The End of Another Year

It’s the last day of 2013.

I haven’t chronicled much of my life in this space this year.  Having started this blog nearly four years ago with the purpose of telling my life story, bit by bit, in short remembered pieces gave it a purpose that at one point kept me blogging one post a day for months at a time.

It took me nearly two years to do it, to write down the memories that shaped who I am.  It was a crazy thing to do, and once it was over, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I wrote about births, deaths, illnesses, boyfriends, lovers, marriage, abuse, rape, adultery.  I wrote about my hopes and dreams, my crushes and my losses.  When I look back and read some of those posts now, it’s like revisiting that time in my life, like visiting an old friend, or an old wound.

I’m glad I did it.  I’m glad I took that journey.  Some day I’ll admit to those I know and love that I have done this, and share it.  Some day.

This year was a big and small year.  A year of big events and small steps.

In January we were still reeling from the shootings at Sandy Hook here.  When I think of that month, it still seemed so dark and raw.  The kids from Sandy Hook came to school in our town; the media were everywhere.  So was kindness and love.  A highlight was that I ran a 10K in Central Park, spending time with my husband’s cousins from Spain.

In February I quietly “celebrated” the twenty years it has been since I lost my mother.  I still am shocked that it has been so long.  Most of my friends still have their mothers, even now, twenty years later, although some friends are starting to go through that loss of losing parents now that we’re older.  I miss her still but somehow this year managed to realize I look back more with love and longing than sadness and loss.

In March my daughter took center stage.  She celebrated her 13th birthday and performed in our local school’s production of Little Women.

In April my son was married.  It was a hugely emotional event, with family and friends from near and far in attendance.  He married a woman who is as deeply religious and traditional as he is.  I wonder sometimes if his tendency towards that conservative family model is because, while he was raised most of his life in a two parent household, he knows and can never forget that he has never met his biological father.  It still is a raw wound of sadness in the back of both of our minds, but his wedding was beautiful and perfect in every way.

In May we were busy with my preparations for the race I was putting together and the kids’ school.

In June my 5K happened, the culmination of 6 months of work.  It went off without a hitch and it raised $11,000 for local charities.  It also marked the beginning of my partnership with one of the Sandy Hook family foundations.  My kids also closed out another school year and we entered into summer mode.

In July my daughter attended theater camp, winning the role of Young Fiona in a local theater company’s production of Shrek. My young son and I did summer school work at home and visited the town pool while she went to her camp.  My husband continued to travel for work.

In August my daughter had her big performance.  The day she was done our entire family joined my husband’s parents and sister for a family trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  It was a hot week at the beach there, and his Spanish speaking family loved it.  I felt a little lost frankly, but consoled myself with the sun and the sand.  After we returned, we visited my son and his wife in the DC area, having a nice time learning more about her family.

In September I ran in Central Park again, meeting up with my father for the weekend in the city.  The next weekend I went to visit my 90+ year old grandparents in Delaware.  My son and his wife came too and shared the news that they were expecting my first grandchild.

In October my husband traveled a great deal, being gone nearly every week.  I campaigned for a spot on our local board of education by eschewing signs and using social media only.

In November I won the BOE seat.  My daughter performed in another school drama production, “Usher”.  I continued my freelance website work that I have done all year in fits and starts.

In December we returned to Florida for our annual trip at Christmas.  We have gone in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2005-2013.  That’s pretty much our tradition now.  My son and his pretty pregnant wife also were there, as were my husband’s parents.  It was a lovely time of relaxing, reflecting and looking forward to what’s ahead.  My husband worked less than he ever has on the trip, which was a lovely surprise.  We all talked about next year there being a baby with us.  We counted our blessings and enjoyed each other’s company.

2014 will be another year of sameness coupled with some big events.  My day to day world will feel the same but much will change.  Each year I get a little more able to really appreciate all that I have and be content rather than worry about what others have that I don’t.  I’m not there yet, but I have made a lot of progress towards it.

I hope that everyone out there has something to celebrate tonight, and something to look forward to next year.  Happy New Year!

Anonymity

It has been three years since I started this blog.  Three years!  I can hardly believe it.  According to my WordPress dashboard, that’s 567 posts about my life, past and current, that I’ve written in this space.

And hardly anyone in my day to day life knows about it.

My anonymous blog.  Why is it that still, after three years, I cringe at the thought of people from my Real Life reading my innermost thoughts, when I put them out there for total strangers to read.  Why is that?  Why do I hide my thoughts?

