Wishing You a Magical 2014

by Emma Wilhelm


It's a new year. Feels good, doesn't it? I've been thinking a lot about everything that happened in 2013—from the super-high highs to the super-low lows. I've been thinking about that and wondering how to approach 2014. Should I set goals? Fairy-godmother wishes?

One of my best friends recently posted the following on Facebook: "Why can't everything just hurry up and work out exactly how I want it to?" I think she was (mostly) kidding, but don't we all feel that way much of the time?

How are we suppposed to respond when things aren't working out? When we can't find a new job, or when lasting love seems mythical? When we can't get pregnant, can't get out of debt, or can't shake the depression?

The thing is, lots of things in life never work out exactly how we want. Sometimes, they work out better. Sometimes worse. But at this point in time, we can't know. We can respond to this abiguity in lots of different ways—with determination, faith, or helplessness.

Generally speaking, I take the determination route. Action, action, action. But without a little faith, I quickly begin to feel like a failure.

I've worked my tail off this year to try to sell our house. And here it sits, covered in snow with a fading "for sale" sign in the yard.

I have to believe that the timing just hasn't been right yet. That waiting longer than I'd like will eventually lead us to the right house for us—maybe one that hasn't even hit the market yet.

So how am I going to approach 2014? I'm going to visualize what I want, be proactive about the pieces I can control, and remind myself that as frustrating as the waiting game can be, it's part of life's magic.

I'm wishing each and every one of you a magical 2014. I hope it brings you much love, peace, and adventure—hopefully in ways you can't even imagine yet.

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Life After Miscarriage

by Emma Wilhelm


It's been two weeks since my miscarriage, so I've had some time to reflect on how I got through the thick of it. In no particular order, here are seven ways to cope after a miscarriage (or other life challenge).

  • Take it Easy. Sleep as much as you need to. Take at least one day off from work and just rest. Once your strength returns, ease back into exercise—if and when it feels okay. I haven't been able to run much yet, but it's been nice get outside for a walk.

  • Feed Your Body and Soul. I mean this literally. Many people don't feel like eating when they're sad, but when your body has been put through hell, it needs nutrients. In my case, it needed iron. So I ate a lot of red meat, spinach, and chocolate (I said feed your soul, too).

  • Talk it Out. I'm glad I had already announced my pregnancy. Suffering through this in silence would have made it so much harder for me. For me, it felt right to acknowledge that this happened, almost as a way of honoring the baby.

  • Treat Yourself to Something Comforting. This could be as simple as buying yourself a favorite latte—or as fancy as you like. I bought myself a pair of fleece pajamas. I've found them strangely comforting and have worn them every night since.

  • Accept All Offers of Help. This one goes against my nature a bit, but I'm so glad I had the sense to just say yes. Friends and family offered to help with the kids and brought food, flowers, and cards. It really helped to know that people were thinking of us.

  • Connect with Your Partner. People grieve differently. I didn't expect my stoic husband to understand exactly what I was going through (or vice versa), but I shared my feelings anyway. We went out on a date, and while it felt anything but celebratory, I proposed a toast to resilience.

  • Pay it Forward. Just a few days after my miscarriage, I heard that a friend also lost her pregnancy. I decided to make a care package for her in honor of all the kindness shown to me. So I packed a cute gift bag with fleece pajamas, Gatorade, and trashy magazines.

I still miss my baby, but it gets a little easier every day. I know that I haven't been dealt an unusually difficult life. All people suffer. But we each get to decide how to process the pain, and I choose to share. I share because someday, these words may serve as a virtual hug for someone who finds herself in a similar situation.


There's Always a Silver Lining

by Emma Wilhelm


My weekend gave new meaning to the phrase, "Oh, bloody hell!" Our baby #3 didn't make it.

After losing gobs of blood at home over 24 hours, I finally went to the ER on Sunday evening. Based on my blood work and an ultrasound, the OB on duty recommended a surgical procedure to stop the bleeding.

When I woke up after surgery, reassured by the overhead lights, my first thought was Disney World. How I (we) should take the kids. I've never even been to Disney World—nor do I think it's a requirement for a happy childhood—but I felt this undeniable surge of life and an immense sense of gratitude for my two healthy kids.

I'm sorry that this miscarriage happened, but I'm trying not to feel sorry for myself. This weekend was an intense reminder of just how precious life is. It also affirmed what an amazing family I have.

