Since I’m Feeling Pissy, I’ll Post Some Pretty Pictures

I’m feeling pissy.  So I’ll post some pretty pictures.

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Photo not labeled in slideshow are from Terry Bison Ranch in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  The ones with the farm animals and wide open spaces and big sky.  Yep, that’s Wyoming. 

I found out yesterday I have to go back to the drawing board for my thesis.  I don’t totally have to redo it, but I have to reorganize, restructure and also think about it differently.  I guess. 

My thesis advisor told me my Writer’s Notes are where my voice is — where the story is, instead of my essays that focus on capturing the beauty and love of motherhood.  My advisor sees this thesis (the essays and writer’s notes) eventually as a book.  Plus 9 months of pregnancy before that and years of infertility. 

Right now, I just have to get 50 pages ready for my thesis and that means thesis quality.  I had 65 pages of essays for first draft of thesis and 75 pages of Writer’s Notes. 

But how do I pick just fifty pages when I have gone through so much in the last 18 months.  My thesis is on motherhood.   It feels like trying to stuff the ocean in a sandbag.

Pretty picture: (Can’t resist an opportunity for a picture of the ocean!)

Ocean photo by Megan Oteri Copyright 2011

* Writer’s Notes = basically a diary/journal on being a stay at home mom and pretty much raw, honest, unfiltered rants (because who seriously writes in a diary when they are feeling super happy and content, at least I don’t.  I enjoy the feeling of happy and do what happy people do – I do things.)

My thesis advisor told me my Writer’s Notes are where my voice is — where the story is, instead of my essays that focus on capturing the beauty and love of motherhood. 

The thing is, I’m honest, but I’m not sure if I really want to be that honest… ya know…at least on paper that gets bound in a book with my name on it.

Here is a pretty picture:

Kangamangus Highway in New Hampshire photo by Megan Oteri - copyright

Seriously, advisor is telling me that my rants and first draft diary entries are my thesis heart.  I don’t know what to do with this.  It’s like being told you have to make scrambled eggs after working on eggs Benedict. Anyway, I am pissy today. 
A pretty picture:

Magnolia II Photo by Megan Oteri 2011

My husband called me out on it this morning when Momzilla got up and while I was opening a package of bacon (some days you need bacon) and frying it up in a pan.  He said, “You’re just pissy because (advisor) said you have to rework your thesis.”  What preceded that was, “Just tell me you like going to work.  That it’s hard watching a toddler.”
 “Yeah, I just told you that.  I told you he was a monster last night while you were at grad school.”
“Yeah, but tell me, it’s hard.  Tell me you like going to work.  Tell me your job is less stressful.”
He said, “My job is a different kind of stressful.” 
More pretty pictures:

Budding ~ photo by Megan Oteri - Copyright 2010

 The stress of being a mother to a toddler gets to me.  I feel like a freak, even admitting it, even though I know every mother at some point, huddles on the kitchen floor in the fetal position, lost in the insanity of toddler screams.  By the way, as I write this my toddler is trying to mop the kitchen floor.  He is actually pouring an empty vinegar bottle in the blue plastic bucket.  He has the mop and is trying to mop the floor.  Go for it, I say.  Another reason I am pissy is the house is an absolute mess. And I don’t want to clean it.  At all. 

More pretty pictures:

Blue Wheelbarrow Photo by Megan Oteri Copyright 2010     So much depends on a blue wheelbarrow…

 So I will ignore the wet floor in the bathroom where my toddler poured cups of water from his Tasmanian Devil cup onto the floor.  I will ignore the laundry, so badly in need of doing, that there are no clean towels to clean up the wet floor in the bathroom, and I am wearing an outfit I would wear to work as a teacher (although I made the decision to quit my job last year around this time to stay home with my son).   I usually wear yoga pants and the same red sweater.  I have a mom uniform I usually wear too – jeans and the same black long sleeve shirt.

What I can’t ignore is my toddler’s need for food. So we’ll be back.  Maybe I won’t be so damn pissy.

