My Word For 2019

4 Jan

At the beginning of last year, Rebbie set a goal for me:

I would quit five books I didn’t like in 2019.

The very thought made my skin crawl. Me? Abandon books? I don’t abandon things! I need to read everything to be up on reading everything!

I quit my first book on January 13th.

It was a buzzy book with great reviews, used in higher education classrooms around the country.

It did not resonate with me.

I put it down.

The agony!

The horror!

My word for 2019 was energy.

This sounds very woo-woo hippy-dippy and perhaps it is. I was living in Los Angeles for most of the year, after all.

But energy meant more to me than crystals and auras. 

It meant quitting books. 

Rebbie and I called the quitting of books practicing failure, but looking back I think it was more about energy than failure.

I only have so much energy to go around, why spend it on books I don’t love? 

In the NBA right now, there’s a big conversation around the concept of load management.

The idea is that certain players, particularly superstars, are choosing to sit out of some regular season games not because they are injured or sick, but simply to pace themselves through an 82-game season.

Load management.

It’s been controversial at times. 

But they are paid so much! What about the fans? The tickets?

For a long time I despaired over my energy levels. I saw doctors and specialists, both the physical and mental kinds. Was I fatigued? Was this normal? Is this how everyone feels?

One of the great questions of my life is Is this how everyone feels?

Maybe I’m not depressed, maybe this is called going through life.

But then, after many tests, I was told that nothing was wrong with me. This was just me.

The thing about energy management, load management, is that it’s so very different than time management.

I have spent most of my life attempting to managing my time.

Say I have six hours after work. Well, according to simple math, I could write for three of those, workout for one, clean for another, maybe do some hardcore errands that last hour?

Time managed!

In reality, I have energy for maybe one of those things after work. (And certainly not for three hours of one of those things.)

The agony!

The horror!

In April I spoke with a friend who was moving out of state and beginning a new phase of her life.

I told her about my current situation. I’m kind of in a stasis right now. I’m not on a hero’s journey, I’m at the plateau. Rob and I love our jobs and where we live. No major changes ahead.

And then six months later I was offered a job on Cape Cod and everything flew out the window.

Suddenly energy management, load management, meant simply getting through the day.

Our decision to move to Cape Cod was about energy after all.

Of course it was. I can make meaning out of anything!

It was about future energy levels. About the time when we have kids. How it would be nice to live by family. How working the job I was offered might allow me more energy for that future family, for the writing I’d like to continue to do.

It was about where our energy might go when we weren’t just surviving in an expensive city, but slowing down and investing in a smaller life.  

We made the decision to move across the country, largely, for our future energy.

Our future selves.

I quit 30 books last year.

Once you pop, you can’t stop.

 

PS: My words for 2018, 2017201620152014, 2013 and 2012

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Our First Apartment

14 Dec

Hello and welcome to our first apartment!

Is this angle different enough to justify another picture?

What about this one?

This one is different. And dark.

Blergh.

My complaints about this apartment are as follows:

  1. No natural light
  2. Terrible management
  3. Mold?
  4. No natural light
  5. Popcorn ceilings
  6. Weird off-white color for walls that ruins pictures especially because there is
  7. No natural light

But look at the basil we grew! Look at Cait’s birthday flowers to me!

My compliments about this apartment are as follows:

  1. Location
  2. You thought I was going to do location two more times, didn’t you? It’s the truth, but I’m not going to do it to you
  3. Ceiling fan? This is rough

I loved living here, I truly did. We had the most perfect location of all the locations. We were in SANTA MONICA. The most walkable, perfect spot of a walkable, perfect city.

But, goodness, if I can figure out a way to never live in a dark alley of an apartment with zero light even midday, well then, I will figure it out!

Kitchen. Edward Hopper calendar.

Dolly’s litter box and scratching post.

There’s not enough light to even make the disco ball go pitter patter and that’s the whole point of the disco ball at all.

But my grandpa’s paintings are home.

These bookshelves are probably the second greatest feat of our marriage to date.

The poorly lit hallway.

Oh dear. I didn’t even want to include these pictures.

I opened every blind in the home, I pleaded for natural light. And still. Here we are.

This hallway housed a few things.

My sunglasses collection, first and foremost.

Rob’s fat boy of JaMarcus Russell, the worst football player of all time.

The two of our personalities, combined in a tiny dark corridor.

