Friday, March 28, 2014

TMI Fridays- Toulouse and Tonic

Today we are learning all about the lovely Toulouse of the blog, Toulouse and Tonic. This is yet another case of the Internet bringing two people together that were meant to know one another. This lady not only is raising two boys, she is also a fellow horse-lover, a shoe maven and from a matriarchal family. Her story, "Stranger in the Land of Twigs and Berries", in the anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone had me laughing out loud and bumping my chest in solidarity.

This gal gets me.


Toulouse's blog is packed full of hilarity. She speaks frankly of parenting and life, always with wit and panache. In short, she's brilliant. Head over to her favorite posts and prepare to settle in with your laptop and a cup of something warm, because you'll be there for awhile, clicking through all of her posts and discovering that you love each one even more than the last. Trust me. I speak from experience.

To top it off, not only is does this lady possess a great talent for writing and humor, she also possesses great beauty. And her family... they're all gorgeous. Seriously. I'm going to adopt all of them. 

CFG: Tell us about your start in writing?

T&T:  I folded a piece of paper in half and drew what looked like a balloon - but was supposedly a person - on it and called it my first book.  My dad swears I was 2.  In the 3rd grade, I composed a poem called "The American Heritage."  I saw it on a book spine and, having no idea what a heritage was, wrote a poem about a monster.  No one called me a genius - but they did call me creative.  Eventually I studied writing a bit in college and came back around to it as an outlet when I "retired" from the career world and began to go nuts staying at home with my first baby.  When people ask what I dreamed of being when I was a child, writer is the first and last answer.  In between are things I would've been heinous at like actress, singer, football coach and world's shortest, meatiest-thighed fashion model.
CFG: How did you come up with the name of your blog?

T&T:  Toulouse is my alter-ego.  She had never done anything more productive than drink and instigate things before the blog so this has been her chance to redeem herself.  She also gives me a chance to talk about myself in the third person which most people think is just adorable.

CFG: Who is the wind beneath your wings?

T&T:   I have a lot of people who've been very important in my life but since we're talking about writing, this one goes to my husband.  He's been incredibly supportive and encouraging about a "job" where the benefits are often not very tangible.  He's also not afraid to ask me to rise up when he thinks I can do better.  That's a tough job and even though I sometimes want to close a door on his face after he critiques my writing, ultimately I find he's almost always right.

CFG: What is your biggest pet peeve?

T&T:  It's hard to choose just one but I'm gonna go ahead and admit to being a really big nerd about grammar and spelling.  Now everyone go straight to my blog and email me about every error you see there.  PLEASE DO NOT.  I also get disproportionately upset when I see people wearing leggings as pants.  

CFG: What is the craziest, weirdest thing on your bucket list?

T&T:  I don't have one.  I stayed single for a long time and I did a lot of crazy shit.  I'm happy to ride out the rest with my husband and kids just living life and maybe taking a side trip to Disney World.

CFG: What is your most regrettable fashion faux pas and will you please provide us with photographic evidence?

T&T:  When I was 12, all the girls were wearing zip-up one piece jumpsuits.  The only one I could find was orange polyester.  I put on and pranced myself to Wednesday night church.  I was a neon traffic cone of original sin.  I never wore it again.

CFG: What person/place/thing do you hate that you love?

T&T:  I kind of hate that I love US Weekly.  But at the same time, I don't give a shit.  Everybody needs something to read in the bathtub.

CFG: What is your greatest fear?

T&T:  I'm afraid of heights and orange polyester jumpsuits but the only thing I'm really afraid of is losing my husband and kids.  I have a total freak-out every time they all ride off in the car together.  But as soon as they're safely where they're going, I'm ecstatic to have some time alone.

CFG: I do the exact same thing.

CFG: Who is your favorite animated character and why?