Later in the day and not so pissy…

FYI:  Momzilla didn’t deserve this, but my husband, came home for lunch and I was napping with toddler (feeling sorry for myself and my damn thesis) and husband cleaned the kitchen while I napped extra.  I just laid in bed and felt sorry for myself.  But sometimes you just have to wallow.

 I’ll go back to the thesis and figure out how to scramble those eggs.  On a good note: my thesis advisor is preparing me for the caliber of writing that is needed to get published in the real world.  On a pissy note – my thesis is due before Christmas break.  So there really aren’t enough photos to post to punch through that pissiness.  But here is one final pretty picture, because tomorrow is another day.  And I do have an amazing husband and son.  And a great group of friends and family to help me crack some eggs!

The reality of writing is that IT IS HARD WORK.  And I do it because I love it.  Because I need to.  Because I want to… 

I Want To Run Photo by Megan Oteri 2011

Friends who make us feel full

memomuse, windswept by the sea

I recently went to a writers’ conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (South Carolina’s Writers’ Workshop).  My friend, Annie, went with me.  What a joyous time we had.

This friendship makes me feel like a giant of greatness

She is the type of friend who makes me believe in my dreams and more importantly, myself.  Our conversations touch on all kinds of subjects.  Faith. Secrets.  Love.  Loss. Letters in boxes from dead relatives.  Avatars.  Transformations.  Butterflies and their grace.  Energy healers.  Being worn out.  Being torn down.  Being build up.  Writing.  Food.  Skeletons in our closet.  Closets for our skeletons.  Energy drainers.  Friends that we shouldn’t label as friends.  Thoreau’s essays.  Books that bounce off invisible rhythms of our souls.  Serendipity.  Fate.  Circumstance.  Jobs.  Dreams.  Hopes. Love. And so much more.

Sometimes friends are gifts beyond our scope of understanding. 

Mirrors of beauty

They give us a mirror and we can see our beauty.  Annie is this mirror for me.  Maybe because I am an old soul I am drawn to older women. 

I have another friend who is 95 and we’re kindred spirits.  Her name is Jennie.  I am lucky to have a friend like her.  She takes me for what I’m.  I don’t have to censor or apologize for being me.   

Friends have no age

She baked homemade baklava for my wedding and all my guests.  She is also a writer.  I met her in a writer’s group, years ago in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Everyone except her was salivating to get published.  Jennie just wanted to write her stories. For herself, her grandchildren and children.  One of those stories is an amazing story about being right there at Pearl Harbor before the bombing, during the bombing, and after the bombing when her husband, who was a Navy officer put her and her pregnant belly on a ship back to the mainland.  Enemy submarines following her ship the whole way. 

Jennie taught me the most important thing about writing, by example: don’t get caught up in publishing it – write to write. 

In other words, write for yourself. 

Important lesson.  A lesson I am still trying to take the test for.  I have flunked several times, as I am desperate to get published.   For someone to recognize my words, myself, my fate.  Someday, I may be on a bookshelf you can check out or maybe I’ll just have finished manuscripts on my shelf with all the other journals.  But Jennie’s wisdom sits on my shoulder when I write, whispering her words, “Write for yourself. The rest will balance out eventually.”  I listen, as she is a wise friend.

Annie, too, shares this gift of writing for herself.  She hesitates to call herself a writer, but she journals religiously or when she has time.  And oh, does she have a story.  She could have pitched her memoir to any one of those important gate-keeper literary agents at the conference and they would be all over her book.  She gets caught up in all the questions and tangles I do.  “Where do I start? Who would want to read my story?  How do I organize it?”  I am able to give her sound advice.  Advice I echo from Jennie.  “Write for yourself Annie.  The rest will work itself out.”

Annie is a spry, sexy, woman who I often forget her age. She is 72.  She looks maybe 50. 

Isn't she something!

Her energy feels like maybe 25.  We can’t help but giggle and crack jokes around each other and miraculously, I don’t get on her nerves.  Some friends can only stand me for a limited amount of time.  And I can only stand them for about the same.  As it should be.  Some friendships are deeper than others and that is ok.   

 Some friendships I try to force that round peg in the square peg. 

