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Louder Than Bombs

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So, I have one hour to type this. To unload from the depth of my soul. It makes me want to throw something.

Yesterday I had to submit a video about myself and my photography to Me Rah Ko in hopes of winning one of the three amazing SOAR Scholarships. I'm a little ashamed that I haven't mentioned this contest before now. I think I was trying to protect myself from whatever negative thoughts might run through my mind about my photography skills or my worthiness of being granted a scholarship. In the negativity department, we are quite busy  these days.

My sister, Alice, is the one who told me about the scholarship and I nearly did not apply because I kept thinking about how much she deserves it more than I. Her story is so much more compelling and frankly, she is more of an amazing person in general having a total of four kids, graduated from college, and spent countless months as a single mom while her husband serves in the military. Presently, he is in Afghanistan. She is the one who always sent out holiday cards, told me what a jerk I was being to our mother when we were teenagers and became the kind of mother who bakes muffins for her Sunday school class. She's also a mentor to teenage girls. Did I mention her youngest child is a toddler? As I said - amazing. Can I say that I am more deserving of the prizes and education that SOAR is offering? No. 

When I started making the video, I hated it. Just to look at myself on screen was humbling. Thus my post about needing a new hair style. Then there was the fact that the video could only be two minutes. Sell myself in two minutes? Dude, I'm not even sure any blog I've written could be read aloud in two minutes, let alone show photos and give a brief summary of who I am. 

Interestingly enough, after the 30th take, I started to feel pretty annoyed. Imagine that. I wanted to look at the camera and say, "I'm just like everybody else. I'm a stay at home mom who walks the tightrope between sainthood and institutionalization. Some days, I am very witty. Other days, not so much. These are my photos. I see potential for greatness there, but I need help. I hope this is the time and the way that I finally get to be my creative self and earn enough money doing it. Because, the fact is, unless I make some money doing this, it will be hard to convince everyone around me that it's worth them helping me out with my kids so I can pursue it. Thank you."

That's just sad. I truly feel that the only way I will ever be taken seriously in my creative efforts is if someone pays me to do it. I'm not sure that's how I feel art should be. And that is what I consider myself to be. That was another surprise I saw while entering this contest. I AM an artist. It's all there in me and it always has been. But I have been so afraid of walking that path because it is not practical. When you are sensitive to instability like I am and you surround yourself with creative people your whole life, it can be automatic to play the supportive role. How many artists did I date? How many live shows? How much energy was spent being "level" in my world of movers and shakers?

When my husband, Nick and I divorced in 1999, he started painting. He was already a very creative person. A world traveler who loved music with every cell of his being, he had only done notebook drawings before as far as I know. But I visited him at his new place and saw it littered with paints and canvases. Even his very first pieces moved me. After the divorce was final he continued painting. Years later when I attended a showing of his work, I remember thinking; If nothing else, one good thing came of our heartbreak - this. It propelled him into his art. In truth, I envied him. From then on, I wondered what would force me to come out of my shell?

I have a mile long list of reasons I do not fully pursue my art. If I thought it was hard ten years ago, it seems nearly impossible now. But I know that I am not alone in this feeling. This feeling of having "everything", yet nothing. 
It's totally shitty the situation most mothers are placed in these days. In my opinion, we really screwed ourselves when everyone moved to the suburbs and the village effort toward raising a family became a thing of the past. Older generations want their fun time and we want our houses to ourselves. I can't understand why we couldn't have both. I don't want to send my kids to daycare. I have trust issues! I want my mom or my mother-in-law or my sister to be the one who has the honor of being with my kids during my sanity breaks.  I want family dinner around the table. I want to spend time with my husband without feeling like someone is doing me a huge favor by hanging out with my children. I want to stop thinking of an uninterrupted meal/shower/minute as a luxury. I want to stop feeling guilty that I cannot handle 12 hours a day, five days a week with no breaks of my job as a stay at home mom. 

Can you imagine if you worked 12 hours each day Monday thru Friday for, say Target, and every other week someone said, "Maybe I can give you a couple hours on Sunday to have some time alone." And during that time alone you cleaned your work area and tried to feed your creative spirit by listening to music while you took a much needed shower?

