Thursday, September 18, 2014

Existential Ants

Morrissey Ants ponders a new song.

I'm sure you do this too.

Every time I kill an ant, be it with my foot, hand, poison, or random object
my mind immediately shifts to the meaning of life. 

Human life.

I know you know what I mean.

Surely (please surely) you do.

We have been battling ants for a couple of weeks now. Neither traps nor poison nor threat of dog deters these brave little battalions from invading our kitchen. I can sweep them up in a paper towel. I can spray them with vinegar until they sputter out. I can crush them with my bare pinky finger.
And yet they return.

And every time I take an ant life my thoughts immediately shift to:

Was this ant a very hard worker? 
Was he a creative? 
Did he have a family?
A favorite food?
Was he really looking forward to tonight's activity?

And I just totally obliterated him in an instant. 

Everything he ever worked for in his whole life rendered meaningless in a matter of milliseconds. And his little ant family back in the tunnel might shed some brief tears but then they just get up and reform the food line and get back to work. Crushed ant #1 billion is immediately replaced by soon-to-be-crushed ant #1 billion and one. Do they care? Do they ever stop to ponder the whys? 

"Why do we constantly keep building these homes and trek endlessly for food when it's just going to be wiped out over and over again," one misanthropic ant may wonder to himself?

I'll ponder that as I trek to the fridge for some coffee and then get back to work.

Friday, September 12, 2014

FPU Night 3, on cash flow planning and envelopes

The author in France with a tiny blue French
backpack that she just HAD to have right now.
When I was 15 I took a week-long school trip to France. My mom gave me an envelope with enough money for food and some shopping for the whole week. Notice I said whole. I spent ALL my money in the first 2 days on clothes and expensive food.


All of it.

For the rest of the week teachers and other kids had to bail me out because I had no other money to buy food. Yes, food. The staff of life. I didn't get in trouble for this. The plane landed and my mom met us, gave me a hug, and paid everyone back.

Where I should have been totally ashamed to be borrowing money left and right for un Coca or le hamburger, I remember very little shame at all. I think I even borrowed more to shop more.

Needless to say, not indulging my every shopping desire is still hard for me. And in this week's FPU class Dave explains how, just like my trip to France, when you don't want to overspend in a category like food or clothes you put your cash in an envelope and don't spend more than that. And just like in France I've already overspent and it hasn't even been a week.

But wait! I have an excuse!

I was participating in les grande consignment sale pour les enfants at a local church. I consigned and signed up for 2 volunteer shifts just so I could get first dibs. I put an allotted amount into the clothes envelope for this moment and then promptly went over it with my check book. I found that once you are in an overheated room with hoards of other ladies grabbing and going a stained dress from an expensive brand starts looking a lot more attractive than it probably would if you saw it in someone else's closet.

Unlike France, though, guilt ensued. Part of me clings to my excuse, "It was an out of the ordinary event! I HAD to spend." But I know there is always an out of the ordinary event. You may not be in France or at a huge sale of smocked dresses but something will come up and if I want to successfully do all the FPU steps I have to learn how to say no.

But this month is just practice. October is when we get serious.

Besides the envelopes this class had a lot of information about cash flow planning. Lots of forms and information on how to fill out those forms. And information about having a budget meeting to discuss all spending with your accountability partner (aka your spouse if you are married).

If anything at all comes from this class it will definitely be learning to communicate more (and better!) with my partner. No secret spending. Everything on the table.

So even after I overspent my clothes envelope I fessed up about it.

For October I'm dreaming of an envelope out of Harry Potter that has the power to bite.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mah Nurves

Living on the edge.
I'm looking for camaraderie.

I'm looking for validation that I'm not insane because I surely can't be the only mom out their that finds the crying of their child akin to someone pricking the most tender nerve in their psyche with a sewing needle? Over and over and over again.

