Friday, July 31, 2009


I've been toying around with the idea of making a commitment to write here once a day for a month. I have a friend doing that right now, and I know others who have done this. I guess my problem lies in thinking about why I even feel the need to do it.

There is a part of me that resists the idea of forcing myself to write. I am not of the school that good writers sit down each day and write for a certain amount of time, no matter what. Like a job. Of course I'm learning to shake off my Puritan shackles and embrace a more bohemian outlook on life, work, etc. But I guess that this idea that writing each day is like a job that one must trudge through troubles me, and makes me looking upon writing as a chore.

On the other hand, I am not of the school that one should write only when struck with inspiration. If that was the case, I would never have finished the MA, or written half much as I have on this blog.

Perhaps, I lie somewhere in the middle. My writing style drives H nuts. I will sit around and do no writing for days. I talk about what I want to write. I think about it. I make some half-ass attempts to write but I don't save anything that comes out. And then one day, a week or two (sometimes longer) of having the original inspiration to write, I sit down, and in a matter of minutes/hours, have typed out the whole thing. It's a combination of inspiration but also of time spent, I suppose, working to make sure that I have it all laid out in my head. I don't take notes, make outlines, etc. I just mull it over for a long time and eventually I feel like I can put it all into words.

But I also feel like I've been letting other things (Facebook and cheap mysteries) suck up my time. Instead of doing the writing here I get distracted by stupid things. I wonder if forcing myself to write regardless of what I'm feeling would help me to break away from these things. I want to break away from them for various reasons. I want to write even though I'm a little scared of what will come out right now.

I guess I just argued myself into writing everyday for the month of August. Keep in touch...might get interesting here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beasties and School

Tomorrow we have our first PTC meeting since leaving CCS. I'll admit to some apprehension about going back. We didn't leave on good terms, and I am feeling some anxiety about how we will be received. My gut reaction is to of course have second thoughts about schooling. I know it's not doubts about putting them in school, but rather my own reluctance to face things that I'd rather leave buried.

The kids are excited about going back to school. They ask everyday when they go back, and express glee as the days whittle down to that moment. I, on the other hand, am wishing the days would drag their feet a little more. I don't feel like Umberto's prepared enough. I am not looking forward to the early mornings rising, the structured days, etc, etc. But deep down I know that this is the best decision, that when we go for our Ph.Ds that we will not be able to do homeschooling, and that really I am just not prepared or qualified to deal with the problems that Umberto and Camille have in terms of schooling and interactions, etc. So I am ignoring these yearnings to just go back to homeschooling because I know that what I imagine in my mind is not the same as the reality of our day to day lives homeschooling.

Homeschooling was just never what I wanted it to be. I had this imagine in my mind of what we would do, what our lives would be like. There were days when those imaginings were realized but most of the days, if I am utterly honest, were not those idyllic fantasies. There was fighting, tears, impatience, entirely too much spent going stir crazy, longing for adults, any adults. And there was the insanity of trying to do a hundred different things within too short a period of time. Perhaps it would work if I did nothing else, if I devoted myself to homeschooling. But I am not that person. I like my work, like teaching, writing papers, being out in the academy doing my thing. I do not like being home all day surrounded only by the beasties. With school, I get the time to do what I need to do. The kids get the time to be with other people, other kids, and to learn under people who are much more prepared and skilled at teaching this age then I am. And then we get lots of times together where we all enjoy one anothers presence so much more because of the separation.

My doubts now stem from my own hatred of confrontation, of having to face things and people, that might not like me so much. And I know that is better that I just walk in and look this in the eye. To move beyond what happened and try to push through into something new. And when the beasties ask me "When's school?" with hopeful anticipation, I know that we are making the right decision. No decision comes unquestioned, I suppose, and putting the kids back into school deserves to be question. If I hadn't homeschooled, I would never even know that this is something to think about. I would just move into the patterns of what one always does but stepping outside of the system helped me to reframe how I saw something like making the decision for formal schooling.