T&T: I have boys, which means I end up watching about 5 minutes of a lot of superhero type stuff as I pass through the room stepping on legos and cursing under my breath.  The only one that can get me to sit down and actually watch the whole show?  "Oh, there you are, Perry!"
Phineas & Ferb is the best thing to happen to mom's (and dad's) of boys.  All of the characters are great but Perry is a platypus AND a badass secret agent who saves the world, like, every day, duh!

CFG: Who are your celebrity free passes?

T&T: I think my husband would've understood if I'd ever gotten the chance to shack up with Paul Walker before he so sadly passed away.  My other free pass is David Beckham, but only if he doesn't talk.  I just want him to come into the room in his underpants and stare at me like he does in the ads.  What happens after that is none of your business but it involves ice cream, wine, foot massages and "The Golden Girls."

CFG: What is your favorite chapter in I Just Want to Pee Alone and why? 

T&T:  I loved every story there but I think Meredith from the Mom of the Year - hers got to me.  It's the rare person who can make death with all of its pain somehow hysterically funny.

CFG:  Any new projects you're excited about?

T&T:  The sequel to "I Just Want To Pee Alone" is out this Saturday, March 22.  It's called "I Just Want To Be Alone" and I'm in it with a story about how boyfriends, bleach and margaritas don't mix.  It's a story I've wanted to tell for a long time and I can't wait to see what everyone thinks of it.  

CFG: Congrats! I can't wait to read it! 

Suzanne Fleet is the writer behind the award-winning blog, Toulouse & Tonic, and mom to 2 stinky boys, who together with her good-natured husband, give her loads of funny writing material.  Suzanne is one of Circle of Moms Top 25 Funny Moms, and a contributor to Huffington Post, In The Powder Room and Bonbon Break as well as a proud co-author of the best-selling books I Just Want To Pee AloneI Just Want To  Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.  You can also find her on G+facebooktwitterand pinterest.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Corn Fed Girl's Common Sense Guide to Life

Sometimes life gets tricky. Shit doesn't go our way. People are assholes. Work sucks. The kids are sick. We are out of shape. We feel alone, or maybe smothered- or both at the same time. We fail. Money is tight. The cat smells like raw sewage. Our favorite underwear snagged in the wash. Someone puked on our rug.

It happens to everyone. (me)

When things get topsy-turvy, I look to one resource for help. This is a resource that I often forget about because I have my head too far up drama's ass, yet nonetheless, it is always there.

Hello, Common Sense. Where have you been?

Survival Skills for the Real World

*You Can't Find the Time...
Turn off the television.

*You Feel Victimized
Stop it. Stop it right now. Get a weapon. Take a self-defense class. Lift weights. Read The Hunger Games.

*You Feel Worthless
Do something you are good at and think of all the people who suck at it. You win.

*You Hate Your Job
Think about what you would rather be doing for work, then go do it.

*You're Single and Aren't Having Sex
Ask someone if they want to have sex with you.

*You're Married and Aren't Having Sex
Go to bed naked.

*You Have a Personality Disorder or an Addiction
Admit you have a problem and get counseling.

*You Think Everyone Around You is An Asshole
Most likely, you're the asshole. 

*Your Children Don't Listen
Be very still, stare straight ahead and whisper. It will freak their shit out and they. will. listen.

*You Feel Bad About Yourself
Watch reality TV and recognize that there are far worse train wrecks out there.

*Your Friends and Family Make You Feel Like Crap
If they are all saying the same thing, you probably need to hear it.
If they are being jerks, tell them. 
If they don't stop, make new friends and tell them all about your crazy family.

*You Feel Alone
Know that you are NEVER alone. There are people, organizations, groups and many places for you to find solace. Put yourself out there. Join a book club. Go to church. Get a pet. Volunteer at a local charity. You are surrounded by people who may have experienced the exact same thing that is haunting you. Open your mind and your heart. You'll be surprised at what you discover. People are generally good. Look for the love in the world around you. It is truly everywhere.

*You're Bored
Read a book. Better yet, write a book. Better even, edit MY book.

*You're a Liar
Stop lying. We know you're lying.

