2017: 1 Second a Day

Last year–January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017–I used the 1 Second Everyday app to capture our life in seconds. The final video is about 6 minutes long, and I love it so much.

Admittedly, it stressed me out a little during the year. I ended up thinking I accidentally deleted what I had so far in early March, and I cried for about 2 days straight. But I recovered what was missing, and I kept it up (almost) faithfully for the entire year.

It’s a little peek into our ordinary life, and I know I’ll be glad to have it for years to come. There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of pets, a lot of swim meets, and a lot of books. Enjoy!

I had a year.

This morning we watched The Battle of the Bastards again and I tried not to look away from all the stabbing. It’s been a big week in TV as we’ve tried to wait out whatever viral thing has lobbied its way into our family’s respiratory systems. Resistance is futile: five seasons of GOT, some Voyager and now The Fall, plus cold meds. TV feels like as good as any other way to mark the passing of mucous and the old year.

But this isn’t a good riddance to 2016 post. My 2015 was much harder, physically, and though 2016 surprised me, in some ways its helped me to grow up and figure out what matters. So, good on that. It feels icky to me to claim one year as the worst year ever in the same way it makes me squirm when people thank Jesus for winning a football game. Maybe my anxiety is about trying to pin that kind of power on one arbitrary thing. I do have one thing to say about the political mess of 2016: I just hope–hope–that 2017 brings more civility. America matters to me a whole lot, and so does our fundamental right to disagree with each other and still hold on to our humanity.

Anyway. Here’s what happened to me and my most important humans in 2016. It was a good year for our family.

Being a parent of non-toddlers is the strangest combination of longing for the wonderful little teeny people who used to live here and complete delight in the friendship of the newer, big people. I don’t begrudge them the fact that they’ve grown, and it’s the most wonderful thing to have these two whip-smart dudes to talk to. But I won’t lie: when Henry had a ridiculously high fever a few weeks ago and draped himself across me like a rag doll, I ate it up. (Along with his germs, which is why every one else got sick shortly thereafter). Henry is 11 now, and Addie is 14.

But they’ve done more this year than just get taller. Henry is in sixth grade, but taking math at the local junior high every afternoon. His coding and gaming hobbies have now expanded into building computers. I’d like to claim we saw it coming with Legos or something when he was three, but everyone says that thing about Legos proving your kid is a genius, right? We couldn’t have imagined what kind of mind he’d have for all that now. He’s just following his curiosity, and we’re trying our best to let him, whatever that means. He’s also a nut for anything related to mythology, ancient history, and puns. He played volleyball for his elementary school last year and joined the swim team with Addie. His favorite stroke is butterfly. He is a good and kind boy, and he makes me laugh every single day.

Addie is at the high school with me, which is nice. She bit a big bullet and did summer school there to get two classes out of the way so she could take both Spanish 2 and digital arts electives during the year. In both her summer school classes and her first semester, she worked her tail off and earned straight As. I’m incredibly proud of what a good student she is. She is a maniac of a reader and such a good writer. She had to read Ender’s Game for school and Eric and I had never read it before, so we both read it too. We ended up in a heated family argument about whether or not Ender was a hero. She was so mad about the book (I loved that!). But more important to me than arguing about books is the fact that she’s still the same kind, artistic, and sympathetic soul. I really enjoy getting to spend time with her every day as we drive to school and set up my classroom in the morning. It’s been a good chance to see her for who she really is, now. In addition to swimming on the swim team again, Addie has been volunteering regularly for the Sacramento Zoo as a part of the Zoo Teens program this year. I’m so proud of everything she is, and everything she has ahead of her.

Eric had a good year too. He got a promotion in place at a job he loves, so he can keep doing the work he likes with the people he likes. He taught several training classes for his office at McGeorge and for various other state agencies this year. He continued to do all kinds of improvements on our house and completely remodeled our garage from a nasty, dusty heap to an organized storage space and working shop for Maude (the other woman, his 1954 Ford Customline). Last spring he and his dad put up solar panels on the side of the house so the kids and I could enjoy a heated pool; I spent my entire summer enjoying the fruits of their labor and getting a ridiculous tan. Eric’s made friends with our neighbors, and continues to be happy to run over to our friends’ homes to do handyman work and fix-it jobs. I feel incredibly lucky to be married to someone who is a book smart lawyer (and a great editor for my reviews), and knows how to fix things.

My sister, Melissa’s, family lives about five minutes from us, and our kids are constantly connected. We had to tell the five of them this year that they can’t just arrange sleepovers on their group text without checking with adults–this week we’ve had to institute a code word to confirm that they checked with the other parent for approval. The best thing in the world is seeing (and hearing) our five noisy kids knock around together. They’re loud, but they love each other. When Melissa and I were pregnant with Luke and Henry we used to daydream about how close our kids would be. The older they get, the more they all want to hang out, and it’s even better than we hoped.

I didn’t work on reviews as much as I have in previous years. Part of that was by choice–twice this year I took breaks from social media and review pitching because the cycle of keeping up with publishing news and books that were coming out during such a contentious news cycle was making me weary. I think the larger consideration was that this was (and will continue to be until they graduate in 2017) such a different year with my AVID class. I’ve had the same class of amazing kids since they were freshmen. This fall, I shepherded 30 of them through the college application process and FAFSA process, and it almost defies description, it was so taxing. I take the responsibility of their futures so seriously, and I was so nervous for most of November that I’d miss something or mess up somehow in helping them. They didn’t get done early (as I’d hoped), but they got done by the deadline. I’ve been trying to forgive myself a little for not reading as much and not reviewing as much because I know teaching full time and college app assistance took all of my energy even when I wasn’t doing anything. I couldn’t turn my brain off and stop worrying about them when I’d go to bed. The amazing part of this is that for the last few months, I’ve gotten the most amazing texts as these kids get into college. I am so proud of them. They are great. But holy crap, helping 30 kids apply to college at the same time is no joke. No. Joke.

Critical work was slower this year, as I said, but probably more rewarding. The more I do it, the more I see that it is both what I want to do and what I am meant to do–but the more I continue to see what I have to learn. But 2016 brought me some big opportunities: I was fortunate enough to be asked back to do a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books again, and early in 2016, I interviewed Yann Martel for Goodreads. His publisher ended up adding the interview to the paperback version of the book, which was published in November. Just before the election, I interviewed the brilliant Michael Chabon.

The best thing this year, hands-down, was my trip to DC with Kitty to tour the West Wing with a friend from high school. It was incredible, not only because being in such a historical place is beyond anything I can put into words, but because on our way to DC, we were rerouted to North Carolina and had to drive all night to make it.  It was, in terms of travel mishaps, a pretty big mess. But navigating our way out of the mess felt like a huge accomplishment, and getting to see the Oval Office, the Press Room, the White House, and then so much of DC with Kitty, was a real gift. I’m incredibly grateful to our host, Katrina, who welcomed us into her family and home while we were there.

I spent a lot of 2016 overscheduled. I don’t say this as a brag or a badge of honor. It means I’m doing something wrong. Working full time as a high school teacher and part time as a book critic and whatever time you count it as when you’re a mom of two kids who cooks and cleans and shops and does all the things? That’s too much. I’m not happy with all of it and I spent a lot of 2016 trying to figure out how to do less and there’s not really an answer. Some of it I want to do while I’m lucky enough to have the kids here before college. I don’t want to sacrifice my time with them. So maybe 2016 was just about a shifting of priorities, or a pondering about whether or not I can be patient or still keep myself in the publishing world if I’m not still out there trying to prove the same things I was proving two years ago. I don’t have answers. But I worried a lot in 2016.

