Category Archives: Writing

Get out of my house

Pretty much at some point in my day, pretty much every day, I realize just how lucky I am. A loving husband who loves to tell me about his day. Beautiful little children who fill my heart with the sounds of laughter and the pitter-patter of little feet. I treasure each and every moment with these amazing creatures.

But I could treasure them even more with just a little bit of distance. Which is why right now I need all these people out of my house.

I don’t care if it’s far away or just down the street.

But get out.

Oh, I realize this might sound ungrateful. These people fill my life with a joy I have never known before. Moreover, they have filled it with meaning and purpose and unconditional love.

And whistles. They have filled my life with oh-so-many whistles. What idiot gave these kids whistles? Whistles that they blow right beside my ears while jumping up and down right beside me on the couch.

Which is why everyone needs to get out of my house.

Now.

I have never lived alone. I lived at home and then had a bunch of college roommates and then I moved back home and then BOOM, my stupid husband made me fall in love with him and we started our life together. And then we added two more homemade humans to the mix. Humans who have no concept of personal space and proper booger disposal techniques and appropriate voice volume.

And while I wouldn’t change a thing about my life, there are days when a room of one’s own isn’t nearly enough.

Everyone get out of my house.

Of course, it’s not like I myself never get the chance to leave my house. My husband is great about giving me time to do my own things. I go for runs. I go to coffee shops to write. When he gets home from work and I have a certain look on my face, he quickly ushers me out the door into the direction of the closest bar. But there are those times when I don’t want to put on an entire pair of pants and comb the little green army men out of my hair so that I can be “socially acceptable.” I want to eat junk food that I don’t have to share on the couch in my ratty old robe while watching TV shows featuring nudity and curse words. And I don’t want to have to pause it so that I can refill sippy cups eight times in two hours.

Get. Out. My. House.

Someday, years from now, I dream of a house filled with my husband and my grown kids and their significant others and an entire litter of grandbabies who all call me MawMaw. A day where we all gather around the table and the house is full to bursting with conversations and laughter and jokes and memories. A day where I can’t imagine that at one point I ever wanted time alone.

But today is not that day.  

EVERYBODY OUT.

And don’t come back for at least three hours.  

 

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Honest Christmas Letter

Greetings, friends and family and people I barely know anymore but still have your addresses saved so what the hell!

I hope this year has been good to you (she types like she hasn’t stalked over half of you on social media late at night with a glass of wine in her hand…definitely-not-creepy haha!).

It’s been a wonderful year here at the Brandon-Huddle household. At least I think it has. If I’m being completely honest, I can’t remember what it was like before the Vague Plague swept through our house, reducing all of us to coughing, feverish, snotty shells of our former selves. You know, that mysterious illness that hits one family member and then passes through all the rest until the first one finally gets better right as the last one is coming down with it, thus passing it back onto the first one, on and on and on until none of you can remember what it is like to breathe through one nostril anymore, let alone two. It has no name but is somewhere in-between a cold and the flu. Unless, of course, the man of the house gets it, in which case it is a Very Serious Case of Almost Certain Death.

But although our collective health is currently drowning in a tsunami of snot, everything else is a fantastic mixed bag of tragicomedy.

Ryan is working hard as usual. Some would say too hard. And by some I mean me. Awkward haha! Because I reach a certain point in the evening where I simply cannot “mom” for one more minute. But at least he’s smart enough to know that if he walks through that door past six he is to have a bottle of wine tucked under his arm for me. Maybe also a cheeseburger. And a taco.

But it’s not entirely his fault. You gotta make a living, right? Kids are expensive. And he’s really good at what he does. Plus, during those brief twelve minutes we have together in-between the kids going down and us passing out on the couch after watching the opening credits of “Sabrina” on Netflix, we are reminded how much we love each other as we grunt and stare vacant-eyed into the other’s rapidly aging face.

