Sweet Abi started taking a ballet/tap combination class this school year. She so adorably loves it. Every Friday morning, she gets all decked out (and even lets me fix her hair! #girlmomperks ) and after class, regales me with chatter about what her teacher did and what her friends said and all the movement games they played.

I love it for her.IMG_6661

When I was about 11, I took ballet when we lived in Texas. I think I took classes for about a year, and I remember loving the music, the movements. It was probably the first time I felt aware of my body and proud of its strength. But when my dance teacher told us that she wanted me to move up to the en pointe class, I got scared. She said I was younger than most of her pointe students, but she thought I would do well.

Even as a kid, I had a bad case of paralyzing perfectionism. The idea of going into a new class where I would be the youngest, the least experienced, and therefore probably the worst? No way, nuh-uh, not happening.

So I quit ballet.

That was the first of many hobbies and interests and activities I would begin, excel in, and abruptly quit.

Piano. Baton. Horseback riding. Sewing. Spanish.

I’m so thankful that my parents continued to let me try new things.

But I hate how my anxieties kept me from enjoying them longer. I wish I had been able to push myself past the part where the new skill got challenging. When I could no longer play my piano pieces through after a single practice session, I decided that meant I didn’t really have “an ear for music,” and I stopped taking lessons. After my first parade, I realized that other {older, experienced} baton twirlers could do a zillion more tricks than I could, and figured since I was still struggling with Move X, I’d probably never ever master my way up to Move Y. So I quit that, too.

The thing I’ve realized as an adult is that a lot of that tendency was due to my particular brain. Lots of gifted kids exhibit this little quirk: so many things come so easily to us upon first blush, that we get accustomed to everything coming naturally. We also get stuck in a feedback loop, where adults praise us for mastering things that seem very simple and effortless: therefore we think that effortless=praiseworthy. We see kids around us struggling with mastery and {yes, it’s true, we kinda can’t help it, many of us start off pretty egotistical and only learn empathy later} we assume that struggle=stupidity. Then, the first time we hit a task that’s going to require some WORK on our part, we spiral into cataclysmic thinking.

This is hard. -> Stuff is supposed to be easy for me.  -> If it’s hard, that means I’m stupid {about this}. -> Feeling stupid is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. -> I’m going to quit {this} and do something where I’m comfortably smart, instead.

In my life right now, I’m figuring out how to push through that old pattern and not get caught on that spiral. Part of my new ability to do that comes from my meds, and I’m okay with that. The other part comes from some good therapy and learning some new types of self-talk. I had to figure out how to recognize the pattern, the voice in my head that whispers that LIFE AS WE KNOW IT WILL END IF MICHELLE FAILS AT SOMETHING PUBLICLY aaaaah eeeeeeek oh noes and I had to figure out how to approach opportunities rationally. There are certain key phrases my brain uses when it’s in that mode. They are my red flags that what I’m thinking and feeling isn’t really grounded in truth.

Having a friend or loved one to springboard ideas has also really helped me. A local bestie who knows me well, my husband – both people who can “gut check” me and will kindly but truthfully tell me when I’m hung up on old notions and operating out of fear.

https://smilescanbecatching.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/what-if-i-fall-oh-but-my-darling-what-if-you-fly/

One of the things I want desperately for my kids, then, is to grow up without the whisper of paranoid perfection in their heads. I pray that I’ll see the warning signs if they feel pressure to be perfect. I hope that I’ll know when to nudge them to keep going, to persevere, to take another step, to leap, to fly. And on the other hand, that I’ll know when they really do need to heed their inner voice and lay something down, take a step back, stop.

I don’t want Abi to stick with ballet because I have visions of her onstage beside Misty Copeland someday. I want her to stick with ballet for as long as it makes her happy, and if at some point it doesn’t, I hope I’ll be able to help her find another outlet that does bring her joy.

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Take a deep breath. This one is a doozy.

I’ve blogged about a lot of projects over the years. Sewing things and crafts for kids. Painting and quilting. Bible studies and volunteer work. But this one takes the cake. (I’ve blogged about some cake projects, too, come to think of it.)

I’m writing a book. I wrote a book. I’m writing a book.

In November, I signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month, which urges people to take the pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This was my first year, and I won NaNoWriMo! I ended the month with just a little over 50K.

 

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

That’s an awesome feeling. There are over 300,000 participants and I heard somewhere (can’t find my source again at the moment to link, I will if I stumble back over it though!) that around 25,000 people won. That’s a pretty small chunk of people.

But. As great as it felt to validate my novel on the NaNo website and see the big “WINNER!” logo, it was like scaling the first peak of a roller-coaster. You know what comes after the first peak, right? The first drop.

50,000 words does technically meet the definition of a novel, but it’s a really short one. Most modern novels are in the 80-85,000 range. Therefore, even though I won NaNo, I wasn’t really done.

