About the author
If you’re going to buy a book that I write, you should probably know a little more about me.
Here’s a super-professional version:
And here’s a more down-to-earth version:
The Short, Professional Cocktail Party Version
Before I became a mother, I identified mostly as a young professional. I taught international students English in a university and I enjoyed researching and presenting in my field. In my early 20s, I didn’t want to be a mother. In my mid 20s, I thought, someday, I’d want to be a mother. Not yet, but someday. In my early 30s, I thought, hm… is there ever going to be an ideal time?
The answer, of course, is no. There is never an ideal time.
By the time that my husband and I were ready to start trying, I was afraid of upsetting the finely balanced life that we had spent years building. It was great. Vacations. Friends. Parties. Time to write. Time to exercise. Time for naps. Ahhh… Life was good. And parenthood… well… Hmmm…
The End-of-the-Party-Telling-It-Like-It-Is Version
1) I am a recovering Southern Baptist. By the time I was 10 years old, I had become a master of reciting Bible verses. Not kidding. If you are familiar with the AWANA program, I earned the Meritorious Trophy. (The new version of this trophy is kind of lame. Here’s the bad-ass one that I earned.)
What does that mean? It means that I memorized A LOT of Bible verses. And not just one-liners. I’m talking 10+ verse passages. My favorite claim to fame was Philippians 2:1-11. And yeah, it was in King James Version. I take special pride in that because it’s the most impossible version of the Bible to understand. So take that. I was still able to memorize that, even though I had no idea what it meant (do you think a fifth grader understands “…who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God”?)
But I was only able to be comfortable with this worldview while my world was small. Life changes. I went to college. Relationships didn’t work out. I worked with people who were gay. My youngest sister came out as gay. I read about the history of Christianity because if I was going to stay a Christian, I wanted to know where this community had come from and why. I began teaching international students, most of whom were Muslim (Saudi Arabia) or atheist (Chinese). I began to see that my previous view of the world was sending an awful lot of people straight to hell.
I didn’t like that.
I’m still a Christian but not the hyped-up kind. Not the kind that will pass you Bible tracks or visit your house to give you the happy news that you’re going to hell. I’m the kind that prefers to worship quietly in a local Lutheran church with other people who don’t presume to have all of the answers. I prefer to live in the tension between faith and doubt because it reassures me that I’m both a creation of God—and a fallible human.
2) I am barely in Generation Y—and I hate the thought of identifying with it. I feel caught between wanting to live my life free of social media and recognizing its importance to everyone else. I graduated from college in 2004, before Facebook. Cell phones were pretty common on campus, but texting was too cumbersome. So zoning out during class required you to either use your imagination or the ability to fall asleep sitting up. I didn’t have a cell phone. I was that “poor” girl who found no shame in claiming a nice-looking abandoned belt, lying in the middle of the sidewalk (for no apparent reason). Of course, I also picked up nonsensical items like a lone glove or a broken umbrella, but that’s besides the point.
My husband forced my first cell phone on me in 2006. It was a Motorola Razor. God, I miss that phone. It was so easy to answer. You flipped it open, BAM!, call answered. Call finished? Close the phone. End of story. I didn’t get lost in Facebook or my calendar or another email from LinkedIn. I wouldn’t be out at the pharmacy picking up my daughter’s medication and get an email from email@example.com (presumably from one of my many international students) that says, “Teacher… HELP ME!!! I afraid I not pass. Please give me points.” (No name included of course). Now, I have to make a concerted effort not to check that blinking blue light that screams, “Something new has happened!”
3) If I wanted something, I worked for it. And I worked a lot of jobs. I’ve worked at Target, Goodwill, National City Mortgage (now PNC Mortgage), Miami University’s library, and a local bakery. Once I had written about 500 essays, I had proven myself worthy of a graduate degree, and then I started my underpaid, time-consuming—but somehow enjoyable!—academic career: as a university adjunct instructor (power to you all—it’s tough, thankless, unpublicized work), a private tutor, an on-line tutor, and finally a contracted full-time ESL teacher for university students.
