Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bye Bye Blog

"Is your blog over?" my friend asks me over dinner.

I'm embarrassed immediately as I didn't know he read it, nor that he or anyone cares about its status.

"It think it could be, but I don't know," I answer, surprising myself with the answer. But upon saying it, I feel a wave a relief as the idea takes hold in my mind that I can give myself permission to take a break.

For it seems that this piece of writing, this 100,000+ word piece of work has evolved to a natural pause. I began it to explore the contrast of motherhood - its inexplicable highs and lows, the joy impossible to share without sounding cliche, the anger that made me guilt-ridden to share, and, as my friend Wendy said, the "push and pull'' of motherhood.

And its not that I no longer feel pushed and pulled, but the angst has dissipated and I'm left feeling like I can do this, it won't be perfect, but I can manage imperfection now. More often than not now, I wonder if it isn't the child guiding the parent, not the other way around. And in that case, I realize, I don't have to have it figured out.

It doesn't mean I've stopped writing. Recent events have me writing like a fury, and for the first time in four years, I'm not interested in making my words public as I work through the pain.

Pausing my blog doesn't mean my writing journey is over. But like the two novels I've written, and the secret pregnancy blog I kept for Lucas, when they ended, there came a space. It was uncomfortable at first, but the space always allowed for new buds of inspiration and creation.

I hope it is the seeds of my book that are germinating right now. Writing and publishing my own book will be my dream until it is done and I know that the focus it will take, will also take me from here. I appreciate all the publishing I've been able to do, but I'm no longer obsessing with adding to that list and I'm not sure that marketing and germinating can actually co-exist.

For those of you who follow me and find me here, I am so grateful. My aim in publishing my meandering journey has always been for my words to find resonance with others, to perhaps make a small impact on someone so that they feel less alone or more hopeful or have a new perspective to consider.

This blog will no longer be updated, but I will re-emerge. So, until then, bye bye blogging world.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Grateful for the Challenge of Parenting as appearing in The Baby Dilemma

It's Thanksgiving weekend here and I'm feeling awfully grateful for everything and everyone in my life. I wanted to share this piece of "thanksgiving" which I contributed for a new e-book just released entitled The Baby Dilemma by Ann Meredith.

Grateful for the Challenge of Parenting

I can no longer imagine a life where I'm not a mother to my 4-year-old son Lucas. But there was a time, a long time, when I couldn't imagine making room for children. I put off motherhood for many years focussing instead on my career and marriage. My husband and I waited 12 years to be “ready” to have our first child. But even so, I was blindsided by the shock of becoming a mother. And yet today, I can appreciate this opportunity I've been given to rise to the challenge of parenting.

From the moment my body started taking over during pregnancy, I was stripped of whatever illusions I held of being in control of my life. Having a child has pulled me time and time again out of my comfort zones, forcing me to act without a plan. I remember first weeks with a newborn trying to chart his routine, to schedule feedings and sleep, and eventually laughing at the ridiculousness of it all and allowing his rhythm to emerge. In doing so, I began to listen to my gut, to trust my instincts, to allow life to unfold and trust that I would have what I needed to cope. And I did.

Parenting has taught me what I can bear and I found out that it's much more than I actually expected of myself. I've worked a lot harder and slept a lot less but accomplished more than ever since becoming a mom because I've learned to make every minute count. It's demanded that I step up, that I take on the ultimate responsibility of protecting life, knowing that I face the potential of failure on a daily basis. It's  It's humbled my burgeoning ego and forced me to shift my perspectives to allow for a world much bigger and more important than my own.

And it's connected me to that bigger world too. If I die today, I have left my legacy through my son. When I look into his face, I see myself reflected, for better or worse. I realize that he will carry my genes, my lips, and whatever I have taught him (good or bad), with him throughout his life. Becoming a parent has connected me to other parents, facing their own mountains and demons as they raise their children. It's connected me to my own parents, my husband's parents, my brother - seeing them now as parents too. I appreciate the quote by Elizabeth Stone: “Making the decision to have a child -it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Now I see them everywhere, these parents like me, their hearts outside them.

