Tag Archives: motherhood

Balloons in the Bathroom

I’ve mentioned that I enjoy making lists. This week, I have a pretty typical sort of to-do list happening in my notebook. Items like “buy diapers,” “roast veggies,” and “vacuum rugs” feature prominently. Then, somewhere down near the bottom of the page, in small – yet hopeful – print: “First draft of baseball girl story.” “Write new Huntress chapter.”

Not surprisingly, those tiny, polite items on my list don’t seem to get finished. I’ve come to realize that if I relegate my writing to I’ll-do-it-when-I-have-spare-time status, the opportunity never materializes. I’m thinking a lot about time management these days, so I was glad to see Young Adult author Maggie Stiefvater provide her view on the subject on her (quite excellent) blog. Lately, I’ve been falling neatly into that category she describes of people who claim not to have any time to write because they have kids. Not only do I tell myself that I ought to devote the bulk of my time to Winnie, but I also tell myself that I need to spend my time and energy making sure our home looks a certain way and that we have home-made baked goods and dinners and the like. My idyllic image of parenthood is getting in the way of “me-hood,” and it could quite possibly be the most efficient means of procrastinating that I’ve ever come up with (and, believe me, I majored in procrastination).

There are balloons in the bathroom, for goodness sake, and that’s not even the half of it. (Also, please don’t ask how they got there. The truth is, I don’t know.) Time to give writing top billing on the ol’ to-do list, eh? I’ll get to the balloons – and the vacuuming, and the cooking – but they’re closer to the bottom of my list now. So they’re gonna have to wait, and in the meanwhile I’ll just say it’s festive and leave it at that.

Sweet Nostalgia

PICT0142

When you were a wee baby, we wrapped you in an orange blanket.

Is there anything more lovely than hearing stories of when we were little? Even though Winnie is just two, she repeatedly asks to hear stories from when she was newly born.

When you were a brand new baby, your grandparents and your aunties and uncles came to see you. Everyone held you and kissed you while you smiled, or cried, or slept. And everyone loved you.

When you were our teeny tiny baby, you loved to lie on Daddy’s chest. When you finally fell asleep, he would lie back on the couch and fall asleep, too. When I woke up, I would come to the living room and smile at you both.

When you were an itty little baby, Mommy used to wrap you up tight tight tight in a blanket. I’d dance and sway with you, and whisper, “Shush shush.”

I swaddled Winnie’s stuffed bear in one of her soft, orange baby blankets, showing her how I used to wrap her up.  She pulled the blanket off the bear and insisted, “Wrap me up, Mommy!  I’m a little baby!” The blanket that used to envelope her like a cocoon now doesn’t even come down to her wrists.  I tucked the blanket as snugly as I could around her torso, and I walked around the room while I gently bobbed her up and down. She calmed down and listened, just as she did when she was an infant.

She still likes to play the game once in a while. “Wrap me up,” she says.  And I do, and I tell her about how loved she has always been.  I indulge this baby game because we both enjoy it. Goodness knows, it won’t be long before cuddling with Mommy loses its appeal.

I wonder if this is my daughter’s first experience with nostalgia.  Maybe she realizes – in her toddler way – that some quality of time has passed, and is unavailable to her now. I’ve spent quite a lot of energy over my 30+ years feeling nostalgic about whichever phase in my life happens to have just passed me by: the school years, the single years, the childless years… I have to remind myself that, if we didn’t grow and change, there would be nothing for which to feel nostalgic. So, feeling nostalgic means that we have grown. We are doing what we’re supposed to do: traveling along on this rolling, dipping, dizzying journey of a life.

And, yet, I  believe that there’s nothing wrong with looking back, reaching out to touch those especially sweet moments we have lived. We all do this, some of us through daydreaming, some of us through writing, some of us through hearing the stories of our lives from the people who have lived it right along with us. And me, I wrap up my too-big baby in her orange blanket, and I whisper, “Shush shush.”

