Oh, October

There is no rest in October. This is my student’s mom’s saying. She has obviously gotten it figured out after 18 years of no-rest Octobers.

Before I delve into this post, I have to be honest. What I’m about to write betrays some really touching moments that I’ve experienced since my last post.

Like this one


Walking to the falls

And this one


Getting back to my comfort place

And this


Gettin’ dolled up for a fancy night

A parent’s day can be filled with the beauty, the juggle, and the spikes.One moment you’re dressed up and ready for the world, and the next you’re trying to convince your girl to please, please take the Tylenol.

There is a weird elixir coming off those falling leaves that’s making the no-rest October something removed from Halloween orange and on point with feeling midway. I may be grading essays (agh!) or washing dishes (agh!), but if you look closely, between the myriad, I’m kind of just blah. If you’ve seen HBO’s Westworld, my insides are the equivalent of that look the hosts have on their faces when their coders are talking to them. Blank, but hearing.

It’s my experience that my generation of women is always busy. Ladies, if you’re feeling this hybrid of to-do vacuums with this incomprehensible state of restlessness and inquiry, know that I’m right there with you. And if you’re a writer or have any type of creative spirit, this feeling is probably causing major daydreams. It’s the writer hormones going crazy. I’m having fantasies of throwing ungraded essays in a bonfire and spending a week fixing up my house in the mornings, writing all through the day, rocking on my porch in the early evenings, and watching movies like Say Anything at night. I know, I know. This sounds like the life of a retired school teacher. But, hey! It’s more accessible than the alternative side of this coin: running to the nearest travel agent—yes, I want the experience of doing that—and buying a ticket to Antibes, France so I can eat, experience, and repeat.

For the occasions I’ve actually traveled without my kids, I started a tradition of leaving treasure hunt notes for them. They get a series of notes for each day I’m gone, which gives them something for which to look forward.  “Go to the place where Zade loves to play Legos,” and “Great job! You’ll find the next note at the place Layla keeps her erasers.” It gives me joy to imagine the kids running like squirrels to figure out and gather each clue. They go all over the house, trudging over toys and drawers filled with unfamiliar terrain. When the hunt is over, usually culminating at a bag of treats, I get a sense they feel pride but really that they prefer the journey.

Through inevitable terrain, I’ve hit some treasure in this no-rest October, some which reminded me of life years ago, and some that came in the form of advice.


After hearing about us apple picking, my mom’s friend, Shohreh, talked fondly of when she used to run around taking her kids, who are all college graduates now, to this party and that activity, to Disneyworld and Fall Festivals.

But then she said, “I get so frustrated because they don’t remember any of it. I have to remind them of stuff they once did.” This feeds at my worry since there are distinct times I feel we’re chasing memory-making, filling in slots with valuable activities too often. In my defense, our time with them in this way is short. Still, I worry my kids won’t remember or appreciate all the stretching and consideration that makes things happen for them. Even worse, I wonder if all this effort is pointless.

Shohreh saged me. We stood in my parent’s kitchen and she rounded out, “It’s okay. Maybe all those things still did something to change them and make them who they are even if they don’t remember it.” Simple, right? I’m ashamed to say that this line comforted me immensely. I know our goal is to expose them to as much as we can, but I guess I hadn’t put as much stock in the experience as a whole as I did the lasting effects of a memory.

We’ve taken our turns lingering on a nasty cold, and we’ve also managed to find spaces to make memories. I’m looking forward to no-rest October taking an Ambien and having some mercy on us. Until I regain my optimism, I’m going to remember this gesture.

On on a ragged mid-week day, my friend knocked at the door with a get-well basket with homemade soup, all the means and dressings included, and play stuff to get a little girl back on her feet. I was caught completely off guard, and I marvel at the surprise even as I type this. No-rest October, beware of beautiful friends helping to take us through to the next step even as their own backs need some rubbing. #womenrock


Love in a basket


A hurricane has gravely affected millions of people including many in the American Southeast. News reports have shown tragic photos both of devastated areas in Haiti and of flooded streets in Savannah. By Friday, it was normal to hear people at work say that a relative or friend was evacuating his or her home near the coast to stay with them during Hurricane Matthew.

The last few nights have been iconic, October-evening weather in our part of Georgia. It feels strange to tilt my chin up, hollowing the curve of the cool breeze undoubtedly affected by the hurricane. A destruction was caused by this fragment we’re feeling here. This light wind that I admired tonight cooled down humidity and worked without guilt despite its previous red center. The contrast of where it came from and how it affects is both unfair and undeniable.

It is a leap to connect this contrast with a place I find our family in currently, but there is the shade of peripheral truth in the most benign sense of this connection.  We see contrast past the time. 

In the last few weeks, the most important members of my family have celebrated their birthdays. Since their birth dates are so close together, they alternate between who gets a home celebration and who gets an outside birthday party. While Zade had a casual home celebration this year, Layla had her bowling birthday party. She insisted having it at the same location we celebrated 2 years ago. During her party, Zade had more flickers of sibling jealousy than he had a few years ago; Layla socialized like a tween, not relying on Kal or me to participate. She looked like she preferred to be with her friends, really.  Looking at the pictures lets me see the difference the two years make.

