When You Become Your Mother

ked29 (2)If you were anything like me, (self-proclaimed awful, horrible, ungrateful swine of a teenager) then you probably hated your mother at times. Especially during your formative years.

I always viewed my mother in her attempts to protect us, or teach us something, or flip her lid when she just couldn’t handle another eye-roll, and thought she was so unfair and naive and unbelievably out-of-touch.

And, if I am not mistaken, this happened to you, too. Because I feel like it has happened to about 99% of the female population. Heck, I know it happened between my mother and her mother.

It’s just something that comes with having a daughter.

IMG_20160118_145412328And my turn is coming.

I remember saying, “I will NEVER do that!”

I probably used that phrase for anywhere between 5 and 10 habits of my mother. (Now she is gonna call me and ask me what those 5 to 10 things were and it’s gonna be a lovely Skype meeting.)

Anyways. I saw those things and they were HUGE. They were the end-all of her legacy. But little did I realize, in my impaired teenage brain, that to have 5 to 10 things you couldn’t stand was not a bad percentage for the 100’s of other things she passed down. Through her looks, and her manner of sitting down, and the way she ordered something at the drive-thru window, and the way she sighed when she got red sauce on her shirt. (She will probably bring up those examples in the Skype meeting, too.)

me and momAll in all, I sigh the exact same way when my kids have pushed me to my mummy limit. The sigh that means “I should have been an artist and moved to Barcelona.” And I mutter under my breath in the same way when someone on the road won’t let me in. And I become completely deaf to my children when reading. Just like her.

But there are other things, too, in my life. Things I see today that I saw through different eyes as a little girl. To me it comes as a surprise when the things I cherish in my new family are the things my mother upheld for us in her own family.

the famTonight, as I was loading the dishwasher and listening to Jo work her heart out on her piano, I realized I became my mother in a way that I never even knew I wanted to. But this new home in this new place felt like the home I grew up in because my mother’s habits were here.

Then I saw the way I kiss Jo’s forehead and rub her hair back before turning the light out as a legacy from my mother. I saw the egg-salad sandwiches with potato chips and watermelon as a Downing staple. And I realized that my way of saying “hm?” in a bored manner when reading is just an echo of my mother’s voice.

mom making flowerThen I understood that for all my youthful promises of rising above the “horrible” ways of my mother, I had become more like her than I even once feared. And it made me happy. Really, really happy. Because she was actually pretty dang good.

Moms are never gonna be perfect. My grandmother wasn’t. My mother wasn’t. And I’m not. And on and on it goes. And on and on daughters go moaning and groaning. And on and on we go, eventually realizing how ridiculous that was.

You can never really leave your mother behind. Her shadows fall on your life in a million different ways. And that’s what makes your own attempts at building a life so beautiful. Because you don’t start alone. You start with her.

me nad momAnd you may love it, or you may hate it, but your mother is the jumping point. And your flight is her legacy.

Post-Christmas Card

I know that the tradition is to send out cards yabi-jabying about the whole family before Christmas. But honestly, who has time for that? It’s like, what a dumb tradition, let’s take the busiest time of year for Mama Clauses and then tack on a writing assignment where you have to convince everyone your lives are ideal without coming off as show-offy or snooty.

Mmmmm. Not for me.

So I’m doing the family update now. Because now I have tons of leftovers in my fridge (whew), and I have given up hope on the house. It’s ideal.

IMG_20150213_093250077As you all know, we moved to California in July. JJ’s face here pretty much sums up how we feel about that. He either looks like he is uncontrollably happy, or he is about to birth a small asteroid. And that is how we feel much of the time.

We go on LOTS of adventures. Some good. Some ending with us carrying two 45 lb kids on our backs from bus stop to bus stop at 10 o’clock at night. Either way, they’re all adventures. And if we can get a 75% success rate, then I would say we’re doing all right.

