I Really Should be Writing This Down

Today I went to the annual spring event at JC’s co-op. He is 7 now, on the very cusp of 8, and attends the drop-off program. This means several things. One is that he makes friends that I do not know well. I hear their names and stories about them each week. It also means we left behind friends that haven’t aged out of the parent-led sessions, where JC and I spent several years getting to know older and younger kids and I spent hours each week with their parents. They became my friends, and a few became my close friends.

Then I got pregnant, JC graduated into the drop-off program, and the time I got to spend with even the closest of those friends became minimal. In fact, the last time I saw most of these parents was last year’s spring festival, right after I’d announced my pregnancy and was sporting just the smallest of protruding belly bumps.

That bump, that little possibility of a person, is now a wriggling, jovial, roly-poly baby boy, desperate to keep up with his big brother even at 5 months old.

It was delightful to show him off to people who followed my pregnancy through Facebook and Instagram and stories from my eldest, who has apparently kept his co-op appraised of all things happening in our world.

Today I had people approach me and say, “are you JC’s mom?” And when I accepted that moniker, bracing myself for whatever was about to come next (because, let’s be honest: it could be anything from “your son just sang every word of ‘The Devil went down to Georgia’ for us!” to “JC told us all about how you went into pre-term labor at your baby shower and threw up just as the guests were sitting down to eat!”, both of which I heard today), I inevitably heard this:

How is it with 2 boys with such an age difference?

Well, I’ll tell you: it’s…fast.

Somehow I managed to go from barely pregnant to having a semi-mobile baby and an exuberant 2nd grader in a year that felt like it happened in a week. The breakneck speed at which my life seems to be going by is both gratifying and terrible. My days pass in a blur and I look up at dinner time and think, where did the time go?!

This is a stark difference to how those early days of first-time motherhood passed. When JC was small, I had not yet met my tribe. I had no other children, and some days, no reason to leave my house. I could spent hours contemplating his baby toes, his belly button, and I remember the late afternoons would stretch on for days while I waited for my husband to come home from work. With no older sibling to attend to and email and social media still a thing of the future (when JC was born I had a flip phone with a grainy camera and had no idea what life with unlimited talk, text and data would be like), life was slower. Now our days start early and I look up after both boys are in bed and realize all I’ve eaten all day is leftover Easter candy and an entire bag of mini carrots. JC has activities, there are math lessons and writing practices to be done, friends who make sure I don’t slip into introverted isolation, and family to share the moments with.

And yet, there is still time.

There is still time to marvel at the wonders of a growing baby: his unique and joyful personality, his chubby thighs, his infectious grin that showed itself at a mere 10 days old. There is still time for a snuggle and a story with JC, who despite his status as a big kid will still jump at the chance for coveted Mom or Dad lap time. There’s time to enjoy the connection my two sons have despite the age difference, then to wonder at the fact that I have sons. That I’ve been entrusted with the care of two fantastic and frustrating creatures. There is still time to think, man, I should be writing this down.

But just because there’s time to think it doesn’t mean there’s actually time to do it. There’s also no time to do laundry, meal plan, train for the marathon I want to run, or do much of anything outside the immediate requirements of motherhood. Some things, of course, must be done. Laundry, for example, or else the baby may be put to bed in an oversized “Someone in Colorado loves me and bought me this T-shirt” shirt and a pair of baby sweat pants (that may or may not have happened today). And, after visiting with so many old friends this morning and being reminded of the swift passage of days, there must be time made for writing, both for my love of it and for the record-keeping of the boyhood details I’ll forget one day as my kids get older. Which is why after I put the baby down after his 1:00 AM snack I picked up my pen to write.

I’ve got plans for this blog: a new name, a new layout, and a list of topics I want to write about motherhood and all it encompasses. But life happens while you’re busy making plans, so tonight as my family sleeps I jumped in with both feet. Because life is fast…and I really should be writing this down.

A special thanks to my readers who are still out there! I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you all. ūüíô

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Creating New Rituals

Happy New Year, readers! I hope you all had a wonderful and fulfilling holiday break. My family and I had many relaxing moments, but I am very happy to be back to the real world today. The week between Christmas and New Years was a bit of a haze for me.

