The world as seen through the eyes of an exhausted, caffiene addicted, homeschooling, atheist mama.

Confessions of a NaNoWriMo Dropout

It’s November. The leaves are turning, and in some cases, falling from the trees here in the high desert. The days are still warm but the nights are cool, and the smell of fireplace smoke tickles my nostrils every time I take a walk with my dog. November, time for pie and turkey and way too much dairy. Time to put away the Halloween decorations and pull out the sweaters.

It’s also time for NaNoWriMo. Huh? NaNoWriMo. It’s a crazy, fun, intense, caffeine and Cheetos filled whirlwind of a month that is dedicated to writing a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. This strange name is short for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a time to give yourself permission to lock yourself up in your room or hide in a coffee shop and just indulge in your wildest literary fantasies. It’s insane. It’s fun. It’s free. And best of all, there is a ton of support and wacky goings on. I love Nano and I sign up every year.

And every year I drop out.

Like all writers, I have an entire Rolodex full of excuses not to write (thoughmy husband has recently launched a campaign to get me to dump the Rolodex and use Google Spreadsheets instead), and they are all so reasonable: The baseboards need scrubbing, the cat needs brushing, I have to try on every piece of clothing I own so I can send a bag to Goodwill. I’m sure you get the idea and don’t need me to list all four thousand eight-hundred seventy-two reasons.

I always start out fully intending to write fifty–no, seventy thousand words! No, wait! In my best Dr. Evil voice, I burst into the living room and declare that I will easily write  “One hundred thousand words! Bwwahahahaha!” My husband usually just looks up at me and offers a supportive “Wow. That’s great, Dannie. How much have you written so far?” My answer to that is typically of the I haven’t actually started yet. I have to make a crust for that potpie we’re having for dinner, so I’ll start pounding out the words tonightvariety. 

At some point, I always do sit down and write, but by the time I find my writing groove, I am so far behind my daily word count goal to reach 50k words, that I start to feel panicky and resentful. Resentful of myself for having a hard time. Resentful of all the household duties that are distracting me, resentful of all the amazing, beautiful, talented writers who can easily blow right past their goal and actually succeed in finishing NaNo. So I pour myself a glass of three dollar wine and hope that loosens me up enough to be productive. Unfortunately, it only distracts me and I end up wasting an inordinate amount of time on Facebook. Most years, I just give up entirely around the third week of November, feeling guilt and shame over my pathetic 4,000 words.

So this year, I didn’t sign up. This year, I am aware that it’s National Novel Writing Month, and I’m genuinely happy for all those writers out there who are participating in the write-ins and camaraderie, but I’m just not playing. Instead, I’m plugging away, every day, on my novel. I have a reasonable word count goal, but I don’t have a hard and fast deadline. This year, I’m giving myself permission to lock myself in my office and write, but I’m also giving myself permission to watch Mythbusters with my kid or to work on a blog post or short story if I’m not feeling the novel love during any particular writing session.

I think the main difference is that this year, I’ve officially given myself permission to be a writer full time, not just for a month. I don’t feel like I have to pound out 2,000 words every day. Some days I do and some days I barely hit 700. But that’s okay. For me, writing isn’t a race, it’s a way of life. The story will ebb and flow, the hours in the day will work with me or against me, and sometimes things will pop up. And that’s okay.

The first draft of my novel is far, far, far from where I want it to be. I wish I had three times as many words written as I do, but I’m not stressing out about that. It’s coming along day by day. And this year, as NaNoWriMo happens all around me, I feel proud of myself for accomplishing what I have. On the days where I’m not a productive as I hoped to be, I gently remind myself that there is always tomorrow.

D.M. Olguin: Confessions of a NaNoWriMo Dropout.

I haven’t written in a long time. A really long time. Since early May, in fact. I feel bad about that. Or, I would feel badly about it if I actually didn’t. My intentions were so fucking good, so I don’t feel too bad that I didn’t bog all three of my followers with whiny shit. I just figured we’d move to Dallas and everything would be okay and I’d start blogging about all the wacky and crazy adventures we were having out there.

I didn’t want to talk about how much I miss my brother and how I don’t know how to deal with the loss of the only other person in the world who lived, and could vouch for, my childhood.

I didn’t want to talk about how sad it is for BB to miss his cat and how it breaks my heart to comfort him as he cries.

I didn’t want to talk about how Hubby was let go from his job and we were left scrambling for a way to pay our rent.

