Friday, December 31, 2021

2021: Year in Review

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

 1. What did you do in 2021 that you'd never done before?

* published a book
* took tennis lessons
* vacationed in Michigan
* traveled to Milwaukee
* went to Disney World without kids (work trip)

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I love new year's resolutions, even if I don't keep them all! I'm not feeling super motivated this year, so we'll see if that changes. 

Last year's resolutions (with current commentary in italics):

* daily yoga (even if it's one downward dog)
Not quite daily... But definitely most days. I did really well for a while, fell off for a bit at the start of the school year, got back on the wagon, dropped off around Thanksgiving. But I am more stronger and more flexible than I was a year ago, and I credit that to more days doing yoga than not doing it.
* no new clothes for me until June
Nope. I definitely bought clothes. But mostly of the gently used/consignment variety, which I'm trying to be better about.
* more veggies
Hmmm. I forgot about this one and didn't really track it. I did really well with green smoothies when the weather was warm, but when romaine lettuce got sad looking at the store, I fell off the wagon. We tend to do the same veggies (we all like broccoli!) but I should probably kick this up a notch.
* boost savings account
Yes... boosted it, then used it, then boosted it some more. Lots of short term savings that I want to continue to amp up... I'd like to take a vacation and renovate our bathroom.
* buy used/local
Yes, but I want to do more of this as well. 
* revise novel
Ongoing process, but getting closer to completion, thanks in large part to my amazing and supportive writer's circle of Academic Mamas Writing Fiction. How does one do anything without a network of supportive women friends? 
* involvement in equity work at kids' school
This is ongoing. I'm not sure how effective I am, but I will continue involvement, especially as school board elections are approaching.
* read 65 books

Resolutions for 2022
I'm still pondering these. This is the first year I'm not really feeling resolutions. I kind of know what's working (yes, I should continue to do yoga & get back to drinking more green smoothies) and what's not (doomscrolling) but it's hard to feel motivated or resolved toward self-improvement when the changes I most want to see are outside my control (global warming & pandemic). Still, I suppose that controlling what I can is helpful and I do want to make measurable progress on my novel & be purposeful in some other areas. So I'll keep thinking & maybe post an update on this later.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister-in-law, JoAnna, had her third baby, my niece Turing, who is the chillest, happiest, most delightful baby.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. In addition to our beloved pup, Cooper, we lost my grandfather on my dad's side and both of my mom's brothers. I also have friends and coworkers who are mourning grandparents, parents, spouses, and pets. It was a rough year for loss. 

5. What countries did you visit?
If you count drinking my way around the world on a work trip to Orlando that included an evening in Epcot, I really traveled! In real life, we did not leave the U.S., but I did make it (masked & vaxxed) to Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Florida.

6. What would you like to have in 2022 that you lacked in 2021?
The end of this f&$%ing pandemic.

7. What events from 2021 will remained etched upon your memory?
Our summer vacation, vaccinations for the kids giving me some relief (pre-omicron), email responses from people who read my book & that time my parents took 5 grandkids (ages 9, 7, 4, 3, and 2) on the Polar Express train ride and on their return from the "North Pole," there was a car stuck on the tracks, which meant they got stuck on the train for 2 hours.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Publishing my memoir about Eliza. I wrote about how I felt a little let down or embarrassed to self-publish it, but I am proud of what it contains, and proud of myself for forging ahead with it and realizing that it wasn't about the recognition of a traditional publisher. I'm awed (and a little heartachy) by the way it continues to have steady sales. Most of all, I'm humbled and honored by the responses that I've gotten and so grateful that I had the capacity and most of all the support & encouragement to do this in memory of my Baby Duck. 

9. What was your biggest failure?
Probably parenting related, but nothing enormous stands out. Just the ordinary day to day failures of oversleeping, losing my temper, etc. Maybe the time we went out to of town for several days and I laid out all of Gee's outfits and then left them on her dresser, not packing a single thing for her.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I woke one night with the worst pain I've ever experienced in my foot (and I've had natural labor without pain killers four times). I was sure when I pulled my foot out from under the covers it was going to be black and blue and would require surgery from some bizarre injury or internal bleeding. Instead it looked completely normal, but it hurt worse than anything. I think I was suffering from nerve pain. It kept me up for a few hours despite taking ibuprofen and then I finally dozed off. When I woke in the morning, it was sore but not excruciating. It's been fine ever since. WTH??? Fortunately I have otherwise remained healthy and free from injury.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Kate Baer's poetry books, a Plum Paper planner, Aerosole driving mocs, and an Ethan Allen chair from FB marketplace (why yes, I am living like a rock star, aren't I?)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
* governor of Kentucky
* my daughters' teachers who are amazing
* everyone navigating this pandemic without being an A-hole
* my spouse, per usual, especially for carrying on while I had an unusual number of nights away from home this fall

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Insurrectionists at the capitol on January 6, anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, pandemic-deniers, people banning books and those trying to create a stir over so-called critical race theory in schools. 

