May 16 2018

My Third Cali-versary

My Third Cali-versary

How have I already been here for three years? HOW? Someone tell me. I demand to know. Time, you are a slippery little fish.

I’ll be honest: this third year wasn’t my favorite. I’m not sure why, but it’s getting harder and harder to be away from my family instead of easier, and my anxiety has sort of skyrocketed since last May. I think it’s mainly a combination of two things:

Stay-at-home momming is much lonelier than I expected three years ago. And if it takes a village to raise a child, my kids are at a major disadvantage — it’s just me, all the time. I miss going to my parents’ house every Sunday for tacos. I miss them bonding with my children. I MISS THEIR HELP. Dear God, I miss their help. Sometimes I just want them to come over for forty-five minutes so I can go grocery shopping alone or pee without someone staring at me. I want to feel like my husband can travel for work without me panicking about the possibility of something terrible happening while he’s gone because now I don’t have any backup.

Also, one of my best friends in Michigan had her first baby this year and I still haven’t met him. I would have loved to visit her at the hospital and help her through the newborn phase, but I was thousands of miles away. I’m missing too many wonderful, important things, and I worry that my children are, too.

If last year felt like The Year of Stagnancy, this has for sure been The Year of Rejection. I stepped up my writing game considerably in terms of the stuff I’ve been trying to accomplish, and despite some extremely close calls, all I’ve heard for months is no.

Hopefully I’ll be able to give you more information about this soon, but there are still some things in the works that I don’t want to jinx — if/when I finally get a novel into print, I will tell you the tale of how it happened. For now, though, I’m over here thickening my skin and pretending not to die inside every time I get another discouraging email.

The Good
I didn’t come here just to complain, I promise. The mountainous view in our backyard is still a daily source of awe, and something we would obviously not be able to replicate in Michigan. I’m grateful for the moments with my kids that I never would have had if I were still a full-time teacher. I got to attend a writers’ retreat that buoyed my creative soul.

And this year, I’ve kind of fallen in love with our neighborhood — there are a couple moms my age-ish, just a few houses down, that I literally don’t know what I would do without. I’ve never had such good friends within walking distance before, and it’s a total game-changer. Want to ride bikes to wear the kids out before nap? Meet you on the sidewalk. Need to run home for a diaper? Be back in four minutes. We can sip our wine until the very last second because nobody’s driving home. They are some of the warmest, most wonderful people I’ve ever met.

Of course, the weather in California is beautiful, too. It’s the nights that win me over — the complete lack of humidity, the way you can leave the windows open no matter how hot it gets outside — even though I still REALLY, REALLY want thunderstorms and about two weeks of snow around Christmastime.

A couple months ago, as the “rainy season” (a relative term if I’ve ever heard one) was winding down, I began to take stock of our yard: I needed to decide what veggies to grow in our garden this year, which fertilizer to buy.

After going untended since the fall, my planter box had exactly one weed. I meant to pull it, but then we were out of town for a few days; when we returned, it had grown a full two feet. I left it alone. It intrigued me.

In the meantime, I doted on my citrus tree. Fed it, watered it, released ladybugs into its branches to combat pests. With the exception of singing it lullabies and massaging its leaves, I did everything I possibly could.

I guess I should have done those things, too, because it died. Not just sort of hibernated for the winter. DIED. The leaves turned dry and yellow and cracked off until the entire thing was bare. I tried to resuscitate it with just about every method short of CPR. Nope. Dead.

But that crazy weed? By the end of the month, it was taller than me.tall weedI don’t want to be the citrus tree this year, guys. It was more impressive at first, but ultimately much too fragile — just wilted and withered away although conditions were seemingly perfect.

This year it’s time to be the weed. Time to be so tough and fearless and resilient that I find a way to thrive even when I’m worried I don’t belong. Nobody planted it. Nobody babied it. Nobody wanted it initially, but it didn’t care. It grew anyway.