Contrary to the quick default talk parents are used to, it doesn’t feel like I’ve just “blinked and my kids are older.” I know I can’t remember 365 x 7 in any fine detail, but the blend since Layla and Zade were born has felt close to time–like a blur of what we can somehow remember paired with what we felt during parts of it. 

At this party, her shoe size was bigger by 3, her guest list changed to include her new friends, and she picked out her dress and decided on how to wear it. I was caught off guard when one parent asked me, “Is this a drop-off party?” I had no idea we’d entered into the age-stage where this was mostly normal. It hadn’t even occurred to me that this independence is more common now. I can guarantee this wasn’t a question my mom ever heard when I was growing up.

This year Zade’s home celebration was in our new house. It’s not new by move-in date standards, but experiencing little milestones here is, like I’ve inferred before, like being in a relationship where one mentally records, “oh, this is the first time he held my hand, we heard this song, we went there, etc.” I raced home from work to make it festive for him. We ate on Batman plates. We had double-chocolate cake, his favorite. And he took over 40 turns at breaking the Minion pinata that he and Layla stuffed together an hour before Minion’s demise.

Zade uses his hands when he speaks all animated and such. When I visited him at school on his birthday, he accepted my departure and didn’t hold on to my leg. He takes stand-up showers like a little man. And he reads signs while we’re driving.


Two years ago feels like two years ago. This site chronicles some of the places I’ve been physically and emotionally. Two years ago around this time, I wrote about how I wanted to reconnect with writing, and I posted about getting Halloween decor. Also, I wrote about how we just separated the kids rooms and got them new sets.

Much of that language is true now–home style changes, Halloween decorations, writing goals–and yet the contrast is significant because the edges that meet together from this space have felt movement and growth.

What started out for me on this blog has moved into another tier; what notes I’ve captured about my family has evolved into chronicles I can juxtapose when it’s necessary. Contrast reminds us of what is irreversible. It encourages us to nestle up to that one defining effect–change. 



Today one of my best friends, D, had her second baby. She sent us a picture of her second little girl, bundled dry and clean, held up by a nurse. Baby girl looks like she is certain of the camera in front of her. I wish I could share it with you here, but if I remember my own commitment to privacy the first few months my kids were born, I know it’s not my picture to post. My mom described the image just right: you can’t help but see it and not laugh a little because there she is, a new baby girl all surprisingly alert and with the perks of a smile saying, “I’m here, guys.”

The ripple effect of hearing the news of a new baby inspires conversations along many households. My parents probably said something to each other like, “Remember when these girls were just kids sleeping over at our house? Laughing in the basement? Now they have two kids.” D, dressed in a blue hospital gown, still looks like that young girl in my memory. Maybe it’s because I didn’t consider my mom as a woman in her 30s the way I am today that I’m still in awe of my childhood icons being real adults.

In another household, maybe someone wonders if or when this type of moment will be one of her own memories or if there are other joys that are waiting to be born. In my household, though, the news created electricity as my kids stared eagerly into my phone. They loved seeing the baby held by their cousin, who Zade said with marvel is “not a baby anymore. She’s a kid now, Mama!” Their reaction brought to surface sincere memories of when Zade was born.


For example, D sent me a picture of herself right before getting to the hospital. I could tell she’d been crying; her adorable chin looked like it housed small rain drops beneath the skin. She said simply, “I’m excited but also feel bad. I can’t explain it…lots to process.”

If you’re lucky enough to have the chance to say bye to your first child before you leave for the hospital, you know that feeling. You know in your head that you’re doing something good for the family, that she won’t be alone in her life, that you’ll be back in a few days with memories. And yet you may fear you’re choosing something else over your child or that something so big is happening, and she is innocently left out of it; or even worse, you wonder if you’d been worrying about the wrong thing all along and that maybe things won’t turn out right.

When I left Layla to deliver Zade, I felt a hollow carve up inside, like when you swallow water too fast and there’s a bubble trying to force its way down. Like so many mother guilts, it’s not logical, but it is an ache you don’t forget.

And life goes on after those hospital days. It did for us, and now the kids are approaching birthdays. Layla will be 7 soon; she’d barely turned 2 when her brother was born.

Before my maternity leave was up in the winter, we went to Rosemary Beach. We snuggled in a green and white carriage house, all of us in one king size bed, the smell of steak still coming through the cool cracks. Beach winters are the best kept secret.


Last week we went to Panama City, which is close to Rosemary. Needing a family trip in the worst way, we rented a huge minivan and drove toward a tropical depression that was incredibly merciful to us.


On the only rainy day we had at the beach, we took a day trip back to Rosemary and visited our usual spots: the park at the town’s peripheral, the nooks between each unique, designer home, and a coastal book shop (it’s one of my favorites and never disappoints). The kids looked like kids and like grown people at the same time.

