Traditional New Year Post – 2018 Version

It’s been my tradition for many years to sum up the old year with a blog post and share my hopes for the new year. I’ve never been a resolutions person, but I love me some goals. It’s always a lot of fun to see how those goals have worked out at the end of the year. Some make it through to completion, others die on the vine. Life is one hell of a humbler.

As Wes and I hoisted flutes of champagne last night, we spent some time discussing 2017. In many ways, it was a challenging year. As far as we can tell, challenging years are hallmark of adulthood. That doesn’t make them bad, per se. Far from it! Rather, I think if you’re the kind of person who’s always striving toward something, challenges are what drive you. If there’s no windmill to tilt against, how are any of us supposed to pretend we’re quixotic?

In that vein, our biggest victories in 2017 were professional: I completed Bai Treason and the first draft of Tranquility Land. I attended ThrillerFest, and was offered several jobs due to my unusual tenacity in getting my cutting-edge surgery covered by my health insurance. Wesley defied the odds and kept his startup going, and he’s optimistic about the momentum they’ve built.

Our hopes for the new year are simple: That the work we put into building things in 2017 will come to fruition in 2018.

That’s it. Simple, but don’t let this statement fool you. 2018 is going to be a BIG year for us. My goal is to have a literary agent who believes in both me and my work by the end of the year. Wes’s goal is for his company to be going strong, which requires an unbelievable amount of hustle and determination. We’re going to start looking for a house to buy soon (we’ve been renting for seven years), and will hopefully find the perfect home for our family by the end of the summer. We want to adopt a puppy, we want to plant a garden, we want to take a great vacation to somewhere sunny.

We have goals for our children, of course, and they have goals of their own, but what it all boils down to is that we hope all the saving and waiting and sacrifices we’ve made to get here will pay off this year.

We’re dreaming big. We’re hoping for good things. We’re believing that when you work hard enough for something, the journey is worthwhile.

In that spirit, a very Happy New Year to you. Please feel free to share your hopes and goals so that I can join you in rooting for them!

Bullet Points Make Lazy Authors Look Like They Did It That Way on Purpose

A very happy 2017 to all of you! It is my sincere hope that the new year is off to a merry start for all of you. As for me and mine, I’m happy to say we gamboled and feasted our way through the holidays with almost all our nearest and dearest.

Now, I’ve been told by a few kindhearted people that I need to blog more because they find my blog posts humorous and entertaining to read, to which I say, Aw shucks! To make up for the last few weeks of nonexistent content, here’s a list of what I’ve been up to in bullet-point format because I’m too lazy to put in transitions between the points so this post will seem cohesive and intentional.

  • Christmas preparation. I never realized as a kid how mind-shreddingly hectic Christmas is for mothers. Sandwiched between mile-high shopping lists and celebration logistics are class parties, decorations to put up and take down, traditions to honor/pioneer, stir-crazy kids who are on break from school and blame you that it isn’t Christmas yet, Santa pictures to take, cookies to bake, gingerbread houses to build, cocoas to stir, and gifts to wrap. It’s exhausting. I do believe, and please do correct me if I’m wrong, that December is a stay-at-home parent’s busiest month of the year.
  • Proof.

    Celebrating the return of my red hair. I had a blast with blonde hair over the spring and summer, but man it feels good to be a redhead again. I will say this for blonde hair, though: It’s MUCH lower maintenance than red hair. “But no!” you say, “It cannot be! I’ve heard blonde is constant touch-ups every couple of weeks!” Not if you do balayage, my friends, which is where they layer the color and leave a little of the root color so grow-outs aren’t so noticeable. With my blonde hair, I could do anything to it and nothing seemed to affect the color. Red, however? Red is sensitive. It’ll wash out no matter what you do, but if you use the wrong shampoo you might as well kiss your color goodbye. And I hope you don’t have white pillowcases because your hair color owns those now. They are red, just like your towels and maybe the collars of your coats as well. Might as well get used to it.

