The Blossom, the Camera, & the Bonnet

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I'm looking at a page in a book. It's one of those prompted journals with sections devoted to writing and drawing. I've had it for more than two years and I've only filled out three pages. It's time to let it go.

Before I do, though, I flip through the book to see if the pages I did do are worth keeping. One, a prompted story, makes me think I need to tear our the page and save it in a journal somewhere. For safe keeping. I might want to look back on it one day, I think. 

Almost as quickly as I had dreamt up the idea of saving the physical page, it is discarded. If I'm being entirely honest with myself, I won't remember I saved the page until I am in the middle of my next book purge and ridding the shelves of the book holding the page I might not save now because I'll just end up throwing it away later. The smarter choice is to save my story here, where my physical words do not take up physical space. One day, I'll remember I wrote this. And here, in my digital world, I will find it.

The prompt asked me to create a story using drawings of a tiny flower, a camera, and a little girl wearing a bonnet. And so I wrote these words:

The bonnet's job is to make her look like Laura from Little House in the Big Woods. It was her portal to the past; her Tardis, only with less room and a much more accurate GPS system. With the too-big floppy bonnet on her head, her blue jeans, 1 Direction tee, and Converse had become a homemade dress and the only boots she would own until she grew. That's when they'd be given to Baby Carrie, the sister she hoped she'd have in real life. Maybe one day, she thought, if Mama and Daddy would do more than just nod their heads and smile whenever she brought up adoption centers and babies nobody wanted. 

The falling leaves crunched beneath her feet as she bent to pick up a small fallen branch from the apple tree under which she stood. The branch, which reminded her of a wishbone from a Thanksgiving turkey, still laid claim to a tiny blossom on one branch of the "V" and a shiny red apple on the other. The girl who was Laura because the bonnet made her so didn't hear the "click click" from her mother's 35 mm camera as she took a bite of the apple, the tiny blossom already tucked behind one ear. 

This is the Part Where You Ask Me a Question

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Okay, Internet. I've got a deal for you, so pay attention.

The short story is you need to ask me for more solicited advice so I can be witty and sassy in my answers while fixing your life and entertaining the rest of the world.

Fine, maybe not your entire life. But at least the part you're getting ready to ask me about.

So here's the deal. For those of you who don't know, the big glossy mags have huge lead times between putting an issue together and the actual date of publication. I turn my own work into Latina months in advance, which is actually pretty standard in the industry. So, maybe I'm ahead on paper, but next month's deadline is still giving me the stink-eye.

This summer is going to be insane for me with conferences (like that BlogHer '14 Me Speaking on a Freelancing Panel because I suck at self-promotion and totally forgot to blog about that when I found out forever ago!) and a few new projects I've got brewing. That's not counting the novel I'm still trying to write, the ChingonaFest workshops and retreats I'm in the planning stages for, and remembering to feed my child, or the times I write "Sex with The Husband" on my To-Do list so I have a visual reminder to step away from the laptop every now and again.

To make my life Slightly Less Insane, I need  you to talk to me. I need my inbox full of questions and to keep it full of questions. Topics include (but aren't limited to..)

  • * love
  • *sex
  • * relationships
  • * cultural issues
  • * body image
  • * dating
  • * parenting
  • * Crazy Ex stories and related drama
  • * or variations on how to respond the next time someone says you don't look/sound/act Latina enough. I have found that replacing the U in Fuck with an * totally works for spicing up a glossy mag page.

Email me at dimelo@latina.com.  All questions are confidential and if used, your name is replaced with a sassy secret identity. So basically, ask me for solicited advice and I'll turn you into a super hero for free.

I know.

I kind of love me right now, too.

 

 

 

** Have you sigedn up for The Tortilla Press Newsletter yet? (Look at the sidebar, y’all)! It's the best way to stay up to date with my Crazy and the latest #Chingona and #ChingonaFest news! Can't wait to connect with you on social media!  Follow me on Twitter, instagram, and here’s the FB fan page!

 

 

Got a Story to Tell?

I'm taking a minute to share a great essay contest for my Latina #Dimelo readers I just learned about from Latina and SheBooks.  

From the SheBooks site about the I am Latina Essay Contest

Win $1,000 and publication in Latina and Shebooks!

With over 52 million Latinos in the U.S., it’s easier than ever to keep our cultures alive. Latina & Shebooks, a new e-book publisher, want to read about the moment that you felt the most connected with your culture and were proud to call yourself a Latina. Starting January 10, 2014, you can submit your essay up to 1000 words, and you'll be entered to win $1,000 and publication in a future issue of Latina.  Winner and runners-up may also be featured in a future Shebook.

 

Sounds great, doesn't it? And I love what I'm seeing about SheBooks, a new e-publisher of short books written by and for women. I'm also excited to see my column about raising a chingona as one of the many listed as examples of essays Latina loved.  Click here to get the full details on the essay contest and get to writing!

 

The Pinterest Complex

What does one buy her husband to make up for the general craziness of the writing/blogging/freelancing life putting the sex life on the back burner when Important Things Are Happening that Must Be Attended to Right This Minute? I'm thinking the man-equivalent to Something Shiny and Sparkly. Don't say a Ferrari. I'm freelancing. That Writer-Speak for "Looks Good On Paper Only" with "Fucking Broke" understood to be the most accepted translation. Besides, it's not like I came home smelling like another man's cologne or something. That, my friends, would require what normal people tend to refer to as "Free Time".  I have been told this "Free Time" is something one can only find outside of The Internet and requires the separation, if only temporary, mind you, of self and laptop. Always interesting, this learning about the habits of the Non-Writer.

The other night, after a frantic nod to, um, Quality Time, (and a "Was That Good For You? Yes? Good!," exchange as I bolted out of the room and into my email to reply to a revision request from my editor, I realized I'm married to a saint. I mean, I knew that before Oh Husband Whom I Know is Reading These Words, but sometimes, the little Aha! Moments tend to jump out and say You Have No Idea How Difficult You Are to Live With Sometimes and Why is Pinterest Giving His Penis a Complex?