Seeing them up against the scale of memory, the scale of the swing Zade looked like a giant potato in a few years ago, made Kal and I start talking in tongues of the future. That type of talk where you plan and say God willing, where you try to face realities of what could be while also chanting why you’re so appreciative of what is.

Time is moving us forwards in whichever way it wants. Seems like I’m swinging backwards here in this post. I’ll keep that momentum going and end back to the first day at the beach.

After nearly 2 weeks that tested the Murphy’s law adage,  we thought we’d barely make it on our last-minute trip. We were so sick the night before our departure that we couldn’t pack or clean the house in preparation. Instead, we did all that in the morning and didn’t leave until the afternoon on the next day. Finally, we arrived to Florida at familiar surroundings. We dropped our stuff in the condo and went down to the beach. The kids who’d begged for the beach the whole summer were short of shrieking with joy when they felt sand.


Even though we’ve done many things as a family, this year felt different. As Kal drove, I crossed my legs out in front of me above the dashboard and looked out the window over familiar bridges, familiar long-leaf pines, familiar road stops, familiar faded homes. I told Kal that we used to sit in the back seat with my parents driving at one point in our lives, yet here we are in the front seat, making our way. I handed kids their snacks; he put gas in the car.


In this life of constant work and rotation, I’m grateful beyond measure for what the new brings and what the familiar holds. I can say with certainty that I’m curious about how things will look against today’s scales, markers that show us so much during the rippling ebb and flow of our lives.




Seems to me on the days when the grind gets the hardest, I experience everything in spikes.

I drove to work this morning with one hand on the wheel and the other hand inside of a box of Oatmeal Squares. Cereal was all I could grab on my way out of the house. It was mercy I even managed that before I wobbled to my car with Layla’s breakfast, slippery water bottles—one tucked under my arm and the other balanced on a plate, two backpacks, and my make-up bag. It was 6:45 and I couldn’t squash my defeat. It’s so early, but I’m still so late, I thought dejectedly.

I tried so hard not to be—begging Layla the night before to sleep early and wake up without constant nudging; putting everyone’s clothes out and packing lunches; making dinner and ensuring enough for leftovers the next day; doing work for an hour after everyone else was asleep. Preparing. I tried to get it all done, but it wasn’t enough.

In fact, the last few weeks have piled on top of each other so much so that I have been glued to each monkey bar—aware of the metal lines to come but also only able to reach out so far.  Tasks are getting done, and lists keep piling up. Judging from people around me, it very well could be just that time in September.

Last night after everything was undone and done (maybe not even in that order), I had a hoarse throat and a weight on my chest. I was upset at how the kids bickered on and off all night, causing spikes of tension that hit me the way it feels when you stop abruptly after running fast, your body all confused and breathless.

My body couldn’t handle a single more argument. By the final time I told Layla to stop coming out of her room, that enough was enough, especially since I’d read the story and fixed the light and fed that last snack, I had nothing left to give. And then just as I had quieted, I saw her run out of her room. I was afraid that if I nagged or yelled one more time, I’d unravel. Instead, I sat angry, transfixed on why I couldn’t just let it go. She’s being a kid. I’m a working mom. This is how it is. You know this. Just put on Downton Abbey and screw doing the dishes.

Thirty minutes later, I found her asleep on the guest bed. I walked towards it to carry her to her own room, but a feeling spiked up on me. I sat on the edge of an ottoman in my living room instead and just cried.  So many women are familiar with that good-cry-in-the-shower moment, only this time I was just sitting in a quiet room, grateful for some relief.

So that was last night. And my Oatmeal Square morning was this morning. The rest of today brought me to a better place. It’s the last official day of summer, so maybe there’s something to that.

Vox hands-in pic.jpg

My student editors made smart calls; my classes are liking The Crucible.  I found my groove, so I felt the power to walk into the house with blinders on. We hung out in Layla’s room and loomed bracelets. Kal did his own thing while we held onto the moment.

Zade asleep 2.jpg

At bedtime, I told Zade stories about when he was a baby. His new orange and black bracelet glowed against his blue LED night light, causing curiosity and joy—so sweet on his face. I leaned against his little stomach and laughed genuinely with him. Parents’ emotions are insanity. I am so tired, but I want to wake him up and relive how he laughed, an extended laugh that pleasantly surprises me when coming from a child.

This morning I was certain this post would be only about how the struggle catches up with us some days. But then just a few hours ago, I put the kids, skin shiny from a bath, to bed and felt tired, yes, but also better. A spike of affection and appreciation replaced what I felt 24 hours before.


So, I’ll leave you with this last anecdote if nothing but for my own memory:

My kids’ exuberance to see me come home from work is is really touching. They’re naturally loving greeters until it becomes a competition between who can run for the hug the fastest or hang on my neck the longest. Usually, my arms are filled with the same things I loaded my car up with in the morning, so the greeting becomes an awkward mashup of good intentions, the necessities, joy, and disappointment.