  • The British guy slaughter. Let me explain. Wes was gone on a business trip for a week in mid-December, so I figured it would be a good time to let my heart go on with Jack, Rose, and James Cameron. I poured a glass of wine each night for three nights and watched Titanic, the end of which, as always, saw me ugly-crying as I realized that yes! Her heart DID go on! She did all those things she promised him she’d do! As I dried my tears, I texted my best friend and described what I was doing so she could mock me because, come on. Who wouldn’t? When she finished laughing at me, she recommended I watch Atonement next, followed by The Painted Veil. For those not familiar with these films, they’re both excellent but, and this is a tad spoiler-y, they end tragically in the deaths of some truly likable British blokes. I think her aim in this was to see whether a middle-aged woman could, indeed, become dehydrated from crying at movies over the course of a week. As much as I enjoyed the quality of these movies, they did not, for some reason, prompt additional tears from me for reasons unknown. Maybe I was all cried out after Jack’s untimely demise? Who knows? All I know is that, for a week last month, it was very dangerous to be a British guy on my TV screen. They were seriously dropping like flies.
  • Medical mystery solved! Longtime readers will remember my years-long struggle to lose weight, with every attempt usually ending in either futility or injury. Well, the injuries have been mostly addressed and repaired, but the futility? That was a major issue. I gain weight like no one I’ve ever met (I gained ten pounds in four days, once. For no reason) and no amount of dieting or exercise can make me lose it. Well, my doctor has figured out why and, with any luck, the medications she has me on will start resulting in weight loss soon. If they don’t? Well, there are different meds. By hook or by crook, it looks like 2017 should finally be the year I finish losing the baby weight I packed on over four years ago. Here’s to finally looking like the gym rat I’ve grown to be!

That’s enough for now. Welcome to the new year, my friends. I hope it’s freaking awesome for all of you.

An Up and Down Farewell to an Up and Down Year

I was reading back through some of my old New Years Eve blog posts and realized I have the same reaction to most years: I always hope the new year will be a happy one because the previous one was challenging in some way. While I admire my perpetual hope (which, it seems, does spring eternal), I have to admit I can be a tad over-simplistic in summing an entire year as either good or tough (usually tough).

Here's a picture of Wes and I from my freshman year of college for no reason at all.

Here’s a picture of Wes and I from my freshman year of college for no reason at all.

Here’s the thing 2014 has taught me about adulthood: Things are often difficult. People get sick, money runs out, kids struggle, family members disappoint/antagonize/take-your-pick. Bodies fail, natural disasters ruin things, plans go awry.

Often, you can do something about it, but sometimes you just can’t. You can’t change people, you can’t fix some injuries, you can’t make every dream come true.

Wes and I both reached high this year. We attained some goals, but as many dreams as came true also came crashing down on our heads. In retrospect, there was nothing we could have done differently to make things turn out better, sometimes things just don’t work.

I know I’m being vague here, but that’s because you don’t need to know the lyrics to recognize this particular tune. I’m sure you’ve been disappointed by something. It sucks.

But here’s what I learned this year: It’s okay to feel disappointed. It took me twenty-nine years to realize you can sit with an emotion, especially if it’s an unpleasant one, without trying to change it, because sometimes you can’t change it and then you get to add futility to whatever emotional cocktail you were experiencing before.

I’ll admit, 2014 was…up and down. Not my favorite year by far, but it had enough bright points to make me realize that there’s never going to be a magical year wherein everything comes up roses and we don’t struggle with something. The key, I think, is taking it in stride, and for me taking it in stride means acknowledging that I do not have the power to control everything. The best I can do is be proactive, try to make wise decisions, and weather whatever storms come our way without beating my head against the wall.

I definitely have hopes for 2015, and from what I can tell it’s going to be a good year, but I’m not going to hope it’s a better year than 2014. Instead, I’m going to hope I don’t forget what I learned in 2014 and will be able to use it to help me roll with whatever 2015 brings. Kind of boring, but sounds pretty darn mature, huh?

Regardless of my newfound, uh, New Years boringness, tradition is tradition so here are my hopes for 2015:

  • My number one hope is for a truly excellent, engaging, challenging job for Wes. I hope he gets offered a job that will encourage and empower him and keep him learning constantly.
  • I also hope for a successful book launch. Great googly moogly, Bai Tide is coming out in, like, four months!!!
  • I hope to take our kids to the beach in Oregon again. That was a remarkable vacation and I would love to repeat it.
  • I hope for fantastic health insurance so Wes and I can address our various health conditions without spending every last penny we earn.
  • I hope for a long, glorious summer.
  • I hope to make it to the gym on a regular basis, a hope that will be much more likely to happen after I get more joint injections for my knee.
  • I hope to attend ThrillerFest in NYC again in July. Christmas is nice and all, but that’s the most wonderful time of the year for me, hands down.

