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I wrote a book! And I finally get to share it with you.

by renegademama

At around 7:30pm on November 3, 2015, I received an email with the subject line “HI” from a man named Jermaine Johnson in Los Angeles, letting me know he was a manager with 3 Arts Entertainment, a media/production company that happens to produce my favorite television shows in the world (The Office, Mindy Project, Brooklyn 99, and more…). He had read a blog post of mine and was curious where I was headed with my writing career.

I immediately figured it was a scam. Too good to be true and stuff.

But then I used the Google and read the email again and again and again, and realized it was indeed as real as real can be, and I went outside on the porch and read the email to Mac, and then he cried and I cried because we cry a lot, and he said, “I think our lives are about to change.”

I gave myself 24 hours to respond to Jermaine. I was terrified I would say the wrong thing and blow the whole thing up. Like he’d hear from me in email form and be like, “You know what? I was wrong. You’re an asshole. Please go away.”

But he signed me, and put me in touch with a top literary agent in New York City named Richard Abate, and together, we turned a terrible first draft I had written in 30 days in 2014 into a book proposal.

And then, in April 2016, that proposal sold, to Hachette Book Group, a top five publisher.

And then we cried again for a really long time and jumped and yelled a lot and ate 5-12 enchiladas in celebration.

From that day until now, I have been working on that book, and today, I get to share it with you.

It’s called “I’m Just Happy to Be Here,” and it’s a memoir on alcoholism and motherhood, which will be published May 1, 2018, but is available now for preorder.

If you feel so inclined, if you’ve ever wanted to drop a nod my way, these advanced purchases will go a long fucking way for the success of this book.

But more than alcoholism and recovery, this is a book about being a motherfucking outsider in this parenting world. It’s about not necessarily becoming a better version of yourself the second you find out you’re becoming a parent, and somehow finding peace in spite of that fact — or maybe because of it.

More than any other question, the one I receive from readers most is: How do you have the courage to say the things you say about motherhood?

Well, this book answers that question. It tells how I got to the place where most of my fucks were gone, my disguises stripped away, and I took the random, possibly ridiculous step of writing to you, to see if any of you felt like I did, to see myself in some other mothers, to ask other mothers to see themselves in me.

What came my way after that felt like a motherfucking miracle. And you know how I feel about words like “miracle.”

But seriously, this entire thing is surreal, and still feels vaguely unreal, though I hold the book in my very hands.

How? Whose life is this? Mine?

Because I sat down one January day in 2011 and wrote a post on free WordPress blog, and kept writing, clinging to each new comment from you, each message from you telling me to keep going, and that you related to the post, and then, six years later, I’m holding a book in my hand?

Nah.

That shit ain’t real. And yet. Here we are.

I don’t know how to explain this feeling. I don’t know how to explain what it feels like to follow some weird ache in your gut, some relentless nudge to do something, even though it makes no sense, even though it will surely end in nothing – and realize it has, inch by inch, transformed your life into something you never dreamed possible.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my silly, broke-ass heart. I want to thank you for making this possible, for sticking around, for reading my rants and raves and mistakes and decency.

I truly cannot wait for you to read this, and I hope you see yourself on every page.

47 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized, what the fuck is a writer | November 29, 2017

On rage and helpfulness. Or, of course women are furious.

by renegademama

A few days ago, I sat at my desk reading two articles that outlined in detail Harvey Weinstein’s harassment, assault, and intimidation of women.

As I read about the way he threatened and assaulted women – placing them in the position of giving him what he wanted or facing his wrath – which could (or would) essentially ruin their careers, I began thinking of my own run-ins with men who believed their physical or positional power allowed them to sexually threaten, touch, or intimidate me.

I thought all the way back to the neighbor boys in grade school who pulled some shit when my mother wasn’t home, and the bra-snapping in junior high, and the older cousin who stuck his hand down my shirt while I was sleeping. It was a family sleepover. I woke to his hand on my right breast and him looking at me, silently, like, “What?” Stunned, I didn’t say a word. He removed it eventually.

