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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Tuesday
Aug192014

Leaving the Legos Out

One minute I’m whirling through complete chaos. A chattering 5-year-old messily slurping Lucky Charms, a 3-year-old giving most of the sausage and eggs he demanded instead of cereal to the two enormous black labs constantly underfoot, claws forever tap-tapping/scratch-scratching the hardwood floor as they angle for table scraps, and a 5-month-old fussing from his seat in the corner of the small kitchen in the home I rented upon deciding to separate from their dad. Ten minutes later I sit alone in absolute silence. Dad came and went, taking the chaos with him.

My latest over at Mom.me. Click here if you wanna read the whole thing.
Sunday
Aug172014

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

For the longest time in life I haven't had A Thing. You know, the thing I do that is mine that I love that I look forward to that motivates me to get out of bed or finish a work day or defines who I am or how others might describe me in a small way. I guess writing is kind of my thing but it's also how I make a living and so it kind of stopped counting as A Thing. I was jealous of other people and their things because for the past several years my thing has been being a mom and surviving those crazy-ass first years of your childrens' lives where keeping them alive is priority one and after that; sleep. Please for the love of God, go to fucking bed so I can sleep too! Don't you realize how awesome sleep is, goddammit?!

So there was not time for A Thing beyond the things that kept my kids alive and mostly happy and the things that made the money that helped keep the kids alive and mostly happy. And then I suddenly found myself without my children half of the time. Granted, most of the time I'm not with my kids I'm working full-time and most of the time when I'm not working full-time I'm writing for three different websites but when I'm not with my kids, not at work and finished writing - I finally have A Thing. The thing, it's changed my life.

When's the last time you rode a bike? For me, until last month, it was maybe when I was a teenager. Oh, there was the one-off here and there; goofing around at someone's house who maybe had a bike laying around and I vaguely remember vacationing with a boyfriend in my twenties and deciding renting bikes and riding along the beach would surely be a scene out of a fucking Nicholas Sparks novel but, as is the way with most seemingly romantic things - sex in bathtubs/cars being other seemingly romantic/sexy things that suck in actuality - the novelty wore off ten sweaty minutes into the ride. The last time I used a bike with any seriousness or true enjoyment was in my early teens to get to my friend's house or just riding around exploring the city I called home.

But now, 25 years after my serious biking career came to an end, I'm riding almost every day and with joy and determination that would shame my 12-year-old ass. Brace yourselves because I'm about to make a bold statement that is truer than the package of hot dogs that is now my forehead when I raise my eyebrows: other than giving birth to Charlie in my living room the most powerful I've ever felt in my adult life is lately when I'm riding my bike. Not when producing a newscast in New York City featuring Barbara Walters (and, incidentally, telling Babs to wrap it up she was running long) not when manning the control room of FOX news during our 9/11 broadcast - I feel most powerful and alive when riding my bike.

A year ago I really tried to get into running. Everyone and their neighbor and their neighbor's cousin and the cousin's ex-boyfriend all seemed to be into running marathons. They all can't be wrong about running, I reasoned with myself. I'll just give it another go even though I've never really enjoyed jogging.

Turns out, they're all really wrong!

Running totally fucking sucks. And it's really hard on your body. But I wanted to get outside and do something active. Hiking's okay but somehow - dudes and their ridiculous, in yo face Spandex bulges aside - cycling caught my attention. Wait. Maybe the ridiculous in yo face Spandex bulges are why it caught my attention. I can't be sure. Then I got knocked up with Charlie so I put it off. But, after working off the last of the baby weight in June, I finally pulled the trigger on this bad boy about a month ago: Maybe the best thing I've done in years. It's the next best thing to flying, I swear. Sometimes I'll be hauling ass down some gorgeous country road and I catch myself grinning like a lunatic. Giggling, even! There was a bit of a learning curve at first. Any serious cyclist wants to clip in to their bike with special shoes that have cleats on the bottom that clip right onto the pedals. It sounds scary to be attached to your bike but it's really the only way to go. After a couple days clipping in you realize how natural it feels, how much more energy you're able to get out of each pedal rotation. Although initially I did have to tape a note to my bike reminding myself to clip out or swiftly meet the pavement in a most ungraceful manner should I forget. And, of course, I ate it in spectacular fashion at a busy intersection near my home when a light changed and I couldn't clip out in time. It was a tiny scratch but to just fall over on your bike like a 5-year-old riding without training wheels for the first time is pretty embarrassing. But crashing because you're clipped in to a bike is a rite of passage so I'm glad to have the story and gladder still that it's behind me.

