A year is a long time

And no time at all

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the saying “The days are long but the years are short.” If you haven’t heard this particular phrase, it refers to raising kids. I can confirm that no days—ever, even while deathly hungover—have ever felt as long as those spent parenting very young children. And no years are feeling shorter than they are right now, the teenage years. Although based on the fact that we all got in a screaming match the other night trying to agree on what movie to watch as a family (resulting in exactly 50% of our family in tears) I can tell you that even some of these days have their long ass moments.

In terms of your inevitable follow up question, no we sure didn’t decide on a movie, we have been incapable of agreeing on a movie for over a year now. We finally gave up and watched 4 straight episodes of The Office. It was the right call.

Anyway.

My life separate from parenting hasn’t held to this long days / short years formula quite as neatly. A lot has happened in the past four years, especially the past three, no wait actually nothing tops this past one. Extreme ups, extreme downs. Of course I’ve been writing this newsletter over that year and it’s occurred to me I was probably having a li’l bit of a mental breakdown that whole time? HA HA HA whoops, sorry about that!

I have been awash in uncertainty, grappling with big life changes, and there have been many dark nights of the soul. But slowly that little train of misery hit peak misery (I hope) and starting chug-chugging back down the mountain and I am terrible at train metaphors I’m sorry. I’ve had a solid reprieve from all of that since this summer and W-O-W turns out you can feel absolutely fucking great about your life when you have even just 15% more stability than you had before, back when you had 0%. 15% is more than 0% no matter which way you slice it!

So as I head into Year Two of this newsletter, a couple things:

I will be writing this newsletter less frequently than before. Sort of by accident I ended up writing one of these every couple of weeks. But I’m currently focused on some big projects and I need (and want to!) stay focused. More than anything, I need to take ownership of where I allow myself to become distracted all under the guise of “Yeah man but it still counts as writing.”

I may pepper in EPIC LINKS ONLY newsletters to alleviate my many open tabs! One of my favorite things about doing this newsletter is sharing stuff I have found and love and think you might appreciate too. So I might cheat and wing those into the rotation every now and again. Please forgive me if they don’t come with a rambling nonsensical entry such as this one. Or—you’re welcome depending on how you feel about this thing.

Lastly, THANK YOU for subscribing. I went on a heavy unsubscribe binge earlier this year. I just couldn’t handle the weight of always having so many good things I wanted to read and not enough time to read them all. So I especially appreciate that you are still here and you allow me to occasionally haunt your inbox (and if you want to unsubscribe, hey, no hard feelings. I GET IT.)

Last weekend at this time I was wrapping up my annual Writers Weekend (I’ve written about it previously here and it’s where all of these photos were taken this year.) I went into the weekend infinitely more energized and hopeful than I did last year. A year feels like a long time for me these days (on a personal level but not on the parenting front, so it is a confusing state of being.) For about ten years of my life it seemed hardly anything changed at all. And over the past four years it has changed profoundly and in ways I couldn’t have predicted every single year. So when I went into last weekend I was ready to be open to whatever might happen. Well aware that I’m very good at suddenly focusing on the writing I don’t really need to do and avoiding the writing that sorely needs my attention.

After flailing a bit on the first night and working on an article that has been hanging over my head for two months, I started fresh the following morning and finally, finally dug into truly working on my book. The hard parts of it. The essays. The equivalent of the last questions on the test. The ones I’d been putting off. By the time I was ready to head home Sunday morning, I had written 8000 words. I have never done that before, ever. Not in that short period of time. Not even when I was working on my first book under a much tighter timeline.

If you are also a writer you know how rare and fleeting that feeling of flow can be. I can honestly say I’m not sure I’ve ever felt it in quite the same way that I felt it last weekend. I was engaged in what I was writing, truly and thoroughly engaged, to the point where I forgot time and didn’t fall victim to my usual distractions (hello, three Instagram accounts). I wanted to work away at these essays, not just do a quick shitty pass on them and kick the real work down the field like I typically do. I reopened the doc after every break, first thing in the morning, as soon as I returned home, and I kept working. I felt like the words were pouring out of me with something I would almost characterize as precision, like everything I had been thinking and talking about and rolling around in my brain had actually gelled into something that made sense. I felt like I could’ve kept going forever. I have tried to write every day since I returned, even if it’s for just an hour. I am so hesitant to let this streak go.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Does it rhyme with “go fuck yourself”? I promise I am not here to be all WOW LOOK HOW EASY WRITING IS YOU SHOULD TOTES TRY IT. Only that writers do a solid job of bitching about writing, complaining about how hard it is, often taking an active role in actually making it harder (welcoming distractions, dodging the work, fucking around in general) that I think it’s okay and necessary to recognize that rare state when everything feels like it’s clicking. I mean, hot damn is it rare. When you’re not doubting yourself or creating busy work elsewhere or just dreading opening that doc again (or whatever your own project / creative / work equivalent is). It just feels good. We’re all pretty great at going on and on when life is terrible or something feels bad (see: Nov 8, 2016-present day 2019.) I don’t want to let these happy, secure, optimistic moments pass without recognition.

