When did we start trusting “experts” over our own eyeballs?

by renegademama

A few weeks ago, in an uncharacteristic move because I hate pain, I engaged in a conversation on Facebook about sleep training. It was in response to an article basically saying how sleep training does not harm baby brains, or whatever, which I believe. Great cool whatever.

But the thread degenerated (AS THREADS DO) into a discussion about “data” and “science” and this and that the other thing, referencing and quoting and linking, everybody attempting to “prove” their position as “right” and good and valid and BACKED BY SCIENCE.

There is one reason I’ve never sleep trained my kids: Because it’s never felt right.

Period.

That’s it. That’s the extent of my insight on the topic.

And that is enough.

 

 I don’t care what you do. Do what feels right in your gut. We don’t all have the same guts, so it makes sense that what feels right to us would vary.

we don't know what the fuck we're doing but somehow we're doing alright

we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing but somehow we’re doing alright

This is enough for me, and ultimately it always has been, but I wonder sometimes when we as parents learned to trust 3rd party “experts” more than our own observations, feelings and experiences. I have heard of mothers crying outside their baby’s door grasping a timer, waiting for the 1-hour mark to be up so they can go in and get their baby. They read it in a book. It’s supposed to work.

I have seen mothers killing themselves to adhere to “attachment parenting” rules, terrified they’ll obliterate their child’s chances at happiness if they put them in a crib.

 

I have an idea: If it doesn’t work, how about we stop doing it?

If you feel every compulsion to not let your baby cry, don’t let her cry. If you need your baby out of your bed, get him out of your bed. If nursing isn’t working any more for either party, stop. Or keep going. Keep going until it doesn’t work any more.

Fuck the books. Fuck the experts. Fuck em all.

There are hard things in parenting: Keeping boundaries. Watching your kids suffer the natural consequences of their mistakes. But these things are right. They feel right. They are hard, but necessary.

Neither sleep training nor co-sleeping is fucking “necessary.” Those are matters of preference. Learn the damn difference, world.

Hey moms: You are enough. You know enough. It all passes eventually. I don’t mean this is some kumbaya bullshit way. I mean it seriously. We all have the capacity to assess what’s working in our lives and not. That’s kind of what being an adult is, right?

Except with parenthood. With parenthood you need to believe strangers. THEY KNOW BETTER FOR YOU. (They’ve convinced us of this because $$, people. MONEY. The more desperate parents become for “answers” the more stripped of their own confidence to make decisions for their families – the more they’ll pay for guidance.)

 

I tried to “sleep train” Arlo once. He was 10 months old and nursing all night and driving me batshit. I was determined to do something new.

After 20 or 30 minutes of crying I went over to the crib and put my hand through the bars onto my baby’s cheek. I felt the wet of his face, the frantic gasps and tiny shakes. The heat of his body. He calmed a little. I removed my hand and he wailed again.

I put my hand back on his cheek. His chubby little hand shot up and pressed mine against his face as hard as his little baby arm could push. His dimpled palm against my hand, holding me there almost desperately, or so it seemed.

I said “FUCK THIS” out loud, scooped my baby up and took him back to bed with me, said “Mac we’re not doing this, just come to bed.”

And as I laid there and nursed him and felt his quick little post-crying breaths smooth out back to the peace we both knew, I knew I would just hang out here in messed-up sleep land until a new reality surfaced.

Because a new reality always, eventually, surfaces. That’s what I’ve learned in 14 years of motherhood. It’s all temporary, though it doesn’t seem so at the time.

The co-sleeping thing wasn’t really working, but it worked better than whatever the fuck that was.

So yep, I didn’t sleep train my baby because he pressed his hand against mine.

And that’s enough.

 

Mac said “You know Janelle we’ll never regret them being in our bed. We may regret kicking them out.”

And he was right, for us. For our family. For the way we do family. That’s how we roll. And it’s cool. We get by. We get through.

Shockingly, despite this rampant co-sleeping, we have kids who sleep without issue and don’t burn puppies.