For the past month I've been slowly increasing my miles and yesterday after work I managed to finish 30 miles.A horse's ass celebrating 30 miles with a horse's ass. While I like pushing myself to see how far and hard I can go, I think my favorite part - aside from seeing how fast I dare let myself go down hills (37 mph so far!) - is just being close to the road and the land, wind whipping all around me, seeing and hearing things I wouldn't from a car. Often I stop for a drink of water and just stand there listening: crickets, birds, distant cars, cows, airplanes droning overhead. I'll stop and talk to animals occasionally as well which reminds me - holy shit did you see this video from one of my bike rides that I posted on my Facebook page?



Maybe it sounds stupid but I can't tell you how happy, strong and powerful I feel whenever I'm on my bike. And yeah, the health benefit is amazing too. Not only am I damn near high on endorphins when a ride is over, I'm burning as much as 800 calories on some of these longer treks, but I'm seeing the gorgeous Pennsylvania countryside that I call home in a much more intimate way than I otherwise would. Riding my bike has solved so many problems for me. When I feel sadness creeping I get on my bike. Instead of working out at a gym I ride my bike. It's done wonders for my health, fitness, state of mind and my self-esteem. And hey. It looks like I'm not the only addict in the family. Setting a positive example for my kids is worth all the other benefits combined.
Ladies and gentlemen... QUEEN.
Tuesday
Aug122014

Seize the Day

Last night was one of those nights I felt like a junkie trying to stay clean. Off work at ten. Home to an empty house. Itchy, pacing. Longing for my babies. Bordering on panic. What am I doing? I can't do this. This is too hard.

I ended up filling the void with a frozen pizza and season 8, episode 1 of Dexter. Serge and I left off at the end of season 7 last year and became so obsessed with the Breaking Bad series that we hadn't had a chance to finish out Dexter. Watching Dexter without Serge felt like cheating on him more than sleeping with someone else would've. It was our show. First episode I've watched without him.

The news about Robin Williams kept stealing my focus. Devastating. Beyond comprehension, really. The man who made the world laugh was so sad he couldn't fathom another day. Depression. It's something my mind has only flirted with occasionally, mostly in response to difficult events in life and never to the point of contemplating suicide. But so many bloggers have written so eloquently about their struggles with the disease that I have some idea of how debilitating it must be. Not only debilitating but misunderstood. Because we can't really see depression, we often have less compassion for those suffering. But depression is a tricky bastard. Maybe the trickiest illness of all because it lies to the person suffering from it. It twists their brain to the point that ceasing to exist seems a better option than the daily grind they deal with. Maybe if they physically manifested what was going on inside we'd be more inclined to help? We're so courteous to those rolling around in wheelchairs or with other obvious impairments, yet we often overlook people battling inner demons. But what if what was on their insides was visible? If that were the case then Williams would have been hemorrhaging blood, missing limbs.

Think of all the people who are suffering from depression as bad as his right now. If Robin Williams can't make it, imagine how hard it's got to be for the average person struggling with the same thing. It's not a choice. You can't just snap out of it. Your brain lies to you and before long you're in a hole so deep you need help to get out. If there's no help... Then what? And maybe you feel beyond all that. All the reaching out and asking for help or whatever. I read a quote on Slate that bitch slaps you something fierce with what it's like to suffer from a mental illness like clinical depression. "There comes a point where love does not matter. When things are bad, I don’t care that people love me. All I can see is that I’m a burden, that everything I have ever done is wrong, and that these good people who love me are wrong as well. At my lowest, love cannot save me. Hope, prayers, daily affirmations—none of these can save me. Therapy and medicine are what matter, and those don’t always work either."

So while reaching out might not help, it might. If there's a chance it might, then take it. I guess what I'm trying to say is if you're reading this and you're sad, tell someone. If there is one thing we can learn from Robin Williams - a legacy even larger than his talent, if that's possible - it's that you should talk to someone. Anyone. And keep talking. Leave a comment, message me, whatever you've got to do. Don't be embarrassed, don't feel like you're being dramatic or annoying. We're all in this life thing together, you know? It's hard. Don't ever assume someone else has their shit together based on a couple pithy Facebook posts or well-lit Instagram photos. As Robin Williams' death so heartbreakingly illustrates, it's often the people we least expect who are suffering the most. If you're stumbling, reach out. You may not know it but there are a bunch of us who want to help and keep helping even if your brain is telling you otherwise. It's the one thing I like most about blogging. People are here. People care. People who have never met me take the time to comment about how they're rooting for me in life and it never stops blowing my mind. And it isn't just about me. It's about you, too. I guess that's really all I have to say about that. I just wanted you to know, whoever you are and however you happened to get to this site, that I care about what's going on with you.
Monday
Aug112014

Before There Was Blue Ivy...

