Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Feeling the Need to Dance

I took a long break from posting my dancing videos. I needed to take a break because I didn’t know why I was doing it anymore.

My original impetus was: A former stripper, now a mom of three, I've decided to really strip down and dance and express myself, but with my clothes on. After struggling with depression my whole life and having been on antidepressants for about 15 years, I've decided to try life medication free. I realize I need something else to sustain me though. I need meaning. I need to push myself into joy every day.

And I think the dancing and putting it out there into the public as a way of sharing my journey helped, and after I stopped, the depression, of course, did creep back in.

And I’ve gone back on and off medication when the depression became so bad that I knew I needed that kind of help. I recognized it. So now, I find myself back in that place. Back on antidepressants as a way to stay functioning.

Yoga helps me, too.

But I’ve been having an urge to get off the mat and shake it. And I just want to follow my heart again. And see if it might help, even a little.

Here’s to another, Day 1: "Take Me to Church," by Hozier.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

To the Mom Struggling to Survive:

It’s ok to feel depressed.

It’s ok to say things to your kids you wish you could take back.

You can take them back. You can ask for forgiveness.

Sometimes all you can see are the shadows

You can explain to your children that sometimes even moms struggle.

It’s ok to be glad when you drop your kids off at school and to be frustrated when it’s already time to meet the bus.

It’s ok to want time to yourself, to want to have no responsibilities and to want your pre-mommy body back.

It’s understandable to feel like life for everyone would be better if you didn’t exist.

And it is ok to feel guilty afterwards for thinking that. Or to not feel guilty—to feel confused.

It’s ok if you don’t want to bake cookies or sew your own Halloween costumes. It’s ok to spend $20 on costumes at Walmart.

It’s ok if you sometimes feel like you can’t go on, that you made a mistake, that you weren’t made for this mothering thing.

And it’s ok to feel depressed about your life even if to others your life looks perfect, even then.

Maybe more so then.

You do not have to beat yourself up about feeling depressed; that will only make you feel worse.

Sometimes you will feel differently. I promise you. Even if it’s not today or tomorrow. One day, you will feel happy again.

You will smell their sweetness again. You will savor their hugs. You will feel their love’s penetrating power.

So hold on until then.

Do your best to maintain, to push on, to know that it gets better.

Because it does. It will.

You are never alone, even if it feels that way.

Even when it feels like no one understands you or what you are experiencing and you just don’t know what to do. Close your eyes, take a breath and know that somewhere, someplace, there is love.

And let that be enough.

*Inspired by Wendy Wisner's: "To the Mom of a Nursing Toddler"

Friday, November 28, 2014

Through the Fires: Writing, Life and Motherhood

By Alicia Ogg

I started reading and writing when I was 4-years-old. I used to make little books, mostly about my cat (c-a-t being the first word I ever wrote). I still have some of these books, which my mother would cut and staple together for me to read to her. My creativity was always encouraged and realized; as I got older, it was something I took for granted. I've written in a journal since the age of six, using it as my safe place to organize my thoughts—a form of catharsis and therapy.

Photo of Alicia Ogg - Mom Writer
In 1995 when I was 14, my home burned down while all of us were sleeping. I'm the oldest of four and everyone was able to get out safely, but I couldn't stop blaming myself for putting the clothes in the dryer before I went to bed, the cause of my family's loss of all of our possessions and home.

I lost almost all of my writing in the fire. My mom did find a box that had some of my art and some of the little books I'd written that had been stuffed under the bed and between other things, so it was protected, so I still have a peek at what I was like. After the fire, I separated my life into two sections—it was always “before” and “after” the fire. I feel like I lost a huge part of myself, and while I've been able to gain some of it back, I've lost so many memories from not having my early journals available. It still makes me sad, especially when I hear of others who go through situations of loss. Writing helped me get through it and have an avenue to express myself.

Writing notebooks of poems was my way to purge my teen angst. I was then diagnosed with clinical depression as a sophomore in high school. I felt that I was unlovable and even if I ever found someone to marry me (did I even want to be married?), I would never bring children into this horrible world to suffer so much pain. I was hospitalized for two weeks because I couldn't think about anything except death, although the actual act of dying terrified (and still terrifies) me. All I remember while being there was writing and drawing pictures to pass the time.

I'm ready to revisit my past through writing and am in a much more objective space now that I'm older. Writing for me has been a private act for the most part, although I've never had trouble telling others about my experiences. My hope is that letting others read about my circumstances will help them in some way, moms particularly.

When writing or painting, my biggest concern is that I won't be able to translate my thoughts and feelings as explicitly as I want to, to get my meaning across the way I want. College was spent learning that no matter what you do, you can't control what someone else will get out of your art. My concerns and excitement about putting my writing out there are sort of one in the same and for me depends on the reader's reaction or response.

