The New Normal

People, it is hard to write lately. Not for lack of anything to say, mind you. But lack of free hands.

Sasquatch is still in the phase where he prefers to be held or on a human. And because he is my last baby, I find myself reluctant to shunt him to his crib.

Plus, co-sleeping makes the night feedings bearable and he is really an easy baby and I think if I used a cloth insert, he would sleep all night. (I already went a size up for cloth diapers. An insert would make him enormous.)

Shoot. I tandem breastfeed at night and in the morning because Glow Worm falls asleep at the breast (or comes really close) and that is way easier to deal with than his usual shenanigans.

Yes. I breastfeed two babies at the same time (I’d post a pic but even I have my limits) and cosleep with them, too. This helps me to sleep earlier because it’s really hard to get out of bed while wedged in between two sleeping babies. (Albeit, one is 3 years old.)

Seriously. How did this become my life? Welp, the tandem co-sleeping life chose me, I didn’t choose it. (This sounds like a great title to a really bad mom-rap.)

And during the many periods of breastfeeding, instead of writing posts on my phone (the technology exists and is actually pretty easy), I waste time playing Two Dots. (I got Cookie Monster hooked on the game, too. In fact, ALL my kids like it.)

I tell myself it’s because I prefer the tactile feeling of typing on the laptop. (I do so enjoy the clickety clack of a keyboard. Something about it just does it for me. Plus, my thumbs are fast but all ten fingers are even faster.)

Yes, I know I could turn on the keyboard sounds but that just pisses me off. And even though my kids can sleep through the apocalypse (yes, all four of them), I don’t actually want to test that theory by making more noise than necessary while they are sleeping.

Also? STOP POKING HOLES IN MY EXCUSES. It’s annoying.

So I end up wasting all this prime writing and thinking time not doing anything productive (even reading fiction books would be more productive) and my inner critic rears its judgy head and wonders why I haven’t done more writing already.

I am such a jerk.

Truthfully, I am having a hard time adjusting. Not to motherhood for the 4th time. That has been pretty chill and easy. (Sorry. I have easy babies and a super awesome and useful husband.)

Rather, I am having a hard time adjusting in the same way I had a hard time with being pregnant. Nothing was actually hard hard, but my brain still hasn’t figured out that oh yeah, I pushed a turkey out my vagina and perhaps that might have changed my life somewhat so writing will no longer look like it used to and won’t for at least a year so get used to the new normal – it’s not going anywhere until you pump enough milk to leave. (So lazy. Not happening.)

So what if the formatting is not as pretty or easy as it used to be on a laptop? Or whatever small thing is causing resistance?

If I want to write, I will write.

So here I am: writing.

Is it the deep or soul-searching stuff I have on the back burner? Nope. It’s not even the useful and informative crap I have queued up mentally.

But here I am. Writing.

Cheers to the new normal.

My First Summer Vacation in Decades

summer vacationYou guys, you guys! In three weeks, I will be dragging my three ungrateful children to Taiwan for six weeks of mandatory Chinese life immersion! Hapa Papa will not be joining us for awhile so it should be “interesting” to say the least. (However, my mom did somehow bribe my eldest cousin to help me out with things so it shouldn’t be too bad.)

Actually, I don’t think my kids are ungrateful. They’re actually pretty excited because they have a lot of good and fun memories of all the awesome indoor play spaces in Taiwan. I think they also remember some of the foods they like – and since they’re better about eating new things than they have EVER been, I have high hopes that Cookie Monster will not spend 90% of the time eating white rice.

Plus, I’ve been really trying to sell Cookie Monster on the cool camps I’ve signed him up for. Four weeks of local camps with local Taiwanese kids learning magic tricks, going on field trips, and creating stuff with fancy Tinkertoys, etc. should do more for his Chinese than four weeks of being stuck in a school geared to overseas Taiwanese kids learning Chinese characters and studying Chinese culture. (If that’s not guaranteed to make a kid hate Chinese, I really don’t know what is. It makes me hate Chinese.)

I think Gamera is most excited about buses. Glow Worm, of course, has no idea what’s in store for him. Poor chap. He’s going to have a rude awakening when he’s being shoved into school from 8am – 4pm every day. At least he’ll be in the same class as his big sister.