My hope for all of you is that you’ll have a lovely New Years Eve and that 2015 will start off with good news for all of you. Thank you for reading my blog posts (and my books)! May 2015 be our best year yet!

Before and After the Storm

tumblr_lfigm3z95s1qgutswo1_500One of Wes’s and my favorite Christmas traditions is a screening of all three Lord of the Rings movies (special edition, of course). We don’t watch them all in one sitting (hi, we have kids), so the process usually takes us four to five nights.

There’s this one scene where Gandalf and Pippin are watching Mordor from a balcony in Gondor. Pippin remarks on how it’s so quiet and Gandalf replies that it’s the deep breath before the plunge.

I think about that saying often, as it applies to a great many situations, but you know one example it doesn’t work for? Christmas. There’s really no deep breath before that plunge, is there? Just a series of accelerating situations that bring you closer and closer to Christmas, whether you’re ready for it or not.

While there’s no deep breath before Christmas, so to speak, I love love LOVE the peace that comes AFTER Christmas. If you’re able to roust yourself from your house in the days immediately following Christmas, you’ll find empty stores, discounts everywhere, and clear roads.

Wes and I took the kids to Target on Saturday to buy exciting stuff like a storage bin and a small bookshelf and we practically had the store to ourselves. It was such a pleasant contrast to when I took the kids to Costco two days before Christmas and had to psych my son up for what he’d find when we got there. We went into Costco with a battle plan, which consisted of three parts: Get in, get out, stay alive. There were a couple close calls wherein my son almost lost a limb when a shopping cart careened perilously close, but other than that we were fine.

So now our Christmas decorations are put away, the gifts are all unpacked and organized, and life is settling back down from the frenzy pitch that is Christmas no matter how hard you try to have your act together beforehand. Life is a little less colorful but calmer, which for now I prefer.

I hope your Christmas (if you celebrate) was merry and bright, and that you were surrounded by the people who mean the most to you. My hope for next year is we’ll all manage to find a little more peace, even if it’s just in the form of a half-empty Target.

Christmas Shopping With Kids

christmas_stress_shoppingJust in case there are some of you out there among my blog readers who don’t have kids, or else have kids who haven’t been born yet or are still in that wonderful stage where they’re basically just Tamagotchis you have to feed every time they make noise, allow me to paint you a picture of the peculiar joy that is…Christmas shopping when you have kids.

So let’s say you have kids, and they’ve been good enough this year to have earned some toys under the tree for Christmas. Hooray! Now all you have to do is find those toys, hide them, and then wrap them without your kids knowing about it. Pretty easy, right?

Well, you can go one of two routes here. You can order gifts online and have them shipped to you, or you can buy them in a store. Let’s talk pros and cons for each.

If you go the store route, you get to try out and hold the toy before you buy it. Definite pro. Unfortunately, you either have to go shopping in the store while your kids are somewhere else or bring them with you. Definite con, because you’re either using your precious alone time to battle for a parking spot and fondle a bunch of Elmo toys in search of the perfect one, or you’re taking your life and sanity in your hands by bringing your kids to a store where they not only do not get to touch all the toys they see, but they have to see you buy them and then disappear them once they get home. If you want to give a four year old a rage stroke, that’s a pretty good way to do it.

If you choose to do your shopping online, you get to skip the crowds, lines, and parking lot massacre. Pro! But you have the challenge of trying to assess toy size, quality, durability, and function using nothing but a screen and some product pictures that are specifically designed to mislead you into thinking the toy is awesomer than it actually is. Con. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered a toy for my kids online and had it arrive looking either smaller, cheaper, or less useful than it looked online.

Of course, you could go shopping in person and then order online, but that’s really just compounding the shopping experience, isn’t it?

I wish I had some advice for you, but I really don’t. Whichever way you do it, you’re going to have a lot to do, but it’ll be worth it when Christmas morning is done and the presents have been opened and your kids are blissfully content and quiet while they figure out their new toys. At least, that’s the hope.

And if not? Well, you probably have enough wrapping paper and tape left over to make a perfunctory straitjacket for them so you can sip your coffee in peace. Merry Christmas, everyone. May your kids be well-behaved, endearing little moppets who love everything you get them and show you by showering you with hugs and smiles, or, at the very least, some well-earned peace and quiet.