I recently tuned into NPR when they were talking about memory and new findings about how they've actually formulated a drug that can erase things that you don't want to remember (at least in mice for now.) The more often you revisit a certain memory, the less real it becomes. Each time you're actually just revisiting the memory of the memory of the memory. While listening, I felt glad that I had written down my past while the event and feelings were occurring because I always have a fresh, original memory to go back to. Sure, the meaning changes depending on age and circumstances, like reading 'Catcher in the Rye' when you're out of college vs. 12 years old, even though the words are the same.

Since having children, two boys, one just turned five and the other will be two at the end of January, time has flown by. When I had my second, I couldn't believe that my older boy had ever been that little. You think you're going to remember every single moment, but in two years I'd forgotten some of the things I went through during pregnancy.

Photo of Alicia Ogg and her children
You can call it 'mommy-brain' or 'pregnancy brain,' but the reality is, you can't remember every minute of every day of your or your children's lives. If it's true that you're just remembering a memory of a memory, I think it’s important to write down experiences when they’re fresh in your mind.

I'd always send my friend (what he found to be hilarious) emails about all the weird things I was going through during pregnancy, or the funny things my boys do and say, so I go back and read those, too. It doesn't have to be a lot, just little tidbits can jog your brain into going back to that day when he said his first word or she started to unzip her own coat, or that weird thing your baby's been doing in your belly that makes your kidneys feel like they're in your throat. I'm so glad I've documented my life and my kid's lives through writing so I have those memories preserved.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When Celebrities Rape: Blame the Victim?

The Daily Mail UK reports on Bill Cosby's lawyer's statement:
Cosby's lawyers slammed Valentino's account—and the 15 others—as 'increasingly ridiculous'. Martin Singer, an attorney for Cosby, said in a statement on Friday: 'The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity.  
'These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.' 
Cosby’s lawyer’s statement has raised such anger in me as I can only imagine it has for the women directly involved in any similar rape or attempted rape experience.
Full tv bill cosby  mitc 1024x682
 Bill Cosby Creative Commons Image
Regardless of whether Cosby is innocent or guilty, what is “absurd” is that a lawyer has no knowledge or understanding of what a rape victim goes through or how unlikely it has been in the past for a woman to come forward with allegations.

Thankfully, times have changed somewhat for the crime and some women do feel the strength to press charges. But the reality of the alleged situations with Bill Cosby is that when someone in a position of power, wealth and adored status by society is accused of something like rape, the “absurdity” created in the culture’s collective mind cannot make sense of that public figure actually being a villain and so must belittle the victim or victims instead to allow for the dissonance.

My celebrity attempted rape experience differed in that my perpetrator was well-known at the time for being a “pickup artist.”

“His libido was so legendary that in 1989 Spy magazine published an eight-page foldout chart of his exploits called “The Pick-Up Artist’s Guide to Picking Up Women.””

James Toback

The fact that what Toback did to na├»ve young women, and for all I know, probably still does today, is considered a “pick-up” and not rape says a lot about the problem of celebrity in our society.

My “pick-up” by Toback started just like his others, but I did not know about his reputation at the time. I was a struggling New York City actress who fell for his line of making me a star in his next film.

Yes, even though red flags kept waving in my mind, I kept squelching them because of who he was. This was the big time; this was a real film director.

So, as the flashing signs became brighter, my mind continually told me that what I thought was happening, must be wrong. This was someone I could trust.

It was not until he stripped all his clothes off and slammed me up against a wall that I knew I was in trouble.
After I escaped his apartment, I was beyond embarrassed and hurt. I felt betrayed and ridiculous.

I was unable to speak about the experience because I knew what people would say: you asked for it; you walked right into it; no one made you go to his apartment.

But does any of that make me guilty for his actions?

What is this world becoming that we can’t trust someone’s words? That we can’t trust in the people we’ve been taught we can trust?

But the bigger problem we need to worry about is the fear that many women must live with—will I be raped? And if so, will I even be believed? Or will I be treated like the responsible party or possibly even the villain?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Writing and Chai (Because It's Cheaper Than Therapy)

Please welcome guest blogger Maryann Morehouse to Stripping Down as she discusses how she managed to balance single motherhood and writing…

Writing and Chai 

(Because It's Cheaper Than Therapy)

by Maryann Morehouse

For me, writing became my therapy; my former marriage left me with some emotional scars. Now, compared to other divorced people, my scars are more of the Harry Potter, sort of cool looking scars, rather than the deep tortured scars that so many others harbor. I choose not to dwell on the pain of the divorce; instead, I focused my energy on making sure I raised my kids to be happy and healthy, both physically and emotionally.

