The Story’s The Thing

January 13, 2009

Here’s the thing about maintaining a personal blog: one sometimes forgets that one is not simply maintaining a diary – albeit a carefully thought-out diary, one that is edited for style and for grammar – but publishing, virtually, a sort of memoir or collection of essays or some combination of these. One forgets, sometimes, that one has made, is making, one’s story public.

I forget this all the time.

The primary danger, here, is not that one might unintentionally reveal something that one might later regret. We most of us hesitate with our cursors hovering over the Publish Post button every time that we write, mentally reviewing what we’ve said and how we’ve said it and worrying over how it might be received. The Publish Post button reminds us, in the crucial moment, that we are in fact publishing, making public, our stories, our rants, our confessions. What the Publish Post button does not remind us, however, is that with every post that we publish we are constructing and furthering a narrative that is followed by tens or dozens of readers, tens or dozens of readers who might well want to know what became of that problem, was that issue resolved, what happens next? They follow a narrative, and our blogging platforms don’t provide tools for reminding us that we’re weaving such narratives as we write. And because we are not reminded, we – I – sometimes forget.

I was reminded – uncomfortably – of this the other day when I wrote a confused, rambling post that was a variation on another post that I’d written a few months ago. I knew that I had already written on the topic – whether or not I wanted to keep open the possibility of having a third child – and was just trying to sort my feelings out further. It was a post that I wrote for myself, not one that was intended to advance my story, such as that story is. And that pissed at least one reader off, a little: she protested that I was just retreading old ground and that it was frustrating and why didn’t I make more of an effort to let readers know what I was doing to prevent what seemed to be my inevitable slide into whiny insanity – for example, what had I done about the sleep issues? Had I taken any readerly advice? – because, seriously, if I kept this up – and certainly if I made the terrible mistake of committing mental suicide by further childbearing – she, for one, was not going to be able to read me anymore. (She later apologized for articulating herself so harshly, and made clear that she was just frustrated because she is a fan of the blog, and I’m totally comfortable with that, so please don’t smack her in comments.) Which: OUCH.

The comment struck a nerve, because a) I’m sensitive about the possibility that this blog can be, you know, angst-ridden at times, and believe me, my angst bores even me, and b) oh, gawd, I like totally can’t maintain the thread on my own stories, can I? But there’re reasons why I don’t always (read: almost never) maintain a narrative thread: because sometimes doing a follow-up on how nothing has changed and how I’m still angsting out over the same old miscellaneous bullshit seems, I don’t know, tiresome, and because – more often than not – I forget. Some other issue comes up – the girl pours canola oil on the living room sofa, or I become obsessed yet again with the finality of vasectomies – and whatever thread I had begun to weave about sleeplessness or feeding baby or finding long lost siblings gets lost.

Which is fine, in a way: this is my story, and if it’s disjointed, so what? But still: I like a coherent narrative thread, and so far as coherence is possible in personal narratives, why not pursue it? I can’t promise that I’ll follow up on every little issue, but I can promise to make an effort to not just abandon cliffhangers (I laugh even as I write this. Who among you was waiting with bated breath to see if Her Bad Mother would ever sleep again, dun dun dun DUN?!?!?) So, to that end: the first of a series of semi-occasional, whenever-the-hell-I-feel-like-it, will-probably-forget-to-do-this-ever-again updates on stories that you probably don’t care about but this blog is a narrative, dammit, and so the story must go on:

1) Did Her Bad Mother ever sleep again? No, she did not, and probably will not again, ever. She has tried most of the suggestions offered and none, so far have worked. She would just give up and look into becoming a vampire, were it not for the fact that she doesn’t want to eat her baby (I don’t care what Stephenie Meyer implied in Breaking Dawn about mother-love overcoming the temptation to sink one’s teeth into buttery baby butt cheeks; if I were a vampire I would totally eat my baby because, my god, the deliciousness), so she’ll just persist in this lovely and only slightly inconvenient sleep-deprived fugue state.

