Beyond Your Blog Hall of Fame

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Image Description: The words “Beyond Your Blog Hall of Fame Selection” in white on burgundy 

Ha! So…if you know me you know I am often an over-enthusiastic puppy dog with no chill. The things I am excited about I am all in for. Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter soon? I’ve got my Hufflepuff themed pedicure and I am getting myself either McGonagal or Luna’s wands. Battlebots coming back on TV? The DVR can’t be set yet, but I have reminders already in my planner.

I have been grinning all afternoon. Two separate guest editors at Beyond Your Blog selected my essay Finding Shelter , which was published at The Rumpus on Memorial Day, as a double honoree in the categories of Personal Essay and Editor’s Choice. Which hasn’t happened before, apparently!

This is what they posted today

“Finding Shelter” by Kristin Wagner on The Rumpus

Congratulations on being the first ever to be selected in a category AND as the Editor’s Choice.

Guest editor in the Editor’s Choice category, Rudri Bhatt Patel, shared this feedback: “A well-written essay seeks to make the personal a universal. Wagner weaves a complicated narrative through the lens of an impending hurricane. The anticipation of what might happen should this hurricane land pushes Wagner to contemplate self and her vulnerability. She creates a defined arc, integrates powerful imagery, and wields her truth through her prose. There were several lyrical lines which resonated. My favorite – “Maybe the only thing that lets anyone survive is the ability to stay joyful. It’s the only thing to make the end of the world not feel like the end of the world.”

Guest editor in the Personal Essay category, Lauren B. Stevens, shared this feedback: “There are so many layers to Kristin’s piece, that I’ve now read it a total of three times! Kristin conveys the complicated, and beautiful, nature of student-teacher relationships (I had my own “Dierdre” when I taught), explores the dichotomous nature of our class system in stark detail, and writes about prepping and evacuating during Hurricane Rita with detail so vivid it had me sweating! Absolutely beautiful.”

SO COOL!

That’s all,

Kristin

 

 

 

Libel

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A word about my understanding of libel laws.

I’ve been concerned about this since I started writing personal essays and memoir. The stance I take is to be very careful about the information I share about living people. If I know them quite well, I try hard to work with them to see what they are comfortable with me sharing. If I don’t know them as well, I will either still inform them I am writing or I will hide their identities as well as I can. I try also to never write something that isn’t true, and I consider very carefully whether my words can hurt someone’s reputation.

Melania Trump has filed a libel suit against a blogger in Maryland. The Trump lawyers seem, from what I am seeing, to roll deep. They are reaching farther than we thought. And Trump himself has said many times that he would rewrite libel laws if given a chance, which would drastically restrict freedom of speech. So please know what your rights currently are.

I am not a lawyer, and so this is absoutley NOT legal counsel, but I am concerned about my writer friends.

In order for what you write to be considered libel, you have to write something that sullied someone’s reputation. I.E. you have written something that is counter to the other person’s perceived reputation, that is both false AND believable enough that the piece of writing can hurt that person’s ability to function in society. Trump has said so many things on the record himself that simply repeating what he has said is not (in my understanding) considered libel. Nor is telling the truth. And obviously what has been said has not damaged the Trumps’ ability to prosper, so there is that, too.

Also of note, satire is usually well-protected. For instance, if someone calls Trump an Oompa-Loompa, no one of sound mind believes that Trump is actually a fictional character invented by Roald Dahl for the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you are a satirist, you should be safe.

Know your rights.

Please be careful right now.

Why My Posts Have Been Sporadic Lately

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My posting on the blog has been a bit dodgy this summer (dodgy, huh, I must be reading too much Harry Potter with the boys). Sometimes, in the past, less-than-consistent posting has meant good things are happening (feeling healthy, vacation, etc.) and sometimes that has meant bad things are happening (you know, feeling sick and such). This time around it has meant something different, something I have never attempted before.

I am working on writing an entire book, and it scares the bejeezus out of me.

