If I Had Energy to Blog

I’d blog about the three days I spent at a writing conference.

I’d blog about how the agents I met with pleaded with me to finish my novel so I can send it to them.

I’d blog about how overwhelmed and full of doubt I felt after the elation wore off.

I’d blog about how I cried and cried when the boys went back to school and friends, family, and my therapist propped me back up and got me back out there again.

I’d blog about how my only writing goal this year is to learn to be happy and also be a writer.

I’d blog about my newest picture book, “Literally,” and how I turn a whole class of students into bananas.

I’d blog about  chicken and dumplings, ginger carrot soup, peanut butter chip brownies, tomatillo salsa, chocolate macadamia nut cookies, and loaf after loaf of homemade bread.

I’d blog about the hours of my day I scrap together to read beautiful books and how lovely it is that reading is a part of being a writer.

Yes, if I had the energy, I’d probably find a funny way write about all this and then tie it together with a montage of embarrassing photos of the boys.

But I don’t.  It’s been an emotionally draining beginning to the year, but as of last week, I have met my goal every day: to be happy and to also be a writer.

20180915_144941372_iOS

And I’m totally good with that.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chicken and dumplings
Lemon garlic broccoli
Peanut butter chip brownies

Why do I write?

People have been asking me this, especially people who are close to me and have seem me struggling, breaking down, hurting, frustrating, raging, falling down again and again.  They have seen me sobbing on the floor, literally and figuratively, and they ask me why?  Why do I keep doing it if it’s this hard?  Why don’t I stop and just enjoy life and do all the other things I love doing that don’t also make me cry, like laundry?  Laundry has never made me cry, right?.  (Well, actually it did once, but I was nine months pregnant with my third child and it was to be expected.)

I asked the question of my writing coach and she reminded me: I write because I am a writer.  I have something to say, and as hard as it is to get the words out and sounding right, it is more devastating to keep them inside.

I write because I spend a day at the beach, and this is what I feel:

And oh, how her heart broke and swelled when she saw the sea. All the life it had given, all the life it had taken back.  She could feel the struggle for life under the waves even as she felt the calm those great, lolling waves offered her.

The sea! The sea! She tasted the water, and it was the same as her tears, but it sparkled so, and the wind it brought made her think she had no use for tears anymore.

But it was a trick, for the moment she left the sea, the her heart despaired.

And even though I had these thoughts while sitting by the ocean, I couldn’t very well turn to the person sitting next to me and say them. 

Besides, while I felt all this sitting on the shore, it wasn’t until I sat down to write that I knew how big and beautiful the thought was.  My mind or my heart can start a thought but it takes my hands to finish it.

Now it’s posted on my blog and I hear my soul gasp—you’re not going to share this piece of me, are you?  But I am.  I did.  It’s embarrassing, yes, but the gasp, the thrill—it’s also something to live for.

Maybe someone who reads this has felt the same about the sea.  Maybe someone is  struck by the newness of my thought in their head.  Maybe someone will read that part again and wonder if I was writing about myself or about them.

Here they are, my words.  I give them all to you.

With a gasp and a thrill, I give them all to you.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pasta with roasted vegetables & fresh garlic
Crusty bread
Fresh fruit

More 1st Day Pix

Because I’m feeling self-indulgent.

IMG_0138

IMG_0203a

IMG_0178aIMG_0182bIMG_0193a

IMG_0134a

IMG_0208a

IMG_0212a

So obviously, I am here today so I survived Day One.  I was not alone in feeling weepy.  At one point my friend texted me a picture of a watermelon in the basket part of her grocery cart and said she felt sad because her kids should be sitting there instead of the watermelon.  I texted back that I’m right there with her. 

I miss my watermelons, too.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Baked potatoes with cheese sauce
Broccoli, also with cheese sauce
Blackberry hombre popsicles, sans cheese sauce

And here we go again…

Yes, the first day.  It is upon us.  For the past three days, it has felt like the clock has been counting down instead of forward, in an ominous, very loud and obnoxious way.  And here we are, today.

Does anyone else find it disturbing how abruptly the school year starts?  Like how one day we are here, looking like this…

IMG_0067a

IMG_0084a

And the next we are here, looking like this:

IMG_0160

Shouldn’t there be some thing of some sort to mark the change?  A fireworks show and marching band to send them all off in their brand new shoes?  A month of half days followed by a month of 3/4 days to ease in slowly?  A superintendent who shows up and gives us all a hard slap in the face the day before?

But no.  One day it’s this:

IMG_0109

The next, that.

IMG_0184

And there they go. 

20180904_155601331_iOS

And here I am.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Penne a la vodka sauce
Roasted brussels sprouts   
Chocolate chip zucchini bread

Almost-September Blues

I’m walking around this week all teary-eyed, like it’s my children’s last week of life instead of their last week of summer.  I pick Leo up for random hugs and kisses, trying to memorize the smell and feel of his blond head.  Every bit of laughter, every pitter-patter of footsteps I take in with a brink-of-tragedy feeling.

