On cooking

Families are weird. Have I said that before?

My maternal family is far away from me, my mom and siblings are in another state and there are times that that distance feels so enormous that I can barely stand it. Usually it’s around holidays. Next week it’s Easter* and normally I don’t care about it because as religious holidays go, this one is pretty flipping religious and as an atheist it’s very much off my radar. My daughter knows all about Easter though, at least the secular bits, and asked if we could have an Easter egg hunt with our family to me that translates into food, so I suggested to my in-laws we hunt eggs and have a potluck, to keep it low stress for everyone.

In my birth family this would be a seemingly innocuous request, indeed it would be met with joy and pleasure and we’d probably be fighting over what to bring. I know for a fact that my mom and I would get in a huge argument over who was going to provide and cook the main course (I would win, hi mom). Asking my in-laws for a potluck results in my FIL inviting everyone and in the invitation stating that bringing food, if you’re not a cook, is not a requirement. Of course, to me, this is devastating. Bringing food is a total requirement and it makes me want to cry just thinking about the only food at Easter being what my spouse and I put together… and it makes me miss my own family deeply, like a hole in my chest.

I’ve tried to explain to my in-laws before that for me, cooking for the family is a gift, and it’s one I enjoy. When they try to take that away from me it hurts. I don’t know how to say it anymore plainly than that, it flipping hurts. Last time I cooked for the family was on my husband’s birthday, and it was a fight then too. My FIL kept suggesting we just order some pizzas. I tried to tell him that it’s my pleasure to cook a meal for my family, that I like knowing what goes into the food I make, that I’m training for sport and I really don’t want to eat pizza right now, and he asked me again anyhow. This is my gift, cooking for my family. When you suggest it would be better if we ordered pizza, or got a prepackaged roast from costco or safeway (the salt content alone makes me break out in hives), it hurts me!

I think maybe they think cooking stresses me out? Or that it’s a burden? I don’t know, because having a frank conversation with them is like pulling teeth. It’s not a burden and I’m not stressed out about it, if anyone wants to tell them, because they obviously don’t believe me**. I love to cook and I love cooking for my family. If it looks stressful from the outside, then stop looking, sit back and enjoy the damn meal. It’s okay! That’s the flipping point.

And for the sake of gravity, please, don’t tell people that it’s okay if they don’t bring a dish to a motherfucking potluck. They don’t have to cook anything, sure that’s fine, but they sure as shit need to bring something!

*As a side note, on Easter 24 years ago all the egg hunts were cancelled and I was rushed off to my grandparents. No one explained why to me at the time, and I was really really upset because my mom went to the hospital. She came home a couple days later and I had a little sister. Easter doesn’t fall on her birthday this year, but I am always reminded of my sister Katie’s birth when Easter rolls around, thinking of you today and everyday, girl. Love.

**There was one holiday, 7 or 8 years ago, when I cooked the entire holiday meal for 23 people by myself. That stressed me out. I have not attempted, nor will I ever attempt, to do that again. Thus the potluck, thus the struggle two or three times a year to get everyone to participate. I honestly don’t know which is worse anymore. FWIW, getting stressed out about cooking 1 meal over 5 years ago for 22 people does not equal getting stressed out about preparing 1 or 2 dishes for a family event now. Just to clarify.

p.s. I’ll never forget at said holiday when one of the guests thanked my BIL for the meal that I cooked and he accepted the compliment without giving credit where credit was due. No, I swear I don’t hold a grudge or anything.

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I’m trying not to be a nihilist

Yesterday, for my birthday, my brother wrote a really nice message to me. In it he said I was “a completely fierce survivor who didn’t lose her tenderness when she certainly could have,” and I’ve been thinking about that since I read it, because I’ve been wrestling lately with the meaning of things.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I needed to start believing in something, that my own self involvement and obsession with improvement and going someplace with my career were becoming so all consuming that I was starting to miss the mark. Do you know what I mean? I had been working so hard at creating a resume that was impressive and meant something, and so far as it seemed at the time, failing completely. I really began to believe that maybe none of it mattered at all.

