Monday, June 2, 2014

Just One

Even before we started a family, my husband had books on his shelf about the new era of families.  The one he asked me to read was Maybe Just One by Bill McKibben.  Recenly, I looked in our magazine rack beside the Porcelain Throne and found a new one: What to Expect When No One's Expecting by Jonathan V. Last.

That's the kind of guy my hubby is: intellectual, curious, and committed to smaller families.

We had just one... my beloved son Daniel, the child I feel is practically perfect in every way.  Not flawless... like his father, he can be rather introverted.  Like his mother, he can sulk up a storm.  But even his flaws are perfect for our family.  I wouldn't really know how to deal with a strong-minded terror of a child who throws seizure-like tantrums in public.  I'd be mortified.  But sulking and poor social skills?  I got that covered.

But still, there's been a miasma lingering around me, even after my husband and I decided that One Would Be It.  A stereotypical little gray raincloud.  That feeling that maybe One Shouldn't Be It.  That feeling of Maybe I'm Doing Something Wrong.

Let me be very clear - this is not Maybe I Want Another Baby.  I know that feeling - it comes in spurts, usually when I hand back a sweet little bundle of life to its mom.  But this isn't it.

And it isn't I Really Want a Daughter.  I know that feeling, too, when my adult niece messages me on Facebook just to say she loves me, or when I see the adorable little outfits my two year old niece wears and watch the videos my sister sends, or look at the girlie onesies I plan to buy in anticipation of that sister's second daughter (arriving in July!)  But I love my son, and can do everything with a son that I wanted to pass on to my daughter - so no, that's not it.

It might be, at least in part, I'm Terrified of Losing My Son To Another Woman Someday - but then I whomp myself over the head with a metaphorical 2x4 and remind myself, HE'S EIGHT.  DON'T GO BORROWING ANGST!

It's that invisible, unspoken "SHOULD" that won't let go that wraps me in knots.

The "You really SHOULD have a sib for your son."

The "Look at all the kids your cousins have, and how happy all those grandkids make your aunt... you SHOULD give that to your mom, too."

The "But look at all the other small families with two kids... you SHOULD have more than one; it's how things work."

I'm one of three children, my husband one of two.  I never contemplated, before, having only one child (though there were times in my youth that I bitterly regretted that I wasn't an "only" myself).  It just seemed an assumption that I'd marry and have two, maybe three.  It seemed normal.

And then I met my husband, who breathed a sigh of relief when he realized I didn't want a big family.  For him, two was Absolutely It.  No more.  He still cringes when I mention that I've got Sibling #3 in my class this year, after having sibs 1 and 2.  To my dear hubby, three is way too many.  Two was negotiable.  One was preferable to all others.

My husband is blissfully happy having one child.  He does not feel those invisible "shoulds," doesn't think his sister has the better idea by having two, doesn't in the least regret his parents' lack of numerous grandchildren.  He is content, and needs no validation.

While I am mostly content, I am one who DOES need validation.  I need to feel that I've made a wise and good choice, approved by my peers and my family.  I particularly need validation when I hear half-joking comments in staff meetings or in the staff lounge from other teachers about "those kids" who are a bit of a thorn in the side in school... "Well, you can tell HE'S an only child."  "What do you expect?  She's an only kid - spoiled rotten."  "No wonder she has trouble with other kids... she's an only."  Or, worst of all, "No wonder his parents stopped at one."

Articles abound on multi-child families, but search as I may, there's not much online rejoicing in the Joy of One.  I found a few books... but not many.  The lack only cemented my "SHOULD" complex.

I was, therefore, thrilled to read a wonderful article that - barring the miscarriage - could have been a page out of my own soul.  I think every mom who's got just one should read it... and I hope to find more just like it.

I'm OK with Having Only One Child by Andrea Meyer

In short: we live in a world where women are silently pressured to have more than one child.  (I'm not going to get into the whole "pressured to have children at all" debate - I don't want to set foot on THAT battleground.)  Even if we think we're making the best choice for ourselves, there is some degree of guilt or second-guessing our own instincts.  I wept for Andrea Meyer when she described her ninth-month miscarriage... I can't imagine having that experience.  And I felt her rage and colliding emotions when she looked at the plethora of second-and third-time moms cropping up all around, the conflict of not being absolutely certain one is enough.  And I thank her for being brave enough to write it all down.

Because, when it comes down to the core truth of the article, it's about knowing and trusting yourself.  And knowing that it's okay be be okay with having just one.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Putting Things in Persepctive

A friend of mine who is a respected psychologist has often tried to convince me to leave off with my worrying about what others think of me by presenting this rationale:

At any given moment, you can be reasonably confident that...