California is SUPER family friendly. And they host a TON of free events so you don’t have to balance your budget when you’re done. Bonus! 2015-11-21 16.48.00

 

We go to the park at least once a day.IMG_20150727_181039858_HDR

Jo is enjoying the unique plant-life.2015-11-21 18.22.42

We do a lot of hiking.IMG_20151017_175643568

IMG_20151031_100728307

IMG_20150614_153034330

IMG_20151031_125649546

IMG_20151124_170559158

We participate in all the local festivities.

Light Shows

IMG_20151220_172503997

Train rides

IMG_20150919_135940481

Slip and Slides

IMG_20150919_141804325

And even pirate attacks!

IMG_20150912_151112042_HDR

We go to the model train museum and ride the trains.

IMG_20151017_150814804

We do a lot of yoga.

IMG_20151113_173613681

IMG_20150729_140230717_HDR

IMG_20150729_140209452

12231704_1030074523709298_803127451_n

And we’ve made a ton of friends.

IMG_20151028_190504450

And Jordan is doing GREAT at his job.

IMG_20151016_183617634

Jo is finding lots of things to climb on.

IMG_20150912_144630505

Grandmas came to visit

IMG_20150923_134646008_HDR

We play a lot of games.

DSC_0028

DSC_0030

We walk to school everyday. Sometimes we are late because of butterflies.

IMG_20151019_104609652

We do a lot of baking.

DSC_0009

DSC_0026

DSC_0001

Sometimes it doesn’t work out quite so well.

IMG_20151223_184945795

And. Of course. We LOVE the beach.

IMG_20151010_151846130

IMG_20150813_193824067_HDR

IMG_20150918_184815240

So, there you have it.

Life has treated us well in 2015. And we hope the next year can keep the momentum going. Because we are on a ROLL!

It has been a blast.

January is bringing its own craziness. But. More on that later.

As of now, we have had an awesome six months. YAY for Awesomeness! Let it reign!

IMG_20151121_163043204

 

 

 

Catchup

Ho There, 

Long time no read.
I would apologize to my unwavering fandom for the absence, but let’s be honest, if Adele isn’t gonna apologize for randomly dropping off the face of the earth, then I probably don’t need to, since my absence is much less catastrophic. 

Let’s see . . . a short recap. 

Um. Jordan got a job offer from California State University. After much fiery debate involving podiums and Hillary Clinton hair, we voted for California, throwing cost of living out the window and making close friends with the sun.

The kids and I stayed in the Minnie-Soda for a couple months while Jordan drove his desk and my absurd book collection across the country with his sister Rebekah. Shout out to my Dad, for letting the leech live on. He really is the Gandhi of frozen tundra. But with mahatma_gandhi21more hair. 

Then the kids and I flew out, and instead of crying my eyes out this time, I screamed uncontrollably as I donned my sunglasses and saw that ocean sparkle out my window.

Next was filling in the bookshelves and decorating the walls and laying out the new quilt and pillows I had made. Jo and JJ have awesome rooms filled with Tinker Bell and Dinosaurs and I have my very own private yoga studio. Not that I really need one since there are three, I repeat THREE, great yoga studios within walking distance of my house. Oh, and just to clarify, people in California are serious about their yoga. I have never seen so many handstand push-ups. 

Here are some pictures of the house.

2015-09-17 11.15.47

2015-09-17 11.13.19

2015-09-17 11.13.57

2015-09-17 11.14.19

2015-09-17 11.20.22

2015-09-17 11.23.23

2015-09-17 11.24.01

2015-09-17 11.25.07

2015-09-17 11.25.21

2015-09-17 11.26.01

I was being vigilant about sunscreen for awhile but I finally just said, “Screw it!” because there is no fighting it here — you will be tan. Even Jordan is tan. JORDAN! He’s brown as a dairy cow. 

