Mama Writer

Confessions of a Fainter

*This is not medical advice. If you’re fainty, see a doctor. If your doctors are like mine, and shrug in confusion, let’s get tea sometime and swap stories.*

Almost five years ago-

“You can’t talk too much with this one, honey. She’s only got a good 3 minutes in her.”

Wise words from the nurse who remembered me from my first pregnancy. I had been woozy during the blood draws then, too, but that nurse saw me through.

This new one, though…

She talked about her car trouble, while she put that rubber thing on the top of my arm.

She leisurely switched to how much she liked my maternity shirt, while slowly swabbing my arm with a wet-wipe.

I don’t know what she was chatting about when the actual needle finally went in, since I had started murmuring my favorite parts of Alice in Wonderland in Latin.

(What’s she doing?

Is she alright?

Leave her alone, honey.)

We all have our coping mechanisms.

She managed to finally fill the tiny vial and bandage me up, but by the time I was allowed to stand, the big black dots of doom had already started forming at the corners of my vision.

I made it two blind steps, trying to form the words “I’m about to crash” with my immobile, uncooperative mouth, when I landed on the floor.

 Thankfully, me and my big baby belly were fine. My previous nurse took care of everything, calming me down. My husband helped lift me off the ground (did I mention the big baby belly?).

From then on, I had a special note in my file labeling me a fainter. All of the following blood draws took place with me reclining, since they knew I was going to end up that way anyway.  

I’ve always been a fainter. The most common reason I crash is a blood sugar drop, but I’ve also passed out due to being too close to loud speakers at a concert, as well as having to withstand any amount of blood drawing, blood pressure measuring, pulse-taking, or generally existing with an IV.

I had amnesia once, and I was continually asking the same questions over and over, unable to calm down. The doctors thought it was due to a shock I’d been through- but my loop finally stopped when they took out my IV.

Not a coincidence in my book.

I thought I’d share some of the needy and funny bits of being a fainter.

During a middle school chorus concert:

My family, trying to aim their cameras: Where’s Stephanie?

(Should’ve looked down.)

In biology class, back in high school:

Teacher: Then you just put the cuff here, to measure the blood pressure. You’ll be able to hear all the action… where’s Steph?

(My classmates eventually remembered to look down. There was Steph.)

At an outdoor concert with my siblings:

Me: I can’t believe we’re next to the stage!

(Saw black dots, crashed into a crowd of strangers, banged up my glasses, and ended up in the care of my little sister faaaaarrrr away from the stage.)

At the movies with a friend (It was his turn to choose, and he picked something super horrible with lots of gore):

Me: I’ll be right back.

(Passed out in the theater restroom, right in front of the sink. I’m told I was lucky I didn’t hit it on the way down. When I get woozy, I always think I either need to splash my face with water, or be where I can hold my own hair back. Instead, I pass out in bathrooms. Even though I know this, I still run to the bathroom every. single. time.)

Having a normal (for me) blood sugar crash:

Me: Honey, I need food immediately.

Husband: Alright. I’m on it… so, do you want like Italian, Mexican, a burger…?

Me: What are you talking about? I’m crashing- just calories, any calories!

Husband: Okay. Got it.

(Hands me food)

Me: …Really? That?

(Every time. A freaky side effect of a low blood sugar crash is you find the thought of food unappetizing. Poor husband.)

I’m super grateful to all of the people who have helped me when I’ve crashed. Once the process starts, and I see those dots, it really matters who I’m with. I’ve been incredibly lucky so far.

Professor Writer

There’s Something that Dislikes an Aspiring Writer

They’ll always look at you like you’re crazy.

You know that look your family gives each other when your Uncle so-and-so is ranting about conspiracy theories? Or that subject change we do when someone starts arrogantly claiming they know everything on a topic, and they look like they’re about to lecture on it?

New writers get those all the time.

There’s something about trying to write that brings out the skeptics- or even the judges.

Mention you’re working on something:

Watch for barely suppressed eye rolls.

The population that actually wants to hear about your ideas and your progress is like this big (I’m pinching my fingers really close together). Hold those supporters, those encouragers, close to your heart because bringing up your writing labors with just anyone often results in forced smiles and a subject change.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I get to work in English academia, where we’re expected to pursue writing (there’s still a lot of judgment for genre fiction, though- insert eye roll here).