I had to rein it in. When we visited Portland in Thanksgiving I played the part of the disaffected house wife very well, informing everyone that their displays of physical affection were grossing me out (which is more or less true, but I was definitely laying it on thick). Why does it gross me out? Because what does it mean? Isn’t it enough that we’re all here living together, raising ourselves (and our kids), and trying to make sense of this brutal and fucked up world? Isn’t that enough? Do we have to start feeling things too? Because I know what happens when you feel things and depend on people.

You get let down. You get broken. You get shamed and you generally make an ass out of yourself. Except replace all the you’s with I’s and you’ll get a good impression of what I’ve been struggling with for months years. Anyway, I tried to say all that to my brother one night. But there wasn’t enough time you know? We only had that one night and it was the first time we’d spent any time together in years where there wasn’t some other bullshit going on and it’s difficult to explain on the one hand how you can be so full of love for your family and friends; while on the other hand you feel like your heart has to be locked in a steel cage to protect it from the inevitable let down, betrayal and disappointments that come with living in a world full of people who weren’t raised by alcoholics, who aren’t middle children, who don’t analyze every single word and movement they and everyone else around them makes.

Do you know how hard it is to be that person? Jesus Christos it is exhausting. And I don’t believe in anything you know? There isn’t anything supernatural for me to give that hardness to, I get to carrying it all around my head and fight feeling empty, and put on a good face and try to be genuine without running the risk of being too genuine and getting shat on. There are a handful of people in this world that I don’t feel like I need to fake it with, so it’s not as awful as it sounds, or maybe it is. I don’t know, I’ve been living like this for a long time so maybe my opinion is skewed.

Anyway though, to get back to it, yesterday when I read that shit my brother wrote I cried. Because fuck. We’ve been through so much, him and I, and we’re not the same people we were eight years ago or ten years ago or five years ago or last year even, and we live far apart and sometimes I get really fucking mad at him. You know what though? He sees all the heart I try to hide away and he holds it up in the air and says to everyone that this is a beautiful heart and what’s more than all that? I fucking believe him. 

I dunno, this seemed apt. 

On self

My daughter turns three on Friday I’ve been thinking lately about how I have been struggling with my identity since she was born. It’s not a secret that my childhood blew donkey dong, as it were, and after I got pregnant I knew that I would do everything in my power to ensure that my kiddo would be able to look back at her childhood and remember her mom as someone who always had time for her, who loved her more than anything else in the world and who worked hard to ensure she had every opportunity available to her.

If truth be told I really let that consume me for the first couple of years. And I felt alone and miserable, because honestly? I did not find a deep emotional satisfaction in being super mom. And judged. Did I mention that? I felt judged and extremely insecure and any time a relative or friend would bring up something awesome about my kid, or something that I had done with or for her that they thought was cool, I would be thinking, “are they telling me this to point out how selfish and awful I am?”. This is a particular issue with family. My in-laws or mom or grandma could tell me that they were amazed how fast our kid was growing and I would hear, “with no thanks to you” or “in spite of her questionable mother”.

So, in the darkest depths of all of this, when I felt most lost and unsure of myself I went back to therapy. I got to say things there that I did not think were not okay for me to say anywhere else and nothing bad happened, no one judged me or told me all the things in my head were true. Indeed, as is often the case, I slowly started to feel better.

One of the the projects that I’ve struggled with in therapy is talking about what defines me, where I find my purpose, who I am. All I knew when I started was that I was Penny’s mom and that wasn’t enough. I wanted to be something for me too. And the more I worked on this, the more I realized that I have had an incredibly difficult time ever forming a strong sense of self.

What is easy for me is to be the person people need me to be, to fit myself within the parameters of a certain role and do the things that person is supposed to do. It makes sense given that the first 25 years of my life were extremely emotionally volatile. I learned from a very young age that my own needs were not what was important, what was important were the needs of the various alcoholics and megalomaniacs running the show. I was good at taking directions, reading the signals and adapting to whoever I was spending time with. I think that this was especially frustrating for people I dated in my early 20s who were feminists. They couldn’t figure 

See what I did there? That was me doing what I always do. Focusing on the not me. At any rate, being incredibly perceptive, with a freaky ability to read and discern the tensions in any room at any time (thanks bipolar family you’ve given me such super great gift), added with the compulsion to fix everything for everyone (except me). Left me pretty drained after the first 30-some years. I’ve spent the last several months trying to find the person I am, who is at the heart of me.