2) Did Her Bad Baby ever take to solid foods? Yes! He did! He does! But only if they’re, you know, solid. As in, able to withstand the clutch of a chunky little fist. Which is to say, hunks of bread or cereal biscuits or meatballs or whole baby carrots or, for some reason, pickles. Anything mushy, anything on a spoon, anything in a bottle (sigh) is rejected with a swat of a chubby hand.

3) Did Her Bad Mother ever find her long lost brother? Has she made any progress? Not so much. Believe me, you’ll hear about it when – WHEN – anything happens.

4) Whatever happened to the Phallic Lovey? He (Christian name: Toadstool) was tossed aside by the girl – who declared herself to be ‘too big for Toady now’ – a few weeks ago. It was like a sad Toy Story 2 sub-plot, really, and Her Bad Mother got a little weepy. Her Bad Husband, however, rejoiced. And then this happened:

And so it goes.

Any other questions on narrative threads that I may have dropped, recently or, like, eons ago? Fire away in the comments, and I’ll follow up them, someday. And tell me, what are the narrative threads that you’ve dropped? I’m not the only one out here who can’t tell a story, am I?

Also, oh, hai: yesterday was Delurking Day, and I missed it. Feel free to make up for that today.

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    Redneck Mommy January 13, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I want me a phallic toadstool.

    Don’t ask why. You don’t want to know.

    Vickie January 13, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Delurking – Love your blog!

    motherbumper January 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    I’m shaking my head over the inheritance of toadstool. I figured it would have disintegrated by now and returned to be one with the Earth or sex shop or where ever it came from.

    Kady January 13, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    I delurk cuz you’s funny.

    carrie January 13, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Well, thank god that toadstool is gone!


    All Things BD January 13, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Delurking, I think, because as someone else said, I read you everyday, but can’t remember if I comment. Too much brain power required.

    I love the fact that you addressed anonymous’ comment. It takes guts to examine criticism, even if you adamantly disagree with them. You handled it with grace and aplomb. Kudos.

    marla January 13, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks for this. I just started a blog…I mean just started on Jan. 1. Very scary thing for me. Good to know to refer back to things if they are unresolved. So all those one people who have read it won’t be left in a sleepless lurch over my never ending driveway and its story. Again Thank you, and Oh Hai, delurked!

    J from Ireland January 13, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Hi, you could write your shopping list and I would still enjoy reading. Best wishes.

    Haley-O January 13, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Hmm. I’m sure there are a bunch of “cliffhangers” in my blog. I know there are, and sometimes I just choose to let them go because it’s just too much (MORE) work to think about the blog as a narrative. I’m very happy with it being a series of fragments. :) And, I trust my readers are, too.

    marla January 13, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Oh and Toady, he is um…well endowed?

    Fergus' Mom January 13, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    De-lurking to say that I love your narrative and the very organic way in which it evolves. Keep doing what you are doing and thank you for sharing with us what you do! I don’t often comment ‘out loud’ as it were, but I often laugh/cry right along with you, shake my head in recognition, or shout out a resounding ‘you go girl!’

    And I secretly (now openly) covet the Sock Monkey hat…think they make those in ‘big girl’ sizes? I. SO. WANT!

    Mommer January 13, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Delurking, sort of, since I do occasionally comment and I wish I did more. So, um, I guess I will. There we go!

    I remember realizing when my son was an infant that between pregnancy waking, new baby waking, and my daughter’s thrice-nightly nightmares for months on end, I had slept through the night less than ten times in 3.5 years. It does get better. I promise. Having only two kids makes it get better sooner.

    I dropped a pretty big narrative thread on my blog, which was the potty-training of my son. He was five when it occurred (he’s mildly autistic) and it was a HUGE event, and somehow I got busy and I forgot to upload the picture of the celebratory train trip and months went by, and well, you know. So I guess I should write that essay retroactively.