I will never forget grieving together on Sunday afternoon with my husband, kids, parents, and in-laws. It was almost fun. As I said while we gobbled up delicious takeout, "I've always had the ability to eat during life disasters." There's a real truth to the phrase "comfort food."

Not only did my family really step up this weekend, but my care team at the hospital was amazing as well. Every nurse and doctor was kind and reassuring. They managed to keep things light while still acknowledging my loss.

Thank you to everyone who has held my hand, let me cry, helped with my kids, fed me pie, slept in a hospital recliner, or sent me an encouraging note, text, or card. You are the best. I am a lucky, lucky woman, and while I probably won't zoom off to Orlando, I'm sure as hell going to keep living this life to the fullest.


Living in Limbo Online

by Emma Wilhelm


Let's talk about being in limbo. So much less fun than THE limbo, which I used to do every Friday night on some sweet lavender skates. Don't worry—I was only nine.

My ongoing source of uncertainty is trying to sell our house. I hate stories of three-day sales and offers above asking price. We've had nibbles, but no bites. And I guess that's to be expected, but this waiting game? I hate it. I hate it because I have very little control over the outcome, or at least the timing of the outcome.

My more immediate source of uncertainty is that I'm having some bleeding. Everything might still be okay with my pregnancy, but it might not. I've been told to spend the weekend "being a couch potato." Um, I don't remember how. But I think it might involve a lot of takeout, movies, and snuggling.

"Wait and see" is the worst. But I suppose it has a purpose, right? I'm supposed to remember the big picture, count my blessings, and realize that other people have far bigger problems. I can do that. But deep down, I'm just a person with a dream, praying for a good outcome.


Living Out Loud Online

by Emma Wilhelm


For the past year or so, I've felt restrained in my writing. Worried about what people will think. Afraid to say anything too edgy.

What happened to the Emma who wrote a divorce memoir online? The woman who wrote about embarrassing or controversial things? I kind of miss her. She was more fun. She had a lot more to say.

Modern life is interesting. To succeed professionally, we're supposed to put ourselves out there—on social media, with in-person networking opportunities, and maybe even with our own website. But we're supposed to do this carefully. It's okay (even great) to show some personality, but what about vulnerability? Or non-traditional life choices?

The thing is, my favorite writers are the loudmouths—the ones who share their fears, idiosyncracies, and failures. Often in real time. Maybe even on Twitter. They reassure the rest of us that even the most successful humans are still finding their way, and I love them for it.

So in the interest of authenticity, I'd like to report that I'm sporting elastic-waist pants. Not to make a fashion statement—though that'd be some statement—but because there's a tiny baby who's staked out a parcel of her (or his) very own in my belly. The third time around, the body knows what it's doing. The bump remembers the routine and jumps right in.

I think you're probably not "supposed to" blog about your pregnancy eight weeks in. Things could go wrong, you know? I was really touched by a Facebook post a few weeks ago from a former teammate who had just lost her pregnancy. She hadn't announced that she was expecting, and in retrospect, she realized that keeping quiet had prevented her from fully enjoying being pregnant. I couldn't agree more!

In the last couple days, I've spilled the beans to my boss and now to you, good people of the internet. It feels good. Dance-party good. It's never too early to start teaching babies rhythm. Or to show your kids (or the whole damn world) how to honor your reality, whether quietly or at the top of your lungs.


Thanks for reading! You can find me on twitter @emmasota. And, if you haven’t already, please visit emmasota on Facebook and click “Like!”


Like Herding Cats

by Emma Wilhelm


"What are some ways we might be able to get ready a little faster tomorrow morning?" I asked as I drove the kids to school this morning.

Silence.

I tried to make eye contact with Lulu in the mirror.

"Lulu? Do you have any ideas?"

"I don't want to," she said in a soft voice.

"You don't want to get ready faster?" I asked.

"Uh-huh."

I was trying to show my democratic values—look kids, I care about your opinion! Let's tackle this issue together!

But my "problems" (kinder-sabotage of my attempts at expediency) are my kids' victories. They love to draw out bedtime, to have one more book/cracker/turn. And why wouldn't they? Kids are masters at being in the moment.

Lulu's comment got me thinking. People won't rally around a cause they don't believe in—not even if they love you up to the moon and back. So rather than continue my unsuccessful campaign for child efficiency, I need to start a new movement.

I don't know what the new movement looks like yet, but I'm dreaming of more cooperation, less exasperation. What's it going to take? Song and dance? Puppets?