Anyway. All this to say — you’ll be hearing from me less, I’ll be writing more, I will share links when I can, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I think you look fantastic in that sweater.


NEW FROM ME:
• McSWEENEY’S: “Successories for Her” I remain disappointed that no one has latched onto one of my favorites: “Behind every successful man is a woman pretending to be a gorilla” because it’s absolutely accurate.
• THE NEW YORKER: Some Questions for People Who Shout “Woooooo!” During the Hardest Part of a Workout (Update: I am afraid to return to the places where I workout for there will be a tidal wave of passive aggressive high fives rained down upon me.)
• A BOOK! NO, A DIFFERENT ONE! Did you know that McSweeney’s is publishing an almost 700-page gilded-edged behemoth of a book, featuring humor pieces from their 21-year history? Well, you do now. And it’s out November 5th! I have a piece in there as do a million (a hundred?) other writers. It’s the perfect gift for anyone / everyone who needs to laugh ruefully which in 2019 turns out is absolutely everyone except that human thumb in a necktie, Stephen Miller. Fuck that guy, don’t buy him this book. He doesn’t deserve it AND HE NEVER WILL. Preorder KEEP SCROLLING TILL YOU FEEL SOMETHING here.
• I was happy to see AMATEUR HOUR included on this list! From the New York Public Library: “9 Books That Are Emotional Rollercoasters”

THINGS FROM ELSEWHERE:
• BRAND TWITTER: If you’re a sucker for brands roasting strangers, wondered when brands started thinking that tweeting on 9/11 was a good idea, or the glorious birth of @NihilistArbys, this one's for you. “Brand Twitter Grows Up” from Vulture. Never has there been a more perfect last line than this one: “The arc of Brand Twitter is absurd, and it bends toward sales.”
• CREATIVE SABBATICALS: A sabbatical? In a national park? Are you kidding me? Gah. “Amble, a crowd-funded start-up, organizes monthlong retreats that pair creative professionals with budget-strapped national park conservancies.” Read about the program here.
• PARENTING: This is an incredibly brave and honest piece and thank Jesus the NYT didn’t allow comments on it. “The Rage Mothers Don’t Talk About” by Minna Dubin.
• GRIEF: Got two for you here. From The Washington Post “The transcendence of Nick Cave: After losing his son, the post-punk icon found communion with his fans” and the launch of Lemonada Media’s podcast Last Day, co-hosted by Stephanie Wittels Wachs, focusing on a loved one’s last day. In her own words: “Our first season, we’ll be talking about opioids because, unfortunately, it’s the epidemic I know best. My little brother, Harris Wittels, comedian and beloved human died of a heroin overdose in 2015.” Listen to the trailer here.
• HUMOR: This is absolutely perfect and I can’t stop re-reading it. Accuracy level: 10,000% “Just Another Nineties Work Day”
• POETRY: If you read AMATEUR HOUR you might remember the essay about the poet (her name is Julie Cadwallader Staub) and her one poem that always brings me to tears—which is funny given its title (If Life Were Like Touch Football). She has a new book of poems out this month, Wing Over Wing! Since she is also my neighbor (we see each other just about every morning out walking our dogs and how weird is life?) I know exactly the moments she is talking about in the poem below:

Turning

By Julie Cadwallader Staub

There comes a time in every fall
before the leaves begin to turn
when blackbirds group and flock and gather
choosing a tree, a branch, together
to click and call and chorus and clamor
announcing the season has come for travel.

Then comes a time when all those birds
without a sound or backward glance
pour from every branch and limb
into the air, as if on a whim
but it’s a dynamic, choreographed mass
a swoop, a swerve, a mystery, a dance

and now the tree stands breathless, amazed
at how it was chosen, how it was changed.


Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your friends who need more to read.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I’m busy trying to go with my flow. So to speak.

What I did on my summer vacation

Two things: Not. Write.

If there’s one thing that’s never failed me as an adult whether I was single, married, before kids, after kids and no matter whether I’ve worked full time or freelance, it’s being propelled back into work with that intense “back to school” feeling. Even when I lived in LA and couldn’t tell September from June by the weather, it was just a sense that the time for fucking around was over. And I’m so here for it.

