Feeling Like a Phony

Our new Sunday routine for the fall has me driving separately to church and leaving after the service while the kids go to Children in Worship (our church’s version of Sunday School) and Cortney stays back to count (he’s a deacon) or go visit his grandma and then picking the kids up.

I don’t leave to go take a nap–although today I was very tempted to do just that–I run any errands and then take my Chromebook and any school work or writing deadlines I have and head to our Barnes & Noble cafe section and work for a couple hours.

I’ve been delighted to notice that there is a whole crew of regulars here including the most adorable elderly couple who seems to be arriving after church for some coffee and chit chat. Even the barista must have this as her regular schedule. Today she said, “Oh welcome back. are you going to be one of our new regulars?” I smiled and said, “Probably. I’m more productive here than in a house full of kids.”

As she was ringing up my order I complimented her on the tattoo of a beautiful ship on her arm. She asked why I had “Write.” on my arm. “Are you a writer?” I fumbled. This isn’t the first time I have been asked this since getting that ink on my arm.

“Um, well, I write a lot, and um…I’m actually an 8th grade English teacher. But I’ve been blogging for ten years…and, well…I have been published a couple places and I guess that makes me a writer.”

I winced in my head. I have the word permanently on my arm and I seem so unsure of it when asked.

“What are you writing right now?” She asked me with clear curiosity.

“Um, well, I’ve been working on my statement for my PhD application and I have a chapter in a book I am writing…a book about teaching. I’m writing about teaching a certain book with a grief focus. I’m not sure it will be included, but I want to use it because I need a ten-page writing sample for my application too. So nothing, like, for publication, but yeah.”

OH MY GOSH. I internally rolled my eyes at myself. What is wrong with me?

“That is really awesome! A PhD! Then everyone can call you Doctor! So cool! Good luck!”

I shrunk into myself and hid myself in a corner table. I immediately decided to grade essays because I had NO idea to revise my statement, and I don’t actually know where to start with the book chapter, and WHO DO I THINK I AM?

A total phony, that’s who.

I am in one of those funks where I have this paranoid feeling that I have people snowed; that they think I can write these wonderful things, but in fact I am a terrible writer. I sent a draft to a friend recently and I am surprised–no, SHOCKED–she still thinks I have it in me not just to do this writing thing, but to get a higher degree in English education and teach other people to do this stuff.

I have doubts, is what I’m saying.

Today I do not feel like I can do it.

Today I feel like an impostor.

Today I feel like I have nothing together.

So I’m going to pack it up for today, but I will try again next week. Because I made this commitment and even if I totally blow it, I have to try.

A Decade of Words

Ten years ago today I opened up a new blogspot account and started Sluiter Nation. All of our closest friends had moved out of state, so I thought maybe having a “website” to post pictures would be a good way to keep everyone up-to-date.

I’ve been consistently (sometimes more consistently than others) putting my words here. They range from the mundane (updates and giveaways and some product reviews) to the deeply personal.

I believe this blog made me the writer/teacher I am today.

This little blog of mine reunited with me with a high school friend named Emily (formerly known as DesignHER Momma) who had moved to Indianapolis. She connected me with Indy bloggers like Casey (Moosh in Indy) and to Curvy Girls like Brittany Herself who made me want to write better. They also showed me BlogHer.

Emily’s honesty helped me recognize I had postpartum depression after Eddie was born.

That led me to all the Warrior Moms.

I started to write very honestly about my struggles.

I went to BlogHer. I tried to find myself as a blogger for a long time. I did product reviews occasionally, giveaways here and there, and tried to separated my writing and teaching lives.

It wasn’t until after Charlie was born that I realized that my writing and teaching actually fit better together than trying to be a mom blogger.

It was also during this time that some of my personal essays about my struggle with my mental health were published in anthologies. I started to realize that maybe I have a gift. I’m not a best-selling author–nor will I ever be–but I have the ability to put my thoughts into print.

I started to read Young Adult Literature and become passionate about my career in a way I never did before. I began writing for Education sites, (currently I write for The Educator’s Room). Friends and colleagues encouraged me to write about my teaching experiences and research for education journals.

Now I am in the process of applying to a new graduate program to get my PhD in English Education.