Let's discuss, shall we? Or would it be easier to just get a calendar and a Sharpie and circle the other days of the month indicating:

  • Deadlines
  • Twitter parties
  • Sherlock
  • That blog post I REALLY need to write about that thing that just went viral that I'll go to my grave swearing a tiny part of me wasn't convinced my brilliant response would go viral, too
  • General stabbiness because ten different bloggers TOLD me I'm a much better writer than that two-bit hack that went viral only because she got lucky (after I asked them, of course)
  • My fictional characters in that novel I'm writing just acted out the next scene inside my head I have to write RIGHT now or I lose it all
  • The kid drove me nuts all day
  • PINTEREST
  • Live-tweeting Downton Abby
  • I got in a phone fight with his mom
  • I got in a phone fight with my mom
  • We're out of chocolate
  • We're out of wine
  • We're out of chocolate-flavored wine
  • The hours I need to comb through blog archives in search of THE PERFECT PIECE of literary wit to submit to --
  • A) Listen To Your Mother
  • B) Blogher Voices of the Year
  • That Facebook quiz I need to take to figure out what character I'm most like in Harry Potter, which leads me to the one about what kind of French cheese I am
  • The dishes in the sink that aren't gonna do themselves
  • The fifteenth online book launch party this month for yet another friend I can't let down
  • The twitter argument I have to finish with this idiot who has no fucking clue who they're messing with
  • The planets are out of alignment
  • Mercury is in retrograde .... Again
  • File another invoice while secretly cursing the chick with the 300 Sandwiches and the book deal
  • I'm busy buying 19 more URL's for ideas I'll never get to...just in case
  • Frantic text conversations with the online friends I've yet to meet in person discussing Important Things like how many pairs of shoes to pack for that conference none of us have actually purchased tickets for yet
  • My 1,000 word goal for the day is still 989 words short
  • The NEED to Google my blog Alexa rank RIGHT NOW even though I still have no idea what it means
  • Which, obviously, is to be followed up by checking my Klout score
  • *Googling "Does Klout Matter to People who don't think in 140?
  • I haven't yet taken 30 selfies from different angles, narrowed it down to the perfect one, and thought up a witty caption for that #365feministselfie thing and posted it EVERYWHERE before I even THINK of getting naked
  • That important email I'm waiting for that will show up right now if I keep hitting refresh
  • The conference call I'm waiting on in east coast time with everybody else in west coast time
  • The kid drove me nuts all day & we're out of chocolate-flavored wine
  • The writing and scheduling of next week's blog posts
  • When I was frisky while he was at work and I was home alone and I took care of it myself already because I was being proactive and really should be congratulated for thinking ahead to free up my night to ...
  • Pick any of the above

Damn. Poor guy puts up with a lot, doesn't he?

We writers are a special bunch. And the people who are nuts enough to love us deserve their own reality shows, I think. Because when we make it big? That's when we make it up to them and they can proudly tell the world they knew marrying the crazy lady would totally pay off in the end.

Just let me finish up this chapter so I can write this blog post and hit Publish because dammit, this one's gonna go viral.

I just know it.

 

Refocused

Sometimes, the blogosphere has to come second. While this space has served me well in allowing me to get the Instant Gratification fix so important to my sanity, the deadlines take precedence. I thought about blogging every day that I couldn't. And that's something, at least. This past week was one of the crazier ones. Three deadlines -- two for Latina and one for a new writing partnership I'll be announcing soon. I homeschool and the girl-child has an extra-curricular activity every. single. day. of. the week. Plus the cooking of the meals and the trying to make sure we have something clean to wear ... and the bed time routine and the MAMAIAMTHIRSTYINEEDTOGOPOTTYCANIHAVEMOREWATERPLEASEITHINKTHERE'SAMONSTERUNDERMYBED business usually means I'm sitting down to write around 10 p.m. or so. And then I write, email me work off to my editors, and if I'm still able to blink beyond the sleep and focus 0n the screen before me, that's when I open a new word doc I'm working on....

I'm writing a novel, y'all. I'm pretty sure it's the one thing I was supposed to be working on all those times I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be working on and now that I've figured it out, I'll sleep when I'm done.

Which brings me to the reason I cracked open the laptop today before the sun set. While my daughter plays quietly in her room and The Husband watches some TV instead of taking down the Christmas tree, I'm here to announce the end of Girl Body Pride. And because the click-throughs no longer matter, I'll share the reasons behind the why in this space that isn't going anywhere.

I called it The Final Bow.

 

 

 

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This is a hard post to write. It’s surprising how hard it is to find the words, actually, considering that after much soul-searching and late night text message marathons with the friends I’ve made through writing. But then again, I guess knowing what needs to be done  doesn’t make the doing any easier, even with the absolute certainty that I’ve made the right decision.

It’s time to bow down to the many incredible and established voices in the realm of body and self-image discussions.  It’s time to let Girl Body Pride fade into internet oblivion.  While I’ve truly the experience and am grateful to have connected with some of most talented writers I know, I think this is the right thing to do. My role as Latina Magazine’s advice columnist, alongside homeschooling my daughter, my personal blog, and the occasional need to sleep, all have limited the time I am able to responsibly bitching about which celeb mom’s six-week post-partum bikini body is giving us all a complex on this week’s glossy magazine cover. Deadlines that help pay the bills always take priority, as does time with my little girl and husband. Clearly, something had to give. The answer became clear when I realized I was no longer capable of giving 100 percent of my efforts to making this site all I had believed it could be.

If I see you at any conferences this year, you’ll probably receive a business card that lists Girl Body Pride as part of my identity. And that’s perfectly fine with me because I think it always will be. I’m grateful for the words shared on the site by so many wonderfully talented writers and bloggers, thankful for the friends made and connections established, and so very appreciative to you, our readers, for cheering us on along the way.

You’re still beautiful, just the way you are. And you always will be.

 

And that's that.

Butterflies for Everyone!

If you're new to the blog, I'd like to welcome you with a little bit of awesome. As a pre-holiday thank you to my readers (and a little reminder to ourselves to be thankful for the bodies that carry us through our days) I've decided to make the Girl Body Pride Strong Like Butterfly anthology free on Smashwords through Sunday.

The anthology contains the work of many Girl Body Pride writers like Shoshana Rachel, Elan Morgan, and Jessie Sanfilippo, along with novelists Therese Walsh and Mercedes Yardley. Each story shared speaks to women struggling with body image issues. And each story is so beautifully told.

