December Progress Report

(SPONSORED)

Hellllllllllooooo! That’s me waving from the depths of the hole I’ve buried myself in – or at least have been digging myself into – lately. I don’t mean that in a morbid way, it’s just that things get busy. I’ve always been a do-too-mucher, which is kind of becoming funny to reflect on at this stage in my life: why always aspire to do more than is possible?

Sometimes my optimism allows me to believe what’s most simple here: because doing stuff is rad! Because why not create? Why not make more friends, do more things, work more, be more? On more cynical days, I tell myself it’s because deep down, somewhere, I must actually hate contentedness to always be putting myself in a position to be behind on my own goals. I feel like the rational thing is probably somewhere between these two, though: dream everything you want to dream! That’s why we dream at all – there aren’t limits. But also: don’t commit to things you can’t pull off. In the end, if you find you’re just stressed because you’re not able to make time to exceed your commitments – which is where I often am – know that that’s ok. Being able to just get the regular stuff done is already difficult enough for most people, let alone make advances creatively, personally, or whatever. So I’ve been working hard and trying to just honor my commitments, but I have indeed also had time for other things. Plenty of things. Including creative and personal things. I even made time to go see True Widow when they were in Portland and it was amazing. It’s just that I didn’t make time to post here recently, that’s all! And that’s ok.

So here are some of those things:

Thing 1:

I’m still working on the house, as I will be far into old age, because nothing will ever be done here. We have a leak that makes our water bill $175+ a month and I don’t know where it is. We have an empty space where a master toilet once was that is sort of starting to smell. We have a chandelier to replace and no scaffolding to get to it. But as anyone of sound mind would say: just take one thing at a time. And that’s what I’m doing. I teamed up with Name Bubbles recently (that’s why this is a sponsored post) and was able to add these removable wall decals to Ever’s room, bringing her room another step closer to its own before/after reveal. There’s still plenty to do: I need to move my things out of her closet (which requires finishing the master closet), we need to finish her dresser and move it in, curtains should probably go up – but it’s coming along. This is just a peak at one small space for the Name Bubbles project. And oh yeah: I’m planning on refinishing that shelf. One day. Some day. Not today.

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I figured we might as well embrace the rain in the Pacific Northwest.

You can get a lot more from their site though than wall decals. It appears they really specialize in stickers and tags that are particularly handy for children: name tags for clothing and other items, allergy warnings, wrist bands, etc. (I’m taking some wrist bands with her name and my phone number on an upcoming trip! I really hope I don’t lose my child, though.) Here are couple other things I crafted on their site:

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(Because we CANNOT lose the uke.) And the allergy stuff is really important to me because her egg allergy is still a part of our life (you caught that on Instagram, right?).

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Use code: MAGIC for 15% off of your order with Name Bubbles if you’d like to try some items out for yourself.

Thing 2:

The holidays. Clearly.

I’m living far away from family and all of my old close friends, attempting to carve out my own traditions with Ever here in our new home. I’m trying to spend less money than I have in the past (apparently it costs money to fix up a house). I’m also trying to make a really pointed attempt to de-commercialize the concept of Christmas for Ever. We struggle in many ways, but it’s still so important to me to teach her that we have a roof over our heads and food in the house and that all of the other things are just extras – even her beautiful dresses and her favorite stuffed animals – they are privileges and plenty of people don’t even have the basics.

We live in Portland where there are lots of people on the streets and plenty more who technically have a home of some sort, but do not have the means for any kind of “Christmas” in its conventional American sense. The idea that some children show up to school after the holidays boasting of hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars worth of Christmas gifts, dressed in all new clothes no less, while some show up wondering why “Santa” didn’t give them so many things (or anything) doesn’t just seem unfair to me, it kind of seems wrong. Parenting is good at making you really sort through your beliefs on things and the more I think about this practice, the more I think we’re kind of – in a definitely indirect way – telling children who are poor, perhaps less educated beyond school with privileges like lessons, and often statistically from more diverse backgrounds than the not-poor that they are on the “naughty list.” The suggestion is implicit in the traditional Christmas story – that children who behave badly just don’t get as many presents or any at all. Taking a look at how that unfolds in real life is chilling, though. In real life, the children who don’t get as many presents (or any at all) are usually the children whose caregivers couldn’t afford to, plain and simple. There’s zero correlation to behavior.