80,000 words is a fairly standard length for a collections of essays or memoir. My goal is to get at least those 80,000 words into a first draft by next summer. I began about a month ago. So, three hundred words at a time I have plugging along with occasional super productive days of 600 words. This gives me weekends off and is achievable even on bad health days (like earlier in this week I had written about 500 in the morning and spent the afternoon in the ER with shortness of breath). Which is really important considering…

It is going to be a collection of essays around what it is like to be one of those people who floats on the edge of healthy and sick all the time. It will have episodes that illustrate what the depths of brain fog feel like, what being in pain does to your ability to parent, how hard it is to get dairy-free food in Wisconsin. Some chapters (like that last one) are sillier than others. It alternates between the hard and the easy, just like my life does. The tough ones take it out of me as I relive times when I felt overwhelmed and uncertain and scared. And as anyone who ever did theater knows, making someone laugh can be harder than making someone cry, so the goofier chapters aren’t a walk in the park either. It is kind of more exhausting than I had anticipated!  At any rate, it certainly wouldn’t do to sacrifice the healthy days I have overextending myself writing too much at once. That would be quite self-destructive.

There is also the emotional tightrope I’ve been walking daily between anxiety and audacity, humility enough to say, “This isn’t working” and the confidence enough to say, “Now this is working!” Not going to lie, it is messing with my head. It is simultaneously as terrifying as jumping out of an airplane and as boring as a 1.2 on a treadmill facing a brick wall. I am beat tired.

So there have been fewer other posts. I have some in the works – I want to write about our glacier tour in Alaska, about the beginning of the school year, about a Little House on the Prairie Cookbook – but it is going to be slow going.

Thank you for your patience and understanding!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to calculate how many words I have written so far against my goal total…

Dang, only five percent.

But that’s a lot higher than zero!

In a Land of Twelve Kinds of Cupcakes…

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For my younger son’s seventh birthday we had an experimental bake-off as one of his presents.  He is always coming up with flavor combinations he wants to try, be it a lemon peanut butter cup (which was actually amazing) to an apple orange soymilk smoothie (a lot less amazing). He has wanted to experiment with cupcake flavors forever, so when he got home from school we had a whole table of ingredients and sprinkles and frosting ready to mess around with. We whipped up basic vanilla and chocolate batter and set out all of our extracts (vanilla, almond, peppermint, orange, lemon, coconut and anise) all of the fruit in the house, nuts and candies and toffee bits and chocolate chips and marshmallows and food coloring and Teddy Grahams.

He was beside himself. The four of us, him, me, my husband and my older son would make three different experimental flavors each, and we started plotting and planning and dicing and mixing. In no particular order we ended up with…

  • Peanut butter-banana-chocolate with chocolate frosting
  • Lemon-banana-vanilla with yellow lemon-vanilla frosting
  • Maple-pecan-vanilla with cream cheese frosting
  • Chocolate-marshmallow with chocolate frosting and Teddy Grahams
  • Peppermint-chocolate-sprinkles with chocolate frosting and holiday sprinkles
  • Vanilla-strawberry with vanilla frosting and red sprinkles
  • Chocolate-Rice Krispies with purple-tinted vanilla frosting
  • Orange-chocolate-chocolate chip with orange-tinted vanilla frosting
  • Vanilla-almond-cherry jelly bean with pink-tinted vanilla frosting and a red jelly bean
  • Lemon zest-chocolate chip-vanilla with orange-tinted vanilla frosting
  • Vanilla-orange-pine nut-freeze dried strawberry with orange marmalade vanilla frosting
  • Classic chocolate with teal-tinted peppermint vanilla frosting and pastel sprinkles

The cupcake production was going full tilt…until it came grinding to a halt. In the midst of us all being excited about trying our cupcakes out for dessert that night, my husband casually mentioned that we could have friends and family test them out the next day at the huge family birthday in our little guy’s honor. That stopped him dead in his tracks. He suddenly refused to do any more – even though he had only come up with two of his three designs. Even though he had been so bouncy before. Even though the only reason we had to come up with this idea was that we knew it would make him extravagantly happy. He stopped.

We should have known. Our seven-year-old is terrified of other people’s reactions to his creative work. He has been known to throw Lego creations when they don’t work out, or to literally not move once he feels he is being watched too closely. He dances joyfully at home and messes around with a guitar, but the thought of taking lessons for either paralyzes his fun.

He sat angry on the couch as first I tried to coax out of him what was wrong, then his father took a turn. Eventually my husband was able to get him to admit that he was worried other people might hate his cupcakes. We first reassured him that people would love them, and if they didn’t it would be okay. When that was met with a skeptic scowl, we then reassured him that only our little family of four would ever taste them if that would make him happiest. My husband got him to design his last cupcake-the classic chocolate one with the elaborate topping.