Sometimes they all sleep together on the floor, and often two are crammed together on a twin bed, and even more often all three kids are in the same room in bunk beds, but I’m unsure where the problem is there. Humans who enjoy human closeness? OH THE HORRORS.

Clearly, kids learn to “self soothe” even if you don’t teach them shit about “self soothing” (at least not on purpose).

THE BOOKS LIED. Turns out you don’t have to “train” kids to sleep well. Or maybe cosleeping is good “training” too.

Whatever.

About a month after our experiment, Arlo suddenly started nursing once a night instead of 14,897 times. The problem resolved itself. Can you imagine?

It was temporary.

It’s all temporary.

Four kids who sleep and don’t burn puppies. Winning, motherfuckers.

 

Yesterday I was fidgeting with my houseplants and started thinking about how we treat plants. When we bring a new one home, we read the label to learn what sort of light it likes, how much water, etc. And we make all kinds of choices the best we can, given what we know. But if the leaves change color or fall off or it isn’t growing well, we change things up.

We move it to a new spot. More light. Less light. More water, less. Maybe we repot it.

We may try 4 or 5 spots in the house, a couple different watering patterns. Maybe we read about the plant, Google it to see what other people suggest.

But ultimately, we trust the leaves. We trust our eyeballs. The plant is thriving or it’s not. It’s healthy or it’s not. Our efforts are working or they’re not.

We never think to ourselves “This plant is defective because it isn’t thriving in the spot Google SAID IT SHOULD THRIVE.” We don’t just keep forcing a certain arrangement because it “SHOULD” work. We can see plainly that it isn’t working. Who cares what the plant book says?

Maybe this is a freak plant. An anarchist plant. Maybe this plant has zero fucks to give. But it’s ours. We committed to it. We do what we can.

Ultimately we don’t really care why it isn’t happy, right? We just respond. We see our job as an arranger of externalities, of things we have control over, to create an environment in which the plant can thrive. We know it can. We never doubt that. We know it has within it everything it needs to become its best self. A healthy vibrant thing.

 

I wonder why we don’t do this with kids. I wonder why we don’t just trust our eyeballs. Is it working? Are the leaves falling off? Is it droopy?

Are we droopy? Are we not thriving?

And if the answer is “yes,” why don’t we try something new? Change it up? Give it a shot and see what happens.

Trust that within us we too know what we need, what our kids need, or at least realize we are the “experts” on our own damn families, and we don’t need data or facts or books or articles to back our game. And trust that our kids have everything THEY need to thrive, if given the right environment. We have everything we need to provide that environment.

We’ve got giant green leaves, deep hungry roots, a yearning for sunshine and each other.

And that’s enough.

So hey there mama. For what it’s worth, I’m here to tell you that your no reason is enough. A tiny baby hand rested on yours is enough. The simple realization of “this isn’t working” is enough.

You don’t need my validation. I don’t need yours.

But it feels right to give it anyway.

Just like this morning, when Arlo woke up, crawled over, and did this.

If it works, I ain’t fixin’ it, no matter how many books insist it’s broken.

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*******

Hey I added one more 2015 online writing workshop!

We begin September 7. Mondays, 10am. ALL THE BULLSHIT DEALT WITH.

Write with me.

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Tidy houses are not a thing so stop it

by renegademama

I have decided that anyone with kids who says their house is tidy and clean is lying. Their house is not clean. It’s a fucking disaster like mine.

Don’t tell me I’m wrong. I’m not wrong. THEY ARE LYING.

I don’t give a shit if they have photographic evidence on Instagram. You know they pushed all the crap out of the camera frame and stuck their kid against the wall in its slouchy cap and harem pants and posted it like it ain’t nothin.

YOU CAN’T FOOL ME.

My light may be dim but it ain’t that dim.

Or, I’m wrong. That happens. Been wrong at least 4 times so far this year.

But I have given this a lot of thought man, and I just don’t understand.