Our homeschool co-op doesn’t pick back up until next week, but we started our second half of first grade today. I’m excited about all the things JC is excited for this year, and I’ll be writing a full blog on it soon.

But for today, I want to talk about creating new rituals for a fresh year. This year I’m not setting any resolutions, because I feel like making a list of things to do and ways to be better is just setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. I know I’m not the only one who had a rough go of 2016, and this year, I really want to be good to myself. Here are some of the rituals I hope to create this year for myself and my family:

  • Ending our day with music:¬†At the end of the day when dinner is done, parents are exhausted and the kids get that wild, pre-bedtime wind, we often turn on the TV to kill time before bed. I would like to start trading the TV for music and audiobooks. I’d love to see what playlists my family come up with.
  • The Best Year Ever jar:¬†I’ve made room on our kitchen bookshelf for a big empty jar, and I’m encouraging my family to drop a note inside when something good happens or when they’re thankful for something. At the end of the year, we’ll have a whole jar of happy memories.
  • Using essential oils in my showers:¬†Most days, a shower is the only time I get to myself–and some days even then I have a small visitor pushing trains around the bathroom. I would like to utilize some essential oils and scents to help set a tone for my day.
  • Starting my writing time each day with a writing prompt:¬†I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to writing prompts and at least 3 books full of them, all for when “I have time”–and this year, I will make the time.
  • I want to set aside a time each week to be¬†creative outside of writing:¬†I used to love to sew and scrapbook and do crafty things. As a homeschooling mom, it was very easy to let those side projects slide. I’d love to pick some of them back up, though. I started a Harry Potter pillow almost 3 years ago I haven’t finished. Is there really any excuse for that?
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It should not take 4 years to make a pillow.

 


I’d love to know: what rituals do you have?¬†

Perfect Things

I found this quote in a new book I’m reading (Love Walked In by Maria de los Santos–I’m only a chapter or so in, so the story hasn’t evolved too much yet–but her writing style is beautiful). It stuck with me and I chewed on it all day, so I thought I would share.

 It made me think of items and things I’d put on my perfect list. Some I came up with:

  • The beginning of spring when the weather is amazing but it is too early for bugs.
  • The opening bars of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.
  • Twilight. The time of day, not the stupid books.
  • The way babies move their little mouths when they’re asleep.
  • Using your favorite pen.
  • The first bite of ice cream.

What would be on your list of perfect things?

Seasons in the South

Seasons are tricky in the south.

It’s the first day of spring, but it’s cold out. And it seems even colder than the number on the thermometer because we had a glorious few days of warm, sunny weather last week. We were lulled into a false sense of security that winter was over for the year–but we were wrong.

That’s because winter in the south is like a cantankerous old uncle. He shows up around Thanksgiving. He kind of hangs around through Christmas, coming and going, and then camps out nonstop until February. By early March, you’re tired of him and you give him the boot to make way for the spring that you’re oh-so-ready for.

Spring in the south is like that friend we all had in our early 20’s. She’s fun. She’s hilarious. She throws the best parties and she’s always up for adventure. And she’s totally unreliable.

She comes and spends a weekend, maybe a whole week–and then disappears for a few days, leaving you shivering in the sweatshirt you had to dig back out because she’d convinced you she’s here to stay and that you have no need for scarves, long sleeves, or anything with down in it. And when you finally think you have her pinned down, and that those lovely spring days are here to stay, she disappears for a whole year.

And in comes summer.

If spring is a flamboyant, youthful friend, then summer in the south is like a three-year-old.

Instense and extreme, there is no middle ground in a southern summer. Much like a toddler, you can be having a wonderful and sunny time in the pool and then BAM–the winds change and there’s a torrential downpour.

You plan out your entire vacation, book your airline tickets and pack your suitcase. Then you look at summer the wrong way, or you give it the wrong color cup at breakfast…and then there’s a hurricane and you have to stay home and wait it out.

And finally when summer is over and you’re ready to be back on a schedule comes the most elusive of southern seasons–autumn.

Autumn, the responsible daughter, gives us an extra hour of sleep. She paints the mountains in beautiful colors. She brings cool breezes that are a relief after summer’s temper tantrums and we revel in slipping on coats and curling up with blankets and hot drinks.

