Archives for posts with tag: writing

What are you grateful for?

The last two years have been a whirlwind for my family. A lot of change, new experiences, opportunities, adjustments, and relationships. 2017 has carried a lot of that. I am still in disbelief that this year is coming to a close. We have had so much happen, good and bad, in these last 11 months. It feels like New Year’s Eve was just yesterday. Today is Thanksgiving, a day in which we are supposed to pause and be thankful for what we have experienced over the course of a year. It is not my favorite holiday, mostly because it has become centered around overindulgence during a moment when we are supposed to be thankful. I find it a little counterintuitive. I love the thankful portion of the moment, so I am going to break down the things I am thankful for this year. They are not in an order of thankfulness, more of a stream of consciousness. Taking time to pause and reflect on the good in my life.

  1. We met many great people in the six years living in the ‘burbs. I made friendships that I cherish with people that inspire me. That said, there was always something missing from me personally. I fell madly in love with the city and moving away from it proved that to me. I’m thankful we made the fast, and slightly impulsive, decision to pack up and go back to where our hearts remained.
  2. My work at Carry the Future. I truly love being a part of the work being done. I’ve spent the last six months under the leadership of a very smart, funny, strong, capable woman. For whom I have immense respect and admiration. When people ask me what I do and I reply, “I’m a writer.” The next question is usually what for or where. My favorite part of that moment is when I tell them I write for a refugee organization.
  3. The path my career is on in general. I am so thankful I made the decision to go back to working outside of solely caring for the boys I love so much. Being a stay at home mom for 6 years was a wild ride. I reached a point where I was ready to do something for me. I am immensely thankful for the opportunities I have found. And for the people who have taken a chance on me.
  4. The women in my life that encouraged me to “run for something.” That turned into running for a co-chair position on the PTO. My first experience in running for something. I was so hesitant and nervous, but I did it and I am eternally thankful to the women who, post-Election 2106, looked at me and said that they thought I should run for something, anything, out there.
  5. The dear friend and woman who approached me to run for Secretary of the PTO. I hadn’t set my eyes on that at all. I was doing my co-chair work. She came to me and said she thought I was more than capable to make something with this position. That my talents were needed there. I was again, hesitant (something I am getting better at). I took my time to think it over. Ultimately, I said let’s do this. I have been enjoying my time SO much as PTO Secretary. I love the role and the frequent work that comes with it. The other day I was finishing up a task and just paused to think how happy I am that I have taken the role and made it my own.
  6. On that note, all the women I’ve been working with in general. I wear a few hats these days and under every single one is a strong team of women. Sometimes I sit back and think, “wow! We really do and can run the world.” I am so thankful to be working with and learning from them.
  7. That Jackson has done so well adjusting to a new school and a new home. Being older, he takes note of things a little more than Alexander does. The nuances of change have more of an impact on him. He has done it all with such courage, humor, and confidence. I am so proud that he is my son.
  8. Alexander’s conquering of his medical issues and his amazing speech improvement. He doesn’t stop talking. I can close my eyes and remember how I longed to hear his opinions and now he never ever stops talking. He is shaping up to be as chatty as Jackson! I am so excited for him and so proud of him.
  9. We are entering year 10 of marriage! Which is crazy to think because I am only 32, but here we are. Almost 13 years together and almost 10 years married. Ups, downs, and all arounds. He stills grabs my butt like we just started dating, so something is working! HA!
  10. That I am in a place in life where I can give back to my community and world. I feel so thankful that I can be charitable and volunteer my time and instill these values in my children. Being a generous helper is something I want them to grow up knowing, doing, and loving.

Happy Thanksgiving. May your servings be calorically appropriate. May you take a moment to reflect on your year and focus in on the reasons to smile and say, “that was good.”

I wrote this piece the morning of the Las Vegas shootings. It began as a stream of consciousness. I had to do something. I had to get the thoughts in my brain out somehow. As I wrote, I decided it would be the piece I submitted for the Resistance Writing Workshop. I scrapped another piece I had written (and was stuck on the ending). After many revisions and taking into account my classmates’ and instructor’s edits/thoughts/ideas, then letting it sit for a while, for some reason unable or afraid to face it once more, then ultimately sitting down to dig in and edit once more, a title change, and some additions/removals to the body, I am sharing it below. 