I also kept my library books out there under my little Ikea plant table thing.

Let’s move on shall we?

Rob wrote this sign once when we had maintenance people come to our apartment. We kept it up on our bedroom door ever since, in memorium.

Say hi to Dolly!

My side of the bed. Peep

Mary Oliver

My bullet journal

My wireless headphones which changed my life forever and for good

Princess Diana

Himalayan salt lamp

Aura photograph

Beads

Actual clock so I can keep my phone out of my room

Scriptures

Vintage jewelry box

It’s like a game of I Spy but only I Care about it!

Rob’s side of the bed. Peep

Cape Cod map purchased at Cape Cod flea market

Framed picture of Rigby

Weird vintage book

Over here we see our California flag

(It is impossibly hard to get a good vintage one of these so we just settled for a cloth one.)

The blankets on the bed are:

  1. A comforter from a thrift shop in Mooreseville, Indiana. I had to shove it in my carry-on home.
  2. A blanket from a vintage shop in Seattle. Same thing with the carry-on.

The TV stand doubles as my craft supply station. Lots of stickers.

The air conditioning unit doubles as my sanity.

The bathroom.

I don’t have much to say about the bathroom, do you ever?

I did like the art we hung in here.

These two pieces I got in a gallery in Los Olivos, bought that one right off the wall.

And that little snail pot was from a thrift store in Carptineria.

Rob got this piece from work. His coworker added the drawings to it. One-of-a-kind right here.

Our Photo Booth strips that I really should preserve better.

Also my finger and phone. Hi! I was wearing a nightgown I didn’t want captured forever!

The top of the toilet candles featuring Mr. Darcy.

This feels like a good enough place to end this thing. Bye Darcy! Bye toilet!

Bye Santa Monica.

We will miss you the most.

PS: My studio apartment tour. I’m so grateful to past Jill did this work and even though it was the week before a move and I did not want to clean and document, I hope future Jill will be grateful for this work.

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The Decision Part Three

11 Dec

 While we were deciding if we should move to Cape Cod, I wrote about everything I was feeling. This is the final chapter, Part Three. If you missed them: Part One and Part Two.

 

I’m in the plane on our visit back from Cape Cod.

 For some reason I want to name where I am at the beginning of each of these emotional dumps, to root them in time and space. This whole decision is a rollercoaster ride, one that’s gone on for miles and miles and weeks and weeks of my life.

At this point on the coaster, we’ve crossed the country several times over, from sea to shining Nebraska cornhusks, and we’re still looping, the excitement long gone, all that’s left is a headache and some sort of neck pain and also the ever-present nausea.

I’m exhausted.

I wanted clarity from this trip, though I don’t know why I thought this time would be the first time in my life I had clarity on an important decision.

I am not known for my clarity. For my easy decision-making.

Before this point, the decision that scared me the most was the decision to get married.

The people who get engaged and say easiest decision of my life? 

Yes, I don’t know if I even believe they are telling the truth. Or if they are, their truth is such a distance from my own that perhaps we live in different spheres altogether.

They are from Mars, I am from Venus.

Deciding to get married was agonizing.

Loving Rob is not agonizing. Loving Rob is easy and fresh, he fills my lungs with air.

But deciding to get married shook me to my bones.

I knew with every part of me what an enormous decision I was making. How it would alter the course of my life forever. I knew big decisions would not be my own anymore, big decisions like where to move. 

Like where to live as grown-ups. 

Ugh it’s hard to be a grown-up.

I’ve never done it gracefully, never enjoyed it.

I blame a happy childhood.

One where I lived with the people I loved the most and saw my best friends 10 hours a day.

It was a dream! The world was so small and it was a dream and now the world is big. 

Most of the time I don’t like it that much.

The decision of Cape Cod is really a bigger decision, which is why it’s so difficult.

It’s a question of where we can live long-term. What quality of life looks like.

What our future family looks like. If we are having a family.

It is the giving up of the Peter Pan phase of life in a tiny apartment surrounded by the whole entire sunny world for the practical phase of life, lawn mowers and really solid retirement plans.

And we like this phase.

And we are giving it up (largely) for children who don’t exist yet.

And what if I don’t even like them? 

(My children, that is.)

 —

On Saturday we went candlepin bowling. First we went to the depleted farmer’s market where a neighbor told us that we would be bored in the small town, that there was no good food.

