Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Nearly March

February, dreaded February, is almost over. February has always been a difficult month for me—the holidays are really over, the weather is dreary, spring feels far away, and the clouds mimic the fogginess of my brain. And then there are the viruses and colds that pepper the days and add their own layers of distraction and exhaustion.

Of course, it’s been a spectacularly beautiful February so far on our island, with many days of bright sunshine and blue skies, and an early spring that is coming to life in the blooms on the trees and on the ground. I’m not complaining about that. There ain’t nothing to complain about in that regard. Still, I will admit that even the cloudy days have their own February flavor to them, even in this bursting spring.

Entering into March of 2015 surprises me. I have been waiting, wanting, trying to get myself to get focused, and get to work. I have been feeling lost and muddled, trying to grab the moments of clarity when they arrive, but finding distraction wherever I look: in the piles of laundry in the laundry room and our closets, in the toys littering the playroom, in the dishes in the sink, and in my own ideas about how I should direct my energies. Should I find a part-time job on the island to fill my time and fund an early retirement? Should I write another novel? And if I do, will it ever get published? Should I start my own business? Should I do all of the above? The answer too often seems dependent on my level of caffeine intake for the day.

The real, true, basic reality of what I most want, and what I have wanted since I was a child, is to be a novelist. A published one, not a writer of novels standing in stacks of unattended paper covered with dust, or hiding on hard drives. The only way to get there is to put my butt in a seat every single day and write something, anything, no matter how good or how bad, and to move on with it.

So here I am again. Starting again. This blog has become such a journal about fits and starts, and interruptions. So, then, my goals are this: to write every day. To embrace the reality of bad writing, and to write anyway. And I need to set some page goals for myself. So let's say it has to be two pages a day. No matter what. Even on the kids' days off. They are becoming old enough to let me do it. Too often I find myself avoiding writing because I have set up some unspoken goal for myself that it has to be good writing and if it's not it's not worth it. Which is clearly a paralyzing proposition--why sit down at all, then?

To be fair, last year marked my entry back into the world of writing, and it surrounded editing my novel, with very little new work. This year has been interrupted by my own goals for parenting and focusing on the kids while they transitioned into their various school settings. Now I am ready to write again. And also to edit again. The novel needs another major revision. But I want to start something new, and I am going to do that too.

Oh, man. The focus. I can feel it turning the corner and finding me again. A friend told me the other day that if I just started writing again, the desire and focus would come back. I can feel their arrival in the din of this coffee shop and in the endlessly pleasing feel of keys beneath my fingers.

Sigh. Hello.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I wrote it!

I did it! I woke up at 5 a.m. and wrote the first chapter! It's a chapter that has been hiding away in my brain for months. I think it's how the novel was meant to begin. The chapter feels complete: 855 words written and ready to be revised. I feel like I'm on the road again.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The early hours

Well. My goodness. It has indeed been over 2-1/2 years since I last wrote here.

How did that happen?

Well, let's see. We had a baby, we moved three times (more?), and we finally settled down again and bought a house on my childhood island. And now I want to start writing again. The feel of the keys beneath my fingers is like therapy, or finding a long-lost friend, a friend who knows what to do and what to say, and who is there no matter the weather.

I want to capture early-morning sunrises while my family still sleeps. I am hoping that will be my time. The silence of those hours is interrupted only by the shrill songs of birds. The view from our house turns pink in the distance, illuminating trees, mountains, water, city skyline. Slowly the day begins its magical interplay between elements.

We live on an acre abutted against a 10-acre farmland parcel. We are surrounded by trees, although our front yard opens up quite a bit and brings in the sun and the view. I have been eagerly watching the deciduous trees form buds on their branches. I am trying to remember what our yard looks like when everything is leafed-out and the jagged outline of evergreens is offset by the lighter green maples.

I don't hear cars. Or people's voices. If I listen closely, I can hear the sound of the wind in the branches. It's mainly the birds who fill the hours with their song. Sometimes an eagle pierces the sky, sweeping above and circling its way toward Eagle Harbor where the boats bob in the water and blue herons stand meditatively.

I have been dreaming about this kind of peace. It helps that Brian just took Cora to school and Brooks is still sleeping, wearing off his night of coughing through an interrupted sleep. This quiet doesn't happen around here more than twice a day--when the children are asleep.

There is a walk in our neighborhood that I love to go on. It traverses several winding roads through rural grasslands and historic farmhouses. We see farms and chickens, horses and cows, big, well-tended gardens. The horse pictured above is on our walk. The kids always ask to stop and watch her eat.

And yesterday it was actually still light outside when Brian got home from work. As the days grow longer and milder, I feel us resurfacing, feeling more hopeful. These dark months are always difficult for me. I dread them each year, and yet when I am in the midst of them, it's easy for me to forget how much I miss the light. There is always such a focus on the sun--on its presence, or its coming, or its long-gone status. But just the light filtering through leaves, in whatever form it takes--amber, gray, or lemony--is enough to keep the darkness at bay.