  • 1/3 of all people in the world love you.
  • 1/3 of all people in the world hate you.
  • 1/3 of all people in the world don't care either way about you.
I can see how this world view would be tremendously liberating.  For the past day, I've been fussing internally over what Mercedes Lackey, one of my favorite authors, thinks of me.  This isn't as far-fetched and obsessive as it sounds.  We're on the same Facebook page for a podcast novels she co-writes, and we've occasionally exchanged public words.  While I am mostly complimentary and unoffensive, as is my nature, I'm also not shy of calling things as I see them; I don't do simpering and fawning well, and what constructive criticism or opposing viewpoints I offer are always carefully worded so as to be respectful.  At least, they seem so to me and are intended that way.  I'd really love it if she developed a fondness for me, somehow - not to the point of becoming bosom friends, but enough to merit a helpful hand with my writing.  Writing for publication is, in large part, who you know to get you "in the door" - acquaintances already on the inside are good to have.  

Thinking and worrying over this, however, is not beneficial in the least to me or my work - so accepting the "Rule of 3" should, if I could just take it to heart, free me to actually move on to more useful activities.  Chances are, Ms. Lackey is one of the bottom third of people in my world... I matter less in her world view than a speck of dust on a monitor, and that's not likely going to change.  Neither will I be able to affect her negative opinion of me, if she's of the middle third and has decided I'm a relatively irritating nuisance or just another wanna-be writer trying to catch her eye.  Pontificating on how I could change either state takes up time I could be spending to other ends... writing, nurturing relationships with the people who are in the top third of my world, doing the work that sustains life and allows me some time to write.

And if she is, against all odds, already in that top one percent and thinks kindly of me, whether or not she can lend me a hand in getting published is entirely in her court, not mine.  I've no say in it whatsoever, and can only take comfort in thinking that one of my favorite writers knows who I am.

Perspective is good to have.  I wish I had it more firmly!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lykoi - My Werewolf World

I'm a huge fan of writing fanfic to keep one's writing skills honed when your own words just won't come.  In one of my G.I. Joe fics, I introduced my own take on werewolves... the Lykoi.  I won't get into detail here... but this fragment came to me tonight after reading about Amazon's new AMAZON WORLDS initiative to bring fanfiction mainstream,  and I figured I'd write it down here.
___________________

The first Lykoi was a madman.

Some say he was Turned by a moon slave, and that was what drove him mad.  Some say he was always Lykoi, born packless to a human mother, and that trying to cope with the Change alone drove him insane.  Some say his human parents cast him out, and he was taken in by true wolves until his inner wolf felt the more natural form.

However he came to be, all the stories agree on one point:  by the time our story truly starts, he was well and truly mad in every sense of the word.

He took territory outside a small town - some say his birthplace, others say not - and, finding the cattle plump and the sheep and goats slow, hunted the human pastures rather than the forests.  When the humans turned their dogs loose on his trail and hunted him with traps and snares, he killed the dogs and sprung the traps, leaving the former at the city gates and the latter in hopeless tangles, for he had still enough human mind to be cunning as well as hungry.  

He became the nightmare of the countryside.  Some said he was the spawn of Satan, others judgement from God for the sins of the townsfolk.  

And then a holy man appeared, traveling from afar, plainly robed and sandal-footed.  He smiled at the citizens' tales and walked out into the fields at twilight with the village priest and a handful of farmers for companions.  The farmers fled at the first howl from the woods, and when the mad Lykoi charged from the forest, fangs bared and slavering, even the priest fell back - but the holy man only stopped, and laughed, and called the Lykoi "brother wolf."

It was the word "brother" that stopped him in his tracks.

Brother.

He knew the word.  Remembered it.  Perhaps he had been a brother, once.  Had a sister, had a brother of his own.  He dimly remembered being more than a ravening and ravenous beast - seeing what had been come out from his misty memory, like a ship coming out through a fog.  

Brother.

The word stopped him, and the kind tone of the holy man, chiding him for his poor behavior, settled the beast inside him.  When the holy man proposed a bargain, his mind had cleared enough to grasp and accept it.  No more killing.  No more traps.  No more hunting.  Peace, instead, and acceptance back into the human pack.

He heard the words, and nodded, and placed his massive paw on the holy man's hand to seal the bargain.

What happened next is, like so many things, conjecture.  The Lykoi did find acceptance into the human pack.  Some say he was able to resume his human form, shifting to his wolf self only when the need to run wild under the moon became too strong to resist.  Some say he remained wolf for the rest of his days.  Most stories say that he took a wife - in some, a human woman; in others, a moon slave.  Still others say he took a true wolf for a mate, and of their many pups, some few were the first true Lykoi children who grew to form the first Lykoi packs.