I was also lucky enough to see that other writers get the same empty, barely-listening, can’t-wait-to-change-the-subject nods from friends and family. I’ve spent some years working in Writing Centers at a few schools. Many of my clients were older, returning students who had had time to develop their ideas. This was a familiar exchange:

Student (looking around to make sure no one can hear them): You know, Ms. T., I was thinking about writing a book one day.  

Me: Really? What about? Have you started it?

Student has a surprised pause, then launches into a detailed description of the storyline. Every character is developed. They know the beginning, middle, and end. They’ve written four chapters.

I would listen, and ask about their progress. There rarely was any after that initial talk.

It’s kind of hard to write when you get no support, no encouragement. From the way they poured out their ideas, like a confessional, I’m bound to think they’ve never had anyone to talk to about their writing, let alone encourage them in it.

So, I learned. There’s something in this world that dislikes an aspiring writer.

It has nothing to do with individual talent. How could it? No one has read the writer’s work, yet.

Are aspiring writers considered arrogant, maybe? Do we hold writing on a pedestal, and only expect shining geniuses to produce anything good? “How dare regular people think they can do it”?

I’m not sure why aspiring writers are shrugged off or looked down on, but I am sure it happens.

I mean this to be a bit hopeful. Now that we know it happens to everyone, we can lighten our burden of insecurities. It’s not because we’re bad writers that we’re doubted.

We’ll be doubted until we are no longer “aspiring” writers. Just keep going, and you’ll end up proving everyone wrong by default.

They should have believed in you in the first place. They had no reason not to.


Professor Writer

Conducting an Assignment Class

Sometimes you get the class where everyone is on the same page.

Sometimes you get the sensitive class that ripples with tension and grade anxiety.

Sometimes you get the zombie class that enjoys staring and only comes to consciousness for an occasional freak-out.

More often, you get a mix.

Therefore, giving an assignment, especially a major assignment, requires a lot of patience and skill from the teacher. It’s like conducting a symphony (I gather from cartoons), where each section of the teacher’s audience needs to be led in turn.

She approaches the podium.

She warms up the room by reminding everyone of today’s proceedings:

“Going Over the Final Project.”

The class stirs as they ready themselves for their parts.

The teacher brings the assignment sheet up on screen.

Cue the grade anxiety section:

“Worth HOW MUCH of our grade?!”

“FIVE pages!”

The teacher sends soothing hand motions and a reminder of the Writing Center’s existence towards the sweaty section, before poising her hand to scroll to the next part of the assignment. 

It pops on screen and is apparently the trigger which causes the zombie portion of the class to awaken and start a rare crescendo.

“Research papers? Problem-solution argument?”

“Did we go over that?”

“We never went over that!”

The portion of the class that has paid attention and maintained their blood pressure chimes in with a low, reassuring murmur-

“Yeah, we’ve been talking about it for two weeks.”

“Don’t worry- I’ve got the notes.”

“I’ll tell you about it at lunch.”

The general hubbub dies down, and the teacher moves on to the grand finale.

“Any questions?”

Grade Anxiety:

“How many pages?”

“Is that double-spaced?”

“’Will you read it, if we finish early?”


Teacher responds with more soothing hand motions and a quick point back up at the screen where every answer is (and has been for several moments) already up.

Students who get it pipe up with:

“Is there any chance for extra credit?”

The teacher shakes her head, but smiles at the much-needed humor in the middle of the otherwise dark tones.  

Zombie awakening students:



“…What’s a problem-solution argument?”

The teacher simply bows and reminds everyone that she has office hours later that afternoon.

The class respectfully withholds their applause.



Mama Writer

I Might Be Ruining Football

Obligatory first sentence: my husband is awesome, and I love him very much.

Check that off the list.

He’s a family guy, and he doesn’t leave us to go do his own thing lightly. So, when he wants to watch football, for a mere 7 hours on Sunday, he does so right there in the midst of all of us.

I think he should reconsider. I think I’m about to start putting gift cards to Buffalo Wild Wings in his wallet.

‘Cause I think I’m ruining his football experience.