Maryann Morehouse
I wrote my first book several years ago when my son was forced to partake in summer school due to his apparent allergy to homework. At the time, I was unemployed, a single mom with two kids and had a mortgage that I couldn’t afford. Gas prices were averaging around four dollars a gallon and he attended school seventeen miles from home. My daughter and I would get up each morning, drag him out of bed, drive him to school, kick him out of the car and head to Starbucks where we would sit for the next five hours while he attended make-up classes. During that time, I began writing a story, as I had done since college. The story was just for fun and I did not intend to share it with anyone other than some select friends, but it seemed to take on a life of its own as other people asked me if they could read it.

I would write during the day and at night publish the chapters on Facebook, each time getting positive feedback and encouragement. This was like pure gold to me. I could even justify the cost of the gas because it meant I had time to sit and do what I love while also having the bonus effect of making my son realize that he never wanted to go to summer school again.

Mom for the win!

Nowadays, my children are adults, I work close to fifty hours a week at a job that I enjoy and unbelievably, gas prices are lower now than they were back then. My love of writing has only grown stronger and I’ve been fortunate enough to self-publish a couple of books, together they have been downloaded more than 8,000 times, which blows my mind.

My schedule is more hectic than it was when they were younger, but because my writing is important to me, I schedule my writing sessions like I scheduled their doctor’s appointments when they were younger. I book time for me and my “therapy.” I will block off several hours on a weekend, head to my local Starbucks, grab a Venti, eight-pump, nonfat, no water Chai latte and park myself at a table for the afternoon with music playing in my headphones and my fingers making music on the keyboard of my laptop.

My children have provided me with more than twenty years of laughter, tears and love and there are many more stories waiting to be told. 

Born and raised in Connecticut with five siblings, Maryann Morehouse was surrounded by the people she loved and spent time in the place that spoke to her heart. Maryann found herself in search of the right words to convey her thoughts and feelings, even through life's bumps, nothing could detour Maryann from her path of finding solace and strength by creating worlds of her own. Her books are available on Amazon, Nobody Would Believe and A Promise on a Star.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My butt: The beauty of the before and after

Goodness, there has been an awful lot of stripping down going on lately by mothers. From the Dutch model Lara Stone, who posed nude post-baby for System Magazine, to Kim Kardashian’s greased up Paper cover, there is definitely no longer a need to pay for a Playboy subscription.

The Daily Mail UK says Kardashian explains, “As a role model I'm not saying anyone else should do that, but for me it was an art project and it taught me to do what you want to do.”

You can’t argue that point; it is good to feel empowered enough to act on your own desires and to not be shamed by others’ morals.

I used to do just that.

Before: Back in my modeling days

Then I got older and--wiser? I hid my body away. I covered up. I got more conservative as befits a mother, or so I thought.

And I lost some of my sense of self. I lost some sense of myself as a beautiful, sexual woman. I lost connection to a certain part of myself.

I've watched with interest as celebrities and everyday women claim empowerment through posing nude; it's made me ponder my stance and realize where I stand.

This past week, I've seen the expected parodies and responses to Kim Kardashian's butt: Chelsea Handler has been doing her own selfie-versions as part of the conversation and there’s even a Princess Jasmine version of the butt shot.

This whole posing-in-the-nude-to-make-some-point just might be getting oversaturated.

Of course, maybe that could be part of some kind of solution to how women are portrayed in media. If we see everybody and their mother (literally) in the nude, maybe we’ll get to the point as a culture where we’ll say, who cares?

Maybe we’ll get to the point where nobody will say, “Oh! But you’re a mother! You shouldn’t pose nude!”

After: 23 years and three children later
Maybe we’ll get to the point where we really will get to see the diversity and beauty in all different shapes and sizes and ages of bodies.

Maybe we’ll get to the point where every nude image of a woman doesn’t have to be sexualized and presented for a male gaze, but can just be a photo of a female celebrating her body.

Maybe we’ll get to the point where what we choose to do or not do with our bodies will be our decisions to make alone and no one will judge us for those decisions.

And hey, maybe the fathers will get in on the act, too. And we can all live in a happy-ever-after world with lots of different naked people all getting along and loving each other regardless of how perfect (or not) our bodies are.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mom Writers Stripping Down

I'm introducing a new feature on Stripping Down to help create a supportive writing community. I'll be including guest posts from other mom writers reflecting on their experiences of motherhood and writing. 

We all have experiences or jobs from our pasts that we view as negative. Instead of letting those things constantly hold us back in life, we can look them squarely in the face and learn from them.

