The Crippling Impact of Parental Stress

After Ian’s driver got him at 7:15, I answered e-mail, arranged the time schedule for the day, and wrote for 30 minutes on my pet article. (I’m not pitching it to a magazine until it’s entirely done, which is always risky. Still, I love this article so much that I’ll just put it on the blog, if I can’t find a professional home for it.) Then I went for an hour run. For the rest of morning, I checked off items — a combination of work and mom chores — from the daily schedule. I’m so damn productive that I want to barf.

Why am I getting so much done? Well, I have been much better about running and healthy living shit. Seriously, it makes a difference.

I also have a lot less parental stress in my life. Keeping a teenage boy on target for an elite college that is affordable is VERY HARD. There are landmines everywhere. There are so many ways to royally screw up, so the only recourse is moving the entire family to rural Manitoba. And there are so many dumb chores — chauffeur duties, SAT dates, prom tux measurements, physics projects, cross country banquets, college tours, German verb conjugations. All that is done. Thank God. I know he’s sweating his way through college level calc right now, but it’s not in front of me, so I can’t worry about it. Much.

Ian has been on auto-pilot for two years ever since we moved him to his new school. But before that, he was in a bad situation, which required tons of meetings and advocates and coordination. I have more driving duties now that he goes to a school that’s farther away but that is the extent of my stress. He’s getting a good and appropriate education right now. He’s super happy. Thank you, baby Jesus.

We won’t have to work about college applications, GPAs, or tux measurements for Ian. In a way, that is sad. But in a way, it’s GREAT. He’ll be in school until he’s 21, so we’ll have worries then. But that’s far away.

All that stress was fritzing out my brain. Constant adrenaline rushes. And you never knew when a crisis would pop up. So, I was always on guard, always ready for the next battle. Now, I’m getting my shit done. I’m booked with work until Thanksgiving.

I also have the brain space to take care of the little OCD tasks that make me happy. I replaced all the bath towels in the house. The boys with their damn acne cream trashed all the towels. Now, each bathroom has its own color.  The boys have white, so I can bleach the towels every month.

I also take the time to get a manicure every week. I’m finally establishing a skin regimin to include a quality neck cream and visiting the dermatologist for a regular redhead spot check up.  I’m drinking more water. I rearranged our bedroom furniture. All these little girlie changes make me very happy.

Taking a step back. Schools shouldn’t make us sad, but they do. That’s crazy.


My Own Grit, Or Lack Thereof

One of my goals for this summer is to find common themes in the little articles that I wrote this year and put together a book proposal. I need an outline and two chapters. I have the rare luxury of full days with few parenting responsibilities. For the next three weeks, Ian is in full day camp with a bus. Wahoo! Jonah needs some oversight, and he’s buzzing around in the background distracting me, but it’s not huge. I should be able to do this.

I’m trying really hard to get organized. Every morning, I sit down with the calendar program and plan out the day with goals and benchmarks. I reread Steven King’s book, On Writing, to get inspiration. I’m using the special writing software.

But it’s hard. I still don’t have a routine yet. I did a lot two weeks ago, had several days of other responsibilities, and then completely forgot what I was doing. I’m a mess without deadlines.

A freelance office space is opening up downtown. I might rent a desk there just to get away from the house.


A couple of months ago, I stopped writing things that I thought other people wanted to read, and started writing stuff about topics that I found interesting. It’s much simpler. No more mind reading and second guessing. No more self flagellation if an article didn’t make it to a top ten list.

Now, I write about I want to learn about or people that I want to talk to. It’s really fun. With the Atlantic title, even super busy people return my calls. I’ve met some real characters in the past year. People have cried. I was offered a bribe.

One of my favorite pieces to research was the one that I did on Sesame Street and autism, because I met so many inspirational people. Actually, I think I cried during one of those interviews. I talked to one woman who organizes Broadway-frendly shows for autistic kids in her spare time. I also talked to a representative from the Yale Child Study Team who provided technical support for this Sesame Street initiative. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that I had a kid with autism. When she offered to put him on the top of their two-year waiting list for an evaluation, I quickly said yes.

Next week, I’m working on a piece about hunger on college campuses. It’s going to be a tough week to squeeze in interviews, because we’ll be in New Haven half the time, so I’m lining up tomorrow’s early morning phone calls right now.


Be Nice at Work

Christine Porath has an interesting article in the New York Times about workplace rudeness. She thinks that incivility at work contributed to her father’s death. She points to studies that show that incivility causes workplace errors and undermines creativity.

Examples of workplace rudeness include: • Interrupts people, • Is judgmental of those who are different, • Pays little attention to or shows little interest in others’ opinions, • Takes the best and leaves the worst tasks for others, • Fails to pass along necessary information, • Neglects saying please or thank you, • Talks down to people, • Takes too much credit for things, • Swears, • Puts others down.