Things I don’t care about: staying up until midnight (tonight or any night), making a resolution for 2017, having any answers tonight.

What I do know: every year with this family gets better. I am lucky to be loved and to have people who let me love them and spend lots of time with them.

Happy New Year. May it be good to you.








I’m as cranky as ever about our life on a sport schedule. Yes, I do think my kids swimming competitively is wonderful and yes, I know it makes me a jerk to complain about it. My crankiness has changed a little over the last few years. Does this matter? I am 100% less resentful of having to sit at the pool for an hour or two while the kids swim laps; I am 100% more excited about watching them compete. But practice? Pfft. I find the pool calming and I generally find it to be a good place to work (in my car at the pool, that is). Eric and I share driving duties. But I’m still cranky about the usual things: having to talk to other parents, having to eat dinner at weird times, having to not see my husband most nights, having to cajole the kids into putting on suits when they feel tired/angry/hesitant.

This is parenting. This is parenting. This is parenting.

Eric just left to pick up Addie from the pool, after driving cross-town twice to get them both there and then bring Henry home after he was done so he could avoid the wind. I just stayed home to stare at the wall. Tonight, everything is difficult. I thought that not having Henry play baseball this year was going to mean more ease. Ha.

AWP and LATFOB blinded me–as all writing/book gatherings do–with a flash of too-bright inspiration, followed by a heady sadness. Sadness for what? Nothing real. I’ve visited nerd land enough times to know it is a magical fairy illusion–one where I wear my best clothes and my best hair and most eager smile–and one that in no way corresponds to the life where I go to Costco to buy TP, or tell my freshmen every day to sit down and do school. I have zero desire to try to live in that imaginary space, and in fact I leave these nerd conventions feeling exhausted. But I also usually feel sad, a reasonless sad that seems to always manifest in a frustration with my schedule, lack of time, lack of energy for doing everything I want to do, etc. So today I’m pissed at swimming. I’m pissed at my job. I’m pissed at the hours it takes every day to transport two kids up from schools just miles from our house. I’m pissed that tonight when I went to cook rice, we were out of rice. So dumb. It’s the chafe of wants against have-tos, the old feeling like I have to be too many things to too many people, when I want to be alone, in my red sweat pants, writing for me (or, let’s be real, for someone who wants to pay me in US currency). I want to ditch the Mrs. Partington persona and shut down the HSP show. I want write and be impolite and and have energy for it and walk out of my office occasionally for hugs from my three people. Swimming gets the brunt of my frustration only because it’s the new thing in our schedule and if you’re going to parent someone who does a thing, you really can’t suck at making them go.

I am treading water in my critical career. I am pushing and pushing. I want to quit every night. I’m afraid to rest. This is writing.

We’re fighting about money. Getting married on tax day seemed funny 16 years ago.

What is this post? I’m trying to keep moving. I am staying up because I don’t know how to do the ten minutes where I lay in bed before I fall asleep. I am dreading that tonight. If I stop, I have to feel it pull me down. I have to wake up and do it again tomorrow. Nothing in my life is bad. But today I’m over my head.






Mom, don’t make me. And don’t make me say I don’t want to anymore. She didn’t have to speak the words. I read it on her face and drooping shoulders. She rubbed her upper arms and pressed her mouth tight: Mom, I don’t want to feel like this.

Parenting a thirteen year old is no horror the way people try to convince you it will be. It’s so fulfilling and fun. But if you’re paying attention–if you’re really listening to her words and silences, if you’re trying to equip your daughter to fight her way into a harsh world, it can hurt.

We were at a family wedding. She was surrounded by love and loud music and Christmas lights. But even in safe spaces, biology makes the thirteen year old mind a liar: telling girls that whatever feelings they have must be wrong or awkward, that having opinions is anathema to the crowd. People kept asking her to dance. She didn’t want to. This was the crisis.

I tried my best to break it down in love: Have your opinions, Ad. We don’t control our feelings. They just happen, and nobody can say they’re wrong. You have the right to not want to do anything that you don’t want to do. Mom, she said finally, out loud, (those pleading, wet eyes!) I know it’s okay for me not to want to do things. (I exhale.) But I feel bad when I have to tell people that I don’t want to dance.

This is being a girl. At our table, I resist the urge to tell her this, to make it about me or about women and opinions and consent and being listened to and taken seriously and about not pleasing other people, but that’s what it is. Even though being a woman is different now. She is already growing up in a world that never didn’t have lady astronauts and world leaders and CEOs and computer programmers, where she can vote and make legal decisions for herself and expect to be treated and paid for what she does. But scrub that away, and there’s still fraction of society that’s not going to take her seriously because she is female. Even if nobody has told her that yet, she has internalized it, mixed with her own shyness and good girl tendencies and teenage hormones. This is where I do bring myself up–the irony of those three words–where I acknowledge that genes and my own fears have gently nudged her toward this conflict she’s having, even though we’re in the safest of spaces.


It wasn’t a moment that ended in a scene. My pep talk landed as much as it was going to land, and then we just looked at each other. Nothing happened until her loving father (the girl whisperer, we call him) scooped her up for a twenty minute walk outside, artfully using his skills of comfort and distraction to help her feel better. I was inadequate to the task, and by the time they walked back into the ballroom, all was well.

It’s naive to think that all is well permanently, or that the reason I’m still thinking about this almost three weeks later is that it’s just about parenting. There are several truths operating here:

  1. This isn’t about me. This is about my daughter being 13 and having hormones.
  2. My own struggles with having opinions are kind of relevant.

Because yes, she is changing faster than she can see, and yes that means discomfort. And discomfort for growth is good, the kind I want her to have. But also, this: she has a mom who spends much of her day afraid to speak her mind, and always has. I remember shopping with my mom and grandma when I was about her age, and they would hold up items of clothing for me to consider. How about this, they’d ask. Yeah, that’s cute. I like it. Mmm, hmm, I said, even to things that looked awful. I couldn’t say so, even to things I wasn’t trying on, because I was worried I’d hurt their feelings. Nobody told me this was the case–in fact, I am positive I was told the opposite–but other messages about gratitude, about being considerate, and about being good were louder. And high school was a training course in learning to please: I sublimated my actual opinions time and again because it made things easier. Ballet. Church. English class. If I could figure out what someone else wanted me to say or do, I’d make them happy. Being a part of a big family didn’t make me this way, but it was fertile breeding ground for my thinking. In a big family someone else is always happy to tell you how things should be. Want to double down on that? Marry young into another big family. Try not to rock any boats. Understand nothing about how to have opinions, assert them. Speak up for yourself only once every few decades, with disastrous results. Resolve not to try again for years. Repeat.

I really think about it, there was a short time when I didn’t care so much what people thought (or even think that anyone considered me and what I had to say). This short time coincided with early adulthood, becoming a mother, and the fact that I had yet to have any online connections. But it’s different now. For the last several years I am really chafing against the sense that I need to keep my mouth closed.

