12.29.2012

2012: It's a Wrap!

Well, there goes another year of blogging. This has been my least productive year as a blogger, but you know what? I had a lot going on, so I'm not going to worry too much about it.

I started the year reading/reviewing The Chronology of Water a memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch. It reminded me why I love to write and that I want/need to push myself to that raw, honest place where Lidia goes. If you still haven't read this, I highly recommend it.

Then I started nesting in preparation for Kiara's grand entrance into my life. I painted a mountain mural, and readied the nursery.

And then I spent the bulk of the next couple of months getting Overdue Apologies ready for publication. I hate book promotion, but I love making play lists so I put together three soundtracks, one for each part of the middle school memoir. If you're a fan of 80s pop, these are the mix tapes for you. I published a few excerpts from the memoir and hoped it would move, but I didn't do enough to promote it, didn't properly release it or stage readings, so although it sold in modest numbers, it hasn't done nearly as well as Through Eyes Like Mine.

Then, on April 1, I had a baby. April Fools. No, really, I did. You can read Kiara's birth story in three parts. The link starts with part three so if you want to read them in order scroll to the last post first. 

When summer arrived I read a book: Looking for Alaska by John Green. I liked it, but took issue with a section where he referred to basketball players as ape men. He doesn't think it is racist. I think it is. You can read the whole deal here. Again, the original post is after all of the conversation which followed.

I haven't written much since. I am a new mother struggling to figure out how to make the writing fit. I also tore my Achilles tendon which sucks. Everybody stretch. You don't want to tear, or strain, or rupture that tendon! But I wrote the draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo, and that helped me learn how to sneak in time at the page no matter what else I have going on.

So, thanks for hanging with me in 2012, and here's to 2013. Happy New Year.

12.19.2012

ESA On Ice!

I can't believe 2012 is almost over. It's been a big year and as I procrastinate my end-of-the-year blog I decide instead to post about this year's ESA ice skating trip.


It was our second year taking middle schoolers to Santa Monica to skate and hang out on the promenade. For the second year I didn't get to skate, but I still had a blast watching my students skate, stumble, and slip around that little outdoor rink.

It's the closest I get to sharing a Central Oregon winter with them and until we get a college trip to Oregon, I guess it will have to do. Here's a link to my post about skating last year with an excerpt from Overdue Apologies about ice skating and Spin the Bottle. 


10.15.2012

I Need to Write...

I've been gone too long. I could blame it on motherhood, or the start of the school year, or the torn Achilles' tendon. But what this down time reminded me was that I need to write. Need. Like oxygen.

Because even as I lay here with football on TV, and a blue cast on my leg, and a brown dog, and a baby asleep in the other room, as much as life changes, I still need to write. So I'm writing.

Because it makes me feel just a little bit less trapped.

Because it keeps me a bit more sane.

Because it helps me make sense of this life.

Because I have to.

My friends, family and students keep reminding me. They are reading my books, or blog posts, or Facebook posts, and they are talking to me about them. Every time they do I remember why I write. I have a story. I have stories.

I need to write.

But I also need you, so thank you. Thank you for reading. For reading the books, and the blogs and my little tweets and status updates.

But even if you didn't read, I'd still write, because, well, I need to.

That is all.

and if you'd like to read more, check out www.norikonakada.com

8.21.2012

Milk and Words are Weird Like That or Three Things Breastfeeding and Writing Have in Common, No Four!

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In the first few days after Kiara was born, I posted on Facebook and twitter, "I always thought writing was the hardest thing. Nope. Breastfeeding is harder."

It was true, and although it got easier, those first weeks of breastfeeding drained me physically and emotionally. Now, as I struggle to get myself back to the page, I'm thinking about all of the connections between writing and breastfeeding.

1. Starting is the hardest.

I hate staring down the blank page, not knowing what to write about, or just unplugging from the internet and getting to real writing hurts.
Where the milk goes.

Same with breastfeeding. Getting a good latch, engorgement, and the godforsaken nipple pain! I'm already dreading having to start breastfeeding again if we have a second baby.

2. It gets easier.

Despite how awful the beginning is, thankfully writing seems to get easier once I have something written to start and the trick of stopping a writing session mid-sentence is great for getting me back into a piece.

Where blogs and books begin...

There is a learning curve for new mother and baby, but after a few weeks, we seemed to figure things out. And thank goodness.