Help!

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On Butter and Life Balance

by Emma Wilhelm


cookies.jpg

I'm kind of obsessed with gingersnap cookies right now. Brown sugar, molasses, and butter. I like 'em chewy. Does that mean more butter?

A good recipe is amazing, isn't it? Measure carefully and things turn out. Everything in proportion. Delicious results.

Could life be that simple?

Spend X hours sleeping, Y hours playing, and Z hours working, and eureka! Perfect balance.

It's one giant experiment, isn't it? Part art, part science. Completely individual, because one person's work is another person's play.

We all get the same 24 hours. What do you feel like baking?


Learning to Fly

by Emma in


superman

Sometimes when I lace up my running shoes, my daughter asks to go for a run, too. I try not to act too delighted.

This weekend, her little brother, Gus, came along for the first time. He focused on his big sister, all legs and arms as she galloped down the sidewalk in her knee-high socks and pink running shoes.

He stopped running and looked down at his own little legs, cute but decidedly shorter than Lulu's. His face fell.

"I can't run fast," he said, head down. He was dressed in red Superman pajamas—the kind with a cape—and some sneakers that lit up when he ran.

"Keep going, buddy!" I said. "You're doing great." Which was true—he's two.

He looked skeptical, but he mustered a look of determination and the will to carry on. This happened four or five times over the course of our quarter-mile "run."

By later that night, his confidence had grown. Maybe it was spending a few hours wielding the red cape, or maybe it was just the typical mania that ensues on any given evening when I broadcast the word "bedtime" repeatedly. I need a better P.A. system.

At tuck-in time, Gus wanted to share his big news with all the world: he can FLY!

"Uh-huh, buddy. But kids can't really fly," I said, visualizing some kind of dive from a couch or a moving vehicle.

"I can fly-y. Up in the ai-ir! I'm Su-per-MAN!" he insisted.

"You really love those new jammies, don't you?" I teased.

As I pulled his Thomas the Tank Engine blanket up to his chin, he looked up at me and said, "I'M Superman! YOU'RE the bad guy!"

And he said it with such joy, that I just smiled and said, "That's right, buddy."

I think I'll bottle up that confidence and save it. As he grows, he might forget that he's capable of some pretty damn amazing things. I'll save a swig for you.

*****

I Want to Know

  • Who was your favorite superhero when you were a kid?
  • What would you like to bottle up?

Thanks for reading! You can find me on twitter @emmasota. And, if you haven’t already, please visit emmasota on Facebook and click “Like!”


Building the Life You Want

by Emma in


On a typically frantic weekday morning in June, I realized I hated the whole drill. The unremarkable clothes I'd deemed office-appropriate. The kid shuffle: bed, highchair, carseat, daycare, carseat, highchair, bath, bed. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. In July, the feeling grew. With prairies and mountains as our backdrop, my family stepped away from the same-old-same-old. I ran through small towns, meandering my way down streets named "Lewis" and "Clark." I popped into one-off coffee shops and thought wistfully of the Haymarket and Goodbye Blue Monday—my old stomping grounds before desk jobs. We ate when we were hungry. My kids ran wild.

I knew what I wanted: a more organic, free-form way of being. Respite from the routine. I wanted to bottle up some freedom and bring it home in my suitcase. I thought of student-loan payments and the "for sale" sign in our yard. Reality. But I pushed that aside. I came home with a desperate desire for change.

canoe

What followed might be described as an identity crisis. I'm prone to dissatisfaction. Mediocrity and I don't mix well. There are pros and cons to this way of being. For the most part, it serves me well, but I'm sure my husband could point out a few of the cons. One of the pros, however, is that I can be ridiculously driven to make things happen.

I decided what I wanted—a life full of creativity, flexibility, and change. A small-town experience for my kids (or something resembling it). Lots of running. Being close to family. Good bread. More fruits and veggies.

In a week, I'll start a new adventure. I landed a job that will allow me to work from home. The kicker: I'm going to love this gig. I can't wait to get started. My kids will still go to daycare, but they won't be the last ones there at the end of the day. And if our house ever sells, we'll move closer to one or both of our families.

I think this is the first step toward a wonderful new way of being and working and loving.

How about you? You also deserve to feel fueled, fulfilled, and balanced—whatever that means for you. Life has a way of dragging us along for the ride. Don't forget to take the wheel now and again.