I hated myself for not yelling. I was ashamed and humiliated. I assumed I had done something terribly wrong to make him think he could do that to me. I never mentioned it.

I thought about the boss in the restaurant where I worked as a busser at age 16, the boss who told me there was “one way I wouldn’t lose my job,” pressing his erect dick against my thigh as I stood pinned against the kitchen wall. I wrote about that here.

I thought about the boss I had in college who told me one day that he thought “it would be a really good idea if we had sex,” and I realized he may fire me if I didn’t fuck him. I didn’t. I began looking immediately for a new job.

I thought about the man who stuck his hand up my skirt as I sat at a bar stool. I thought about the two men who tried to rape me on two occasions, and my narrow escapes, and I thought about the strangers who took my hand and placed it on their penises more times than I can count.

I thought about all that, and how we elected a man who bragged about this exact type of assault and I got fucking angry.

I shared this post on my Facebook page and wrote these words: “#HarveyWeinstein, fuck you, and our pussy-grabbing president, and everyone defending the sexism of either of you. May you walk into the fire of a million women sick of your shit.”

I didn’t think about it. I just posted it, in anger. And then, I began receiving the standard disgusting comments one expects when one states such things publicly, but a couple of comments indicated that my anger was “not helpful.” And that got me thinking.

First of all, I’m nobody’s fucking life coach.

If I ever indicated that I’m here to guide spiritual development, well, I didn’t, because that would be delusional. I am a fucked-up, often immature, mercurial human being waking up each day and hoping for the best. If I were some sort of mystic, I’d be somewhere leading silent retreats with a stoic face, as opposed to here, at my desk, eating a cowboy cookie and wondering if you’re going to like my blog post.

I can say I do my best every day, but the fact is my “best” is occasionally (often? regularly? weekly?) rather pathetic.

I’m human at best. A complete asshole at worst. And every day feels like a battle between my higher and lower selves.

And yes, my higher self knows screaming FUCK YOU and FUCK YOU and FUCK YOU from the rooftops is not particularly “helpful.” Nobody’s going to go home and say, “Wow, Janelle screaming FUCK TRUMP SUPPORTERS sure did enlighten me! I see it all differently now!”

And yet, I’m not entirely convinced our anger on this front – the sexual assault/rape culture front — isn’t necessary and vital.

Because women have been told since childhood to shut the hell up about these small and large assaults because “that’s the way boys are.” It’s just “locker room talk,” you know.

We’ve been taught since birth to be grateful because it could have been worse.

We’ve been taught to be quiet because you don’t want to be one of those women, the ones who walk around accusing men of every little infraction. Consequently, women minimize and overlook and tell ourselves “It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Later, at night, we shudder to remember. And later still, with our friends, we realize every single goddamn woman we know has been assaulted or molested or harassed at least once.

We’re taught to ask ourselves what we could have done to cause it. We’re taught that our bodies were made and built for male consumption – don’t get too fat. Don’t get too thin. Don’t show too much skin. Don’t use your breasts for breastfeeding. Don’t complain. Don’t attack. Don’t be too sensitive.

We’ve been taught to cover ourselves to avoid getting raped, to carry pepper spray and not get too drunk and look around at night while walking and avoid certain places – and we’ve been taught that this is mature, sound womanhood.

We’ve been taught how to WOMAN safely.

We’ve lived and breathed this information and LIVED and BREATHED it again – this way of being –  every fucking day since we knew we were “women,” and it’s all been done with an air of normalcy, an air of “nothing to see here, folks, just another woman trying to stay safe from men who want to assault her.”

SO FUCK YEAH WE ARE ANGRY.

Wouldn’t you be?

Fuck yeah we get to scream for a bit. Fuck yeah we get to come out and yell that we are done living like this and it isn’t “normal” (or shouldn’t be), and we will fight and burn this shit down and maybe our fury right now is our fuel — some fire in our step, some flames to our voices, because we are tired of being attacked and silenced.  

Attacked and blamed.

Attacked and told how to not get attacked again.

Attacked and told how to keep our daughters safe from attack.

Sometimes rage is the first liberating emotion. Sometimes we have to recognize we are furious before we can move on to other emotions.