Are you a writer mom? Would you like to share with other moms? Send me an email and maybe you'll be the next guest writer!

I hope you'll enjoy reading these posts on "Stripping Down" metaphorically and perhaps they'll shed some light on how to navigate the sometimes tricky path of motherhood and life as a writer.

Mom + Writer = Magic

by Marcie Perez

I have loved writing since I was ten years old. Writing was an outlet for me growing up. Both of my brothers were older—one was out of high school and one was almost out. My parents separated for a little bit and writing was something I always had, along with music. No matter what I was feeling, I wrote, even if only a line or two.

I remember wanting to be a songwriter and a singer before I started smoking and messed up my voice. I remember the first time I went to the Warner Brothers Store and begged my mom for a Tweety Bird notebook.

Marcie Perez

My mom told me she would get it for me another time. I came home and found it on my bed after I took a shower. The first thing I remember doing was watching MTV and a Britney Spears song came on; I started writing my own lyrics and short stories. I converted my songs into poems when I realized I would not be entering the music scene.

Earlier this year, after being unemployed for a year, I said to my husband, "I am sick and tired of not being able to find work. I am going to apply to an online college, so I can still look for work, be a mom and be the best wife I can be." Since I enrolled in college, I have been able to go full force with my writing. I write about love, feeling alone, and struggles with my weight (I had a weak immune system, so doctors always gave me steroids, which made me bigger).

My writing process varies: sometimes I just write it all out on paper and sort it out when I am done, other times I will write an idea down, do an outline, then take it step by step.

I write first on paper. I normally have a notebook dedicated just to writing. I sometimes get sidetracked and start drawing. Occasionally, my drawing leads to a story.

I try not to have any concerns. If I have a writer’s block, I put my pen and paper down and walk away. I do something like watch TV, go for a walk, or work out. The best medicine I have is to turn the music up and just dance.

What excites me about writing is that I love coming up with ideas. I have been through a lot and recently I have written a lot about my past and about how we can fix things today. I was in an abusive relationship and I finally broke out of it. After a year spent being single and finding myself, I was ready to date. I met my husband through an online dating service. Now that I have found my Prince Charming and am living my fairytale, I feel inspired to write about love.

I have also written about the struggles and the great times I've had with my son, who is almost thirteen years old. I have known him since he was ten. He has been through so much bad stuff in his life, but it has led him to good through losing weight and getting good grades. He now loves to read and will take thirty books out of the library at a time. He loves to draw, listen to music and is always ready to try something once.

Growing up, I was always a go-getter, but reserved. The past few years I have felt like a new person. Being a mom is special. My son hates the word "step" and will tell everyone not to say it. My son has taught me to be a better person and always keeps me on my toes. We "as a family" are always ready to try everything—at least once.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

How comfortable are you in your body image?

I'm quoted in an article by Kayleen Schaefer for Yahoo Style, How Drastically Body Image Changes From Childhood to Adulthood.

The article comments on a short video called "Comfortable: 50 People 1 Question," produced by iNatureSkinCare. The video asks a simple question: “If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?”

The adults give the expected answers about body parts thy aren't happy with, but the children? They were all either happy with their bodies or interested in adding something cool, like wings.

It raises important questions: When do we lose our sense of our bodies being perfect they way they are? What can we do to get back to an innocent and fun view of the possibilities of our lives and bodies.

Check out How Drastically Body Image Changes From Childhood to Adulthood.

And think about it for yourself, just how comfortable are you with your body?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Stripper Mom Spreads a Message of Change

Here's an interview with me by Tony Sokol on Daily Offbeat.
"I really think my memoir can help other women to see the potential in facing their pasts and embracing who they are. Women need to embrace who they really are and stop judging themselves against others' expectations. I think I've barely begun reaching the women out there who can benefit from my memoir and my message. I am trying to do more speaking engagements because that's where I feel like change can really begin. The groups I have spoken for so far have given me a great response. Women have really connected to my story and my willingness to speak about it. I don't sugarcoat my past or act ashamed of my life either."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams, My Depression and Stand-Up

Robin Williams' suicide has me very upset. I've always admired him tremendously. His energy, enthusiasm and wonder that exuded from his personality was a balm to my own depression.

I decided to try something new a few months ago. I decided to take a stand-up comedy class. It’s been a real challenge for me because of my depression, but I’ve been studying Williams’ old routines and marveling at his gift.

Someone so successful and who brought so much joy to people chooses suicide. I just feel so overwhelmingly sad.

I am not surprised, but angry, not at him, but at depression.

How can there be such a horrible illness that makes us want to end our lives? That makes us feel so overwhelmed that we just can’t live anymore?

