BAD MOTHER: Why I Didn’t Really Miss Them

First, can I just tell you how incredibly lovely it was to spend 10 whole days away from my children? Go ahead, gasp and shake your head at my brazen statement. Jump to conclusions and assume I don’t love my family. Send me hate mail.

It won’t bother me.

I am relaxed.

Ten days in the company of talented writers does that to a person. Ten days talking about what I love – words, books, writers, craft – ahhhhh. That Stonecoast winter residency was a very expensive spa retreat for my soul.

Harraseekett Inn photo courtesy Kerri Dieffenwierth

It didn’t hurt that we were eating and sleeping at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport. I spend the first few days quietly humming, Heaven, I’m in Heaven…then realized that people were staring.

I didn’t wash a dish or make a bed for TEN entire days.  I was not required to cook, wipe hineys or perform booger removal. There were no fights to break up, no need to remind anyone to wash their junk and the scent of poo never wafted to my nose as other humans passed by.

 

Of course on some level (buried so deeply inside my ecstatic mind that it hardly registered) I missed my family. I love them dearly. Really. So I refrained from looking at too many pictures and I tried to avoid my husband’s Facebook updates while he documented his single parent experience.

It was my family who seemed riveted to his posts. You see, among my people there aren’t many men who would stay home for ten days and assume the role of Mr. Mom. I’m amused by the way my family eyeballs Dave with a mix of suspicion and skepticism, always wondering exactly what his deal is – if perhaps he’s slightly touched. 

After ten years, the women have grown to love him and the men…well, he confuses the shit out of them. They don’t come around much.

All I know is that I came home to a clean house, happy children and one amazing man.

I’ve been back for nearly a week now. I walked through the door suffering from exhaustion but strangely recharged. My state of post-residency fatigue made it an interesting week. Fatigue led me to do some stupid things and a blog post will follow, but for now I am simply glad to be home. Mostly because ten days away from my children actually caused them to miss me thus, they have been angels for the past week. Either that or ten kid-free days soothed my raw nerves.

Whatever…check back in a few days because this morning my right eye started to twitch and Kate called Joe an “ass.” Something tells me that life will be business as usual by Tuesday afternoon.

Hot Off the Press!

My guest column has been published in The Portland Daily Sun! Feel free to click here to go check it out.

or here: Motherhood and the Evils of Alcohol

or click down there on that picture of me and my Grinch lips.

or click the spot …. just kidding!

I’m so thankful to my friend and fellow writer, Natalie Ladd. That’s her column hosting my words today. A big thanks to my friends and family who are sharing the article like crazy!!

Punching Out the Donuts (Guest Post featuring Of Woods and Words.”

As a college undergrad, I had a tendency to freak out about my chosen major (English) and the career path I’d have to negotiate after graduation. Turns out, my freak outs were totally justified; I graduated in spring 2007, right as the great recession began settling heavily on the world’s shoulders.

To alleviate my growing panic about “the real world,” I’d often call upon my professors during office hours to “talk it out.”  Since they’d all chosen to stay in the (what I consider) insular world of academia with their own English majors, their insight was rather limited. Still,  a couple of them said something to me during those talks about how I could make a living with my writing that I’ve never heard before or after.

“You’ve just got to keep punching out the donuts,” they said.

Maybe I misheard them.

Writing was supposed to be angst-y, inspired, imaginative, fulfilling. It wasn’t supposed to be a repetitive task like punching out donuts.  The whole reason I’d chosen to study English and focus on my writing was because I loved discovering stories, finding new angles, and gaining a deeper understanding of the world around me and my interactions with it. In short, I wanted to be a writer because it was the most exciting thing I could think of to do with my life that I was actually qualified for and capable of.  (After brief consideration, I decided to leave Mt. Everest for other braver souls to summit.)

