Monday, September 19, 2016

Why I Write

Writing is not the way I would typically be creative, but it has become my only outlet. I come from a background of theatre: performance, directing, and producing. I did everything from improv to musicals to Shakespeare. Theatre was never my full-time gig; I was getting paid, but never enough to quit my day job. So when I found myself with a high-risk pregnancy, it all had to change. I could only focus on the job that paid the bills and provided my health insurance, plus I couldn't push myself to take on any other contracts for fear I would go into labor early and be unable to see the project through. I have not been creative in the ways that I know best since I was first pregnant.

Right now, my life is a very fine balance of routine. There is just enough time in the day to take care of my child, my full-time job, my hellish commute, and maybe cook something or shower or whatever. If anything upsets that balance there is a snowball effect of problems.

-Actual quotes from our household
Image via Pixabay

The chaos is much more controlled than it used to be, the entire first year of my child's life felt like pure survival mode. I'd say it wasn't until she turned 2 that I started to really miss having an artistic outlet.

To add to that, I felt like parenthood had somehow rotted my brain. I know they say babies leech nutrients from the mother, but I'm thinking brain cells jump ship too. Even now that she is a toddler, I still feel like my mind has regressed in some way. Maybe it's because I spend my time outside of work hanging out with a 2 year old, reading books meant for 2 year olds, and watching TV geared toward 2 year olds. (It's not the most challenging material). I can hardly hold a conversation with my husband because our child talks over us, the kid's got some serious "look at me syndrome" going on and likes all conversations to involve her. When we're finally alone we both knock the hell out and maybe we'll shoot each other a few quick texts about what's going on while at work the next day.
 
Truly riveting stuff. Also, I still don't know what was in the water dish.
Recently, I hit a point where I started feel like a 2 year old with driving privileges (scary, right?) My mind wasn't being challenged, but I was beginning to memorize entire skits from Sesame Street and songs from Daniel Tiger...so that's something. That was when I knew I had to do something to keep myself feeling sharp mentally and would allow me to be expressive in some way.

My favorite part of theatre was being able to tell a story, so I tried to think of ways that I could still do that in my very limited time. Writing became the new vehicle for my storytelling because it doesn't require a schedule or involve other people. I can write on my lunch break or on the notepad app on my phone while I lay in bed. If I don't post anything for a week, I'll be disappointed but there is no one else relying on me to adhere to any kind of timeline. Working in theatre is a collaborative process, it is not something to be done in isolation of others and that was always part of the appeal to me. Unfortunately, I am not at point in my life where I can commit the time and energy to collaborate, I don't think it would be fair because I can't give what I normally would want to give to the process. But there are still all of these jokes and ideas and stories inside of me and, until recently, they were just swirling around under the surface. Thanks to my blog, I finally had a place to let everything spill out and take shape as stories to share. Even if no one read a word I wrote, I would keep at it because I can't bottle it back up again.

A little reminder from my theatre days.
Writing my blog has become more than just the outlet I intended it to be. Blogging enables me to interact with people I never would have otherwise known, I am connected to other writers all over the world. They read my blog and I read theirs...and it's awesome! I feel like I am part of community that I didn't even know existed a few months ago. So far, two other websites have featured my posts and it's exposed me to a whole new world filled with funny, smart writers and I get play in the same sandbox as them! It's strange to think that I didn't even know this playground existed until a few months ago.

I would recommend that any parent who is feeling bottled up inside try blogging. It gives you a chance to not only be creative, but to use some of your big girl GRE vocabulary as well. For example:
  • absconded
  • grandiloquent
  • harangue
Okay, literally none of those words appear in my blog, but if I wanted to I could use them, that's the beauty of having your own little corner of the web!  Because this is my space to stretch my mind and flex my creative muscles (and keep myself from losing my damn mind). Without writing, I could be one episode of Curious George or a reading of Goodnight Moon away from my last brain cell jumping like lemming out of my head.


#blogging #creativity #writing #storytelling
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Damp Vacations in the Bathroom

I grew up in New Jersey, which is a rich and varied place…at least when thinking about houses. As a child, I was dragged into many homes by my parents or by my mother who had become a real estate agent. At each new place there was the guarantee of “the tour”. You walk in, look around, take off your coat (or shoes depending on the residents), and then your host says, “Let me show you around the place” or “How about the Grand Tour?” like it’s a goddamn palace and not a bi-level in central New Jersey.

Some tours were more thorough than others, those are the ones in which you find yourself in the basement or the backyard staring at an ancient outhouse that came with the place and adds “so much character”. After several of these tours, I noticed each house had one special room that the lady of the house and my mother would take a particular interest in: the bathroom.

Serenity Now!
Image via Pixabay

It seemed like each bathroom was lovingly designed with a level of care that was ludicrous to me as a child, like straight up crazy. One mom showed off her “vineyard-themed” bathroom with little candles in wine glasses and merlot colored towels. Another had a “seashore spa” thing going on, complete with seashell soap in a basket that you were not allowed to actually use (it was decorative soap apparently). I didn’t understand the obsession with this room. There was so much thought and effort put into a place that you use to take a crap, brush your teeth, and bathe.

