Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Big Fat F Word: Failure and Writing

I've mulled this topic over quite a bit in the last couple of weeks. I usually think about it in my down time, like in the afternoon when all my brain cells are gone and I eat roasted peanuts and stare out the window. I also think a lot about the plot line for Breaking Bad, but that's neither here nor there.

There's really no good way to say this, and truly, I suspect it's something you're never supposed to say. Or, at least, I don't hear any other writers saying it. Maybe they're smarter than me, or have more dignity, or maybe, just maybe, they are more comfortable pretending they're always a success. Or maybe they really are.

I, however, have never been good at pretending. I tell it all on myself. And now, thanks to my very verbal daughter, I have a partner who likes to over-truthfully announce, "MOMMY TOOTED" in Target. But yesterday, as I shoveled handful after handful of peanuts down my gullet, and watched a bird fly smack into my office window, I wondered why this particular topic should this be any different. I also felt really sorry for the bird, but again, neither here nor there.

So here it is.

Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, I feel like I failed a little bit at the whole book thing.

Now. I'm not going to tell the world how much money I made, or how many books I sold. And overall, it was a great experience.  But I will say this. If everyone who read my blog had purchased a copy of the book, I might not be writing this post.

It's been hard, to compare book sales, and the number of visitors to this blog, and not feel like I missed the boat somewhere. It makes me feel a little deflated. Because what I do here, for free, is obviously worth a lot of people's time. The book and this blog don't match up. I don't know the reason for that. I probably never will.

So why say it? Why air it here? Am I trying to make anyone feel guilty?

No. Never. Ever. But, there are lots of us that love writing. There are lots of us who have widely read blogs, published articles, and if we're lucky and we work hard, a published book. And for most people, that is the end of the rainbow, the ultimate fulfillment of the fairy tale. No one tells you what comes after.

No one tells you that you will have to be your own one man PR team (well that's not totally true, my agent did a great job of telling me that). No one tells you that you'll have to promote, and shmooze, and pat yourself on the back. No one tells you how stressful it will be watching the sales numbers every week. No one tells you that sometimes, you'll feel a little bit like a failure even AFTER you've published a book.

But I want to tell you that even if you feel like a failure, it's more normal than you think.

It doesn't last forever.

And it will be O.K.

So here I am, two years later. It's easier to realize that not everyone who reads my blog is willing to buy my book. It's easier to accept that the fairy tale dream in my head just wasn't my reality. It's easier to accept that even though things didn't measure up to what I thought they would be, it was still one of the best experiences of my life and I'm so grateful.

I have finally realized that the F word, failure, is all in my head. It's the measuring stick that I dreamed up, therefore, it's the measuring stick that I alone can break.

So lately, I've been writing and working on projects for myself. I've been concentrating on what I want to do, rather than what I think will sell or impress. It's all I know to do. It's why I really write in the first place.

And yesterday, as I sat in front of my office window, eating peanuts, feeling sorry for the maimed bird who probably said, "Hey, look! There's my cousin. Hi Bill.........." and then plummeted to the ground after colliding with his own reflection, I felt finally ready to tell this on myself. I felt ready to get rid of the F-word and move on with whatever comes next in my writing life.

Because you know what? Something ALWAYS comes next.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

House Tour and Miley Cyrus

Some of you dear readers keep asking for a house tour. Here it is. But not really.

I went back and pulled together past pictures from various posts and just stuck them all in one place. So it's not a real house tour. It's more like those fake Barbie dolls with too-big eyes. Or those knock off jeans at Target with labels that are clearly not expensive, even though they're trying really hard.

I'm just going to do what everyone else in our country is doing right now. I'm blaming it all on Miley Cyrus.

And while we're on the subject of Miley Cyrus, can we all just agree that the Thicke fellow in all his Footlocker garbed splendor should be thrown under the same judgement bus? She's a sad, attention seeking, seriously misguided young woman. He's a 36 year old married man who should KNOW BETTER.

But what could he do? I think he should have walked off the stage before participating in something that looked like father/daughter grossness. I'm sad that we live in a culture where men get a free pass instead of a swift kick in the buttocks.

All that to say, Jane, if you become a pop star and behave like that, I'll hobble up on stage and chase you around with my cane. And then I'll fall. And you'll come over to help me. And I'll totally knock your knees out from under you with said cane and we'll both be sprawled out together, beneath the house lights.

You'll look at me and say, "I hope you're happy mother, you've ruined my career."

And I'll say, "I am. Here, put on this sweater."

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Freedom. Play Doh.

There are bright orange, gigantic flowers popping up in the backyard. There are also two crepe myrtle trees that I hadn't realized were there until they bloomed magenta and lavender. I love this place. I love how every time I step out the back door, no matter the season, there's another surprise. This yard of ours took years and years of work to create. I hope we don't mess it up too badly.

