Monday, April 24, 2017

whites in waves

All we do is hide away
All we do is chase the day
All we do is lie and wait
All we do is feel the fade

I can count on one hand the people I know who aren't fading. People who are vibrant: not resigning themselves hopelessly to roles and ruts, to pessimism.

In a longer video for this song, Oh Wonder asks filmmakers what it means to be human. One replies, "Find yourself, lose yourself, and then find others." I love that. That is what the story I'm writing is about. That's what I'm learning myself.

So I am trying to live the life I want, not the life I know. I am taking it one day at a time. I heard once acting brave is as good as being brave because in acting brave you actually become brave. So yesterday I lived a day as the person I want to be. And today I plan to live another like that. And in living days acting like the person I want to be, I will become that person.

All I wanna be is whites in waves

Thursday, April 20, 2017

oh hill

 Oops, I did it again.
That hill half marathon.

When I told my brother about it he said, "why did you do it again?"
I did it again because it is an amazing feat. An accomplishment. A real pushing-my-body-to-the-limit.

Steve did it with me this year. It was nice to have someone know the pain and agony but also the feat and the victory. 

And this year, although I was ten minutes slower, I placed third.
I'm a year older, I'm not training for a marathon.I'm more sleep-deprived. But I can still conquer that fucking hill. 24 times. But this year, I didn't go into work afterward. I took a bath and a nap.  Gotta know your limits. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

old mom

My little sister has birthed a baby.  
A little girl named Aviana Jaye. She is so tiny, so loud. 
 I never worried once about getting Baby Fever. Unless it is meant in the literal sense of a fever, accompanied by a headache and fatigue. Babies are not my jam. New moms have it really rough. Those first few weeks and months are pure hell. 
But being a relative is nice. A relative with her own house to retreat to, with a whole night to sleep through. 
My sister arranged a Sip n See--something like a viewing party of the new baby. It was a dry party, but somehow people still came. I don't know how moms manage without booze but apparently it is possible.
And even though I wasn't the focal point of this trip to Portland, I managed to still make it about me and drag everyone along with me to Powell's. I thought I was doing well, only carrying books: no cart, no basket. But I still managed to spend two bills. Me and bookstores don't mix. Or mix too well.
Amber and I walked around the mall and had puzzle races and played Sequence and got a little tipsy on screwdrivers made with the most disgusting ice cubes. So maybe moms can't actually manage without booze.
It was nice to be near my family again, these people who have always known me. From the airplane, I saw two rainbows. I told my sister it was my promise to never have a baby again. Literal Baby Fever and all that.
And I returned to my own two babies, bigger now, thankful that those baby days are behind us.
I am an old mom, not a new one.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Brandon Jude,

Somehow or another, five years have passed since the day you made me a mother. A different one this time: a mother with a child to care for.

You changed me, as I suppose everyone I know changes me, but in a different way. In a more intense, permanent way. You taught me sacrifice and patience (some - you're not a miracle worker). To love completely, to feel it back. To be stubborn, to give in. You reminded me of living in the moment, something I had lost. You replenished me.

Three years ago, when you became a brother, you showed me a new side of yourself. You are caring and kind and patient and helpful. You always pay attention to and take care of your brother, even when he hits or scratches you. You told me yesterday you will let me hug you until you become a daddy, but then I can't hug you anymore. You've always wanted to be a daddy. To take care of people.

On Sunday, we went to a birthday party for one of your preschool friends and Holden came along. You looked out for him, told everyone he was your brother. You danced with a girl, your girlfriend, you said. You are a popular boy with lots of friends and without an enemy. You are theatrical and happy, except when you're mopey and whiny. You feel intensely, not just with emotions, but with your senses too. Sometimes you can't stand the smell of your brother's sucker: you tell me your head will explode if I don't roll down the window.

You are a problem solver. Just today the doctor told you this monkey didn't work anymore, but you found the on switch and proved him wrong. You put together a complicated Lego dinosaur nearly all by yourself yesterday and you told me, "now that I'm five, I'm even smarter." You tell me how big your brain is getting inside your head. Your memory is uncanny. People marvel at all you know, even though they only know a sliver it. You help out around the house most of the time, but sometimes you say, "I just want to relax."

