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The Home Stretch

bump progressI am 37 weeks and 4 days pregnant. There are 17 days left until my due date.

I really thought I would update this blog a lot more throughout my pregnancy, but it just hasn’t happened. A lot of things have fallen by the wayside over the last 9 months, and I’ve struggled to come to terms with that.

We have finished all the classes, we’ve installed the car seat, we’ve sort of cobbled together a nursery (at the very least we have a place for the baby to sleep) and so really, all there is to do at this point is wait.

I hate waiting.

There are times–many, many times–where I can’t believe I am about to become a parent. Becoming a parent is so irrevocable. It is forever. So much of my life is about to shift and change. There are days when I still can’t believe I am a person who is married, who jointly files taxes and owns a car. A financially responsible person with a savings account, whose student loan debts are (gradually) getting smaller instead of larger. A person who–on paper for certain, and oftentimes in practice–is an adult. A functioning, contributing member of society. When did that happen?

I can’t believe I am about to give birth to a little girl any day now. And that I’ll be expected to take her home with me and keep her alive and spend the next several decades teaching her how to be a compassionate, responsible person.

The desire to have children was easy for me. It has always been there, and I have always been sure about it. What surprised me, really, was everything that happened after that desire was set in motion. I always believed  that I needed to have a child in order to feel like a complete, whole person. In order to have a happy, full life. As soon as I got pregnant I was slammed with the realization that that line of thought was flawed. There is no complete. There is no whole. I will forever be expanding. We choose different paths, and once we’re on our way we can’t imagine life could ever be otherwise. But now I know there are infinite possibilities in each of us. I could still have had a beautiful, full life if I had chosen differently. More than anything else, pregnancy has given me a magnified sense of self.

I am ready, though, to be done.

I am tired of the physical complications and emotional tumoil of pregnancy. It’s been enlightening, it’s been devastating, it’s been infuriating. It’s been a fucking bitch, and I am done. I am ready to put my shoes on without assistance and roll over in bed without pain. I am  ready to have a glass of wine with my husband and make it through terrible, manipulative commercial breaks without bursting into tears. I’m ready to hold my daughter.

There will be challenges to being a new parent, undoubtedly. But I am just so excited for the challenges to exist OUTSIDE OF MY BODY. I’m so excited for David to hold his daughter. I can’t wait to see them together. I can’t wait for the three of us to be a goofy little family. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to eat solid food so I can give her a lemon to taste for the first time and video it, because videos of babies eating lemons is one of the best gifts the internet has ever given me, and being able to torture my own kid with lemon wedges for my personal amusement is maybe a good 50% of the reason why I got pregnant in the first place.

All of my terror regarding labor and delivery (and “terror” really is the word for it) is still present, but it’s been muted, softened somehow by time, education, and inevitability. I have my plans, my hopes, but am trying very hard to surrender myself to the fact that so very much is going to be out of my control.

There is so much about the next stage of my life that is unknowable. What will she look like? What will she be like? What will I be good at? Where will I fail? What will make our family stronger? I am so thrilled to start discovering who she is, and who she will be. I am so looking forward to seeing my husband grow and change, and I am welcoming the ways in which I’ll change, too. And the ways in which we’ll stay just the same.

In short, Baby, it’s time to come out now. We just can’t wait to meet you.

sophie

 

Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Personal

Not All Bad

Yesterday I came home to a letter informing me that my therapist is resigning. Today I forgot to take my nausea medication. My To Do lists (both personal and professional) are a million miles long, and I don’t even know where to begin. It has been a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day around here for what feels like every day since ever.

It’s really tempting to wallow in my misery at this point. I could tell you about how yesterday I somehow had cat shit encrusted on the bottom of my shoe and couldn’t get it off no matter what I tried, so I spent the entire day slinking around the office smelling like cat shit. I could tell you about how putting together a baby registry is the most daunting, exhausting thing on the face of the Earth, which I did not at all anticipate. What about the fact that my husband is devoting himself fervently to his job, working 12 to 14 hour days and beyond, and is still so dedicated to getting his program off the ground that every setback cuts him to the core. And it kills me to see him so exhausted and stressed out, and yet be too exhausted and stressed out myself to be able to be the kind of supportive wife I really want to be.

