On not taking what was never mine.

I'm having to learn to subdue the things I share.

It's a hard lesson for me, really. I have – for years now – been fairly unabashed about being totally frank about almost all aspects of my relatively insignificant life. I've talked about sex, boobs, money, illness, fears, embarrassment. Mistakes. Disappointment. I've lain myself bare over and over. It's been therapeutic, and I've never regretted anything I've said.

This year, though, my big kids entered the social stratosphere. Phones and accounts and the whole nine. Text message mothering is in full swing at the Steen/Marsh household, guys, and it's a beautiful thing.

But now that school is in session and I've realized how anything that I say can no doubt circle back full force on the kids, I feel a little…lost.

This blog is so special to me and I will never fully leave it behind, but the stories aren't just my stories anymore.

My kids deserve a face and a day to day that isn't sifted through for things to talk about, analyze, or recount. I want them to know that I, above all people, respect their rights to be who and what they are on their own two feet. They have always deserved this, and if I have violated this trust in the past then let this be my apology.

 

I will not go away.

I will still be a proud mom and I will probably still embarrass them with birthday posts or letters or general weirdness.

But I am saying this: Max, Ava – I will not steal your rights, whatever they are. Whether it's an experience, a breakthrough, a learning moment, or even a joy…

I will let you tell your own stories.

I hope that you do.

 

Sitting on go

I am unacquainted with standing by.

Apparently.

Since I have finished school, I've found myself at kind of a loss. For…well, anything.

I sit at home and listen to the alternate fighting and love of my children. I think of all the things I should be doing – laundry, writing, reading, cleaning. Making things to hang on the walls since they are all presently blank. Also, there is a strange conglomeration of 8-9 nails on the wall above my couch and I spend more time than I care to admit sitting and wondering what could have possibly ever hung there.

 

I've thought about grad school. But…what? What could I do? I'm thirty four damn years old and really I have no more idea of what I want to be when I grow up than I did when I was nine.

I thought about teaching. Praxis testing is expensive. And what happens if I do all that work and find myself in front of however many kids…and then I hate it?

Problem is, I got used to school. I got used to being occupied. I also have the fortune/misfortune of being married to a man who is always on the go, so many nights the kids and I find ourselves at home, existing through the night. I don't mind it, though. I have time to watch King of the Hill, talk about movies and games with Max, play 4,000 games of various substance with Lucy, or decipher Pretty Little Liars with Ava.

Then I think about what I'd want to do, given the chance.

I'd be creative, I'd have a different outlook on every day. I'd solve and make and do and be.

Or I'd be Beyoncé.

Anyway.

Enough. Enough with the thoughts.

 

You don’t like me and that’s okay

I have lived my life as a pleaser.

 

It was a long time in the process of growing up before anyone in my surrounding circle of acquaintances was mature enough to admit to anyone else, “I just don't like you.”

 

And the first time it happened, I was appalled. Hurt. What the hell? I'm amazing! Why would anyone consciously not like me and want to be my friend?

 

Modesty has never been a great skill of mine.

 

Over the years as I've grown into my crotchety middle age, it hasn't really gotten easier.

 

I've realized, though, that it happens.

 

You meet someone, and immediately you know how you feel about them…at least a little. Sometimes that initial impression is wrong, of course, but often it's correct. It's lasting. You can try and change it, reason it away, but sometimes your guts just don't like someone else's guts.

 

Other times the dislike is a result of action. Poor judgment on one side, the other. Both.

 

It turns out the same.

 

Sometimes auras just don't jive. The way you see the hallway may not match my perception at all, and my perception may make you angry just because it exists.

But I'm me. I refuse to apologize for being who I am. If I wrong you I admit it and apologies are certain…but I cannot feel bad about who I am as a person for the rest of my life just because of mistakes that I've made.

 

It doesn't mean I'm not worth your time. It doesn't mean you aren't great or that I'm not absolutely spectacular.

 

Sometimes you just don't like me. And that's okay.

 

On fathers.