3. The only way out is through.

If there is a problem with a work in progress, the only way to solve it is to keep writing. Read it. Reread it. Reflect on it. Revise again. Come at a different angle. Read it.

If there is a problem breastfeeding, a plugged duct or diminished supply, the solution always seems to be, keep breastfeeding. Just keep at it and it will get better.
Where blogs and books begin...

4. Keep at it.

No matter how long I stay away from the page, the words always seem to come. They might not be the best words, and they aren't always in the right order at first, but they come. They have yet to let me down.

Somehow the milk keeps coming. If I latch/pump, the milk comes.

Words and milk are weird like that.

They say (and they are pretty loud about it) breastfeeding is best for the baby for the first year. Well, if you're a writer and a mother, my guess is writing, even in the exhaustion of these early months, is probably best for you too. So take care mother-writers out there, whether you are breastfeeding or not.

7.19.2012

Follow Up on Looking for Alaska and John Green

I've really enjoyed the discussion about John Green's Looking for Alaska and coincidentally it just debuted on the NY Times bestsellers list. I almost didn't finish it because of my interpretation of page 48. Here it is and a little set up: the narrator is new at this boarding school and at his first basketball game with his roommate the Colonel.

I wanted to abandon the book but these posts on Facebook helped me decide to keep reading.

And when I posted the blog there was more discussion both in the blog comments and on Facebook.
So then I set out to connect with Looking for Alaska author John Green. I found his twitter and since it was an active account with tweets by him, I wrote these:
I didn't hear back from him so I followed up with these:
And a while later, he responded! 
So I replied
but I didn't hear anything back. Hm. So what now? If he didn't think the characters were black, is it still racist? Another Facebook discussion ensued which brought me some closure on the whole thing. 



Whew. That was so fun! If you participated, thank you! If you waded through all of that, thank you too! If you care to weigh in on the topic, comment away...

7.13.2012

Looking for Alaska, and finding my brain!

It's been a while since my last post mostly because I'm not sure what to blog about these days. So much of my life is caught up in being a new mother, and there are so many brilliant mommy blogs out there, I'm not sure my little tidbits are necessary to the conversation. So, for now, I'll keep my mommy-musings minimal although they may warrant a blog post every so often.

That's why I was so excited when I picked up Looking for Alaska, a YA novel by John Green, and I read twenty pages! In one sitting! My post-partum brain, it still worked. And then I read another 20, but then I came across a paragraph on page 48 and I stopped. The narrator had been a pretty stand-up kid, trying to find himself like most high school kids, but this one paragraph made me stop. So, I posted this question in Twitter and Facebook: "The narrator of Looking for Alaska, a YA book I'm reading, just revealed he's racist although he would deny it. Do I keep reading?"

I loved the conversation which followed and I decided to finish the book because I had been enjoying it, until that paragraph. I hoped at some point the narrator might revisit his misguided thoughts, but as I suspected, that paragraph, that racist paragraph, just sat there, and I chalked it up to character development. I mean, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that a white, middle class kid from Florida would exhibit racism. So I read, and I enjoyed this kid's quest for the Great Perhaps and how he seeks to escape the labyrinth of suffering. But after finishing the book, when I look back at that one paragraph, I think the author was revealing his racism.

I also wasn't sure why it bothered me so much. Why did this paragraph make me want to abandon a book I'd been previously enjoying? I've forgiven poorly written paragraphs, misogynistic paragraphs, wasted paragraphs that should have just been deleted, so why did this racist graph bug me so much? Well, I think, in part, because it is an extremely familiar form of racism, the kind I encountered too often growing up in Bend. Someone I really liked, a friend, a classmate, would say something racist and I'd have to decide how to handle it. Should I call them on their racist comment or say nothing and remember, oh, so-and-so is racist and begin to silently hate them? I usually called people on things which didn't garner many popularity points, but now, twenty years after leaving Bend and a couple of weeks after my high school reunion, I've forgiven and forgotten racist comments my former classmates might have made (although I've been known to hide racist "friends" on Facebook). And as for John Green, I'll be writing him to ask why he chose to include this paragraph in Looking for Alaska. 

"Unfortunately for the Culver Creek Nothings, we weren't playing the deaf-and-blind school. We were playing some Christian school from downtown Birmingham, a team stocked with huge, gargantuan apemen with thick beards and a strong distaste for turning the other cheek" (48). 