I hear myself murmuring, “I’ll make it fit,” as splinters pierce skin.  But I can be annoying.  I talk too much; I’m impatient.  Hell, I got so many flaws, I couldn’t list them all.  I will be the first to tell you that.  Or the second, as you might be the person I am telling it to and you already know that! But I can also be beautiful, inspiring, encouraging, nurturing, and warm.  I am a friend for life and I got your back . 

With some friends we depart and reconnect a week later, a month later.  But with Annie, I didn’t want to leave her side. We were together Friday (all day in the car, lost on country roads) and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  I felt empty when she left.  Sad.  Our connection is cosmic. 

Annie and memomuse

Annie and memomuse

 There are very few friends I can be so real with.  I am lucky to have a handful of real friends that take me for what I am. Sometimes too blunt for my own good, sometimes so creative I have a hard time containing my excitement, sometimes discouraged and heartbroken by the world and all the realities that can get a creative down, sometimes a conversation hog, sometimes a mother still adjusting to being a new mom, sometimes a writer (need I say more), sometimes a wife, sometimes a sister, sometimes a daughter, sometimes a sinner, sometimes a saint, sometimes a lady some of you know as memomuse.  But true friends really do leave footprints on our hearts.  True friends tell us to shut up and listen.  True friends tell us to keep talking.  “Go on, I’m listening.  You’re on to something.  Keep the faith.  Don’t give up.  No, you aren’t that annoying.” 

Photo by memomuse

These friends who leave footprints on our soul also are the ones who provide the intensity and depth of the ocean near by the sand.  Some friends leave muddy boot marks that make our hearts itch and scream.

I recently ended a friendship that just didn’t make me feel good. In fact, it made me feel icky.  I had to sever ties.  I ignored the instinct in my heart that this friend judged me and looked down on me.  I do understand that this friendship’s chapter ended and I am grateful to have read the book.  But I am focusing now on friendships that make me feel alive and grow and thrive. 

Life is too damn short to try to shave that thick round peg into a right-angled square peg. 

 I have realized that I have shaved parts of myself in all aspects of my life (work, creative, family, personal, etc.) trying to fit into that nice, neat square peg.  I was born for circles. As they are infinite and each point on a circle is the same distance from the center. 

After the conference was over, Annie and I sat at the hotel bar out in the bright warm sun and danced in conversation. 

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Back and forth, back and forth.  Ebb and flow.  Taking turns so naturally.  Bouncing off each other’s thoughts.  Then another kindred spirit joined us, a writer.  We all gathered, sipping Bloody Marys, and soaking up the sun.  Butterflies kept dancing around us, fluttering along our shoulders.  We were in touch with this great big force of self, surrounded by the magic of friendship, of muse. 

So, I raise my glass to old friendships and new friendships.  Because they all matter.  And like a circle, sometimes they continue on, sometimes they just stay at their point in the circle.  And some, like Annie’s go round and round, with giggle storms that make your belly ache, conversations that make you want to shout to the world, and comfort, no apple pie sitting on an open windowed shelf, can touch. 

What friendships nurture you?  Do you foster them?  What friendships make you feel bad?  Do you continue to shave off your round peg to fit it into the square hole?

Journal Your Journey.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be. wherever you go, are going, and plan on going...never look back. Journey on.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.


My Father – My Thoreau

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I’m gonna get all Thoreau on ya… here are some pictures from my nature walk with my son, Ben.

There is something wonderful about the quiet only nature can provide.  The birds, the leaves rustling, a child playing nearby, toddler alien language as he discovers the magic of his own wonderment. I also need to say that I have not figured out how to get the slideshows to be separate, so the slideshows put all the photos in.  So some of the photos are from North Carolina and some are from the Kangamangus Highway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire during peak foliage.


Sometimes it is easier to just post the pictures that inspire me on my facebook page for my small circle of friends and cyber friends to see, but I usually take notice when something really inspires me.  When something moves me.  And I was moved today.

