From “Mom of the Group” to Real-Life Mom

Everything changes when you have a baby.

People have been telling me this for years, and for the most part I believed them. But I also thought, I know who I am. In a way, I have always been a mother. My friends used to call me “the mom of the group,” because I’m the kind of person who put a blanket over my friend when I found her sleeping on her couch. I’m the kind of person who tells my friends to call me if they need a sober ride, even in the middle of the night. I’m the kind of person who cried when I dropped off my sisters at elementary school shortly after getting my driver’s license. Even though I knew my mom had been dropping them off for years, and they were more than capable of walking twenty feet by themselves to get into the school.

Still, being “the mom of the group” is different from being a mom.

No matter how focused you used to be on the needs of the people around you, it cannot compare to the focus you have on the needs of your child. You know your child’s needs before they do – literally, because a baby does not yet have the cognitive ability to recognize or understand when they need something.

You have an invisible tether to your child, so that no matter how far away you may be, you feel their presence. You know when your child wakes up from their nap, even before there’s an audible noise on the baby monitor.

Your entire perspective of the world shifts. You see the world through your child’s eyes. Birds and squirrels used to just be part of the scenery, but now they are magical creatures whose graceful movements cause you to smile.

Your own mother becomes more human. This is what she went through? These are the kinds of thoughts that went through her head? The way I feel about my baby – this unbreakable, inexplicable bond – this is how she felt about me?

(Here’s a little insight to my main character in Finding ‘Ohana: Cinnamin is figuring out motherhood. Is she a mother, even though she did not give birth to her son? How can she be a mother without a role model, without her own mother in her life? How could Cinnamin’s mother abandon her, if she felt the same way for Cinnamin as Cinnamin feels for her son?)

When I was a kid, people told me, “You’ll understand when you have kids.” Well, I’m an empathetic person. I thought I already understood.

I was so wrong.

Because no matter how you try, you cannot put motherhood into words. Some things just have to be experienced.

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Liberty & Justice for ALL

It’s official: anyone can legally marry the person they love, in any of the fifty states of America.

Today is truly a day to celebrate.

My husband & I at what I like to call the rainbow hot spring. No filter, no editing.

No filter, no editing.

We happen to be at Yellowstone National Park today, so we celebrated by seeing rainbow-colored hot springs.

20150626_160242

Our guide book describes this hot spring, specifically from this vantage point, as a giant blue eye crying colorful tears.

Today, they were rainbow tears of joy.

Why I am Shaving my Head

When I was in second grade, my best friend and I used to spend every Saturday at an indoor ice skating rink. Her mom bought us hot chocolate and let us play the crane game that promised a winner every time, and we skated in circles around and around and around the ice for hours.

One Saturday, I arrived with my hair in a braid, so that I could skate without my long, looong hair getting in my face.

fan art by RadissonClaire on DeviantArt

fan art by RadissonClaire on DeviantArt

(How hipster is that? I braided my hair to go ice skating about twenty years before Elsa made it cool!)

My friend said that when we got separated on the ice, she always found me quickly by looking for my mane of wavy hair – and she demanded that I undo the braid immediately.

Fast forward a decade or so. I’m sitting for a caricature and the artist asks me to turn my head so he can see my hair in its ponytail. He makes an involuntary exclamation when I turn and he sees just how long my hair extends from the hair tie.

My tennis coach used to call me “Muppet Head” because I went through a phase when I let my hair go free and it flew around my face as I ran across the court.

People knew me by my long hair.

But the weekend before my high school graduation, I cut off twelve inches to donate.

It was terrifying. (How could I hide my fat face if I didn’t have long hair?) And liberating – because my face did not look as grotesquely fat as I’d been worried it would.

I’ve donated my hair a few times since then, alternating between looong hair and short bobs for years. But next week, I’m going to do something even more extreme.

I’m going to shave my head.

As can probably be expected, people’s reactions of finding this out have been exaggerated versions of their same reactions to me telling them when I was going to cut twelve inches of my hair. They are shocked, appalled even, and they want to know why.

So here I am, telling you why I am shaving my head.

1) To raise awareness of and funds for researching and curing childhood cancers.

This is the big reason. I’m shaving my head as a virtual St. Baldrick’s event. Part of this is asking for donations and pledges on my bald head that will go toward researching and curing childhood cancers. Every three minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer, yet childhood cancers often do not receive the funding needed for research. This is why organizations like St. Baldrick’s exist – to conquer childhood cancers once and for all.

FB event

I can’t imagine what I would do if my child were diagnosed with cancer. That’s something no parent should have to face.

2) To support and stand in solidarity with kids who have cancer.

We live in a society where it is extremely difficult to not have hair. And it’s especially hard to be different when you’re a kid. It’s a natural part of development to separate things into categories, and that leads to certain categories being more stigmatized than others. But the more of us who challenge our society’s beauty norms, the easier it will be for the kids who have no choice but to challenge those norms.

3) To donate my hair so more kids who choose to can wear wigs.

