“Rebel Heart” Guest Post on Hasty Words

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Who Me???

That’s what I thought when the incredibly talented Hasty Words asked me to do a guest post. Hasty is a poet, an artist and writer who’s words always leave me a little breathless and I am honored to be a guest over at her blog today.

Click on the link and read all about why I want my kids to be rebels…

“Your Rebel Heart”

(Comments will be closed, but head over to HastyWord to tell me what you think!)

Be A Part Of A Movement: #1000Speak

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“My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark. I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark…. and I will not be a pawn… for the prince of darkness, any longer.”

-Indigo Girls, Prince of Darkness

This week something pretty incredible remarkable amazing happened. One blogger wrote a beautiful piece in response to recent tragedies and atrocities happening in the world. Another blogger was posting about these same events on FaceBook. The two had a conversation that inspired this:

“How cool would it be if we could get 1000 bloggers on the same day to write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement etc.? (Date to be decided.)
We could call it 1000 Voices For Compassion.
Who’s in?”

And thus began a movement. 1000 Voices for Compassion. A call for bloggers to join together on one day to speak out in the name of compassion. To stand up to the bullies and the killers and the harmers and the haters. To make the voices of the good drown out the insatiable voice of negativity and hatred.

That was five days ago.

Within 48 hours 500 bloggers had joined the movement. Today, 690. People are moved by what Yvonne and Lizzi started.

Most of us write because we have to. Often we write about things that move us. Things we care about. Things that we think maybe need to be heard. Some of us have been floundering under the oppressive weight of heartbreak over everything that we’re reading and hearing and seeing in the world. Most of us want to do something.

And what do we do?

We write.

We write, damn it.

Because words matter.

Words change minds and change lives and words have power.

And all of our words together?

Just imagine.

So, this is my plea. If you’re tired of the negativity that permeates the news and social media. If you’ve grown weary of all the violence in this world. If you’re tired of the “us” and “them” mentality and want to be a part of “we.” If you are ready for things to shift, for something to change… then write. Speak. Be a part of this movement.

Maybe it will help.

Maybe someone someone will hear us and feel wrapped in the comfort of knowing that people care.

Maybe someone’s hardened heart will soften just a little.

Maybe positivity will breed more positivity.

Maybe all of us together will be heard.

Maybe we can convince the “us” and the “them” to join.

Because your thoughts might add to the thoughts of others who want to create change. And if enough of us join in eventually we’ll be heard. Eventually those trudging through life will hear our concert of thoughts and lift their heads and open their hearts.

So please, join in. All of you have something to say. All of you can be a part of something good.

Let’s do this.

When: February 20, 2015

How: Write a post about compassion. What it means to you. How has it affected you? How we can bring more of it to those who need it. Really, there are no rules, just as long as it’s about compassion.

Participate: via FaceBook go to this link and request to join.

via Twitter, post and use the hashtag #1000Speak

*If you’re not on Facebook but would like to join you can let me know in Comments, below, and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

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Music And Words And Dilettante, Oh My

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“All your life you’ve never seen
woman, taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?” 

-Fleetwood Mac, Rhiannon

There are two things that get me so excited I can barely contain myself. Well, three, but this isn’t that kind of blog now is it? I’m talking about discovering new music and new books. Music and books are (almost) everything. Both can touch your soul, transport you, intoxicate you.

That’s why I’m so incredibly lucky to know Helena. Because Helena is words and music. She lives them, breathes them and (thank god) writes them.

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Yes, that Helena. Dilettante, author, music aficionado. Helena who introduced me to Jessica (who still haunts my darkest dreams), Helena who wrote the amazing Memoirs Of A Dilettante (which I gobbled up like a bag of white cheddar popcorn), Helena who is a virtual walking encyclopedia of music (good music that is- we’ve had wonderful Facebook chats where she’s introduced me to some kick ass music.)

Today Helena is announcing her forthcoming Memoirs Of A Dilettante, Volume Two.

Eeeekkk!!!  I know! It’s so damn exciting!

Coming Spring 2015.

Helena Cover Boa 4

 

Cover art by the supremely talented writer/ artist/ poet Hastywords.

And to whet your appetite and hold you off ’til Spring, here’s a little somethin’ somethin’ about the book:

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two is the second collection of reminiscences, following Helena Hann-Basquiat, a self-proclaimed dilettante who will try anything just to say that she has, and her twenty-something niece, who she has dubbed the Countess Penelope of Arcadia. 

Speaking of Arcadia, this volume delves into Helena’s childhood, as she revisits what she calls the Arcadia of the mind — that place that keeps us trapped and holds us back from our potential. Some of her most personal stories are included here, interspersed with hilarious stories of misadventure. It’s not a novel, really, and it’s not a memoir, by the strictest definition. But most of what follows, as they say, is true. Sort of. Almost. From a certain point of view.

Discover Helena’s tales for the first time or all over again, with new notes and annotations for the culturally impaired — or for those who just need to know what the hell was going through her mind at the time!

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Helena is going to be running a crowdfunding/pre-order campaign at Pubslush, a community focused solely on indie writers, and has set up a profile there to launch Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two.

