How I’m working through the active fear and self-doubt of writing a book.

Morning and hello!

I’ve been doing oh-so-much thinking lately, while I’m editing and writing and reorganizing this mass of work I’ve been collecting it’s time to say here that … I think it’s a book. It is. But I think I’m going to do something with it. I am. But. It’s scarier than I thought it was going to be.

I printed the entire body of work this week and just finished reading it through for the first time. My throat hurts, I don’t usually talk out-loud that much apparently, but it feels like the first mile of a run is finally behind me and now I can set pace and just keep going.

With each essay I’m holding it up to a few standards and questions to determine whether or not there’s something constructive in it, if it meets the ultimate goal or message of the entire collected work, and finally, if it’s something I want my kids to know, learn, or have as a record of me.

That last one will cut through so much bullshit.

Writing here for the last 17 years or so has been a beautiful exercise in learning to use my voice, and while I get that publishing words on the internet is sort of like putting them “out there” forever … something feels so much less permanent about these words. I write, shooting from the hip, quickly edit, and then publish. Rarely do I rework something I’ve already put out there. But the idea of having bound pages with my words to live in a physical place for ever and ever? I mean, that scares the living hell out of me.

So. That means I just have to keep doing it. Being scared, I’ve learned, isn’t the emotion that leads to safety. It’s not the response my body needs to listen to when I’m on the cusp of making something happen. Being scared is more like the “here we go” feeling of heading off into the great big yonder. It’s the walking man signal of crossing the street, not the flashing hand. Fear, in this sense, isn’t the ‘stop and wait’, it’s the ‘time to go!’

In addition to that, I’ve tried to find the appropriate box I might fit in. You know the ones, the ideas and dreams we have: where do they fit, what size do they need to be to become the most successful commercial version so I can claim success by standards not set by me, but for me. And not in my best interest, but in the interest of commerce.

Which, sounds about as exciting as reading spread sheets. Ok, LISTEN! Here’s what I’m getting at: It’s all uncomfortable. To say the ideas or dreams out-loud, which moves to (hopefully) actually making work of them, which moves to the undeniably hard work of pushing through the fear and self doubt, which leads to the unknown.

The question is: would I do this if no one cared? Would I write books to leave for my children so they had a record of the kind of legacy I wanted for them? Would I tell them everything, anyway?

And that answer is always, without a doubt, absolutely.

The volley

Let’s catch up. I have a few things to tell you and then so many more to unpack with you, buckle in.

We started school this year at an entirely new school. My kids went from a private school to a public school and everything is going well.

Along with all of this change my daughter started a sport she’s never played with a team she’s never met and her first match was also the first day of this new school and everything is new – are you getting my drift? I spend a lot of time in bleachers waiting with her for her turn while she barrels through her nerves and anxiety and shovels every bit of it at my feet and then stomps around on it, like a tantrum. And I think to myself, this shit is ridiculous. Enough of this. Pick your damn self up off the mother loving pavement, Child, and go. get. it. But I don’t say those words, no I do not.

I spend that time rubbing her back and listening and offering a little hope, but not too much because then she accuses me of not understanding, so I wait with her. That is all she wants. Someone to bear witness to the waiting for her turn. When is it going to be her turn? Why isn’t it her turn yet? And the stage-fright. It’s tennis, but people are watching, so that takes it to a new level of MAKE IT STOP.

I didn’t play school sports for my own reasons, all of them selfish and kind of childish. I didn’t have a lot of school spirit. But this kid, she wants to do it all. Paint her face and wear the logos and do the fundraisers and buy the duffle bags and sign up for every club and get as involved as possible. She makes me tired. Because I still facilitate her social life, so when she signs up for something – in essence she is signing me up too. And you know what? I LOVE IT.

Here we are, doing all the new things and both for the first time ever. It’s pretty great. It’s great that she’s still inviting us along for the ride.