***********

Mass Shootings from a Mother’s Perspective 

I remember precisely where I was when news of Sandy Hook broke in 2012. I was folding laundry in my bedroom, my oldest son, not yet two years old, napping. Maybe I was listening to music or something. I don’t remember that particular detail. I was oblivious to the terror taking place. A new mom, only a year under my belt. Folding, folding, folding, folding, and humming along. My phone buzzed, a text from my husband. Asking if I had seen the news about the elementary school shooting. I hadn’t. I checked the internet and made my way downstairs to turn on the news. That news morphed into an increasingly tragic narrative. Stomach churning at every confirmed update. How? Why? Babies, these are babies. Spinning, slow motion. My world changed that day. I was a mom now. That could be my baby. You see things differently when you have children, things hit you harder or in ways they didn’t before your heart left your body, walking around this dangerous, and all too often, hideous world.

I remember crying as I watched the news later that night, that narrative still increasingly tragic. The death count being confirmed. Something bubbling up inside of me. Outrage! Names and faces being shared. Acid in my throat! Babies. So many babies. Nausea!

My son playing on the floor in our living room, his little body giggling with joy and happiness. His chubby little face, smiling, dimples deep in those chubby cheeks, so pure and innocent. Christmas was around the corner. Those babies wouldn’t get a Christmas. Gifts were already under Christmas trees, awaiting joyful reactions in the early hours, groggy parents beaming, satisfied, happy. Now, those parents would wake up on Christmas morning, destroyed, something so profoundly important, shattered and missing. I wanted to throw up thinking of their pain. My heart physically hurt, looking at my child, thinking how much I love him and knowing how much they love their children. Those small, fragile bodies, laying cold in that school, alone, dark, parents unable to hold them. The image is enough to make me collapse from grief.

I really thought our country would change after that. I was hopeful. Surely, this had to be the last straw. The slaughter of 20 small children would force us to look in the mirror and examine our interpretations of amendments written long ago. When a single musket ball, which took minutes to reload, were the rights and arms referenced. I knew we would do something to take these firearms, that can slaughter and maim so many in a matter of seconds, out of civilian hands.

I was wrong. Nothing changed. People, lobbies, NRA, they fought back harder. “Guns don’t kill people!” Except, yes, they do. They kill babies and adults, children trying to get an education, and people trying to dance at a nightclub, and people enjoying a music festival, or a holiday party, or shopping at a mall, or watching a movie. They slaughter people. They tear human bodies to shreds. They make internal organs explode. They leave bodies riddled with gaping holes. They destroy communities.

This morning I sat on my couch in the dark. My three year old had crawled into my bed in the early hours, I had to rub his face to get him to fall back asleep. By then, my alarm went off, and I rolled out of bed, groggy, making my way to sip coffee and do a crossword puzzle. I made the mistake of checking my New York Times app, what was going on this Monday morning? The first headline put that all too familiar pit back in my stomach. It said there were 20 dead and 200 injured. An hour later, when I turned on the TV, the numbers had more than doubled, each.

I thought things would change after Sandy Hook. Yet, here we are. Again and again and again and yet again.

Since Sandy Hook, I have had a second child. That two year old I played with on the floor is now almost seven. The same age as those sweet babies at Sandy Hook. In first grade, those dimples, and humor, and all love. My sweet boy. Nothing about this fight has changed though. We have not learned, or rather the stubborn ones have been more effective at resisting than those of us who want real change.

A mass shooting is considered four or more victims. On average, every day in America there is more than one mass shooting. They may not all make national headlines, but they’re happening. And then there are these ones where casualties reach astronomical numbers. Can we truly wrap our heads around those numbers from behind our TVs or computers? I try to. I try to think of the hundreds of families who entire lives just broke into a thousand pieces.