Last weekend, I saw a large yard sign that read "Good things come to those who wait." A suburban PSA of sorts. And totally true, right? But relying on patience entirely? Disempowering. Building the life you want requires your A-game.

*****

I Want to Know

  • What does your heart desire these days? Tell me all about it.

Thanks for reading! You can find me on twitter @emmasota. And, if you haven’t already, please visit emmasota on Facebook and click “Like!”


No Motivation Required

by Emma in


I find that I'm most motivated to write when I'm writing. Come to think of it, I'm also most motivated to run when I'm running. When I'm sitting in my office, I might call myself a very reluctant lap swimmer. But then I march myself over to the pool on my lunch break and strap on some goggles, and—what do you know?—I kind of like to swim. I'm no fish, but sometimes, I get so energized by what I'm doing that I throw in an extra lap. Indeed, I'm motivated to swim when I'm swimming!

Several years back, I read some books on positive psychology for a course I was teaching. One aphorism has stuck with me: Action leads to motivation leads to more action.

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It's simple yet brilliant. You see, we rarely pull motivation out of thin air.

Do I ever feel like working on my taxes? Of course not. But if I focus on the first step—getting out my folder of documents—I can put the wheels in motion. Suddenly, I'm engaged in the challenge. Before I know it, I'm motivated to work on my taxes. So I carry on.

Why is motivation on my mind? Because it's February, when new-year energy starts to wane. When best intentions start to put their feet up and eat bonbons—just this once, of course.

I'm claiming 2013 as my own. February, you've got nothing on me! I may not feel like doing a gosh-darn thing, but that's not going to stop me. I know the secret.

And you, dear reader? If February has its lackadaisical grip on you, remember that it's perfectly normal to feel unmotivated. But you get to decide whether you do something anyway.

*****

I Want to Know

  • Are you struggling with motivation these days?
  • What helps you take action?

Thanks for reading! You can find me on twitter @emmasota. And, if you haven’t already, please visit emmasota on Facebook and click “Like!”

photo credit: SweetOnVeg via photopin cc

 


I Would Love to Write

by Emma in


I would love to write, but I've been so busy that when the PetSmart employee turned me away at 9:01 tonight, I started to cry. The dogs had enough food for breakfast tomorrow, but that was all. My car—bless its weary soul—has been trying to start itself without a key in the ignition and must be dropped off at the shop tomorrow. My dear preschooler doesn't go to bed until almost 9 p.m. (or later), and then I'm faced with dirty dishes, a sea of misplaced toys, and the prospect of an early alarm. Thank you, PetSmart Lady, for taking pity on me and letting me sprint through the aisles to wrestle that 30-pound bag of kibble up to the register. I needed the exercise, and Lord knows I needed a good laugh at myself. My spirits have been buoyed by your compassion, the banana split I just consumed, and the come-hither text message that my husband just sent me from the basement.

I would love to write more, but life calls.

*****

I Want to Know

Have you ever cried at PetSmart? How do you respond to being overly tired? Have you ever seen a car try to start itself without any keys? Do you totally hate blog posts about why the blogger isn't blogging? :-)

Thanks for reading! You can find me on twitter @emmasota. And, if you haven’t already, please visit emmasota on Facebook and click “Like!”


Staycationing

by Emma in


I'm on vacation this week—a little breathing room between old job and new—and it feels fantastic. Gus is napping, and I'm letting Lulu have at a roll of masking tape so I can sneak in a bit of typing here. Dangerous, I know. In lieu of planning anything major this week, we're making our own frugal family fun. Yesterday, we went to a nice little beach at a suburban lake. Being a Monday, the place wasn't mobbed, and we scored a sandy patch under a large shade umbrella. Gus and Lulu had a ball playing with (and to an unfortunate degree, eating) the sand. My vacation didn't exactly start on such a sunshine-y note. Friday was my last day at the job I've held since early 2008. After a lovely farewell happy hour on Thursday, and lunch with coworkers and a solid day of wrapping up loose ends on Friday, I was feeling pretty good until I realized (at 4 p.m.) that my cell phone was missing. A dozen or so coworkers combed my cubicle, the office kitchen, and even the bathroom. It was nowhere to be found, and I actually had to walk out the door without it. I was in a particularly sour mood until a Dairy Queen Blizzard intervened.