Basically, things are discouraging at Chez Van Sant right now. And we are drowning in our guilt. The baby room is still full of unpacked stuff and laundry and random furniture and zero actual baby stuff. Guilt. We abandoned our household budget for the summer and are now dreading the thought of updating our spreadsheets because we let it go so long. Guilt. We are severely out of touch with friends and family, both local and long distance. Guilt. Chores, healthy meals, and running errands are just not really happening. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

We are in survival mode, and only just barely surviving.

And yet, I want to force myself to see past that. In high school I was a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (in a persona that was both authentic and cultivated in equal measure. A lot of it wore off in college) and kept a lot of journals, different books for different things. One that carried on in different formats throughout the years was some sort of gratitude journal, or list of things that made me happy. I used to ask people to swap stories of the three best and three worst things that happened to us that day. Often times the “best” things are small. On extraordinarily shitty days you need to really dig deep to find something positive to say amidst all the, well, shit. Sometimes the positive thing is literally, “I made it through the day without stabbing everyone,” but at least that’s something.

It would be easy to tell myself that NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS ANYMORE and a lot of the time, lately, I feel like that’s the truth. But it isn’t. Good things continue to happen, even now, and here’s the proof:

Good Things, Lately

  • David and I are reading the Harry Potter series aloud to each other again and there are no words to describe how gleeful this makes me.
  • My nails have been really long and strong and awesome since I got knocked up.
  • When she’s not being a total bitch our cat is really cute and hilarious.
  • This morning I left the house without eating breakfast and there were bagels and cream cheese waiting for me in the office!
  • I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen last night and I am ridiculously proud of that fact.
  • It really feels like fall, now, and fall is my very favorite season.
  • We have cookie butter and coconut cookie thins.
  • Baby Van Sant is healthy and active.
  • My husband comes to kiss me goodbye every morning when he leaves for work, even though I am still mostly asleep.
  • Our new couch was delivered, so now I get to sit next to David and snuggle him for a few minutes in the evening, instead of sitting in folding chairs apart from him.
  • I have cooked twice in the last two weeks: baked peach halves with almond crumble, and baked ziti with homemade sauce.
  • On Saturday night David and I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch When Harry Met Sally and laughed and cried and held hands. The best line of that whole move is, “I want you to know… that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table.”
  • I got a surprise letter from an old friend recently. A real letter. In the mail.

Seeing them all written out like that makes me feel a bit better about things. Even though all of that was spread out across weeks and weeks and interspersed with lots of terrible stuff, at least I can still muster up a collection of things that make me happy.

 

Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Personal

Anniversary

beaming

A year ago today, I married David in an apple orchard.

Was it the best day of my life? I hope not. I hope my life is long, and full, and shared with my wonderful husband and the family we’re making together. I hope there are so many more best days. September 1, 2012 was pretty damn magical, though.

My first year of marriage has been challenging. David and I dealt with the rigors of grad school, stressful yet rewarding job situations, moving to a new apartment, and a difficult pregnancy this year. Although in some ways I wish our first year as newly weds could have been more laid back, the external challenges really knit us together in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

stolen beer and sunsets

We were together for five years before we got married, had lived together for three years, and had weathered some Big Things in our shared time. I didn’t expect marriage to change me so much, or to change my relationship with my partner in such concrete ways. But it has.

I know how to be vulnerable without entirely surrendering my sense of self now. I know how to identify and articulate the things I want and need. I know how to make space for another person in my life, a person whose needs sometimes come before my own. I know what it’s like to pursue my goals, knowing that there is a person who supports me every step of the way. I know how to love another person fiercely, even when I am cranky, even when I am angry, even when it means doing things I really, really don’t want to do. I know how to be someone else’s champion, to push him toward his dreams, to hold him back against burn out, to put my goddamn iphone down and actually listen to him when he is talking even if he has told me this story before (this last one is still hard). I have a deeper understanding of both selfishness and generosity. I know how to make one very special man laugh until he cries.

If I’ve learned all that in the span of just one year of marriage, what things can I learn in 5 years, 10, 50? I look forward to finding out.

hugs that can't wait

Marrying David made me better. A better partner, absolutely, but also a better person. And that’s not just because David is awesome (although he is) but it’s because I care a whole hell of a lot about my marriage. I put time into it. I reflect on it. I actively work to make it stronger.