I didn’t want to talk about how he found another job that took him to Dallas or about how he left us behind, me with my grief and BB with his, to pack up and say goodbye to the only life BB’s ever known.

I didn’t want to talk about how hard it’s been to be a single mom for nearly two months or about how exhausting it is to pack up an entire life all by myself.

I didn’t want to talk about all the tears my son has cried over leaving his house and friends. I didn’t want to talk about all the tears I’ve cried over the same. I didn’t want to talk about how moving makes me feel like a six-year old, how I don’t want to be an atheist homeschooler in the bible belt, and how freaking scary it is for me to open up and make friends.

I just thought I’d move and then I’d give a happy update about how well we’re all adjusting, how awesome Hubby’s job is, how awesome all our new friends are, and how I was worried about homeschooling in the bible belt for nothing because there are TONS of great secular homeschoolers out there.

That was truly my intent. Please believe me.

But no. That’s not at all what’s happened.

Hubby was laid off last week and he’s back home now. He’s home and all the the money we lost trying to move us to Dallas is just plain gone. He was let go on Friday morning and he got home late Friday night. Just in time for Father’s day on Sunday.

And that was good. Oh. That was so good. Having my husband home again. Getting to spend Father’s Day with him. That part was good.

But that other part, the part where he’s unemployed and has no real prospects on the burner…that part sucked.

Wait.

It still sucks.

So the two of us spent the whole of today looking for work. It doesn’t matter what; we’ll do whatever it freaking takes to be okay.

And I was sad and scared, but I thought “At least we have a house to live in.”

Oh. Dumb, sweet, naive Mom’sEye.

Our landlord has decided he wants to sell the house and he still expects us to move out at the end of June.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK!!!

What the hell? What’s going on? What the fuck is happening????

Where is the Zombie Apocalypse already? Why why why???? Why can’t everything be okay for once????

I was an abused child. My brother was an abused child. His abuse eventually killed him. My abuse made mothering the most difficult and triggering thing in the world. But I thought I was doing a good job. I don’t do drugs. I don’t drink excessively. I don’t beat the shit out of my son, cheat on my husband and spend my days chasing random men for my next high. I’ve never made my son homeless, I’ve never blamed him for my own shortcomings. I’ve been a really good person. I’ve been the best person I could possibly be.

Maybe I’ve not made all the best choices, but when your mother is an abusive drug addict, how do you learn to be responsible? I did the best I fucking could! I don’t spank. I don’t hit. I don’t scream. Sure I yell sometimes, but I’m not abusive. I’m not.

I’ve tried to break the cycle and shit is supposed to be better because of it.

But it’s not.

We’re two fucking weeks from being homeless. We  have no jobs. We have no money. We have no family to rely on or to help us.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to wrap my head around the shit that is my life. I don’t know how to wrap my head around the knowledge that I brought my son into this life and I’m just setting him up for future failure. He doesn’t deserve this. Me? I do. I can accept that I deserve all the fucking shit that the Universe wants to throw at me. But my son? No. He deserves more and better than I can do for him.

How does a mother deal with that?

I’m so tired. I’m scared and I’m sad and I’m grieving and and I’m tired. More tired than I’ve ever been in my life. More tired than anyone should ever have to be.

Why don’t you blog? asked Hubby.
Because I don’t want to whine and be depressing.
Eh. Just do it. It’ll be good for your soul.

And so I did. I’ll let you know if it was good for me when life gets a little better.

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When Hubby is out of town, I sleep terribly.

It’s not so much that I’m afraid something will happen and I won’t have anyone to protect us.  I’m pretty sure that our two big dogs would do a fine job of chasing off an invader. Mostly it’s just that I miss him and I can’t seem to get my brain to slow down and rest if he’s not around. I guess I better get over that crap sometime soon. I have weeks to go before he comes back!

So last night I stayed up way too late watching crappy shows from Netflix and eating way too much chips and salsa. When I finally did hit the sack, it was about 1am. I’m a 10pm kinda gal, and I’ve even been known to go to bed at 9, so one o’clock in the morning is friggin’ late for me.

I did a door and window check, I turned off the lights, and I  looked at Tippee:

Look at her! She’s so cute and asleep.

and wondered if I should make he get off the couch and go to her crate or if I could trust her all night. The last time we tried leaving her out, she ended up leaving smelly brown pools of watery poo in the laundry room.