Back in June I said I wasn’t going to write this newsletter over the summer and, if I’m being honest, I didn’t believe it. In fact, I had plans (some actual, some theoretical) to do a lot of writing this summer. But this summer turned out to be the summer I accidentally stepped back and reflected a bit? It’s sometimes hard for me to believe I’ve only been working on my personal writing for 4-1/2 years (after a lifetime of being immersed in other writing and creative projects but that’s a topic for another newsletter.) Before then I either had freelance work or I didn’t. And when I didn’t I’d take off for long drives or work on our house or do anything but write because what was there to write?

Now there’s never a free moment when I feel like I shouldn’t be writing. When I posted my first pieces in early 2015 I felt like I had been shot out of a cannon. I regularly woke up at 2 or 3 in the morning full of ideas and I just wrote and wrote and wrote to exhaustion. All that obsessive, frenzied writing culminated in writing AMATEUR HOUR start to finish during the summer of 2017. And last summer I was just coming off of my book tour and felt practically catatonic.

I went into this summer with a new book deal and the pressure that comes along with that. In early July, my family went on a 7-day trip to Oregon without me and I defaulted to what I usually default to—the belief that I will / should spend every waking minute writing and only eating what I can hold in one hand or in bed while typing and using my own chest as a crumb catcher.

On the first day they were gone I wrote for a paltry two hours. As I mentally berated myself for choosing to drive to a (beautiful) place that (turned out) had no place to plug in, I had a sudden realization—

You do not have to make yourself miserable doing this.

Stop making yourself miserable doing this.

I drove home, changed into my swimsuit, packed a couple beers and an ice pack into one of my kid’s lunch boxes (LOL), and went to the lake for the afternoon. That one realization about self-imposed misery ended up setting the tone for my entire summer.

I spent the rest of that week writing a little. Then changing into my swimsuit and going to the lake. One time changing in the bathroom of the fancy place I had just had breakfast. One afternoon it was a 15 minute dip and I essentially shotgunned a beer in the rain. Other days I met my design partner at the lake and we talked for hours and hours. I honestly feel a little weepy just thinking about it again now because it was so freeing. I felt happy. I realized I had time. I had time to write this book. I had time to think and go deep. There was absolutely zero reason to force myself to stay indoors during what is an excruciatingly short, fleeting season here in Vermont.

For the rest of the summer that mantra was my guide. Paying work took absolute priority. Otherwise I worked on our house. I took my kids strawberry picking even though they’re teenagers and over it. I picked blueberries by myself and had some of the best vintage dress thrifting scores I’ve had in years. I went to the lake more this summer than possibly any summer since we moved here (and given that was almost 16 years ago, that’s saying something.) I picked flowers, I napped, I went camping for the first time in 3 years, I ate s’mores, I easily ate my weight in ice cream (one time driving one hour each way just to finally make it to this place). I floated on pool noodles in a crystal clear lake during a heat wave, watched a very very very funny free play while eating killer pizza and drinking Hill Farmstead Edward. I fleamarketed, swallowed too much ocean water, got bit 5 million times by mosquitos, bought creemees for 20 teenagers instead of baking a birthday cake, felt grateful to have time with my kids in general (I love them), went on a ferry, discovered a vintage Danish teak nightstand in a musty antiques-packed warehouse for $22, returned to reading the Wildwood series. I watched Fleabag, Big Mouth, Pen15 (all profoundly loved) and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which everyone can stop asking me about now because I hated it). I have no regrets.

I’ve realized in just the past week that writing and my regular job in advertising/design share some fucked up mutual ground—martyrdom. Who is working the hardest, is the most overwhelmed, hasn’t seen their kids longer, hasn’t had a weekend off, worked more while on vacation, worked more than anyone else, is more surrounded by idiots and frauds, is more miserable, is more stressed out. There is a gene we all must share that loves to thrive on the supposed misery, the suffering. But how much of it are we creating on our own, in some sort of race to the absolute bottom? I mean, who gives a shit? And honestly—Writing? Advertising? Design? LOL we all need to get over ourselves. This shit is not that hard.

My family is off camping this weekend without me because if there’s another thing I’ve learned it’s that once it’s time to get back to work and writing, it’s really time to get the hell back to work and writing. I’ve opened my book files for the first time in 7 weeks—the same amount of time it took me to write my first book start to finish, fucking yikes—and I feel (much to my relief) completely excited. I’m seeing it all with fresh eyes. I spent my summer having so many vulnerable conversations with so many people that I know those experiences will ultimately inform my writing. I’m ready.

It has taken me almost 5 years to relearn what I had already learned in my other professional life—breaks are necessary. Clean, long breaks. And when you can’t get those, you can walk the dog, do laundry, take a weekend away without your laptop, write an actual letter-on-paper to a friend far away, read the newspaper, drink coffee without looking at your phone. And just don’t write for a bit, just walk away from a piece that isn’t working and don’t look at it again for a month, you have plenty of other things to do. It works. It’s necessary. As it turns out, we are not machines. And no one is impressed with our stupid suffering.