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Suffice it to say, I’m working hard on figuring out how I want to frame it all for Ever. I love the holidays – the warmth, the excuse to cook and bake and drink an extra glass of wine, the above-average kindness most people exude, and the closeness with friends and family it can bring. But I don’t love the idea of how difficult it can be for so many people. So what am I doing about it, you might ask? Still figuring it out – that’s the answer. But here’s what I’ve chosen to do so far:

I talk about Santa and reindeers and all of the fun Christmassy stuff, because I love infusing life with magic whenever possible, but I do it a bit with a wink and a nod. Furthermore, I refer to Santa more as a concept than an individual.

I had Ever help me pick out a bunch of second-hand things for families in need on a recent shopping trip. We were at the Goodwill Outlet, so we were able to fill a whole shopping cart for $30. It was difficult for her, truly, to pick out cute clothes and toys that she knew were going to go to someone else, but she did eventually get excited about the idea. When the time came for us to drop off the first couple of bags to one nearby mom, I explained to Ever that she was “being a Santa” and she’s been talking about how she was a Santa ever since. We saw a Santa in the mall the other day, taking photos ($25 a pop!?). She looked just completely spellbound when she set eyes on him. “Wow, Ever! I can’t believe there’s a Santa here!” I said, emphasizing the “a” – and still her spell didn’t break. And the things I have picked out to have under the tree for her – they’re mostly from the Goodwill Outlet, as well. Things I think she’ll truly enjoy that didn’t cost me much and were on their way to the landfill otherwise. There are a couple of new things mixed in, but so far this approach – all things considered – feels a little more comfortable to me. A little more like what Christmas should feel like. Teaching her about how little others have compared to us seems to be working insofar as making her feel grateful for what we have. If I can hammer this one lesson into her – gratitude – it’ll be one of the best things I’ll have done as a mother, hands-down.

Thing 3:

Music. I am working on music. It’s thrilling and scary and everything I need and fear all at once. I’ve pretty much wrapped up tracking on one song and am going into the studio again in a couple weeks to start on a second. I don’t know what my approach will be to all of this. I only know that I can’t afford to record an entire album at once (though I have more than enough material) and no matter how much I do love an entire album with all of its cohesiveness and emotional fluctuations, releasing one or a few songs instead these days is not uncommon. So you can expect to hear at least one or two songs from me “officially” early next year and I’ll just take it from there. I constantly am posting clips of me playing on Instagram Stories, though! And I’ve started asking people for recommendations on supportive open mic environments in Portland and I’ve received lots of handy tips, so I’ll probably start getting my stage legs back early next year as well via open mics.

The anxiety I’ve faced on this side of parenting – as in, on the side of being a parent – about music has been so strange and unfamiliar. I didn’t know that I’d ever need to find courage to do the thing I’ve always loved doing most – the thing I never needed much courage before to do – but here I am. Even the easy task of asking my partner to put Ever to sleep some night while I drive off to a bar I’ve never been to around people I’ve never met to play songs basically no one has ever heard seems numbingly difficult. Of course it doesn’t make any sense to feel this way because of course, as soon as I do it, just like I did back in July, I’ll feel so much better and proud of myself and I’ll probably make some new friends while I’m at it. Of course it will be a good thing, but it’s disorienting how scary it all got. Also, it’s only one component, but #momguilt is so real. It’s so easy to allow myself to think that I’m selfish for wanting to dive into music again, but – and luckily – I don’t actually think it’s selfish, so I refuse to give into that thought. That thought is not me talking, it’s a system that was built to silence women like me. And I don’t want to hear it speak.

Thing 4:

A trip! I’m going on a trip on Friday. I’m leaving the country for the first time in over four years. More on that coming up in my next blog post, which won’t be so far off as this one was from the last.

 

 

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Elizabeth Seward is a writer and songwriter, among other things. Read a full bio on the ABOUT page.

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