I can’t stop:

  • Rolling my eyes and sighing at the absolutely idiotic pregame and half-time commentary.
  • Laughing and making snarky comments when I hear the commentary on the plays (“As you can see here, Tom, this is where he dropped the ball.” “Yeah, I see, and if they want to win, they’d better stop doing that, Rick”).
  • Chatting about which of the names I see on the jerseys would be good romantic hero names (Hightower is winning).
  • Tweeting my inane questions at the teams.
  • Rating and cheering for a team based on the uniform color. Extensively chatting about how this year’s uniforms are so much better than last year’s uniforms. (Looking good, Panthers.)
  • Giving long lists of pros and cons for cheerleaders. (They do a lot of good, have a pretty good platform for charities, etc. but also, yeah, they’re scantily-clad women jumping up and down for a bunch of grunting athletes. And sometimes it’s cold, and they don’t even get pants.)
  • Talking about how the stereotypes of aggression and chauvinism proudly displayed in so many of the commercials hurt men and women everywhere.
  • Only bringing snacks into the room if the halftime show is any good.
  • Wondering out loud why football and patriotism are supposed to be the same thing. Trying to get a political conversation going…
  • Getting excited when the two-minute warning finally comes around, then groaning for every time out and play review that happens afterwards.
  • Throwing things when there’s a tie that puts the game into overtime.

Poor husband.

Next time, I think he should go eat some wings and watch the games with people who just yell out single syllable phrases at the multiple TVs.

Our marriage will probably be better for it. 

Love you, honey. 

Cooking Irresponsibly Mama Writer

The Magical, Kid-Proof, Sugar Cookie Cutout Recipe

My kids have always helped me bake. They stir, operate the mixer, measure, and decorate. My daughter especially loves it.

We used to try to do the traditional, Christmas-card, sugar cookie process. The kids were still really small, though, and it was always a mess.

A lot of recipes call for softening butter, so you have to plan for your cookies 3 hours in advance, or do a complicated boil-water-put-it-in-a-glass-for-a-minute-pour-it-out-and-place-it-upside-down-over-a-stick-of-butter-for-a-while-and-hope-for-the-best dance. Neither worked well for me and my kids.

The recipes also want you to chill the dough. How does this sound:

Me: let’s make cookies!

Kids: Yes!!!

(measure and mix. Dough goes into the refrigerator)

Me: Now, we just wait for two hours.

(Sad faced children)

It never worked out anyway. Since those recipes need the dough to stay cold, me and my littles were racing the clock to get everything rolled and cut. I wanted my kids to be included in the process, and little hands need time to get things done.

Then, there’s the fact that you have to flour the board. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem. With kids, though, the stickiness factor quadruples, and, no matter what I do, we end up with cookies that taste like cardboard and look nothing like the cookie cutters.

Too little chilling. Too much rolling. Too much flour.

(If you’re in a similar boat, maybe because your kids are just really little, I suggest cheating. Make rice crispy treats (or buy a sheet of the things), cut with cookie cutters, and use store-bought tubes of icing. You can make memories, and stuff should still end up edible.)

Then, there came the magical recipe that made traditional sugar cookie baking and decorating possible with even my tiny children. I found it on Pinterest many moons ago, and it’s thanks to this recipe that my kids and I have made forest cookies, pumpkins, acorns, candy canes, Christmas trees, hearts, and Easter eggs.

The butter can be just a little softened. No chilling needed. Roll, cut, and add flour, flour, flour, and they still somehow taste like tender, buttery cookies and still look just like the cookie cutter.

I have had no contact with the writer before, and I’m not sure if she knows what a gift this recipe is; she doesn’t even mention baking with children throughout her whole description/instructions. I’m grateful, though.

Here’s to you, Katrina’s Kitchen, and your “Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever.” Because of you we have made wonderful baking memories, and, without you, we would have eaten a whole heck of a lot of rice crispy treats. I look forward to Christmas cookies soon.

Here’s the page (check out her shortening frosting recipe, too):


easter 2
When their hands were just strong enough to start trying to use the piping bag- but they also made the cookies. And the cookies are perfect. 
My daughter’s “sprinkle cookies”
We substituted some flour for cocoa powder to make some Easter colors really pop.
Cooking Irresponsibly Writer

Oh, Yeah… And I Can Cook

Blogging everyday requires me to return to what I know. There are plenty of thoughtful, delicate things that I wish to write- but they need a few days to research and polish. For the sake of daily writing, I need to circle back to what comes naturally: moming, cooking, writing, and teaching.

