Random Thoughts: The I’m in Over My Head Edition

1. Kate is receiving her First Holy Communion this weekend, and we are having a picnic on Sunday with nearly 70 people (including children) attending. (Thank you everyone who promptly RSVP’ed after my post mentioning that!)

And I haven’t ordered food yet. So. Gotta get on that.

2. One of the things I wanted to do was make vegetarian baked beans for the picnic. We’re having fried chicken, and macaroni and potato salad, and a crudite tray, and the like. It’s hard to get prepared baked beans without bacon.

Here’s something I learned: after soaking beans overnight, you still have to cook them before you use them in a recipe.

I learned that the hard way.

I have been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. And I didn’t know that. This is my first time attempting to recipe with dried beans. So far, I’m not very impressed with myself.

I’m going to try to correct the problem this evening so I’m on track for Sunday. Wish me luck.

3. Still no dress for LTYM. I have an outfit in mind — one already in my closet. And a friend is sending a couple of things from her closet for me to try on.

4. Just for shits and giggles (why SHITS and giggles?) here’s what the rest of my week looks like: Thursday: Order food; shop at Target. Bonus: I will only have M in tow; Dan has the girls until they all come home tonight.

Friday: Attend happy hour for departing colleague. Let’s talk HIGH TURNOVER in my department, shall we? Aunt is picking up Flora (at soccer practice) and M (from daycare); Kate is attending 1st Holy Communion practice and having a sleepover. Aside: This may be a terrible decision on my part, letting her sleep over a friend’s house. I’m going to make every take a rest on Saturday to counteract any negative effects.

Saturday: Flora needs to be at a birthday party at 10 a.m. at the Warhol Museum downtown. Again, allowing her to attend this party may be another miscalculation on my part. Trying to fit in too much in one day. M and I will be strolling around the museum while she is at this party, because I’m not running all over the place. I should probably be home cleaning the house instead. But, you know, culture n’at.

On the plus side, my parents are meeting us at the museum around noon, in order to take the children back to the house, while I go to Sewickley to have hairs ripped out of various body parts. I’m pretty sure this appointment is in service to LTYM and not Kate’s 1st Holy Communion, but neat eyebrows are never inappropriate.

I’m not really sure how or when Kate is getting to me. We’re still working on that detail. She has a hair appointment, at the house, to get pretty — sorry, get prettier — for her big event at 2 p.m.

We need to be to the church at 4:30 p.m. Mass starts at 5 p.m.

I have no idea what we are actually doing for dinner. Maybe someone else will make that decision for me.

Sunday: Party day. I’m probably sending various people to pick up various things before we get started.

Another plus: I have people bringing cookies. We’re having a Pittsburgh cookie table at Kate’s party! This is probably my only smart decision of the weekend. Well, that and accepting my parents’ help, which is a given — that I would accept, not that I assume they will help.

5. Dan is going out of town the following weekend. I repeat: DAN IS GOING OUT OF TOWN FROM APRIL 30 TO MAY 3.

6. And we start dog sitting this little fellow May 2.

Oscar dog

I may be insane.

Just drop off bourbon for me and maybe do a food drop for the children. The pup will have his own supplies.

Are you in over your head this week?

The Only Thing I Was Ever Good At

I am embarking on the job search, hard-core.

When you end up in the bathroom crying after a meeting — because you have plainly stated that what is being asked of you is impossible to accomplish in the amount of time you have been given, and been solidly and utterly unheard — it’s time to move on.

Looking around at open positions is depressing to me, for myriad reasons. Not the least of which being that I may just be trading one devil for another. And the devil you know…

So.

As I mentioned recently, I am not this job — I’ve learned better — but I am a writer. Writing is really the only thing at which I ever excelled. The only marketable job skill I have is writing. Well, writing and editing.

And it’s really the only thing I have ever wanted to do. Write. Edit to make writing better.

And I am GOOD at it. I especially excel at learning about something, or interviewing a person, and then writing about the thing or the person. Daguerreotypes. KVM systems. Wineries. Organ transplants.

I can capture a voice. I can create a voice. I can make technological products understandable and give you the information you need to know if you need to purchase them. I can tell you about a trainer and his philosophy. I can blog.