Sometimes rage leads us for the first time to our voices.

I believe this anger needs to bubble up and out of us in one steaming explosion of united rage, so we can come together in the pain and love that moves past anger and into a planet that’s safe for our daughters.

Nobody asked me if I wanted my body violated. Nobody asked me if I wanted bosses who suggested sex as my obligation to them. Nobody asked me if I wanted to play along with this, and I did, and it got me nothing but a pussy-grabbing piece of shit president.

And the nation made clear it doesn’t want to hear our voices.

So yes. If we have to scream, we will scream. And if it’s in rage, it’s in rage.

How about this?

We will be helpful when you stop violating our bodies in person and legislation.

Until then, rage on, sisters, because I know it’s rooted in love. Love of ourselves, our daughters and granddaughters and sons and grandsons. Sometimes love is fierce as hell – a fighting, relentless, burning thing – and the nation has made it clear it won’t hear our whispers.

So fuck whispering.

We’ve tried that. It’s time for something else. We get to be furious. We get to fight. And we get to win.

 

I wrote this note and stuck it on my wall after the conversations about my lack of helpfulness.

 

35 Comments | Posted in politics, Uncategorized | October 17, 2017

Ride on, kid. I’ll be right back here.

by renegademama

A few months ago, my fifteen-year-old daughter Ava was introduced to a mountain biking team. It’s a high school team.

She was gifted a bike, and started riding.

If you could see my face right now, you’d see there are already some goddamn tears in my eyes.

I wish I knew why this particular topic makes me so fucking emotional. I hate feelings.

Alright. Fine. I do not hate feelings. I am super well-adjusted and in tune with my emotions.

I merely prefer they refrain from attacking me at random.

She was afraid at first. She was nervous and rode slowly. She teetered and stopped often and “hated it.” Mac went with her. He went with her on every ride.

She remained unsure.

But Mac loaded the bikes on the back of the van and took her on rides anyway, week after week.

She rode with the team and Mac went along with them.

She was absolutely unsure.

A day came when Mac wasn’t available to ride with her and the team. She sat at the kitchen table and told me she didn’t want to go. She told me, “I have never done it without daddy.”

She rode anyway.

 

On the night before her first race, she was irritable and angry and frustrated and scared and pissed the fuck off that her family “made” her participate. We suggested she not do it. She hated that idea even more than she hated us in that moment.

She rode anyway.

She came in second to last, elated to finish.

We raved and cheered at her success.

A finish. An actual finish.

A week later she rode 8 miles to school on country roads. I didn’t want to let her go. I was sure she’d get creamed by a drunk farmer.

She rode anyway.

Now she rides every day and you can’t stop her from it. She rides without even thinking, and talks about how good her little brother will be since he’s going to “grow up riding.” She talks about turns and hills and falling and how it’s “no big deal” and she doesn’t talk about riding alone, or not wanting to race.

 

Six months later, she’s finished four races, and with the last one, she placed five spots higher than the races before.

But who cares?

No. I mean really. Who the hell cares.

She had me at the fear. She had me at the falls. She had me at the mud on her face and the blood running down her knees. She had me at her tears when a dog jumped at her on the street and she fell and ripped her clothes and had to ride home humiliated and angry. She had me at still racing. At still riding.

She had me at the beginning.

 

I suppose it makes me cry because this is what I’ve always wanted for my kids. I suppose what I’ve always wanted really, at the end, is that when life offers a chance to do some cool and difficult shit, that they give it a shot and see what happens and bloody their knees because it’s better than accepting what the world tells you you are.

I’ve always been so afraid to do “physical” things. There were athletic kids and then there was me. I’ve always believed myself to be “the intellectual but not athletic one.” The funny thing is, we said the same about her. She was kind of the two-left-feet kid, you know?

But her dad didn’t believe it, I guess, and neither did her uncle who gave her the bike, and neither do her teammates or coach, or little siblings who watch her ride, and the finish line? That fucking finish line didn’t believe it either, I guess, because it just sat there while she crossed it.

But mostly, it was her.