Things That Can’t Be Undone

My amazing mother-in-law gave me The Mother’s Almanac right before WInnie was born. It’s filled with useful advice about feeding, sleeping, diapering, playing, cooking… nuggets of wisdom that my tired eyes tried to take in during those early months. Fortunately, one item did stick to this used-up old flypaper that is my brain. Authors Kelly and Parsons suggest that mothers try to do one thing every day that “can’t be undone.”

I think of that suggestion often as I grit my teeth through another load of dishes or laundry, or another bout with the vacuum cleaner. Those dishes just get dirtied again, the clothes stained with marker and applesauce, the rugs appear – within hours, it seems – to be sprinkled with a crunchy coating of dirt and playdough. All these things come undone. And, then, so do I.

So when Winnie was about ten months old, I decided that I would spend my precious droplets of available time more conscientiously, focusing on things that couldn’t be undone. I made my peace with dirty carpets. The family acquired more socks and underwear, which doesn’t keep our clothes clean, but it allows for more time between trips to the laundromat. Here are some of the things that I’ve decided to focus on, in my little pursuit of happiness.

First and most of all, I’ve become a reader, even more so than I was before. Sometimes I can’t find the energy to do anything that requires physical activity – like, you know, standing up – so reading suits me perfectly. It rejuvenates me, gets me thinking, gives me something to look forward to, and makes me feel like I have some company on lonesome days.

I’ve committed myself to making time for yoga, even if I can only find time for one class each week. The physical and mental benefits are very real for me. However, what really gets me jazzed is when my teacher Carla demonstrates a pose that I think I could never, in a million years, not even after three weeks of daily yoga and meditation on a beach in Bali, accomplish. And, then, I try it. And I do it. (Or, at least, my body sort of flails around with my limbs going in the general direction they’re supposed to.) And then, I can’t stop smiling.

Really, learning how to do anything at all, especially something that once seemed intimidating or challenging, makes me stand up straighter and gives me something to crow about. I’ll be posting about some of these new skills I’ve got in my toolbox, from knitting hats to making croutons.

My friend Sara helped me to remember how essential and nourishing a good talk with a friend can be. The best kind of talks happen in person, over a beer, and without having to stop every few minutes to say, “Don’t touch that PLEASE!” An honest share-fest with a friend can keep me going for a long time, like a bowl of oatmeal. It’s the kind of thing that too easily gets de-prioritized. I need to remember that carving out the time is so worth it. Perhaps I should get a tattoo, to remind myself.

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me stories of how her dad – my Dede – would take her and her brothers into the city for a lunch date and a special trip to the bookstore. “We’re making memories,” he would say, signaling them all to do just that – to notice, to make the event special. Lately, I find myself trying to do this in my life. A trip to the library, a ride on the bus… anything can be an occasion if we sit up and look around, noticing what makes it special and, even, joyful.

Some days, I don’t have time or energy to knit, or to write, or to even hold up my end of a coherent conversation. Some days feel so full of “to-dos” that I don’t feel I’m really doing anything. On those days, I challenge myself to be aware of my surroundings as I walk. Regardless of where I’m going, I wrestle my focus away from my destination and take note of the steps I’m taking. I take deep breaths of air and notice its temperature as it travels down my windpipe, as it brushes on my skin. I reach my feet out as far as I can to grab hold of the earth, then push it behind me before once again lifting each foot so that it hangs, for just one moment, in the sky. Those steps, they’re almost like leaps. At the end of those days, when I think back over what I’ve done, at least I have that.

It’s not much, but they can’t that away from me.

Mothers, Read With Your Daughters

Secret Language of Girls by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Ask any teacher or literacy expert — reading with (and to) your kids is the best way to guide them into a life of reading on their own. But we don’t just read to our kids to create literate people. We read with our kids to create a language with which to talk and think about life.