I am learning more every day about SEO, social media, analytics, and other online content. This is probably the next step in this writing career I have built — am building for myself. Providing content, performing analytics, managing social media. I still have a lot to learn, but I am learning it.

I am not a marketing guru. Do I know a few things about marketing? Sure I do. Am I learning each day about marketing? Again, sure. I’m not a dummy. But *marketing* isn’t what I do.

I just write. (And edit.)

Headliner

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— This is the headline and the opening of my personal favorite thing I ever wrote. I really need to get a pdf of it online somewhere.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

God So Loved the World

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I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry today. (The Book Thief is better, IMO, richer. But Flora’s class read Number the Stars.)

This is from the afterword by the author. In case you can’t read it, let me transcribe it:

“… And I want you all to remember that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to and with pleasure feel he is a part of — something he can work and fight for.”

It is the holiest part of the year for my faith, for my religion. And this is the message that Jesus came to bring us: Love one another. And these are the words from a century ago, from a peasant boy who was killed for fighting to save other people — people he may not have even known, people whose faith he may not have shared.

He wanted to save them because they were fellow humans. Jesus wants us to love one another because we are all flawed people who are in this together.

It’s so simple.

Last night was the washing of feet. Jesus told us, “If you will lead, you must first serve.”

It’s so simple.

Jesus came to give us a new covenant. A new commandment.

Will you follow? Will you serve?

#PghGBE: Confessions of a Reluctant Mom

Today’s post comes from Britt Reints of In Pursuit of Happiness, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. I especially love this post because it feels like something I could’ve written myself.

You can see my post over on Orange Chair Blog, where I write about how different tastes don’t detract from a good relationship.

I have a confession to make: I never wanted to be a mother.

In fact, I suspect I wasn’t actually meant to be a mother.

I didn’t grow up playing with dolls or fantasizing about having babies. I played office—always the boss—and sketched pictures of the skyscrapers I’d someday live in. I made lists of countries I’d travel to, not baby names, and to this day I dream of growing old in a tiny apartment crammed with more books and souvenirs than grandchildren.

Despite all that, I am a mother. I have two kids, aged 10 and 15, and I love them truly, madly, and deeply.

But most of the time I feel like taking care of them the way they deserve requires me to work against my natural tendencies.

It is not in my nature to nurture. Inspire? Encourage? Motivate? Absolutely. But feed, clothe, and coddle? Not so much.

I’m a big fan of autonomy. You do your thing, I’ll do mine, and we’ll meet up over cocktails and small plates to share stories and lessons learned.

Children are not autonomous. They require active guidance and constant tending. They’re like gardens – which I am also very, very bad at.

So, I am raising resourceful children, children who can make meals from leftovers and lunch meat in a pinch and who can keep themselves entertained when mommy needs a nap, children who do their own homework and make their own beds. I know that’s not an entirely bad thing: resourcefulness and independence are good qualities for adults to have. But I worry that I’m not teaching them these skills with enough intention, that I’m really just dealing with my own shortcomings.

I worry a lot, actually.

I worry that I don’t push them enough. I worry that I don’t hover enough. I worry that they are getting the short end of the metaphorical stick because they were born to a mother who wasn’t supposed to be one.

I feel guilty for their lot in life, but I don’t regret mine.

As unnatural and unnecessary as motherhood is to me, it has also been very, very good for me – precisely because it has not come easily.

I could have effortlessly blossomed into a child-free happiness. Instead, motherhood has chiseled, ground, buffed, and polished me into a hard-fought, unnatural happiness.

Motherhood has forced me to learn skills that I might not have needed but for which I’ll forever be grateful. It’s taught me about vulnerability, strength, holding on, and letting go. It’s taught me about loving someone more than yourself.

Most importantly, motherhood has stretched me beyond my boundaries, beyond my fate, and taken me into the realm of possibilities and choice. It has showed me that we can become anyone we want, even a person we never thought we were “supposed to” be.

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— Britt says, “Pbbththt.”

What do you do that you think is against your natural tendencies?

It’s especially timely that Britt got to hang out here today. She and I are both reading at the Listen to Your Mother show. I hope to see you there!

Telling Stories

Last night, as I was getting ready for the Listen to Your Mother read-through and cast party, I said to Dan, “I’m kinda nervous.”