It was Ava who didn’t care. It was Ava who decided to define herself.
I wish I could tell her what her muddied, bloodied knees mean to me, how fucking gorgeous they are to my eyes, eyes that perhaps never believed that would be her life, or mine, or that such things were even open to us. To try even though you have no evidence you can do it. To try even though you’ve got no history of it, no vague inclination, nothing at all rooting you on except a person you care about who’s right there next to you.

To try, and keep riding, even when the glory is simply a “finish.”

Even when the glory is simply getting to the end. 

I held her as a newborn. I held her until she crawled, walked, and I now, I guess, rides. Right beyond the horizon of my dreams, to a place she’ll find.

I’m happy to hang behind. It’s never been mine to own, and the gift is getting left in the dust.

Hey world. I’m pregnant, not broken.

by renegademama

Hey world. Check it out. I am not sick, disabled, handicapped or broken.

I am pregnant.

I am not frail, fragile, needy or excessively dependent.

I am pregnant.

I am not incapable, incapacitated or inept.

I AM FUCKING PREGNANT.

 

I’m not a rare flower. I am not delicate.  I am not a princess. I am barely even special.

I am engaging in an act as old and reliable and strong as humanity itself. We have, in fact, evidence of that.

I am in a condition that’s natural and appropriate for my body, not totally unlike breathing or walking or living or dying or taking a crap.

But you treat me like I’m some sort of poor incapable vessel.

Also, I’ve had it with your rules.

 

No lunch meat – and we mean it – no turkey, salami or ham. Make sure that steak isn’t rare! Cook those eggs thoroughly, nothing runny. No cookie dough kids! Nothing unpasteurized. Watch out for fish. Nothing raw. No stinky cheese, that includes Brie, feta, Camembert or anything with blue in it! Listeria! E-coli!

No coffee.

No wine.

Not a drop! Better safe than sorry.

Okay, maybe you can have one cup of coffee, but not two. Two is crossing the line.

 

Why must we be so fucking crazy?

You know what? I’m not gonna die if I have 2 or 3 cups of coffee one day when I’m having a rough one. And neither is my baby.

I’m not even going to die if I have a glass of (gasp!) wine.

Okay, I may actually die if I have a glass of wine but I’m a recovering alcoholic, I don’t count.

Maybe rather than lay down some insane irrational nutjob bullshit law like “Thou shalt not eat a bite of lunch meat for 10 months” we just, say, don’t eat it every single day, or we don’t eat if it’s from a questionable source, or we steer away from food left out for a few hours.

Maybe we just, OH I DON’T KNOW, be reasonable.

Think.

Balance things.

I know. Crazy talk.

Oh, and please let’s talk about the don’t lift this, don’t lift that, don’t push this or pull that you DELICATE VIOLET you’re gonna get hurt! Damaged! Poor little broken thing!

How about this? Bite me.

Don’t lift over 25 pounds? Really? Oh, ok cool. So I’ll just leave my sleeping toddler in the hot car when we roll into the drive way because I can’t carry her in the house at 37 pounds. Clearly.

That’s a solid plan.

When she throws herself on the ground in a tantrum or just plain old toddler fun-having and there’s a car trying to pass I’ll just look at the driver and be like “Sorry, can’t help you. Can’t pick her up. Against the rules! I’m pregnant. I’m fragile!”
I’ll just leave grocery bags in the car so food rots and not do housework or move unruly laundry baskets. And I’ll quit my job as this or that because we can’t stand too long and we can’t sit too long and we can’t lift heavy stuff and we must avoid jerky movements!

Look, maybe Gwenyth Paltrow can “consciously uncouple” from her life responsibilities or whatever the hell, but those of us on actual earth pretty much must keep on with life.

How about I just not be stupid, maybe not over-exert myself on a regular basis, cut down redwood trees or paint roofs while perched on a ladder?

Has the world lost it’s damn mind?

I’m pregnant, motherfuckers. NOT BROKEN.

Women have been doing this since the beginning of human time. The beginning of human time. This is not exaggeration. This is fact. Obviously.

