Random Idea Generator

(Psst, that’s you.)

So, things are slowing down around here on the blog. I need some ideas to help me keep going.

I’m borrowing an idea from a fellow Pittsburgh blogger, Jim, who writes at Just a Lil Blog. He calls it “Bloggy Doodle Dandy.” Also, you should read his post on the honey badger, because it’s hilarious.

Now he was pretty structured about it, and I’m going to be totally honest: I’m going to be less so. Work is… a lot of work right now, which is one reason this blog has slowed down. I am also about to undertake a heavy writing project not related to work, so daily blogging is not going to be my bag.

Here’s my goal: I’d like to put together a list of 30 ideas, just like Jim did. Leave comments below, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

I’m open to anything, just about. If you have things you want to know about me, go ahead and ask. If you want me to write about how pumpkin jumped the shark (a topic I think I may opine on, h/t @_chrislovett), suggest it. I’ve tweaked Jim’s rules a little bit.

• Nothing X-rated.
• I’m not going to research the topic to hand — I’m just going to write off-the-cuff based on my experience with the topic OR what I’ve heard about the topic OR just my opinion on the topic.
• Day 0 will be when I post a list of the topics.
• As I said, I will post at least 3 times a week until I use up all the topics.

Thanks for playing along!

Life Is Random

What topic would you like me to tackle?

image source

On (Not) Writing

I don’t mean to be letting long gaps between posts happen. I have lots on my mind to write about here, I just haven’t had the space in my head or in my schedule to put something coherent together.

Please be patient.

For one thing, I am actually writing… something. I’m not 100 percent sure what it is yet, but I know that it needs to be written. It pretty much is taking up all my head space right now, and I’m working — chipping away, really, given the whole full-time work, full-time mom thing I have going on — on getting it out of my head.

I have a lot of thoughts about these two Fresh Air interviews — one from an American nun, one from an American bishop. My overall thought is that — more than HHS mandates and the like — the outcome of this crticism and how the outcome happens will shape the future of the American Catholic church.

I also have thoughts about helicopter parenting, letting my children sleep over the house of a woman I just met, and sexism, but, again, head space and time aren’t quite letting me complete my sentences.

Finally, I am having a TMI/non-parent-reading-friendly issue regarding my libido (through the roof) and the fact that I don’t want to have any more babies. So that’s fun.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, look what a good-looking family of five we are!

What taking up space in your head lately?

Futility

I’ve had this site, blog, on-line journal — whatever you want to call it — for 5+ years now. It is about three weeks younger than Kate.

And some days lately it feels useless to me. Pointless. Aimless, wandering, and completely worthless.

I don’t really know what I am doing.

I’ll probably soldier on — I haz deep thoughts, and I have to get them out; I am an insecure parent, dresser, wife, and sometimes I need reassurances, or advice, or whatnot; I like the sound of my own voice (let’s face it).

But sometimes when I read stuff that floors me — like this, and if you are a parent or caretaker of any kind GO READ THIS STORY, and be amazed — I have a mini-crisis. Like of the “what the fuck am I doing with a blog” type of crisis.

This story — that story — is not about me, but I just want to talk about it a little more for awhile, about how it slammed the breath out of me, for reasons obvious and not-so-obvious. And, yeah, if you haven’t read it GO GO GO — I retweeted it last night after reading it from a re-tweet, and it’s obviously struck me, hit me where I live, because here I am incoherently blogging about it.

The obvious ways the post hits me: as a mother, as a baby lost mother, as a mother with three — no, four — children, as a mother who has said of her third (live) baby, “He’d have to be bleeding from the eyes for me to be worried” — cavalier much? — as a mother who prays for the safety of her children with almost every breath in spite of my demonstrated cavalier-ness (is that a word?).

The not-so-obvious way that post hits me: as a writer.

I’ve read it through three times now, and gotten chills each time — even though I know the outcome — and I have been that mother, even though I haven’t had that happen to one of my children *knock knock knock on wood*, I have been on the verge of being that mother, and (please excuse me, Dad) sweet Jesus Christ what writing.

