Friday, May 6, 2016

Forwarding Address

From here on out you can find me over at doubtersanon.com. Hope to see you there!




Saturday, April 16, 2016

A goodbye and a gift (a free ebook for you!)

After a year or more of on-again off-again blogging, I think my time here has largely come to a close. I am spending the little creative time and energy I have on my long-postponed dreams for Doubters Anonymous (I'll be sure to post a little note about that here when the website is up in early May!).

I'm still so grateful for this humble little space though, and all that it helped to birth in me. Even with my writing so erratic, I still occasionally hear from someone who has stumbled upon my words and found meaning, encouragement, or understanding in them. So I put together a little e-book compilation of my best posts from several years of writing through doubt. In it you'll find some of my first sheepish words on the subject, as well as my very boldest. My hope is that it is a little dose of doubt solidarity for you when you need it most.

You can click here to view or download the pdf. 

And if you could use a more ongoing, personal form of solidarity, we would love to have you join us in the Doubters Anonymous community.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Year of Exploration (One Word 2016)

Last year my word was homing.

It played a much more subtle role in my life than free did the year before, but it was everything I needed it to be. I didn't know when I chose it that I would have such a high needs baby. I couldn't have imagined that at nine months he would still be nowhere near sleeping through the night. But I knew I would need the permission the word gave me, to focus on the home front without regret, to settle in and embrace the baby season as best I could. I'm grateful for the way homing acted as a backdrop in this area of my life, like the perfect paint color: unimposing, almost forgettable, but continuously present, making space. 

I also anticipated a spiritual dimension to the word, and that showed up too, though even more quietly. It was a year of letting go of the old to make space for the new, a process that involved some mourning and loneliness. But we met the challenge bravely, because our family motto is "Take the next right step." Sometimes that is all you can do. 

***

My word this year is explore. 

I don't yet know exactly what it means for me. Or rather, I know that it is asking me not to know ahead of time what it will be, to just go ahead and inch out into it, letting it open and unravel and become as the year goes on. 

I do know that this year my youngest will begin cruising, then walking, then running. So maybe there will be some parallels there. And I know as he grows and learns and slowly weans off my constant presence that I may be freed up to venture out a little more than I was last year. 



I also know this year I want to live less in my mind, always thinking of the future, and and to be more present in my body and life right now as it is. I really do want that very badly, so I'm going to be intentional at getting better at it. 

I want to live with less caution and more impulse, to contemplate less and do more. And I'm getting the feeling this has something to with silence, because though I may come across as quiet to some, there seems to be no end to the inner chatter going on in my mind and sometimes it all builds up into a wall that keeps me from taking any real action in my life.

So I want to go on and create all ready. I know what it is I am meant to make, I just have to find the time and get to it. I'm not sure how far I'll get this year, but the value is in the action more than the product anyway. Though I do of course hope to have something to show for it in the end. 

I also want to get back in touch with my heart, which I may have subconsciously closed off for a while to care for myself and my family. I think if I have a superpower, it is probably empathy. It is a hard one to carry (aren't they all?) and for a while it just seemed like too much, to always go around feeling the pain of the whole world in addition to my own. But I am a good bit healthier now, and I'd like to open myself back up to feeling some of that. I honestly don't feel fully alive and myself without it. 

So really, there is quite a lot to explore. I'd better get on with it. 


***

"[Silence] puts us in touch with reality. It makes us far more aware of ourselves, both of our souls, and our bodies. Silence returns us to the present moment, that moment we are always trying to escape." - Anne Winchell Silver, Keeping Silence

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Simple Pleasures of December

Here's five things saving my life this month:

1) The Highly Sensitive Person- My most recent personality obsession. I've heard about it for years, but just recently checked the book out from the library and woah! Yeah. I'm that. So is my sister and probably both of my kids. So helpful to feel I have permission to take care of myself in the ways I need. Anxiously awaiting my turn with The Highly Sensitive Child at the library.

2) Let Your Life Speak- This is a reread from several years ago, that has been perfect for my current life phase regarding vocation, identity, spirituality. I enjoyed it even more the second time around and it reminded me of an idea I've heard from a few sources to find an author you really like, read a bunch of their works, then read the works than influenced them, and see where it takes you. Perfect for my Explore year. Currently reading Palmer's A Hidden Wholeness, as well as some Merton and Rilke.