Last Friday morning I looked around and said to myself “What the actual fuck

If we don't do the dishes. AFTER ONE MEAL.

If we don’t do the dishes. AFTER ONE MEAL.

has happened to my kitchen, living room, bathroom, hallways OhFuckItEveryRoomInTheHouse?”

It’s like all 6 inhabitants of this house walk around spewing toys, paper and dust from their fingertips.

And clothes. Oh my god the clothes. I hate clothes.

So anyway, Friday morning: I make a list for the 3 older kids. They each have their jobs, and I have mine. 1.5 hours of cleaning. Rocket, Ava, Georgie and me. Mac is at work.

Whine. Tears. Rage. Whatever offspring.

This ain’t my first rodeo. Do the damn work.

Rocket takes 50 minutes to unload the dishwasher. This baffles me. I tell him “We’re going to the beach once this is done so maybeYouShouldHurryUp. Miraculously, he does his other 5 chores in 12 minutes.

Uncool, Rocket. Uncool.

Arlo's job here is to dump each pile onto the floor. Thank you, Arlo.

Arlo’s job here is to dump each pile onto the floor. Thank you, Arlo.

Georgia is 4 so her jobs require putting things in other things. For example, “Put the shoes in the shoe baskets.” Fortunately this is also a fun pastime for Arlo, though he more enjoys taking things OUT of things.

On Friday I watched Georgia load shoes into a basket while Arlo removed them from the other side of the same basket.

We are an efficient fucking machine.

But we managed to get it done.

The house is clean. Swept, mopped. Shit picked up. Vacuumed.

Full floor visibility. I feel like a domestic goddess. Where’s my motherfucking apron? Somebody bring your father a casserole.

I look around and feel good. I’m so capable. I can move mountains. Let’s move mountains!

Look at me walk on these wood floors without shit sticking to my feet! Oh glorious motherhood!

We go to the beach. We’re gone til 9pm. We wake up. We eat breakfast on Saturday. We leave for the entire day, get home at 8:30pm.

Wake up on Sunday, look around — AND THE WHOLE MOTHERFUCKING HOUSE IS EXACTLY LIKE IT WAS ON FRIDAY.

it's pretty much never better than this unless we have people coming over.

it’s pretty much never better than this unless we have people coming over.

It’s been 48 hours and it’s all gone. How is that even possible? We’ve only spent like 4 waking hours in the damn thing.

HOW PEOPLE HOW?

Then I curl up in the fetal position and weep and cry out unto the lord “No but seriously dude how the hell am I to survive in these conditions?”

In response I hear only the sound of the cat food overturning across the living room floor which Arlo will surely begin eating within 44 seconds. (What is it with babies and pet food?)

Sometimes I feel defeated. Not gonna lie. Like when I open the hall closet and see my husband has decided a good place for cockroach catchers we’ll never use (given to us by the exterminator) is in the basket with the sunscreen and goggles in the linen closet.

Or when I FINALLY remove the 396 garments that no longer fit the baby and organize his dresser drawers FINALLY and one of the older kids “puts away clothes” by shoving random piles diagonally across my beautiful rows until the drawers won’t close. AGAIN.

Sometimes my life feels like one missing shoe and drawers that won’t close.

Ya feel me?

 

I know. I know it’s not that big of a deal. And I know it’s “nice” that my kids attempt to put clothes away and that we can afford an exterminator who gives complimentary cockroach catchers and that I even have a house and kids and husband at all and yes someday I’m sure I’ll miss the pitter patter of tiny feet dragging my household organization attempts into the fort they just built with clean sheets over a sticky kitchen table.

And newsflash yes I know I’m not “defined” by the condition of my house or car and blah blah fucking blah I’M NOT ASKING FOR MUCH HERE PEOPLE.

After one hour of "playing." REALLY KIDS REALLY?

After one hour of “playing.” REALLY KIDS REALLY?

A visual on the floor of my car, perhaps.

A reduction in strange substances dried onto the floor.

