hiatus

I just wanted to issue a warning that I won’t be writing much. Wait, let me rephrase that: I won’t be writing here much.

In an emotional moment over the summer, I started researching MFAs in creative writing. It turns out most of the good programs are located in bumblefuck America, and while I can fantasize about living a completely different lifestyle with my boys in Iowa, I know that’s not in the realm of the possible.

But through this exercise, I discovered that Stanford offers online creative writing courses. One in particular caught my eye: Novel Writing Back to Front. Since coming up with the ending is always the hardest part for me whether writing a blog post, email or story, it sounded perfect. I set a calendar reminder to sign up on the date registration opened.

Coincidentally, that day happened to be the one when I lost my car for 2.5 hours at DCA. Once I got home, the insurance assessor was there to investigate my flood claim. By the time I got to my computer, the class was full.

“I will just have to be self-motivated to write,” I told myself.

A month later, I hadn’t committed a single word to paper. Last week, I took some time to meditate and made a promise to myself that I would find a way to be disciplined about writing. When I was done, I had an email from the universe, I mean, Stanford, informing me I was in the class off the wait list.

Class started last week. I was officially in by Wednesday. Due Friday was the first assignment: 750 words from anywhere in your novel except the end because we workshop up to 5000 words of the ending for our final class project.

750 words of a novel I haven’t started writing? And a 5000-word ending by October 25th? Well, Wednesday night, I wrote 750 words. Then Thursday I compulsively revised and refined until at 11:38pm when I was comfortable enough to post my work on the discussion board. Then I waited nervously for responses from the instructor and my fellow classmates.

The feedback was all good. “Rich and believable” dialogue, according to the instructor. “Have you considered screenplay writing?” a student asked. Part of me was disappointed in the lack of criticism. I want to get better. But another part of me was fueled to expand those 750 words into nearly 8000 by the time the weekend was over.

So while I’m not writing here, I am writing somewhere. And I can tell you now with the greatest assurance that nowhere in the last 5000 words of my novel does a main characters sleep with a celebrity.

That story has already been written.

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apathy

In case you missed it, there was a mass shooting in our nation’s capital on Monday.

Sure, the twitterverse was abuzz with rumors and inaccurate reports all day long, but as far as I can tell, there was more horror expressed over the show Breaking Bad than there was over real events unfolding in DC just days after the 12th anniversary of 9-11.

My office had a staff meeting. Hardly a person mentioned the manhunt going on merely a mile away. The Nats game wasn’t postponed until late in the day. I didn’t see tears or panic-stricken faces. And personally most upsetting is that not one member of my family (except soul sister Kassie) checked in to see if I was okay.

I’m still trying, days later, to come to terms with the apathy of those who shrugged off Monday. Is it because we as a nation are desensitized to acts of violence? Is it because the shooting seemed “contained” to a military base or that the victims were less innocent because of where they worked?

Maybe I’m more sensitive because I was a few blocks away from the Navy Yard at the time the shooting started. Maybe I was on edge because for the entire day the authorities were seeking a potential second shooter who could have been hiding anywhere. Schools were locked down, as was my beloved Senate, leading me to fear a crazy person in camo with a gun was making his way toward the complex where so many of my friends work.

This shooting didn’t garner the nation’s tears the way Sandy Hook did or its attention like the Boston Marathon Massacre. But it was scary, and I know I’m not alone in feeling frustrated at the tepid reaction to Monday’s tragedy.

jack on jack

My kid is rather perfect, whether he’s displaying a moment of creative flair or getting on his preteen angst.

Today he turns 12. As we celebrate his loud arrival into the world, instead of my usual birthday gushing, I share with you the words Jack chose to describe himself as part of a recent art project. Frankly, I couldn’t have captured his essence better myself.

Short. Thoughtful. Energetic. Daring. Keen. Good. Curious. Witty. Messy. Leader. Smart. Happy. Excited. Proud. Busy. Patriotic. Successful. Funny. Humorous. Self-confident. Imaginative. Bright. Creative. Pleasing. Tireless. Thrilling. Brave. Inventive. Unselfish. Helpful. Tenacious. Honest. Joyful. Expert. Confident. Artistic. Adventurous. Friendly. Light. Cheerful. Fighter.