Here at the Drawler house we are in the deep ravine of a Wonder Week. Never heard of them? Have a baby child acting out of sorts? Get thee to a library and read all about it. Crazily accurate mood forecasts.
Hello thundercloud of my nightmares.

Basically a Wonder Week is a moment of transformation. Your child makes a leap in intellectual and emotional understanding. It makes sense, then, that this is a scary and confusing time for them. Hearing "No, darling angel face, don't touch the wasp" during a Wonder Week is likely to lead your toddler to a whole morning of tears and tantrums. A video not playing fast enough or a cheerio slightly out of place in the bowl does the same. For Lil' D that means alternating between throwing herself on the floor and kicking or putting her head down on the ground like a yoga pose.

And the tears.
So many tears.

The only saving grace of a Wonder Week is that she is oddly sweeter and more cuddly. She wants to be in my lap or be carried everywhere. Until she doesn't.

A scene from our day:

Scene: Playroom - mom on floor, Lil' D in lap.

1) Wrestles and cries out of my lap like she was forced to be there in the first place.
2) Falls dramatically on floor, rolls on her back, kicks her legs.
3) Tears and putting her head on the ground for good measure. Flinging herself on her chair or dramatically pushing a toy away is also acceptable.
4) "Want to sit in my lap?" I say as she reaches out to me, tears in her eyes.
5) Comes back to lap and gets a hug.
6) Repeat for the next hour.

It's 11:30am here and I'm ready to go to bed. Naps are erratic, lunch is on the floor, and usually loved toys are thrown.

The dulcet tones of screaming do not phase JTS one moment. He sings or talks back with a silly story or ignores them altogether. They strike my mom heart with a bleating cry to DO SOMETHING. DO ANYTHING to make the crying stop. Snacks! Water! Naps! Cuddle! Weird dancing! Old MacDonald Moo Moo's! Anything!

The dog feels me. He is always trying to get out the door.

I try my Janet Lansbury calm sportscasting. I try my Love and Logic "So sad! Guess you need some crib time." In my not great parenting moments (i.e. trying to parallel park whilst reading google maps in a not safe area because DAMMIT I'm trying to take you to an art fair in the 95 degree heat so you might smile) I've yelled sternly. I always regret that one.

"You are right mom! Shaved ice is delicious," she meant with
the screaming that took place directly after.
But I know that damn Wonder Week app is right. Nothing to do but deep breaths and taking one day at a time. According to my app only a mere 29 days until my happy babe comes back to me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

FPU Night 2 - Relationships and Money

Your intrepid reporter, Ms. Drawler, has returned from night #2 of FPU.

I wasn't supposed to be going to this class. I was supposed to be in Virginia enjoying family, friends, and mountain views but alas Lil' D is sick and we had to cancel.

While I'm not happy Lil' D is sick I was glad to attend an important night. This class wasn't so much about the HOWS of saving money or getting out of debt faster or how to best plan for retirement. It was more about getting on the same page with your partner to achieve serious maximum life results.

It seems so simple (duh! of course you talk to your spouse about money!) but I've found that taking the time to have a real conversation about something in a marriage is more difficult than when you were dating. When you are just boyfriend/girlfriend or even engaged everything is such a light and dreamy discussion. Of course we want to TRAVEL! Have a nice HOUSE! 3 KIDS! 2 CARS! 7 DOGS and a PIG (ok, that might just be me)!

Smiley faces all around.

I remember driving around Crozet, Virginia with JTS, the autumnal breeze blowing through the windows, beautiful yellow leaves fluttering to the ground, holding hands and throwing out dreams like thought bubbles. We were smiling in our sweaters. We were practically out of a catalog or a Sofia Coppola movie with some amazing light filters.

Oh Virginny, I miss you.

Five years later I realize that to bring those thought bubbles down to earth our conversation has to be more down to earth too. Around a table. With a thought-out plan and a budget. Not as romantic (and we certainly don't look romantic this week with a sick baby and bags under our eyes) but exciting to me in that we are actually taking concrete steps to make our airy, romantic dreams come true.