14. Where did most of your money go?
childcare, groceries & (finally and happily) extracurricular activities!

15. What did you get really excited about?
thinking in June that the pandemic was ending, girls' weekend with college friends in Columbia, writing retreat in Iowa with my friend Julie 

16. What song will always remind you of 2021?
sad girl autumn songs--Taylor, Adele, Brandi & also Olivia Rodrigo

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? happier
thinner or fatter?  NO LONGER ANSWERING THIS QUESTION BECAUSE ITS IRRELEVANT... as I tell my kids, the way you look is the least interesting thing about you.
richer or poorer? breaking even?

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
seeing my grandpa before he passed away

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
laundry (why is there sooooo much laundry?)

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At home with my parents and MIL. It was a rough Christmas Eve--one kid had a big meltdown and I got mad at D for how he handled it (or didn't). But we had a nice Christmas. Girls loved their hover board & weather was unseasonably warm. 

21. Did you fall in love in 2021?
with Baby Turing, showering at night, and Iowa City (on an away-game weekend in early November). Also with Gee saying, "I want to hold you" or "I need snuggle you" when she wants to be picked up. 

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Sex Lives of College Girls. Mindy Kaling is a genius.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I wouldn't say hate, but I would say a good handful of people really bummed me out. A lot of them are elected officials.

24. What was the best book you read?

Top 5: 
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
The Guide by Peter Heller 
The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

In nonfiction, The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee was the most important and eye-opening book I read in 2021. 

I also loved two memoirs: 
Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile (definitely do this one on audio) 
Lady in Waiting: My Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner (do this one to assure yourself that being part of the British aristocracy is actually a nightmare)

Honorable mentions go to these fantastic page turners, all of which I would highly recommend):
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (endearing octogenarians solve mysteries!)
Who is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews (kept me guessing & tore through it in a weekend!)
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (not my typical genre, but I was completely absorbed)
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (I really, really loved this book club read)
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman (super fun thriller--great on audio)
and The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (because I'm a sucker for a good Jane Eyre re-imagined)

25. What was your favorite musical discovery?
Taylor's re-release of "All Too Well" was all the angst I needed to express in 2021, and Adele's new album + Brandi Carlile's new album are perfection. Leslie Odom Jr.'s Christmas album is also wonderful.

26. What did you want and get?
a summer vacation with my family

27. What did you want and not get?
the pandemic to be over (just like last year)

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Promising Young Woman -- I watched very few films this year, but this one was a mind-blower. Really dark, though.
side note: I look nothing like Carey Mulligan, but I would still want her to play me in a movie about my life.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 41 and it was unremarkable? We went to dinner and the kids were ill-behaved. The next day we left for Indiana to visit family. I have made a conscious decision not to get into an existential funk about my age, but also to invest in a quality skincare regime. 

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

An end to this pandemic. COME ON ALREADY.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2021?
Skinny jeans are the new uncool mom jeans and I can't wrap my head around it except to acknowledge that I am officially super old because I can't believe the jeans these college kids are wearing lolololol but for real they are hideous. So I guess my personal fashion concept is uncool mom who prefers soft stretchy pants anyway.

32. What kept you sane?
Marco Polo, text threads, book club, writers circle, (so basically, female friendships) + teamwork with David + weekend visits from my parents + snuggles with my kids + working at a university that is actively invested in protecting faculty, students & community from Covid-19

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Kamala Harris, Andy Beshears, Laurel Bristow on IG

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
I mean, if we're ranking them, it's got to be the attempted government coup endorsed by ousted president, Donald Trump. Pretty alarming.

35. Who did you miss?
Still missing my friends from my old job. My Bubba, Cooper. And of course Eliza, who would be eleven and in fifth grade this year.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
My writers circle! Angie, Jenni, Margaret & Raechel. 

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021.
2021 taught me to just do the things and figure it out--self-publish the book, sign up for the tennis lessons. It taught me that I will get so much more reading done if I embrace listening to audio books (hot tip: I listen in the bathroom while I shower/get ready). 