It doesn't matter how we got here moms and dads. What matters is how we are going to fix this problem. We equip the breadwinner of the family - usually the husband- with all he needs to do his job. Money for commuting, lunch out, good clothes, coffee breaks, time to surf the net for inspiration or research, dinner when he gets home. But the person who is doing this all confessed "Most important job of raising the kids" barely has time to get dressed in the morning.  It's not right.

I know that some people reading this might think that I am trashing my husband here. But I'm not. I'm trashing us both for not planning this out better. I'm trashing anyone that knows us who thinks that we are okay with this situation and anyone who thinks I'm "lucky" when I hire a babysitter to come to my house next week for three hours.

I deserve something like the SOAR scholarship if only for the simple fact that I want to use my skills and the money I earn to make life a little easier for the women around me who are in the same boat. Our children deserve whole, calm, happy people around them so we can teach them to break this cycle in their generation. 

Right on cue, Asher has woke from his nap. I'll post the video submission and out-takes as soon as I can.


Fug Gah

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So, remember that time I was talking about how old I feel and hating the matching baggage under my eyes? I'm feeling better now. And it's not because of the drugs.

I realized I cannot give all the credit for my boundless optimism to Zoloft. I really owe Brad Pitt, Tara Reid and Mischa Barton some appreciation as well. Viewing photos of them on the internets made me feel loads better about myself. 

I don't want you to think that I am one of those people who gets joy from other people's mistakes. I mean, I haven't even said anything about Tiger Woods- ever. And I do genuinely feel compassion regarding personal struggles that are made public. However....
Fashion is a whole different kind of joy/pain. Fashion is meant to be public. You got up this morning and put that on? Knowing there would be people photographing the ensemble? Oh yes, I am going to have an opinion. You see, I have an excuse for my wardrobe. I can't afford the amazing-ness of amazing-eth designers. You, Daniel Day Lewis, have some explaining to do.

If I'm having a really bad week, I look up Mischa Barton, Kate Moss or Tara Reid.

Looking at them, I contemplate all the drawbacks of fame.

Looking at Lady Gaga and The Queen, I contemplate late night conversations at the palace. Does the Queen, for example, overuse the "WTF?" slang?

But best, of all the Fugly content, are the fashion statements of the truly famous and over-hyped.


"MADDOX: I am a bad-ass.

BRAD: I am homeless.

ANGIE: I sell Ouija Boards and cigarette holders at a kiosk in the mall. "

Thanks to Heather & Jessica in Fugland, I feel very good indeed.

A few days ago my brother in law said that it recently occurred to him that he knows very little about me. Though this was not surprising to me, the fact that he noticed it and said something to me is. A while back I resigned to the likeliness that my new family and friends here would probably never get to know me as some others have. This is not to say that they are selfish or that I am withholding information, but rather that our circumstance in life prevents that kind of relationship from coming about right now. I'm not really sure how that sounds to an objective mind, I just know it's what I have thought and that resignation has helped me not be so hard on myself or those around me in the last few months.
Or so I thought.

There are times when I so strongly feel the deficit of familiarity in my surroundings that I want nothing more than to leave - or worse- to scream my frustrations at the top of my lungs and reveal to each and every family member and friend how tired I am of hoping that there are no terrible long term effects of living this way. 

Because I do believe it will pass, eventually. The way I see it, one day, we will move away to an area that feels more like home, a place we can relax and not worry so much about who we have recently offended regarding the latest holiday gathering. By then my children will be starting school and I will be able to work more, thus making friends who are interested in similar things and have time to socialize beyond our children's naps and tantrums. There will be less obligation and more choice. Less worry, I hope.

But the fact remains that we should be able to feel that way now. We shouldn't have to move away from those who clearly care about us. We, or I, should be able to be myself here, now. And that's the question. How did this happen?

I just finished reading Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, a novel that gets right into those details of knowing someone but not knowing them and how what has passed in a person's life makes all the difference - no matter how little we speak of it.