I realized, today, that I haven’t been including the cooking portion- even though it’s something I think about all the time.

All. The. Time.

I guess I didn’t want to focus too much on the “domestic” side of things. I would like to keep a balance between my spheres; if I were to reveal my cooking obsession, the balance would decidedly turn towards hearth and home. My posts about teaching and writing might start to seem like they’re coming out of left field.

Oh well.

Symmetry is a rarely achieved phenomenon, and, as such, an unreasonable goal.

So, let’s talk about popcorn in paper baggies.

A few years ago, a student wrote a particularly well-researched paper arguing that microwave popcorn packets are pretty much poison.

My students are always ruining my convenience foods, for some reason. It’s a favorite topic.

Anyway, I love popcorn, so I decided I would just make popcorn the old fashioned way.

With oil.

In a pot.

A shield-like lid held at the ready.

I got pretty good at it, but there’s no denying that the microwave has a softening effect on the actual popcorn kernels. Stove top cooking tends to leave popcorn edgy.

I looked around for a few tips and tricks, and there were plenty. One of the best was a trend towards keeping the microwave but ditching the popcorn packets.

Here’s what you do:

  • Pour a quarter cup of kernels into a regular paper bag. (paper bags at the dollar store come in 40 packs- 2.5 cents each)
  • Roll the top of the paper bag pretty tight to help seal in steam- leave plenty of room, though. Popcorn gets big. ‘Tis science.
  • Microwave for about a minute, until the popping slows.



I like flavorful popcorn, so I add stuff.

That special salt that makes it taste like movie theater popcorn is crazy expensive. You can make it instead, just by pouring regular salt into a coffee grinder/magic bullet/mortar and pestle. Grind until powdery. It coats everything so well that way (also awesome on fries and homemade chips).

To make it really like movie theater stuff, drizzle in a tiny bit of melted butter. Make sure to stir constantly while you pour.

It’s one of my kids’ favorites, and they only ask for the treatiest of treats. Popcorn a la baggie- I love it, too.

Mama Writer

Traveling with Kids: Where’s My Teleporter?

Traveling with kids has some challenges. I was thinking today, that if I could design a special car to cover all of the needs of a family with littles, I would end up with an RV.

A house with wheels.

Tuesday, Husband and I packed everything imaginable for our family to travel four hours away and stay a couple of nights at my parents’ house. On the way there, we stopped for fast food.

While munching nuggets, my son confesses he’s actually really sick, but he’s been hiding it. He was scared we would cancel our trip if we knew.

Husband and I had packed the car to the brim- but we were still unprepared for that surprise.

Once we got to my mom’s, my son had deteriorated to the point that, if my mom hadn’t already happened to have a thermometer, I would have had to go get one right away.

My daughter started coughing the next morning.

We were all beyond lucky that our destination was my mom’s house. My parents are accommodating and understanding. They helped us through, and my family is home again today, comfy, albeit sniffly.

I can’t help but feel connected to the parents still in it this weekend. So many people won’t do the travel thing until Saturday or Sunday. So many have further to go. So many have smaller kids.

We need teleporters, y’all. Forget the flying car. I bet our littles would still be carsick in those, anyway. In the future, an “RV” won’t cut it. We literally need home to travel with us. 

Until then, parents, when you’re out there in it, you have all my sympathy.

I see you pulled over letting the sick kid be sick.

I see you pulling out an easy mac as your picky kid sits down to grandma’s 8-course dinner.

I see you trying to put your light sleeper down on a pull-out couch while, downstairs, the party continues at a jolly volume.

I, too, see the line at the gas station restroom, and I, too, pray your kid “makes it.”

Solidarity, parents. If I see you, I’ll share my saltines and wipes.

And don’t forget- there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll be home eventually.  

