Washington, art, hospitality, etcetera

I’m currently on vacation on the coast of Washington, working on bits of my novel, reading a cutesy fiction novel called “The Cafe by the Sea” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” which I’ve only read snippets of in writing classes before this. Here’s my view:

Yes, I’m lucky and content.

Is it easier to make art when you live in art? I’ve been trying to squeeze as much writing in as possible with a busy itinerary and a needy toddler. This house is amazing. We gave up an entire day of what I had planned in downtown Seattle so we could just sit in the yard. There are snow-capped mountains in the distance despite it being July in the northern hemisphere. The sapphire waters of the Puget Sound are in constant movement before us. Tiny row boats that the residents use for setting and retrieving their crab pots bob in the water too, one per house, next to their weatherbeaten buoys. The beach grows and disappears with the tide, burgeoning with driftwood and half-eaten crabs and slimy green algae that Sam seems intent on tasting. It doesn’t smell salty here, just fresh and wild. Twice we’ve seen bald eagles divebomb a meal and fly off into the trees that wrap around a high bank just down where the coast starts to curve. Plus, the daylight lasts forever: it’s 9:00 pm and looks like what I’d think of, as a native southern Californian, about 6:00 pm, with the sun low on the horizon and painting it with a dash of orange, though it’s  not nearly sunset yet. Maybe a lot of writers live in Washington and England because they can be so productive in the summer sunlight. (And then get depressed in the cold and dark of the winter months, dreaming up the plots they’ll execute when there’s a true daytime again.)

So far, my experience makes me want to move here. I know that’s silly. My whole world is California, my job as well as the vast majority of my family and friends. I probably couldn’t handle snow, or at least, could never drive in it. But it just feels so right to have so much nature surrounding me. I can’t believe how much of my life is guided by the desire to see trees. It’s why I got so healthy and fit in Diamond Bar: I could take a walk through trees every day. With where we’re living now, there is literally no way to walk safely without solid daylight, no morning or evening walks because there are a trillion stop signs all around us. And we all know how much respect impatient drivers have for stop signs!

Anyway. Moving is unlikely. I’m just musing because I have enjoyed everything I’ve seen of Washington so far, Seattle and Camano Island and Everett.

We’re staying with my brother’s wife’s parents. Sort of family? Haha. We also stayed one night at one of my husband’s mom’s friend’s houses. So many complicated-but-not-really connections.

In both places, we have been fully welcomed, fully invited to do the “mi casa es su casa” dance, fully blown away by the beauty of hospitality. It makes me sad that I’m not rich, that we’re renting a tiny house instead of owners of a gorgeous multi-roomed home with a large backyard, an amazing view, and a farmer’s market-stocked pantry like we’ve been enjoying for the past few days.

It brings me back to a conversation (argument?) I had with one of my college roommates. She laid out how Christians should not have materials, should not be owners of things, that the son of man had no place to lay his head, getting to her overall point that too many Christians have large houses, which goes against Biblical principles.

However. She believed strongly that God would provide–was a missionary’s daughter–and had over and over again been hosted by Christian families with the space to do so because of their large houses. So how is that perspective sensible? I completely understand the dangers of being devoted to materialistic lifestyles. I know what the Bible says about possessions and our responsibilities. But hospitality is its own spectacular gift, and someone has to be the one to provide as Christ’s hands and feet when we trust that “God will provide.”

And yet I feel guilty for even the attempt to articulate this perspective, because it feels like I’m trying to justify materialism, with a slippery slope into greed. I want: I want a house with space to host guests, a huge kitchen to bake in, a safe backyard with a view for Sam to run around in and me to continue writing in. I wish I could extend this gift of hospitality I’m being granted to others, to take this experience and flip it around so I’m the one sharing the blessings.

But we’re simple people with un-fancy jobs and student loans. It doesn’t seem realistic to wish for a nice house with a pretty view. And we don’t need that stuff to be satisfied and joyful. We don’t need space to be hospitable.

On the plus side, these thoughts have overall motivated me to get my writing done–over a thousand words this evening, plus this blog post–only partially because of the gorgeous panorama of nature in front of me. There’s also that desperation to sell my novels and make some money so the house and hospitality might become reality rather than a dream.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but, it’s getting posted anyway. And I’m going to go read some more while the sky finally shifts into shades of blue.