I was thinking today about how peaceful it is this time of year.  The weather is cool enough for just a jacket and not so hot your skin feels like it is melting off from the heat and humidity of the South.  (It should be noted that extreme heat makes me BITCHY and as much as I hate admitting it, extreme cold.  But you can make a cozy fire, put on layers, and sip hot chocolate when it’s cold).

The leaves this time of year around here (Eastern North Carolina) are this deep, dark brown and magenta hue.  An earthy brown wraps around the landscape like a porch on a farm house.  I take notice.  It is just what writers and artists do.  This deep brown makes me feel centered.  So very connected to Mother Earth.  I can’t quite explain what it is.  But November in Eastern North Carolina is my version of New Hampshire in early October.  (see slideshow for mixed in photos of New Hampshire).

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A writer of creative nonfiction recently posted a piece on her blog titled, “Have We Lost Capacity to Observe.”  It got me thinking about how lucky I am to not have an iphone or a phone I care to take on walks with me.  A camera is all the technology I need and I would still prefer to shoot in 35 mm film (But I do admit I like the fact I can upload and post the same day and not have to pay any money for film development).  If I don’t have a camera, then a journal and pen will suffice.  I can’t stand to be inspired and not be able to capture it somehow.

This post on her blog inspired me to write more about this (as I was beginning to write my own blog post on her comments section).

I took my son to the park today, after we visited our favorite horse, Silk.  She is on the way to the park.  After our horse adventure, I was moved by the light hitting the tall trees across the street.  So we went to the other side of the park where there is a path to walk.  The gym equipment is usually empty as a bigger playground is on the other side of the park.  I sometimes really enjoy just being alone with my son.  Plus, I get a chance to take photos and gaze at the trees.  I don’t have to chase him up and down slides and open walkways that make my heart skip a beat if he were to fall.

The bigger, more awesome playground is across an open field behind it (the picture above).  Plus, he can’t climb up on the stairs on this playground so I can wander more myself, not worrying about him falling.  Helicopter mom can park the chopper.

We started our adventure in the fridge where we got some carrots for our favorite horse, Silk.  She is in a 3 acre pasture just five minutes up the road.  She is 25 years old and just a charmer.  She makes me feel like I am in Wyoming.  Something about horses in a pasture that gets me every time.  Ben loves feeding her carrots. 

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Although it is not New England, fall in Eastern North Carolina is still lovely. I love the deep, dark colors, darker than up North (see part of the slideshow for photos of New Hampshire).  My husband is from Boston and I went to college in the Northeast, so New England falls are special to me.

I do miss the bright yellows of Aspens from Wyoming and the thick leaves of the Cottonwoods, but November’s leaves in North Carolina are something.  Darker, darker, darker.  Something about the browns and crimson hues.

So as Ben played on the playground, exploring with wood chips and his own wonder, I played with my camera on my playground: nature.  Put me in the woods or near a lake and give me quiet:  I am happy.

I certainly have a lot of Thoreau in me.  I have so much adoration for the man that I blindly picked a summer camp to work at that had his name in it.  Long story, for another time. 🙂

My father taught me about Thoreau without ever mentioning his name  or referencing any of his essays.  I just watched what nature did for my father.  He was a Korean War veteran — the Chosin Reservoir.  That war fucked him up.  Seriously. How could it not?  He was only 18.  He saw so many men killed.  He killed so many men.  He was a gentle soul, at heart.  This must have tormented him.  He was a devote Catholic too.  He was even an altar boy.

My father, my hero. Semper Fe

He also had a tough childhood he never really talked about.  His family lost everything during the Crash.  In fact, the crash was pretty much his birthday party.  He was born October 5, 1929.

My father always took my sister and me to the park.  We explored every park and playground within the Chicago suburbs.  Every weekend and sometimes on his days off, we’d explore.   He gardened as well, making our childhood home in Wheaton, Illinois an orchestra of color.  Yes, he did work us both like soldiers — weeding, picking the garden for crops, raking, you name it, we did it.  But there was something magical that happened when our hands were in the soil and cardinals sing-songed by in flight.  We were at peace.  The world seemed to stop and wonder began. We also loved being around our dad.  And the best was when it was time for break.  Dad would get us each a Pepsi long neck bottle with the swirvy, twisted glass neck.  We’d gulp down a cold Pepsi (always Pepsi, never Coke) and wipe the sweat from our brows and sink in with exhaustion and the feeling of a good, honest day’s work.  Blue collar all the way baby!