I spent the month of December adding to the work, and a few days before the kids got out on their holiday break, I decided it was done!  (Well. Done enough to let a couple of people read it and give feedback.)

So then I was all, “Yay! I’m done! I wrote a book!”

I spent the two weeks of Christmas break trying NOT to think about my characters and my plotline. But then I got the feedback from my darling beta readers. And I had to admit, they had some great points. It was time to edit.

So. I  was editing away. Doing little re-writes here and there, and daydreaming about my main character again… and a few days ago I realized that the two secondary characters are really pretty close to having excellent story arcs of their own… if I just give them a few more chapters to develop.

Now I’m back in the saddle again. (The writing saddle, not the riding saddle.) My word count was around 67,500 at the end of my first round of edits; my new goal with these new chapters is to end up around 86,000 words.

And even then, it won’t be done. It will just be ready to send to a few more trusted beta readers. And then it will probably need more edits.

Not This Day

But one of these days, Aragorn. Pow! to the moon!

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We’ve lived in this house for over a year, now, and -as you do- we’re still in the process of decorating. There were several spaces that looked fine to guests, but weren’t quite done in my eyes.

So this fall, we got a large rug for the great room and a console table to go behind the couch in there.

And I went on an organizing rampage and Chris went out shopping for furniture, and we made over the rec room upstairs into more of a movie room.

If I were a fashion-y, design-y blogger, this is where you’d get a dozen pictures of my perfectly curated house and a totally Pinnable tutorial for fixing up your very own movie room.

I’m not that kinda blogger.

I tell you that, so I can tell you this story.

After our recent decorating spree, I was standing in the great room folding laundry. Jonas bopped down the stairs, and as he came through on his way to get a snack from the kitchen, he called out, “By the way, Mom, I really like the home upgrades. It’s looking great around here!”

 

 

 

 

Upgrades.

Because when you’re a Minecraft-obsessed almost-10-year-old, that’s about the extent of your home decor awareness and appreciation.

I’m okay with that. 🙂

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I got a new planner in August, and I’ve really loved using it the past several months. I’ve always used a calendar and I’m a pretty naturally organized person. Meal planning, appointment tracking, to-do lists… that’s practically one of my love languages. A few years ago, we had a large family calendar hanging in the kitchen, but when we moved into the new house I didn’t really have a good space for one. So I attempted to make a family binder (using ideas from Pinterest) with a calendar section and otherwise go digital, storing everything in my phone calendar – and it was a miserable failure!

I was forgetting things I needed to do and running late for appointments. Apparently, writing things down really cements them in my brain. On any given day, I can usually close my eyes and visualize a monthly calendar and tell you which days I have something scheduled – IF I’ve written it down. So around the time school started, I was on the hunt for a paper calendar again, but I wanted something portable. Something pretty enough to spread out on the kitchen counter, but small enough to tuck in my purse and take with me to appointments (which really helps with scheduling a follow-up, let me tell you!)

I chose an Erin Condren Life Planner – there are entire blogs, fan clubs on Facebook, and hashtags on Insta devoted to EC. When I first started looking for a paper planner to buy, it was a little off-putting actually. Folks are hardcore about their #ECLP! It is wild. (Full disclosure: if you use that link, you’ll have a chance to sign up for a $10 off your first purchase coupon, and if you make a purchase, I’ll get a small referral credit as well.)

ECLP collage 1

There is a monthly spread with tabs, followed by weekly spreads – mine is the horizontal option. EC also makes a vertical layout and an hourly layout, as well as a simple monthly calendar with notebook pages if you don’t need daily planning space.

If you start looking into them, you’ll see that a ton of women combine their love of scrapbooking or journaling with their love for this coil-bound calendar. It’s awfully pretty, but that style wouldn’t work for me. I have bought stickers (because I’m telling you, there’s like a cultofcondren and anything you normally plan around in your life? There’s a sticker for that! It’s easy to get etsy’ed away!) but I don’t cover every square inch of my planner in stickers, washi tape, and whatnot.

ECLP Collage 2
This week has been a bummer for a #planneraddict, though. Nearly everything I wrote down got cancelled or rescheduled! Ah, snow… so pretty and so problematic.Instagram Snow steps

School has been out for two days and I highly suspect it will be out tomorrow, too. I was planning to take Jonas to his first concert on Friday – Lecrae at SKyPAC in Bowling Green! – but the venue has rescheduled the event. We’re hoping we’ll still be able to see Jonas play basketball and that celebrate the birthday and graduation of a couple of dear friends, but this is the South. If we get as much snow as the top end of the predictions suggest, we may be hibernating until June!

 

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But it might not be “The Talk” you’re thinking.

“When we drive to At-a-lanta on Saturday, are we going to see that police again? Remembah last time we went to Georgia we see’d a police?”

