Dear Readers

It’s a funny thing, this year, for the first time, I don’t find myself wanting to pack up the ornaments and toss out the tree. We chose a modest tree this year, one that’s tucked nicely next to the fireplace. I’ve enjoyed having the outdoors inside and the many twinkling lights to brighten the darkest time of year.

I feel the same way about this project–I’m not ready to give it up. I wonder, should I attempt to go another year? But that doesn’t feel right either. I plan to write every day, now that I’ve proven to myself it can be done. But I need to channel the daily commitment into various projects. Perhaps that sounds too much like I’m abandoning ship. I’m not! I plan to blog weekly in this space. I’m curious what you, dear readers, think about that.

I began this project as a lone little boat at sea. I had no notion of marketing or self-promotion, no flares to send up, so how would anyone even see me? It was a relief really, because I was so afraid of being seen. I’d chosen to blog my 365 project, rather than write privately in a journal, mainly for accountability. If I failed, I would have to fail publicly. Blogging also meant I’d have some freshly published writing samples floating around the interweb.

While those factors fueled the first months of this voyage, they were not at the heart of what kept me going over the long haul. What motivated me to write, even on the most challenging days, was you. I hadn’t anticipated the deep sense of connection I would find here, the way blogging would feel like letter-writing, and the way that intimacy would allow me to write in my truest voice. You, dear readers, who’ve generously spent time in this space offering your thoughts, feedback, ideas, advice and support, have been one of the greatest gifts of 2016. You have lifted my spirits and reminded me I’m not alone, you’ve generated conversation, you’ve ushered me through milestones like weaning my toddler, and celebrated my first essay publications. I am so grateful for you and everything you’ve shared with me. And it is because of you that I’ll continue to write at One Blue Sail.

I wish you all a joyous and peaceful New Year’s Eve! I’m curious about your traditions and celebrations, and your dreams for the coming year. We’re celebrating with my sister and brother-in-law, low-key pajama party sleepover style. Today I’ll pull out a big sheet of drawing paper and we’ll write out our dreams, goals, and ambitions for the coming year, our New Year’s Eve conjuring ritual. Mine range from simple to lofty. I may as well dream big!

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New Year’s Eve Eve

The new year is almost here and I have my 2017 list bubbling in the back of my brain. I need get it all down on paper, my dreams, wishes, and goals, for the coming year. Whether it be sorcery or superstition, I believe in the power of this ritual, this invocation of my heart’s desires.

I’ll also create a gratitude list for 2016, which I’m picturing more like a growth a chart, mostly because of this project and a year spent writing. 2016 has been a year of learning and growing and stretching and striving. A year of connection. A year of ideas.

I’ve been jotting down my thoughts here and there, in notebooks, in blog drafts, in the notes app on my phone. (Oh, to be an organized person!) Tomorrow I promise to sit down with it all and sort through it. Typically, I reflect and then set goals for the coming year. This year will be a bit different. I need all my goals and wishes jotted down tomorrow for New Year’s Eve, because yes, I’m superstitious. But I’ll continue to reflect a lot in the coming weeks as this project draws to a close.

I’m so glad I chose not to begin on January 1st last year. I’m never one for being right on time, so I was true to myself, starting out on January 20th, an arbitrary date early in the year, a date I felt ready to begin. Of course, I remember it taking me a good two weeks to compose that first blog post. It felt so precious and important. I’m glad to have shaken off that feeling. Now it’s old hat. Routine. In those first days, I was so afraid of being seen, of saying anything out loud. What a relief to have shaken that off too. My nature is shy and introverted, but certainly not silent.

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One Brushstroke

Last Spring, in the early part of this project, I re-read Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, searching for some bit of advice that would give me courage and break through my writer’s block. I scribbled down her oft-quoted line, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

After this year of writing, blogging, pitching, and publishing as well as critiquing and commenting on other writers’ work, I can’t say I entirely agree with Lamott. Heck yes, you own everything that happened to you. And yes, tell your story. But regarding those who should have behaved better, I would say, proceed with empathy and the greatest care. Let loose in the first draft, of course. Draft many drafts. Explore. Don’t rush to publish. Allow some time to pass, and then look at the work with fresh eyes. Consider the reader.

Words can wound. Words can honor. I’ve bumped up against many boundaries during this writing year. Mining your material isn’t just about discovering the things you want to write, it’s also about discovering the many things you will not write. I am more careful now about the words I use, the ones I write and the ones I speak.

I have a writer/editor-friend who gave a generous and careful critique of a recent piece. One of the most important things she noted had to do with a main character. She said, “I think you need just one more brushstroke.” That note has stayed with me. I consider it whenever I’m editing my work. After all, one brushstroke can change everything.