For more information, and to follow the progress, Become a Fan at http://HelenaHB.pubslush.com

And in case you’re not yet familiar with Ms. Helena… 

The enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming.

She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populous or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

In 2014, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, several e-books which now make up Volume Two, as well as a multimedia collaborative piece of meta-fictional horror entitled JESSICA.

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One is available HERE in e-book for Kindle or HERE in paperback.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell.

Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or http://whoisjessica.com or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat.

Check it out, check her out (her blog, I mean) and let me know what you think! All praise and thanks may be left right here in Comments….

 

Four Ways I’m #Winning At Parenting

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It's like looking in a mirror...

It’s like looking in a mirror…

 

I like to think I’m a pretty good parent. I love those three kids more than anything in the world. I have spent the better part of 14 years doing all the things for them. You know, all the mom things. They are pretty lucky little shits if you ask me.

And I tell them that all the time. They are damn lucky to have me. I’m a pretty cool mom. And all the cool moms announce their coolness to their kids all the time, right? I’m pretty laid back. I really don’t sweat the little things. I don’t run my house like a Drill Instructor during Hell Week. We keep it simple. Do the basics, get good grades, work hard, do your chores, be nice. That’s it. Pretty cool, right?

But sometimes I screw up. Sometimes I do all the wrong things. Sometimes I feel bad about it. Not always, but sometimes. Because I like to keep it real with you guys, I’m going to peel back the curtain of this seemingly perfect little life I have and show you the real seedy underbelly that is MomsIsALittleCrayCray.

1. F Bombs and other awful things little ears shouldn’t hear. I say them.  Not ALL the time. But I don’t really practice self-editing. I’m not a complete potty mouth or anything, but let’s face it, there are frequent and varied occasions where the words just fly out of your mouth. When you run into a doorway. When you back into your husband’s car. When you show up just in time for the game and realize you’re at the wrong ball field. And your kid is starting pitcher. And it’s rush hour. Anyways, the point is I’m human and such situations elicit some choice verbiage. But they know the rules. I can curse, they can’t. I also exhibit tact and class and don’t curse in front of strangers or other children (at least not on purpose). I’m just saying that they’ve been exposed and some of their fist words were “Shit” and “Dammit.”

2. I have favorites. And I tell them. I will loudly whisper to one of my kids when the others are acting up “You know you’re my favorite.” I do this fairly and evenly. They each get a turn being mom’s angel. I like to keep them guessing and vying for favorite status. Nah, not really…  I’m simply trying to entertain myself with their expressions when they hear me say it to their sibling. It’s pretty damn funny. If you’ve never tried it with your kids I totally recommend it. It usually squashes whatever beef the other kids were fighting over and they become united in their hatred of you. In the meantime, the current favorite is giving you all kinds of cuddles with a smug look on their face and that makes you feel like an awesome mom.

3. I lie to them. Just on occasion. Usually just for fun. Sometimes for totally acceptable practical reasons (ex: “we’re all out of chocolate” as you hide a package of Reese’s cups in the freezer.) But I have a few on-going lies I tell my kids. One is that I used to be a famous pop star in Europe before they were born. I have embellished this one over the years to include my appearance on Top of the Pops and being hounded by the paparazzi. Recently, as I was belting out Rosanna (Toto, circa 1982) in the car, I responded to my daughter’s eye roll with “People used to pay good money to hear me sing!” I tell them I gave it all up to get married and have kids (a little martyrdom is always useful in parenting). The best part of this lie is that I have the worst singing voice ever. Like, my babies have cried when I would sing them lullabies. My husband has threatened to divorce me when I sing in the car. But they all kind of bought in to the lie at some point. You know how kids believe everything their parents tell them? I was just having a little bit of fun with that power.

4. They look like homeless kids. I try. I really do. But I don’t put a ton of emphasis on what they look like. I could care less if my kids look like they just walked off of a GapKids ad. But it would be nice if they didn’t look like they lived in a hovel. My teen wears basketball shorts and a pullover hoodie every day. He doesn’t take the hoodie off, so I’m sure his teachers think he has one shirt. Just yesterday I insisted that he wear jeans to school since it was like -80 degrees outside. (Kidding. I live in the SouthEast, it was more like 35 degrees. But still, soooo cold.) It was a battle but I won. He ended up going to school in jeans that were two inches too short. Oops. I just bought them a month ago and he grew out of them. Sorry kid. A little bullying about your high-waters will just build character.

Also, yesterday my five year old decided to pull out her hair bow in carpool line because she wanted to “fixth it and make it pretty.” My daughter wakes up every day with hair like Nick Nolte’s mug shot. It takes a lot of work to tame it. Guess who she went to school looking like yesterday? I don’t think it was “Dress Up Like Washed Up Druggie Actor” Day, so… yeah.

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So, before you all start clamoring for me to write a book on the art of parenting, I’ll run down a quick list of other not completely awful but not exactly June Cleaver moments: I refuse to do the whole Elf on the Shelf thing, I don’t go eat lunch with them at school (when did this become a thing? I eat every other meal with them!), I let them play video games, I introduced them to the classic Schweddyy Balls bit on SNL, we have watched this over and over, I force them to adopt a British cockney accent when they want something from me, I have forced them to follow up a request with “Please beautiful Mommy” and I frequently and lovingly refer to them as “little shits.”