 

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He is my child, for sure.

I am the one who procrastinated on writing papers until the last moment because if they turned out badly I could blame it on the time crunch. I am the one who was given an opportunity to write the introduction to an online curriculum series in college and turned it down because it made me too nervous. I am the one who decided I would rather be “well-rounded” than put all my energy into ballet. I am the one who got solos, but would then show up to voice lessons and even competitions woefully underprepared. I am the one who refused to let anyone coach me on my monologue audition I would perform just once for over twenty colleges’ theater departments.

Sometimes my fears honed my actual work into a fine point – my almost late papers taught me how to get an “A” even with limited time by using my (not-often-used) laser focus, my monologue got me admission into ten different theater departments. But then I kept shooting myself in the foot. I didn’t go into theater for fear of a lifetime of rejections. I don’t dance or sing anymore except in my own kitchen. I still write though, and I am trying for my youngest to show him that putting your creative work out there in the world is incredibly difficult, especially for him and for me, but that it really is the only way to be happy. It is the only way to be true to yourself, to be honest with who you are and what you bring to the world – putting your work out there for other people to see.

The beauty of living in a land with twelve kinds of cupcake is that you haven’t put all your hopes and dreams into just one cupcake. When you make just one, you are scared of your aunt who doesn’t care for chocolate, worried about the cousin who is allergic to nuts, terrified that another cousin will think it is too boring or that your grandpa with think it too crazy or that your grandma will say she likes it even if she really doesn’t.  When you have twelve different kinds of cupcakes, twelve experiments of flavor and texture and color it is okay that the jelly beans fell out of the bottom of one but left a delicate delicious flavor. It is okay that the peanut butter banana was too dense, it’s a great surprise that lemon and banana together is light and airy. It is more than okay to make a classic chocolate cupcake perfectly simple and beautiful decorated.

I am trying to take my own lesson from this. Right now I am grateful I am letting myself send so many cupcakes into the world, because I am less worried about each one being perfect.

I have, out there in submission-land and in no particular order…

  • A very short piece about school shooting fears
  • A very long piece about a hurricane evacuation while I taught high school
  • A medium piece about being mistreated as a patient with chronic illness
  • A rewrite of a blog piece about speech delays, open heart surgery and one-syllable words
  • A rejected piece about science fairs and art that turned into a blog post

And

  • An accepted piece about baby food, insecurity and watermelon

 

Eventually, in the sixth hour of his family party, our youngest let other people try out his cupcakes, once the big cake had been served, once the numbers of guests dwindled and he felt happy and content and comfortable with sharing his creativity. I think it went well, and I hope both he and I remember that while sharing can be scary, there are tricks to make it less so. And, ultimately, even if you are temporarily paralyzed with fear, moving forward anyways is worth it.

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S.T.E.A.M Punk

Science Fair

 

Our public elementary school calls itself a “Math and Science Academy”. It is a great petri dish for the sons and daughters of all sorts of engineers, a starter culture for future scientists and mathematicians. There is a heavy emphasis on STEM here. STEM is an effort to add more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math into the curriculum. Our school has integrated engineering lessons into each grade level, and prides itself on its science fair. Pardon me, its STEM fair. Oh wait, I stand corrected. As I look at our application packet I found out that its name has changed again. This time it will be a STEAM fair.

What does the “A” stand for, you may be wondering. Arithmetic? Archeology? Astrophysics? Nope. It stands for Art. We are trying to cram all of Art, the entirety of anything that could be called artistry into one little letter.

My husband is an engineer, and my two sons are scientifically inclined. But, they are also my sons and I have been, and still am, a singing, dancing, writing, literature-loving, theater-going, right-brained kind of girl. Believe me, I don’t want them to go through school so focused on data and numbers that they don’t see the beauty of the world around them. To be fair, their school has dedicated art and music teachers, and my six-year-old asked me the other day if I knew who Piet Mondrian was. I asked back incredulously, “Do you?” While I appreciate the idea of adding more art to my kids’ lives, Art shouldn’t be a token subject, shoe-horned into a science fair.

