Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Stuff

Thanksgiving morning, and I'm watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with the sound off while I wait for Henry to get out of the shower. It's been close to a half an hour. I'm not looking forward to being the next one in line, since today he decided to see if he could stand in there and drain the hot water heater. The performers on TV are jazz-handing all over the place and giving big open-mouthed shouts to the TV, but knowing that they're lip synching makes me hate it all a little bit. Not enough to turn it off; I'm still a sucker for all that dancing.

E is out in the garage grinding metal on his '54 Ford, Maude. It sounds like she's getting a root canal.

For the record, Carrie Underwood is no Julie Andrews.

I'm feeling especially thankful this year. Or aware of what I have that counts--that's a better way to put it. Maybe because I'm graduating in two weeks and this is a period of transition. Maybe because E's grandpa passed away recently and the service is this weekend and I'm thinking about gratitude. Maybe I'm just hormonal.

Who knows.

I'm grateful for these people:

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Enjoy your turkey day.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Trying

It's my final countdown.


No, not to Arrested Development. That already happened. Though, I miss me some GOB.

To this:

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Residency. Graduation. Being cut loose.

I've been watching that timer tick down for almost a year on my phone, and now suddenly I keep looking at it and it surprises me because it's getting so close to zero.

Yeesh.

Anyhoo, since there's less than two weeks left, I had to get on it yesterday with the ugly sweater shopping so I'd be ready for our holiday party. Don't think I'm not kicking myself for not buying this lil' beaut' at Thrift Town this summer:

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Dammit. How could I let a treasure like that go? My only excuse is that I had no idea I'd be invited to an ugly sweater party. I know. I know, you guys.

Trying on some options:
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These are only the things I didn't get. 
You'll have to wait to see what made the cut.

Anyway. I found something almost as good as last summer's awesome vest. What I didn't know was that setting foot in a thrift store in the weeks before a residency was going to send me into crazy Needtoshop Mode. I should have thought about it. Driving home from the thrift store meant passing my favorite discount shoe store. Which meant "just stopping in" to see if they had some booties. Because, you know, I've been eyeing booties on Nordstrom.com like it's my job. And OF COURSE THEY HAD SOME, Internet. Of course they did.

They had these for only $30. So I bought them. And I bought another pair of boots. And I bought two pairs of flats, because duh, my feet need flats.

The thing is that buying boots just reminds you how much you need skinny jeans. You know? How much you've been putting off sewing the button back onto the one good pair you have in your drawer, and how the other pair you're wearing all the time is looking kind of worn.

So I found myself at Kohl's last night, trying on jeans. The horror.

Normally I don't buy clothes at Kohl's, especially jeans. I've been buying Express size 8 long Stella jeans for about a hundred years. And even though I know nobody in almost the whole world wears bootcut jeans anymore, I'm fine with those for that, and for days when I don't want the world to see my whole leg. (Which is often, honestly.) But I am beginning to see that Express and I need to part ways. I feel like an old lady when I go in there. And my middle section never looks so old and so sad as when it pooches over the top of some ultralow youngperson jeans. Even under a shirt, that feels like some old-trying-to-be-young BS.

I really hate shopping for jeans. Hate. They just never fit right, and it's odd to me that something that I wear 90% of days is so difficult and trying to find. Want to feel bad about yourself? Go try to find some new skinny jeans.

Anyhoo. Accepting this, and also not wanting to stay in the bad neighborhoods after dark, I stopped at Kohl's, figuring they had to have something in the realm of "skinny" that would work. Hoping.

Here's the second reason I barely ever buy anything at Kohl's, though. I feel like Kohl's gives you two choices: Mature Lady, or Tween. Where are the clothes for the chick who is 34 takes care of herself and and is kind of conflicted about dressing "old" but still wants to cover the aftereffects of growing two small humans in her stomach? Where is that section? And don't point me toward anything that says JLo.

So I decided to start with the Juniors section, because even though--I know--it's too young, I can't bring myself to even shop near a sign that says "Lee." I'm sorry. It conjures images of pleated mom pants that go up higher than those giant lady panties that cover your bellybutton, and I, like, can't. I can't even be near 'em. So I started with juniors and I find something called "mid-rise skinny." I tried them on along with about ten other pair of esteem-crushingly wrong pants. And I felt worse about myself in that dressing room than I've felt opening my last ten rejection emails.

But yes, Levis. Yes. You are what I want out of life. Mid rise skinny, midway to being old. Covering my middle. Being skinny enough to show my not-old legs. And happily, they fit me, so I went back out to the rack to find them in every single other color they sold, so I wouldn't have to spend another night for the next ten years trying on pants.

"Excuse me," I asked a sales woman, "I can't seem to find any more of these 'mid-rise skinnies' on the rack right here. I found these grey ones in the stack, but the rest are all 'ultra-low.'"

"Oh, 'mid-rise.' Those are Misses. Somebody put them back in the wrong section. I'd be happy to show you where we keep those."

And then she gently led me over to the wall with the giant Lee sign. Right next to the pleated pant old lady jeans and the Christmas cat sweatshirts.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oh hi, vegetables.

