Halloween and the unimaginative mother

Happy Halloween!

Those were Fred’s first words to us this morning. He’d been waiting for this day for a full year, and this year he’s expanding his trick-or-treating territory to cover 3 additional subdivisions.

I remember so well the first time we took Fred trick-or-treating; he was 4 and newly American (we were in Japan up until that point). He chose a red Power Ranger costume, and we would stand behind him, instructing him to walk up to a neighbor’s door, ring the bell, yell “Trick or treat!”, stick his bag out for (free) candy, say “Thank you,” and move on to the next door and repeat, no strings attached. You should have seen the look on his face. What a concept! What a country!

Whoa - what a concept!

Whoa – what a concept!

Halloween takes on so much more meaning once you become a parent. Before Fred came along, Halloween ranked just a few notches above Columbus Day for me. I’d never really gone trick-or-treating as a child, since the year my immigrant mother first learned about the concept was also the year that someone in our city was putting razor blades and poison inside the children’s treats.

This non-Halloween upbringing led to a certain inertia every year came Halloween. I don’t even remember ever having dressed up for college Halloween parties.

And then I had a child. Each year October became a month of anticipation beginning with costume planning and trips to the pumpkin patch and culminating in a magnificent and surreal evening that this underprivileged girl can only say comes straight out of the movies. On October 31st each year our neighborhood streets are filled with dressed-up children who seem to have come out of the woodworks. After-school activities are canceled and homework is excused. Halloween is huge, and it is happy.

When Fred was a toddler I hand made his costumes and threw annual Halloween parties. We were in Japan and I wanted to share this unique piece of Americana with my Japanese friends. Elaborate costumes, decorations, food, arts and crafts, games and 6 screaming toddlers. I actually used to do this.

Then we got to the States, and I began pulling out the credit card. I’d groan having to shell out $30-40 for a one-time costume so you can imagine my joy when Fred announced one year that he wanted to be Darth Vader a second Halloween in a row. We’d get pumpkins but I would leave the carving for Max to do with Fred. I’d look at our neighbors who plant skeletons in the soil or blow up 12-foot spiders to guard their front doors, and I’d do my part by moving our carved pumpkins into better view on our front step.

This year, I felt a slight deflation when Fred announced that he will not be going as himself after all, and then thankfully Max stepped in to help make his costume. I initiated our trip to the pumpkin patch a couple of weeks ago (very fun) and this evening I will accompany Fred on his expanded trick-or-treating route, keeping my eye out for a 20-something-year-old man in a red sedan that was seen yesterday in our town in an attempted child abduction. We didn’t have (or make) time to carve our pumpkins this year and our house/front door looks as festive as it does on Columbus Day. Seeing other people’s children already dressed up on Facebook this morning filled me with some guilt, another reminder of what I am not doing enough of as a mother (though we’ve covered that in an earlier post here where I am supposed to understand that, err, I have other gifts as a mother). But it’s also been almost 10 years. It’s hard for this non-Halloween and unimaginative gal to sustain the rah-rah for a full decade. I still have a dream to someday turn our house into a haunted house and to bake orange cupcakes for all the neighborhood kids. (I used to dream of dressing up as a belly dancer but I have long let that dream go.) This year, I’ll focus on keeping the kids out of the reaches of that red sedan, and rely on the insane concept of adult-supported-candy-begging to keep my 9-year-old more than content.

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Sibling rivalry and family secrets: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden_www.onlyoublog.comI finally got around to reading the final couple of hundred pages of East of Eden, which I’d started some time ago but had put down when my work got busy.  Since graduating from college I hadn’t previously gravitated toward the classics, but I was intrigued by the premises of this story: an American family saga at the turn of the century, a vicious rivalry between two brothers, and family secrets. I was not disappointed and I would consider this one of my favorite books of all time.

The story takes place mainly in the Salinas Valley, California and begins with two families: the Trasks and the Hamiltons. The Hamiltons are immigrants from Ireland and Adam Trask is a wealthy man who moves in to the Valley as a new land owner. Samuel Hamilton befriends Adam and from there the story of Adam unfolds.

We learn about Adam’s troubled youth in Connecticut, growing up with a half-brother Charles who nearly beat him to death out of jealousy over his father’s favoritism. Adam joins the military and by the time he returns home his father has died, and he learns from Charles that they were both left a sizable inheritance.