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A short story

It’s summer: WRITING MODE, ENGAGED

I love the summer, and my ability to devote hours to writing. The problem is that I’ve been doing this for multiple summers in a row with nothing solid to show for it. I have about 7 different versions of my Copper novel, all with big gaps in the middle and other pacing issues and a dearth of imagery and UGH. Whenever I try to finish and revise my other novels, Copper always takes over my mind, so I know that I need to focus on it, that it’s my strongest and most coherent story, before any of my other ideas will be allowed to flourish.

With Sam, it’s been more difficult to immerse myself for hours. I get about an hour and a half, during his morning nap, to write with intent, and that’s it. By the time I actually begin, that really leaves an hour. It hasn’t been very effective (though some writing is better than none). But I’m not writing a first draft, I’m revising from the multitudes before this one, and I need more time.

TIME

TimeEnoughAtLast

Best Twilight Zone episode ever, amirite

All that to say this blog isn’t being updated regularly, because I don’t have much to update about. “I’m still writing. It’s still the fantasy novel Copper. It still sucks. I don’t want to post any scenes here.” etcetera

I’m going to try harder to get my short-form stuff on the blog so I feel productive in the midst of lonely noveling. Also tiny tangent I GET TO TEACH CREATIVE WRITING NEXT YEAR!!!! So I’d like to have a collection of things I can share with my students, potentially, since my novels aren’t ready.

In that vein, here’s a short story I wrote last year. It will not be one I share with my students, since many of them (bless their hearts) are pro-45, and this story is not. [But you’ve probably already found this blog, haven’t you, ya little stalkers? I admire your tenacity and request that you transfer this energy into your actual school work. Haha.] It’s inspired by Sally Yates–remember when we were SURPRISED that Drumpf fired her? And now we literally can’t keep up with the firings and resignations going on over there?–and the idea of mourning one’s career when it’s ended unfairly, too soon. I don’t like talking politics but it’s become super duper unavoidable these days. It’s not spectacular, but I had fun with it. Sometimes we need to channel our emotions into art, right?

I just call this one “January 2017.”

____________________________________

“You can’t hold a funeral for your career.”

“It’s a double funeral. One for my career and one for the country.”

Rory frowned at his friend. “You can’t do that either.”

“Yes, I can. It’s like the double wedding of Elizabeth and Jane at the end of Pride and Prejudice, except the lousy version, because they had two beginnings and I’m mourning two endings.” Annaliza took a deep draught of champagne and set the now-empty glass on the nearest surface, despite that being her expensive mahogany cabinet.

“You know, I never realized how dramatic you are, Ann. Who pays for an entire funeral for inanimate objects?”

Ann motioned him into the kitchen, where the catering staff were supplying refills on champagne. She picked up a new glass, the golden liquid catching the light, the cool glass beaded with condensation. Then she poked around at the fancy cheese and artisan bread plates the staff were putting together. Rory stayed quiet, hoping she’d continue to talk if he gave her the space.

It worked. She spoke through a chunk of cheese. “The severance pay feels… wrong. Evil. I don’t want a ‘sorry not sorry’ paycheck, I want my regular job and my regular salary. But I can’t have those, so I might as well spend a chunk of the blood money on something we’ll all enjoy.” A waiter swung open the kitchen door; a cursory glance through it revealed a still-empty home. “People are coming, right?”

“No way to tell. This is why most invitations include directions to RSVP,” Rory said drily. He slipped his phone from his pocket and began a new note in his Notes app, feeling the need to keep track of Annaliza’s alcohol intake throughout the day. This was her second glass before the 4:00 pm official funeral start time.

“I left that off on purpose; I couldn’t be bothered to answer my phone that many times. Remember when I used to live on my phone? Because of my career?”

“Yes, dearest.” He returned the phone to his pocket so he had both hands free to place on her shoulders. “But this is not the death of your phone, either.”

She brushed him off. “It may as well be. Every time I open it, it informs me of some new disaster.” She touched the pocket of her black dress, where a small lump hinted at her phone’s presence. “I mean, how could so many people find him worthy of running our country? He’s–he’s–” she trailed off, unable to put so many hot emotions into words with a tongue already twisted by champagne.

Rory finished the thought on her behalf. “An incompetent child, a raging lunatic, an idiot with no understanding of history or nuance or consequences–”

“–or reality,” she chimed in, “despite having started life as a reality TV star–”

“And yet quick to attack any non-politician who dares to question him while he panders to dangerously partisan citizens–”

“–outright racists, a lot of them, driven only by fear and misinformation–”

“With all kinds of hypocrisy about what being pro-life consists of, because it apparently doesn’t include education or healthcare or basic human rights–”

“Yeah, you’d better not be brown or have a pre-existing condition!”