This situation came to a head this week.  My previous post here, Open Letter to Those Who Would Doubt Sandy Hook, was featured on BlogHer this week.  And I’m not just talking featured in the Interesting Posts down at the bottom.  Here’s where my post is on their site:

That's my post way up there near the top, OMG!

That’s my post way up there near the top, OMG!

The news came to me via an email from one of their editors.  In the email she asked that I go onto my Facebook, my Twitter, all of my social media and shout loud and proud about my content being featured on their site.  Which was superawesome and why wouldn’t I do that, right?

Except.

Except the post on BlogHer links back to my supersecret blog.  The blog I don’t talk about.  The blog that hardly anyone I know in real life talks about.

So I hesitated to share it.  I certainly couldn’t share it on Twitter, which would have been awesome, but where my husband routinely follows my posts and comments on them to me.  On Facebook, I could share it with a custom privacy setup, where I could block certain people from seeing it.  The people I worry the most about seeing my writing here (my husband and my mother in law, although I don’t write about her in anything but glowing terms).  And then what do you know, eighteen friends of mine shared the BlogHer, using my name, which I am pretty sure everyone can see.   What happens if people I know actually read my blog?  What will they think?

MizFitOnline posed this very question in her blog post this morning.  She comes to the conclusion that it’s OK to be transparent and let the real people in your life see the real you in your thoughts posted online.

Me?  I’m still not sure.  But I’m edging ever more closer to actually not sweating it if any of my friends click that link below my post today on BlogHer.  I thought about removing the link, honestly, from the post on BlogHer.  But I don’t want to.  I have several more Newtown related posts on this blog that deserve readership.   That I’d actually like people to read.  Maybe even people I know.

Maybe the fourth year will be the charm.  The year I take My Current Life in the blogosphere and let those who actually live in it in on the secret.

Maybe.

FitBloggin’

I’m going to Baltimore next weekend.  I am going all alone and I am alternately nervous and insanely excited.

I’m going there because I won a spot volunteering at Fitbloggin.  I’ve been trying to explain to my friends what Fitbloggin is, what it will be for me, and why I am going, and I’m not even really sure I know I can really explain it.

I’m not a fitness blogger.  OK, I have a fitness blog now, but I didn’t even really pull the trigger on it until I got the gig working at Fitbloggin’.  Yes, I am interested in exercise now that I’ve been running for the last year, but I’m not a fitness guru.  I don’t go to a gym, I am definitely overweight and I clock between 37 and 40 minutes routinely on a 5K.

I am a web designer, and use the blogging platform WordPress routinely now in the work I do.  So there is definitely an element of the geek in me wanting to see more and learn more about blogging and how people turn their own thoughts and designs into a viable platform for various topics:  weight loss, fitness, parenting, etc.  I don’t ever feel like I’ve found my voice blogging.  I tell stories, sometimes.  I am funny, sometimes.  But what I don’t think I am is consistent.  I’d love to see successful bloggers there and see what they have to say about all of that.

Plus, there is a little of the star struck in me.  I’ve been following Roni Noone since I lost weight successfully in 2007.  I always appreciated how honest she is in her postings; she shows her house before she cleans it (!), she confesses to late night snacking, and owns her insecurities.  I honestly can’t imagine meeting her, someone who seems both at once like a superhero and my best girlfriend (that I’ve never met) all at the same time.

I guess I’m not entirely sure what I’ll get out of the conference or what it will mean to me.  I don’t know a soul going.  I am going for three days of workshops and events without a single other person in the world I know.  I think I’ll meet people and it will be fun, but there is always that side of me that wonders why I am doing this.  I’m not a true fitness blogger, I’ve gained much of the weight I successfully lost, I don’t plan on monetizing my blog or using it as a springboard for a career (although, that would be all kinds of awesome, actually).  But still, I won the spot, and I’m going.  I’m going to spend three days in Baltimore and they’ll all just be about me.  Not me the Mom, or the wife, or the perpetual volunteer.  Just me, and what I want to do with myself and my health.

Which, I guess, explains why I am both excited and terrified all at the same time.

Destination: Content

Well, it’s finally here.  We are packing up our suitcases and traveling today overseas.

I have never been to Europe before, so this is a really big deal for me.  I’m continually amazed at the experiences my children are lucky enough to have at a young age.  No one I knew growing up went to Europe.  My kids know people who travel out of the country all of the time; friends of ours just got back from Italy.

