On a whim, early this spring, I decided to apply to a writing workshop through the Chippewa Valley Writer’s Guild. It looked incredible: huge log cabin, dedicated time to write, a writer-in-residence who would lead… More
Hello! I’m Christy.
In a nutshell, I am a:
- Soon-to-be published author (March 29, 2018!)
- Grief survivor
I think you’ll love it here if you have ever tripped up the stairs, if you love to read, if you love true crime, if you have any kind of emotional baggage, if lots of people stress you out (or don’t), or if you have at least one child who is obsessed with Halloween. 🙂
At any rate, I’m glad you’re here.
This past weekend, I had a book signing.
But it wasn’t just ANY book signing.
It was a book signing at my home-town library. The place where I fell in love with words. The library that by the time I was 9 I had literally read through the stacks and was moving on to completely inappropriate Stephen King titles (although they were SO far out that I’m sure I had no idea what I was reading about, so there’s that). This library was where I felt the safest. Where I went when I just needed to be alone, or just to talk to the library director. I loved my worn-out, wrinkled library card, with the number 32 on it.
Sharon, Wisconsin. It’s a very small town, a population of a little over 1,000. When you drive in there is a sign attached to the population sign, boasting “Home of Travis Fredericks” who is a professional football player. In the NFL. I think the Dallas Cowboys?
I grew up on a street that literally intersected with state line road, the road that divides Wisconsin and Illinois. When I was a little girl, I used to ride my bike down to that road and straddle the center line, exclaiming, “I’m in TWO states at once!”
This was the town where I had my first crush, my first boy-girl party, where I played “Jailbreak” all night until the mosquitoes got so bad I had to go in. It’s where I had my first kiss (in the park, of course) and I worked at almost every establishment (there were 3, not counting bars, I’m pretty sure). And it’s where I watched my parent’s marriage dissolve, my grandparents die, and my family ties be severed.
My sophomore year in college, my parents decided to get divorced on a Tuesday. I had been home the weekend before to have a root canal. I never got to go back in my childhood house after that. I had little or no closure and now can only drive by and complain about it.
But as many bad memories as I have, I love this little town. In high school, we were all made fun of, but we Sharonites didn’t care. We stuck together!
My book signing started at 11:00, and I was almost there at about 10:10 when my mom called me. “Hey, where are you? Half the town is here already!”
Of course. Because this little town SHOWS UP! There was a sheet cake with my book on it. The BEST egg salad you’ve ever tasted. I was treated like a Queen by the “Friends of the Library” and the library director. Honestly, at all my book signings, I got the most attention and help at this one.
And the people that showed up, there were early. Because in Sharon, early is on time. So much respect. So much love. So much of that is lost today. I can’t quite even put into words how important this was for me, and how much I loved it.
Oh! AND, you guys—my 1st grade teacher came. Mrs. Damak. She tried to get me to call her by her first name. Um, no. Not happening, Mrs. Damak.
If you’re ever in the area, you should visit Sharon, Wisconsin. Make sure it’s in the summer, so you can get a treat from the Ice Cream Shoppe. Seriously-you won’t regret it. You can see clearly how hard the town has worked to keep itself afloat, but the crush of the middle class and the lack of jobs is evident. Businesses on Main Street are different every time I’m there. I think the ownership of one of the bars must have changed 20 times since I was a kid.
Home. Even when it’s fractured, or almost lost, it makes my heart pang. Driving through the rolling farm land, seeing the little sign welcoming me to town, it never gets old.
Do you have a hometown? Do you have family there? Do you still visit?
As the school year winds down, educators naturally start reflecting on the year. We discuss what we wish we could have changed, our hopes for our students, and then, of course, how frustrating we find the educational system sometimes.
I think we all have ideas that schools “don’t work” anymore, and we know the answer. I’m kinda stuck on the answer part, but I sure can list off all the things I find wrong: The excess of standardized tests, for example, or not enough time to play and socialize in the very young grades.
If I had to pick one thing, though, that would change so much—it would be the lack of a characteristic that I see in students.
Tenacity, perseverance, courage, excellence instead of perfection-it’s missing.
About a year ago, I took my own children to swim in the pool at the YMCA. My oldest wanted to go down the water slide, but in order to do that, you had to past a swim test. She tried, and she failed. She then practiced for almost an HOUR, going as far as she could and then stopping to rest and then starting over, until she could pass the test. The look of triumph on her face gave me so much joy.
She has always been like this. When she was learning to walk, or read, or tie her shoes, or ride a bike. She will fall and get hurt, dust herself off, and then get right back on.
