Posts Filed Under I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING HERE.

Hey, I’m alive! And my body mostly works!

by renegademama

I really want to tell you all the things going on in great detail but these fucking pain medications remove my brain. I’m nodding off or irritable as hell or sitting here staring at a wall. This appears to be my full range of options.

Lies. All hail Netflix.

It’s like somebody has taken a thick sheet of fog and just stuck it over the parts of brain that feel things and produce thoughts. See? Even my metaphors suck. In other news, been seriously wondering how the hell artists made music and wrote books on opiates. HOW. It must have taken so much more work, to push through the fog, to power through the misery. It almost breaks my heart more, and I’m taking only a tiny portion of what an addict takes. HOW THE FUCK.

Anyway, I can’t formulate complex thoughts but I can probably just list random shit that’s happening. So let’s do that.

  1. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, my back exploded (perhaps not the official term but it’s the one my surgeon used and it’s definitely what it felt like) into my spinal column, crushing the nerves running down my spine, resulting in a five-day hospital stay and emergency spinal surgery. I’m three weeks out now, and walking better, but still limp and my left leg is mostly numb and tingling, which is fun.
  2. It’s not actually fun.
  3. Because God is hilarious or things are just this way, we were in the final week of moving out of our house when I was admitted to the hospital. You know the hellish stage when you’re just gathering shit by the arm-full and throwing it into boxes thinking surely it will never end and there’s no hope ever anywhere? Yeah, Mac got to do that alone, while I was an hour away in the hospital.
  4. So when I got out, we were living in my mother’s house. That was strange.
  5. Also, I have to say, though I didn’t talk about it online really at all (another topic to discuss, probably), I had chronic back pain for about five years before this. It got worse every year and before the disc blew, I THOUGHT I was in the most pain I’d ever been in. And then it blew and I really understood what pain is. Anyway, a couple of weeks after the surgery, I got up and took a shower and got dressed and made my kids lunches then drove them to school and the pain I knew like air, the one I had to breathe through every day just to make it through my morning, the one that sometimes, randomly, brought me to sobs while my kids looked on and I felt like I just couldn’t to do it anymore, was gone. I put my socks on and my underwear on and bent down to help Arlo with his pants and it didn’t hurt. I sat in my car near the school parking lot and cried. Hope comes in the strangest ways, doesn’t it? That was the worst part of that pain: THERE WAS NO WAY OUT. And here I am, mostly out. There’s residual sciatica pain, but compared to how I lived before, gimme a fuckin break.
  6. We are selling the best, warmest, most perfect and cozy home we’ve ever had. It feels surreal and sort of nuts to walk away from a home like that. We knew it was too small when we bought it five years ago, yet somehow leaving it never felt real. And it’s breaking our hearts. A few days ago I went back there alone, to say goodbye, and I cried and kissed its walls and said “thank you,” and I looked at the walls that held my family. I could still feel us there, laughing and crying and yelling. It was where Arlo was born. It was where George was a toddler and Ava and Rocket became teenagers. It was where we held each other after my grandmother was murdered. It was where our dog died, and we wept again. But that home? Fuck. I never passed a day there wishing I wasn’t there. I never walked in and thought, “Oh, this place again.” It will always, always be our family’s home, and I imagine it will be the place we all remember when thinking of the wild, young, growing days of our family. “Thank you,” indeed.
  7. And yet, we look forward to what’s to come, and that’s getting so fucking real too. We have settled on living in Haarlem, which is about a fifteen-minute train ride from Amsterdam. We have the kids enrolled in schools there. IT IS SO FUCKING WEIRD THAT IT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Every now and then Mac and I look at each other and say, “Can you believe we’re really doing this?” It was a pipe-dream for so long. A fantasy. “Let’s move to Europe.”
  8. And now it’s real, but the details aren’t. Sure, we know what city we’re going to live in, but we don’t know much of anything else. He and I are going over there April 29 – May 8 to hopefully find housing and check out the schools in person, but holy hell. WE JUST SHOW UP AND THEN WE FILL OUT OUR APPLICATION FOR A RESIDENCY PERMIT WTF.
  9. That’s the process. Speaking of cool, weird shit, I’m doing two book events while we’re over there: One on May 3 in Amsterdam at the American Book Center and one on May 6 at the American Women’s Club in The Hague. Please, please come see Mac and me if you’re around.
  10. We are planning on leaving America in early July, and until then, we’re staying with my mom. She’s an absolute saint and we all get along, I mean, as much as families “get along,” but seven people in a three-bedroom house is rather interesting.
  11. The six-years of chronic pain culminating in a blown disc and subsequent surgery, the recovery, house-selling, transitional housing, move to the Netherlands, it’s all wild and weird and wonderful and what I’m learning – again, because sure as hell isn’t the first time – is that sometimes things have to blow up to be rebuilt. They just have to be fucking decimated before the new can rise. Someday when my head is clearer and I’ve had some space from it, I’ll write about all I’ve learned from this back injury, surgery, and recovery. I’ve spent my life powering through – just do it no matter what – and I’m pretty sure the lesson here for me is that I need to slow the hell down, listen to my body, accept help, take some fucking better care of my mind and body.
  12. Oh, and Rocket spent three weeks in Paris, visiting also Edinburgh and southern France. He watched Notre Dame burn, and met his new baby cousin. What a strange world all this is, huh?