Now that I am a parent myself, I have such compassion for my dad.  He was damaged by war, by death, by poverty, by a childhood I never knew anything about.  By his own mother’s crippling depression, his father’s alcoholism.  But it never took his wonder away.  He always loved nature and I believe it is where he was at peace.

The enchanted gardens of my childhood are memories I will always have.  And there are some bi-polar outbursts of my father’s that I could happily forget.  But as I grow older, wiser — I feel like my father was an extraordinary character.  An extraordinary man, of integrity, of honor, of knowledge.  Someone Charleston Heston, Paul Newman, or Kirk Douglas would play in a movie.  He was funny, a voracious reader, a war hero, and a quiet man.

I miss him dearly, as he passed away in 2003.  I wish he could know Benjamin.  I wish he could see himself in his grandson’s beautiful blue eyes. I see myself in my father’s eyes.  I see the same wonder and poetry. I credit my father with my gift of writing.

My mother was a verbal story-teller; my father was a poet.  Not with his words, for I never saw him write.  But I saw him write as he thought.  His silence was where he composed.  He always reminded me that Percy Bysshe Shelley  was in my  lineage. And Agatha Christie too.  “Remember that,” he would say.  A man of few words, I listened.  I watched. I now am grateful for what he taught me — to measure joy with a beautiful sunset, to be inspired by trees, to tell a story from a cricket’s song, to be one with nature.  To listen, quietly.  Then loudly think.  Then explode with the noise of words, of wonder, of wisdom.

Although it is not possible to tell him in person, I often speak to him through the birds.

Artwork by Marsha Parker for my “Hope” sticky note in the “The Original Journal” (become a fan by clicking on the facebook fan page badge on this website)My dad wrote this in my journal when I asked him to sign The Original Journal.My dad’s journal signing in “The Original Journal.” “Keep up courage and hope.” ~ Dad

I send them messages to give him.  He loved birds.  Cardinals were his favorite.  They are mine as well.  He knew all the names of birds and species names.

He was a modest man, self-taught and educated through books and history.  If I didn’t see him thinking, puffing away on a cigarette, then I saw his head buried in a book.  Not a pansy ass 100 pager.  Heavy,  thick books, like encyclopedias.  Biographies — Winston Churchill,  Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, General Patton, William Wallace.  War books — World War II, The American Revolution, Forty Years War.  Poetry – Keats, Shelley, Shakespeare.  Sports — baseball, basketball.  Just to name a few.  He read everything; he knew everything.  He was like an encyclopedia.  He would tell me, “You’ve got to read more.  You’re a writer.  Writers read, Megan.”  He’d almost look disgusted at my ignorance.  For ignoring knowledge so readily available.

I sometimes hate myself for not understanding his genius.  His will.  His ability to self-educate.  He dropped out of school to help his family pay the bills.  But he always read.

He had a bridge in the backyard where I truly thought magic elves lived.  I think he told me this once.  Or gnomes.  It was at this bridge where I would see him sit, puffin’ away curls of smoke. No hands to take a drag, just his mouth, arms at his side, comfortably tucked.  His cigarette dangling in his lips, at an angle.  He drifted off somewhere I never knew.  Somewhere he probably didn’t want anyone to know.

This quiet of nature, of his garden was where he would think.  Where he could be at peace with his thoughts, with himself. And I never really thought about where he went.  But he must have drifted to some dark places. Afterall, he survived one of the worst battles in Marine Corps history: the Chosin Resoirvoir.  The quote at the top of the website that I linked to says it all: “Those that were there will never forget! Those who were not will never know!” Wow, didn’t know nature would lead me here.  But she did.  And I am thankful.  In nature, we can think.  And that is a lovely thing.  So, get your a$$ off the couch and go look at a flower.  Turn off your cell phone.  Bring a journal.  Bring your kids.  Wonder.  And listen.