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2017 in summary

December 31, 2017
The world's cutest toddler, running along a beach

My focus word for 2017 was “abundance,” and I spent all year trying my darnedest to cultivate that.

And failing. I failed so hard, you guys. My failures were abundant.

Financially, it was one of my driest years since I started freelancing. There were long and seemingly endless spans of time where nothing was accepted or published, even though I wrote, pitched, queried, and followed up obsessively. At one point I read an article that advised writers to aim for 100 rejections per year, and I cackled like a mad woman in a Brontë novel — I was hitting about 100 rejections (or non-responses) per month.

It was depressing. It felt like I was trying to climb a mountain, and even though I was doing my part, I couldn’t quite get there. I researched the trail, I showed up in hiking boots, I carried all the right gear, I had the motivation and desire to put in the work. Then mere steps from the top, I toppled for whatever reason, forcing me to start all over again.

Just when I considered calling it quits, I attended the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop in magical Granada, Spain. It helped recharge my batteries on just about every level, from inspiring me to write new things and look at my work in a different way to satisfying my itchy feet and proving I can still travel solo.

A peek out of a golden window at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Soon after, I placed some of my favorite pieces, like this essay for LitHub about Silent Book Club, a piece about wildflowers and making my own roots in the desert for Palm Springs Life (the online version is a little wonky with some repeated paragraphs, but you can see it here anyway), and a funny/sad essay about a rat for Mutha Magazine.

I also started hosting a radio show about books with Tod Goldberg. I received an acceptance from an outlet that has been on my byline bucket list for decades. I registered for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, because I want to find my way toward humor writing again. I read 51 books.

Other good things happened: A road trip to Vegas, a quick jaunt to Portland, a terrific visit with my sister. I reconnected with old friends and made some new ones. As a family, Jason, Everest, and I slept in a tipi under the stars in Pioneertown, hiked through a couple of Canada’s spectacular national parks, and explored Vancouver, now one of our favorite cities.

Also Everest turned 3, and he has grown into someone I genuinely love to hang out with. He’s funny and weird and makes me laugh until I wheeze. We have dance parties, take silly selfies, and haven’t found a trail yet that we don’t want to explore.

Halloween selfie

In November Everest and I hiked 30 miles together, and most of those were quiet morning jaunts, clambering over rocks, scraping up knees, and listening to birdsong. I cherish every one of those miles.

Cutest toddler in the world goes hiking in the desert, standing on top of rocksNow we’re ending on a high note. We just finished a family road trip that was just about as perfect as those things get. We started by seeing the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at The Broad in Los Angeles, and stayed the night in Solvang, a quirky Danish-themed town. Then we spent a few easy days at Morro Bay, listening to seals bark, running on the beach, and sipping hot cocoa as the sun sank.

Our last morning in Morro Bay is a memory that I hope lasts, as it seems to sum up the whole year for me. It’s Everest, barreling down the pastel beach, gathering sand dollars by the handful. He carries them to me, holds these urchins to his chest, makes careful piles of them. He tosses some into the ocean; the rest he tucks into the pockets of my old college sweatshirt.

This is abundance. My pockets hang heavy with sand and salt and shells, and my heart is so full it’s buoyant. I am sand dollar rich, and I have all the things that matter.

A teal sky in Morro Bay

 

Cooleyhighholiday: A Christmas Miracle

December 23, 2015
photo-1423477491197-ec2f29ac4d6b

The Ghost of Christmas Past just reminded me of this story, which took place a few years ago.

A friend of mine, an opera singer, was booked to perform at a local Indian casino during the tribe’s holiday party. I tagged along, but I don’t remember why. Probably for free food.

While my friend crooned Christmas carols, I sat backstage on a rickety metal chair. A couple of guys were sitting back there too, and they laughed when the chair almost tipped me onto the floor. They were nice, though, and we had a ridiculously good time for people hanging out in the wings of a dusty stage. I don’t even remember everything we chatted about, only that we laughed a lot.

One of the guys complimented my friend’s singing and said she’d be a tough act to follow.

ME: Oh, you sing?

GUY: Yeah, we have a group.

ME: Sweet. What’s your group called?

GUY: Boyz II Men.

You guys, Boyz II Freaking Men.

Boyz II Men served as the soundtrack for my formative years. I owned “Cooleyhighharmony” on cassette, and when it wore out, I bought the CD. More of my backseat makeout sessions were set to “I’ll Make Love to You” than other jam. And I’ve been to more than one prom with the theme, “End of the Road.”

So when I realized these dudes were actually Boyz II Men, I did the only thing I could do. I launched into the Michael Bivins rap from “Motownphilly.”