Just a Reminder...

Lately, the past doesn't want to stay away. It keeps knocking on the front door. There is no creeping going on in these unpleasant visits. Rolling around in the past does not always have to be a bad experience. Like most parents, I relish looking at the kids' baby pictures. I enjoy thinking about how I meet H. But the past lately has been a real roll in something that doesn't smell so nice.

And it wasn't really a retrospective on all my past deeds, relationships, etc. And honestly it wasn't FB. I know that I am not the same person from the past. But sometimes you encounter things in the present that bring up how you were, and make you realize that it is easy to fall back into those old patterns, to dredge something up about yourself that is unpleasant.

I fell into old behaviors so easily, and without even thinking about it until the fall out. And I admit to spending a few weeks feeling so pretty intense self-loathing. I had to face a really ugly part of myself that I had hoped was gone. But it was still there. And when given a chance, it rose up and made itself known.

The self-loathing is fading. Perhaps the facing of that part of my personality--the part that likes to control, that likes having power over people, that is feed on insecurity--was necessary. When you grab hold of those demons, they are a bit easier to banish. It's the demons that you ignore that gnaw away at you.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

She was not good at ending things.

The night before she boarded the bus, she told him she was only going home for Thanksgiving. She did not tell him that she had quit her job, arranged to keep her meager belongings in her friend's basement until she could send for them, or that her ticket was one way. She let him make love to her, let him kiss her, whisper how much he would miss her until she returned. She knew that it was an ending but she could not tell him. She lied to herself a little in those moments where he held her, kissing her, touching her body. She thought that maybe she would return. Maybe, she thought, things would appear different when they were apart. Maybe loneliness would make the pain that she felt with him bearable. Without purpose at home might create purpose when with him. But as she boarded the bus, without him there, waving goodbye to her friend, she knew that she would not return.

The first few weeks were bearable. Those warm moments when you've returned gave her enough high to ignore the pangs she felt when laying alone at night. She visited those friends abandoned by her sudden passion and then move far from home. The days were fine enough but the nights were sleepless with the ghost of his hands on her body, his disembodied voice telling her that he loved her, that she was his great passion. She would lay there in the dark, listening to the wood sounds of rural Maine, reliving those moments with him like a movie clip flashing on the bare walls of her brother's room. She felt crippled when she awoke in the morning. Unable to pull herself from the bed, unable to face another day knowing it was over. She would lay there and play through conversations she would have with him. How easy it would be to call him, ask him to send her the money to come back. She invented the script that her return would invoke.

But the reality was that he did not call her. He did not beg for her to come back. And in the watery daylight of the late Maine fall, she remembered why she had left. Reality found itself hung on the bleak branches outside the kitchen window, on the dirt road that ran by the house. Being alone was better than feeling insecure, unsure, and unwanted. Her pride wasn't much to look at but it was enough to keep her from begging him to bring her back. She had plans now, in the daylight with her coffee on the table. Her ending with him meant new things for her. But really she had never ended things, and that might be what lead to those flashing memories late in the cold night.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Memoirs...To Do or To Don't

Last night, we made one of our many trips to B & N. It's a good place to go when you have kids. We can drink coffee while they play. And plus we're surrounded by books. At some point in the evening, Piper always gets restless so I end up walking around with her. Last night, we cruised first through those cheesy gift books with puppies and kittens. Then we paused at the memoir display. There was one about a girl being slutty when she was young and how she came to find true love finally. I was a bit repulsed.

I'm always a bit repulsed by memoirs. There seems to be something a bit sordid about laying out all the yuckiness of your life. Perhaps it was my horrible experience in a creative nonfiction class. Maybe because it is make a story out of your life when there may not even be a story there. It's not really nonfiction. But my thesis was all about this really, and it changed how I saw these stories to some extent. Don't we all try to make some kind of sense out of our life? There has to be a purpose for all that shit, right? And perhaps what bothers me is that I don't always see the sense in my life events. I don't see the lessons that were supposed to be learned. But when you play with those events, embellish them, make them pretty, flourish them with lovely writing, you give them a sense, a purpose. Does it make easier to file those events away, to distance yourself from the agonizing pain that those events wrecked on your life?