To read the rest of my thoughts about reading with kids, plus my recommendations for mother-daughter book clubs, check out my list on Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations.

I Feel Pretty! (Witty and Wise, Too.)

Win's Pink Goggles

Win's Pink Goggles

I knew it would happen someday. Surely every parent must deal with a situation in which a child says something so dreadful that there is no appropriate response.  My daughter Winnie, at nineteen months old, uttered the words that I had particularly dreaded:

“I look PRETTY!!”

I froze, my mind already in denial, already telling itself that I had misunderstood her squeal.  But, no, the words were clear enough.  And, if there was any question, there she was, twirling around the living room, admiring the ruffles on her new dress.  The dress itself was a gift from a relative, and it was an adorably girly concoction of flounces and sparkles.  The kind of thing that I, her mother, would never have bought for her.

No sooner was the dress over her head than Win began a series of spins that would have made any prima ballerina proud.  “I LOOK PRETTY!!” she howled again.

I wondered, how should I respond? I considered something like, “Uh-huh” or “Yup,” but those seemed like empty responses that wouldn’t win me many points on the parenting scorecard in my mind.  What I needed was an enthusiastic response that showed her that pretty was not the point, that pretty is a label that limits and oppresses.  I wanted my daughter to see that being preoccupied with pretty was a slippery slope that would only lead to hours of primping and preening that would be better spent, you know, reading the Constitution or graduating from med school.  This was a teachable moment, and I had to grasp it.

So, I looked her square in her glowing, expectant little face.  I mustered all my maternal wisdom, and I said brightly, “You look… ready for adventure!”

Winnie faltered.  Clearly, she didn’t understand my response, and now we were both confused.  The truth is, on most days she is ready for adventure, dressed in tees, pants, and rugged little boots.  On this day, though, she didn’t look ready for anything more adventurous than high tea.  She looked, well, pretty.

I realized in that moment, that I have a pretty messed up relationship with “pretty.”  We modern gals want to be pretty, but we don’t want to seem as though we’re putting much thought into it.  We’d much rather be known for our smarts and our accomplishments (we’d rather by Elizabeth than Jane Bennet, but Elizabeth was no slouch in the looks department).  When we become mothers, it becomes a stickier situation.  I want my daughter to be attractive – because attractive matters, no matter how much I wish it wouldn’t – but I don’t want her to have to strive for it.  I want her to be who she is, and to be immune to influences that distract her from the important stuff, insisting that skinny jeans or new lip gloss will help her measure up to the other girls.  How can I stifle those influences when I fear that I myself am one, with the makeup-wearing example I set?  And, if she tends toward ruffles, how do I know whether that’s who she is or who she has become as a result of advertising and social pressure?

Even on blogs like Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode, parents debate whether to allow their daughters to play with pink toys.  Pink?! As if pink could make the difference between whether your daughter grows up to be a scientist or a cheerleader? A color doesn’t have that kind of power, but obviously pink signifies more than just a color.

Here are the facts as I know them.  My daughter loves books and trucks.  And she also has a keen eye for all things sparkly and ruffly.  I know that I want her to feel she is pretty, and to deeply know that pretty is not everything she is.  I want her to know that it’s OK to delight in ruffles, but that true prettiness comes from a big heart, laughter, wisdom, a bright mind.

It’s a minefield of girliness out there, and I know it won’t stop coming just because I wish it would.  How about you?  How do you feel about the pressure (or assumption) that girls love dresses and fairy wings?  Should we dissuade young girls from all things pink or feminine?  How can we celebrate all the things that women can rightly be and enjoy, including pink, while also working against society’s limiting concept of girlhood?

This evening, as I was making dinner, Win wrestled with a package that had arrived in the mail. She was determined to open it, and she tore and pulled until it began to give. She was grunting and straining, but she didn’t ask me for help. Then, as the package opened, she yelled, “I’m strong!” I was so glad to be able to agree, unequivocally, with that.