But mostly, I'm celebrating the return of my brain.

5.01.2012

Kiara's Birth Story Part III


This is the last part of Kiara's birth story. It's a little painful so don't feel like you have to read it.

Here are links to Part I and Part II in case you missed them.

Part III

They rolled me into surgery and I told myself it would be okay. The room was bright and filled with people. I moved from the bed to the table. They were surprised I could still move so much. Yeah, the epidural had worn off.

They laid me out like I was on a cross, drew up a blue curtain, and prepped me for surgery. The anesthesiologists added an additional dose of pain meds. Cold numbness returned. I stared at the bright white ceiling and thought of my baby girl. She would be here soon. I would finally meet her. An anesthesiologist pricked me with a pin to help determine if I was numb enough. I guess I was numb enough. David came in and they started.

I felt the tugging of my body against knife. I tried not to think about my body flayed open, and waited as David held my shoulder. I could both feel and not feel what was happening and then there was a cry and. She was here. I turned to my left where a nurse held a bloody, screaming baby. “She’s beautiful,” David said, but I wasn’t sure.

Then the baby was gone, but the pain was there, a growing, burning ache. David went to cut the cord and be with our baby.

One of the anesthesiologists told me congratulations. I nodded. I just wanted it to be over.

“What’s wrong?” she asked and I shook my head. I had no words for the pain I was feeling. The doctor was hard at work. It felt like he was vacuuming my insides. I couldn’t breathe, and then I asked, “How much pain am I supposed to be feeling?” The anesthesiologist paused for a moment. “What do you feel?” I described the tugging and pulling going on below my abdomen and the room went quiet. “We’ll give you another dose.”

David was with the baby. The doctor worked in silence. My body turned cold. I couldn’t stop my arms from shaking. The baby wailed. The pain persisted and the tears came. The burning pulling and tugging of my body against the doctor’s strokes was too much. “We’re almost done,” he said.

David was there with our crying little girl and an eternity later, they finished. Weeks later, David told me he thought was going to lose me on the table, but I never thought I would die. I just lay there, quivering, until someone crossed my arms on my chest. That’s when I started to breathe again. I stopped shivering and they rolled me into recovery. I held my gorgeous newborn daughter to my chest. She was here, crying but healthy. We were okay. 

Kiara Harper Nakada-Gantt April 1, 2012 12:34 am 7 lbs. 8 oz.

4.29.2012

Kiara's Birth Story Part II

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Part II

By 5:00 am Saturday morning, I was exhausted. I’d been awake for almost 24 hours, laboring for about six. The nurse was optimistic. She said I was reacting well to the Pitocin. We would surely have the baby before April 1. She went off duty at 7:00 am when I was about 5 cm dilated. She was our good luck charm. When she left, things went downhill.

I asked for pain meds which they gave through an IV. Those meds sucked me into a fitful sleep. I couldn’t keep my head up, but I could still feel the tug and pull of contractions through the soupy fog of a darkened room where nurses and doctors came and went. They asked me questions, but my responses were sluggish and confused. I eventually asked for the epidural. I suppose this was my surrender. I didn’t want to hurt anymore. It was so much work.

There were a couple of C-sections happening, so the anesthesiologists couldn’t get to me for a while. When she did, she reminded me of one of my students. I was still under the influence of the first pain meds. I tried to play it straight, like the meds weren’t making me completely loopy. I was a drunk trying to fake sobriety. I wasn’t convincing, but I followed her instructions, at least I think I did.

The epidural froze me to my bed. I couldn’t move. My body was asleep but I was wide-awake. I couldn’t stop shivering. My body tensed, fighting the drugs that urged my muscles to relax. Finally, someone pulled a blanket over me. I warmed up. I fell asleep. I was still only 5 cm dilated.

The doctor decided to break my water. She pulled out what looked like a long chopstick. I think it was then she mentioned that in a couple hours, if I still hadn’t progressed, we would need to go C-section. I heard her, but I was still telling my body to open, urging the baby to drop, to let me push her out.

I didn’t progress. It was almost April first, a day for fools. The doctor said they’d prep me for surgery. The baby would be here before midnight. Through exhaustion and the epidural, I struggled to accept that there would be no pushing, no vaginal delivery.