I find myself in a haze. I find myself obsessing over his death.

When we connect to a celebrity in a strong way through their performances and interviews, we really do begin to feel like we know them. I feel like my crazy, goofy uncle died.

But I didn’t know him. But I keep wanting to be able to go back in time and be his friend and be there when the darkness got too deep. And I know that is just silly because he had friends and family and they loved him and he loved them, but still, tragedy happens.

That might be the hardest part—knowing that sometimes suicide happens and it’s horrible, but you can’t go back. You can’t change it.

Maybe that’s the real issue that’s rising for me now. I can’t go back in time. I can’t change anything. I can’t change my own past.

I can’t go back and make my mother well. I can’t go back and make better choices when I was younger. And I can’t seem to make my depression go away for good.

We just can’t.

I am clinging to my wonderful outer world—loving husband, three great kids, work I like, creative challenges—but my inner world goes back and forth between wanting to allow me to be great and wanting to destroy me.

I keep trying. I will keep trying.

I did my first open mike a few weeks ago; it was terrifying. The laughs I got felt good. Being onstage again felt good.

I understand why I’ve always needed to perform in some way, to have people look at me—because that’s when I can be someone else, that’s when I can break free of depression’s strangle on me. It’s all about looking out instead of in.

Tonight is our final class. And maybe I’ll try the open mike again. I need the escape. The release from the inner demons.

I want to be free to laugh. I want to bring joy to the world.

Robin Williams, thank you. You brought joy to me. I’m sorry the pain was too much. You will be missed.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Blister in the Sun

I'm happy to say I just finished grading my last batch of research papers. I have one class of final exams left to read, then I need to figure out final grades and then I am done for the semester.

I'm ready to move forward. Part of that may be stopping my dance videos. I think I've gotten a lot out of doing them: I practiced letting the need to be perfect go; I learned to trust myself; I had fun.

Now I'm ready to figure out the next step on my path of writing, dancing, performing fun!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New York City Taping

Quick entry today and no time for my morning dance video.

I've got a car coming for me soon. I'm going to New York City to be a guest on a talk show.

My stomach is kind of not feeling so good.

Spring has sprung in our yard!
It's funny; I don't feel "nervous" about appearing except that I hope my message comes through clear and that I don't get thrown off by others. And doing something likes this forces me to look at what I really believe about tricky issues and try to articulate it well.

Not always so easy.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Love It!

Sometimes you’ve just got to say, “I don’t care!”

Well, I do, anyway. Some people actually probably should care a little more, but not me. I usually care too much.

So, as I prepare to go proctor my final exam and hand back three plagiarized papers, I chose a song to just not care to as I dance.

And it felt good.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Woman Show?

OK. I think I know what I want to work on now.

These past few months, or really this whole last year, has been about me trying to figure out where I want to go next, what kind of large writing project I want to work on.

I’d like to continue to push myself to write at least one essay-sized piece every week or two, but I think I need to really start fleshing out a performance piece. A one-woman show.

I’ve wanted to do this for so long.

Last year, I helped a friend of mine birth her one-woman show and now I’d like to really give myself that space, that mental and emotional allowance to make the story come alive.

I stumbled on Alison Arngrim yesterday when I was surfing the web; she wrote “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated” as a memoir and then turned it into a one-woman/comedy show.

I wonder if I could do something similar. Take some material from “Stripping Down” and rewrite it into a performance piece.

I saw a comment someone wrote on an interview with Arngrim along the lines of—Man, talk about milking all you can from a TV character you played a zillion years ago. Geez!

I sometimes question whether I’m milking my life as a stripper for material to write about, but it’s more like—that was my experience. An experience that affected me tremendously on so many levels. You don’t just write about something like that once or twice and be done.

At least not for me. I see nothing wrong with mining the same life experiences to see what new insights I can discover from them.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Don't Have a Heart Attack or Anything

Lots of stuff stirring in my mind. Maybe I question myself too much about my motives.

When I was talking to my husband about making silly Vine videos, I said that I want to make people laugh.

He said, innocently, “No, you want attention.”

I was all like—what? No! I mean, yes, I like it if people like my videos, just like I like it if people like my writing, but it’s not just for attention.

“If it was just for attention, I could just take out my tits!”

Yes, I said that. I know—hilarious.

The only attention I’d get for going topless now would be a police officer giving me a ticket for indecent exposure.

Bah, dum, dum…crash!


His comment got me a bit riled up. I mean, as a performer or writer, yes, of course, we want people to pay attention. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But why do I judge myself then? Or why do I allow other people who don’t like, or get, what I do to bother me?

And what is my overall mission with art?