My life is now a serious matrix of overlapping schedules and carpools. I am always supposed to be in more than one place at a time. So far, it’s working just fine. Somehow.

I’ve tried to catch up over the summer or just chronicle our days and trips and memories but every time I came to this place and logged in and started writing I couldn’t bring myself to publish any of it. I’ve had kind of a bumpy summer? How do I say this without sounding alarming but also telling the truth THAT EVERYTHING SUCKS. I try not to spread the wealth too much. The wealth of emotional bankruptcy. That bitch came to win, and let me tell you, she swept me off the floor.

I’m mourning a great, very personal loss. In the wake of other very personal losses. Right after the other, all stirred up in a pot, on and on and on they go. Swinging at me like a batter bent on revenge. I see you: I’m awake.

I took a break from my other writing this summer as well, for the same reasons, everything was angry in response to my pain. But I also started this really lovely, very daring personal project before the summer came. And if the only thing you take away from this rambling is this: please pull for me. I think this is big, if for no one other than me, it’s monumental. And I need the timing to be right and the people to be in place and the conversations that have yet to happen, for those to have a way paved before them so I can have them. I need some cheerleaders. I need someone pulling for me, even if you don’t know why or what for.

As I was journaling recently I came face to face with some fear, not new. It’s the ugly side of my vulnerability. I am my own roadblock. Afraid of looking like a fool, but realizing that if everyone I’ve ever quoted or loved or admired let their fear stand in the way of their message or art or gift for the world: I wouldn’t have their words to help me or their photos to inspire me or their songs or poems or paintings to take my breath away. I wouldn’t have a full understanding of how big my own dreams are, how rare my own beauty is, how daring my own words could be.

And I learned: I’m not done yet. I have to keep showing up.

Just like my daughter needs someone there to witness her showing up, even when it’s scary and new and nothing feels normal, she needs someone who believes in her, not because we have to. Or because she’s shown great athletic prowess – but because we know she can. If she keeps showing up, if she keeps trying … eventually the ball will make it over the net. Eventually she’ll move from the bench to the court and without ever thinking of how or why, she’ll volley.

Not because she knows how – but because thats what you do when the ball is yours.

As time passes

I’ve been more aware than not lately about how fast my kids are growing up. You were all right; mothers before me, and Grandmothers at the grocery store, and you well-meaning strangers who preached “how fast it goes” as you watched me struggle to enjoy the chore of raising little people. It wasn’t always a struggle, mostly it was the best happy I’ve ever known. But it was exhausting. And could someone please just tie everyone’s shoes for me and get the socks and diapers and sippy cups and cheerios and changes of clothes and the list doesn’t ever actually end. Parenting small people is a run-on sentence with no correct grammar and absolutely no access to spell check or a period.

Jessica, March 2017

Oliver, March 2017

I think the pause to consider this task comes as they enter middle school. When the phone calls from school are no longer about what your kid did in class that day but now it’s one of them calling to ask me to bring them their violin, shoes, coat, lunch, or homework that they forgot.

They went from being little floating pods in a happy, cartoon society to being aware of the contents of their life and keeping track of themselves and their work. They’ve turned into non-functioning adults. Practicing ones. With a lot of hormones and room for error. And a mountain to climb in front of them called Learning.

Jessica is making breakfast for her and Oliver this morning. 2 pans on the stove, lots of chopping, using the oven. My favorite part? The towel across her shoulder, just like me. She's fluttering around from counter to counter and every once in a while sh

My mancub sewing by hand.

The pace of raising them has changed, and the conversations, too. They’re part of them, which is so weird and so cool. We’re not making administrative decisions any more, not on most things, now it’s collaborative. Do you want to play this sport? And if you do, are you really invested, so should we also try this camp? I see you really enjoying this particular outlet, how can we support you to succeed? You’re both social butterflies, how can we accommodate your friends and our sanity at the same time? Where do you fit, now? Where are you going? How can we help you get there?