NEW FROM ME:
Taking a long break from submissions felt so, so, so good and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re a serial / obsessive submitter. I only wrote two completely new pieces this summer—one that is forthcoming in The New Yorker and one for The New York Times that was an assignment. The other two pieces that were published this summer were pieces I actually wrote a year ago and decided to return to and finalize.
• THE NEW YORK TIMES: Congratulations on the Birth of Your New Baby! Condolences on the Tragic Loss of Your Sense of Humor!
• McSWEENEY’S: An Open Letter to People Who Say “Summer’s Not Over Yet!”
• SLACKJAW: Join the Slow Social Media Movement, “Message in a Bottle”

THINGS FROM ELSEWHERE:
• AUTISM: With the overwhelming ugliness in the world (including: on flights) this thread on Twitter brought me to tears.
• HUMOR: This piece in Daily Shouts isn’t hahahaha but instead between the idea, the wonderful illustrations, and the thinking behind every line, it will hit you straight in your chest areas “Off Cloud Nine: The Tale of a Depressed Rain Cloud”
• JVN: You’re damn right JVN will now be a regular category in this newsletter. Can you imagine anything better than being his stylist?? I … cannot. “Meet the woman responsible for Jonathan Van Ness’s best Queer Eye looks”
• FIREFLIES: With summer wrapping up and hella chill in the air already this weekend, I just revisited this piece about firefly research at Shelburne Farms this past summer (it also includes a link to lots of cool nerdy firefly facts to *dazzle and amaze* your friends)
• HOPE: Apparently I’m coming back from summer vacation a sobbing mess and hungry for news of good people? This story filled me up. “Single Dad Has Fostered More Than 50 Young Men in the Last 12 Years”


Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your friends who are so back to it.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I am busy remembering where I left off.

Never say never

Sometimes never comes sooner than you think

Things I have said in my life:
1) “I will never move back to New England from the West Coast”
2) “I will never give up on thinking a bikini might look good on me one day if I just try very, very hard”
3) “I will never write another book like Amateur Hour

That last one? I said never because 1) Honestly I didn’t think I’d ever be asked / allowed to write another book! and 2) Amateur Hour was a tough book to write. I’ve spoken a lot about the reasons and if you want to know them you can email me. I need to stop boring people with tales of the timeline and the summer lost and the crying and the typing. All this to say that when I was on my book tour and someone would ask me during the Q&A when I’d be following up Amateur Hour with an Amateur Hour-like book I always answered “HAHAHAHA literally never! I’m never doing that again!” and I meant that shit.

Well here are some updates on how “never” has worked out for me:
1) I moved from Oregon to Vermont … 15 years ago
2) LOL bikini!
3) SEE BELOW:

I am excited about this book. I am excited to write it. I’m even more excited to have a whole entire year to work on it! I know people get nervous about the topic of marriage and divorce or feel obligated to message me and say something along the lines of I’M SO SORRY ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE :( :( :( YOU ARE PROBABLY DEVASTATED

Please don’t do this. To me, to anyone. You make so many assumptions when you say things like this. I have done this too, so I know it’s a natural knee jerk reaction. But as the jerk on the other side of the knee now, I beg you to pause and stop before you react this way. Want to know more? READ THE BOOK. Just kidding, I have no idea what 85% of this book will be about.

What I do know: This will be a book that will examine marriage and divorce conceptually, through humor, essays, culture, assumptions, media, my life, my relationships, and probably how my hips are to blame for all of it (esp the bikini part). I’ve started reading through my journals from high school and college so, you know, brace yourself. Things could get weird. Or stupid. This will not be a book about blame or finger pointing. I like my ex-husband so much he is actually still (technically/legally) my husband and we still live together. I don’t think this book will be a downer. I don’t want it to be a downer! This is not a book I plan to cry my way through. Well, maybe a little. I think it will be different and weird, I think it can be funny and unexpected. I hope people who are struggling with their marriage or their assumptions of what they’re supposed to want from life will read it and think, “Okay well, at least I’m not the only loon thinking about this.” And I hope when you’re done reading it you will close the book, look off to the horizon, and whisper to yourself, “Well, that was not … terrible.”

I was just looking through my photos from the SUMMER OF AMATEUR HOUR ‘17 and every photo is of my laptop and a coffee or a glass of wine or my poor neglected dog begging to go for a walk and can I just say I am triggered? I’m grateful to have the space and time to work this book through, while also walking my dog, and spending time with my kids, and co-parenting and possibly camping with my future ex-husband. It feels positively luxurious to be able to roll ideas and thoughts around at this early stage instead of feeling panic from my eyeballs down to my pinky toes like last time. I’m excited to be able to think, to have space, to structure it and balance it. I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to get to do this whole thing again. I promise to do my absolute best to not fuck it up.