Time, Bye-Bye

The Giving Tree by Shel SilversteinImmersed as I am in the world of books for young children, I’m interested to see which books hold Winnie’s attention just as much as I remember them holding my own. Even more, I’m interested to see which books I enjoyed as a child that I can now enjoy on deeper levels as an adult.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is one such book. This book has been a favorite of Winnie’s for some time now. Before she could say the full title she used to call it “Money,” because she loves the scene in which the boy asks the tree for money and goes away with arms full of apples to sell. Now, she asks for it by name and sets it on her lap, reading it to herself, to me, to her animals, to the ever-patient Mystery dog. Admittedly, Win’s version is much abridged but it retains some of the essence of the original. It goes something like this: “Once, tree. Boy come! Eat apples. Tree happy. Time, bye-bye. Boy older. Come boy! Tree sad. Come boy! Boy sad. The end.”

Is this a book about two friends growing apart? About unrequited love? How tragic a character is this tree, who seems to exist in a world without any others of her kind (although she does say, “the forest is my house,” which suggests that, somewhere, there are other trees – why can’t she keep company with them?), and who is in love with a boy, or with the idea of the boy used to be. She gives away every part of herself, gaining nothing except the possibility that her giving nature might bring the boy back to her someday. How sad must she be when she thinks that she has nothing left, that the boy would have no reason to come to her again.

Can’t she understand that people must grow and change? Does she expect the boy to remain a child forever? She does. She calls him “boy,” even when he’s so old that his teeth are gone. She doesn’t see him, only her memories of him, only who she wants him to be. Ah, love.

And how sad this boy, whose expanding horizons at first seem exciting. Going to the city, wanting things…. money, a house, then, finally, a boat to escape all the things he has wanted and obtained. His life becomes more complex and less bearable, until, finally, he is so weary from it all that he finds himself content again to just sit with his old friend.

Come to think of it, perhaps this is a story about parenting.

I think of this now, as I rock Win to sleep for her nap. Sometimes, Winnie changes so much, so fast, that my mind can not keep up. I feel foolish calling her “baby” when I see my little girl running through the park, pointing out that the trees are naked.

Accepting these changes in her would be more difficult if I didn’t feel hopeful that I could grow right along with her, that our relationship could change as it needs to. I am not rooted in one place, always pining for what used to be. I am glad, now, that she can run and talk. We can communicate, make jokes, even argue. This morning, she took her book and sat in the grass amongst the leaves. After reading for a few minutes, she looked up and saw me watching. “Mommy, sit right here,” she said, patting the ground next to her. Inviting me to do something with her, I thought. This is new. Next thing, she’ll be calling me up and suggesting that we meet for a drink.

This relationship we have is always shifting, and changing. It feels both as solid as the earth itself, and as changing as seasons. I’ll long, surely, for what has been. I’ll want to hold her in my lap far after she has any interest. One day, I will be lonely for her, as the tree is for the boy. One day, I will hope that what I have to offer her is enough to keep her returning to me.

I wonder if I’ll be able to enjoy our relationship, always, in all its present and future forms. I think I will, assuming enjoyment can live with lots of other emotions, such as wonder, longing, sadness, and pride. I want her to grow into the person she will be, and I know she can’t do that without leaving behind some of who she is, some of who we are together.

As Win said, paraphrasing Shel, “Time, bye-bye.”

Book Notes: A Northern Light

A Northern Light  by Jennifer DonnellyOne reason I  love reading historical fiction books is that, every once in a while, you get the magical feeling of a character stepping out of her time, reaching out across the pages to whisper her truths in your ear, and the amazing thing is that the two of you could be sisters.  It’s like meeting someone at a party who has a completely different background than you but with whom you instantly connect and see eye-to-eye.  Only in this case, it feels even more magical because the person with whom you have so much in common is actually a figment of some author’s imagination and you wonder, "How on Earth did she know??  How did she get what is going on in my head right at this moment?"