As for myself, I completed a half marathon this year, which has been a dream of mine ever since my friend Emily texted me “wanna do a half-marathon?” and I drunkenly texted back “hellz yesh!” The race was awful. Just truly awful. Why do people like to do this? What is wrong with them?

But the point remains that I did it. Which I now tell anyone standing within earshot.

I’ve also been keeping up with my writing. I’m even trying my hand at writing a book. Which means I rapidly swing from “I can do this, I can totally do this” to “I’m an idiot. What is a plot? Whet r werds?” on a daily basis. I definitely think I need new hobbies.

This has also been a big year for our oldest, Riker, who started preschool this year. He loves it. Now. In the first few weeks there was some atomic-level leg clinging during drop-off but now he can’t stop talking about school. At least I think he’s talking about school. His stories aren’t always coherent. They pretty much start somewhere at the ¾ mark and then jump backward toward the middle with a brief glance at the beginning while the ending has apparently escaped through some window, never to be heard of again.  

Allow me to share his latest. It’s so cute. I think…?

“So then Ethan is a bad guy, but a friendly bad guy, and we chased the ghosts on the swings and Mrs. Ferris says, but Momma, it’s always important to share, and remember, Momma, when you first get to the classroom, we have to do our arrival jobs so we walk quietly and carefully to our cubby and put away our things and then sometimes Elena hugs me too hard and I don’t like it but that’s ok and now I’m a big boy, not a baby, which is why the vampires were hiding in the closet.”

Speaking of babies, our baby isn’t a baby anymore. Mae turned 2 in July. She is just turning out to be a fantastic little person, albeit one who drinks what has to be an unhealthy amount of bath water. We are a bit nervous about her arch-villain tendencies but, as they say, raise the children you have, not the children you want. Even if they scare you a bit.

And last, but certainly not least, is our dog Buffy. He’s 13 now! Can you believe it? I certainly can but then again I am constantly reminded thanks to his old man dog farts, which are numerous and aromatic, to put it politely. But the vet says he is in great shape and super healthy and only charged us $600 to tell us that.

All in all, we realize how lucky we are with our beautiful little family and a roof that only leaks sometimes over our heads. Although if anyone is wondering what to get us for Christmas, a nap would just be fantastic.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

Ways to unsuccessfully deal with insomnia

 

  1. Watch something. But not something too interesting. But also not so boring that it allows your mind to wander. Maybe something you’ve already seen but enjoyed. Preferably where at least one character has a British accent and is trying to solve a crime.
  2. Read something. Same rules apply.
  3. Eat something. Because, hey, it’s there and what else have you got to do?
  4. Count something. Sheep seem to be pretty popular, followed by minutes (“if I fall asleep now, I can still get 3.5 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off”).
  5. Argue something. In your head. Obsessively. Finally find a way to win that Facebook argument from 2015.
  6. Take something. Tylenol PM, perhaps? Or that melatonin that has never ever worked but yet you still keep a giant bottle of it by your bed? Does children’s benadryl work on adults?
  7. Rearrange something. Because you’ll definitely be able to sleep once all your bookshelves are ripped apart and then put back together in a slightly different organizational pattern.
  8. Worry about something. Like every single bad thing that could happen to your children.
  9. Eat something again. It’s now 3:30 a.m. Screw it.
  10. While you’re at it, watch something else. Maybe a 90’s sitcom will do it.
  11. Pray for something. Perhaps divine intervention from the deity of your choosing. Or an anvil to fall from the sky and onto your head, finally knocking you out. Or modern science to prove that sleep is unnecessary for survival.
  12. Scroll something. Sure, they say to avoid technology when you can’t sleep but you aren’t going to sleep anyway so may as well stalk that girl from seventh grade who used to bully you.
  13. Wake something. Like your husband. Who is peacefully sleeping right beside you in the most obnoxious manner possible. Misery does love company…
  14. How is he still sleeping? If you poke him any harder he’ll likely have internal bleeding.  
  15. Sigh.
  16. Clean something.
  17. Eh, never mind.
  18. Daydream something. Maybe cue up that one about marrying Chris Pratt (after your husband dies and you mourn the appropriate amount of time, of course).
  19. Plan something. May as well use all this time productively. Just a quick 36-point plan to improve every aspect of your life.
  20. Is there any cheese left?
  21. Research something. Like how insomnia causes premature aging. Then get up and slather more moisturizer on your decrepit face.
  22. Drink something? Warm milk? Ugh. Gross. No. Then maybe just a small glass of whiskey? Nah. It’s practically morning.
  23. Write something. Like, say, a list of all the futile ways you can try to combat insomnia.

