Friday, April 26, 2019

Plans vs. Reality

When I was in college, a friend once told me she hated making big plans.  Her reasoning was if she made plans, and then they DIDN'T work out, the expectations she created in her head wouldn't be met, so she would be disappointed and sad.  I thought this was pretty deep coming from a 19-year-old.

I also remember thinking it was kind of depressing.

I love making plans.  In fact, I think I thrive on it.  When we first started dating, I remember my husband saying that dating me was causing him to "plan ahead" more than he ever had in his life.  I remember laughing and making some joke about how I've always been "type A."

But lately, I keep thinking back to the outlook of my college friend... and wondering if she was right.

I recently thought something positive was going to happen to me, and it didn't.  In fact, I was so sure this positive thing was going to happen, that I made other plans BASED on the fact that it would happen.  And worse yet, I shared these plans with other people.  Now not only do I feel like I didn't deliver on a promise that I made, I am (to quote my friend) "disappointed and sad."

And yes, yes.  "Don't count your chickens before they hatch."  I've heard that idiom, I understand that idiom... I just can't seem to APPLY it.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I made all these plans in my head about what type of parent I was going to be be.  And, big surprise, none of these plans involved being so exasperated with your favorite 7-year-old that you end up shouting over something stupid.  Falling short of my expectations of motherhood makes me disappointed and sad.

When I was studying journalism in college, I made all kinds of plans.  Where I wanted to live, what type of writing I wanted to do, the types of organizations I wanted to work for.  None of those plans included my current "stay at home mom" gig.  Sometimes when I think about my current career prospects, and how they don't match up with the plans I made, I am disappointed and sad.

So where does that leave me?  I'm not sure I have the ability to STOP making plans.  I have some "fly by the seat of their pants" friends, and honestly?  They give me anxiety.

Maybe I need to start viewing my plans as more of a road map.  They can give me a sense of direction, but they need to allow for detours.  They can give me an overview of  my journey, but I'll still need to allow for an unexpected pothole or construction zone that might slow me down.

What is it that my GPS says when I make a wrong turn?  Recalculating? Maybe that's it.  I'll keep making plans.  I'll just work on being more open to "recalculation" along the way. 

Want to read more of my work?  Check out my essay "Mrs. Norton's Daughter" in WILL WORK FOR APPLES, the latest in the New York Times best-selling I JUST WANT TO PEE ALONE anthology series.  

Click here to get your copy today!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Grieving for the Future

It's been a beautiful Easter weekend in my neck of the words.  The sun has been shining, the grass is finally looking green, and the temperatures are almost making me forget that never-ending winter we just finished.

It's also been giving me flashbacks to some of my childhood Easter memories, which mostly involve my grandparents.  When we were little, my Grandma Betty would buy us these frilly Easter dresses that were usually made from fabric printed with giant flowers.  (Some years she even got the white hats and gloves.)  She'd take us to church with her or we'd go with our parents. Then we'd end up out at her house later that afternoon for a big meal that always included ham (my favorite) and an egg hunt in her giant backyard.

The egg hunt, while super fun for my sisters and I, always seemed to result in fighting between my Grandparents.  Grandma Betty prided herself on keeping things EVEN between her three girls, and Grandpa inevitably would forget where he hid some of the eggs... which would result in her yelling at him when we didn't have the same number of prizes at the end of the hunt.

(Side note: He'd usually find the missing plastic eggs a few weeks later when he ran over them with his riding lawn mower and shot pink plastic scraps across the yard.  Ha!)

Now, I'm not naive.  I know that even if they were still alive, we wouldn't have been able to recreate the Easter from my childhood.  And I'm so happy I have those memories of my grandparents stored away in my head.  But, if I'm being honest... I've been grieving a little bit recently.

An essay I wrote was published in an anthology last week.  I wish I could share that news with my Grandma Betty.  She'd be, to use her words, "just tickled." And while part of me really wants to believe that she is still able to watch over us and be part of our special moments, it's not the same as being able to talk with her.

I would have loved to give her a copy of the book and listened to her praise my essay.  I would have loved to see the look on her face when she read another contributor's essay about yelling at a nun or the one about kissing a pig.  I am so curious if she would have stumbled over the word "transgender" in one of the other essays, and if we might have had a conversation about it. I think it would have been an awkward conversation, but maybe she would have surprised me.

It struck me that I do quite a bit of this "grieving for the future."  I grieve for the future moments that my grandparents won't be there for.  I grieve for the future moments that my friends who died way too young aren't going to experience.

What do you do with those feelings?  I don't pretend to have all the answers.

But, as far as the anthology and my Grandma?  I'm going to donate a copy to her local library. I'm pretty sure she would have been "tickled" about that too.

Like this?  Then you'll love my essay "Mrs. Norton's Daughter" in WILL WORK FOR APPLES, the latest in the New York Times best-selling I JUST WANT TO PEE ALONE anthology series.  

Click here to get your copy today!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

On Repeat

My 7-year-old daughter is in her bedroom, listening to music. I don't recognize the song, but she's playing it on repeat. I hear her start to sing along... with gusto.  Because it's 2019, and I almost always have a mini-computer (that also makes telephone calls) within arm's reach, I google the words she's singing.  It turns out that she's singing a song from "Tangled: The Series," which is a cartoon on the Disney Channel that she doesn't even watch anymore.

I hear her sing it a couple more times... then she moves on to something else.

And I have a flashback.