The summer stomps it’s feet and refuses to stay in bed like a good child and it gets hot again and we all sweat for a week or two, determinedly drinking our pumpkin spice lattes because¬†it’s supposed to be fall, darn it.¬†

Before we know it, autumn has slipped away, off to her college courses at a prestigious university somewhere, leaving us with an empty space for old uncle winter to move in once more.

And we begin again.

Happy spring everyone! Are you bundled up or enjoying the sunshine?

 

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

Hi everyone! Sorry for the radio silence, but over Thanksgiving I hurt my right shoulder and lost all movement in my arm for a week. Talk about a nightmare for a writer! Since it’s no longer agony to type, I thought I’d bring everyone up to speed on how I fared during this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge.

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I made it to 35,000 words, 15,000 away from the goal number. But I’m not upset or disappointed for 2 reasons:

  1. I wrote every single day. Rear end in chair, pen in hands, keyboard clacking away. Some days, there were lots of words. Other days, there were very (very!) few words. But there were words.
  2. I came to the realization that as far as I’m concerned, a single month is not enough time for me to write a good, real,¬†deep¬†story. The 35,000 words I got down last month aren’t a cohesive novel. It’s perhaps the bones of one–but it was really me getting to know my main character. There’s a lot of internal dialogue. Since I started with a relatively new idea and only did minimal outlining, I’m not really surprised.

I really like to the idea of National Novel Writing Month. I think it helps a lot of people (like me!) sit down and focus. But when I consider some of my favorite contemporary authors–like Chris Bohjalian, Jodi Picoult, and Kate Morton–and the fact that it takes them years to research and write a book, I don’t feel so bad about my long process of “getting to know” my characters (not that what I managed to churn out last month is comparable to any of them, but you know what I mean).

I guess I should probably just admit to myself that the fast-paced, deadline-driven atmosphere of NaNoWriMo doesn’t really cater to my life situation or my personality…but I’ll probably try again next year anyway!

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Those are my results–how did you do?!?

 

 

 

It’s my “Blogiversary”!

WordPress was kind enough to inform me yesterday that my little blog has turned a year old! It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.

When I launched Mama Writes Words, I was not new to the blogosphere. I had a blog but I felt like I’d written myself into a corner, and I was struggling to write about things that weren’t a part of my world any more–and even worse, I didn’t think any one was listening. So I took a break for about 6 months while I thought about what I wanted out of  blog and the experience. Because blogs take time and effort, and I knew that if I returned to the format I wanted it to be because I was writing about something that I REALLY cared about.

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And so here we are a year later! I’ve loved getting to know all of you who are out there reading–I’ve loved sharing stories about JC, book reviews and getting feedback on my writing. And I’ve learned a few things:

  • It’s okay to break the rules every now and then. For example, I have trouble following a set blogging schedule if it means I have to put up fluff. I’d rather post less and make my posts more meaningful.
  • Not everyone is nice. That’s what the delete button is for. Constructive criticism is good. Meanies are not.
  • Other bloggers can be an awesome support system–and they have some pretty great book suggestions, too.
  • It is really an honor to watch readership grow. Everyone is busy, and the fact that people take time out of their busy days to read and comment amazes me. So if you’re reading, and you keep coming back–thank you.

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Thank you all for inspiring me!

Here’s to another year!

Where Were You?

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It’s been 14 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. When people look back on September 11th, a dozen years ago, most don’t remember anything happy. They remember the devastation, the loss, the heartbreak. And I remember that, too–but what I remember the most is falling for a boy.

I was 18, and I was a brand new freshman at a small college outside of Atlanta. I was still getting used to my new life, and I hadn’t slept well, so I put on a yellow shirt to brighten myself up. I had an early morning class–Health and Wellness–and I darted into it at the last minute. The desk I sat in was wobbly and creaky.

Hmm, I remember thinking. I hope today isn’t going to be a wobbly desk kind of day.

“Anyone watch the news?” my teacher asked. “Looks like a plane hit a building in New York. I think the pilot was drunk.” And then he started the lesson.

