Friday, January 20

Me, The "Real" Writer

I made the intention to write more on ye ole little blog, and what did I do, not write at all last week. Forgive me Father, for I am a Sinner.

Yesterday, as part of my "day job" we had our annual meeting of the minds, planning for the upcoming year ahead as well as look to the two approaching. As part of that annual review, my Editor-In-Chief gives the round up of byline articles. (A byline article in our publishing house is considering a full-length feature, so about 3,000 words, with photos.) I came in with 27: the most of any of our writers. By kind of a lot. (Six to be exact.) If one where to use editorial math, that's about one full-length college term paper every ten days.

Last year was really challenging at work in all the ways I never saw coming. But I wrote 27 features. I did 27 interviews, countless nights in Hampton Inns, and a few hundred thousand typos. I proved something to my superiors. Most importantly, I proved something to myself.

See, when you are a real writer—nothing against the bloggers out there hustling for a few hundred bucks in sponsored posts or freelance gigs, but when you are a writer whose family has health insurance because of your ability to tickle the keys, after years of schooling and seemingly insurmountable debt, it's a little different. There's something to prove not because you're out there hustlin', but because you sit in a space in a bullpen with taped up photos of your family and your favorite pen for jotting down notes.
There's always something to prove because you get to do this wonderful thing, you can be this super creative and undefined mess on a daily basis that’s a little bit magic, a little bit insane and a whole lot of nothingness.

But you have to prove your worth. I feel like I have to prove my worth, every single day. Prove every penny spent to put you in a coffee shop waiting for a 7:58 a.m. flight to nowhere is worth it. Inherently, I feel pressure attached to that.

Perhaps it's because I am a working mother now, and life as a writer and a mother isn’t how I saw it going in my mind. There are too many days where I am half a to-do list short or up too late drinking wine and watching television because I haven’t seen my husband, aside from a passing glance over morning coffee, in weeks.

Maybe my feelings of inadequacy at work stem from feelings of inadequacy at home. Lord knows I wouldn’t be the first working mother in that position, nor would I be the last.

Yet, when my boss and de facto mentor, read the totals yesterday morning everything came together. I belonged at the table I was sitting at. I felt a sense of pride in myself and my work that was almost selfish.

I had my "Hell yea mother fuckers, I volunteer, and mother twins, my husband doesn't abhor me most of the time, and I still cranked out more than you and they all did not affirmatively suck!!" moment. It felt so, so good.

Then it didn't. Then the doubt crept in and I was back in that CHOA-Egleston hospital room looking at my tiny son with all his wires and tubes and cords and I was so lost and unsure.

That's what being a real writer is. It's not the fun columns about breaking glass ceilings or finding clever ways to use hunting analogies in letters from the editor; it's realizing your shit can sometimes not stink, but only fleetingly. Luckily, in my case at least, the same fleeting confidence is what pushes me to write more, better, clearer, from the heart.
I'm not a poet; I'm not an essayist. I'm not a mommy blogger or a lifestyle blogger. I'm an English and Communications grad with a job in publishing I have no clue what I am doing with. And I'm just going to be okay. It will all work itself out because ten years ago I was going to be Rick Bragg or Elin Hilderbrand. Today I am Jessica Johnson and that means something. I've already turned in my first byline feature.

Monday, January 9

My Truth

My sad truth is my house is too small. And I've known that for a while, but I didn't want to admit it—I've had to be the one to fight for our little home when my husband wanted to move, because it financially didn't make sense. It still financially doesn't make sense for us to move (shout out to child support payments, daycare, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the student loan administration!) but I am suddenly starting to be a little OCD about the mess. The walls *might* be starting to close in a touch.

Too many mammals live in my house.

And too many train tables.

And too many pieces of furniture my husband insists we have.

And too many little things I've refused to get rid of because I might need it at some point and doesn't everyone decorate for St. Patrick’s Day?

My guest room used to be a room with spare things that we didn't have another place to put. It has now mushroomed to be so much more. You can hardly walk in there. I keep meaning to get it cleaned out, and I have the best intentions, but then it will just mushroom again and like my life, I never seem to have control over it.

But the real thing that's irking me is the mess in the rest of the house thanks to two busy little boys and their beloved big brother. Every time I put one train car in the bag, three more crawl under the sofa.

Every time I find six Nerf bullets, another six roll to the bathroom.

A few months ago my mother sent me this quote, when I first started to complain about the mess the twins could make in no time flat.
I remember clucking and thinking that it's hard to say I’ll miss this stage. Two is no joke. Two times two is really no joke. But every day when I go home at lunch and clean up the morning mess, I think how oddly quiet it is without them. When I am home alone for prolonged periods it feels like something is missing.

Perhaps the quote is right, the mess is like fairy dust and when it goes away I won't be less tired; I'll long for the little boys who would scream for their momma to cuddle them in their "Bubba Nest" so they can fall asleep.