Anyhow, if you know anything at all about me, you’ll know that I NEVER call the trips we go on as a family, “vacation.”

That’s because calling it a vacation implies a fun and relaxing time. And trips with my troop of assholes is the opposite of fun and relaxing. (And yet, still, I still plan them. Clearly, I’m a masochist.)

However.

This year, this glorious summer, will be different.

For the first time, in decades, I will have an actual summer vacation.

All three children will be in school/camp from 8am-5pm every single week day for four weeks. FOUR. GLORIOUS. WEEKS.

This must be how SAHMs feel when ALL their kids go to school during the fall. (Maybe they’re onto something, after all.)

This will also, likely be the LAST time I will have an actual summer vacation for at least 2-3 years (when Baby4 will finally be old enough to attend local Taiwanese preschools during the summer).

I plan to make the most of it.

So, because I’m a planner and also slightly afraid that I will waste this rare opportunity for solitude, I present to you, my illustrious plans for my summer vacation. (WHOOOOOO!)

1) Eat.

I’m not kidding. I plan on eating as much as humanly possible.

One of my friends, Dongua (冬瓜 – I know, I know! Not proper pinyin, but that’s what he goes by!), posts so many reviews and pics of places he eats in Taipei that basically, I’m just going to eat my way through his pic folder. I’m calling it the Dongua Taiwanese Food Challenge. The gauntlet has been thrown and I volunteer as tribute.

Incidentally, Dongua has been mentioned on a Taiwanese blogger site as well as another blog if you want to check them out.

The best part is, several of my friends will also be in Taiwan at the same time (although we will not be living together). But that means I have eating buddies! WHOOO!

2) Shop.

Truthfully, though it may seem that I have already purchased every Chinese book and game known to man, it is not so! And I plan to rectify that! Guavarama will be ordering a few boxes of books for me and they will be delivered to my residence so I don’t even have to do any work!

Mostly, I will shop for popular music and old Chinese kungfu movies (like Once Upon a Time in China) and perhaps some educational DVDs for the kids.

I don’t tend to buy clothes even in the states where I have a snowball’s chance in hell fitting into the clothing. So, I won’t be buying clothes in Taiwan where people are tiny and have no breasts or hips. (Or at least, that seems to be what the clothing stores are telling me.)

I used to be able to buy shoes, but after I had kids, my shoe size went up so now, no shoes in my size in Taiwan.

Don’t worry. I’ll spend a crapton of money just fine. (Please don’t tell Hapa Papa. *waves*)

3) Write.

When I first planned the trip it was before I got pregnant. I had it in my head that I would be putting my ebook together from my previous posts and series during this time and do a lot of writing and submitting to online publishers.

I might still do that.

But mostly, I will be writing for this blog. Either posts for the summer or posts for after the baby arrives.

Truthfully, I don’t really know. Maybe I will write fiction. Who knows??

I just know I will have large blocks of empty space for me to write. I have fantasies of bringing my laptop to a local Taiwanese boba shop and acting like I’m a fancy schmancy writer in a public space. Too bad it will all just be in my head.

4) Plan for Fall 2016 curriculum for the kids.

I’ll be homeschooling Gamera in TK this fall along with Cookie Monster starting Grade 1. Oh, and did I mention I’ll be popping out Baby4 in mid-October?

Yeah. That.

So, I need to plan for things I want the kids to learn and how to do that (by signing up for as many classes as possible, obviously). And then researching children’s science and educational videos in Chinese (aka: stealing YouTube playlists from Guavarama). And then figuring out how to stream them on our Apple TV/Chromecast/Amazon Fire. I think we have them all. I just don’t know how to use ANY of them.

5) Read.

Thanks to the beautiful thing known as technology, I can read a lot of books on my Kindle app without bringing a ton of books with me. And, if I’m feeling the need for REAL books, I can hang out in Eslite for HOURS and read their English books in comfy couches.

SO EXCITING.

6) Nap.

What’s the point of large, unscheduled blocks of time if I can’t nap? Ooooh. Maybe I can even nap while getting a massage!! That’s killing two birds with one stone! WHOOOOOO!

That’s it. For me, personally, anyway. We’ll go to fun places and visit family for the kids, too. But for the hours that I’m free each day, I’m gonna do at least one of these six things. (You’ll note there is a purposeful lack of anything museum-like or culture-related. That’s because I’m a Philistine and don’t care at all.)