When I stepped outside after class, I was immediately aware of the buzzing around me. The little campus was alive and humming, and it took me a few moments to understand what the odd noise was.

Everyone was talking. To each other, on the phone. Some were crying. A girl I knew from theater auditions caught my eye.

“Al!” She yelled, using the nickname that I only ever let her call me. “Al, they blew up New York!”

I ran back to my dorm, flew up three flights of stairs and crashed into the first room I saw with it’s door open. There were four or five other people in it, all staring silently at the TV. I joined them, and watched the second tower fall.

I reached into my back pack for my brand new cell phone and dialed the number of the only person I knew who would have the answer.

“Daddy?” I whispered when he answered. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know, darling,” he said. “I really don’t know.” He didn’t have the answer that morning, and that scared me more than anything.

Classes were cancelled for the rest of the day, and everyone on my hall crowded into one room to watch the news. We were still all practically strangers, but we sat close together–heads on each other’s shoulders, hands held, knees touching. We found comfort in the physical contact.

Of course, I was affected by the day. It changed all of us–tragedy and devastation had come to our soil, and it shook us. But I didn’t have any friends or family in NYC. I had no brothers or sons in the military. For all intents and purposes, my every day life shouldn’t have changed that day. But it did, because I met him.

He was a year older than me. He was smart and popular–he played soccer and tennis, sat on the student government, and was a student advisor and tutor. He was the first boy who ever used a word I had to look up–ad nauseum, in case you’re wondering. And he had a smile that made me feel a little light headed.

And he was Arabic.

When he came across me walking the night of the attacks, pacing the quad and wondering if anyone in NYC could see the stars, he fell into step with me and asked if I was okay. I nodded, feeling suddenly shy around this boy I had only seen around campus.

“You’re Allyson, right?” He asked. “Your family okay?” I told him all my family was fine, and asked about his. He had family in Vermont, he told me, but they were all safe.

We walked and walked late into the night, talking. At first I thought he was just being nice, making sure the scared little first-year girl didn’t freak out. But then as the hour got later, and he started talking about himself, I began to hope it was a little more than that.

Over the next few days, as we got a sense of the magnitude of the tragedy and terrorism, I felt horribly guilty. I felt like I should be in mourning for our country, to be solemn and serious all the time–when I actually felt giddy and lighthearted. This boy I had found–this smart, sweet, dark-skinned boy–was changing my world.

I’ve gone over it so many times in my head that it plays out like a cheesy movie: small town girl goes to college, finds romance and diversity, broadens world view. But that’s exactly how it went. I was not raised to be terribly trusting or accepting of people different than me, except maybe in a controlled, Girl-Scout type environment. But there I was, dating a boy raised in a Muslim family, while my country declared war on them. Needless to say, my father was NOT pleased.

I just couldn’t align what I was seeing on TV with the boy in front of me. One night he sat next to me on the floor of my dorm room, head and shoulders sagging: his sister had tried to fly down and see him and had been detained at the airport simply because of how she looked. I was overwhelmed by the desire to see the bad guys, the enemies, caught–but I was quickly learning that the way a person looked did not a bad guy make. That may seem like a simple lesson, but it was one that would have been harder for me, with my upbringing, to learn with words alone. It would have been very easy for me to judge–and to hate–based on the way a person looked. But thanks to him, I didn’t.

I know the situation back then was culturally and politically complicated. It still is. I’m glad my child isn’t old enough yet that I have to explain these things to him, because I’m not sure I entirely understand them myself. How do you explain the Uni bomber, the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, or the Boston Marathon bombing? How do you explain school shootings? My seriously over-simplified thought: bad guys are bad guys because of their actions, not because of the way they look. You certainly find some traits and beliefs that are more common among groups of people, but there are always the good guys– people that are searching for tolerance. And, just like the bad guys, they can be any color or shape.

My heart goes out to all the people who lost someone on this day, fourteen years ago. To all the people who will never get another phone call from their spouse, their friend, their loved one. To all the children who lost someone: my heart breaks for you. I, along with the country, share your pain–even though I know it doesn’t lessen it. And to all the people who risked and lost their lives trying to save others–I can only hope to be half as brave as you. Thank you for being one of the good guys.