The duo’s ranting was interrupted by a knock at the door.

“The guests await,” Annaliza said, raising her latest glass. “How does my hair look?”

“Impeccable as always,” Rory answered honestly. Her smooth brown locks were pulled back in a high ponytail. She’d kept her jewelry to a simple set of pearl earrings and necklace.

She grinned and sashayed toward the door to greet her fellow mourners.

Things were a blur for the next quarter of an hour as everyone arrived, decked out in black clothing, bearing bouquets rich with the cloying scent of rose.

Rory hung back to observe. Annaliza’s friends seemed to be in on the joke, which relieved him–he didn’t want to see Annaliza mocked, when she already had enough of an emotional burden riding on her shoulders. Their faces expressed genuine sorrow at what she’d been put through in the past week.

Slowly, everyone migrated into the living room, where Annaliza planned to give her speech. A shiny black coffin–she swore to Rory up and down that it was just a rental and wouldn’t cost much or actually be buried–took up most of the room. It was banked on either side by tall funeral sprays of white flowers, including roses, carnations, and–Rory racked his brain for the right term–babies breath? A strange flower name. The center of one spray held a photo of Annaliza’s former desk, piled high with organized papers, where she’d spent fifteen successful years. The other side bore a matching golden frame with a map of the United States within.

Three rows of folding chairs faced this display. The guests arrayed themselves here while Annaliza scooted a wooden podium across the floor.

She motioned him over. “I didn’t arrange to record this, because I didn’t think I’d want the memory. But you know what? I do. I have to embrace this brokenness and if I have a video of my rock bottom then it’s going to make my next peak that much sweeter.”

“All I’ve got is my phone.”

“Yeah, a fancy phone. That’ll do.” She kissed him on the cheek in thanks and straightened her dress. Rory took a seat in the back corner so he could pop up to record as soon as the shindig began. His friend made a loop of her guests, greeting those she’d missed upon entrance, before heading to the podium and retrieving her folded speech from her pocket. Rory headed into position.

Ann made eye contact with her guests in the rented, flimsy white chairs, and began.

“Thank you all for being here. My mourning is made easier knowing that you all stand here beside me, supporting me, believing that my career lived a long and happy life, murdered too soon by a crazed wannabe-dictator.” She gestured to the coffin beside her. “Here it lies, and shall never be resurrected.” She paused; Rory wondered if he should try to zoom in, to capture the emotions riding across her face.

“That career achieved a lot. It defended the Constitution, which–those of us who cracked open a history textbook back in our school days–know is the essential foundation of our democratic, independent country. It fought for the rights of every citizen, regardless of economic status, or skin color, or gender identity, or level of ability, because every single person matters, every single one has a right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ regardless of what anybody else believes or tweets. It required a lot of practice, hours, effort, reading, knowledge, critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, training, and more–and yet, look how quickly all of that can disappear, stripped away by one rich bully who disagrees with the Constitution.” She shook her head in disbelief. “The Constitution!”

She paused to compose herself. Rory caught her eye and provided an encouraging smile. She winked at him gratefully and kept on talking, with a swing of her hand toward the coffin once again.

“So in this funeral we grieve for our country, too. It isn’t quite dead and buried, but every day has brought a new threat to loom over us: the murder of the arts. The threatened murder of national parks, sacred reservation land, and even the institution of public education set up for us long ago by the Puritans who sailed over on the Mayflower. The strangling of all of the progress made for equality, that silly little principle that people deserve rights even if they aren’t white Christian males. The poisoning of our courts as the man who takes over this dead career begins to implement his racist, sexist beliefs over all the decisions that will follow, passed down from the supreme orange spitwad who gets, for some reason, to make decisions.”

Annaliza paused again and glanced around the room. “There’s more I could say. There’s always more any of us could say, as we list all the reasons that these deaths are so painful. But I don’t want to drag on what has been the worst week of my life. Let’s look toward the future and end on a note of hope before we eat all the lovely food I can smell wafting out of my kitchen.” She received a few appreciative chuckles for that. “So: keep resisting the changes that don’t make any sense. Keep reading everything that comes out from Washington–and maybe from Twitter–and be critical in your reviews of them. We need to be aware of the way everything is worded, look for every crack and potential avalanche that could result if we don’t prepare. Encourage the people in your life to vote, because getting this narcissist out of office is going to take a surprising amount of work. And, while we’re at it, you probably ought to cover your laptop camera when you aren’t actively using it.”

