Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On Raising Siblings Who Fight

Great pic for inferences, characterization, story starter...

When we were growing up, my sisters never fought with each other.
They were what people call "Irish Twins" and therefor too close together in age to hate each other, or compete for things.
I, however, was born 4 and 5 years after them respectively, so they fought with me all. the. time.
People with one child ask me all the time about what the right age difference is between two kids.
Should we have a second one right away, or should we wait, so that the older sibling is big enough to stick up for the little one, and guide them? Help take care of them? Look out for them?
I always say the same thing:

If you're going to have two kids, either have them as close together as possible {like, as soon as that perineum heals}, or as far apart as possible {like, when your first one starts middle school}. Otherwise, I hope you like hosting cage fights between midget terrorists in your house 24/7.

My brother is almost 10 years older than me, and he never fought with me.
I mean, it'd be pretty shitty for a 15 year old to torment a 5 year old, so that responsibility was left to my sisters.
My kids now have the same age difference between them that I had between me and my sisters, and most days it. is. hell.
Sometimes Lainie feels generous, or her real friends are busy and she desperately wants someone to boss around and play with, so she graciously allows Jack to be her groupie. She plays games with him and talks to him in a sweet voice, comforts him when he cries, and they're best friends.
But god help her if Jack doesn't worship the ground she walks on for one whole second, or if either of them wake up in a bad mood, or it's a day that ends in Y, because then they fight like two drunk hobos over the last fish sandwich at McDonalds.

I'm torn most of the time over how to handle their fighting.
My dad never really intervened in my sisters campaign to make my life a living hell, unless they legitimately hurt me physically, or scared me to the point that he had to deal with raising me.
He was an expert at tuning out our sibling wars, and as long as it didn't become his problem in any way, I was on my own. When he did occasionally step in, his favorite form of punishment - or probably in his mind resolution - was to make whichever sister was fighting with me, hug me and say they were sorry.
This of course always resulted in us giving each other a death grip hug, arms wrapped around each other's necks for dear fucking life, whispering things in each other's ears like 
"You smell like old beef and armpits. I'm going to fart in your mouth while you sleep."

Still, Dad's backseat approach had it's benefits: I learned how to hold my own in a verbal dispute, I learned how to throw a punch, I learned never to play "close your eyes and open your mouth" with anyone, for any reason. I learned to handle myself, and keep myself entertained. I spent a lot of time playing alone, but now I have a kick ass imagination and a stellar knack for avoiding almost all social situations.
But it had it's downsides.
I was outnumbered, I desperately wanted to fit in with my sisters and never did. I cried a lot.
Jackson is a sensitive little guy, and he thinks Lainie hung the moon and lit the sun on fire, and that she gets up every morning to pull it across the sky in a fiery chariot, so I find myself stepping in when they fight more than some parents would.
Also, their fighting drives me fucking crazy, so I think I spend more time breaking up fights than a lot of parents would, simply because I cannot stand the sound of whining and needless crying, yelling over stupid shit, or temper tantrums in general.
I cannot stand it.
I know all parents have a different view of how to handle sibling fighting, and some parents managed to give birth to children that never ever ever fight regardless of their age difference or genders.
These children are like unicorns to me.
"What do you mean your kids have never screamed that they hated each other, and then hit each other with Nerf bats until you sprayed them with a hose? That's a real thing?"

So for those of you wondering about age differences between your kids, let me say this:
If I had it to do over again, and I hadn't been 16 when I had Lainie, I would have gotten pregnant with Jackson before I even left the hospital after having her. Knock all that shit out in one fell swoop.
What's changing two diapers if you're already changing one?
What's breastfeeding two babies if you're already feeding one?
What's two carseats and two strollers, if you're already lugging one?
In the end, if it means they won't fight and try to claw each other's eyes out over a cup of ice water from Starbucks that was technically yours in the first place, then it's worth any cost.