My son, however? Not so much. “I can’t do it!” “It’s too hard!” He’ll try once and then pass it over to someone else. “Will you open this?”
So, I’ve always wondered-is grit something we can teach? Is it innate? Is it something we can ruin by doing too much for the child? Did I just give in to my youngest and do it for him because I was overwhelmed or exhausted?
My students, 4th graders, overall, lack grit (in school). I say in school, because I don’t see them at baseball practice or practicing math at home. But I watch kids work on a math problem, or edit their writing, and it is rare that I see someone give it all they’ve got. I have to add that for kids who find school easy, I (typically) see it less. I don’t see kids coming back with work that they’ve done on their own. Am I not inspiring them enough?
(These are all, obviously, generalizations. I am not a researcher, of course, and I’m not talking about every student.)
I look at myself as a parent and I wonder-am I doing anything to encourage tenacity? Is there anything I can do? I’ve watched a few TED talks, and recently read the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth. Next school year, I plan to do some action research.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you notice it with adults, too? Are we too quick to give up? Is instant gratification ruining us?
Dude, I’m pondering way too much for a Sunday morning. Gonna go find something mindless to read! 🙂 LOL.
I was listening to a podcast yesterday (Up and Vanished-have you heard of it? If you liked Serial or S-Town, you’ll love this one). In it, the host was interviewing a woman whose son’s girlfriend had disappeared (presumably murdered). She went missing like 12 years ago, and the crime was never solved.
Her son was the ex-boyfriend of the missing girl, and a very likely suspect. His name was dragged through the mud. He had a hard time getting a job, finding a relationship, maintaining friendships.
However, he was never charged with anything, and he had an alibi. All of this took place in a tiny town in Georgia where everyone knew everyone. In a nutshell, so many lives were ruined by the murder of this schoolteacher, and then even more were ruined by gossip and speculation about the criminal.
In this particular episode, the host asked the woman to describe what message she’d like to spread to the people who had been following the case and possibly accusing her son.
Her reply: “I just wish that we could all learn never to speak ill of anyone, especially when we can just never know how our words might stick with someone.”
I have always known that I vent too much. That I too often say what’s on my mind, even if it’s unkind.
That my words flow easily and without enough regard for who I could be hurting. I usually rationalize this by saying I need a safe space to vent, or because I know I don’t have ill will toward the person, I’m just expressing my hurt or anger. Or because I often breath a sigh of relief when I realize someone else is thinking exactly what I’m thinking.
But, the truth is, my words can certainly pack a punch and I also know how awful it feels to find out things people are saying about you. I also know that sometimes I make snap judgments about adults and even the children at my school. I feel defensive about this, because sometimes there are just serious issues with parenting and neglect and it makes me want to lash out. But, if someone heard me…man. I would be so ashamed.
However, my lashing out and judging isn’t doing anything for anyone. And, let’s be real, I’m sure my parenting skills are also the topic of other’s conversations.
Along with words comes thoughts, however. The thoughts start first, right-so I’m scrolling Facebook and I think, “Ugh, she must never eat to be so skinny.”
“Must be nice to have all the money you want so you can give nice gifts to people.”
“Oh, well, ok, she can’t comment on any of my posts, but I see she’s on here commenting on everyone else’s!”
Seriously, Christy? Here I am whining lately about the “success” in my life has pushed people away from me, and I’m judging a Facebook picture because I think they have too much money. (Oh, and I use the term “success” lightly, but attention usually just makes people kinda bitter).
Anyway, I’d like to combat this, and if you feel so inclined, I’d love to have you join this challenge with me! I need a goal and an action plan in oder to get started. Otherwise, for me, it ends at good intentions.
For 2 weeks:
*Make EVERY effort possible not to speak unkindly about ANYONE (no matter how mad they make you!). Tell the people close to you (consider this my announcement) to try and help keep each other accountable.
*Clean up your Facebook feed. Are there friends you need to hide? Unfriend? Are there feeds that are depressing you that you need a break from? Make a contact list of “close friends” so that you can post just certain things to your closest friends and not everyone on your list.
*Limit your Facebook time to only one hour per day. Schedule it in (work around your own schedule) and do everything you can to ONLY go on during that hour!
What do you say? Are you in?
May 21-June 4th
I’ll check in with you on my Um, You Guys Facebook a few times between now and then. Comment here if you’re in!
Care to step into my brain for a minute?
I feel so hurt because (such and such) has never even said congratulations to me for publishing a book, and it sucks. But today there was another school shooting.
I cannot believe some of my closest friends STILL haven’t put a review of my book on Amazon or Barnes. They just don’t even care about me. But, really, Christy, you know that’s not true.
