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.

Embarking

I could give you reasons I've been gone so long.

 

Except that would be stupid.

 

Cheesy as it sounds, one of my resolutions in the New Year is to reestablish myself on this blog. To do that, however, I have to convince myself I have things to say.

I do, of course I do. I think. I also have to learn to ignore “Hey Mom. Hey Mom. Mom. Hey Mom.”

Anyway, a new year. 2014.

I can't even believe that's real. I'm looking forward to the things the new year can bring, all the promise and fresh starts. I'm sure I'll be over it soon, but for now it's fun to be so full of promise.

 

Who thought up New Year's Resolutions? What sick sadist (is it sadist? Masochist? Whichever of the whips and chains likes to dole out the pain) thought it up? And why do we do it?

I accomplished some stuff in 2013. I started a new job. I gained some weight which is not so much an accomplishment as just a fact. I started watching Doctor Who and Sherlock. I finished another semester of school and now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I love you. I promise not to suck so much this year.

 

 

Random things I contemplated putting in this post but didn't:

The Simpsons is the best show in the history of animation.

Wine is unbelievable.

I've started getting zits. Like hardcore acne. What the fuck?

I got the Depo Provera shot in August (I think) and please for the love of all that is holy please never do that to yourself.

Josh now has a whole building for the podcast. He's well on his way to being very hotshot and official.

See you soon.

 

Not forgotten

A week ago yesterday, my first baby girl turned nine.

Normally I’m on top of this kind of stuff. And Ava, because you are my daughter, you will one day look back into the troves of Internet history, you will see that in 2013 I didn’t write a post about your birthday until over a week after your birthday. You will inevitably read into this many things – neglect, ill will, suppressed resentment.

None of that will be correct. The sad and less interesting truth is that I am busy and I’m incredibly skilled at putting things off when I don’t want to face them.

And I don’t want to face the fact that you’re getting older.

I remember being young. And I don’t want you to have the moments I had. The times of being convinced that no one understood, no one cared. The preteen-erotica and angsty-poetry writing hours.

I know feeling that way is normal. And necessary.

But you’re so fantastic.

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I never want you to doubt that because at some point the way you think about yourself becomes a key part of your identity. Right now you know how amazing you are.
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Never lose that.

You’re perfect. You’ve made my life better for nine years now.
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Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I love 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.

 

I remember Christmas

I am now embarking upon my 33rd Christmas season.
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I’ve never been a Christmas nut, but I enjoy the season. I enjoy it more now than I ever have, although that probably shouldn’t be the case since now I have to worry about presents and money and Santa Claus.

Still.

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Every year I am bombarded – often when I least expect it – by waves of memories I haven’t touched since the last year. It’s like I stockpile stuff and only think of it once a year – some of them aren’t even Christmas memories. Maybe it’s a getting-older thing, saving up good thoughts for times they’re needed.

But still, I remember.

I remember my Grandaddy Wilkes and how he always bought boxes of Andes candy. I would subsequently eat them, row by row. God only knows how many calories were involved.
I remember rides to Selmer and plastic mistletoe – always in the same spot.
Shining silver and comic paper gift wrap.
Black Friday shopping to buy all my presents from my Mimi – only to have to wait until Christmas to open them up.
Hiding under a green blanket while my mom and dad pulled all the presents out of hiding.
Sweet potato pie, even though I hated the very idea of a sweet potato.
My mother always making my sister and I pose for some weird ass photo outside by the mailbox or in a chair.
Mom’s Santas.
The smell of the attic – the smell of the ornaments.
Peanut butter rice krispie treats.
Ham. Always ham.
Chicken and dressing with a shitton of sage.
Neverending, persistent and endless renditions of “Mary Did You Know?”
Max’s first Christmas and putting a bow on his head.
Playing board games with Dan’s family into the wee hours of the morning.
Josh dressing up as Santa when the kids were small. Max was convinced Santa had found him.
My first Christmas with the Steens, my first time ever to have a stocking.
Josh’s grandmother and how she always bought my kids the perfect presents.

There are so many things.

Things to love about now.

Maybe this year I won’t forget.

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Being legitimate

Someone had to know I would broach this. It was inevitable.

 

In an interview aired this past Sunday, Todd Akin, a Republican candidate for Senate in the great state of Missouri, made this statement when asked about his feelings on abortions resulting from rape circumstances.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

He really said that. Really and truly.

 

Now, let me start by saying, as a woman – he has no right to an opinion. Really. I don’t get all up in his scrote and he’s never carried a baby, so we should just agree to keep our politics out of each others’ crotches.

And secondly, as a rape victim – fuck you, Mr. Akin.

Legitimate rape?

What are the other kinds? Illegitimate? Imagined? Maybe she didn’t say no loudly enough? Maybe she was “asking” for it?