I feel you, kid: you and me both. I haven't relaxed since you were born, but I have hopes of it in the future. Because you are my oldest kid and you will help me out so I can relax. You will keep an eye on your brother and clean up messes and make me smile. You turned me into something I wasn't--a mother--and I know it is you that will allow me to slip back into myself along with this role I've never conquered.

I'm sorry I haven't been the best mother. It hasn't come natural for me. But as you say, "we can just try our best." That's what I've done. I've given you all I have to give. I know you will see that one day. You probably already do, with that big brain of yours. You are my sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

songs of Q117

When I write, read, run, or drive I listen to music. So basically all the time.  A song will always remind me of a slice of time in my life. These are my favorite songs in 2017:

Love on the Brain - Rihanna
When The Stars Come Out - Chris Stapleton
Southern Girl - Amos Lee
La Cienega Just Smiled - Ryan Adams
You Make Me Sick - Pink
If I Go - Gregory Alan Isakov
Let's Be Still - The Head and the Heart
Shelter You Through - Andrew Duhon
She Used to Be Mine - Sara Bareilles
Blue Ain't Your Color - Keith Urban
Prove It to You - Kris Allen
All the Wild Horses - Ray LaMontagne
Mixed Drinks about Feelings - Eric Church
In My Veins - Andrew Belle
Monster - Mumford & Sons
It Ain't the Whiskey - Gary Allan
Big Jet Plane - Angus & Julia Stone
All I Want - Kodaline
Born and Raised - John Mayer

I am thinking of a writing project with songs. Not sure what it is, but it's percolating. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

mixed drinks

Another song I play on repeat, wishing it was longer.

Country music tells a story. You can hear it here: first his story, then hers, then theirs. 

Need a little background noise
To drown out this little voice
Running circles 'round my brain
Screaming louder than the pain

My head is spinning
My resolve is reeling

Friday, March 24, 2017


For 1096 days, this one has been squirming and screaming. 
Smiling and snarling. 
Getting into things. 
Getting out of them. 
Talking non-stop every minute he's been awake. 
Being a best friend to his brother, being the best lover of me.
If you could hear the way he says, "I'm so excited!" you'd be excited too. 
His squinty-eyed smiles make my world.

On your third birthday, Holden, I want you to know that you are boisterous and imaginative, talkative and energetic. You barely ever sleep, but when you do, it's with me. You mostly eat sweets. You dance by galloping around in a circle. You say, "hold hands" when we cross the street or sometimes just at the dinner table when we're all somber. You refuse to sit in Brandon's car seat. You still sleep with blankies. You're afraid of nothing except flies and bees.

You hang out with the older kids: you think you're Brandon's age. But you occasionally poop on the floor to remind us of how young you actually are. You always want to swing. Or shovel dirt and toss it into the air and watch it scatter. You like Calico Critters and babies. If we go to a restaurant, you mix fruit or pepper into my water glass to make me soup. You're tough as nails but soft as your train blankie. You don't care much for tv but you love the iPad. You sing aloud anywhere, unashamed.

You want to be a chef when you grow up, at Red Robin specifically. But Brandon suggests you become a construction worker. I can see you in one of those tough professions, with tattoos on your arms one day. Or I could see you as a counselor or teacher or something softer.

You are a chameleon, adapting always to those around you, being for us what we need. You will hug me one minute and wrestle Brandon the next. You will help a girl up the stairs, then push down the boy who elbowed her.  From day one, you've been for us what we didn't know we needed, and still now, 1096 days later. And I imagine you always will be. Our youngest boy, the icing on this cake.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

bring joy

I rely on myself a lot. I pull myself out of funks. I self-medicate with yoga and running and writing until I can find myself again. 
I live in a place far from where I'm from. I don't have the camaraderie that comes with an 8-5 job. I make friends, but then the keeping part is hard. I don't have any free babysitters so I either lug my kids along to my friend dates or, more likely, just don't make them. 
I am constantly ensconced in the noise these boys emit, surrounded by the messes they create.
So sometimes I have to remind myself of joy, when I'm not feeling it. I must change my mood because no one else will do that for me. I have learned self-reliance in the most primitive of its meanings.
We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. ~Orson Welles

I believe this Orson Welles quote in the most lonely of interpretations. 
I am for myself what I wish I could delegate to someone else.
So I bought this book at Barnes and Noble, to remind myself of joy. 
And I bought these little signs to remind myself that what I'm doing isn't always what's most important. That I can chill out and calm down and be for myself what I need.