I can't wait for next week when we get to the nitty gritty of budget planning. As Dave pointed out this week the number #1 reason for divorce is disagreement around money and a well-discussed budget takes away ALL of the arguments when everyone agrees and sticks to the plan.

We also discussed how men and women think differently about money (generalizations, sure, but whatever). Money represents self-esteem to men and security to women. I would agree with that on my end. And I had never thought about it that way. Looking at money as security really puts your purchases into perspective. Will this stuff make me feel secure? Or will cash in the bank make me feel secure? Good to remember when I want to dress Lil' D up as a baby fashionista.

As for religion:
I kept my mouth shut when the group discussed tithing. Because my giving is currently less than 10% of my income. And it goes to the local NPR station.

Speaking of fashionistas, you should check out KarlaReed on Instagram. Seriously inspirational thrift and vintage store outfits. I've let that side of my personality, how shall we say, slide a bit since those lovely fall days 5 years ago and she makes me want to kick it back up a notch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Putting Your Baby Out There

Does anyone besides me worry about putting their child's picture online?

Moms I love run the gamut — from those who absolutely believe in NO pictures on Facebook to the moms of my favorite blogs who Instagram and blog a constant stream of photos and stories with their kids' names.

I'm not sure how I feel.

There is the constant struggle between the proud mom in me who wants to share and shout "Look at my cute baby!" And then there is the practical side of me who wants to protect what little privacy she will have available to her as she grows up. I guess it's the constant struggle of moms everywhere. Your child is your child but also their own person. And finding that balance is hard.

I was posting pictures away on Facebook without a second thought and then I read this story. It gave me pause. I never want Lil' D to become a meme. And who are my 800+ "friends" anyway?

And then Instagram. Just like Facebook (actually more than Facebook) I'm "friends" with people I don't really know. What will they do with Lil' D's face? I post pictures of her there almost every day.

While there is an inherent oddness of strangers staring at your baby's face, I mainly worry about advertising and how I portray Lil' D to the very public world. How will all these posts I generate contribute to a company's ability to market directly to her? How will people label her based on my content?

While I don't currently post my blog posts to Instagram or Facebook (and my readership hangs on around 20 people) it is still out there in the wide world of trolling and sharing and commenting.

I think my rules right now are just to keep her name off the blog (oops need to go back and edit some old posts). I'm sure people could figure it out no matter what but that seems like a small protection. And I think I'm not going to be a traitor to her bad days. My favorite mom blogs don't harp on their kids personality qualities especially not the negative ones. I personally abandon blogs or people that tell everyone all about their kids' bad characteristics or bad days. That seems private. In the words of B.B. King, " Nobody loves me but my mother. And she could be jivin' too."

Here on Lets Blog it Out, I'm trying not to jive.

And at some point near the beginning of the middle school years I might have to abandon ship altogether. Although Lil' D ain't gonna be allowed on social media till she goes to college (only sorta kidding) her friends probably will be and no 7th grader needs more fuel for the fire.

So what do you think? What are your social media rules when it comes to your precious baby faces?

ALL that being said.

LOOK HERE! At this brochure (and banner and info board) I created for  The Mothers' Milk Bank of Alabama.  That is one cute baby right there.

In print. (Feels different to me?!)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First night of FPU class

Maybe it's because I'm trying to change so much at one time, but I've been feeling like I'm a human emotion roller coaster recently. One moment I'm UP UP UP and everything is full of hope and promise and then the next morning, this morning actually, I hear about salmonella in commercially processed chickens and I'm crying in my car.

Because I'm sad the world we live in treats chickens/our freaking FOOD supply this way.
Because I don't like being vegan and I don't want to eat pasta all the damn time.
Because I'm doing Dave Ramsey and I don't want to pay for non-diseased local chickens until I'm out of debt.