She paused long enough that Rory almost turned off his recording.

“Look, friends,” she said, breaking the silence, “it’s like a really long book you thought you were enjoying, that ends unhappily–Gone With the Wind, maybe. Have any of you read it? One thousand pages and she doesn’t even get the guy–but she ends with hope anyway. Because tomorrow is another day. That’s what I’m going to hold on to, too: the hope that comes with a new day, and friends, and the eventual, hard-earned triumph of good over evil.” She gave a half-curtsy and turned off the microphone to roaring applause and whistles.

 

“That was lovely, my dear.” Rory gave her a side-hug.

“Thanks. I’m famished.” She snuck a strawberry off a passing guest’s plate.

“We could tweet it to the pres, even.”

“Like he’d watch anything longer than two minutes. And that might be pushing it, if it’s not golf.”

Rory watched her devour the strawberry. She was handling it all far better than he’d expected, champagne and all. “I brought you a present,” he said. “I’ll show you, if you don’t mind leaving your guests for a moment.”

“They’ve got food and alcohol! Lead the way.”

The pair wove through the crowd, ending up at the inner door to Annaliza’s garage. “I hope you like it,” Rory said as he swung open the door.

She squealed with delight. He’d had a punching bag installed, which hung down from the ceiling. It was twirling slowly clockwise.

“I love it!” she said, and pulled him in a genuine embrace. “Now I can get buff while waiting for my job applications to gain traction.”

While she spoke, the bag continued to twirl, revealing the laminated, Alec-Baldwin-esque face Rory had pinned onto it.

Annaliza doubled over laughing.

“You’ll get really buff, eh?” Rory asked, and they returned in high spirits to her funeral party.

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Goodbye, 20s

Tonight is my final night of being 29. I’m heading into my 30s with a joyful son, a handsome husband, a clean house, a belly full of cucumber sandwiches and sticky toffee pudding from a cute high tea service in celebration of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding–okay, I know that’s ridiculous, there’s a lot of cruddy stuff in this world, why not celebrate the bright spots? In a lot of ways I’m terrified, but in other ways I’m excited… I’m definitely in better shape than Nick Carraway on his disastrous 30th birthday, when he believed “before [him] stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.”

I’d wanted to be–believed I could be–published before I hit 30. But that’s okay. I haven’t given up. I’ve still been writing, exploring my ideas, figuring out my revision style. And as a present to myself, I enrolled in a 10-week writing course (DIY MFA 101); I figure the cost, community, and commitment will help motivate me to get one of my manuscripts all the way finished. It begins tomorrow and will stretch through my entire summer (ah, the joy of being so close to the end of the school year… all my hope is returning… haha). So hopefully I’ll have more REAL news to share in this blog on a more regular basis.

On another note, I really miss the li.st app and how much it motivated me to write regularly. I was enjoying honing my humor skills there. I think I might practice more lists here, even if they don’t fit the usual tone.

Also, what’s with the rush of exclusively outlook.com email addresses following this blog recently? Are you all spam? Are you real? Hello? Kinda weird.

Three more hours until my birthday… in the past 10 years I lived in Oxford, met my best friend, graduated college, fell in love with Jeff, got married, got Benny Dog, purchased and practiced with my Canon, earned my teaching credential and Masters in Education, found a full-time teaching job, wrote a lot, read a lot, hiked a lot, bought a condo, had my perfect baby Sam, sold a condo, gained a random passionate hobby in baking donuts… and those are just the highlights! Thanks for all the good times, 20s.

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“Eliza and Her Monsters”

Okay, so: I bought this book on a whim last week because it was a $1.99 Kindle “Deal of the Day.”

Then I promptly ignored it because the latest Sarah J. Maas book (“Tower of Dawn”) just came out and I had hundreds of pages to get through. It was an emotional roller coaster–as her books often are–so when I finished it, I wanted something light-hearted to follow it up with, not the book “The Hate U Give” which a friend just lent me.

That’s what sent me into “Eliza and Her Monsters” yesterday… and I finished the entire thing before midnight.

It was ***SO GOOD*** and I had NO idea what a treat I was in for! My intention for this blog was never to stay limited to book reviews, but that’s what I have time for right now, and I want to spread the wealth and make sure as many people get to experience Francesca Zappia’s story as possible.