IMG_20150810_085354906
Jo has found a home for her dare-devil ways and is California’s newest rock-climber. There is no cliff she will not scale. She is 100% California through and through. She does yoga every morning, she is obsessed with organic produce, loves to feel the waves crash at the ocean, and spends her life barefoot, growing tanner and blonder by the minute. She is making tons of friends at Kindergarten. Her new pet is the world’s largest and freakiest spider and she talks to her sunflowers every morning. She screams and rolls around in the driveway every time it rains and is hunting for a bear she can live with – in the cave. She is Jordan’s other wild canary. IMG_20150909_131552145_HDR

JJ. He is a big hunk of work. I thought all this exercise out here might lighten him up a bit but he just gets heavier and heavier by the banana. That kid is nothing but muscle. I never knew bananas were the secret to sumo status. He also does yoga, but only the poses he likes, otherwise he just rolls around on the mat shouting random things that don’t have anything to do with anything. He follows Jo’s lead and is determined to fall from some great height, but is more nervous about the ocean since he sinks like a rock. He has a great group of friends, all of them blonde little boys who like to bash things. And he will argue with you until you can’t remember which is what. Now when he points to the moon and calls it the sun I say, “Yep,” because at three he has already worn me down.

IMG_20150806_130410336Jordan is great at his job. I don’t mean to brag, but he received the highest student ratings possible his first term here and people are flocking to his classes like they’re Huntington Beach on the 4th of July. Not to be rude, but I was surprised. Then again, Jordan doesn’t do anything unless he is serious about it and will only give his best work. He’s inspiring and exhausting at the same time. He bikes up and over the highest lookout in the next three cities on his way to work every day and can beat me in any race now, but I can still stand on my hands longer so he hasn’t won yet.

And me. I got a bike trailer that has a trunk, that’s right, a trunk, because California is the land of the two-wheel free. I’m half-way through my yoga teacher training and am very sweaty, but also happy. I am also taking tap. Like with tap shoes. AH! I eat a ton of food because the restaurants are numerous and incredible, the farmer’s market is like a weeklyIMG_20150918_191238406_HDR festival, and produce is CHEAP. Every day that I say “I’m bored” I’ve found something else to do within ten minutes because Orange County was made for the hyper-active. I have gone to more festivals in the past month than I had in the ten years prior. Saturdays can be frustrating because it’s hard to choose between a music festival or a pirate festival, an author reading or a writer’s conference, free yoga on the beach or free yoga at the arboretum, going to a fireworks show or seeing a play, or grilling at the beach and spending the day building castles and watching the surfers. There is a reason the authors that come out of California don’t bother with periods or rereading something before having it printed. There is only time to scribble and run.

This is the first thing I’ve written since moving here. And that’s only because I have to sit here to make sure the house doesn’t burn down while the kids are sleeping. 

But. 

The hammock is calling. That ocean breeze has reached my back porch and the scent of our orange blossoms is something you could never find in a bottle. The garden is thirsty and the crickets are singing. And I have a bowl of raspberries and a book waiting for me.

So once again it is off to the outdoors for me.  

One of our favorite beaches

Bonnie Walton was a great friend

Writing has always been something that came naturally to me. I mean, I’m not saying I’m a natural born genius or anything, but I just haven’t had to struggle for words very often.

But I am struggling so much right now. I don’t even know if I should be writing this post, it feels weird to do it, but it feels weird to not do it as well.

My friend’s husband called me on Friday to tell me she had died. I had been expecting this call for a while now. My friend had called me a couple months ago to say goodbye to me herself. And I had cried then because I knew it was the goodbye call before she pulled back from the world and spent the rest of her time with her family.

Honestly, as callous as this sounds, I can’t believe how much my heart hurts now that she is actually gone.