*You're an Introvert
Stop thinking it is everyone's job to accommodate you. The only ones reading and sharing those comics about "How to talk to an Introvert" are other introverts. The rest of the world thinks it's bullshit that you come with your own social interaction rules that they are supposed to memorize and implement. 

*You're an Extrovert
If you are home alone too often and feel a part of your soul dying, pick up the phone or hop on one of your 45 social media accounts and plan an outing. You can also act out a three act play with your dog or work on your karaoke skills. Read a comic about how to talk to an introvert and try implementing a new technique.

*You're Highly Sensitive
There's a fine line between highly sensitive and high-maintenance. Recognize it. Find a coping mechanism- like humor. Or yoga. Or booze. Whatever. You live in reality. Other humans live here too and they will most likely make you feel like ass at some point, just as you have done to others. It's part of life. You're fine. Not everything is a personal attack.

*You're Highly Insensitive
Recognize that there are people in the world who possess things called feelings and try not to hurt them. Also, don't be an asshole. When in doubt, stop talking.

*You're Straight
Congratulations. If you choose to breed, this is the easiest way. Also, please keep the PDA to a minimum. Unless they are paying for Skinemax, no one wants to see that shit.

*You're Gay
Congratulations. You are now officially more interesting. Also, please keep the PDA to a minimum. Unless they are paying for Skinemax, no one wants to see that shit.

*You're Dark-Skinned
You never have to get a spray tan to look decent in your summer wardrobe. Don't forget to moisturize.

*You're Fair-Skinned
You have to get a spray tan to look decent in your summer wardrobe. Don't forget to moisturize.

*You're Religious
Good for you! Everyone has the right to those kinds of personal choices. Keep in mind that rule extends beyond you.

*You're Atheist
Good for you! Everyone has the right to those kinds of personal choices. Keep in mind that rule extends beyond you.

*You Have Writer's Block
Stop telling everyone that you have writer's block, asshole. Just sit down and write.

*You Feel Fat
Eat less, make better food choices and exercise more.

*Your Cat Stinks
Sorry about that.

*Your Refrigerator Needs To Be Cleaned
Sell your house.

In short, we are the ones complicating our own lives. So buck up, stop pointing fingers and put the blame on those who actually deserve it, like those damned evil clowns... and the squirrels.

Life is short. Live well and surround yourself with love, gratitude and tolerance. If you do that, happiness will find you.

Peace, Love and Unicorns,

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Listen To Your Mother, because I clearly don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

When I started writing, it was fun. It challenged me. It kept me sane. It allowed me to complete a sentence! Then my children stopped napping and finding time to write became increasingly more difficult. Then I started to do this thing called learning (wherein I began to recognize my previous writing mistakes) and writing become a bit more laborious. Did that deter me? Hell to the no! I'm a farm girl! I dug in my heels and improved my skillz. Eventually, I got some paid writing gigs, which was awesome! Yay! They came with topics and deadlines and responsibility and all of a sudden writing was A JOB. Wait... what? I was just playing around on the Internet...

In February, I completed some writing assignments that felt particularly laborious. My previous zest for the craft had waned a bit, and I realized that I had been writing for three and a half years with no break. I was tired, I looked like hell and my creativity felt depleted. I decided to take a sabbatical from my laptop. I was giving myself permission to rest.

I'm a person who likes to state my mission, so I held my chin high and declared my husband, "As soon as I complete this article, I'm taking a break!"

"Good!" he said.

I called my sister, "I'm taking two entire weeks off in February! I'm just going rest my brain a bit! I need it!"

"Great idea!" she said.

I informed my friends, "I'll be taking some time off from writing this month. I'm really looking forward to it!"

"You should take a break, Johi. You've EARNED it," they said.

"Drink more wine," they said.

"Watch more TV," they instructed.

"Yes," I mused, "a break will fix me right up."

I hit 'send' on my finished article and breathed a sigh of relief. Vacation had started! Let the refreshed energy fill me to the brim!