It's late 1995/early 1996, and I'm listening to my new Meat Loaf CD.  Is Meat Loaf appropriate for middle-schoolers?  I don't know, but I'm guessing it might have been on my Christmas list. Either way, it's the "Welcome to the Neighborhood" album.

But maybe that's not the best way to describe it.  I'm NOT listening to the album, I'm playing my new favorite song, track #10, over and over and over again - "If This is the Last Kiss (Let's Make It Last All Night)."  Again?  Appropriate for a middle-schooler?

I'm dancing around in my room, singing with the same gusto my daughter would emulate 23 years later, when I hear my Dad shouting from downstairs.


I don't remember exactly what happened next.  I think I just turned it WAY down.

I've repeated this pattern several times in my life.  Find a new song, fall in love with the new song, play it over and over until I can sing all the words (and all the instrumental parts, ha!), and then I move on almost as quickly as I became consumed with it.

I read an article last year that called this behavior "extreme re-listening."  While the word extreme might come off a negative, I guess I don't see the problem.  Listening to music can be an intense, emotional, and personal experience.  And if you've found a song that you can connect with - put it on repeat.

I asked my daughter later that night about the song from "Tangled."  She said that she'd never heard it until earlier that day, but she really liked it.  "I guess I got a little obsessed, Mom," she said.

That's alright kid.  I promise not to shout at you for your "extreme re-listening" habit.  (But, let's not listen to any Meat Loaf lyrics for a few more years.)

Like this?  Then you'll love my essay "Mrs. Norton's Daughter" in WILL WORK FOR APPLES, the latest in the New York Times best-selling I JUST WANT TO PEE ALONE anthology series.  

Click here to get your copy today! 

Monday, April 15, 2019

"Will Work for Apples"

You guys... It's finally here!

I am thrilled to announce that "Will Work for Apples" is now officially on sale!

Teachers rock!

Teachers have an impossibly hard job. We expect them to do everything! Educate our kids, tie their shoes, facilitate their arguments, grade their papers, sharpen their pencils, and more! And when a teacher isn't doing all these things, they're usually taking continuing education classes, coming up with lesson plans, figuring out new technology, answering student and parent emails, and buying supplies for the classroom. All without anyone really noticing.

That's why we wanted to write a book that celebrates the teachers who made an impact on us. This book includes stories from 39 different writers and is a thank you to the teachers who made a difference in our lives and in our children's lives.

Ready to get your copy? Check out the following links!

"Will Work for Apples" on Nook (Barnes and Noble)

Attention Davis County Readers! 

"Will Work for Apples" will also be available for sale at "Making Memories Flowers and Gifts" in Bloomfield, Iowa later this month. 

Thanks so much for your support!  Can't wait for you to read it... and give us an online review!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Joy Bubble

I feel like I've been living inside a "joy bubble" lately.

Spring is here and it seems like the winter weather that slammed the Midwest this year is FINALLY gone.  My son has a new speech therapist/education plan, and things seem to be going well.  My sister just got married a week ago, and it was such a happy occasion that brought together members of my extended family.  (Plus, the anthology that is going to feature my essay is getting closer to publication - which is beyond exciting!)

During my sister's wedding reception, we received word that a family friend had passed away earlier that afternoon.  She was only 48.  I won't claim to have known her well, but I feel like I've known her dad and stepmom my entire life.  Her death was very unexpected, and it poked a big hole in my "joy bubble."

I also recently found out that a good friend's grandpa has been hospitalized, and that another friend's mom was diagnosed with cancer.  Then, through Facebook, I learned (in the same 24 hour period) that a different friend's stepmom died suddenly and that a woman I went to high school with passed away after her own battle with cancer.

It feels like the top of my "joy bubble" has been blown off entirely.

Since I was a little girl, I've been a worrier.  To combat that, I've always tried to rationalize why I don't need to be anxious about certain things:

- Watching "Friday the 13th" for the first time?  Calm down, Nicole... Camp Crystal Lake isn't real.  And you NEVER have to go to sleep-away camp if you don't want to. 

-  Hurricane Andrew/Katrina looks super scary on TV?  Relax, Nicole... we don't live anywhere NEAR an ocean.

The older I get, the harder it is for me to rationalize away the holes in my "joy bubble."

No matter how much kale the internet tells me I should be eating, I'm not convinced there is actually a way to guarantee you'll make it through life "cancer free."  No matter how much I want to pretend otherwise, the fact that I have two little kids who NEED a mom isn't going to prevent me from getting into a bad car accident.

The fact that our family friends were SUPPOSED to be with us last weekend celebrating didn't stop them from instead facing the Earth-shattering emotions that must have accompanied the news of the death of their child.

So where does that leave my bubble?  Do I "patch it" up by attempting to ignore all these negative things? Do I bust out my "childhood rationalization plan" and lie to myself to alleviate my anxiety?  As I'm writing now, the lyrics from Leonard Cohen's "Anthem" pop into my head.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in..."

Maybe our "joy bubbles" are supposed to have cracks. Maybe that's how the light gets in and shines on the parts of your life that make you happy.  Without that light sparkling off those people you love and drawing your eyes back to them in times of sadness... maybe we run the risk of losing our joy entirely.

So I'll keep sitting here in my bubble with the top blown off.  I'll just relax and let life patch it and re-crack it... just like it's doing with everyone else.  But I am going to try to spend more time focusing my attention on where the light is shining.