There is no such thing as balance

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman


a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.

I don’t have it, I’m never gonna get it, and I no longer want it.

I know mothers who have it all. They are beautiful, thin, popular, and happy. They have nice houses and bake cupcakes in rainbow colors. They undertake projects that would make Martha Stewart blush. They arrange play dates and act as community organizers.  They have good hair and buy organic and vacation in places with beautiful blue water.

1. They are insane.

2. I call bullshit.

I sat in the audience yesterday at a conference listening to Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, talk about being a writer. She talked about writing and life and anger and childhood and teaching and being yourself. She said,

“Speak the truth, even if it makes your voice shake.”

I had a revelation when I was listening to her. I don’t want balance. I want passion.

Heather Sellers writers:

“Successful book writers are very rarely also:  history society presidents, garden club secretaries, book group members, rumba instructors, feng shui consultants, yoga experts, and leaders of the town’s spring clean-up committee. When you’re writing a book, you do not have time for: meetings, grant writing, sonnet competitions , sprawling vacations, breeding dogs, or renovating the bathroom.” ~from Chapter after Chapter

The subtitle of this is  “Balancing Writing and Motherhood,” but who the hell am I kidding?

The only thing I balance is a plate of cheese and crackers as I ignore cobwebs and crying babies and go upstairs to sit at my computer and write.

The only thing I balance are teetering stacks of ungraded papers on top of books about how to write and novels I love to read and wish I could write.

The only thing I balance is a baby on one hip while I turn up the volume on Yo Gabba Gabba, stir the soup, dodge Legos, step on Cheerios, pour juice for my toddler, and pour myself another cup of coffee.

If you don’t like my house, my hair, the way I dress, the way I parent, or how I spend my time, frankly, I don’t want to know you.

I’m done with balance.

I’m done with waiting to give myself permission to be the writer and the person I want to be.

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…

Ah, sleep deprivation. I’d forgotten how bad it is. It’s a unique form of torture and I wish congress would pass a law to put a stop to it. Luckily for me, my little torturer is very cute, so I forgive her.

We are not accomplishing a lot around here lately, unless you consider eating too many carbs and downloading blogs to the Kindle to be an accomplishment. I can really pack away the egg sandwiches and spaghetti! I might write a new diet book: How To Lose The Pregnancy Weight…Never! As for blogs on the Kindle, what a revelation! I’ve been devouring books and novels, but figuring out how to subscribe to and read blogs has been life-changing. Reading other blogs always makes me want to be a better blogger.

So far this summer my days have been structured around feeding Aria, entertaining Oscar, trying to get enough work done at home to keep from getting fired, and struggling to keep the house from sliding into chaos.

I have a huge to-do list, which includes finishing a report for work, getting a chapter to my editor, catching up on prep and grading for my summer school class, prepping my fall classes, writing articles for this blog, taking pictures of my babies before they grow up, and doing something that resembles exercise.

I am aching to get back into my own writing. I miss writing. This blog calls to me. My novel calls to me. I’m finally beginning to stretch my creative brain in the sunlight after a long, cold winter and I’m starting to get ideas for articles, stories, and poems.

Now, if I could only get some sleep!

But Mr. Sandman brought me a dream more real and wonderful than any I could have imagined. He brought me this:

Blogging Pregnancy

Guess what? There’s a baby in Mommy’s tummy who will make her cry for no reason and steal your candy when you’re sleeping…

As this pregnancy progresses I am becoming less and less capable of combing my hair…

Well, I’m in the home stretch! I’m 37 weeks, which is considered full-term, and I have a repeat c-section scheduled in a little over two weeks. One of my students pointed out in class yesterday that I have developed a distinct waddle. She said, kindly and gently, “Maybe you should go home and get some rest.”

I’m on twice-weekly doctor’s appointments, for NSTs and AFI’s because I’m AMA and this baby is a PITA. LOL. Being high risk means they speak in acronyms and hushed tones around you, when they’re not squeezing goo on your belly or calling for back-up nurses to help haul you on and off the examining table. The nurses are very nice. They bring me juice boxes and cluck admiringly over my lack of stretch marks.