One night a woman named Cathy Ames who is badly beaten by a pimp is found near the entrance of the Trasks’ home. Adam and Charles take her in, and while taking care of her Adam falls in love. Only Charles is able to see through Cathy, while Adam is oblivious to her psychopathic nature. He marries her and takes her to Salinas Valley to start a new life and family together.

However, the life that Adam is dreaming for takes a shocking turn. I’ll stop here so as not to give any more details away, but the story continues to the next generation, where we see the sibling rivalry play out between Adam and Cathy’s two sons, Aron and Cal, culminating in an emotional ending.

It’s a modern-day retelling of the story of Cain and Abel, and of the complexities of sibling rivalry and a boy’s desperate need for connection with and approval from his father. It’s also a story about nature versus nurture, free will, and what we do with both the evil and the good that we are born with. Lee, the Chinese servant-turned-surrogate father and family friend in the Trask household, offers the seemingly omniscient voice in the book, and in one careful discussion of the story of Cain and Abel offers a different translation for the Hebrew word timshel as used in the Book of Genesis:

…The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word timshel—’Thou mayest’—that gives a choice . . . That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ . . . Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win. (page 303)

And regarding the story of Cain and Abel overall, Lee says,

I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody’s story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul  . . . The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears . . . and with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt – and there is the story of mankind. (page 270)

(For anyone who might be interested, I found out last night that another film adaptation of East of Eden is in the works, with Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games, Silver Lining Playbook) to play the part of Cathy Ames. The first movie version came out in 1955 starring James Dean.)

Have you read East of Eden? What has been your own experience with sibling rivalry, as a sibling and/or as a parent?

Breaking the cycle of how we were parented

Jp_shpSigh…parenting is hard. I know I’ve been saying this every year for the last nine years. But really, it is very hard for me right now. I’m struggling because I’m finding it hard to separate my own issues from my parenting.

Those of us who didn’t grow up with “ideal” parenting always vow to not turn into our own parents. We will know better, we say; we will be different. I used to criticize my husband for repeating his parents’ negative patterns, until lately when I’ve realized for myself just how hard it is to break out of those cycles.

I tend to be critical and perfectionistic. My mother tends to be critical and perfectionistic. I never met my grandmother, a single mother, who passed away before I was born, but I’ll venture to guess that she was pretty critical and perfectionistic too.

Over many years I’ve trained my eye to notice only the gaps – the 5% on a 95 on a test, the slightly bungled response in an otherwise fantastic job interview. Don’t even get me started on photos of myself.

God knows what the cumulative damage has been, from living with this kind of lens. And now I find myself looking at my own child in the same way.

Fred got a 94 on his math test last week, came in second in his martial arts competition two weeks ago, and remembered to bring home everything from school yesterday except for his water bottle. I know enough to not voice my knee-jerk reactions every time, but it’s bad enough that I even have knee-jerk reactions to begin with.

One area in particular that’s a hot spot for me is time management. The problem is that the one area Fred needs to improve on is the one area I’m very good at. I’m a planner and I haven’t worn a watch in over two decades because my internal clock is so freakily accurate. Time management is important to me and something that’s come naturally so I don’t know how to help those who aren’t able to do it.

But I’ve been trying – big white board with check-off list, a ticket incentive system. After a number of struggles, yesterday morning I heard Fred’s alarm go off a half hour earlier than his normal wake-up time, and then the opening and closing of his dresser drawers followed a couple of minutes later by the clapping of the kitchen cupboards. He had gotten dressed and gone downstairs to get breakfast. I told him I was proud of him and that he was up early enough to catch the bus (always a treat for him). Then, five minutes before he was supposed to leave, he needed to use the bathroom, and ended up missing the bus…which was just as well, because he then realized he’d almost forgotten his recorder for music class.

I didn’t shout or get angry (this time), but I was visibly irritated. He was up a half hour early for crying out loud, and still managed to make no progress in terms of getting to school any earlier.

The truth is that Fred did great that morning. He had the foresight to set his alarm clock, at an early enough time to give himself a comfortable cushion (he had not originally planned to take the bus). He got dressed and prepared himself breakfast before either Max or I were even up. This is HUGE for him. I just wish I had really seen that, and not only in hindsight.