Depressingly, I think overall, there is a disconnect. People move on. This will last for a few days, maybe weeks, until the next big news story breaks. We will move on, the viewers. The families and victims will always have an angry painful scar and deep gaping hole. There is no shifting focus for them. After some unpredictable amount of time, this will happen again. People will offer “prayers for fill in the blank!” Share images of skylines of that locale, or maybe a filter of the local flag over their profile photo. Temporary option chosen, of course. It is temporary for those not directly affected. Prayers for them. For a day. Prayers haven’t helped. They don’t do anything to change our reality. If they did, surely Sandy Hook would have been the last straw. It wasn’t, not remotely.

I crave change. I can feel the desire churning in my belly. Bubbling and brewing, confusion setting in over how this is still a debate. Every day I send my boys to school. Some days fear creeps up, whispering loudly behind my smiling goodbye eyes. Will today be a safe day? Who was that stranger walking by the school? Are the security measures enough? Parents living with the fear of their children not coming home from classrooms, places of supposed safety.

Our children live through active shooter drills. “Mommy, we all had to be quiet in the classroom. The police walked by to check doors. They wiggled the handle! My teacher got in trouble because she forgot to lock ours.” He was in Kindergarten. Kindergarteners. Five and six year olds.

The familiar fear crept up this morning. I dropped two small boys off at their schools. Kissed their sweet, innocent faces goodbye, my fear masked by my loving mom face. The thought of nightmarish possibilities lingered behind my smiling goodbye eyes. The lump in my throat was my escort home.

We cannot police minds. We can try to search for warning signs and suspicions. See something, say something, or so it goes. Mental health does play a critical role in these incidents. It is a factor, but it is not the only one. The ease with which people can access these weapons designed for war, capable of mass murder, plays an even larger role. The type of weapon used plays a role in the outcome. This man, I won’t say his name, I refuse, would not have been able to stab nearly 500 people in a matter of minutes. It is as simple as that. The slaughter that happened wouldn’t have been an option with a knife.

Over 500 hundred people were injured at this festival. 500. Close your eyes for a moment and think about how large that number is. There are less than 500 students in my son’s entire school. That is how massive the carnage is. Almost 60 people were slaughtered, and that number may rise in the next hours, days, weeks, months even.

When will we learn? What will it take? When will “The deadliest mass shooting in US history!” finally be a large enough total? What is the magic number? Will someone you know be a part of it? Will I?

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 10.07.50 AM

Me too. The hashtag that took over social media this past weekend. I had to look it up, to be honest.  I had a feeling what it was, but googled it to be sure. Sadly, I was correct. The day before this started trending I shared a brief story of my own via a Facebook status. It was about the first time I vividly recall being sexually harassed, and maybe by some definitions, assaulted. In middle school, by a teacher. It was in light of the discussions of men in positions of power abusing that trust and role. Using that position to hurt women. The next day I stated seeing “me too” all over Facebook and Instagram.

I haven’t posted a “me too” status though. Why? Because I am very open about my stories of assault and harassment and date rape. I have found my voice over the last few years and I talk about it until I am blue in the face, until all my Facebook friends probably roll their eyes and think, here we go again, (I don’t care though). I talk and write and write and talk because it is important. Because for 13 years I lost my voice. Because maybe my stories will help another woman. Because these moments happened, are happening, and will happen again.

Tomorrow is the culmination of my Resistance Writing Workshop. I set out to write another piece on sexual harassment. I even have a first draft written up. In the end, I shifted to a piece on mass shootings. I will share that after my critique and edits. But at the front of my mind, when I first stepped foot into that class 6 weeks ago, was writing about sexual harassment. Before the “shocking” Weinstein story (is it all that shocking? It seems the whole industry knew) and before “me too.” Why? Because this isn’t a trending hashtag. This is real life. This is my real life. This is the real life of most women I know. Because a teacher massaged my shoulders and ran his hands through my hair when I was in middle school. (I don’t even think I had gotten my first period yet.) Because an adult coworker followed me into a freezer when I was 16, closed the door, pinned me against a shelf, and kissed me, without my consent. Because I woke up in a hospital, no underwear, questions about what happened to my genitals being barked at me by a doctor. Because a man trapped me in an elevator and commented on my legs, while I was carrying my wedding veil. Because a man masturbated in his car, next to mine, watching me, as I put my first born son into his car seat, at 10 a.m. on a weekday. Because a drunk man sexually harassed me at noon on a weekday when I was pushing my 2 year old in his stroller. And so many more instances. All of that gets lost with just “me too.” You don’t quite get the disgusting nature of these moments when you chalk it up to “me too.”