Well, she must have been sick last time. She does’t normally need to poop at night, much less have diarrhea . I’ll give her a chance.

I woke her up, sent her to her crate, shut the door, but didn’t lock it. I just made a show of shutting it. Then I went to bed and hoped to fall asleep sometime in the near future.

A couple of hours later, I feel hot breath on my face and there’s little Tippee, happy as can be. But something feels wrong, so I get up for a drink of water and a quick poo check.  And yep. She did. At least this time she wasn’t sick, but boy was it smelly. Out come the plastic bags, out come the paper towels and the heavy duty cleaners I never use because I don’t like chemicals, and I get to work. I double bagged the mess and put it in the garage for later disposal. Tippee  got sent to bed and I made a huge show of locking her leaky butt up for the night.

I went back to bed and chased sleep for about 45 minutes before I fell back into a deep sleep.

At 6:30 Harvey:

Actually, this is a pretty common look for him. He’s the biggest goof ball ever.

Starts whining. And barking. Because he’s a responsible doggie who doesn’t poo all over the house, he gets the privilege of sleeping where ever the hell he wants. When he started to cry and bark, he happened to be on the floor right next to me. If you’ve never heard a barrel-chested, 120lb dog bark at 6:30 in the  morning, you’re missing quite the adrenaline rush. It’s a deep, window rattling, floor shaking WOOOF of a bark. I thought for sure he’d wake BB.

I toss the covers off and follow Harvey to the back door where he starts scratching. I let Tippee out of her crate and let them both out to pee.

Have I told you that Tippee is a freak? Have I mentioned that she is afraid of absolutely everything? I mean really, everything. Well last night the wind blew a plastic bag into her usual potty spot and she stood on the porch growling and barking at it like it was Bigfoot or The Creature From the Black Lagoon.  I’m standing there in pajamas shushing  her, soothing her, trying to get her to shut the hell up already. But she’s too afraid of The Zombie Bag From Hell (it turned out to be a Wal Mart bag, so she was kind of right–it did come from hell).

Jeez, Tippee. Fine…I’ll go get the bag so you can go potty.

So out I go, across the dirt and gravel in my back yard to get a bag out of her potty spot so she’ll shut the heck up and pee.  On my way back the porch, where said freakish dog stands cowering and growling, I realize I had left the back door open and Sofe:

This cat is the dumbest cat ever. Tippee is Mensa worthy compared to this cat.

decides that it’s the perfect time to go on the lam. Awesome.

She runs around the side of the house  and hops the fence while I hobble and limp, barefoot, across the gravel so I can get back to the house and hopefully catch her in the front yard.

I don’t even stop for shoes, I just rush out the front, pick a direction, and run. Fortunately, I find her by the trash can.

But seeing the trash can reminds me that it’s garbage day and I had failed to put out the trash and recycling because it was so windy when I went to bed.

I pick up the world’s dumbest cat, toss her inside, quickly look for my shoes, which I can’t find, and grab the recycling. Then I remember the poop in the garage and I grab it too. And, still barefoot, I haul the trash and recycling to the curb.  At this point, my feet are throbbing, I’m relatively pissed off and extremely tired.

I bring the dogs back inside and fall into bed without even bothering to lock Tippee up.

Harvey hops right into to bed with me. Tippee follows his lead and curls up on my feet, and we all three fall into a deep sleep.

Two  hours later, BB:

Coolest kid ever!

comes in with a smile on his face and a mug of coffee in his hand. A wonderfully dark, perfectly sweetened mug of coffee that he made just for me. He ground the beans, he added the water, he made a pot of coffee just for me…because he loves me and saw that I was really tired.

Luckiest mom ever!

Yeah, he absolutely made the whole not-getting-any-sleep thing worth it.

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I love our neighborhood and I love our neighbors. Our neighborhood is quiet, pretty, and mostly shady. Um, shady like full of big, shade-giving trees, not full of  big, drug dealing thieves.  It’s a nice, quiet neighborhood that happens to not be a through street between the nearby major streets. One block over, people speed away because it’s a through street. But not ours. Our street is calm and quiet, safe and pretty.

Anyway BB likes to race from one end of the block to the other on his scooter, and I have to time him. His goal is to shave a full second off his time every time he goes scootering. This one particular day, one of our neighbors stopped him and asked if collects stamps. Okay, contrary to what you see in your head, this stamp-collecting neighbor isn’t old. He’s older than me, but not by more than about 15 years.