I decided two weeks ago that I’d walk into the house with only my car keys in hand. Arms open and able to reduce my own frustration with trying to make the scene what I want, I am able to give them what they need from the second I walk in. I gave up telling them to hang on and adjust. I just added a couple trips to the car. Something so simple solved one small element of the evening for me.

Tonight, I’m grateful to not end the night sitting on the edge of an ottoman. Those nights happen, and that’s life. But I’ll keep searching within for small adjustments that can help end the evening with an LED glow,  some time to write, and a little more peace.

Love Language

It’s a rainy Sunday morning. I’m sitting cross-legged on my couch, the fancy one I won’t let anyone eat or drink around. I’m breaking my rule and have a few last drops of coffee shallowing out my cup on the table next to me. My feet are feeling a little numb because I don’t want to detangle just yet. My laptop has set small lines on my thighs.  I woke up in the dark because I couldn’t sleep and have waited quietly for the yellow to come through, but all I’m seeing this morning include dull whites and greens because the rain has got some work to do.

I got to working yesterday as well. After a conversation that spun about spouses to fictional characters to stories, I found myself staring at something I’d read five or six years ago when my friend was trying to figure some things out about her life: websites on love languages. If you’re like me and could use some brushing up, here’s some quick info on it: Gary Chapman wrote a book in 1995 that has been on bestseller lists for some time. In it he describes the five ways humans experience and express love. It’s broken down and clarified into these expressions: physical touch, acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, and quality time.

I had dropped off the kids to enjoy freedom with their grandparents for the night. Kal was working, so I treated myself to a pedicure. While I waited to get seated, I took two online tests to figure out which love language I spoke. Don’t we all want to know more about ourselves by clicking on a few questions?

I don’t know how truly accurate they are, but this one and this one were of the first to pop up on my search, and I was anxious to figure out what love language I was without having to read the book (reading will have to resume after the school year lets me up for air). I did both tests and figured out that generally, one of these is my primary and one of these is my secondary love language. 

love lang 3.png

I was not surprised to find out that words of affirmation was a big one for me. Of course that makes sense. I was disappointed, though, to figure out the one about my loving gifts. It makes sense though. I think I show love in this way and maybe my friends could attest to that. Looking back on it, I could never understand how Kal would get uncomfortable receiving gifts or how he’s not the gift-for-the-occasion person that I certainly am. I guess if I look back deeply enough, I get it–not the materialistic side (ah!), but the side of having someone think of you and just do something concrete with some forethought.

Before 8 pm when we were surrounded by date-night plates of sashimi, I read questions aloud to Kal as he drove us to the restaurant. I clicked his answers to some interesting questions. With the advantage of knowing him for 14 years, I read questions like, “After a long and tough week, what do you want most from your partner?” or “When you’re in an emotional place, you want your partner to…” After two tests, we figured out his love language.

Having a partner for over a decade gives you the advantage of knowing them up close and personal. It doesn’t mean variables won’t change you or that people won’t disappoint you, but there are basic things you just kind of know. It’s validating to know that I probably could guess at his language but didn’t know exactly how to break it down or how my way of expressing was different from his way.

I asked him to guess mine, and instantly he said words of affirmation. When I told him about the gift one, he laughed and said, “yeah, I can see that.” All of this online quizzing brought us to some open and new conversation. That type of talk is truly refreshing in marriages when life operations consume most of our conversational energy. We got this small glimpse of how things can be reframed and adjusted like a painting that you move from one wall to another. You notice something you haven’t seen before even though it’s been in front of you for years.

As we walked into the restaurant, I told him that I’d most definitely hug him more and be enthusiastic about cooking dinners, something that because it usually falls on me feels like a chore those nights I just want to not think about taking out the chicken. In turn, I kidded, he may want to praise me, get me a small gift, and then maybe load up the dishwasher.

Take the quirky quizzes yourself and see where they take you. It’s a perfect Sunday morning thing to do, and it can teach you something about how you express and receive love in any type of relationship.


Zade is not yet 5 but has had over twice that number in emergency stitches. Over a year ago, he needed 6 stitches on his hand, and now he has 7 more on his face. I will no longer hear a story about a kid getting stitches and take it casually.

What ends up as a faded line starts as a break in expectations and pain. 

Thursday started with confidence. After work I even had coffee with a former student turned teacher, a perfect kind of person you hope the education world will appreciate.

I went for a run and came back to kids who like myself needed bathing. Five minutes after their routine started, Zade fell with all his might on the edge of the bathtub and gashed his face close to his eye. I yelled for Kal to come fast, and then quickly turned into another person.

I talked calmly and looked into Zade’s eyes to show him it was okay. I regulated my voice and said anything I could to reduce his frenzy. His blood flowed everywhere, and I felt I wanted to catch it all and put it all back inside. I wrapped him in a towel like a baby and carried him to his room. Layla hovered over him like a young nurse and brought out her special first aids kit. Kal noticed it was my battlefield and let me figure out what to do next. Zade’s uncle who had just arrived gave him a pep talk and sweetly insisted on helping us. After texting with a few special doctor friends who were so supportive and guiding, a true testament to their hearts, we left to the hospital.