Now, four years out of college and still working away at making my living as a freelance writer, I’m starting to get what they were trying to say about those donuts. I think they were saying (metaphorically of course . . . they were English professors) that writing is a job.  A really freakin’ awesome job if you ask me, but a job all the same.  One you’ve got to stick with, through the good, the bad, and the nonexistent feedback, to succeed at . On Twitter the other day, I spotted a tweet that summed up the donut philosophy perfectly: “Note to my 15-year-old self: don’t become a writer. It can get boring sometimes.”

There are many mornings when I rise early to get my required writing done before heading off to the 40h/w job.  There are plenty of mornings when I’d rather catch a few more winks of sleep or spend that precious alone time at the desk sipping my black tea while reading through other bloggers’ recent posts.  But my words must come out. Articles, commentaries, and blog posts all have to get written. There are deadlines and payment involved, not to mention, important “platform building” for if I ever (oh please, please, please) get a book contract.

“Dogged” and “panic-stricken” often describe my writing lifestyle better than “exciting” or “glamorous.”

I’m totally punching out donuts these days. And those donuts aren’t always especially inspired, imaginative, or fulfilling. But you know what? Sometimes they’re down right delicious.

Ada blogs at Of Woods and Words about writing and rural living.

Don’t fear: Ms. Narragansett No. 7 herself will return TOMORROW!

Wake Up Call

You know when you have something big and important to do but it’s months away so you just continue bopping through life without a care in the world? Yeah. Then one day it hits you that you have precisely seven days to pack for a 10 day trip, finish the required reading for those faculty and graduate presentations, and wrap up your responses to the manuscripts of your workshop peers? Well, friends, that’s precisely where I’m at.

My eyes popped open at 5:00 this morning. My eyes never open at 5:00 unless they are being forcibly pried open by some type of barbaric torture device, erm..I meant to say, by my children. Same difference.

This morning when I rolled over in my (enormous and comfortable king-size) bed, confused by the dim light of early dawn, my face smacked into the boxer-shorts clad rump of my 6-year-old boy. Not quite sure how or when he appeared in our bed, I quietly extricated myself from a tangle of sheets and went downstairs. Let me tell you something, the house is delightfully silent at 5:00 in the morning! Who knew?

I sat at down at the table, wondering what to do with myself. Within seconds I heard it…the pile of manuscripts and reading material screaming at me from the kitchen island. I looked at the calendar, referred to my residency schedule then, having been violently pulled from my state of blissful denial, I looked back to the calendar. I ONLY HAVE SEVEN DAYS?!

I began maniacally shuffling through my residency schedule. Papers were flying. I realized that there is an entire shopping list involved in my 10 days away. My mind began to race. Linens and a fan and shower flip-flops and a bathrobe…snacks and a water bottle and notebooks…actual pajamas because – I might be going out on a limb here – I assume that underwear and a t-shirt isn’t considered acceptable attire when sleeping away from one’s home. In a dorm. I took a moment to ponder the bed I’ll be using. I wondered how they would feel if I arrived with my king-sized bed on a moving truck. You know, to make the room ‘homey’. Page two of the Stonecoast MFA’s suggested packing list for summer residency specifically states, “Anything you need to make your room feel homey, or so you can think and write at your best.” Well, in that case…can I bring my bed? Because the thought of sleeping in a twin dorm room bed is terrifying. Yup. A king size bed and an endless supply of pinot grigio screams ‘homey’.

I pondered what could possibly make a dorm room feel homey, considering I’ve reached an age well past that of the typical dorm room dweller. Gwen shuffled into the kitchen, startling me out of my ‘homey’ induced meditation. The moment her eyes came to rest on my pile of paperwork, she began sobbing uncontrollably. She doesn’t want me to go. So much so that she had some difficulty speaking and breathing through her tears. On my end, there was a fair amount of difficulty removing myself from her vice-like grip. If I was able to pry her arms from my neck, her freakishly strong legs wrapped around me. There might even have been some snot and high-pitched wailing directly into my right ear. In fact, it’s still ringing.

Over the next two weeks I’ll likely be re-posting some older blog entries. I might even try to convince a few people to guest post in my absence. I hope you’ll hang in and visit despite my absence and, if you’re interested in guest posting, let me know.