Wednesday I was trying to trace back how I got to this place, and I believe it comes back to this space.

I’ve made true friends because of this space. I’ve traveled across the country by myself because of this space. I have taken so many more chances on opportunities that I would have NEVER done because of this space.

On an internet where more and more bloggers are closing up shop, I plan to keep my little space open and chugging along. This is our life right now. It’s who I am right now.

Yay, Ten!

The Uncomfortable Brightness of Motherhood

Motherhood is weird, right?

We long for a light in the darkness, and yet…

sometimes the sun shines so brightly that we have to squint and shade our eyes and smile through it even though it’s almost painful.

We work so hard for these sunny times that even though they are often blinding, we will take them.

My Eddie with his eyes shielded, looking forward for his mom with his hand on my shoulder.

My Charlie squinting and throwing up rock n roll horns even through the sting of the sun for his mom mom with his other hand on my back.

My Alice closing her eyes and smiling because momma said to and she trusts me completely while gripping my arm tightly.

These kids man.

Not what I expected at all.

Uncomfortable at times.

But Better.

Brighter.

Charlie’s Card he made me in Preschool. My boy knows me so well!

 

 

Inked

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I got another tattoo this weekend.

All tattoos have a story, don’t they? Even the ones that are “I just thought it was cute and wanted one because I was in college and being a rebel.” There is always a reason.

Ten years ago a few things happened: I found out I was pregnant, I lost that pregnancy, I started a blog, and I got a tattoo. I would say it was a busy year, but that is pretty much just how our married life has been. Highs and lows with very little in between.

When I started this blog I called it our Family Website. I was going to post photos and write little blurbs about what was going on in our life. I think in the first couple years of this blog’s life I probably only wrote a handful of things that were real and not just superficial “look at this fun day at the beach;” my tattoo post was one of them.

Contrary to what my mom probably thinks, I don’t take permanently “disfiguring” myself lightly (Cortney’s words in jest, not my mom’s). The first time, I tattooed what my students think is a V on my neck. It’s not a V. It’s two things: it’s the Aries sign and it’s also the Egyptian hieroglyphic for “woman.” You can read that post up there for more details, but basically after getting unexpectedly pregnant when I wasn’t sure that I ever wanted babies, then miscarrying that baby (and feeling like it was my fault), Cortney and I realized we wanted to be parents. Women’s bodies are strong, yo. That tattoo was for womanly strength.

Since then I have been writing.

Before I knew I had an anxiety disorder or depression or OCD or needed medication or therapy, I wrote to get it out of my head.

When I was having intrusive thoughts, I wrote them out of my head and then destroyed the evidence.

When I realized that one of my biggest fears in life was being forgotten and lost in time and space, I wrote out my stories.

When I decided to turn all of my passion for reading and writing and education into a PhD program, I wrote articles and journal pieces and conference proposals.

When I wanted my children to know me as I am in this moment, I wrote letters.

When I acted too impulsively or said things without thinking or made an ass of myself, I wrote to apologize.

When I missed or loved or thought of people, I wrote to them.

When I wanted my students to learn to write, I wrote with them.

Writing has kept me alive for the past ten years.

I’m placing my faith in writing to keep me alive forever.

Write.

It’s a command.

Write.

 

 

 

ps. My mom is not really that upset.

pps. Yes she is.

ppps. I love you, mom. Thanks for loving me despite my disfigurement.

Searching for Easter

Easter

Sunday was Easter.

I have lovely memories of Easter as a child. They all include family and candy and going to services that had loads of flowers and a big cross.

When Cortney and I got married we became the people who only went to church once in a while and always on Easter. I loved to sing the hymn “Low in the Grave He Lay” because when I belted out “UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!!” I felt my late Grandma Jo in my whole being. I didn’t really connect with the words on a religious level, but it was a spiritual experience and connection with my grandmother. It was the same at Christmas; I loved to sing the hymns she did. Both holidays hold a lot of significance for me because of my Grandmother, but not necessarily because of my faith.

Which is a problem for a Christian since Christmas and Easter are the two most significant days for the Christian Church. They are the bookends of what our faith is about: God sent his Son via immaculate conception to save the world by being crucified on a cross only to rise again three days later. Immaculate Conception and Resurrection from the Dead–the cornerstone beliefs of what makes a Christian a Christian, right?