BB does not collect stamps and very nicely told him so. Neighbor K then asked if he collects anything. My very interesting son didn’t say the obvious (Legos!) but said that he collects metal things that he finds lying around. It’s true. He has nuts, bolts, washers, flattened coins. He has little charms from charm bracelets, old keys, and even an ancient rusty beer can he found while we were hiking. I have no idea what his fascination is with old metal stuff. but I do get how fun it can be to collect.

So Neighbor K says:

Metal things, huh? Well, I have to clean out my garage and if I find anything metal, I’ll make sure to bring it to you.

A couple of hours later, he did bring some metal stuff to BB. A Ziplock bag full of coins from around the world. Apparently Neighbor K is a world traveler and just kept coinage from the places he visited. But now he’s done with these coins and he’s passed them on to my metal collecting kid.

BB is having a great time with all these coins. He’s separating them, sorting them, trying to figure out where they’re from, choosing is favorite pieces. I mean, he’s loving this!

So many pretty metal things!

Coins with holes in them…even square coins!

Even really old coins (this one is from 1938)

Thank you, Neighbor K. I suspect you have unwittingly given a focus to BB’s metal collection.

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Hubby left for Dallas last night. He’ll be gone for nearly a month. I know that’s a blink of an eye, hardly a moment, a nano second compared to how long other husbands are gone from their families.  Did  you know there are some military families who are separated for months or YEARS at a time??? That would be way worse.

But this…This is hard for me. I didn’t make the choice to marry a military man. I never expected to have to be away from him for so long at one stretch.  Holy hell, I am so sad. I feel self-indulgent and petty, but I’m just sad. Really, really, really fucking sad.

He’s out there for work. And when he comes home in a month, it’ll be to load up our house and move us. Move us away from everyone and everything I love. Everyone and everything I’ve worked so hard to get over my personal shit to let in.

When I was in high school, I had a couple of boyfriends. Nice boys who were afraid and confused like me. Nice boys who were able to see past my shit and try to insert themselves into my life despite the Roger Waters-esque WALL I built around myself to keep them out. They kissed me, they gave me tokens of their affection, a few brave ones even told me they loved me…Poor boys. I wanted nothing to do with that. I wanted nothing to do with “needing” and “loving” and “forever”. Oh hell no. Life was too unpredictable and scary to let someone take me from me. No flipping way would I let some boy in and let him have access to me. No way.

When I was in college, I had a few boyfriends (and not boyfriends) proclaim their love for me. I had a few suitors express how I was the awesomest awesome chick who ever was awesome. I even loved a few of them. And when those relationships ended, it hurt.

But this…This is worse than anything I’ve ever felt before. It hurts like my soul is being pulled out of my bowels. It hurts like my heart is being yanked through my eyeballs. It hurts like my stomach is being  pulled through my toes and then up through my nostrils before finally being ripped from my body.

I love my husband. He’s the other half of me. I know that’s not exactly cool to say, but it’s true. He makes all the other love I ever felt before feel like swimming in a tepid, plastic, wading  pool. He makes all the feelings I’ve ever felt feel like a sneeze. Sure, they were satisfying, but in the end, they were fleeting.

Hubby is bigger than that. He is more than that. He possesses more of me than that.

My husband is gone for a month and I feel like part of my brain is gone. I feel like part of my soul is gone. I feel like part of who I am is just gone.

I love you, Hubby.  I love you, I miss you, and I don’t even care how uncool I sound when I whine about you being gone.

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This whole grief thing sucks. No, really. It sucks incredibly bad.

When my dad died eight years ago, that hurt. It hurt more than I thought something could hurt. But this…this hurts even worse than that. Maybe it’s because I just always expected that my brother would always be around. Everyone expects to outlive their parents, but outliving your younger sibling seems wrong somehow.

There are whole days where I feel fine. I feel strong and competent even though I feel sad. I go whole days where I don’t even cry. But then, out of freaking nowhere, I start to cry. And I’ll cry and cry and cry and cry. I’ll cry until I think there are no more tears left–then I cry some more.