 I’m off to finish my work, start packing and pay as much attention to the kiddos as I possibly can. Something tells me that I’m going to miss my family.

What I Write on Random Tuesdays

I’ve got nothin’. It’s not that I don’t want to provide you with humiliating tales about my children or a ghost story or, I don’t know… something more than what I’m about to give you, but I can’t. I’m gearing up for the first residency of my master’s program. From July 8th through July 18th I will immersed in readings, workshops and classes and all at a location away from home. Yes, that’s right. I’ll be completing my residency on the gorgeous coast of Maine. Right about now you’re probably saying to yourself, Uh…doesn’t she live in Maine? Yes, I do and I’ll only be about a half an hour from my house. Nonetheless, I won’t be home and I have so much work to do before July 8th. Despite the fact that I’ll be working really hard, I can’t help but kind of look forward to ten full days away from children. Does that sound awful?

Let me put it this way, before children I had a career and now I don’t. Sure, that career wasn’t my dream but it was stimulating. There were grown ups there and while it’s true that some acted like children, I still sometimes miss getting in my car and driving down 684 into White Plains and entering the corporate headquarters of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Yes, I actually said that, I miss it. The company cafe served things like bagels with smoked salmon and, for lunch, soft shell crabs. Thanks to vendor contracts with Starbucks, the coffee was free and, at that mid-afternoon witching hour – the one where you want to crawl under your desk and take a snooze – a man came around with a cart filled with drinks and candy and other delicious snacks aimed at pumping us full of caffeine and sugar to push us through ’til quitting time. You knew he was coming because someone (usually me) announced his arrival by yelling, “SNACK CART!” I loved watching all those people do the prairie dog from their cubicles. The image still cracks me up.

I miss the travel and the employee ‘Hot Rate’ that provided us with discounted rates at Starwood Hotels around the world. Everyone traveled. People would stand around the proverbial water cooler on Mondays and talk about who jetted to where over the weekend. Cheap flights out of Newark and that Hot Rate were the biggest perk of all. Thanks to that job, I dressed in my beautiful clothes purchased during post-work shopping sprees at The Westchester and in Manhattan. My feet were wrapped in the finest of shoes and my hair was always perfectly highlighted and cut. I even enjoyed monthly facials. The world was my oyster. Actually, I like Oscar Wilde’s version of that quote, “The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” I did use the wrong fork. My job ended up being a casualty after I divorced my ex-life and ran away. I don’t regret the run, but I have at times, missed the Heavenly Bed by Westin.

So the long-winded point that I am attempting to make is that I didn’t love my old job, but I did love the perks and glamour that came with it. Working in the legal department of a hotel company was about as far from my dream of writing as I could have strayed. So last winter I applied to Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. I sent in my writing samples, transcripts and recommendations and half expected to be declined. I wasn’t. Step one toward making my dream come true has been completed.

The funny thing about going to graduate school to earn a master’s of fine arts in creative writing is that a lot of people have opinions. There were the people who asked why I was “bothering when I already have a kick ass blog” or the people who politely tried to suggest that perhaps a master’s in something more practical would make sense, thus allowing me to write on the side. Then there those who seemed reluctantly supportive, wrapping their encouragement in thinly veiled negativity. I was stopped in my tracks by a few of those people. I wondered why in the world my goal to fulfill a lifelong dream was so bothersome. Was it that they didn’t think I could do it? Did they think I wasn’t talented enough? Did they think that I didn’t deserve to follow the path I veered from all those years ago? Then I mentally gave them the finger and moved on. I’m a grown-up and I applied with the full support and encouragement of my amazing husband. Thanks to his confidence in me, I’m going to earn that master’s degree in creative writing. I’m going to do what I love and isn’t that what life should be about?

So on that note faithful readers, I leave you with this delicious summer salad recipe. Before I got all wordy and self-righteous back there, my plan was to post a picture and some ingredients before I hit the beach with the kids. Instead, you got an earful plus a healthy and scrumptious salad…because that’s how No. 7 rolls.