I stretched my arms and looked around the house. The kitchen was full of dirty dishes, there was barnyard crap all over the floor, my kids had hauled 23 stuffed animals into the living room and made a fort from all my pillows and blankets, four loads of laundry beckoned me and dinner needed to be made. Just thinking about it all made me tired again.

I thought to myself, "Crap. This wasn't really the break I had in mind."

So I did what all internet writers do when they take a break; I flipped on my computer and surfed the web. I bought some face cream from Living Social. I took 18 quizzes on Buzzfeed. I was sucked into the vortex of Pinterest. Eventually, I came across Listen To Your Mother and remembered that I had seen a Denver show. Ooo! A show! On Motherhood! In Denver! I should sign up!

When I was younger, I used to do stage shows all the time. It's told around my small town that I was quite the talent (thanks grandma). For instance, I had the lead solo in the school music program when I was in second grade, which I rocked with my angelic rendition of the lines "Roll over. Roll over." I would show you the video but my parents didn't love me enough to buy a reel to reel handheld camera.

Years passed and my high soprano voice changed to alto. I sang harmony in the junior high and high school choirs. We were such prodigies that we were officially uninvited to perform at Disney World. I would show you the video, but my parents didn't love me enough to buy a camcorder.

Then I gave a speech in 1995- an original piece of Cowboy Poetry- for a competition. I thought I did fairly well; I practiced a ton, overcame my nerves and delivered it with confidence! I honestly felt pretty decent about it! That is, until I was told by a judge that I seemed SUPER NERVOUS and talked WAY TOO FAST and I basically sucked at life. Then he proceeded to score me with zeros throughout the entire competition, which lead me to assume that he hated all good things and kept children in his basement. I would show you my performance, but my parents didn't love me enough to ask my uncle to record it with his video recorder.

Ever since then, I break into a flop sweat when I have to speak to more than 10 people. Unless I've had three martinis, then I'm AWESOME at public speaking.

I thought to myself,"I should try out for Listen to Your Mother and overcome that stupid fear of public speaking that I have developed."

Because nothing says "REST" and "SABBATICAL" like immediately signing up to do something that you find absolutely terrifying!

Apparently I am redefining 'sabbatical.' Or I'm simply a moron.

Without giving myself time to over-think it, I signed up to audition two weeks later, thus committing myself to writing compelling new material in 14 days for the show. I wrote my tail off, produced crap, beat myself up for mediocrity and trashed the first story. I started over and recreated a new story, which I rewrote and edited 14 times. I practiced delivering it to anyone who would listen. When the audition day arrived, I had my husband drive me to Denver because the crazy traffic makes me jittery and I was attempting to be cool. Even with me giving him directions, he missed his turn, which made me start to sweat and fear that I would be late. We arrived at the location and I started shaking. I calmed myself, dried my palms, walked into the room and read my piece to a charming woman who immediately made me feel comfortable.

Later, I received an email from that charming woman. I was asked to submit a new piece, which I rewrote and edited 169 times. It was approved and I was invited to participate in the 2014 Denver LTYM!

I called my friends and announced with excitement, "Oh mah gah! I made the cast!" Then the reality kicked in and I said, "Oh mah gah. I made the cast?"

I'm going to be onstage, sweating through my bra and reading an original story about motherhood on Wednesday, May 7th at 7 pm at the Elaine Wolfe Theater. My parents will not be present to record me, mostly because they live 800 miles away and still use a rotary phone. Or maybe they don't love me enough. You decide.

I don't know if you heard me, I'm going to be onstage, for the first time in 19 years!

Pray for me that I deliver my piece with tons confidence... and preferably no hives. If you promise not to score me with a zero and tell me I sounded nervous and fast, I promise I won't sing lead or harmony. Nor will I dance. But I will probably contort my face into a series of weird expressions, because that's how my face works. Deal?

If you are interested in hearing me and 11 other amazing women read their original essays on motherhood, you should buy your tickets today!