They have worked in fields, in homes, built things carried things towed things. What happened in the old days? “Sorry, honey, can’t keep the house up. I’m with child.” Churn your own butter, asshole.

Well if that were true they’d never do a damn thing ever because they were pretty much always “with child.”

And I know, we’ve learned a lot, blah blah blah, and better safe than sorry, but at some point we crossed the line of reasonable caution and thoughtful awareness into full-blown panic and hysteria and I tell you it’s pure bullshit.

Pregnant woman are some of the strongest humans on the planet.

Stop telling use we’re weak. That we need books and experts and “professionals” to manage us and keep us safe and govern our uteri and bellies and minds.

Yeah, I know it works REALLY WELL to sell your “expert opinions” and “helpful advice” and rules and guidelines and latest studies so we can be managed and controlled and “taken care of” — sold the latest nonsense must-have baby item. I mean if you can create an entire population of women WHO THINK THEY NEED YOU, my god think of the dollar signs!

And you know what, I appreciate you when I actually need you. If my body or mind can’t hang, messes up, gets sick, or there is some other problem, I’m really, really glad you’re there. Your expertness and science and stuff.

But until further notice, I don’t need you. I’m doing just fine. Me and my uterus and logic (wait, do women have that?) are holding together just fine, as we’ve been doing since forever, dude. Forever.

Stop telling me I can’t, I need, I suck, because you know what? I birthed a 10-pound baby in a horse trough in my living room.

We birth babies, by vagina or knife. And then we get up, nurse them, hold them, carry on.

WE CARRY ON.

Through morning sickness and weakness and fatigue that knocks you to the bone we work, care for, build and carry the fuck on.

With huge bellies and crushed bladders and restless nights and aching hearts thinking of our lives and families and other children. We go.

With pain and discomfort and backs that cry for relief we go. We get up. We move. We live and birth and hold on.

Oh but you tell me I’m weak, I’m vulnerable, I’m broken and unaware and lost.
But never fear! Luckily you are here to tell me how to be pregnant, birth my child, feed, nurture and raise my child. Educate, hold and support my child. Discipline, feed and dress my child. Thank goodness you’re here to help the poor pregnant woman mother!

You’ve tried to break me. But I am not broken.

I am pregnant. (I thought we’ve been over this.)

And in five weeks I will have a baby, the perfect one for me, the one I know, the one who knows me.

I already know how to birth, hold, nurse and nurture that baby. My body is formed perfectly to the folds of his body. My heart pumps circles around her soul. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing, but by God I know better than you do. She is, after all, of me. Of us.

And yet you’ll still be there, chattering on like a mindless fucking monkey, telling me what and how and who and why.

I’ll laugh and turn my eyes to my newborn, who knows it too.

Hey mother, glad you’re here, and you’ve got everything you need.

 

Ya sure don’t look broken to me.

just born

44 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized | April 26, 2014

This week…just in the nick of time…she was saved by salt air and fog.

by renegademama

(First of all, it was last week, but whatevs.)

After a super handy internet helper diagnosed me with chronic depression based on the last blog post I wrote, I figured it was time to make some changes.

I jest. That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.

First of all, EINSTEIN. You can’t diagnose strangers, even if they write things that make you go “Hmmmmmm?” Depression is a real thing, a serious thing, and 1,200 words on the internet are insufficient “evidence” to make such a determination. Or you might, at least, want to meet the person first, and then diagnose them based on blog posts.

Kidding. STOP DOING THAT.

Secondly, please consider just for a moment how goofy it is that you diagnosed a person with chronic depression based on A SINGLE piece of writing. Chronic, one blog post. CHRONIC, one single blog post. Do you see the problem here?

I love the internet.

Also, if I were clinically depressed, I wouldn’t be writing. I’d be in my bed, possibly with some cocaine and a bottle of whiskey. I’m sorry. Was that a little dark? Yeah, well, so is clinical depression and THAT’S how it manifests for me and THAT is why I’m calling this human out rather than “being grateful” for her “concern.”