And because I feel the need to counter all these flaws, lest you think I’m Mommy Dearest, let me assure you my kids are loved and are ridiculously showered with affection. Some might say they are a little spoiled. My husband and I are hard on them when it comes to the important stuff like school and respect and hard work. But other than that? We try to have fun with our kids. We laugh a lot. They seem to want to be around us all the time. (Seriously, aren’t kids supposed to want to be far, far away from their parents? Stay tuned for a future post about Helicopter Kids…)

What I’m saying is we’re not perfect, but who wants perfect parents? Kids need something to complain about. I’m doing them a favor by embracing my flaws and allowing some imperfection to creep into what is otherwise pretty stellar parenting. You’re welcome, kids. I can’t wait to rock this tee this Mother’s Day…

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Are you an awesome parent too? What mean/crazy/silly things do you to your kids? Are you totally singing Rosanna to yourself right now? Should I be saving for their future therapy? Tell me what you REALLY think…

All the Stuff… That’s A Wrap on 2014

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 All The Stuff

That’s right. There’s been stuff I haven’t written about. Mainly because I got lost in the holidays and the shopping and the entertaining and the kids and the family and… you know. All the same stuff you were doing. Except you’re probably better at time management than me and you probably didn’t completely check out of writing and social media for… um… weeks.

But it wasn’t just the holidays. I think 2014 caught up with me. In both practical and emotional ways. Not to say I was lost in despair or wrecked, but I was just… tired. Last year included a lot of dealing with stuff for me. I dug up some demons and I dealt with them head on. I addressed long-held habits of dealing with pain and conflict that were holding me back. Now I can say it was worth it, that I’m better today than I’ve ever been. But the road getting here? ‘Twasn’t easy my friends. And I’m by no means at the end of that road, but I’m much further along than I thought I would be. Hell, before this last year I was in denial that I even needed to take this walk.

Enough with the cliche’ metaphors…

So here we are. It’s 20freakin15! Am I the only one who thought that we would be driving little flying saucers and having robots cook and serve us dinner by the time we got to 2015? Am I the only one who loved watching the Jetson’s growing up?

I love starting a new year. I love beginnings. And I’m one of those weird people who loves change. I love decorating my house for Christmas and transforming it to a glowing festive cozy place. And I love un-decorating it and having it look fresh and clean and soothingly minimal. It’s like putting on a big fluffy coat and wrapping yourself in it’s comfort, then shedding it and feeling the lightness and renewed energy of a fresh start.

Oops. Got all metaphor-ish again.

Anyways, I get excited to start a new year. In one sense it’s a random day on the calendar. In another sense it’s all of us taking a collective deep breath and starting out again. Each of us is hoping to get it right this time. Each of us reflects on the past year, what transpired and what inspired and what inflamed. We take stock and try to figure out how to improve. Many of us do this throughout the year, but the New Year is the only time where we all do it. Maybe that’s why we celebrate. It’s universally recognizing that we all want to be better and to try better and get better. And there’s great comfort in that.

Resolutions aren’t really a thing for me. I have many things I want to accomplish this year, but most of those things will surely bleed into the next year. I’ve been reading a lot about people choosing a word for the year. I like that idea better. I’ve seen a few I like. Thrive. Be. Those are good ones. But I don’t know if I can choose just one word. I mean, wordiness is my thing. One word? Pfffttt! Ain’t happening. Instead I’ll just nod my head in agreement and absorb all the wisdom that you guys keep putting out there.

Reflections on the past year… 2014 was huge for me in terms of blogging and writing. I’ve made some amazing connections here. I’ve made friendships. People I genuinely care about. People I respect. People I learn from. I can’t tell you how much this community means to me. To know and connect with other writers, with people who pour their stuff out ever day or week or month and find solace in words. People who love to string words together to create a melody or express a feeling or change minds or change the world. I feel like I’ve found my tribe. The people who speak my language. It’s a sense of belonging I’ve never really experienced. I have many treasured friends in my life and I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I never belonged any where. I wasn’t on a sports team. I didn’t excel at drama or the arts. I would join clubs but only half heartedly. But this? This is where I belong. I may not have made it to being published on HuffPo or ScaryMommy or anywhere really (ahem, 2015), but this seemingly endless and growing group of people, this sixdegreesofsomething community, is where I fit. Thank you to all of you who’ve given me a place to be.

Here’s to 2015! (Yes, I know I’m a little late for a New Year’s post. Shut up.) Here’s to welcoming change and growth! Here’s to writing all the words that matter, cause really, they ALL matter. Here’s to grabbing on to whatever the new year brings and enjoying the ride wherever it takes us! Here’s to you… To my friends. To my family. To my fellow writers. Every single one of you rocks. Because of every single one of you, this girl feels pretty damn lucky.

Change- Blind Melon

How do you feel about the New Year? Do you have resolutions? Or are you in denial about having them like I am? Do I need a metaphor intervention? Am I bombarding you with too many questions? Seriously, tell me whatever you want… random thoughts welcome.