This whole thing has been one weird unbelievable occurrence after another. I remember Bonnie and I hanging out at the library together. I loved hanging out with her, she could hang out and do nothing for like 5 hours straight and it was so fun to just sit around with someone for so long and watch the kids play and talk about and do random stuff. It was always like, “I better get to Target. Are you gonna come?” and then “Sure.” and the whole day could go like that, us just following each other around. We were doing one of these things at the library when Bonnie told me about how she wasn’t sure the hard spots in her breasts were just clogged milk ducts anymore. Sorry, if that is TMI, but really, we were both very convinced it was just clogged milk ducts because that is what everyone tells you it is. I remember saying, “It couldn’t be cancer. That would just be too weird. It’s not something that happens to normal people.” She agreed, and then we were both like, “Might as well just go to the doctor anyway since that’s what you’re supposed to do. But, come on, it’s not cancer.”

Then of course two days later it was. And ever since then it has just been like one weird unbelievable thing that doesn’t happen to your friends after another. All throughout it I have cried. Cried when I first found out, cried when she had surgery, cried when we found out she still had it after we had high-fived cause we were sure it was gone. Cried when she found out if was going to kill her. Cried when we talked on the phone after that.

Stupidly enough, I didn’t cry when we went out to see her after she moved back home. Because I, stupidly enough, really really thought she was going to get better. And even more stupidly I told her that. I said, “I think you’ll get better.”

I swear. They should not let me be friends with people because I am the worst. I am just one stupid comment after another.

But Bonnie was my friend. Even though I was so dumb. And that is what makes this so awful. Because she was my friend. She liked me and wanted to be with me even though I am so messed up. I just don’t want to lose someone like that. I don’t want to lose someone who would be my friend and wouldn’t mind spending 5 hours doing nothing with me and just making me feel so okay.

I have cried throughout all of this, but I always stopped myself because I knew there would be more tears to come later on and that this whole thing wasn’t over with yet. But now I feel like it is. Now I feel like I can’t wait to cry anymore because this is it. And the moment to cry has finally come and I can’t put off how heartbroken I am anymore. She actually died and there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t say that something worse is coming so I need to hold on while things aren’t as bad as they can be yet. But now they are bad as they can be. And I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to feel like this and know that she is actually dead. That my friend really did die.

My heart hurts. It hurts so bad. I feel like if I cry any more I will pass out. I just, I can’t breathe because the sobs are so long. And crying feels so final. Crying means that it really is time to feel the worst of it.

And I feel terrible because Adam and the kids have lost their wife and mother. And Denise has lost her daughter. And I can’t imagine living through that. But I know that I am sobbing because I lost my friend. And I am crying for myself. It just seems so selfish. I should be crying for Bonnie because she is a mother who died before she could raise her kids. And that was the hardest part for her. She told me that the hardest part was knowing she wouldn’t get to be there to raise her kids. And my God! How could anything be worse than that? But I am still crying because I lost my friend. I feel ridiculous, but to me, right now, the thing that hurts the most is not having Bonnie here to spend the day with me and do puzzles on the living room floor with.

She hasn’t been here for almost a year. But it still felt like we could do those things for some reason.

I just can’t believe that now whenever I am going to have Bonnie it is going to be a memory. That from now on our relationship has to be in past tense.

It’s awful. It is all just so awful.

After Bonnie moved back to Utah to be with her family we started writing letters. I wrote her more than she wrote me because it was hard for her to write, she was so tired and her hands shook. It was easier for her to call.

I was working on a letter for her when Adam called me to tell me she had passed.

Everyone keeps saying these things about Bonnie. About how she was so kind, and fun and had such a great sense of humor and was compassionate. And all of those things are true about Bonnie. But to me, the most awesome thing about Bonnie was that she was okay with people and didn’t spend her time worrying about what they did or didn’t do. We would complain to each other about things other people had done, and laugh over things other people had said, of course, like all friends do. But it was never anything to get in a bunch about with her. We would just laugh and say, “oh nooo!” and she would do this half laughing groan. But she was completely okay with people not being perfect. And for me, that is what made her such an amazing friend. I loved being around someone like that and having someone in my life who was not there to yay or nay things about me.

I have missed her so much this past year, and am now just so so sad that she is officially gone.

 

Bonnie,

Thank you for being my friend. It was awesome.

My Sincerest Apologies

One of the great things about being entirely unfamous is that when you loser it up only like five people know about it.