What changed? I have more opinions, actually. Louder ones that seem to want out. The realization that I don’t have to enjoy things that other people enjoy, and that things about the world that make me mad–like, screaming mad–seem not to bother other folks. At the same time, I’ve developed a weird dichotomy of personal and professional lives. Being a teacher in the social media age is scary. Trying to be a writer at the same time is ludicrous. Take one moment, one word out of context, and I’m through. As a result of my fears, my teaching has become purposefully bland. Sadly numb and devoid of most of my personality–the weird quirks I used to use to shock and joke and provoke teenagers through the books I’m teaching. What other way is there to be, now? I can’t find one, so I push my real self down, hide her from sight. And ironically, at the same time, my real self has flourished. I’ve ventured into the world of writing. Ideas. Conflict. An art entirely shocking and contrary to the kind of work I’ve chosen for myself in a stodgy institution built on the illusion of righteousness and propriety.

It isn’t just my job, though. Social media makes me uneasy. It’s a double edged sword, because so often it makes me unlonely–it gives a sense of connection to an introvert sitting alone in her bedroom. But in the past year I’ve just seen how my relationship with social media is one-sided. I read and read and post pictures I like; I am addicted to the online stories, but I am afraid to be myself. I’m afraid I’ll lose my job or afraid I’ll lose the constant feed of voices, the people who are always there. (The same people who share their own opinions as easily as sticks of gum.) I fear the fight, though, or more so I fear letting people down. So I do what I’ve always done. I let people think I agree. I let myself believe that “no” needs to come with an apology.

This year I don’t have a resolution, so much as I have an intention for myself, a way to try to be. It’s not a resolution because I expect to fail regularly, and I want to allow myself the inevitable, intermittent failure that happens when you try to change. But my intention in 2016 is to speak my mind. To bring some of the authority I can summon in my writing to my real damn life, and to be smart about how I do that, but to do it anyway. Because I don’t know how much longer I can keep looking at my daughter–my beautiful, smart, worthwhile daughter–and tell her that she is not only allowed to share, but worthy of any opinions and feelings and desires she feels–if I can’t look in the mirror and tell myself the same.

2015, A.D.

2015 was half a year. Well, it only felt like half.

Some years take longer than 12 months. But not this one. This year was a blur from June to December. I’m okay with how it all turned out, but I feel like I’ve been zombie-shuffling through my own life for most of it. I try not to think about that too often, because doing so makes me pretty anxious.

I only ever look about 5 minutes into the future: What do I have to do next? is all I can ever handle asking myself, because the big to-do list is overwhelming. This 5 minutes/next thing is my survival mechanism. But that kind of myopic view isn’t so good for savoring moments. The year just happened to me and I didn’t really notice it because I was too busy looking at the next thing. Always afraid I’d forget something. Always afraid I wouldn’t get it all done.

And yet: it’s past midnight on the east coast, almost new, and so much has changed. Addie is in her room watching The Office and sketching; Henry is working on his second coding course. They both look like different people than the still-semi-kids I knew in 2014. And for crap’s sake, we’re all sitting in a different house. 2015 brought change, whether I was paying attention or not.

I looked at my calendar this morning to remind myself of just what I did in 2015. It was fitting to discover that on January 2 of this year I had the first in a series of hoop-jumping appointments and MRIs that would lead to my hysterectomy in June. My hysterectomy led to my subsequent inability to heal properly and move on in any meaningful or final way until very, very recently. 2015 was about that, mostly. Uteruses before duderuses, as Leslie Knope says. And it was about trying to figure out how to care about all the other things (school, sports, reviews, getting out of bed, etc) that I’d committed to, if my body wasn’t going to cooperate. Is this my adult life? Yes, I’m still wondering, and I know 36 is kind of well into it to not really have a definition nailed down. There have been years adulthood felt like having to do the hard/sad/gross things even when we’re scared and without any guidance because now we’re the ones in charge. But this year adulthood has been an exercise in continuing to meet obligations even if my body is telling me to shut it all down so I can go back to bed.

Perhaps this is the same exact thing.

Our move was another insane time and energy vortex, but of course that was worth it too. I think hearing about my incredulity about our new home must be getting so old to anyone who doesn’t have a sense of just how bad the real estate market got for a while. (Are there people who don’t know this? Or maybe just people who didn’t get stuck upside down in a tiny home?) But I had gone through a process–years upon years long–of frustration with our tiny, not-perfect house, and then I’d fully grieved the fact that we would ever move out of there. Or at least mourned the idea that we were going to be able to make a change in any timeframe that seemed reasonable, and we’d resigned ourselves to faithfully paying our woefully ill-timed mortgage, come hell or high water. I thought we might have to stay where we were until the kids were in high school, and I had accepted it. So if it seems like I’m surprised daily by the alignment of stars that allowed us to move into a home that actually meets our needs (and surpasses them), you’re reading me right. I know we did this, but we are lucky enough not to do anything alone, and the help we had getting here was amazing. And really, some of it was just the luck and good fortune that comes from years of working the same damn jobs and going school and eventually making things happen for yourself (which is to say, not luck at all, but hard work). Our house is perfect for us, which is what matters to me, and I am still in awe of the fact that any of it worked out.

2015 included the same smalls joys that I’ve enjoyed for a long time: Cooking. Reading in the quiet house before everyone else wakes up. Lots of time with my cat snuggled into my knee pit. Eric, making me laugh and reminding me that nobody knows me better. Henry, dancing and dripping his way down the hall in a towel after he showers at night. Addie wanting to read and draw and chat. There’s not much about my slow life that I don’t like. I have to try to remember not to fill it up with things, because it’s often what happens when we’re just home that makes me feel the most me.

This was a good year for book reviewing. I haven’t counted exactly how many, but I reviewed a ton of books. I had my first review in a major paper, a review of Sarah Gerard’s beautiful book, Binary Star, in the LA Times. I had more reviews in the Times. I got to go moderate a panel at the Festival of Books, and then I got to interview David McCullough over the phone. Las Vegas Weekly took me on, and many places continued to ask me to work for them. 2015 was amazing in terms of the opportunities I was given, and I tried hard not to waste them. The toughest thing about trying to establish myself as a critic is to stay hungry: to keep reaching for new things that feel too far away while still trying to maintain what I have. But this year felt easier than the first year, and when I get too frustrated or I feel too inadequate (which is frequent), I have to remind myself that it’s all still pretty new. And it’s only getting better. Slow and steady is enough.

I wasn’t that happy in 2015. I am okay with this, though. There’s peace in knowing that you can be unhappy, but still okay. Or that you can get through something without having to feel good about it. I was not shaken to my core, or broken. I was inconvenienced, annoyed, taxed, and pressured. But none of that hurts too bad. I am pleased that 2015 happened, and I know I will be happy again. I have hope that eventually I will not be so tired. I am looking forward to what comes next.


All is calm.

I’m drinking whiskey and eating sugar cookies. There’s a full moon over the creek. Eric and I just watched Boyd Crowder get sprayed with nameless bad guy brains on TV. Merry Christmas from us and Raylon Givens.

This has been the most low-key of our sixteen married Christmases, and especially more so than last year’s. Then we thought we had some free time between family gatherings, but it was really just that I’d incorrectly written down the time we were supposed to be at dinner. Last year was peaceful for a few hours, but then there was a lot of (my) phlegmy, embarrassed crying while we scrambled to get across town.

This year we’re just home. We ordered pizza at 2:00. Pizza. I’ve been in my PJs all day–I did take a shower, but I reapplied pajamas. This is an achievement in holiday celebration: to leave one’s house to celebrate with family, but remain in Bumble pants. Because of a little bit of stomach flu in Eric’s side, Big Partington Christmas is postponed for a few days. I have done nothing productive today. I thought about reading, but the closest I got was napping near my book. There are about four hours I sat alone on the couch in the sunbeam by our Christmas tree, and I can’t account for what I did.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas, but it does feel great. We opened presents here this morning and walked our way through what will surely be a Christmas–our first Christmas–we’ll remember, simply because it was new. New is weird in the moment, though. Being together was good, as always, and the fact that we have more space has still yet to wear off. This dummy of a year ended with us settling into a place that’s so full of possibility. And our kids spoil us by being so polite, thankful, and well-behaved. I just can’t communicate effectively how much I enjoy them. I don’t sleep the night before Christmas because I can’t wait to see them open their gifts. This year was no different, and seeing them as big people in our big new house was great.