 

 

Who’s Raising Who? Fourteen Years Of Being A Mom

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 “And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world”

-Elton John, Your Song

My brother died 10 days before my wedding. I was caught between suffocating despair and the happy prospect of marrying the man I love. But I didn’t think I’d ever feel pure joy again. I couldn’t imagine joy in a world without my brother.

Six months later we lost my Grandpa. My big strong Grandpa. The Purple Heart Marine with the big booming voice. I will always believe that he died of a broken heart after the loss of my brother. A few weeks after we lost my Grandpa I found out I was pregnant. The sun started to peek through the darkness, just a little.

Nine months later my beautiful baby boy was born. He came into the world wailing and thrashing. “Feisty” was the word that came to mind. I proudly proclaimed him my feisty strong willed boy. Barrel chested and dark hair. He was strong and vibrant and ready to take on life.

But I was scared out of my mind. I was experienced with babies. I had spent my high school years babysitting. But I felt like I didn’t know how to do this. This, the most important thing I would ever do. I felt inept and inadequate.

I was scared I wasn’t feeding him enough. I was scared that he would stop breathing in his sleep. I was scared that he was in a pain and I didn’t know it. I was scared that there was something wrong with him that I was missing. I was scared that I was screwing it all up. I was scared that he knew that I had no clue.

I was scared that he would get sick and die. The impossible such a real possibility to my family.

Fear dominated the first few months of my son’s life. Every doubt about myself magnified in the face of motherhood. Every fear I had after watching my brother suffer intensified as in imminent threat.

And I worried that he could sense my fear. I didn’t want to put that on him. I didn’t want him to grow up neurotic. I didn’t want my stuff to affect him, to change him. Another thing to worry about.

As the months went on, he proved me wrong. He defied all of my worries and fears. He was thriving. He was full of life and provided endless hours of entertainment for me and my husband. I would look at him in awe. He was a part of me. I couldn’t’ believe that something so beautiful and amazing came from me. I mentally attributed it all to my husband.

While I was floundering in fear and worry my husband took to parenting as if he’d been doing it his whole life. He took over when I couldn’t calm our son down. I would watch in wonder as he would play with him. I watched with growing love for my husband as he soothed our crying baby. And secretly, in a place that I’m not proud of, I felt jealous. He was better at this than I was. But at the same time I was so grateful. My husband was a soothing presence for my frayed nerves. I was grateful that the man I loved was a great dad. I banked on his strength and confidence to make up for what I was lacking as a parent.

Now my son is fourteen years old. I’m watching him grow into an amazing young man. He’s compassionate and smart and funny and good. He’s good. He seems unscathed by those early years when his mom was fighting anxiety and fear. He’s happy and confident.

I watch him play with his little sister and I see a glimpse of the father he will be. A loving, nurturing dad. Like my husband. I see him smile and laugh with his friends and I  see the natural charisma that his father carries. I watch him run, swim, play and I see the natural athlete that is my husband. I see him crack a joke, his dry subtle wit reminiscent of the humor that made me fall in love with my husband.

I listen to my son ask questions when we’re in the car. Questions about world events. I listen as he talks about Syria. And Egypt. And North Korea. Israel and Palestine. He wants to talk about Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Eric Garner. He wants to watch the morning news and catch up on what’s going on in the world. I listen to him as he gets mad, I see his frustration and anger towards people that hate. He doesn’t understand. And I see a little bit of me.

I see the look he gives me when I’m fishing for a dollar for a man with a sign on the corner. He takes the ten dollar bill out of my wallet and hands it to me. His look says it all. He needs it more than you, mom. On another occasion I watch with overwhelming emotion and pride as he pulls a few dollars out of his own pocket when I am out of cash and a homeless veteran is standing at the stop light.

I watch as he insists on buying a small toy for his little sister. Even though I know he wants to save up for the latest video game, he’s willing to hold off a little longer to bring a smile to her face.

I watch all of this and I feel more joy than I ever thought possible. My son opened up my heart again fourteen years ago. He proved me wrong. The pain of losing my brother isn’t gone, but I’ve learned that the pain doesn’t eclipse the joy. The two can co-exist.

I watch all of this and I feel pride. My son’s a good kid. I think he’ll grow up to be an amazing person. One who works hard and who cares. Cares about those he loves and about those he doesn’t even know. I look at him and I know that I did some things right. I know that along with my husband we’re raising a good person. And I realize now that our raising him isn’t the remarkable thing. We’ve done pretty good, we’ve made some mistakes for sure. Fourteen years later I feel like the good outweighs the bad. Our son is living proof of that. But we can’t take all the credit.

I’ve grown in to motherhood. All on my son’s dime. He had to endure my learning curve. His burden similar to that of many first borns. His siblings owe him a debt of gratitude for him teaching me how to be a mother.

As I look back on the past fourteen years, I see how far my husband and I have come. How much we’ve gone through, how much we’ve navigated. As I look back I realize that the credit isn’t ours alone.

Thank you, my sweet beautiful boy. You’ve been patient and you’ve navigated this path with us.