My family arrived from Portland. As I’d struggled through 24 hours of labor, they survived a harrowing flight and arrived in LA before the baby. Through weary tears I told them we were having a C-section. They told me it would be okay.

The epidural started to wear off. The pain of contractions seeped back in. I told the nurses, but they were busy prepping me for surgery. They replaced the meds, but the pain persisted and then they had to unhook my IV to transport me.

As they rolled me to surgery I told them, “I’m not numb. I can feel the contractions. I need you to know I’m not numb.”

They told me not to worry. The anesthesiologists would make sure it was all right.

Click here for part III

4.27.2012

Kiara's Birth Story Part I

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So, here's a first glimpse into how Kiara Harper came into our lives... The images are courtesy of David. You can check out more of his pictures on his photo blog

She waited like we asked. I’d been counting the days to spring break, checking items off my lengthy to-do list and on the last day of school before spring break, four days before my due date, I shed my mucus plug in a filthy faculty restroom. I looked in the bowl at the cloudy mess and thought, well, maybe she is on her way early. Good. We are ready. 

We thought we were ready. 

I thought I was ready. 

Apparently, when they say you’re never ready, they speak truth.

I didn’t know what contractions felt like. Sure, there was “tightening” around my abdomen, but I expected pain. I experienced a little cramping, but less painful than the first day of my period. I had contractions, but walked through them, breathed right through them. On Friday night, three days before my due date, something felt different. I stood and walked restlessly. The tightening started happening more frequently, and then there was a trickle. A dirty brown liquid trickle. It was no gush, but it was enough for us to call the hospital. It was enough for the nurse at labor and delivery to tell us to come in.

In the car we started timing the tightening sensations. They happened about every three minutes. That seemed too fast, but I was unconvinced this was labor. Where was the pain?

We parked the car and walked to labor and delivery. A nurse hooked me up to monitors and told me I'd just had a contraction. David watched the monitor and told me contractions were coming every two to three minutes. The nurse slid a bedpan under my hips so the doctor could see how far I’d dilated. A woman in another room screamed through a contraction.

“Only two centimeters,” the doctor said, “And a lot of bloody show so I can’t tell if the water’s broken.”

She took a look with the ultrasound. My fluid levels were low. She admitted me. This was game time. This was actually going to happen. 
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It was a full house that Friday night at Kaiser’s Labor and Delivery. We settled into the last room. An IV was inserted, and I was still able to walk around and keep breathing through the pain. I knew if I kept moving it would help things along. David and I walked around the quiet halls. Time took on new meaning. It was about 2:00 am when we settled in to try to get some sleep.

It’s impossible to sleep through contractions coming every two to three minutes.

I kept breathing, focusing, checking the monitors to see how close together the contractions were coming. They started me on Pitocin to try to move things along. I should have known then, things were not likely to go the way I imagined.
 
Click here for Part II

4.21.2012

A Life in Revision...

As this past March came to a close, I knew life would be changing with baby on the way and Overdue Apologies finished. I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to workshop my writing with Lidia Yuknavitch (whose memoir I wrote about in January) even though I would be overwhelmed by life with a newborn.

Kiara came into our lives before I could submit work, but in the past two weeks I've had the chance to send her work and in an email exchange she said of childbirth, "what a revision it is of all the chapters of your life."

In that one line, Lidia captured precisely how I'd been feeling since the moment Kiara arrived. She changed everything. I'm not sure who I am as a writer, or a woman, a teacher, a mother, a wife, a daughter, or sister. Everything has a new context. All is subject to revision.

I don't even know who I am as a blogger! Is this a mommy-blog, a craft-blog, a baby-blog? I don't know anymore, and although I've been writing Kiara's birth story, I'm not sure it belongs here. And with David starting his own Daddy blog, I'm not sure how much of my baby-girl I'll be posting, but she has arrived, and she has changed everything. We'll see if I figure any of this out come next blog post.

3.30.2012

Preparing to Give Birth


It isn't the best idea to try to give birth to a book and a baby at the same time. Unfortunately, I'm past the point of no return.

The book is finally done. I was too long in the works to abandon, and since I can't imagine having the time or energy to get back to it until our little girl is, I don’t know, a teenager or something, I made myself get that book done. It's a middle school memoir. It's taken over six years: endless cups of coffee, hours of painful reminiscing, more hours at coffee shops, and dozens of reads by an amazing group of friends and family. With all of that work and much help, it's finally here.