I'd like to invite you to take this opportunity to get your free copy of Strong Like Butterfly and, of course, to pass the information on to your friends. And please, know that I look forward to your thoughts after reading the book. It was an honor editing this collection. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I still do.

(Twice) Upon a Time

I'm not cheating. I'm reminiscing. There's a difference.

I was curious about the first November for Aspiring Mama. It's been a while since I've looked in the archives, and even then I didn't go back to the very first few months. In November is 2009, Aspiring Mama was just 4 months old. In the muddlings of a brand new blogger and always writer trying to find my way, this is what I saw...

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a middle-aged mother who was long passed being mistaken for a beautiful young maiden.

This mother had traded in her ability to sing woodland animals into helping her whistle while she worked, her penchant for taming even the most wild of the beasts, and her magical coach and footmen for a humble life with The Man She Loved and a Child for whom she’d give her last breath, along with piles of dirty laundry waiting to be done, dishes that just wouldn’t wash themselves, and an ass that magically expanded at the mere sight of food.

It was a mundane existence, but one filled with its own inspired moments. For the love of the Child could not even compare to the perks her Fairy Godmother once provided. Dreams of princes, beautiful ball gowns, and happily ever afters might have been nice while they lasted, but this mother understood that her place in Reality was one she could take great pride in, even if that place was a precarious one and sure to drive her as insane as her crazy Step-Sister who spent her days in a padded room trying to shove her size 10?s into a size 5 glass slipper.

“Who wears a glass slipper, anyway?” the mother wearily sighed. Forget the mere idiocy of the thought and the smell of nasty foot sweat sure to come part and parcel with wearing the damned things, but if it broke? Good Heavens! How unsafe it would be in her humble home for The Child while she cleaned.

One night, the mother dreamed. She dreamed vibrant colors, swirling images, and magic-filled words. She woke to hear The Child crying for her and tucked her dream away for just one more moment, one more day in the land of Reality, and tended to The Child’s, filling her sweet head with visions of singing mermaids, beautiful princesses, and houses built of candies.

Her own dreams could wait. For just a little while longer.

 

This post originally appeared with the title Once Upon a Time on Aspiring Mama in November of 2009.

HURRY UP (and wait....)

I should probably start with I'M SORRY. Mainly because I seriously had no intention of becoming an internet tease. There's news that I am absolutely DYING to share because

* It's exciting

* And Fucking Awesome

* But mostly because I suck at keeping secrets so not saying anything is actually HURTING MY BRAIN.

The plan for today's announcement has been delayed. Which sucks. But Hurry Up and Wait is the name of the game in the publishing world. I can say that I'm a finally a Contracted, Tax-Paying Writer, which I haven't been able to say since I left The Detroit News to raise our daughter almost six years ago and Colossally Suck at freelancing. ( Seriously, do you know how Organized you need to be to keep all the plates required for regular income flying and how hysterical that concept is when you try to say the words "Pauline" and "Organized" in the same sentence? )

I know. I couldn't keep  straight face, either.

Anyway, please don't shoot the messenger because the messenger probably needs her Xanax. She just got off the phone with A Person in the Writing World who informed her that more time is needed before The Announcement can be made. I'm okay with this. Probably because I just chased that Xanax with an espresso, but who's judging?

Until then, it's back to business as usual. There's the Mom thing, the Packing to Move into a New Rental House thing, the Wife thing, and the working on finding my Zen with my recently resumed Yoga & Just Dance 4 routine I've got going on with Buttercup. There's the Homeschool thing, the Girl Body Pride thing, and the Furious Texting to Family & Friends to let them know I need another week to make good on my Promise to Validate the Working in my Pajamas thing.

This is good. Now I've got a few extra days to figure out how to fit Paleo-ADHD-Yoga-loving-Hippie-Homeopathic-Homeschooling-Mexican-Living-in-Maine on a business card and not make it look to wordy.

 

6/365: Presently Speaking

She asks where babies come from so I tell her I wished her down from up

above a star so bright.

Eleventeen stopped being a

number. Cherub cheeks replaced by the smaller

version of her future self.

Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy,

still shape her reality, but one day

too soon

they also will be a happy memory of when she was

younger

innocent

needing me

and I will miss the now that has faded into

remember when?

She asks me where babies come from so

I tell her I wished her down from up

above a star so bright. Science and biology

can kiss my ass because no matter what she learns

as she grows into the older version of her

present self, I will have always

wished her true.

Cracks in the Surface

My usual nighttime routine is to get Buttercup in bed with a book or ten before turning off the light. No matter how quickly she falls asleep, I always stay for a bit, tracing my finger over her cheek and marveling at the fact that Universe granted me this one wish.

Around 9, I make it back downstairs to the kitchen table, where my Mac is waiting patiently for me, and I get to work. First I procrastinate. There's the internet to roam and email to check and pins to pin and George Takei Facebook posts to like. I get up for a bit, put together The Husband's lunch for the next day, and place it all on the second shelf of the fridge in the exact same spot because it's at eye level and easier for me to make sure I haven't left anything out. I might let the dogs outside. I might even turn on some music. Either way, by 10 or so, I'm back at the kitchen table and writing something. Maybe it's a blog post or an essay or another small piece of the novel in progress that won't allow itself to be written any faster than a few sentences a month.

In any case, I write. And when my head is empty and my thoughts no longer racing, I sleep. And then I wake up to do it all over again.

But there are times when the routine is interrupted by noise. It might be while she is falling asleep at my side. Or while I wait for the dogs to scratch at the back door. This is when I blink to clear my head and realize an hour has passed while I focus on picking at an invisible imperfection until skin breaks. I tell myself to stop. Normal people don't do this kind of thing, you know. And I'll move on. Chin to that little bump between my eyebrows. From the eyebrows to the forearm. The forearm to the breast. Too much time passes. There's no time for words.

Buttercup's swim instructor asked me today if I had been in a car accident since she saw me last. I told her I was dealing with allergic reactions, which is partially true. I am. It's what got me scratching to begin with, anyway, and I'll share the laundry list of reasons why I am now officially The Dinner Guest from Hell later. The Husband has stopped yelling at me about this little OCD issue of mine and instead instructed me to make an appointment with my nurse practitioner about my ADHD meds not working for me anymore. I nodded, only slightly surprised to see how quickly we have both adapted to the reality that ADHD is more than just being forgetful, which came as a surprise when I noticed the need to scratch at my surface had instantly disappeared when I first was diagnosed and began a regular medication schedule. So I went in to see my nurse practitioner on Monday and started the new meds on Tuesday. It's Wednesday now and I'm noticing the insomnia seems to be fading as my eyes get heavier just a bit earlier than the 4 am I have become accustomed to over the past few weeks. That's a good sign.