Thank you for taking our lessons, for enduring our long lectures. For humoring us when we think we’re cool. Thank you for still letting me into your world. For sharing your thoughts with me. Thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to feel joy again.

Thank you for raising some pretty o.k. parents.

Thank you for being you.

Because who you are couldn’t make me any prouder.

 

 

 

We All Need A Little Mayhem!

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A little over a year ago I met Kelly of Are You Finished Yet. She was one of the first bloggers I started engaging with in my blogging infancy. She allowed me to sit at the “cool table” and made me feel included and not at all stupid or out of my league. Since then I’ve gotten to know Kelly much better. I’m a huge fan of her writing, but I’m an even bigger fan of her spirit which shines through her writing. But who knew that in addition to writing for her award-winning blog and raising her children that she was cooking up something else?

9780692311011.MAIN (1)That’s what. In all her ample spare time she’s been writing and illustrating a book! Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out how to change my blog header. Ahem, anyways, this book you guys. It’s awesome. It’s a story your kids will love. One you will love. And the pictures? I pause in the middle of reading it to my five year old just to study the pictures! There’s so much detail and character and life in these drawings.

So to celebrate this new it’s-awesome-and-should-be-on-your-kids’-shelves book, I got the opportunity to interview Kelly! It was almost like having a real life conversation with her, which is so cool. Especially since as I read her answers I was giggling and talking out loud. To myself. *evidence of my crazy will be in italics after Kelly’s answers*

Enjoy!

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Is “mayhem” a term used often in your family? Should we assume that come Friday the Suellentrop household is one big party?

Absolutely. In fact, weekends at our house is where I got the title for the book. My husband started referring to that time as Absolute Mayhem, because it meant we were all home and weren’t as dictated by a schedule. Mostly it meant he had more time to have fun with the kids. To this day, when he gets home from work on Fridays, he opens the door and says “Absoluuuuuute… ” and the kids yell, “MAYHEM!”    

*Aw, your husband sound like such a fun dad! I want to be at your house on a Friday sometime to yell out “Mayhem!” I’ll even do a cheer or a cartwheel or somethin’, ok?*

What sparked the idea for this book?

Like I said, it all came from this little tradition my husband started. Now to be clear, the mayhem at our house  isn’t quite what it is for Lulu and Milo. Like, my kids get to have soda and we have movie nights or something. But I loved the idea of how even mundane things can feel special when you are able to break out of the routine of the week. Everyone looks forward to the weekend for one reason or another. And I wanted to capture that little feeling of anticipation and magic we can feel in our everyday lives, while still honoring the hard work and responsibilities that make us appreciate the times we get to have fun.

*I LOVE movie night! And I get what you mean, everything is more fun on the weekends! Except for laundry.*

I love the illustrations! How did you hone your drawing skills? Did you have any formal art education?

Drawing has always been one of my creative outlets, even as a kid. I used to spend hours in my bedroom listening to music and drawing people out of my teen magazines. I took art all throughout high school and some in college. I wanted to minor in art, but as an English major, I had a hard time keeping up with all the time-intensive art projects on top of the copious amounts of reading I had to do. So you could say my formal art education ended there. But I have never really put down my drawing tools, and I have spent  a lot of time over the last few years studying the work of other children’s book illustrators, as well as playing around with my own characters until I came up with Lulu and Milo.

*I was an English major too! That is so rare in the blogging world, right?*

Where and when and how do you write?

I keep myself on a schedule with my blog, Are You Finished Yet. I post every Tuesday, so that forces me to keep writing even when life gets busy. Now that both of my kids are in school all day, it is much easier to find the time. I have come to treat it like you would any other job. I drop my kids off at school, come home, get some breakfast and tea, and go to my office. (My husband and kids converted our extra bedroom into an office/art studio for me this past Mother’s Day, and that really helped me get into the mindset that I am now writing for a living.) I spend most of the day there working on things related to the book and writing upcoming blog posts until it’s time to get the kids. But you know, even though I have time during the day, I do find that I often get most inspired late at night. Sometimes I stay up late and run with it, and sometimes I will simply jot down notes and tackle it the next day.

*Schedule? Hmm… interesting concept… And what is it about writing in the wee hours? Is it the quiet or just our creative time? Whatever it is I blame it for my puffy eyes and my morning disposition.*

What advice or words of wisdom do you have as a bonafide published author?

That just sounds weird. Because I always thought of authors as eccentric, super-smart people who pounded on typewriters in front of sun-filled windows and hung out at coffee shops with other eccentric, super-smart people. And now I’m an author. But I write in between loads of laundry, hang out in carpool lines, forget what I went in to the kitchen for, and have trains of thought interrupted  when I realize I need to run to Walmart for toilet paper and spaghetti sauce. I mean, like, I’m just a person. But maybe that’s the wisdom here. We’re all just people. Like, Oprah’s just a person. And that means if you’re a person you can become a bonafide published author… or Oprah.

Oh, and patience, hard work and faith are probably good things to have as well.

*Ooh! Ooh! I want to be Oprah! Can I be Oprah? That sounds like fun! Plus, she’s a bonafide published author too! See, two birds… wait… sorry. Forgot to turn on the dryer… damn you laundry!*

Do you have more mayhem brewing? Will we get to see more of Lulu and Milo in the future?

