any incoming texts so that we can respond to with some funny quip or snarky comment and feel continually connected to the world at large.

Nope. Our phones are on silent most of the time. Heck, they might still be in our bag. We might even forget to check them, for a day, or maybe even two. We might even misplace them and forget about them until there is someone we have to talk to or if we need a timer or something.

When you seeing us sitting in the lunchroom alone, or out for coffee at a table by ourselves with a book or maybe a computer, it’s not that we can’t have company. It’s that we don’t want company. Don’t pity us for our solitude. It’s what we want, what we crave, and something that is so very difficult to find in this crazy busy, over sharing, nauseatingly social world of ours.

My friends know this about me, because they really, really know me. Why? Because I’d much rather have one or two really awesome friends, than be the most popular mom on the block. And because they know me, they give me space to quite simply be me.

They don’t get angry when it takes me a day or two to text them back. They don’t get all pissy if I don’t feel like going out. They get me, and I get them. And it works.

So, why was I radio silent? Because I was hiding from you, all of you. It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s just that it all takes so much darn WORK!

I am a teacher. A very social job. I’m bombarded with questions, required to make snap judgment calls on a regular basis. Sometimes I am required to talk almost every single minute of my working day.

grinchAnd then I go home. I go home to three little kids with their endless questions and needs. I go home to a husband who I haven’t connected with all day and there are more words. I feel a bit like the Dr. Seuss’ Grinch: “Oh, the noise, noise, NOISE!”

It’s not that I don’t love my students. Most of them are pretty great. And I certainly love my children. And Aaron and I never get enough time to talk as it is, BUT it becomes sensory overload to the introvert. It fries my circuits. I start to short circuit, and eventually, I just shut down.

woman-curled-up-in-chair1This time I shut down and escaped to the world of Kim Harrison and her Hollows series. I read and read and read. And for once, instead of impatiently having to wait for the author to finish the series, I have the luxury of having the WHOLE thing from start to finish at my anxious fingertips.

Yes, I reluctantly emerged from my cave periodically and spent time with my family and kids (and had some great times and memories as a result), but I anxiously anticpated the return to the fictious world. It’s not just that I love to read, it’s that I NEED it.

And then, one day, battery is full. My mind beeps, and I can go back into this crazy social, fast paced existence called the modern world. I have the energy to expend.

So, all of you extroverts out there, be patient with the introverts in your life. It’s not that your husband doesn’t want to talk to you when he comes home, it’s that he has nothing left. It’s not that your friend doesn’t want to hang out with you on Friday night, it’s that she has nothing left. It’s not that your dad doesn’t want to spend time with you, it’s that his very existentence is spent providing you with all the cool gadgets and wants that you desire and he’s fried.

We all don’t want to party ’til the sun comes up. Some of us would much rather curl up in a chair with a good book or zone out on the couch watching whatever professional sports team happens to be in season. Some of us find this modern world draining and solitude, not socialization, is what charges our batteries and keeps us going.

He’ll go the party with you, if you give him the space he needs in return. It’s how we work. How we’re wired. And society doesn’t give us much space to be what we really are.

We live in a Photoshopped Perfect, Plastic World

emotional vomitI have a cousin who is prone to emotional vomit.

Yes, she spews her emotions (typically rapidly changing from one extreme to the next) all over social media. I know every problem she has. I know when she’s not feeling well, when she’s angry at her boyfriend, when she decides that she HATES somebody–everybody (And boy! She holds no punches, dropping f-bombs and oozing hatred with every syllable), when she’s depressed, when she’s filled with self-loathing, and when she’s ready to give up on it all.

It’s all right there–in black and white–for the whole world to see.

Many times I have thought about saying something, but I know too well how she would respond, so I keep my peace. It’s simply not worth it. She will not hear. She’ll just point her anger and hatred in my direction, and frankly, who needs that?!

Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way, because last week, when she posted something especially venomous, people started weighing-in. They told her (and there were many of them) in gentle, and not so gentle terms, that facebook was not the place to air all of her problems.

As I expected, she pointed her canon at them and started unloading. Most of what she said, does not bear repeating. But one thing was telling. “You guys don’t know the half of my f&^%$#@* life, So, until you walk a day in my d*$# shoes. . . Yeah sorry I don’t have 3beautiful kids an awesome husband and a family who supports me.”

Why was this telling?

photoshoppedBecause her assumption is based on a fundamental misconception: that who we are on facebook is an honest reflection of our lives. She honestly thought that the view she was getting of peoples’ lives on facebook was their reality, and when she compared that to her own life, she became angry and bitter.

I’ve blogged about this before (check out The Grass is Always Greener . . . ). Most of us do not do what my cousin does. We do not spew our worst days, our failings, and our heartbreaks all over facebook. We post our special moments, our successes and our good times. We post our best selves. We want the world to believe that we are doing it, that we are living the dream–that we’ve arrived.