Sometime on Saturday I had a crazy idea. While working, I often had a three-ring binder full of sample products sitting open on my desk. Since the papers wouldn't stay flat, it wasn't unusual for me to use a mug or another object (maybe a phone?) as a paperweight. I started calculating the likelihood of a scenario in which I had closed the phone in the binder and placed it on the bookshelf without it falling out. Josh's iphone was employed for some highly scientific experimentation, and I determined that it was, indeed, possible.

I managed to survive the weekend without a phone. In fact, I didn't miss it all that much, except that my car has been on the fritz, and it surely would have sucked to break down on the side of the road with no phone. I envisioned walking along I-35 with two kids in tow, but thankfully, I zipped down to my hometown and back without any trouble. My mom and I held one stellar garage sale, and she gets extra credit for the most beautiful signs ever. Who else would attach faux flowers and prairie grass shoots to carefully-lettered cardboard signs?

Back to the phone. I emailed my friend and now-former boss to ask her to check the three-ring binder on Monday morning, and sure enough—there it was! And now that I've solved that mystery, I've reached that dreamy vacation mindset in which it's hard to imagine life being any other way. I contemplated putting all household chores on hold this week but decided that would totally cancel out the restorative effects by next Monday. So I'm doing a little laundry, and I guess I'll vacuum a few times. Staycationing would be so much cooler with a cleaning staff.

*****

I Want to Know

What do you like to do while on vacation at home? Where's the craziest place you ever found something that you'd lost?

Thanks for reading! You can find me on twitter @emmasota. And, if you haven’t already, please visit emmasota on Facebook and click “Like!”

 


Moving Forward

by Emma in


Back in January, I wrote a post in which I gave myself permission to let things be. "Percolating," I called it. Well, it took a lot longer than I thought. Letting decisions come to me in an organic, easygoing manner is not my forte. I have too much pent-up energy for that. Trying to "let go" makes me want to rise up riot, metaphorically speaking. But this time, I did it. I let things stew sufficiently, and now I'm moving forward. I've been uncharacteristic silent here lately. While I consider myself an open book most of the time, I've been holding some things close to home this summer. Perhaps you already saw that I've pulled the plug on Divorced Before 30 and my book project. Huge decision. For nearly three years, I wrote, edited, and built up an online community. I tweeted, I Facebooked, and I landed a literary agent. For the most part, I had a ball, but after months of deliberating next steps, I woke up one day and realized that I wanted to let it go.

That project doesn't define me. More than wanting to be a published memoirist or a well-loved blogger, I want to have a satisfying everyday life. I love writing, but I also love coaxing kids out of mud puddles, leafing through a magazine in the living room wingback, and taking a hot bath at the end of a long day. Regular person stuff. This is not to say that I won't come up with another wild goal six months from now.

It's been a stressful year in a lot of ways, but it's nothing that some downtime and ice cream can't fix. I'll be starting a new job in a couple of weeks, and making the decision to leave my current position was incredibly difficult. I've been there four and a half years and have grown so fond of the people that it feels a little like college graduation. Tears have been shed. And yet I'm very excited for a new challenge.

At home, I am happily working on a modest summer checklist—things like putting together a baby book for Gus and having a garage sale with my mom. The fam and I are still going strong on frugal family fun, and feeding the ducks at a nearby pond is the best thing ever as far as the kids are concerned. Oh, and by the way, "the baby," as we like to call him, is no longer a baby! He walks around the house like a drunken sailor, lunging for crayons and knocking over the dogs' dishes. And Miss Lulu? She's gearing up for preschool by nailing this potty-training thing down. Most days, she does.

That, folks, is where I've been.

*****

I Want to Know

Are you an open book, or do you tend to keep things to yourself? Have you noticed a difference in your sharing online versus in real life?

Thanks for reading! You can find me on twitter @emmasota. And, if you haven’t already, please visit emmasota on Facebook and click “Like!”


Life is a Comedy

by Emma in


Life is a comedy these days, friends. A comedy in which physical humor prevails and the crazed mother-heroine is invariably covered in strained peas. Two nights ago, a ceramic bowl shattered at the end of dinner, riiiiight after I announced that I was about to lose my mind. There seems to be a pattern wherein a mini disaster strikes just as I'm starting to eat my dinner. This has led me to adopt some less than civil eating habits. "Hurry," I whisper to myself as I shovel in the grub. "The children aren't watching." Tonight, I freed an antsy Gus from his highchair in the middle of dinner and dared to savor a few bites of ginger chicken at a "normal person" pace. The next thing I knew, Gus was walking across the living room waving a training potty full of pee. A joyful cackle escaped from behind his pacifier, and his big sister's pee sloshed onto the floor in slow motion as I raced over to minimize the damage. Lesson learned.