At our wedding, I walked down the aisle staring at David the entire time, moving toward him with a magnetic thrum in my core. When I reached him, I hugged my father briefly, shoved my bouquet into my sister’s arms, waved at my mom, and then flung myself at my almost-husband. David, always a rule-follower, whispered to me, terrified, “Are we supposed to do this yet?”

“I don’t care!” I sobbed into his shoulder, half laughing, half crying, up on my tip-toes. His arms instantly circled around me in the tightest hug.

And then we got married.

laughter and tears

croquet

be excited!

kisses & smiles

the luckiest

Photos:

 All photos in this post were taken by our wedding photographer, Kate, of KNG Sommers Photography. I cannot recommend her enough; she is bad ass. If you’d like to see more of our wedding photos, I have a ton shared on FB, or you can search Instagram hashtag #vansantwedding (having an instagram hashtag was a last minute idea on my part, and it was one of the very best ideas I ever had).

Posted by on September 1, 2013 in Personal

Halfway

935089_10151773598361282_734884967_nI’m 20+ weeks pregnant. Halfway. It still sucks. 

I’m still vomiting on the semi-regular (it’s down to about once a week because I caved and am now on anti-nausea medicine. Still. Vomiting once a week and feeling like you might vomit six times a week is a shitty way to spend your weeks).

I can feel baby moving now, which is actually pretty cool, but not cool enough to make up for the fact that virtually every other thing about pregnancy is hell. I’m seeing a therapist and that’s been extremely helpful. At my last session she was commenting about the fact that at least I didn’t seem so sad anymore, not like when I first started seeing her a few months ago. And she’s right. I am mostly no longer sad. Instead I am just irritated all the goddamn time.

I am so tired, and no amount of sleep is enough sleep. I am starving all the time, but all food–except for toast and jam, for some reason–grosses me out on some level, so I never really want to eat. Despite this, I’m still gaining weight. I am showing. I have a noticeable bump, and I have really complicated feelings about it because it’s not all high and perfectly round and pinterest-worthy. It’s kind of lopsided, to be totally honest. I have a lopsided baby bump. 

I’m not wearing maternity clothes yet, because 90% of my wardrobe consists of empire waist dresses, and they are still serving me well. Mostly. But I am getting uncomfortable, and I know that maternity clothes are inevitable, and it’s time for me to give up the ghost and get on with it already.

Being halfway through does not feel like a victory to me. It feels like I will be pregnant for the rest of my freaking life.

We moved into a new apartment recently, a two bedroom, so that we will actually have a nursery. Decorating the nursery is always something that pre-pregnant me thought I would really enjoy. Actually-pregnant me could not care less. Colors? Themes? Furniture? Whatever. Right now the baby’s room is where we put all the stuff we don’t feel like unpacking yet. I’m pretty sure this is a problem, and one we’ll have to deal with in the next 20 weeks, but right now my care-o-meter is not even on.

It’s also hard, because I know that things are really not objectively that bad. I am ok. I am healthy. The baby is healthy. My husband and my family and my in-laws are all awesome (to everyone who helped us move and helped us clean our apartment and pack and everything else over the last few weeks, I cannot thank you enough. We would be screwed without you). I’m not spending several hours a day weeping anymore, and that’s progress.

I thought things might be better by the halfway point. And really, they are. Things are better. But they’re not how I imagined they would be. I am still not enjoying this. And I still really really wish I could.

Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Personal

Pregnant.

positiveDavid was washing the dishes and I was two sips into my glass of wine and I knew I was pregnant. All of a sudden. Bam. I knew.

The wine tasted a little funny. Not bad. Just wrong, somehow. I was warm and tired, and instantly I just knew I was pregnant. Even though I hadn’t missed my period yet. Even though I wasn’t nauseous or sore. I knew.

So I did what I often do when I’m on the cusp of something huge; I tried to talk myself out of it.

I spent hours dithering over whether or not to go out and buy a pregnancy test. I’d taken them before, in recent months, when I’d convinced myself that I felt nauseous, or fatigued, or any of the other entirely vague symptoms that can indicate early pregnancy. And all of them had turned out to be negative, and I was never really surprised.