I am so, so grateful for all your kind words and supportive messages. You really are the goddamn best and I feel it.

Here we go.

heavily medicated waiting for surgery. the filter is fixing a lot, here

 

this shit blew my mind.

FIX IT, motherfuckers goddamnit

 

********

 

The paperback version of my book comes out May 7!

So fucking excited to see a physical copy at a lower price ($13.54 most places).

There’s an interview in the back that you may find funny (I fuckin hope). I interviewed myself. I’ll share an excerpt in the next couple days. Wheeee.

(And if you liked my book, please please maybe mention it again to your people, and/or review it on Amazon or Goodreads. Books like mine, that don’t get much media attention, survive fully on word-of-mouth. Thank you thank you thank you.

 

My daughter turned 17. I turned into my mother.

by renegademama

I distinctly remember being a teenager and thinking my mother was the most ridiculous human in the world with her constant “worrying.”

“Call me when you get there,” she’d say. And then I would nearly fall over in shock at how “dramatic” she was.

Or when she would ask me to be home by midnight and I’d roll in at 1:30am and she’d tell me that she had stayed up, wondering if I was alive, and I would fly into just a touch of rage at her desire to “control me.”

I remember my eye roll. As if she didn’t trust me to live in the world. I have it handled, Mom.

That’s what my eye roll said. That’s what my yelling said.

Also it said: “I am an asshole.”

(I was terrible. My parents were saints. The end.)

 

It was the morning I stood in the doorway and told my daughter, Ava, who’s seventeen, to “be careful in the fog” that I knew I had become my mother.

It’s really poor visibility. Leave early so you don’t have to drive fast. Don’t tailgate. Don’t speed.

I wanted to tell her all these things. I wanted to low-key beg her to listen to me. I willed myself silent on the barrage of guidance I wanted to pummel her with. I allowed myself just one “It’s dangerous to drive in the fog. Please drive slowly.”

Oh, and: “Text me when you get there.” I did it. I went there. I went “text me when you get to school” because of a heavy blanket of fog.

I never understood my Mom because I didn’t know that the fog dropping onto the world drops on your baby, too, who got her driver’s license only six months ago. I didn’t know the fog is a blanket over her eyes, too, and you think about all the times you’ve driven in the fog, and how it’s her first time, and you think maybe let’s just wait until it clears, while also knowing this is ridiculous and you should really pull it together. 

I didn’t know that every New Year’s Eve is a million drunks waiting to plow into my baby while she cruises home listening to her favorite Beatles song.