300% fewer toys showing up on my floor even though I take shit to the Goodwill every week it seems.

Maybe a Level 1 instead of Level 4 hurricane in the bedroom after the kids “play.”

PICK UP AFTER YOURSELVES YOU TINY INSANE CREATURES.

 

People tell me it’s that easy: “Just have the kids pick up after themselves. Before they get out a new activity have them clean up the old one.”

Would somebody kindly explain how the fuck I’m supposed to do that WITHOUT becoming Stalin? 

So maybe that’s it. Maybe I just refuse to become the type of person I would have to become to keep a tidy house all the time.

Or maybe I’m inept.

Let’s go with the former. It makes the circus seem intentional and therefore slightly more palatable.

Or something.

On the plus side, we cleaned the refrigerator, so we can definitely look forward to 4 hours of clean refrigerator.

AT LEAST. Go team.

I am unwavering however in my devotion to making my bed each morning. ha. ha. ha.

I am however unwavering in my devotion to making my bed each morning. ha. ha. ha.

 

Please may I just excuse myself from this interaction? JACK DANIELS.

by renegademama

Sometimes I’m at the park or a kid’s birthday party and I end up in a chat with another mom, and that’s cool, I like to chat. Sometimes though, within moments, it becomes clear that we aren’t here to “chat” but rather engage in a pissing match to determine WHO EXACTLY IS THE BETTER MOTHER.

You. You are the better mother. No comparison. Now can we move on?

Round II: Who has the better children.

You win, lady. You’re better and your kids are clearly WAY better.

I don’t want to play.

I don’t care how “gifted” your son is (A master of standardized testing?! Oh Em Gee!) and how your daughter plays tennis and you’re taking her out of school because surely she is going to the Olympics.

She’s not going to the Olympics. Nobody goes to the Olympics.

Or maybe she will. Whatever.

My kid told me the other day she wishes she could take her ear off so she could “chew on the squishy part.”

BE IMPRESSED.

No seriously I don’t care about your kids’ grades and I don’t care about how they skipped this and that and whatever the hell.

I chose my kid’s school based on the quality of their special ed program. Wanna talk about that? I didn’t think so.

Do I seem angry? I’m not.

But I am TIRED. Tired of that feeling. Tired of that “oh here we go” realization like a wave over me. Here we go, into the bullshit. Into the masquerading, the fronting, the posturing, omitting and censoring.

Pretty sure I just dropped my 3rd F-bomb.

I TRY people I TRY.

Not really actually.

If I manage to withhold ill-timed expletives, I pretty much immediately say something I probably should have kept inside. Usually I think I’m being funny. Or, I think I’m commiserating with another mom.

(She does not think I’m funny.)

For example, I may say: “Lord do they EVER stop talking? I told them yesterday if they don’t stop talking for 5 minutes I’m going to saw my own ears off. I thought that was something of a win. Out of shock they stopped talking for 2.5 minutes.”

“Well developmentally it’s important to engage your children in age-appropriate….”

FUCK ME SIDEWAYS LADY I surrender.

I think I’m just old. I have fewer fucks to give with each year that passes, and I started with a limited number, I assure you. And I have 4 kids now, which means all my parental delusions of grandeur have been reduced to “Why does my car still smell like old apples?”

Yes. That is my kid standing on top of the monkey bars and NO, no I don’t care that he’s there and YES, yes I know he could potentially fall but can you not see what’s beneath him?

Sand. Motherfucking SAND.

Look, if I had known we were gonna do this I would have remained on the bench gazing lovingly into my iPhone so you could have judged me from afar. But you engaged me and I thought “Oh, okay, human interaction. But now I see my whole role here is to help you establish your superiority.”

The problem is I have nothing to prove. I mean I’m like on the ground. I’m just like here. Being a human.

We’re at the park, stuck here with tiny insane half-naked sticky dictators, WHY MUST WE PLAY the ‘Who’s got the biggest penis’ VAGINA STYLE game?”

This is not fun. Can’t we just be friends?