The most painful realization in all of this is that I have blurred the lines between love and approval, and it clued me in on why I, too, have spent my life terrified of losing people’s affections whenever I make a slip. Sometimes when I’m disappointed by Fred’s behavior I’ll feel myself freezing up, even though my love for him of course hasn’t changed. Fred on the other hand will, without fail, kiss me and tell me “I love you too, too much” before closing his eyes to go to sleep each night, no matter what my mood is. On one particularly bad morning before leaving for school he wrapped his arms around me, hugging me long and hard before getting into the car.

I know that his challenges with time management are the flip side of his creative mind, a mind that is often lost in intense thought. Among his many gifts is a huge capacity to love, overlooking others’ flaws and mistakes and slips, and making sure that the last message before “good night” and “good bye” is always “I love you.” I have so much to learn from him, and every incentive to break the cycle.

Do you struggle with this too – that is, repeating patterns from your own childhood?

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

the book thief_onlyoublogI’m coming to The Book Thief a tad late as this was a sensation when it came out in 2006. After hearing more than one person say that The Book Thief was one of the most amazing – if not the most amazing – books they had ever read, I felt I had to put it on my to-read list. Then this summer I read somewhere that the film version was coming out in the fall, so I immediately ratcheted it up my list.

For those of you who haven’t read it, The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany, and it’s the story of a girl named Liesel Meminger who is sent to live with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. She is 9 years old at the start of the book and the story spans the next 5 years of her life.

Liesel’s own father disappeared under mysterious circumstances (it is later speculated that he was taken away due to his Communist activities), her younger brother dies suddenly on their way to Hans and Rosa Hubermann, and Liesel never hears from her mother again. Her days getting adjusted to her new parents are difficult and her nights are consistently filled with nightmares. Rosa Hubermann is like the coarsest sandpaper possible but Liesel finds a loving and kind new father figure in Hans.

The book thief is Liesel, who is illiterate in the beginning of the story and is bullied because of it. But she becomes pulled in by the possibility of words when she picks up a book dropped by the man who was digging the grave of her brother. She takes it home as the one thing she can remember her brother by and Hans, though limited in his own education, begins reading it to her and tries to teach her to read.

Over the next five years Liesel continues to grow in her love for words and books as well as finds her voice. It is, after all, through her ability to write – she ends up writing her autobiography in a blank journal – that we come to know her story.

The main action in the book revolves around the Hubermanns’ decision to hide a Jewish man in their basement. The story comes to an emotionally powerful  conclusion.

The book is unique in terms of structure and writing. First of all, it’s narrated by Death, a surprisingly human and, on many occasions, humorous voice that helps create the intimate feeling of the book.

It’s probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler’s reign, no person was able to serve the Fuhrer as loyally as me. A human doesn’t have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die. (page 491)

Once in awhile, Death would speak like this:

The reply floated from his mouth, then molded itself like a stain to the ceiling. (page 200)

And he would insert bold alerts in the middle of a page like this:

* * * THE SITUATION OF HANS AND * * *

ROSA HUBERMANN

Very sticky indeed.

In fact, frightfully sticky.

(page 199)

And Death also does a lot of foreshadowing – that is, he (why do I assume it is a he?) will tell you the fate of a particular character or situation and then either in the next chapter or later on in the book, when the timing is right, tell the actual story.

I didn’t mind most of the literary devices used, though I found the bold alerts a bit distracting. My other mild complaint is that I felt the book started to drag a bit 2/3 of the way through…at that point I really began wondering if I was missing something, why The New York Times laud this a “LIFE CHANGING” book on the front cover. This is a 550-page book and while it is very readable, I was feeling at that point that it was a hundred pages too long. Then I got to the final part and things really picked up. Amazing, those final 55 pages made up for whatever disappointment I was feeling earlier.

While I wouldn’t say that this book changed my life (maybe because I picked it up after so many years of hype? and maybe because I’m comparing it to other works on the Holocaust like Anne Frank’s story), it was a satisfying read and a wonderfully told story I won’t soon forget.