Or maybe one day I'll step on a spare Percy, then trip on a bunch of Nerf bullets and land head first into a stuffed animal and I'll just crack. 

Either way, I'll one day miss this stage.

Friday, January 6

Intention In Action

I had a different little something planned for today on this little blog. In fact, it was all ready this morning and I couldn't bring myself to click "publish."

Last night, I saw a post on Facebook from a friend asking for specific needs for a tight-knit homeless community in Montgomery. This tent city, along with the rest of the city, was bracing for freezing rain and supplies were running really low. In fact, she reported that one member of the community didn't have any warm clothes for the night. I didn't want to go to the store in the mess I knew today would be, but I couldn't help myself from asking my friend what the needs were.

I posted this picture on Facebook this morning—it is all the things I was able to get out of my house, brand new or nearly new, from the list of needs. I packed up my stuff and went to the Church where a group was gathering the supplies for the tent city. I included a few of our leftover Christmas candy canes, to remind tent city residents that the Good Shepherd always looks out for his flock.

The leader of the group's effort was thrilled with the two fishing poles and tackle boxes: given the proximity of the tent city to the river, the fishing poles and tackle will let a few of them catch fresh fish for meals.
While there, my friend shared with me that the tent city has seen an outpouring of supply support since the action call was made yesterday—but no one was really bringing food with pop tops. I promised her I would share the need list with anyone who asked, and left.

In the car I started thinking. As part of our family's intentions for 2017, Mark and I decided to better use our time, treasure and talent to make our community better. All of a sudden I found myself steering my car to Winn-Dixie. I needed milk and laundry soap anyway. I purchased enough cans of vegetables and meat so each tent city resident had one can of each. I threw in two jars of peanut butter because it was buy one, get one.
It cost all of $23.

I hope it makes a difference to these people, because I have some skin in the game. My father’s older brother, my Uncle Tommy, is a homeless resident of Atlanta. I won't share the "how" or "why," because his story is not mine to tell. Since I was a little girl my father and I have always gone to see him a few times per year, bringing him supplies. When I was driving to Winn-Dixie my mind flashed to the last time I saw Uncle Tommy, when he asked me about the twins and I showed him some pictures. Each tent city resident is someone's Uncle Tommy; I wouldn’t have felt right if I claim to intend to try to better use my family's time, talents and treasures to make our world a better place, but turn my back on the most basic need for the homeless in the winter.
It cost all of $23 and a simple scan of my medicine cabinet and pantry.

"We have been created for greater things, to love and be loved."-- St. Theresa of Calcutta

Tuesday, January 3

New year, newish me

I realized during my hiatus from this slice of internet that I missed sharing myself. It's funny, as a full-time writer, I cranked out more stories in 2016 than I have ever before (final count isn't in yet but it was probably close to 40 full length features with at least 10 opinion pieces and at least 5 columns of other sorts) but my heart wasn't always in it. Perhaps that's why I let this little blog of mine slide. I felt like I was always "too busy" to ramble about my kitchen disasters or semi-unwieldy craft projects.

But if I am being honest, it's because I just got lazy and let everything else become more important. This slice of the internet is for me, and I would be lying if I didn't look back on some of the entries from when I was in college and laugh. The girl who wrote those had no idea where life would take her.

Perhaps that's why I am starting fresh.

I love my life. Not in a smug, I'm a better mother/wife/writer/friend/volunteer than you way, but in a very real I am content in my labels as mother, wife, writer, friend, volunteer way. Each and every day I wake up tired with an arthritic back and bad hips, but I feel decently happy to try to conquer my to-do list at home and at work.

2016 wasn't my best year. My marriage wasn't always social media perfect and I struggled. I really struggled in who I was and what I wanted in all aspects of my life. I like to think that mimicked the state of our country—some days were good, some days it was total hell in a hand-basket chaos.

I still struggle with who I am and what I want. But in this, effectively the first "real" day of 2017 I am starting fresh.

In a handful of days a new person will assume head of our country, and while he wasn't my pick, Lord god he wasn't my pick, I love our country and I am raising two children of my own and offering (sometimes unwanted) opinions on the raising of two more, so for all our sakes I hope he matures, grows and leads with love. I want the same things for my life in 2017: I hope I mature, I grow and I lead my life with love.

My intentions for this year are simple and follow along with my desire to just be "better." I intend to show myself more grace, try to retain more patience with Fitzgerald and Alexander, finally take 500 pure barre classes, read more, say a rosary with Fitz and Alex once each week and stick to sharing more of my true self in everything I do (at work, at home and on this blog).

I'm going to share my kitchen disasters. (And successes, there are lots of successes!) I am going to blather about sales I want to shop and the drive-myself-insane projects I do with the twins and my stepkids. I am going to blog my books so I can hold myself accountable to the intention of "read more." It takes 21 days to form a habit, today is day one.

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