I realize that people are falsely accused of rape. I know that happens, and it is a sad thing to know that someone would abuse such a delicate area for whatever reason.

But the majority of rapes (60-68%, according to a quick Googling) go unreported, and do you know why? Because of douchebags like Todd Akin. Because the first thing asked of anyone claiming rape is not, “What can I do?” not “How can I help?” it’s…..”Well, what happened?”

Because its not enough to be taken advantage of. It’s not enough to be violated. It’s not enough to matter so little that you don’t even get a choice in what happens to you.

You have to justify. You have to prove what you’ve claimed. It’s no wonder that women and men in staggering amounts just choose to opt out. Why prolong things and expose yourself to embarrassment…criticism…shame?

It happened to me. And just because it wasn’t a stranger in a dark alley doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. It doesn’t mean I deserved it. It doesn’t mean I hurt any less. It doesn’t make it any less legitimate.

 

So while Mr. Akin sits in Missouri with whatever opinions he wants to have about situations he will never face, I will try with all my might to let everyone know that things like this are not okay. It’s not okay to trivialize someone else’s hurt. It’s not okay to make blanket statements when you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

Help a little more, talk a little less. I think that’d do some good for everybody.

 

Reasons it doesn’t matter if no one ever reads this

This blog is a big deal to me. It always has been.

Only for the past year or so, though, have I attempted to care if it were a big deal to other people too.

It’s something about me I’m not fond of – this apparent need to be liked. I never thought I had that very much. I’ve found myself censoring more, saying less. Trying to appeal…and for what?

The pull of my blog has always been that it is mine. That when everything was reduced down to work and play and manifesting your dream, that I had something I had done for myself. Just for the pure craft. Except I wasn’t. I was writing hoping to be popular, hoping for someone to notice me.

There were all sorts of levels of bullshit surrounding that revelation. I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. I was not surprised.

Earlier this week, I found a document that brought me to sobering reality. The-Writers-Manifesto (that’s a pdf link, and if you download it you need to tell him how great he is). After reading it, I wanted to slap myself and write books at the same time.

So with much pain and heartbreak, I’ve come to the realization that it’s okay if no one reads what I write.

Why?

I’m not writing for anyone else.

I will have a record – a concrete one – of days, months, years. However meager it may seem, I am shaping my legacy on my own terms.

I can be honest. I don’t have to be afraid of offending anyone, because I’m not depending on them to read what I say. In itself, this is amazingly freeing.

Whether I move on with my ideas or simply do this and nothing else, it’s okay with me.

And by being myself, whatever happens, this piece of me exists. No one can pay for that.

 

Ten

Dear Max,

If I were to say I never thought this day would come, it would not sound the way I wanted it to. I never thought anything awful would happen and you would never turn ten, but I guess I just never thought ahead to what would inevitably happen.

Ten years ago I was 22. And on this day, I met you.

You were everything I hoped you would be. You were loud and angry and absolutely breathtaking. You made me a whole person. My first baby. My son.

Now it’s a decade later and you have changed so much. Well, you have and you haven’t. You are still loud and angry sometimes. You still take my breath away. You make me as whole today as you did all those years ago.

I can’t be with you today. You’re off at camp and if your phone calls have been any indication, you are having the time of your life.

So I’ll say it here.

You are wonderful. You are the bravest, smartest, coolest little boy I’ve ever met. I admire so many things about you. You are thoughtful and sweet, caring and creative. You aren’t afraid to be your own person. Never, never lose that. You are the best person in the world at being you, and the rest of us are just lucky to know you.

For every time I’ve lost my patience, I’m sorry. For every time I’ve let you down, I apologize. I am so proud that you are my son. You make me so very proud.

I love you. I can’t wait to see what you become.

Love, Mom

From both sides of the uterine wall

If anyone had told me three years ago that I would soon be a mother of three, I can think of a whole host of replies I would have had. They would have included distance, laughter, and a healthy dose of profanity.

To say that the news of your pending arrival was a surprise? Well, that’s one way to say it.

But it happened, you came.

And now it’s been two years since I met you. And not a day has gone by for the last two years that I have not slept with you by my side. Held you when you cried (and at first, during the colic days, it felt as though you would never do anything else). I know the way your weight changes in my grasp as you finally give up and start to dream. I know how many refusals it takes before you relent and take the juice instead of milk (three, sometimes four).

None of this should be new to me. I have, after all, done this twice before.

But this is different. I have never been this intertwined with another human being. If I had known this type of connection existed, I would never have been able to go back to work with your brother and sister. For 730 days you have changed everything. Daily.

To see you now – to watch Max and Ava and to see how they both stumble over themselves to be near you – I realize I had no idea how incomplete we were before we met you. You have filled a hole in our family we never knew existed.

I guess, Lucy Grace, what I need to say more than anything else, is thank you.

Thank you for the giggles and the sass.

Thank you for the kisses and the curls.