Sometimes I feel like everyone at my work hates my guts, and every day I go there wondering how I got mixed up in all the drama. But, I am healthy.
I had a book signing this week that literally, no one (except my BFF who came to keep me company, bless her heart!) came to. It made my heart feel sort of empty. But, my kids are healthy.
I have racked up a credit card bill thanks to a broken water heater, some airline tickets, and a bunch of impulse purchases leading up to my book launch. I feel guilty, I feel sad because my favorite thing to do is buy little surprises for my friends, but I can’t because I’m on a spending diet. But, I have a beautiful house and everything I need.
I hate the way I look. I feel disgusting pretty much all the time. I wish that I didn’t care so much about my weight and thinning hair and whatever else I’m focused on at the time, but I do. Although, I totally pretend I don’t. But, YOU GUYS. It doesn’t even matter. I have a wonderful husband and so many incredible friends.
I have a really difficult time balancing my thoughts and worries and feelings. I KNOW, rationally, that I worry about things I shouldn’t worry about.
I know I worry about things that I have absolutely no control over.
I know that I am so lucky in so many ways, yet I dwell on the negative things.
I know that I have been getting approximately 5 e-mails or FB messages a day thanking me for my book, for pouring out my emotions onto the pages. So WHY do I dwell on my Amazon rating taking a nosedive, or that I don’t think anyone is buying my books from the local Barnes and Noble?
A few weeks ago, I found out that I got accepted into a summer writer’s workshop that I totally NEVER expected to get into. I was seriously so shocked! I debated for 2 weeks about whether or not I should actually go (mostly because of the cost involved!). My brain flipped back and forth from, “This is an incredible opportunity, I’m going, credit card be damned!” and “Seriously. Who am I kidding? I’m not a writer, I’m a teacher who wrote a book.”
I know that at least some of this stem from my relationship with my father growing up and the fact that (whether or not he intended to, I’m not trying to condemn anyone here) I always felt like I was not worth it. I was told, “You’re a stupid crybaby” or “Why would you think you could do that?” And no matter how hard I try, no matter what I accomplish, that thought is in there.
I’m not afraid of difficult. I’m not afraid of failing. I get SO EXCITED about every little thing that is good in my life. Breathing in fresh air, a beautiful note from a student, an e-mail from my husband during the workday. I just also get pulled down so quickly.
I know there will come a day when I will not require so much in order to feel valued and loved. There are days when I feel SO needy–I fish for compliments and then when I get them, I think, “Well, he only said that because I asked.”
I’m constantly working on myself, that’s for sure. I don’t want to be famous. I just feel like I’m never going to be successful enough for people to be proud of me.
In the meantime, I have to write 10 pages for my workshop in July and I have NO IDEA what it will be about! AHHH! EEEEEEK! Gonna go get started.
Hang in there, Y’all. Thanks, as usual, for reading.
to Mrs. Zimmerman, the librarian at the public library who just kept feeding me books,
to Mrs. Higgins in 4th grade who let me cry in her room at lunch whenever my parents fought too much,
To Mrs. Homb in 8th grade who told me I would write a book someday,
to Mr. Johnson in middle school who found out I didn’t sign up for band in high school and called my mom, who persuaded me to join,
to Madama Reierson in high school who made learning unbelievably fun,
to Mrs. Addie, who let us come over to her house to eat pizza and talk about books,
to Mr. Krause, whose teaching and talent inspired me to do big things,
to Dr. Rottet in college who reminded me to stay the course,
to Peg, who inspired me, without whom I would definitely not still be teaching,
to Dr. Snyder, who taught me that no matter what, as long as you make the decision that you think is best and stick with it, you’ll be ok,
to Rachel, who taught me that even in the worst of times, you need to remember that whatever it is that you’re doing is for the kids, and that even when others don’t understand you, you must keep chugging on,
to my husband Brian, who is THE most hard-working, dedicated teacher I have ever met in my life,
and to so many more of you that I am lucky enough to work with every single day,
I appreciate you.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Day.
If I ever win the lottery, I’ll totally send you something.
It’s been brought to my attention that a review in my book, written by a kind English professor, has caused some pain.
Part of my process of writing this book was to be 100%, totally, completely honest-raw and untouched so that it was all out there for other women to know the thoughts that I had, whether they were right or not.
Initially, after my loss, I felt so much anger at the fact that people didn’t understand what I went through, that I was hurt when someone referred to my twins dying as a miscarriage. I was so desperate for people to know what I had actually lived through, to try to explain why I was grieving and why I couldn’t just move on. I write about this because I want people to know they are not alone in their thoughts.