I’m excited and apprehensive.  I don’t speak either language of the two countries we’ll be visiting, and neither do my children.  My husband, however, does, so I know we’ll be fine.  It’s more of the independent streak I have, not wanting to feel like a child and having to ask him what everyone is saying.  Or have him correct me when I do try to speak.  But I’ll need to get over it, because I’m so fortunate to be able to do this.

There are so many times when I question the path I chose in my life, the choices I’ve made, the place I’ve landed.  But then there are other times, days like today, when I marvel at the wonders those choices have brought to me.  My three beautiful kids.  Being able to go to Europe.  Living in an area I never even imagined growing up.  Having the chance to send my kids to college and watch them thrive and flourish without (too much) worry.

I remember thinking when I was growing up in a house where money was too scarce that all I wanted to have as an adult was the ability to be “comfortable”.  To not have to worry about each penny, to be able to know that you’ll be able to pay the mortgage every month.  And here I am.  I’m there.

That’s not to say that things are perfect around here.  My husband and I are, continually, a work in progress.  But as a friend of mine said the other day, “It seems like you used to always have one foot out the door.  But now it seems like you’ve figured out a way to make it work.”  There are many days when it doesn’t exactly feel like that, but I guess it must be true.

So today?  Today I am content.  I am looking forward to a once in a lifetime trip that I could have never imagined for myself even just ten years ago.  I am amazed that my special needs son, who five years ago could barely handle sitting through a Mass can now travel on an airplane and look forward to going a place where everything will be different.  I’m sure it won’t be easy, but I know we’ll get through it, and even enjoy it.  How wonderful.  How amazing.

If I am lucky I will post from our destination.  Or maybe the lack of posts you see here will mean I am just too busy having a fabulous time.  Instead of writing about life, I might just choose to live it.  🙂

Busy Summer and Something New

It’s been quite a summer so far.

As you’ve seen, I have the all consuming drama of my daughter and her social stature at school.  I never in a million years would have thought that I could be so profoundly affected by the awfulness happening to her; it took over our entire household for several weeks in a roller coaster of emotion and tears and awfulness.

There’s a post I have inside me too about family and my grandmother and my recent visit there, but it is going to be emotional and hard and take a while to write.  Which is why I haven’t written it yet.

And, I was contracted for one of my biggest freelance website jobs yet this summer.  The time when I am the least available to pound out work on the computer.  This same thing happened to me last summer and it just stresses me out to not be as available to the kids and do everything I want to do with them.  I know, I’m still way luckier than most working mothers, but it is still making what should be a relaxing time more stressful.

But, all of those things aside, I did want to point out the new tab at the top of this blog.  I have started a fitness blog that I have linked here.  In some ways it is easier to write the little, short posts there because they are not emotionally charged.  There is much I have been wanting to say about my fitness journey, but I haven’t wanted to necessarily mix it in with all of the life stories that I share here.  So I have decided to start a new blog just for that purpose.

And now I have to wrap this up, because of course it is time to get the kids ready for camp, go to a meeting while they are at camp, grocery shop, pick up dry cleaning, work on my contract job, take my son to karate….you get the idea.

Happy Summer!

Fifty Shades of Bile

OK, I’ll admit it.  It took me a few weeks, but I finally followed the herd mentality that I know I have, and went out and got the damn thing.

You know what I’m talking about right?  That stupid book.  No, not the Hunger Games.  That book is actually well written and worth the praise and popularity that it has garnered (though, in true herd fashion I didn’t get into that book until the movie had already broken all advance presale ticket records…though I suppose at least I didn’t wait until it was actually in the theaters).

That book that they keep calling Mommy Porn.  Ick, I hate to admit it.

Fifty Shades of Grey, I type sheepishly.  That one.

I bought it last week.  Everyone I know is reading the damn thing, and I figured I might as well just give in to the hype.  Sure, I’d read that the writing was kind of weak.  I’d heard that it originally was written and posted onto the internet as Twilight Fan Fiction.  Now, since I have already admitted what a trend follower I am, this would actually be a point in its favor; I loved the Twilight books.  Not great literature there, either, but compelling stories with at least passable writing.