In the end, though, it's all just story.  Nobody knows the truth, and the version of the tale changes depending on the teller.  Only the moral remains fixed, unwavering: Lykoi need a pack.  Cast out, wandering, solitary - that way madness lies, and a packless Lykoi is no better than a moon slave, and hardly more sane.

And that's where my story starts.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Weight-y Topic


Okay, I'm back.  Back a bit, maybe... we'll see.  Here's why: my very loving mother and sister have, for some time now, complained   commented noted that, on Facebook, I am a bit of a downer.  They don't like that so much.  Because they love me, they worry that Facebook will present a negative image of me to the world, if I'm so grim, gloomy, and grouchy.  I love both of them dearly, and I do see what they mean... but I have do wonder: should I care as much as I do?

It's the fate of the pessimist.  Optimists, seeing the positive side of most everything, wind up with many psychological and sociological perks to their outlook:  they live longer, are healthier, have stronger social ties, are (duh!) less depressed.  Pessimists get none of that, but we do get one thing:  We are right most of the time.  Our outlooks on life are far more accurate than optimists, and we see things as they truly are.

I'm not saying that I want to be a pessimist.  Honestly, I verbally try in most non-family areas of my life to project optimism.  But being what you aren't really set up to be can be... tiring.  So my family, I'm sad to say, gets the backlash.  They see me at  my worst.  I wish I could be the perky person most of the time (I'm not so blind as to think I could manage it all the time); I do feel more cheerful, more vibrant when I am.  BUT - just because you're trying to BE an optimist doesn't mean you stop being a pessimist.  It just takes one snarky comment to send me into a spiral, because the realist is always there, beneath the surface, and she's a pretty snarky and paranoid creature, too - deeply resentful of always being shoved down.  And it takes a lot of weight to hold her down, let me tell you.

And there, I made a leap into what I really wanted to talk about:  Weight.  The other day, I posted a personal experience with a weight loss tool on Facebook - and my dear, sweet, optimistic, and (it must be said) svelte, healthy, and gorgeous kid sister responded by gently prompting me to adopt a more positive attitude.

I re-read the post.  Yeah, I was pretty much a downer.  Here's what happened.

Like many of my online friends, I struggle with my weight.  (In the real world, I am surrounded by people who are weight-normal, or committed to much healthier lifestyles than my own.)  Visualization can be a powerful tool in the battle, so when I found this "Weight Loss Simulator," I thought HEY!  Let's give it a go.  My current goal is to drop 25 pounds before heading to Disney this August, and eventually get to the -50 mark.  Let's see what it looks like!

So I plugged in the first stage goal, and came away rather nonplussed.  25 is a major amount of weight to lose - and it's not easy to do, as anyone who's ever tried it knows!  To see that the physical differences (at least in 2D) are relatively minor just didn't have the motivational "punch" I'd hoped it would.  So I plugged in -50, and yes, at THAT point, the results were much more readily visible.

Now, I know that I would FEEL the effect of even a relatively low milestone loss long before I saw the payoff.  Even -10 will yield physical benefits that are tangible.  But it's tough looking at the graphics and going, "I've got THAT far to go before I see results? Really?"  When I plugged in the weight my BMI says I should be, I did nearly fling up my hands - yes, I would look absolutely AWESOME.  I'd look like my two beautiful sisters.  But having fought the fight for years, I couldn't help but get grouchy and gloomy.

It's one thing to climb Mount Everest because you truly want to, are driven to, and desperately want to.  You see the peak as a challenge, as a noble goal.  If you're trying to climb that same mountain because you know it's good for you, because it will eventually make you feel better, because society will look at you differently if you do - it's not going to be the same climb.  People who struggle with weight loss or with quitting a powerfully positive-reinforcing addiction like cigarettes or alcohol have a very hard time adopting that "I desperately want it" attitude necessary to tackling the mountain... sometimes, it takes a truly horrible crisis - a hospital stay, an accident - to wake us up.  I am REALLY trying to wake up before that... but it's hard.

Weight is insidious.  Alcoholics can avoid drinking, if they are able to find friends and family sympathetic to their cause.  They can avoid bars, ask for "dry" family gatherings.  Nicotine addicts are finding that society frowns more and more on them, and fewer and fewer people are indulging in smoking - making it harder to be with like minded folks, or to get much sympathy from the people around you.  All three issues are caused by the fact that eating, drinking alcohol, and smoking do something GOOD for the addict - they relieve stress, they provide some happiness in an otherwise grim world, they make you feel GOOD for the moment.