I’m forgetting to mention that last night we had traditional Christmas Eve at Grandma’s. No soup, because a gift of a giant ham to Grandma and Grandpa meant a menu change. This is perhaps why I am craving broth today–but that gives me an excuse to get something cooking this week. Last night was good, easy. Just family being together and lots of thoughtful gifts from the most amazing grandparents a person could have.

After our Christmas morning at home today, we drove to my mom’s (in our PJs) to exchange gifts with my parents, sister, and brother in law. Our kids can’t get enough of their cousins right now, and the frenzy of tween/teen energy was enough to fill the house. There were the best kind of creative, personal gifts. I ate my weight in doughy, homemade cinnamon rolls. Last night I had some of my mom’s (also homemade) crescent rolls, so today was just more of the dough diet. I am hoping to round it out tomorrow with something fried, since lately most of my consumables are yeasty and/or covered in buttercream.


Things I want to remember: Henry, buying cat leggings for his sister and insisting we all get Christmas jammies. Taking selfies with Grandpa Ed. Special gifts from Grandma Lila with handwritten gift tags that say “Love” over the From. Addie, spending all morning testing out the makeup in her new Caboodle from Melissa. The fact that they still make Caboodles. Eric, being so good at Christmas, so acutely aware of what makes his kids and wife happy. Finding TWO Mervyn’s boxes, even though Mervyn’s closed in 2008. The perfect smell of coffee and bacon and cinnamon rolls and cheesy breakfast potatoes at my parents’. Sharing sour watermelons with Roo. Henry snuggles in front of the Xbox, while he explained to me things I don’t understand about games I’ll never play. The 20 minutes Cookie was actually nice to me. Eric’s red flannel.


I can’t complain. My heart is already full, and Christmas isn’t even finished yet.

Dad Tunes

Remember life before digital music? It’s hard, right? I’m an mp3 hoarder (which already makes me old, sigh) and a Pandora addict, and I can’t tell you what it means to be able to google any song I want at any time so I can listen to it. No more having to wait for a song to come on the radio. No more listening to five CDs on shuffle in the car, until you know every word and want to tear your face off if you hear that one song again.

When I was teaching dance, until the very end (near 2008-ish?) I was limited by whatever CDs were in the room. I got really good at choreographing combinations for across the floor to Ace of Base and Gloria Estefan. If I hear Lawrence Welk’s “Begin the Beguine,” I lapse into tap class warm-up shuffles (7-7-3-3-1-2-2, anyone?). At home I had Sarah McLachlan on a loop for most of my junior and senior year so I could feel bad about my feelings to bad music.

But no music is as familiar to me as the stuff in my dad’s CD collection from about 1993-1997. I remember it was a thing for him, his stereo. He had a case of music and these giant, padded headphones with a spiraling cord, and he’d lay on the floor with his head propped against the couch and just listen with his eyes closed. I didn’t get it, but he assured me that was a dad thing to do, music. Listening. Tapping out the drum solo to “Wipeout” with your hands. Knowing about singers and whether someone was “a Beatles person” or a “Beach Boys person.”

The other day I heard Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” on Pandora and I was instantly reminded of Dad’s CDs. Once I started searching for albums, I realized my musical influences are a study in eclectic tastes. (And, truthfully, that I remember the things best that were danceable. Anything I learned at the studio, I practiced in the living room.) I created a Pandora station for myself (Dad Music), but I thought it would be fun to post some samples here of the mid-90’s stuff the Scotts were hearing.

Highlights of Dad’s CD Collection

Phil Collins: Serious Hits Live

I didn’t know what Genesis was until my 20s, but I did know all the words to “Sussudio.”


The Best of the Doors

Honestly, I was kind of scared of the Doors, thanks mostly to the album cover and Jim Morrison’s prominent nipples. This one might have been a cassette tape–I can’t be sure–but I remember driving in my dad’s car as he tried to explain “Riders on the Storm.”

Jim Brickman: By Heart

This was when I discovered I could work better to music without words. This became my homework soundtrack, and my sister danced a piece to “Angel Eyes” when we were in high school. I played it to death.


The Big Chill: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Just one of many soundtracks that introduced us to oldies. I liked this one, though, and it got some major play time. I think Melissa and I choreographed a few dance numbers to it in the living room. “Good Lovin” is particularly right for a spontaneous dance party.


Tony O’Connor: Rainforest Magic

What was the name of that nature store in the mall in the ’90s? I have spent two days trying to remember. I think that’s where this came from, and its sister albums that featured things like ocean sounds. I didn’t really take off in a pan flute direction in my life, but I used to borrow this one when I got my own CD player so I could fall asleep to it.


Dirty Dancing: Original Soundtrack

Played loud and proud, all the time. I watched this movie 400 times and probably listened to the soundtrack just as much.


Madonna: The Immaculate Collection

I was almost as scared of Madonna as I was of Jim Morrison’s nipples–for unclear reasons at the time–but she seemed like somebody “bad.” (And I was nothing if not hyper-concerned with goodness vs. badness in the world.) For this reason, I stuck close to the beginning of the album, and was fond of skipping around the house to “Holiday.”


Jurassic Park: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Earliest exposure to John Williams. Jurassic Park album as gateway to other movie scores.


The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack

Ridiculous and embarrassing: I choreographed my first dance to “The Queen of the Night.” I wore a blue and red sparkly crop top.

I know.


Kenny G: Silhouette

We are so deep into embarrassing territory now. I will just leave Kenny G here without comment, except to say that I enjoyed his smooth version of curly-haired sax playing.


The Glenn Miller Orchestra: In the Digital Mood

This is the soundtrack of my youth, the album my dad would play (loud) to signal that we were about to clean the house. I kind of dreaded it, but Glenn Miller is actually great housecleaning music. We’d clean until the album was done playing, and it was a happy thing to hear. To this day it puts me in a good mood.

It’s funny to think about how limited musical exposure used to be. My own kids have access to anything they can search. Someday I’ll have to teach them about laying on the floor with your eyes closed, and why it’s important to find joy in whatever songs you have.



Saturday afternoon we had a house full of humans.

We threw a housewarming party, and road-tested the new digs. For the first time in our lives, we have a house big enough to party. A house big enough to hold our larger-than-average families. A house big enough to open.

I couldn’t sleep the night before because hello, of course I couldn’t, so even though the better part of last week was spent spending and shopping, and doing, I woke up at 3:00 AM to try to worry myself into a successful fête. I nudged Eric and told him I was too nervous about the party to sleep and he murmured mmm and promptly rolled over. I had made an Ina-worthy checklist the night before (complete with timetable, you guys) but I was still consumed by my trademark middle of the night anxiety. So I did what any good HSP does, and I got out of bed at 4:00 AM to start cooking.

Actually, nobody tells you this (bakers, maybe?) but 4:00 AM is a nice time to cook. It’s super quiet and nobody is trying to steal anything you make, and you can cook in your PJs without anyone’s judgy eyes on you. I flipped on Downton Abbey and Mrs. Patmore kept me company while I chopped brussels sprouts and dipped things in chocolate. Not for the same dish, no.