I wake up every morning full of desire.
Desire to not yell at my kids today, to finally get to the end of my to-do list, to make it to the grocery store and buy something other than frozen lasagna, wine, and cheerios.
Desire to change out of yoga pants, put on something sexy and womanly and feel desired by a man who puts his hand on the small of your back while he leads you through a dimly lit restaurant.
Usually I achieve none of these things.
I wake up late almost always, and am rushing everyone around to the places and things they need to be at or doing.
I'm cursing my unmopped floors every time I step on a mysterious crunchy something with my bare feet, as I pour thankless bowls of cereal and make coffee.
I'm telling Lainie for the 100th time to go brush her teeth, and explaining to Jackson why a long sleeve shirt and heavy sweater aren't appropriate attire for an 80 degree day.
I'm staring at an inbox full of emails I won't respond to as quickly as I'd like, and trying to remember if I sent out all the CD's and client packages this week that I was supposed to.
I'm thinking up small paragraphs, clever sentences, endearing turns of phrase for the book I've always wanted to write - the book I will most likely never write.

I'm cursing the happy couples who are sitting close to each other in Starbucks on Friday afternoons, or splitting a cheeseburger during lunch on Wednesday, smiling and touching each other's wrists and knowing that those quiet conversations will be there when they get home.
I come home to hungry/tired/grumpy/fighting/needy kids who don't understand that I'm doing this alone. Who are too young to appreciate the hard, important work that running a business and running a house and cleaning paint brushes and washing little faces and little hands and never being told thank you, is.
They want pizza and they want to go out to dinner and they want my time and they want my attention and I want attention too, and usually we settle for frozen lasagna and NOBODY TALK DURING DINNER IF YOU CAN'T TALK WITHOUT FIGHTING OR GIVING ME ATTITUDE.
I pour the leftover wine and get in bed alone.

Every day I wake up full of desire for things I won't accomplish, things I won't get done, things I won't have.
I breath out my desire in the same breath that I beg the kids to stop fighting with, or read Jack a bedtime story with.

Some days though, it is enough to listen to all the little things that go on inside their little brains, and relish the excited tone they tell it all to me with.
It is enough to feel two tiny arms wrap around my neck.
To talk to Lainie after Jack goes to bed and remember how fast she's growing up.
Some days the desire that runs like a vein through all living women, since the beginning of time, to accomplish everything, to do everything, and to be loved and wanted at the same time - to be both a great mother and still a passionate, womanly lover - takes a back seat to knowing I chose this, and it's ok.
It's spilled cereal and sinks full of dirty dishes and kids that never seem to be happy with what you do for them, but it's also love, and memory, and knowing you're the most important person in the world to two tiny people, who don't care that you never change out of your yoga pants or that the floor isn't clean.

They just want to be alive and happy and near you and tell you about their day.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm Moving. Again.

Gang signs

I have moved several times in my life.
I'm not sure exactly how many. I tried to count how many times I'd moved once, but since I missed the better parts of fourth, sixth, and eighth grade {on account of all the moving}, I don't know numbers that high, so let's just round it out and say upwards of 20. 
Hell, upwards of 30.

Let's say a shitload, ok?

Will all this moving under my belt, most of it being in a hurry, in the middle of the night, or without electricity, you would think that I would be an expert.
Able to move in and out of a house in a matter of mere hours, under the cover of darkness, blah blah blah.

I am not.

I am fucking terrible at moving, and I hate it more than anything on this planet, aside from migraines and people who collect stickers.
I don't like house hunting, probably because I also don't like shopping, all because I don't like spending money.
I don't like going through shit, packing shit, carrying heavy shit, all just to unpack that same shit again and figure out where the hell to put it.
I'm not that thorough, I don't have that kind of attention span, and my daughter is a junior hoarder. I have to smuggle fruit snack wrappers, old school papers, and broken crayons out of her room like a drug lord because EVERYTHING SHE OWNS IS SO SPECIAL. 

None the less, here I am, moving this week.
Not by choice: I'm moving because my landlord is selling my house for roughly 2.5 times what it's actually worth, but hey, that shit aint my problem.
I found a really cute little casita-type house  a few miles away, and it sort of kicks ass.
It has two fire places, real wood floors, carpet in the bedrooms, and a pool two doors down. The kitchen has more than three cabinets UNLIKE THIS HOUSE, and a side by side fridge. There's also a wet bar in the living room, and possibly a Jacuzzi in the backyard.

I'm in love.