While Science, Technology and Engineering are considered distinct subjects in their own rights, Art (as just one letter of STEAM) is jammed together as if it only encompassed one discipline. Right away I could break “Art” into, at the very least, visual and performance art. On the visual side of things, I can think of the distinct crafts of sculpting, painting, drawing, makeup and hair design, animation, cinematography, photography, interior design, fashion design, floral arrangement, graphic design, lighting design, illustration, weaving and ceramics. On the performing side of things, I can think of the distinct crafts of acting, dancing, singing, improvisation, playing an instrument, directing, stand-up comedy, puppetry and motivational speaking. This doesn’t even include the artistic endeavors of creative writers that don’t fit neatly into the above categories: poetry and memoir and novels and graphic novels and screenplays and plays. What a disservice to shove all of that into the single “A” that is allowed.

But my main criticism of trying to create a STEAM fair is that pesky requirement of all science fairs – that students learn and apply the scientific method. Each project must propose a hypothesis, set up an experiment with multiple controls and just one variable to see if the hypothesis is correct, record the findings and report your conclusions. It is a rigorous and disciplined METHOD for examining the world, and if it is not as rigorous, disciplined and objective as possible, the experiment is at best a waste of time and resources. I have great respect for the scientific method as a critical tool for examining and bettering the world.

And I had a great time mocking the scientific method as I tried to figure out what an “Arts” based project would look like.

For my STEAM Fair project, my hypothesis is that my impression of Hillary Clinton is funnier than my impression of Bernie Sanders.

In controlling the variables of my experiment, I have already decided to pick two candidates of the same political party and level of fame.

I will perform impressions thirty seconds in duration, for the exact same audience members on two separate days.

I will have three assistants record notes, one will record the number of people who laughed at each impression, the second will record the duration of laughter from the first guffaw to the last sigh with a stopwatch and the third will have a decibel meter to record how loud the laughter gets.

I will be only varying my voice, facial expressions and mannerisms to reflect each character – the words spoken in each impression will be identical.

Update: My results were inconclusive as no one laughed. For future experiments I would perhaps vary the words spoken by each candidate to reflect a satirized version of what they might normally say.

Now, let me be clear – All great artists, in every field of artistry, experiment. None use the scientific method.

There are far too many variables to account for. When an improv troupe skewers Clinton and Sanders they use different actors, different mannerisms, and different lines for different audiences as they experiment. Every variable changes and shifts, and more often than not they still get a laugh. They get to the same desired outcome with a million different formulas. The opposite is generally true of a baking soda papier-mache volcano, where only one formula will give you the desired outcome – a giant mess on the elementary school gym floor.

It is very rare that an artist would want to, or be able to, test one variable at a time. When Picasso painted “The Old Guitarist” he did not present us with an expressionist version in a full spectrum of color alongside his blue-toned melancholy piece to see what effect color had on the guitarist’s emotional impact. His blue period might be the closest we come to seeing an artist experimenting with one variable at a time, but his subject matter over those years was far from a scientifically sound control. He didn’t tint photographs of fuzzy ducklings blue to see if simply “the color blue” was enough to alter our perception of the duckling. He still experimented with subject matter and perspective and materials and negative space, while he experimented with the color blue.

And what is the measurement you can use to see if your hypothesis for a work of art was correct? Public reaction? Favorable critiques? Popularity? Unpopularity? Anger, sadness, longevity, laughter? Art is, above all, subjective, not objective. There is no objective experiment, nor any objective measurement for a work of art. But, in spite of its subjectivity, data can still be taken, the results can still be analyzed, and new experiments performed, new ground broken and new power discovered. I would LOVE to see an art fair like that, one full of experimentation, of breaking new ground and new forms, and exploring new talent.

Art doesn’t deserve to be shoved in next to scientific experiments, just because we haven’t made the room for it. The value of the scientific method, or teaching children to critically explore the world around them for concrete and actionable solutions, shouldn’t be diluted because we didn’t give Art any room to breathe. And you are just making it awkward for everyone if I have to explain my Clinton/Sanders experiment again, especially next to the second-grader who just won first place with his wonderfully thorough presentation of which liquid cleans a penny best. (Coca-Cola, his hypothesis was proven out by his experiment, it’s Coca-Cola).

 

The Liebster Award

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Hi, everybody!