There I go again! Wanting to know my every motivation.

Can it just be enough to know that I want to perform and write?

Friday, May 09, 2014

Vine it, Baby!

Goodness, it’s quite overwhelming how many different ways there are to express ourselves through social media.

I’d heard of Vine before, but just checked it out yesterday.

Who knew that so much could be packed into 6 seconds of video?

For my tutorial, I picked what was in front of me—cats.

For my follow up, I picked the other thing that is often in front of me—kids.

I’m so proud of myself for trying something new. I often hesitate on doing something before I know whether I’m going to be good at it or not, but taping my morning dances and not being plugged in to what other people think is really helping me break out of my rut.

Once we start trying new stuff, it gets easier and easier.

Try it! What have you always secretly wanted to do, but maybe you were afraid people would laugh?

Do it anyway! The reward will be tremendous.

And, oh yeah, if you're on Vine, follow me and I'll follow you!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

I Want to be Funny! Maybe...

I am feeling such an itch to perform, but I have zero extra time.

Perhaps I am going to have to get creative in my performance.

I know this is kind of ridiculous, but I’m feeling like I want to be funny. But I’m not one of those people who just says funny things that makes everybody laugh.

The antidote to my depression really seems to be in keeping happy (duh!). In keeping active. In distracting my depression with silliness and fun and funny.

I’m just going to fan this fire a little and see if any ideas come to me…

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Let the Feelings Exist

How quickly the winds shift direction. I’m feeling not so good today. The kids were making me nuts all morning with their bickering amongst themselves. The arguments always lead to someone screaming and crying and then I feel like I just can’t take it anymore.

I’m feeling like I don’t know how to manage their problems very well. I just end up yelling at them for yelling.

So, of course, I’m feeling like nothing I do is worth anything and I should just roll over and give up.
I wanted to really lift my spirits through dancing today, but at the same time I felt like I needed to be fair to myself and just acknowledge what I was feeling and dance to express that feeling.

So, not the cheeriest of dances today, but I did at least allow myself to feel like what I was feeling mattered and that the negative feelings didn’t need to be swept out of sight. I let myself feel.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Grading Papers as Procrastination

I feel like I’ve been managing my depression well the last couple of weeks. There haven’t been any major depressive episodes. I’m trying to build on that streak.

I have felt my confidence in my creativity waning though. I go through ups and downs where I feel so gung-ho and like I can write up a storm to feelings of—I’ve got nothing important to say. It’s all been said already.

Thank goodness, I understand writing as a process, which buoys me up when I feel stuck or generally blah with my work.

And hey, I do have a big pile of papers waiting for me to grade them, so I can do that instead of writing!

Nice way to procrastinate, Sheila!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Will Dance (Or, You Know, Stand and Move My Arms a Little) For Fifty Cents

I may have created some little money monsters. The boys wanted to dance with me today…if I would pay them 50 cents.

So I agreed; I like their entrepreneurial spirit.

Then they just kind of stood there. And moved their arms a little bit.

Now I’m fine with that, if that’s how their spirit moves them, but to me it seemed a bit more like at 5 and 3 they’ve already figured out if someone has agreed to pay you for your work, you can do just the bare minimum and collect your wages.

I had a little talk with them afterwards. I now understand why bosses offer bonuses.

If they want to dance, they earn 25 cents for just showing up, but if they want the whole 50 cents enchilada, they’re going to have to put a little passion into their dance.

Let’s see who shows up on the dance floor tomorrow!

Friday, May 02, 2014

Let It Go

Life is constantly changing.

One day your basement is dry, and the next, not so much.

One day your bedroom ceiling is patched and halfway normal, and the next, not so much.

One day you are all caught up on grading and the next, your Canvas account is filled with Research Papers.

The sun is shining and I don’t want to grade papers. I want to sing and dance and laugh and play.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Legos Everywhere

I bribed my kids to dance with me today. Well, I guess it’s not bribery, it’s teaching how to earn money for an honest five-minutes of work.

Of course, they will just save their quarters until they have enough to buy another Lego set. Have you noticed all the bins behind me when I dance? All. Legos.

I’d really like to convince them to get rid of all their other toys because Legos seem to be the only toy that they care about (besides electronics, of course).

My husband loves Legos, too, but for some reason they hold no interest for me. The only aspect that I find interesting is the special characters series that they sell. They’re kind of like trading cards in that you don’t know which one you’re going to get when you buy the packet.

Only we’ve never seen them in the stores. They’re always sold out.

Interesting. I like rare things. Collectible. Special.

All the issues that lie within my own struggle with my depression—a need to feel special. A need to be seen.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lighten Up

Rainy day, so I need to soak up some dancing sun. I just allowed myself to get a bit silly with my dancing today to lighten my mood.

