Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake

White cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and lemon curd filling

Lately I've been talking a lot about realizing dreams and holding strong to my desires and leaping into a new chapter of my life. Some of that was about my writing career, it's true, but some of it was not.

Part of it was about realizing a dream that I had left behind. A dream I have had since I was very young of becoming a baker. Dreams of beautiful tiered cakes and meticulously detailed cookies and fluffy frosting laden cupcakes.

I've filled notebooks and sketchbooks with ideas and designs and plans. And then, after a while, I would forget about them. I would set them aside. I would say, sure, maybe someday, but not today. I was afraid of failure. Of not being good enough. Perhaps I was even afraid of success. Of the commitment and dedication and hard work that would surely come with fulfilling a dream to the best of my abilities.

But no more. I have pulled out the notebooks and sketchbooks - dusted off and edited those plans left behind. I have spent long hours in the kitchen honing my skills, finding the best bases and fillings and frostings, pouring over ideas, tasting each layered component with great seriousness (hard life, I know). I have told few friends and family of my plans, shoving cake into their faces and asking if they believe in me.

A first attempt at fondant and flower making

And come the new year I will take that long awaited leap of faith. I will launch a small bakery from my kitchen, making custom cakes and cupcakes and cookies for parties, showers, special events, and if I am so privileged, even weddings. I'm behind the scenes right now, creating a website and fixing prices and making a ton of cakes in my kitchen.

And I'm telling you all because I'm excited, and I'm ready for this to be real, and because I want to shove cake into your face and ask if you believe in me too. Do you?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

GoldieBlox Is Changing The World

*I feel like I need a disclaimer to say I'm not affiliated with GoldieBlox and no one's paying me to get all giddy about these toys - I just am.

Have you guys seen the new ad for GoldieBlox, a company whose line of engineering toys are aimed towards girls? Their slogan is "disrupting the pink aisle" and their ad which features three racially diverse (and totally adorable) little girls building a Rube Goldberg machine set to a feminist version of The Beastie Boys "Girls" is divine.

They build their toys mindfully for girls, and no, that doesn't just mean making them pink so they land in the "girl" aisle at the toy store. The company takes into account cognitive differences between boys and girls, and uses girls' strong verbal skills and inclination toward storytelling to create products that are better suited to engage girls. While researching to create their product line the founder of GoldieBlox discovered "[Girls] love stories and characters. They aren't as interested in building for the sake of building; they want to know why." So their toys have books and characters to go with the building sets, and I'm pretty in love with it all.

If you're feeling the love too, vote for GoldieBlox to get an ad in the Superbowl. They are one of only 4 finalists!

However, even when faced with this awesome step forward there are people ready to dismiss the company as "not enough." When you get into anything easily labeled "feminist," and these products certainly fall into that category, the scrutiny begins. The plucky main character Goldie is too blonde and too beautiful. The stories are too heavy in their traditional gender roles - too deep in princess territory - to promote any real good.

But isn't that the whole point? Isn't it better to build a bridge for the girls who love pink and princesses than setting them at the edge of the ravine between boy and girl toys and telling them to jump to the other side? 

I see it a lot in feminist blog posts. A step in the right direction isn't enough. If you aren't breaking down gender barriers with a sledgehammer you aren't creating any real progress. What's the point in celebrating valiant efforts when gender inequality still exists? When the dust settles we're still living in a patriarchal world riddled with rape culture and domestic violence, stop acting like this is the best thing ever.

And I get the frustration with the overall lack of progress. Really, I do. I see the long road ahead and how much territory there still is to cover. I understand the gap between where we are and where we should be is overwhelming. I get that pink engineering toys aren't going to tip the scales of the STEM fields towards women overnight.

The thing is though, any step forward is a step worth celebrating. Every effort is inspiring. If my girl can grow up in a world where there is a princess loving mechanical engineering toy to help develop her passions wherever they may land, I support that wholeheartedly. I don't need her toys to be stripped of femininity in order for them to be "good enough."

When valiant efforts are made, we need to stop tearing each other down.We need to be okay with the imperfection, to leave aside petty differences for the sake of a greater good. For progress, however small, is still better than nothing.