I am, down to the soul of my being, a writer. Before I was a woman, before I was a wife, mother, before even probably I was a good friend, I was — I am a writer. I wrote my first poem in fourth grade, and that pretty much set my feet on the path they have been on since I was — how old are you in fourth grade? 8? 10? — yeah, a long time.

And I am having a real crisis directly related to my writing; I have been having this crisis for some time now. (It is also tangentially related to my mothering and working outside the home, but I don’t have the words right now.)

Because I don’t think I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with my writing (or as a mother), and I am not sure how to move forward and get on with doing it.

++

Well, dammit. Here’s stuff I have to start telling Flora now (and Kate soon). Bring tissues.

Progress

You know what kind of blog post I would love to stumble across?

A post about well-behaved children in a restaurant. And I don’t mean 10 and 11 year olds — I mean a post about a mom sitting with her almost 5-year-old and 2.5-year-old, and how very well behaved they were.

I would like this post to be written by a server in said restaurant, or by another patron, one there without children.

The post would extol the behavior of these two girls. It would describe how they sat in the booth, coloring (“What a smart mom, for bringing something for her children to do while they waited for their food,” this poster would write), drinking their lemonades without spilling them (“…and the restaurant did not have plastic kid glasses with lids! Just straws.”). Our observant, uh, observer would note that the children did not run around the restaurant. They did not scream, and when they got a little loud, how the mother leaned in and quietly reprimanded them, asking them to use their “inside voices.” And how well the children responded.

This on-looker would note other remarkable things, such as:

“Even though the wait for food was long, in toddler terms — about a half-hour for vegetable lo-mein and tofu with mixed vegetables — the children did not get out of hand. When the mom, a very striking red head who could not have been more than 32-years-old herself*, noticed her younger daughter getting bored with the coloring book, she pulled out her iPod® Shuffle™. She put one of the ear buds in the child’s ear, and the other in her own (no doubt to make sure the song was suitable listening for a little one).

“Her daughter was instantly fascinated. The older daughter wanted to listen, too, and walked to her mother’s side of the booth without fuss. The mother had her listen for a bit, but the girl was, eventually, more interested in going back to her own seat, and the book she had been ‘reading’ beforehand.

“I believe I overhead the mother tell the younger girl that she was listening to Coldplay’s ‘When I Ruled the World’. How nice to know that parents expose their children to more than toddler tunes or the tinkly sounds of classical music redone for babies.” [Little would this person know that the next song was Rihanna’s “Breaking Dishes”, which caused a little seated booty wriggling.]

And then the observer would exclaim over the fact that the girls ate their dinners with minimum fuss.

“When the food first came to the table, the older daughter balked at what the mom was calling ‘Chinese spaghetti’ (pretty and clever! what a lucky man her husband is). But the mother assured her that she did like it, and put some on her plate, along with rice and some broccoli from the tofu and mixed vegetables. The mom doled out similar amounts to the younger daughter, who also wanted some of that baby corn in the tofu dish. I think the younger daughter actually ate all the baby corn she could find!

“And after sampling some rice, both girls tried their ‘Chinese spaghetti’. The older girl’s eyes lit up. ‘Hey,’ she told her mother, ‘this is good! I love it!’ Both girls proceeded to have two more helpings of the lo-mein, plus rice and vegetables. Being more familiar with kids who won’t eat much more than hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and mac ‘n’ cheese, I was amazed at the adventurous palates of these two cutie pies!”

That’s the kind of thing I would like to see on-line. Instead of people bitching about how their dinner was ruined by rambunctious kids whose parents let them run rampant; instead of servers complaining about clueless and inattentive adults who let their kids get away with the equivalent of (in a busy server’s mind) murder.

But it’s like a-hole protesters or loudmouth, rude celebrities getting media attention. People don’t cover the good news, all the planes that land safely.

Which if you think about it, is encouraging. Maybe the ill-behaved kids are noteworthy but more rare. That way of thinking is probably either hopeful or naive, I know.