Remembering our babies, mothers, and fathers

I have a stark memory from my pregnancy, during one long morning when Max and I were sitting in the hallway outside my obstetrician’s office, waiting for my regular prenatal check-up. A woman walked out of her ob’s office, her hands over the little person curled up inside of her, her entire being enveloped by the arms of another woman. They walked briskly down the corridor and toward the lobby and exit, their bodies seemingly attached, both sobbing the kind of pain that we only hear in our worst nightmares. This was Japan, a country in which such public expressions of emotion are unheard of. My heart pounded and constricted at the same time. I wanted to wish her news away.

In the coming three years I would hear two other stories that would make my breath and heart seem to stop. Fred was a healthy, active, smiling two-year-old, safely playing in our living room when my midwife, who had by then become my friend, came over for lunch and a visit. She told us stories of her experiences in the maternity ward, and especially of one woman who couldn’t decide whether or not to listen to her instinct to get checked, and then lost her baby on his birth day, born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Her story haunted me for a long time. After a long and difficult labor Fred was born with the cord around his neck. I had barely a glimpse of him before the medical team rushed him to the NICU. But he was with me, two years later, giggling and playing hide-and-seek with my midwife. My what-if’s channeled into gratitude for the simple, small, daily miracles of a child growing and smiling. Every day I know absolutely how lucky I am.

NICU

One year before Fred was born, my friend Claudia, whom I have known since our shared study break days in college,  lost her infant son, Caleb. Fred and Caleb share the same birthday week and each year that Fred blows out his candles I also remember the sweet face of Caleb and his and his mother’s story.

By chance I read this morning that October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Last Friday on Facebook Claudia had posted a stunning tribute to the ten years since Caleb passed away. I wanted to share her words with you and I am grateful to Claudia for allowing me to do so. I don’t have adequate words to introduce Claudia but I think that her voice below will more than show the kind of mother and person she is.

~~~

A decade is a long time for a mother to be without one of her ducklings. Caleb Joseph Stahl died on the 11th of October 2003. My third son’s earnest, brave, innocent seven months of life changed me irrevocably. On the eve of the tenth anniversary of when I last held my little sweetheart, here are ten wonderful gifts Caleb gave me:

1. Fearlessness. I have survived the worst; very little rattles, bothers, or frightens me anymore.

2. Compassion. We never know what struggles a person might be going through at any given time. I like to think people are doing their best to get through the day – sad, averted eyes or brusque greetings? They might be covering a world of sorrow.

3. Joy. When triumph is measured in occasional smiles, half-drunk bottles of milk, and decent O2 sats, a person learns to celebrate the little things every day.

4. Patience. Sitting at Caleb’s hospital bed for hours, waiting for a peek at his gorgeous hazel eyes, was worth every single moment.

5. Friends. Old friends returned to me and new ones came along the way. The outpouring of love for our family during Caleb’s life and since has been astonishing.

6. Sam. Sam was only five when Caleb died. Countless afternoons, Sam was in charge of his two-year-old brother in the hospital play area. He never complained. He never whined. To this day he is one of the most stoic, grounded, genuinely kind people I know.

7. Henry. Henry doesn’t remember Caleb, which is incredibly painful and poignant. Yet he seems to have the strongest connection to him – he used to ask to go to Caleb’s gravestone just to play near him. Henry’s tenderheartedness, tucked beneath his exuberant exterior, takes my breath away.

8. Abigail. The first thing I did when an ultrasound confirmed I was expecting my fourth baby was drive to Caleb’s place to tell him he was going to be a big brother. I told Caleb the baby would know all about him and that he would always be kid #3 while the baby would be #4. All her life Abby has declared that she has THREE big brothers. Abby is loyal, steadfast, and loving.

9. Goodness. The past decade has not been without its curveballs, disappointments, and grief. However, Caleb’s life lessons – packed into just seven months’ time – taught me to relish the good and relinquish the bad so I am always surrounded by good.

10. Gratitude. I cherish everyone and everything mentioned here and so many others who are not on this small list. I only had 219 days of “I love yous” to share with Caleb. When he died, I vowed to appreciate and acknowledge life’s gifts – this is a work in progress for me, but I have Caleb to thank for giving me the marching orders for my remaining years.