My dilemma comes from having written a lot of memoir snapshots here...and from a sort of guilty plan to write my own memoir. The snippets I've written about my religious past spurred me into thinking I had a good story here. For the last two years, I've been thinking about how to tie all those snapshots into something like a story. A memoir, I suppose. Initially, the exercise was just that: an exercise. A way to see what it was like for my subject to write her story out, to make sense of who she was by recreating her youth. But eventually I started feeling compelled to tell these stories. They started to come from somewhere other than just thesis work.

Now I wonder if I have it in me to write this kind of book. If I do will I have to tag a meaning to that whole experience? What will that do to the story? And isn't slightly hypocritical to write a memoir when I harbor this distaste towards the genre? Can I play with the genre and still have something that people will read? What will come from me tracing my religious history? Will it become a story with a line? A line that connects those disparate parts of my life?

Thursday, July 02, 2009


"Jack's dead." Piper informed me this morning, "He's in the graveyard."

Jack, for clarification, is a black stuffed cat that we bought for Piper at Target a couple of years ago. He's pretty ragged as all loved stuffed animals are. He has a small tear on his forehead with a bit of stuffing come out. One of his eyes is about to fall off. But Piper loves him. She carries him everywhere, to the pool, the playground. Jack has even been to Mexico. But now Jack is dead (although he just had a miraculous recovery).

My kids have not really talked much about death until recently. We (perhaps foolishly) rented them "Marley and Me." We came upstairs as the movie was winding down, and Marley, an old dog, was sick and about to die. I sobbed through the whole death scene, and Camille who was already upset, became even more upset at seeing me cry. She started crying herself, inconsolable for about an hour at which point the trauma over the dying dog, turned into an intense longing for Umberto who was a friend's house. Eventually she wore herself out and fell asleep.

The first thing she told Umberto when he came home, was "I saw a dead body on a movie."

Camille has seemed to move on but Piper who acted totally calm throughout the whole scene ("The dog is dead." she stated matter-of-factedly) has been talking about death nonstop. She asked us if the dog was old (which he was), what happens to the body in the ground, and tells us "He had a good life" (which is what I told Camille when she was crying). Coupled with a book that H got them from the library called "Big Cat Pepper" which is about a cat dying, the kids have suddenly become quite interested in death.

At night, when Piper lies beside me, she asks "Mama are you old?" And I know the question really is "Mama are you going to die?" And I am always unsure of how to answer that question. There is a part of me that wants to reassure her that I'm not going to die anytime soon but then there's that nagging part that whispers "You don't really know that." I'm concerned that Piper has now connected death to old age because death doesn't come to just the old. But is a four year old able to handle that she could loose her mama at anytime? And boy does it make me feel that I need to do things like quit smoking, and go the doctor's more. Because I do hope that it's old age that takes me and not cancer. I don't want to leave my beasties anymore than they want me to go.

Perhaps some of this struggling to talk about death comes from not knowing what I believe about death myself. I know it scares me to comprehend of a time when I no longer exist. But I don't know what I believe happens afterwards. I'm not an atheist but I'm not a believer of anything else. I just don't know and when it comes to talking to my kids about death, I have a hard time trying to give them something concrete when there's nothing concrete for myself. Trying to put into words what I don't have words for is no easy thing.

I thought when I had kids that the worries would be about things like taking care of them, feeding them, making sure they were safe, educated, etc. But I'm learning with each passing year that having kids is also about dealing with the "big" questions. My kids are capable of deeper levels of thinking that border on the philosophical. And maybe they're capable of exploring as I'm exploring. Perhaps I expect too much of myself. It maybe that thinking about death, about what we think, and believe and do about death is an exploration that we can embark on together as opposed to one person trying to shape for the whole.