Yes, when the dust settles the world will look much the same. But it will be changed - it will be better - than it was the day before.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No One Tells You That It's Lonely

I remember sitting at home with my newborn and wondering when I'd hear a knock at the door. Wondering when my phone would ring. Wondering how much longer I would have to wait for someone to come visit.  I had imagined having to turn people away because so many would want to come share in the joy of new life. I imagined casseroles would appear as if by magic because folks would be overwhelmed with the urge to show their love for me and my babe with homemade meals. I awaited the arrival of the masses with bated breath.

No one came that day.

Many days no one came.

I know many people advocate for dropping casseroles on the doorstep with a soft knock and rushing away like a game of doorbell ditch. Or leaving the new mom alone unless you plan on bringing takeout and vacuuming and washing all the poo stained laundry. Or letting the family adjust for those first few months without intruding.

And I understand why people say these things. It's overwhelming, having this new tiny person to take care of. Your house is so messy and you aren't really eating anything that isn't brought to your doorstep and you feel self conscious about the fact that you live in your husband's sweatpants and your shirts are all stained with breast-milk. Who wants a friend who brings nothing to the table coming over for a visit at a time like this?

Well, I did quite frankly, and no one came. In the first four months only four friends bothered to stopped by. I remember each visit fondly because I was so longing for adult interaction during those long difficult days spent alone with a newborn. I wanted someone to talk to. I wanted someone to hold my baby to give my arms a break. I wanted someone to show me that just because I was a mom I didn't cease to exist in their world.

No one tells you how lonely it can be, becoming a mother. You spend your pre-baby days surrounded by your peers and all anyone can talk about is how excited they are for you and your babe. How they can't wait to meet your little bundle of joy. You feel like you've got this tribe, this community that's going to have your back from the moment your child comes wailing into the world.

Then suddenly you're staring at a wall with a screaming newborn in your arms and there's no one there. And it's the hardest thing in the world trying to figure out who the hell you are when you're all alone like that with no one to remind you that you are still you. When your body is warped and battered, and you can't figure out how to make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich with one hand, and you're overwhelmed by all the highs and the lows and the piles of poo stained laundry.

So yeah, bring the casseroles and takeaway dinners if you can. Clean up the house and do some laundry if you're so inclined. Hold that baby and tell mama to take a shower if you aren't too frightened by the prospect of holding a newborn for an extended period of time.

But show up. Remind her she exists. Tell her that she's loved.

Let her know she's not alone.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Taking Flight

When I was a child, I went through a phase where I thought if I just believed enough I would be able to fly (this coincided with a phase of watching "Hook" over and over again). I would run across the back yard and jump as high as I could and as far as I could, and each time I landed hard on my feet I was surprised to find myself back on the ground. I would have dreams where I would fly up towards the vaulted ceilings of my childhood home, showing my awestruck relatives how they too could fly - always leading the way, never scared of falling.

When I would wake the next morning I would go out again. I'd jump off of rocks and widen my leaps. I'd keep going long after I should have lost faith. I'd climb a little higher and let the danger rise. Because I knew in my heart I could fly. 

That fearlessness even in the face of failure served me well as I grew up. I took big risks and suffered bruises but never regret. I spoke my mind, and though I was often wrong I was never uncertain. I was wholly weird and unapologetically authentic in everything I did. My dreams were audacious, but I would have bet every last dollar I had on my success. Even when I wasn't sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, I could feel greatness stirring inside me and I knew it was just a matter of time until that greatness took flight.

But somewhere along the line I stopped jumping off of rocks, believing I wouldn't hit the ground. I became a very sensible adult very early on in life. I put my ducks in a neat little row: I got married, bought a house, graduated college, had my babies, got my finances in order. I spent years working thankless jobs void of inspiration. I banked more on steady paychecks and security than my happiness.

And that's all fine and well. I'm glad I have lived my life in a way that has rewarded me so many blessings and so much peace and security. I was quite happy to work hard and keep my nose to the grindstone early on in life because my life hadn't really begun yet. It wasn't like I was a real grown up yet. When I was a real grown up things would be different. I'd be living out the big dreams. I'd find that greatness again.

But now I'm starting to realize that I am a real grown up. I've got two kids and all those other ducks under my belt. And it's true that since they've been born I've felt that greatness stirring inside me again. I'm finding my focus and and seeing once more those dreams I had forgotten or lost. I see what could be. I catch glimpses of that greatness. But the longer I look at the person I want to be, the more scared I become that she and I will never be one.

