Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Mom, I Can't Sleep"

Originally this blog was going to be about how our little monkey didn't sleep Friday night, and what fun it was trying stay awake and present Saturday morning when we had a crowd at our house for brunch.

MLM is getting in a back molar, we think, and he was awake and crying from midnight until 3 a.m., then slept in bed with us from 3 to 6. Parents reading this know what quality sleep you get with a squirmy toddler in your bed (ha, ha)! He's also in a phase right now where when he's the slightest bit unhappy, (a) he immediately has a world-ending meltdown, and (b) only Mommy will do. So even though DH wanted and tried to help out, Monkey would accept no such substitute.

So we were all exhausted Saturday, and Monkey missed out on some quality time with his friends and cousins. But it actually was fun, cooking with my best friend and sister-in-law in the kitchen and catching up with some great friends over coffee and french toast. So that's what this blog was going to be about.

Then today, I got my daily e-mail reminder from the Sean Costello Foundation to vote for their Mojo Project on the Pepsi Refresh Everything website. The first words were "Mom, I can't sleep," and the rest is just reprinted here because I couldn't possibly say it better than Debbie Costello Smith herself:
I know that my asking you to vote every day for the past two months may seem annoying, and maybe it's not even clear why we're asking. I have some texts saved on what was Sean's BB and as I was cleaning out the texts on my phone today, I saw one of the last ones that I ever got from him. It said "Mom, I can't sleep." It's personal for me, as you might have surmised already. To win would be a long shot, and would take votes from everyone we know all 3 ways every day, but I have to try. There is no contest in February, so these last few days are it.... I hope these words affect you. Sean lost his life because he was trying to get some sleep.  This has happened to many people, including famous people like Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson.  Let's keep this from happening to others.
As many of you know, Sean was my brother's best friend from age 10; so I have memories of him from when he was a child, as well as the musical prodigy who suffered so profoundly from bipolar disorder as an adult. The Sean Costello Foundation for Bipolar Research is a cause near and dear to me both personally and professionally.

When I read Debbie's words today, I thought how the job of a mother really doesn't change over time. My little guy cries out for me when he can't sleep because of teething, and at just shy of 29 years old, Sean was still reaching out in that same way. I felt renewed grief for Sean's loss and for the heartbreak that Debbie and so many other mothers have had to experience when their children couldn't handle the challenges of bipolar and other mood disorders. I also grieved -- am grieving -- for my own mother, who always had trouble sleeping and lost her life to mental illness and self-medication as well. It will be 10 years this June.

I hugged Monkey a little extra tight today, too, grateful for the moments I have with him now, never knowing what the future holds for any of us.

If you are already voting daily, please accept my sincere gratitude. If you have not yet voted for the Mojo Project, please consider clicking this link, signing up with the Pepsi Refresh project and voting for the next 8 days. [You can sign up for a daily e-mail reminder, learn more about the Mojo Project, and hear some of Sean's amazing music here.]

It takes about 10 minutes the first time you do it, and two minutes to vote for each of the next 8 days. That's 26 minutes total -- half an episode of 'Glee' -- and I'll assure you that I have been voting consistently for the last two months and have yet to receive any kind of marketing e-mail from Pepsi.

It's the final push for this very important grant, since there will be no voting next month, and winning it could mean that other musicians like Sean (and my brother, and thousands of others) will have better mental health outcomes despite their special risk for mood disorders, self-medication, and lack of access to mental health services.

Maybe if we can learn more about bipolar disorder and help creative people get better access to the help they need, fewer mothers will have to mourn because their kids couldn't sleep.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Call This One 'New Year's Ambition'

I'm back! A little bit rested and having spent some great time with friends and family. Plus a functional second bathroom, finally!

So now I'm looking over my list of New Year's Resolutions (mine are so fantastic, I reuse them year after year), trying to decide what to commit to for 2011... Lose weight? Eh, I did a little of that sort of recently. Maybe 2012. Exercise? Well, that's a pretty good one. But not too thrilling. Travel? Hmm... not really in the budget this year. Spend more time with family and friends? Sure, but....

Okay, it's time. Woman up. I'm 35 years old and the only thing I have consistently wanted to do since second grade is just what I am doing at this very moment, but to which I have never fully committed: writing.

Of course I blog. I have almost always written as a big part of my professional life, too. But it's not the same.

When I was in second grade I wrote a poem about a fire drill that got published in the Due West Elementary school 'literary magazine.' The first little thrill of being an author. By middle school, whenever I was immersed in a book, I felt that one day it would be me behind the typewriter, telling stories. I even took creative writing classes in college while I was an English major.

But then something happened. Somehow the confidence I'd always had in myself and my abilities waned. Maybe it was watching my mom struggle helplessly in an abusive situation with her second husband, unable to escape in part because she lacked the ability to support herself financially. Or maybe it was just plain old fear of failure.

Something told me I needed to work on my Plan B -- get an MBA, find a 'real job,' etc. I have been balancing between two worlds, two ways of experiencing life and career, ever since. And while I have enjoyed the journey immensely, lately I've caught the little girl who wrote the fire drill poem scowling in my general direction. What did you do to us? she asks. Why didn't you believe in me?

It's kind of hard getting a psychological smack-down from your seven-year-old self, believe me. There are other voices, speaking just as loudly, saying things like "If you haven't done it by now, you never will," or "It's a waste of time," or the most hurtful, "Maybe you used to be talented, but you've wasted it, and now there's no point."

Well, in 2011 I am going to fight back against those voices. The plan is to sit down, for better or worse, and write a novel. A whole novel. Not The Great American Novel (Franzen has already cornered that market, thank goodness, taking the pressure off), but just a decent story that would be something I'd want to read myself.

So what if it's mundane or terrible? So what if no one reads it? So what if I find out that my lifelong, quiet dream is just that -- a dream? Any of that is better than looking back later in life and realizing that I never even gave myself a chance to fail.

Here's the plan. My official goal is to have a complete, possibly terrible, novel written and revised, ready to publish in some form by the end of 2011. Actually, I'd like to have it done much sooner than that, but I want some wiggle room for the unexpected. And I'm telling you to give myself some accountability. Now that it's 'out there,' I have to do it, right?

I will try to blog about my progress as I go - along with the usual random crap characteristic of this blog.

So what are your resolutions this year? Are you pretty content with your life as it is? Or do you -- like I -- have a hidden ambition gathering dust in the corner of your life?