He said, “You’re fine, honey. You got this.”

I said, “I’m not nervous about my piece. I’m nervous about all the people.”

I can’t attest to the fact that he rolled his eyes. “Oh, goodness, yes, people! I hate people.”

“Ha, ha,” I said. “It’s just…” I paused. “I want them to like me.”

My husband gave me a serious look. “That’s progress for you.”

++

Immediately upon leaving last night, I tweeted:

https://twitter.com/redpenmamapgh/status/579455787816345600

I cannot express what an amazing job Jennifer, Amanda, and Stephanie have done in selecting a series of stories, a group of voices, that just GO together. Every essay is vital to the whole.

And this sharing of women’s voices, of mother’s voices, is so important. In this, the era of mom blogs and Facebook status updates, it may not seem that way. But trust me, Listen to Your Mother does something different.

More than capturing the fact that motherhood isn’t all rainbows and kitties, LTYM tells a deeper story. In each essay, is your story, or your wife’s story, or another mother’s story. There will be a moment, a turn of phrase, an image, that will strike you, that will have you nodding along. “I know that,” you’ll think. “I’ve seen that.”

You might laugh. You might cry.

I can’t tell you how humbling it was to listen to the other women I’m going to be on stage with last night. I was blown away by the power of their words. Every story is unique, and it’s wrapped around a universal nugget that is at the heart of motherhood.

If you’re still on the fence about coming to the show, you should get off the fence and fast. Only about 60 tickets remain for Pittsburgh’s inaugural Listen To Your Mother show.

If you’re already coming, I recommend bringing tissues.

LTYM cookies

++

I don’t know if they all liked me. I’m pretty sure they liked my story. When we had all read, I wanted to wrap all of my castmates up in a big hug. It’s going to be a blessing to spend time with these women. I can’t ask for much more.

The Best Career Advice I Ever Got: Don’t Be Your Job

I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was in 4th grade. When I told my mother this, she said, “Well, maybe you can go to school for pharmacy, and you can write in your spare time!”

I realized that we were not speaking the same language.

Also: My mother is a pharmacist. So is my father.

At any rate, I did not take my mother’s sage advice. Although I did attend my parents’ alma mater, Duquesne University, I did not go into the pharmacy program. I got a liberal arts education. I majored in print journalism — yeah, that’s right PRINT journalism — with a minor in American literature. I also took several women’s studies classes, which probably explains a lot.

My last semester of college was 1992. I had two classes on campus, and I had a full-time internship at an alternative newspaper as the editorial assistant. As editorial assistant, I pretty much was a girl Friday — typing other writers’ copy; I took dictation over the phone on occasion — writing headlines and photo captions, helping with print production, and also writing articles.

I was in heaven. It was what I wanted to do.

I was who I wanted to be.

I graduated from my program in December of 1992 — and got laid off in January 1993. My position was eliminated. I managed to wrangle another three months out of the job because the listings and events editor went on maternity leave.

My last day at In Pittsburgh was March 19, 1993.

I went home and sobbed. And called my mother.

Now, let me explain something about my mom. She entered a male-dominated science field in 1963. She started college at Villa Maria College in Erie, PA, taking mostly science classes. She transferred into the Duquesne University pharmacy program in 1965. (This is where she and my father met, which is a whole nother story.)

She graduated in 1968, one of three women who graduated from the program that year. She and my father married in 1970, and I was born in 1971.

When I and my siblings were little, my mom stayed home. (They did not call them stay-at-home mothers in the ’70s. They were just moms.) She had a part-time job, about one day a week. My father worked full-time, and more than full-time, opening and managing pharmacies in the area.

My mother eventually did go to work full-time, I believe when my little sister was in 1st grade. She and my father became business partners, and worked together. In pharmacies. My mom continued her education, taking classes in geriatric medicine and nutrition (I think). She and my dad eventually sold the business they had built together, and my mother became a pharmacy consultant to nursing homes in the area.

My mom was a freelance pharmacist.

In any case, when I called her on March 19, 1993, sobbing into the phone, she did all the motherly things. And then she said something I’ve never forgotten.

“Dawn, remember: You are more than your job.”

She went on (and I’m paraphrasing here, I’m sure), “Don’t identify too strongly with the job you have. It’s important to have a career, but it’s also important to realize you are bigger than any job you have at anytime.”