But there I was on Sunday, sitting all squeezed into the front row (because as usual, The Sluiter family does not count punctuality as their strength–my fault completely) next to a family I didn’t recognize (because it was Easter and everyone comes on Easter), watching some of the people I love most lead worship with joy and excitement for the celebration that Easter is, and I was feeling…nothing.

Regular Sundays are my jam. I feel fed and nourished by the teachings of Jesus and the community that surrounds and loves me and my family. The familiarity of the pattern of worship renews my soul: The Approach, The Greeting, A Worship Hymn, Confession, Prayer, Assurance, The Passing of the Peace, The Children’s Message, Prayer, The Lectionary, The Sermon, Prayer, Communion, Prayer, Offering, Prayer, Announcements, The Sending of the Children to Children in Worship, The Closing Hymn, The Benediction. Our three pastors–all friends who I cherish–deliver their sermons in their own unique voice and help me to see and learn and feel closer to the teaching and love of Jesus.

I believe in the teachings of Jesus. I believe in the love and acceptance he taught. I believe in taking care of each other and being kind and helpful. I believe in sharing what I have with others–especially if they have less. I believe in using my privilege for good and for positive change. I believe in forgiveness, although it’s often hard for me to put into practice.

And I believe Jesus died, because every human dies.

What I struggle with is the Resurrection. I know the Bible says it happened. I know that without the Resurrection Christianity is nothing. The whole idea is that Jesus was made human so he could save us. That by dying on the cross, going to hell, coming back to Earth, and then going to heaven, he saved humanity.

Sitting squished between Cortney and Eddie in that sweaty front row, I couldn’t look my dear friend and pastor in the eye as he preached. I just felt heavy. That this world just doesn’t feel saved.

I don’t read the Old Testament literally. It’s Ok if you do; more power to you. Really. I don’t think that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe Jonah was legit swallowed–and lived in the gut of–a large fish. I read them as allegorical stories. Literature that is meant to teach life lessons and meaning. And I read the New Testament with the idea that the culture it was written in (Greek) and about (Middle East) is very different than our current culture. That not everything is going to align exactly.

Yet as Christians, we are supposed to read the Easter story (and Christmas story) completely literally. THIS STUFF REALLY HAPPENED. Because if it didn’t, what is it all for, right?

So I am wrestling with myself. I want to believe in the Resurrection. I want to believe that because Christ died, we will all live.

Our pastor said Sunday morning that we do not have to fear death. That because of Christ, death loses its power.

I guess that is what my struggle boils down to: I do very much fear death–my own, but also the death of those who I love so deeply. I obsess about it. It’s part of my anxiety disorder. When my intrusive thoughts begin, it always centers on death. I become increasingly agitated and paranoid. I lose sleep. And then I fall into depression.

It always starts with thoughts of death.

Because what if this is it? What if all of this is man-made so we can tell ourselves we are not afraid of death?

I’m ending this post with a picture of Eddie, Charlie, and Alice on Easter morning outside of church. They are still filled with the joy of celebration. It was a special day at church. There were flowers and Alleluias. There was an egg hunt after the services. They wore new clothes (except shoes because I totally forgot they needed shoes). There was excited anticipation for the rest of the day that would be filled with family and candy.

I never want them to be afraid like I am.

Easter

My wonderful friend, The Pastor’s Wife, shared this link with me this week, and I ugly cried when I read it because it was exactly EXACTLY how I felt Sunday morning. If you are also feeling alone with your doubt, I strongly suggest clicking over.

To Me, At Thirty-Nine

Dear You,

Here you are again, at the end of decade. Your fourth decade. If you squint and lean in, you can maybe see a glimpse of the fifth decade looming. See it, over there on the horizon? It’s that tiny dot of light.

Yes, I said light.

From here, Forty appears to be full of light.

But for now you are Thirty-Nine.

Three hundred and sixty-five days of Thirty-Nine.

(Less now because it takes you so long to publish a post.)