I have not ever been known for my speediness. Once upon a time I was exceedingly punctual (a trait that I inherited from my father, funnily enough. My Dad who is forever half an hour early for everything. I will never forget the morning that I took my senior trip to Europe, we arrived at Memphis International Airport at least 2 hours early. No flight was forgetting me, by damn. Not if Larry Wilkes had anything to say about it), but those days are past, I fear.

It was Father’s Day this past weekend.

Father’s Day has never been something I was good at. When I was younger I never had money to buy my dad a gift, and besides, what do you buy a man who could MacGyver himself a ham sandwich or a Mustang convertible with equal ease?

Now, while I may from time to time have a couple of dollars behind a plastic bank card, it feels…strange to buy my husband a gift with money we both control. I know, it sounds weird. Not to mention there’s this whole other dynamic of the big kids and how they have a kickass dad even though we didn’t stay married very long. He’s a father, he gets the day too. I end up at a loss.

I do what I can. Things I think they will like. When I can.

dadusBut what I had for this Father’s Day, what I have for future ones too (unless one of these men comes out and says, “Hey, do you know what? I would really like to have XYZ for Father’s Day.” Seriously how fantastic would that be for all involved?) is an entire being of gratitude. A heart that would gladly slice itself in half for these men in my life that are my lifeblood.

It’s never enough. Even now, I am torn. I want to talk about my dad and I want to talk about my kids and the fathers they made of Dan and Josh. I never have enough words. Or the right ones.

usoaklandBut it’s Father’s Day. My Dad deserves some talk. Dan knows he’s a great dad. Josh knows he is my whole heart.

With you, Dad, I built a house of sticks. I learned to fish. I shot a gun. I picked out materials for a glider. I made rock families in pockets of grass and made you and the lawn mower furious. I tried to play basketball and you never told me how terrible I was. I rode behind you on a bike through thready Shiloh roads. You taught me, through good and through bad, that honesty and goodness and just doing the right thing is how the world should be.

I try to find good things in my life every day. It’s an exercise that keeps me from focusing medadon small problems and being overwhelmed. Good things like a cup of coffee at just the right temperature, or a memory. A flash of something past.

So many of my good things are because you are my dad. Thank you.

The things I’ve read

I’ve always been a reader. Books, words, writing have all been a part of my DNA for as long as I’ve been aware.

Third grade, I remember I pilfered some book my sister (at that point a freshman in high school) was reading. It was about anorexia and I remember I told my Sunday School class about it at prayer request time.

There was also some book called Don’t Hurt Laurie that I read and Laurie had to put up with some shit. She had an abusive mother and a clueless stepdad.

RL Stine scared the piss out of me in sixth grade. I never got any of those books at the bookslibrary or anything like that – I’m unsure why. Probably I was too scared. The one or two that I did read I think came from friends or something similar. I know my mom never would have allowed me to buy them.

There always seemed to be so much to read when I was younger. So much that I would love and get lost in. Like the TV Kid, I think it was – he gets bitten by a rattlesnake under a house and makes a tourniquet. There were other things that happened in that book but I have no clue what they are.

Now? Not so much.

I mean sure, there are classics that I haven’t read and they will perpetually be on some mental list that I gradually check off.

But there is a fundamental thrill of losing myself in a story that I have apparently lost. Once I could devour a story, live in the universe and befriend every character numerous times.

I don’t have that anymore.

Any suggestions? I am currently plowing through the Song of Ice and Fire series as it is now – just so that I can say I did it.

Blank screens are depressing

Important things have passed.

My oldest turned eleven on Friday. Sunday was Father’s Day.

I choose to write first about the day of fathers today, because we all know I don’t like to think about my kids getting older and hey Max, if you’re reading this in ten years….you’re 21, let’s go get margaritas.

 

So, Father’s Day.

My father has always been a force in my life.

Sometimes a force of fear – I mean, I still don’t know what would have happened if he ever found out about senior skip day. Or all the European alcohol. Or the (totally platonic) bed full of 5 terrified people after my first viewing of The Exorcist.

Now you know, Pop. I’VE CONFESSED.