But eating can't be avoided.  Eating is life.  Eating is culture, society, family.  And it takes an immense force of will to change your eating habits - especially if it's one of the few unabated pleasures in your life.  Try sitting down at a family celebration and trying to make one tiny strip of teryaki steak outlast a huge salad (which you may not have much taste for) or veggies not basted in butter or sauce.  Try to not have the whole slice of birthday cake someone passes you.  And try not to be angry and resentful as everyone else at the table eats as much as they want... or try to "help" by reminding you not to eat so much, with varying levels of tact.  And the thing is... you cannot avoid food.

What's more, healthy food is EXPENSIVE.  And... it doesn't always taste so good.  Not to someone used to processed, sugary, salty bliss.  I have yet to really, truly enjoy sitting down to a salad, to a fruit or vegetable.  I've found some I like - but do they equal out to the steak or pizza that I really, truly want?  Not in a heartbeat.

I know I need to lose weight.  I don't like how I look.  I don't like how I feel.  But I also don't like how I feel trying NOT to eat like I always do.  I don't like remembering that I've done this before - tried to change my behavior, my eating habits - and have always failed, fallen off the wagon, wound up heavier and less healthy than before.  I've gone to the bariatric surgery info sessions and been scared witless  -I don't even like getting a SHOT, and the thought of having surgery that will make me feel ill and force me to eat a certain way forever or risk being very, very sick makes me quail.

And so, on Facebook, I grouse sometimes.  Can you blame me?  Maybe.  But it's hard losing weight.  And it's harder losing weight in silence - or trying desperately to find a real-world person who "gets it" and won't take offense to my mood swings.  Weight creates a barrier around you - people look at you with pity or disgust, people think certain things about you, people judge you.  Online, nobody can see the rest of me beyond my profile picture.  And now... my more optimistic family wants me to try to carry over my cheerful mask into the virtual world, working to be more positive and grateful for what I have.  I wish I could oblige them - I really, truly do.  Like losing over a hundred pounds of weight, I know it would be in my best interests.  I'd feel better if I did.

But I can only manage things one step at a time, folks.  And I'm not as strong as you seem to think I am.

Monday, February 11, 2013

On Hiatus

I've decided that my open-journal style of blogging needs some reconsidering; since I haven't been able to make many posts of late, and since my topics tend to meander a bit, I'd like to focus on my COMIC BOOK MAMA blog instead... a blog which, hopefully, will actually attract a readership outside of my own friends and family!  Someone along the line once told me, "Find one thing you do well and do it well" - so I'm going to try to live up to that.  I'd rather write one quality blog than several mediocre offerings.  Besides, I've taken out a Penzu.com account for my journal time - it feels more like my old notebooks did, and that's comforting.

Additionally, in my life outside of writing, I'm a teacher - and in the past few months, there's been a great deal of talk around the staff room about how "freedom of speech" really doesn't apply to teachers, who are expected to be "on duty" 24/7 and never hint that in their private lives they may hold ideas or conduct themselves in a way that might portray The Profession in a negative light.  While I don't really see this as a hindrance to myself, being that I'm not much of one to walk on the wild side, I hold firmly with the credo of "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean They aren't out to get you."  I'd hate to discover too late that something I found perfectly innocuous became grounds for a reprimand - or dismissal.  It's not because I'm that much in love with being a teacher - what with all the politics, exorbitant demands, and unrealistic expectations, I find myself feeling downright despondent at times - but because my family needs health insurance and you just can't support yourself writing. 

At any rate, I'm not pulling this page entirely... I'm rather fond of it... but it's definitely going on hiatus until I can find a way to morph it into something a bit more useful.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Post of 5's


WHAT I'M DOING: Trying to find some balance between school work, housework, and creative work.  Failing, but trying.

WHAT I'M READING:  Just finished NEW AVENGERS: BREAKOUT by Alissa Kwirty, as well as two youth biographies - one of CS Lewis, one of JRR Tolkien.  On the shelf - STAR WOLF by Kathryn Lasky, a kids' animal fantasy.

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO:  THE AVENGERS AND PHILOSOPHY: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST THINKERS by Mark White (editor).  Never took a philosophy course in college - more's the pity - but that's not getting in the way of understanding the essays.

WHAT I'M WONDERING:  How, exactly, does one break into voice work?

WHAT I'M WATCHING:  Not much at the moment, but waiting for the S.H.I.E.L.D. program to come out; it might make good family viewing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blog in Haiku

no time to write now -
real life's insistent demands
swallow my daydreams.