Monday, March 20, 2017

teaching each other

Yesterday, I told my friend I haven't taught my kids anything. That everything they know is from a book or TV or the iPad or preschool or each other. But of course, although they have learned from other sources, it isn't true that I haven't taught them anything. Why, right saying after that, I taught them to trespass.
We packed up their water wings and swimsuits and went to a hotel pool. I never worried about not getting in. We would just stand there looking pool-ready until someone opened the door. And someone did. I am teaching them to take advantage of opportunities.
I have taught them to always have snacks, no matter what. No one wants to see us hangry.
 I have taught them to watch the sky. To look outside.
I am teaching them to find something they're interested in, even when they're somewhere that seems uninteresting (no offense, Pottery Barn Kids).
This sounds terrible, but by busying myself with things beside them while still around them, I have taught them to take care of themselves and each other.
 I have taught them to smile for photo ops.
I tell them each every day that his brother will always be his strongest ally.
 I taught them when they're riled up, they just need to chill the fuck out with a quiet activity. 
I have taught them to run around and live in the moment. 
And then to relax.
To get sun burnt in March because I teach spontaneity, not preparation.
I have taught them to also look down. To discover what there is all around.

While we drove home yesterday, Brandon pointed out the sunset.  He reminded me to watch the sky, to look up. Look up from looking down. 
These kids are the most spectacular thing. I'm glad I have them to teach. And I'm especially glad I have them to teach me.

Friday, March 17, 2017

in my veins

All that you rely on
And all that you can fake
Will leave you in the morning
But find you in the day

I haven't stopped binging on Andrew Belle yet. He's in my veins. Holden watched me intently today while I was driving, singing along. It was a moment, him and me, entranced in this song. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

for scott

I've been melancholy lately, realizing again how short life can be.

A friend of mine passed away suddenly. I got the call last Wednesday night and I sunk into the booth at work, feeling like this wasn't real. It was an out-of-body experience. I heard the words, and they made logical sense, but it was hard to believe.

I met Scott in 2009. We worked together at the same awful place. We started around the same time and bonded over being new, having no clue what we were doing and receiving no help. Then we started talking shit about people, the place co-workers eventually end up. We both left that job within the year.

I was sitting in my cubicle at PayPal when I got a call from Scott. They had an opening at his current employer, fighting unemployment claims like he and I had done previously at that awful place. PayPal had announced they would be moving their HR dept to Salt Lake City that year and I knew I had to make a move sooner or later so I did sooner.

Scott and I shared an office then. We talked shit about our new co-workers. We talked about what we were writing. He wrote, I worked. I did most of the work for the two of us, honestly.  But I didn't mind. He was one of the few men I have met in the workplace that didn't demean me for being a woman. In fact, he championed strong women. He was married to one, he said his mother was one, and he wrote about them. In fact, in everything of his I've read, a strong woman has been his central character. Scott was a male feminist. He would tell our bosses I was the brains of the operation, even when they ignored me and spoke only to him. He wrote a countdown on the whiteboard of how many more days until he put in his two weeks' notice. He would point at it anytime one of our chauvinist bosses came in and pestered us. 

I absorbed his job when he left and demanded a raise and the VP gave it to me, astounded and impressed, I like to think. I started presenting in the meetings, without them having a male option to choose. All the while, Scott and I stayed in touch. He would email me long narratives on his current projects (he always had quite a few - he was a person of many passions and talents). He would ask me about my writing. He would encourage me to finish something. For many years, he was the only person who did this for me - talked to me about my writing, made it feel to me like something more than a hobby.

When I applied for grad school, I asked Scott to be one of my references. He wrote terrific things about me, he said. And then he asked me to edit a book for him. I hemmed and hawed about it, not because I didn't want to, but because I didn't feel qualified without any past experience. He talked me into it, saying he knew I was the person for the job:

That is EXACTLY why I thought of you. I've been searching for a good editor and I know you would put your all into it because you're very detailed. I also want someone that will cut through the BS, but also make it constructive to make writers better in their craft. These are qualities that would make for a good editor. I also like the fact that you have a viable education behind you that lends credibility to the editing process.