And then we went candlepin bowling.

It’s a New England only thing, which is why I wanted to try it. Gimme gimme gimme a bowling alley that hasn’t changed from the 1950s, a bowling alley where you keep score by hand and reset your own candlepins. 

The bowling alley was quiet, off season Cape Cod, but there was a young family next to us, using bumpers and sliders. Guiding their children back to the game when they wandered off.

The family had a little girl named Eleanor who had just reached that stage where she was stumbling back and forth, getting the hang of this walking thing. Eleanor looked like she could have belonged to me, all brown curls and bright patterns. 

At one point, Eleanor left her family and waddled right up to me. Without saying a word, she reached up and held my finger, her chubby hand barely wrapping around. She smiled at me.

I smiled back.

Eleanor’s mom came over and said to me, “She likes your dress.”`

What if I love having children?

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The Decision Part Two

10 Dec

While we were deciding if we should move to Cape Cod, I wrote about everything I was feeling. This is Part Two. You can read Part One here.

I’m sitting in the attic bedroom in Rob’s parents’ home on Cape Cod. I’ve applied lavender to my wrists in an attempt to calm myself down. I Facetimed friends across the country and tried and failed to read a book and it all comes back to this.

I can’t calm down.

In the next week I need to make a decision that will alter the course of my life forever.

And I know, life is long and we can change courses all the times and decisions are not permanent! Even the big ones!

I know.

I can’t calm down.

This morning I read one of my favorite Cheryl Strayed columns to Rob, the one about the ghost ships, the life not taken. I think about it often. 

I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.

After reading it, I said a prayer. I started with Heavenly Father, we are freaking out.

We laughed at it later, but I stand by it.

Heavenly Father, we are freaking out.

I could make you a pro/con list here, the one we’ve been toying with for a few weeks.

It’s a robust list, let me tell you. Should I describe it more without actually listing it? That’s really fun to read, right?

But it comes down to this:

Cape Cod makes a lot of sense.

Cape Cod scares the pants off both of us.

Does that make it wrong?

Heavenly Father, we are freaking out.

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The Decision Part One

9 Dec

While we were deciding if we should move to Cape Cod, I wrote about everything I was feeling. This is Part One.

I have been spinning and spinning and spinning, barely able to catch my breath. I haven’t written a word. Of my book, of my blog, of my journal.

When you’re spinning this fast, you might throw up.

I got a job offer on Cape Cod.

It’s just about the perfect job. If I had to design a job for myself on Cape Cod this one ticks all the boxes.

It’s so perfect that we’re considering taking it. Therein lies the vomit.

We went to my therapist together this week. I told her we had been struggling with the move. “Of course you have!’ she said, matter-of-factly. “Anyone would.”

I’m lending that to you now, whatever situation you’re in.

Of course you have! Anyone would.

We struggle because it’s about the future and because it’s a huge decision and even huger change and hugest seems like the next word I should say here.

Would we dare?

Rob told me he loved me because I’m brave.

Because we’re getting on a plane to Boston this week to go check it out. To try the Mexican food and the candlepin bowling and that one ramen restaurant a half hour away.

This weekend in LA we are going to udon noodles and to get our auras read and it’s a world away from what we would do in Cape Cod.

Can we do it?

Are we in that world?

I’ve been doing a few things to avoid it all.

One is eating. Just like the awful food-as-coping strategy on full blast. I recognize what I’m doing, and yet. My regular tricks are not making up the difference here.

The other is throwing myself into Kaylor tumblr. I started my own Google Doc of Kaylor evidence to show…I don’t know who?

I’m scared.

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know who?

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Halloween 2019

20 Nov

We watched The Shining and ate a bag of candy.

It’s a simple tradition, watching a horror film on Halloween. Going to the store and picking out which candy mix has the least losers.

I can see this tradition spreading far into our future. The years when we’ll have kids to join us, the fire going, popcorn over the stove. Blankets and tea, and of course, candy.

Candy pumpkins?

I can see it all and it takes place in a little cottage with shutters and shingles. It takes place on Cape Cod.

Is that just because we’re moving?

Is that why we’re moving?

Dolly was a hot dog for Halloween this year.

We’re learning.

Last year she hated being a lion. She was cute, oh dear was she something. A viral tweet, that one. But she hated it.