Stitches 1

When Zade was given oral sedatives before the procedure, he gagged for a few minutes profusely until he just he slumped over like a drunken frat boy in my arms. He went to what Susie called a “happy place.” He’d put his hands in front of him and examined them, rotating them slowly like one would examine crystals against the sunlight. His eyes roaming over the room, he asked me to go to the office store with him; he slurred words together; and asked how come we got back to our home so fast.

Stitches 2.jpg

Four uncomfortable, scary steps and nearly 3 hours later, Zade was totally restrained, wrapped in a white sheet and a papoose, a blue flapped straight jacket. He looked coffined, and it was horrifying despite its logic.  The nurse held his head and Kal bent over Zade’s little boy body. A memory of Kal holding onto my leg when Zade was born passed over my eyes. I cupped the top of Zade’s feet, the only skin visible—even his head was covered in a blue sterile cloth. Layla, my amethyst, refused to leave the room and cried for her brother while standing on her toes to see the doctor with needle and thread. She wanted to see every step, just like the last time Zade got stitches. She even got mad at us for not moving over so she’d have a better angle.

Zade cried out for help from both Kal and me. He tore our hearts when he shouted, “I’m going to die, Mama!” and “They are breaking me!” He begged Kal to get them to stop. It was the most counterintuitive moment. Zade didn’t see my face then, so I looked down at Layla and broke down and hated myself so much for his pain. Like always, I felt she could handle my real emotions. We were palms matching on a window in that small ER room.

When it was all done and Zade had red syrup from his Popsicle on the tip of his nose and around his mouth, Layla said, “Wow, Zade. I don’t know how you did all that.” Kal nabbed a wheelchair rebelliously and rolled them out, racing them through the dark parking lot. Finally, Zade and Layla were with each other again, kids asking about ice cream, and the ordeal was over.

Stitches 3

We stopped at Waffle House on the way home. The kids and I stayed in the car while Kal got two waffles for Zade. Zade was still drunk off his medicine and looked as wobbly as the young guys taking tabasco shots inside. The night ended for the kids with myriad maple kisses. I lay in bed dead to the world but still awake for a few hours unable to sleep.

Tonight my parents came over to bring get well gifts for the kids. After a quick recap, I didn’t focus on anything that wasn’t funny. We got through it. It’s already become a story now of the time when Zade got that scar on his face. You can’t be badass without at least one of those, right? Most importantly though, even while we were at the hospital, we held steadfast awareness that so many kids endure so much more, a thought that is even more nauseating when a fraction of that misfortune happens to your own child.

Stitches 4

Instead, the kids played with new toys around citronella candles on the porch as we all rocked back and forth, arching from one conversation to another.

I’m thankful that nighttime comes at the end and that daytime comes eventually after that. I’m grateful that patterns exist and that there are things in this world we can count on. Waiting in the pharmacy parking lot, Zade blurted shakily that he’s afraid if he dies he will stop thinking. I can barely type that without reminding myself to breathe. It’s clear, though, that he’s been reflecting, too.

I thought I’d end Thursday with that school routine we’re trying to start back up again, but the unexpected took us somewhere else.

My stories here never end the way I leave them on the page. One story leads to another, each reflection as valuable as the conversation we had in the car today where words embed best intentions and family does its best to somehow roll with it.

This Summer

On writing her memoir, Abigail Thomas says, “instead of not-writing, I am painting.”

If you don’t count a thin Crayola watercolor paint brush from Zade’s art drawer, I haven’t picked up a real brush for many years. Andrea bought me my first adult painting set in October 2008.  Kal was in Dubai for a few months and I was open to focus on my own devices. The spirit of Halloween nearby, we sat on an old red tablecloth in my living room and painted side by side. I’m squinting hard to remember what I painted—probably a sunset or some trees, the usual beginner fantasies of painting—but I remember thinking, now that wasn’t so hard.

Thomas begins her account with this simple and equally truthful message: “Nothing is wasted when you are a writer. The stuff that doesn’t work has to be written to make way for the stuff that might; often you need to take the long way around.”

I’ve focused on writing this summer more than I’ve dreamed of for any summer, and when I wasn’t writing, I was “not-writing” while observing something else. Long drives back and forth from kids’ camps became quiet moments where I could uncover a crucial plot element or come up with an idea I’d toss later. Either way, it only mattered that while I was consistently busy this summer, I was also “not-writing” when I was.

I’ve become more and more comfortable with scrapping pages and pages of writing, so hard to pluck out at first but still purposeful in laying out the road. Two things have helped me the most: just writing. just committing.

On a great leap of faith, I enrolled in a UCLA extension course on short fiction writing, one of many I hope to take. To echo a girl I met this summer, I didn’t want all the balloons buoyant in my head to just release, one by one out into air.