What are we going to do with this last year as a thirty-something? We are all done with the pregnancy years. It’s been nine years since that first miscarriage, which means all “deliveries” were in your thirties. This year you will be the mom of a 2nd turned 3rd grader, a preschool turned kindergartener, and a two-turned-three year old. By the time you hit forty, there will not only be no more babies for you, but no more toddlers either.  You won’t be a mom of “Littles” anymore, but a mom of “young children”.

Over the past week, you’ve written and looked at and thought about the number 39 often.

Sometimes that number seems so big. Remember when your mom was this age? She was such a…mom.  You were fourteen. Thirty-nine is almost 40, after all. It’s so…adult. So grown-up. So…parental. I mean, can you believe you’ve been around for 39 years when college–heck high school–seems like it was ten minutes ago?

Sometimes that number seems small. Ok, maybe not small, but not so terribly big. Many of your friends are already in their forties and you don’t think of them as old or middle-age or anything weird. In fact, you strive to be like them: confident, happy, healthy.

You are not much of a bucket list person, so you don’t have a 40 before 40 or anything like that. You’re also not one for sitting around wishing you had done something differently. You can’t change the past, so it doesn’t do any good to over-analyze how you could have done things another way. Before you turn forty next year, though, there are a few things you will do.

You’re going to help your family be healthier. Cortney has family history of heart disease and cancer. You have cancer in your history too. It’s time to get serious about the fact that you are not young and invincible.

You’re going to take more photos with your Big Camera. You got that thing after Eddie was born and somehow decided it was too unwieldy to tote around with a baby. Well, there are no more babies in your family. Get it out. Get practicing.

You’re going to apply for a PhD program. This weekend you take the first of two GRE tests for that. You keep worrying that this will cause (more) financial strain on the family and that you will fail and that it’s a bad idea. Do it anyway. Cortney has repeatedly told you that he supports you and thinks this is the time to do it. Listen to him. He loves you and believes in you.

You’re going to incorporate more of your family’s faith into your every day lives. You just read a great book about this. Make a note to write a post about that book.

You’re going to get another tattoo  (sorry mom. sort of.)  Cortney gifted you half the cost for your birthday and you made the appointment and paid the 20% deposit. This will bring you such joy.

You’re going to spend quality one-on-one time with each kid. They tell other people how much they love it, so do it more. It’s important.

I know you worry a lot about time going to fast: it takes your babies and makes them toddlers; it takes your toddlers and makes them kids; it takes your own youth. You worry about not having enough time.

The truth is that you will never have enough time. It’s just not possible.

So you have to take what you’re given and do what you can with it.

It’s gonna be great. And a little terrible because that’s life. But mostly great.

Love,

Yourself

Visiting

When I was little, sometimes my mom would take me along with her “for coffee with Grandma.” We would stop in at my Grandma Jo’s house on a Saturday so my mom could chit chat and have coffee with her.

At least that is what I remember.

Saturday at Grandma’s house was different than Sunday at Grandma’s house.

Sunday was full and noisy.

Sunday’s dinner table was pulled out with all the table leaves in covered in a vinyl table cloth that could easily be wiped down with a wet washcloth.

Sunday was warm–sometimes too warm–from the oven being on and all the bodies squished around the table reaching over one another to fill plates.

Sunday was filled with laughter.

Saturdays were slower and quieter. The table was small and round with a lace overlay and a green leafy centerpiece. It was comfortably warm with the smell of fresh coffee. Sometimes a radio played quietly, but not always.

Visiting on a Saturday felt special. My mom and my Grandma would sit at the table cradling mugs of coffee as they talked about work and sisters and cousins and acquaintances. I would sit quietly–or not so quietly–swinging my legs gulping my juice or soda and munching a cookie.

These visits weren’t about me–my mom would go with or without me. But being there meant that I had proven that I could behave that day. That I could be a partner for my mom for “running errands.” It was something special that I got to do with my mom and with my grandma. Even though I was usually just sitting there while they chatted, they were allowing me to be part of their visit.

*************

When I was little, sometimes my dad would take me along with him to pay a visit to my Grandpa and Grandma. My grandparents were very routine about their coffee breaks. There was one in the morning and one at 3pm. They drank coffee all day, but those were the times they would sit down with their coffee. So that is when we stopped by.