No, no we cannot. Clearly, because you just launched into telling me about how your 3-year-old taught herself to read.

OBVIOUSLY A GENIUS, now CanIBitchAboutMyHusbandPLEASE?

No? Well, I’m so glad you explained how the Paleo diet altered the course of your lives.

I’d totally get behind the Paleo diet if it allowed more frosting.

I do like bacon though.

Nope.

Let’s talk about Bikram and barre.

I’m still in maternity clothes and had my baby a year ago. Now do you or do you not have a croissant to go with my head-sized iced coffee?

My face says “I’m out.” I mumble. Uh huh. Yeah. Wow. Sure.

No-go.

Your baby slept through the night at 3 months? Sleep trained since birth? AMAZING. Mine is 12 months and nurses approximately 94% of the night and yes it sucks (haha see what I did there?) and no I’m not planning on doing anything about it. But thank you for the book recommendation.

 

Do you ever feel like you just don’t want to play? You know, the games? The human games (because of course men do this too)? The one-upping, the let’s establish hierarchy and determine who’s best? The stroke my ego while I diminish yours?

Whatever it is. All of it, but with the nice clean polish of friendly banter.

I just don’t understand WHY we have to do it. We’re both humans standing here with kids and bodies and minds and life is hard and parenthood is gorgeous AND bullshit and you and I both know you don’t know what the hell you’re doing any more than I do so why can’t we just let THAT be? Why can’t we just hang out in “I feel your pain” land and enjoy the adorable little monsters bolting around?

I know. I know this is just small talk, but if we can spend 20 minutes in a passive-aggressive verbal gymnastics, we can just as easily spend 20 minutes in LET’S BE REAL with each other.

I wish I could say: “I am a super fucking friendly person. You’ve got nothing to prove with me, lady. I’m just here for the kid silence.”

 

And if that doesn’t work, maybe we could have a code word, so like-minded moms like me (and probably you if you’ve read this far) can call to one another as a form of rescue. Like a mother life raft. Something we can shout when we’re cornered by Over-Zealous Preschool Mom or Why Aren’t Your Kids Dressed in Organic Hemp Mom or Attachment Parenting Zen Goddess Mom and then, when we hear it, we can run to each other’s sides and be like Was I paged? 

Maybe “Jack Daniels.” Quick, probably not going to be said often at kid events. Catchy. Memorable.

I can see it now:

Her: “I chose xxx school because of the GATE program because Johnny skipped 2 grades.”

Me: “Jack Daniels.” (Looks around nervously.)

Her: “My husband is a physicist and next week we’re going on a vacation to New Zealand with the nanny but I’m just having a really hard time packing Waldorf-approved airplane play bags for the kids!”

Me: “JACK DANIELS!”

Her: “Do you have health insurance because you know what your kid is doing is really unsafe and clearly you don’t care.” (that actually happened.)

Me: “JACK MOTHERFUCKING DANIELS!!!”

And then you’ll come to my rescue. And we’ll be friends.

Plan?

Sweet. See you at the next kid thing.

JACK DANIELS.

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Rocket’s face: Me during the one-upping conversations.

*******

HEY, my writing workshop is open again. 

Begins July 22.

Here’s what people are saying:

“I’m much more confident about my writing after taking this workshop. I feel like you really showed me how good my writing can be and how to get it there. And it was a ton of fun! Made some great connection, personally and professionally.” – Jessica G.

“I loved the class; it was the perfect kick in the butt to just go ahead and WRITE ANYWAY!!” – Brynly B.

“I felt like I was hearing solid, professional, practical advice to move forward. I 100% met my goal for the class. I have been wondering if I could or would write in the future, I didn’t know what my content should be and now I know my plan. I learned how to continue to improve and found some people I could reach out to for some criticism as well. People I trust…I felt very safe.” – Tracy M.

JOIN US. It’s already half full!

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Hey! I’m back. By the skin of my teeth.

by renegademama

I have never been quite as lost as I was the past few months.