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
From "The Story" by Brandi Carlile:

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But those stories don't mean anything 
When you've got no one to tell them to, 
it's true
I was made for you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Cards & Envelopes

Photo by Ranurte on Unsplash

A woman named Brooke Styche posts on Instagram as @almosteverydaypoetry and I love what she writes. 

She recently posted a poem that took my breath away, that took me right back to December 2010:

The stack of Christmas and sympathy cards on the table
wishing us a merry
a sorry for,
sending us comfort
and joy--

I hang holidays on the ribbon in the kitchen,
want to tuck heartache in a drawer
for after gifts and stockings,
for after what should be--

but in their envelopes, I cannot tell them apart.

I remember wanting desperately in the midst of my blackest grief for everything to go back to normal. I couldn't possibly have a normal Christmas. I couldn't possibly feel like celebrating anything at all. But I wanted to feel that way, and I was afraid I'd never, ever feel that way again.

I still haven't learned how to tuck heartache in a drawer, how to fully compartmentalize happiness and sadness in separate spaces. I think the trick is to let them mingle, to know that the only flavor that tells you you're alive is bittersweetness.

I don't think there's anyway I could have known how life keeps growing around pain, if you let it. How love fills in so much of the hurt, while still always leaving a place for the one who is missing.


Today is my friend Julie's daughter Anna's birthday. I don't feel like I should write about other people's stories, but Julie posted photos on Instagram today, of her pregnancy, and of Anna, that were so beautiful they took my breath away. 

I look at Julie's photos, at the delight in her pregnancy and the devastation after, and I am confident of one thing: If love were enough to keep these babies alive, they'd be here with us.


I was thinking a lot about Sandy Hook yesterday. I could write about gun control and fear and post a gorgeous Kate Baer poem about what it feels like to send your babies to school in a country that thinks owning guns is more important than protecting children, but I was also thinking about how any day is someone's worst day. How each morning, we can't tell by the outside of the envelope what kind of day is opening. 

How terrifying it is to love so much and be so vulnerable. To know that our children go out in this world and all we want is for them to live their best lives and also please, please don't concuss yourself on a park bench while sledding or fracture your spine slipping off the uneven bars or breathe in this virus that won' t go away or step out in front of that car going way too fast in a residential neighborhood. 

If love were enough to keep them safe, they'd all be here with us.


I'm wishing all of us comfort. And joy where we can find it. May all your envelopes hold holiday cards. 

Sunday, December 5, 2021


It’s an odd thing to celebrate a birthday of a boy who no longer lives. But I suppose it is no odder than loving a child who is simply a memory. - Redneck Mommy website

I'll remember you, Eliza.  In eleven years, in eleventy-hundred.  And I'll love you forever.  It's just what mommies do.

In January of 2012, I started the draft of a blog post that was inspired by a post written by Tanis Miller. At that time, her blog was called Redneck Mommy and she wrote about her son's eleventh birthday. I saved the link to that blog post, and that line with which it started. I remember being really struck with the idea of "loving a child who is simply a memory." I copied the link and then I wrote those few sentences, a promise to my girl. I wish I'd copied & pasted the rest of the post because the last few weeks I've been thinking about it. I remembered--nearly ten years later--that it was so meaningful to me, that I wanted to go back to it and see if I felt the same in ten years, when I was celebrating (is that the word for it?) Eliza's eleventh birthday.

But the post isn't there anymore. The blog has archives but they only go back to February 2013. I don't know why. Sometimes things feel too tender for this world, and maybe that post was one of them.

Photo by Timothée Duran on Unsplash    

On her birthday, I feel too tender for this world. Nudge me ever so slightly and my tears will spill over. It's a day like any other but of course it's a day like no other in my life.

Any day is a day without her, and I've already had a thousand days. 4,015, to be exact (or not exact, because I'm not figuring in leap years). And yet this is the day where my throat feels tight and my temper feels short and my heart feels heavy. This is where I want a wish that comes true without undoing all my other wishes that have come true. This is where I want just one more thing--one more girl--to make everything complete. Except, again, it's not just a day. It's always and every day.

Maybe this is just the day that I give myself permission to bring that longing up to the surface, to look it in the face and to remember--as long as I can stand it--how painful it is to rip yourself apart to bring a baby into this world, knowing that baby has already been ripped away from you. 

How did I survive? How does any of us?