Look for me! I'll be the blond in the pitted-out shirt.

Now.... about that sabbatical....

Thursday, March 6, 2014

More Drawrings with the Things

It's been super busy -a little too busy- around here lately. I've had multiple deadlines, Brock has had multiple jobs and we've all been sick. I think everyone is ready to slow down a bit. Everyone except Thing 1, my Kindergartner, who goes at an Energizer Bunny pace, even if he is hacking up a lung. He loves to have multiple things to do in a day. His energy and enthusiasm for life is off the charts. He lives for constant activity and stimulation. This kid will thrive as an American adult with our To Do lists, expectations of over-achievement and over-scheduling. Basically, he is my polar opposite.

One of the activities that my eldest offspring and I do agree on is art. Thing 1 is really improving his drawing skills. He practices every day. The other morning before school, he made two pictures; one for his father and one for me.

Here's what he drew for his dad:


It's clear from the amount of time he spent on this picture that he really loves his dad.

On the other hand, here's the picture he drew for me:

I think this says it all.

The sad thing is that this picture reminded me that I have been out of wine for almost 4 weeks now. I guess should add that to my To Do list. I like to make lists that are achievable.

Peace, Love and Unicorns,

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


My adolescence was time of tremendous inner turmoil for me. I didn't have a lot of confidence. I was scared to make a mistake. I was afraid to put myself out there for any kind of judgement, for fear of a misstep and the resulting embarrassment. I needed to be liked by everyone. I felt dorky and unattractive and naive. During this period of my life, I was constantly watching others- looking at them for guidance or inspiration. This was a time when I thought everyone had life figured out... everyone except me. They were all in on some big secret of which I was completely unaware.

Of course, I was wrong.

A simple conversation with my mom when I was 12 helped me change my perspective.

Frustrated with a peer situation, I tearfully confided in her that I wished I was someone else. I don't remember who it was, but it was someone I admired; perhaps Cindy Crawford or Christie Brinkley.

Obviously, I was pretty deep when I was 12.

My mom looked at me and asked, "Would you really want to give up everything in your life and become another person?"

I was stunned into silence. In all the time I had spent fantasizing about living someone else's life, I never considered that it would require having to give up my own.

"Probably not," I finally answered.

I walked into the bathroom to take a shower where I seriously pondered my mom's question. As the water ran over me, I contemplated everything in my life: every experience, every friend and family member, my talents, my lifestyle, my animals, my mind, and even my appearance. As I shampooed my hair, I thought about humankind. Everyone had a story. Everyone had their own insecurities. Everyone struggled with personal demons. Even the most successful, beautiful women had problems. 

No one was perfect. I truly, honestly did not want to trade places with anyone. Not even Cindy Crawford. I didn't want to give up the joys and experiences of my beautiful life. I wasn't willing to give up... well... myself.

It was a revelation. I turned off the water and dried my skin with the seafoam green towel that my beloved grandmother had given me. A more enlightened version of Johi stepped out of that bathtub.

In that AHA! moment, I acknowledged my individuality and self-worth. I had just experienced a moment of truth and inner peace. I figured out that I loved my life- a pretty powerful revelation for an insecure 12 year old. It was the start of a process of appreciation. It was the start of learning to embrace myself as a unique, perfectly imperfect person. That moment was the beginning of me finding and accepting my identity.

I actively began searching out the good around me and choosing to focus on it. I reshaped the way I viewed the world. Instead of whining about what I wasn't, I accepted and praised what I was. It was one of those Wayne Dyer shifts of consciousness. Looking at the world from a positive point of view is a good thing... and it can change your life.

It's true that I still struggle with experiences, people and even my own reactions to the world, but I feel like I am where I am supposed to be. Even better, I know I am the person I want to be.*

*Most of the time, anyway. I can't seem to avoid PMS.