CUCUMBER & BLUEBERRY SALAD WITH FETA

3 english cucumbers halved and thinly sliced

1 pint of blueberries

salt & pepper to taste

white balsamic vinaigrette (I use Olde Cap Cod brand)

3 tbs fresh mint leaves, sliced into a chiffonade

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. combine the blueberries and cucumbers in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

2. add the white balsamic vinaigrette, mint and feta and gently toss to combine.

Self Doubt

Since I began recalling the ability to recall, I recall loving books. More specifically, I recall loving words and the endless possibilities of their combinations. For me, words have always held a certain magic. When put together in carefully crafted combinations, words have the ability to transport you to different times, worlds and into the lives of others.

I also recall being thrilled when, at the age of five, I finally owned the ability to write letters and make my own word combinations and, since that time, I have wanted to be a writer. My entire life has been spent dreaming of penning best-selling novels and becoming a sort of younger, female version of Stephen King. He is one of my idols. King can place you in the darkest and most ghastly of worlds, evoking both fear and disgust, but his descriptiveness lends such an air of realism to the horror. He has kept me eagerly turning the pages of his books for 25 years.



Photo from the collection of the Hoover Library

As a kid, Laura Ingalls Wilder inspired me. When you put aside the whole Little House on the Prairie franchise, stop envisioning Michael Landon as Pa and pick up those books again, you (hopefully) recognize the importance of her writing. She wrote about America and the pioneers of the West. The rich detail of her books is awe inspiring. I can still read them and become swept into the 1870s. Her words have carried me away from the Big Woods in a covered wagon, feeling every jaw-rattling bump as they bid farewell to family they might never see again. She transported me to their dugout at Plum Creek and to their tiny prairie house where I sat by a crackling fire fearing that Pa would freeze to death in the blizzard. On pins and needles, I prayed that Pa would see the lamp that Ma had placed in the window to guide him safely home. I can’t wait for my girls to discover these magical books and hope that they still hold that same magic in a world of DVDs and video games.

Those two authors, worlds apart in their subject matter, planted the seed of a dream. For so many years, I kept my dream to myself. I wrote only for myself and privately and, for a time, I didn’t write at all. It can be hard to hold onto a dream when you are surrounded by negativity and people who are content with being unfulfilled. How is it that some people don’t dream? How is it that some people seem to get some kind of sick enjoyment out of killing the dreams of others? Thankfully, that person is gone from my life now. Oddly enough, the news of his permanent departure from our lives came on the very same day that I received a telephone call from USM/Stonecoast telling me that I have been accepted into the MFA in Creative Writing program. I like when coincidences like that happen. I have a hokey suspicion that ‘coincidence’ was a message from the universe, or God or whatever greater being possibly exists, telling me that my dream is very much alive.

a fair representation of how I view my Dream Killer

As the result of so many years with the aforementioned “Dream Killer,” my self-esteem has taken a few knocks. Despite the fantastic news from Stonecoast, I found myself filled with negative thoughts about the acceptance. I turned to David and said, “An MFA isn’t a real master’s degree.” He got angry. Later I said, “what if no one else is applying because of the economy, so they had to accept me?” He rolled his eyes and got angry.

My dream is becoming reality. Do I think that I’ll write a best-selling novel and become as famous as Stephen King or Laura Ingalls Wilder? No, but I can hope, right? When I was a child, there was a man in our family named John. He lived with my grandmother and he could ‘see’ things. He could also see dead people. So many of his predictions have become truths over the years. One of his predictions came when I was very small. He said that one day; I would be a famous writer. I know…what came first, the chicken or the egg?

This morning, my love woke up early and researched the country’s low residency MFA programs, their rankings and acceptance rates. He desperately wants me to stop doubting myself and my talent. He woke me to tell me that Stonecoast is in the top ten low residency MFA programs in the country and notoriously selective.

I will (try to) stop doubting myself now. Time to follow my dream…

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