The baby has been growing for nine months. The whole getting pregnant process, well, that took much longer, four years, five if you count recovering from the miscarriage. At first there was grief, then there was the excitement of trying followed by mild disappointment each month. There were tests, and more tests, and more trying on our own followed by growing frustration. We eventually sought out help again. This time, with hormone shots and a long straw filled with cleaned semen, we finally got that positive test. Now we are days, maybe hours from her arrival and ready or not, she's on her way.

The book is here.

The baby is almost here.

Thanks for waiting with me. 

I couldn't have done either without help.

3.19.2012

You should read this book. Then again, maybe not.

It's ready! Overdue Apologies is now available @ Amazon and, well, I think you should read it. Then again, it's a middle school memoir and I do some things in this book I'm not so proud of. I wasn't the nicest middle schooler.

If you grew up in Bend, or were in middle school or junior high in the 80s, this will definitely take you back. I know, middle school might have been pretty awful. Maybe not the whole thing, but I bet everyone had their share of awkward adolescent moments. You might be scared to revisit that time, but don't be scared. You should read it. Everyone's reading it, so you should too. 

If you are raising a middle schooler, you'll recognize this world. It might make you think twice about letting your teenage daughter go to the movies this weekend, or force you to sit down and have that sex talk you've been putting off.

If you teach middle school, you might want to wait until summer. You live this book everyday, but this will remind you what your students are really thinking about in class (it's not US History or Algebra).

And finally, if you are a middle school student of mine, you should NOT read this book until you graduate and I'm no longer your teacher. Seriously. I will not discuss this book to you if you go to Emerson.

But other than that, yeah, you should totally go get this book.

3.18.2012

"Everyday it's a gettin' closer, goin' faster than a roller coaster..." Buddy Holly

After many months of planning, I get to check a couple of big items off the to-do list. The final edits Overdue Apologies are in and in a matter of days the book will be available for purchase. And the nursery is ready. I didn't think we'd be the kind of parents to put together a room for the baby like this, but we did. Now we wait, for the book and the baby. Here's a peek at the nursery and an excerpt from the book.
 
 










The End and Beginning 

On the last day of summer Mom and Dad plan what Chet needs for college. Laura has a boot on her foot and hopes that in a few months the stress fracture in her foot will heal for basketball season. School starts tomorrow and although Mitch and I will both be at Pilot Butte, we'll do what we usually do: ignore one another.
 
I shut my bedroom door to everything going on in the house on Jones Road: Chet packing, Laura clomping up and down the stairs; Mitch brewing a quiet hatred of me. I slide the Stand By Me tape in my boom box and Buddy Holly sings, "Everyday it's a gettin' closer, goin' faster than a roller coaster, love like yours will surely come my way."
 
Earlier, at Jamie's house, we decided on our outfits for the first day. We have to look accidentally perfect; like we stumbled upon these clothes and don't care all that much about what we wear on the first day of school.

"Everyday seems a little longer, every way loves a little stronger, come what may, do you ever long for true love from me?" 

I hum as I lay clothes out on my dresser and pack the canvas bag I'll be using this school year. My new notebook is stocked with notebook paper, dividers, new pens, and pencils. I slide into bed but can't fall asleep. I push the window open and look into the clear, cool night. The light in Robin's bedroom across the street glows in the darkness. I wonder what she's wearing for the first day. We haven't talked about it, but I know in the morning Robin and I will meet on Jones Road. We will turn our backs on our families and walk to school. We'll check out one another's outfits and hair. I'll make sure Robin looks okay and she'll make sure I do too. We'll discuss new schedules and possibilities for the school year. Seventh grade will start just like sixth grade ended: Robin and I walking to and from school together. 







3.13.2012

Overdue Apologies: Eighth Grade Mix Tape

Ah, it's finally here! The eighth grade mix tape! We're the kings of the school! Awesome! And this is the mix tape for the 1987-1988 school year at Pilot Butte Junior High. Go Giants!







Scene: I decided to start the morning announcements like Robin Williams from Good Morning Vietnam. Might not have been such a great idea.



Scene: A night at the movie theatre to see La Bamba.



Scene: George Michael in ripped Levi's and leather revenge jacket is all I need to take me back to eighth grade.



Scene: Most requested for truth or dare prank calls.



Scene: Perfect slow-dance song. 