This is all a round-about, fanciful way of saying: My children were angels the other night when the three of us went out to dinner. And I hope someone other than me, their ridiculously proud mommy, noticed.

*Hey, it’s a fantasy.

Stutter

So you drop a post at the beginning of vacation because you can’t put one more thing on your to-do list.

And before you know it, you’re dropping them all over the place.

And I, for one, don’t like it. I will try, try, try to post at least five days a week. It’s especially difficult because (and this is almost literally true) I cannot get to my computer at home. Okay, so I can barely get to my computer at home. The clutter has become so daunting, I don’t even like to walk into my office on the way to do laundry in my basement. Which presents a whole ‘nother set of problems, obviously.

I can report this: Someone just asked how my weekend was. And I said, “Very busy, of course. But I got to have a lot of fun with my kids.” And that is the truth. I really enjoyed spending time with my kids — at Janowski’s Farm Days, and an outdoor pool at Seven Springs — and got some stuff done, too. Primarily folding laundry.

I will get around to posting pictures to prove how much fun we had this weekend. Right after I dig that tunnel to my computer.

And after what has occurred in the Blog-o-sphere today, what’s it matter when I manage to post? PittGirl (or at least her archived site) returns (although there is that teaser); and Looky Daddy hangs up his hat. (LD, I’ll miss you. I laughed so hard reading your adventures, I cried. I couldn’t breathe. I embarrassed myself at work. And those are good things.)

And Now for Something Completely Different (II)

Because I don’t feel like talking about my cough, or the girls’ ears, or Bun’s ENT visit, or DearDR’s non-surgical procedure (he’s fine).

Yesterday was the 50th birthday of one of my favorite books ever, The Elements of Style, also known as Strunk & White. If you aspire at all to be a better writer, this is an invaluable little style manual. And very entertainingly written.

Speaking of entertaining, here’s an NPR commentator’s take on Strunk & White (funnier to listen to than to read).

And that’s all I got today, folks. Thanks for stopping by. If you feel like it, tell me what has helped you be a better writer — or a better whatever-your-passion-is, or even a better parent. Was it a book? A person? A web site? Share!

No Excuses

Even though what I am going to write sounds like a bunch of excuses, it’s not meant to be.

I am very frustrated by my infrequency of posting. I like to think I have people who check in here from time to time who are frustrated too. (I could be mildly delusional.)

National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo, to those in the know) is looming. I want to do it; I did it last year; I have no idea if I can do it this year.

I barely get two posts a week up here. A lot has changed since I did NaBloPoMo last year — I went back to work; Monkey started school and a new daycare program; DearDR has started a private practice.

It’s all a matter of making choices. The choice of when to write, for example. The choice of what to write. I will say that lately I have been thinking less about writing about my children (whom I love and who are very entertaining) and more about writing about what I am “going through”. Not necessarily pretty stuff — kind of like this post — but stuff that right now looms larger for me than the adorable things that my kids do.

This was all brought to a bit of a head at the latest Burgh Blogging Mommy dinner. I felt very encouraged to do more as Red Pen Mama, and I know I would like to write for the Burgh Mom site some of the moms are working on.

But the big question for me is: when? The big obstacle is time.

When I get home in the evenings, I’m on my own with the girls. And I don’t have a laptop — I have to go into a separate room to write/post. DearDR works long days, seeing patients in the evenings, and often catching up on paperwork. And I’m okay with that. He does the morning routine (with help from his parents, and me packing Monkey’s lunches), and I do the evening routine. He sees private practice patients Saturday. Usually he is around Saturday evenings, sometimes Sundays (sometimes he’s doing paperwork — that damn paperwork. His gravestone is going to read, “I have paperwork to do.”).

In terms of the house, I do the lion’s share. I wish that weren’t the case; I wish DearDR chipped in more. He does big jobs (like cutting down trees), and he takes out the garbage on trash day. That’s how it breaks down at home.

I sit in front of a computer all day long. Reading, typing, editing, etc. It’s hard for me to want to do that when I get home, too.