3) Advent- Despite my doubts, advent is honestly my favorite part of the Christmas season. I think because it is a time of serious acknowledgement and deep reverence for the dark parts of our lives, without glossing them over. I love that advent makes space for that and I love that it coincides with the darkest day of the year, because I am all about metaphor. And of course I love that it tends to be a much less consumer-driven, low pressure counterpart to the modern Christmas machine, because I am all about simplicity. And I just love a whole lot about the liturgical year, despite myself.

4) Christmas Break Coffee Dates- Not once but twice over the holiday we got to escape for a couple hours to sip and chat and play ridiculous board games and plan the year ahead. Because grandparents. Even now, just thinking about it makes me faint with happiness.

5) Alaska dreams- My lovely sister, who is an amazing gift giver, gifted us an Alaska travel guide. So now when it feels like my husband and I will never be alone together ever ever ever again, I can sit and imagine celebrating our tenth anniversary in cold quiet wild bliss. It helps. #alaska2019

*Linking up for What I'm Into.*

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Simple Pleasures of November

In an attempt to keep my hand in the blogging game, I'm restarting the occasional Simple Pleasures posts. This go around they will just be brief lists of five things that are saving my life that month, because motherhood and high-needs baby and sleep-deprivation. I'll be doing this until I'm not. See reasons above.

1) Yoga with Adriene- Whenever I get 30 minutes to myself, my first thought (after sleep or a shower) is yoga. I've been doing yoga on and off for several years, but after going through her 30 Days of Yoga series this year, I can honestly say for the first time I feel completely empowered to develop my own regular practice, whenever, wherever. Maybe I'll be one of those people doing tree pose in the forest soon. Plus she's quirky, down-to-earth and has a ton of other great quick free videos with titles like "Yoga For When You're in a Bad Mood." What's not to love?

2) Simplicity Parenting- By this I mean the book and the lifestyle, man. We can do less, have less, and helicopter less. I'm all about it. Admittedly, this book probably just puts language to some of the parenting philosophies I already held, but as an enneagram 6, that's actually really helpful.

3) Preschool- Worth every penny. I love it. My kid loves it. Twice a week for a few hours, I can prioritize sleep for my non sleeper and have a little more thinking space in my brain, while my big kid makes friends. He even has a "best girl" like he's the star of some preschool version of Happy Days and last week he learned her name! The intrigue!


4) Dinosaurs- Technically, my three year old is into this (like, really into) but I've been learning a lot, too. As an evangelical kid, mainstream science is kind of something you're taught to be skeptical of, but now that those days are behind me I'm learning I'm actually really fascinated by several fields that I couldn't truly be open to before (i.e. evolution and cosmology). I loooooved this PBS series on early human history and this On Being interview with a cosmologist. Far from threatening my faith, I'm actually more in awe than ever with our universe, and I see that sense of wonder as a very important aspect of my spirituality. And I love that I get to share that with my son as we learn about dinosaurs, especially at a time when I'm not sure what to tell him faith-wise. Now if I can just get him to stop correcting my pronunciations of dino names. Rude. 

5) Surviving a Sleep Thief- Where has this woman been all my life/year? Now when I feel tempted to google sleep straining strategies for the thousandth time, I can just read one of her hilariously honest posts and get on with my life. It also led me down a rabbit hole of high-needs baby mama bloggers and I feel a lot better about my life. 

I just realized that 4/5 of those things have to do with my children, but yeah, that's my current life phase. And yoga!

*Linking up with What I'm Into.*

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Why I'm glad I have a "high-needs" baby

These last several months have been crazy. I'm only just beginning to feel some semblance of room to move about in my own life, not because my baby is any less needy, but because I am learning to allow his needs to occasionally be taken care of by some one other than me. As I write this, he is screaming his little head off in his father's arms, having just woken up from his first hour of night time sleep and needing instant comfort, preferably from me. Eventually he will settle back to sleep and my husband will spend a couple hours rocking him so that I can have some time to myself, something my introverted self desperately, though sheepishly, needs. This time though, it is perhaps the only thing between me and an ever-encroaching sense of post-partum depression. After weeks turning into months of feeling like no more than a body, barely human, and a constant failure, this little bit of space has given me the sanity to make peace with and find good in the persistent temperament my littlest guy was given. I haven't stopped being exhausted, but more each day I am thankful for how this new little person has shaped me, how he has helped me grow into a better person than I was before him. 

He has made me more compassionate. 

When I was a mother of one, I had things pretty much under control. We definitely had our rough days, but overall I would tell you I was a pretty damn good mom. My child listened and was happy most days, and when not, I could usually help him work through it. I realize now that this is mostly the result of his extremely laid back temperament, and I am a good mom because I love and do the best I can for my kids, not because of their behavior. Even though I know this, I still spend more days that not since my second baby was born feeling like a terrible mom. Not only do I have a baby who is often upset, but I also have a preschooler who has gone through a hell of a time adjusting to the the addition of this very opinionated and needy little person in our lives.