When you come home to a note from your kids that makes you cup your face and cry for all the right reasons. Hey you there? Your countless hours in a thankless job matter. Kids or no kids. You are seen. You are loved. You are enough.

They've graduated from the kiddie hot chocolates. Probably years ago but this just caught up with me. #16ouncesplease #canihaveacookiewiththat #takingkidsanywhere #allthequestions

I love them so much. And as I remember their pudgy little hands and the way they’d pronounce words or the sound of their morning voices from home videos; as I look at old photos and remember the memories we’ve made, and have been making for what seems like forever now … it really is too short. I’m struck with how it’s already almost over.

I’m not ahead of myself here, just finally catching up, I think. We’re past teaching kids how to pee in a toilet, tie shoes, their ABC’s, we’re past car seats entirely, and there are no training-anything’s on their gear and equipment. Both of my kids have bigger feet than I do and when I’m doing laundry, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll give Jessica my clothes and take hers to my closet.

These are people! They are their own persons. And it boggles me that we get to live with them. They’re so nice, these kids. I say that publicly a lot, but they are. I like them. They’re so nice. Pleasant, fun, kind people. Who have faults, yes. But mostly, they’re my favorite humans to be with.

They don't even know they're getting their reading minutes in before dinner. *popcorn* (it's like parenting fairy dust, sprinkle that shit everywhere) 👏👏👏

This shift started happening when Jessica lost her first tooth. I was very much in the mindset that they were a part of me before they lost their teeth. They grew in me, I gave birth to them, I sustained their life for the first 9 months of their life with my breasts. I didn’t know where I ended and they began. I was worried about their temperature at all times – too cold? Too hot? Coats? Shoes? Their hunger was always on my mind. When did they last eat? When are they going to want to eat again? And when I wasn’t feeding and comforting them, I was bathing them and reading to them and keeping them on a schedule so they would stay healthy and grow strong.

But then she lost her first tooth. Jessica lost a part of her own body. It was hers. It was not mine. And I realized her hair was her own, and her body was her own, and if she felt cold or hot or hungry or angry or excited or confused – those were all of her own feelings. Her own experiences. They were not mine.

Thank God.

The pressure was off. I didn’t have to own them, and strangely I didn’t want to. They’re both different than me. So different from each other. They want different things and think completely different thoughts. They come to conclusions in different ways and they celebrate in their own unique language. They love differently and need love differently. They’re magnificent.

At Jessica’s third grade parent teacher conference her teacher shared with us a story she had written. I cried because she wrote and Aaron cried because her story was about him. I didn’t want her to grow up in my shadow, always being asked or tasked with being part of me. Writing is unique to who I am, it’s an essential part of my life … it’s also the gift I get to give to the world. But whatever Jessica’s was: we hadn’t really discovered yet. And I didn’t want to push her towards my own, because I could make it easy for her and it would be exciting for me. I wanted to know what her gift was, what passion she had inside that hadn’t come to the surface yet. But hearing her teacher tell us how well she wrote, how thoughtful her prose were. That she was a storyteller by nature … I thought, yes. We are a little bit the same. She is still mine, I’ll always be hers.

This past week Jessica got in front of her peers and school, in front of parents and grandparents, and she performed a couple of poems for the audience. She made it through the first round of performances (just for her teachers and 6th grade classmates) and was selected to perform to a larger audience. She picked her poems on her own, they were not your average rhyming poems. They’re serious and thoughtful, deep and meaningful. Just like her.

Forensics Poem, Jessica 6th grade

(Video of her performance above, click to view)

Everything comes full circle. I can be hard on myself but when I see the same depth of emotion in my kids, I finally accept my own.

I haven’t known where I fit in this story, it’s been a good one but something of a first go for me. I can’t use my family of origin as a map of where to steer this ship and the masts who should be anchoring me along this journey are no longer part of my fleet. I feel lost so much of the time.