In the end, I knew I was pregnant this time. I just knew. So David and I piled into the car and drove down to CVS to buy a test (digital; I was not about to panic over whether a line was faint or not really present, thanks), all the while I kept up a constant stream of chatter about how I was putting us through all this for nothing, because I probably wasn’t even pregnant.

But I was.

Once we had the test in our possession, I felt better. I also waited at least two hours before taking it, much to David’s dismay. Instead I left the test in my bag, put on my pajamas, and got on the couch to read. I read for a long time. Finally, David nudged me and asked if I would please, please go take the test so that we could go to sleep already. So I did, and it turned positive almost immediately.

Shaking, I capped it, washed my hands, and carried it wordlessly out to David and shoved it in his hands.

The first words out of his mouth were, “I can see your pee.”

Then we cried and laughed and kissed and were deliriously happy for the next two weeks.

At which point my symptoms kicked in, and pretty much everything since then has sucked.

I despise being pregnant. It is nothing like I imagined it would be. I feel so angry and sick and sad. And ashamed of myself. Because we want this little baby so very, very much. We will love this baby so fully and fiercely when he or she gets here. And yet I am so furious about everything that’s happening to me right now. I don’t know how to hold such powerful and conflicting feelings inside of me simultaneously.

Today I hit 13 weeks, which is considered the second trimester by almost everyone (if you’re one of those people who claim the switch doesn’t happen until 14 weeks, don’t talk to me).

I am still sick. I have been sick for seven straight weeks now. My best friend has a chronic illness. She’s been some level of “sick” every day of her life since she was about 12 years old. Although she experiences discomfort or pain almost constantly she’s learned to adapt, and she has a fulfilling, adventurous, amazing life. And even though I know she doesn’t mind, that she would never dream of comparing the two situations, I feel like a jerk when I complain to her about how pregnancy is destroying me. How I am sick every day, and can barely leave my bed, and can’t remember what it’s like to feel normal. Compared to some women, I’m not even that sick. I have never needed to be hospitalized for dehydration. I have so far resisted prescription medication, though it’s been offered to me (and at this point, honestly, I’m probably going to give in). Intellectually I understand that there’s the possibility that it could be so much worse.

It helps that I have an amazing support system. David is incredible. He comes to every prenatal appointment with me, holds my hand and never, ever laughs at me when I cry while getting blood drawn. He runs all the errands, does all the chores, brings me food (assuming I can actually eat) and glasses of water and hands me things that are on the far end of the coffee table when I am lying on the couch in agony and cannot fathom leaning forward to reach for them myself. He reads aloud to me until I fall asleep, rubs my back, leaves me little love notes around the house to cheer me up. He tells me I am doing a great job. He acknowledges that my pain and fears and sadnesses are real.  He makes me laugh even on the hardest days. He reminds me–simply by his constant, generous presence–why I wanted to have a baby in the first place. And I could not ever imagine doing this without him.

But there is an element beyond just the physical, for me.  At my last appointment, my midwife asked how I was handling things, emotionally.

“It’s been…rough,” I admitted. And then tears just started leaking out of my eyes. I have been crying a lot since getting pregnant. Several times a day, often inexplicably. I feel a lot of stress and anxiety about leaving my apartment and seeing people who are not David. I get nervous that I am going to start feeling horrifically sick in public, and will start lashing out at people if they try to help me. I have no reason to think this is going to happen. I’m not usually the lashing out type. But at the same time I feel lonely. And just sad. Really sad, a lot of the time, with a large dose of frustration. And while there’s something to be said for the fact that my hormones are 100% haywire right now, I am also just having a hard time coping with all the rapid changes going on in my body and in my life. So my lovely midwife referred me to a therapist, and I have my first meeting next week. This, more than anything else, has actually made me feel better.

I am not a monster. I am freaking the hell out, but that’s because I’m pregnant and that’s actually really chaotic and enormous and a lot to deal with. I am inundated with a lot of complicated feelings, and I need to sit down with someone who can help me sort that stuff out. I think until my midwife responded to me as though the way I’m feeling is 100% ok, and understandable, I believed that there was something deeply, fundamentally wrong with me. I am not a glowing, benevolent, serene pregnant woman. I am a weepy, terrified, pukey pregnant woman. Apparently that is actually totally fine. I wish someone had told me that months ago.