From page 67:
People like it when you tell them things, in suitable portions, in a modest, intimate tone, and they think they know you, but they do not, they know about you, for what they are let in on are facts, not feelings, not what your opinion is about anything at all, not how what has happened to you and how all the decisions you have made have turned you into who you are. What they do is they fill in with their own feelings and opinion sand assumptions, and they compose a new life which has precious little to do with yours and that lets you off the hook. ... You only have to be polite and smile and keep paranoid thoughts at bay, because they will talk about you no matter how much you squirm, it is inevitable, and you would do the same thing yourself.

I keep a lot to myself these days. I smile, I try to be polite. I carefully select my facts and place them in conversations as a small effort to have people know me. Though I feel I am being equal in my attempts to reach out, it's not much, not much effort at all. That works fine unless I disagree with what has been done or said around me. Then, those thoughts take up too much space; they are too heavy to carry around for very long. Clearly, this approach to my life is not working. Especially when, again, we know it shouldn't be this way.

But what else is there? I am not so ready to make myself vulnerable again. I am not willing to hope that talking more and letting more "truths" slip out will suddenly change how people here see me or their willingness to accept me as I am - different, though quite valid. I am very much outnumbered anyway. But perhaps, as MJ said this weekend, it will lift some of the heaviness I try to pretend I do not carry. Perhaps we should just try it and let the chips fall where they may. 

The only way to accomplish this would be for me to realize too, that I do not know these people. Family or not, friend or not - I only know about them. Few feelings are discussed, though facts are usually out there, in suitable portions. I have to get past all the current misinterpretations and inaccurately filled in conclusions that have been relayed to me. There will be more. I have to erase what I think I know about them and do my best to give a more accurate view of me. After all, that is the only responsibility I have. The rest cannot be helped.

Wednesday night, thru tears, I wrote a very detailed entry about all the reasons and emotions behind my feelings toward living here in NJ. But the power of the internet is not great enough to contain such emotion, apparently. Firefox wiped all my tear filled sentences away - just like that.

So today, like many days lately, I just don't have the energy to go through it all again. The gist of it is this:

After a year and a half of living here in NJ, I sadly report that I have not gotten used to it. In fact,  I have many regrets about leaving California. I knew these regrets would come. I'm used to ups and downs of starting a new life in a new place. But what I wasn't prepared for was the seemingly endless battle to make my place here or the financial hit that our family would take from living in the NE during a recession and how our effort to stay afloat would take time away from our family.

There are a lot of good things about NJ, however. I love our house, which we have made a real home. Also, there are the parks, the proximity to NYC, the comfort of having family nearby to help us with August. Recently, I have even started to make a few friends, whom, I have no doubt will be of the lifelong variety if I am around long enough. But there is so much more to daily life than these things. Most of my days are spent alone. Alone in the truest sense of the word.

I think I have avoided being completely honest with myself about all these things because I kept thinking that if I just hang around long enough I will, as I said, "get used to it". Instead, Mike has become increasingly disillusioned with the way things are as well. Some of his complaints are the same and some are different. For one, he has the added confusion of trying to assimilate back into his family as an adult who is a husband and father. This is so much easier said than done and the process takes an emotional drain on everyone involved. I have quite the appreciation for my older siblings for going through it all with our parents first so that anything I have done in my adult life has been about as hard as eating a pan full of brownies. Poor Mike is the eldest of four.

I don't know what all this means exactly. I just felt like saying it - getting it off my chest. And I admit, perhaps I just need to see it in print so I can move on to the next step - whatever that is. Maybe we'll move when the economy picks up. Maybe we'll take frequent vacations away from the sucky weather and the mean drivers. Maybe I'll feel justified in eating mint chocolate chip ice cream every day.

Meanwhile, bear with me while I muddle through. And I promise to stop picking on NJ as soon as it stops living up to it's bad reputation.

Rock Bottom

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I had big thoughts to speak of but  just spent the last hour trying to figure out why my Twitter badge (See green square, upper right) displays my quotation marks all screwy. Now I'm exhausted from struggling with discouraged brain cells. And my ass is numb.


Numb Buns

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Some people dream of the day when the doctor says "What you need is some rest. I insist that you spend at least the next few days in bed."  And I admit, I was one of those people. Until now.