I do notice a difference in how it feels. Living on an island. The city is lovely, full of lights and activity. But the light here is different. There's less cement and fewer buildings. The light filters through wet leaves and soaks strands of grass, bounces off blue water, and makes the world feel more alive. When I go running through stretches of farmland, or watch the kids biking on dirt trails, there is more freedom, more space to breathe.

More, hopefully, inspiration to create.

Writing again. Words, phrases. Small stories. Notes. Anything. It feels good to do this.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A pile of paper

Well, I printed out my novel. I have to say that although I thought I would be prepared for the weight of it in my hand, I wasn't. I've never printed out 277 pages before. It felt a bit heady and, well, exciting. It felt good to write the last lines. I've been reading it during C's nap time and making minor edits. The big editing will happen later.

Although that has been a fulfilling accomplishment, one that I am still savoring for its timeliness (I so wanted to complete it before delivery), I awoke this morning feeling very low. I think it's because my hormones are high. But, also, it feels like the more difficult moments of life sometimes rise closer to the surface, become more visible. The rest of the time we can hide away in the relative bubble of our own lives, focused on the daily goings-on that affect us and our immediate existence. Last night I learned about the loss of a friend's father and I went to bed with a heavy heart and awoke feeling sad and lost. My friend is pregnant, due in a month, and already lost her mother to breast cancer several years ago. I know of a number of people who are very ill, or battling cancer, or dealing with severe financial strain. Reading the daily headlines over at msnbc doesn't help, either. The repercussions of the current economic crisis splash themselves across the page in hectic reality, and then, too, it seems that we have entered a particularly stormy environmental time filled with earthquakes, disasters, and massive oil spills around the world.

I am aware that one of the greatest antidotes to sadness is gratitude. There are many things to be grateful for, in my life and in the lives of my friends and family. And, truly, the view of my daughter as she wandered through the house with her teddy bear this afternoon as she sang him a song before her nap ranks right up there as a reminder of the continuum--the cycle of life and the palpable feeling of watching life beat by, one pregnant moment at a time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Getting there

It's getting close. I can see the finish line. 270 pages written and, I think, about 20 or 30 more to go. Three to five weeks until the little guy arrives. I'm almost there. A baby and a novel. Somehow this feels like this might be the most productive (passively and actively) nine months of my life. Still a ways to go, but this feels pretty good.

Things have slowed down lately without the cadence (and the free time) provided by Cora's nanny share. This is our second week without it, and I am finally tucked away in my neighborhood coffee shop again while she enjoys a play date with one of her favorite little girls and our incredibly energetic, fun babysitter--a woman who teaches PE to elementary kids all day long and still has energy to babysit, work at a coffee shop on the weekends, and play soccer several times a week. I left the house listening to Cora and her friend shrieking while they catapulted themselves off the downstairs couch onto a giant pile of pillows, blankets, and down comforters--one of C's most favorite pastimes, as loftily illustrated in the photo above.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


On Sunday I went to a memorial for my crew coach Senior year. He was also my coach for a short time my Junior year when I rowed as a replacement with the heavyweight JV boat in the San Diego Crew Classics (I was a lightweight for three years, varsity for two of those). It was an emotional day, for a ton of reasons. First, there is no way for me to attend a memorial without needing Kleenex. I went through four sheets. Seeing people cry is enough to move me to tears, anytime. Listening to people cry while saying kind, loving, inspirational things is a heart-filling experience that always makes me brim over.

It was also emotionally exhausting to remember high school sports--the strength I used to have, the competitive spirit, the awkwardness of being a teenager, the things I don't like to remember about being young. And I realized how foggy my memory is. There are so many things I don't remember. Faces, yes. Names, no. Erg tests, yes. Timed runs and wind sprints, yes. Races, strangely, not really. I remember feeling so strong and capable, able to run 30 hills and 30 stairs and run Green Lake in under 19 minutes, hold a boat steady on my shoulders, and sit at the starting line with adrenaline flying through my blood. I miss that. I miss seeing the value of hard work in such a tangible way.

Dave was a fantastic coach and he tested everyone. He tested me, and he made me a better person. It is rare to be able to say that about someone.

"It's not always your height, your size, your weight, a lot of times it's the size of the most important muscle--your heart--that matters." --Dave Baugh

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cora's first flower arrangement

Cora's aunties helped her pick flowers and arrange them in a bud vase. She loved all the praise for using her small fingers to press the stems carefully into the vase, and took the privilege seriously when she was allowed to carefully carry it out to the table for a fancy dinner of quesadillas (her very favorite meal).

She gave my tummy kisses this morning. She likes to say, "Kick for your big sister!" although he rarely cooperates. He's busy right now, doing a small jig in my belly.