Personal identity is different for each of us, and the path to recognizing it is also unique. Yet there are some simple ways to discover your sense of self, starting with a positive self image. Here's what worked for me:

14 Steps to a Positive Self Image and Personal Identity

1. Embrace your individuality.
2. Love and respect yourself.
3. Learn from your mistakes and the mistake of others.
4. Accept responsibility for your actions and be mindful of your influence on your own life and those around you.
5. Recognize the goodness in others and learn to accept their compliments.
6. Respectively, recognize the bullshit in others and protect yourself from their projections.
7. Always stay true to you- don't ignore your gut feelings.
8. Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small, and embrace praise.
9. Always look to learn and grow.
10. Approach life with an open mind and a loving heart.
11. Be honest.
12. If a change needs to be made, there is no better time than the present.
13. Know that what you DO is different from who you ARE (read my story about that here).
14. Live fearlessly.

Over time, the passing years have changed me. I've adjusted some of my ways of thinking and I try to continue to make personal improvements. As with most people, my identity is unique. If I had to sum up my character- the internal, moral and ethical things that make me unique- I would say this:
I'm tough, but loving. I'm strong, but fragile. I'm determined, but often unfocused.  I'm country with a dash of refinement. I need rest, but I'm a hard worker. I'm feisty, but I'm a peacekeeper.  I'm sensitive, but realistic. I'm not easily offended, but I know my limitations. I'm organized, but cluttered. I'm unflinching forthright, but I attempt to be gentle. I'm stubborn, loyal, loving and creative. I love to laugh. It's who I be.

If I had to sum up my interests, which I believe also lead to identity, I would say this:
I enjoy sexy shoes, old barns, lipstick, hot coffee, cold beer, art galleries, cowboy boots, animals- especially horses, tight blue jeans, intelligent conversation and afternoon naps. I love well designed spaces, pick-up trucks, the smell of leather, the sun on my face, long walks in nature and capable men with strong hands. I live for my precious sons, awesome friends and family, digging in the dirt, creating art and the written word. My life is better with movies, expensive sheets, music, laughing instead of crying, good food, the sound of water, tall trees and mountains. It's how I do.

While I may be a walking contradiction, I'm just me- a mostly kind-hearted, mouthy, sometimes shy, always frank bitch who doesn't need anyone's approval to feel validated in living my life the way I desire. I like who I am, and I wouldn't trade places with anyone.

Who wants to grab a beer with me? I like wine and martinis, too.

*This was an assignment from Noa, who asked me to write about "Identity" for the League of Fuckin' Bitches, in which I am honored to belong as the resident Frank Bitch. Rock on, bitches!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

How I Became a Writer: My Story.

We all have a story. Mine started in a small community in Iowa on a farm, where your self-worth was directly connected to your productivity. As a kid, I loved to draw and read, but feeding hay, hauling firewood and scooping manure did not allow much time for my sedentary creative pursuits. I always felt a bit indulgent when I stole time to make some art or finish a chapter. But I did it anyway, because deep down, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, I knew I wasn’t meant for manual labor.

After 4 ½ years of floundering in college, I left with an art degree and a great uncertainty in my ability to make it as an artist. In fact, I didn’t even feel comfortable calling myself an artist.

When you graduate from college, people love asking the question, “What are you going to DO?”

I would answer with the obvious, having just spent 4 ½ years sketching naked people, “I plan on becoming an astronaut.”

Then I would laugh and say, “I’m not sure about my career, but I do want a family.”

This was an appalling revelation. People looked at me like I had a third eyeball growing out of my forehead. Apparently, in the mid-90’s it was cool to get your hair cut into “The Rachel”, but it wasn't in fashion to announce that motherhood was potentially your sole goal in life. Yet I knew that being a Mother was something important. No one could deny that fact, no matter how much Gloria Steinem they read. Besides, I didn't know what else I wanted to DO and motherhood seemed like a solid fallback.

I threw my college degree in a box and moved it something like 438 times during my 20’s. I worked crappy jobs while making crappy money and dating … well, some crappy men. And I got a cat! My singular life goal of motherhood was looking bleak. I was lost.