Without a bearing on who I am or where I came from, I don’t have pillars to hold onto anymore. But as time passes I’m finding the way to the deep and sinking down in the fertile ground of new beginnings.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

And I realize that while I’ve spent the last 12 years teaching them how to walk; they’ve been teaching me how to love.

Oliver turns 8!

Adventures: This one in Florida

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We ran away to sunshine and spanish moss over winter break last month with our kids. Everything in me inhales deeper at the base of a live oak trunk with it’s arms swaying above me dressed in spanish moss and salty air.

I. Love. Florida.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Our destination was Amelia Island and we stayed at the Omni Plantation Resort.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to find an incredible deal on priceline.com for the rooms and a rental car, and bought our plane tickets through a deal site that kicks back to our tuition bill, which is always helpful. When we checked in to the hotel we had no idea that it would be this amazing. I had researched and googled and planned an itinerary but seeing it in person and getting an ocean front room was another story entirely.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

In my “House Keeping” series I talked about budgets (you can read that here) and one of the things I don’t think I mentioned was that we set aside a bit of each paycheck for vacations. It’s a separate savings account and the amount we budget for just gets automatically deducted from our paycheck and directly deposited each time we get paid. Lickety split. This is how I budget, actually, I have separate accounts for a number of different things.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

I would absolutely go back to Amelia Island. It’s just inside of the Florida state line from Georgia so the southern charm is heavy. The history of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach was rich and fun to explore.

A few things I really wanted to do were unavailable when we got there – but here’s our tips for a weekend getaway:

We flew into Jacksonville which is about 35-45 minutes away from the hotel we stayed at. So renting a car was the best option for us to get from the airport to the hotel. It was also nice to have a way to get around outside of the resort, where food was cheaper and being a tourist was more available. Inside the resort is beautiful, and I would recommend renting a golf cart (if you rent at the end of the day you get to keep it overnight for the cost of 2 hours, win!) to really be able to see the vastness of the estate. It is amazing, full of beautiful pockets, parks, lakes, neighborhoods, beaches and pools. Plus restaurants, shopping villages, a spa and more.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Definitely look for shark teeth on the beach, we came home with 3. We think. They might be shark teeth or they might be suspiciously shaped shells. Either way, the hunt was fun. This is the beach our hotel was sitting on. Gorgeous.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We had our own pool at the complex we stayed in but the main hotel had a larger, warmer pool that we spent most of our lounge time at.

The hotel also has a great calendar of events, some of them free to guests. We took advantage of all the things that sounded fun to us. A fire one night with s’mores, a tour of their apiary and Seelings Project with the head Sous Chef for the property, partaking in the donut wall for the holiday weekend.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Food:

Resort food is very expensive, but buying 4 adult meals every meal is too. We tried to eat at great local places that wouldn’t break the bank and we tried a couple of the restaurants in the resort as well. I think our favorite was The Patio Place on Sunday morning. A local brunch spot with good coffee, savory crepes, and amazing atmosphere.

The cheapest meal we ate was a $5 hot and ready pizza from Little Caesars on Saturday night. It was magnificent.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We walked around the historic part of Old Town after breakfast, just taking in the shops and scenery. We like to find a local book store every where we travel so we waited for their shop to open so we could browse.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Fort Clinch State Park:

For the next few hours we explored Fort Clinch State Park but we didn’t pay the entry fee for the actual fort. We walked to the beach and saw the fort from the outside, watched the tide change, looked for shells and watched fishermen. We also spent some time exploring the woods and climbing trees before we took a small hike to look for alligators.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

The hike we did was The Willow Pond Trail and we spotted 5 alligators. Which means I think there were probably like 12. And you know, they’re just laying in wait in the water about 5 feet from my sandaled toes.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Oliver was very interested in keeping us all safe. šŸ˜‰

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

There’s only one in the photo above, can you spot him?

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

And there are 4 in this above photo. Probably more that we didn’t see. Tricky!