My non-spoiler-y summary: Eliza Mirk is an anxiety-ridden high school senior who also happens to be the (anonymous) creator of the incredibly popular webcomic, “Monstrous Seas.” She meets a boy who is a huge fan, and they hit it off, and suddenly her life-is-only-good-online beliefs are forced to broaden to include him. Of course, drama hits, and there’s reasons for tears and gasping, but it’s a satisfying ending.

What I loved: the slow burn of the love story elements read like another recent YA novel I stumbled into and adored, “When Dimple Met Rishi.” Eliza battles the inner monsters of depression, anxiety, and “impostor syndrome,” which I imagine many other introverts and artists can relate to. Her high school mindset is believable, while still including quirkiness (without hitting John Green-levels of “okay, we get it, you’re super freaking quirky).  Her webcomic, “Monstrous Seas,” is an AMAZING creative fantasy and as soon as I finished the book, I googled it to see if it’s a real webcomic or story, and it looks like the author is working on making that happen!!! This is also her second novel, so I’ll have to backtrack and read her first.

What was meh: there are some coincidences that made me roll my eyes a bit, but I loved the rest of the story enough to suspend my disbelief.

Obviously, if you’ve read Rainbow Rowell’s “Fangirl” you might be suspicious that this is a copy. While there are parallels, Eliza is totally her own woman and, as much as I loved Fangirl & Cather, I think Eliza is a slightly stronger story. (But both are worth reading!! And then you can read “Carry On”! What are you waiting for? There are books to be bought!)

It was really refreshing to have a novel I was so excited about that I could race through it in one day. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that opportunity. I hope everyone else who picks it up finds as much joy and authenticity in it as I did.

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I hate vague endings.

This post will contain spoilers for Lois Lowry’s classic “The Giver” as well as the two novels I read most recently, Gin Phillip’s “Fierce Kingdom” and Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves.” So if you don’t want any of those spoiled, get outta here…

 

Anyway, as per the title, I HATE VAGUE ENDINGS. I get their literary merit and the idea of leaving things up to the readers’ interpretation and all that CRAP. (haha). But I like answers! I like loose threads that get tied up! I like knowing when a character LIVES OR DIES!

My first experience with this, that I can remember at least, was with The Giver. Jonas saves the baby and sleds away from town, toward the sound of music, and… that’s it. Do they live? Do they make it to the next town where they can live a normal, color-filled life? Was it some weird metaphor for freezing to death and everything Jonas did was for nought???

After years of questions, Lowry ended up writing a follow-up book to confirm that they both lived. I don’t think it retroactively makes me more pleased with Giver’s ending, though. I would have preferred answers in the original text. Not even like a long denouement that showed the boys getting established in the town, just less ambiguity about whether it was life or death.

With Seveneves, the book takes place about 2/3 in the present and 1/3 in the future, with completely different characters. It was an abrupt shift that I struggled with, since I didn’t care about the new characters and wasn’t sure that any plot was happening. When they finally got a plot going again, rather than just “look at all this info dump about how we made the world work 5,000 years in the future,” but “see how there are all these groups that are going to have to interact to thrive and avoid war?” … it ended. Intro all these new groups and, the end. It didn’t make any sense! Were they going to be able to work it out? Was the Red group going to get what was coming to them?

(And that says nothing about how I was able to believe that the group in space survived and rebuilt their society after 5,000 years, yet I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for the idea that the group living in a cave or the group living below the sea would have made it through the earth’s years of burning…)

Then there’s Fierce Kingdom. The entire story takes place within a few hours: Joan is at the zoo with her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, when active shooters start killing all the people and animals in the zoo. She has to try to hide and save them both. It’s soooooo suspenseful and therefore very stressful. It was probably not the best choice for me to read it, considering how much anxiety I have about keeping baby Sam alive every day. But I knew in my heart they wouldn’t kill a 4-year-old, even though I know nothing about this author and she could have pulled a G.R.R. Martin “literally everyone dies mwahaha” on me.

And how does it end? (I warned you about spoilers, remember.) With the mom getting shot and YOU DON’T KNOW IF SHE LIVES OR DIES. I am choosing choosing choosing to believe she lives–she is found by an EMT and loaded onto a gurney. Her strange fadeout could be her losing consciousness due to blood loss as they take her to be FIXED in the hospital. But after a bit of Googling I see that many people interpret her fadeout as death, especially with the hints throughout the book of how she’d want her final moments to be (which matched up to how the final moments of the book were). UGH!!! I don’t LIKE IT!