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Hygge

It’s one of those nights I feel empty of words. I’ve been working on other words, and I seem to have spent them all. So I’m going to try filling back up. The fire is doing its crackle-hiss and I have a copy of NYT Sunday Styles with the Hygge article I’ve been meaning to read, Wintering the Danish Way. “Hygge is the Danish word for cozy. It is also a national manifesto, nay, an obsession expressed in the constant pursuit of homespun pleasures involving candlelight, fires, fuzzy knitted socks, porridge, coffee, cake, and other people. But no strangers, as the Danes, apparently, are rather shy.” I mean, really, how am I not Danish?

Have a cozy evening, dear ones.

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A Breath

A breath. A grey morning. A toddler and her father peacefully constructing a marble run in the other room. A cup of coffee still hot. A mother-writer typing these words at the table next to the Christmas tree.

Yesterday, the mother-writer attempted this very same thing. She sat for a few early morning minutes with her coffee, desperate to type fleeting thoughts, to tie a loose knot, to knit the past to the present, to patch the precarious scaffolding she’s been building for 343 days, to locate the place inside, self, to tap the wellspring, to mine a vein and perhaps discover a glint of newness. But the family could not conspire on behalf of the mother-writer, who was on edge after giving and giving and giving. She simply could not give in to more giving, and so she hollered loudly, ferocious for the scrap of time she was not allowed. And then she got in the shower and cried. And then the busy day began.

It’s easier to write about failure in the third person.

In the evening, we had friends over for dinner. Children entertaining themselves in the den. Adults in the living room sipping wine and relaxing by the fire. I stood in the kitchen with my friend from California as she sliced a pear and assembled the salad items she’d brought. Our conversation swirled around itself, mine streaming from that place of I’m trying to get her into preschool and get my freelancing off the ground and I feel like I’m failing at mothering and failing at working and I wish I could split myself in half, and hers streaming from a place of working long days with high-risk students in Oakland and pursuing career ambitions but feeling like she needs to go part-time because she’s not with her kids enough and wishing she could split herself in half. We were coming from different places, but our feelings were so much the same. After she scattered the last of the sunflower seeds over the lettuce, she turned to me and hugged me for a long time and said, “You’re doing a really good job. We’re doing a really good job.” We were both crying, and she said, “It’s hard. It’s just really hard.” I poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad, and we drifted back into the living room with everyone. There was lots of laughter and catching-up and the kids running through, laughing through, dancing through before disappearing again. We spread out on the couches and floor and ate pizza and salad on paper plates. We talked about work, kids, politics, activism, parenting. We enjoyed that very particular contentment and ease that comes from being with old friends.

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Merry Christmas!

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It’s a sunny, mild, Spring-like day here in the Northeast and a very happy Christmas. What a joy it was to see our sweet girl unwrap her new dollhouse!

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Here she is, busy and content.

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And these are the mugs Chris and I got each other for Christmas, which suit us to a T. The perfect mugs to toast this good life.

Merry Christmas, dear friends! May your hearts and bellies be full, and may love surround you.

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Santa Claus

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Christmas Eve. 9:00 p.m. We’re home and we’ve just finished the wrapping and the kitty threatens to dismantle our work and it’s all happiness. Isabella has already received heaps of gifts from three sets of doting grandparents. There’s nothing like grandparent love. This is a picture from today with her sweet cousins just before Santa arrived. My father-in-law has an elaborate Santa costume and he looked as if he’d just flown in from the North Pole. She jumped up and down when she spotted him from the window as he rounded the house. During the hubbub and picture-taking, I noticed her studying him closely before she turned to me and said, “Mommy, Papa’s so silly, he’s Santa Claus!” It made us all laugh, this perfect moment of recognition. It didn’t dispel the magic. In fact, it enhanced it. Santa wasn’t a stranger, but someone who loves her, someone she feels safe and comfortable with. And there we were, all of us playing this wonderful game of pretend. For my little one, nothing could’ve been more magical than that.

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Cousins

Every year as a little girl, I counted the days until December 23rd when we would spend the night at my maternal grandparents’ house and wake on Christmas Eve morning to a living room packed so tightly with presents there was no room to walk. On Christmas Day we’d go to my paternal grandparents’ house where my aunties, uncles, and cousins (there are sixteen of us) gathered. It was three full days of celebration back then, and it still is. Tonight was the big party at my mom and stepdad’s. Watching my daughter’s joy when she’s with her cousins reminds me of that feeling, the thrill of being with all my cousins, the fun of being part of a big, sprawling family.

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Winter Solstice

I made time amidst the rush today to take my little one down to the beach and just be. She filled a pail with sand while I collected bits of driftwood and broken shells. I wanted to make something to honor the solstice.

Tonight, when I was out rushing around again and then finally driving home, I caught myself not breathing–until I turned on the radio and started singing. And I realized, if you’re singing, you’re breathing. Like meditation without the effort.


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