I think it started with Mac’s hand injury on December 29. Maybe it doesn’t sound huge, but it was. Something about a 6 foot piece of sheet metal dropping 40 feet onto your best friend and husband, father of your 4 children – the vulnerability, the sudden realization of his vulnerability – though it seems at times invisible. Watching him in pain, in surgery, recovery, realizing he will always be in some pain from arthritis and screwed-up joints.

The surgeon was amazed he had his hand let alone his life.

Just a couple weeks after that a family member was harmed by someone in a real, terrifying way. I cannot go into details, will not, but my fallibility as a mother came crashing into my reality and I thought for the first time, “My God I really cannot protect them, not fully.” I even got a calendar out and counted the days from the day I became a mother until that one: 13 years, 1 month and 29 days.

That’s how long I made it.

 

And then, Mac called to work out of town. Gone. Barely cleared to work, then gone.

First 5 days a week. Then 6.

Then sometimes 7.

It’ll be done in July. No, August. Hopefully August.

And me, there, with all those fucking kids. And my job.

The thoughts took over my brain:

for many reasons, I prefer this man home. ha.

for many reasons, I prefer this man home. ha.

I can’t survive this.
I’m so miserable.
Why is my career (because I work too, ya know?) hinging on HIS? Why is my life less important than HIS? Why is my career/life/existence PUT ON HOLD (transformed completely) because HIS work changes?

Oh, the self pity.

And then, rage. Resentment. Rage at all of it: The hand, the injury to my child, the loneliness, the incessant routine and relentless, mindless, unforgiving work of babyhood and toddlerhood and children and house and work.

I had two panic attacks. I had never had one before in my life. I woke up sweating and shaking with irrational, racing thoughts.

Good times.

A gray settled around my head. I found myself unable to sleep but never wanting to leave my bed. Crying for no reason or any reason.

Yelling, irritated, anxious.

 

I knew this feeling. I hadn’t had it since post-partum depression with Ava. I knew it well. The rumination. The remembering back before I had kids, the staring at myself naked in the mirror before I got in the shower: The disgust. At my body, my face, the wrinkles. The gray hair. Non-descript self-hatred.

Why don’t you take care of yourself you loser? Still wearing maternity clothes because you’ve never bothered to get others I see? WHAT A FUCKING LOSER.

And fat. Still fat. How did you get so fat? Why do you turn to food? DISGUSTING.

And all these kids. You have no business with these kids.

All of it is a mistake. Every moment of your life.

Think about Spain. Remember that? 20 years old, thin, beautiful, your whole life ahead of you. You had a chance then but you ruined it.

Had a kid at 22. Full-blown alcoholic by 24. LOSER.

Remember when your life had purpose and meaning and hope?

 

Writing this, I see how stupid it is. Writing it, I see how ridiculous and melodramatic it is. But try explaining that to me when I’m in the middle of it.

All the days were like this. I was in 2 small car accidents from not paying attention. Zombie-like exhaustion. Inability to finish sentences. Getting words wrong. Sadness. Rage.

And then it shifted to apathy, and I knew I was fucked.

I tried taking a weekend away at a yoga farm. Ha. Ha. Ha. (Although that weekend did help me in a way I didn’t expect).

I tried a therapist (she was the worst I had ever seen in my life and I’m looking for another).

And then, I made myself a deal: I would try all the health stuff I could, “go back to the basics” of my life and if I didn’t feel better in a month I would go to the doctor.

So I did research on mood and vitamin deficiencies and hooked myself up with B12, probiotics, Omega-3, Vitamin D, turmeric supplements. I cut down on sugar, increased water. I took my placenta pills in case it was hormonal. (YES I AM THAT HIPPIE.) I prayed and meditated, a little each day. Yes, I believe in God. I believe in a power of good underlying all things. I believe I can tap into that power because it’s made of the same shit I am. I believe this is the same power holding the motherfucking planets in their spots in an infinite universe.

I believe God doesn’t care if I say “motherfucking.”

