NESCBWI

Published April 23, 2015 by Tricia

This Saturday and Sunday I am going to a conference! A writing conference! Without my kids or my husband! I cannot contain my excitement!

I rarely post to this blog anymore. Once I had my two girls in two years, something had to give and that “thing” was blog writing and, even more sadly, *most* blog reading.

But…just in case one of the splendid new people I meet this weekend discovers this blog, I thought I should leave a fresh new post for them.

And then redirect them to twitter where I am a bit more active. 😉

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Motherhood, Part II: The Pros and Cons of a Snugglebug

Published April 28, 2014 by Tricia

Fact: Living in our society post-baby sucks.  If you’re having a hard timing “bouncing back” (for the record, this has never happened for me–I adapted and changed after both my girls, there was no “going back”) being constantly inundated with images of celebrities losing the baby weight moments after giving birth, as well as status updates from competitive parent acquaintances, and the dreaded, overachiever mommy blogs, it can be hard to stay positive.  I try to repeat to myself that “we’re all just doing the best we can,” but it’s hard not to feel lacking when you measure yourself against other mothers, both online and in person.

[A few days have elapsed since I started this post.  I was going to continue writing about how tough things are and how we have to be gentle with ourselves.  But, I had a mini-epiphany this weekend and I have decided to take a different approach…]

Two mornings ago, I was standing in my kitchen in my coffee and baby-vomit stained pajamas with a screaming toddler (I WANT MORE VITAMINS! I NEEEED THEM!) and a baby who would wail the second I put her down.  All I wanted to do–well, not WANTED to do, but felt I needed to do–was clean my house; not even “spring cleaning,” just a quick and dirty once-over: empty and reload dishwasher, find my counters & tabletop, remove choking hazards from the living room floor.  In exasperation, I called my MIL to see if she could help me out (this was another solo-parenting day for me, single parents HOW DO YOU DO IT?!) and she said she’d grab Matilda and take her to a local flower show to buy some plants.  YES! I would finally be able to accomplish something.  Except…that baby I mentioned earlier?  The one who would wail every time I set her down?  Yeah, she continued to do that and I saw those two precious, toddler-free hours slip away from me.  Matilda returned and I was beyond frustrated.  Then “it” happened.  My girls broke  me.  I literally threw up my hands and said, “you win, Mama will get nothing done today.”  They laughed in my face (mama is SO funny when she’s having a bit of a breakdown), I made myself another cup of coffee and we went into the destroyed living room.  And I swear the very next minute, I was drinking my coffee and I realized I was no longer holding Mira and Matilda wasn’t screaming.  My girls were playing together!  And for the rest of the day, I stayed calm and happy and present and my adorable munchkin-sized tyrants (I say with total fondness) let me straighten my house (well, the downstairs; most days I just pretend the upstairs doesn’t exist).

But, the cleaning is not what’s important.  The “giving in” was SO empowering.  My kids are happy and healthy.  My husband and I are closer than we’ve ever been–we miss our pre-parent days (of course!), but we appreciate each other and are amazed at the people we’ve become after 8 years and 2 kids.  We live in a lovely home in a beautiful town.  AND it is finally SPRING!  Who cares if my house is messy?  Well, honestly, I still do, but I’m trying not to care quite as much anymore.  After I let go of my overwhelming need to clean I took an even bigger step and decided to let go of this high bar of parenting I’ve been imagining.  I need to STOP measuring myself against other moms and my own impossible standards.

I felt my shoulders rise as I let go of the guilt for not meeting society’s parenting expectations: I weaned my kids at 6 and 7 months!  I sleep train!  Matilda and Mira are both belly sleepers!  After I had Mira, Tilda and I had yogurt for dinner every night Jim worked for 6 months!  No more 5 minute long explanations for why I’ve done what I’ve chosen to do.  I’m a good mother.  And I can finally say that and completely own it.  I will continue to get overwhelmed (probably on a daily basis) and messiness will still eventually get to me, but I feel calmer than I have in 2.5 years.

I weigh 160 pounds and I love my body.  I can’t consistently exercise because I have a beautiful baby who likes to wake up at 4am and cuddle with me until her big sister wakes up.  After months of trying to change this and wasting SO much time thinking about how I’m not doing a, b, or c because of it, I have experienced a shift.  I will drink my coffee and curl up under a blanket with my snugglebug, because this is temporary.  I will start exercising again one day, I enjoy it and love how I feel afterwards, but, for now, I am strong and I am cuddly and it doesn’t matter if other people think 8 months is a long time to carry your baby weight.  I don’t care.  Jim doesn’t care.  Matilda and Mira really don’t care.

I will continue to strive to be a better parent and person, but I will not do this because of external pressure, it will be because I choose to grow as a human.  It is more important to me to use my slowly increasing “free” time to start volunteering again (my Mira is named after Jim’s former Special Olympics partner) not to keep a spotless home or fit into a size 4 (or 6, or 8…) by bathing suit season.