    VDog January 13, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Also delurking late… cuz that’s how I roll.

    oh mah gaw! is that boy cute. and I know cute boys. fer realz.

    sorry about all the sucky, narrative, schmarrative, and at BlissDom I hope to say more than just the ‘hi’ I made in the Macy’s handbag department in passing, lol.

    be well, and sleep, please sleep. you know, if that were possible.

    Karen MEG January 13, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I leave so many things unsaid, unfinished, unpublished, on my blog, because I can’t find the time nor energy nor inspiration to finish it up. And I even wonder whether people who read or just stop in for a quick visit at my space, are truly that interested (as your readership are, I guess, in many cases so personally vested in your stories – it’s a testament to your writing skills!).

    I also thought you were so gracious in handling the critical comments from Anonymous … the topic that you wrote about (and then wrote about again) is not an easy one to resolve, and I think anyone who’s been here before or any new readers, would appreciate it. My personal opinion is that you have no obligation to anyone but yourself as to the content that people find here. But if you find that the criticism might make your writing sharper (which I don’t really feel it needs, BTW), well, more power to you.

    And thanks for updating us … not that’s it’s really any of our business, anyway :) .

    And boy oh boy, is the J-boy ever growing fast!!!

    Kaitlyn January 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I have the next part of a series I promised my few readers sitting in draft form and have for a long while. I wonder if they’re upset? You’re doing well with this blog, do not worry! :)

    Chrissy January 13, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Delurking. I enjoy your blog. Especially interested in the story of locating your long lost brother. I have a “found” not really so lost, just unkown for 16 years, little sister and also a son I gave up 22 years ago. Don’t give up!

    kittenpie January 13, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    HBF is right about that pic – it’s a very unfortunate placement of the lovey, if nothing else. And I can’t believe that a) she gave it up! (Pumpkinpie still has her loveys firmly in her grip) and b) you didn’t throw it out immediately adn prevent such a thing! Hahaha! You are totally going to have to deal with another few years of it, arent’ you? And now it’s even floppier through being loved… Oh, you poor thing. think of the comedic potential, at least, of a boy loving his penis.

    Lisa b January 13, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    omg he’s so cute.

    Bea January 14, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Did you make that collage just for this post?

    I’ve had “stop if me if I’ve told you this one before”-itis with my blog for at least a year now. The worst is when I put up a post fleshing out some brilliant idea and then realize I said exactly the same thing six months ago.

    Mac and Cheese January 14, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Toadstool has seen better days. Jasper, on the other hand, looks as delicious as you described.

    Thanks for the updates. I was willing to patiently wait for more, but this is good too.

    Lady M January 14, 2009 at 12:42 am

    Your writing is amazing, and even when – or perhaps especially when – your topics are difficult, I feel part of this great community of writers and mothers.

    Sorry to HBF or I suppose it’s Their Bad Father, for the Toadstool relocation!

    Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas January 14, 2009 at 1:24 am

    It’s your story honey, tell it the way you want it. Your only obligation is to you…

    to thine own self be true.

    Anonymous January 14, 2009 at 2:42 am

    Love you love you love you! I read all the time but don’t always get time to comment.

    My sleep solution? When I work nights, the little bugger (now 2 YEARS old) goes to daycare during the day and I sleep. I’m on a rotating schedule, so every two weeks I get to sleep. Actually, I can hear him now, and it is stinkin 1:41 in the morning. I don’t mind now, I have to stay up to be able to work from 7pm to 7am.


    Theresa January 14, 2009 at 9:20 am

    About the sleep issue, you might want to read Tears and Tantrums by Aletha Solter. My baby slept 8 hours straight after the first night of following her advice. I’m giving away a free copy on my blog if you’re interested.

    Mimi January 14, 2009 at 11:05 am

    OMG. When did Jasper get so big? Wasn’t he just a wee tiny thing just yesterday and I toted him around Macy’s like a warm bundle of grumpy and drooly? I don’t remember authorizing this growth. Does that mean time has been passing?