I tried to get more exercise. I went to my acupuncturist who treated me for anxiety (and his help removed the panic attacks) and suggested I get outside and do at least ONE fun thing with my kids every day. So I did.

this was the actual day I spent with Georgia and remembered motherhood could be fun

this was the actual day I spent with Georgia and remembered motherhood could be fun

The very next day I blew off work and took Georgia to the park, just because. I had forgotten that it was fun, too, to be a mom.

I told my friend Kate I couldn’t do anything and my house was beyond recall. She said “Get up and clean your fucking house Janelle. YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING.”

That day I said “I will clean one closet today.” And I did. It was the linen closet.

The next day I said “Now I’ll clean this one.” And I did.

And then the armoir. Each day, one thing.

The 4th day, I cleaned my house. It was the simple act of taking action. It was moving forward. It was tiny steps toward normalcy, toward feeling a little okay, a little in control.

A friend sent me a book that reminded me of what I had always known, but somehow forgot: The events of my life are neutral. The events of my life do not have an emotional charge in themselves. My emotional state is the result of a three-fold process:

First, the event. Then, my thoughts about that event; and finally: The emotions caused by my thoughts.

The problem was not that my husband was gone or that my life sucked. The problem was that I had convinced myself I was the eternal broken victim, could not survive in these conditions and was a VICTIM of my life.

I felt hopeless because I had painted a hopeless story. And I believed it. And I told it and retold it until I forgot it was even a story in the first place.

Remembering it was a story – an egoic invention – was like a thousand pounds lifted off my back. OH, that’s right, my soul seemed to say, “You’re okay. You’re not in charge of this rodeo. You’re along for a ride, and this is what the scenery looks like right now. You can either work with it or die trying to fight against it.”

I surrendered, I guess, again.

the hand was something like this

the hand was something like this

A couple days later I was nursing my baby Arlo when he flattened out his hand against my breast and his little fat palm felt like a piece of velvet across my aching skin and I wept. At the touch. Just that. I don’t know why. Something about the feel of his little hand against me that afternoon in that bed reminded me of what I am and who I am and what I have and that I always, always, somehow get carried.

It told me I was okay.

What washed over me was a profound sense of reality, of gratefulness, of TRUTH. FIVE YEARS AGO I WAS DRINKING ANCIENT AGE WHISKEY AND SMOKING PALL MALL CIGARETTES ALONE IN A BEIGE FORD TAURUS WONDERING HOW I WOULD EVER GET MY LIFE BACK.

And now, it’s all back. It’s better than I could have dreamed, and I’m spinning in circles of “This isn’t good enough.”

I was crushed under the weight of his tiny beauty, and the sacredness of my life. And the story changed. 

 

It was a close call. I dodged full-blown depression. I watched myself spiraling down and caught it just in time, with a lot of help from people who love me.

But I hesitated to even write this for fear that people would think I am saying that we can cure ourselves from depression. NO NOPE NOPITY NOPE FUCK NO not what I’m saying.

I don’t think you can take supplements and fix your depression or pray or meditate or eat better or exercise your way out of depression. I don’t think the touch of a baby or cleaning out a fucking linen closet can heal you.

What I’m saying is that I’ve been on every motherfucking psych med known to man (exaggeration) and I wanted to try things myself before going down that road again FOR MYSELF but by god get some help if you need it and there is no shame and if those methods had not worked I would be there right now. Today, telling Ms. Pill Doctor GIMME ALL THE PILLS.

After my head lifted a little, I took 3 weeks off this blog to gather myself and my brain and heart and pull it together.

In that time, I rented an office all my own, to give professional writing a fighting chance. I’m not teaching college in the fall. I’m writing a motherfucking screenplay. And revising my book.

And cleaning out that goddamn linen closet, as it needs. And writing to you.

So here I am.

Heyyyyyyyyyy. It’s good to be back.

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The view from a cot on Half Dome, or, my mom

by renegademama

(Note: I’m taking the month of May off from from the blog (well, except this post). Be back in June. Don’t leave me. Love your faces.)