In Jennifer Donnelly’s YA novel A Northern Light, Mattie Gokey lives on a farm with her father and three sisters in the Adirondack mountains just after the turn of the century. As eldest daughter, she has been responsible for caring for the family and their home since their mother died. Life is hard for Mattie – there is always work to do on the farm, whether it’s milking or plowing or cooking or cleaning.  In many ways, though, she is blessed. Her father provides for the family’s physical needs, selling their crops and dairy to new, upscale camps where tourists come to enjoy the rustic environment. The local school teacher has provided nourishment of a different kind, opening Mattie’s eyes to the wonder of books, particularly books that some consider to be dangerous and corruptive. She is blessed, too, because she has gifts enough to write her own poems and stories. Mattie’s talent creates many opportunities for her, opportunities like leaving the hard life of a farmer, getting a college education, and making a living with her pen.  Opportunities that frighten her because of what they will cost if she chooses to take them.

Mattie is a thoroughly sympathetic character.  She fiercely loves and protects her family and friends, to the point that she feels ready to sacrifice any amount of her own happiness for theirs.  And you could see how she might, not just out of selfless love, but also out of a kind of cultural habit.  There was, and is even now, an undeniable safety in building one’s life around the familiarity of family and duty.  There are several moments in the story – heart-wrenching, dreadful moments – in which Mattie almost gives in to that longing for safety.  And even as I wanted to grab her and push her in the opposite direction – "No, Mattie, they’ll keep you from your poetry!  You’ll spend your paper money on flour!" – how could I blame her for wanting the safe predictability that she could have in a life spent living on her husband’s farm and raising children?

I grieved for what Mattie was discovering, for what we women all discover. The reality of having options is a cruel one, because the truth is that we must choose one path by turning our back on another.  Mattie is so recognizable to me.  She could be my friend here in Brooklyn, just another over-educated woman slapped in the face with the realization of all she might have to give up if she is to make good on those dreams she stoked in college.

When I finished the book, I felt grateful and sad. Grateful to be a woman in a time and place in which the choices are just a little better than they were for Mattie. Grateful to be able to carve out time – even if it’s a very little – for my own work and dreams while being able to experience motherhood.

Sad because, as fortunate as I am, I knew just what Mattie meant.

I love this scene in which Mattie visits her friend Minnie, who is struggling with newborn twins and the responsibilities of a household, and realizes why the female writers she admires – Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott – eschew husbands and children.

“Emily Dickinson was a damn sneaky genius.

Holing up in her father’s house, never marrying, becoming a recluse – that had sounded like giving up to me, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed she fought by not fighting. And knowing her poems as I do, I would not put such underhanded behavior past her. Oh, maybe she was lonely at times, and cowed by her pa, but I bet at midnight, when the lights were out and her father was asleep, she went sliding down the banister and swinging from the chandelier. I bet she was just dizzy with freedom.

I have read almost a hundred of Emily’s poems and memorized ten. Miss Wilcox says she wrote nearly eighteen hundred. I looked at my friend Minnie, sleeping still. A year ago she was a girl, like me, and we were in my mamma’s kitchen giggling and fooling and throwing apple peels over our shoulders to see if they’d make the initials of our true loves. I couldn’t even see that girl anymore. She was gone. And I knew in my bones that Emily Dickinson wouldn’t have written even one poem if she’d had two howling babies, a husband bent on jamming another into her, a house to run, a garden to tend, three cows to milk, twenty chickens to feed, and four hired hands to cook for.

I knew then why they didn’t marry. Emily and Jane and Louisa. I knew and it scared me. I also knew what being lonely was and I didn’t want to be lonely my whole life. I didn’t want to give up my words. I didn’t to choose one over the other. Mark Twain didn’t have to. Charles Dickens didn’t. And John Milton didn’t, either, though he might have made life easier for untold generations of schoolkids if he had.”