I think the stories are important. It is more than “me too.” The narrative matters. What happened? Who did it? How did you feel? How did it affect your life? How are you doing now? How have you recovered? You matter! The details matter. Me too doesn’t solve anything. Awareness, sure, but we are all aware this happens. We live it. We see it. We read it. We hear it. Now we need to change it. Talk, speak, tell your story, insist on fairness, require body autonomy, demand that your sons will walk into this world differently, men, speak up when you see it happening, not after it comes to light. Bosses, refuse to tolerate any employee feeling uncomfortable in your office/company/business. The burden is not on us victims. The burden is on society to get its shit together. To refuse to tolerate sexual harassment and assault. Maybe because I am a writer, I feel that the stories are so important. “Me too” glosses over the nitty gritty ugly details, and maybe that is what we need. A bold look in the mirror, face the ugliness, the hideousness, the shame that we continue to let people (men, mostly) get away with these acts. Then enact bold and revolutionary change.

I am in the middle of an amazing Resistance Writing Workshop. This week we focused on resistance through fiction. One of our exercises was to take life as it is and reimagine it as it should be. This short story came to me based on a shirt my 6 year old wore to the march for science earlier this year. It reads “save the earth. It’s the only planet with pizza.” So without further ado, my first dabble into fiction in a very long time! 

Earth’s Most Delicious Hero

Pizza. Everybody likes pizza. There’s a topping for every tastebud. There are city rivalries based on pizza. Rats carry pieces around New York. There are different sizes, shapes, and depths. People are passionate about their pizza preferences. Chicagoans scoff when they see “Chicago Style Pizza!” anywhere outside of Chicago. There is no way they get that right, no way! Pizza is a simple yet serious part of our collective ethos. Funny thing though, Earth is the only planet with pizza. You can’t find a thin crispy crust cheese slice on any other planet, that we know about.

Pizza is what saved this planet. The force that finally led world leaders to collectively sigh and say, “ok! We have to do something about climate change, or this is it. We are done for! Finished, gone, extinct!” Not Cat 5 hurricanes, or flooding islands, or unbearably hot Septembers, or ice shelves falling off. No, we humans live through our bellies. And it turns out, the way to a man’s brain (not heart, we had that one wrong) is through his belly.

Pizza. That perfectly warm golden tangy delight, too delectable to ever give up, was the Earth’s champion. The reason we all work harder to reduce our impact and waste. The reason our air is cleaner and our oceans are cooler. And come to think of it, why everyone smiles more. Who can be mad when every single Friday is International Pizza Night? Obviously started to commemorate our shared, global, hero. You don’t have to Go Green. You can just Go Cheesy (but please, skip the anchovies).

 

IMG_8205

Last week I was lucky enough to be accepted as a RedTri Spoke Contributor! I am so excited about this opportunity to share my voice in their community.

In Defense of Downsizing takes a look at what happens when you look into your heart and family and make choices based on the answers you find. I explain our journey to living with less space and more time together.

I hope to remain active in this contributor community. I will always share with you whatever work I am fortunate enough to submit and have published.

Do you have any pieces that have been published on different sites, blogs, communities? Share your links below!

I have started and failed to finish several posts this week. It has been difficult for me to get into a good writing flow. They were all very long posts but they just didn’t seem right to me. They all were incomplete as well. I have had a lot on my mind but the words just won’t form correctly. Today, though, I am going to try a bit harder.

Yesterday evening I was thinking to myself that I would really enjoy it if I had a rainy day tomorrow. A day to just slow me down a little bit. A reason to stay inside, cuddled up with my sweetheart. A day where I could use the bad weather as an excuse to not run errands, go somewhere fun, walk to the park, or whatever ever else came up. 

For over a week I haven’t slept through the night. Last night was no exception. As I lay in bed I considered a walk to the park with Jackson today. No workout, take a rest day because I haven’t taken a rest day in over a week either. But a nice 1.5 mile walk and maybe some swimming. My brain was active as I lay in bed considering all the things I could do today. I finally decided to get myself up for the day, having stayed in bed a bit later knowing I didn’t plan on fitting in a workout. Alexander started slowing moving around, then kicking. It was time to start my day. 