Life is all about silver linings.

I didn’t mean to stop posting chapters as soon as the book became available in print. I wasn’t trying to FORCE you all to buy the book. But, my life became a conundrum and I was living in something akin to a house of mirrors. Lots of running into walls and stuff. And lots of bloody noses. And lots of talking to myself because I was confused about how many people were actually there. 

 

SO!

 

I am sorry. Truly, deeply, most ardently and wholeheartedly apologetic.

It was not intended. It was just that sometimes life catches you up and you forgot all together that you even wrote a book in the first place.

Ya know?

I will commence with the novel posting.

 

CHEERS MATES!

The Time is Here

You know that part in Les Mis when General Lamarque is dead and Gavroche is like “AH!” and then Enjolras is like “The Day has Come!”

Well. Today is like that. Except this isn’t France. Or the 1800s. And there is no one nearly as dreamy as Enjolras to get us all hyped up and start throwing furniture out our windows.

But, hey, not every day can be EXACTLY like Les Mis.

It’s just fun that today is pretty close because you can go and buy a copy of the book Sins in Summer. THUMBNAIL_IMAGE

Haha.

Gotcha.

Just kidding.

You can buy a copy of the book Binny’s Boy.

Isn’t the cover art just awesome? My cousin Peter did that. He’s the best. I come from a long and wide genealogy of incredibly talented and remarkable people. Frida Kahlo is my great aunt or something like that!!!

See? I have her eyebrows.

Are you getting tired of me talking about this?

Want me to just tell you where you can buy it?

Okay fine fine.

You can buy it HERE.

Or HERE

You could even click on the picture!!!

This is the link to Binny’s Boy

And. If you would like a Kindle copy then go ahead and click right HERE.

And if you would like to be super awesome, come on over and clean my bathrooms.

This is it

Today’s the day

The book is here

So READ away!

 

Go to the Menu Bar above. (The orange strip with words on it.)

Click on BINNY’S BOY.

Put an answer into the poll if that applies to you.

Click on “Chapter 1.”

 

And VOILA!

You All Must Understand

There is something I would like to clarify with all you lovely eyeballs before I post my novel.

Writers are EXCELLENT people watchers. I mean, we are the best. But we are not the best at correctly, or even fairly, portraying the people we watch.

(Yes. You know where this is going.)

Half of being a writer is going outside, paying attention to things, collecting things that might amuse you or surprise you in some way, and the other half is taking those things home, folding and unfolding them with your gray matter, and then putting them down on the screen in whatever way best accomplishes the story you are trying to tell.

Binny’s Boy is about the incredible friendship I shared with my awesome awesome awesome best friend in the ninth grade – Nathan. We had the best of times together and his friendship came into my life when I was reeling from hard things. My experiences with Nathan that year seemed like the perfect place to start a novel about two kids learning to be who they are and love themselves. And while many many many of the things in this book are true, they were still only a start.

A lot of it isn’t true. A lot of it is stuff I made up to make the story work.

That’s another thing writers are really good at – making stuff up.

I have a lot of lovely people from that time in my life who still support me today, who read this blog, leave comments, and are looking forward to the new book. And I owe them a lot and am so grateful for all they have done in my life and for how many times they have been there for my family. If any of you read this and think I am talking about you, believe me, I AM NOT! What happened was I took a person who was a huge blessing to me that year, pulled them out of the story, and slapped a villain down in their place. Because, well, that’s what makes a good book.

Sometimes I even took a whole group of awesome people, like a collective in my memories of that year, took it out, and replaced it with a group Binny can use as an enemy.

Also, part of it is just Binny being a total BackITCH. Binny is a very sensitive girl. Other characters can’t even give her a hug without her freaking out and thinking they meant to rub all her problems in her face by it. (She’s a fifteen-year-old girl. She is an incredibly easily offended character.) So, sometimes the “villains” are just being nice people and Binny is still a total spaz about it. She’s got a lot of internal issues.