I think people don't talk enough about how tedious grief is. How many times can we rehash the same sorrow? But the other thing about losing a child is that the grief is always new. Tonight, I miss a ten-year-old. Tomorrow, I'll be missing an eleven-year-old. And when I say I'm missing her, I mean, she was here and now she's gone. I felt her skin and bones. I wiped blood from her nose. I held her tiny little body. I have her footprints. I can provide physical evidence, not just that unreliable eye witness testimony. She was here and now she's gone and those facts don't change in eleven years.

I've been thinking about eleven.

Eleven is the year you get your letter from Hogwarts.

Eleven & Eliza are alliterative.

Eleven is the last year of elementary school. 

Eleven is little, but also big. When I was little, my friend Erin and I would dress up and play pretend and we would always say, "And pretend we're twelve" because to a couple of seven-year-olds, twelve was glamorous and grown. Even when you're seven, you know that eleven is still little. It's just on the cusp of everything that comes next, and wouldn't I love to see what that would be for her.

I wrote a book called Unimaginable about a baby I've spent eleven years imagining. But maybe eleven is unimaginable to me.

My friend Monica and I got to know each other in middle school, although we didn't really become friends until high school. She says that she can imagine Eliza at eleven because she knew me at that age. I don't trust myself to imagine her at eleven, although once when I was collaging in a journal, I cut out a little girl in a Tommy Hilfiger ad who had on sunglasses. Somehow, I was convinced she looked like a preteen Eliza. Is that what eleven might have looked like? Confident and cheeky, with shiny brown hair?

I study her sisters--a brown eyed girl, a green eyed girl, a blue eyed girl, light brown hair, medium brown hair, blonde hair, and I wonder who looks most like Eliza. Who acts most like Eliza? How would she be different from three variations on this genetic combo? It baffles me the way they look and act so much and so little like me and like each other. They are each so fiercely themselves. What clues can they give me about who Eliza would and wouldn't be? I wish I knew. 

That's the heart of it, right? That's why grief might be tedious but never gets old. I'll always wish I knew her and everyday she would have been someone a little bit different. I miss every age, every stage, every moment.

That paradox of grief: it's constant and constantly changing, shifting, sliding, slicing, soothing. The love, though. That's the same. 

Ten years ago, when I tried to imagine what the eleventh birthday would feel like, I couldn't see any of the details. But I knew then I'd love her forever and of course I was right about that.

So here's to eleven years without you, my beautiful missing girl. My winter baby. My favorite name. My first child. My almost dream come true. My most joyful pregnancy. My greatest sorrow is not knowing who you would be today. 

Eleven years ago, I never could have believed I'd make my way to this full and happy life, but the root of the root (and the bud of the bud) is that part of what fills up this life is the space my heart keeps just for you. 

Eleven years, always & forever.

Monday, November 29, 2021

What To Say?

 Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

I got an email the other day from someone who read the blog and just wanted to check on us. They noted I hadn't posted anything in... months. 

I miss this space in so many ways--I've been printed my archives in one-year volumes which are HUGE (like 250+ pages) and so, so dear in the way they trace my grief and then the babyhood of Zuzu and Coco. I feel guilty for not publicly journaling Gee in the same way, and yet the public side of the blog is what cuts both ways. Like many bloggers, I have felt a need to turn inward and not share so much, but I HATE when my favorite bloggers have done this because I love their voices and seeing their kids and it's all such a bummer that the internet can be a sucky place. At the same time, the community on this blog quite literally saved me in my darkest days, and that's just not there with blogs anymore. Engagement doesn't really happen in blog comments--definitely not the way it used to--and it feels even more navel-gazing than usual to blog out to nobody. 

So I post on Instagram mostly, but it's a personal account, not a babyloss account, and I keep it private because it's just photos of my kids and sharing memes I think are funny or posts that provoke my political outrage. 

I've actually been doing a lot of writing this year, post-publication of my Eliza memoir, but I'm working on a novel--a murder mystery work of fiction that I'm having fun with even though writing a novel is, like, really super hard!

So I've hesitated to return here to post... anything. Do I want a dramatic good-bye post? But what if I want to come back? How do I even begin to write a post knowing it would be the final blog post? I hate endings and good-byes. I don't know. I think that pressure--combined with the weirdness of writing into a void instead of entering a conversation in the comments--has kept me away or posting elsewhere, even when I've had thoughts I'd like to write out in blog form.

This is not a conclusion, but I guess it's a placeholder. I don't plan to blog as much going forward, and I appreciate that there are a few people who still would read here and miss it! I am so incredibly grateful for everyone who read hundreds of posts over more than a decade of blogging. I'm not sure I'm finished, but I'm also putting energy into other things right now. Blogging isn't the same anymore, and that's okay, too. What will never change is how thankful I am that this corner of the internet exists, that people read it and wrote "me too" in the comments, that it connected me to lifelong friends and convinced me that all over the world there are grieving people who are still going around being good and kind and generous. And I hope that I can be one of them.