Real talk: while I think therapy is going to help me tremendously as far as sorting out the way I’m feeling, I don’t expect to miraculously begin loving the experience of being pregnant. It’s weird and uncomfortable. I’m only 1/3 of the way through, and already it has lasted way too long for me. I pretty much expect that I will continue to hate the whole thing (heartbeat via doppler and seeing the ultrasound was magical and amazing and the only exceptions I’ve found so far. But as soon as the screen went dark and the picture faded, the magic was over and the misery was back). But at least I no longer feel like something’s wrong with me for not enjoying myself.

Anyway, that’s why the blog’s been dark for so long. Family and friends and the internet have known about the pregnancy for a while, now, but I just couldn’t summon the energy or the courage to write anything. With any luck, this will get me back into the swing of things.

(If you’re a woman who loathed being pregnant, I would love to hear about it. Solidarity! If you’re a woman who loved being pregnant, I envy and admire you. Yay for all pregnant women!)

Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Personal

The Ban Has Lifted

So last week I gave up all internet and screen usage in my free time. The first day or so was difficult. I kept carrying my phone around the apartment on Monday night, even though I wasn’t going to be using it. At least three times I clicked on the instagram icon out of habit and had to catch myself and put my phone down and walk away from it for a few minutes. The whole thing seemed sort of stupidly pointless at that time. I was cranky.

Things got better as the week went on. I felt a lot calmer, more serene, and more relaxed (interesting! Since I so often claim that fiddling around on my phone “helps me relax”). I read more, I played board games with David, we cooked together. My ice cream hardened up beautifully and we ate plenty of that. We took walks in the evening and started reading aloud to each other again (we’ve been doing this since we started dating, and it was put on hold for the final 9 months or so of grad school). I spent time being quiet.

ice cream

I had to take our car in to the dealership last Wednesday and wait around for them to complete $700 worth of repairs. I thought going without my phone for those long three hours would be torture, but I actually ended up loving the uninterrupted reading time.

I did really look  forward to coming in to work each day, where my screen ban (including internet) was lifted. But although it’s now four days past the end of my experiment, I still haven’t watched any tv or movies (which means I’m dreadfully behind on Mark Watches, and that does make me a little bit sad) and I can’t say I miss it very much.

I’m definitely playing with my phone again, but not nearly as much as I was before going screen free. All in all I’m really happy with the experiment, and feel much better about letting screens into my life again on a moderate basis.

Plus, I return just in time for the long-awaited return of the fantastic Allie Brosh, of Hyperbole and a Half!

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Personal

Our Lazy Weekend and Going “Media Free”

toast!David’s final grad school class was on Wednesday. I fell asleep on the couch waiting up for him, but had had the foresight to decorate the apartment with a cheesy Graduation Party Decoration Kit from Target and chill a mini bottle of prosecco  I picked up on my way home. I woke up when he came through the door, and we had a sleepy, heartfelt toast to his awesome accomplishment.

His graduation ceremony isn’t until mid-May, so we’re mired in a bit of a nebulous wait until then, even though he has no other requirements to complete; he’s finished, but not finished-finished. Still, the relief has been buoyant and immediate. Even though I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about it I don’t believe I truly understood how burdensome graduate school has been for the two of us until we were suddenly free of it. In only a handful of days things have swiftly changed for the better, and not a minute too soon!

All weekend long I kept referring to it as “Our Lazy Weekend” even though, truly, it was anything but. We went to a Twins game on Friday night with the members of David’s cohort, and then out for drinks afterward. On Saturday we went food shopping, stopped by a liquor store, a record store, and a bike shop, David worked on his bike at home, I made an ice cream base, and did a load of laundry. We cleaned the apartment (including heavy duty stuff like the bathroom), and ate three home-cooked mostly healthy meals. In the evening we had company over and stayed up far too late (at my insistence) playing Carcassonne and drinking craft beer. On Sunday David and I indulged our mild hangovers and slept in until 8:30, showered and then had breakfast in bed, read books and magazines for a few hours, then got up and watched the free game of the day on mlb.tv (Red Sox!) while bustling around the house. I baked a loaf of oatmeal molasses sandwich bread and churned my ice cream, David took his bike out for a spin in the afternoon and made us dinner. I ironed while listening to The Splendid Table podcast. We were in bed ready to pass out by 9:30. It was awesome.

photo (39)photo (29)

“This is the best weekend I’ve had in the history of ever,” I said to David as we were sitting on the couch, waiting for the promised afternoon thunderstorm that never arrived. “Except maybe our honeymoon. But otherwise, best weekend ever.

