Monday, September 30, 2013

The Bubbles

I decided it was time for me to post something humorous, so here's an embarrassing moment from my past. Enjoy.

Was this what a tension headache was?  I guess I’d never had a real one before.  We’d just taken Mandi to the airport.  The glorious cross-country trip we’d planned together was over.  Finally. Apparently tacking a trip like that onto the end of a semester was bad for me.
“Why don’t you go take a bath?  They have a hot tub, you know,” my mom suggested.
“Yeah,” chimed in our friend Paralee, at whose home we were spending the night, “make it a bubble bath.  There’s nothing more relaxing.”
At this point I was ready to try anything.  With some help, I found a towel, and Paralee showed me how to work the hot tub and pointed out where the bottle of bubble bath solution sat.  I was ready.
I played with the temperature, making it just hot enough that when I started to climb in I had to ease myself in slowly.  I watched as the water level rose up the side of the tub.  Now it was at the bottom of the jets.  Now the middle.  Now they were covered; time to relax between the pounding streams of air and bubbling water.  Wait, bubbles!  Paralee had said I should use bubbles, and I hadn’t had a bubble bath since I was a little kid.  Gleefully, I poured a small stream of lavender-scented bubble mixture into the steaming water.  Then, thoughtlessly, I pushed the button to turn on the hot tub jets.
Think back to the last time you took a bubble bath.  Remember the thick clouds of foam, which you stuck to your chin for a beard and put in your hair so you could be Santa Clause?  Remember how when your mom poured in the bubble liquid, you beat your arms and legs spastically in the water to make the bubbles as big as possible?
Within five seconds, the bubbles were up to my chin.  In ten, I was fighting them away from my mouth and nose, trying to get them off my face while at the same time trying to hold the growing mountain from spilling out of the tub.  I pictured the headlines: “19-year-old girl smothered by lavender bubble-bath.”  Frantically, I turned off the hot-tub jets and began shoving bubbles under the water, trying to drown them. 
After about five minutes, I managed to reduce the pile to a size which allowed me to breathe without threat of suffocation.  I sat back in the water and contemplated the remaining bubbles.  I lifted my hand under a two-inch pile, bringing it toward my face and studying the way the bubbles clung to one another.  Then I clenched my fist around the pile and thrust the bubbles under the water, watching them fizzle into nothing.
Five minutes later I had managed to subdue the remaining bubbles.  Looking at the water, I gloried in my total triumph over my foe.  Then, stupidly, I reached once more for the button which would activate the hot-tub jets.
When I stumbled from the bathroom fifteen minutes later, shaking and on the verge of tears, my mom and Paralee stared at me.
“What happened?” my mom finally asked.
“The bubbles ate me.”  I shuddered, and, without further explanation, retreated to the cushion on the floor on the corner—my bed—and curled up in the fetal position, where I stayed until dinner.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On Dreams

I began this post June 14, 2012. I even posted it for a few hours, then took it back down because I hadn't followed my thoughts through to a satisfying point; I had started to explore it, then dropped off with a cheap ending.

Let's give it another try.

I have a poster my mom made for me a couple years ago. It features the above picture, and below that the quotation,

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
that cannot fly...

...Langston Hughes t.

This poster sat in the box it was shipped in for three years, because I couldn't face it. I was fighting the demons of my dance dreams, and all I could think when I saw the poster was, "How am I supposed to hold fast to dreams if they contradict what I know I'm supposed to be doing with my life?" I felt quite literally like the broken-winged bird--I had been used to flying through the air in gravity-defying dance lifts, and now I was grounded. 

I've shed a lot of tears over those dreams. I once even wrote melodramatic poetry about my dreams talking to me as I tried to kill them. (Not very good poetry, in case you wondered.)

I always knew that my ultimate dream of being a mother superseded all my dance dreams, or all my educational or literary dreams, or all my craft dreams--yet, when I finally achieved motherhood, I struggled to accept the world-altering commitment of all my time and resources to one thing and one thing only. And I didn't understand why I was struggling.

I still don't understand all of it, but I'm starting to put some of the pieces together. In the movie "Tangled," there's a part where Rapunzel asks what to do if something actually is "everything [she] dreamed it would be." Flynn replies that she'll get to "find a new dream."

That resonated with me, but it still seemed to only partially apply, because I hadn't fulfilled my old dreams--they were just sitting there, still hoping to be pulled back out, and it was hard to reach for new dreams when I was so tempted to reach for the old ones.

Then I read a wonderful little novel called "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making." (Yes, it actually manages to live up to the title.) There's a part where the main character has to be bathed before entering a city, and one thing that gets washed is her dreams. The person bathing her explains that sometimes people don't recognize when they should launder their dreams, and so they hang on to old dusty, grimy dreams. That felt like exactly what I'd been doing, and it made sense to me that dreams, like everything else, might need to be "washed," or re-examined and reworked sometimes.

