When Being a Mother Isn’t Enough

Today I’m posting over at my new blog, Writing at the Table, about two sensitive topics that are near to my heart – my children, and also, my writing.

The title is Being a Mom is NOT Enough (For Me) and I hope you’ll pop over there and check it out.

Also, don’t forget about my contest to win a free copy of Dani Shapiro’s incredibly inspiring book, Still Writing. All you need to do is subscribe to my email list and voila, you’re in the running not only for this book, but for the next three I’m giving away!

books for contest

Below is the beginning of my post… 

Being a Mom is NOT Enough (For Me)

Writing those words is not easy. Feels a little taboo, like something a mom is never supposed to admit.

Then there’s the whole people pleaser part of me that doesn’t want to make anyone mad. But this idea has been sitting on the back burner of my mind for a while now, simmering like a pot of water. Steam is escaping out the edges and the lid is rattling. Time to look inside.

… head over to Writing at the Table for more … 

Advertisements

A Word and a Winner

Happy New Year’s everyone, and yes, I’ll get to the “word” portion of this post, but first – a winner for my first ever giveaway!

Completely random fishbowl drawing.

Completely random fishbowl drawing.

Kath from the fabulous blog, Minuscule Moments of Inspiration, is the lucky recipient of our random drawing for the book, Gluten-Free Me! A book about celiac for kids, which I reviewed the other week.

Gotta love the mismatched Hello Kitty pjs.

Gotta love the mismatched Hello Kitty pjs.

Please try not to notice how I misspelled my abbreviation of "minuscule."

Please try not to notice my misspelled abbreviation. Handwriting doesn’t come with spellcheck, unfortunately.

Congrats to Kath, but also a huge and genuine THANK YOU to all who entered. After reading everyone’s comments, I really wanted to give everyone a copy. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do more reviews and giveaways in the future. Stay tuned.

Now, for the word… Or rather, many words leading up to the word…

Last year I decided instead of making a resolution I’d chose one word (inspired by this blog) to define and inspire my new year. The word I picked was, nurture. When I was first thinking about this post, it didn’t seem like I had made much of a dent in my goal. After all, one salon hair cut, a handful of manicures, and one Sephora.com make up order didn’t seem like much. But when I gave it more thought, I realized I had done a better job than I gave myself credit for. (Typical.)

What had initially come to mind was the superficial kind of nurture (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I also made time to nurture my dreams and goals. For example, in the fall of 2013 I attended a writer’s conference where I didn’t know a single person and spent two days immersing myself into a world I had been afraid to reenter.

lwcnyc

I spoke with literary agents about my novel manuscript (hiding in a safe, oh the irony!) for over five years and even read the first page of it during a panel. I was absolutely taken aback when I received some positive comments. And later, after an agent gave me her card I went into a bathroom stall and did a silent scream/happy dance. When I got home, I felt giddy, invigorated, determined, scared, and excited. I pulled out the manuscript and read it through for the first time.

I read Dani Shspiro’s inspiring book, Still Writing (I can’t recommend this enough) and felt like she was speaking to me. There is a passage in the book about procrastination, ah you old false friend, that hit a nerve for me. I didn’t want to procrastinate anymore. I started to feel an urgency that had escaped me before. Time was passing by and if I didn’t start taking my writing life seriously now, when would I?

During this time I decided to work with a life coach – something I never thought I’d do, but I’m so glad I did. Brainstorming ways to improve ME.

If all that isn’t the definition of nurture I don’t know what is.

So, what could be my word for 2014? I thought about balance because I’m struggling to find that right now between mothering and writing. But balance didn’t feel quite right. That word evoked a scale, a shifting of weights, an unevenness, the impossible task of making everything come out even. But most times in life it doesn’t. One side will always tip higher or lower. Since I’ve never been good at multi-tasking, I started to feel anxious. How could I do both? But then I realized something obvious and freeing: I can do both – just not at the same time.

As Kath wrote in her poignant New Year’s post, I See You, I’m a mother first and a creative second. I can’t afford to be lost in my head thinking of plot points or researching dialogue techniques while my children vie for my attention. Both of us lose if I try to multi-task. I’m resentful for being interrupted and my children are resentful at being seen as interruptions.

What Bunky and I can do when I'm present.

What Bunky and I can do when I’m present.

I just read Joan Didion’s wrenching memoir, Blue Nights, a follow up to her equally gutting and flawless, The Year of Magical Thinking. Spoiler alert – kind of, while the first book is about the sudden death of her husband and the illness of her daughter, the second is about her daughter’s death and Didion’s own mortality. She spends much of the book in the past, exploring and dissecting memories of her daughter, Quintana. Part of her wonder and pain revolves around how much time she spent working (i.e. writing) during her daughter’s young life. It’s not so much about regret, but about lost chances. The lost chances of not having been as present as she might have liked for her daughter. Here’s a quote from the book that struck me (italics are hers):

Brush your teeth, brush your hair, shush I’m working.