My dad would lean back in his chair and talk with my grandparents about our small town and the people and doings in it. Between the three of them it seemed they knew everyone in our town and all the history behind it.

Grandma always had a cookie jar with Oreos. She always had chocolate milk–the kind you make with whole milk mixed with Hershey’s syrup. The best kind.

The kitchen wasn’t fancy; there wasn’t a table cloth or silverware out. But there was still so much to look at.

The window sills were filled with knickknacks of all shapes and sizes.

There were pretty colored vases and glasses in the window by the sink that caught the sun.

In the fall there was always a turkey in the window behind my grandpa’s spot at the table.

There was a huge jar in the corner for spare change.

It always smelled like food and coffee–like someone was about to get a delicious meal, even in the middle of the morning on a Saturday.

Again, these visits rarely focused on me; I was just there because dad let me be his sidekick for the day. But they made me feel special, like I was getting a history lesson about my own town and family. Occasionally I would inject a question and my dad or grandpa would look up, squint a little in thought, and begin to discuss possible answers to my question, which would send them on a whole other tangent.

It was where I learned to appreciate coming from a small town.

*************

I visit my mom and dad often. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point I didn’t like going for too long without seeing my parents. My mom and I exchange emails about something or other about once a week, but if it starts to feel like I haven’t seen her in person for awhile, something feels…off.

When I have nothing pressing on a Saturday, I’ll throw a kid or three into the car and head over to see my parents.

Every single time I drive up my parents’ long, winding, gravel driveway, it feels like coming home. How  many times have I gone up that driveway by car or by foot or by bicycle?

At the top of that driveway is the house I grew up in; the house my parents still live in. And inside that house, when my mom knows I’m coming over with a kid (or three), she has baked something. Usually. Not always, but lately yes. This weekend it was fresh gingersnaps to bring to my grandpa and because she knew I was coming over for coffee and would have Charlie and Alice with me.

My dad always razzing the kids making them overly hyper and hiccuppy from laughter. My mom always has coffee because they drink it all day long. She even buys creamer because she knows I like my coffee as non-coffeeish as possible. She encourages my second (and third) cookie that I help myself to.

Charlie finds my brothers’ old matchbox cars; Alice finds my old dolls and strollers. They wander in and out of our conversations.

I wonder what they will remember about visiting grandma and grandpa.

Now that I am an adult, I know taking me along when they visited my grandparents was because grandparents love to see the grandkids, but the visits themselves were for my parents. Somehow we don’t grow out of needing our parents.

Those Saturdays of visiting my grandparents were really laying the groundwork for me for what a parent/child relationship could be once both the parent and the child become adults. I’m grateful for that, because I very much enjoy the relationship I have with my parents now.

And I hope I am making warm memories for my own children with these visits.

Left to right: My Grandma Jo (my mom’s mom). I’m the one on the left in the braids. My Grandma R (my dad’s mom). I’m the pre-teen mess on the left. My parents with all seven of their grandchildren last Christmas (Charlie is next to my dad; Eddie is in the front left with Alice in his lap)

GRR to ATL and Back Again

The weekend before Thanksgiving I got on a plane and went to Atlanta for back-to-back English teacher conferences: NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English) and ALAN (The Assembly on Literature for the Adolescence of NCTE). It was an excellent experience, but man. I am so lame at traveling away from my family!

I left Friday morning. The whole family drove me out to the airport for my 8am flight (which means we left the house around 6am). Eddie–who is just a tad like me–had been worrying over my leaving all week. He kept saying things like, “This is the LAST time you will put us to bed” and “This is the LAST time you will eat dinner with us.” He is a bit melodramatic. I assured him I was going to Atlanta, not Heaven, and that I would be back home Monday night after they were in bed. He clung to me at the airport, not really wanting to let me go or say goodbye. Alice followed his lead and hung onto my leg or wanted to sit on my lap. I think she could sense that they were leaving me behind.

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Charlie, on the other hand, had been counting down the days until “we can bring you to the airport and see the planes and Dad Dad will make brownies while you are gone!” He was not outwardly concerned about my being gone at all.  However when we got to the part where everyone was saying goodbye to me, he wandered off (it’s a small airport, so it’s not like we didn’t know where he was), and avoided me. When I found him and knelt down to his level, he let me hug him. He said, “I love you, Mom Mom” after I told him I loved him. But he would not say “Goodbye.”