Scene: Post-break-up it was all about George Michael's "One More Try."



Scene: After a brutal game of truth or dare, we listened to the Less Than Zero Soundtrack.



Scene: Toward the end, I contemplate loneliness with INXS...



My turn as DJ ends here. Hope you enjoy listening while reading Overdue Apologies.

3.08.2012

Overdue Apologies: Seventh Grade Mix Tape

Here's the second installment of my 80s memoir mix tape to get you in the mood to read all about the joy, intensity, and horror of middle school. Enjoy! Overdue Apologies release is coming soon!






Scene: My first tape from my brother Chet: Sting's The Dream of the Blue Turtle "Russians."



Scene: My music education continues even with Chet away at U of O: Midnight Oil's "Blue Sky Mine"




and U2's "Pride."



Scene: Jamie and I didn't get invited to Kim's birthday party, but we went to see Ferris Bueller's Day off.



Scene: Every time Jamie and I hung out at her house we listened to Wham!



Scene: Best middle school fast dance song... Billy Idol's "Mony Mony."



Scene: From Spring Dance and the Top Gun Soundtrack: Berlin's "Take My Breath Away"



Scene: Hoping someone might ask me to dance to U2's "With or Without You."



Scene: The last Jamie and Nori show in Ms. Wilson's class: Howard Jones' "No One Is To Blame."



Scene: The Oregon State Fair and my first concert... Crowded House. "Something So Strong"



and "Don't Dream it's Over."

3.01.2012

Overdue Apologies: Sixth Grade Mix Tape

Music is a huge part of my middle school memoir, Overdue Apologies (coming March 10). The book is divided into three parts, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. In the lead up to the release, here is a mix tape to go with the first part of the book. Enjoy a mid-80s flashback to go with my sixth grade year.







Prince's Raspberry Beret: scene... on my first outing with BFF-to-be Jamie, we sing this Prince song in the car on our way to see The Gods Must Be Crazy.



West End Girls and What Have I Done to Deserve This: scene... at Robin's house, we listened to The Pet Shop Boys and these two hits topped our playlist.





Don't You Want Me: Then it was Human League. We wore this album out after school at Robin's.



One More Night: scene... The Valentine's Day Dance at Cascade. My first slow dance...



Danger Zone: scene... I think Jamie and I saw Top Gun at least three times that summer...



Stand By Me: scene... Jamie and I saw Stand By Me that summer too, so the 50s songs on that soundtrack mingle in the musical memory for that time.



Everyday: scene... getting ready for the first day of seventh grade.

2.21.2012

Why Would Anyone Want to Go Back to Middle School?

Yep, that's me. A proud Pilot Butte Giant.
So, I started working on this memoir, Overdue Apologies, five years ago as I finished up my mfa at Antioch. And even after reading those early pages, the workshop leader asked, "Why? Why would anyone want to read this?" Maybe it was a plot problem, or maybe it was because very few people want to read about middle school. There are tons of YA novels for this age, but very few memoirs, and I think I know why. Most people don't want to spend a whole lot of time revisiting that teenage angst, let alone several years writing about it. 

Besides, middle school is awkward. Our bodies are changing, our hormones are raging, and our brains are not yet fully-developed. It is an emotionally charged time of all or nothing. I teach middle school, so I'm reminded of this on a daily basis. And although I teach in LA, at a middle school very different than the one I attended, many of the issues students face are the same: She likes him? He's going to ask her out? She said what about me? Ugh! I hate her!

Looking back at the diary I kept at the time, I either LOVED my family because they were the best, or I HATED them and couldn't wait to get away. Same thing with friends and boys. Love or hate. Best day ever or worst day of all time. There wasn't a whole lot of middle ground. But despite all the intensely awful times I survived in middle school, I also have some intensely wonderful memories as well, intimate friendships, adventures with friends at malls and movies, and many significant firsts.

So even if you hated middle school, even if you really don't want to go back to that time, I dare you to anyway. That's right, I've been playing a little truth or dare for the past five years or so, trying to tease out the truth of my middle school days, and now it's almost done. So I dare you to go back there with me.

I dare you to remember middle school.

Overdue Apologies: March 10, 2012.