I didn’t know that every screaming ambulance within earshot brings with it an instantaneous mental calculation of each child’s coordinates, that even though you know your daughter is nowhere near that ambulance, you wonder. Just for a second, you wonder. You calculate.

I didn’t know that the world becomes, against your will, against your intellect and better judgment, a landmine of threat, and even if you’re reasonable, a stone-hearted analytical type, the type of person who rarely cries, you get a little fucking weird.

You hold it inside to not freak your kid out. You allow yourself one “Drive safely,” and a kiss and “I love you,” followed with a “Have fun” because the last thing you’re going to fucking do is teach your kid that the world is a thing to be feared, to be tiptoed around, to be cautiously and barely lived.

But I’m a mother and you’re my baby and you’re new at this.

 

I watch you drive away. I watch you head out the door at 10pm to come back at midnight. You always respect your curfew. How did my parents survive me ignoring it, and before cell phones? 

I always wait for the sound of the front door – opened, shut, locked – the dog hopping off his bed to greet you, your face in my doorway with a smile, or a “Goodnight, Mama” from the hallway.

The sound I could never understand until I became my mother.

A rite of passage, I suppose, this learning to live in the in-between, a part of me running around loose and wild for the first time, in a world that terrifies and delights me.

I watch you drive away in the fog. I smile when you remember to text. I smile at the roll of our eyes.

We were babies.

 

*****

 

 

***

13 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | February 4, 2019

Stages of efficient Christmas decorating for peak family bonding

by renegademama

 

  1. On the first Saturday of December, decide to “put lights up” and “get the tree today” and prepare for it by lying on your bed and texting a friend about her afternoon plans and how you’d rather do that.
  2. Wonder if there’s some way you can avoid “getting the tree today.”
  3. Keep doing that until 2pm.
  4. Realize if you don’t get the tree today you’ll have to do it on a weekday after school, which sounds like hell.
  5. Head out to locally owned Christmas tree farm at 2:30pm because you are a thoughtful progressive who wants to support local business. Engage in deep tree analysis based on needle-type, bushy/not bushy, whether or not there’s a “good side,” how many holes exist in the branches, how dry it already is, and, my personal favorite, the fucking price.
  6. Find tree whole family likes only to realize it’s $80. Head to second family owned Christmas tree farm because you refuse to give your money to Home Depot.
  7. Experience same at second place.
  8. Feel your soul leaving your body as you drive to Home Depot.
  9. Find seventeen trees that five out of six of your family members like while trying not to lose toddler in tree rows and/or parking lot since you are, in fact, in a fucking parking lot. Listen to your teenager shame you for having no soul whatsoever, buying a tree from a corporate parking lot “farm.” To which you respond, “I know. I felt it leave my body.”
  10. Realize you no longer care what the tree looks like or who hates it and finally buy one. For $40. Thank you, Home Depot.
  11. Get home and remember you didn’t clear a spot for the tree or get the Christmas boxes out because you fucked around on your phone instead.
  12. Clear a spot for the tree and bring all decorations in and untangle lights and want to die.
  13. At 4:45pm, begin putting lights up on the house. At 5pm, notice it’s dark. Ask yourself why you laid on your bed all morning instead of addressing your life.
  14. At 5:15pm, watch a teenager scream and storm into the house while you point out that he’s “ruining family bonding time.” In doing so, make things immediately worse.
  15. Argue with your partner about light placement, find yourself unable to locate necessary extension cords.
  16. Drive to Walmart to buy extension cords. If you had soul left, it’s gone now.
  17. 6:30pm! Get lights up! Nailed it. It’s super janky but who the fuck cares?
  18. Feel Christmas spirit as you stand in front of the house Griswold-style and watch daddy flip the lights on. Think about how your 17-year-old is nearing the last years she’ll do this, maybe. Cry?
  19. Watch the other teenager get angry. Good feeling gone at second storm into house.
  20. Want to go to bed but remember tree situation.
  21. Decide you just need to get the tree in water so it’s not a fire hazard in two weeks, and we’ll decorate tomorrow “I promise!”
  22. Search garage for tree stand.
  23. Do not find tree stand.
  24. Remember that last year you got rid of tree stand because it was a piece of shit.
  25. Wish you could do life over again or at least that single moment because a piece of shit stand is more than you have now.
  26. Yell at somebody.
  27. Listen to husband offer to take all the kids to Target to buy a tree stand. Tell him he is your Lord and Savior.
  28. Clean the fucking house a little since you neglected it all day, build a fire, and really feel that Christmas spirit, alone, in the house, in sweet, sweet silence. Alone. In the house. How Christmas is supposed to fucking be. Wait.
  29. Watch your husband return. Move shit out of the way for the tree. Puke at what you find beneath furniture.
  30. Observe your husband on the ground trying to get the new tree stand to work. Suggest he stop saying “This motherfucker does not work!”
  31. Sit on couch and offer super helpful directions that increase “motherfucker” utterances.
  32. Have one kid hold tree while you stand across the room and attempt to get it straight. Eventually also realize you don’t care.
  33. The next day, when you’re supposed to be decorating it, write a blog post to your friends.

