Sanity in a Bottle

The following is a guest post by our own Camille North, API Links Editor. API Links is a monthly e-newsletter to help keep parents, professionals, and others abreast of the latest news and research in Attachment Parenting and updates of API programs.

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Sanity in a Bottle

by Camille North

Coffee for two
Photo: flickr/raider of gin

Have you ever had one of those days when the world seems to be falling down around your ears? When the five-year-old is cutting the three-year-old’s hair down to the scalp in huge chunks, the one-year-old has gone through ten diapers in an hour, the cat has vomited all over the clean laundry, adn the dog has dragged tonight’s thawing chicken out to the backyard? I have.

I remember one day walking up to my husband and shaking him by the shoulders, crying in desperation, “Now I know what insanity truly feels like.” On days like those my husband would walk through the door in the evening, and I would thrust into his arms however many children I was holding, saying, “Here.” Then I would disappear for an hour.

API was in its infancy then, only a  year old when my oldest was born, so it took me some time to find them. By the time I did, my children weren’t babies anymore. But I still found the online discussion group as valuable then as I would have when my kids were little.

Even though my children were older, I found that not only was I able to get help, I was also able to offer help, and that was as rewarding as getting help was relieving.

The wisdom, compassion, and acceptance of those moms was like sanity in a bottle.

Some of the moms I met during that chaotic time I still consider to be among my best friends. At the time I knew them only virtually through our local AP online support group, and even now some of them I’ve met in real life only about a dozen times. But they were there when I needed them, and our children have matured together. (And they’re all really cool kids!)

If you’re like me, what you might need is just knowing that there are people out there who understand what you’re going through. Getting together with those moms at an API meeting is something you can look forward to once a month that will be more restful than stressful, more cup-filling than draining.

There you’ll find parents who have  the same parenting philosophy, who are going through the same trials as you are, and whose kids are the same ages as yours.

And who knows? Some of them may feel even more scattered than you do. You might even be the person who offers that one frazzled new mom the tiny bit of advice that changes her outlook and will give her respite on those most trying days.

If nothing else, you’ll meet other families, with kids the same ages as yours, and you’ll be able to have intelligent conversations with adults that (gasp!) might not even involve poopy diapers, sore breasts, or colic.

If you feel like you need a little sanity in a bottle, check out API’s support groups. There you’ll find meetings where you can connect with other moms who may need it as much as you do.

Fittingly, the topic for October’s AP Month, “Relax, Relate, Rejuvenate,” is support.

Courtney talks about support so eloquently in her blog post, “Enough with the Mom Enough Stuff. Can We Just Talk?,” in API Speaks. Read it here.

This month we welcome a new Leader: Cristie Henry of San Francisco API. Welcome!


Steal Like a Thief: Making Time for Your Muse

Photo by Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

A good thief leaves no trace and leaves with a bounty.

I say, steal time away like a thief.

I just read a great article by my writing and personal inspiration, Anne Lamott. She wrote this article in Sunset magazine.  I was lucky enough to meet her recently.  She came to Raleigh, which is 45 minutes away.  I got the call from my writer friend, Debi Elramey (you can read her wonderful blog here, “Pure and Simple”) at 4:30 in the afternoon. She told me Anne was coming.  I asked her if she was going and she could not get away.  But she said, with her curious giggle and enchanting smile I could hear through the phone, “You should go and represent our town.”

Our tiny town in Eastern North Carolina.

I said, “I’ll represent proudly.”

Debi is a recluse and takes pride in this.  As she should.  She teaches piano during the day; she writes through the wee hours of the night.  Sometimes, there simply is no time to chatter.

Photo by Megan Oteri ~ Copyright 2011

I write this post as I look at the clock.  Aware that my son will wake soon.  Oh, that is him right now.  I ignore the sounds of morning milk wants and continue writing, thinking to myself, perhaps I could give him a gulp of breast milk and be on my way back to the keyboard, back to the muse. Back to my post, that I ride like a proud cowgirl, on top of my gallant horse.  But mom duty calls and I will honor it.  But I plan to improve my thief skills.  I will steal away more moments.  I will make a plan.  I will practice.  Because as Anne says in her article, life is too precious to multitask.  I want to wander, daydream, create, be filled with muse.  And I will have to steal away moments to do this.  Not always, as many moments are there for the taking if we are truly present.

But it helps to know how to pocket an hour in your sleeve without a soul knowing.  These early morning hours are delicious to me.  They taste like caviar.  Like picnics.

I was lucky enough to meet Anne at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.  It was a delightful evening.  I got the call from Debi at 4:30 PM.  By 4:45 I was off the phone and had called my husband at work and made plans for him to watch our son.  I was in the car by 5:30 and off to Raleigh singing songs of wonder and excitement.  Alone, but in company of thousands, on the highway, in the city, at the bookstore, I was present.  I was able to get the last copy of her new book, which she was promoting, Imperfect Birds.  Now, that was a sign.

I had my camera in hand.  I saw her.  There she was, greeting her fans like Jesus.  Holding hands, hugging.  The crowd was kind, and aware of something.  They had made the time to come see her.  Many stealing away from their husbands, children, jobs, energy, housework.  But they were there.  I was lucky enough to get a photo with her.

I snuck into a cove of crowded people.  I am a fire sign, so when I have my eye on something, you better watch out.  I’m an Aries to boot. And I lack a filter of sorts, thanks to my New Yorker mom and South Side of Chicago dad.  And time living in Wyoming. And the years in-between.

I inched my way closer, squeezing through  a narrow path.  You know, suck in your gut, squeeze in your buttocks, and scoot your way through a wormhole tiny.  Yep, that is what I did.

“Excuse me.”