Sometimes a force of ingenuity. I’ll never forget coming home and finding my very first car in the driveway – one that he traded a gun for – and thinking that no one in the world could ever get as much shit done as my dad. Did you ever read about that one guy who traded all the stuff on Craigslist and went from something crazy like a piece of gum to a Corvette? THAT DUDE LEARNED IT ALL FROM LARRY WILKES.

Sometimes my dad has been a force of inspiration – I know that any “some assembly required” project is no problem because I am a product of my dad. My dad could assemble and rework anything ever and make it not only functional BUT KICKASS. He had a scuba store in Corinth Mississippi, people. He can do anything.

 

My life has not been perfect. But I’ve never doubted that my dad would move mountains for me.

In that, I know that I am lucky.

I’m also lucky in that my children have fathers who – while neither of them are quite on the trading-firearms-for-transportation level – love them and would do anything for them. And do. They love kids that aren’t theirs in any way except me. They love where they don’t have to. Where most don’t.

Seriously. Some people don’t have that. I see it every day and it makes me ache with gratefulness.

So even though it’s passed and even though my dad might not read this, I’m thankful for the fathers in my life. I’m lucky and I never forget that.

From the dad who gave me life to the dad I share a bed with, I know every day that I am where I am because of you.

 

Thank you.

 

The rest of away

It’s taken me a bit to somewhat process this past weekend.
(Side note, I’m watching Teen Mom 2 and this is the second one of these dumbass girls I’ve watched act like an invalid after her boob job. What the actual hell is the matter with me, watching this nonsense?)
Anyway, we spent the weekend at my first comic convention. I was prepared and not prepared – I mean, I’ve watched the documentaries and the sitcoms and read articles, nerds are weird. I know this.
But it was a good opportunity for the podcast, so I went. With Prozac. Prepared to network and schmooze.
While there’s lots to tell you about the weekend in general (like hello awesome food!, and being in the same room as Billy Dee Williams’ pee, and the time I thought I might see a man die and I acted anything but admirably), right now I want to focus on the actual event.
How it was stinky. Crowded. Germy. Confusing. And absolutely spectacular.

We had preordered our tickets (which was my first time ever to use Passbook on my phone, and I totally felt like the Jetsons with my virtual roboticket), so there wasn’t much of a wait to strap on some armbands and stand in line with pretty much every variety of person on the planet.

Seriously, this was as good as people watching gets. Costumes and pajama pants, stilettos and flip flops, and absolutely everything else imaginable. Spandex. Sequins. Feathers. Rubber. Metal. Cardboard. Want to wear some ears and a tail? Awesome. Top hat? Help yourself. Flippers with no other hint of a costume? Have some nachos.

And yeah, they stunk. Some of them did. Some of them smelled fantastic – particularly these two chicks who I’m fairly absolutely concretely certain were prostitutes. But they were all so… connected. It was such a community of all these people who mostly didn’t know each other. There was trust in so many iterations – from the toddler in his Iron Man outfit who won a sword fight with a Stormtrooper to the mom of two in her steampunk corset and bustle who didn’t give a shit what you thought about her cellulite. It was freeing just to be there, to be able to take in the attitude of acceptance.

And also…the talent. It was a grab bag of you-pick-it eeney meanie miney holy balls. I have never been in tossing distance of so much ability in my life. It was amazing and humbling and completely exciting. I still don’t really have the right words.

I am not and never have been what anyone would call a cool person. I’m not with it or hip or anything the kids like these days. And in theory, neither were these people, right?

I mean, according to the movies and high school and anything I ever learned from band camp, these are the punch lines, right? The nerds, the geeks, the people who don’t fit in.

Except these people were amazing. They were real and colorful and…themselves.

That’s it. That’s what it was.

There was no apology in any of this past weekend. No one was sorry for being whoever it was they wanted to be. It was open and obnoxious, and the most authentic experience I’ve ever had.

I met some amazing people. Made some connections I will treasure. Hopefully some of the people I met will take a turn to post here sometime soon, and I’m excited about that.

For now though, I’m still sorting through everything I learned this weekend. About myself, about my world. About comic books and zombies. About how lucky I am to realize that just because there’s no one like me doesn’t mean there’s anything to change about me.

