If I had one fear going into motherhood, it was that their hungry little mouths, and needy little souls would be the death knell of my freedom. In fact, when Moira was born, I went through a period of mourning for my afternoons of deep contemplation, for the concept of “browsing,” and the ability to lose track of time.
The beginning of a baby’s life is hard for the mom.
I felt like I had about 45 minutes between breastfeeding sessions in which to cram in all of my personal maintenance, and graciously thank all the well-wishers and meal-bringers. Life had never felt more scheduled, crammed full of nuts and bolts.
But looking back, I realized that something miraculous began in the midst of that.
I became freer.
First, before this starts sounding like tales from the joyful martyr, let me say this: I’m writing this in a coffee shop, processing my thoughts, and sipping tea. My first baby’s season of hourly scheduled needs is over. A second baby’s is about to begin, but I don’t think I’ll need to mourn so much, because I realize how quickly it’s over. …
Well, I did it. I forgot to post about it, but I did complete the book challenge.
My last two categories were “A book over 500 pages” and “A book over 100 years old.”
I used these categories as an opportunity to transition into my new adventure: starting this year, I am now a full time writer. Not the novel-writing kind of writer, but the “multiple commercial, journalistic, and creative projects at once” kind.
Quitting my steady paycheck to pursue a lifelong dream would have been a very bold Millennial generation kind of thing to do, if my job hadn’t been a dream job. I was paid to travel. Comfortably. More than comfortably. Luxuriously.
But, I have a calling. It’s become fairly clear. And that calling is to write.
Because Lewis and I are both firm believer that funding is an essential part of creative endeavors, I’m freelancing for my supper. In addition to bringing in pretty decent money, commercial projects give me daily writing exercise.
I’ve also taken on a more official role at The Rivard Report. Business cards and all. As their education writer, I’ll be sitting in on a lot of board meetings, yes, but also exploring what might be one of the great social justice issues of our generation: educational outcomes. So, in addition to stimulating conversation, it helps me sleep at night knowing that if the world ends before I publish a book, I haven’t wasted my time.
Which brings me to the big creative project that pushed me over the edge into full-time writerhood.
For the next four months I’ll be following the trail of Frederick Law Olmsted’s journey across Texas, documenting the changing fates of the places he visited. Conveniently, his home base was San Antonio. So it will be a series of smaller journeys following his timeline, rather than one epic road trip.
(You can follow the trip on select social media sites: #olmstedintexas, and expect regular blog posts starting…soon)
Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. In preparation I read the following books, among many others, as a point of transition:
Over 500 pages: Rough Country: How Texas Became the Most Powerful Bible Belt State, by Robert Wuthnow- basically, if you want to understand why your friends from other states assume you like Ted Cruz, but don’t assume you like Julian Castro…this is the history for you. Why people assume more of Texas looks like Dallas (fundamentalist Bible belt and big business) than like San Antonio (Catholic Southwest and not-as-big-business). Technically, the prose in the book ended at 480 pages. But they were dense pages and I read a lot of the reference material and footnotes, so I’m giving myself this one.
Written over 100 years ago: Journey to Texas 1833 , by Detlef Dunt – Olmsted actually refers to this widely publicized account of a German immigrant to Texas while it was under Mexican rule. He basically says, “Who was paying this guy?” The author (Dunt is probably a pen name) gives a pretty encouraging account of what he found on arrival in Texas, which upon reading Olmsted and Wuthnow, I’m tempted to agree was something of an advertisement for others to follow his lead and come to Texas, which was then a very rough country.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. But Christmas always brings out the blogger in me. Most likely because of a long and conflicted history with the holiday and my need to externally process.
This year, with a toddler, we have entered the vortex of American Christmas. “Do you guys ‘do Santa’?” (which is a creepy question). Grandparents are wanting to buy her presents, which leads to conversations about the kinds of toys we want to have in the house, and how much regulation is appropriate for us to exercise in that realm. She also has her own interests, which makes me more inclined to impulse buy all the Daniel Tiger merchandise, bison toys, and musical instruments I see around town. (Yes, bison. That’s her favorite animal.)
This year our local bookshop is conducting a reading challenge. Now that Moira goes to bed at 7:30pm, I thought, well, why not! Reading is quiet, portable, and doesn’t require me to get into a “mode” the way that writing does. As January revealed, I like a structured challenge, and I have been enjoying the Twig’s reading challenge since January 2. I’ll be reporting on my progress periodically. This quarter’s reads have reviews in this post, previous quarters’ reviews are on the previous Twig posts.