“I’m so sorry,” dressed in a hopeful smile.  Inside thinking, “Yikes, I’m lucky someone doesn’t purposefully trip me, I am so annoying.”

The target was seen.  I was so close.  I stopped to gather more strength.  I was this close, I was going in.

Anne was greeting her fans still. Smiles were contagious.  Everyone was high off Anne. High off her energy.  High off the fact she is an icon for recovering addicts and alcoholics, one herself.

Her dreads dangled in her purply pink hair bandana, tied in a triangle around her fluffy head, soft with the brittle looking combs of dreads.  She is simply beautiful.

Her wrinkles were within eye looking distance.  I took a deep breath and spoke shortly with a pretentious looking woman.  Well, it was more of how she reacted to me that thinks that.

I forgot what I asked her.  But she responded with, “I’ve been following Anne for a long time.”  In a deep husky patronizing snobbery way. thick with black wire rim glasses and some sort of grey black yogenia outfit.  She had grey hair too.

It’s not what she said, but how she said it.  But I don’t blame her for being rude to me.  I was a bull in a China shop and she was a porcelain jar I had just tipped over.

Oops.  Sorry.

Moving on, I jimmied my way through another batch of women.  This time a circle of more stout and plump women.  I had my work cut out for me.  I was between the rotating cards on their display racks and a table of discounted books.  I picked one up to be inconspicuous.  My camera was around my neck.  A woman smiled at me from across the room.  She was me, only five steps closer, already one step away from Anne’s embrace.  I put the discounted book on travels in Ireland down.  The stout, plump women smiled at me.  They moved their dangling legs off the discount book table top to make room for my eager ram horns wiggling by the discount book table and the greeting cards.

Photo by Megan Oteri All Right Reserved

“Thank you so much.  I appreciate you letting me by, since it is pretty tight quarters?”  They laughed, poised in their make shift seats on the discount book table.

I stood about four people deep from Anne.  I said to the woman in front of me, “I’m stalking Anne,” as I clutched my copies of Bird by BirdOperating Instructions (which was a saving grace to me as a new mom) and Imperfect Birds. Anne was scribbling away her name in black thick Sharpie ink, talking and chatting as she wrote.  Her smile thick was like a blanket for many.

So, there I was.  So close.  The woman I said that to said, “We’re all stalking Anne.”  I looked around the room and sure enough, we were.

A cute little spit fire of a five foot nothing gal, looked into my eager eyes, and saw my camera dangling.  She said, do you want me to take your picture with Anne?”

“Ah, yeah.  Word.  Thank you so much. Do you have a camera?  I will take yours with her.”

“Nope, I’m all set.  But thanks.”

See, there you have it – the Anne fans.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words and it is time for this thief to make her getaway, since I have a nice size essay in my pocket.

I will leave you with this photo.

Photo by awesome Anne fan who took photo

But before we take care of that.  Do me a favor.  Read the article in Sunset that Anne wrote about making time for your muse.  Whatever it is you do, do it.  Don’t let yourself talk yourself out of it.  Steal away the time like a thief in the night.  There is no time stealing police.  Only responsibilities and multitasking that need to get the hand.  Talk to the hand.  Go ahead and put that hand up like you are some bitchy high school girl.  (hand motion – wrist circle and up it goes — “Talk to the hand.”)

Find the time.  Because what fills you up fullest is often empty from external and material view.



Stay at Home Mondays

We recently added a new event to our schedule: Stay at Home Mondays. The start of the week was being hard for us. Most often, we’d end up staying home anyway, but only after I felt like I’d failed to get us to the standing park playgroup Monday mornings with all our AP buddies, only after I’d imagined the grocery store trip we needed to make, and reviewed and been unable to accomplish anything on the errand and to-do list that had lengthened over the weekend.

I was feeling like maybe everyone else had figured out something I hadn’t; they had their weeks and time scheduled so they could get out of their homes more easily, keep a clean house and stocked fridge, manage their time and their things better than I could. That me vs. them thinking that inevitably leaves me coming up short while the rest of the world got some rule book I can’t seem to find. I posted on my blog asking for time management tips. I imagined setting up a routine for myself so that I would have a set menu-planning day, grocery day, cleaning day, etc. Then I started feeling hemmed in. I hate following schedules. I hadn’t even assigned days yet and already I wanted to tear up the calendar.

Continue reading Stay at Home Mondays

7 Ways to Fill Our Mama Cups

My last API Speaks blog post, Running on Empty, about feeling mama burn out was hard to write. I felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. I felt worried that motherhood was going to turn out like so many other jobs I’ve had: fun and interesting at first, then drudgery. It took me two days to write the post because I kept editing my feelings. If I just cut the words, maybe I could delete the feelings too. I wrote while my toddler son napped in the next room. I kept walking in to look at him, so peaceful while he was sleeping. I kept willing him to sleep longer, give me more time. On the second day, right after I’d clicked the button to submit my post, he woke up sad. He clung to me and cried. Maybe he’d had a bad dream. Maybe he’d picked up on all of my conflicted feelings while he slept. I was sure that if he were old enough to read what I’d written, he would  feel betrayed. Maybe all of that was true, or maybe I was just finding one more way to not give myself a break.

I needed a vacation from my mama job, which wasn’t realistic. Getting a vacation from my state of mind, however, was absolutely possible. Just admitting to myself (and those who read the blog post) how burned out I was feeling helped. It helped me to understand what was contributing to my exhaustion. It helped me acknowledge my feelings and give myself some space to actually feel them. The comments on the post offered me some great suggestions to renew balance. I tried those and some more. And I’m really starting to feel good again, having fun with my son, being more creative about how to spend our time so our life together doesn’t feel like the movie Groundhog Day. Maybe some of what has worked with me will work for you. Continue reading 7 Ways to Fill Our Mama Cups