“Well, we will probably see at least one police car because it’s a long drive. But it probably won’t be the same police officer we saw last time.”

“Yeah, but when we see’d the police the last time I was SO scared and I thought, ‘Oh no, oh no, are we gonna go to jail?’

“You don’t have to be scared, baby. I will drive us safely and follow the rules. We won’t go to jail. You know, it’s the job of police officers to help keep everyone safe.”

“But dey don’t!”

“What do you mean they don’t?” (Now, I was thinking, I know of several instances where police officers have failed at their sworn duty to keep everyone safe, but I didn’t think she did.)

“Remembah when that girl, that poor girl was so sad, and she had long hair and that police was hurting her on the ground? And she was cryin for her mama. She wasn’t keeping safe.”

*****

And so my heart broke a little. But, at the same time, there was a glimmer of rightness in having this conversation with my baby. Because she was watching and she was listening that day the McKinney, Texas pool party video went viral. She heard that young girl’s cries, and my outrage and my sadness about the whole incident.

See, I believe that white moms need to have The Talk –not the birds & the bees talk, the police talk– with their white children, too. For far too long, black and brown parents have had the conversation with their children while, in ignorance and bliss, white parents sat in privilege and just… never even thought about it. But that has to end. It ends for Mike Brown. It ends for Tamir Rice. It ends for Sandra Bland. It ends for John Crawford.

Here’s the really important thing, though. If you’re one of my white friends, and you’re reading this and thinking about this subject, please don’t just listen to me. You need to listen to Black voices. It’s not my place to speak for the people who are really on the recieving end of the trauma and terror of police violence. You need to tune in and listen: listen online, via Facebook and Twitter and great blogs and websites, listen in person. And then you need to have this conversation with your kids, too.

*****

So Abi and I talked a little more, in the car on our way home, about how most police officers are wonderful, conscientious, courageous men and women. It’s always important to be respectful and polite when we speak to them. But sometimes, even police officers make mistakes or even do things out of anger. Sometimes, like in the video she remembered, one might even hurt someone just because of what they look like.

I admit, I felt really inadequate to the task and I worried how much she was ready for. But like every important parenting conversation – it’s not a one and done deal. We’ll revisit this, again and again. I have the chance to get it right. I’ll go over it with her siblings.

And I hope you will, too.  (In fact: if you’ve already started having The Talk with your kids, I’d love to hear what you said at various ages. Please drop me a note! Comments go to moderation, so if you’d rather yours stay private please just say so and it won’t be published publicly.)

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Our first snowfall of 2016 wasn’t too much. About two inches, but there was some freezing underneath. We woke up Sunday morning to news of churches cancelling services (including ours) and plenty of accidents all around the tri-state area.

Normally, we would have just enjoyed a morning of hibernation. But we had planned Susannah’s birthday party for that afternoon at the ice rink, so we were concerned that it would be closed due to the road conditions. Or – even if the rink was open – that her friends’ families would stay away for concern over the roads.

Luckily for sweet Susannah, The Edge was open for business… and almost all of her classmates were able to come and celebrate our girl! It was a nice party, and it was interesting to watch my kids’ personalities play out on the ice.

Susannah was determined to spend every last second on the ice, and she wasn’t worried about ditching the milk-crate support. Being out there, gliding around, was more important to her than whether she needed ‘training wheels’ or not. Her pals from school tended to interact and skate together, “race” across the center of the ice, and zoom around to help each other up when they tumbled –but Susannah sort of floated in and out of those interactions and was just as happy skating solo. And that’s always been her way. She charts her own course, and while she’s very sociable and loves the people who cross her path, it truly doesn’t bother her if she’s on a different map and headed for a different destination.

Abigail went out fearlessly with her crate and didn’t want me to help much. After the first half hour, she even started skating without the box support! She has incredible balance and moves with more confidence and grace than I had at four. 🙂 Abi didn’t want the bigger kids or the rink workers to help her when she fell down. It was either me, or on her own; she didn’t really want strangers in her space. And that’s Abi’s way. She has physical grace and she really trusts her body, but she doesn’t much trust other people beyond a very tightly defined circle of family and besties. When she’s hurt or upset, it’s still an Only Mom Will Do deal.

Jonas was a little bit nervous when he first stepped out, but as soon as he got his ice legs under him, he had a blast. He really hit it off with Susannah’s friend J, and spent most of the time with him – they would race, challenge each other to try new things, help each other up when they both decided to abandon crates. He giggled and grinned and lit up the rink with his happiness. And that’s my big guy; he approaches new things with caution, but when he warms up –and especially, when he warms up to a buddy– he can tackle anything, and he does it with joy.

And as it turns out, when we got home from the skating party, we got our chance to hibernate. The schools decided to make Monday a snow day!

 

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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