This year we got her a body suit and she took to it much more kindly. Walking around casually, like the walker around casually she is.

Except.

The suit was an XS.

And while our Dolly is petite, and while it fit her around the waist,

Our baby is also a Pokemon character named Furret.

Image

She is long, long, long. She grows like she’s in a funhouse.

And so our Dolly hot dog costume turned into a Dolly sexy hot dog costume, barely covering any of her, as though it was purposely small and revealing which is not what I planned,

but which also has its humor, its delights.

I was Mrs. Frizzle.

I didn’t get a great picture. The light was too dark as I headed out the door and then I was at work. And then my ears hurt from the planet earrings I super glued to them.

And then my ears recovered.

By the time I got home from Quidditch in the smoky air, my hair was done, my earrings were long discarded.

I didn’t get a great picture.

It’s funny how a costume, a moment, a memory no longer counts unless you get a great picture to go along with it.

It’s more than pic or it didn’t happen.

It’s pic or it didn’t mean anything.

And I don’t want this to be so.

Next year for Halloween we’ll be on Cape Cod. 

I’ll push for Hocus Pocus, Rob will push for Alien. We won’t be able to walk to the store for our candy.

I won’t be wearing a sundress.

And.

Maybe we’ll have trick-or-treaters? 

I doubt it, in the small town we’ll live in, on that sleepy street.

In my seven years in LA I have not had a single trick-or-treater, despite stockpiling on candy, despite the preparation. Isn’t the best part of Halloween seeing the excitement of children in costume? 

Maybe next year we’ll have trick-or-treaters?

I doubt it.

But maybe.

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A Grown-Up Birthday

17 Nov

I took a walk after work, recognizing my body needed to move or my mind would spiral.

I made my way to the library, in no particular hurry. Books to return, yes, but really a calm to find, a breath to take.

I came home to Rob in a cloud of pasta water making fettuccine alfredo, the dish that had gone so wrong for me at a restaurant last week. It was a thoughtful thing, for Rob is a thoughtful person.

Hilary’s gift was on the porch. I unwrapped it, a mixed pattern dress that my pioneer ancestors would have loved. A handmade card where she had outdone even her wildest dreams.

I sat down to scroll through my text messages.

Caitlin sent me a particularly poetic thread, making our lives into a metaphor for the flowers she’d ordered. Gorgeous flowers! I didn’t know flowers like that could be delivered, I thought they only existed in barn weddings.

They are called “Wild, Wild Love,” Which is a perfect match for your soul.

The specific flowers used are ones that grow in places in unexpected places like deserts with sparse nourishment, on the side of highways, in fields that have been devastated by fires.

she began

Today was a grown-up birthday.

A friend texted and asked what I was doing to celebrate and I proudly declared that Rob had left cupcakes for me to find by my bedside. He had written me a letter. He was doing a task of great emotional labor that I had been avoiding.

I would, meanwhile, be taking a shower and reading a whole book, cuddling Dolly.

The Lakers were on, too.

A kind husband and a cute cat, friends who understand me, love that surrounds me.

A grown-up birthday, she said.

A grown-up birthday indeed.

No one at work knew it was my birthday. 

This is through no fault of theirs, I haven’t advertised it, I’ve been too in my head with too many things. I went through the day largely unnoticed, teaching, processing new titles. I led a graphic novel book club. I ate chili cheese fries for lunch.

My friends and family checked in, sending gifts and thoughts and compliments. 

I love you

I love you 

I love you

Words of affirmation forever.

And then I came home, where, despite all this, my mood was a bit low.

And so I went on a walk, recognizing my body needed to move or my mind would spiral.

It was the grown-up thing to do on this,

my grown-up birthday.

 

PS: My Bridget Jones birthday party

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Things That I Do To Avoid Writing That Are So Close To Writing I Can Almost Convince Myself I’m Writing