In my 30’s, I married a quality man. We decided to breed some babies. Never mind the fact that I had always considered babysitting a form of torture. I would love my own children! Right? I was going to become a mother and I would never again have to struggle with the question, “What do you DO?” Because I would be a mother, and that is damn hard work. And productive too! I would no longer have issues with my self-worth! BONUS!

There was one problem; about 6 months into fresh motherhood, my soul was still unsatisfied. In fact, I was starting to lose sight of the real me as I morphed into a human food dispenser, a laundry maid and a house cleaner. Being a parent was not the be-all and end-all that I anticipated. I needed more. By the time my second child arrived I was fully aware that putting all my eggs into the motherhood basket was a bad plan for me. Sure, my kids were great, and motherhood was hands down the most important thing I had ever done, but if someone were judging my worthiness solely on my parenting, they would see many epic fails.

Both of my kids have fallen on their heads. Both of my kids have attempted to chew gum they found stuck on a public table. Both of my kids have satisfied their thirst by drinking from the horse trough. Both of my kids have pooped in the tub, hence bathing in their own feces. Both of my kids lick grocery carts.

My track record was marred. I was feeling more lost and conflicted than ever. I had an epiphany about the reality of my lack of direction- Only being a mother was going to put unfair pressure on my children. I realized I was giving my kids tools to handle their lives, so that part of me could live vicariously through their accomplishments. I needed to lead by example. I needed to handle my own life. “Crap”, I cursed myself, “why couldn’t I have simply loved accounting?”

So I set back out on my path. What was I going to DO? I talked to my girlfriends. I confided in my husband. I mulled it over with wine. I would lay in bed at night and pray about it. My prayers often sounded something like this:

Lord! Please help me find my path in this life. I want to DO something- whatever it is I was put here to do! Show me what I am supposed to DO. Help me realize… did I turn off the oven? Did anyone put that chicken in the fridge? Oh crap. I think I left a load of laundry in the dryer. I hate ironing. I wonder if I could… we need vanilla extract. I always forget to write the baking stuff down. Do I have tinfoil? I enjoyed talking with Amy today. We came up with a lot of great ideas for books. I really do enjoy writing. Maybe I should journal more. Maybe I should do something with all those short stories sitting in my computer… where was I? Oh yeah. Oh Lord, I obviously need help finding my calling. And maybe some focus. Give a sign. Just a sign! I swear I’ll notice it. Amen.

I must have prayed like this 40 times, and each time in the middle of the prayer my muddled mom mind would wander to writing. Wait. Was that my sign? But I wasn’t a writer! Or was I? No… I couldn’t. It was too scary.

Then I thought about my sweet, loud, oh so loud boys. I reminded myself that I wasn’t going to put extra pressure on them because I was never brave enough to find my own path. I reminded myself that I was strong. I yelled at myself to embrace my creativity rather than mocking and avoiding it. I forced myself to step outside of my comfort zone and tackle my fears of rejection, judgment, criticism… and even success. In reality, I have always been my own worst critic.

So I did it for myself. And I did it my boys. I wrote fearlessly. I threw it out there for people to read. And some of it... sucked. Royally. Some of it was pretty great. But no matter the quality of what I produced, I kept writing. I did it almost daily. And I started drawing again; silly cartoons that accentuated my stories and made people laugh. And I liked the process. Creating was cathartic and invigorating. The best part was, I felt like I was helping people. I was giving my natural gifts of laughter, sarcasm and joy. (Sarcasm is totally a gift.)

After three years of writing, something powerful happened. Someone asked me that same, tired question, “What do you DO?”

I answered with confidence, “I DO the dishes. I DO the laundry. And when I’m not too tired, I DO my husband. I AM a mother of two amazing boys. I’m a writer, an artist, and a photographer… and probably more. I’m kind of a work in progress.”

Then I said, “Tell me about yourself. What’s your story?”