A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly

Mattie is a girl like any of us, going on hope and faith to make the best decisions she can, trying to be true to herself while honoring her responsibilities. This is just the type of book I’d love to read with my daughter WInnie, or my sister, or my friends. I know lots of women figure out how to balance their passion for life with their desire for family, but I also know that lots of women still feel blind-sided when they realize that doing it all means having very little left over. And, if we want not to be spread quite so thinly, most of us have to make choices. This book is a great story while being a lovely portrait of womanhood. Which, it seems, hasn’t changed since Mattie’s time. At least not quite as much as we’d like to think it has.

This post also appears on Girls Leadership Institute’s blog Woosh!

Fall Leaves and Trapper Keepers

In autumn, the leaves change color in much the same way that my hair grays – in large, startling swatches that bloom overnight. Last week, I came across a tree that was vibrant summer green, all except one large bough that popped bright yellow, as if caught with one arm stuck through the sleeve of a bright sweater.

Autumn means industriousness. The trees are the first to get to work. They’ve been taking it easy all summer, soaking up the sun, and now the show-offs demonstrate their abilities in a final, brilliant performance.  Many years on the academic calendar – as a student and, later, as a teacher – have thoroughly conditioned my mind to equate the autumn with a different sort of colorful spectacle – new pens, folders, and binders (remember Trapper Keepers?) of every hue.  As the trees turn and the weather cools, my fingers itch for school supplies, my mind thinks, “Well, time to get back to work.”  Then, in the uncomfortable silence that follows, quietly wonders, “Doing what…?”

Since the birth of my daughter a year and a half ago, I have not returned to my work in the classroom. I miss the new pens, and that feeling of getting organized. (Perhaps that’s why I’ve spent the last weeks shopping for bins from IKEA, the thirty-something’s version of the Trapper Keeper.) I miss feeling both excited and anxious about welcoming meeting a new group of students, knowing that each school year holds in wait countless wonderful moments of learning and friendship, countless challenges to be met. I miss the change, too, the sense that one part of the year is coming to an end, and a new one is beginning. The school year gave a comforting and predictable rhythm to my life.

Mostly, though, I miss having a neat answer to the ubiquitous question, “What do you do?”  These days, when someone asks me what I do, my mouth opens, but none of the words that come out seem to fit. “I am a mother,” is the obvious answer. But that doesn’t describe me, not even close. The world of parenting – playdates, music classes, and playgrounds – is too small for me, too local. I long for a way to affect people outside my immediate circle, as I did when I was in the classroom, or when I led workshops for teachers.

I could answer the question with an attempt to describe the evolving truth, which is that in too-short bites of time while the baby sleeps or plays with a babysitter, I am editing books for teachers, I am preparing to teach workshops for GLI, I am reading books and writing about them, while also putting my own stories – both imagined and real – to paper. But, I usually don’t get that far. That answer is longer and more complex than most people care to hear. Plus, it seems too nebulous to be real – aren’t most mothers in Brooklyn also “writers?” It feels pretentious and unrealistic to describe myself as such before I’ve been published.  Well, Shannon, I ask, what’s so wrong with being “pretentious and unrealistic?”  Isn’t that just another way of saying “ambitious?”  I’m in uncharted territory here, and the truth is that I’m scared of looking foolish.  Scared that people might – God forbid – laugh.  At me.

It seems that I, too, am caught with one arm through a sleeve. What is this new identity that I am pulling over my head? What do I want it to be? Being undefined doesn’t feel entirely comfortable, but it feels very true. I am beginning to see the positive aspects of my situation; I have the power to set the terms and the goals, and the power to change them. It’s no easy task, stripping down to the essential parts of my life so I can figure out how to present myself anew. Just ask any tree. I hope and trust, however, in the potential to be brilliant.

 
This post will also appear on Girls Leadership Institute’s new blog Woosh!
 