Whatever comes next, I will keep you posted here. I can assure you that my little family is doing okay and most days I feel like the luckiest unlucky person who ever lived. Eliza's 11th birthday is approaching and I won't be surprised if I need to process some feelings here, too. 


Friday, February 12, 2021

Unimaginable: Life After Baby Loss

It's here! My book is now available on Amazon in paperback or ebook format. It is ONLY here because of the connections and friendships and comments and encouragement I got from folks reading this blog. What an enormous gift it has been. I don't know how I would have survived without it. 

You can order the book here. (!!!!!!!!)

I dedicated the book to Eliza, but blog readers are #1 in my list of acknowledgments. The internet sure can be an ugly place, but this little corner of it has been so, so good to me. Thank you! I hope you'll read the book and let me know what you think. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Blast from the Past: Ms. B Returns with Some Advice on An Un-Lovely Neighbor

I haven't done a Ms. B advice column in years, mostly because I started to feel woefully unqualified to offer actual advice (I don't knoooooow, everything is so nuanced! This feels too hard!). Also fewer people started asking me for advice on this blog, so that made it easy to stop offering it. Lol. BUT a blog reader (they still exist!) wrote in with a question that I'm going to do my best to respond:

Hi, I know you don't do your Ms B advice column anymore but I wonder if you could revive it (even here in the comments?) one last time. I had a neighbor say that she didn't believe that people who couldn't have babies should be able to have 'lab babies'. My child is a baby born thanks to IVF and she knows this. What do I do? How do I continue to be civil go this person? Should I even try? She has two children close in age to my child, and my child likes playing with them. I need advice, and I don't know who else to ask. (You can feel free to not post this question and answer this anonymously, if you like - if you do choose to answer it. Thank you if you do!) - Anonymous

Photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash

Dear Anonymous,

So I confess that I outsourced this question to my best friend whose two darling babies were conceived via IVF and her response was (and I quote): "What. The. Actual. F#$%?!" She then followed that up with, "Does she want to maintain this relationship?"

So we'll start there. Actually, let's start by saying that the neighbor was way, way out of line. Being entitled to an opinion is not the equivalent of having the right to say to a neighbor that you think their child should never have been born. I'm sorry that you had to hear that, and I know it had to be unbelievably hurtful.

Back to the question: Do you want to have any kind of relationship with this neighbor and, if so, what kind of relationship would that be? It seems like it would be hard to be more than cordial with someone who would say that to you, so I'm guessing you're not looking to build a real friendship. Can you avoid her and still let your children play together? Are you comfortable letting your child play in her house/yard without being there? 

Next question: Would you rather put on a thin veneer of politeness and never confront her about this statement, or are you just looking for the right words?

We're all pretty well socialized on how to seethe silently and never confront someone, so if that's what you choose, I'll just say that you're not wrong to prioritize keeping the peace for the sake of your child or for your own mental health if the idea of confrontation really stresses you out. It might not be worth it. As long as I was confident the neighbor would never say something hurtful directly to my child, I don't think I would try to put limits on the friendships with her kids. And for that reason, I can see the benefit of just avoiding her as much as possible but keeping things peaceful so that the kids can still play.

However, her opinion is likely never to change if she's never asked to reflect on it. If you decide to have a conversation with her, I would imagine starting with something like this:

"You know, you made a comment a while back that has really been bothering me, and I wanted to make sure I understood what you said." Or "You said something a while back that I can't stop thinking about, and I'm not sure you realized how hurtful it could be."

Presumably she'll look shocked and ask you to say more, and then you can say, "When you said that you don't think people who aren't able to have kids should not be able to have 'lab babies,' are you talking about children who are born through IVF?"

Pause to let her talk... and I have no way of knowing how this might go. She might talk about religious beliefs, in which case you'll have to say firmly, "Well, we obviously have very different opinions on this issue but I'll pray for you" and leave it at that. Or she might try to explain it in some other way. Best case scenario, she apologizes! If not, you can listen and then say, "You are aware that we were able to have [child's name] because of the miracle of IVF?" and see if she has further comment. 

If she doubles down, then you know she is unkind and pretty toxic and you want to avoid her. You can close the conversation by saying something like, "I think it is easy for you to have those opinions because this has never been your personal struggle. I'm grateful every day for my child." And then walk away.