~~~

Thank you, Claudia. xoxo

Snow Hunters, by Paul Yoon

Snow Hunters is a novel by the young award-winning writer Paul Yoon. It’s the story of Yohan, a North Korean soldier and prisoner, who is freed after the Korean War and then emigrates to Brazil, choosing a country he has never heard of over repatriation. He goes to Brazil hoping that it will be a place “where there would be no more nights.”

Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster

In Brazil Yohan becomes an apprentice to a tailor. The tailor, an older Japanese man who lives alone above his shop, trains him, feeds him, and shelters him. They work together in silence during the day and occasionally talk over beers at night. Over the years they develop a quiet, father-son bond, and yet Yohan never really gets to know him.

During this time Yohan also meets and becomes close to two children, a boy and a teen-age girl. Where they came from and where they live he doesn’t know. It appears that they are orphans. They come in and out of his life.

The book alternates between Brazil and Yohan’s past – his time in the prison camp, a rekindled friendship with an old childhood friend whom he meets again in prison, his father whom he lost when he was sixteen.

It’s a story about understanding and grasping loss – the loss of time, people, and place. There is an elusiveness throughout the book, that a person feels so close and yet simultaneously out of reach.

A haunting image recurs in the novel, that of a loved one fading from view. The person is slipping, slipping, gone…and gone also is the chance to go back in time. There is one more person at the end whom Yohan stands to lose, and we find out on the very last page if he does.

Below is one of my favorite passages from the book about the passing of time:

He thought of these years as another life within the one he had. As though it were a thing he was able to carry. A small box. A handkerchief. A stone. He did not understand how a life could vanish. How that was even possible. How it could close in an instant before you could reach inside one last time, touch someone’s hand one last time. How there would come a day when no one would wonder about the life he had before this one. (pp. 127-128)

I have minimal experience with novellas and poetry and Snow Hunters is both. It is written in prose but it feels like poetry. I picked this up after coming off of a reading marathon, and initially felt relief thinking that I could breeze through it because it is so small. Literally, the book is only a little longer than the length of my hand. But as I soon realized, it is not that kind of a book. It demands you to soak in every word and to translate it onto your own canvas. It was not a difficult or laborious read, but still I worked harder at reading this than I have at any book I’ve read this year.

The book is melancholy, tender, uplifting. It is also gorgeous and deafeningly quiet. I understand from the editor’s note that Yoon had originally written a manuscript of over 500 pages and pared it down to 194. You get the sense that each word is pregnant with meaning. This was a beautiful read, and a powerful study in writing.

Thoughts on blogging by an ordinary blogger

My blog is four years old today (!). That’s four years longer than any plant I’ve ever owned, a little less than half my son’s lifetime, and a third of the life of my marriage.

I’m not putting myself down when I call myself “ordinary.” By ordinary I am referring to clout and status in the blogosphere. It’s not unlike money and status in the off-line world. By both accounts I am ordinary. But do I think I am a good person who lives authentically? Yes, in both worlds, I do. I don’t have tips here on how to get big and successful, but if you want validation, you might find some here today.

I started blogging because I was interested in writing again. I could’ve simply written in a private journal, but maybe what I wanted was to speak up and be heard, by somebody. When I began looking back after a couple of years, it became clearer and clearer to me that I wanted to write because I had spent most of my life silenced. For many different reasons, not the least of which was growing up in a culture of shame, I had been trained to shut my voice down and to take up less space. We all have a voice, and it is a matter of whether or not we want to activate it. After all those years I wanted to activate mine.

And so I started, with many false starts. I had different blogs with different themes and names and nothing stuck until Only You. I named Only You for my son, then five years old. I liked having him be a part of this new life, and partly for that reason I have never considered abandoning this blog, even during stretches when I had lost motivation and confidence to continue.

But Only You was also me, because after having been consumed by motherhood those previous five years, I felt my identity fading out once Fred entered his own world of school and friends. And yet there was no previous self that still existed that I could go back to. Blogging helped me to re-draw the outline of who I was and to fill it in again.

So below are some thoughts, looking back on my four years of blogging:

On motivation

I was never a prolific blogger, and I have gone through peaks and valleys in terms of posting. For me the biggest motivation drainers are lack of physical energy, low writer self-esteem, and perfectionistic tendencies.