There is no preorder information yet, it’s entirely too early for me to start shoving that stuff down your throats, but I hope you will be interested enough in this process to hear occasional updates.

A week after my first book deal was announced in June 2017, we headed to Maine for vacation. We decided to hold off on the celebration until then and brought along a little bottle of sparkling wine given to me by an excellent friend. We poured a tiny sip for my kids (at the time, 11 and 13, very European!) and much bigger sips for my husband and I. My son announced that, as we must be aware, it was against the law for him to drink alcohol and he refused his glass. My daughter gulped hers, tasted it for a nanosecond, then spit it all into the beach roses. We’re not going to Maine until the end of the summer this year but you can bet I’ll be trying this again, just to see what happens. Lives change, kids grow, but the law’s the law, man.

Happy summer, everyone! I’ll be stepping back from this newsletter just a bit this summer so I can soak it all in too. I hope you have the best summer ever with only minimal feelings of murder towards Instagram. (Ahem, related.)


NEW FROM ME:
Due to a quirk in timing just about every piece I’ve been working on over the past 6 months all pubbed within just a few weeks. Right now I don’t have a single thing out on submission or forthcoming, not even a book proposal! Whoop! FEELS LIKE (temporary) FREEDOM! Anyway, here are all my latest pieces from the past month:
• THE NEW YORKER (humor): “Answers to ‘Is Your Dog Friendly?’ Applied to Me”
• McSWEENEY’S (humor): “Fast Times at Alabama High”
• THE CUT (humor): “How To Be the Best Mom”
• LITHUB (humor): “Is this my first book tour or my own funeral?”
• THE BELLADONNA (humor): “We heard you. And decided to do something else instead.”
• AIRBNB MAGAZINE (humor): “Road Tripping With Teenagers: A Survival Guide”
• PRIMA MAGAZINE (personal essay): “You Never Think You’ll Turn 50”
• OVER 30 UNDER 30 (interview): Talking work, life lessons, and ageism in the ad industry right here —-> “The Writer”

THINGS FROM ELSEWHERE:
• IDEAS: Aside from lifting her notecards idea for organizing my book (In fact, I was at Staples yesterday buying my multicolor index cards and my dork excitement levels were OFF THE CHARTS), this brief interview is something else. “There’s a story where we were on vacation and I was being a jerk and complaining about things. And he said to me, ‘Looking at you is like looking into a dirty mirror.’ I remember that stinging in the moment, and stinging when I was writing it. It shows that he wanted me to be a mirror image of himself, but was disturbed when it actually looked like him.” “Erin Lee Carr on Father-Daughter Joys and Struggles” in The New York Times
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO READ THAT BOOK? Yes, really. (FWIW Amateur Hour comes in at 4 hours and 16 minutes)
• UGLY SCREENSHOTS: As far as I can tell publishing is an industry where time moves in reverse, deals are considered binding just based on a verbal a-okay, and people probably still slap each other across the face with thin leather gloves when offended. So it would make sense that the screen shot everyone shares to announce their book deal (ahem) is a throwback to the beep-boop-beeeeeeeeeep-wong-wong-wong sounds of a dialup connection: “Here’s Why Authors All Tweet An Ugly Screenshot From The Same Websites” from Buzzfeed
• NOSTALGIA: I was an absolute whore for George magazine back in the day and reading this piece brought it all back (plus: the heyday of print magazines! *sobs*): “The Inside Story of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s George Magazine”
• HUMOR: I mean, these are the first two lines: “Some say that being an artist and being a parent are incompatible. They are correct.” So good. “An Artist’s Guide to Raising Children” by Marco Kaye in The New Yorker.
• DREW MAGARY: You know Drew Magary even if you don’t. He wrote these. Back in December there was an alarming post from Deadspin about him being injured but providing no details. It’s weird to be worried about someone you’ve never met, someone who only exists via your wifi connection. Here’s the incredible story of what happened to him. The fact that he can write this himself, in his same voice, still so fucking funny, is astonishing.
• HUMOR: This Twitter thread on childhood and bodies of water is, without exception, the funniest way to kick off your summer. I feel personally attacked by the reservoir one.


Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your friends who are ready to summer so hard.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I am busy writing another book I definitely said “never” to.

You know what time of year it is

Yup

It’s that time of year when I look at my calendar and see zero white space.

It’s that time of year when I regularly put my head down on the dining room table and want to cry.

It’s that time of year I’m both very ready for summer vacation and also a little terrified of summer vacation because I won’t have a day to myself again for 10 weeks but I still have to work?

It’s that time of year that inspired this.