If she seems open to a conversation and you feel like sharing, you could talk more about your experience with infertility, or the issue of infertility more broadly and see if you can get to a clearer understanding or educate her about how to be a little more empathetic. It's possible that she has never deeply reflected on what her statement actually means or how it would impact people that she actually knows. (It's easy to make sweeping statements, but it's much harder to be hateful up close.)

The other thing you can do is to write a letter or email, starting it the same way you might a conversation, but without having to wait for her to respond. You can restate what she said and explain how it made you feel. This leaves open three outcomes:

- She confronts you and is unapologetic or she tries to offer context but stands by her statement.
- She apologizes.
- She avoids you forever.

But at least you'll get to say your piece and she'll know where you stand. 

Once again, I'm sorry you had to hear someone say that. I'm so grateful for IVF as it has created some of the coolest kids I know. Celebrate your miracle kiddo and know that the opinions of your neighbor can never diminish the value and sparkle that your child brings to the world. 

Ms. B

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Disconnected Thoughts

So remember how last week I was like, "Probably my book will be available this weekend!" 

Womp-womp. Not so much.

Here's the thing: I'm working with a company helping me do cover design and page layout. I chose to do this because I want the end product to really look and feel polished and professional. After everything I put into the pages, I want it to not look crappy, you know? But that means that they send me something and I ask for a change and they make the change and then I approve the change and even the smallest changes can take a whole business day in terms of the back and forth email exchange. So it's just a whole process and everything takes so much longer than I think it will. I had to approve the interior pages, the e-book cover, and now the paperback cover. It's all coming together and I'm really excited, but I also want to make sure I'm not missing something that will have me kicking myself later.

(Although I think it was Jen Hatmaker who got Glennon Doyle to write a forward for her new book and then her publisher accidentally printed the whole first run of the book with NO FORWARD INCLUDED even though it said "foward by Glennon Doyle" on the cover and that is a true publishing disaster and yet Jen is doing just fine, so her story gives me hope.)

Anyway, let's just say the book continues to be forthcoming (AS FAST AS POSSIBLE, I SWEAR!) and I will keep you posted.

# # #

Photo by Matthew Bornhorst on Unsplash

It's Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil apparently saw his shadow, which is not the news we need right now. When I told the girls that the groundhog predicted 6 more weeks of winter, Zuzu replied, "Well, I don't really trust that dude." 

I appreciate the health skepticism. The sun is shining today and that's helping my mood immensely.

# # # 

Meanwhile, I read this article about historians doing work on Alexander Hamilton and then I had so many thoughts about it that I wrote a multi-paragraph Facebook post and the comments were CIVIL and thoughtful and I didn't regret posting it, so there's a FB miracle for you. Here are my thoughts on this article.

Something I think about a lot is how to be a fan of things that are also partly terrible. And I don't just mean Emily in Paris (although, yes, that). There are things I really loved as a kid that no longer sit well with me. Some I think merit discussion, even though the shine has worn off (Little House on the Prairie books) and others I'll never read or watch again (Gone With the Wind is just too horrible, even though that scene of Scarlett and the Tartleton boys is a visual delight). It's harder and less pleasant to have a complicated and nuanced perspective--I loved GWTW as a kid until I realized how gross it is in its depiction of slavery. I read Chernow's book on Alexander Hamilton and I was definitely not alone in falling in love with Lin Manuel Miranda's musical. So now that historical documents show that Hamilton was not an abolitionist but an enslaver, does that change things? 

Yes. And no. Yes--Hamilton is not a hero. He was already a cheater and a liar though, so I've been on #teameliza from the start. LMM is still brilliant and the musical is still wonderful in other ways (but not perfect--it doesn't pass the Bechdel test, so that's important, too.) 

I guess my point is that it's sad and hard for be disappointed by the people (and movies and musicals) that we love. Sometimes that means avoiding them as we go forward. Other times it just means having a conversation about these important problems and not shying away from confronting them. (Game of Thrones is too rapey and I can't even begin to unpack Sex and the City here, but let's watch and analyze them because they are great TV even though they are problematic.) 

It's unpleasant to learn that the founding fathers so many of us were taught to revere (haha see what I did there?) were actually smaller, more flawed, and less moral than we thought. It would be better if this country were built on men who lived what they preached about morality and equality and liberty for all. But we own up to reality so we can improve on it. We acknowledge that George Washington, a great leader in many ways, also did the unforgivable in enslaving people and not freeing them even upon his death. We acknowledge that Hamilton was brilliant (and, apparently, quite good looking) and also he made choices that cannot be justified or excused--not just cheating on his wife, but, according to historical evidence, enslaving human beings.

