Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An open letter to the world from my uterus

Dear World;

Thank you for your multiple inquiries into my current employment status. No, I am currently not taking on any nine month projects at the present time nor do I plan on accepting any roles as an incubator in the near future. I am weighing my options presently and I will get back to you if the opportunity presents itself. I appreciate the inquiries but am just not interested. Please stop inquiring about my status or plans for future projects. I would deeply appreciate it.


The Bloody Munchkin's Uterus

Addendum from the Uterus's owner: I'm serious people. Now that the little munchkin is one, I've had to deal with an onslaught of questions about when I'm going to have the next one. Uhm, how bout 'None of your damned business' is when! Seriously. My uterus is flattered but not interested. Are we all clear?

Monday, August 20, 2012

These Days are Just Packed

This Calvin and Hobbes book pretty much sums up my weekends in a nutshell. I use to think this was such a childlike conceit, the idea of doing so much while doing nothing much really. I just didn't think this was something you could embody as an adult. But now that we have the little munchkin, my stance on this thought has done a 180.

The days, they are REALLY packed. To the gills even. Our days may be an 18 piece matching Louis Vitton set is how stuffed they really are. There's breakfast to fix for the little one and laundry to sort and the munchkin to wrangle and breakfast to grab for the bigger ones and an outing to plan and a diaper bag to pack/check and a munchkin to continue to wrangle and a stroller to wrangle into the car and that zoo is not going to walk itself and and a bottle to mix and elephants to see and otters OMG Otters and then there's a rice and beans to feed the baby and a burrito for my mouth and other errands and strolling and walking and driving and home and laundry and 'Hey, why don't pop over to the pool with the baby?' and splashing and swimming and dinner and bottle and bed and then TV for us. And that was just Saturday.

There are moments of utter and pure bliss in the busy that make the busy worth it. Take the zoo. The Oakland Zoo, bless it, can be a bit of a slog at times. It's built on a hill, with a lot of slopes. If you park your car at the top of the hill, that means, you'll walk down through the zoo but it also means you have to walk up that slope to get back to your car. Thank goodness we finally learned something this trip and parked on the lower level, which means the slog back to the car is downhill.  But my point is there's a lot of walking, which means, the munchkin whose chilling in the stroller entertains herself with an endless string of consonant and vowel sounds with an occasional mouth fart (ppppphhhffffttttthhh) added in for good effect and a couple of well timed EEEEEEEEs just to break up the monotony. But then we'll get to an animal exhibit, and if she can actually see them, it's incredible. She's a fury of sounds one second and then she gets really quiet and watchful. She particularly loved the bears and the giraffes. The camels also seemed to have her rapt attention. I just love to watch her in these moments. She's so studious and serious and then the next second, she's all bubbly smiles. It is pure glee and it's what I live for, maybe even vicariously a little bit. To peek inside those moments of joy from her perspective is a thing of beauty.

Going to the pool is the same way. You get her close to the water and she lights up like a Christmas tree. She splashes and giggles and plays and splashes and kicks and attempts to swim as we walk her up and down the pool. She's the life of that pool when she's there. There's a neighbor kid who loves to play with her and splashes her hands and she splashes back and they both laugh and giggle and it is pure mirth. No matter how tiring the build up is, those moments are what make it, all of it, totally worth it. 

My days are just packed. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Laura Zera's Guest Post: If Sharing is Caring, then Giving is Living

I think I've mentioned how I'm sometimes thankful that certain amazing, generous, incredible people have just up and appeared in my life and thanks to twitter I've somehow been surrounded by a whole lot more of them. Laura Zera is one of those amazing people. She's incredibly funny and personable on twitter, her website has now become a daily addiction for me and I also just recently bought Write for the Fight. She is also incredibly dedicated and passionate about this world we live in. Her guest post today is an insightful plea for why we should keep giving, not to just George Mark House, but to our favorite charities and organizations and explains the philanthropic spirit better than I ever could. Thanks again Laura.

(Also, remember, all you have to do to get my blog for a day is be the first to tweet or blog about George Mark House for the week and send me a link! Next week is wide open!)

Laura Zera's Biography

Laura Zera has lived and worked in Cameroon, Canada, Israel, South Africa, and the United States. Her first book, Tro-tros and Potholes chronicles her solo adventures through five countries of West Africa. She's currently working on a memoir about being raised by a schizophrenic mother and is a contributor to Booktrope's 2012 anthology Write for the Fight: A Collection of Seasonal Essays, a fundraiser for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Laura has volunteered for more than 10 organizations in her lifetime, and has donated dollars to many more, so she expects to still be stuffing Ben & Jerry's down her piehold when she's 110.