And it really felt like it was. First of all, David was actually around. Not at the library for hours and hours. Not chained to his laptop working on papers or presentations. With the exception of our wedding and one or two major holidays, this is the first weekend that David and I had “off” in twenty-one months. It. Was. Glorious.

And aside from the baseball game? We really didn’t spend too much time in front of screens.

Ok, yes, I instagrammed some (I’m addicted) and refreshed facebook a lot, because my phone never really went much farther than my hand or my back pocket. But I didn’t spend hours on it playing games–something I’ve done all too much in the last 21 months. In the brief snatches of free time that we did have during grad school, David and I got in the habit of using technology to “de-stress.” We watched several seasons of West Wing, Top Chef, countless other competitive cooking shows. We downloaded games and apps onto our phones and fiddled with them endlessly. We completely and totally zoned out, and did it with the excuse that it was more relaxing than doing anything else (not true) and that it helped us unwind and connect after all the frantic hours spent working and studying (also not true).

Prior to graduate school, we occasionally used to have what we affectionately referred to as “Media-Free Nights.” We’d ditch our phones and the internet entirely (we don’t have tv, so that wasn’t a problem) and spend the evening with each other’s faces. This weekend reminded me of how NICE that was. And then this morning Meg of A Practical Wedding had a fantastic post about unplugging, which also reminded me that today is the start of Screen Free Week.

I’m in.

Here are my personal rules for the week:

  • I will eschew screens from 5:00PM to 8:00AM Monday through Friday. No Netflix, no browsing the internet, no Facebook, no twitter, no (gulp) instagram. No Words with Friends. No Bejeweled. No Angry Birds. No blogs. No laptop. No desktop. No screens.
  • I CAN do the following on a computer: use iTunes or Pandora.
  • I CAN do the following on my phone: talk on the phone (weird, right?!), respond to texts, use functional apps that help facilitate my days (alarms, calorie counter, weather, songza, google maps). I can also use my phone to take pictures, but I can’t post them anywhere, or edit them (ha! Like I ever do that), or play with them in any way.
  • For the purposes of this week my Kindle Touch doesn’t count as a screen (I can’t do anything except read on it, anyway).
  • I will be using internet at work because aspects of my job require it. I am going to try hard to limit my internet usage to strictly work-related things, but if my coworkers email me a buzzfeed article about extra-cute stuff, I might end up clicking on it.
  • My phone is scheduled to automatically go on Do Not Disturb mode (with phone calls allowed) from 5:00PM to 8:00PM–no notifications will hopefully ease my pain.
  • No screens at all for the entire weekend.

I’m excited! (But also feeling twitchy already). I’ll report back next week and let you know how it goes! (And I may have scheduled a post to go up later in the week, but it’s already written, so I don’t feel like that will break any rules).

Are you participating in Screen Free Week at all? Are you as addicted to instagram as I am?

soft serve style

Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Personal

Boston

I have never lived in Boston. I grew up on the North Shore, and I went to college out of state before moving to New York City and then finally St. Paul, so I never lived in Boston.

I had friends who lived in Boston. I dated guys who lived in Boston. In dorms on Boylston Street. In an apartment at the corner of Charles and Pinckney, just a block from the river. Over by Fenway and way out in Jamaica Plain. I spent my summers there, my winter nights. In bars, in alleys, sprawled out on the esplanade. I’ve cried until I thought my heart would truly break in that city. I’ve laughed at least twice as much.

My first memory is of being with my grandmother in a T station, singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with a busker. I was wearing a pink dress.

I have walked the Freedom Trail. I have stumbled  through the streets after last call with the full finality of summer’s end in the air. I have driven up on the city’s skyline after too many months away and seen the holy glow of the Citgo sign and smiled, because that is when I know I’ve come home.

I had family and friends in Boston yesterday. Some of them were working, some of them were watching the marathon, and I know a handful of people who were running it. Everyone that I know is safe, and still I am so heartsick for them. I am devastated for those whose loved ones are not as fortunate as mine.

