If I had Known

Sometimes I write poems. I almost never share them.

If I Had Known

If I had known
that the last time we spoke
would be The Last Time We Spoke,
I wouldn’t have changed a word.
Please,
I said.
Don’t do this,
I said.
Think of your kids,
I said.
You don’t have to go,
I said.
Stay,
I said.
Stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I’m Sick

I’ve written in the past about my colitis, but I’ve never written about the anxiety catch-22 I fall into whenever I get any illness. Because of my deep fear and anxiety around having another flare-up that would land me in the hospital or an illness that would possibly create a situation in which I have to take a prescription, possibly antibiotics, which can make colitis worse or even cause it in people that don’t have it, I have no ability to distinguish when to call the doctor anymore.

I have had colitis  since about age 13, and often remain symptom-less. I manage it through diet, lifestyle and pro-biotics. However, sometimes symptoms arise, and because of anxiety, which is thought to be both a symptom and a result of colitis, I become paralyzed with fear. Is what I’m feeling a normal blip in the course of the disease? Is it the flu? Is it something completely different?  I panic. This makes things worse. I get sicker. Which makes things worse. I google my symptoms. Which makes things worse.

Currently I am on day 3 of what I hope is a simple stomach flu and not a flare. My last incident ended up with me in the ER getting a diagnostic CT scan and a 17 pills per day regimen, which made things worse. That time it took 6 months to recover from the side effects of the drugs I was given, and after deeper investigation discovered wasn’t a flare after all.  Because I am so afraid, I am both reluctant to call my doctor, yet do so at the drop of a hat. What if doing nothing makes it worse? What if doing nothing makes it worse?

I know there are people out there in tougher situations than me. People who have colitis more severely. I know people who aren’t stricken to bed when they are nauseous. People that don’t text their friends and family for advice on what to do, and then go to the doctor anyway. But I also know that there are a lot of people who deal with this same anxiety, the same fear that a bout of stomach upset is the harbinger of something much worse.

What am I going to do? Well, writing about it helps. I’m probably going back on my annoying diet for awhile. I’m going to try not to be so afraid all the time. And I’m going to get better.

 

Showing My Underwear

It’s about to get real up in this piece. Why? I’m going to show you my underwear. Not my real underwear, underwear is the term I use for things you don’t want to show people but sometimes the wind blows up your skirt and you’re exposed. In this case, it has come to my attention that because of my carefully considered FB posts – and they are – everyone’s posts are, I have given the impression that my life is an amazing wonderland of togetherness. Well, yeah. That’s what I want you to see. Here’s a little truth bomb – I have like 500 friends on FB and 1k on Twitter- maybe 25 outside of family are invited into my real life. That’s how I want it, that’s how it’s going to stay. That said, have I miraculously cracked the code of how to be a working, stay-at-home mother and student and live a glamorous, stress-free life? No. No one does. So, I’m going to show you my underwear.

First, a little background. I am currently in my 2nd year of an MFA program. This semester, in addition to creative work, I’m writing a 20 page research paper. I work 30 hours per week as a research associate for a STEM non-profit, and I am married and I have two children, ages 4 and 12. Nearly every day people ask me how I do it, and I say, “I dunno, I just do”. But that’s a lie. I do know how I do it, and I will tell you, but you aren’t going to like it. There is no magic spell. What I’ve done is brutally stripped everything from my life that doesn’t fall within a few categories that I’ve determined are essential to my health, happiness, and growth.

Prioritize

These are the things that my life revolves around: Family, Work, School. That’s it. That is the order of importance. When I graduate, writing is going into the school slot. When (not if – take note of that) I start getting overwhelmed, I look at my life, and if something does not fit into one of those three categories – it’s out.

Things that are NOT priorities for me:

TV. I watch maybe 5 hours a week, MAYBE and that’s a high estimate.
Cooking dinner. This one makes me a little sad. I’m a really good cook. Luckily, so is my husband.
Cleaning. My house is a disaster. I clean like once a week. I have learned to let it go. We have clean clothes. We have clean dishes. Good enough.
Hanging out with Friends. Sorry.

My kitchen. It always looks like this. But, the fridge has healthy food in it, so I don’t care about the rest.

This is my office. It’s also my closet. It’s a pit, but I love it.

Things that ARE priorities for me:
Reading. I read 2 hours a day. Minimum. For school and pleasure.
Quality time with my kids
Having healthy food that requires no prep.
Physical Activity every day
Meditation & Yoga

My kids at the beach. I studied while we were there. This is an example of something you’d see on my Instagram or FB.