Well, I live with two sources of constant inspiration: my kids. I wrote Aboslute Mayhem with the intention of it being the first in a series of Lulu and Milo stories, and I have the beginnings of about three more manuscripts floating around at the moment. The question right now is, which will become book #2.

*As long as we get to see more of Hippo too. He’s my favorite.*

***

Isn’t Kelly awesome? I know you’ll love her book. So will your kids and nieces and nephews and cousins… And one of you will get to win one right here! Just leave a comment or question and I will randomly choose the winner! Easy! And if you don’t win? No worries! You can go here: http://www.amazon.com/Absolute-Mayhem-Kelly-Suellentrop/dp/0692311017/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1415717713&sr=8-2&keywords=absolute+mayhem

and here: http://kellysuellentrop.com/

So, speak to me people! Do you think we should all show up at Kelly’s house on Friday? What do you look forward to on the weekends? Are you dying to know who Hippo is?

 

Are You Pissed? #Ferguson

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Unknown

“Pardon me while I burst in to flames…”

-Incubus, Pardon Me

I’m growing weary. As I sit here in the safety and comfort of privilege, I’m weary. It makes me sick. My stomach turns as I turn on the news. I feel the tears of anger well up as I watch events unfold. I feel my heart race as I hear the decision. I’m not surprised. Sadly, I’m not surprised. But I’m mad.

Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Jordan Davis. Darius Simmons. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. John Crawford. Kajieme Powell. These are just a handful of names of black boys and men killed in the past year. Not all of them. Not even close. These are the deaths that should have stopped the world. These are the losses that should have caused a giant intake of air as we all caught our breath in shock. But they didn’t. Some of these names you’ve probably never heard. Others you may have heard in passing but they likely became part of the white noise that makes up our everyday of information overload.

I sigh as I have to explain it to my children. Again. Yes. Another man has gotten away with killing a black boy. Yes, it’s crazy. Yes, it’s wrong. No, I don’t understand it either. No. You don’t have to worry about this happening to you. Because you’re white. But your friends? Some of them live in this reality. Those friends you meet at the park after school? The ones you eat lunch with every day? The ones you laugh with on the bus? Yes, honey, they have to worry about this kind of thing happening to them. 

Don’t pity me this conversation. While I wish I never had a reason to explain the injustice that is the reality for too many, my conversation is not the difficult one. No. That burden belongs to the parents of young black people in our country. You are a threat simply because of who you are. Your dark skin makes people look at you as a threat. You have to defer and submit. Not as an expression of respect so much as a life-saving tactic. You must do everything you can to not pose a threat. Keep your hands visible. Don’t linger on the street. Don’t… don’t… don’t get killed.

Which part of this pisses you off?

Is it the part where an unarmed boy was killed?

Is it the part where the twisted wheels of justice contorted to comply with a standard of permissibility and excusability?

Is it the part where an unarmed boy was killed?

Is it the part where a victim is vilified?

Is it the part where an unarmed boy was killed?

Is it the part where protestors took their anger and frustration too far?

Is is the part where yet another unarmed black boy was killed?

Which part pisses you off?

Which. Part.

While I sit here, wrapped in favor and entitlement, I’m pissed off. I’m pissed off at the denial that still sits heavily on our country’s conscious. I’m pissed at the ignorance that fills my news feed. I’m pissed off that the world still turns and the evening’s broadcast can’t take a fucking break from a B-list celebrity dance contest to cover a moment that everyone needs to see. I’m pissed that there are two realities in our country. And I’m pissed that too many people don’t even acknowledge or recognize or seem to be aware of those two realities and the disparities within.

As I sit here, bathed in immunity by means of my heritage, I’m tired. I’m tired of the same story with a different name. I’m tired of hearing the same arguments and excuses and justifications. I’m tired of the world going about it’s business like nothing happened.

I’m tired of waiting for our country grow up. I’m sick of waiting for my countrymen to stop acting like ignorant animals who only judge and assume and presume based on the most obvious of physical traits. I’m tired of wondering when we will start treating people as people. When we will recognize that our differences are completely superficial. When we will mature into rational intelligent beings who can differentiate between reality and perception. When we will stop acting like a petulant toddler who refuses to eat their dinner because their food is touching.

Our rationale is base.

Our reactions are primal.

Our mentality is antiquated.

As a whole our country is not mature enough to drive a car let alone carry destructive and deadly weapons.

And at the core of all of this? We refuse to even admit it’s a problem.

But we have grown men brandishing guns who still believe in the boogie man.

I wish I was exaggerating.

It’s not getting better. Sixty years after Emmett Till, it’s not getting better. The only thing that’s improved is the subtlety, the discretion. But it’s still the same story. Black boys are still being killed and white men are still getting away with it. Things look a little different, people speak of these things a little differently. A black man sits in the White House. But not much has changed. Because black men are still expendable.

I’m tired of waiting for people, for the masses, to wake the fuck up.

Here I am, safely tucked into my birthright. Secretly thanking the universe for granting me the immunity of paleness. Shamefully breathing easier that my son is not a threat by simply being in his own skin. As I sit here in comfort and security, I am pissed.