And, you’re done!

*****

Hey! Today is the last day to buy my ebook for $2.99

on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Don’t miss that shit!

(It goes back to $13.99 tomorrow.)

 

 

 

12 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | December 2, 2018

Do you ever feel your family is in shambles even though it’s technically probably not?

by renegademama

Do you ever feel like your family is in shambles? Like the whole fuckin’ thing is just coming apart at the seams? Considering my family did in fact once come apart at the seams, and we were separated for two full years, perhaps I should explain myself so y’all don’t pose an intervention.

I’m sober. Mac’s sober. We are all sober. Even, against appearances, the toddler is sober.

I’m not talking about really falling apart. I’m talking about a sense that it’s unraveling, that you’re clinging to something that once was or you thought once was or maybe it never was, but the current state is so unbearable you convince yourself it must have been better once.

And you write run-on sentences. Because your life is a run-on sentence.

Where am I?

It’s the endless driving, maybe. The way the days blur together. Or the bickering, perhaps. The nonstop bickering over shit so stupid I just want to yell “EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK UP.” The seat in the car. Whose turn? The Gatorade. Sometimes their voices feel like a thousand pounds of steel across my shoulders. And I’m already slouching.

I’ve got a couple of teenagers now. They sure are a treat. No seriously, they really are, as long as they’re not acting so ungrateful and entitled I decide I have unequivocally blown it as a parent and all hope is lost. The eye rolls. The deep sighs. The laziness coursing through their bones.

Five minutes later, we’re shit-talking Trump over text messages or snuggling on the couch or I look at them from across the room and they’re so fucking beautiful and strong and whole I could just fucking die with awe and pride, and it hits me that one will be gone in two years and the other in six, only now I know how fast that “six” goes, and a sense of panic settles into me: How could it be?

Are they what I cling to? My oldest two because they were once the sizes of the little ones?

Speaking of whom, the little ones. They never, ever, and I mean never fucking ever, stop talking. No stopping. Ever. No not talking. There is no way to not be talking. Dreams. Questions. Stories that last twenty-seven minutes but go nowhere. God I’m an asshole.

Where do babies come from? Why does daddy get up so early? How do we get to God? Is grandpa with God? How does death smell?

MORBID, ARLO. FUCKING MORBID.

I also fully said, “Sometimes when two people love each other a baby appears.” Leave me alone. He’s four. He won’t remember this shit anyway.

My point is, I feel right now like I cannot for the life of me find my ground as the mother of this family. Like if my teenagers aren’t sucking dry my will to live, the energy required to nurture, contain, corral, listen to, prepare for, dress, bathe, and appreciate the youth of the little ones IS.