(And once again, there are a bunch of other loose ends that get ignored with this ending. Did somebody save the baby in the trash can? Did all the shooters get taken down successfully? Were there other survivors? What was Paul doing the entire time once Joan’s phone was gone??)

So… yeah. Am I aware this entire post sounds whiney? Yep! But I’m speaking my truth, y’all. And the truth is, I like to know the author’s specific vision for their characters, rather than being left with major blanks to fill after turning the final page. I won’t be an author who hands out vague endings. When readers have committed so many hours to their investment in a book’s world and characters, they deserve a satisfactory payoff.

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*Harry Potter*

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” turned 20 this year, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” turned 10, and yesterday was Harry Potter’s (and, of course, J.K. Rowling’s) birthday.

I know a lot of people are tired of hearing about it (or think it’s overrated or evil or childish or whatever, and refuse to read it–their loss!), but it is a really special series, especially for my generation. We got to grow up together! I bought the first book at a Scholastic Book Fair in elementary school; my sixth grade teacher read bits of it out loud after recess every day (and we all assumed her name was pronounced Her-me-own). The next books came out alongside all the movies, so in high school I got to go to midnight showings with my friends and whichever brave parent’s turn it was to drive us around that late. The final book came out while I was in college; I attended a midnight book release, complete with costumes and trivia and Hogwarts-themed snacks, and then stayed up all night reading. I felt I finished the fight against Voldemort alongside the trio: crying at each loss, rejoicing at each triumphant sacrifice, reaching that brilliant culmination of ten years of text. I was a few years younger than Harry when it started and a few years older than him when it ended. What an honor to go through the horrible years of adolescence side by side, haha.

There are layers upon layers of lessons to gain from the series, and as I reread it almost every summer, new insights illuminate on the page. All of the heroes have flaws, but all of them are brave and loving, too. They do what’s right even when it isn’t easy, even when it means being bullied or doubted (or targeted by crazy dark wizards). Harry is stubborn but never backs down from the battle and matures enough to walk the path he knows will fix his world–which, by the way, ends up being an incredibly Christian one, making it extra depressing how many churches condemned the books. Hermione is not ashamed of being smart, and doesn’t let others stifle her voice. Ron is aware of his family’s poverty but extends food and hospitality anyway, his heart big enough to share what he has and in the process multiply it. And that’s just the main trio… I could go on and on about others, like Lupin, Luna, Sirius, Snape, James, Dumbledore, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Neville, Dobby, even Dudley and good old Hagrid (my autocorrect just had a field day with that sentence) and how they illustrated trust, rebellion, nurturing, courage, loyalty, being unique and proud, and sticking up for those in need.

And Lily… she is so much more real to me now that I hold my own messy-haired son in my arms. Hell yeah she would have leapt in front of that baby! I’m not at all surprised that she absorbed every inch of the killing curse, blanketing Harry in a love so powerful that Voldemort could never get through.

I wasn’t going to reread the series this summer, but I couldn’t resist starting the first book on its 20th anniversary despite my exhaustion. I read through four chapters just to hear Hagrid say “Harry–yer a wizard.” I finished the final book last week and wept at all the deaths even though I knew they were coming.

I can’t wait to relive the series through my little future Ravenclaw’s eyes as we read them together, with the added bonus of the new Wizarding World at Universal Studios waiting for us afterwards. What an adventure! I can’t believe it started 20 years ago, and am so grateful that it will continue to stretch on.

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Goodbye, 28. 

Goodbye, 28. You were a good year. I spent 9 months of you pregnant (and therefore 9 months of you with no wine!). I only had to teach for about 7 months of you. And the last 3 months, spent birthing and raising Sam, have been some of my favorite months of my life–though also the hardest. I really really really miss sleep. Birthdays become kind of bittersweet as we age… it’s not solely a celebration of life, but also an awareness of life’s brevity. Did I accomplish enough this year? Did I grow at all as a person (and not just in my uterus)? Are there happier years to come? So many unknowns. Lots of hopes and regrets and dreams. I hope 29 is full of joy and achievements and peace. My grandpa says 29 is the last birthday I’ll want to acknowledge… hopefully that’s not true, haha. I want all my years of experience to build up something good, for me to be a woman who has lived life well. 
I still have 2 minutes until midnight, but there goes my newborn, wailing for food. He wakes up zero to sixty when he’s hungry. I will cuddle him close and pray over year 29. Maybe it will finally be the year I solidify my writing and chase down that elusive publishing goal…

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