Thank you for turning my husband into a daddy.

Thank you for giving your brother and sister someone to be an example for.

Thank you for needing me more than anyone ever has.

Thank you for being my baby.

I love you so much, my big two year old girl.

Love, Mama

;

—————

(I’m so terrible with things like this, but thanks to my wonderful wife for letting me have a part of her blog today. I’ll go back to being geeky over at http://justusgeeks.com)

For the rest of my life, no matter what happens, I will always remember seeing you for the first time. I heard your first sound. I counted your fingers and toes at least ten times. At least. On a day, which I admit I was not at my best, you were perfect. Perfect.

One of the things I worried about was that even though your Mom and I had thought Lucy Grace was the perfect name for you, you’d be a Mary. Or Janet. Or something else entirely.

But there you were…my Lucy Grace Steen.

And how right we were. As you’ve grown up so much in the last few months and weeks you say that name with a certain authority. You are becoming your own person, and there’s not a lot your Mother and I can do about it.

But why would we want anything differently?

You amaze me on a daily basis. You’re learning more, getting smarter, and you somehow know that you are what makes us “go” on a daily basis.

I’d do anything for you. Anything.

Your Mother and I talked not long ago about just how perfect for us you were. One day we’ll explain to you about how we never thought we’d be able to even be anyone’s collective Mom and Dad, let alone yours.

And how you saved us.

How you saved me.

No matter what happens on the rest of our journey together, Lucy Grace Steen, I will always be in your debt. And although you might not always act it, you’ll still be my perfect little girl.

But for now, while I can, I’ll hold you. We’ll dance and jump. Take Big Steps. Watch Jessie until the DVD wears out. Ride your bike. And get bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

There are so many people who love you; don’t you ever forget that. You may take advantage of that, but always remember that all you have to do is be you and we’ll love you.

On your big big day, know that I love you more than the world. And I always will. I’m so glad to be Lucy’s Daddy.

 

Enlist

So the good thing about having a blog is that sometimes I can just randomly list things that I think, or that I want you to know. This is one of those times. Therefore….

  1. I saw The Hunger Games and it was so brilliant that I kind of want to weep because I have to wait so long for the next movies.
  2. I have not yet used shampoo on my hair since the last time we talked about it. My hair feels great, though I don’t know if it looks any different. Josh says (embarrassingly in front of other humans) that I have dandruff, but I used some apple cider vinegar and I don’t see any flakes, so maybe that took care of it.
  3. I registered for next semester this weekend, and seeing the words, “Classification for registration: Senior” kind of blew me away. I may have been so taken aback that I teared up a little.
  4. Lucy talks a lot more these days. A kind of whole hell of a lot. My other two were verbose, but she is…I don’t even know. Tenacious.
  5. Ava and I write letters to each other. I am ashamed to admit that the last letter (before yesterday) was sent months ago, and it has totally been my turn all this time. I feel awful about it. But she is just the sweetest thing ever and wrote me right back, so now it’s my turn again. Dammit.
  6. Ava also went shopping with her Nana yesterday and came home with two bras. This contorts my mind on so many levels that I can’t really even begin to describe. Yeah, I can, actually. I hid them. She’s been wearing little sports-bra/camisole things for a while now, but these are for real triangles and hooks. They have CUPS, people. I am not ready for this.
  7. Max is completely and totally awkward. I love him a ridiculous amount, but (I’m probably a terrible mother for admitting this) sometimes his oblivious dorkiness makes me cringe. He tries so hard – too hard – to be entertaining and cool. I don’t know how to tell him that he’s much more awesome when he doesn’t try.
  8. Josh and his friends are hosting a podcast. It’s actually pretty entertaining.
  9. The bedroom that we live in is getting kind of out of hand. Like the Hoarders people would have a field day in here.
  10. I read Fifty Shades of Grey. If you don’t know what that is, then I can only explain it as housewife porn. I have never really read stuff that is so totally and completely kinky. I can’t say for sure, but I may or may not be planning to read the next two books (it’s a trifecta of kink).
  11. I have started playing Draw Something. It makes me happy. Probably a little too happy. My favorite part is watching the other person try to guess my drawing. My username is Emylibef, so, you know…we should play.
  12. I missed my therapy appointment last week, and I feel like I stood up a friend. I suppose that either speaks well of my therapist or badly of my tendency to overpersonalize.
  13. My hair, since I already brought it up, is getting really long. I really like it, but I have these ridiculous waves of let’s-cut-that-shit-off and so far I’m pretty proud of how I’m holding up. I’m even growing my bangs out and that now means I have to pin them up in a weird little bouffant. I try to tell myself it’s a vintage look. Like it matters, since really Lucy and the cat are the only ones who ever see it.
  14. Lucy took this picture after she stole my ipad. I have, literally, three dozen incarnations of this photo on my camera roll.

That’s all I have for today.