I resume my usual nighttime routine. Buttercup falls asleep. I procrastinate. I empty my mind of the words.

Insert Witty Title Here

It's not often that life kicks my ass so hard I can't make five minutes to at least repost old material with a brand new headline, but it does happen.

In the last few weeks alone, I've dealt with a lot. Some big, like being diagnosed with adult ADHD (and suddenly high school makes sense) and some not-so-big but totally drama worthy for an ADHD/OCD woman barely holding on to the keeping it all together. Not that I'm naming names but this woman mayu or may not have three dogs, one husband who just announced he is switching to swing shift right about the time a certain girl child starts kindergarten, effectively erasing all chances  to pee in peace for at least three months. She also learned how hard it is to apply red lipstick from an adult-sized tube onto the tiny red lips that would smile big enough on stage for me to see from where I sat. So she asked another mom to do it, which is probably why my child looked like a demure ballerina princess in the enchanted rose garden and not a toddler in a tiara.

Every missed opportunity to save a moment with my words for posterity is still stored in my head. But between the two weeks of digestive hell I've been dealing with and today's craziness, I think it would be extremely responsible of me to be proactive for once in my adult life and sign up for a sponsor and the nearest AA group before getting all I Love You Guys drunk and sloppy.

Buttercup and I left the house at 10 a.m. this morning for the hike across town to see the first of three doctors, all scheduled for the same day because they all happen to be five minutes from each other whereas I live 45 minutes on the other side of the world. My super-powered nurse practitioner figures my fingers look like I ran them over with a lawn mower because I was in desperate need of an ADHD medication change, the ENT guy agrees with my crazy bloodshot eyes being caused by the mesquite currently burning in New Mexico that I should probably not only Stay Indoors At All Times but that if I leave my house it should only be to get the hell away from the Southern border, because of the Being Severely Allergic thing, and my naturopath walked me through my food allergy panel test results (hint: air and water are on the safe list. Except for the air currently filled with the pollen from the burning mesquite carrying over from New Mexico. That air is totally the opposite of being on the safe list. Also? The last time I looked like this, I was sitting in a college dorm room wondering why feet suddenly turned into ice and why she had a towel tucked under the door and that was accidentally way more fun.

I'm exhausted and want a new hobby that doesn't involve insurance co-pays and waiting rooms. And a pony. I'd totally love one of those. But I'd settle for trashy daytime TV and time to pretend I'm a famous blogger. My head is spinning with thoughts like what I'm wearing to my cousin's wedding in a few weeks, dealing with a cross-country flight and family members and Routines that Are Not My Own. I'm crazy with worry over finding the perfect shoes for BFF Heather's wedding next March, how the hell I'm going to get any work done with The Husband home all morning and Buttercup all afternoon, and how behind I'll be tomorrow with my to-do list if I don't have time to finish it all tonight.

And that's when I remind myself that blogging is on my list of things to do because it matters and keeps me sane(ish) and sane(ish) is a good place to be. So I force myself to sit back down, turn the Mac back on, and log back in.

Zombies and Dead Dads

 

It's strange how the timing on this one worked out. But the timing could not have been more perfect for me to finally have what has got to be the most bad-ass blog post title ever. Then again, I received pretty high praise from readers on the Love, Assholes, and My Grandpa one, so I guess it's kind of a toss up.

Either way, I've got a zombie to tell you about and a dead father to remember.

There's this poem I wrote years ago. If I remember correctly, it was for a creative writing course in college and the class was silent for just a moment longer than a heartbeat after I finished reading. Zombie is not meant to be a comfortable read or to create images of beauty; rather, it's a very real and very gritty moment that many who have ever suffered from bulimia can (sadly) relate to.

Until very recently, Zombie was in a binder with old papers until I decided to do something more with it. So I transcribed it into a Word Document, hit save, and sent my words off to the editor at Voxx Poetica. My poem appeared on Voxx almost two months ago and I just now realized it had actually been published. Thank you to Voxx for a moment to connect with others who understand and the opportunity to explain the inner-workings of the head of an eating disordered teenager to those who don't.

Because I tend to schedule my blog posts based on the incredibly scientific When I Remember to Do it method, my plan to share my Voxx publication news with you today just now happens to coincide with dead dads, the daughters of all ages who are grieving them, and the woman who is building working to build a community of solace for those who find themselves wondering where to turn. I first met my friend Mary of Mama Mary Show a few years ago at the Phoenix Bloggy Bootcamp conference and got to see her again at Blogher 10 just a few months later. I don't remember how we started talking about it, but we connected when we shared with each other the pain of losing our fathers decades before we had expected to deal with this kind of grief.

Mary's goal was to publish a book and start a new web site on which contributing writers could connect, share, and heal. And I'm honored to be featured as part of the official launch of the Dead Dad's Club.

Every time someone else thinks my words worthy of their space is a day to celebrate. Every day I am brave enough to share again is a day to smile. I survived me. And I'll never delete my my father's phone number from my contact list.

The Me That I Am

I'm having a pretty shitty Writerly Ego day. Actually, it's kind of been a shitty Writerly Ego month, to be perfectly honest. And when I've shared this little emotional nugget with the BFF and The Husband, I've received a raised eyebrow and a "YOU HAVE A FUCKING AGENT" in response to my pity party. I get where it's coming from. I am in a position a lot of writers would kill for. I have a wonderful agent who thinks me and my writing are worth something and deserve a place on the shelves at Barnes & Noble next to writers I admire like Jenny Lawson Jill SmoklerRobin O'BryantAnna Lefler and Heather Armstrong. It seems, however, that the platform I am currently standing on may not big enough to get there. Or maybe it just feels like that because I'm a writer and us artistic types are moody and overly emotional and maybe I just need a vodka-flavored cookie. Because really? I'm pretty proud of my little platform. I bust my ass for free because writing is who I am and what I do and the writing part is actually more important than getting paid part...for my sanity, at least. The bills sitting on my desk waiting to be paid, however, would rather I stop trying to stay Not Crazy and just get a fucking job that probably wouldn't leave me the time to write for the awesome sites I contribute to.