Once you’re a parent, the way you live your life can never ever be the same. It's being distracted all the time by that pull of your child, conscious or not. It's life where laziness and carelessness are no longer options. You feel held to a higher standard every moment, by society, family, other parents, and mostly, by yourself. In a life where every action and word is mimicked and adopted by your child, you are inspired to be a role model every second. Ambitions for career, money or whatever was important before are replaced by the desire to be a better mother, a better person.

I am a better person because I've been given the gift of Lucas, the privilege of calling myself his mother. I never knew love like this existed, this love that is an invisible cord between us, powerful and ever present. He honours me with his love - so pure, his devotion - so centered on me, and his trust - so complete. And I am humbled to be his parent, wondering sometimes who is really guiding whom.

The Baby Dilemma  by Ann Meredith is available in Kindle format on amazon.com

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Hope You Dance

Lucas and I are sitting on a bench watching two street performers at Granville Island. It's a hot, hot September Saturday and we've ended up here on a whim following Lucas' urge to see the boats. We are watching a funky man and woman sing their version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". He's plunking strings on his base and she's singing, he's got a pink top hat and she's got a black dress with pink polka dots. When the song ends, I hand Lucas a loonie, and he pulls me with him to throw it into their guitar case.

"Thank you, thank you," they sing and then start into their next song, "I Want to Be Like You" from the Jungle Book.

"Wanna dance?" I ask Lucas. He nods and starts swaying side to side with a big grin on his face.

I take one of his hands since my other is holding this giant baguette that Lucas picked from the French bakery when I told him he could have a treat. We're the only one dancing in the space between the crowd and the performers, so we're getting some attention. An elderly couple behind are smiling warmly as Lucas does some deep knee bends that are modelled after the dancing robot he has at home. I spin Lucas under my arm over and over while he giggles.

When the song ends, we clap loudly and are surprised when the base player announces, "And let's hear it for the baquette dancers!" I can't even look up while the small audience claps for us, but Lucas smiles to everyone.

And as we run into the market so we can buy our favourite sausages to bring home for the BBQ, I find myself biting my lip to hold back tears. And on the drive home, as he dozes to sleep in his car seat, I find my mind wondering if he'll remember this afternoon. Maybe not the details of walking on the docks or playing in the Kids Market, but would he remember the "just do it"-ness of our spontaneous hour on the island?

I remember my father's guiding words as I grew up. "You might regret not doing it later." He knew I would regret not swimming because I was self-conscious about how I looked in a bathing suit. He knew I'd regret not dancing even if I didn't have a partner. He knew I'd regret not going for a new job just because I was worried I wouldn't get it. So, I jumped in the pool and I asked the boys to dance and I put myself out there for jobs I wasn't qualified.

And there were times I was laughed at. And times I failed. And many, many times I was so very uncool. 

But then I remember my mother's quiet but ever present support. Taking me to that rollerblading race that was completely out of my league, and being proud that I just finished. Keeping her laughs to herself as I interviewed my stuffed animals for a radio show, dressed up like my favourite rock singer, and choreographed dance routines in the hallways. So, I kept doing my own thing because I was always free to do it.

And later in my teens and early twenties, I found myself tucking that Liesl away, trying to play the part of good student, good girlfriend, good worker. I called it growing up.

And now as mother, I am officially the grown up. But I get to be a kid again when I am with my son. I get to dance in the middle of a square. I get to run along the dock chasing birds. I get to eat too much ice cream. And maybe that sounds irresponsible, but in my eyes, I'm teaching him the same valuable lessons I learned from my parents.

That life is in the doing. It's in the trying, the tasting, the going, the being. It's not in the watching and waiting.

And as I grow older, I find that I have to remind myself of this. As I settle down in familiar patterns and feel cautious against change, I have to remember not to become complacent. As I worry over money or jobs, I have to keep faith in who I am and that I've always been able to land on my feet. As I wonder how I can handle more, I have to just try.

And I have to keep dancing on a whim because the music moves me. 

One day when Lucas is older, we'll be out and an awesome tune will come on, and I will try and pull him up to dance. But this time, he'll shake his head and dart his eyes to the ground. There will probably be a two-syllable, moaning "Mo-om" to describe his embarassment that I would even suggest this, followed by him shrugging his hand away. And I won't force him. But I hope I will still dance anyway. 

To that Lucas, I say: 

"I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance."
- Lee Ann Womack

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mommy First! published on Oh Baby!