Come to think of it, potty training is an activity ripe with lessons to be learned. The main problem with having a three-year-old trainee is that she isn't easily impressed with the likes of sticker charts or high fives. This week, we moved beyond wrapped gifts (which Lulu dubbed "poopy presents") to cash. That's right—I'm entirely willing to buy me some potty training. The price? Nickles, dimes, and the promise to spend them at Target and the donut shop.

While I haven't started to bribe Gus yet, I have been trying to negotiate my own training plan. He's become a faithful running partner this summer, enjoying crack-of-dawn trips through suburban neighborhoods from the comfort of his jogging stroller. When he wakes before 6 a.m., I find that I'd rather go running than try to stay awake in the house. Brain-sapping sleep deprivation turns out to be a great motivator, and Coach Gus doesn't take no for an answer.

*****

I Want to Know

  • What's making you laugh these days?
  • Any thoughts on potty training?
  • Do you like to exercise first thing in the morning?

Find me on twitter @emmasota, look up emmasota on Facebook, and visit me at my other blog, Divorced Before 30.

 

 


Hot Mama

by Emma in


After downing bowls of spaghetti and big chunks of watermelon tonight, the kids and I walked to the park. Two small girls and a young woman whose tiny body and short-shorts suggested "babysitter" were already playing on the equipment. Much to my horror, the wee blondes started to call the taller one "Mommy," and I suddenly felt incredibly old. Old and unattractive. Old and frumpy. Old, old, old. As I watched Lulu pick tiny clover blossoms in the grass, Gus toddled back and forth on brave legs and flashed me his gap-toothed smile. I thought about what a different experience it would have been to have had kids eight or ten years earlier than I did. Would I have been more fun? More energetic? Surely, I would have been more blonde and fashionable—not to mention svelte.

The young mother and her girls walked by us as they left the park, calling out a goodbye. In the time that I'd been daydreaming in the grass, a family of presumably Middle Eastern descent had arrived. I watched the young, heavyset mother as she placed her baby girl in a swing. Our eyes met, and we shared a smile. Maybe she was happy draped head to toe in deep red fabric—and at the very least, she was used to it—but something about the way she carried herself made me sad.

Suddenly, my purple t-shirt seemed okay. I felt wonderfully comfortable in the warm summer solstice air. As I pushed our stroller home, I marveled at life's consistent supply of moments like this—moments in which the characters seem cast just for me, the timing meant to be. And I knew that I was in the right place at the right time, and that even when it doesn't feel like it, we usually are.

*****

I Want to Know

  • What makes you feel old?
  • Do you ever have seemingly serendipitous moments like this?

Find me on twitter @emmasota, look up emmasota on Facebook, and visit me at my other blog, Divorced Before 30.


Social Media Blahs

by Emma in


I'm totally uninspired to update my Facebook status or Twitter feed, and lately, I seem to start blog posts that fizzle out after three or four half-hearted sentences. Pinterest bit the dust last week after months of neglect; I deleted my account altogether. Yes, friends, I've got a bad case of the social media blahs. You're not missing much during my relative silence. Here's a taste of the earth-shattering news from my world, both the good and the bad, and in no particular order.

I'm so tired that yesterday, I nodded off while sitting on the potty. I can't believe my baby boy is a walking, talking one year old. Gluten-free bread makes totally edible croutons. Addiction sucks ass. My solution to kiddo artwork build-up: photograph all projects, recycle most. I can't decide whether my wicked case of indecisiveness has gotten better. Having poop in one's refrigerator (lab sample) is WEIRD. I gave up paper towels and now wield a mean dishrag. Someday, I might get up the nerve to sport a pixie cut. I had a nightmare that Josh and I were fighting over paint chips. Is it really so hard to believe that I actually WANT to keep breastfeeding? De-cluttering feels so good—why do we inevitably collect more shit? I need to make more time for the consumption of fluffy media. I'm obsessed with root beer floats and chocolate-hazelnut spread. My preschooler knows her way around the ipad better than I do. I can't think of a better way to invest 20 bucks than a kiddie pool.

That is all.