After some more time at the pool and our only “resort” experience with poolside pina coladas (omg, so yummy) we decided to try to rent bikes and see more of the complex. When we got to rental place we noticed that it would actually be cheaper to rent a golf cart than to rent 4 bikes – and because we were so close to closing time, the 2 hour minimum rental for a golf cart turned into an overnight rental as long as we had it back by the time they opened the following morning (which was 9 am).

If you know my son, you know that this spoke his love language more than anything else all weekend.

BEHOLD!

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to see so much more this way – it was one of our highlights.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Monday morning we had the golf cart back by 9 am, grabbed breakfast at the resorts “market style” morning deli for the second time, went to the beach one last time, checked out the nature center and helped the kids shop for their souvenirs with their money.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We checked out at 11, drove back to their airport, and came home.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

A perfect amount of time for a getaway in the sun in the middle of February in Michigan.

Until the next adventure.

šŸ˜‰

How is it only Wednesday?

We’re going to start this one out with a truce, ok? Because I am not here to tell you how to parent or act like I’m a good one or uncover some deep seeded need of yours to fight over parenting practices or logistics. If you’re crazy enough to be a parent, you also know you’re lucky enough to be one. If you’re struggling, hopefully you’ve experienced joy so you have a well to pull on when things are rough. If it’s sunshine and rainbows, perhaps your bundle is only hours old. Avert your eyes.

Shit’s about to get real.

My lovely little blessings are almost 12 and 8 1/2 years old. It’s only Wednesday of the longest week ever and I had turned a new leaf today. I danced in the rain, friends. It was looking up.

A video posted by Jodi Schaap (@jodimichelle) on

I had some time to drink a cup of tea before I had to grab the kids from carpool and I was insanely happy, content, settled. Just such a good day, so much joy. I was swimming in it. I had delirious thoughts about making cupcakes or cookies with the kids after school since the past few days have been rough, I thought to myself “let’s do it differently today” and then I saw my children LITERALLY fighting in the pickup line. They were taking each other down. And I rolled forward, one car at a time, until I could make eye contact with Jessica and my finger has never been more erect as I pointed at her with EVERYTHING IN ME and conveyed that she had better apologize and get her act together. That finger speaks its own language and we were writing it’s Bible in that carpool line.

Girlfriend, rise to the occasion of being the bigger kid. This is an opportunity to be better. PLEASE GET AFTER IT.

On a scale of all the terrible things, this is minor. I understand that. Her reason for swinging her thirty pound backpack at her brothers precious, and one and only, head was because he was “credit carding” her and other children’s butts.

Please let that sink in.

Read it again if you have to.

My adorable son saw a friend of his acting this way and decided to join in. To swipe his hand, the hand that holds my own, the hand that prays for our dinner and his grandparents and his sister, through the butt crack of unsuspecting children (including his sister) and then of course all the giggling and horror.

It’s possible this is just another lap around the parenting track. Another chance to try again. Another opportunity to talk about what might be considered inappropriate. How embarrassing someone else is never a good reason to cross a line for a laugh. How respect is precious and trust is the ultimate testament of love.

They are not too young to learn this, we never are.

It’s just. Parenting is really hard. It’s so ridiculously exhausting. But, it’s also so amazingly rewarding.

I am completely inept to rise to this occasion most days. I certainly do not feel well equipped to lay my own fight down so I can coach someone else on how to navigate their own battles. But here I am. Doing just that, with two very different minds and hearts than my own. Two very independent, thoughtful, curious, daring, brave, exciting, interesting and beautiful people.

Here’s where I want this to end: in a manifesto for myself, maybe for you, to remember in the ditches that there’s always a climb. You might not have practiced this before and I’m with you if you feel out of shape to get down and do the work but we are not our yesterday.

And our children are not our mistakes.

And it’s OK if they make some, because we’ll be here when they do.

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Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016

xoxo