2.13.2012

Valentine's Day Cake Tradition

For many years, I've baked this cake from Martha Stewart for David for Valentine's Day. It's a white layer cake with raspberry meringue frosting (or seven minute frosting) and it's always tasty. But this year David wanted to make cupcakes so we made David's first batch ever using the same recipe.
~We halved both~





White Cake

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted cake flour, plus more for pans
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, cream butter and add sugar.
Combine milk/vanilla and add to butter/sugar mix alternately with the flour mixture.
Fold in egg whites after beating to form stiff peaks.
Spoon into lined cupcake tin and bake for 20 minutes.

Seven Minute Frosting
Mix one third of the frosting with 1 cup raspberry jam to use for layering or on top.

1.28.2012

Mountain Mural

Yep, the baby isn't even here yet and I've already become that kind of blogger... so here it is. My how-to on our nursery mountain mural. 

I spent an inexcusable amount of time looking at Etsy for nursery art ideas, but David didn't love any of the trees I thought might work and I wasn't very inspired by anything, so we decided to hang some children's book art and call it good. But then I got the visual of a mountain silhouette and a tree line. The mountain, of course, had to be Bachelor, the peak I grew up with in Bend. I used the picture from the Through Eyes Like Mine book cover as a guide.

I started with a sketch, just two lines: the mountain line and the tree line. Then, I used the same paint we have on several of our living room walls (Behr's Sandstone Cliffs) for the first coat. Of course, it needed two coats, but even this didn't take too long. I just had to be careful along the edges.

The next day, I used the grey that's below our bar (Behr's Granite Boulder) for the tree part. Again, it needed two coats.

I had to decide, snow or no snow, but since we had our trim color (Behr's Pure White semi-gloss) handy I used it for the mountain top. Again, two coats.

Overall, it took about six hours and I'm convinced anyone who has the time and patience can paint a mural like this.

1.10.2012

Must Read: The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

I start reading this memoir seven months pregnant and lying poolside.

Lidia Yuknavitch opens her story with the still birth delivery of a baby. Her depiction is physically and emotionally wrenching.

I set the book down. I'm not sure this is what I should be reading right now. I lay back, belly swollen in bright sun light. Her words wash over me. They frighten me. This book holds a river's current. It could carry me away.

"All the events of my life swim in and out between each other. Without chronology. Like in dreams."

I walk into the cool water of the pool. The baby girl shifts inside me, moving in the water's weightlessness. I climb out of the pool; dry off. I pick up the book again. I can't help it. I want to read the next chapter, the next sentence, the next word. She hands me stones.

"The rocks. They carry the chronology of water. All things simultaneously living and dead in your hands."

I keep reading and hold myself in contrast to the words on the page and the author who wrote them.

I leave the book cover on. This tells you how different Lidia (is it okay if I call her Lidia?) and I are from one another. The cover is rated R, a beautiful image of a topless woman submerged in water. Where I bought the book there is a sleeve on the cover to make it PG. I cannot bring myself to take the sleeve off. But her words, Lidia's words, they rip at the cover. She dives into the deep without hesitation.

"Again.
I wanted to do it again.
I wanted to eat all the colors and see what I felt. No. I wanted to eat all the colors and get to the not feel. But even that was not enough for a burning girl."

Lidia has written a woman's memoir. My own memoir is in the voice of a child and that isn't all that separates us. She lives her life huge, fast, hard and wild. I am small, slow, soft and calm. But water is all of this. It is both rapid and pond.

"Upside down I saw the sun and sky at the surface make stunning blue electricity. The rushing water and strength of current pulled my arms, rocked my legs. The upsidedowness of blood in my skull made my head ache. I closed my eyes. Still smiling. The cold wet of my life. My body deep in water. Weightless. Airless. Daughterless void."

Lidia and I have some things in common. We both have swimming. I grew up swimming laps in pools too. We have Oregon, it's lakes, rivers, forests and coast. We have Eugene and know depression there. We have older sisters. We both held death in our wombs. We write stories.

"Ask me about writing, well, that's a fierce private. Writing, she is the fire of me. Where stories get born from that place where life and death happened in me. She carries me and will be the death of me."

I keep reading. Between chapters I slip into the weightlessness water. I dive, pull and tread. This is the best way to read this book, close to water.

I haven't loved a memoir like I love The Chronology of Water in a long time. It reminds me of the potential power in this genre; the ways it can stretch and pull at a reader and at a life. It made me love books again. It made me want to read, write and drink in words like water.