I tried to tell this story as best I could. Yeah, it’s about the Beany and Nathan of my ninth-grade year, but it is even more about the Binny and Jason who stepped in and made it a great novel. When I read the novel, I don’t even see myself and Nathan in the characters. They have a lot of similarities to us, but they are very much their own beings.

And that is like 100 times truer for every other character in this book. They are their own beings. They are not you. PLEASE do not read this book and think you are in it. Because you are not. You might be like, “Oh my gosh! That is so something I do! She is writing about me!” Guess what, it is so something you do, in addition to like 1 billion other people in this world. So, don’t make any assumptions.

And while the story of Beany and Nathan and the story of Binny and Jason overlap in some ways, they are NOT the same story. It’s like, you and a complete stranger both go to Wendy’s on Tuesday night and then both see Raiders of the Lost Arc. Does that mean you have the same life? No, it just means that a specific part of your two SEPARATE lives was very similar.

Okay. I hope I have made myself clear.

Now, hopefully we can get on to reading the novel without any narcissistic melt-downs. Which, by the way, comes out in 12 days.

HAWACHACHICHA!

P.S. Only two people signed up for the sharing challenge, so I guess yall don’t want the $50? Come on. I know I have WAY more poor friends than that.

15 Days

15 days until we start the reading safari, and there is a little fun to go over before then.

Now, I LOVE when people read my books. Call it narcissism, call it vanity, call it it-makes-me-feel-like-I-didn’t-waste-a-ton-of-time writing. Call it whatever you want. I call it, it-makes-me-feel-like-I-have-a-life. But the point is, I smile when people are reading, and that smile is so fun for me, it is worth making a small investment.

We are going to have a little friendly, cut-throat competition with this novel. Because, well, I’m a Downing/VanDusartz, and vicious competition is just something that comes with the territory. I don’t think I have ever been a part of a family holiday that did not involve jake and i fightinga duel to the death somehow. I’m talking ping-pong, push-ups, eating vomit-flavored jelly beans, even boxing with the little blue and red guys. And the most important thing is winning. (Except when we did ice-sculpting — no one won then cause we all just sucked so terribly bad.) Nothing brings people closer together than trying to one-up each other.

And I want us all to be friends.

So here is how we are going to do it.

The novel is laid out so that when you click on the BINNY’S BOY tab in the menu bar it brings you to a page with links to each chapter of the novel, so you can find your way if you get behind or if you start reading late. At the top of this page, above all the links, will be a poll. It will say, “To Whom Do You Owe This Reading Pleasure?” Well, you owe me, cause, I sorta wrote it, but I am basically asking who recommended the novel to you.ryan-gosling-glasses

There will be a list of choices, and readers will click the little button next to the name of the person who referred them.

Now, whoever has the most little button clicks next to their name by the last chapter post will win some fun stuff.

1st place wins – $50 American Express giftcard. Two hard copies of the book. And an all-expenses-paid-vacation in my garage in Sunny California. (Airfare not included. Also, if I don’t know you, then you can’t come. STRANGER DANGER!)

2nd place wins – $25 American Express giftcard, 1 and 1/2 hard copies of the book, and a free stay in my garage in Sunny California, but you have to pay for your own food.

3rd place wins – $10 American Express giftcard, 1 hard copy of the book, and a free stay in my garage in Sunny California, but you have to pay for your own food and can’t use the inside toilet.

Now doesn’t all of that sound like some good times? (Don’t worry, if you are third place, I can provide you with a bucket.)

So, if you want to be one of those names on the list with those little buttons for people to click, then leave a comment here or on the facebook post, send me a message, or call me up on the phone and let me know. I will include your name in the poll and you will be on your way to winning plastic, paper, and an air-mattress on a cement floor.

WHOO!

I feel so generous right now. Like, Mother Theresa or Santa Claus.

And I’m interested to see who signs themselves up for this challenge.

MAY THE GAMES BEGIN!