So, to my mama friends & family: you are (ALREADY) enough.  Own and love yourself.  And, most importantly, chill the EFF out. 🙂

Motherhood, Part I: How Parks and Recreation Saved My Sanity

Published April 21, 2014 by Tricia

I find myself at that stage in life where countless friends and family members are having babies and raising small children.  Five years ago many of these same people were responsible for our “year of weddings”–I think Jim & I attended four over the span of one summer.  With every beloved pregnant woman I encounter I am filled with so much joy for them, but I am also concerned.  When do you speak with an expectant mother about post partum depression/exhaustion?  Certainly not when they’re standing in front of you glowing and lovingly stroking their growing belly.  Do you wait until they’re in the midst of sleep deprivation and a hormonal imbalanced sadness?  Maybe they will be among the unaffected…feeling instantaneous love and bonding with their baby, surrounded by an unrivaled support system.  It does happen after all; it did with my second child–not so with the first.

When Matilda was born, I was in awe of her.  This already strong, not quite small newborn was mine.  That first night in the hospital I couldn’t sleep, partly due to the adrenaline, but for the most part I could not stop gazing at my daughter.  That first week I was not so much happy as I was amazed.  Then everything changed.    My husband went back to work; the anxiety and panic I felt the mornings he left for his 14 hour shifts can not be overstated.  I was nursing, and those first couple months did NOT go smoothly.  And Matilda was crying…all the time.  Like many children with colic, it seemed that if she was awake she was also screaming.

However, it wasn’t any of those things that scared me.  They all seemed unfortunate but typical for new moms, like sleep deprivation.  I was terrified because I no longer felt any attachment to my child.  In an effort to explain my feelings to my husband I told him that it was as if I was babysitting and the parents were weeks late in picking up their baby.  I spent a lot of time pining for the time “before,” especially those months when I was pregnant–when I loved this small creature and there was no sadness or anger competing with that adoration.  I was living on an emotional precipice and it was very easy for me to fall over the edge from time to time.  There was a  moment when I was holding Matilda and her head lolled back and my husband very calmly said, “make sure you watch her head.”  I fell apart.  I decided I was devoid of maternal instinct–I couldn’t even hold a baby correctly!  My husband was a natural with Matilda, when the colic was at it’s worst and the crying would stretch out for hours, he was the one who saw it through.  I felt like an imposter.  I could not mother.  My baby and I were miserable and the days stretched out forever.

Thankfully, I had three things going for me during this difficult time.

1. My husband had just graduated from pharmacy school and during that time he had learned about the “baby blues” and PPD, so instead of panicking when his wife said she felt completely disconnected from their child, he saw my feelings for what they were and he was nothing but supportive and stable.

2. I had the memories of that first week to tether me to reality.  I had loved this baby.  I was sure of it.  That was how I really felt.  This wasn’t me.  It was wonky hormones and exhaustion.  My rational mind knew this and because of that certainty I was able to see my current situation as temporary.

3. At the time Matilda was born we were living 5 miles from my parents.  On the days Jim had to work I would wake up and do everything I could to amp myself up for a solo day with baby–this would usually last until 8am, approximately 30mins after Jim left.  My mother was still working at the time, but would finish work at 3:30 and be on my doorstep by 3:40.  I would hand her the baby and immediately take a shower.  Showering while the baby was asleep or when Jim was home was endlessly stressful.  If Matilda was napping I would constantly hear phantom cries and if Jim was home and she started to cry there were would a knock on the door followed by, “I think she’s hungry.”  When my mom was with me, she would tell me to take a nice, long shower: “don’t worry, no baby has ever starved in 20 minutes.”  After that I would have something warm to eat while seated at a table, you know, like a normal human being.  After these two miraculous activities, I would sit in the living room with my mother, sip a glass of wine, and re-watch episodes from the first two seasons of Parks & Recreation, each one a 22 minute injection of happiness.  These restorative visits from my mom lasted about 3 hours and it was during them that I began catching glimpses of my true self and the love I had for my daughter.

I don’t remember exactly when things started to look up–it was a gradual process helped along by more sleep, more soothing tools/techniques, and lots of help from my husband and my mother.  I do know that by the time I turned 30 (Matilda was 12 weeks) I was happy and my baby girl was almost happy (she had a few more weeks of colic left) and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I’d go to the moon and back for her.

30th Birthday!

As any reader can see by scrolling down, I do not keep up with this blog…at all.  Sporadic is too kind a term to describe its upkeep.  But, I needed to get this and another post or two down so that it would be there for all those excited new mamas who I love so dearly.  It can be tough–so, so tough.  And, if that is true for you, just know that you are not a failure and you are definitely not alone.