Rough start to the day when everyone slept late and I discovered I didn’t wash the dishes last night, so no cereal bowls or Tupperware for school lunches. Our school has a strict garbage-free lunch rule, so no plastic bags or anything allowed.

We still managed to get to school on time and while I was feeling myself getting annoyed and growly, I totally was aware of it and tried to laugh at myself.

And now I need to put real clothes and go to work.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Genre Play

Some writers fall very clearly into one genre and do not veer much away from that one style of writing because what they do fits them so well.

I’ve been trying out some new writing genres and styles. I think narrative nonfiction is my safe place, my comfort, but I’ve never felt trapped by the genre.

I also love to write poetry, drama, graphic narratives and humor. I even finished writing a romance novel this year.

I’m practicing immersing myself in new forms and in new ways of expressing myself. Huh—much like I’ve done with my dancing videos.

What I do and why is constantly evolving. I want to keep expressing myself in different forms for fun and for learning where and how I best feel I can truly say/dance/perform what lies within me.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Practice Saying Yes!

New focus this week: Fun, joy, happiness, silliness, play.

It’s so easy to fall into our roles in life and then stay stuck there, sometimes for a long time.

The boys pose for their first Selfie
As a writer and as someone with depression, it is second nature to focus on the heavy stuff, the serious issues, but then I churn through those emotions and experiences and get stuck there.

So, this week I’m going to try to work on fun topics in writing and in my mind in general. I’m going to practice not caring what others think of me. I’m going to practice the presence of fun in my life.

I’m going to say yes to following what just might be my bliss.

Today, I say yes!

Friday, April 25, 2014

College Writing and Teaching

At the beginning of every semester, I explain to my English 101 students that at the end of the semester there will be a bunch of them whining and crying to me for more time. I say that the time is now. Be proactive. Seek help early. Don’t fall behind.

And they all laugh thinking it won’t be them.

So, yesterday I had to point out to my class that it was, indeed, them.

I listened to the same old moan and groan and begging for more time.

The life of an adjunct instructor can be very tedious. We get none of the benefits and all of the crap.

For a writing instructor, for a writer, for someone who loves to read and write, it can be difficult to watch so many students who just don’t care.

I suppose it is every teacher’s dream to have a room full of students excited to learn. I work hard to instill that feeling into students and I think I do a pretty good job at it, too. It’s just discouraging to see how many students really don’t care.

I suppose that would have been me if I had gone to college when I was eighteen. In retrospect, it was definitely the right thing for me to go to college only when I was ready, only when I cared.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cork that Feeling

I had an essay accepted for publication yesterday and I savored the feeling of happiness. I savored the rush of feeling accepted.

Can I bottle that feeling and uncork it when I’m feeling low?

I tried to really experience the happiness in my whole body; I recorded the sensations of lightness, bounciness and accomplishment.

I think sometimes that is why I feel so driven, so in need of producing art or doing good in the world—I long for that rush of adrenaline, that shot of happy, that I seem to experience when I feel accomplished and worthy.

I guess it is that sensation of being seen, being recognized and appreciated for being me. That is where my happiness comes from.

Now I need to learn to be able to give myself that feeling. I want to be able to produce happiness through recognizing myself.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Music for Dancing

I went to bed at eight o’clock last night. Exhaustion seems to be my best friend. I also feel like I’m trying to shake off the beginnings of a cold.

I’m falling behind again on my school work. Lots of grading to do and not to mention a lesson plan for a class in, oh, an hour or so.

At least I got my dancing in. Genny likes to sit and watch me, but will not join in.

Today I went with just instrumental and allowed myself to sink more into feeling.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dance Your Day

The Dance Pill actually worked today. I awoke early from bouncing kittens and children and was off to a crappy start of a day.

Before I knew it, I was ready to seriously bite everyone’s head off. It felt like I was being taunted by demons with breakfast orders and lunch demands. 

A small inhabitant of my house, when needing help getting dressed, stood five feet away from me and wondered why I could not be of more aid.

A slightly larger resident asked me to comb her hair and then whined and cried the entire time I did.

Mommy needed her Dance Pill.

I scanned through the choice of songs I have left on my iPhone and chose Duran Duran “Hungry Like a Wolf.”

As I began to dance, all the common thoughts raced through my mind—why am I doing this? This is dumb. This doesn’t help. Shut up. Just dance. Just feel.

And a remarkable thing happened. I just fell into the lyrics and let myself be in the moment and not care. When I do that, everything feels right.

After I returned to my normal maternal duties, I felt better. The dance actually centered me, brought me some peace.