I love sharing the funny on An Army of Ermas and Funny Not Slutty. Getting a spot on best-selling author Lissa Rankin's Owning Pink site is something I will forever be proud of. I've been published on Hippocampus Magazine and almost fell over when StoryBleed accepted the same piece for publication on their site. And then what I've got going on over here on this little ol' blog o' mine. I'm working on getting my name out there and my writing on more outlets, but these things take time. And Platforms don't build themselves overnight.

I'm by no means in the same stratosphere as the likes of Dooce or The Bloggess or Scary Mommy and that's okay with me. I'm not trying to be them. Just me. And hopefully the Me that I Am will one day be enough.

Maybe this sounds like a Poor Me post, but I don't mean it to. Instead, I wanted to let other aspiring writers out there know that the days of doubting yourself don't end the moment you sign that contract with your dream agent. And, I'm sure my published writer friends will tell me that they sure as hell don't end when a book deal is offered or the day their books were released or even the day they got their first glowing review. Because once someone Other Than You believes in your work, it's not just your ego riding on how many readers connect with that essay you got placed in that literary magazine that you love or how many hits per month your blog is getting or how much better you feel just for having taken the jumbled words out of your head and making some sense of them in a new piece you just started.

Every level of success reached is both a validation of our talents and a new reason to Freak the Fuck out, but it's a lesson in the writing life that I seem to keep having to be reminded of. Three months ago I was still waiting for the Moment All of My Dreams Would Come True and then the world turned upside down when they did because I signed with my agent. That singular moment took two years to make a reality. And you would be right of you guessed that the Freaking Out commenced after the shiny newness of my situation sunk in. It's not just me and my ego on the table anymore. It's me and my ego and my agent's time and effort and enthusiasm and Belief in What I Am and Have Yet to Become.

But if I think back, I probably went through the same little Self-Doubt Fest when I was accepted onto my college newspaper's staff and when I saw my first byline and when I was assigned to cover my first murder case at the city newspaper that hired me right out of college. And then again when I left the newspapers to freelance and when I started this blog and when I woke up this morning and my little girl told me that I'm the best mother in the world.

So maybe shitty Writerly Ego days are just part of the process and part of what makes us who -- and what -- we are. It's our literary equivalent of the trap women set for men when we ask if This Dress Makes Us Look Fat because we really only need to be reminded that in their eyes we are beautiful no matter what how that dress fits us. My platform is what it is. My ass? Probably looks horrible in that dress. But it's okay.

Because tomorrow I'm still going to write something. And someone is going to read it.

When Everybody's Looking

 

You now how kids do that cute and totally obvious Turn On The Charm thing when they realize they have An Audience? Like this morning when Buttercup and I were sitting in the waiting room at the lab for my blood draw on Dr. Naturopath's orders and she got all snuggly and I Love You Mom and Kissy Kissy and Sideways Looks and Silly Grins after noticing smiling strangers noticing her?

Sure, she loves me. Sure, she does that stuff when no one's looking.

But she cranks the volume a bit on the charm factor when she feels the need to perform. I don't make a big deal about it. Little girl is and always has been a bit of a drama princess, so I just snuggle closer, let her kiss and hug and I Love You to her heart's content, knowing full well she's going to go back to pretending to read the magazine she stopped pretending to read when the curtains went up announcing the beginning of her act as soon as the interesting kind strangers she's hamming it up for pick up a magazine of their own.

It wasn't until I logged on to my blog just to see what my stats were for the third time today and refreshed my email again and again and again with the hopes of a notification of a comment on whatever post it was that I had imagined might be the one Not Just I thought was Funny or Insightful or So Wonderfully Written that Someone Else would make it their mission to share it with the world that it occurred to me that I have been...acting.

Just like my daughter and her never-ending supply of affection she loves to show me whether or not anyone is looking that is only exaggerated when she realizes that someone actually is, I write because it's who I am and I'm going to write whether or not anyone is reading, except that when I realize people are reading I might Force the Funny a bit more than necessary or self-edit something out of a post I wouldn't have even thought about before because I know you are there.

I used to write stuff like this and this and this. And I still do. The difference is that before I wrote for myself in the hopes of getting an audience. Now I write in the hopes of growing the one I have. I still write for myself, but somehow it seems different.

I wonder if I'm trying too hard.

Then again, I might just be looking at this all wrong. Buttercup loves me no matter who is or isn't looking and I write no matter who is or isn't reading. The difference is that she doesn't care either way.

And this is where I realize how smart my kid is.

As long as you don't make a big deal about it and just let me get this little bit of Cute and Totally Obvious Turn on the Charm out of my system, I promise to go back to pretending to read that magazine and making up stories just because I can.

Meet the Ermas: Round 1

I love to laugh. Almost as much as I love to make other people laugh (clarification: on PURPOSE, yo.) So when I was asked to officially hop on the An Army of Ermas bandwagon by the incredibly awesome Stacey I. Graham, I naturally said (and I quote), "Hell Yes!" The beauty of the Ermas site is the multitude of talent you'll find and the humor* (and ability to relate to the real life moments) in the stories shared by each and every writer for the site.

Being a writer myself, I always like to get to know the person behind the words on the screen, and I'm hoping you will, too. There's a lot of Ermas and I'd like for you to get to know each one. Today I'm featuring an interview with Adam Slade. I promise I only featured him first because of the sexy English accent I'm imagining.

PMC- Vanilla or chocolate? I know you expected me to start with age, rank, and serial number, but we need to set the tone for this interview first. Vanilla is safe and boring. Chocolate is funny and a bit adventurous. Or was it the other way around?

Adam-Vanilla, but in a funny and adventurous way. Ha! I'm complex!(With real vanilla pods. Mmm...)

PMC: Sneaky bastard. Okay then. Do you chew your ice cream?

Adam: Yes. Unless it contains nothing chewy. In which case, yes.

PMC: Good. I don't trust people who don't chew ice cream. Now that we're past the pleasantries, I want name, rank, and serial number. Who are you, exactly. And why should I think you're funny?

AS: Adam Slade, Chief Accountant in Charge of Sheep-Dip, #42, MA'AM.