On the first day of class, our professor asked both for creative writing and for some writing on what brought us to the class. I admitted the ultimate catalyst for enrolling: Taking this class is a grand leap of faith on myself. In fact, I almost didn’t take this symbolic course.

I put the money aside and was debating if I should do stuff for the house instead, another source of joy, or saving it in what Betty Smith names the moneybox nailed down in the closet.  One day on the way to get my hair colored, I got pulled over for speeding. I was polite and knew I was wrong for speeding, so I apologized to the officer and took my ticket with dignity. I knew then that I wouldn’t be able to take the course after all and took it as a sign. I held it together and accepted it like an adult.

Two weeks later, I sat in the same car and called up to pay for the ticket, and clerk said I owed $39.00. Shocked, I confirmed what she said, $39.00. I almost sang out my card numbers to the automated service. I was expecting to pay over 200 dollars at least, but there I sat with my phone and credit card in my hands,  waiting in the parking lot for the other shoe to drop. It didn’t.

So I went home, created my account, and signed up for the class.

I had a deadline for class during Andrea’s latest visit here. After Kal and the kids went to bed, both of us sat at my long dining room table with only the glow of the soft light above us. Two cups of coffee sitting next to us in mismatched mugs and our laptops open, we wrote quietly alongside each other for hours. The best part of this experience was not just the energy. It was the catalyst for the moment—although this time I was the one to orchestrate it.

Two weeks ago, I had two rose gold necklaces made for us, each one stamped with the first letter of each of our most important characters. Big Magic inspired me to commit to characters, the way one would while married or the way one would while having an affair, sneaking off no matter what is at stake to be together. Over oysters and pomegranate drinks, we held hands and took a vow to stay true to our stories.



We opened the boxes together and slipped our necklaces on. From that moment, we steadily walked away from life updates and strolled right into our stories. The rest of the visit, when Andrea wasn’t playing Barbies and Jenga, or watching Rio and Wild Kratts with her niece and nephew, in the moments when we had some quiet, we filled ourselves up with the explorative, something consistent between us but noticeably rare, a joy that only comes with someone who stares out the window like you do.

Amidst long summer days, learning about our new home, going to a Georgian safari, myriad trips to Brusters, laughing with visitors, long pool days, running around a track, bike riding, camps from rock climbing to gymnastics, Layla’s first playdate at Six Flags, Zade’s mischief-charm, text-designing with friends, slower mornings, really late nights, reading and listening to books, cooking warm meals, eating tacos at the table, crazy sibling rivalry, sweet sibling synergy, running in the early morning, getting splashed by the sprinkler, visiting with neighbors, Spiderman and Barbie adventures, workshop training, daytime appointments, kids sprawled upside down on the couch, watching cartoon matinees, and melting in high summer Georgia heat, I stayed dedicated to not letting the thick-head talk that comes in the way with allowing yourself to create.

Next week our lives change up again to the rhythms of fall semester. Lots of this summer in which we’ve nestled will change to a pitched energy. I’m aware of it, but it is still 6 days away. We still have a few more memories to make in this narrowing expanse; therefore, I’ll just write it out to carry its hopeful weight: summer is not over just yet. 


Last night we set up camping chairs on the front lawn and listened to fireworks go off all over the area. A few times, we saw some colorful crackles above the dark trees ahead. With all the trees around us, the sky never looks just black; it’s charcoal with strong, bright stars. If these stars could strut, they would do so nobly like the stroll of a pedigree in a horse show.  Seeing real fireworks had nothing on the soft breeze and the noble stars last night.

The four of us took snacks outside and sat in blue chairs on the lawn. The kids lit up sparklers with more and more confidence until they were each swirling in circles and making rings with the fire sparks. I joined them with some and whirled around; we looked like a team of amateur driveway dervishes. Afterward, Kal lit up some fireworks at our house, and both the kids and I held our breath until the last starburst. When they were done, I asked the trees, “you guys doing okay?” I wonder if they brace themselves or roll their eyes when the time comes for fireworks. It was weird to be on the side of the “crazy people that light their own fireworks;” I’ve thought that before, but here I was, reluctant yet willing to watch, kind of just wanting not to say no to Kal. He should be able to experience this season in this new space his own way, too.

When our shows were over, the kids and I blew out the giant citronella candle that we used in lieu of a campfire, and we made our way back to the house.

Maybe it was running in the heat that morning or cooking a big lunch, or maybe it was our lazy trip to Brusters or the adventurous grocery shopping we did, but by the time this joyous moment happened, I passively slid into it. I didn’t waste my energy on the reel of scary I can often do, for example, on any given Sunday night before school when I picture all the bad things that could happen. Instead, I just enjoyed and didn’t think about it until right now.

But this isn’t always the case. You know how you feel something is so right and hope so much that you don’t mess it up? That the wave you’re riding on may turn into a tide against you? My good friend reminded me of Brene Brown’s words when I shared with her I was afraid of the other shoe dropping: joy is terrifying. To let go of the refuge in safe decisions that I might make for our family is to risk that I may upset a rhythm we’ve created that brings us peace. Yes, I’ll push against complacency, but it doesn’t mean I’m not scared doing it.