One of my earlier pieces just got published on the Oh Baby! Magazine's website and is due out in the print version in the Fall (which we should be able to pick up at Sears).

It's always interesting to revisit earlier stages of parenting and realize how far you've come. At the stage I wrote this piece, I was struggling with a lot of guilt, finding my parenting identity, and starting to get a grip on the futility of trying to be the mom that society seemed to dictate. It feels freeing to know I've made peace with those issues and continue to evolve as a mother.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What is means to me to be part of this new anthology - TORN: True Stories of Kids, Careers & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood

My four-year-old son, Lucas, is putting coins into his cow bank (it's a cow bank, of course, not a piggy bank). He's taking them out and putting them back in again and taking them out (you get the idea). Suddenly, he dumps all of the coins out and slides them across the table towards me.

“Mommy, here is some money and then you don’t have to go to work,” he says, excited about his great idea.

On the mornings when daycare drop-offs are difficult, I have told him that I need to work so I can get money to pay for our food and his toys. He thinks he has found a way around this.

If only it were that simple. 

"Thanks, honey," I tell him. "But this is your money for you to buy stuff."

"Like candy?"

"Sure," I say, successfully diverting the flow of conversation and untying the knot in my throat. It appears whenever guilt surfaces over my choices. The big choices like, choosing to work and choosing daycare, and the smaller moral dilemmas like whether to call in sick when its really my son whose sick, or whether to go to Write Club when I haven't seen him all day. 

So, when I got the email from editor, Samantha Parent Walravens, that gave us the title of the anthology we had contributed to, I felt this huge sense of relief. "TORN" completely describes that knot in my throat that I feel almost every day over some decision I am making. And "True Stories of Kids, Careers & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood" makes me feel like I'm not alone in feeling this way. To be part of the 47 women who share their stories in this exciting collection is such an honour. 
Now that the book has come out, it is generating a buzz that gives  moms permission and a space to talk about their own struggles in trying to "have it all".  As Deborah Netburn's says in her review in the LA Times, "For those of us who live in a constant state of anxiety about how we've compromised our careers for our kids or the other way around, books about the the work/life balance and how other women have dealt with it remain perennially interesting."

As I wrote before, in "Why I Put Aside the Ethical Dilemma of Writing about my Son", I want to part of a movement around ending the pretense and surface-level depictions that motherhood is natural, simple, or sunshine and lollipops. "I have to bear witness to this journey, this challenge, this life-changing experience. I have to share my story and inspire others to share theirs. I have to push back, to stir the pot, the invoke some conflict, and step out WAY out of my comfort zone to do so. Because I can't not. For me, as a writer, it would be a moral dilemma to stay silent."

Being a part of this book, this cross-section of true tales from real mothers, is thrilling to me because it's a way to be part of this new movement and to contribute to redefining what motherhood is. Indeed, TORN has been described as “a heartfelt look at how a generation of mothers is trying to forge its own identity while honoring the legacy of 60s and 70s feminism. Sometimes freedom can be its own trap, and this book illustrates that principle beautifully” by Neal Pollack, a Vanity Fair columnist and author of Alternadad and Stretch. 
As a writer, I take from my life and craft essays to make sense of it all. Then I put my stuff out into the ether and see what happens, in the hopes it will reach those who wish to read it. When I submitted my piece, "Cupcake Crazy", I had no idea it would morph into a chapter within this important work. And as nervous and sheepish as I am whenever I "come out" as a writer in my public life, I am doing what I can to promote the book.

So, I will be hosting (eek) and reading (yikes) at a Book Launch that I'm organizing (that part, no problem) in Vancouver at the Rhizome Cafe on May 26. I am bolstered by the fact that my Write Club mamas are going to read their work alongside me (or perhaps we will be propping each other up) as long as I buy them preparatory beverages. And my hope is that the event just gets moms to take some time out, to talk about what's going on for them, and hopefully, to get some relief from those knots in their throats.

And I will be watching, with the same eager anticipation that my son has about candy and cows, to see how this book takes off.

For additional information on TORN, please visit www.samanthawalravens.com, check it out on amazon.ca or amazon.com

TORN: True Stories of Kids, Careers & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood published by Coffeetown Press, May 2011, ISBN: 978-1-60381-097-5.