Choosing to write and post after the kids go to bed means that something will not get done. Laundry, cleaning the kitchen, putting out clothes for the kids for the next day. Once or twice a week, that’s okay. But to post for a whole month? We’d be out of clean underwear in no time. Or overrun with mice eating the crumbs in my kitchen. I could write at work and post at home, I suppose, but I think that would be frowned upon. Plus, if I did take the time to write at work, it would mean that I was blowing off work, and we’re all busy, with a pretty big deadline on the plate (I’m mixing metaphors a bit, but I really didn’t want to use a version of “loom” again), so that would be an unpopular decision. Even if I were the only one who knew I was making the decision to write instead of, say, read my page proofs.

And, also, I like to sleep about 8 hours a night. I’m not sure how willing I am to sacrifice sleep to blog.

None of this is to conclusively say that I am not posting every day next month. I did it last year; I made it through 13 days in April. And I have lots I want to write about.

I am also not throwing myself a pity party. I am not alone in being a full-time worker and a full-time mommy, with full-time housework and full-time hopes, dreams, and aspirations that sometimes take a hit. (Housework takes a hit occasionally too.) I am pragmatic and not a perfectionist. I don’t aspire to be Super Mommy. (Just a super mommy, you know?)

And now I’ve been introduced to Plurk! How do people do all this and, like, watch TV, too?

I used to think I was an efficient, organized person — I think I was an organized, efficient person. But now I can’t find enough hours in the day. Maybe I used to sleep less, too. My memory’s fuzzy on that point (maybe I drank more). I am reluctant to let that version of myself go. But until I dig her out and get her working for me again, I hesitate to do anything as crazy as saying, “I am definitely doing NaBloPoMo!”

But I can definitely say I may do NaBloPoMo. Let’s see if I can get back up to three times a week for now. We’ll go from there.

Will I Go On?

Over at NaBloPoMo, the website, I have seen several questions in a number of groups about continuing in the spirit of NaBloPoMo — that is, posting every day, continuing communities or groups, etc.

I don’t know about the latter — I have gotten better at reading and commenting, and it is a trend I would like to continue for myself. I know I will not post every day, but I am going to aim for three days a week, probably Monday (recipe plus comments), Friday (photo!), and maybe Wednesday or Sunday (no theme).

I would also like to move off of WordPress, primarily because they do not allow advertising. And I would like to run some ads and see if I can make a little money from the blog thing. It’s not my primary purpose for this activity for me, but it would be a bonus.

I have liked this NaBloPoMo. It has been helpful to me, to my writing, to the rediscovery that writing is important to me. I’ve “met” some neat people I plan to continue to chat with (and I hope they with me) and, well, it’s added some structure to my life. Given me a daily goal besides doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen!

One more day to go. I better find a photo for tomorrow. In the meantime, maybe I’ll start thinking of the book I am going to write for next year’s NaNoWriMo!

And, because, really, I don’t know what else to say, here are a few things that I found that it would be lovely if you checked out:

The lovely and mysterious (to me) Niobe whose posts are succient and poignant and powerful without being full of words (unlike mine);
The almost always funny Chag (when he’s not funny, it’s because he’s being thoughtful);
And my girl from the ‘hood, Burgh Baby’s mom, who always cracks me up, loves the Steelers, and comments on my posts. God Bless ya. And Go Steelers!

But I have made a lot of friends and learned a lot about life with kids and without them, and I have been humbled and uplifted. November has been good for me, good for my soul.

Thanks.

Let’s Get Organized Around Here

This NaBloPoMo is quite inspiring. After looking around at several sites (and bookmarking them and adding them to my blogroll and vowing to become a better commenter), I have made some decisions about what is going to happen here this month.

First of all, themes.