As a parent, you want your children to be self-aware, to know how truly amazing they are. With Jack’s self portrait, I know that he sees in himself the same qualities I see him. And I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Happy birthday, Jack Rabbit!

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friday the 13th

I’m wicked superstitious.

I do not step on sidewalk cracks or pick up pennies that aren’t heads up. You won’t find me anywhere near the underbelly of a ladder. The number 13 is all the more ominous because its digits (1+ 3) equal my unlucky number 4. I don’t remember exactly when 4 took on that role in my life but 4s and multiples thereof are to be avoided. Well, except 12 because 1 + 2 = 3, which is my lucky number and has been since Steve Sax won Rookie of the Year in 1982.

Don’t even get me started on baseball. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 it was all due to an elaborate block building routine Jack and I had before the start of each game. Picture frames aligned on the mantle? Check. Lucky underwear? Check. Unlucky t-shirt? Chuck.

It was suggested I remain indoors today. I replied with, “you mean my house with the AC that malfunctioned just as temperatures soared north of 90?” In this same house where I retain ownership of a broken mirror (with about 3 of the 7 years bad luck worked off) in my bedroom because it’s possible (though unconfirmed) this is the same mirror my great grandmother peered at herself in everyday for 60+ years?

(Now that I think of it, maybe the broken mirror in my bedroom reflects what’s wrong with my sex life.)

In the spirit of progress, I have relaxed my position as it relates to black cats. I mean, I love cats. And one moved in down the street from me, so we had a little talk the other day, came to a mutual understanding, and she won’t cross my path if I don’t look at her with disdain.

As for addressing today, 2013 has been one giant Friday the 13th, so bring it on. My fingers are crossed everything will be fine.

9-11

I tested myself the other day. Can I think about 9-11 without my eyes tearing up?

The answer is no.

My personal story is not especially tragic. I didn’t lose a loved one. I didn’t spend many tension-filled hours anguishing over the fate of friends, family or colleagues. I wasn’t trapped in the rubble, waiting for rescue workers and did not give birth waiting to get into the ER. I even had the assurance that my loved ones outside of Washington, DC knew I was safe thanks to a hastily cobbled together phone tree.

I don’t need a never forget bumper sticker to remind me of 9-11. How could I ever forget the sense of fear, confusion, and panic, normal emotions on any given day for a 9-month pregnant woman about to have her first baby, suddenly on steroids that crisp blue-skied day when our world irrevocably changed.

Memories of 9-11 and my impending foray into motherhood are forever linked. I remember the lilac maternity shirt I was wearing as we evacuated the Senate. I remember the pressure of the contractions as I waddled to Brigid’s apartment and how I (successfully) willed them to stop. And as I watched with horror the footage from the day, I remember the impromptu speech Congressman Steny Hoyer made to an apartment full of young House and Senate staffers from different offices, different parties. I remember how I held my pregnant belly and took his words to heart.

I remember the moment when I realized the passengers of United Flight 93 saved my life and the life of my unborn baby.

It sounds trite to say that I feared what kind of world awaited my baby. Every mother worries about that. Just because my kid was born four days after September 11 doesn’t set me apart. Mothers about to give birth today have equally real and present dangers to fear, just as mothers have from the beginning of time.

But with the benefit of 12 years behind me, I can see that this is the kind of world my child was born into: a world where friends help each other, where a few kind words can sustain you for the day, where opportunity abounds and freedom reigns. We might not always agree with our government and the decisions it makes, but we can express our frustrations at the ballot box. We are more tuned in to unattended packages on the metro, suspicious looking envelopes and what we pack in our carry-on bags. The world is markedly different than it was on September 10, 2001. But it’s the only world my son knows and as he grows, hopefully he will continue to make it a better place, as he has done for me every day since September 11, 2001, when really what he filled me with was not fear but hope.