*****

I Want to Know

  • Do you ever get the social media blahs?
  • What's new with you? (in as many characters as you please)

Find me on twitter @emmasota, look up emmasota on Facebook, and visit me at my other blog, Divorced Before 30.


Facing Fears

by Emma in


Once upon a time, I lived alone. I was a bold young thing who ate cereal for dinner and chose the paint colors I wanted. I was accustomed to sleeping by myself, though I daydreamed about a time when a single bed would no longer suffice. In the comfort of my own apartment, I felt safe, but one summer, I pushed the envelope with a house- and dog-sitting job in rural Western Massachusetts. Molly the Labrador retriever and I would be roommates in a log cabin in the Eastern foothills of the Berkshires for a month. I was 25 years old, and it was my final summer vacation—the three precious months between my first and second years of graduate school—and I was determined to enjoy it. So I subleased my apartment in town and patched together a summer of house-sitting, camp counseling, and traveling. It was a near-ideal situation, but on my first night alone in the cabin, I had second thoughts. I was brave, and I was smart, but apparently, I was also afraid of the dark. Not the dark you experience in town, but the kind that creeps out of the woods to wrap a small cabin in a seemingly unnatural stillness. In truth, it's probably the most natural thing in the world. And I desperately missed my studio apartment facing the 24-hour Dunkin Donuts.

Molly the Lab would be no match for the bears and psychopaths I imagined lurking outside my bedroom window. After a few nights of insomnia, I trained myself to sleep alone in the cabin. It took prayer, meditation, and probably some bedtime phone calls to my parents back in Minnesota. I also welcomed company and had visits from a college friend and the eccentric guy I was casually dating at the time (But since he'd once told me that he thought it would be exciting to rob a bank—a seemingly viable option for him—I wasn't sure if I was more or less comforted by his presence).

The month in the cabin holds sweet memories for me—picking fresh blueberries in the yard, listening to a Joni Mitchell album on repeat, and indulging in baked goods from the Williamsburg General Store at the bottom of the dirt road. On hot afternoons, my guests and I would hike up the road to Chapel Brook, a little swimming hole with natural water slides. But more than anything, I think of that cabin as I place where I looked fear in the eye and said, "F*ck you. I'm stronger than you."

I need to remember that part of me—the part that pushes back rather than backing down. The part that does difficult or scary things because I know they'll be good for me. That part of me is a tough mother-you-know-what, and I need to embrace her.

How about you?

*****

I Want to Know

  • What are you afraid of?
  • Have you ever lived alone?

Find me on twitter @emmasota, look up emmasota on Facebook, and visit me at my other blog, Divorced Before 30.

 


Asking a Lot

by Emma in


Do you ever feel like you're being pulled in too many directions? Last night, I sat in the bathroom clipping my hot pink toenails while supervising bath time. Gus—just a week shy of his first birthday—patted the glistening bubbles while chewing lovingly on a spongy orange letter "P." Three-year-old Lulu was busy mothering Mermaid Dora the Explorer.

"I'm sorry," she said in her dainty, sugar-sweet voice as she stroked Mermaid Dora's hair. "I'm sorry I can't play the game right now. I have to go to work now. I'm sorry, honey."

Should I be pleased that she portrayed Mom (me?) in a loving manner, or should I be distraught that Mommy="not enough time for me?" Or both?

I've always fantasized about staying home while my kids are young, and recent changes in our child care situation have made me question whether working full time is really the answer, but it's a complex decision. Money, long-term career goals, personal satisfaction, and intuition are all important factors.

I'm being pulled in so many directions these days. I want to publish my memoir, but being a successful author (whether indie or traditionally published) requires herculean marketing efforts. I want to care for and spend time with my kids, and I also want to have an outlet for my creativity and drive. Oh, and it would be nice to have some time left over for running, cooking, cleaning, going on dates with my husband, and spending time with family and friends. I also like books, sleep, and occasionally having enough energy to get it on.

That's (apparently) a lot to ask.

*****

I Want to Know

  • Do you feel pulled in multiple directions?
  • How do you manage the strain?

Find me on twitter @emmasota, look up emmasota on Facebook, and visit me at my other blog, Divorced Before 30.


Questions and Answers

by Emma in


I can't remember if it was before our after our recent trip to Colorado, but one night, I said to Josh, "I'm pretty sure I'm actually losing my mind, like I'm going to wind up in a mental hospital." After years of coaching him to repeat "everything will be okay" when I'm convinced that everything will not be okay, he seems to have embraced the strategy. "No," he scoffed as we sat in bed reading. "You're not losing your mind."