Most days now, I have one or two unconsolable children on my hands, sometimes in public. I have no longer "got this" in the way I once did. I am no longer "not a yeller." And I can no longer go out with my children confidently, knowing things will go smoothly because I am clearly doing all the right things parenting-wise, unlike you. But I am still a damn good mom, doing my best along with all the other parents whose children are melting down or lashing out or refusing to listen, sometimes in public. And I would say I'm also a kinder, more understanding human being whose first reaction will be to hug rather than judge you, because this parenting thing just ain't easy, no matter what you do.


He has made me stronger.

I have never felt so close to the end of myself. Just when I feel like I can't go on any longer, I do, because I must. Somehow, each morning, I find new strength. And I always make it through. Before him, I would have told you I wasn't capable of this, that I couldn't handle it like those other moms with these kinds of babies seem to. I'm too needy. Thank God I got an "easy" baby.

But then he came and there was just love and somehow patience and an unending desire to meet his needs, whatever they may be. And in many ways this has made me a walking zombie. I have felt anger and resentment and something close to loneliness but its opposite that I have yet to find a word for. Maybe I have missed my own company.

But in other ways it has made me much more stable. I have learned to find inner reserves of peace even in the most chaotic of moments. I have learned to function on less sleep and quiet and calm than I previously thought possible for me. I have learned to spot even the tiniest little pockets of time throughout the day to take care of myself. I take a deep breath or drink a glass of water or find something to be grateful for. Sometimes I grab a handful of chocolate chips or text a friend, whatever it takes to arrive at the end of the day a little saner. And I can't help but think that these skills will serve me well in life, that if I can practice mindfulness and self-care even in this phase, then I will have developed coping skills I can use for the rest of my life. I have my son to thank for that.

He has made me more humble.

When my first was a baby, I went through a difficult phase where I wanted him to be exclusively breastfed but it just wasn't happening, no matter what I did. Eventually I had to choose whether to keep desperately trying, or to let it go. In the end, I decided that having a happy whole mom who could be joyful present was more important to him than not having any formula.

With baby number two, I have had to make a similar decision, this time between the happy mom and his desire for the comfort of always being with me, including every one of the many, many times he wakes up at night. Again, I have reluctantly but finally chosen the happy mom. This means I have had to accept him crying in the loving arms of his father a couple times a night, knowing that I could come in and quiet him. I have also had to accept the guilt I feel about allowing my husband to give up his evenings in this way. And I have had to accept that I am not capable of always doing everything on my own.

Because I too am needy, just like my baby, and it turns out that I share his "high sensitivity" as well. Whether I like it or not, my mental health is too fragile to play the mama martyr game, and it's not fair to my family anyway, to take that whole happy mother and wife from them, just because I want so desperately to competent and in control. So I must be gentle and understanding with myself, as well as him, and know my own limits, in addition to his. We're both learning to live well on this earth as the tender people we were made. It's hard, but we're taking baby steps together.    

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Women on Writing : Abby Norman

Though I'm taking a break from blogging myself these days, I'm still delighted to be able to offer this space up for women writers to talk about their craft. Next up is my friend Abby Norman, who is a writer, blogger, teacher, mother, and general force to be reckoned with. If you are a parent or educator or human being please please please consider checking out her book, Consent Based Parenting. I can't emphasize enough how important I believe its central message to be. I know you'll love Abby's words here, as well as her fierce and fearless style, as much as I do. And of course, you can check out the first eight wonderful Women on Writing interviews here

***

Do you remember when you first began to identify yourself as a writer? How did that identity form for you?

I think for me writing formed out of necessity. I was in a church that wanted to utilize me and my husband to do drama kind of stuff during the service, but the stuff I could find to preform was SO SO BAD. It was awful. So I started writing my own material. This still didn't make me call myself a writer. I started a blog in 2010, I still didn't think of myself as a writer, rather as someone who was trying to write. In 2013 I picked "unashamed" as my one word resolution. It took me by storm. I started calling myself a writer, asking myself, what would I do if I wasn't ashamed I was a writer? Then I would do it! I gained community, I asked for time to write, I bought myself a laptop, I started submitting my work to other places and asking for spaces at tables I wanted to sit at. It wasn't until I called myself a writer that I started acting like one. I bought into the idea that writers have to have a regular practice, a cabin in the woods, hours by themselves, a book traditionally published. THAT IS NOT REAL! Writers write. As long as you are writing you are a writer. 