You might remember that I got new drapes in the dining room, and I made a matching valence in the kitchen. Nothing frilly. Frilly valences give me hives. But I like the continuity. I also like doing dishes with the window open, candles lit, and patio lights on. Seriously. Household chores should not be so meditative.

I framed some new artwork in the dining room, and I'm slowly rearranging things. Decorating takes forever around here.

Jane got promoted into a new daycare class. It has been somewhat of a disaster. She doesn't like the change. She wants her old teachers. She wants her old class mates (they mix them up every year). So in order to cope (and bear in mind I'm guessing since it's been a while since I was two) she's developed a fairly sizable fixation on Play Doh. It's like her version of medication.

The second she gets home, weepy and tired, she asks, "Do Play Doh?"

The second she wakes up she says, "No school. Do Play Doh?"

I completely understand this. I fixate on things to alleviate my stress (although generally it's ice cream, or Harry Potter, or Pinterest). I know this will shake out after a while, but it hurts to watch her be stressed. So, when my parents and sister came into town and offered to take her back to their house for two fun filled days of complete attention and Play Doh focusing, I couldn't say no.

She's having a fabulous time, her own little toddler vacation. I, however, am a little lost. I passed by her empty bedroom last night and let out an audible sob. It's almost as if someone cut off my leg, put it in a car, and took it two hours away. It's not right. The world isn't spinning correctly.

But, she needed this. It's been a long summer, a hard week, and the kid just needed a change in routine and a little less stress, if only for a few days. I get it. I do. Sometimes you just really need some freedom from the grind. Sometimes you just need to spend time with your Play Doh.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bows, Vasectomies, and the Weekend I Gave Up and Skipped Church

I have a lot of problems in this life. Such as:

I have sturdy, German ankles and sometimes people ask, "Are your legs swelling?"

Jane has started calling me Liz.

Mabel bit me on the toe because I came in between her and a goldfish cracker.

For some reason I still feel the need to say "Exsqueeze me?" Like it's 1993.

My camera is going crazy, turning itself off at odd times, refusing to focus. Basically it's giving me the technological equivalent of a middle finger.

I've developed an allergy to fresh peaches, but I eat them anyway, and then I get migraines, and a weird rash, and I sit in a pile of ashes and cry, "WHY ME?"

But you know that quote from Emerson?

"Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."

Well that's not my one of my problems.

I am not consistent. I can't remember where I put my keys. One day I get inspired to paint our dining room navy, the next week I paint it white. I love a tv show for a month, then decide I hate it. Things change day to day, minute to minute.

But thank you, Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's good to know I don't have any hobgoblins hanging out up there in the cobwebs. Clowns? Maybe. A few brown recluses in the part of my brain that should be fully adept at math? Most definitely. But no hobgoblins.

So this weekend. I'm used to my own lack of consistency. But everyone else fell off their wagons too, and the Owen house became a black hole of chaos.

Matt had a vasectomy and Jane decided she couldn't possibly live her life without at least 30 bows in her hair at all times. Our entire world was thrown off its axis by these two things. Even Mabel felt the changes in our universe's rip tide, which is, I suspect, why she bit my toe.

I could tell you several hilarious things about Matt's vasectomy, but I won't. He's too sweet, it was too traumatic (not actually traumatic in the literal sense, but it did affect his man-parts so to HIM it was traumatic), and it's not my story to tell.

But I did spend a good deal of time monitoring medicine, and ice packs, and shuttling food trays up and down the stairs. Which is fine, I was glad to do it. But you throw in a two year old who has discovered the upper levels of her already Alvin-and-the-Chipmunk-like-vocal-chords, AND who has a bow fetish?

Let's just say I needed a drink.

Every fifteen minutes.

I kid.

Anyway. We made it to Sunday morning. I was looking forward to leaving my ice-pack loving husband behind, dropping my child off in class, and spending 50 heavenly minutes sitting in a chair by myself. And that's when this happened.

Jane walked into the bathroom with every part of her scalp swathed in bows, every color, every size.

"I do bows mommy."

I took a deep breath.

"Let's just pick one bow. How about the pink one?"

Jane threw herself prostrate on the ground, which reminded me it's been at least a month since I mopped the floors.


I backtracked, "OK, fine. You can wear all the bows."

But the damage was done.

Her sensitive swollen toddler ego was bruised, and in need of one of Daddy's ice packs.

"I DO ALL THE BOWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

For a moment I considered the fact that her tears were doing a fairly decent job of cleaning the floors, and then I picked her up and put her in my lap.

"Watch Einstein?" she asked pitifully, bows jutting out in all directions like multicolored horns.