If Sharing is Caring, then Giving is Living

Don’t let the title of this post fool you; I am going to try to make it through the whole piece without talking like Yoda. Try. Ever since I finished with my Wayne’s World phrase phase, I’ve been floundering…

First off, thank you to Tylia for letting me run amok on her site today. She’s been using her blog as a platform for good and coming up with creative ways to get the word out about George Mark Children’s House in northern California, a non-profit that specializes in pediatric palliative care. 

Originally, I was going to write a mental health piece, as that’s one of the core themes of my current work in progress, Crazy for You, and something I blog about quite often on my own site. But the more I read through Tylia’s blog posts, the more that giving stood out as a unifying theme.

Sometimes, believe it or not, giving can be a bad thing. You’ll not be thought of with any particular fondness if you’re remembered as the giver of hickeys, noogies, wedgies, or STDs. For the most part, though, giving is an act that makes all involved parties feel really, really swell. In fact, Stephen Post’s book Why Good Things Happen to Good People cites a 50-year study showing that people who are giving during their high school years have better physical and mental health throughout their lives. Other studies show that giving when you’re older leads to a longer life.

Giving doesn’t just make you feel good in the moment; it actually has long-term health benefits!
Non-profit organizations are a great way to give, through time or money, because they are vital to our society. They fill gaps in services that have been left by corporations and government, plus, they fill those gaps with a whole lot of heart. In other words, we’d be both sad and royally screwed without them. Agreed, all the TV commercials, direct mail campaigns and phone solicitations for donations can be annoying and overwhelming, but for the most part, non-profits are the real deal, so don’t let your favorite cause or charity get left in the cold because of ‘ask saturation.’

You don’t have to be wealthy to give, or always have to give big. Trust me, even a small amount creates a lot of happiness. I remember when I worked in a non-profit back about seven years ago, and how excited all of the staff got (there were six of us) whenever a donation came in the mail. One of our favorites was from an elderly gentleman without a lot of means who used to send us ten dollars a month. It would totally make our day.

One of the great ‘giving vehicles’ that is often overlooked or forgotten is the bequest—giving or leaving personal property through your will. Wow, talk about leaving a meaningful legacy. And here’s one that will have triple happiness impact: make a surprise donation in honor of a friend to an organization that’s meaningful to them.

If the idea of a financial contribution makes you itchy, then consider donating your time. It still holds all the ‘feel good’ aspects of giving money, AND you have the added benefit of gaining new friends and, quite possibly, new job skills. Finally, if time is also tight, then how about your blood? Don’t let the tax collector and your ex-spouse be the only ones who draw down on it. Note: if you have ever lived in Cameroon, then you will be on a permanent donor ban list, as I’ve found out. If not, then you’re golden!
You know, it’s crazy, but I feel better just from *writing* this blog post. I think giving really does a body good. And now I’m going to go give my stomach some ice cream.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Running and Blogging

This was me yesterday, and tomorrow and from now on!
So I went running yesterday. I'm not thrilled that I ran. I'm not thrilled that I'm going to continue to run. But I don't have to be thrilled I just have to do it. But after last night's first training session I'm not sure how I'm going to continue, thrilled, not thrilled or any other emotion not withstanding.

My running attempt must look a whole heck of a lot like one of my mood swings. First I'm completely even-keeled and then the longer things stress me out, the more emotional I get. I get sad and want to stop, and then I get angry then I get sad again, then I get super angry and then angry and sad that any of this is happening, and then I really have to pee for no good reason, and then I want to double over and scream when the cramps set in.

All of that happened during my run last night. And how long did this mood swing last? 1.6 miles. Or roughly 15 minutes according to my husband. Yes, I'm able to pack in that much of a mood swing in so short a time frame! Why do you ask?

Why would someone who doesn't run and hasn't had much luck with the endeavor like ever suddenly attempt it? That's a very good question! But I think I have a good answer. I finally found a good reason for doing it. A couple of good reasons actually, at least I hope its a good reason. I'm going to attempt to run a 5k, or possibly a couple.

I guess I need to do something more tangible than what I'm doing for George Mark House. Yes, a couple of tweets a week and forcing my twitter friends to tweet about George Mark House for space on my blog is something at least, but it doesn't feel like enough. It never feels like enough. When it comes to keeping the memories of our children alive, their legacies alive, it never does.

I've been thinking a lot about that lately, and about a lot of other things too. If my running attempts read like a weird moodswing, then my blog posts must read like somebody with bi-polar disorder. I go from cheerfully tweeting pop-culture nonsense to having a full on cryfest regarding grieving for my son. I'm thinking I need to create a dedicated blog to all things special needs/my son/grief and coping/highlighting charities like George Mark and the like. I haven't decided how to go about doing it, but I know it needs to get done. But what's the right choice? Should I create a tumblr instead of a blog? How do I go about setting up a new twitter account for this new site, and junk like that? I have questions. I need guidance!