But I didn't know how to do it.

Three weeks after writing the above post, I wrote this:

I don't know how to wrap words around what dancing means to me.

Two weeks ago I went to a beginner's Salsa class. My mom told me I needed to go dancing while she was here, and that was what was available that week.

The steps were simple, less complicated than the classes I taught when I was 14. But it was a studio. The floor, the mirrors, the music--it shook me straight to my center. I danced that evening, and then I cried the whole way home.

When I pulled into the garage, I turned off the car and sat, sobbing, not wanting to go in and face my mom, my husband, my children. I looked upward, and through my tears, announced, "I can't not dance anymore."

And over those next few weeks, I learned an important lesson: I could be a mom and still dance. Not all the time, and not to the level I had in college, but I could, thanks to a loving, supportive, trusting husband, go to a Friday-night class and party and dance for two or three hours.

This seems so obvious to me now, but it was an epiphany at the time. Here I had two little girls, one almost two years old and one five months old, and I had done almost nothing but mother since I had graduated from college a year and a half earlier.

And there was nothing wrong with that.

The problem was when I started to feel like a martyr instead of understanding the period of life I was currently in. When I first made the decision to get pregnant, I chose to cut ties with my dreams of dancing at Nationals, or getting on a team that year--but more than that, I somehow adopted the idea that choosing to be a mom meant letting go of everything that made me "Shannon" instead of "Mom." This idea grew as I muddled my way through the early stages of baby-raising--because honestly, chasing one baby while pregnant with the next really was all I could handle for awhile. And then, when I found myself with two babies within 18 months, I was even more overwhelmed. People told me it was just part of the "baby" phase, and that I'd have more time for projects later on, but my struggles were so in my face at that point that I honestly thought it would never end.

But when my girls got a little older and I hit that emotional wall mentioned above, I started dancing again. And as they've gotten even older, they can suddenly play on their own sometimes, or entertain each other now and then. And over the last few months I've gradually realized that my choice to sacrifice certain dreams at one point in order to choose motherhood does not mean I have to, martyr-like, forever give up my right to dream.

Of course, then we get into the mysteries of balancing motherhood with personal goals. I still miss being able to dance the way I used to, and sometimes I get nervous about pursuing new dreams--nervous that I'll let them take time away from what really matters, because I value my family above all else. But with the help of perspective granted by a little more time in the mothering zone, as well as a supportive husband--who has even told me we'll hire a part-time housekeeper if necessary so that I don't feel guilty for using my free time writing novels--I'm working on both finding new dreams and washing the old ones. And I must be making progress, because it's no longer painful for me to look at the poster my mom gave me.

In fact, I bought it a frame.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Awakening" by Christy Dorrity -- Blog Tour

(I've read this book twice now, and you can check out my review for it on Goodreads.)

About the Book

. . . because some Celtic stories won’t be contained in myth.

A little magic has always run in sixteen-year-old McKayla McCleery's family—at least that’s what she’s been told. McKayla’s eccentric Aunt Avril travels the world as a psychic for the FBI, and her mother can make amazing delicacies out of the most basic of ingredients. But McKayla doesn't think for a second that the magic is real—it’s just good storytelling. Besides, McKayla doesn’t need magic. She recently moved to beautiful Star Valley, Wyoming, and already she has a best friend, a solo in her upcoming ballet recital—and the gorgeous guy in her physics class keeps looking her way.

When an unexpected fascination with Irish dance leads McKayla to seek instruction from the mute, crippled janitor at her high school, she learns that her family is not the only one with unexplained abilities. After Aunt Avril comes to Star Valley in pursuit of a supernatural killer, people begin disappearing, and the lives of those McKayla holds most dear are threatened.

When the janitor reveals that an ancient curse, known as a geis, has awakened deadly powers that defy explanation, McKayla is forced to come to terms with what is real and what is fantasy. A thrilling debut novel based in Celtic mythology, Awakening is a gripping young adult fantasy rife with magic, romance, and mystery.

Awakening (The Geis, #1)

Praise for Awakening

"AWAKENING is a wonder and a delight. Christy Dorrity is a talent to watch."
~David Farland, New York Times bestselling author of Nightingale

"I thoroughly enjoyed AWAKENING, a captivating and unique debut novel that creatively integrates Irish dance."
~ CHRIS NAISH, Riverdance member and Creative Director of Fusion Fighters Irish dancers.
About the Author

Christy Dorrity lives in the mountains with her husband, five children, and a cocker spaniel. She grew up on a trout ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming, and is the author of The Geis series for young adults, and The Book Blogger’s Cookbooks. Christy is a champion Irish dancer and when she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably trying out a new recipe in the kitchen.