***all photos used with permission, courtesy of Keith Reed, whom I found on the Twitters.

 

Embracing the kook within

Historically I have never been what you would call a joiner.

It's all too much, man. Too much work.

It's why I don't have friends. It's why I find my own things and bury myself in them. Hell, it's why this blog has not died a raging fiery inferno death – because I do it whenever I please and big middle finger when I don't.

But my husband, he's a joiner. He gets all up IN all kinds of shit. And he does it because he's good at it. I support that. How could I not? It makes him happy. Happy him, happy me.

So in a grand gesture of solidarity and total outside-my-comfort-zone-ness, I am donning my brand spanking new JustUsGeeks tshirt, hauling around my weight in purple bluish memefont flyers, and going to a comic & toy convention.

Yeah, that's right. You heard it here first.

 

But you know what's crazy? I'm excited. Like, stupid excited.

So by the time you read this, Josh and The Guv and I (Catch that? Did you? Yeah, I said my name and his name but not Lucy's name. More on that later.) will be tooling off toward Kentucky. Or, well, Friday morning. So whenever you read this in relation to Friday morning. Because I think I'm going ahead and publishing this tonight.

 

See it? It's already happening. DARING.

Wish me luck!

And lo, in the year of our lord 2013

 

I thought about this post all weekend, but I failed to come up with anything particularly spectacular.

Last month my sister had a baby.

This is nothing new, I mean I have a niece and nephew already – and not to sound too crass, but I mean, my kids are the shit so my nieces and nephews can't be too far from.

My sister recently(ish) remarried. A nice, normal guy who loves the piss out of her and is nice to people besides her, which is sometimes a rarity. He's a good egg. And when I found out they were having a baby I could not have been happier – for her, for him. For me because babies.

Children are spectacular, we all know. But having a child with someone you love with all your being and who loves you right back? That's…not even something words can touch.

I wanted that for her. And so when news of little Parker came along I knew what she was in for and I couldn't wait.

The weekend after her son was born, we went to visit.

He was everything I wanted him to be.
He was tiny, he was sweet.
He had her fingers and feet and his daddy's mouth.
He snuggled in my niece's arms like he already knew where he belonged.
He was – he is – perfect.

So for now I'll spare you the tales of my empty uterus and how SURELY I might have another little boy and holy crap he'd be so amazing and cuddly and little and ohmahgahbabies.

No, for now we can just say that my sister's family is complete. And that there is a little bundle of squiggly baby sized love who knew just where he needed to be, and he will probably never know how much joy he brought with him into the world.

 

 

 

 

I should make it a rule to drink beer.


Because even ONE makes me want to ramble write.


Saturday we had INTENDED to go to Tishomingo State Park with Dan, the kids, Amanda (omg my India Afar Amanda is home did I not tell you? Lucy adores her. It’s meant to be. She has to stay here forever) and her baby boy. It was a spectacularly planned event, one which which had been talked about for at least a week.

And guys, we just don’t do that. We don’t plan shit. Ever. Because as soon as we do, we get lazy or just generally turned off by the obligation of being somewhere and we ruin it.

So we went. The three Steens in one car, everyone else in the other.

We all arrive (we were a little late), and we proceeded to eat a sandwich picnic at one of the tables. I was SO excited. Josh had rented specialty camera lenses for his big boy camera, and I had my new point-and-click. Like a boss. We were READY.

Then, Lucy (who had refused to take a nap) started screaming.

Seriously it was like Jigsaw’s puppet and the squeally pig from the insurance commercials mated and the product was my child. Not only was it an impossibility to walk across the swingy suspension bridge, the whole idea of taking pictures was laughable.

I should have known.

So we came home. Basically we drove like an hour to eat some turkey sandwiches at a picnic table.

Sunday we redeemed our photography yearns, and went out to make lots of pictures.

Happy Monday.

written on Saturday/Sunday night, I would NEVER drink this early. Unless it was a mimosa. Or champagne and it was important. Or no one was there. Don’t you judge me.