1. On Mondays, I am going to post recipes. I am not a big foodie, or anything like that, but I do cook and I do eat and feed other people. (Wait, I don’t eat other people, I just feed other people. See, people, clarity in writing is vital. I mean: I do eat. I do feed other people.) Many of these recipes are adapted to suit my or my husband’s tastes (DearDR does not do green peppers, in any quantity whatsoever), and some of them are adapted from meat-based recipes to suit my vegetarian household. The first recipe is below.
2. On Wednesdays and Sundays I am going to write about my pregnancies and labor. And, yes, that is going to include my pregnancy and labor with, and loss of, Gabriel. I don’t ever tell people about my labor with him, so that will be a big first.
3. Fridays will be Photo Fridays (no, I am not going to spell it wrong, i.e. Foto or Phriday; I am a professional writer/editor when I do work, and I just cannot do it people. I will break out in a rash). I will pick the best photo(s) I take that week, or incorporate photos into a photo essay.
4. Tuesdays, Thursdays (including Thanksgiving) and Saturdays are free-for-all. Unless, of course, I decide throughout the course of this week to do something differently. It could happen. As many a disclaimer goes: “Things are subject to change without notice.”

Without further ado, here’s today’s recipe, which is simmering in my slow cooker as we speak. Er, as I write, anyway.

Adapted from the Fix It and Forget It Cookbook.

Sante Fe Soup with Melted Cheese
(comments will follow)

Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. soy crumbles (I use Morningstar Farms)
Chili powder to taste
1 can corn, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
Tortilla chips

1. Saute garlic in olive oil. (All my recipes pretty much start this way. Even recipes that I find and try start this way. It’s how recipes start, unless you’re baking.) Add soy crumbles and chili powder to taste. Saute for about five minutes.
2. Combine soy crumbles and the rest of the ingredients (minus the chips) in a slow cooker. Cover; cook on high for 3 hours.
3. Serve with tortilla chips as a side or crumbled on top.

Comments: The original recipe (OR) calls for a pound of beef, browned and drained — if you swing that way, go for it. Also the OR calls for the corn and beans undrained, but I drain and rinse them on principle (too much sodium!). I usually do not use Velveeta, but I have to say I have made this recipe with regular old cheddar cheese (usually organic), and it doesn’t come out with a soupy consistancy. It tastes just fine, but it is very lumpy looking and the cheese separates. For the sake of this recipe, I have put aside my processed food prejudice and I’ve gone with the Velveeta. Do what you like, Mike!

Edited to add: Music and/or videos! They will have their own day, probably Saturday. Yeah, I’m going kick ass with this thing. I hope.

Theme?

I have discovered a couple of women through NaBloPoMo who have started me considering a theme for this month of many, many posts. It is not a happy theme — but then, this is not always a happy weblog, right? Although I set out to be humorous, it seems to me that mostly I’m a little bitchy; occasionally I’m funny; and I mention my faith quite a bit. But I would hate to be lumped in with any particular group: funny moms, or Catholic moms, or whatever.

The two women are Birdies Mama and Niobe. Their blogs have moved me; their stories — which are a version of my story — have affected me. And there are many more women out there like them — like us. And I haven’t found them until now.

But I am hesitant to blog primarily about Gabriel, my stillborn son. One of the reasons — two of the reasons, I should say, are Monkey and Bun. I take such delight in them, such joy. Shouldn’t I write about that?

When I was pregnant with Gabriel and after we lost him, I wrote extensively in my journal. This was more than four years ago now, way before the weblog phenomenon. I also wrote “publicly” about him, as it were; at the time, I was very active in Pittsburgh’s poetry scene. I attended workshops and classes and had readings; I published. I haven’t done very much in that vein since Monkey’s birth. I wrote, read and published a number of poems that were specifically about my experience of Gabriel.

He has also been mentioned here, and of course at this very blog on the anniversary of his death.

But now I want to tell Niobe and Birdie’s Mama about him. And others, too, others that I am just discovering.

And, let’s face it, it’s better than bitching about potty training and/or frustrating times with DearDR. Right?

NaBloPoMo Member

I am trying to get this button over on one of my side margins, but as self-evident as the instructions for doing that are here at WordPress, it still isn’t happening. Maybe someone has a suggestion? Guidance? Thanks.