Naw, I'm just kidding. I haven't worked my way back up to vegetables. I just liked that sentence when my HeatherBot generated it on Facebook. It sounded like me. The closest I've gotten to veggies is really portable fruit. (Still a step up from the All Boxed Food Diet, frankly.) Thank God it's Cutie season--I've got them stashed in every pocket of my purse and every corner of my classroom and kitchen. Here's hoping I remember that they're there.

For about five minutes yesterday, my campus was beautiful. Today, it started raining, which means I had to bundle up to make the OUTDOOR hike to the restroom. Which means I'm grumpy about my habitat today, and the leaves are gone. And also means about five months of trying to avoid using the restroom during class because the journey outside is too cold. Grr.

But for one day, nice.

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Here's a bit of a hodgepodge post, I guess. A long way to say things are not so bad anymore. So you can skip the rest of this if you want.

Friday I had a reading--my first real reading--for Under the Gum Tree. I read a nonfiction piece I wrote last year. My sister and a bunch of my friends from work and school came to see me read, which was nice.

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The actual reading part? Not so bad. About like Back to School night in front of the parents, honestly. I talked too quickly, per usual. I was worried about running over the ten minute (suggested) time limit. I think that probably didn't help me slow down. I was way more nervous about it being broadcast on the web than the whole live thing. It's easy to read a room and know how you're doing, but the idea of beaming out into the Internets as it was happening was... weird. Cool, but weird.

I'm trying hard to work my way back to the semblance of being a mom again. Making life happen over here like it's supposed to. This weekend was hard--a low, low point for me in post-thesis fatigue and emotional issues--and I ended up with a migraine on Sunday morning. Why wouldn't I? We were having Addie's birthday party, and I was completely unable to help with anything. So that was a fun little bout with guilt. But thanks to E, his mom, and my parents, Miss Roo had a good birthday party and is now--officially--11 years old.

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We took the two kids out for teppanyaki for her birthday--they've never been--and they cracked up.

Sunday night after Addie's party, I was finally feeling better, so I decided it was time to do what I do best: plan. When I say that I have let the routines around here go, that's the understatement of the year. I thrive on routine, too. But not only have I not been doing things like shopping, planning meals, packing lunches, running errands, that kind of thing, I haven't been EATING.

Seriously. I haven't been putting food in my own mouth. That's how bad it has gotten in the last few months. I've lost a lot of weight (not in a good way), and I'm tired all the time. I think the whole not eating thing is not contributing to my overall sense of wellness as a human being. So the first thing I did was make a plan (I am not joking) to wake up on Monday and eat three meals.

But I tried to spend Sunday doing my Sunday things. It's been so long. I got a roast ready for the crock pot, and I made our lunches, and I set the coffee pot. These are small things. Dumb things. But these are the things that overwhelm me when the alarm goes off in the morning and I lay there and I think I can't. I seriously just can't. So I wasn't 100% successful Monday, but I was a whole lot more successful than I have been. Which, of course, made me feel good. And that combined with the eating is like a whole new level of amazing.

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Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss this recent development in picky/difficult/needy/sensitive dog issues, chez nous. The other night I put one of E's T shirts on Hurley as a joke. The kids are both completely into Harry Potter right now, and we joke all the time about how Hurley looks like Dobby when his ears stick out. He kind of acts like Dobby, too.

Anyway, I put that shirt on him and we had a laugh for about three minutes, but then Freaky Nervous Dog was suddenly the calmest I've ever seen him. And this was on the heels of waking me and E an average of three to four times the night before. He fell asleep instantly with that thing on, and he slept through the night.

I put it back on him the next night, just to test the theory, and he slept through again.

What strange new reality is this? Are we these people? This is what's happening over here, America.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Transition

I have labor on the brain. I've been practicing a piece I'm going to read tomorrow at an event for Under the Gum Tree, a magazine that published a piece of my creative nonfiction last spring. I'll be reading the second part of the essay, which is mostly about Addie being born.

I don't need to draw any weird, gross parallels between birth and writing, here--but as I was reading, I was reminded about how the worst part of labor is called the Transition phase. That's the label they smack on the bad, anxious, hurty hours that make you wonder what the hell you were thinking when you got into the mess in the first place. Transition. Like it's just something you just breeze through. But instead it's surprise torture.

And since I feel like I'm in transition right now--in life--I can identify.

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I spent last weekend at the beach with a group of my writing friends. Drinking awards made of vodka; laughing, gossiping. Falling back into old conversations. Eating kale and pomegranates and brussels sprouts and Cheetos. Choosing the most inappropriate Card Against Humanity. Celebrating the fact that my thesis is finished. Having too many feelings. It was great. And at the same time, I came home a little wrecked.

One of my friends, Mag, said something while we were there about the ocean being too much. Too intense. Of course I'm not remembering it correctly, but the sense of it stuck with me. As much as I love standing at the edge of the continent and feeling small, I get how the line between things can be difficult.