Photo credit goes to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aunto/

Vampire Confessions

Vampire

Hi. My name is Shannon. And I like vampires.

Let’s not forget the werewolves, witches, and shape shifters. I am confessing to all my darkest secrets right up front. Let’s have nothing but truth between us.

Some people blame their mothers for their character flaws. Well, I blame my daughter. After Winnie was born, I lost my taste for well-written prose – the kind of Literature one can read on the subway with head held high – in favor of what I will generously call “fluff.” We were engaging in marathon breastfeeding sessions, sandwiched between infinite marches to nowhere in Prospect Park. My couch developed a mysterious dent the size and shape of my bottom, and the gravel paths boasted grooves that fit my stroller perfectly. During that time, I just couldn’t find the mental energy to engage with the latest Toni Morrison or Michael Ondaatje.

That was my life. Couch, park, couch park. The proverbial door, then, was open for a vampire named Edward and his wisp of a girlfriend. Understand, this all happened before Twilight was TWILIGHT! Before the Comican craziness. Before vampire fang necklaces were all the rage. (Fang necklaces?? I am appalled! And, yes, I secretly want one.) Propping that book on my knee or on the handle of the stroller got me through some dark days. My daughter got a heck of a lot of “tummy time,” meaning “hush-little-baby-and-stay-on-the-blanket-while-mommy-finishes-this-chapter time.”

Turns out that Bella was just a gateway drug. After her came Sookie. Then Mercy. Then, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Amazon.com kindly pointed out that I seem to be interested in “paranormal romances” (THANK you, customer profiling!) and the site suggests many lovely titles that I check out by the cartload from the library.

All the while that I am wandering around with my latest obsession tucked under my arm, just hoping for a moment or two of reading time, I am becoming increasingly worried. I am wondering what this all means about me. So many aspects of my life have changed lately. I no longer work full time, which means no more pats on the back about how well I do my job, no more paycheck to spend as I see fit, no more community of supportive colleagues. I don’t have the time, money, or energy to spend with my friends the way I used to, so I always feel like I am either trying to catch up with their exciting lives, or making excuses for why I’m not around much. On top of all those losses, I worry that I’m losing my smarts. I worry that all this reading of low-brow books means that I am not as smart, interesting, or worthwhile as I was before.

And yet, even while I fret about my intellect, or lack thereof, I can not wait until my next chance to dive right into the fantasy book du jour. Somehow, I have re-captured a delight in stories that I hadn’t felt since I was a kid. I no longer sneak a flashlight under the covers, but that’s exactly how I feel when I’m engrossed in a book in the middle of the night and everyone else is sleeping. I know that I should turn out the lights, but I have to keep reading – just one more chapter! It’s a joyful and familiar feeling.

I’ve heard people say that the best career choices have to do with what we enjoyed as children. Well, what I always loved as a kid was this: reading and writing. I used to stay in bed pretending to be asleep on the weekends, while throughout the house my family went about its business – never suspecting that I was kicking back two books before breakfast. Some were quality books – the Anne of Green Gables series was and is my absolute favorite – but many more were the same kind of silly, predictable trash I am enjoying so thoroughly now. The kind of book in which the girl has to choose between the rogue and the upstanding gentleman. (And she chooses the rogue every time.)

I’m starting to think that this lust for trashy books isn’t much of a change at all; I’m just returning to my roots. In addition to inhaling all the reading material I can get my hands on, I’m also writing more now than I have in all my previous adult years combined. (One of my many projects is my own vampire novel, a fact that I had not admitted to more than two people before now.) It all makes me feel as excited and full of life as I did when I was a kid writing reams of stories to show my parents, teachers, and classmates. How had I ever lost that love of stories, that hunger for words? Oh, yeah. I was busy reading Literature.

I’m having a blast, and I think I owe it all to vampires.

Photo credit goes to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usonian/