The Adventures of Kitty “Meow” Cat, III

Hello. You probably don’t know me. In fact, there is no reason you should. My existence is of little importance to most people. Most people, that is, save one.

And it is for her sake that I would like to share the following story with you.  

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. My name is Kitty Cat. A wholly unoriginal name, I’ll grant you, but considering I was given my moniker by a young creature who still occasionally sticks a spoon in her eye, the name serves its purpose. I am, indeed, a small stuffed kitty cat toy.

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I remember little of my life before the Christmas of 2017. The first clear memory I have is of being imprisoned in a small cardboard box in some kind of gargantuan toy prison, my feet and neck bound by indestructible chains of plastic. The entire lot of us were slowly being driven mad by an endless loop of what our prison guards called “sounds of the season.” And from morning until night, we were subjected to humiliating pokes and prods by chaotic mobs of angry giants and their leaky offspring.

You can imagine my relief then when one of these giants took pity on me and orchestrated my escape in a daring plan whereby she distracted the prison guards using only a piece of green paper and calmly walked out the door.

Soon thereafter, however, I realized my freedom came at a cost, for I was quickly put into the possession of her own personal leaky offspring.

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Life hasn’t always been easy for me. I suppose it never is when you are the beloved toy of a 2-year-old. But I tolerated things like the high-pitched, screechy voice she uses for me (even though clearly I sound much more like an off-brand Patrick Stewart) because there is not much in the way of an alternative for me.

A realization I would soon come to know intimately.

It was a summer day like any other. I awoke in the vise-like grip of my small human. We played Kitty Cat vs. Batman. We illegally removed her fresh diaper (although I was a very reluctant accomplice). She mashed my face into her bowl of Cheerios while repeatedly proclaiming “Kitty Cat eat. Num Num Num.”

Then it was off to the library, her strapped into the stroller, me securely by her side with half my head accidentally tucked under her rear. Like most of our asinine activities, it all went by in a blur of giggles (hers) and shouts of “dammit, Mae, I said NO!” (her mother’s). It wasn’t until our walk home that my entire world, small as it was, was shattered.

I wasn’t sure what was happening at first. Then, all of a sudden, I knew too well. I was slipping, slipping. I tried to cry out, to cling to her, my little sticky biped, but with horror remembered I am utterly inanimate. Yes, dear readers, “Toy Story” is a falsehood of the most egregious kind.

I was tumbling, down, down. By the time I could finally orient myself, the stroller was disappearing over the horizon.  

And so I laid there. Under that overpass. Cars careening past. Pedestrians trudging by on their weary way. No one even bothering to look my way except for the useless neighborhood birds and squirrels with their tedious chittering.

I had never felt so alone.

All was lost. I knew it in my non-existent heart. I prayed for death but it wouldn’t come. Oh, what I would have given to be back in those chubby arms with their faint whiff of ketchupy peanut butter. That little girl loved me so much and what did I give her in return?

Nothing.

Nothing but a silent, stitched-on, smirk. Had I neck muscles, I would have hung my head in shame.

But wait, what was that? In the distance? A glimmer of flannel? Could it be? No. No, it couldn’t possibly be.

Yet, hope of all hopes, it was. It truly was my girl’s father.

“There are no lost toys on my watch,” I heard the man say in a very macho voice as he tucked me into his very manly computer purse.