 

My mom taught me that if you’re broke and possibly broken, the thing to do with your tax return check is to pack up your kids and drive north, up the coast of Oregon, Washington, all the way to British Columbia, fishing along the way.

You go to those fancy gardens and ride a ferry.

If it rains, you hang a big blue tarp over the hatchback of your Ford Taurus Wagon and cook up the crawdads your kids caught.

No need for campsite reservations. You’ll find something along the way.

Even in Yosemite, in the middle of the summer, when there’s no chance in hell you’re getting a campsite. When you’re done patrolling the campgrounds, finally accepting that there are no spots available, you go to the walk-in campground and share a site with a couple German rock climbers who tell your kids how they sleep on cots sticking out at a 90 degree angle from the face of Half Dome and your daughter gazes at them, sure she’s finally found love.

She goes to sleep imagining the Yosemite stars and moon and clouds and trees from a cot sticking out of Half Dome.

 

 

If  you come upon an event you can’t afford, you buy one ticket then tell your kids to meet you at a certain spot down the way so you can pass that ticket through the fence and each kid can get in for free.

If you need mayonnaise for your sandwich you stop at Carl’s Junior and grab some from the condiment area. You send your daughter in and it embarrasses the crap out of her.

If you break down in Las Vegas you play nickel slots and eat buffet food until you get a ride home, or the car gets fixed.

When the window breaks on your mini-van you duct tape that shit and keep driving, even when it’s spewing black out the black muffler and humiliating your junior high kid.

 

My mom taught me that when it gets insane tough and the money’s gone again, you do your chores on Saturday then go to the beach, and you cook up some hot dogs in the fog while the perfect cold sand squishes between your toes and curls form in your hair around your face from the fog and wet air and the sun slices through the gray in slivers of pink orange.

Because there it all becomes freedom again.

If you can’t afford a nice place to live you find a nice place to live by living in places that are for sale but ya gotta go when it sells so you move every few months, which is weird, but you still get the sweet digs, and your kids learn to pack their rooms in 30 minutes flat.

When life really really isn’t working you pack up and move to Texas. If it doesn’t work there either, you move back.

When you hate the public high school available, you work in the kitchen of the fancy private school because the only option for your kids is college.

How will we pay? Who knows you’ll figure it out.

How will we get there? Doesn’t matter we’ll get there.

Keep driving. You’ll see it. You’ll arrive. I know it. (She always seemed to say.)

(Her optimism infuriated me at times I will admit.)

 

If on the way Grace Slick or the Rolling Stones comes on the radio you turn it up WAY UP and you sing loud and tell stories of drinking Southern Comfort with Janis Joplin.

I mean you sing it loud. In the mini-van, with the duct-taped window and black-spewing muffler.

You go to church on Sunday.

You start businesses and when they fail you start another.

You run out of money and get it again.

You lose your house and find another.

You give up 10,000 times for exactly 10 minutes.

You recast redefine reform and redesign 5, 10, 5,000 times to drive on, keep on, rolling on and making it. On.

(I have questioned everything in my life except the loyalty of my mother.)

 

When your daughter goes to rehab, again, you clean her apartment. You cry when you stand in it, telling her later, “I just knew how hard you were trying to be a mother, Janelle. And you just couldn’t do it.” You see what even she can’t see, and hold on to it like a trip to the ocean on a foggy cold Saturday. You see the orange pink of her face as she takes a drag off another cigarette and feel the cold sand between her toes until she can feel it again herself.

When your grandkids need you, you pull them into your home.

When your daughter gets well, you let them go again.

And you turn it up, loud, and you drive, and you love, and you become Nana and stay mom and sing, until every kid and grandkid knows the tune, and wonders where the hell we’re going this time, and how we’re going to get there, but only a little, because your voice is reminder that we’re already there.

You can forget, but not for long.

Get the duct-tape out. Fire it up, kids.

Mama’s home.

And damn. Look at those stars.

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