I've been in bed for approximately 24 hours and I'd give just about anything to be allowed to do something besides surf the internet and watch movies. Do you have any idea how bad daytime TV is?

We have a new babysitter. She's 15 years old and she has been over the last two Tuesdays to play with August for 3 hours while I answer emails or read the final Harry Potter book. I met her at a Christmas party where she was attending with her parents. Her family are friends of friends and because she seemed to like my daughter so much everyone kept suggesting I have her babysit. They seemed to think she was a godsend. 
I waited a month and a half to call her because I think she's a nice girl who has the potential to become one of the people I am referring to when I use the term "burden on society".

  • She hates school. Fine, lots of kids hate school. I did.
  • She wants to drop out because she already knows what she wants to be - a cosmetologist.  Because there is such a shortage of those...
  • She's a cheerleader. Normally this is not a drawback. But added with the rest of the list, it boggles my mind.
  • She may have flunked a class. Again, I did this too. But she thinks it's funny.
  • She wore flip flops with socks to my house yesterday when it was snowing outside. When I asked her if she was cold she said No. If I slap her, do you think she'll say it didn't hurt?
  • Her cell phone voice mail greeting is "Hi this is C. I'm probably home right now just avoiding someone I don't like. Leave a message and I'll call you back. If I don't call you back, take a hint, it's probably you." I almost hung up right then.
  • She can't spell. Yesterday she wrote on August's chalk board "Your a nut."  Come on! We let these people graduate?
I have been so careful up to this point about who I let in my daughter's life, who I allow to influence her. We hardly ever smoke crack in front of her and it's been at least a year since we sold the strip club.  But seriously. While this girl is okay and seems to like August, the first time my daughter shows any signs of wanting to wear socks with sandals I am so firing that bitch.

I hear that women are natural multitaskers. Natural if you consider that we have no choice.

At this moment, I am uploading photos to my Flickr account, checking the primary election results, listening to the new babysitter play with August downstairs, answering emails and writing this blog. In a moment, I'm going to start reading the final Harry Potter book with my left eye because, hell, it's just sitting there doing nothing.

This might be the only time I can bring this up, but I won an award for Outstanding Office Aid in my middle school when I was in the 8th grade. When I accepted that award I specifically remember thinking two things, "Wow, they like me because I can do several things at once." And "Wait, does that mean that other people can't do that?" I admit, I was a wee bit proud of myself.

The unfortunate twist of my "special gift" if you will, is that it does not work unless I have had an adequate amount of sleep. Looking back, I'm all like Of course I won that award in 8th grade! I wasn't a mother then.

Did you know that the US is one of only 4 countries that have no policy regarding paid maternity leave? The other countries who treat their mothers the way we do is Swaziland, Liberia and Papa New Guinea. Did you know that the French government provides in home help for new mothers? For free.

I have a friend down the street who was a single mom at 18 years old. She worked three jobs and supported her son. He is 15 now - great kid. She's married, has another son who is three and is pregnant with twins. Her husband works seven days a week to support them. And when I see her, all I do is wonder how the hell she's going to survive having all these kids to care for with no help. Holy hell. I mean, she'll do it. She's amazing. But when will she sleep??

Ya know, you're not supposed to drive a car if you're tired. But you can be responsible for a helpless baby who needs non-stop attention. That's how we roll here in the US. We give moms all kinds of advice and then send them out to the war zone with no freaking help. Good Luck! Some people actually laugh when we tell new moms how little sleep they'll be getting. Sadistic little shits, they are. 

As these election results come in, I can't help but wonder what these candidates would have said to a debate question like this. "What plans do you have to provide assistance to new mothers so that our current maternity policies will no longer be that of a third world country?"

I worked at all three places. Deutsche Bank, Chabad of San Diego and Crowe & Dunlevy. If that's not enough to make a person hate the tap dance of office culture, I don't know what is. Which is why I can completely relate to this clip on a serious level.

Days Like This

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Today is one of those days when everyone would be better off if I wasn't the Mommy.

Or the wife, for that matter.