END NOTE: I was never formally diagnosed with PPD.  My husband and I agreed that I would take things a week at a time.  If I did not see at least marginal improvement at the end of each week I would speak with a therapist.  Luckily, things did improve slightly as time passed and, although I did feel disconnection and exhaustion, I never felt violent or unhinged.  If you’re hurting, please talk to someone.  There is help available.  All you have to do is ask.

Under the Dome Summer Readalong

Published May 24, 2013 by Tricia

I read (or more accurately, devoured) Under the Dome when it came out.  I may have even begged/pleaded with the catalogers at the library where I was working to be sure I was at the top of the list.  I’m not sure I’ll be re-reading every page with the other participants, I have a toddler and am big/pregnant/tired with baby2 and a towering TBR pile, but I can’t wait to see what everyone else thinks of this wonderful book.  To celebrate kicking off this readalong I’m posting a blog I wrote ages ago about my love for SK.  I promise to post some “original” writing soon.  Happy Reading!

The following was cut & pasted from the library’s blog where I worked from 2005-2008 as the children’s librarian and where I am now working again (since January) as a part-time cataloger/RA librarian.  I haven’t altered anything–including the links and my signature.  I know this is lazy, but if you saw the state of my house right now, you would beg me to leave the blog as is and go clean. 🙂

“I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries.” –Stephen King

Stephen King

I am currently reading my 24th Stephen King novel. In addition to his novels I’ve also read his memoir On Writing, a handful of novellas, and countless short stories. I adore his work.

Right now, I should be reading: Eragon & Eldest to brush up for OWL’s Teen Trivia Night on April 23rd @ 7pm (shameless plug #1), Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to remind myself of some favorite passages for OWL’s evening book discussion on April 22nd at 7pm (shameless plug #2) and Catch 22 for a book group with some lovely ladies from work. HOWEVER, every day when I get home I look at the books arrayed on my nightstand and I reach for Needful Things.

Reading Stephen King reminds me how much I love reading. When I read one of his books I take every second of my lunch break to fit in as many pages as possible, I spurn the TV, and if the season is right I pray for snow days. I curl up in his writing as if it were a favorite comforter.

There are those who fault Stephen King for his mass appeal by calling him a hack. I imagine many readers who believe this have never opened one of his many titles. If they had, they would know that the horror, the thrills, and the gore are secondary–it’s his characters that bring his loyal readers back time and time again. Stephen King creates memorable characters who are startling in their realness (even when they’re supernatural) and it’s the colloquialisms, flaws, and occasional crassness (all things King has been criticized for) that help lend these characters their credibility.

Another facet of Stephen King’s writing is the liminal space he creates, most notably in the Dark Tower series. In the world that Stephen King has created there are places where the barrier between the earthly and the unearthly is thin, and there are characters who are attuned to this and able to move between the spaces. There is an entire mythology surrounding this, which is best left for my fellow uberfans, but let’s just say that when it comes to blurring the lines between the real and surreal, nobody does it better.

I know many of you reading may be perplexed about the horror genre, but as the master of the macabre himself says, “we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” Horror fans are not a depraved lot, we’re just regular people who like an occasional good scare. Don’t be afraid! I promise we don’t bite. =)

Some SK Favorites:

Salem’s Lot The best vampire book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot) this is the book that began my love affair with the King. FIC KIN

The Shining This book is incredible! It chronicles the tragic decline of Jack Torrance and his small family who are spending the winter as caretakers in a remote Colorado hotel. (FYI: The book is vastly different from the Kubrick film) FIC KIN

The Long Walk 100 boys are randomly selected to walk continuously at 4 miles an hour. After 3 warnings you are permanently removed from the game–the winner is the last man standing (or, should I say, the last boy walking). FIC KIN

Cell I heart zombies. FIC KIN

On Writing Part autobiography, part tough-love tutorial for aspiring novelists. 813.54 KIN

Who’s your author obsession? Leave your answer in the comments.

Batgirl was a librarian!~Tricia is the youth librarian at OWL and loves reading outside, grilling, and playing catch…Hurry up Spring!

Stephen King

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” –Stephen King

Happy New Year!

Published September 4, 2012 by Tricia

I hate New Year’s Eve/Day.  Okay, maybe I don’t hate it, but I don’t understand the appeal especially since I’ve always considered the day after Labor Day to be the official start to the year.  As a student, Labor Day marked the end of summer and beginning of the school year–new fall clothes (always too warm for the first day of school but many of us wore them anyway), fresh pens and pencils, and blank notebooks filled with crisp, white pages. 

Even though I am no longer in school I still think of today as Day 1.  Summer is over. It is time to dig in my heels and get into a routine.  This is the day I set out my goals for the next twelve months. 