BUT, I'm still doing the act of moving, which means I'm also in hell.
I've been staying up late re-watching the entire Dawson's Creek series on Netflix with my periph's while I pack, because that shit was 10 year old Sarah's jam, and I've seen all the episodes so I won't miss anything important while I'm trying on 78 pairs of jeans from the floor of my closet that don't fit me.
I've eaten more food from a drive-thru than from a stove in the last 5 days.
My hips - rickety and practically made of old fucking wicker since the birth of Jack the Pelvis Destroyer to begin with - are in shambles, and I would pay a drunk hobo to give me back traction and a pedicure. 
Also, Lainie told me she hated me and I was the worst mother she'd ever seen because she had to fill ONE MORE BAG OF HER OWN FUCKING STUFF last night before going to bed.

Pray for us.
For my exhausted little body and terrorist children.
Pray that we all survive this, and it's over tomorrow like it's supposed to be.

Maybe when it's all said and done I'll post some pictures of the new digs for y'all.
Once I'm not buried under boxes of poetry journals from high school and John Cusack posters.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

42 honest Valentine's cards.
Today is Valentine's Day.
I know that holidays like this are polarizing for a lot of people, and society is staunchly divided between those that love this day, and those that hate it.

I am one of the ones that loves it.

I like that there is an entire day devoted to being overly sentimental and mushy and telling everyone you love that you love them, and giving them cheesy little gifts that you would never give them for any other holiday, but they make you both smile and laugh and it's a damn good time.
Also red is my favorite color and on Valentine's Day you can drink champagne at any time, and for any reason.

It doesn't matter if you're single.
Or separated from the one you love.
Or if you have a lot of cats.
You don't have to make fancy dinner reservations, or plan a big trip.
Flowers and heart shaped chocolates aren't required.

Just tell the people you love that you love them, whoever and wherever they are, in a way they'll understand, in a way that will mean something to the two of you.

And if some fucking crazy how there is no one on this planet that you love, buy yourself a bottle of champagne and celebrate alone.
{and then tomorrow take a serious look at your life, because who the fuck doesn't love anybody?!}

Embrace the cheesy, because you only live once, and I love cheese.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

102 Days.

keep going no matter what

As of today, I have been a full time photographer for 102 days. 
That feels important.
That feels big.

Sometimes I let myself panic for no good reason.
If I don't get an inquiry for business every. single. day. I start to think "This was a mistake. This was a bad idea. We're going to starve."

But here we are. 102 days later and we did not starve.
And I have faith that there will be 102 more days of not starving.
And everything will be o.k. 

And whenever you feel like giving up, remember that Bath and Body Works used to only sell Country Apple, Sun Ripened Raspberry, and Freesia. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

On Routines.


I see so many people on Instagram and Facebook that live back east or the far north, or anywhere that is experiencing the crazy ass winter this year has brought, saying that they're on day X of cancelled school, and can't wait to return to the routine of school days...this confuses me.
On the one hand, I love when my kids go to school. I have an entire chunk of day to work, meet with potential clients, run errands, grocery shop in peace, avoid crowds, etc. On the other though, it comes with so many other things that I seem to forever suck at: getting places on time, waking up early, routines in general...
I am not a very strictly routined person.
I was not exactly raised in a consistent environment.

Over the last few weeks though, my work has suffered for it.
I got crazy busy, Lainie had a dance she needed a costume for, I went out of town, two clients who I sent CD's to didn't receive them, and all of a sudden it was like I was drowning.
EVERYTHING started piling up.
The house is a disaster, the laundry isn't done, I can't find any of Jack's pants, and in the middle of all this, it's a new month and I have shit to do if we want to eat in February.

I need a routine.

I need a schedule.

I need more structure here, or we're going to drown.