I'm an English author of fantasy and humour (with a U), and have a few books under my belt that you should definitely buy. I'll even throw in a belt to carry them with (I won't). I currently live in Canada with my wife and cat. Both are lovely, though one occasionally bites me.
You should think I'm funny because I try really hard at it. (Don't believe those who say it should come naturally - notice how they're never funny people.)
PMC: I see. Where can one buy your books? And I want that belt.
AS: One (and you, yes you) can buy my books on pretty much every internet ebook seller there is. To cut down on finger strain, though, I'll just link that Amazonian one.

Belts come only with large purchases. Large enough that I can afford to buy a belt from the royalties.
I also write erotic romance under another name, but that's a secret, so you'll just have to buy lots and lots of it in the hope that you get one of mine.

PMC: I was waiting for you to tell me erotic was spelled with a "u". So, Mr. English. Tell me about this Erma gig you've got going on. Did you bribe Stacey with brownies to get in, too?

AS: Nope. Unless you have a past you're not telling me about, there's no "u" in erotica. If I plied Stacey with my brownies, she'd have me arrested for attempted poisoning. After she beat me up, of course. Everyone knows editors have serious guns from all that crossing-out.

Last Christmas Our Glorious Leader put up a competition, asking people to submit their funniest Chrimbo-themed articles. The winner would get both praise and their article posted on the site. Since I'd wussed out of the previous call for writers, I manned up just enough to write something for the contest, and Stacey decided it was worth posting. Just after that, she offered me a spot on the Ermas roster and I said 'booya', followed by 'yes'. I tend to post about once every 2 months, as spots are limited, and sometimes I'm too late/lazy to grab one. I try and keep the articles silly.

PMC: No bribing? Obviously, there is some favoritism present. *lesigh* I was gonna say there is no "I" in erotic but that just backfired on me. So back to you. Where can one find you on the interwebz?

AS: What can I say? It's my English charm. Or the begging. Probably the begging, come to think of it.

I'm speedy with my innuendos. It's a gift. Or a curse. A girse? That sounds like a cross between a giraffe and a horse. Cuft, then?
You can find me in many many places, as I use the internet far too much. My main blog has links to everything else. I'd love for some new followers to go with my ol--, uh, less new ones. They're a lovely bunch. Most can move about without walkers, too.
PMC: Do you ever tweet? Cuz I'm on, like, all the time. And I never see you! Talk more. That might reel in the non-walker crowd.

Just my two cents.

Okey dokey then. Oh wait! You said English charm! Do you have an English accent to go with it? Will you read my my grocery list?

AS: I do tweet, but nowhere near as frequently as I used to. It's a failing of mine.

Yes, I have an English accent, and yes, I can read your shopping list. Lemme see...
Mexifro comb, oil for elliptical trainer, three extra large packets of sarcasm...

PMC: You're lucky I like you....

***

*I thought about adding the "U" out of respect for my English guest. Then I decided I like the way the word looks better when spelled properly.

Buzzing on Ketchup

I've already posted an excerpt and a review of Robin O'Bryant's Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves. Now it's time for the official author interview. Grab yourself a glass of wine and kick up your feet and relate, y'all.

Extra credit if you stay till the end.

And yes, I will totally know if you actually read the post or just skipped to the end.

***

Aspiring Mama: Let's cut to the chase. What do you mean, ketchup isn't a vegetable?

Robin O'Bryant: It IS. It totally is. Isn't it?? It has to be at my house because it's the only thing my seven-year-old has eaten besides Cheerios and chicken nuggets since she started taking solids. Occasionally I make her eat something green-- which she then slathers in ketchup and gags down. Sometimes you just gotta get by and figure out what works for you. That's what Ketchup is a Vegetable is about: figuring out this whole motherhood thing as you go, doing what works regardless if it's what somebody else would do and learning to laugh at yourself.

AM: And this girl doesn't mess around, ladies and gentlemen. Did you see that segue way into her book and why you must have it?

So, miss smooth operator, I can laugh at myself. Am I doing it right if other people are laughing, too?

RO: Definitely. I think people in general are drawn to others who they can relate to, and who can relate to perfection? If you can laugh at yourself and let others laugh with you then everyone feels less alone.

Being a mother, especially if you stay at home or work from home, can be very isolating. (*Sidebar* I am not saying that being a working mom is easier. Being a parent is hard anyway you slice it!) But nobody wants to be friends with the mom who is always put together and has "perfect" kids-- she makes the rest of us feel bad about wearing yoga pants and baseball hats everyday.

AM: Please tell me you base your clothing choices on what has the least amount of food stains visible. Cuz then? We are totally relating.

RO: Lawd, yes. After I had my third daughter in four years (did I stutter?) I was so proud of myself for getting Dressed to run errands one day. I had a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a newborn and actually not having a breast exposed was a pretty big deal. I mean at that stage in the game getting dressed was yoga pants with snot stains crusted on the knees and a t-shirt off the floor. But I got Dressed-- which means I got all fancy and put on pants with a zipper, a real bra, makeup-- the whole nine. I went shopping after I dropped my oldest two at preschool. I felt so sassy, I tossed my hair and sashayed all over town.

That night when I was getting in the shower, I pulled my shirt over my head and felt something crusty... dried baby puke all the way from the shoulder to the waist of my shirt. That's when I gave up. Now that my kids are a little older (7,5 & 3), I've started getting fancy again, you know-- bras with underwire and pants with zippers.

AM: Swanky. Now, I've never met you in person but I imagine you talk just like you write and really? I totally think we are the same person. Only my hair is much more confusing. So I imagine that reading Ketchup is a vegetable is a lot like drinking too much boxed wine with your favorite girlfriend after the your kids (and hers) kids have passed out from their Kool-Aid induced sugar highs while watching SpongeBob Square Pants. Please tell me I am correct and that this is how you will describe your book to anyone who ever asks for a description from this point on.

RO: Oh abso-freakin-loutely. I grew up in Alabama and have always lived in the South so I may have a little more twang than you'd expect! But yeah, these are my thoughts about being a mom, just like I'd share them with my bestie. It was hysterically funny to me to see how many synonyms I could come up with to call my lady bits. And if you're going to write about being a mom then you are going to be writing about your lady bits-- a lot.

AM: You know you have to share now, right? I want the top five lady but synonyms. Go!