And although this time around, it’s all an absolute mess primarily due to my own shit—freelance, book proposal revisions, existential issues, the inability to reschedule Mother’s Day yes really— vs. having little kids whose educational ecosystem required much more hands-on everything (teacher gifts! popsicles! field trip chaperones! all the everything!) it all still comes to a head no matter what.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article (that I used as a bit of a punchline in this piece) that said 90-year-olds identified the years when their children were young and living at home as the happiest of their lives. I know they’re right. I know they are. Life with kids feels full (full of what exactly changes by the day, often by the minute). These years have not felt lonely, they have not felt dull.

Since my kids are teenagers I find myself thinking more often of that future moment when there will be no kids in my house at all. There is a small part of me that’s ready for that chapter (she said, from the comfort of her perch 4+ years away) and it has nothing to do with them. If keeping them in my pockets until my dying day was an option, believe me, I’d be looking into it. But as much as I (theoretically, very theoretically) am ready for my next chapter, I think I will miss having teenagers. What I will not miss, I hope to God, is this last month of the school year. It’s not just that it’s an organizational 10-pounds-of-shit-in-a-5-pound-bag hell. It is an emotional hell too, it always feels like there is a “last”. There is always a gut punch hidden somewhere. There is always something to take in at the same time you give another year away.

Funny thing, I was never cut out to be the mother of newborns or infants or toddlers. Unless it comes naturally to you and you are super chill about literally nothing ever going the way it’s supposed to go, it is hard. It’s relentless. It requires heaps of patience and the setting aside of self over and over and over again. But I did all the things anyway. I went to the festivals and the field trips and the music hours. I suffered through Sesame Street Live where my son, only five, *flipped out* when they flooded the aisles with balloons because on just a regular day he would feel terrified by the suspense and potential sound of one single balloon popping so you can just imagine. We took a day trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine once, a drive that was four hours each way. Although exhausting as that entire experience sounds now, I remember it as one of our greatest days as a little family. We put our backs into this thing is what I’m saying, not every day and not every time, but often enough to matter.

I have grown exponentially lazier with each passing year. I’m not telling them to pack their lunches or make their own dinner so they can learn to be independent. I’m telling them those things because I’m out of friggin’ gas, people. I just cannot anymore. I blew all my energy and attention on the years they don’t even remember. I know this, because I ask them all the time. “Don’t you remember the so-and-so and the such-and-such?” They do not.

Yaaaaaaaay, parenting.

Anyway, my point being, as terrified as I was for the teenage years—and granted I am only at the beginning of them—I love having teenagers. I love to hear what they think about the world and learn what they care about as pre-adults. I get most of the day’s headlines from my son and try not to like too many songs my daughter also likes because obviously that would be the kiss of death. I took her to see Ariana Grande a couple months ago and, given everything that’s happening right now, an arena packed with (mostly) young girls acting joyful and carefree is something I needed. There is a reason we all carry our teenage years with us to the grave. For better or worse, we just can’t shake them. The feelings cut deeper, the highs were higher, all the firsts indelible. To watch these years unfold from the outside is a privilege. Even when it is hard, and it can be, I am into it. This was the phase I was built for.

I read this piece this week and I found it incredibly depressing. College can suck it, honestly. Another point of view for another time but spending your entire adolescence building a resumé instead of following the curves and dips of your own curiosity or just working a regular old teenager-type job is a depressing concept to ponder. Sorry, I’m not a good enough writer to say it any other way—it’s stupid and it sucks. My generation of parents and the one before me and likely the one after me are doing a very solid job of ruining the experience of being a teenager. We’re trying to make every moment of childhood magical and then every moment of adolescence … Harvard Business School? Fuck that. If the delicious college scam has taught us anything, it’s that parents see everything their kids do as their own personal performance review, forgetting they are not us, they never were. And robbing them of the opportunity to organically figure out their world and their place in it, absent of recognition or college admissions, is a crime against teenage humanity.

I wish I could write more about all of this now but I can’t. I have a mammogram follow-up and a work deadline and a presentation today. I need to balance our checkbook and one of my kids has a piano lesson and I wonder where the field trip permission slip is for my daughter? I need to look over her speech for a friend’s bat mitzvah this weekend and figure out if we’re all getting our pictures taken together Friday after school or what. I will likely end up eating Oreos and milk tonight for dinner. Again. (That’s not a Ben Carson joke, it’s just facts.) I badly need to get to yoga before I implode mentally or explode spectacularly through my pants. I’m keeping my eye on the prize of mid-June when my kids are released into the suburban wilds again. And I’ll realize on that last day of school, the same day they all head off for a weekend of Dad Camp, that of the 18 summers I started out with when I left the hospital with babies, there are only 4 and 6 summers of kids-at-home left. It’s fine. I’m fine.