When I was pregnant with Oscar I never missed a weekly belly photo or weekly blog update, but this time around I simply can’t be bothered. For one thing, the first half of this pregnancy was a steaming bowl of puke coupled with crippling anxiety that something could go horribly wrong at any moment. The worst thing of all? I couldn’t stand the smell of the building I worked in. Makes going to work a ton of fun. I would sit in my car and cry, then run to my office and start eating peppermint candies until it was time to teach. For some reason, teaching has always been the easiest part of my day to get through. I didn’t get many papers graded, though. The second half of this pregnancy has consisted of back pain and acid reflux coupled with crippling anxiety that something could go horribly wrong at any moment. Kind of robs you of the wonder of life growing in your belly.

Oh? And I forgot to mention? I have a three-year-old.

When I was pregnant with said three-year-old I spent a lot of time resting on the couch and rubbing scented lotions into my belly. Took lots of pictures, read every pregnancy book website I could get my hands on, went to childbirth classes and bathed in the joyous anticipation of a brand new baby.

Now I take care of a toddler.

“MOM!!! CHANGE ME!!! Milk? I WANT TOAST! Candy? Show? THIS SHOW THIS SHOW THIS SHOW!!! PUSH PLAY!!! Play trains with me! Mom! Talk to me!”

“What do you want to talk about?”


So, yeah, I am months behind on this blog. It makes me sad, because I love reading other people’s blogs, and always think about how I should be sharing something in this space. I hope, as always, to get better about writing here.

Meanwhile, I have to go pee… (and get Oscar some juice, and grade papers, and…)


Chuffing Along

As I write this Oscar is lounging on his pillow pet watching his favorite Thomas the Train video for the seventeenth time in two days. He runs to his pile of DVDs and says “Show! Show!” It’s a fun ritual in which I take down the whole stack and he pretends the peruse them carefully before deciding on the one that’s already in the DVD player because he watches it constantly and exclusively. Thank God he’s off his Alphabet Factory binge. That horrible song (“The A says ah!”) had worked its way into my brain like an insidious worm.

May is coming to an alarmingly fast close as I teach a playwriting workshop, type up NCATE reports (you don’t want to know), write a chapter for my editor, put together a packet of review materials for my tenure application, frantically prepare my online summer school class which begins June 6th, and get ready for out-of-town guests. Meanwhile, the wind blows and summer refuses to take hold.

I have become hopelessly addicted to cooking shows: Iron Chef followed by Throw Down followed by Chopped. Sometimes I throw in an episode of Cupcake Wars for variety. What I really need to be watching more of is my Denise Austin workout video.

I’m looking forward to a summer of family, friends, delicious meals, taking Oscar to the park, and finding time for my writing. A teacher’s work is never done, but at least I will get to work while sitting on the porch in sweatpants while drinking a cool beverage. That is, if it ever gets warm enough to sit outside!

A Day in the Life of Elephants

I spent the morning being very productive. How could it have all gone so wrong?

First, I answered a slew of work emails, most with dumb advising questions that as an undergraduate I never would have dreamed of asking a professor. I spend about two hours each day answering these types of emails, and for awhile today this led me to contemplate the downfall of civilization.

Then I had a brief conference call with two university colleagues. It went surprisingly well, and I said very smart and helpful things, which is rare for me. All the while Oscar ran around the house making elephant noises.

Then I crafted a long and quite stunningly well-written email for the two said colleagues, and they were suitably impressed. With a sense of accomplishment I moved on to scrub my toilet, because nothing else can make one feel as virtuous as cleaning the toilet. I cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed, dusted, washed dishes, made lunch, and tried to teach Oscar how to put together his rocket ship puzzle. He has already mastered his elephant puzzle, his new favorite toy, which I bought at Bookman’s for $1.

I got Oscar hooked on elephants to help him get over his previous obsession with whales. Why he is drawn to enormous mammals is beside me. At night, he sadly waves bye-bye to his elephant puzzle and falls asleep making elephant noises.

