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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writing reboot

I've been writing a lot more lately.

Have you noticed?

And it's not just the blog that's been given an injection of writerly fuel, I started writing another book yesterday. The idea came to me as all my writing ideas seem to come, in a dream.  Not a deep sleep dream, but a half awake one.

Q let out a little cry, which came through the baby monitor and popped me out of my deep sleep bubble.  I had no idea what time it was, and was thoroughly annoyed because:
A: I had been having a good dream
2: Crap, was he still crying?  Did I need to get out of bed?

Turns out he was fine, just a little cry of "I'm turning over on my other side zzzzzzzzzzzzz." I didn't have to get out of bed, and immediately tried to get back into the dream. Isn't that the most frustrating feeling? It's fuzzy, but I can still feel it, come on, let me back in!

Call to prayer started, which meant it was somewhere in the 4am range, which meant I had at least another 2 hours of sleep if I could just catch them.

But instead I laid there for probably an hour in a fuzzy half awake, half asleep state while my dream morphed into a story. And by the time I realized this might be something I should write down, it was too late to salvage any more sleep.

I rolled over, grabbed my laptop and got to work. The first chapter is now sitting patiently on my desktop smiling at me with a half grin.

This is the 4th book I've started in the last 2 years.  To my credit one of those books I also completely finished, which is why I don't feel so pressed about the other 3. It's a weird feeling to describe, but it's like the completion of an 80,000 word novel put me on the other side of the writing fence. It's not something unattainable/toohard/woah anymore. I know that I am a writer, always have been. I'm still working on my voice, my genre, and I think the process will be ongoing for the rest of my life.

I feel totally at peace with that at the moment.

My novel, Amped was like an explosion in my brain. I was obsessed getting that story down, because it just had to be written. I was along for the ride. But the process to get a piece of writing published is long, tedious, overwhelming and a bit soul crushing at times. I tried for a year and have now acknowledged that I not only needed some time away from the process, but probably needed a break before looking at my story with fresh eyes for editing.

So, I put it away, started the first few chapters of the sequel. Put that away, then I got pregnant.  Boom, immediately, new story idea, another first few chapters. The pregnancy overtook my world and writing moved to the back shelf.  All writing.

But over the last few months, I've felt the fire rekindle. The stories have always been there in the back of my mind. My characters still talk to me, at times like impatient toddlers begging for some attention. And I think I'm in a place where I'm ready to listen again.

The best part is, for me, the first chapter is the hardest part to write, so I've got 3 starts already completed, just waiting for me to pick the story up and continue. It feels really exciting, the anticipation is picking up. And I don't feel pressured about the publishing part anymore. Sure I'd love for other people to read my writing, but it's not about the approval of others right now. Right now, it's just about the words, the story, the characters.

It feels good.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Napping Russian Roulette

The single most annoying piece of advice I've ever received about parenting is:

"Nap while the baby is napping!"

Usually delivered in a sing song voice, with a nod and a look on the person's face as if they are delivering a pearl of wisdom so rare and beautiful, you should probably be crying with gratitude.

And I have to bite my tongue not to punch said person in the throat when they give this annoying advice.  In fact, when Q was about a week old I was given this advice on a boat IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FRICKING NILE while Q was asleep in my arms.  And as much as I wanted to take the higher ground, I couldn't stop myself from snarkily replying,

"Oh, so should I just put the baby on the floor and go find a place to nap, since the baby is sleeping and all?"

Seriously people, stop giving this advice!  It's annoying, unhelpful, and puts a huge burden of guilt on a new parent.  Every time the baby is sleeping I should be sleeping?  Do you know how much babies sleep?  Do you realize that I don't possess the ability to switch my brain to sleep mode like a computer?  I can only nap when I'm tired, and unfortunately, that doesn't always coincide with when the baby wants to sleep.

And yeah, I know it's really meant to remind you to just take time to relax and rest while the baby is sleeping so you can be fortified for the challenges when they're awake.  But what no one ever seems to admit is that nap time is like playing Russian Roulette.  You know, that game where you load one bullet in a gun, and then gamble with your life.

Babies don't give printouts of what their future nap will look like.  You could be laying them down for anywhere between 15 minutes and 3 hours.  And if you're anything like me, the only thing worse than not getting a nap at all, is to lie down for a nap, just start to sink into it, before you're woken by a shrieking baby and that beautiful nap is ripped away from you.  Quite frankly that's a way worse scenario in my book. I'd rather be tired, than tired and cranky from stolen nap.

The only time I am willing to sleep when the baby does, is when it's night time and duh, that's what we're all supposed to be doing. Or if someone else is in charge and my nap gets to continue uninterrupted whatever time he wakes up.

Most of the time when Q goes down for a nap, my first thought isn't about sleep anyway, it's "Hey, maybe it's my turn to eat some breakfast/go to the bathroom/take a shower/sit in a comfortable chair/stare at the wall for awhile." It's a careful balance of hurry up and get some things done, mixed with oh please can I get some me time for a few minutes!