Your book, Consent Based Parenting, is based on a popular Tedx Talk that you gave. What inspired you to transfer these ideas into book form? 

TED and TEDx are SUPER serious about their time limits. There is a count down clock that scrolls down the time. Five seconds after your time is up they cut off your mic. I can talk for way longer than 12 minutes about consent and how we are talking about bodies and sexuality wrong and how we can do better. I just had a lot more to say! I wanted there to be a resource that really digs into the HOW of raising a child who understands consent, and how you can start talking about bodily consent at all ages. I went looking for that resource and found it didn't exist so I wrote it. At first I was sort of embarrassed that it was so short (you can read the whole thing in about 45 minutes) but I have heard from multiple parents that they appreciate how susinct the read is. Parents don't tend to have a ton of extra time to read, and frankly I hope they get to read something FUN, so I pack a lot into those short pages. 

What authors or works most inspire your writing? 

I feel like this answer is maybe cliche as someone in her early thirties who identifies as a christian blogger, but Sarah Bessey has been hands down the most influential writer for me. I guess I thought if I wanted to talk about faith I had to be cold and calculating like all those evangelical apologetic workshops I went to as a teenager. But that just isn't how I experience faith, or really anything. Reading her words gave me permission to write the way I feel, the way I understand. It made me feel sane, less alone. I hope to do that for my readers too. 

Between parenting, managing a blog, and a full time teaching job, how do you make time and space in your life for the practice of writing? 

The short answer is my house isn't very clean! That is actually totally true. I was really blessed to be raised by a working mom. One who sang in the choir and taught Sunday school and always had a Girl scout troop or two she was in charge of. Her house was WAY cleaner than mine. That is for sure. While the picking up every evening lessons didn't stick, the ones about making the time for the things that were important to you sure did.  I am currently running this awesome class called Room for Dreaming. My oldest sister is taking it. We read an article about making just 15 minutes for what you want to do, that if you can't find just fifteen minutes you don't really want it. My sister texted me...did mom write that? She didn't but she could have! 

My writing life isn't ideal. I write during lunch, nap time, after bed time. I write while my kids watch PBS. I carry a journal with me at ALL times and jot down any good idea I might have at the playground or in the grocery store. I write in the time it takes for the over to pre-heat. I very rarely am able to sneak off and write for a couple of hours, my husband is getting his PhD and the writing time needs to go to him right now. But there is no perfect way to be a writer. I started getting a lot of writing done when I stopped boo-hooing about the things other people got that I didn't, and started saying, okay, if I am supposed to be a writer than the time will come, I just have to open my eyes to it. Sure enough, it showed up. It totally surprised me, but it showed up. There are days and weeks where I totally resent that I don't have a writing shack and steady time to write, but I don't have it, so instead I take what I can get.


If you could give one piece of advice to budding writers what would it be? 

Just try it on. I think we make the mistake that we have to decide who and why and how we are going to be. I think we think we can't do things because other people are doing them or we aren't sure we will be able to pull it off like they will. Don't buy it yet, just try it on! You think you might like to write hilarious prose like Tina Fey? Try it on! You like how that other writer is telling the story in five parts? See how that fits! You love the beautiful prose of Sarah Bessey or the thoughtful criticisms of Rachel Held Evans? See if you like to write like that. Those people did not invent the genre they are writing in. They too likely tried some things on. Experiment, see what fits, you can stop wearing whatever doesn't fit you. That is the one piece of advice I would give, but if I could give a second it would be: constantly ask yourself, what would I do if I weren't afraid/ashamed/unsure.... then do it even though you still are those things. 

***

Abby thrives on distributing complex ideas to the masses. As a teacher, Abby began her career in one of the most under served areas of the country. There she discovered her voice in the classroom as she explored concepts like race, gender, and social justice through the literature her students were reading. She is sure she learned more than she taught. Her students showed her that most people are interested in engaging and improving the world if they are just given the words to explore it. As the mother of a three and four year old, Abby has found that this concept holds true. 

While she most often speaks to her students, Abby loves to discuss equality and justice in all forms, including spoken word poetry at the coffee house, presentations at the PTSA or local church, and a manuscript on urban education. You can find her blogging on the intersection of faith and everyday life at accidentaldevotional.com and tweeting at @accidentaldevo. A blog her 2014 voice of the year, and nationally recognized speaker, the highest praise Abby has ever received is when a 16 year old boy told her she "made English not suck."