In other words, a job is a means to an end — money, healthcare, building a career.

But it’s not the be-all, end-all of WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON.

I am a writer. I said so right here. It’s very much part of my identity, and has been since 4th grade. But I am not my job as a writer. I have held several writing positions; I have freelanced; I have written just about everything from poetry to feature articles to marketing copy for KVM switches.

And I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. These roles, too, are very much part of my identity.

Jobs come and go. They change. My job is not who I am, it’s just what I’m doing right now in service of my career as a writer — and in service to my partner (Dan) and family.

I think my mom’s advice goes hand-in-hand with Kim’s advice. Work is an important part of who we are as people — but don’t be so essential to your job, or identify so strongly with it, that it’s hard to leave.

Like my daddy says, the graveyard is full of irreplaceable people.

What’s the best career advice you ever received?

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My mom on her 70th birthday.
(h/t to Kim Z. Dale for the subject matter.)

I Am Never Doing That Again

Yesterday was a marathon. And it’s not how things usually work for me. I try to be careful not to book marathon days because I know how they wipe me out.

However, circumstances were beyond my control.

It kind of started Tuesday night when we attended my nephew’s confirmation, which I found unexpectedly emotional (more on that later). Tuesday night ended up being a bit of a scramble, and a bit of a late night.

Yesterday:

https://twitter.com/redpenmamapgh/status/578165697370583040

And we were off to the races. I was supposed to pick up my Sarris candy order at 8 a.m. at the school, but the truck was still unloading when I got there. Still haven’t figured out where my candy is at this point. So, visit to the school number 1: drop off girls, pick up candy. Only 50% successful.

Work: as we know, I find my current office situation challenging. The less said here, the better.

I left work yesterday a little after 3 p.m. I was scheduled to conduct the Battle of the Books session on Because of Winn-Dixie. I had written out the questions on Sunday; I had about 60. Flora had picked out snacks over the weekend — Pringles and Honest Kids juice boxes. And then, part-way through the day, I thought of an activity I thought would be fun.

In Because of Winn-Dixie, the main character is a 10-year-old girl who lives with her father, a preacher. Her mother left when she was 3. At one point, she asks her father to tell her 10 things about her mother so the girl will know her if she ever comes back. At another point, the character makes up another list of 10 things for her dog.

I had the girls pick someone in their lives to write 10 things about. I think they liked it! Most of the girls picked their mothers; Flora picked her father (not surprising to me); one girl picked her twin sister; and one girl picked her best friend.

Let me tell you something: six 10-year-old girls are squirmy, and giggly, and rambunctious, and very competitive when it comes to Battle of the Books. I enjoyed spending an hour with them. Very, very much. School visit number 2: 100% successful.

Then: Pick up Michael; pick up dinner; drive to Dan’s office. Kate was cranky and sulky and difficult. She wanted to go to the STEM meeting with me. I said no, and I meant no. The last meeting I took my children too, they were entirely too disruptive, and I had to leave early. Never again.

I ran late to the STEM meeting, but I let myself off the hook for that. I managed to get some food into me, which was more important than being a stressed out, hungry wreck. I contributed; got my lesson plan for my lesson-in-a-box. I have to plan it around sounds or the solar system. I have a great idea, actually. (Thanks to my Twitter friends who made suggestions too!)

And I helped inventory the science lab. I found the magnifying glasses and the LED microscopes that no one knew we had, so that was exciting. We *do* have an automatic egg turner for incubating chicken eggs. I desperately wanted to take a picture of it. School visit number 3: 100% successful.

Now, I was originally scheduled to do BoB on March 4. And the STEM committee meeting was originally scheduled for March 10. But due to weather and other factors, dates got changed. To March 18. Plus, I agreed to help a friend with SEO for his website, for which I had provided content. He came over at 9:20 p.m. and we sat together about an hour assessing the situation.

That’s a long-ass day.

I went to bed at 11:15 p.m.; I woke up at 2:30 and 3:30 a.m., as per usual. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to do Pilates this morning. But maybe I’ll get it in tonight. I actually have nothing out of the ordinary going on — just the usual sprint to bedtime. Thank goodness.

What’s a long day for you?