She's asleep. She had an active morning at Sheri's house while I plugged away at my novel. (I'm nearly 260 pages in and I still have more to go. I just wrote another five pages and I'm ready for a break.) We ate a picnic lunch in the backyard and planted carrot seeds in our garden, then raced around and tickled each other. Well, she raced. I guess I sort of waddled. Hopefully she'll wake up soon so we can go for a walk around the lake.

I have been feeling emotional about the changes ahead, about the fact that she will no longer receive my undivided attention. I know it will be a good thing, and that she will handle it fine, but I also know it will be a transition for us all.

Last night I felt him kick and I wanted to pour a thousand words of love into his ears. This pregnancy has been distracted and busy and I wanted to explain to him that he will be another great, bright light in our lives, and that we are getting more and more excited by the prospect of meeting him soon. Only 6-8 more weeks to go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You know you're pregnant when...

I've stopped drinking decaf tea and coffee the past couple of days and I am soooo tired. Clearly the 3 percent caffeine that my body isn't good at metabolizing these days makes a difference in my alertness. I tried to write this morning and managed to get out a few pages before staring off into the distance in a trance-like state. I finally gave up and went to the store.

And now I'm going to take a nap.

Oh, nap. How I love thee.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh, Belly

This morning was the first in a long time that we didn't have a play date or event scheduled. Cora and I went to Green Lake and walked around, picking apple blossoms and counting dogs along the way. We ran into a few friends and played at the park. I say "play," but really all it involved was Cora swinging on various swings for over an hour: the big swing, the red bucket swing, the baby swing, and back again. We took a break for a moment to play on the merry-go-round but it was far too passe for her. The swings are where it's at. She's in a major swinging phase, feels very grown-up, and is trying to figure out how to pump her legs.

The cool thing is that I plan to walk around Green Lake more often. The weather is improving. I don't have constant contractions. And worries about the baby getting enough oxygen have diminished considerably since Monday's doctor appointment (I'll explain that in a second).

My belly is feeling quite large these days: it's a basketball-positioned, right-out-in-front, large and in charge, 31-week-old belly. Phew. I feel huge. And I gained six pounds in 2-1/2 weeks to back up the feeling. Fabulous. (Honestly, as long as the baby is healthy and I'm feeling good, I'm happy. Knowing the path ahead toward being able to run again and having my body back, I can sometimes feel a little, oh, chubbalicious, but that's alright. I can hang, people. It's cool. Just remind me I said that when I stand on the scale two months after delivery and running feels like carrying a backpack of bricks.)

I found out some good news at my doctor's appointment on Monday. At our 18-week ultrasound we had discovered that the umbilical cord was implanted on the edge of the placenta, called "marginal cord insertion," which can sometimes result in growth restriction for the baby due to a potential lack of nutrition and oxygen (since the cord isn't implanted in a more secure, central part of the placenta where the majority of blood vessels are). Considering that Cora was only 5 pounds, 13 ounces at birth, I couldn't help thinking, Well, geez, how much smaller can we go? However, the good news is that our 28-week ultrasound presented great statistics, the baby is well within normal ranges, and also the cord is no longer on the edge of the placenta. My doctor was surprised. She said it was pretty cool, it appeared that the placenta had worked to compensate for the issue and had built itself up around the cord. That made me very happy.

So, 7-9 more weeks to go. I love single digits! I am so excited to meet this little person. We still have a lot to do to prepare.

And, lastly, I'm almost done with my novel. I can't believe I'm finally writing that sentence here. It looks like if all goes well I will, indeed, have a draft before the baby arrives. I have a few more chapters to go, but I can see the end. I'm at 228 pages and anticipate about 30 more. We'll see. I'm getting warmed up here and will soon tuck myself onto our couch and get going.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Baby on the brain

I'm starting the 30th week this week. THIRTY weeks? With a baby in my belly? He's kicking all the time these days and I'm definitely getting more uncomfortable. And tired. And excited. And intimidated, too...about birth, about caring for two, about months ahead of crazy, lost sleep.

I really just want to meet him. (Not yet, of course, not till it's time. But SOON.) I'd like the next 10 weeks to speed by, but at the same time I feel like we still have a lot to do to prepare.

Like put together their shared room. Buy a bed for Cora. Get a double jogging stroller. Buy more cloth diapers. Prepare for lots of poop.

Over the next year or so, we also plan to finish out the second half of our basement. If it's possible, we'll add a 4th bedroom which will make our five-year plan in this house more feasible, I think.

This year has already felt much more dominated by long-term goals than ever before. Things like four-year-debt removal plans. Remodeling plans. Savings plans. School plans. Writing plans. Career plans. Gardening plans.

I think about them all the time. It is empowering. I can see things rolling out before us. Even amidst all the unknowns, there is a certain kind of security that comes from setting goals. It feels good. We've been sorting through old things, cleaning out the basement, throwing stuff away, visualizing our next steps.

I think what I need to do is buy a teeny, tiny pair of newborn shoes for a little boy and stare at them for a long while. Maybe then it will really, truly set in that our family will soon become four.


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