Part of the reason I’m shaving my head is similar to the reason why I donate blood whenever I can. As young (broke) parents, my husband and I don’t have a lot of time or money to donate. My hair is something I can give. I’m donating to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for children who face hair loss for a number of reasons. Because kids are still growing, they need new wigs more frequently than adults. So there is always a need for kid-sized wigs. I like to think my hair will help some little kid regain a confidence they might have lost.

4) For me.

Okay, full disclosure: I’m not shaving my head as a purely selfless act for the sake of the children.

It first occurred to me to shave my head when my son reached that phase when all he wanted to do was yank my hair right out. And being bald has the added bonus of keeping cool, which is important when you live in a desert.

But more than that, I’m actually going bald because of, not despite, the way it looks.

Gender norms in our society are rigid. Men can rock a shaved head, but not a dress. Women can wear pants, but heaven forbid they should leave the house without makeup on.

Gender is fluid, so that’s how we should view it. Some days I’ll have makeup and giant earrings to balance out my bald head, but some days I won’t. And I’ll still be beautiful. Just like you are beautiful, regardless of your clothes, hair and makeup and jewelry or lack thereof, manicured or chewed-to-nubs nails, or style preference in general.

I have written here about my difficulty with depression and I’ve written short stories about my battle with body image. The two are not always linked, but in my case they often are. There have been dark times in my life when my hair was the only part of my appearance that I appreciated. In fact, there were years when I hated my body (and by extension, myself) and tried to hide behind my hair.

Shaving my head is my way of showing myself that I am beautiful, even if that beauty is not within the “conventional” definition of the term. And it’s my way of showing myself that, no matter what I look like, I am worthy of self love.

So even though it’s scary, and even though people keep telling me I’ll regret it, I am going to shave my head. And I’m going to love myself while doing it.

Selling Your Skills (writing skills, that is – nothing illegal)

If you’re a writer, Authors Publish is a helpful resource. If you “like” their Facebook page, subscribe to their free magazine, or just poke around on their website when the mood suits you, you’ll find writing advice and reviews of publishing companies, among other things related to writing and publishing.

One of my favorite articles I’ve found through the Authors Publish Facebook page is a list of three ways to promote your writing by Emily Harstone. It begins with a quote by John Green: “Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”

This is exactly why marketing can be so difficult for writers, myself included. We tend to not be the kinds of people who enjoy putting ourselves out there.

But self-marketing is necessary, especially now in the digital age. Publishers are not likely to spend much money (if any at all) on marketing a new author, so they need to know they’re signing a writer who can build their own reader fanbase.

Harstone’s first two suggestions for writers to market themselves is via a blog and a Facebook page. I’ve got those two down! (Well, at least I’ve got them. And I’m determined to do better about posting frequently.)

The third is to have a business card. This is an idea I’ve toyed with in the past, but haven’t gotten around to actually following through with yet. That’s about to change!

I went to a writer’s convention last summer and met a few authors who were passing out business cards and – drum roll, please – bookmarks. What a genius idea for a writer to have a “business card” that is actually a bookmark! It’s functional, and therefore less likely to be thrown away. It ensures that the writer’s info is going out to someone who does in fact enjoy reading, and it keeps the writer fresh in the reader’s mind.

However, one particular author (who shall remain nameless) should have thought his through a bit more. One side of this author’s bookmark includes a synopsis of the book and how to purchase it, while the other side gives a short bio on the author. Here’s the synopsis:

“When a research scientist is found dead at the Lab, the head of security begins to investigate. Dr. [character name] of [fictional company name] has many secrets that could jeopardize his relationship with government benefactors he desperately needs.”

Is Dr. [character name] the dead research scientist? If so, why does it matter if his relationship with government benefactors is jeopardized? He’s dead. I don’t think he cares much about the state of his relationships.

Or is the character the head of security? If this is the case, why is he a “Dr”?

Could the “secrets” possibly be even a little more intriguing?

Could the desperation possibly be even a little more specific?

Basically, this synopsis is just too vague and confusing to be interesting.

Here’s the author bio:

“[Author] has been writing stories since he was thirteen years old. He grew up, watching television…”

I’m going to stop my critique right here, because this is where I decided that I truly did not care one bit to find this author online and read his work.

Why do people seem to think punctuation is unimportant? I mean, when I see a misplaced comma in a text message, it’s a pet peeve. But when I see it on a bookmark that is supposed to be convincing me that someone is a good writer? No. There’s no reason this should not have been caught and fixed before all those bookmarks were printed out.

That comma should not be there. As it is, the fragment “he grew up” should be able to stand alone as its own sentence. And I think it’s safe to say that we all know that this person grew up, as he includes a photo of himself in which he has graying hair.

The moral of my story is this: proofread! You are selling your writing skills, so you’d better be certain your writing skills are at their best on any marketing material you produce.

That said, can you spot any errors on my bookmark? Please let me know now, before I print a whole bunch of them!

author bio on the front of my bookmark/business card

author bio & web addresses on the front of my bookmark/business card

"Finding 'Ohana" excerpt on the back of my bookmark/business card

excerpt from the first chapter of Finding ‘Ohana on the back of my bookmark/business card

Happy LGBT Pride Month!

If you haven’t heard yet, June is now officially LGBT Pride Month.