Anyhow, I look forward to chronicling all my adventures (after all, I’m suppose to write!!) and tempting you all with pics of yummy food.

See you Wednesday!

Longing For Grace

For those of you who know me in Real Life, you know that I freak the fuck out and go from 0 to 60 in a eye blink. One second, my MIL is asking Gamera if she has a boyfriend (FFS, she is three years old) and the next thing I know, Gamera will be a stripper who needs men for attention and will be a strung-out junkie with a pimp.

Totally within the realm of plausibility, folks. Totally.

It is possible, perhaps, that my reaction was not in keeping with reality. That my MIL’s one off-hand comment will not forever alter the course of Gamera’s life. But that’s the way my brain works, people. I never said it was pretty.

I blame this all on a sermon I heard once (I think, anyway) about how all the choices we make in life can either keep us on the path of righteousness or diverge and take us away from that same path. Minor bad choices are actually slippery slopes. Like how an acute angle in geometry starts off at a minor angle, with the lines minutely apart, but if we go further out in time, at some point, the lines will be infinitely apart. I am plagued by the idea our choices in life are like these two lines, and if we make the wrong choice, no matter how small in degree, at some point further in time, the distance between the Path of Righteousness and the Path of Ruin will be infinite and they will NEVER MEET AGAIN. One misstep and you will NEVER get back to the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Imagine Time = r, Theta = minor misstep, and s = the space between diverging life paths.

Imagine Time = r, Theta = minor misstep, and s = the space between diverging life paths.

After all, the way of the Lord is narrow. And Hard. And difficult. And the way to Hell is broad and easy.

But what a terrifying way to live. What a stifling and constraining and graceless way to live.

I feel like this is my life. Graceless. Constant self-condemnation and judging. And fear. OMG, THE FEAR.

But the truth is, life is not an immutable straight line. There are infinite chances and opportunities. Infinite opportunities for “course correction.” And who is to say that there is only ONE correct way to live? I mean, just given the evidence based on 7 billion lives on this planet, and the 7 billion unique-ish situations these people find themselves in, I know that is not true.

Stated in a positive way, the idea that there is only ONE way to live, that it is the One Path to Rule Them All, is FALSE. A horrible, pernicious lie. (A lie that I hear often in churches, but let’s face it, comes in any and all directions. Just take your pick: organic, liberal, conservative, you name it, it’s got it.)

True love drives out fear. And if I truly believed that God offered perfect love, the kind of love that drives out fear and offers freedom, why do I buy into this pack of lies? (And it is a worthless pack of lies; a twist of the Truth to pervert and poison and obfuscate who God is.)

I long for freedom. I long for grace. I long to live a life as if it were okay to fail and to fail spectacularly.

I long for my kids to experience true freedom.

My heart breaks that even though Cookie Monster is so small and so young, (too small and too young, to be honest), he is already hampered by fear. He is already so afraid to fail. To look foolish. To be rejected.

I see it in the way he doesn’t want to try new things at preschool (mostly physical activities). I see it in the way he hovers on the edge of groups, the desire and yearning to join in on whatever activity the group is doing so painfully etched on his face, but him being too afraid to ask to play with the kids because they may say, “No.” I see it when he refuses to ask me for something he wants and instead makes a negative statement like, “I can’t play Halo” so that he has already rejected himself before I can dash his hopes.

I see it in the way Gamera will lie just to get my approval. And the way she cries and clings to me when she thinks that I disapprove of her.

It breaks my cold, dark heart.

I am devastated.

If only I could live my life the way I live my writing.

When I was in high school, I used to resent having to write first and second and final drafts. I found it the height of stupidity and a fucking waste of my time. I would literally have to “fake” a rough draft so that my final drafts looked sufficiently different and altered from the original. I mean, what was the point of writing a first draft? My first drafts were perfect. I would edit as I wrote so there really was no need to go back and change things. I mean, isn’t that what computers were for?

Then, in my twenties, I decided to write a book and that is where my perfect first drafts became my downfall. I would write a section and then edit. And then edit some more. And then edit some more. Then read my perfect words. Then edit some more. Which is great and all, to have a perfect set of 1,000 words, but 1,000 words does not a book make. Most books have about 65,000 words (a little more than your typical NaNoWriMo at 50,000 words), but either way, I was 64,000 words short.