My priorities are not going to be your priorities. You need to figure out yours. I don’t care about TV, but if I cut out daily reading I’d be miserable. Maybe that’s not the case for you. Maybe you love TV. The key is figuring out what makes you happiest and cutting out the rest.

Plan:
My life is scheduled out, and I write down everything I need to do. I have 2 google calendars, an actual physical planner, and a white board for the family calendar. Here’s my schedule:

Monday – Thursday

630 – Wake Up/Meditation
700-730ish – Yoga  – often pause in the middle to get breakfast for 4yo.
730-800-Breakfast, Coffee, Kids to school etc.
830-330 – Work
330-530 – Family Time
600-630ish – Dinner
630-700- Walk with Mike
700-730-Walk With Maggie
800-11:00 – School
11:00- Sleep

Friday-Sunday

630 – Wake Up/Meditation
700-730ish – Yoga  – often pause in the middle to get breakfast for 4yo.
730-800-Breakfast, Coffee, read news
800-1200- Homework & Writing
100-800- Family Time (this often includes grocery shopping, cleaning the house, etc)
900-1100-This is when I might watch TV

Do I adhere to this exact schedule every day? No. I can’t. I have to go to the office once or twice per week, and travel occasionally. I often multitask. For example, I take the kids to the beach almost every day in the summer, and while they play I study.

Learn to love the word NO. No is your best friend. Do I want to be on the board of directors at our local library? Yes. Can I do it? NO. Can I be on the PTO? I’d love to but, NO. Do I feel a little guilty saying no all the time? Yes. What do I do to get over the guilt? Small things that don’t take any time – when I’m able I donate to local charities, schools, events. I have no time to attend meetings, but I do have time to fire off an email here and there. Mostly though, I am learning not to feel guilty.

Is this balanced? I don’t know.  Am I happy? Very. Am I stressed out? Not really. Will this work for you? I have no idea.

There you have it, a little peek at my underwear.

Via Telegraph.co.uk

If Mo Willems Wrote My CV

I’ve been reading this book at least once a week for about a decade.

If you have children, you know about the pigeon. He wants to drive the bus. He wants a puppy. He does not want to take a bath. I’ve read the books by Mo Willems to my children for so long I can recite them. I imagine if Willems wrote a book about my career it would go a little something like this:

My Mom Wants To Publish A Story

Hey! I’m Kid, Let’s listen to my mom talk about writing.
Oh, hello. Am I a writer? I am.
What does a writer do?
I spend a lot of time thinking about writing things.
Sometimes I write things.
I spend a lot of time fixing things I wrote.
Waiting for people to get back to you is a big part of it.
You want to know what I write?
I write about writing.
I write about eating and cooking and reading and knitting.
Have I written non-fiction books about celebrities? I have.
Do I write children’s books? I do.
Am I working on a series of horror stories? I am.
What about grants and scientific papers, do I write those? Yes.
Will I write something for five dollars?
ARGGHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOO!
I should be writing right now.
What’s that you say? Anthology submissions are open?
Hmmmmmm…..

 

 

This Is Not A Lifestyle Blog.

A tiny hand making tiny cupcakes, probably the most you’ll see of my kids on this blog.

I’ve been thinking about how to focus this blog, find a niche. Then, the other day, I was on Twitter and I noticed the description I’d given of myself: Mom, Wife, Writer, Knitter, Cooker, Reader, Eater. Hmm, it seems my problem may be solved. I don’t want to use this space to talk about my kids (much) because I’m very protective of their privacy. My husband has expressed numerous times he doesn’t want to come up in my writing. That leaves: Writing, Knitting, Cooking, Reading and Eating. I can write about those things!

Immediately after I decided this would be my focus, I thought, “Oh crap. Does that mean I’m writing a lifestyle blog?” I don’t know, you tell me, does it? I’m not trying to be Martha Stewart. I can’t really give advice to anyone. Does anyone want to read about my take on any of these things? Do I care? Nah.

So, look forward to: A total re-design of this blog. A total re-design of my other website (katekastelein.com) My reviews of books, discussion of the writing life, knitting and food talk! I may from time to time post my grad school annotations of books I’m reading. It is my hope to bring a little light into the world and perhaps inspire others to enjoy some books or food or yarn.

Three cheers for finding a focus! It only took me 8 years!

Enough With The Texty Texty.

Outch! #iphone #broken #dead

Not this drastic yet. via @johnnymip on Flickr/Creative Commons

Should I write this post? I don’t know. I think I’ve written it before. If I wasn’t lazy I would l check. Here’s what it’s about: Social media. Time. Kids. Attention.