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I gave Cortney a long hug…both because it’s hard for me to leave him and because I knew it would be a long four days of parenting by himself. I hugged and kissed my three babies one last time, and I was off through security. This was my third time flying solo for a conference; the first two times were to California for BlogHer ’11 and BlogHer ’14 (I was pregnant both times). Both trips to California involved multiple airports and connections and layovers, so a direct flight that was less than two hours long to Atlanta felt like nothing! Although I will say the Atlanta airport is HUGE. I mean, I took a train inside the airport to get from one end to the other where my bag and the exit was. Crazy.

I must say, I am proud to be getting pretty adept at getting myself a taxi and having great conversations with the driver. I had a remarkable political discussion with my driver who was from Kenya. She was listening to a very conservative talk radio station and must have sensed my tension (I just opened a book and started to read), because she said, “You must wonder why someone like me wants to listen to something such as this.” And then she went on to say she listens to all of it: left, right, and in between. She wants to be informed. She talks to other immigrants who are now citizens–like she is–to hear their perspective.  I dare say it was one of the highlights of my trip!

Well, that and the fact that I tried Chick-fil-a for the first time (and ate there three times in four days…what? It was right across from my hotel!) SO YUM!

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Friday was a whirlwind of travel, hotel, lunch, exhibit hall (where I met authors and got free books!) and going out to eat with my editor and fellow contributor at The Educator’s Room.

Oh, and one of the author’s I met on that very first day was Dav Pilkey–you know—the guy who wrote the Captain Underpants books? Eddie and Charlie about died when I texted Cortney this photo of me getting the first book in his newest series, Dogman, signed. And yes, I am talking too much. I was telling him about how my boys LOVE his books and that we are in the middle of re-reading them RIGHT NOW at bedtime.

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Like I said, my editor at The Educator’s Room was there–she is local to Atlanta–so she picked my fellow contributor Colette and me up for an early dinner. We went to a place called Six Feet Under. It’s across the street from a large cemetery, naturally. She ordered us something called Spicy Rat Toes–jalapeños stuffed with shrimp and wrapped in bacon. Oh my gosh. So good. Then I got the crab cake sliders for dinner.

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I was so exhausted by the time I got back to the hotel room. I flopped into my jammies before 7pm. In fact, since my roomies were still out, I called home to talk to my loves after a long day away. The boys were super excited to talk to me. Charlie asked if I was coming home now with the Dogman book. I could hear Alice in the background being confused about hearing mommy’s voice, but not knowing where I was. It was good to hear everyone, but because I was so tired, it also made me sappy and wish for my own bed. Thankfully the roomies came back shortly after and we chatted and laughed until bedtime.

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Saturday was my big day of sessions. I was part of a round table at 9:30am that included authors Meg Medina and Kekla Magoon (both excellent YA authors. I suggest grabbing everything they’ve written for you To Read Pile). I then attended a session about the narrative of The Other in literature and in our students’ own narratives. After lunch, I joined back up with Educator’s Room co-writers and presented about using blogging and social media to advocate for teachers. I ended the day in a session about making nonfiction more accessible (and exciting) to students.

I ended the day meeting my three roommates (one of which is one of my best friends, The Pastor’s Wife) for the annual Scholastic Dinner. Scholastic invites anyone who wants to attend to have a full-on turkey dinner together. It was pretty sweet. Plus there was lots of laughs and good conversation.

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After dinner we went over and watched an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates (correspondent for The Atlantic and author of the novel Between Me and The World). While way brief (I blame the interviewer), it was worth hustling out of the Scholastic dinner and down to the auditorium to hear him speak about the presidential election and what is happening in society from his point of view.

Sunday was more exhibit hall, Chick-fil-a, and then that evening was the Author Reception for the ALAN conference that began the next day. The highlight of the Exhibit Hall for me was a tie between all the free Advanced Reader Copy books I got and meeting Matt de la Peña and having him sign a copy of Last Stop on Market Street for my kids. Let’s not talk about my bad hair, mmkay?