Purchase Awakening by Christy Dorrity:

Purchase Kindle Book Purchase Nook Book 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nap Time

Oh, Nap Time; how I (used to) love thee so.

Since our current house is smaller than our townhouse in California, we have the girls sleeping in the same room. At bed time this isn't usually a problem, and it used to not be a problem for naps, either. Lately, however, it goes something like this.

  • Read two books, one long, one short. Mari will shout for "Muffin," which is "If You Give a Moose a Muffin." Cim will sometimes argue.
  • Put Cim in bed, turn off the light.
  • Sing to Mari.
  • Stop to acknowledge Cim's demands that you close the door "some" (as opposed to all the way).
  • Finish singing to Mari and put her in bed.
  • Begin to sing to Cim.
  • Stop to give Mari the kisses and cuddles she's demanding.
  • Resume singing to Cim.
  • Give Cim a kiss.
  • Give Mari the kisses and cuddles she thinks she needs again after seeing her sister get a kiss.
  • Promise Cim again that you'll close the door "some," with the stipulation that if she leaves the room, it will be closed all the way.

  • Leave the room for ten minutes. 

  • Come back, put Cim in her bed, and fix the mattress she's pulled half-way off and has been sliding down. Tell her to go to sleep right now.
  • Give Mari more kisses and quick cuddles.

  • Leave the room.

  • Catch Cim in the playroom and escort her back to her bed. Tell her if she doesn't lay quietly and let Mari go to sleep, she'll be in big trouble.
  • Empty Mari's crib of the toys Cim has given her.
  • Give Mari kisses and cuddles.

  • Leave the room, shutting door all the way.

  • Wait ten minutes. When giggles get too loud or Mari begins to cry, go and remove Cim from Mari's bed. 
  • Take Cim to the corner in the living room, and tell her she'll be staying there quietly until naptime is over.
  • Try futilely to accomplish anything you'd had planned, while Cim keeps up a continuous stream of questions and comments from the corner.
  • Tell Cim repeatedly to be quiet so she doesn't wake up her sister.

  • Decide you're not doing this anymore, and that Cim can just stop napping.
  • Listen to Cim beg for a nap from 4:30 p.m. on and cry and/or yell all evening because she's too tired.
  • Decide you're not doing that anymore and that the child. must. sleep.

If Cim were physically/emotionally ready to stop napping, this would be easier, but she's not. I've tried putting her in a different room for naps so she doesn't keep Mari up, but then she just gets into everything in that room while I'm in another room. Yesterday it was her dad's shoe polish in our room. Sometimes she'll sleep for the last 40 minutes or so of nap time, sometimes she won't sleep at all, and sometimes she'll fall asleep immediately and sleep for two hours.

But as many mothers know, nap time is a haven, a precious block of time in the middle of the day when you can breathe and actually get something accomplished. 

And that's my biggest problem. I'm definitely not ready to give that up. 

Luckily, this particular post took less focus than working on my book, and thus I can feel I got something done during nap time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The View From my Hammock

Looking straight up from my hammock today.

I hung my hammock up today.

I bought my hammock when I was 14 or 15. It's a blue Eagle's Nest backpacking hammock, which stuffs into a tiny sack and has straps that can hang it almost anywhere the two straps can be wrapped around something.

I have a lot of memories in this hammock, and as I lay there in it today, holding one of my daughters and being rocked by my very excited other daughter, those memories started flashing through my mind.

I hung it up in the woods at the Funny Farm to read in. I have more ties to that home and that area than any other place I've ever lived.

I took this hammock to girl's camp in Pennsylvania when I was seventeen. Three little 12-year-olds managed to fall asleep in it.

Luke and I sat sideways in it together that same summer when I went to visit him for a week. So did his brother Ty. And my brother James. We took turns a lot, but I generally had company when it was my turn.

We hung it from the ceiling cross-beam in our student housing my sophomore year of college. On one side was the loft we'd built, with its bean bag chairs tucked up by the vaulted ceilings, and on the other was a 12-foot drop to the hall with a bathroom vanity. The man I would eventually marry spent hours in it while I sat on a beanbag chair and we talked in a mixture of English, Spanish, and Chinese.

I hung it in the backyard of our first apartment, at what we called the "Tetris" house. I was the only one out of the 3 couples living there who ever seemed to venture into the usually-overgrown yard. I spent hours in it one day devouring Juliet Marillier's "Cybele's Secret."

It was amazing to me how strongly those memories came. The leaves I saw above me seemed to mix with the shades, textures, and smells of other leaves, other places. The rocking motion was the same, the smells of nylon and grass and air--and this time I got to share it with my beautiful little girls.

I'm changing constantly, and so is my world; but now and then something like the hammock snags a thread, and it pulls through the fabric of my life, puckering up memories I'd thought forgotten. I'm glad the memories are still there, and that I can tuck them back in and keep adding more memories to that line.

Memories like this one.