This is a cultural failing that we have–this impossible grasping for perfection. Even our models, the most beautiful among us, are photoshopped, because even they are not perfect in their beauty. We, especially the women, live under a continual pall of insecurity because we cannot attain the unattainable–we cannot look like the     photoshopped images we see on a daily basis.

I absolutely love Meghan Trainor’s song “All About that Base,” because it addresses this head on. We are making generations of women feel as if they are inferior because they cannot be, what no one can be.

Facebook can have the same affect. We post only the pictures that make us feel beautiful, the moments that show that we are special, the events that paint us as successful. Our facebook selves are photshopped selves. They are the selves we wish we were, not the selves that we really are.

We are a disingenuous culture. We are rarely honest with anyone, even ourselves.

perfect familyTo the casual observer on my facebook page, I might look like I have it all together (with the exception of the loss of Serena which I am fairly open about). I have a handsome, intelligent husband, three beautiful children, a great house, and a great job. I get to have vacations every now again and do fun things. I look happy.

And sometimes I am.

But there is another picture. Another side.

Facebook knows nothing of my struggle with insecurity. It shows nothing of the days when I hate my body and feel too keenly my fading beauty.

Facebook knows nothing of the years of struggle with depression after losing Serena.

Facebook knows nothing of the shame I walked when Aaron lost his job and for six months we struggled to even pay rent–when, despite the humiliation, we found ourselves walking into the human services office to see about our options with public assistance. It knows nothing of the shame I felt every single time I had to scan that EBT card.

Facebook knows nothing of the resurgence of my temper in the wake of grief and stress. It does not see the ugliness I show when I am pushed beyond what I feel as if I can bare. The times I yell, the times I snap at my husband and children, the times when I end up sobbing from the weight of it all.

Fmom-chaosacebook does not see when my house is a wreck, and the dishes pile up in my sink, and the laundry starts to pile to the rafters. It does not see the relentless and endless drudgery of cooking and cleaning for a family of five. It does not see the times when I feel reduced to a cook and maid, a faceless, powerless drudge.

Facebook does not see the ways Aaron and I have wounded each other by both word and deed.

Facebook does not see the many times he and I have wanted to give up, to walk away, to say, “We’re done! We can’t do this anymore!”

Facebook does not know, cannot know, because I refuse to show it.

Facebook does not see–so you do not see.

barbieYou see the window dressing. You see the outer shell I choose to show.

Every once in a while, we give a window in, but it is only a window. It is a snapshot. Not the reality.

Do not compare yourself to these Facebook Selves, these shadow selves. They are allusions, projections, phantasms. They are not substantial, attainable or replicable.

Do not compare yourself to me or to anyone else.

Do not compare your life to someone else’s life.

Because, I promise you, you will be comparing yourself to something that does not exist.

How can I know this? How can I promise such a thing?

perfect lifeBecause no one is perfect, no matter what you think. And no one has a perfect life, though to an outward eye it might appear as if they do.

No life is without pain.

We all hurt. We all bleed. We all have moments when we feel as if we can’t possibly keep breathing, keep walking, keep standing.

Not one of us is untouched.

For some, the pain starts when we’re children, and we never know life without pain. For others, childhood leaves us untouched, and we enter adulthood with shining eyes and expectations of a perfect world, but at some point, somewhere on our journey, pain will find its way in.

People die. They get sick. They leave.

Sometimes, the ones we trust the most betray us. Sometimes the ones who should have our back, are the ones who slide the knife in. Sometimes our heart bleeds, it breaks, it shatters.

And everyone, every single person on this planet, will have these moments–because these moments are life.

The amazing thing, the wonderful thing, is our capacity to endure.

I've learned that you can keep going long after you think you can'tWhen we feel like we can’t keep going, we can and we do. When we feel like we can’t possibly take one more thing–when it comes–which it inevitably seems to–we find ourselves somehow battening down the hatches and fighting our way through. Sometimes we cannot run, or even walk. Sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, and that’s all we have. That all we’ve got to give. But we do it. One. Foot. At. A. Time.

How do I know we can do this, when life pummels us, and people fail us, when we fail ourselves, how do I know we can push through?

Because we exist. The human race is still here.

We live in the height of human existence. We live a life of plenty: plenty of food, plenty of the basic necessities (clothing, house, healthcare) and plenty of leisure/extravagances (entertainment, hobbies, options, etc.).

Historically, people lived in want. They went to bed hungry. They had limited, or no, healthcare. Death was a frequent visitor.

If anyone had a reason to give up, they did–but they didn’t. They kept living. They kept loving. They kept walking. They kept fighting. They gave us a future.

I am an anomaly having lost a child. Most people, at least in the developed world, do not have to bury their children.

In the past, they didn’t just bury one, but instead, usually several.

Men very commonly lost their wives in childbirth. Women lost their husbands, and, when they did, what options did they have to provide for their families? They either married again or were forced to walk paths that they never would have chosen.

keep goingLife was hard. It was ugly. It was survival–but they did just that–they survived. And because they did, we are still here today.