I felt a lot of pressure to entertain well–I always do–I come from a line of warm hosts and hostesses, of people who know how to put some cheeses on a plate and make you feel welcome AF. So I had convinced myself I needed to get this right. All week as I was shopping and cleaning and planning, I found myself wondering what my parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents would do, and when it came time to answer the door, I was happy with how that strategy served me. I don’t have it down, yet, but I learned from the best.

I prepped everything I could (which took me until about 8:30 or 9, who can remember?), showered, ran to JoAnn Fabric one more time because I CAN’T PARTY WITHOUT WASHI TAPE FOR LITTLE TOOTHPICK APPETIZER SIGNS, and was home in time to style the craft project that lives on top of my head. Side note: I gave up on dressing/styling myself for school back in about September, when the house crap hit the fan, and that added an extra level of difficulty/awkwardness to Saturday’s dressing, hair curling, and heel-wearing. All was well, but my current girl game is weak. Perhaps I will continue to dress like a male PE coach for the remainder of the year and then style myself like a lady again for the fall of 2016.

Anyway. The party was a smash, and not because of anything I did–it was wonderful because my husband worked his tail off getting the constructiony things done, and I had help doing the kitcheny stuff, and my house was filled with love and friends and people who like us. People who were like damn, that was kind of an ordeal getting into this place, you guys, but hey why don’t you walk me around and point at your rooms? We had neighbors come by, old friends, new friends, family, and friends who are like family. Just the best mix of people.

By 7:30 PM my eyes were too tired to read, and I fell asleep at 8:00 without remembering to eat any dinner.

Sunday I just floated around on my cloud of clichés. I am lucky as all get out to have such a beautiful family, lucky to know so many wonderful people, lucky to have a home to bring everyone together. This feels like our grown-up house, like the space where we get to grow into the life we wanted at 19 (before we had any kind of clue how to get it).

Hemnes, Schmemnes.

After I went to Bacon & Butter on Sunday, and after I took my first of what I hope will be many neighborhood walks with Kitty, Eric decided we were going to Ikea. I didn’t know he even had an interest in Ikea, but I jumped at the chance to go.

Before someone mentions how cheap Ikea furniture is, how sub-par, lemme interject. I know it’s not what you’re going to call “real” furniture. But it’s not awful looking, and I need a coffee table that I can put my feet on and then sell at a garage sale when I get sick of it. I need some bookshelves, man. So we’re going to have cheap furniture in between our “real” furniture and we’re all going to be okay. I’ll leave you to your lathe–we’ll agree to disagree.

Anyway. I’d been making an Ikea list for weeks, so when Eric announced he wanted to go I changed into my comfy shoes and hopped in the car. There’s been so much to buy in the first few weeks of this new house. I am uber-thankful for that weird month between mortgage payments when you buy/sell a house, but we’re nearing the end of that beautiful time and that beautiful (spendable, extra) income. I am going to get myself to Ikea to buy some canisters, $2 toilet brushes, and step stools, dammit, because next month we have to pay the man.

I was kind of tired when we left, and I also didn’t think about it how thorough Eric can be. It’s one of the things I love about him–he is meticulous as all get-out, and as such, he proofreads every single review I write before I send it to an editor. But homeboy’s thoroughness really begins to shine in a museum or box store. He’s not going to miss a single thing. We are going to see the entire place, which means we are going to walk every single aisle and look at every single tag/blurb/display/sign.

So we did that. My body started to give out near the bed frames, and by housewares I was looking for empty end-caps to grab a sneaky sit.

Despite my tiredness, It was fun, and I’m happy that all of this house doing and shopping means the two of us get to spend time together looking at house stuff in a way we really haven’t since before Addie. It’s fun to have a new, empty house that we can fill up with dreams*.

*and stuff that gets assembled with an Allen wrench.

Dog Friend and October Things

I am happy as a clam, but I’m nowhere near as happy as Hurley, who has made it his personal mission to follow me around the new house. I suppose this isn’t too different from how he had to be near me in the old house, except the old house was so small that he didn’t have to get up. There are so many new dog places in the new digs. He’s been busy trying to never be more than two feet away from Mom.

The house is good. It doesn’t feel like ours yet, but I’m not complaining. I think this is due to two things: 1) it’s not in my head yet that we deserve something so nice. Yeah, I know that we are paying the mortgage, so I am not being completely ignorant about how it works to qualify for or pay a home loan. But space is so NICE. After you tell yourself for years that where you are and what you have is good enough, I think it just takes a while to adjust.

2) All of our stuff has a place to go. I have never experienced this in my married life, and since my married life is basically the history of my entire adult life, I have never experienced this in my entire adult life. No, all of our stuff is not here. But most of our regular day-to-day stuff is, and it fits in the cabinets. I can tell you that that was something I never imagined happening. Not because we had a crapload of stuff (I think we do okay, Marie Kondo-wise), but because the storage in our previous homes was just so teensy. Eric’s favorite room in the house is the giant pantry under the stairs, and I totally get it. When you can have your extra AppleJacks and your extra TP in the house, you are livin’ right. Thanks, Master’s degree!

UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledDon’t go all OCD on me. Those TV wires are going in the wall, stat.

School is good. October is here and busy as ever with Homecomings and ordinary school doings, but that’s when I’m happiest. Everyone always has something to do, which means there’s less attention on everyone being new and having to prove how awesome they are. And if I manage my work (paper) load wisely,  by October it doesn’t get so out of control that I need to take days off so I can grade. My kids (students) get it–well, I hope, at this point–they get me and they get what The Mrs. Partington show is and is not going to be. It’s routine time, and I thrive on routine time. The monkeys are wrapping up swimming (shh… I can’t wait for a break from sports!) and even though I pretty much hate fall, I am ready for some time inside my new house under 25 blankets.

I haven’t done anything extraordinary lately in terms of reviewing, but I do find that having an office feels like an extravagance. It’s a luxury to leave my stuff out on my desk and to know I can walk in and sit down in a quiet room whenever I need to read or write. I’d been having a rough stretch while we moved from house to house, and now that we’re settled I feel like myself. Reviewing comes with occasional waves of self-doubt and frustration, and I (fingers crossed) think I’m heading out of a bad one. It helps that I have been reading good books–I’ve been excited to work through them on the page. I hope now that I am back working every morning again and since I have a place to “go” to work I can also get back to some serious pitching and planning. It should surprise absolutely nobody that I work better when I have a place and a plan.

So that’s October. I just read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly yesterday because I was having a bout of surgery-related pain (I know, still?) and I decided the cure was a long day in bed with a self-helpish book. I was inspired by everything Brown had to say, but particularly what she says about how we live in a culture that perpetuates the idea of scarcity. (I am not enough, I do not do enough, I’ll never be enough, I’ll never have enough… those tapes we play in our heads.) She says the antidote to the kind of misery and the shame that comes from that kind of thinking (the kind of thing that’s guaranteed to ruin any moment because we’re already thinking about how it can go wrong) is gratitude. Duh. But I mean, she’s right, and it didn’t hurt me to read it. (Brown’s TED talk is pretty good if you’re not the readin’ type.)

Anyhoo. I’m feeling thankful today, and I have so many reasons to be.