As I was reading the proclamation, something occurred to me. (I’ve already posted about this on my personal Facebook page, but I thought I’d make an official statement as an LGBT author too.)

I tend to feel outside the LGBT movement. Honestly, I tend to feel like an outsider in general. But when it comes to gay rights activism, it’s especially apparent. I’m a woman married to a man. My husband and I have a baby together. On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked if I’m an Ally. (The answer is, of course, yes. There’s just more to it than that.) My husband is heterosexual. But I am not.

This is my son and I at a recent gay marriage march. (My husband took the photo.) Our little one kept clapping whenever the crowd did! Hooray for marriage equality!

This is my son and I at a recent gay marriage march. (My husband took the photo.) Our little one kept clapping whenever the crowd did! Hooray for marriage equality!

My husband (then boyfriend) was the first person I told when I realized that I’m bisexual. And he has never given me anything less than 100% love and support. I know how lucky I am to have that. When I’m with him and our son, it’s one of the few times I do not feel the least bit like an outsider.

My lifestyle means that I do not face the same level of discrimination that many other LGBT individuals face. And because of that I can sometimes feel like an impostor. Like my struggle is less real than theirs.

But as I was reading the President’s proclamation, the “B” in LGBT stood out especially bright and I realized: He’s talking about me. Not only my friends and family and acquaintances. Me.

 

“During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are.”

All I can say to that is, thank you.

Back on Track, Again

Today I realized that I have not blogged since NaNoWriMo ended. Not surprising, as I’ve hardly written since then either. NaNoWriMo burnt me out.

But now I’m back, and determined to stick with it this time! (I know, you’ve heard that before. But this time I mean it.) I’ve wanted to get back to the novel I started in November, but the task has been daunting. Until yesterday, when I happened upon this quote:

first draftI’ve thought about first drafts in similar ways, but this metaphor puts the whole concept of the first draft into the perfect context. There’s no pressure if you’re thinking of it as the raw materials you will eventually use to create your masterpiece.

Now I just have to find the time to continue shoveling sand into a box…

I Open At the Close

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is over. It’s finally over.

November is National Novel-Writing Month, the goal being to write 50,000 words in thirty days. This year I decided to take a shot at it for the first time.

A word to the wise: Try NaNoWriMo for the first time before you have a baby!

Long story short, I did not get as many words written as I’d hoped. But I did actually get more than I’d expected. (Hope for the best, plan for the worst, right?) My final word count on the morning of December 1st was 36,488. Not bad, for a working mom of a nine-month-old. In fact, that’s longer than my first draft of Finding ‘Ohana was after I spent three times as long on it!

Anyway, now that NaNoWriMo has ended, I’ve decided to post the prologue to the novel I’m currently working on. I open at the close.   ; )

***

Sweet agony. The long moments before the fog clears are filled with sweet agony. Sweet with anticipation, agonizing with impatience. I stand, naked and natural as the woods surrounding me, with my family to my left and my right.

Gehra piyo, mere chotu.

Gehra piyo, mere pyare.

We form a Circle. Without beginning, without end. By the light of the Full Moon I see them as clearly as if it were day.

Shashi jaga hai,

Aur main uske prakash tale tumhe garam rakhungi.

I am connected to them, and they to me, and all of us to all those who came before and all who will come after.

I take the goblet of Sapheda Rakta as it is passed to me and drink deep.

Gehra pina, gehra pina.

Together, as one, we Change. Pain. But not painful. It is the pain of a good stretch. We are stretching out of the constraints of who we pretend to be when we are not here. I welcome the pain, knowing it will make me stronger. This is what my body is meant to do. This is my natural state. At my core, I am Santaan Raksha.

We run. My mother, my Biji, turns first and darts into the woods. We follow.

Less than an hour ago, we arrived separately. We parked our cars on pavement, a flat and unnatural rock that suffocates the Earth below it. We walked the path, also paved at first, then dirt, but still a path clearly marked. And finally we followed the unmarked path that the Jhund has taken for generations. It brought us to this clearing. Our meeting place. And now we leave it, not by the path, but by our hearts.

I weave through the trees as though they are not separate from me. I do not have to think. I simply move. My body and mind are one. The Earth gives under my feet, cushioning and clinging. It welcomes me and spurs me on. The wind caresses me, my speed inviting it to dance with me.

This. This is what makes life worth living. This speed. This confidence in my body. This fire and exhilaration that nothing else can bring me. This connection to the woods, the trees and dirt and animals. Connection to my family, both by blood and by something stronger. Connection to myself. I truly know myself here.

This. This is freedom.

Strength of the Pack

For a moment I watch the silver light of the full moon gleaming on Biji’s back. It slides up and down her muscles as she runs. Every now and then it disappears with the thickness of the trees overhead, but it always returns as silvery as ever. It is too beautiful not to watch.

But only for a moment. I can no longer hold back. I push forward, now at the head of the Jhund. None of them can match my speed. The more I push, the more I feel my body become fluid. I am a river finding its way through and around and over the rocks in my way.

I am overflowing. My joy must be released. Without slowing down, I tip my head back and howl my gratitude to Shashi.