I never lived in Boston, but I always believed that someday I would. My life has taken so many turns, and I know now that living in Boston is one of my dreams that will never come true. I will never live in that city. But I will always call it mine.

Boston is the city of my heart; its streets are etched on my bones. There are no better people, no people more ferociously loyal and fiercely loving, than the people I know there.

I am so fucking1 proud to be from Massachusetts.

I love that dirty water.

photo (27)

 

  1. It’s a post about Boston. You really think I was going to make it through without swearing?
Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Personal

Good Things on the Internet

Today was horrific. Lots of things went wrong this morning, the worst being that my car hit a patch of ice while merging on to the interstate. I was able to regain control of the car, only to immediately skid out on a second patch of ice and go careening off the side of the road down an embankment into a very steep ditch. I’m physically ok, and by some stroke of luck the car is, too. But emotionally? Kind of a wreck. I’ll write more about that later.

In the meantime, I was in need of some serious cheering up. So I turned to the internet, and the internet provided. Here’s what made me smile today:

Fascinating Photos of Famous Authors as Teenagers

Anaïs Nin at 19.

Anaïs Nin at 19.

 

Recycled Movie Costumes

Left: Jeanette MacDoland as Mary Blake in 1936's San Francisco. Right: Billie Burke as Glinda in 1939's The Wizard of Oz.

Left: Jeanette MacDoland as Mary Blake in 1936’s San Francisco. Right: Billie Burke as Glinda in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.

 

Times Haiku: Serendipitous Poetry from the New York Times

nythaiku

 

 

Heidi Jo Gilbert

 

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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Personal

I Work in Book Publishing

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Me, age 5, the day the West Branch Library opened.

Today I read an amazing manuscript. A book that emotionally devastated me in incredible ways. This is the best part of my job.

I work in book publishing.

I started in New York with a handful of unpaid internships, and was eventually hired on as an assistant to two literary agents at Writers House. From there, I went to Harold Ober Associates. I had to put my career on hold when we moved to Minnesota, but I did some freelance reading here and there, and always knew I’d get back in the game as soon as I could. Now I work at Llewellyn Worldwide dabbling in all three imprints there. I handle all contracts, do lots of typical administrative tasks, and I also read books.

I am a reader from way back, from the beginning. My mother read aloud to me when I was young and even when I was not-so-young. My father says that when I was little I used to ask for “two books and a ball” every Christmas.1 Reading is so much a part of who I am that I have trouble talking about it.

All the things that people say about books are true. Books are revolutionary. They are transformative. They offer escape, they offer validation, they offer criticism. They are beautiful and terrible and important.

There is the expectation that the publishing industry is the same. Most of the time it isn’t.

Most of the time, I have an office job. I read and write a lot of emails, make photo copies, and live and die by excel sheets. I gather and sort data. I draft contracts. I submit paperwork requesting payments. I track and record everything I do.

I keep my workspace extremely organized and neat (which does not come naturally to me at all) because I have learned the hard, hard, hard way that piles of paper make a sharp, dry grave.

Yes, the contracts I am drafting are for authors. For people who write books. And the joy they have upon getting their first book contract is unparalleled. It’s a great part of my job, to be the person who mails those contracts out with a post-it that says “we can’t wait to work with you!” But, I mean, I’m still mired in legal jargon. And I still have to tell people “no” much more often than I’m able to tell them “yes.”

Mostly, my job is an office job. I do a lot of behind-the-scenes work that helps get books published.

But there is a part of my job that is about reading. There is a part of my job that allows me to say, “I get paid to read books!” And a lot of the books I read are bad. And a number of the books I read are very good.

But sometimes…

Sometimes I get to read a book that wakes up every nerve in my body. A book that is so great that I don’t know how I’ll be able to get through the rest of the day after reading it. A book that haunts my thoughts for weeks to come. A book that has me so excited that I lie awake at night and think about how I can’t wait for that book to be real, to go from a word document on a computer screen, or a 300 page print out, to a real bound book that I can crack between my hands. A book so fantastic that it makes me want to read every book I’ve ever loved all over again.

Sometimes I get to read a book that is so damn wonderful that it makes me feel honored to do what I do. It is the very best part of my job.

 

 

  1. Was that not the most precious thing you’ve ever heard, or what? So cute it’s gross!
Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Personal