NEW FROM ME:
• McSWEENEY’S: Watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High four times back-to-back gave me a lot to think about. Highly recommend as a coping strategy 10/10 “Fast Times at Alabama High”
• LITHUB: This piece slowly took shape on and off over months, based on a joke I told at the beginning of most of my readings on book tour. “Is this my first book tour or my own funeral?”
• THE BELLADONNA: A little piece about all the many, many areas of life where we keep getting the exact opposite of what we want and I am not angry at all! “We heard you. And decided to do something else instead.”

THINGS FROM ELSEWHERE (ALL HUMOR EDITION):
• McSWEENEY’S: LOL “Increasingly Less Sure Ways to Get Bob Seger To Go”
• NEW YORKER: “What Is Writing and Does This Count As It?” by Mia Mercado
• THE BELLADONNA: “Whoops! That Doesn’t Feel Right. Please Wait While We Redirect You To The Clitoris.” by Rachel Ciferno
• HYOOM: A wonderful, in-depth interview on the humor writing process with Sarah Hutto.
This is the meanest thing Riane Konc has ever done.
• FRESH AIR: I am so obsessed with PEN15 and I will not apologize for it. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show yet! “Return To Middle School In 'PEN15': Creators Say ‘It's All About Survival’”
• McSWEENEY’S: Lot of valid points here “I Don’t Think a Women is Electable in 2020 Because Last Time Around the Female Nominee Only Got Three Million More Votes Than Her Opponent”
• VOX: This is so satisfying and keeps getting better, right down to the writer’s bio. I’m gonna feel high on the phrase “eclectic tragedies” for some time. From 2018 but evergreen in our current hellscape: “Betsy DeVos’s summer home deserves a special place in McMansion Hell”


Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your friends WHO JUST CANNOT RIGHT NOW.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I am busy X-ing off days from the school calendar.

Exhausting, Exhilarating

Mothering, no matter what day it is

This was a long week. A long, emotion-filled, jam-packed with big ups and frustrating downs kind of week. The sort of week you wonder—big picture—why the Earth hasn’t shaken us off like fleas (God knows it’s trying.) And the kind of week that leaves you—small picture—washed up on the shores of Friday afternoon like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.

This was a week of getting-ready-for-braces and what’s-wrong-with-your-leg-PT appointments (and eating creemees in between appointments, in place of lunch), early morning jazz band rehearsal, buying giant boxes of salty snacks for the play bake sale because ain’t nobody got time to bake fuckall this week. Then in the midst of these mundane happenings, there was another school shooting just a week after another school shooting and it’s becoming clear we are training children to fight the fights the rest of us don’t want to fight. We are training children to become martyrs. I cried this week, I think three times? All different reasons. I stomped around and complained loudly about moving out of this country, making my daughter burst into tears over leaving her friends (we are not moving out of this country). I just want to tuck these-now-giant-children under my arms and flee the godforsaken gun culture whose grip may never be broken. And run away from the the hounds of Hell that’ve been released, gushing, full of thick poison, into our collective bloodstream. I want to escape, I want to keep them safe. I love them. I worry. I worry every day. Then I had to cut the conversation short because laundry.

This week I’ve fielded no fewer than six new freelance projects, wrote three new pieces, and desperately tried to find homes for three other mother-themed pieces under the annual Mother’s Day deadline. I absorbed complicated rejections—the worst kind of rejections that are actually acceptances initially then officially rejections. Ugh. I’ve picked up my kids from play rehearsal late every night as they prepared for their final performances this weekend and all that entails—nightly washing of the same socks and shirts, nagging them to take showers, soothing last minute panics, celebrating triumphs, weighing criticism, so many emotions, pretty much all of them. I’ve had to process their feelings with them while not even remotely keeping my own in check.

This all to say, I have been a mother this week. I have been a mother to these kids right in front of me. I have mourned, thinking of the mothers across this country who have lost their children this past week in ways unimaginable yet increasingly unsurprising. I have mourned, thinking of the mothers here in Vermont who lost their girls this year—one in February, one just a couple of weeks ago. I have mothered up and all the way down this week, trying to make as much money as I can, say ‘yes’ to everything that has come my way, then in parallel write pieces with little to no chance of making me any money at all but to get the work out there, help sell my book, and in the midst of it, field feedback on my second book.

I have found pockets in this chaos to drag myself to yoga early over and over again. I’ve crawled onto my mat, facedown, and spent fifteen minutes before class just inhaling through my nose, exhaling loudly out of my mouth. Trying to get it out, get it out of me. I have clicked OKAY on notifications every 4 minutes that my hard drive space is low and hello bitch Dropbox can't sync until you free some disk space up.

Free some disk space up. Fuck you, free some disk space up. YOU FREE SOME DISK SPACE UP.

I have had estimates pouring in for things that need to get done to our house that we can’t afford to do yet still need to get done. I’ve been sorting boxes of old photos and spent most of that time wondering who that person is. Who is she? Who was she? Did she know anything at all? Did she have any idea?