Did I mention being someone’s mom? And someone else’s wife? Timing is everything, people. In an ideal world I would have picked up on this years ago and spent my early twenties wading through this ugliness. I spent my early twenties doing a lot of drugs and hanging onto the coat tails of my locally popular dj and musician friends instead. Also, if you had asked me then I surely would have told you that being a party girl was exactly who I was. It took a good long look in the mirror for me to realize I’ve been trying to fit in other peoples boxes for a long time, even when I appeared extra confident and self-assured.

I  still have mad love for these fools.

My therapist urged me to do something that was only for me, something I wouldn’t negotiate out of my schedule when other needs started to feel overwhelming. I chose kettle. I didn’t make that choice right away. It’s only been about a month since I stopped accepting shifts if someone called me in when I had practice scheduled. It’s scary to commit to something that’s just mine and I hemmed and hawed for a long time before I felt comfortable making that choice.

It’s funny though, after I decided that kettle was going to be part of what made me me, professional things that I have been having so much anxiety over slowly started creeping toward resolution. I won a statewide election for a place on the board of an important professional organization, which in my head legitimizes what I’m doing spending all this money getting a library degree when I barely have a part time job to show for it. A favorite professor volunteered to mentor me on the board. I received a very rapid response on an internship request that feels like it might turn up being something beneficial for me. I kinda started writing a little bit more.

So yeah, things are getting better. I know things about myself that I didn’t know before. I’m working on figuring out who I am, and mostly know who I’m not. My girl is turning three on Friday and more than ever I want to raise a child with a strong sense of self, who can talk about her needs and interests and knows how to say no. I know the number one way to get there is to give her a positive role model, and so I work toward being that person, for both of us, everyday.

On quitting

I’ve been thinking a lot about quitting lately. Quitting school because I’m tired and worried that it doesn’t mean anything. Quitting kettle because my snatch is fucking awful. Quitting the Bay Area because it’s so expensive.

I’ve been thinking about what my therapist said about why I quit things, about being a perfectionist and how I quit (high) school because I was bored and miserable and how I quit writing because I didn’t immediately get noticed by the whole globe. How I put everything else in front of me because I don’t think I’m worth much either. I thought some about the person I am and the reason I started to do kettle again four months ago after a two year flirtation that could have just gone on being a flirtation and no one would have said boo to me about anything.

I started doing this because I wanted the challenge, I needed the challenge to stay focused and on board with fitness. In my head it was a physical challenge. Learn to lift the bell over my head. Find a place where my brain STFUs for a mo’ and I get my sweat on. Do something that I have the potential to be decent at (cause my friend and coach told me so, not cause I actually believe that). I liked that. Even more than that I like the camaraderie that I saw between team members at my gym. I wanted to be part of that, to let myself feel something that I am mostly afraid to feel (which is um, feelings in general, you know).

And although there is a lot of head shit wrapped up in the above, like a fool I never really thought about it that way. Not until this week, not really. I talked myself through it, I read what other folks had to say about competition and failure, and I remembered what I’d heard my team members and various coaches say about doing what we do.

And now it’s Friday and my coach and team are off to Chicago to compete in the World Kettlebell Club Championships. And her coach wrote this and it’s all true. And of course, because I’m a total quitter in my head, what he wrote about quitting really spoke to me. The ways that Juliet has pushed herself past her own fear and limitations continually speaks to me.

I’ll keep going. I’ll snatch even if I’m not great at it. I’ll finish school, and maybe I’ll keep writing and I’ll try to do things for me and only me. Not ready to give in to my own bullshit quite yet, not today.

Desperately dreaming

Last night I dreamed that I got a job offer in Portland. A fourteen month contract teaching who knows what to who knows who. The interview was in a seedy party of downtown that doesn’t really exist. Not to say that seedy parts of Portland don’t really exist, but that this particular seedy place was from my imagination. After the interview I had to run to catch the Max and dropped my daughter, but she seemed to be fine, so we got on the train. I was worried about telling my spouse we’d have to move.

I’ve been looking for a full (or even part) time job for a while (irl now, not dreams anymore). I have been employed as an on-call person for just over a year, and before that I was a contract-employee and before that I spent a year doing this cataloging gig for a school that had no interest in hiring me long term. So I’ve been sort of in transition for a long time. The same co-worker who makes fun of me for being too involved has also remarked that she knows how frustrated I am just “spinning my wheels”. That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about my situation.