With both running and blogging, I'm finding I'll probably need as much support/advice as I can get. Feel free to give both in the comments. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Weird thing I wrote that I don't know what to do with

I can see the future. I can see a thousand different futures all the time. Actually I can see two futures that can happen thousands of different ways. Those two futures are either how my daughter dies or how my daughter injures herself significantly and I see the myriad of ways it can happen all the time. Now that she’s teetering on the edge of walking, I see these scenarios playing out one over the other with each step she takes, each step I take or her father takes. I get up from the rocking chair holding her and I can see the scenario in which I trip over the leg of the rocking chair ottoman and there I go tumbling head long into the bureau, holding her causing her bodily harm. I’ll put her on the bed and in the blink of an eye she’ll be teetering on the edge and I can see the future where she falls, breaks her head open, is a bloody mess and has to be rushed to the emergency room. I’m terrified of these futures, these events that could seemingly unfold at any second but so far have not unfurled themselves upon us. I know that the difference between our present and future and those futures is infinitesimally small. A few seconds, one different decision and I could be living one of those parallel futures. I hope each decision I make keeps those other futures from happening, but I don’t know if it will or if we’re just living on borrowed time until one of those futures manifests itself. 
Thankfully though, I just found out I'm not alone in this power. It was a a revelation to find another mother who also saw those futures. I watched as she told my baby "Don't chew on that. You could crawl away with it, trip and then it would get jammed up in your mouth, and then...." She let the sentence linger. She saw it too, another future, a different horrible future I could be living in.  This gift, this terrible gift must be bestowed on all parents at some level, and depending on our level of neuroses, our ability to see those futures must be heightened. Based on that logic my capabilities must be bordering on the supernatural.
But what do I do with this supernatural power? Do I find other mothers and let them know that I know? Do I just keep it to myself and hope that I keep making the right decisions? It's not like I don't see these futures for other people. That kid on the street pulling wheelies on his BMX bike without his helmet? I see his future and it never ends well. Should I continue to quell the urge to yell out "Wear a helmet!" or should I tell him? Should I tell him about this horrible future in which he ends up with a hematoma in his brain because he didn't put on a brain bucket? I don't know. 
 I do know that these futures are infinite and I have to decide which future I want for my daughter, for myself, maybe for the world.

This just came out of me and I have no idea what to do with it. It is sort of autobiographical and what I'm feeling right now. But it feels like it's the beginning of a short story or something. Just putting it out there. 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Stephanie Lucianovic's Guest Post!

I hate raisins. I hate raisins with a blinding passion that SF Giants fans like me usually reserve only for the Dodgers. I just can not abide the raisin. Raisins in cookies are a waste of a perfectly good cookie. Chocolate-covered raisins should be added to the Geneva Convention as a crime against humanity. And don’t even get me started about the atrocity that is Raisin Bran. The only thing I hate just slightly more are prunes *shudder* but that’s a discussion for a different day.

Thankfully I’m not alone in my hatred for the Damien of the grape-product family. Stephanie Lucianovic is the writer of the delightful GrubReport. She’s also a writer whom I’ve followed for, well it will show both our ages if I admit how long. She also shares my loathing of the wrinkly little bastards and, as the winner of my first ever #WW Challenge, was kind enough to share her thoughts on my blog. Her new book Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand why we Hate Foods we Hate is on Amazon and hopefully at a book retailer near you! Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. 

Hate in a Time of Raisin

By Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic

Tylia kindly asked if I would write a guest post in support of George Mark Children's House, a place that no parent wants to ever spend too much time thinking about, but one that every parent is grateful exists. Deep down in the marrow of our souls, we are grateful. My following post on raisin hate might be lighthearted, but that doesn't mean I didn't cry hard as I read Tylia's posts about her beautiful son Ukiah and what George Mark Children's House meant for her family during their desperately hard times and what it continues to mean for them and all families. They need and deserve our support.

"[Raisins] are disgusting little bits of wizened chewiness that came into being only because Friar Tuck was too drunk to remember to pick all the grapes in a timely fashion." That's a quote from my book, Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate. I may be a former picky eater turned career food lover, but there are still some things I can't abide, and raisins top the list.