We need to end this delusion that perfection is possible. We need to stop hurting ourselves and each other with this endless striving for what does not exist–the perfect life and the perfect person. We need to stop pretending that it does exist.

We need to give others grace to be imperfect.

We need to give ourselves grace to be imperfect too.

My husband cannot be the prefect man that some writer has created in a book, or that some actor plays on tv. Those men don’t exist outside of words that were created by a clever person and put on a page. My husband can’t be that man. Neither can your husband.

Neither can I live the photoshopped lives that I catch on the pages of social media, the images I see in magazines, or the brief glimpses into others’ lives that I am allowed, when they choose to show me, what they choose to show me.

I can’t live those lives, and neither can you.

They don’t exist. They’re not real.

perfectPeople are not perfect. Our lives are not perfect. . .

And that’s okay.

Let it be okay.

Give yourself a break.

And give the people around you a break too.

 

 

 

Dreams–Our Own Parallel Realities

I have always loved sleep. Well, maybe not always. My parents do love to tell stories of my very adamant refusal to sleep when I was young. I used every excuse in the well dog-eared book of childhood excuses. In fact, I suspect, though they would not have used the f bomb as the writer (Adam Mansbach) of “Go the F#@$ to Sleep” does, I’m sure they shared his sentiment (as every parent probably has at one point or another). If you haven’t heard of the story, you should check it out, but, be aware, the f bomb is tossed around on nearly every page–despite that, I couldn’t help giggling, snorting, smirking and sometimes laughing outright.

But I digress. I was talking about my love for sleeping, not my early defiance of that lovely, now treasured pasttime.

I have always loved the feeling of slipping between my sheets, of stretching languidly like a self-satisfied cat, and cozying into my perfect, fluffy pillow. With a sigh and a smile, I let go of the day and fully embrace the comfort of my bed, pulling out the book that currently has me in thrall, and then letting it have its way with me until I feel sleep pulling me, finally,  from its grasp.

And on the lucky mornings when there is no alarm clock to pull me jarringly from my dream world, I love the way waking pulls me slowly from other selves living other lives. The sunlight begins to pull me, but I choose to turn it away and snuggle deeper. The sounds of my children stirring, the pitter patter leading slowly into a cacophony of sound: somthing falling, bowls clattering, bickering that leads inevitablly to my door being opened and a little voice sharing her woes–“Mom! Gavin [did, said, breathed, exists]!”

My desire to deny my world and its responsibilities lead me to some mumbled response along the lines of’ “Tell him I said to stop”–not really sure what I’m telling him to stop, but hoping it will be enough for just a few more precious, delectable, so very rare minutes . . .

Until finally, I release my dream world where the past lives and ghosts walk, and I find myself back here–in the here and now.

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Last weekend was different. When I floated between the two worlds, neither awake nor asleep, a poem just sort of entered my mind, and I found myself writing in that moment about that lovely, blissful state, when you can remember your dream world and live it with some amount of consciousness even while the regular world slowly pulls you resistingly away.

This is the poem I wrote while still asleep.

I hope you enjoy! 🙂

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Slowly, slowly daylight comes–

Calling, coaxing, relentlessly pulling–

Light pushing, pulsing on the edges of consciousness . . .

Sound pricking night’s filter,

Tiny holes letting sound like grains of sand slip through.

Discordant, jarring with the sweet land of youth–

The wrongness tugging at the edges of my mind . . .

Wisps of worry, nagging thoughts, tenuous confusion . . .

A gnat, annoying, pestering, but easily shooed away.

 

More light, more sound

My filter now a sieve denying less,

The sand a steady trickle—

Awareness stirs, it stretches, it opens an eye,

But still I resist, denying, retreating,

Tightly shutting off my mind–

Loathe to leave shades of the past.

I cling a little more,

Enticed to remain lost

In the happy days of youth and light,

Living all the possibilities, parallel realities,

A myriad of different choices.

Stolen kisses, loves long ended and denied,

Old friends, old chums, even enemies–

Time and death cannot bar them here.

Here and now they live again,

In this shadow world of night.

 

More light, more sound, that persistent pest,

Morning, a persistent hound, nosing at my head.

It reels me toward the here and now,

Helpless in my resistence, a fish on a line,

Drawing me nearer.

Even as I fight to stay–to remember–to relive,

One last moment, one last fragment of a dream,

When I was young and beautiful and free,

One more dance with shadows of the past,

One more stolen kiss . . .

 

Light undeniable shines in my eyes

Holding me with its gaze.

The sounds of dawn,

No longer sounds of waking and slow stirring,

But instead a cacophony of pitches and noises,

Bangs and shouts, tears and teasing.

Reality forces the dream away.

 

I wake to the sounds of children, mayhem, responsibility.

Gone are dreams and hopes and remembrance.

Just these old bones, and choices made– not awaiting–

Adulthood, and with it reality.

 

But dreams, so sweet, cling to my eyelashes still,

And I try to grasp the fading tendrils of their memory.

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