Wednesday, April 18, 2018

compiling my thesis (sort of)

No one told me how hard it is to compile a thesis.

It's like you get into grad school (hurray! 🎉) and then you do some work, and then it gets progressively harder and harder and then you quit your job to focus on school and spend so many of your waking minutes obsessing over getting it not just good, but really fucking good and then you're in so deep that you can't quit, you're so close to graduating and then you and your friends commiserate and send angry emoji texts about your thesis preface and then you get drunk, thinking maybe coping like you did in your undergrad is the answer but it's not, you're so hungover the next day and that makes it harder, all the work you have to do still on your thesis so you pound latte after latte and when those aren't enough, you buy chocolate covered espresso beans and you tell yourself you'll stay up late, all night working like you also did in your undergrad but you can't do that shit anymore, you're 35 with two kids and by 11 p.m. your eyelids have drooped so low you can't tell if you're awake or asleep and then you say you'll get up early like you used to do when you worked at a coffee shop but fuck that, you need your sleep so you cram it all into the daylight hours while your oldest son is at school and you try like hell not to let yourself get distracted but there are dishes and laundry and the internet and literally anything else sounds better right now but stop it, just do it, you're almost there. You almost have a graduate degree, don't fuck it up, you've got this, you're a badass, almost an MFA holder and then one day, if it all works out, you can become a professor and have books out in bookstores, actually for sale with bar codes so just finish this god damn thesis you whiny little bitch. Just do it already.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

plea for life

Last summer, at residency, I met this woman. She came as an alum and shared her words and I laughed and laughed and cried and cried. She was a student in my program's first class. She read from her application to the MFA program, which she had written 13 years prior. She called it a plea for life.

While she spoke, I scribbled down notes, my eyes blurring with tears. Here is my favorite part:  

Eventually, to the surprise of many including the Groom and myself, I married—beginning that phase of life many women refer to as The Lost Years. As often happened to intelligent women of my generation I busied myself by robotically performing the duties expected of me whether they made sense or not. I said “yes”a lot; smiled, nodded in agreement, changed diapers, learned to cook,
learned to clean, WANTED to clean, learned to drive and transport kids and things and stuff, gained weight, hated suburbia, lost perspective.
I had no options. Write—or shrivel up and die.

After her speech, I went up to her. I am introvert who fears talking to strangers but this woman was so incredible, I had to know her. She told me she wished she had a magic wand to tap each student with while she said, "be honest." I kept thinking of that last semester, while I wrote my letters to my daughter. This isn't honest enough, I thought to myself, and I revised until snot poured from my nose and the honest things I didn't say before found homes in words.

Last semester I got to know Tonie as we shared emails and FaceTimed about the website she made. She said, "Holly, I'm 76 years old. I never thought I'd make a website," and yet she did it. She is the most amazing woman. When I started writing my thesis preface, I emailed her asking if I could quote her. Because when I went to write about what I've done these past two years, I realized I haven't done that much on my own. It's people who brought me this far. People like Tonie who helped me recognize my need to find my own voice.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

another year older

 So we went to Washington, the boys and me.
 They were absolute champions with luggage. OK, most of the time. When they weren't, the kindness of strangers came through again, as it always seems to.
 Holden, no longer the baby, took care of the baby in his own way.
 The cherry blossoms were out, the grass was green, it felt like spring.
 Jumping on the trampoline and playing with their cousins wiped the boys clean out.
 We went to the Puget Sound, which my landlocked boys called the ocean.
 We ate boujee ice cream. Amber and I didn't get any, so we licked their cones.
 We played croquet with Grandpa. Holden with a mallet is a scary idea (sorry, Brandon's head).
 Grandpa is a natural with kids.
 When the noise gets to be too much, there are iPads.
 Holden turned four in Puyallup.
 He let everyone know it was his birthday and that we should sing to him.
 The next day was Avie's birthday, the next week Brandon's. So we had a combined birthday party.
 Brandon got a bit sugar high. He won a lot of Sequence for Kids.
 My sister is an excellent party planner.
 I bought a leather jacket, after years of talking about it.
 We said goodbye.
 Back home, the boys had a Nebraska party at BounceU.
 Brandon's best friend came.
 I took pictures off their website. 
 The boys had the best time.
Brandon turned six. 

We are all another year older now. And we are doing great.