I read Elizabeth's post recently about priorities, time wasters, and how she does what she does.
While I can't say I agree with everything she wrote, there was some solid insight there, and the main thing I took away from it was: waste less time, get more shit done.
Sounds simple, but sometimes we don't realize we're wasting time when we are.
So no more Facebook, no more Gmail chatting with friends, no more games on my phone or checking Instagram during certain hours.
Sit your ass down and get some shit done.
Another new thing I'm toying with is a schedule for the day.
I'm not the kind of person that can schedule every single task and every single minute of every single hour...I will die. But I can handle chunks of time that are dedicated to things. For example, I get home from dropping the kids off at school around 7:45. I need 15 minutes to stand under hot water in the shower, or check a little social media, or just pee by myself, but then from 8 am to 11 am, I need to turn that shit off and work.
I'm giving myself from 11-12:30 for lunch, and doing whatever I want. Napping, watching Netflix, reading, whatever. It's my time. 
12:30 - 2:30 is time to run any errands that need to be done before I get the kids, and finish up any pressing work.
2:30 I pick up the kids, and you don't need to know every other detail about my day, but you get the idea. 
Chunks of time.
I still have flexibility over what exactly I work on or do with it, but the time is either designated work, or designated bullshit time.

I've learned over time that there are three main things I absolutely need in order to be happy:
Freedom and flexibility in what I do for a living
Providing a stable, reliable, and not dirt poor income for my kids
Substantial, quality time with the people I care about, both my kids, and my friends/chosen family/romantic person.
Everything else is just a distraction.

We'll see how it goes.

When you're an artist.

the truth about being a writer
I have always been a creative person, even if it's only been in the last couple of years since I could say that out loud without cringing.
Doesn't it sound sort of pretentious? Sort of braggy and self-proclaimed? 
"I am an artist." Ugh. I hate those words coming out of my mouth. They feel embarrassing and shitty, no matter how much I identify with them. And what's worse is that they don't bother me at all when I hear other people say it.
In L.A. last week I was sitting at a bar by the pool when an older man next to me struck up conversation.
What do you do? He asked.
I'm a photographer. I said. What do you do?
I'm an artist, he replied.

And for a second I felt my insides sigh and go ugh, I'm so jealous. I wish I could be an artist.
This was momentary, and quickly I realized how stupid my insides were being.
I am one, I know this, but I don't like to talk about it.

When you're truly creative I think - and I mean madly passionately crazily artistic - you don't want to sit in coffee shops and chat about your creative process.
You don't want to talk about your artistic soul, and your creative vision - except for exactly 3 seconds after your vision comes to you but then it's only in fragment sentences that make very little sense to anyone and sound something like "India ink....maybe green.....felt.....deer antlers....where do they sell bunting....." before you wander off to lose yourself in the process.

I think when you're really an artist you don't want to talk to everyone you know about it, brag about it, scream it from the rooftops, for a few reasons:
1. Saying you're an artist makes most people think "unemloyed"
2. What you're saying makes little to no sense outside of your own head. How do you describe the madness and glory that is creating something you halfway love and halfway hate but completely can't live without, to someone that sells stocks for a living?
3. It's embarrassing.

Creativity is in large part a mutation of an otherwise normal brain.
This could stem from childhood dysfunction, random genius, or the fact that you're Bob Ross.
In any case, it isn't something that happens to you without side effect.
Being creative also often times means being irresponsible.
It can mean entire nights spent in front of your computer, drinking coffee and working like crazy rather than sleeping, because you have ALL THE IDEAS RIGHT NOW. That's great and all, but hey, the kids have to be at school at seven-freaking-forty in the morning. You should probably be sleeping.
It means that the dishes aren't getting done and the laundry is piling up because you had a creative dry spell but now you're deadline so you just need to finish all these goddamn projects you've left sitting here, not wanting to touch because you didn't feel inspired, but now you're inspired by the idea of NOT GETTING EVICTED.
It means that you've been wearing the same Guns N Roses t-shirt for two days, and haven't eaten anything but Triscuits. 
It means - at least for every artist or creative that I've ever known - that you possess a certain level of darkness. A certain maudlin quality, a specific tendency toward melancholy that allows you to see things louder, brighter, bigger than they are. That allows you to feel things deeper, more intensely than other people do. That allows you to assign a beautiful and relateable meaning to otherwise meaningless things. 

When you're financially supporting yourself and your family on your art, it means distilling everything down to your most basic needs:
I need to create
I need to keep the kids alive, not burn down the house, and spend some good uninterrupted time with real kids/people every day

You don't want to talk about what it takes to be creative, because so often it takes the best parts of you, and what's left is a sink full of dirty dishes and a lot of forgotten appointments. 

But, it's who you are.
It's what you are.
And for better or worse, it's your favorite and most precious thing about yourself.