I think maybe people find it so utterly baffling that a woman wouldn’t be totally and completely fucking INTO MOTHERHOOD at all times that they can only conclude there’s something wrong with her brain. I mean, clearly this shit is adorable and infinitely fulfilling and it’s just irrational and frankly, incomprehensible that sometimes it could turn into a slow soul-sucking death.

Is hyperbole a symptom of clinical depression? I’m sorry. Inappropriate. Let’s move on.

When I was a kid, I grew up about 40 minutes from the ocean in Central California. We went there a lot. It was often cold and foggy (northern and central Californian beaches often are, no matter what they show you on TV). My mom would pack us up and head to the beach on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Often it would be 4 or 5pm. The fog rested on us, turned my hair into ringlets around my face. I loved those curls. I thought they were adorable. I’d wear a sweatshirt and jeans rolled up and my toes would flip the cold sand. It smelled like life. There were these trees that seemed to grow out of the sand with sprawling branches and a thick cover, like the coolest natural fort you’ve ever seen. Maybe cypress trees? We’d play under them while my mom made hot dogs and we listened to the waves and smelled the water and made up stories and got lost.

When I was in high school, I moved further north. After school when I was drowning in nondescript teenaged angst (maybe clinical depression?!) I’d listen to live Dead as I drove the 30 minutes to Bodega Bay. Often, at some point the sun would turn to deep fog, but I always had a sweatshirt in my car. I’d sit on the beach and smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and write profound shit in my journal. Sometimes I’d fall asleep. I was alone. I loved being alone. I got back in my car and nothing had changed but it had all changed.

The ocean still does that for me, though I live 2 hours from it now.

We went Saturday morning to Monterey. My 35th birthday was on Friday. It was a birthday trip. My mom was there, as she’s always been. She rolled up her jeans and held my toddler’s hand.

My closest friends came. They drove 3 hours and paid for a hotel room to be there, with us, to celebrate, with us. It takes my breath away to have friends like that, people who love me like that. And people I love like that.

It rained on Saturday, but we went to Lover’s Point where there are rocks and tide pools and shelter from the wind. Sometimes all we need is some shelter from the goddamn wind.

I always seem to find it, in time.

It was so beautiful I wanted a romantic selfie with my husband, but he licked my face because he’s a fucking moron.

photo 2-3 photo 1-5

photo 1-4 image

It didn’t rain on Sunday. We went to Pacific Grove and found this amazing little restaurant that serves perfect breakfast. PERFECT BREAKFAST is no joke. Shit’s revolutionary. George got a buckwheat pancake and Rocket ordered lox, which I found adorable, until I saw it was $12.50. OOPS. Oh well. Kid’s got class. Or something.

photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

Then we went to Carmel. And it was sunny.

photo 1-2

some people “jog” on the beach for fun. I shall never understand such behavior.

photo 2-2

my mom and georgie.

photo 1-3

 

And then I came home, on the almost last day of March, and fell asleep remembering that my hell month is over and the universe always, eventually, hands us what we need, in salt and fog and sand, or lox, or the kiss of a friend or a licked face. Asshole.

Saved again, in the nick of time.

***

3littlebirds etsy

Also, I wanted to introduce a new sponsor. I’m really excited to have her join us because a.) She’s a mom like us making genuinely adorable things out of her home in southern Oregon and b.) part of the reason she started her business is so she could keep herself from going nuts as a sudden stay-at-home-mom amidst her 4 (!) offspring, a fact that strikes me as amazing.

I mean, when I’m overwhelmed I EAT SCONES. Rhiannon makes adorable baby and children’s products.  

Check out her Etsy shop. She makes teething rings (totally getting one for my baby) and blankets, burp cloths and children’s clothing (all at fair prices). She uses bright, engaging fabrics not traditionally used for “baby” items. In her words: she tries “not to make single-use products so people can enjoy our toys for longer than just the teething stage. Same thing with the clothing  – the dresses can be worn for years just by adding leggings, shorts, long sleeved shirt etc.”

Favorite quote from our interactions:  “My kids are awesome most days…when they’re not I put them to work in the ‘sweat shop’ that is my home-based business.” Need I say more? She’s our people. We love her.

23 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized, weeks of mayhem | March 31, 2014