This week I wrote about what being fifty is like, the 6-week “heartbeat” bill, intense mothering advice, juice cleanses, rape defense classes, mass shootings, easy ways to support moms, and now this thing. I was so written out and wrung out by last night that this newsletter existing at all is a Mother’s Day miracle.

Because of my book, because of where and how all my writing began, I feel pressure to chime in on Mother’s Day. To get pieces published. To say something, anything. This newsletter squarely falls in the “something, anything” category because I don’t even know what my point is. Other than Mother’s Day is one day. I won’t even be celebrating it tomorrow. We have to work on our house. My kids will have gotten home from their last play performance around midnight, exhausted, exhilarated. There are no reservations, there are no plans. A year ago on Mother’s Day I was at Powell’s doing the biggest, most meaningful reading of my entire book tour. Three thousand miles away from my kids. And it wasn’t sad. It was exhausting, exhilarating.

Just like being a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, whatever that might mean to you. It doesn’t have to mean anything, really. It can just be a Sunday you spend reading the paper and walking your dog, feeling the sunshine on your face, and thinking of all the exhausted, exhilarated women who keep it all going. The women who know how you feel and, if they don’t, love you enough to really try.


NEW FROM ME:
• MCSWEENEY’S: I now have to write a follow-up piece based on the reactions to this piece. 🙄PSA: No one ever died from shutting up. “Things People Say When You Get Divorced That They Really Should Say When You Get Engaged”
• THE CUT: I am v v v thrilled to be back on The Cut, especially with this piece. I think it’s my favorite piece of 2019 so far! “How to Be the Best Mom”
• MEDIUM: My reaction to the 6-week “heartbeat” bill. “Other Clumps of Cells That Should be Considered ‘Natural Persons’ and Worthy of Rabid Protection”

MOTHER THINGS FROM ELSEWHERE:
• SLATE “An Ode to the Moms”, an excerpt: “There is a photo in one of my photo albums that my mother must have taken a version of hundreds of times, over decades: a cluster of middle-aged women, glowing tan from the sun and wearing drapey, jewel-toned fabrics, holding plastic cups of wine or gin and tonic, turning toward the camera and smiling. These are the Moms, the matriarchs of the families that surrounded us throughout my childhood … Because I’m an American woman, as I get older, it becomes harder to see myself as interesting, funny, or magnetic—as anything other than surplus. But because of these women, I can imagine being middle-aged.”
• THE NEW YORKER “The Hormones They Are A-Changin’” One of my favorites by Emily Flake, and that’s really saying something. Favorite line: “What has two thumbs and is real chill?”
• THE ATLANTIC Knock Down the House and the Quiet Insurgency of Tears” If you haven’t watched Knock Down the House PLEASE DO. It will truly make you feel better about the state of this country. Maybe don’t read this piece until you do, though, it’s spoiler-y when it comes to the emotional punch this doc packs. A (safe) excerpt: “Knock Down the House offers a counterargument to empty stoicism and the strict-father model: The tears, here, double almost as campaign promises. They suggest the kind of passion and compassion that, the film argues, have been absent from the behavior of many of the (white, male) politicians who have shaped the status quo to their preferences. They suggest that the feminine-coded qualities that have often been treated as liabilities in political life are, in fact, profound assets.”
• WGBH “The Kid Who 'Put Everybody In Stitches' At Boston Symphony Hall Has Been Found” This story brought the happy tears, for lots of reasons. “Seconds after the orchestra stopped playing Mozart's ‘Masonic Funeral Music’ at the Boston Symphony Hall on Sunday, 9-year-old Ronan Mattin was so swept away by the music that he loudly exclaimed — for the whole auditorium to hear — ‘Wow!’ After a beat, as Ronan's awe-filled ‘Wow!’ echoed throughout the hall, the audience burst into laughter and cheers.”
• NYTIMES “What Good Dads Get Away With” This viral op-ed is by the author of the amazing book I told you about here, ALL THE RAGE: MOTHERS, FATHERS, AND THE MYTH OF EQUAL PARTNERSHIP. An excerpt: “Sociologists attribute the discrepancy between mothers’ expectations and reality to “a largely successful male resistance.” This resistance is not being led by socially conservative men, whose like-minded wives often explicitly agree to take the lead in the home. It is happening, instead, with relatively progressive couples, and it takes many women — who thought their partners had made a prenatal commitment to equal parenting — by surprise.” Oh well, Happy Mother’s Day!


Like what you’re reading? Subscribe, share, forward it to your mom friends who are too busy to read much of anything, really.
You can find my copywriting work here and my writing-writing work here.
You can find me on Twitter.
You can find me on Instagram.
Please do not find me in real life. I am probably busy bringing a kid somewhere.

Loading more posts…