So I agreed. I finished editing his book the first month of grad school. Completing that project gave me skills and confidence I needed for grad school. I was able to see my own work with a more critical eye. I was able to take criticism, now having given it. I knew the time involved in completing a novel (even if it was only as the editor), and resolved I could finally do it.

I have a folder in my hotmail dedicated to Scott and his long emails. He was my penpal. He was the only local writer I knew before grad school. He always encouraged me to keep writing, asked for samples, and read my blog. We met up twice at coffee shops to discuss his novel and the meetings spanned entire afternoons. We had a lot to say to each other, having shared two jobs, one passion, and one book.

Scott had been waiting for cover art on that book of his that I edited. He had just got it back on Sunday and was planning to release the book in April. But then he died on Tuesday, suddenly, unexpectedly. He was 49.

It's funny the way people come into your life when you need them most. Scott gave me something I needed: a belief in myself, a drive to pursue writing seriously. He saw my "no BS" attitude as a positive, not a negative and made me realize its advantages. He was an optimist that saw the best in people, believed in the good. He shared his opportunities, never hoarded. He believed in abundance theory rather than competing against people.

I am a better person for having known him. I'm also just a bit of a mess in realizing that just like that, our lives can end because his did.

Write or paint or dance or sing or do whatever it is you're passionate about.
Find yourself a cheerleader like Scott.
Don't quit. One day you won't have the choice anymore.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Still doing yoga each day, except the one I missed for Solitude Day. I am reaching the point of needing it now, craving it like I do writing. My body feels tense without it. I wasn't doing it enough before. Now it is becoming a discipline.
The boys are even hopping on this train. It is both tightening and loosening us up. We all need it, being a bit high-strung like we are.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

positive review

There is no greater compliment than being told my writing is something worthwhile. Writing is the one skill I have, this craft I have spent more time on than anything else. It is what I'm passionate about, what I can't imagine life without. I still remember once when I was a kid and my dad tousled my hair and said, "that's my little writer." That carried me for a long time.

In undergrad, a professor wrote on the back of an academic paper:

You're a kick. I laughed/chuckled numerous times. And your wit is trenchant [sharp, acute, incisive]!
Honestly, Holly, you need to WRITE [maybe books] in your future!! Listen up, F.S.*, this be yer teacher talkin'...TAKE CREATIVE WRITING!! 
 *F.S. stood for Favorite Student. I had got him to admit it.

That carried me for a long time, too. I ripped his note off the back of the paper and kept it in a notebook.

Then there were blog comments and those carried me.

And then today, I woke up to my best birthday present yet:

this last packet is amazing.

I am sending it back tomorrow.  there is one chapter that isn't quite as strong as the rest, and as usual, I did my nipping and tucking, but
Jesus girl, you can write.

I am delighted. And some of these critical papers should be sent out.

This will carry me for awhile.

But the beautiful thing is, I don't need these compliments anymore, as much as I want them. I have learned to believe them, without being told. I have learned who I am without being directed. Both as a writer and as a person. All the while, I had been writing through the rough draft and now I'm polishing myself into something more like a final version.

Monday, March 6, 2017

march love list

I am starting on the second half of my novel, writing toward an end now. And I don't know where to start. So I am distracting myself by writing this instead. Writers are fantastic at finding distractions. It might be our biggest skill, our most shared trait.

Currently listening to:
It's slow and chill and emotional. Perfect reading or writing music. 

Currently reading:
Many writers write books about how to write. But this one is short. Ron Carlson explains what he did to write his own story. He is full of useful insights, like don't let yourself get distracted. 😳

I heard this quote yesterday and wanted to keep it here, where I might see it again.
Favorite wine right now. It's become a Monday night tradition: to kill a bottle of this while watching The Bachelor.
For my birthday, I asked for a second monitor. You know, one for writing and one for distracting myself by surfing the internet. But our computer is the monogamous type, apparently. So at Target yesterday, I bought myself some other things instead. Steve looked in my cart and said, "god, you're so old." Because yes, I had put in this candle. Best smelling candle, by the way. My office smells heavenly.
I also put in these, because they're pens/markers. My favorite. Makes me feel like trying again on my penmanship. I don't, but at least the thought is there.
And I'm buying myself leather bracelets online. Lots of them. It'd be easier with a second monitor.