“Now check this out
One day back in Philly
Four guys wanted to sing
They came up to me I said
What’s your name? (Boyz II Men)
Ya know what I’m sayin’.”

It’s a horrible flaw of mine that I sing celebrities’ songs to them. Usually the musicians aren’t happy about it. But in this case, the guys played along, launching into the “dum dum dum dah dah” harmony — a little Christmas gift to me.

Pregnancy Week 16: Clinton, Kobe and golfers, oh my!

January 21, 2014

First, there was the pregnancy announcement with Bryan Cranston, who was perfectly lovely.

As soon as I told him my idea for an epic Breaking Bad pregnancy announcement, he was game. “Let’s do it,” he said. “Where should I stand? Should I hold your belly?”

The blue meth made me do it.

 

That was a couple weeks ago. And then this week of pregnancy, things got really crazy.

I volunteered for the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters conference, which addresses important questions about health and wellness in the U.S. My job was to act as security for the talent, which included Herschel Walker, Matt Kemp and Kobe Bryant, checking badges backstage.

Safety first.

 

Like, this Kobe.

This marks the first and only time a Laker will be guarded by a relatively small pregnant lady.

 

The same Kobe who is chatting up Chelsea Clinton. Like, this Chelsea.

Outside this door? Me with a walkie talkie, ready to kick some ass! And talk to people in CB slang.

 

Then I brought my dad to the Humana Challenge golf tournament, which featured a bunch of men who are golf famous. Not Tiger, but you know. Those other guys in the pants with the clubs.

Hideous winter weather in Palm Springs.

 

And then we saw President Bill Clinton, who recognized me from such things as following him around the golf course last year.

Not the father.

 

This fetus, man. It’s destined to become an A-list celebrity. Or a TMZ paparazzo.

 

Here’s how everything else is going this week:

Baby: Is the size of a Hass avocado, and my uterus is the size of a cantaloupe. This prompted my friend Abby to say the best thing of my pregnancy thus far: “An avocado inside a cantaloupe inside your belly is like a pregnant vegetarian Turducken.”

Wee baby Turducken.

 

The interesting thing is that I have not received a single comment about my pregnant belly or anything like that. So all those times pre-pregnancy when I felt so bloated or thought everyone was focused on my extra pounds, NOBODY ACTUALLY NOTICED BUT ME. Right now I am literally walking around with something the size of a melon in my gut, and it still slides under the radar.

Other baby stuff: Baby is growing hair, lashes and eyebrows now. (Weird!) It can hear my voice. (So weird!) Supposedly I will feel it move soon. (Super duper weird!)

At night before I fall asleep, I lie very still and focus on the baby and try to feel it flutter. Sometimes I even feel the tiniest bit of something! And then I’ll realize I ate a lot of lentils this week, and I’m probably feeling what my friend Ashley calls “a cherished moment of gas.”

New this week: I am itchy. All the time. Every part of me. I’m sure part of this can be attributed to living in the desert in winter. But I think part of it is also caused by my skin expanding to accommodate an entirely new human.

These products have been hitting the dry spot: Weleda stretch mark massage oil, Weleda sea buckthorn creamy body wash and Alba very emollient body lotion. Sweet, sweet emollience.

Cream of the crop.

 

Also my hair has been weird. The curl is weird. Length is weird. Ends are dry. Where’s the glorious, thick pregnancy hair I’ve read about? I want my money back!

Clothes: Still wearing my regular clothes, but I’ve also added this maternity T-shirt into the rotation. It is so soft and so long, and it is black like Morrissey’s soul, and I love it forever and ever.

Liz Lange for Target; very comfortable for me.

 

I have also been wearing my Thai fisherman plants a lot. What exactly are Thai fisherman pants? Well, they are pants that involve a lot of fabric, very wide legs and a weird, wide waistband that is elaborately folded, then tied.

I was certain these pants would become fashion’s next big thing, and I stocked up while I was in Chiang Mai. I have about six pairs in a variety of colors.

I mean, they still haven’t gotten very trendy yet. And sometimes people point and openly laugh at me when I wear them to Trader Joe’s. But someday, you’ll all see.

Who’ll be laughing then? Me and this guy.

I’d post a photo of me in my Thai pants, but the internet isn’t ready for that much sexy.

 

Husband: Happy.

Let’s hope we’re better at making babies than selfies.

Pregnancy Week 14: The Salton Sea and No Pee

January 5, 2014

Oh hey, energy. I’ve missed you.

This week brought fewer naps, a 12-mile bike ride, a handful of hikes and a renewed love of berry smoothies.

On top of a mountain, powered by my own two feet.