What about you? Which part pisses you off?

Which. Part.

 

 

OMG, Time Magazine- You’re So Cray Cray

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I can't believe...

“Done, done, on to the next one

Done I’m done and I’m on to the next one”

-Foo Fighers, All My Life

Oh, Time Mag. You’re like, literally, so smart. I read your annual word banishment poll yesterday and I can’t even…

I love your witty and oh so patronizing list you publish every year. You’re so hip and cutting edge. I wait with bated breath every year to hear what the bastion of cool-ness has to say about words that no respectable Chick Fil A manager would ever utter again. Like, ever.

‘Cept this year you kinda ‘effed up. This year you (spoiler alert) added FEMINIST to the list.

And every intelligent equality-loving non-hater was like “Whaaat???”

I mean, for seriously, WTF Time Magazine.

Lemme clue you in. Equality. Bam. ‘Nuff said.

Imma quote you here “Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.” Aw, you’re using snarkiness. I do love me some snark. Except when it’s used as a tool for ignorant speak.

Quick history lesson: Susan B. Anthony was one bossy bitch. She was bad-ass. She didn’t shrink away from thoughts and ideas and labels that may have been considered unsavory by those who willingly trudged through the murk of ignorance and hate. She and countless other women fought for basic equal rights for women. Rights that we all apparently take for granted every time we eschew the Feminism label. Kind of important rights. Like the right to vote. The right for women to own land. The right to not be raped by their husbands. We’re talking 94 years ago this went down. Except for marital rape laws. Marital rape wasn’t considered a crime in all 50 states until 1993.

In the history of our country, we’re still in the adolescent years of women’s rights. Feminism isn’t fully grown yet. Feminism still has a lot of maturing to do. We still need equal pay. We still need to do something about the fact that women are objects for some men to use and abuse and objectify and discard and demean.

When will feminism be fully grown and not a “thing” anymore? When one in four college women aren’t raped or sexually assaulted. When 3 women don’t die each day at the vicious hands of domestic violence. When girls aren’t shamed for wearing leggings to school. When women in the gaming world don’t have to endure death threats and threats of rape. When women can go online without fear of being stalked and harassed to the point of having to flee their homes and the on-line world for safety. When nude photos of women aren’t gleefully shared and spread around like a copulating circle jerk.

When? When women around the world are no longer subjected to genital mutilation. When women aren’t victims of “honor killings.” When women don’t have to brandish baseball bats to go after abusers because police shrug off their reports of attacks. When girls aren’t punished or killed for trying to get an education.

When… when… when I can look at my daughters and know that they will have the same opportunities and rights and safe passage that my son will have. When I can tell my children that women and children around the world are treated as humans. When boys and men don’t have to subscribe to some ridiculous and oppressive notion of being “tough” and non-emotive and hyper-masculine.

So you see, Time Mag. We’ve got a long way to go. You may be annoyed that the Beyonce’s of the world are declaring their Feminist position. Maybe you don’t like all the Feminist women out there doing all the talking and tweeting and writing and stuff. I get it. Skeptical Baby memes are a lot more fun. They make you LOL. They don’t make you really think. ‘Cause, you know, all this Feminism stuff just makes you think about icky stuff instead of totes adorbs cat videos on YouTube.

But when you throw Feminist in this list along with trendy slang like bae and basic and obvi and YOLO you’re really showing your ass. Whether it’s a shameless attempt to garner page views or an authentic exasperation with all of the people out there who are claiming to support equality, it’s kinda pathetic.

Deep down, I think you know this. Deep down, you know that there’s still lots of work to do. Having fun with the “label” just isn’t cool, m’kay? That label has been Limbaughed and spun into a twisted meaning that was constructed to perpetuate over hyped and trumped up stereotypes.

feminism_quote_2

So hear this, and pay close attention. Every time you want to demean the word. Every time you suggest it’s non-relevance. Every time you play into this mindset you are reading from a script you didn’t even write. You are joining a chorus of ignorance and misogynistic oppression. Your inclusion of this word tells me that you have willfully and blindly gone the way of the sheep and bought into the misinformation and propaganda that has been slowly oozing it’s way through our culture over the last few decades. Like a bad smell, this has been wafting around enough that you don’t even notice it anymore or realize it’s noxious nature.

Feminism isn’t some foul thing that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

That would be the bitter taste of lies and obfuscation.

Feminism is the basic fight for equal rights for women.

Equal pay for equal work.

The right to vote.

The right to join the military and not be raped.

The right to not have your body exposed and recorded by some creep with a cell phone.

The right to go to college and not be sexually assaulted.

Basic human rights of decency.

Sorry, Time Mag. But you’ve just jumped the shark. You’ve taken a cheap shot. You’ve played a bad hand. You’ve just shown your ass.

#sorrynotsorry

I Hit Him

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unhappy-little-boy

“Hanging on, You’re all that’s left to hold on to.”

-U2, Red Hill Mining Town

I hit my son.

Something I never thought I would do. I had never been hit as a child. Not spanked. Not “popped.” Nothing. My mom was able to raise three kids without laying a hand on any of us.