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I expected to feel a great sense of relief about finishing my thesis. And I do. But last weekend went from fun to overwhelming as a heavy worry came over me about the future of my writing. I don't know what it looks like in the post-MFA/high school English teacher world. I know that earning an MFA has given me the excuse to block out those hours on my calendar for two years and a reason to say no to other responsibilities at work and home to make it happen. But I also know that putting my book first these last few months has been incredibly rough--too rough, with the demands of my job--and that I can't keep up this kind of dual schedule even if I wanted to.

I'm tired. And if my posts from the past few months are any indication, a little unhinged.

The unknown expanse on the other side of graduation feels very big. After my awesome beach weekend, I found myself sitting in a corner of LAX, waiting for my stupid plane, crying stupid tears about how I don't know what's next.

I'm not like other writers in my program. I didn't start my MFA with any kind of writing career under my belt. I was a baby (is this enough mixed metaphors for one post?), completely new to writing. I hadn't written shit. If I want to keep writing--and God, I do--I need to work at it, and work harder at it just to even start being competitive with the people in my graduating class. I want that (I need it, I would argue), but I know that teaching full time high school English doesn't leave enough of me at the end of the day to be able to go after it. That feels paralyzing. At least for now, while I try to decide what to do. I don't know how to be both.

I didn't really think going back to school was going to change me. And here I am, completely different like a huge cliché. I mean, this is great. Finally, Heather realizes that there is more to life than the two miles around her house. But change is scary. So is realizing that you want more than what you have.

And honestly? I'm proud of my thesis and I feel like I made it the best work that I possibly could. But the most overwhelming feeling I have about it is that I can do better. I'm not sure what to do with that feeling. Just keep writing, I suppose.

I have some very concrete goals: to continue to pursue a career in book reviewing, to write better short stories. Those are clear things. I can work at them. I'm just not sure about what the rest of life looks like. Where I go. What I do. When and how I write.

As I said: scary transition.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The end is near.

Okay, it feels like midnight right now and it's only 7:30. What. The. Flip.

I've been in my bathrobe since 6:00. Hey, Winter.

I'm only letting myself blog because I did so much work on my thesis this morning that it doesn't feel like cheating. Any other day, these feel like wasted words since they're not going into The Big Freaking Deal That Is My Graduate Thesis, but tonight I'm in a good mood. I'm down to only about twenty more pages of revisions, and one more scene that needs to be written.

THIS IS HUGE.

I'm trying to meet a self-imposed fake deadline of Wednesday, November 6, which is a little more than a week before the real deadline of November 15, but 1) you know me, I like to be early to everything, and 2) I'm going to be on a dual-purpose trip this weekend, so I don't want to be tapping everyone I know on the shoulder, going woe is me, please listen to how not-done my thesis is, you guys. I'm taking high school kids to three colleges in southern California with my teaching buds, then I'm getting dropped off in Santa Barbara, picked up by a former student (holla!) and dropped off in LA to hang out with my writer friends. It's a lot, so I don't want to be doing my crazy "don't talk to me, I'm still writing" thing.

I'm hoping maybe to be over this whole "fragile Heather" act soon.

I'm not going to lie and say that life around here has gotten suddenly awesome yet, though. I'm still having a rough time, and there are still messes everywhere. Look:

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It's like that in my head right now, too. I keep waking up at 4:00 AM and thinking of all the things I need to do. Which is stupid because nobody ever remembered a middle of the night to-do list (especially me), so the trying to remember becomes its own thing. Last night I got a night off from the listing and the remembering and the trying, but it was only because I got a visit from the Migraine Fairy. Blerg.

BUT. Things are moving. As things do. I'm still putting my nervous energy into crochet projects, which has been pretty soothing. Finished one blanket, started another. Actually, I've started the white one three times with three different patterns, but I'm finally happy with the one below.

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As always, the monkeys are making me laugh and being so super easy and good that I can't even write about it because it sounds like I'm lying. They just are. Roo finished her first session of swim clinics with a goofy Halloween relay night that was tons of fun for me and E to watch. Addie's loving swimming. I'm loving that she seems to have found something she likes and she wants to work so hard at. I love to watch her. She's so graceful. Even with a pumpkin on her head.

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Halloween isn't my favorite, but these guys did it up big. I'll admit that seeing my sweet daughter in a Bad Piggy costume (from Angry Birds) made me ache a little bit for the sparkly princess days, but then I remembered that when I was her age I got the idea from some book I read (I wish I could remember which one) to be a fried egg for Halloween. So... yeah. We went with it. And E was a champ--I was super sick that night and I spent the night in bed--he took them up and down the neighborhood streets on the Trick or Treat hike.

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The day after Halloween, Henry and his class visited Rhoads School, and he had to dress in costume.

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Rhoads School class picture

His teacher sent us this very nice picture that's the size of a postage stamp. He must be in there, but I don't see him.

Anyway. I feel like I have a lot of things I want to say, but none of the brain cells to organize them. The end is near. And I don't mean that in a creepy, guy on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, shouting, kind of way (look, a random memory from my childhood!), I mean it in a thank God this is almost over so we can all drink tequila way.