3 Sep

Things that I do to avoid writing that are so close to writing I can almost convince myself I’m writing:

with contributions by Hilary Miller

  1. Talk (complain) about how my writing is going
  2. Set outlining goals
  3. Set writing goals
  4. Set revision goals
  5. Set goals for the next month, because everyone knows the best way to get things done is in small chunks
  6. And while I’m at it, why not make goals for the day? The week?
  7. And also a ten-year plan
  8. Create rigid, complicated schedules to help meet said goals
  9. Take up bullet journaling to see if maybe there is a new technique surrounding goals and schedules I should be using?
  10. Read articles on how to become a morning person, because if I’m going to do this thing it sounds like I need to become a morning person
  11. Look up specific, obscure grammar rules that will probably be deleted anyway
  12. Research names for characters
  13. Go down the rabbit hole that is name forums and name culture, but every voice should be heard!
  14. Do a deep dive into Australian exports, because that one character is Australian and maybe this is backstory
  15. Calculate how much time I could write for and still have enough energy to work out
  16. Solve complex math problems along the lines of, “If I write 500 words a day and do 12 edits, each at an increasing speed, how many years will it take me to finish this book?”
  17. Investigate drastic life changes that would “allow me more time to write,” a true investment in the future
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House For Sale

28 Aug

I made Rob look at a house for sale on Cape Cod.

To clarify, we are not in the market to buy a house, nor do we know where we will eventually buy a house (if we ever buy a house!)

caveat 

caveat

caveat

But this house!

Oh it’s a good one.

But this house!

Oh the mortgage would be less than our rent.

It looks like a little cottage out of a fairytale. Barn meets Cape Cod. Shingles with an outdoor shower. A deck made for string lights and card nights. A clothes line.

There’s something so romantic about a clothes line, about a white dress fluttering in the salty breeze. About packing a picnic for a beach that lies just beyond the backyard.

I’ve picked out the tile for the kitchen. I’d turn the loft space into a guest room slash library slash play room.

The bookshelves would be millennial pink and I wouldn’t care.

Every year I’d send out colorful invitations to my closest people, inviting them to stay that summer, to borrow our deck and our beach and our bookshelves.

Whenever I imagine having kids, it’s always in a home like this. There’s shakshuka or an oatmeal bake or cinnamon toast in the oven. The windows are open. We run off to the beach or the pond or grandma’s house. We eat fish stew in thrifted bowls. Dolly lounges in a slice of buttery sun.

I made Rob look at a house for sale on Cape Cod.

Two weeks later the house sold.

I am surprisingly hurt, surprisingly invested for someone with

caveats

caveats

caveats

 

PS: A dream home in Malibu

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The Books of Cape Cod

1 Aug

Some years I remember perfectly.

There was The Goldfinch year, 2014. It was the book of the moment, or so it felt. Everyone had an opinion. 

It took me all week to read it and by the end, the pages of the book were salty and bubbled. The whole trip defined by that monster of a story.

There was 2018, the year my mother-in-law and I both read The Big House. I marveled how we had selected twin 14-year-old books, her from a garage sale on Cape Cod, me from the Santa Monica library. How we had both ended up that same week with the same family history.

Other years are less clear.

I believe I read Beautiful Ruins in 2013.

I have a memory of sitting on the white cloth couch and listening to Rob’s grandma paint a picture of Italy. A flash of that dramatic cover abandoned on the table at a house party

In 2016 I was volunteering at a library and I brought two out-of-character nonfiction books recommended by the adult librarian: 

How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the worst breakups in history by Jennifer Wright

The only thing I remember from either book was a creepy fact from It Ended Badly which later seemed to relate, urgently, to a friend’s creepy relationship.

This is all I remember.

(My friend’s relationship ended badly.)

In 2017 I was getting married and for the first and only time I didn’t read on the sandy beaches of Cape Cod. Days were filled with family and preparation, hostessing and listening to Morty the mouse.

If my Goodreads is right, I read The Light of the World on the airplane over to Boston, though I truly do not remember this book. You could tell me anything you wanted about it, and I would believe it.

It’s about dinosaurs? Well the blurb says it’s a memoir about marriage, but it could be a memoir about a dinosaur marriage! 

I’m still not convinced I’ve actually read it.

I do know I was planning a wedding that year.

And then there was 2015.

It appears I was loosey-goosey with my Goodreads habits in 2015, marking books read but not giving dates, everything fuzzy and haphazard. I searched through my library holds and read through old blog posts and 

and

and

I just do not know what was going on in 2015.

Can I sit in this mystery?

It’s now 2019.

A new Cape Cod trip is upon me.

I currently have 

3 physical books

4 Kindled British stories (unavailable in the States) 

16 ebooks checked out through the library

 

I am ready and open to all possibilities.

I am ready and open to the magic of it unfolding, page after bubbled, salty page.

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