Now, does this mean I have to dance through my entire day? Good God! That would be awkward.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mantra Wanted

Spring break for the kids is over and they are all back to school. Only seven more weeks until their summer break.

Easter started out rough with a pretty strangling depression smashing me in the morning, but fortunately it receded by the time we went to visit family.

It really is a moment-to-moment experience to stay centered and calm. I need to face my demons not every day, but every minute.

I’m ready to start figuring out my next big writing project. I still have a few semi-completed projects I will work on this summer, but I want to start my next memoir.

There are plenty of topic seeds I need to start exploring.

Right now, I need to get through this semester. My students are working on their research papers. I am hoping for no cases of plagiarism this year. A girl can dream.

So, lots of planning and grading and prepping ahead of me. I will try to stay focused.

Maybe I need to come up with a mantra for myself. Something I can repeat to keep me as undepressed as possible.

Anyone have anything good that keeps them going?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Comfort Food

No one wanted to dance today. Not even me. My energy is absolutely zero; it might have something to do with the four kittens bouncing on my head all night.

I’ve noticed the way I’ve been dealing with my depression this round has been by eating a lot. My jeans are feeling tight and, come to think of it, that might have something to do with my lack of energy, too.

I’ve been offering myself all kinds of excuses of why I’m eating whatever I want but it all boils down to—it’ll make me feel better and I want to feel better.

I would say I’m going on a diet, but that’s dangerous for me. The other way I deal with my depression is by eating too little. Cutting out meals. Denying myself to an extreme. With my history with disordered eating, I need to work on developing a healthy relationship to food.

I know I should cut out the sugary treats, but I hesitate to do it because they bring me such comfort. Maybe I’ll have to just start by limiting the junk. But can I do it? Even just talking about limiting brings up anxiety like, if I don’t have food to turn to, what might I turn to instead?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chill Out, Anxiety!

I’ve been trying to understand the anxiety bursts I get. They usually pop up right when for a moment my mind notices that everything is OK.

I hear a voice say, “Oh, wait. This is what it feels like to be content, dare I say it, happy.”

I have a few moments of happy bliss and then—boom!

“It isn’t going to last! It’s not real! I’m real! Be scared. Be depressed. That’s your natural state of being.”

And then I return to an anxious space of dread, of knowing peace doesn’t last.

I believe peace and happiness is a moment-to-moment experience, but can’t I back off on myself a little?

I need to figure out a counter response to the voice of anxiety.

“Chill out! Let me relax for a bit. You’ll have your turn. Trust me. But right now, let’s just have this brief moment.”

If I can remember to have this retort ready, maybe I’ll be able to tame the anxiety a bit. Maybe I’ll be able to make the moments of Ok last a bit longer every time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dancing By Myself (to Kidz Bop)

My mood seems to have balanced out this week. The deep despair I was feeling only a week ago has lifted. This is what I always need to remind myself of when I’m at my most depressed: it’s not a permanent state of being. I will feel better.

Of course, the flip side is that when I’m feeling better, in the back of my head I’m wondering when it’s all going to come crashing down again.

It’s like, my mind says, “Don’t get too comfortable; don’t enjoy this feeling. It’s only temporary.”

But I suppose everything is temporary. Like the boys wanting to dance with me. Yesterday seems to have been enough.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Break Day 2 With the Kids

I managed to convince two out of my three children to dance with me today. True, a lot of the dance was spent trying to convince them to not pause yet.

“No, no, no…don’t turn the music off! Wait until the end of the song!”

And as I type these words, I had to go break up a Lego fight because, you know, we have thousands of Legos and everyone wants the same pieces at the same time.

Crisis averted by breaking the tower in two and sharing it out.

And I have Kidz Bop in the background and hey…they’re actually having fun together at the moment. Knock on wood.

Oops, spoke too soon. No, wait. They handled that one on their own.

A few more minutes bought for me.

Oh, I just remembered a moment of real humanity on Saturday: the boys had their first ever soccer practice. Tommy went first with twenty other three-year-olds; he lasted five minutes. Cole went the following hour and played the whole time. At the end when we greeted him on the sidelines, Tommy walked up to Cole, put his arm around his shoulder, patted and said, “I’m really proud of you.”

Nick and I looked at each other like, what the?!

Thinking about it now, we must say things like that to Tommy for him to know the right context to do it in. 

And maybe we’re not such bad parents after all.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Break for Kids

My kids have Spring break this week, so I’ll only be able to write a minimum amount this week as I try to balance giving them attention and going to work and getting my class work done.

I returned to my teenage years and danced to Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” today. This was one of the songs I used to blast from our stereo after school and dance to until I sweated out my frustrations and depression.