During my residency I attended a panel on blogging and social media. What I noticed was that the participants talked about having a good, focused blog, updated regularly. They did not talk about having tons of interaction on social media as an asset for your writing career. Social media is good for promoting yourself, but it is not necessary to do much with it besides have it post links to your blog and/or upcoming events. Yes, I know, there are many out there who have leveraged social media identities into book contracts and TV shows. That’s cool. Good for them.  That’s not what I want to do. What I want to do is write some stories and books and get them published and have people read them.

If you know me, you probably know I spend way too much time on social media. I got thinking about this and wondered, why? Through deep self-analysis I came to the conclusion that I am one of those weird intro/extroverts. I love interacting with people and am energized by it. However, I am prone to extreme bouts of anxiety at public gatherings, and often prefer to spend most of my time at home. My RSVP response is often, “Solid Maybe” and then I don’t show. I’m terrible that way. Social media allows me to feel like I’m interacting with people, and I guess I am in a way, without the risk of crushing anxiety. But it’s a time suck, and I’m not interacting with people in a way that is good for me, not really. What is better for me is to accept some invitations and go have a cup of coffee.

Finally, and this is the worst, my kids tell me I’m on my phone too much. “Enough with the texty, texty,” they say. Does that make me feel terrible? Yes.

This is my plan: more blog posts, less social media. I have a goal of one blog post per month on my resolution this year, but I’d like to bump that to two. One here and one over at www.katekastelein.com  I also need to figure out a focus for this bad boy. As you can tell, right now, it’s mostly just random essays. Is there any coherence here? I don’t know.  My other site will be writing focused. I think I should keep whatever this is and my more professional page separate. Facebook and Twitter are deleted from my phone and iPad (OK. I kept Instagram. Baby steps.) . Accounts will only be used to promote blog posts/publication information etc.  I’ve disabled the banner notifications on my apps, all that’s left are the little bubble numbers indicating I have messages.

Oh, and one more thing, which should be pretty obvious if you bothered to read this thing;  if want to comment, do so on this page. I won’t be checking/responding on social media….just using it to promote.

 

The Weight

Except for the jaunty mustache, this is an excellent portrayal of me. I found it on Creative Commons via Leevclarke

I should be preparing for my 2nd MFA residency right now. You might envision me poring over books, furiously typing away on my computer, and you’d be correct. Those are things I need to do. But I am a 39-year-old married mother of 2 that is preparing for 10 days of no at home time except for sleeping. So for me, preparing means: making sure laundry is done, planning for meals and shopping for them, making sure family calendar is up to date and transportation to and from violin and dance and school is arranged for, clean the cat box. I realize typing this you probably think my husband is a jerk who doesn’t help me out. This is not true. He would do these things. But I do it instead. Because I am their mother. Because of the weight.

You see, no matter how many fun, pinteresty memes you see that tell you to follow your dreams! Go for the gold! Do it now or you never will! Those don’t apply to middle-aged mothers who spend tens of thousands of dollars and 30 hours a week on a Master’s degree. Especially an art degree. Not to mention the twice yearly residencies. I am stealing from my children. I am stealing money that could be saved for their college accounts. I am stealing time that their mother should be spending with them.  And no matter what thing it is you want to do for yourself, if you have children, our society will tell you – no. You are not supposed to do that anymore. You are not you. You are a mother. Your life is not about you.

I spent 8 years as a full-time stay at home mother. Then two more as a stay-at-home mother/student. Now I am a working mother and student. Don’t get me wrong, I got shit for being a stay at home mother. ‘Must be nice to not have to work.’ ‘I don’t understand what you do all day.’ ‘Hey, why don’t you watch my kids too?’ .  I know first hand, that no matter what choices you make as a mom, someone is going to give you hell for it.  But even with this knowledge, I feel the weight.

Last residency, my daughter cried when I left one morning, about half way through. She’s 10. She’s not a baby. I’m not even a full-time resident. I’m commuting. This time, my son has already requested I sleep in his room when I get home.  I love these babies of mine, and have obviously raised clingy little beasts.

Why am I doing it? Because I have always wanted to. Because it’s the thing  I will regret not doing.

Why didn’t I do it when I was younger, before I had kids? Because it wasn’t time. Because I had to veer far off the path over and over, so I could get pushed back on, before I finally said, “Yes. It’s true. This is the thing. The thing I’m supposed to do.”

Why am I writing a depressing post about it? Because, I try very hard to keep a good front all the time. Because I need to sort it out and let people know, especially mothers, that if you choose a path that doesn’t put your kids first, even if you put them first in all other aspects of your life, you will feel that weight. But instead of letting it push me down, I will carry it. It will make me stronger.