I’m going to sound a bit self-pitying here but in the name of honesty I’m just going to come right out and say it: I used to be inconsistent in part because I wasn’t sure if anybody cared. Writing to an audience of busy mothers I’d felt apologetic for my long and heavy posts. And when I found it hard to write – and I have gone as long as two or even three months without writing – I also didn’t explain my absences because I’d assumed that no one would notice if I disappeared for a while.

Of course, what I’ve learned is that 1) as a blogger you need to take a leap of faith and start from there; and 2) creating a community will help lessen that fear of “Who’s going to care?”. It’s a catch-22 because the less you write, the less likely it is you will gain a community and the less accountable you will feel about showing up. For a long time I was caught in exactly that negative cycle.

I also decided to follow my heart in adapting my blog. I was losing a bit of steam writing about motherhood, most likely because my world had shifted. Since the summer, books were becoming a greater part of my life, and I really wanted to start writing about reading. So I took a chance and added books as another blogging theme. I was a bit nervous about changing my blog but being able to write about my passion has refueled my motivation to write.

Finally, I’ve learned to not care as much. I used to approach writing each post almost as if I were drafting an essay for publication. That kind of pressure is what it takes to kill any chance of getting a blog off the ground. I’m still struggling to find my voice after all these years, to write more the way I talk, but I realize that won’t come unless I keep writing and keep practicing.

On community

I’m not going to say the predictable just yet. Instead, I want to say that it took me a while to get the hang of community, the on-line kind. I started out as a “mom blogger,” and soon learned that there is a whole subculture in the world of mom bloggers. There are the big players and you can choose to be a part of that whole scene or not. I’ve strung along to see what the fuss was all about, but I often ended up feeling more alienated and alone than anything else, like being back in my freshman year in college when I was struggling to find my niche. Any social situation that reminds me of those adolescent times is a sign that I need to move away. And so I did.

I also took things a little too personally in the beginning sometimes, feeling hurt if, for example, someone I followed didn’t follow me back. I’ve long let go of that need for tit-for-tat commenting and visiting, because the truth is I often can’t follow back the same people who follow me. Trying to keep up on-line is overwhelming and I understand that everyone else is going through what I go through. It’s not personal. There’s huge freedom in being able to visit a blog simply because you enjoy it, and not worrying about obligation of any kind.

And now I’ll say the predictable: I love my community. It is hard to talk about this without sounding trite or resorting to cliches. I blogged last Friday about the things that bring me down. Well, the people I’ve met through blogging are what bring me up. It is not better or worse than having friends off-line, but there is a certain amount of ease in building relationships on-line. Our first impressions are made not through appearance but through the most intimate parts of a blogger: her words. We can know quickly if we click or not, and with each post we feel we’ve gotten to know the other person a little better. Words are my favorite medium for bonding, and so I love being able to build authentic connection through that.

On validation and vulnerability

Like most bloggers I’ve done my fair share of obsessing over statistics, followers, comments, and shares. Are people reading my posts? What do they think about what I’ve said? Why did I just lose a follower? I never had any goal to amass a huge following, but still, I probably spend more time than I need to checking on my stats.

A few times I got syndicated on larger sites, and it was like small midwestern town girl meets the Big City. My stats skyrocketed during those brief periods of exposure, and it was there, in the scary streets of Blogher and Mamapedia, that I also encountered my first trolls. It was kind of a surreal experience, being told I was an incompetent mother who needed therapy or at least a few good self-help books, all because I’d written about the regrets I’d felt and the lessons I’ve learned from fighting with my husband in front of my child. Since then I’ve had little motivation to put my words out there again, in such public venues. It’s not so much that I’ve allowed myself to be intimidated into silence as it is my lack of desire to share myself with so many people whom I don’t know. It’s like I’ve decided I like my small town better than living in Los Angeles. My goal isn’t to make the big time.

Putting yourself out there and being vulnerable to judgment as both a person and a writer is one of the hardest things you can do. It’s impossible not to be self-critical and to fill yourself with doubt, honestly paralyzing doubt that makes you question if there aren’t easier and safer things to do with your free, unpaid time. So if nothing else – even if I don’t have a ton of followers or page views to show for my four years of blogging – I can say that I’ve shown up, year after year.

Do you blog? If so, what’s helped you stay in the game? As a reader, what keeps you coming back to a blog?