RO: Britney. Coo-coo. Zipples. Lady Bits. Big Berthas. There are STORIES there. (Also my best friend is the sweetest person in the world and her only concern when reading my manuscript was that one day Britney Spears would read my book and have her feelings hurt that I called my bidnass *BONUS synonym* Britney.)

AM: I am so using that. The Britney reference, I mean. Well, maybe not. "pushed a baby out my Britney" sounds like an MTV reality show that's supposed to run right after 16 and Pregnant. I prefer the terms *hooha* and *cabbage*.

But back to the book: what was your inspiration? And why do you think it will resonate with other moms out there?

RO: I've always been very introspective and terrified by the temporary nature of life. I've spent a lot of time in my life worrying about things that never happened, then a childhood friend of mine was killed in a boating accident. It was like someone was shaking me and SCREAMING, "STOP BEING AN IDIOT! Enjoy life while you can!" Then I had kids, and I made a conscious decision to stop worrying and enjoy my life... even if to do that I'm sharing some of my most embarrassing moments for the world to laugh at.

I wrote this book for other moms because like I said, we can feel so alone and we don't have to. But I think anybody with a sense of humor will enjoy it. I have a self-syndicated humor column and I get so cracked up when I get emails from people outside of my demographic-- some guy in his 20s told me once that he and his childless girlfriend read my column out loud every week and laugh until they cry. Prolly good birth control, too.

AM: I'm sorry about your friend. But I'm glad you are inviting the world to laugh at you. Dare I ask what didn't make it into the book?

RO: I don't mind being the butt of my own jokes but I never want to share other people's stories without their permission. There are things I have written about that I will never share because I don't want to hurt or embarrass my family or friends.

There are a few stories I wrote about my girls when they were two and four that seemed fine at the time. But after reading those stories when they were several years older, I realized they might be embarrassed so I cut them. I don't want my kids to think that everything they do or say is going to be shared with the general public. I wrote this book for adult women so there are things there my kids don't need to know about yet. But they know which of their own stories are in the book and have veto power over my weekly columns. Respecting their space is my biggest concern when deciding what stays and what goes.
AM: Impressive. Because what stayed was motherhood gold.
***
Now for the fun stuff. Who wants a chance at a signed copy of Ketchup? I know I do. *Glares at Robin* Anyhoo...For your chance to win, here are the rules:
1) Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite motherhood lie is. Like? Mine is that the leftovers I eat off my kid's plate are totally calories-free. (1 entry)
2) Facebook, Google Plus, and/or Tweet "Ketchup is a Vegetable & @Robinobryant is hilarious Enter to win a copy here!" and leave a comment indicating you did so. (1 entry for each)
This means you have four chances to win a copy of Ketchup, providing you remember to leave a comment for each little thang you do. Entries will be accepted through midnight (EST) on December 9.
Do one. Do them all. Whatever you do, just promise me that you'll help spread the word if you like Ketchup. And thank you for being as excited for my friend and her book as I am.

And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves

You know that really embarrassing family story about the time the kids did that one thing in public at that one place and you were all like OMG that's only okay to tell after five too many wine coolers with the girlfriends while the little angels terrorize Daddy because it's your night off? Or that time you dressed up like an Italian sausage at Target while your kids picked out string bikinis for you to try on?

Yeah? Well, my friend just one-upped America with a book she wrote full of little gems like these that she wrote... while she was sober.

I know.

Okay, so the actual title is Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves and the mom behind the book is named Robin O'Bryant. I'll let the following excerpt speak for itself...but make sure to some back Wednesday and Friday for my review and an author interview (including a giveaway for a signed copy of Robin's book!)

***

After giving birth to Sadie, my third daughter in four years, I was perfectly happy to be fat for a few months while I finished breastfeeding, until I got a card in the mail from my little brother's fiancee. I called my sister Blair immediately and said, “Did you get a card in the mail from Anna?”

She could tell by the tone of my voice I was panicking so she said, “OH NO! They didn’t break up did they?”

“Oh no, it’s so much worse than that...” “Aw crap, did she ask us to be in the wedding?” “Yep.” I was flattered she asked me but I was horrified. I could wear a sarong at the pool all summer, but would probably look suspicious walking down the aisle that way. I reluctantly started going back to the gym and Blair started doing Weight Watchers. My feelings about exercising when breastfeeding are about the same as they are when pregnant: It's pointless.

When I'm pregnant I'm going to gain weight no matter what. When nursing, my body fights to hold on to fat like I'm going to be hibernating. For example... my sister lost nine pounds in two weeks on Weight Watchers; I on the other hand gained a pound and a half going to the gym for a week. (Please save the muscle-weighs-more-than-fat tirade for someone else. When I exercise while breastfeeding I am ravenous and will eat anything in sight. I end up consuming more calories than I burn.)

As summer quickly approached I finally had to break down and buy a bathing suit. No amount of tugging and/or lubricant could coax my post-baby body into one of the million suits I already owned. There was no way my baby’s meal tickets were going to be squeezed into anything I already had.

I went to Target (also known to Mommies across the country as their “happy place”), and bought a “Big Girra Bathing Suit.”

“Mommy, how ‘bout this one? It is SO cute!” Aubrey said as she picked up a hot pink string bikini.

I looked critically at the bathing suit she was holding, and quickly deduced that the triangle top probably wouldn’t even cover my zipple.

“No baby. I don’t want the other mommies at the pool to have nightmares.”

We continued back to the “Women’s Sizes” and I flattered myself with the first size I chose and forced it on to my body, Lycra snapped and crackled as I pulled, stretched and sucked it in. After seeing my reflection closely resembled an Italian sausage I'd eaten once, I was forced to get a larger size.

This should have meant that I took off the suit and put my clothes back on to go get another one. But If you're shopping for clothes somewhere you can also buy an ICEE or a foot- long hot dog, you need to realize that no one is going to come knock softly on your door to see if you need another size. I'm lazy though, so I put on the swimsuit cover-up I was trying on and walked to get another size, dressed for the pool. I'm not going to tell you what size I ended up in, though I will say it had a "W" behind the numberS. (Plural. As in there was more than one.) I called my sister while I was checking out and she texted back, “I'm in WW’s (Weight Watcher’s) can't talk, ttyl :)”

I texted her back, “How many pts are a Butterfinger & a Coke cuz that's what I'm eating rite now?” Maybe I can convince Anna that all of the bridesmaids should be in sarongs.