I struggle with this especially as I feel more confident and more adventurous than ever.  But honestly the time when I’m the most fearful is the time when things are doing just fine. In fact, if you’ve read previous posts, you know how much moving into this new home has meant to me. I’ve seen close friends experience this high and then get kicked unexpectedly. I’m an optimistic person who has seen this happen so often to my friends and just notice it as a pattern.

My reconciliation has been that I just have to ride the wave and hope that I can handle what comes up next, knowing that hardship presents its own gifts. Brene Brown says, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.” We try to dress rehearse tragedy, she says. And boy do I know this feeling well. The antidote is to practice gratitude, she proposes.  I feel I do this well enough in my way with friends, my projects at school, my love for people, my efforts with my family.

All of these actions try to bring joy, which in turn usually make me feel so grateful. But the small difference is that I have not been thinking of gratitude as a defense for the terrifying, especially in regards to my family bubble. Teachers and writers are always in tune, so it’s not for lack of not seeing, but on a personal level, I want to take it a step further and make even more of an active effort to lean on gratitude rather than to lean on fear.
Today, I am grateful for that breeze on my hair as I turned around to see Layla try to record her dad run away from the fireworks, Zade passing up the stars for a stolen game on his dad’s phone, the communal popping sounds from east to west of us, and plates of staled crackers sitting on the grass by our feet.

4th of July

I wish us all two things today: the type of joy that is born with sheer gratitude, and that passive, lazy calm that captures inconsequential beauty.

June Promise

At the end of this week, it will be the beginning of July. I’ve just now outstretched my arms over June’s bed. I’ve calmed into a June routine, and I’m not ready to give it up. Teachers turn a page from June to July and resist the gnawing feeling of July. As my friend Naomi calls it, it can feel like “the eternal Sunday evening.” But today, it’s still June, and today, I’m on day 2 of not going out anywhere by choice. I’ve rebelled this weekend against camp schedules and driving to far places.

Looking back at the last few weeks, I think I’ve had four goals:

1) Get kids to camp and back and try to tip the balance in favor of peace rather than in defeat of sibling rivalry. They’ve done some pretty awesome things and are peas in a pod when they’re not sloshing around in a stew.

2) Read as much as possible. I told Kal yesterday I’ve been having book affairs—there’s a different book in various corners of my house that I’m sneaking off to as soon as no one is looking. Even though it doesn’t feel like it some days, it’s clear that my kids are at a different stage as I’m able to actually to read books while I’m home with them sometimes.

3) Keep my house open to visitors and playdates; our first summer here has felt both like a vacation and a long, romantic first date.

4) Preparing myself.

I peeled back the covers at 6 am, careful not to drop Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (thank you, Katie) off my end table.  I could hear heavy sleep around me. I gently walked out of the room and down the hallway. I may as well have size 24 feet as loud as my steps sounded to me. I guess the weight of my need to get some fresh air amplified my belabored thievery. Luckily, I grabbed my notebook and opened the front door and settled in a chair. I looked over my shoulder a few times before admitting the coast was clear. I sat, listened, and wrote down what I saw.

An orb of gnats or some type of fly group sparked and spiked in a 6 inch radius around the juniper. I stared at the floating ball moving a few inches from left to right, keeping with their crazy circle. Apparently this cyclone was mating fervently since their life span is only a few weeks; they wanted to keep their line. They certainly looked busy. I tried to take a picture, but they just looked like static on a screen.

My eyes darted away from the gnat-party a few times because loud house flies buzzed around me unusually. One insisted sitting on the same spot on my leg.  A few different breeds raced and hit the window behind me, making a sound like a fingertip tapping on a glass. To keep myself unharried, I looked over to the flowers with curiosity. They looked so much taller. I once saw a bird feeding four of its baby birds, beaks wide open like an origami note. The flowers looked like they were sticking out their necks out high, waiting for something.

I got distracted by the loud sound of crickets and bird calls. I’ve been soothed by them before, yet this time was different. To my ears, they sounded like announcements. It was overwhelming really. Between swatting flies, the orb-party circling in front of me, and the warnings from the birds, I escaped back inside after only a writing down a little.

Despite the hot morning sun, the forecast says it’s going to rain today, and now all my notes make sense. Plants and animals feel the air pressure and react. Even bees scramble and cram back into their nests.  I bore witness to nature preparing and ordering the way a ship’s crew hoists boxes to each other, arching down and throwing up as they unload cargo and passengers. The ship directs traffic and brings on new crew, people dispersing depending on their goal; these systems work alongside each other noisily but with purpose. Maybe that’s why everything feels so calm right before a storm. Nature has already sent out its signals, and the crew has read the signs.

I feel the crumbs under my feet and know I’m going in the right direction. June has given me some time to commit. Repairing myself and pushing physical limits that went soft towards the end of the school year is one thing I’m prepared to maintain. Running trails and looking at huge trees, noble and Triassic, is something I have to keep doing.