 

The Husband and I also made a quick day trip to the Salton Sea for a short (2-mile) hike along the shoreline.

The Salton Sea, created by Colorado River flooding, is one of the lowest spots on earth and one of the world’s largest inland seas. It’s a bizarre place. Though the sea was once lined with resorts and known as the American Riviera (or the Riviera of California), it’s now surrounded by abandoned homes and dilapidated buildings. It’s also an environmental disaster.

Still, it’s really beautiful. It’s an important stopover for migratory birds. It’s filled with millions of fish. Plus, I have a soft spot for broken places and worn things.

All quiet on the Salton Sea.

 

I love the stillness there. Like someone pressed life’s pause button.

Maybe that’s why I wanted to take this week’s pregnancy photo there. I’m in a happy place right now, and I want to savor this moment.

My hump: Week 14.

 

About 30 miles away is the desolate desert town of Niland, home to Slab City, an abandoned military training area that now attracts drifters, squatters and others seeking an alternative lifestyle — one entirely off the grid.

If you’ve seen “Into the Wild,” a portion of it takes place here.

Even Bella from Twilight couldn’t ruin this part of the film.

 

Niland is also home to Salvation Mountain. Part of “Into the Wild” took place here too. Here’s a clip.

Salvation Mountain is one man’s attempt to spread a message of faith and love, and he has spent decades constructing this mountain out of hay, mud and more than 100,000 gallons paint. It’s pretty remarkable, and my photo doesn’t come close to showing the size or the fairytale quality of the place. Inside the mountain is a maze of altars and rooms, elaborate displays of car doors, telephone poles, gnarled tree branches, photos and truck parts.

Salvation Mountain. This photo doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

 

I’m not the most evangelical person in the world — actually, I’m not evangelical at all. But I can respect someone who has this kind of passion and can channel that into a massive work of art.

Bump in the desert.

 

The other big thing that happened this week: One day I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn’t pee. This, as many of you might know, is the opposite of what happens to most women during pregnancy. And it was a dramatic shift for me too. Usually I’m pissing all over the place like an incontinent mountain lion.

Have you ever needed to pee and couldn’t? It’s incredibly stressful. Within a matter of minutes, I was Violet Beauregarde. And I panicked.

Stick a fork in me. I’m done.

 

What happens if I never pee again? I wondered. Can I pop? What if I pop? Certainly popping is bad for the baby.

Luckily, the internet exists, and I quickly found two possible causes of this problem: A urinary tract infection, which is common during pregnancy. Or the baby was blocking the bladder — another common issue, particularly for women who are in week 13-15 (check!) and have a tilted uterus (check!).

The bad news is that this has happened every night since then. I think the baby settles into a strange spot during the night. The good news is that the problem should sort itself out once the baby gets bigger and stops using my bladder for a pillow.

In the meantime, I found some suggestions online from other pregnant ladies for how to kick-start the flow:

* Go to the hospital and have a catheter inserted. 

Yeah, that’ll be my last resort. Thanks.

* Sit in different positions on the toilet.

I tried this. I leaned forward. I leaned left. I leaned right. Then I tried turning around backward, like I was riding a toilet pony. None of it worked, but it sure was interesting.

* While you try to urinate, pour a cup of hot water over your ladybits. It will help get things flowing.

What? Ow. No. Who told you this was ok?

* Push your hand up on your cervix and manually shift your uterus up.

You know, I’m really not confident in my ability to push my uterus anywhere. Generally, I just let it go where it wants to go. I’m growing a free-range uterus here.

* Walk around, rub your belly, wait for the baby to shift a little, then try again.

Yes. This worked.

Why I don’t go out in public anymore

December 28, 2013

By myself anyway. Because people are weird, and they say weird things, and then I spend all day twitchy and nervous, wondering if I exist in an alternate reality.

This photo will make sense in a second.

 

Case in point, I was just at the library. As I walked toward the building, a man drove up to me in the parking lot. He yelled to me from within his car, but I couldn’t hear him because his window was rolled up.

“Pardon?” I said in Charades-ese, which was basically a shrug and a firm shake of the head, as if I had a gnat in my ear.

The man yelled again.

In order to hear him, I had to lean my head far inside his back window, which was rolled down, even though it made me uncomfortable to put any part of my body in a stranger’s car, because that’s how people become sisterwives in a backyard shed.

HIM: Where’s the food?

ME: I’m sorry. What food?

HIM: Don’t you know anything?

ME: I do.

HIM: So where’s the food?

ME: I don’t know. I’m here for books, sir.

HIM: Nevermind. I’ll find it.

ME:

HIM: You can’t eat books!