"How do you know?" I asked.

"You're fine," he said.

And you know? I am fine—I have a wonderful family, a house, a job, and a car that only makes that explosive noise every fifth or sixth time it starts. I am loved and I love. I am in terrific health and am back to my pre-baby weight, though my grandmother recently asked if I'm "PG" again. "No," I sighed. "I'm just not the same shape I used to be."

Josh is right. Everything is fine. And yet I'm a little off. I keep thinking of one of my favorite Anne Lamott quotes: "My mind is a bad neighborhood I try not to go into alone." I seem to be lurking on dangerous street corners a lot lately, metaphorically speaking.

I thought that our trip would shake things up a bit—provide a nice change of scenery—but I still feel unsettled. Maybe this is a predictable response to the arrival of my 35th birthday last week. Am I making the most of this precious life? Being the mom and wife I want to be? Chasing the right dreams? Living in the right zip code?

While I wait for clarity, I'm steering toward the the safer neighborhood—the one where my baby takes his first steps, my preschooler delights in her first plane ride, and my husband and I pull off the Great Business, Babies, and Beer Vacation of 2012. It's where I weep for joy when I see an old friend, where my hard work pays off, and where I spend Mother's Day eating fried fish in a park with my family.

I've got it good (and I know it), but I don't have all the answers. In fact, I have more questions than answers right now. But for me, that struggle—which sometimes borders on "maybe I'm losing my mind"—is simply part of life. Who knows where my answers will come from (or when), but you can be sure that I'll be ready.

*****

I Want to Know

  • How do you keep yourself out of the bad neighborhood?

Find me on twitter @emmasota, look up emmasota on Facebook, and visit me at my other blog, Divorced Before 30.

 


Beer Belly

by Emma in


When my husband first mentioned the beer fast back in March, I was less than supportive. In my mind, surviving on beer alone for thirty days screamed of idiocy, and let's just say that I voiced my concerns. How would he be able to work? Could he possibly be a good dad? Wouldn't he get ridiculously crabby? After a few tense conversations, I realized that he was serious—Josh planned to forgo solids for the entire month of April, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. So I had two options: A) spend the month fighting, or B) get on board. I chose option B. Where did he get such a crazy idea? Apparently an Iowa man survived on beer for 46 days in 2011 as an homage to 17th century German monks who drank doppelbock while fasting for Lent. My husband—a homebrewer who is more enthusiastic about beer than anyone I know—decided that this was a challenge he needed to take on. He set his sights on the month of April and chose the porter variety as his beer theme.

During the first few days, it was hard not to ask him, "How are you feeling?" every 15 minutes. Starvation is not my thing. I eat three square meals a day and pack little baggies of snacks to make it through my work day. About ten days in, I couldn't stand it anymore. "I'm desperate to feed you!" I shouted. He just laughed, but it was difficult to look at him without squirming. The hunger seemed contagious, and I found myself compensating for his calorie deficit by baking chocolate chip cookies, making a huge pot of meatballs, and whipping up a batch of homemade frozen custard.

How did Josh distract himself from his empty stomach? He did a little woodworking, a lot of gardening, and a whole lot of eating vicariously. Every time I walked into the family room, his eyes were glued to the Food Network. "What the hell are you doing to yourself?" I'd ask incredulously. "This is sick and wrong. Watch anything else!"

Somehow, he survived the month of April just fine, though weighing in 20.1 pounds lighter. Yes, it's possible to drink four or five beers a day and still lose your beer belly. Oh, the irony.

I asked Josh what he learned about himself during this experience, and while he didn't have a concrete answer, I'm sure that the challenge had some psychic benefits. And our marriage? I'm happy to report that it made it through the Great Beer Fast of 2012 unscathed. Josh was a little checked out emotionally toward the end of the fast, and I really missed our family dinner time, but he did a great job of staying engaged and upbeat.

While I still think a month-long beer fast is a terrible idea, I am proud of Josh. The fast was ludicrous—yes—but also seriously impressive. What can I say? My husband is a badass.

*****

I Want to Know

  • Have you ever done a fast? What was it like?
  • If you had to survive on only one beverage for a month, what would you choose?
  • Do you think I'm married to a crazy man?

Find me on twitter @emmasota, look up emmasota on Facebook, and visit me at my other blog, Divorced Before 30.