I can’t keep my house clean for the life of me. And I ain’t a perfectionist. Think of a low bar and then fail to maintain it. If I come home and clean the house while they’re at school, I can’t work, and if I don’t work, we don’t live, because the universe apparently missed the memo that my book was supposed to be A RAGING BESTSELLER and I was supposed to not be on Craiglist looking for potential teaching gigs or maybe receptionist gigs or maybe Starbucks barista gigs because the hustle is real and the last advance check came and there’s, like, no more comin’ on that front.

DUDE I JUST SPENT 10 DAYS IN CANADA WTF AM I WHINING ABOUT?

You see? That too. This is supposed to be the best time of my life. And it was. Is? Shit.

My book came out four months ago! Am I missing it? I feel like I’m too worried about the next project (AKA “continuing to pay mortgage”), doctor appointments, picking kids up, homework, groceries, laundry, et fucking cetera to “enjoy” this. AM I MISSING MY JOY?

I’m joking. I think.

Still, in my head, everything was going to change. I was surely going to be able to pay off my student loans instead of what I actually did this morning, which was renegotiate the payment based on our new income. On the plus side, it’s now half what it was before. Yay?

 

My point is, between money and driving and varied kid needs and the part of me that wants to cling to my writing career but also curl safely into the arms of a 401k, I’m so lost right now I sometimes spend 2-3 hours on my bed reading, or staring at my phone, because all directions point, nowhere?

I think sometimes we are tossed into the air and we stay there for a while as shit gets sorted, or we get sorted, and then we get to find our footing again amongst our people.

Everything feels weird currently. The other day, a long-time reader commented on an Instagram post (while I was in Canada), “Remember when you used to complain about money and I could relate to you?”

That shit broke my heart. Maybe she was joking. I hope!? I think sometimes people watch something like a book coming out or a book tour, and think the author has been rocketed into fame and money and retirement accounts, but that happens for like 1% of the authors in the world and in my dreams that was definitely going to be me but in reality it turns out I have to keep working my ass off and renegotiating student loan payments. I jest. I would constantly move between “Everyone is going to love this” and “I should jump off a bridge now.” I believe we call that, The Human Condition.

My point is I even feel a little disconnected from you. My readers. The people I’ve spoken to and reached out to in the happiest and darkest days of motherhood and you’ve done the same to me, for quite a few years now. Seven, actually. Seven!

Because I think maybe you think I have changed, and we aren’t the same anymore, and that if I complain about my life I’m ungrateful, because look at all this fancy shit I’m doing. So do I hide my struggles? That seems fake too.

Do I jump into I AM AN AUTHOR NOW mode and stick out my pinky when I drink tea? AM I FANCY NOW is what I’m saying.

I mean, I shit in a bag and kept it. That’s what’s in my fucking memoir. Not exactly the type of thing that intrigues Pulitzer judges (is a Pulitzer judge a thing? Because if so, and you are one, I am happy to email you a copy of my book. Somebody help me.).

I guess my point here is that everything can go right and we can get lost, and everything can go wrong and we can get found, and I don’t seem to know how to handle life very well.

I’m 39. Seems like I should have a better grasp on this.

Success, failure, unbridled mediocrity. It’s all baffling to me. I just keep writing shit and hoping for the best, and I try to tell the truth, as I’m doing right now.

The night before I left for Canada, my Dad called to ask me an unexpected question: “Ten years ago,” he said, “Did you ever think a retreat center in Canada would invite you to teach writing for them?”

My god, we laughed. Because he really nailed it.

No, I never thought. I never imagined. And we can hold onto that, right, when we can’t see what’s coming, and maybe we’re terrified?

 

look where I fucking went last week. that’s ocean. ocean water between fjords. amazing, right?

Here I am now. amazing, right?

***

Here’s the book that has launched me into the literary elite or possibly exactly where I was before only in awe, stunned, and so overwhelmed by the chance to write that many consecutive words, see them in print, and hear your responses.