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As I said, the evening brought the Author’s reception and I will fully disclose at this point that I went a little fangirl on my favorite YA authors. I met Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (All American Boys), A.S. King (Please Ignore Vera Dietz), Laurie Halse Anderson (The Chains trilogy, Speak, and many more), David Levithan (Two Boys Kissing, Every Day, Another Day, and more) and others. It was a crazy two hours of conversation and selfies. I think there were appetizers and drinks too, but I was too distracted to stand in those lines.

After, The Pastor’s Wife and I went out for BBQ with some colleagues from universities around the country. We had fabulous discussions about YA over chicarrónes. I had an American mule while splitting brisket and pulled pork while talking religion and love. It was glorious and a definite favorite part of my trip.

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Monday was my last day, and the day I got to attend the ALAN conference. As you can see, it was a bit overwhelming. They handed me a box and a bag FULL of books. There were 500 people in attendance all sorting through their books deciding what to keep, what to get signed, what to trade. It was the most beautiful chaos I have ever witnessed.

I was privileged to spend the day surrounded by books and listening to YA authors. I am positive that this must be what heaven is like.

After shipping four boxes of books (I counted 88 when I unpacked the ones for my classroom…and there were quite a few picture books and elementary chapter books I kept for my kids on top of that…so probably over 100 books total), we grabbed one more meal of Chick-fil-a before getting an Uber to the airport.

The flight and everything was smooth and on time and I was on my own couch by 11pm. I sneaked into the rooms of my children and gave kisses as I tucked them all back in.

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Tuesday evening after school and running around, these two small people stuck to my side like glue. I think they were afraid I would go away again. I was cool with it; I missed my littles. Cortney an I were in constant text or email the whole weekend. My roomies thought it was funny, but I am just so bad at being away from their lives!

I will say it was a wonderfully awesome trip! I hope to go again next year when it’s in St. Louis!

If you’re interested in more of my professional highlights, I wrote about it at The Educator’s Room.

History told in First Woman

I’ve been quiet over here, but my head has been so very loud. I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts about what is going on in our country right now, so that someday, when my words are gone, my children will still have my thoughts.

Last week started out so very exciting. I originally voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, but since his loss to Hillary Clinton, I have been 100% on the HRC bandwagon. I’m not really going to go into the why behind that since this is not a persuasive essay and at this point, because she lost, it’s moot. I just liked her as a candidate and the bonus was that she is a woman.

I was so excited to vote for a woman. I didn’t really realize just how excited I was until I was standing in line to vote. The week was a busy one and it was only Tuesday: we had parent/teacher conferences for both Eddie and Charlie plus I had parent/teacher conferences at school. On top of that both Eddie and I were scheduled to get flu shots that week. It was busy. When I made my list of things to get done, voting happened to just be an item to do and then check off.

Until I got in that line. I walked up all smiles and filled out my little card with my name and address and hopped in line. It wasn’t a long line; I had maybe a 5-10 minute wait. As I slowly made my way to the table to get the actual ballot, I looked at the faces in line. I saw a mom with a little girl and something went funny in my throat. A huge lump formed and I struggled to keep the tears from falling.

I thought of my grandmothers who were born before women even had the right to vote.

I thought of the messy history of women’s suffrage and the racist white women who ended up getting us the right to vote in the first place.

I thought of how I wept when I voted for Barack Obama the first time, and how I had blamed it on the pregnancy hormones.

I thought of all the divisiveness that our country is going through with this election, and how I answered Eddie’s questions about who I would vote for by telling him I made my choices based on who I thought would help us be kinder, more unified, and more helpful.

I thought about the time a year earlier, when Eddie asked about presidents and Cortney told him there had never been a girl president before. Eddie’s response was, “WHAT!?! Well we need to vote for one! We need a girl president!”

I thought about all the times he corrected people when they used “girl” as a put-down by saying, “hey! Your mom is a girl! Your sister is a girl! Your grandma is a girl! Do you really think girls are bad? NO! My mom and sister and grandmas are AWESOME and SMART.”

I thought about all those things and the tears started to trickle down my cheeks. I tried to quickly brush them off, but I felt a hand on my arm. When I looked up, a young lady was smiling and nodding. “Me too,” she said. “Me. Too.”

I nodded and smiled. Then I took my ballot and went to the available booth.