Teach Something Besides English


Don’t become an English teacher. Ever. And if you do, don’t choose to also be a writer, because that’s like living in the week before finals with three essays due tomorrow for the rest of your life. You don’t want a stack of papers like this one staring you down all weekend when you need to finish reading a book. And I did it to myself. I have nobody to blame for that stack of writing next to the pumpkin. This is my job for the next 30ish years and it’s never going to not be like this.

Anyway, an update, because I’m avoiding that stack. I haven’t wanted to write much since we were in the throes of a real estate deal that was trouble every step of the way, and I was afraid I would somehow accidentally blow it by saying something wrong. But the house is ours now (in name, at least), and (I realize I am tempting fate by writing this down–) we should get to move in next Saturday when the sellers’ rent-back ends. I am just going with blind faith at this point; I have no actual evidence that this will happen, and based on how everything else has gone, I’d be a fool to count on it. But thinking that it might not happen isn’t going to do much for me except keep me awake at night, and I’ve maxed out my anxiety allowance. The good news is that the house is technically ours, we just don’t live in it yet. So you can decide for yourself how thrilled I should be about that, but I will say September 19 looks a whole lot better than September 5.

So, here’s what happened. We got an offer on our house and they wanted a short escrow. We jumped at it because it was a cash offer and we were contingent on our offer at the other house. We got out of the house in two weeks, and we moved into my grandma’s halfplex which she is not currently using, and where she (and my dad and his siblings) are generously allowing us to stay. Phew. But all things plumbing-related went haywire as soon as we moved in, and when Eric went to fix them, they fell apart in his hands. Within a few days, the sewer line backed up and couldn’t be repaired. So that became a thing.

I’ve been hesitant to write about anything–house, school, health–because there’s a fine line between saying what’s happening if it’s not good, and complaining. We are completely dependent on others right now for a place to live until our house is available, and I am not ungrateful or unappreciative of all the help that’s being given to us. And there are so many people in the world and even in my town who don’t have a secure place to live for a much longer term than this. But the honest truth is that things have been hard. Really damn hard.

When school starts, it always takes a month or two for me to find a groove with my new students–to learn their needs, to figure out their personalities, to adapt my curriculum for whatever new thing I’m teaching. And that’s a normal year when I don’t have a week of jury duty, hysterectomy pain, and no home. At 12 weeks out from my surgery, I was still bleeding and having pain, I couldn’t stand up for a full day yet, our sewer line was spraying the front lawn with disgusting things, and I wasn’t certain that the sale of our house was going to go through (after we’d already left our old one). Again, my home situation is better than it could be. I am not homeless. But not having a place to sit down and relax (or use the toilet, shower, etc) at the end of the night made me kind of batty and tearful.

So where are we now? Things are looking up. The new sewer line is in, the new house finally closed escrow, I’m finally learning my students’ names, and I’m checking things off each day that need to get done.  We should move next weekend. I’m not doing any of this with ease, and that’s making me frustrated, but we’re not going to hit ease until at least mid-October, I think. It was hard to say goodbye to our old house even though we know we’re going somewhere that we really like. Not having that place to move into directly from our old house meant the kids were emotional, too. But we are all here together and that’s what’s making it bearable. I’ve never been so glad for my own bed, my three other Partingtons, or my pets. Here are a few pictures from the last few weeks. Mostly things that I wanted to remember from the old house, but a few happy moments when we caught a break.Untitled


Hopefully we continue on an upward trend.

It’s time.

house2Remember that one time when I complained about being bored all summer, and then in the span of a week everything happened?

I’ve been sleeping and binge-watching my way through my break from school, trying to wait it out for August 4, the date on which I am cleared to act like a normal human who does normal human activities again. I’m so close! (And I only get 6 days of glorious full-fledged personhood before I have to go back to work, but so what. I’ve made my peace.) While I was waiting and lamenting how much this summer vacation really blows, we decided to change everything.

We went to an open house because we were bored. And then we went to another one and then we made an appointment to see another house and then we were like well, we’re this far into it and we made an appointment to see one more, and it’s the exact thing we want. And I told Eric we should just go ahead and fill out the loan paperwork so we can see where we stand. And where we stand is actually okay. So as of Wednesday night, we are selling our house.

We bought our current home when Addie was one and a half. The market was good enough that we could sell our starter duplex and move into something bigger–but even then, the something bigger was only going to be for about five years. We knew we wanted more kids, we knew those kids would someday be kind of tall, and we knew our three bedroom wasn’t going to be comfortable for too long. At the time, Eric was finishing college. As he graduated and moved on to law school, we thought for sure we’d be out of this house in no time. Heh.

Then, the market took a dump. Like so many people, we were upside down in our house. Though we tried to refinance under the many versions of HARP, we never quite qualified. And we couldn’t bring ourselves to do anything risky. So even though we’d periodically daydream about something larger (or an office for me!), we always found ourselves gritting our teeth and paying our mortgage, hoping that this wouldn’t be the house we’d have to retire in.

Luckily, in addition to being a smartypants lawyer, Eric is amazingly handy. He built a patio cover that gave us extra space. He upgraded pretty much every surface in our home and wired the entire thing for sound and internet. When we bought this place, it was all original and it was a mess. Now it’s a pretty sweet place to live. The one thing we couldn’t do was make the actual house bigger.

So this week we’re moving forward–doing what we hoped we could do about 6 years ago. It’s scary but it’s wonderful and I am basically a nervous wreck. The idea of trying to sell/buy/move while teaching and reviewing and parenting and trying to keep my shit together seems kind of insane. But it feels like it’s time.


Now all my ads are for comfy shoes.


The other night Eric and I went out for crab. I tequila-ed myself up a little and ended up posting some crazy (for me) questions on Facebook like hey you guys should I get bangs? and hey, I am all about that comfy shoe work life, should I buy some clogs? I’ll just let that sink in for a minute: when I get get my buzz on I suddenly have the courage to ask my peeps about my top secret heart-yearnings for a new hairstyle and supportive footwear.

It’s kinda hard bein’ Snoop* D-oh-double-G.

Anyway. I have two weeks left of summer. I am trying hard not to spend them only eating Red Vines and watching The West Wing. But my annoyance with the terrible, no good, very bad dialogue on True Detective this season and the fact that there were only two seasons of creepy/wonderful show The Fall on Netflix (which we gulped down in three days) is making me crave some good ol’ fashioned (if drug-fueled) Aaron Sorkin West Wing walk-and-talk writing. I don’t even care that The West Wing seems in hindsight to present an idealized notion of America, a Bizzaro World to counter our worst summer of news in forever. Nope, I don’t care because it’s my escape. There’s a drought in California and all the plants are dead and about to burn up and everyone is cranky and it’s making me hate everything. The West Wing feels like happy. It can’t be tough feelings around the clock.

I am reading still, a lot. I am trying not to write only about reading, though, since it seems like that’s turned into most of my whole deal. I will briefly mention that I started War and Peace and I am reading it with a pen in my hand to make my brain pay attention, and I am only reading about 20 pages at a time so I don’t get sick of it. It is all kinds of wonderful. It begins in 1805, when Napoleon was stomping around Europe but hadn’t yet decided to march into Russia (which we know ended really great for him). I should not be surprised, but Tolstoy’s writing is just delicious. I love it, and I love that I’m not reading it for anything. Just for me. Bonus points for surrounding myself with a cadre of patient and generous history teacher friends. I called Kitty the other night to ask something about upper-class Russian perceptions of Napoleon in the years before he invaded, and that’s not really something odd for me to do in our relationship.