 

Go Ahead...Guess What I've Been Reading Lately...

If you give a writer an idea, she'll probably ask for some inspiration to go with it. When you give her the inspiration, she might procrastinate on Twitter for a bit.

Making up new hashtags and ignoring auto DMS will make her lose track of time so you'll give her a well-intentioned Facebook threat to get back to writing which she will miss because she was on Google +.

When she finally sees your GET BACK TO WRITING status update, she'll decide you meant her blog. So she'll post there about how hard she's working on her book.

Then she will post her blog link on Twitter and Facebook and Google + and a random gas station bathroom wall and get sucked into talking about writing again, specifically, how much time it takes.

She'll eventually toggle back to her manuscript document and promise herself to dive in but the blinking cursor will scare her away again.

She'll decide she needs to go read a book instead.

First, she'll browse her e-book library.

Then she'll glance through her hard copy collection sitting on her nightstand.

She might even open one of them up and get lost in someone else's words.

After she reads, she'll want to interview her characters.When they start talking back, she'll smile bigger and hunch over her keyboard just a bit more intently.

When her favorite character reveals her love for four-inch stilettos, she'll want to go shoe shopping.

She'll want you to come, too.

It's research, and her accountant will wonder why he was crazy enough to accept a writer as a client.

You'll take her to Dress Barn because who just buys a new pair of shoes for that really big date with the main character's love interest? She'll update her Facebook status about how much she loves research. She mentally works the outfit into her chapter five and saves the receipts to piss off her accountant.

She'll want to head to Starbucks next. You'll order a Tall Skinny Half-Calf Mochaccino with soy milk, and she'll ask for a Venti Iced Green Tea with three honeys. You will both proceed to ignore each other in real life while tweeting each other online and pretend you don't notice chairs scraping the floor as other customers move just a bit further away from your table as you randomly break into seemingly uncharacteristically synchronized laughter.

This only makes you both laugh harder. At the same time. Then you'll sip your Mochaccino and she'll slurp on her Green Tea.

The Green Tea will remind her that the main character's love interest's mother loves a a squeeze of lemon in her own teacup. She'll ask you for a notebook.

First, she'll scribble a few notes. Then she'll give you back your notebook and tweet that her muse lives on Starbucks.

When Starbucks closes, you'll be the last to leave.

On the way home, she'll read you the funniest comments on her blog post about how hard writing her book is from her iPhone email app. Then she'll want to share her responses to the original comments.

When you get home, she'll ask for that notebook again. She might even find the page she scribbled her notes on.

Seeing the notes will remind her of the inspiration that got her going. She'll probably ask you to beta. And chances are,

if you give her any encouragement,

she'll get a new idea to go with it.

This Breath

I just had sex with my husband on doctor's orders because my ovaries finally decided to kick out a few follicles that might turn into eggs that might turn into a baby or quite possibly a litter and I've got to tell ya, I'm not sure if I'm rooting for Team Infertility or Team Modern Medicine to come out the victor. The first I already know and can handle. The second is shiny, new, and... I can't wrap my mind around what I don't know.

Disclaimer: Wait, what? Me? Sex? With my husband? If you know me in real life from before social media existed, please stab yourself in the eyeballs with the nearest semi-sharp object and let yourself continue to believe that we brought Buttercup home with us after holding hands while skipping through a cabbage patch field.

Of course, the deed *ahem* has been done and I can't undo whatever fate may have in store for us anymore than that hairdresser at Great Clips can emotionally unscar the teenage boy who broke into tears after she complimented him on his new Justin Bieber-esque look before he left with his mother who kept reassuring him that he and every other boy in America or at least Tucson younger than 20 do not, in fact, look like Belieber groupies in denial.

Even though he totally did.

I can't undo. And it's not the um, doctors-orders-homework that has me all a titter. Life is good in the land of The Married. He drives me crazy. I drive him crazy. And when things get boring we pretend to argue just to spice it up a bit. The issue that has me wondering WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST DO? is the fact that I may have voluntarily and irrevocably changed the simple reality I know and love for allowing me to not go any crazier than I already am.

She can walk. She can talk. And she's fairly self-sufficient on the potty front. She goes to school a few hours for a few days a week and makes herself laugh silly with really bad knock-knock jokes. She's four going on fourteen going on forty and she's the miracle we waited almost two years for that I didn't know would become the reality I wanted until I held her in my arms for the first time because I'm the kind of person who is so afraid of change that I've trained my brain not to want the unknown and instead accept the new today once the wind has already changed direction.

It's true. I don't want to go to Paris or Italy or dream of cruises or tropical islands because I have never experienced them. I have no desire to try something crazy just so I can say I did it because that would require planning and foresight and a willingness to not be so rigid but if I happen to be out on the town with a friend and she decided on a whim to stop in a piercing shop I can't promise I won't come home without a dainty little nose piercing. I didn't plan my wedding as a girl growing up or sign my name with the Crush of the Week's in doodle hearts while dating because I that would have required me dreaming about What If instead of focusing on What Was. And when I finally came to the moment where The Boyfriend became The Fiance who became The Husband as I walked down the aisle to become The Wife, I was In Love and In Awe and In Flux between states of complete calm because Life was Happening and Utter Terror because Life was Happening.

It wasn't until the day after graduating high school, arriving on my college campus, graduating with honors, starting my first job, moving in with The Boyfriend who became The Fiance who became The Husband, pushing the baby out, moving cross-country Anything Important that Has Happened in My Life that I've had pretty much the same thought process work itself out in my mind: That wasn't as bad as you thought it was going to be, you jackass. Well, except for maybe the pushing the baby thing out. She was totally worth it but Dude! That pretty much sucked. This is what was meant to be and where I was meant to end up. This moment is magic and I really need to lighten up and allow more magic to just spontaneously happen because that's how life works.

I know this. And yet, I sit here...wondering what I want the doctor to tell me when it's time for results and how I will react. Wondering if I can love another baby as much as I love the miracle that already is. Wondering if I am enough to mother more than once child and nurture them both completely in the way that is singularly unique to their own beings and needs without falling short and thinking I should have quit while I was ahead.

I wonder because I don't know. And I won't know until tomorrow comes. Until then, I concentrate on this breath...

And then the next...