We don't want our heroes to be flawed, but all the real ones are. We can't expect them to atone for their mistakes because they're dead, and maybe we give them a little grace for the context of time and space (not that much, though, because there were men in the 1700s and 1800s who fought against slavery and remained faithful to their wives... it's not THAT hard). 

It's important to reckon with the truth of our flawed history so we can make the future better. Historical footnotes don't mean everything Hamilton did was garbage. It means he was selfish and inconsistent and ego-driven. And who among us isn't? So maybe he didn't deserve the glorious musical LMM gave him, but what a gift that was to us and to theatre (a musical which, again, can be problematic and still awesome).

This is literally the longest thing I've ever written on FB so I'll just assume everyone has stopped reading by now and I'll say that we we shouldn't pretend not to see what's there, even if we honestly didn't notice it at first. We can appreciate imperfect art and we can acknowledge the gifts of imperfect men while also calling them out so that the whole story is told, including the names of individuals whom history has tried to erase. (Also you should read this article which made me think all these things first thing on a Monday morning.)

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Also I wrote about grief and yoga for Sharing Magazine and that article is up. 

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My to-do list is calling persistently, but I just wanted to drop a quick book update. Will tell you more as soon as there is more to tell. xoxo

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Independent Publishing & Imposter Syndrome

I've been thinking about imposter syndrome. My friend Samantha, who has been my biggest cheerleader and best source of advice for this project/process of publishing my book, was asking about the release date. She's ready to celebrate this book going out in the world and I was like, "Oh... should I post about it on social media?"

On the one hand, I'm really proud of having written a book, having written out the whole story and done the best I could to wrestle feelings of grief and total loss into words that didn't just show up in a blog post, but fit together in a larger narrative that has a beginning and a middle and ends by looking forward. Grief isn't linear, but you've got to find some way to tell the story, right? 

But on the other hand, I'm feeling a lot of imposter syndrome about celebrating the "publication" of a book that isn't being traditionally published. 

I know intellectually that this is silly. I know that the publishing industry is structured to work for capitalism, not to really reward/recognize talent. I've read (or at least started) plenty of traditionally published books that weren't that great. Also, I know a few people who have published independently and I consider them "real" writers and I absolutely respect their work. (Samantha, Heather Fleming, and Kristann Monghan all come to mind.)

I think that having spent years in grad school, published a few articles in academic journals, and worked in a profession where "publish or perish" is still very real, the idea of putting work out there without it being peer reviewed by a committee and approved by an editor feels almost like... cheating? Like I'm putting the book out there as though it is good and worth reading even though no Person of Authority has told me it is.

Who is this Person of Authority? What kind of gold star or pat on the back am I looking for her? This is nonsense! 

I am still firm on my reasons for not going further to seek traditional publishing--namely, that I am not interested in building an online platform/public personality. Traditional publishing is unlike to take my book because I'm not a public figure and my topic is very, very niche. I understand this, I am fine with this, and yet I do think it's important to make my book available for that small audience who might need it/want it/appreciate it. So logically, it still all makes sense to me.

Emotionally, I've had a little bit of flailing. Still not sure whose judgment I'm afraid of! Maybe friends who have published traditionally? But... they are very nice people who also understand the market-driven formulations of traditional publishing and are quite likely to understand this decision as well. I really think this is just a monster who lives inside my head and whispers that not publishing traditionally is the same as not being good enough instead of saying independent publishing is actually the best choice for this book, given all the realities of this particular situation.

The truth is that people will read it or they won't and whatever happens, the stakes are actually not that high? I want to honor Eliza and how much I love her and how much she means to me. But also I could never write something good enough to do her justice, you know? 

Despite my emotional entanglement, I'm ready to put this book out into the world. I think my struggle is about sharing and celebrating it, as though the only thing I'm allowed to celebrate is approval from other people? Do I really think that is true?

Important lesson: If I would not teach my daughters to believe that the only accomplishments worth celebrating are those that earn approval from others, then I should not believe that for myself.

So I'm taking the leap and celebrating it. Just like Zuzu in this photo:

I'm taking the final steps today to make this thing go live and I'm hoping it will happen in the next 24-48 hours. 

Now that I've brain dumped some anxiety, I can get back work! Will update as soon as there is a firm release date/time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

New Year, Same Old Story

Let's talk about this book project, shall we?