I don't know when and where raisins ran afoul of me because I ate them as a kid and I even sort of liked them, especially when my mom stuck those tiny red snack boxes from Sun-Maid in my lunch. (Mind you, I dreaded getting those snack boxes at Halloween, but somehow they were more welcome in my lunch as an occasional addition.) As a pre-teen I went to a canoe camp in the Minnesota Boundary Waters where a daily handful of raisins was prescribed for our trail lunches. The non-perishable dehydrated grapes were there to keep us "regular," and once again, I had no problem eating them. I'm sure it was because a certain level of starvation set in after a morning of portaging and sweaty palm attempts to steer a big aluminum canoe with weak sauce J-strokes. In those situations, you snarf down any form of sustenance that hits your collapsible metal mess kit cup.

We don't need our food to look like Insects! Yeesh!
Of course I crunched through my fair share of that the popular children's snack, Ants on a Log, which, while not my favorite pairing with my late-afternoon 3-2-1 Contact, [Ed. Note 3-2-1 Contact, that takes me back! Those were the days weren't they?] was fun to make and eat. (I wonder if it will gross anyone out to know that we vastly preferred the cream cheese version over the peanut butter one...which is apparently called "Ants on a Snowy Log." You know what? That's just a touch too much descriptive detail for me. You mention snow on a log and then I start to think about lichen on a log and the creatures that you find inside logs and how the ants on all these logs are sitting on fallen logs, which are dead, decaying, softening, ripening, and I'm out!) Strangely enough, while I've never forgotten about Ants on a Log, until a fellow raisin hater likened their presence in rice pudding to bugs, I never truly thought of raisins as insectile before. Unfortunately, now I can't stop thinking of them as fat black flies crouching in my food. You know the kind of flies I mean, right? They're the ones that buzz louder than an electric razor, and summer heat makes these flies drowsy, so when they bump, sun-drunk, into windows, they make a loud juicy sound. Like someone launched a particularly large and wet spitball against the glass.

That's what I think of raisins in my food, because while I may have enjoyed snacking on them at some point, I have never, ever liked raisins in things. I loathe them in oatmeal, despise them in carrot cake, abhor them in apple pie, and resent the hell out of them in cookies.

But if black/purple raisins are ants or drunk flies, golden raisins are lumps of earwax. Those anemic little turds stage a sneak attack in what appears to be a rare raisin-free oatmeal cookie. The worst of it is you don't realize that your oatmeal cookie has been compromised until you've taken a large, raisin-riddled ecstatic bite and chew into that weird, sudden sweetness. This then leads to spending an inordinate amount of time breaking the oatmeal apart and excising the golden raisins away from the parts of the cookie you want to eat. Golden raisins turn dessert into dissection class.

It looks like you baked a million ants! Gross!
I'll end my treatise of raisin hate with a literary reference. When I first read Langston Hughes' "A Dream Deferred," in my mind it was always a raisin that festered like a sore, ran, and then dried up (all crustifed) in the sun. (Sorry, I have one more thing to add because I just learned about RAISIN PIE THIS IS A REAL THING THAT EXISTS AND IS A PIE MADE ENTIRELY OF RAISINS!)

[Ed. Note: Ew! Raisin Pie! God no! Geneva! Convention! That's a Hate Crime!]

Thanks again Stephanie! That was insightful and gross and now I will never stop thinking of raisins as juicy fly bodies (as if I needed a reason. Heh!).

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The #WW Challenge

It's another Writer Wednesday today. I love #WW days because I get to tout writers/twitter friends I really like and who I think are deserving of a follow. It lets me express my love and respect for some truly unique writers/individuals. I enjoy that wholeheartedly.

But today, I thought I'd do something a little different. Recently I just found out that George Mark Children's Home has a twitter account (@gmch, not to be confused with @GMHC, and AIDS non-profit I also follow, and definitely not to be confused with @GMCLA, the Gay Mens' Chorus of LA who I also follow.) Obviously I think this is awesome and I followed right away. I don't have to tell you guys about George Mark House and the good they are doing and have done not just for my family but other special needs families do I?

We have a real opportunity to get the word out about George Mark House, to spread their twitter account and their message to the masses. So here's my proposal. Every #WW from now to the foreseeable future, the first writer or anyone really who sends out a tweet about George Mark House and forwards it to me gets to run my blog for the day.

Want to tell my (limited) readership about your new book for the day? Great! Want to Hijack my blog to post a billion kitten videos? No problem! Want to get all political or religious? Well, I'd prefer it if you didn't because I try not to do either of those here (although occassionally I do) but if its within reason, I guess I'll allow it. Here's your opportunity to use my blog for free to do whatever you want and say what you want for a day. Just spread the word about @GMCH on twitter or better yet, give George Mark a shout out on your blog and you've got this space all to yourself.

Any questions, concerns, issues? Email me at tyliagardner @ hotmail . com. Now lets do this thing!