I don’t always vote straight ticket, but I could have on this particular ballot. But I didn’t. I wanted to color in the bubble next to her name: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

After voting, I snapped a quick selfie, and went to Office Max, picked up Eddie, and then picked up the Littles just as planned. Then I went home and made us dinner, and helped with homework, and put kids to bed.

As I went to bed, I had a sinking feeling my candidate did not win.

But I hold tight to that feeling of seeing a woman (actually TWO) on the ballot, and knowing there is a long list of hope and possibility for our future.

2016-11-08-16-29-47

Since last week’s election, my hope has been severely tested. Every time I think I have it processed enough to write about it, more happens. I pledge to put it all down here though, because these are the stories that will someday be history. I want my children to have this when I don’t have the memories or words to tell them about it anymore.

Reasons Being A Grown-up Stinks

I have been adding to this list for awhile now. It’s not that I don’t really love my life, but sometimes? Being a grown-up stinks. Bad.

  1. Paying bills
  2. Paying for insurance
  3. In general paying for things that are boring
  4. Not being able to respond to your child like you would if you were a child. Example: “Your FACE looks like a disgusting dinner.”
  5. facial hair
  6. body parts that just hurt because you’re getting older, not because you injured it doing some daring stunt like crowd surfing.
  7. Cleaning the bathroom that other people make gross. I’m looking at you, Charlie. AIM YOUR PEE.
  8. Doing other people’s laundry. Again, Charlie, I’m looking at you. WIPE YOUR BOOTY BETTER.
  9. Dusting.
  10. Wiping other people’s booties.
  11. Worrying about how long the grass is.
  12. Adult acne
  13. Being exhausted…by just being awake.
  14. Starting to sound like my parents. “I am not yelling; I am speaking sternly. You will know when I am yelling.”
  15. Realizing that behavior that you find incredibly annoying is exactly how you used to act when “you were that age.”
  16. Kidz Bop being part of my life.
  17. Paying over $100 every 6-8 weeks to cover grey hair and remove other hair.
  18. Cracking joints.
  19. Needing glasses.
  20. Understanding why Garfield hates Mondays.
  21. Slowed metabolism.
  22. Being in charge…all the dang time.
  23. the practice of herding cats…all day, every day.
  24. The lack of nap time.
  25. Being the bearer of bad news.
  26. Realizing everyone else is getting older too…
  27. people you love start dying.
  28. Having to explain hard stuff to innocent people.
  29. realizing that you have an unhealthy one-way relationship with coffee
  30. Having to let your kids win at games once in awhile.
  31. Watching the news.
  32. Being responsible.
  33. Being punctual.
  34. Picking up after other people.
  35. Making decisions.
  36. Caring about things that with letters and numbers as their names: 401K, 403b, LMNOP3 (ok that last one is not real, but whatever).
  37. Having to talk about budgets.
  38. Math.
  39. Spending all that money-you-don’t-have-but-wish-you-did-so-you-could-spend-on-fun-things on fixing a 30+ year old lawn mower’s steering.
  40. Knowing there is no quick fix, silver bullet, and maybe not even a happy ending.
  41. Saying the same thing over an over and feeling like you are talking to a wall. “Quit bothering your brother. Quit bothering your brother. QUIT BOTHERING YOUR BROTHER!”
  42. Having to follow through with consequences that leave you without fun.
  43. Seeing your childhood through “adult eyes.” That thing that was so big and amazing? It’s really just normal…and kind of run down.
  44. Being able to relate to Cathy and her reaction of “ACK!” to everything.
  45. mortgages.
  46. voting.
  47. Having to do social stuff when you don’t want to do social stuff, but it’s sort of required social stuff, so you do it anyway.
  48. bad beer.
  49. pregnancy scares…especially when you have been, um, fixed. And you’re of “advanced maternal age.”
  50. Getting AARP mailings…when you’re not even forty.

being a grown-up

I realize not everyone has the same experience as I do. Some people never have kids and are still jumping out of airplanes at ninety years old. That is not the life I chose for myself. This list is not meant to be a big fat downer on my life, either. I really do love my husband and kids and life, but seriously. Sometimes things stink. So I made a list. What would you add? Let’s vent, shall we?

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