I can’t really be involved in any projects at work because I’m “just” on-call. I don’t mean to sound bitter, but I guess I am a little bit. It’s hard to be there, but not really there. I didn’t know I’d feel like this a year ago when I got the job. The disconnect between me and my co-workers took several months to set in, but it did eventually. Now here I am, feeling pretty bummed about my situation every time I think about it. Which is basically all the time.

I want to belong somewhere. I want to stop worrying. I want to use my brain for the benefit of others and make a mark in my field. I hate to say it, but I want to get paid. We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel over here, man. Two incomes would really lighten the load. Seriously? I would trade all my freedoms, I would even put kettle on the back burner if I could just nail down a job.

I feel like I have to go back to the drawing board. The rest of my MLIS I’m going to spend studying web-programming and database management because I think it will end up being more lucrative than studying user services and advanced reference or what have you. Maybe I’ll be able to break into private industry in a year. Though if I’m not employed in a year… well, that’s pretty much what I said last year.

In the interim? I make plans. I look for jobs in Sacramento, in San Francisco, in Portland. I look at all the places we could live if we could do anything except for stay exactly where we are right now. I think about how hard it would be to leave the amazing community of friends we have in the Bay. I think of how great it would be if we could afford to stay. I think about being closer to my siblings and my niece. I think about being able to go to work and come home and enjoy my family. I think about my daughter walking to school. I think about buying a house.

I look for jobs. I wait.

on working (too much?)

(basically my theme song right now)

I have a co-worker who is always making fun of me, or at least poking fun at me, for how involved I am in my academic studies and community. She thinks that I have too much on my plate and that I’m basically insane (all true).

Here’s the thing for me though, as an undergraduate at Davis I was basically involved in nothing. The extent of my involvement was as an intern for the ME/SA department and that could never really go far because I didn’t speak Arabic and there is something icky about a white person’s interest in the culture, politics and history of the Middle East (it’s okay if you disagree, but I assure you that most Middle Eastern scholars would know what I mean). Anyway, as a result of that I basically had no leads after I graduated. I didn’t do particularly well as an undergrad either, so that doesn’t really help matters.

Anyhow, I thinking about applying for this gsa position that starts in January, and I’ve been sitting here trying to decide if I really do have too much going on. What with my commitments to my family, to kettle, to SJSU ASIS&T and the CLA, as well as school, occasional work hours, and regular living. And the fact of the matter is that I don’t really feel like I have too much going on. Indeed, most days when there’s nothing scheduled I start to panic a little and feel like I’m standing on the edge of something dangerous. Yes, it’s true, somedays I think that I don’t have anything scheduled.

Am I a work-a-holic? Maybe. It’s something that never occurred to me until I started taking such a razing from my one co-worker. It might be tied to my deep-seated perfectionism, discovered earlier this year thanks to my amazing therapist. Mostly though I want something I can depend on, something fulfilling, I want to get involved with something that will be fun to work on and that I can really give myself to. The worst part about my current job as an on-call LA is that I can’t really do anything, and it has been wearing on me for months now.

Anyway, that’s my ish today. I like to work, and I want to do it someplace where I can use my brain. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

LIBR 265 Materials for Young Adults

I am *SO* stoked about the YA Fic class I’m taking this Fall. It’s possible that I’ve never been more excited for a class in library school. I know from the SLIS listserv that I get to read 50-60 YA books for the term project. While I don’t have the exact details yet, I know that I’ll be creating a database, or writing a blog post for each book read.

I thought that I’d compile my initial reading list here and see if I can get some of my friends to help me decide what else I should be reading.

Sometimes all I need is a book to read

Title Author
Clockwork angel Clare, Cassandra
The perks of being a wallflower Chbosky, Stephen
13 reasons why Asher, Jay
Twilight Meyer, Stephanie
Looking for Alaska Green, John
The Long walk King, Stephen
Graceling Cashore, Kristin
Batman: Whatever happened to the caped crusader Gaiman, Neil
Hunger games trilogy Collins, Suzanne
Gemma Doyle Trilogy Bray, Libba
Caster Chronicles Garcia, Cami; Stohl, Margaret
Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children Riggs, Ransome

Add your suggestions in the comments!