Can you tell something is up?  Am I not my normal cheery self?  Did I mention Ryan is away at the moment?  He's back in the States for a WEEK for his friend's wedding.  And I'm sooooo jealous excited for him!  What a wonderful thing to get a whole week with no responsibilities, no middle of the night wakings, no diaper changes, or bottle washing, no smacks in the face, or bite marks from "kisses", not to mention all the wonderful foods we miss so much!  I'm just so insanely jealous happy for you honey!  Don't forget to buy me something purty!  (Insert manic smile here)

In all seriousness though, single parenting sucks.  My mom was a single parent my entire life.  And wow am I feeling guilty at the moment for some of our arguments and battles over the years.  That woman was a saint for putting up with ANYTHING from me, because when you're doing everything yourself it's sooooo hard.  There is no "me time," there are no breaks.  Time is divided into two hemispheres, when you're taking care of the baby and when you're lying down in exhaustion praying for the baby to sleep a little longer.  And that's fine for a day, maybe two, but I'm on day 4 out of 9 and I'm starting to feel it.

I've always been grateful for Ryan, he's a wonderful father.  He does it all, and never makes me feel like the baby is my job, he jumps right into the nasty stuff and we work really well as a team.  But man do I miss him right now.  Not just the wife missing her husband, but the missing of another parent for this child.  I need another parent for this kid. In fact we might need to take out a life insurance policy so that if one of us dies we can buy a replacement parent. (They have those right?) Yes, it's all logic, and no emotion at this point. I know, this is very dramatic, but the baby has been especially demanding/rambunctious/cranky/hitty/biting/ and I'm not handling it very well. (I know, shocking) And I have full time childcare during the day while I'm working!  I'm not even a stay at home mom!

Believe it or not, I once had grand dreams of being a stay at home mom.  In fact, when I realized that it wasn't going to be a possibility for me, I was quite disappointed.  Ha Ha, what silly delusions I had. Now I know that I need to work, I need time away from my baby.  I absolutely love dropping him off at the nursery in the morning, it makes picking him up at the end of the day even better.

And I'm delighted at the idea of having a nanny next year!  I don't even care if people judge me for this. It's who I am, and while I'm not proud of it, I know it's what I need to be a sane parent the rest of the time. I  really don't know how people spend all day taking care of babies and toddlers,  it's absolutely, ridiculously exhausting. And I have so much respect for stay at home moms and dads who do it every day.  Kudos to you guys, you're amazing, and possibly magical.

If you see me this week, don't tell me I look tired.  And for the love of everything that's good and holy, do not tell me to nap when the baby is napping.  I can not be held responsible for my actions.

But seriously, I do love this little guy more than life itself, even if he is wearing me down day by day. I don't know how to cope with how much attention he needs at the moment, he's becoming such a toddler! And I'm definitely savoring how sweet he is when he's sleeping.  I love how he's clutching both the toy and the cracker, even while asleep.  MAH PRECIOUSSSS!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I've moved quite a bit in my life.  And my favorite part has always been the chance for a clean, fresh start.

You get a chance at reinvention, to try and fix things about yourself, your life, your surroundings that you might otherwise overlook if you stayed in the same place.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be the outwardly extroverted person that I am today if we hadn't moved so much while I was in high school.  I'm a true introvert at heart, but when you start three new schools in three new states, in three years, it's either adapt or evaporate into oblivion.

Those moves pushed me to change myself, to talk to strangers, insert myself into already formed groups, and to try new sports, clubs and activities.  And it was the best thing for me.  I'm really not sure how my life could have continued in the course it has, if it hadn't been for those changes.  I'm now an introvert with a secret power.  I can turn on extroverted personality traits when I need them.  It's exhausting and sometimes very difficult, but it's also helped me make friends, and land on my feet in new situations.

What's really interesting is when big change happens in your life right before a move.  Then, not only are you starting fresh, but it's almost like the people in your new life are seeing a brand new you that didn't exist before.  Like your life is a piece of tapestry that has been filled with blue thread up to this point, but now the threads are changing to yellow.  The people in your old life still see blue, the new people only see yellow, and you're left seeing both.  You know that your world is really turning green, even if others only see one of the colors that got you to this point.

It happened to me when I moved to Cairo, because I got married 16 days before we left.  My life in the states was completely different.  I was a single, hard working teacher.  My life was completely my own. In Cairo, all the people I meet and become friends with only know me as the Devin who is part of a couple.  I'm a married woman, part of a whole new category in life. And when we go to Moscow it will be different yet again.  Everyone we meet will only know me as the Devin who is part of a couple, with a child.  I will be a mother, and yet another new category.

And it's really interesting because each of these new threads has added to the color and story of my life. They've made me a richer, fuller, more interesting person.  But they've also segmented my life .

I'm the only person who's really seen each part, each thread, each change.  I'm the only one who knows the whole story.  Even my closest relatives and friends from my childhood have missed the depths of my recent transitions, because each new color has moved me farther from them. I'm the author, editor and audience to my story.  And I kind of like that.