After Oscar was down for his afternoon nap I should have just kept going, should have never sat down, really. Even so much as sitting down while Oscar is napping is asking for trouble. But I couldn’t resist. I thought, I’ll just sit and read the latest issue of Good Housekeeping, the one with Heidi Klum on the cover. So I sat and read about how she single-handedly runs a multi-million dollar empire while raising four beautiful children which she could not possibly have carried and birthed from her perfect body. Worse, she’s one of those annoying celebrities who claims not to exercise or diet. She keeps in shape by “chasing her children.” These kinds of statements make me want to both laugh and cry. During the past two years I chased an extra twenty pounds onto my body. I guess I should have eaten more chocolate.

At some point I felt the seductive pull of the afternoon nap. The afternoon nap is a vice that should be listed right up there with being addicted to crack cocaine. It will destroy lives. One minute I’m snuggling up on the couch with a throw pillow and the next minute my day is completely over.

Now I’m drinking coffee to get rid of my post nap hangover, and contemplating my to-do list.

For you…

I want to blog every day, no matter how small.

A photograph or a thought.

I’m getting ready to move into a new decade,

and it’s time to start living

a little more.

I want to be

a better mother

a better writer

a better photographer.

More present,

more aware,

more grateful.

I want to do this for me,

for us,

and mostly

for you

my son

who has given me everything…

What Inspires You?

I was thinking today about how much I am motivated and inspired by reading about and watching videos about writers and teachers. After reading an article about a revolutionary and hard-working teacher that I am assigning for class today, I was inspired enough that I plowed through an enormous stack of grading.

Sometimes, I get inspiration in unexpected places. An episode of Mad Men might inspire a lesson for my class the next day (on messages in the media, not adultery, lol). A movie might inspire me to write a novel. Inspiration is a tricky thing. I am usually not inspired so much by specific ideas as I am by excellence itself. Seeing a great movie makes me want to tell a great story, even if I’m using a different medium.

Where do you turn to for inspiration, and what inspires you?

Q & A

Several of my favorite bloggers have been doing this lately, and I’ve enjoyed reading the results, so I decided to be brave and take a chance on a question/answer post. Here is your opportunity to ask me anything!

I will post the answers this Thursday, July 8th.


How can I get back on the horse when I can’t find my saddle?

I keep meaning to start blogging again. Really I do. But I’m having trouble getting my blogging groove back. So I’ve decided to write about that, because I know my readers miss me. My two readers (hi Mom).

Sometimes I have trouble figuring out who I am writing for and what I should be writing about. When I first started this blog, it was for me. Then it was for my family, to document my pregnancy and Oscar’s infancy. Last summer I started reaching out to a larger audience, which is one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever done, because it’s heartwarming to receive empathy and support from mothers and writers who struggle with some of the same issues I struggle with.

Some time ago, I was privately criticized for spending time blogging “for strangers” instead of doing other things. It’s true that I am very busy, under enormous pressure at work, and mother to a magical handful of a boy named Oscar. So for awhile I questioned whether or not I even wanted to continue blogging. Then I realized that a few of my family members and friends have come to enjoy reading what I have to say, and I decided not to let the naysayers ruin it for them.

I’ve also been having trouble finding my identity as a blogger. I’ve read (with envy) the blogs of many women and writers who make money blogging, get fun products to review, or receive acclaim from the blogging world. I made the mistake of trying to be that kind of blogger and reading about how to create a successful blog. I decided I was writing about too many topics: motherhood, writing, simplicity, photography, etc., so I stopped writing altogether.

I miss it. I’ve decided to keep writing, about Oscar, about motherhood, about anything and everything. As far as I’m concerned, there are no rules. At the risk of mixing my metaphors, I’m going to build my own little baseball field in the middle of a cornfield, and if they come, they come. If they don’t, I’ll just make myself a glass of lemonade and enjoy sitting in the sun and watching the game.

Or my horse and I will just ride off into the sunset.

Ok, I don’t have a horse, but you get the idea.

Spam and Other Lunch Meats

My dear readers, unfortunately I’ve been getting a ton of this on my blog:

Personally, I prefer this:

In order to combat the spam, I’ve had to introduce captcha into my comment form. I apologize for the inconvenience, because I know it’s a pain to enter in those letters. However, as much as I LOVE comments from my bloggy friends (keep em coming!) I hate The Bots. The Bots are dead to me. They are no longer getting a Christmas card and they better not even THINK about showing up at the next family reunion.