When Steve left academia and moved to the corporate world, he thought that there was less rudeness in the corporate world, because social behavior had more rules and interactions with associates were more public. There wasn’t the corporate equivalent of “this is the stupidest thing I ever read” comments at an academic conference. After a while, Steve found that there was rudeness in the corporate world, too. It was just subtler.

And then there are internet comments. (Not here, of course.) This year, I had to block a few people on Twitter, because my articles enraged them so much that they felt it was necessary to send me emojis of faces with tongues sticking out. Niceness is such a far away goal for the online writer. I would settle for happy emojis.

The Last Drunk at the Party

I’ve written at least one blog post nearly every weekday since July 2003. Twelve years. That’s crazy, right?

Blogging has been very, very good to me. I learned how to write quickly for an online audience about topics that they found interesting. I met a lot of really cool people who offered a joke, an insight, and a kind word.

The conversation between bloggers ended five years ago. Traffic patterns changed. People moved to other ventures. Nearly all of the original bloggers dropped out. I kept at it,  mostly because I enjoyed the conversation with my readers, and I liked having control over my ideas and words. Even with the changing online landscape, there was always a reason to go to the computer after the kids got on the bus and write.

I must end Apt. 11D as we know it. The mashup of personal and professional and political. The daily posts. The link-fests. I can’t do it anymore.

Twelve years of daily blog posts with tons of images and graphics creates a mammoth problem. My current serving company can’t manage it. Cleaning up this mess would cost some serious money.

I don’t have enough time to blog properly. My days are getting eaten up with professional writing and local organizing. I’m so overbooked that I’m making mistakes. I’m missing meetings, not returning e-mail messages, and not even doing a great job with blogging. I have to reduce my responsibilities.

So, I’m leaving. I’m the last drunk at the party, who wanted the fun to keep going on and on. But someone turned off the tunes and put on the bright lights. It’s time to grab my purse and get on the subway.

Here’s the plan. I’m not going to dump the website. I want to preserve the historical record. I might come back every couple of weeks to add a personal post about food and kids, because that makes me happy. If you want a ping when I write something, sign up for a subscription (sidebar bottom).

I will set up a professional website at some point. I’m not sure if it will include a blog.

I’m on Twitter and Facebook. Follow me there.

I’ll miss everyone terribly, especially the regular commenters. We’ve been together for a long time, and our little community is the smartest, funniest, kindest group of people ever. I’m sure that I’ll have the DTs from blog withdrawal for a very long time. I hope that we all find each other in some other corner of the Internet or in real life.

Lots of love. Laura

An Online Life

Last month, there was much twittering about the fact that the uber-popular DIY bloggers at Young House Love are taking a break from blogging. They said that they needed to spend more time in their real life, and less time online. Today, the New York Times picked up this story about blogging burnout.

Look, it’s not always easy to keep this blog going. Sometimes the blog and my interests dovetail perfectly. I’m thinking or writing or teaching stuff in the real world that has an easy carry over to the blog. I don’t put too much time into making the blog posts look pretty, because that takes up an enormous amount of time. I can push out a blog post in five minutes, when there’s this nice convergence. Other times, my real life is consumed with boring, but necessary chores and that doesn’t work well as a blog post.

I’ve been busy in the past few weeks resurrecting my used book business. It went on the back burner for a while. I need more inventory, so I’m back to visiting estate sales on Fridays. I live in an area with a load of well read, old ladies. There are free old books everywhere, and some have an online value. It’s a weekend hobby. Maybe I can squeeze one blog post out of that experience, but it doesn’t translate into daily content.

I’m taking a break from writing, because I’m fed up with the freelance commissions. That means that I’m not necessarily keeping up with the online news articles as much as I should. That puts a dent into blogging.

We’re taking Ian to more concerts, and I’m exploring new restaurants in New York City. All fun and good real life stuff, but not necessarily blog post material.

If I was a super professional blogger, this disjunction between my real life and the blog would be very stressful. Good thing that I’m a dilettante blogger. So, in the next six months, you’re going to get a lot more real life type blog posts, and fewer politics and policy and news blog posts.

Miserable Writers Write Misery Essays about Miserable Lives

Gad. I need to get the gym. I’ve just read three articles about the miserable lives of writers. I need a drink, and it’s only noon. So, who wants to get depressed? I can share.

There’s Tom Kreider, “Controlling the Narrative” — That’s only somewhat miserable.

My friend, Margie, sent me another NYT’s article — With ‘Stay Lit,’ Writers Persevere in a Hostile World. I guess there’s a whole genre of articles about writers who keep on writing, even though they have horrible lives.

From that article I jumped over to Emily Gould’s essay on Medium, which is the capital of Depression World. Who’s Emily Gould? Well, here’s an essay about her miserable life in the New York Times back in 2008. I probably blogged about it back then, but I’m too lazy to find it. For extra credit, read the reviews of her book on Goodreads.