    Oh crap.

    Her Bad Mother January 14, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Bea – I made it over New Year’s. A vision board collage. One of the cornier things that I’ve done since the teen years (I made collages all the time as a teen) but really enjoyed doing it.

    Keep meaning to write about it but always chicken out.

    Adelas January 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Did I mention that your wonderbaby may or may not be cuter than my own beloved monkey-face? And that is saying something.

    LAVANDULA January 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    catherine i love how you write about your experiences…so write what you feel and don’t worry.jasper is so adorable! ewww how did you clean the canola oil off of sofa?my 16 year old when 3 painted the walls and carpet and sofa with ketchup.she was so proud of her pictures she made for me. how could i get mad?

    Her Bad Mother January 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Mimi – when did he get so big? Who the eff knows. He was big to start with and just kept growing. I guess that’s what he’s doing all those hours that he’s NOT SLEEPING.

    missj January 14, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    The nephew. The teen aged boy who was hospitalized recently. I was surprised at how concerned I felt for a complete stranger. I know he survived and was released from hospital and you need to protect his privacy, I know, but I still can’t help but ask, how is he doing? Is he okay?

    Her Bad Mother January 14, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    missj – Zachary – my nephew – that’s a tough one to write about. He’s improved and has responded to therapy, etc, but there are still complications and things are difficult at home. I think often about how to tell more of his story without crossing boundaries that I don’t want to cross. I do hope to write of him again.

    Bottom line – he’s on the road to recovery, maybe not a completely full recovery, but a pretty good one. We’re grateful.

    Joyce January 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    De-lurking–oh hai to you too! Found your blog through Amalah or Redneckmommy or some other blog and now I’m an addict. Keep up the narrative threads with no ending, love it.

    Sarcastica January 14, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Hopefully I can help take the stress off ya and give you some sleeping hours! Heh :)

    I often repeat myself too but meh its a blog, who cares right?

    Issas Crazy World January 14, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Dam you’re brave Catherine. I’d never ask that question. My signature line is: I’ll tell you that story another day. Unfortunately, that other day, sadly never comes.

    I think Jasper is adorable with the toadstool thingy.

    Sarcastica January 14, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    and I mean by that that it’s your blog, and therefore you can repeat things if you want :) I look at my blog as a way of keeping me sane, and if that means I ramble on and on about the same things…then I’ll do that. :D

    Sorry I got distracted LOL

    wyliekat January 14, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I don’t say much – but I’m here pretty much daily. Gotta keep my fellow Canucks up and running by dint of my support.

    (Yes, I believe I alone sustain the blogs I read simply by visiting them. Is that narcissistic or simply naive? You decide.)


    Stimey January 16, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I question the schizophrenic nature of my narrative sometimes. I spend a lot of time telling funny little stories about my kids or my ant farm or whatever, and then the other half of my posts are about the triumphs and struggles of raising an autistic kid. Sometimes I’m afraid I give my readers whiplash.

    Shawna January 16, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    I’ve kept half-an-eye out for it so my apologies if you’ve already closed the loop on this one, but if not… what happened with West Jet? Did they ever respond to your complaint?

    Anonymous January 19, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Delurking, but I also would like to know if you followed up on any of the advice given to you re discipline and how it turned out. I’m facing similar issues with my 3 year old and I took out all the books recommended from the other readers. So far I read 4 of them, but last night I broke down and cried while saying “no matter how many books I read, nothing works” after trying to put him to bed from 6 PM until 9 PM. Eh.
    Also, I live in Toronto, I’m not a blogger, just a reader of blogs, and I’ve commented before on how brilliant you are in your writing.

    Andrea January 19, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I just gotta say, that babe of yours is a CUTIE!!! :) My daughter (6 months old) LOVES to stare at him… :)

    Michele January 26, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I look at blogs as windows into another world. You catch glimpses. If you want a complete storyline, catch a movie. Am I wrong?

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