With that I have committed to more writing experiments every day as that’s the only way I can find the “treasures” as Gilbert alludes to in Big Magic.  It’s clear now that diligence and routine are the strongest ways of locating them.

Several hours ago while the kids watched Good Dinosaur again, I took out the recycling trash and something caught my eye. This giant bloom wasn’t there late last night when I watered the plants. It’s like the pressure in the air pushed her out into the world. She didn’t come out with a trumpet’s horn. Her buds were concealed, cloaked in an understated brush. I walked to take out the recycling and she caught my eye. She looked like a woman in a red dress, blooming and surprising the spectator, maybe even herself.


I’m preparing to be more willing, especially with fiction. The story that has lived in my head and in fragments on the screen for almost two years want to go somewhere, and I can feel it.  As Lamott says, I want to “squint at an image that is forming in [my] mind,” and to clear a space “for the writing voice.” I’m saying it here so I hold myself to the task,  even if it gets noisy and has me bumping into windows like the crazy flies preparing for the rain this morning.


During the summer, I can see what it’s like to work from home or to not have a job at all. I’ll go to the gym in the morning and wonder how so many people are already there and imagine what their daily lives involve. A few days ago, my body already ached from pushing too hard that week, but I made myself attend a kickboxing class. The room was filled with an array of badass poptarts, colorful and ready to jump, uppercut, and heave someone at any moment. Strong women, commonly beautiful in their commitment.

The 9:45 am-energy in this class was unlike anything I’ve seen in that studio, maybe because I’m accustomed to going to the “I’ve-had-a-long-day” classes at night. The boxing instructor taught in motorcycle boots, tight jeans, and a razorback top showing off her tattoos. Her hair was down, flying around at each jab, and she was rocking it.

A common denominator with some women in that room was tattoos. Women in the rows in front of me had a garden of them. Vines on forearms, birds on necks, words on thighs. All of them have a story, I hope, and I was the wallflower wanting to know about each of them. Ink on skin is like ink on paper—they hold a truth, a story. Tattoos instantly say to me, I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. I’m not complacent; I control the story.

Sheltering eventually makes everything seem so avant-garde. My generation of Persian girls spent so time writhing in their awkward years. Our parents tried to keep us modest, hoping that the shade cast from our overgrown eyebrows would keep us out of trouble. Eventually, we would recognize we don’t have to be blond to feel confident (although most of us have tried that route at least once), but by that time the damage would already be done. After middle school, it would take 10 more years before we could recognize that a boy and a girl can actually be friends, that driving someone home after school is not a big deal, that staying late for games is normal, that not seeing a future in every step is okay, and that making mistakes is fun and good—like that great line from Gregory Alan Isakov, “If it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone.” Growing up comes with common angst, but our adab can make the obstacle that much more…ethnic.

The loud bass in the class encouraged us to fight in unison, a solidarity that could be channeled to light cities, a visual reminder of our capabilities. These women who walked from different roads to get to class that Thursday morning are all part of a remarkable gender. I’ve said this many times before and will say it again:  women are the superior gender—naturally capable, able to be the stereotype and to break it, distinguish our inside and our outside. Sure, some of us might rule the world like a khanoom, a lady whose hands may fold over one another in her lap but only because she’s mastered multitudinous tasks and silently observes as if from a balcony over the crowd.

She carries, births, raises, cultivates, and preserves more than children; she’s the fraternal twin to Mother Nature. She’s like Alabama Shakes on stage, Brittany Howard rocking and redefining; she is Esme Patterson’s bird call, cooing with girlish ferocity in a duet with Shakey Graves. These ideas make me wonder about my past and about what I’m capable of; they make me imagine how one clichéd late night with friends would change both the way I see myself and the road I walked on.

It’s ironic that during this holy month of Ramadan that I should be thinking so strongly about the power of those tattoos and how much I want one. When everyone’s in bed and I’m given some silence to let words fall into their place in my head, I wonder how my life would have been if I had gotten a tattoo after high school. I never really wanted one then, and my father’s firm stance against them was clear.  I think, too, that what is un-inked is also a story. In Brooklyn, Jim tells Ellis, who has returned to Ireland after emigrating to America,  that deep down he is terrified of things that he’ll never do.  I supposed I’m suggesting that there is a figurative divide between the tattooed and the not-tattooed, and I wonder what it’s like on the other side.

Maybe it would be silly in some ways to get one now, but part of me wonders what else would come out of me as a result of the very defiance a tattoo outwardly projects. What decisions would I have made differently if I made that first bold move long ago? Or am I just glorifying it like I do so many of the things I didn’t do? Maybe I would have stepped on more toes, slammed doors harder, said no more permanently, rebelled a bit longer, or grown new skin sooner.

Certainly, I have my uninked stories that I’ve earned and that I cherish, but it doesn’t stop me from sitting here on this lazy summer afternoon and wondering about the possible-inked ones.