Random Thoughts: The Meditation on Meditation Edition

(First order of business: My good friend @mattieflap came over to take some pictures I could use for my headshot for Listen To Your Mother. She also caught the moment above, and it’s too adorable not to use.)

My new habit/Lenten commitment has been going mostly well. Once I made the time, about 10 minutes a day, and found some good resources, I was rolling with it.

YouTube, of course, has proved invaluable. It took a couple of tries to find two or three guided meditations that didn’t irritate the shit out of me, but I did it.

I also used the free trial of the headspace app, which definitely helped me find a good grounding. While I would love to sign up for the year, I don’t have $80-$120 to spend on it at this time. The 10-day trial, though, was helpful for a beginner such as myself. It helps set up goals and reasonable expectations, and gives one permission to let one’s mind wander. It’s very calming and low-pressure.

That said, my practice has not been perfect.

My head feels really heavy when I meditate. So I try to sit comfortably someplace I can rest my head — the glider in Michael’s room, the couch with pillows behind my head. If I don’t support my head, I notice my neck and shoulders getting tenser and tenser instead of being able to relax.

I have fallen asleep a couple of times. I’m doing this meditation at 9:30-10 o’clock at night, after the children are in bed. Most of the guidelines I have read say to get up and meditate in the morning, but I’m already getting up early almost daily to either clean or exercise.

Plus, meditation works better for me in the evening because I can really let go of the stress of the day. The first 10-14 days I was doing daily meditation, I was sleeping great!

And at some point last week, sleep got derailed again.

Starting last Thursday, I haven’t been sleeping well at all. Waking up two, three times a night. Sometimes staying awake, sometimes falling back to sleep only to wake up again an hour or so later. And it’s not fair. The children aren’t waking me up. Dan is no longer snoring the way he used to (having lost nearly 40 pounds in the past two years — go, Dan!).

I can’t figure it out. Am I too hot or too cold? Am I stressed (ha! trick question, of course I’m stressed)? Should I meditate immediately before bed instead of reading a book or watching Sons of Anarchy? This just sounds like a way to guarantee that I’ll fall asleep before finishing a meditation.

Anyway: Meditation gets a big thumbs up in general, but I need to get back to sleeping through the night. Yet again.

This is one of the meditations I’ve been using. It’s on YouTube.

How do you successfully de-stress and sleep through the night?

Tickets for Sale!

Ticket sales are now live for Listen To Your Mother: Pittsburgh.

More information here.

Direct link to the ticketing site here.

Here are a couple of details you may wish to know: Tickets are $20 each. The seating is general admission, so if you want to sit in a big group, or sit close to the stage, you should get there early.

The show is Friday May 8, 8 p.m., at the Elsie Hillman Auditorium at the Kaufmann Center.

If you are coming from out of town, and want to get a hotel in the area of the show, please let me know. A block of rooms has been reserved at a nearby hotel at a special rate. I can get you the details.

The venue seats 350 people.

OMG. THE VENUE SEATS 350 PEOPLE.

Three-hundred fifty. People.

I am a veteran performer, I am. I have been on stage. I have stood at podiums and read poetry. I have presented at PodCamp.

But I am not sure I have ever been in front of 350 people. The majority of whom I won’t know.

So. Buy tickets. I’d like to tell my story to people I know (as well as a few strangers).

And to those who have already purchased tickets: THANK YOU. Thank you so much. It thrills me that you will share this event with me. It means more than I can say.

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If you have other questions, please let me know. If I don’t know the answer, I know who to ask!

Announcement

I have been dying to tell you this for a week. For more than a week! I got the email last Saturday at 10:30 pm.

They swore me to secrecy.

*ahem* Are you ready? Are you sitting down?

Are you free May 8?

I AM IN THE PITTSBURGH LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER SHOW!

Oh, it’s such a relief to be able to share that. Whew.

More details, and the cast list here. Aside from our director/producers, I’ve also met the lovely Britt Reints, who blogs at In Pursuit of Happiness. The show is Friday May 8. We are raising money for and awareness of the Woman’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

I do hope you will come see me read my essay. It’s not a story I’ve told publicly before.

I can’t wait to meet the rest of the cast, and hear their stories too.

I’M SO EXCITED!!

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