We took Violet to kindergarten camp today. A little thing they do to get the kids acquainted with the school and teachers before the real deal starts in a few weeks. She marched right in, curls bouncing against her shoulder blades, nice to meet you-ing everyone she met. By coincidence, while getting some of her papers together I ran across these old pages of possible names we wrote down while I was pregnant with Violet. My baby is starting kindergarten. My sweet, precocious, brilliant, feisty, kind daughter A.K.A. "Sister" is growing up. Sometimes, out of the blue, she comes up to me, grabs the sides of my head and presses her forehead to my forehead while staring me directly in the eyes and says, I LOVE YOU, MOM. I'm so lucky that girl is in my life.
Saturday
Aug092014

Liberation

Blogging is such a weird fucking thing, isn't it? Just the act of writing your personal feelings, journal-style, in a public forum is - uh - interesting, to say the least. And then all the sponsored shit infiltrated everything everywhere. Personal blogging kind of lost its way for awhile there, didn't it? Well, it's still missing in action. Legitimate personal blogging is all but gone now. Most of the good bloggers have gone totally sponsored and/or edit what they share to the point of boringness. I went that way for a bit. Shit, I have a couple sponsored posts on here that make me absolutely cringe in horror when I go back and read them. Me, half-heartedly trying to weave my love for Pillsbury into a personal post. Sorry about that. It is what it is. You need to make money to live and suddenly there are people telling you that you can get paid to do the same thing you've been doing for years for free and you're like, why not?

I can give you about fifty billion reasons why not, actually. You can't write what you want when you're trying to look attractive to potential sponsors and even if you do write what you want you'll get accused by the hate sites of creating drama to try and drum up page views which is awful to read after sharing something meaningful about yourself. You can't win. The only way to write truly authentically is to take it back to the beginning of blogging. No ads, no sponsors, no reason to care about page views. While sponsored content and ads works for some people and I admire them for creating Internet spaces they enjoy where they can also get paid, it didn't work for me. It got to a point where I was being told by several people I look up to, who were looking out for what they thought were my best interests, that if I wanted to be considered for sponsored posts I needed to tone down my language and modify my voice a bit to appear attractive to companies looking for bloggers to shill their shit.

To that I say: FUCK THAT.

I'd like to point out that there is no longer any contact info on this blog (hit me up on Facebook if you want to message me) no rate page touting slightly inflated traffic numbers, no ads. I chose to not continue working with my agent, who I still adore. Nothing. This blog is no longer monetized. I actually lose money here now because of the cost of maintaining the site. I work full-time in the social media department of a large company and have managed to carve out a pretty great living writing for other websites so, after writing here for nearly a decade, this place needs to be for me. Where I can say what I want to say without fear of pissing off Pillsbury or Allstate Insurance or Hillshire Farms, all of which I've managed to do in the past. Although it's the stuff I think most of us want to read, authentic people who say what they want to say on their blogs are pretty rare these days. Like I said, they're busy cultivating their "brand" or they're afraid of turning off potential sponsors and probably afraid a couple hate websites will give them The Business or they're just scared to share anything meaningful about themselves or the people they love because of a possible negative response from readers. A lot of great bloggers/writers have closed up shop because of that. Because they're writing in a public forum they're supposed to become impervious to all the sewage the Internet sends their way, develop this really thick skin or something and it all just gets to be too much because they're human beings and the Internet can be such a hateful place.

But it can also be a really beautiful place. I've met so many fantastic people online and a lot of opportunities have come my way just by being here, on this site. It's still worth it to be here for me. Matter of fact, I need this place, this website. So here I am. Still writing here after all these years. Only now I have nothing to prove. I used to write to prove I was a good writer, then I started writing for Caroline, Serge's ex-girlfriend (and one of my best friends now) and anyone who remembers that whole saga knows what I mean. After that I started writing for sponsors and then I started writing defensively, maybe as a response to a certain website that likes to give me The Business and then I think I wrote to convince myself of things that I knew deep inside were not true, if that makes any kind of sense to you. But now, for the first time ever, I feel like I'm just writing for me. And you. It's liberating, you know? I've got lots to share and I hope you'll feel more inclined to share in the comments as well. Thanks for sticking around. You guys mean a lot to me. Your messages, comments - all that shit means a lot, especially right now as I figure out what the rest of my life looks like.

Speaking of what things look like... My Charlie looks like me. After two Serge clones, it's a novelty. Let's bring this thing to a close with a couple gratuitous baby shots, yeah?