So last night was my first Dave Ramsey class. I was way more nervous than I thought I'd be. The church where the class is being held is gigantic. It has campuses. My high school graduation was there (ummm 16 years ago) and even then it was a huge church (video screen, a baptismal font you can literally swim in, etc.). And now it is even bigger. Coming from my little Episcopal mini gothic cathedral I grew up in - it's a lot. I got lost trying to find the class several times. Near the elevator. Down a hall. Past the coffee shop. Past the coffee shop in a church.

Anyway. All day long JTS had been prepping me to not be brainwashed. To not buy more books. So I was a little paranoid and scared. And when one of the first questions was to ask everyone where they went to church I got scareder.

And to be honest it was a lot more religious than I thought it would be. The more Bible verses spouted the more I realized that I will never ever get JTS to go with me.

That being said it was a good start. The teacher has been doing this for seven years. He seems shy and not disposed to speaking in front of groups which is good and bad. There are three couples, two individuals whose other would not come, and mostly single men. (Good for those guys!) This week was all about saving. Oh the shame cycle I could end up in if I think about all the saving I haven't been doing. (Let me go back to the car for a minute to cry.)

BUT! At the end of this month, we will have completed Baby Step #1. Save $1,000. It was so much easier to do than I originally thought once I paid attention to where I was spending my money.

Before class began we had to write down what our biggest challenge was going to be doing FPU. Mine was, of course, PATIENCE. I want my problem solved and I want it solved now.

This week's homework is to answer the following questions:

1) How much debt do you have (everything but mortgage included)?
2) How much liquid cash do you have?
3) How many credit cards do you have open?

I may be spending the rest of the day in the car after I answer these questions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tale of the Turtle

The only conventional treatment for uterine fibroids are invasive. The only way to combat them is either surgery or drugs that force your body into a chemically induced menopause.

When I started having severe problems with fibroids way back in 2009 this was one of the hardest things to accept. I didn't want to do either. And I didn't want to be in pain. So for well over a year I tried valiantly to go the course of alternative medicine. I did acupuncture, changed my diet, meditated, starting running, and read about a million books on natural health just to name a few. On the way far out spectrum of natural healing - I started going to an energy healer for chakra alignment. (And if you live near Scottsville, Virginia I will happily tell you how to get in touch with my energy healer because she is awesome.)

Brennen energy healing involves the healer sitting in meditation before your arrival, asking for guidance and support before your session and then when you get there she shares what she learned and then you lay on a table and (like Reiki) she puts her hands lightly above you and channels energy. At one of our earliest meetings she told me she had been visited by a Native American man who said (something to the effect) that he was my life guide and that I needed to embrace/find? my/the? turtle.

The Native American part made sense to me. In completely unrelated energy sessions other people who have worked with me have sensed this presence around me as well. My great-grandparents on my mother's side were Christian missionaries on a reservation in Oklahoma and my grandmother took me to a lot of Native American festivals in Alabama so until I learn otherwise I'm assuming this is where he comes from.

But the turtle. This was new. At the time I was reading a lot of Louise Hay and Christiane Northrup who attribute physical illness with internal emotional imbalances. My problem was two-fold. The uterus is the seat of creativity. So to have problems with the uterus is to have blocked creativity. And "female problems" all come from denying the feminine or not embracing the feminine principle. At the time I had recently graduated with a degree in graphic design but wasn't using it. The third such creative degree I had gotten and not used. I had worked for an abusive man in a wine store in NYC and now was working for a gentle man at a wine store in Charlottesville. But again, no creativity. My ego was carrying a lot of wounds from the NYC job so I assumed the turtle meant that I needed to come out of my shell and try to be creative again. So that's what I did.

But still no healing like I had read about took place. I like quick fixes and this was obviously not going to be one.

Since then I've had 4 surgeries and taken birth control pills to prevent my period. After Lil' D was born (and simultaneously my last fibroid removal surgery was performed) I've still had pain but it has been manageable. The past 16 months have been a complete and surprising blessing, so I put all the natural healing stuff to the side and just concentrated on being a mom and working.