So, I read about writing (because when writing, nothing is more useful and productive than reading about writing) and all the blogs and books I’ve read since then universally agree: you have to write. Just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, utter shite. Nothing is harder than a blank page. You can’t do anything with it. Just write. Accept as a truism: You will write crap. A lot of crap. It doesn’t matter; that’s what editing is for. But you can’t edit what you don’t have, so you have to write.

That’s the beauty of writing: once you have stuff written down, you can delete it, you can write more stuff that is good/bad/meh, you can move entire paragraphs, you can do whatever you want when editing. Whole worlds are created and obliterated during editing. And then you can edit some more. But at some point, you will have to stop and move on. At some point, your writing will be good enough (or, sadly, as good as it will ever be).

Move on.

Accept that there may never be the perfect sentence. Just a bunch of good enough sentences.

And that, I find, is my perfect analogy for life. (If only I could buy into this theory in practice – and not just believe it only of my writing.)

You are never done until it’s done. (Even then, who is to say that is a permanent state of being – well, I suppose, for the sake of this argument, you are done in this plane of life.) There are few permanent mistakes (the laws of physics not withstanding) from which we cannot recover.

Most of life is a rough draft. We can edit and delete, but ultimately, we move on. We accept grace and forgiveness and try our best and we move on until we Move On.

So this morning, I wish you grace upon grace upon grace. Grace enough for parenting fails, for work fails, for life fails. Grace enough to cover a lifetime of sins, real and imagined.

Sometimes Showing Up Is All You Can Do

Lately I have been having a hard time writing posts. It’s not that I am out of things to say (although that certainly is a minor worry of mine), it is more that I do not feel inspired nor inclined to put in the mental effort of crafting thoughts into a coherent and interesting piece.

A tiny and ever increasing little voice in my head seduces with words like, “Why don’t you take a break? This isn’t work or anything important. Who gets hurt if you don’t post? What’s the big deal? It’s just for fun. Just skip today. Or a few days until you get back in the mood to post.”

I want to listen to this voice.

Currently, another, louder, more insistent voice is holding a slight edge. “Get up,” she urges. “If you give in now, it will be easier to give in the next day and the next. Pretty soon, you’ll blink and it will be months from now – maybe even years! Then it will be even HARDER to continue writing. And you want to write, don’t you? So get your ass up and write something. Anything. Even if it’s crap.”

So here I am. There is a post for today.

Writing on this blog three days a week is part of my goals for the year – one small goal in a series of goals I’ve set for myself. True, nothing bad will happen if I don’t do it. But that’s like most things we want or work towards in life, right? But then again, if I do nothing, nothing I WANT will happen, either.

I used to believe many lies about art and creating art. Shoot, it doesn’t have to be art – it could be anything (like getting in shape, studying, a career). I erroneously thought that art required inspiration and without inspiration, it would be hack work. That anything that was “forced” and didn’t come in a flurry or an immediate “in the zone” effect was worthless because it required effort – and True Art was supposed to be effortless. Furthermore, not only was art supposed to be effortless, it was supposed to come out perfect right out the gate. (While we’re talking about stupid art myths, how about we add the “tortured artist” to the list?)

What a load of tripe. (Mmmm… tripe.)

Most art and anything worth attaining is acquired by hard work. Yes, talent has some say in the matter, but talent can only get a person so far. (A post for another day.) And sometimes, the hardest part is overcoming inertia and just showing up and hacking away until you press pass a block. Maybe the block will last a minute. Maybe it will last years. But unless you show up, putting in the time, pounding out words (in my case), IF and WHEN inspiration strikes, you might not be in the place (talent or expertise-wise) to take advantage.

I highly recommend reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Amazon affiliate link). Here’s a sample:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance…Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

This book wormed its way into my brain and I am glad. It helps add fuel to the voice which urges me on, pushing me past the dreaded blank page. “Want to be a writer? Then write.”

So here is my exhortation for you this Monday: Want to be a writer/programmer/analyst/consultant/parent/musician/runner/etc.? Then write/program/analyze/consult/parent/compose/run.

Somehow, it always comes back to this for me: Fake it til you make it.