But I hit my son. I did it out of frustration and helplessness. And yes, anger.

My oldest, my son, was strong-willed. Feisty. Spirited. All the positive spin-words we could think of to describe his behavior and temperament. He was also a beautiful, sweet boy who filled my heart with more love and joy than I ever thought possible.

But he was not an easy kid. He tried me every day. From the age of two until he was about five years old.

He would throw fits in restaurants and have me dragging him out the door before the food had even arrived.

He would wake up from naps and scream and cry for over an hour. It was more than a tantrum, he was unreachable, enraged. I would carefully step around his flailing body to carry books and toys out of his room so that he wouldn’t throw them or hurt himself with them. I would stand outside his door with tears burning my eyes, the contents of his room lined up in the hallway, waiting for it to pass. I even recorded these fits of rage in case I needed to show them do his Pediatrician.

One day when he was three years old, he flipped out after we left a play date. He screamed and kicked my seat continuously as I was driving. I tried calming him down. I tried turning up the radio to drown out his screams. At one point I pulled over and parked on a side street. I felt like I was going to lose it. He screamed and kicked while I leaned my forehead on the steering wheel and took deep breaths. I sat there for a few minutes until the person who lived in a nearby house came out on their front porch to see what was wrong. They had heard his screaming from inside their house and were understandably concerned. I gave a small wave to acknowledge them and slowly drove away. He screamed the whole way home.

Often, in order to leave a park or a play date, I would have to hoist him up like a giant sack of potatoes, one arm clamped over his arms with my other arm clamped over his legs. He would kick and scream and hit. I would wrestle him to the car, re-adjusting and trying to keep my grip, all while getting hit and kicked.  He was almost stronger than me. He was a big kid, at four he was the size of most six year olds.

Most days I felt beaten down and exhausted. I dreaded him waking up from his naps and the impending tantrum. I worried about what was wrong with him. I worried about the issues that may be lurking. Anger issues. Psychological problems. I worried about when he would be too big for me to wrestle into the car. What would I do then?

I cried on the phone to my mom on many afternoons. I asked her how to get him to respect me. I needed words of wisdom and some secret mommy tip that would help me, that would give me some control over my son. All she had were words of support. Encouragement that I was doing everything right. Assurances that if I kept doing everything right that he would respect me and that I wouldn’t always have to wrestle him into the car. I wanted to believe her, but I wasn’t sure.

Then one day I hit him. I “popped” him on the leg. He was bucking like a bronco refusing to let me strap him into his carseat. I spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to strap him in. Nothing was working. Exhausted and sweaty, I lost it and I hit his thigh and yelled at him in my ugliest voice. I’m sure my “pop” stung. I’m sure my words cut.

He paused briefly in shock and I watched his face change from defiance to sorrow. I saw his eyes speak of betrayal and shock. I knew I hadn’t physically harmed him. I knew the sting of my slap was momentary. But I had hurt him nonetheless. He started crying tears of sadness. I felt indescribably horrible.

I numbly climbed into the front seat to buckle in and drive. I felt sick to my stomach. I was appalled with myself. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. I knew I did what many parents would have done. But it didn’t matter. The tears being shed in hurt and defeat from the backseat were all the incrimination I needed.

This isn’t what I had wanted. This is not how I wanted to parent. It didn’t matter what was “normal” or “acceptable.” It didn’t feel right to me. At all. I didn’t want my son to behave or listen because he feared he would get hit or “popped.” I wanted him to do it because it was right. Because I’m his mother and he needed to listen to me.

I don’t want to rule with an iron fist. I don’t want to control my kids. I don’t want them to fear me.

I don’t want them to ever feel shame.

No good has ever come from shame.

I want to guide my kids. Teach them. I want them to learn self-control. Not control at the hands of a parent.

My son is 13 years old now. He’s a good kid. No, he’s a great kid. He makes mistakes. But he studies hard. He works hard. He’s considerate and respectful. He has not once, in 11 years of schooling, had a behavior issue. I’ve had other parents tell me that they hope their young boys turn out like him. He has a happy, easy-going nature and tons of friends who love him.

I know I’m lucky.

I’ve forgotten how scary and trying those early years were. As I write this, I’m so grateful there wasn’t a bigger issue lurking behind those screams and tantrums. Now, all these years later, I have an idea of what was causing his behavior. He was diagnosed with pretty bad allergies. Allergies that kept him stuffy and miserable year round. He also had some speech delays early on a learning disability that was stymying his communication. Once we started him on allergy shots and speech therapy and specialized tutoring, his behavior problems disappeared. Dramatically.

Knowing what I know now, I would be riddled with guilt if corporal punishment had been  part of our parenting.

Knowing what I know now, I wonder if it would have changed him. Would he be different? Would he be the sweet boy with the easy smile? Would he be the boy who carries himself with confidence?

I don’t know. I will never know. But I am glad I didn’t risk who he was, who he is.

Knowing what I know now, I’m grateful. Parenting is hard. Every kid is different. Different challenges. Different issues. Who’s to say the right way to handle each situation. But knowing what I know now, I’m not glad that I hit my son. But I am glad that was only once.

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