Change is good, it's invigorating and scary and stressful and cathartic. It smooths away your rough edges as you find a way to fit your puzzle piece into different slots. And it's the only way to add color to your life. So even though I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to grow up and live in the same place. To see familiar faces everywhere you go.  To never lose your way, or get stuck with a problem and no one to help. I know that my life's tapestry suits me. No matter how beautiful and perfect that life could have been,  I would have been bored with just blue.

I'm really excited to see the new color Moscow will bring. From what little I've learned so far, I'm betting on red.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Third Culture

Third culture kid.  Ever heard of it?

My sister in law is doing her master's in International Education and she brought it up by recommending Ryan and I read this book about third culture kids.  Especially since Q and his cousin Audrey are experiencing it right now.

It's the label for a kid that grows up in a culture different from that of their parent's culture.

So, Ryan and I both grew up in America.  It's the culture that defines who we are, how we view the world and many of our lifestyle customs.  Q is also American, but for the foreseeable future he's not going to grow up experiencing that culture himself.  He'll get snippets of it when we travel to the States, and from Ryan and I, but for the most part he's going to be an American who doesn't really live in America.

Ryan and I knew going into this "move to Egypt" adventure that it wasn't going to be just a two year affair.  There have been many others who jump into this lifestyle as a quick joyride before returning to the lives they know and understand.  But we're not done yet, in fact we may not be done for quite some time.

Some of our family members have had a hard time adjusting to the fact that we not only signed further contracts, but are now moving to yet another country, even further away.  And I understand their anxiety.  It's not like we moved to Paris or London.  First we moved to Africa, and Egypt went through so many revolutions we had to tell our family to stop watching the news.  And now, just as we're poised to move to Moscow, Russia starts invading other countries.

I get it.

But the real hard part for them is the knowledge that at best, we only get to see each other about once a year.  That's all the face to face time/hug time we get.  And that is really hard, for all of us.  Now that Q is in the picture it's even harder.

And yet, we're continuing to live abroad, which means that Q will be a third culture kid.

I hope with all my heart that this will be something he thanks us for later, instead of something that leaves him feeling displaced.  He'll be multilingual, have traveled the world, have a greater appreciation for other cultures, foods, beliefs, viewpoints than most people his age.  But I also hope that our time in America will foster a respect for freedom, the knowledge that with hard work he can accomplish anything, and of course the love of a hotdog at a baseball game.

Our first culture is amazing, strong and such a part of our identities.  But I didn't really feel like I understood the world until I moved to a different culture.  And one day, Q will be set to choose where he wants to live.  My greatest hope is that our lives abroad have taught him that he can be at home anywhere. We're all people, we all matter, and whatever our culture, we all need a place to call home.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My first Mother's Day

This time last year I was about to explode with baby all over the place.  And you know what, my feelings got a little hurt that no one included me in the whole "Happy Mother's Day" hoopla.  I mean, hello, I'm swollen with freaking life over here!

But this year, it's official.  I'm a momma, and the past 11 months in the trenches of new mommy-hood have taught me a lot.  Including the fact that last year I was not a momma.  Creating life is not the same thing as being a mom.  It's still amazing and miraculous, but it's not the same.  Being a mom is so much more than making a baby.

The sleepless nights, time spent covered in various gross liquids, hours spent breathing in baby skin, rocking little limbs, aching in places you never knew existed as you contort your body so as not to wake the beast baby.  It's something you'll never understand until you've been there in the trenches, day after day, not just the ones that are sparkly and full of contentment.

It's a whole new place in the world, a new outlook, posture, expression on your face, way you look at other mothers and just "know" what they're thinking, feeling, going through.

I was never much for the fraternity/sorority thing, but every since I became a mom it does feel like I've become a part of a new society.  We don't have a secret handshake, but there are more subtle signs you can look for to tell if someone is a member.  Dried spit up on the shoulder of most of their clothing, unkempt hair, the ability to make a toy, pacifier, snack appear from nowhere as if by magic. It's a pretty amazing society, and I feel so blessed to be a member.

For my first Mother's Day, Ryan and Q took me to breakfast and gave me a card they made together. Q needed a little help to get the words down, but those wobbly letters reduced me to tears.

That's what it's all about right there.  Thank you Q for being my baby, for choosing me out of all the other mommas out there.  There are so many couples out there who want nothing more than to have this feeling, this society, this day.  My best friend included, and I can't imagine the heartache and loss of not being a momma if you want to be. I hope so desperately that anyone who wants children gets to experience the gift, because it is the most amazing gift there is. 

 But remember what I said earlier, it's not making a baby that makes you a momma.  It's the trenches.  And no matter what path you take, whether babies come from the stork, with a little (or a lot) of help, from a Petri dish, a donor, a foster system, or by adoption. There are so many ways to be a mom, and this loving society accepts you with open arms.

So to all the other mommas out there, whether you've got six kids lighting your kitchen on fire as we speak, one on the way, or just the dream in your heart.  Happy Mothers Day from this new recruit.  It's been the best experience of my life and I'm so thankful for all I've been blessed with.