Still, even after I gave into the impulse to buy the book, I resisted.  First, the bookseller asked if I wanted to buy all three at once:  “Most everyone does,” my little local bookshop lady told me.  But no, I responded.  “I am hoping I hate this book so much that I won’t want to buy all three, actually,” I told her.  This again flies in the face of my past history.  Hunger Games Trilogy:  8 days, three books.  Twilight:  17 days, four books.  The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon:  35 days, six books.   I am a voracious series reader, going all the way back to the Little House and Anne of Green Gables books of my childhood.  Is there any reason to think this Grey series will be any different?

God, I hope so.

I bought the book on Thursday and put it in a drawer.  I didn’t even want to leave it out where the kids or husband would see it.  Ick.  And all weekend long, I had no desire to read it, honestly.  But today, with a yawning day without much on my “to do” list, I gave in.  I opened the book.

Two hours and 124 pages later, I am still not impressed.  The writing is peppered with oddly big words and strangely chosen details, repeated phrases and obvious foreshadowing.  I actually exclaimed “this is really horrible” more than once.  Honestly, the only thing that kept me at it for two full hours was the very plain direction the story was headed in….and it took excruciatingly long to get there. And yes, knowing Bella and Edward’s story as intimately I do  (I am certainly not opposed to brain candy now and then), the linkages to the work that inspired this one are plain and clear.

There can really only be one reason these books are so successful.  It isn’t the likeability of the characters or the sweeping vistas painted with glorious language or the compelling story.  It is, of course, what everyone is saying it is.

It’s the sex.

That part, my friends, better live up to the hype!

There is No Try

I have been wrestling what to do with this body of work here for a while, now.

Scratch that.  I know what I want to do with this blog, and have for quite a while now.  I’d like to turn it into a book.  A real one, bound, with pages, maybe with an ebook version.  But a book.  My autobiography.  A book.  It’s been done before:  Julie/Julia being probably the biggest success.  But also a blog I read, PastaQueen, was turned into the book “Half Assed”.

At first I thought I could publish it mostly as is.  Well, with a ton of editing because some of the entries are quite rough, and most of them are essentially first draft stories.  Stories that when strung together tell the story of my life.  But also unedited, most of them.

At first I thought the idea had merit; I’ve seen books composed of letters before.  This could be a new format:  a book of blog postings.  I wrote them to provide separate, distinct, somewhat viable each on its own, stories.  There are cliff hangers between some of them.  But they are also intertwined and much richer if you read them from start to finish (like you would need to in a book….see where I’m going with this?).  I was eager enough, last September, when I wrote my last “Former Life” entry and moved into “Current Life” territory here.  I pulled a bunch of entries and threw them into a Word document, ready to tweak.

Except.

Except that the result kind of sucked.  It was disjointed.  It didn’t flow.  And some of the writing, it being essentially first draft writing, wasn’t very good.  I was so disappointed.  If I wanted to do this, really do this, I was going to have to go back and use this blog as kind of a set of notes to write The Real Thing.  And the thought of all that work?  That sent the procrastinator in me packing.

Which would explain why it is April and I have only sort of maybe started working on it again.  I pulled the first few months’ worth of entries and started again.  Wrote a few “bridge” entries that explained some of the gaps I found (I never wrote about the scene where my parents told us they were getting divorced, for example?  How’d I miss that life changing event?).  Tidied up some of the writing.

But it still didn’t feel like it could work.  I mean, I have stories, but it just didn’t seem to flow.  So my parents divorced.  Big deal.  So my brother had some major issues?  So what.  Both of those things help bring context to some of the family dynamic later in my life, but the stories about them?  Dullsville.

So I put it on the back burner.  That is, until I met up with a few of these characters from my past.  I went back into this blog and reread some of what I’d written about them.  And I was shocked when some of what I read looked pretty decent.  I’d forgotten about so many of the entries I have put in here.  It’s two solid years of writing, in the heart of it, daily entries that worked my writing muscle and forced me to remember details long since forgotten.  I can’t just let this blog sitting largely unnoticed in the Internet be all this stuff is.  I have to do something with this.

And then I got an idea, after my last trip back home.  I could frame the stories in the context of seeing these blasts from the past again.  It would require still basically a lot of rewriting.  But I think it could give a flow and a purpose to the story that didn’t exist before.  Because let’s face it:  even if this is the story of my life, if anyone else is to find it interesting, it has to be a Good Story.  And I think it can be, if I frame it properly.

So I’m going to try do it.  I had typed in try there, until I remembered that famous Yoda quote:

“Do. Or not do.  There is no try.”

Indeed.

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