Growing up, I learned to take super fast showers; I did not see the point in just standing around doing nothing. My father is a known power-showerer, he was always in and out in record times. I agreed with my dad, it was boring and I had shit to do. If I needed to shave that would tack on a few more minutes, but overall I had the whole thing down to a science. When I first moved in with my husband, even he commented on my showers, “Were you in the military or something? How did you get clean so fast?” The suggestion that I was the weird one was ridiculous to me, I couldn't understand what took him so long in there.

And then…I became a mom and, to add to that, I then became a homeowner. Suddenly, this all made so much sense. I don’t even get to pee alone, but the one time my husband will 100% wrangle our child away from me is when I’m in the shower. I think it's because if he doesn't she'll run in, rip the shower curtain open, and get water all over the floor all while I scream bloody murder for him to "come get this child" and "aren't you even watching her?" (Do you even dad, bro?).

Showering has morphed into an insanely long process:
  1. Play around on my phone
  2. Contemplate my life
  3. Turn on the water
  4. Stand in the water
  5. Go through the motions of showering with frequent breaks to repeat Steps 2 and 4

Showering has become a series of damp little vacations for me. My newfound extended time was an absolute revelation. Growing up, all of those moms were creating as nice a space as possible in which to hide from their families. So, of course my mother would fuss over her friend’s recently redecorated bathrooms because she understood what this room meant for them: a few seconds alone where their mind can clear, no one physically touching them, and some fucking space to breathe. If you’re going to hide in a tiny room, you may as well make it your own. I totally get it now.

I’m not sure where to buy soap that no one is allowed to touch, but I am considering new hand towels and a rug to tie the whole room together. It will also give me something comfy to sit on while I text from the bathroom, with the door locked and the water running.

I'd love to know if you have a bathroom oasis or if you also hide to get your Texting/Facebook/CandyCrush done. If you have other creative ways of getting alone time, please tell me your secrets!

#bathrooms #moms #texting #alonetime

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Stranger Things Made Me Feel


Ahhh, hits me right in the nostalgia

Netflix isn’t just for random movies on a night in anymore; their ability to produce a series and release it all at once is a binge-watcher’s dream. As the mom of a toddler, I don’t get to binge-watch things all too often. So, while all of my friends had consumed the entire first season of Stranger Things (and then proceeded to rave all over Facebook about it), I was about 2 episodes in. The Mister and I were able to pace ourselves by watching one episode every night after our daughter had gone to bed, we got really crazy on a Friday and watched 2 episodes (I know, so wild!). Honestly, I’m glad we had to stretch out the experience of watching the show. The mood of series, the mystery, the storytelling were all so well done that having time between episodes allowed me to sit with what I had seen and ask questions about what was coming next.

There was so much of this show tugging on my own nostalgia for the 1980’s (both my own real experience of that time period and the portrayal of the 1980's on film and screen). There were enough small nods to those films it was playing off of, that you couldn’t help but fall under its spell. Everything about Stranger Things just looked and felt right for what they were trying to do, it was completely captivating. But, while I thoroughly enjoyed this series and I am anxiously awaiting Season 2, I was left with a great feeling of sadness once it was over.

Not sad in that, “what do I do with my life” feeling one experiences after completing a series or a season of show. You know, where you're convinced no other show will be as good or powerful but you still chase that dragon with other series to fill the void.

Send help...and your HBO Go password

It really took me a while to understand where this sense of longing and loss was stemming from. At first I chalked it up to the nostalgia factor; but then, I realized it was the child characters who were leaving me with this lingering ache. Deep down, I know that kids don’t really hang out like the ones in the show do and that I wished my child could have pals like that. THAT was what was making me feel so out of sorts from watching this series.

We don’t live in a world where kids become buddies who hop on their bikes and disappear all day; where a group of children would have a secret hiding place that no adults knew about. A world where kids could get lost telling each other stories through roleplaying games in a basement for hours on end. One in which, the children come up with their own rules, structures, and consequences for their tiny tribe. The relationships between the core friend group on Stranger Things was so complete: they thoroughly knew one another, accepted each other, and called their friends out on their bullshit when necessary. And I’m just so damn sad that my daughter won’t get to have that. Hell, I didn’t even have that.

My parents were afraid of the world and only allowed me to experience it in very safe and very small ways as a child. I longed for the freedom to ride away on my bike with my friends or have a secret clubhouse without anyone checking on us. I do feel like I missed out: I never played manhunt in the dark as a kid, I rarely was permitted at sleepovers, I wasn’t trusted to make my own food. As a result, I went to college and had the shattering realization that I had no clue how to feed myself (but that is another tale for another time). 

Growing up, I always assumed I would be different with my own children and let them be a bit more free. However, we live in a world where you can have the police called on you for allowing your child to walk home from school or play in the park without supervision. Watching Stranger Things really pulled into focus the reality that my daughter won’t have the chance to be a kid in the way those kids are (not in the secret experiment, alternate dimension way…the other way).

I want her to have friends she sees face to face and goes OUTSIDE with. I want her to have friends that know her inside and out, who aren’t afraid to let her know when she’s being a jerk, and who create their own group norms and expectations. I want her to have friends who aren’t afraid to be themselves, who have her back and stick up for each other, and who can create whole worlds together with little more than one another’s company. I want, I want, I want...

This is why Stranger Things left me with an ache inside that I couldn’t even put a name to at first. I want a world where all of this is still an option and this beautiful show is a reminder that it isn't.


#StrangerThings #Netflix #Nostalgia #1980s
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