Imagine my surprise as I waddled into my kitchen, not greeted by the usual beaming sunlight that radiates through the massive set of windows we have. I was greeted by grey sky, rain, clouds, and utter wetness outside. My heart skipped a beat. My rainy day! I hadn’t even checked the weather forecast yesterday. I had no idea rain was coming. I just wished it would, to force me to slow down a touch. As I sit here and write I am accompanied by the sounds of rain falling on my skylights. Heavy raindrops writing their own song. Jackson is still asleep. He likes to sleep late on rainy mornings. There is no sun radiating around the small space around his blackout blinds. 

I am not sure what we will do today. My dishes could be washed. I was too tired last night to wash the ones from dinner. Legos are already spread across my kitchen table. Except for the small area I am afforded for my meals and well my laptop I am typing on now. We have a ton of books we could read. I have a new big Ninja Turtles coloring/activity book we could make our marks on. Maybe we will do all of them. If he keeps sleeping much longer, there won’t be a nap today. Especially on a day where we don’t wear ourselves out playing outside or going on an adventure. 

As I sipped my coffee earlier, watching the rainy day, I couldn’t help but thank my Gma (that is what I called her a lot). I can’t help but feel like she may have had a hand in providing me with exactly what I needed this week. Forcing me to slow down a little, her girl who is always on the go. Thanks Gma, you did me a solid. 

IMG_7458

View from my kitchen

I have always loved words. Talking, reading, or writing. I am a chatterbox. I talk a lot. Always have. I used to get in trouble in school for being a social butterfly. I haven’t been able to put books down since I learned how to read. I have been writing since elementary school.

I always knew that I loved words in all forms. But I never knew that love could grow so immensely until I heard my child utter his first words. It started when he was around 9 months old. 9 1/2 months to be more precise. I stopped in my tracks the first time I heard him form a real word. I was caught totally off guard. He was crying for us. He had just woken up for the day. I went into his room. He was sitting in his crib and as soon as he saw me he started crying “momma momma momma” I couldn’t believe it!

Fast forward to now. Today (literally) he is 17 months old. I am desperately clinging to this last month of having a toddler under a year and a half. But that is for another post. Today I have to talk about how excited I am to hear WORDS from his precious pouty mouth. Last week he started saying “yellow.” He loves cars. He has this set of Maters. From Cars2. Mater in all of his secret agent disguises. There is a yellow one. I asked him, “Jack do you want your yellow Mater? Can you say yellow?” He looked at me and said “Wheh Whoa!” HE SAID YELLOW. That is not a particularly easy word. It is also a two syllable word. I was flabbergasted. I always ask him to repeat things or words I say. I am constantly asking him to try to use his words. Yet it still caught me by surprise. I was elated.

He has been working on the word flower for a while. I have flowers throughout the house. I have my wedding bouquet dried and on a wine rack in our dining room where we eat every day. I also have a fake orchid in my dining room. (I cannot have real plants. They die) But he has been taken with them for months. If you ask him where the flowers are he points. For a while he had been saying “fa” in reference to them. Yesterday he was working so hard to saying flower. “Ffffa-ah” On his own. We were sitting there enjoying breakfast and he started pointing and saying “ffffa-ah” over and over. Much later in the day we were at the grocery store. On his own he spotted some flowers and started saying “fffa-ah” again!

It makes my heart grow a million sizes bigger each time he gets a new word or phrase. I love communicating with him. I love hearing his little raspy voice work out new or old words. I am a big believer in using your words. When he is upset and having a tantrum I ask him to stop and use his words. I get to his level and look him in the eyes and tell him I can’t help him until he uses his words and tells me what he wants or what is wrong. If he knows the word he really stops and tries to tell me. I have found it to be a great relief during tantrums.

Words. They have been such a big part of my entire life. But I never truly appreciated them the way I do now. It is amazing the world a child can open up. The most simple thing, saying the word yellow, can make your day, week, and month so amazing!

my cool little talker