The kids are great and about to start 5th (Henry) and 8th (Addie) grades. The other day I stumbled on some pictures from when Addie was about to start 5th, and the moment was so vivid in my mind, it felt like it just happened. It’s true what they say: the days are long but the years are short. The start of school feels a little less scary for our whole family than it did last year–I’m glad Miss Roo will be in the same place and I’m glad she never has to do 7th grade again. Henry is fine and will continue to be fine; he has confidence in spades. For him, now is about figuring out when it’s okay to be funny and when he maybe needs to cool it a little. But this feels like it will be a year of just doing what we know, which sounds, frankly, fantastic. Though I’m not looking forward to living by a bell schedule again in two weeks at work (it’s been so nice to use the restroom whenever I want!), this year will be easier for us as a family because we all know what to expect.


Two Weeks Later

Two weeks ago I had my uterus removed. LAVH, which means I had small incisions by my hips and navel, the doctor filled my belly with gas and poked around with tubey cameras to make incisions, then removed my uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix through an incision in the birth canal.

At least, that’s about as much of it as I can stand to Google. It grosses me out to think about the last part, and while I’m all for knowing what’s happening to my body, I’ve been unable to calm the queasiness that comes every time I read the details of this operation. Since I had both my kids via c section, the idea of delivering my uterus strikes me as ironic. Or odd, at least.


What I’m not feeling right now is any kind of sadness about my uterus being gone. I’d read a lot about women who didn’t feel as feminine because they lost that part of themselves. I didn’t know if I’d feel that after it was gone. Not so far. But I never liked my uterus. It’s been a shitty relationship for 23 years, and even when it gave me those two amazing children, it was still a huge, uncomfortable and awkward pain. I never had easy periods or pregnancies, so I can’t say I feel a sense of loss about that part of my body. I am sure when I’m not having to miss work or spend days in bed every month I’ll be even more glad. Adios.

I do feel a loss of possibility, even though the rational part of me knows that the possibility was already gone, since several years ago Eric and I decided we were done having kids. We figured out that we didn’t need new babies, just missed was our two as little ones. No amount of hanging on, martyring myself with a busted, miserable uterus was going to make that possible. Right now the worries I have about the space where my uterus was are about complications in the future. In a fit of pain and sleeplessness the other night, I started Googling what can go wrong after a hysterectomy, and that was a bad, bad idea. It will take a while for me to forget some of those words.

If I’m honest, my overwhelming feeling right now is fear of aging. Fear of living in a body that’s declining in performance rather than one that bursts with possibility. My hysterectomy underscored my mortality. And while I don’t feel old, or bad, or sad, I know I’m constantly checking my watch at the party. This is fun, but I know someday it will end. Have you read Sharon Olds’ poem, “35/10”? At our house it’s 36/12, but the sentiment is the same. Time is passing, man.

So. Recovery. It’s going, but it’s going so much slower than I had hoped. So here are some details (none of them more disgusting than anything you’ve already read, if you’re still with me). AKA: What I wish someone had told me about LAVH.

I was in and out of the hospital in one day–checked in at about 6:30 and home before 3:00. My doctor told me the requirement to leave and go home sans catheter was that I had to pee on my own, so I spent one very drowsy and determined half hour in the bathroom immediately after surgery. Once I proved myself, I was released and I was home in my bed. Not to be outdone, Henry came up with a sudden case of the stomach flu at school that day, so I didn’t see the kids a lot until we were sure I wouldn’t catch whatever thing he had.

One of the doctors told me I’d be nauseous when I got home, and they gave me multiple meds to combat it. What I didn’t do was read the side effects of the pain or nausea pills they gave me. If I would have, I would have known that they caused blurry vision and dizziness. Maybe I wouldn’t have fallen down on my way back to bed from the bathroom that night, hitting my head on the door frame and cutting my cheek on the dresser. Two days later I also discovered that the splitting headache I had was from the same medicine. I felt a lot better once I was off that and the Norco.

The worst pain for the first five days–and it was awful–was from the gas they used to inflate my abdomen so they could see with the cameras. I know, you’re like haha gas. Not that kind of gas, because that kind of gas lives in your digestive tract and no matter how bad it is on a scale of one to fire sauce burrito, you know it’s going to eventually exit. Not this gas. This gas is just in the space outside your organs, and it can’t leave. Every time you move, it makes you want to die. Stabbing, shooting pain in your shoulders. Roiling bubbles across your guts. Pressure and discomfort like you wouldn’t believe. My doctor told me my shoulders would hurt (“don’t call us if you have shoulder pain,” she said), but this was so bad and so painful that I am still having trouble finding the words to describe it. In the first week my incision felt fine and I wasn’t really moving around so gravity had yet to have her way with me, but the gas? GOD DAMN, YOU GUYS. I’m just keeping it real. I wished I could cut a hole in my side to let it out.

It took me four days to leave my bed and get to my couch. It took me a week and a half to feel strong enough to walk past my mailbox. I just started driving again yesterday. I feel good and stronger every day, but I feel sore and tired. Gravity doesn’t help, especially the area surrounding the internal incisions. My ex-cervix. The longer I stand, the more unbearable that feels, but the pain seems to migrate to different areas of my stomach, depending on the day. My ab muscles feel weak and I am sure this contributes to not feeling like I can stand up for a long period of time. I miss being strong, feeling like my body can move with a semblance of agility and fortitude. I feel stupid fragile.

Before the surgery I told myself this would be no big deal because I’d had two caesarians and I knew what that was and that I could do that, not sleep, feed a baby and still manage to move around. I have not been handling this as well as the caesarians, and either this means a) I am a weak soul, a shivering baby bird of a person, or b) it’s just different. I am trying to convince myself that it’s b. Am I glad I did it? Not today. Today I feel pissed off that I’m wasting my summer, and angry that I can’t really leave the house for any period of time that amounts to anything. It’s been hard to ask for what I need constantly, and hard to rely on other people for so long. I think I’ll eventually be glad I did this, but I’m not there yet.

I have eaten the full gamut of Things Heather Loves, from peanut butter M&Ms to Cheetos to ICEEs to gummy bears and two kinds of Oreos. I am glad I lost 18 pounds before surgery, because post-op, I wanted comfort foods, and my comfort foods skew decidedly lowbrow and high sugar. Eric has been so good to me, taking care of every single thing I needed. My friend Kitty stopped by with something for me every day, sat with me and talked so I’d feel like a real person. My sister scooped my kids up and delivered dinners without making me ask for anything at all. My parents, my grandparents, everyone has sent food and love and hugs. My room looked like a florist’s shop. It is good to be loved and cared for. It’s only hard to be a patient patient.

Henry said I’m different since my surgery. When I asked him how, he said “well, when the doctors removed the part of your body where a baby grows, I think they also took out the part of you that makes you embarrassed to talk about poop.”

So there you go, Internet.

Here are some pictures of what I’ve been up to. Spoiler alert: not much.

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June One.

Hello, June. Hello, real life.

I wish I had better reasons for not writing anything lately. Not just here, but writing anything other than book reviews. But I have no reasons because I don’t even have the head space to think of reasons.

When I look back at 2015 and try to remember what it was about, I am sure that all I will remember about this time is that I sat in my car. I sat in my car or I drove a child somewhere in my car, and I tried to hold on to a thought for longer than five minutes. In 2015, I felt like I might never hold on to a thought for more than five minutes, ergo, I might never be able to write any fiction again. Or feign to work at writing any good fiction. (Because being a writer is mostly about looking off into space and thinking the same thought for a really long time, right?) In 2015, I had so many ideas, and they were all gone by the time I pulled into my driveway.