When we went to pull it out, the roots were so deep, its stem so sturdy, it was more like a tree trunk. We basically had to chop it down.

No more tolerating stagnancy. No more convincing myself I should quit in the face of rejection. I’m still working hard to embrace change of any kind, but hopefully my fourth year here will be full of things both beautiful and — dare I say it? — new.

Mar 27 2018

You Need to Go to the Northern California Writers’ Retreat

You Need to Go to the Northern California Writers’ Retreat

If I’m going to leave my babies for five whole days, it had better be for an absolutely perfect reason.

Okay, let’s get real: this mama hasn’t slept solo in years. When I discovered that the Northern California Writers’ Retreat involved several consecutive evenings without diapers or nightmares or snoring, I thought, I do not even remember what that’s like and also SIGN ME UP IMMEDIATELY. My husband is always the one who gets to gallivant around the world for work, and I (desperately) wanted to know what a business trip felt like, too.

I first heard about the opportunity a couple years ago at the San Francisco Writers Conference, where I met Heather Lazare, one of the retreat’s co-founders — she’s an independent editor who’s worked at some baller places in New York, and I’ve been creepily stalking the submission guidelines ever since. The retreat is clearly gaining steam; there were more than five times the number of submissions this year than when it launched in 2016. Finally, once Baby B was weaned and fully into toddlerhood, I gave it a shot: twenty pages. Crossed fingers and toes. Continue reading

Feb 4 2018

PSA: Teachers Are Not in Charge of Choosing Snow Days

PSA: Teachers Are Not in Charge of Choosing Snow Days

Just saw a post on Facebook:

“The kids have a snow day again!!! Seriously? It’s like the teachers don’t even want them there!”

My thumb paused mid-scroll. In the distance, a record player screeched to a halt and all the revelers stopped dancing. Say what?

I think there’s been some confusion.

A post like that is hardly the first of its kind, and maybe this erroneous belief shouldn’t come as a shock. Snow days do sometimes feel shrouded in mystery and enigmatic intrigue — carried over from when we were students, watching the news with crossed fingers and toes, hoping for some surprise sledding (and an extra day to finish our homework). As a kid, spotting your school amongst the rolling list of district names feels like Christmas. Sweet freedom! Goodbye, responsibility! TURN OFF YOUR ALARMS, EVERYONE! Continue reading

Jan 18 2018

Is There Room for Triviality in a World Like This?

Is There Room for Triviality in a World Like This?

I’ve battled an epic case of writer’s block these last several months. It’s not that I don’t have ideas — I do, dozens of them, phrases strung together into haphazard lists on my phone and in the notebooks littering my house. It’s that none of them seem important enough.

Facebook and Instagram and Twitter teem with unspeakable tragedies, news of unrest, and political platitudes. Where social media was once a scrolling stream of family photos and status updates, its purpose now has been emphatically redefined: effect changeIf you’re going to speak, write, wear, or think anything, you’d better be making a statement.

This is such a vital and honorable intention.

Obviously, the method itself has flaws. People — LOTS of them, people you personally know — freely admit to blocking and unfollowing friends who post articles that don’t align with their beliefs or perspectives that make them uncomfortable. This furthers the divide, of course, since now those people are surrounding themselves with carefully curated information that will only serve to bolster their own preexisting viewpoint. Continue reading

Dec 31 2017

The Stuff You Actually Wanted to Know, 2017 Edition

The Stuff You Actually Wanted to Know, 2017 Edition

It’s that time again: the post where I smuggle you behind the scenes of my blog so you can peek at the stuff other people are Googling.

I’m always fascinated by the search terms that bring traffic to this site, and they seem to get more interesting — and more extensive — every year. In 2017, almost every single one had to do with teaching, which sort of baffles me: I’ve only published two posts (maybe three, if you count this one) that are teaching-specific. But this post from last April continues to generate the most visits by far, with somewhere between 500 and 1000 unique views each week.

Usually I share the top 10 searches, but this year I’ll show you the ones I found most captivating. Continue reading