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Later I was to overhear that the mother had told the flannel daddy man about how I was lost and so he had walked the same route we took on his way home from work. But it was all just background noise to me. For I was safely back in my love’s arms, being squeezed until I thought my stuffing would fall out my eyeballs. The smell of old macaroni and cheese has never smelled so sweet.  

So, where do we go from here? For I have seen things. Things no small toy should see. I have aged much beyond my calendar age of eight months and have seen firsthand just how frightening of a place the world can be.

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But I have also found my place in it, this scary world. It is by her side. For if the world is scary to me, imagine what it must be like for her. It is the least I can do, for there is no love quite like the love of a tiny child for her ratty old stuffed animal, and, from now on, I shall do my utter best to return that love ten-fold and be her courage when the world grows just a bit too big. 

And I shall do it even when she relentlessly kisses me while eating pancakes with an obscene amount of syrup.

 

Well, there’s always tomorrow

I have never wanted to star in a reality TV show. I have happily hate-watched enough of them to ever wish that kind of scrutiny on myself.

So, imagine my surprise, then, when I had kids and suddenly realized I was one.

Every day of my life now is pretty much the kids binge-watching their favorite reality show, “Keeping Up With Momma’s Sanity.” Followed by the spin-off, “Here Comes Vodka.”

Those adorable little sponges absorb every single little thing I do with their big eyes. And then repeat everything I say with their even bigger mouths (including curse words they “may” have overheard a “certain” parent say).

Which is why I want to be a good example for my children. I really do. I want to be the friggin’ best example of humanity that has ever existed for them. But since that will never happen (I once told my entire second grade class that Santa didn’t exist), I’ll settle for trying to be the best version of myself for my kids.

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Here’s who I want to be. I want to be the loving dog owner who is always patient and kind with her aging dog, Buffy. The kind of owner who never gets annoyed with his incessant, loud barking because she knows his eyesight and hearing is going and so every fast movement and loud sound is clearly a gang of pirates attacking the house, which can only be stopped by his heroic barking efforts.

I want to be the loving mother who keeps her cool at dinner when both kids are complaining about the home-cooked meal placed in front of them, even though they also complained about lunch. And breakfast. And every meal the day before. And the day before that. And everything I have placed in front of their mouth holes that wasn’t chocolate since the day they came into existence.  

I want to be the confident professional(ish) writer who works hard and leaves a beautiful published legacy for her family.

I want to be the loving wife who definitely doesn’t bury her husband under an angry verbal avalanche of “guess what YOUR children did today?” as soon as he walks in the door.

But here’s who I am.

I am the loving dog owner who patiently tolerates my aging dog Buffy’s panicked barking…up to a certain point. And then I will yell back “SHUT UP, BUFFY! SHUT UP! YOU’RE KILLING ME! YOU’RE *definitely not a curse word* KILLING ME!”

I am the loving mother who once snapped and threw both kids’ dinner plates out the window.

I am the professional(ish) writer who, when suffering from a bout of writer’s block, slams shut her computer and yells “WORDS ARE DUMB” and then hides in the kitchen to shove unhealthy amounts of cheese in her mouth.

I am the loving wife who also assaults her husbands with verbal tsunamis, verbal monsoons and, on one particularly bad day, a verbal tornado (when he was still in the driveway).  

Sigh.  

It’s enough to keep a girl up at night worrying about whether or not she’s ruining her kids.

But then I remind myself that, from time to time, I’m also the mom who will spend hours every day reading books to her children until they get sick of it (and they never do). And I am Darth Vader Momma, who will have light saber fights with Stormtrooper Riker with one hand while holding Baby Yoda Mae in the other, and even resists the urge to correct her 3-year-old on why this situation goes against “Star Wars” canon.

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I’m also the loving dog owner who carries her dog up and down the stairs when the temperature drops too low, kicking his arthritis into high gear. And then gives him all the mashed potatoes her daughter didn’t eat because him such a good wittle puppeh, isn’t him? And then quietly cleans up the vomit the next day because his aging system can no longer handle human food.  