I try to take notice of things that make me feel better. Little things that nurture my heart or make me smile just a little bit:

Walking barefoot through the clover we planted

My big-ass dog, Harvey

Little Tippee (with two Es!) looking over the wall

Our dumb-ass cat Sofe with water all over her face

My beautiful kid laughing

My handsome hubby

My wonderful, handsome husband wearing kick-ass sunglasses

Four years ago, I cut my mother out of my life. I have mentioned that I talked to her while planning my brother’s funeral. Of course, I had to. Stuff needed to be done and I had to have some of her input. Her son had just died and she needed help planning things. My brother had just died and I needed to take care of things in a way that I felt would honor him. I went out there to lay my brother to rest, not to mend fences or re-hash the past. I drove 12 hours through barren dessert for a reason that was much bigger than her or me. I went out there with the intention of putting all of my own baggage and shit aside for a few days so that I could focus on the task at hand.

But I hadn’t spoken to her in years, and I’ve spent those years agonizing over whether or not I did the right thing in telling her to back off. I spent those years mourning for the mother I needed but knowing I’d never have her, no matter how many chances I gave. I spent those years fighting the demons of my childhood–trying like hell to be the kind of mother she wasn’t. Trying like hell to be the mother that my son deserves.

When you grow up in an abusive home,  that abuse is always inside you, just looking for a crack in the armor so it can get out. As a mother, I’ve struggled with finding appropriate ways to deal with appropriate childhood behavior in my son. The appropriate reaction to a kid who doesn’t want to eat his salad is not to throw him into a wall or force the food down his throat. Hell, even toddler could tell you that. But that reaction is in me and it takes a lot of work and self reflection not to let that reaction out. When you grow up hearing that you can never count on anyone, that everyone will eventually let you down, that you should never get your hopes up because you’ll always be disappointed, when you you grow up hearing  “get the fuck outta my sight” , “you ruined my life” and “it’s your fault”, you start to take it to heart; you start to believe “it” is your fault, whatever “it” may be. You start to believe that since your own mother felt you ruined her life, then clearly you must not be worth much to anyone else. You start to think you are worthless, ugly, stupid, unlovable, unloved. When you grow up knowing these things are truth, it’s hard to back up enough to realize that what you know as truth is nothing but a pack of lies that were spoon-fed to you so that you wouldn’t struggle, so that you wouldn’t question, so that you wouldn’t complain or cry. They were lies that were spoon-fed to you so that the one who was really and truly responsible could absolve herself of responsibility.

It has taken years of anguish and hard work to realize that I wasn’t at fault and that putting up clear boundaries wasn’t selfish or wrong, it was a necessary step in becoming the mother I want to be–the mother my son deserves.

While driving through all that barren land, between calls to the funeral home and family members, I was trying to wrap my head around seeing my mother again. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared shitless. I didn’t know how I would feel or react when I saw her. The ball had been in her court of a long time and she never bothered picking it up and tossing it to me. God, I was terrified that seeing her would make me feel like a small child again. I was so afraid that I’d just fall right back into the role of trying to please and appease, knowing perfectly well that I would fail.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Apparently, all the agonizing I had done over the years since I cut her out had been part of a healing process. I saw her, I hugged her, I let her hug me, and I took care of business. But I never felt that rush of guilt I expected to feel. I also didn’t feel an overwhelming need to mend the fence, either. I pretty much felt…empty. I felt like  the desert that I drove through–capable of sustaining life, but just barely.

A desert landscape

I was capable of being gentle with her, I was capable of  being kind and compassionate as she dealt with her guilt and grief. I was able to be patient as she tried to find the words she needed to express her wishes or thoughts concerning my brother. I was capable of keeping things on task as we sorted through his stuff and chose clothes for him to wear. I was capable of holding my tears back so she could shed hers. It turns out, I was totally capable of being a wonderfully decent human being.

But I was incapable of falling into those old patterns. I was incapable of just forgiving and forgetting. I was incapable of pretending that my brother’s death was the thing that would make me see that life is fragile; life is tenuous and unpredictable, so I need to patch things up with the only mother I’ll ever have, before it’s too late.

My brother’s death helped me to see that by letting go of my mother, I have become a better mother. His death has showed me that I am a strong and healthy woman in part because I was able to put up boundaries with my mother. My brother’s death helped me to see what my son and husband couldn’t: It’s not my fault. I am not a horrible, vile, evil person for making the choices I have made. I am a good mom, I am a good wife, and I deserve all the love my family has to give me. I deserve to be happy, I absolutely deserve everything she taught me I didn’t deserve.

I wish her well in her life. I wish her happiness and love. I wish her health and friendship. And if or when she can do the things I need in order to have her a part of my life, I will be here. The ball is still in her court, I’ve just stopped caring whether or not she throws it my way.

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