Mama Writer

The Commandments of the Southern Thanksgiving Gathering

The Commandments of the Southern Thanksgiving Gathering

  • Thou shalt bring something.
  • Thou shalt obligingly laugh while everyone teases what thou brought. Ice? Who raised thou?
  • Thou shalt not partake of more alcohol than that which makes thee a more pleasant companion.
  • Thou shalt not eat for a goodly number of hours before feast-time. All tasting/picking/thieving fingers shall be smote.
  • Thou shalt put a little bit of what everyone brought on thy plate (and discretely place thy paper plate with thine uneaten portions upside down in the trash to avoid hurting feelings.)
  • Thou shalt write thy name on thy solo cup with a sharpie. Thou shalt keep thy solo cup.
  • Thou shalt ring thy hands in mourning for those working on this day- and run to the store for just one more thing.
  • Thou shalt slow thy roll and let the elderly and kiddos get food first. Thou art a grown-up.
  • Thou shalt free thy brother and neighbor by obligingly jumping up and moving thy car from the parking fiasco that is the front yard.
  • Thou shalt not eat until everyone is seated and the agreed upon terms of pre-eating have come to pass (e.g. praying, going around and sharing gratitude, etc.).
  • Thou shalt make a wish on the wishbone- even if it is most gross.
  • Thou shalt compliment everything. EVERYTHING.
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s last roll.
  • Thy pie consumption shall not exceed thy elastic function.
  • Thou shalt chase thy host/hostess away from the sinkload of dishes with the nearest long-handled cleaning utensil.
  • Thou shalt not politic to the point of hurt feelings. Remember why thou came and partook of turkey in the first place.
  • Thou shalt not take a plate, if thou didst not bring a dish. 
  • Thou shalt not covet thy sister-in-law’s casserole dish. Even if she did “leave it behind.”


Mama Writer

Smile and Nod (with love): Holiday Edition

Daily blogging is illuminating how much I think in the form of lists. They’re therapeutic, and they catch a lot of reality.

Some people are talking about how they’re dreading holiday political talk with the family. If that were to happen, and it isn’t unheard of with my lot, I intend to let my eyes glaze over and start planning next semester’s syllabus (I already know who I’m voting for).

Fortunately, politics isn’t my family’s number one thing. So, if my syllabus is thoroughly planned before Christmas vacation, the reasons will more likely be my siblings and parents discussing:

-Game of Thrones

-Superhero movies I haven’t seen


-Anything someone’s seen on YouTube

-Game of Thrones (yes, I know. They’re SO into it).

I’m just going to let it happen. Internally, though, I’m going to be the Homer Simpson disappearing backwards into a bush meme.

I don’t need spoiler alerts. These lovely humans don’t need to accommodate me. I’m just going to nod and try to figure out whether or not to include a classwork grade… with love, of course.

Mama Writer

Thanksgiving is:

Thanksgiving is:

-mom’s house.

-waking up to the turkey smell.

-pre-cook pies already back in their boxes in the refrigerator.

-cool whip.

-the big divider Styrofoam plates.

-cream of chicken soup gravy.

-dad trying to change things up and getting lectured (probably saying we should do ham next year instead of turkey).

-never enough rolls.

-debating green bean casserole (it’s traditional vs only two people eat any).

-loud and funny.

-My brother and sister-in-law asking me if I’ve seen this or that movie yet and always saying no.

-kid’s running through the kitchen to the sound of Mamaw’s “Be careful- everything’s hot!”

-saying “cover me” every time I open the oven.

-everything being done and impatiently waiting on the late people to arrive.

-having to schedule a time to eat that works for the poor person in retail. Everyone stopping to greet this rarely seen person as if he were home on leave from the military. (“I haven’t seen you in ages!”)

-awkward food line shuffle (“You go first.” “No, you’re the [host, guest, lady, man-of-the-house, cook, mom-of-that-crying-kid, etc.]. You should go first.”

-some more awkward waiting around the tables while everyone gets food.

-awkward hesitation when everyone’s seated, ‘cause we’re all mildly religious, and though we think praying is probably a good idea, the “out loud” part makes some of us clammy.

-mom rolling her eyes at us and praying.

-eating too much.

-getting pie after having already eaten too much.

-mom starting to clean before everyone has finished eating.

-wondering where my sister is when it’s time to wash the dishes.

-listening to my husband complain that he ate too much and needs exercise.

-husband eating the last of the rolls twenty minutes later.