AND I still need a 500 word page turner to close her out! (if you’ve already recommended, please remind me, as social media tends to bury these things) …
The last 16.5 months of my life have been amazing. As Moira grows, I grow as her mother.
Some of that growth is fun. She learns new words. My heart melts when she says, “books!” first thing in the morning. She loves to swim. I love to swim with her.
Some of that growth is not fun. She gets new teeth. I learn that going to dinner with her at 8:30pm is a terrible idea, even on vacation. She learns to wait. I learn not to fear meltdowns in public (because, like many other animal instincts, fearing only makes them more aggressive, while not fearing seems to pacify them).
Somehow, Lewis and I thought that things with a baby would either be happy-sunshine-fun (him) or miserable-scary-impossible (me). For the past 16.5 months so many of our date nights have ended in the same conversation.
“I don’t understand this…intensity that I feel,” I say.
“I just wish you could relax and not let things bother you,” he says.
Then I freak out that I’m freaking out. Obsess on not obsessing. Get intense about not wanting to be an intense mom. …
So every blogger on in America is telling us how to respond to the shootings in Charleston. Everyone is trying to say the one profound thing that’s going to send an arrow straight to the heart of racism and explode it.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because, like many have said, we need to talk about it. We, the white folks (who seem to all have blogs), need to talk about it. We also need to listen to our black, brown, and everything else friends. To fall back on my grad school vocabulary: it’s time for everyone to interrogate whiteness.
So this blog post does not contain the one nugget that’s going to change racism. …
A friend of mine coined a hashtag that makes me laugh. #ILiketoTravelBut.
I like to travel but…I hate sitting in coach.
I like to travel but…I don’t like losing money to the exchange.
That kind of stuff. But lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about travel’s place in the soul, or at least my soul. About why they call it wanderlust.
I like to travel but…I hate pulling out of the driveway.
Leaving home always strikes me with the deepest sense of regret. Even if I know I’m coming back. I know I’ll have an amazing adventure as soon as I get over it, but it always catches in my chest, just for a moment.
This year our local bookshop is conducting a reading challenge. Now that Moira goes to bed at 7:30pm, I thought, well, why not! Reading is quiet, portable, and doesn’t require me to get into a “mode” the way that writing does. As January revealed, I like a structured challenge, and I have been enjoying the Twig’s reading challenge since January 2. I’ll be reporting on my progress periodically. This quarter’s reads have reviews, last quarter’s reviews are on the previous Twig post.
AND I want your recommendations for the categories I still haven’t completed! …
Sometimes there are socially vogue rants that make me want to move to Siberia. Hating on social media is one of them.
I’m just as annoyed as the next guy by the constant dinging of my phone (so I turned off my push notifications), the 19 Facebook notifications that have nothing to do with me, and the rivers of unfiltered troll vomit on Nextdoor.
HOWEVER, I find it more tiresome when people whine about social media, and talk about how stupid it is. How over it they are. Everytime I hear that I think, “it’s okay, old man, we know you’re overwhelmed by what the kids are up to these days.” Or “yes, I know, little girl, you’re cooler than God.”
Use it, don’t use it. I don’t really care. But if you use it, own it.
Part of owning social media is understanding how it works. So lets break it down: …
I really like to be the resident expert. On pretty much any topic. Lewis maintains that my confidence in my expertise belies the depth of my actual expertise sometimes. This is 100% true. But it’s just so much more fun to be certain, facts or no facts.
So, in addition to being an expert new mom (ha), I am also an expert architect’s wife.
And I think there needs to be a manual written on how to live with architects. In my experience, it is the path of unending, highly specific bliss. I can, however, see how it might be frustrating for a novice. Which I never was, of course. So, to that end, I’m going to write another book. It’s either a how-to manual for living with an architect, or just a biography of the one I live with.
(The title and each chapter title comes from a statement spoken by my architect.)
Title: Everything I Want is Not on the Menu- the tortured life of the modern architect
Chapter One: Specific measurements are how I roll
We’re talking down to the centimeter people. There are no stray bolts or washers left at the end of projects, nothing creaks or rattles. And should a stiff breeze blow through, we will stop and recalibrate, lest we compromise the quality of the experience.