Over the weekend I was honored by Reflections of a Bear, a blog and blogger out of Australia who found me through chronic illness tags. She nominated me for The Liebster Award, which is a way for bloggers to recognize other bloggers and introduce websites they like to more people. How very cool is that?!?

The rules of The Liebster Award are a little like a chain letter with a positive spin (there are no threats of bad luck if you choose not to continue it). If you are nominated you include a link back to your nominator’s site (which I would do regardless because it is a great resource for people with chronic illness and very funny-if you check out her site now you will get to read about a ridiculous spider infestation!) Next you answer questions they’ve asked of you. Then you nominate five or more bloggers who have less than 1000 followers and who you would love to pass this award on to.  Then you ask them at least 10 questions of your own.

So…..let’s roll!

1. Why do you blog?

At first my blogging began as an “author page”, a website I could include with submissions to show literary magazines that I had a “platform”. I had been working on creative non-fiction essays off and on and wanted to prove that I lived in a modern world and could navigate things like blogs and social media. All very clinical and business-like, that’s where it began. But now I love my blog as a space where I can clarify who I am, what I care about, what bothers me, what I’ve discovered. It has been a place to find my own voice and explore my own world. When I am able to reach out to other people through it, when I find common ground with people I already know and love or new friends from the other side of the world, that is just amazing. I also am able to give my writing a home when it is too odd to find a home somewhere else, which makes me remember that I always have a place where I am loved even when I am too odd to fit elsewhere.

2. What is your most embarrassing ‘brain fog’ or awkward moments?

With fibromyalgia fog, I’ve mixed up words while reading Green Eggs and Ham before and had my, at the time, five-year-old have to correct me. I’ve told the kids to get in an “envelope” instead of an elevator before. Most of my fog is related to not getting the right words out at the right time, so being met with confused looks or little kids correcting me often is fairly embarrassing! 

3. If you could wake up with a superpower tomorrow, what would it be?

This might be cliché, but I would love to fly. I’m fairly terrified of heights, mostly because I’m a terrible klutz; I’ve even tripped over a painted line in a parking lot before. I could enjoy heights so much more if I knew being klutzy wouldn’t lead to my imminent death. If I tripped at the Grand Canyon and made it look like a super cool take-off instead, how fun would that be?

4. Share one odd rule or saying that your family has, or had when you were growing up?

When I was a kid everybody in my immediate family (myself, my parents and my three younger brothers) would yell out, “Peanut butter!” as soon as they walked in the door. Whoever was home would yell back, “Jelly”. It’s sort of a call and response to let you know that the person coming into the house is friendly, and that the person who’s home understands that someone just walked in. That way you know who is where and no one gets sneaked up on. You can reverse the order if need be, too. I’ll still call out “Peanut butter” on nights when my husband’s flight comes in really late and I hear someone walking around downstairs at midnight. If he doesn’t call back softly “Jelly” I get a little panicky that someone else just broke into the house. That way, too, he knows I’m awake and doesn’t have to tiptoe to bed.

5. Something you hated as a child and now you love? (The answer cannot be naps!)

Tomatoes. I would eat ketchup, tomato soup and tomato sauce as a child, but I absolutely hated tomatoes. Now fresh tomatoes are one of my favorite parts of summer. We end up with about fifty from our garden and I can’t wait to chop them up and toss them with balsamic vinegar for bruschetta. I also have a perfume that smells like tomato plants which is one of the stranger things I’ve asked my husband to get me for Christmas. True story. I will say though, I have always hated ham, and I’m fairly certain I always will.

6. What is the most delicious food you have ever eaten?

I am Irish-American and Italian-American, and I say very affectionately that I appreciate the Irish side for the music, and the Italian side for the food. One of my favorite Italian dishes is a stuffed artichoke. You trim an artichoke of all its spikes, spread the leaves apart, cram each leaf with seasoned breadcrumbs, garlic and parmesan cheese, top with a lemon slice and steam it for a good length of time. You eat it leaf by leaf, scraping the tender bottom and breadcrumbs off with your teeth and discarding the rest until you get to the heart. It is a process, both to make it and eat it, and I’ve had to adapt it now that I can’t eat dairy, but it is always my favorite.

7. If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?

A hedgehog. Just so damn cute, and a little prickly. Sums me up pretty well, I think.