I get it. I do it. I want to think about my writing, I want to jot down some notes. And sometimes I do. But often at a cost.

What a tug of war us mothers go through.

All this aside, what about the word? I considered perseverance, which is something I will need to finish the edit of my novel and keep writing. But again, no. Too cumbersome, too bulky in the mouth, in my mind. I know, I’m nuts. It’s an English major thing.

Then while helping Little Guy go down for a nap, a time when I’m alone with my thoughts (unless I reach for my cell phone) I figured it out.

open

I imagined what my word should look like, and I saw myself standing with my arms wide open, reaching as if to embrace my children, reaching for the sky. I want to be open to being a present mother, to being a present writer, open to all the possibilities of life.

What do you think your word might be? What does it look like to you?

My Other Writing (Life)

old fashioned lady with computer

Those of you who know me primarily through this blog know that I like to write (this can be deduced from my often long winded and meandering posts). You also know that my daughter Bunky has celiac, I like to bake, planning dinner is akin to torture, my family is picky as hell, and though we live in Brooklyn, New York, we are fortunate enough to have a country house where we can escape rotting garbage smells (summer) and yellow snow (winter).

You may or may not know that I started this blog as a direct result, a knee jerk reaction, if you will, after Bunky’s celiac diagnosis. Writing is how I cope, among other things. So, it was second nature to write about celiac in order to survive it. Recipes came later, and a complete surprise since I am in no way a food blogger or recipe developer. When you’re eating gluten free, you end up making a LOT of stuff from scratch after you nail the whole box/mix thing. And we ALL know how very sad my food photography is. That’s because I’m a WRITER.

paper and pen

But reading this blog only gives you a small slice of my writerliness. Here are some things you may NOT know:

  • I’ve wanted to a be a writer pretty much forever.
  • I’m a pathological reader. Which is a good writerly quality, or so I’m told.

book stack

  • I have been known to read while eating, brushing my teeth, attending Monkey’s concerts, in movie theaters.
  • I have an MFA that I finished mostly before Bunky was born, but I did present my thesis while she screamed in the background.
  • Days before I gave birth to Bunky, I printed out 268 pages of what was the first draft of the first novel I ever wrote.
  • Then I put it in a drawer and didn’t look at it for 5 and a half years. Which was around last week.

It’s understandable (I suppose) that I haven’t done much creative writing since Bunky was born. I’ve pretty much been going non stop since she roared out of my body in 2008. Having a baby is no joke. Especially a colicky one. Then a celiac-y one. Then having ANOTHER one. It’s full time work. Exhausting, mind blowing, brain numbing. Takes a toll, let me tell you.

But now that Little Guy is two (!) and Bunky is in kindergarten, I am pulling my head out of my proverbial butt and trying to reengage my writer brain. It’s not easy, but I’m feeling strangely motivated. Two things have jump started me (besides the whole time is a ticking thing):

1. An awesome writer’s conference I attended in November

2. Reading Dani Shapiro’s new book, Still Writing, which I highly, highly recommend.

still writing

Since the conference I dusted off my novel and read the whole thing straight through during two Little Guy naps. I survived my worst fear (and part of the reason I left it moldering in a safe for 5+ years) which was the fear that it would suck. And hey, guess what, it did suck! But crazy as it sounds, I am okay with that. If the first draft of my first novel didn’t suck, I’d be some kind of crazy genius, and let’s not mince words here, genius I’m not (that sounds very Yoda, doesn’t it?). Luckily you don’t have to be a genius to edit a novel. You have to WORK hard. You have to persevere.

computer hands

I never thought of myself as persistent, until the other day when I was on a call with my life coach (yeah, I’m totally doing that and it’s pretty cool despite my misgivings/cynicism) and she asked me to tell her one true thing about myself. I pretty much HATE describing myself because get all anxious about picking the wrong word(s). But somehow I came up with persistent. And despite how odd it seemed at first, the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s kind of true.

I’ve wanted to be a writer my ENTIRE life, basically. Yet, I’ve suffered the usual self confidence woes while mastering some Olympic gold procrastination techniques (including having babies, a foolproof way NOT to write). And yet, yet, I always come back to the written (or typed) word. I have never stopped writing. Fiction is where my heart is, but when I can’t get there, I write other stuff, like this blog. I write essays, including one just published in a book (!) called The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship.

herstories

The amazing ladies who made this book a reality just sent me a hard copy of the book and it felt great to see my words in print.

So why am I writing this post? Besides sharing this other side of myself with you, I want to offer reassurance that while I won’t let this blog fall by the wayside, it may occasionally take me longer to update. Know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, or the blogosphere. I’m just writing elsewhere.

Wow, remember these things?

Wow, remember these things?

I promise to keep you posted (ha!) if I manage to publish something. You’ll be one of the first to know.

Thanks for the love and support, guys. Recipes, rants, and all.