Then I found this book in my neighborhood Little Free Library.

I've read a lot of feminist theory in my days and most of it made me want to fall asleep or I stridently disagreed with it. I didn't believe women were put on this earth to live in angry opposition to man. Or that one could only be a true feminist if you understood incredibly dry pedagogy. 

But this book sincerely touched my heart in ways I never knew needed to be found. Through her own journey from Baptist minister's wife to finding what she calls the Sacred Feminine, Kidd describes in a way I could understand what the feminine soul is and how we live in a world that actively negates it.

Patriarchy is subtle. And while, yes what we imagine as patriarchy implies men are at fault, Kidd does an excellent job of refuting that and showing that we are all culturally responsible for patriarchy. How women buy into it too and hold each other to patriarchal standards. She describes how we live in a world where men have formed and named everything in our society and therefore we as women live in a world that is not our own making. I recognized myself instantly in so many passages and archetypes, one in particular was, "The Good Daughter." Kidd writes, "A daughter is a woman who remains internally dependent, who does not shape her identity and direction as a woman, but tends to accept the identity and direction projected onto her." I may have all these outside things that show I am an "independent" woman, but man (pun intended), that sentence rang true.

Kidd writes, "As a girl absorbs her culture, for instance as she watches movies and television, she may also come to understand her real importance derives from her relationship with men and boys...She will notice the things traditionally assigned to women — keeping a home, cleaning, cooking, laundry, child rearing — and grow aware of how little value these things seem to have in the world compared to things men typically do."

Despite having a working mother I internalized the women are inferior message too. At the very least I internalized that female characteristics are inferior. Kidd points out that feminism, when it doesn't embrace the sacred feminine, just reinforces the idea that women need to be more like men to succeed. I remember thinking that boy qualities were much more desired (in not so many words) as a little girl and I would always try to be "brave" or to not cry. Adults, and later peers, would certainly cheer me on as I embraced typical male attitudes. I was the college girl who never let guy stuff ruffle me. I wasn't afraid to sit around a bunch of dudes while they talked about porn. I remember making fun of a girl who threw her boyfriend's collection of Playboys out the window. "Why is she so uptight?" I thought. It makes me sad to think that I was very much shoving my feminine self down down down so that I could appear cooler. I was the perfect example of the girl embracing cultural patriarchy. I remember always wanting to date a guy who had a "cool" job or desirable qualities but never once thought that I myself could have the cool job or the desirable qualities. 

Kidd quotes Carolyn Heilbrun about authentic power, "The true representation of (not) a woman beating up on a man or finding a place in the hierarchy and mimicking the old patriarchal ways of entitlement, control, and command. Power is the ability to take one's place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one's part matter."

What does the real me think? After 34 years of trying to emphasize my male characteristics or trying to align myself with the right men I'm not sure I know anymore. 

There are so many things to quote and discuss in this book that I simply can't do it justice. But I highly recommend picking it up. One of the best parts about her story, though, was how she and her husband's relationship became stronger. They had to start over, in a sense, and redevelop their relationship on more egalitarian grounds but in the end her husband becomes feminisim's greatest champion. 

But back to the Turtle.

After my energy healer told me about the Turtle I pulled out an old print that hung in my bathroom growing up. I always loved the picture even though its definitely not the coolest piece out there. So I got it and hung it up in my office to symbolize getting out of my shell. But in one of the first sections of the The Dance of the Dissident Daughter I learned that the Turtle is a powerful feminine symbol. The Turtle held up Mother Earth. And so maybe that's the other piece of the Native American/Turtle puzzle. He wants me to embrace my sacred female soul.  

I think it's a long journey but after years of wondering how in the hell I wasn't embracing the feminine enough (Hey! I love dresses!) I'm happy to have the start to the answer. And it's a pretty deep well.