School.  That’s the tragedy.

This is how I feel, even though summer has worn me to the bone.  I’m under-exercised, over-baked, dizzy from the front door swinging open, low on sleep and completely devoid of down time.  I should be looking forward to September!  I’ll finally have time to do things I really want to do!

But what if what I really want to do is make waffles with the kids, spend the morning at a museum, pick huckleberries and make a pie with them in the afternoon, read books in their colossal forts, then find a beach and stay until it’s too dark to find our shovels?

The thing is, I’m good at being a summer mom. In the summer I never question if I’m spending my time in the best way.  I never feel guilty for what I’m not doing.  I’m happy worrying about whether or not the kids are eating too much peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or finding reasons not to vacuum the sand out of the car.

I like those worries.  They’re cute, like puppies that might try to chew up a cushion but can’t actually do any damage.

Once school starts, my worries change.  I worry I won’t be able to finish my novel or write another picture book.  I worry that I don’t know how to be happy just  being. I worry that I should be doing something more. I worry that time is going too fast and I’ve started everything too late.

Peanut butter and jelly?  That’s a problem I am equipped to deal with.  Evaluating my self-worth and dealing with the publishing world?

Kevin and my mom both remind me I always have a hard time when school starts.  I’m blaming writing this year because it’s an easy target.  But truthfully, I’ve had September anxiety as long as I’ve known how to spell the word September.

If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know there will be a post next week about how lovely, beautiful, and magical this thing called school is, to take my children for six hours a day while I can do whatever the bleep I want to do.  I’ll get a pedicure.  I’ll spend hours in my garden.  I’ll finally return that one pair of shoes.  Read a novel in a whole day.  Shave both of my legs.  Browse actual stores instead of just the Internet.  Go for a walk with a good friend.  Maybe do some writing.

So anyway, can we just skip this week and get straight to that one?

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Ginger salmon burgers
Fresh vegetables
Blackberry hombre popsicles

Short stack

Everyone’s been saying Vincenzo looks a lot taller lately but you know, I don’t think he’s getting all that tall.  I mean, look at him next to me:

20180825_212641670_iOS

Wait, camera person where are you going?  Stop backing up!

20180825_212634736_iOS

Okay, fine.  I’ll take the wedge heels off. He still just comes up to my chin.

20180825_212705188_iOS

I often remind Vincenzo that I’m still taller than him.  Like when we’re picking blackberries on the trail, I make sure to tell him that if he can’t reach any, to call me over since I’m so much taller than him.  At the ice cream store I came up behind him and tried to lift him up so he could see the flavors. When he stands close enough to me I thank him for bringing me my armrest.

20180825_212921564_iOS

Okay, so maybe he is encroaching on my height, and maybe I’m having a bit of a hard time with it.

I’ve seen this very thing happen to other moms, how one year the Christmas card makes sense and the parents are standing there like the demigods and rulers they are and then the next year, the demigods look like an older, smaller, and possibly shrinking versions of themselves.

I just kinda thought I’d always be the right height for my family.  Like this:

19-IMG_1191-19

Instead of *just barely* this:

IMG_9680

Kids these days.  They ain’t got no respect for their 5-foot-3-inch mothers.

But hey, every cloud has a silver lining.  Now Vincenzo and I wear the same shoe size and can finally swap shoes with each other!

20180825_212841221_iOS

Well he definitely gets the better deal there.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Things stuck to the bottom of the refrigerator

Wind

I woke up Thursday morning and the smoke was still there, but something else was there too: the slightest whisper, a tiny hint, a brand-new baby wind.  I knew I missed the sky, but I hadn’t known how much I missed the wind.  I missed the wind and the sounds of outdoors.  We have been so sealed shut for a week—windows, doors, garage, car windows.  If a kid needed to go outside to water a peach pit he planted, I’d open the door a crack for him to leave, then wait there nervously for his return, then open the door a crack to usher him in, like that mother out of A Wrinkle in Time.  But today, today, the wind came and the smoke left and we let the wind in the house.  I had to take a picture of this, it was so beautiful to me:

20180823_223212717_iOS

I missed all the kinds of wind.  The warm evening ones, the cool morning ones, the loud windows-rolled down ones.  I missed the sounds the wind brings, the pieces of shiny conversations and far-away laughter it brought near.  I missed the rustling dress sounds of our big leaf maples, the happy shouts floating up from the lake, the sounds of construction on the houses behind us that had so annoyed me before our lockdown.  There!  Do you hear the hum of the freeway?  Isn’t it the most lovely noise?

I missed the sounds an open window allow into your house.  I missed the humans.  I missed the machines.  I missed it all, I missed the assurance the wind brings that life, life is happening all around.

Dear Wind, Dear Lovely Wind, thank you for bringing back our world.

20180824_023606702_iOS

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Minestrone soup
Cakelike cornbread (Thanks for the recipe, M!)
Fruits & veggies