It’s been an incredible ride, and don’t worry, I have some shit up my sleeve. Metaphorical shit. Okay? No interventions necessary.

I have no idea how to adequately thank you.

Maybe you think this wasn’t you but it was.

 

42 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | September 20, 2018

A letter to my kids’ teachers explaining their condition

by renegademama

To my kids’ teachers:

As summer comes to a close, I feel compelled to warn you: There’s a chance my kids are, at this point, completely feral.

I tried. I really did. But things went south about mid-July, and I had to make a choice: Fight the descent into madness or say “fuck it” and hope for the best.

I chose the latter, probably because I’m old.

Don’t think we didn’t learn things, though. We did. We took a vacation to Seattle and Port Townsend in Washington and in addition to observing the Space Needle and playing in that rad disco ball fountain, my kids learned the expression “fucking asshole,” which I muttered under my breath or perhaps over my breath after an unfortunate run-in with somebody. Can’t quite recall. I think maybe a ferry worker guy? Coulda been my teenager.

I AM KIDDING. There’s no way that was the first time my kids heard me say “fucking asshole.”

During the day, largely cooped up in the living room on account of the weather resembling what I imagine Satan’s armpit to feel like, and thick, unbreathable outside air due to wildfires, my kids engaged in all kinds of imaginative play, including, but not limited to:

  • Cutting their clothing with “safety” scissors
  • Covering themselves in toilet paper to “scare” each other
  • Dumping old fireplace ash on their heads
  • Ripping the wings off a dead dragonfly and placing them in a small jar (no, wait, neatly cutting them off because “that’s what normal people do.” That seems sane.)
  • Making “juice” by smashing all the fruit in the house into a bowl
  • Grabbing a cell phone and Facetiming some random contact
  • Naked porch dancing
  • Peeing only in the backyard

Other activities they enjoyed were wearing the same pajamas for two days straight (as in, not taking them off), riding their bikes in the house, seeing how long a man bun will last before it becomes a dread, and screaming at each other until I lose my mind and ban all imaginative play, demanding instead that they watch television like normal people.

But of course only learning shows, like “Nailed It,” for example, which is basically a documentary and heart-rendering story of human perseverance in the face of really sucking at something. Also, somehow “Liv & Maddie” made its way onto the television about 2,456 times a day, but when my 8-year-old said, “I don’t want to become a teenager. They have nice clothes but are boring,” I realized she learned how to not be a boring, self-absorbed teenager. Boom.

In the evenings, we would watch Queer Eye, as a family, so we could all weep together. This was obviously emotional development. We’re emotional and therefore we’re developing.

That’s how that works, right?

We went to Santa Cruz. We camped. My mother did a backyard campout with the cousins. We swam sometimes, I think. Or maybe that was just in my head. We went to the library five times.

No, that was definitely just in my head. It was a very productive summer in my head.

But alas, they are, in a word, quite weird right now and I’m pretty sure we didn’t officially keep up with all you taught them – although I did force them to read every single day before they could watch brain-dead television.

Or maybe it was twice. It was either every single day or twice all summer.

I’m 90% sure they can still read.

My point is, you really should get paid more, and before the first day of school, I am 100% sure they will snap back into their normal, adorable selves, as opposed to the ones who discovered their absolute favorite game was locking somebody in the bathroom and making them crawl out a window into the side yard and then locking the escapee out of the house, too.

A feral cat found us a few years ago. We started feeding her and giving her water on the porch and then she had kittens in our front bark. Now she’s ours.

Maybe try that.

Love you.

Janelle

Remember that one time I yelled at my teenager, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON YOUR PHONE AGAIN?” and she said, “Reminding people in Michigan to vote in the primaries.” That was fun.

*****

Want to feel like a better mother immediately?

READ THIS:

But only if you have a pretty jacked up sense of humor, because, like, the joke I just made, it’s already pretty wrong.

Check on tour (it’s all local, except Vancouver, sorry!). 

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10 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | August 16, 2018