Though I've started to acknowledge my dreams and take small steps towards them, I've found myself frustrated with how timid I have become in seizing the things that I want. I find myself fearful of failure so much that I'm often just standing still. And I'm realizing as I evaluate those dreams that these baby steps just aren't cutting it anymore.

Because baby steps will only get you so far. When you reach the big hurdles in life, shuffling your feet along isn't going to get you where you need to be. At some point you need to leap.

And I'm there right now, standing in front of that looming hurdle of fear. Fear that I'm not good enough or experienced enough or real deal grown up enough to be who I want to be. It's time to leap on top of those big dreams, to believe once more that I can fly.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Into the World

Yesterday was Lucas' first day of preschool.

I had readied myself for a good long cry in the parking lot. Some tears as we headed out the door. Taking first day photos through watery eyes and hoping they weren't all blurry.

But, to my surprise, I didn't cry at all.

Sure my heart swelled when Daddy helped him put on his backpack. When he skyped his grandparents to say goodbye, all smiles and big boy pride. While I listened to him chatter about how excited he was in the back seat of the car. When he stepped through the front door and headed right on into his classroom, like he'd been here a thousand times before.

Sure I came close a few times.

But when he kissed me and hugged me and said goodbye, it wasn't as sad as I thought it would be. As soon as I stood up from our embrace he was gone. Playing, laughing, making friends. And I knew he was right where he wanted to be. Where he needed to be. He was totally in his element, leading his little life with a confidence I'm still searching for. He was all in. He was ready for a new world and novel adventures.

I was so damn proud, I wished I could melt into the wall and watch him all day. My baby, my big boy, he's already everything I ever hoped he would be. His spirit, his joy, his confidence, his energy, his sense of adventure...he's got it all, and I hope he never loses it. I hope he grows in it, builds upon it, reaches those heights he hasn't yet imagined.

I felt, in that moment of parting, that I'd been given a glimpse of the future. Of the man he would someday be. Someone happy and full of life and calm of spirit.

Someone who takes the moment you thought would be sad, and shows you how to smile.

Monday, November 4, 2013

No Excuse November

This month started off pretty shaky as we were battling against coughs and runny noses. Luckily (with the help of ample amounts of Zicam) I got away with only two bad days, and I feel like I'm up and running again. And I can't help but think that an ambitious outlook on the month helped the healing process.

For the first time ever I've decided to join NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who've never heard of it). I've known about NaNoWriMo for years but have never actually come close to participating. 50,000+ words in 30 days is an insane thing to do. Completely and utterly crazy.

Plus, I always had a legitimate excuse not to do it. I was working two jobs and in school full time. Then I was pregnant and getting ready to graduate. Then I had a baby, for goodness sake! The next year I had a toddler AND I was pregnant. I mean, clearly novel writing - and specifically NaNoWriMo - is for the jobless part-time college student or well-off retiree, right?

This year, I threw in the towel before November even started. I was getting sick. Plus I have two kids two and under. And on top of that I have other writing I have to do for blogging. This was clearly not the year for NaNoWriMo.

Then I looked back at the progression of my excuses and realized I will never have more time than I do right now. I will never have a November that isn't insanely busy. I will never have less than two kids vying for my constant attention - forcing me to write late into the night. I will never find the time in the future if I cannot find it now. At least not for a long, long time.

So I am taking on the challenge of 50,000 words in a month. A whole glorious novel (a feat I haven't accomplished since high school [and yes, it was indeed just as horrifically awful as you imagine a novel by an angsty teenage girl would be]). I'll be posting little updates here along with word counts.

Today I am checking in at 8027 words.

Wish me luck and scold me if I start backpedaling!


Friday, November 1, 2013

In Recovery

Our Halloween was pretty good considering we all weren't feeling that well. It started off with trick-or-drinking at a friend's house, and ended with Lucas binging on candy until he vomited on me - which makes me sound like the worst parent ever, but it wasn't that bad. I promise. (He only had like 3 pieces of candy, I swear!)

So now we're in recovery, eating lots of real food and drinking lots of water. For my part I'm trying not to cry as I battle through my first time being sick with TWO sick kids. I want a nap and an ungodly amount of food from Qdoba and definitely a shower, but my prospects for getting any of these are pretty slim.

Hopefully your Halloween was just as epic, but without all the horrific aftermath.


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