I am the completely not confident writer barely scraping by who still writes and never stops writing because she loves it. And then fiercely hates it. And then loves it again.

And I am the loving wife who makes naughty stick figure drawings for her husband and hides them in his computer bag.

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I am a work in progress. And ultimately, perhaps that’s the best lesson of humanity I could teach my children. That no one is perfect but every day is another chance to be a better person.  

Eh…nah. It’d be much better if I was just a much better human overall. One who didn’t eat her kid’s last chicken nugget when they weren’t looking.

But still, every day is another chance to be a better person.

Becoming human again

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married woman in possession of a few children must be in want of a life.

It took me 23 minutes to come up with that line, even though technically Jane Austen wrote it first and all I did was butcher it. (Sorry, Jane).

My amazing literary pun skills aside, I’m not kidding about that truth. Because we do. Oh, how we do. We want (and need) a full life.

Not that we moms don’t live for our kids. Because do. Oh, how we do. When my kids were first born, my whole world shrunk down to their exact height and weight. It’s a monumental change you go through when you have a child, physically, mentally and emotionally, and for the longest time, I couldn’t see anything past them. Everything took a backseat to them. Part of this is because you just created AN ENTIRE HUMAN BEING and as such are completely mesmerized by everything they do. Even farts took on a whole new meaning. Coming from their tiny butts, it was the most adorable sound in the world.

But another part of this tunnel vision stemmed from the fact that I was terrified I couldn’t do it. That I would fail. That if I took my eyes off them for a second they would get hurt. Or sick. Or kidnapped. Or, my biggest nightmare, roughly thrown into a car trunk by a kidnapper with the flu. Suddenly, I realized that THE WHOLE WORLD IS ONE GIANT, FESTERING CAULDRON OF DISEASE POPULATED BY SERIAL KILLERS AND PERVERTS AND EVIL BABY BLANKETS THAT COULDN’T WAIT TO SMOTHER MY CHILDREN.

Eventually this passed. Mostly (I still don’t trust that baby blanket). I learned that kids are tough and resilient. That they start to gain a bit of independence. Life keeps moving on. And it was around this time that I finally looked up and, to my surprise, had trouble recognizing who I was.

I felt I was losing myself. Or at least some very vital parts of myself. Motherhood is demanding and it seemed like I no longer had time to maintain the complex person full of contradictions and passions and interests that I used to be. There was only time for diaper changes and fixing fairly large household structural problems with duct tape.

I didn’t laugh as much. I was always tired. I was always distracted. Always thinking about what had to be done. Or done next. Or done next week.

Parenting can sometimes feel like a zero-sum game. You give everything you have (and happily so) to these tiny creatures so that they can have everything. You give and give and give and you love and you love and you love. There’s also some yelling and vague threatening and an army of curse words muttered under your breath, but mostly it’s the giving and the loving.

Without a chance to replenish, without a break, however, it can soon feel like you have nothing left to give. You start to forget who you are, just slowly turning into a zombie mom robot. (Although Zombie Mom Robot would make a great title for a parenting book).

Luckily I had someone to remind me. Which is how I ended up alone in Portland a few weeks ago. With an entire hotel room to myself. Just me and a bottle of wine and an extra large pizza, which I ate on a king-sized bed while sitting in my underwear and watching “Big Bang” reruns.

And it’s how I ended up attending my wonderful friend’s beautiful wedding. Which is how I ended up doing an unhealthy amount of tequila shots, which is how I ended up doing a mortifying karaoke performance, which led to more tequila shots, which led to long conversations stuffed with every curse word known to man (or woman), which led to eating late night fried chicken; all with my long lost group of best friends, relationships that were neglected but now renewed and stronger than ever.

And it’s how I ended up running a 5K last week with another good friend. Like, an actual race, where you purposefully run fast even though nothing is chasing you. My first one ever. And I ran the whole damn thing. And a week later I still feel like Wonder Woman.