I go on to write, “I have since heard this type of feeling dubbed the “Pain Olympics,” and when you’re in the thick of grief, you are a champion player. Of course, I know now that nothing is ever really as simple as “Mine is worse than yours.” It wasn’t long until I realized that other people thought it was more painful to lose a full-term baby than a preemie. They thought it was more painful to lose a five-year-old than an infant.
People started throwing out the phrase, “At least,” to me. “At least you didn’t lose the babies after you got to know them.” “At least it wasn’t like what happened to my cousin/uncle/friend’s sister—they lost a toddler/high schooler.” And by me saying that a miscarriage wasn’t “as bad” as what I experienced, I was doing the same thing to miscarriage sufferers as people were doing to me—I was minimizing them. I was putting their pain on a scale based on my opinions or observations, and it wasn’t fair.
I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to measure or marginalize grief. I have met and gotten to know hundreds of women over the last few years, many of whom have stories very similar to mine, and we all have a different grief journey. Sure, we find many things in common, such as things that bother us or things that people have said to us, but our feelings are all unique. We all move through the stages of grief at varying speeds, and the decisions we make on how to cope with our grief are all different. We have varying degrees of faith, support, resources; all of that plays a part. Even our ages or how many kids we already had or how many kids we wanted, they all change what we are thinking and feeling.
When the reviewer put in a sentence about how I felt that I wanted people to know my loss was different than others, if read away from the context of that chapter, it could imply that I don’t feel you have an identity as a mother if you have a miscarriage, or that somehow my loss was WORSE because Sophie grasped my hand.
Of course, those of you that know me in real life know that could never, would never, tell someone their miscarriage wasn’t as hard as my loss. I have spent the last 9 years fighting for all of us to be understood–all of us.
It is all loss, all of it awful, none of it is worse than any other. I know that I did NOT say this in the book, but I want to make it extremely clear that I do not feel that way. I don’t personally know the reviewer, but I know that she meant no ill will whatsoever.
I painstakingly read my own words hundreds of times but will admit that I did NOT painstakingly read the words of my reviewers to make sure there was nothing in there that could be offensive.
Any books printed from today on will have that sentence redacted, and if you have been hurt by that review, I am deeply sorry.
You got this, yo.
I know that some of you follow this blog because I post funny stuff about my energetic children and my hilarious students, and some of you are here because you have to be, but today, I am writing a post to share with you what your support of me means.
In the past 2 weeks since my book launched, I have been totally and completely surrounded by love, and support.
Sure, I did stand outside of a room and hear someone talk about me behind my back saying she “just doesn’t understand why I’m still a mess about this,” which is totally interesting because I most certainly am NOT a mess. But, you know, whatever.
This week, my friends at work threw Aiden and Sophie a birthday party. I have to tell you that I was so surprised and so touched, and mostly I just felt … happy.
For the past month, my bff has been sneaking into my classroom before I get to work and leaving paragraphs that my friends and family have written about me, just to cheer me up. Every day, you guys. Sometimes there’s adorable office supplies with it, too. There are messages that just make my heart soar.
There have been donations to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.
There have been messages and texts from friends. And from complete strangers. Total and complete strangers. Thanking me, sending me love, telling me about their babies.
A new friend, for HER birthday, bought two of my books and took them to local hospitals to the NICU and donated them, along with bookmarks that said Sophie and Aiden’s name.
A total and complete stranger is buying a few copies, and she has a plan to send them around the world. Around the WORLD. She wants to mail it to a friend, have her write her baby’s name in it and a message, and then send it on to another mom who has had a loss. I can’t believe it.
Everywhere I go, I meet someone who needs this book. At this conference, I connected with many women. I met the president of the women’s national book association who helps choose a national book list for book clubs, and she encouraged me to send my book for consideration.
The fact that you can walk into Barnes and Noble right now, and see my book staring at you from a table, my dreams have come true. Would I like for it to spread farther, wider? Of course.
But if it doesn’t, I know that my babies names will live on in a book. Forever.
This weekend, my babies would have turned 9. NINE. It’s kind of unbelievable.
Like usual, many people ignored the fact that it was their birthday, and I didn’t hear from them. But instead of letting that turn me into a puddle of tears this year, I fluffed up my feathers and told myself that it doesn’t matter, because I know that I am being the best mom I can be to my babies. And I reveled in the fact that I am here for others who need me, whenever I can be.
Thank you so much for supporting me. For leaving reviews. For liking and commenting and sharing. WE are making a difference, y’all. We are.