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

I submitted the final manuscript for formatting back before Christmas. My hope was to get it all done by the end of the year, but with my designer/formatting being closed over the holidays, it didn't happen. Then I wanted one more round of proofreading edits, and my AMAZING friends Samantha and Kate helped me out with that process. I am the WOrST copyeditor of my own writing (as those of you who have been reading here for a while undoubtedly know, hahaha). My brain just reads what I intended, not what I actually wrote. I am eternally grateful to those who line-edited this final copy. I now have an official ISBN number (is that redundant? does the N stand for number?) so woot-woot! It's getting real. 

My understanding from other independent authors is that reviews on Amazon are a big help in terms of not just selling the book but establishing it as legitimate, you know what I mean? So I am putting this out there as my major request--if you read the book and feel compelled to leave a review, I would really, really appreciate it. 

I hope it goes without saying that I do not have huge sales goals for this book--in fact, as I imagine most of the people who find it will be seeking it out intentionally because of a personal loss, big sale numbers feel kind of sad. But it is my hope that it becomes a book that gets circled and recommended in grief support groups--informal as well as formal--and can even accompany writers like Elizabeth McCracken and Kate Inglis, whose words made me feel less alone in those dark, early days. 

I've had plenty of crises of confidence in this process, and the thought that I should just drop the whole thing all together--too big a hassle! Who am I to put this out there and think people should read what I've written? But I keep reminding myself that while I am telling a story that has been told (and been told really well) already, I am also telling it in a different voice and my voice might resonate with some people who don't connect as much with other authors, for whatever reason. Plus, I've worked really hard on this. It's been hours and hours of time spent trying to wrestle the most difficult feelings of my life into words on the screen, and while blood and sweat have thankfully been relatively limited, plenty of tears have been shed in this process for sure. In that way, it's been really cathartic, and while I still feel like Eliza's story is unfinished, I'm glad to wrap up this chapter in a book.

I will post an update as soon as I know that it's gone live on Amazon. I'm just waiting on final details and me figuring out the process of uploading it and getting it listed--and then my understanding is that it may take a day or two for Amazon to process it so that it's available for purchase. It will be available in paperback or ebook form. Oh--and the official title: Unimaginable: Life after baby loss.

I really, really want to post a picture of the cover because it's awesome and it kind of makes me catch my breath and it was a whole process and I owe major thanks to the brilliant vision of my friend Caroline Hidalgo, who basically told me what to put on it. But I am going to save it for the big reveal post, which I HOPE will be later this week. Please stay tuned! 

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Oh, and just a quick update for those of you who enjoy stories about my other baby ducks:

Zuzu had virtual school yesterday. She was logged on for her math lesson when I started a meeting at 10am. When I got out of that meeting at 11:45, she was watching YouTube videos and had "lost track of time" and forgotten to login for reading and for art. We are still very much working on getting back into a routine here! And while keeping track of time is not her strength, her recall of plot and characters in Harry Potter is astounding. We're finally into book four and it's not too scary.

Coco had her first gymnastics meet ever. She was sooooo wired and excited about it. She worried about her beam routine in advance, and was so worked up about it a week in advance that we watched the video of the routine that her coach put on FB, wrote down each step/movement so I could remind her, and then she told me she wanted to practice it three times a day. She did exactly that, and she totally nailed it at the meet! (Which was masked, social-distanced, disinfected, and well-ventilated.) I reminded her on the way there that the most important thing was to have fun and she replied, "Mom, if I don't WIN, then it won't be FUN." (She's the competitive one, and we recently had to have a conversation with her about why it's not okay to ell, "Haha, suckers!" at David and Zuzu when she and I beat them at shuffleboard). Anyway, this was a "ribbon meet" so the emphasis was not on "winning"--each gymnast tried for her personal best score and got a white, red, or blue ribbon, but they weren't competing against each other. She was satisfied with her two red and two blue ribbons (a blue for the beam!) and had a great time.

Gee continues to be a wrecking ball and a sweetheart. She does a happy dance when she's reunited with her family, which is so adorable. She gives kisses and loves to say hi to anyone on a screen. She gets on the phone with my parents and screams to see my dad, "Bops!" and then insists on "More Bops!" if my mom tries to retrieve the phone. She did upset her sisters the other day when she put wet washcloths on their heads and they discovered that she was soaking the washcloths in the toilet in order to get them wet. She remains an excellent and voracious eater, easily polishing off as much pasta as her sisters and usually eating more than they do at mealtime. At 20 months old, she's easily filling out size 2T clothes and finally stringing words together to make sentences. 

And that's the latest here. Hope to have more updates on the book soon!