8. One little thing that annoys you more than it should?

I inherited this one from my mother. It drives me up a wall when someone says, “very unique”. Unique means “one of a kind”. There cannot be varying degrees of “one-of-a-kindness”. You cannot be “very unique”. If a broadcaster says this phrase I’m apt to yell at the screen.

9. If you could magically play one instrument perfectly, which would you choose?

Electric guitar. I guess this kind of goes against my favorite animal, as an electric guitar isn’t exactly cute and cuddly. There is something screechy and bad ass and full of swagger in a guitar. It’s a guy’s game, usually, and I would love to shake that up. I would love to have an alter ego that is all yelling and bravado and power. Maybe I need a tattoo of a hedgehog with an ax, blend the two.  

10. Favorite Quote?

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Zora Neale Hurston

This is the one quote that has gotten through my hardest times. The year I developed constant pain and didn’t understand why. The years I didn’t know what to do with my life. The years that were lonely and apart from people I love. I believe in this pattern, very deeply. I have had enough experience with the settling power of answers, of finally knowing, that it helps me weather uncertainty and confusion even when it is very painful.

11. Share a silly joke that makes you laugh.

I absolutely loved the TV show 30 Rock. There is a moment in an early episode where Liz Lemon walks in on Jack getting fitted for a tuxedo and asks, “Why are you wearing a tux?” to which Jack replies, “It’s after six. What am I, a farmer?”

 

Now I would like to nominate

Scott  at Sparky Boy Thoughts for magical, speculative fiction that gives you one scene of a feature length tale every day

Dawn Claflin for excellent resources and support for fellow writers

Melibelle in Tokyo for thoughtful posts about teaching, family and culture

Peter at Off and On The Alaska Parkinson’s Rag for resources for Parkinson’s Disease and excellent comic strips illuminating what living with PD is like

Mom of 3 Misses for a newer blog on anxiety and grief

 

Here are my questions for you…

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. Who is your favorite author, or alternately, what is your favorite book?
  3. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  4. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
  5. What would an ideal vacation/get away look like?
  6. What is one thing you do exceptionally well, but you can’t often talk about it because it would seem like bragging? (I am very calm around bees, mentioned this once and the other person felt I was judging her for panicking around bees. I don’t tell people about this skill often because of this!)
  7. What is your favorite food?
  8. Have you ever practiced an acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror, and if so what award was it that you “accepted”?
  9. What makes you laugh?
  10. What is something you would like to see happen in your lifetime?

Play

Play

A few months ago I had to put a writing project on pause.

It was going to be an essay about my first year with an undiagnosed pain and fatigue disease. In my head I had named it the year everything almost fell apart. Everything was in tatters, held together with the barest of threads. I felt like, in our little family, that I held all of our lives in my arms, while my body felt like it was literally being ripped limb from limb. My boys were just four and one, and on the heels of the recession my husband was traveling internationally almost every week-making sure to do everything that was asked of him so he could never be seen as expendable.

I paused my writing because I suddenly didn’t have the distance I needed to delve back into that year. A new undiagnosed problem began taking over, and emotionally I didn’t think I could relive “The Year Everything Almost Fell Apart” in real time and in retrospect all at once. I am still undiagnosed, but thankfully have started to be able to manage the problem so that I can get back to normal life.

And the story has started knocking on my door again. It won’t leave me be. The year, the whole year, wants to have its story told. Every time I try to divert my attention to something lighter, something fun or frivolous or at least shinier and less tattered, the year comes back. It looks at me the way my oldest son did at the time, wide eyes, furrowed brow, sadness that shouldn’t weigh down such tiny shoulders, asking me to make sense of everything. To please put life back in order, to explain why and how things went wrong and how to fix them. I couldn’t for him then, but the year is asking me to please do so now, to make amends for failing him.

Notebooks 2010

These are my notebooks from that year. Each post-it note is flagging a journal entry with a clue to my illness. The pages in-between are my journal entries describing the different colors suffering took for each of us, the way thirty-year-olds and four-year-olds and one-year-olds process fear and uncertainty and sadness and anger. It’s time to read them again. It is time to try to tell the story of a year in a few thousand words, so that it can be put on a shelf, ordered and meaningful and done. This will take time, but what choice do I have? The year won’t let me be.