(Little Einsteins is a cartoon that strives to be educational about classical music and art, and while I appreciate that, it also makes my left eye twitch.)

We never made it to church. I totally gave up. But in a good way. Jane needed all the bows. She needed to sit in her eye-twitching mother's lap and watch Little Einsteins. Matt needed a human shuttle for his ice packs. Mabel needed goldfish crackers.

It's not too often that I can say I was defeated by bows, a schnauzer, and a vasectomy.

But church will always be there next week.

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Curtains. Less Hustle.

I hung new curtains in the dining room yesterday and thought to myself, "I'm going to slow down on the blog."

I've been waffling back and forth for at least a year on this topic, and it's been stressful. I worry that if I'm not posting often, five days a week, I'll lose readers. But as I was working in the dining room, hanging curtains with the double doors open in the kitchen, rare 70 degree breezes gusting through the house, I should have been relishing the moment.

It's never fall-like in August, and yet, it was. I never find fabric I like, but I'd fallen in love with burnt coral jersey fabric with tiny white ruffles AND I'd bought it with a 40% off coupon. AND I like it better than the expensive Anthropologie curtains I'd been eyeing (but would have had to sell my harvested eggs to buy).

I should have been in thrifty, decorating, weather loving heaven.

Instead I was thinking, "I better hurry up and take some blog pictures while the morning sun is bright."

That's when I realized it's time for things to change.

There's this unconscious hustle in blog world. There's hustle to keep up great posts. There's hustle to keep up great writing content. There's hustle to decorate, bake, garden, dress well, and photograph all of it. There's hustle to track the number of readers per month. There's just a lot of hustle.

I'm choosing to step out of the hustle. I'll still be here. I'll still be blogging, but life comes first. Blogging comes second. I hope you'll stick around. I hope I don't lose readers. But after doing this five days a week, for almost seven years, it's time to make a change. I think this will be positive. I think this will make me a better blogger, and a better writer. I think it will make me a better mother, wife, and friend.

So in the words of Joe Fox, "I'm still here. Talk to me."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dear Jane

Dear Jane,

In the past month of farmer's market trips you have discovered your love of fresh flowers. It's not enough for you to gaze at them appreciatively from afar. You must possess them in your tight, sticky, grasp. You smell them, and pet them, and love on them until their stems break. Actually, you get a little "my precious" about the entire situation.

Even when I explained to you that the flowers needed to drink water because they get thirsty, you hung on the side of the dining table, stared at them in their vase, cried, wailed, gnashed your little teeth and yelled, "But dey're mine. MY BOWERS."

Thereafter you got your own bouquet of flowers on our trips the market. After taking this picture I decided it was the best $3 ever spent on anything. Ever.

Recently you've decided to give me all your boogers, and in addition, you've also decided to help me pick my own. My therapist has often told me I have problems establishing boundaries. I'm usually OK with people all up in my business, past the point of acceptable, but this goes beyond even my comfort level.

"No, Jane. I can pick my own boogers," I'll tell you.

"But I hep you mommy," you respond, finger poised for my nostrils, ready to attack bats in the cave.

You are coming into your own, my sweet girl. Your opinions, your moods, your expressions, your ideas... they are authentic and all your own. You've learned to stick up for yourself, you've forced us to watch Lady and the Tramp twenty kabillion times, and you are so sweet to Mabel, despite the fact that she totally despises you (luckily you don't realize it). You are trying so hard to grow up, to be big, and to wear your purple tulle skirt every single day.

We are so proud of you. We love you just the way you are, booger picking and all.



Monday, August 12, 2013

Breaks Are Good. (Way To State The Obvious, Sherlock.)

Whew. Breaks are good. I can't remember the last time I signed off for a week. Matt also enjoyed it, and told me, "It's nice when you don't have your camera poked in my face all the time."

Of course, that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull, so I waited until we had a "big man in a tiny pool" situation and started clicking away.

That'll teach him.

I'm still mulling over my next step in the dining room. I'm thinking black and white family photos? Not very creative, I know, but I want to keep things simple in there.

I made a valance for the kitchen window, cleaned out some drawers, marathoned Breaking Bad like a crazy woman, and visited with my sister. Matt smoked more ribs, I got bit by mosquitoes, the yard got mowed, flowers bloomed, and I watched an inebriated man fall over a trash can and into a parking lot while yelling, "More salsa, Carol! More salsa!" I worked on edits for my latest project, begged friends and family to edit it, and nagged Matt into creating the book cover. I'm pretty excited.

So that's me. How are you? I do so love the emails I've been getting lately. Thank you. All of you. I'm blessed to know so many sweet ladies.

Happy Monday!