I have decided that this is the year of 20 minutes.  Instead of outlining a series of lofty goals I am committing to spend (at least) 20 minutes a day doing all of the things that are important to me.  20 minutes of writing.  20 minutes of exercise.  20 minutes of non baby-centered conversation with my husband.  20 minutes of simply doing nothing.

Autumn is my favorite season because it is full of possibility (and football, apple picking, fall foliage, homemade soups, sweaters, Halloween, scary stories, Thanksgiving, etc.).  Fall is (in my mind) a clean slate.

Photo by greencandy8888

So, Happy (Fake) New Year!  I hope the coming year is everything you envision it will be.

Average Joes

Published July 31, 2012 by Tricia

Let me preface this post by saying that I have been awake since 3:30am.  The baby has finally gone to sleep and I am not far behind. I wanted to do some sort of writing today though so I thought I’d write a post about a silly idea my poor sleep deprived brain thought of this morning.

[Side note: I am writing this on my mother’s iPad and it is not cooperating–please excuse any typos and formatting issues. I drove to my parents’ house while I could still function and my mom took over as point person with my temporarily fussy, stubborn and exhausted daughter.]

So, what if there was an “average joe” in individual Olympic events–just to show how extraordinary these athletes really are–a kind of yardstick of mediocrity. Someone who looks visibly winded after 25 meters of swimming in the final lane of the pool or a person who runs a 10 minute mile running alongside track & field champions. Gymnastics would be pretty hilarious when it was Joe’s turn on the pommel horse.

What about team sports? What if every volleyball team had to have one average player–“Goddamn it, Joe! How did you miss that spike?!”

[In my head, Joe is in basketball shorts and a t-shirt (regardless of the event) with a slightly paunchy belly and 5 o’clock shadow.]

Obviously I’m kidding, but I do think that sometimes we take for granted how amazing Olympians are because they are being measured against the best of the best. It’s kind of like how point guards seem small in the NBA because they’re often “only” 6’6″ or 6’7″ and other players are closer to 7 feet.

I LOVE the Olympics and I’m tempted to make this post about the numerous examples of #NBCfail or how Olympic athletes do NOT eat Subway or McDonalds!! (And even if they did, they burn more calories in a day than the average person consumes.) But, four years is a long time so I’m trying to let go of my NBC hatred and just enjoy the events and all the excitement and joy that surrounds them.

One final note on the games, like most of America I am LOVING Missy Franklin for all the obvious reasons. But I also adore her as the mother of a big, tall girl with apparent super strength who loves the water. What a wonderful role model for my baby to look up to!

On a related note, I need to change my work out routine to incorporate more back exercises as I have started getting little spasms between my shoulder blades after rocking Matilda to sleep at night. 🙂 Let me know of any strengthening moves you can think of.

And now, to bed.

“You lack the season of all natures, sleep.” Lady Macbeth

A neglected blog and a polished short story.

Published July 25, 2012 by Tricia

Today I needed a break from writing.  I was feeling drained of all creativity and wanted nothing more than to start rewatching Friday Night Lights (my mom bought me the series on DVD as a surprise–she felt guilty about always bringing Matilda presents and having nothing for me–I know, I am a very lucky girl).

Fortunately for me, I am a creature of habit and the moment Matilda went down for her nap I walked to my little study and sat down in front of my netbook.  After several minutes of staring blankly at my short story, I realized that revising was not going to happen today, but that I could still write without working on my current WIP.  After all, I have a blog!  Sure, it languishes most of the time and there is no focus or apparent theme, but it’s fun to send words out into the void and see if anyone stumbles upon them.

I know I should be consistent with this blog–that updating frequently and having some sort of mission or central idea would attract and keep more readers, but at the moment, that isn’t what I need or even want from this.  I have been writing every day and the days I don’t write here it means I’m working on “Eyesore”–my domestic horror story.  Right now, this blog is functioning more as an open journal–a place where I can stretch my writing muscles on days when I have zero motivation, but I still need to sit down at my desk and go through the motions.  [It also helps me maintain a line of communication with several friends and family members who have never deleted this feed from their blog readers.]

In the past, I would have deleted all my old posts and pretended this blog didn’t exist.  I would have told myself, “if you aren’t updating twice a week, with at least one of those posts being a book review, then you are failing and should just give up.”  Same thing when it came to writing creatively, “if you aren’t completing 1,000 words a day, why are you even bothering?”

The first few months I was home with Matilda I felt like a failure because I wasn’t supermom.  I set the bar so high I was a constant disappointment to myself.  Then one day I noticed that I was doing just fine.  We may have to call out for pizza once or twice a week, the place may start to look a little worse for wear the closer we get to cleaning day, the laundry sometimes piles up and little household projects can take weeks to complete, BUT every day I wake up happy and I spend the day with my girl–who is thriving.

I show up.  I sit down for an hour or two a day and write.  And that’s enough.