It’s how I ended up dusting off my beloved camera and taking photos again. And reading more. And writing more. And drawing my god awful stick figure art again.

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And it’s how I finally started remembering who I was.

All because my husband refused to let me forget. He kept throwing me on planes so I could travel and kept kicking me out of the house so I could pursue my own things, my own passions. Because he knows that being a complex person with a full life makes you a better parent.

He understood, even more than I did, what I needed.

And so here’s to hoping you have someone in your life who reminds you who you are when you forget. That you have someone who understands that sometimes you just need a hotel room of one’s own.

(I’m butchering all the classics today. This one only took me 12 minutes though. My apologies to Virginia Woolf).

 

Why does Hollywood keep breaking my heart?

I don’t remember the first time it happened. I’m sure I was young though. Youth is the time when idol worship is at its peak.

But I do know that since then it has happened on a fairly regular basis and yet I never grow any wiser. No matter how many times they rip my heart out of my chest and stomp on it and then run over its tattered remains with their super quiet, super environmentally-friendly, yet still super expensive cars, I keep becoming emotionally invested in celebrity couple breakups.  

Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe. Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel. Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson. Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor. Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder (a breakup so traumatic for all of us growing up in the 90’s that we’ll all be winos forever). Even my childhood heroes, Kermit and Miss Piggy, called it quits.

It never fails. They all take me by surprise (even though Hollywood’s breakup and divorce rate is approximately 104 percent) and I have to go through the five stages of celebrity breakup grief all over again.

Denial.

Anger.

Endless dissecting of the relationship with girlfriends despite the fact we know absolutely nothing about these people.

Wine.

Reluctant acceptance.

Not all celebrity couple breakups, of course. I was super relieved when Katie Holmes finally broke up with (escaped from) Tom Cruise. And ScarJo was never right for Ryan Reynolds. (Then again, neither is Blake Lively, in my not-so-humble opinion, but what’s the poor guy to do? I’m already taken). Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner both seem like annoying, just truly awful, people. As for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston AND Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, I don’t feel bad because they’re all too good looking for me to ever feel bad for them for anything ever.

The last straw, however, was Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. This couple is the spark that started the latest dumpster fire in my broken, broken heart. I’m still in the “wine” phase of this breakup and may be for the foreseeable future. They were so perfect together. And happy. And oh, WHY, GOD, WHY? DOES YOUR CRUELTY KNOW NO BOUNDS? Where the hell is that wine bottle?

Just what is it about certain celebrity couple breakups that bother me so much? Specifically the ones involving famous people who ALMOST seem like the rest of us mere mortals, like Pratt and Faris?

Because it’s not that I worry that, well, if those two crazy gorgeous kids can’t make it work than who can? I’m very happy in my own marriage. I think my husband is sexy and an amazing father and wicked talented and I make it a point to try and touch his butt every single day. Vice versa, he makes me feel like I’m smart and confident and talented and really, really good looking, even when I’m sporting both little green Army men and chunks of chicken nuggets in my hair. And even if things did start to go south, we’re both too lazy to initiate a divorce, let alone go through with one.

No, I think what bothers me is that, like most delusional Americans, I am certain that I will be rich someday. Which I will do by writing bestselling books (speaking of delusional). You know, once I actually sit down and write them instead of sitting down and writing about how I will write them one day (or, my other favorite writing exercise, getting drunk and telling anyone who will listen how I will write them).

And when I do become rich, it seems inevitable that my marriage will fall apart. Super rich people SUCK at marriage. Famous people even more so. Super rich and famous people, like I completely intend to be, suck the hardest of all.

So, when I become a disgustingly rich and famous author, I mean, it’s basically like aiming a bazooka at my marriage license.

Sigh. I guess I’ll have to settle for only being a mildly rich and famous author. You know, where I own a yacht but not an entire island.  

Oh, the sacrifices we mere mortals make for love.