Yes, it’s fun, seeing each of my kids find a way through the world, and junior high (for the big one) has been something so alien to our entire family that it took all our combined willpower to get her through the first year. But while I’ve been able to dedicate myself to a strict schedule of waking up early so I can write my book reviews and not feel panicky about that (mostly), I am unable to dedicate myself to a strict schedule of creativity. Because creativity needs some freaking space, and my brain is mostly full of things like: 7:05, leave the house. 7:12, drop Henry at Grandma’s. 7:22, say goodbye to Addie before PE. 7:50, run to the restroom before class starts. 9:55 sneak out of class during the last five minutes so you can make it to the restroom again before all the kids are in the hall. 11:15, lock classroom door so you can eat without talking to 9th graders. 1:05, run to restroom again before the next class starts pounding on the door. 2:20 try to get to Henry before he’s the last lonely kid in the parking lot. Etcetera. And there’s a lot of me having to say “really?!?” to kids and shooting mean looks around.

This, too: I’ve been trying to lose weight since January. Succeeding, slowly. But I will maintain until I die that some part of my creativity comes from consuming doughnuts and ICEEs and pretzels and red licorice, and that carby/fun part of me is being brutally repressed for a little while longer.

Anyway. I’m home. It’s quiet, and I just finished the last review I need to write for three weeks. I’m having some minor surgery next week, so the break in work isn’t really a break, but not reading for work and not writing for work and not going to work–that feels a little bit like a guilty thing I’m doing just for myself. I’ll take it. I don’t really know what to expect this summer. We’ve purposely kept our schedule open since I don’t know how I’ll handle the surgery. Before you ask: It’s a hysterectomy. Not a secret, not major, and not life-threatening, just something I need to do so I can stop being in agony every month. I’m a little sad to say goodbye to some part of my body that gave me these awesome kids. And I’m a little sad that I’m not packing for some European adventure like I was last summer. But in addition to riding in my car, 2015 just needs to be about evicting my bum uterus. As soon as I do that I can get back on a plane.

For now I am just happy to be home with my (almost) eighth grader. Happy that all of the problems of the school year will fade over the next few weeks. I’m hopeful I find space enough to keep my thoughts, to turn them over and let them become something more than a passing idea.

We’ll see. If not, at least I get to lay by the pool and eat fresh tomatoes.


The Peanut Butter War: Sweet, Sweet Surrender


About three years ago, I took a stand for natural peanut butter. I put my foot down and decided that in my home, we were not going to consume hydrogenated oil-laden nut butters, nor were we going to eat anything that had added sugar. My poor, poor children. At least, my extended family thought so. They responded by gifting baskets of peanut butter (“the good kind,” they said, not the oil-on-top gritty hippie gruel I was peddling) to my husband and kids. And thus, 8 jars of sweetened, shelf-stable crack invaded my home. I still stand by 2012 Heather’s claims. We are never going to stop eating treats in this family, so the things we eat all the time (read: peanut butter) should be processed as little as possible. But once those jars were here, I couldn’t stop anyone from eating them.

Here’s the other thing. Did you notice that peanut butter is ALL ABOUT advertising the fact that it doesn’t have trans fats anymore? But it still needs to be shelf-stable and free of visible oil, right? (Heaven forbid a food product should spoil…) They just swapped the hydrogenated stuff for palm oil. Which isn’t better.

Sigh. Anyway.

I didn’t grow up liking peanut butter. My mom put it on both pieces of bread in a PB&J, which meant that I associated it with a sticky, dry mouth. Yick. I was late to the peanut butter game when I started buying natural peanut butters as an adult. I didn’t love PB like most people. I tolerated it. But the kids seemed to like PB (as most humans), so I bought it. I made seven million sandwiches. And I tried to hold the line for as long as possible.

Once those 8 jars were in our house, something happened to me, not just to the balance of peanut butter power . I gave in. The peanut butter you will allow is what will continue. Now the pendulum has swung completely in the opposite direction. Maybe because I’m cheap and I didn’t want to waste the 8 jars we received for Christmas… Maybe because Costco sells those two giant vats of Skippy… Maybe because with two kids, we go through the stuff faster than soap. But I stopped buying the good stuff. And then I started digging in.

Now I can’t stop. In what must be characteristic of my inner teen reasserting herself, I find that I am craving the stuff like a it’s keeping me alive. I am shoveling it into my mouth like it’s my job. Not the good stuff. Oh no. That wouldn’t bother me so much. I’m downing tablespoons of Jif.  SPOONFULS OF SKIPPY. Right out of the jar, like a hormonal, pimple-faced barbarian.

Great is my shame. I not only surrendered, I became a cheerleader for the other side. Every once in a while I try to eat a little scoop of almond butter, just to remind myself of who I used to be. I don’t even know myself anymore.

Good Morning, 2015!

Let’s start writing up some resolutions so we can cross those bad boys off.

I’ve been thinking about goals this week. I have zero success with setting or keeping any real New Year’s resolutions. I tend to use New Year’s as my personal excuse to daydream. (Read: I usually try to write things down that are either so broad or so impossible, it won’t matter if I fail.) But I always find that whatever I accomplish in a year is influenced–at least a little–by the thoughts I had in January.

Is this how you do a resolution? Am I bad at resolutions, or good? Can you also please explain to me what is on the back side of belly buttons?

I digress.

I’ve been reading about how resolutions are better framed as habits we want to establish than finish lines. This speaks to me. I could say I’m going to publish a short story this year, America. But that’s really dependent on so much luck and right timing, no? It could happen, and I’d feel great for ten minutes, or it could not happen (likely!) and I’d have to walk around and feel like shit 365 days in a row because of something out of my control. What I could say is I’m going to spend at least one day a week sending out story submissions. That way I will have a shot at feeling like a champ (weekly!) even if I don’t win the publishing lottery. You know? I get 52 chances to feel like I win. And by sending all of those submissions I will have increased my chances. I will get to feel like the gold star student for just trying.

This is my wheelhouse, people: resolutions that are habits I want to get to rockin’. (And they’re not all about books. Don’t worry.)


  1. I will move my body through space at least three days out of the week. I will give myself permission to do shitty workouts because a shitty workout is always better than no workout. Whenever possible, I will exercise in the morning so I am free from thinking about it for the rest of the day.
  2. I will write letters frequently. With my hand. And mail them to other humans via the United States Postal Service. Related: I will buy stamps and keep them on me.
  3. I’ll maintain a system for tracking the books I’m pitching, reading, and reviewing. I will write things down in the same way and in the same places. Every time.
  4. I will cook as many meals as possible. I will enjoy the amazing cornucopia of produce that is California’s Central Valley. But I will also eat gummy bears and drink tequila because I like fun.
  5. I will read for work, for pleasure, to learn, to understand, and to become more like the people I admire. I am free to read terrible books with great enthusiasm and great books with terrible enthusiasm.
  6. I will give my time to people I love. I will give time generously to myself.
  7. I will get as close to 7-8 hours of sleep as possible. Every single night.
  8. I will my work done early and as quickly as possible. That way I can fritter away my free time without guilt.
  9. I will put money into savings each month for travel.
  10. I will get as much of the following into my life as I can: flannel, ICEEs, long runs in nature, cat feet, hugs, Sharpie gel highlighters, waves on my toes, cups of coffee, fancy stationery sets, lipsticks that make me feel like I have a role on The Good Wife, book reviews, naps in the sunbeam, badass mentors, drinking buddies, and braised meats.