I think I am this way because I was born in that sweet zone of American parenting, when parents pretty much told you to get over it, but when you were really pissed, they listened to what you had to say—even if it didn’t change anything. No entitlement here. My parents didn’t tell me every day that I could do whatever I wanted to do, but they also didn’t tell me that I was condemned to a life of minimum wage. There was no narrative about which Ivy League school I would attend. It was more like, “Oh. You want to go to college? Great! Now… How are you going to do that?” (Or the more immediate concern of high school—“Oh. You want a car? Hmm… How are you going to pay for that?”)
4) I suffer from Post-Chubby-Girl Syndrome. A terrible diet in my youth plumped me up throughout middle school. Low self-esteem deflated me in high school and college. Here is some evidence. (Not sure about what message I’m trying to send in that children-of-the-world elementary school teacher vest…)
I didn’t learn how to eat well and exercise until I experienced a good relationship. Which leads me to…
5) I am the lucky wife of a great husband. He’s attractive. Even very attractive. He cooks. Even well. He is clean. Even, very clean. He has a job. Even a good job. He is smart. Even witty. He actually still makes me laugh. I don’t have to pretend! People respect him–a lot actually. He is okay with me sending our daughter to daycare in the summer so I can write. He believes I am a good writer. He doesn’t watch sports. He doesn’t play video games (anymore). He admits when he is wrong. He apologizes. He acknowledges when I’ve done a lot of work around the house—he doesn’t assume that it’s my job to do everything by myself. He prefers spending time with his family and friends over working late or on the weekends. He still tells me that I’m beautiful. So like I said—lucky.
6) I am a woman, but I don’t like some of the assumptions that come along with that label. I’m not a lover of malls or shopping (unless we’re talking on-line shopping with free shipping). I find the experience of bright lighting, top 40s music, the smell of Cinnabon, and the nonchalance of $120 shoes to cause more cognitive dissonance than I usually want to deal with. If I need something, I get in and get out. Unless I’m looking at a clearance rack. Or at Goodwill. Then, I’ll be stuck for a while. I don’t like gossip, but I want to know big news. If I don’t get along with someone, I’ll keep my conversations with them short rather than put on a super-saccharine theatrical performance to convince them (and everyone in hearing distance) that we’re on good terms. I don’t like confronting someone when there’s a problem, but I’m learning to get over that because it makes the situation worse to pretend it doesn’t exist.
7) I am the middle child of five siblings—two older brothers and two younger sisters. We are all kinds of crazy in our own ways, but their stories are not mine to tell. I’m sure they want to be seen in their own lights. I feel that I owe a large debt to my long-suffering parents. They were married for 38 years, until my father passed away in June 2014. My mother stayed him with through depression and Parkinson’s. All the way to the end.
8) I live between the tension of vanity and self-deprecation. As a Post-Chubby Girl, I work hard to keep the weight off because I don’t want to slide back into the days of eating a third burger (because after you’ve had two, what does it really matter?) But I worry that this makes me vain. At the same time, I know that all artists have some vanity about themselves. You have to. If you’re not vain enough to believe that you have an important message to communicate—regardless of what medium—you’ll never finish what you set out to complete. So I know that I have to be vain enough to believe that someone will want to read this someday. Still, I question whether anyone will really care.
9) I’m determined and stubborn, but also reflective. I am a teacher, a writer, and a knitter. All of these skills require an “okay… well, what now?” approach. Results are slow to come and the process of mastering these skills is guaranteed to frustrate you. There is little immediate reward. It takes years of practice to see the real pay-off. To survive over the long haul, you need to be able to find joy in small successes in order to keep you from giving up. Oh and they are all underpaid (or unpaid!). Which leads me to…
10) I’m a little afraid of money. Okay, a lot afraid of money. Maybe this is why my husband has to coach me into asking for more money in job interviews. (“Sweets, think of the salary that you think you deserve. And then add $10,000. That’s what you should be making. If it makes you uncomfortable, that’s about right.”)
But this always freaks me out. There’s one verse from the Bible that I think is absolutely true—“Money is the root of all evil.” I learned some valuable lessons growing up in the lower middle class, enough money to pay the bills, but not much left for anything else. I learned that my mother’s handmade shorts were more precious than the store-bought denim ones that everyone else was wearing. I want my daughter to learn those lessons. I want her to know the joy of simple things and the emptiness of “I want a better one.” I don’t like the pursuit of a materialistic lifestyle. I think it is small-minded and robs others who live in countries that are manufacturing all of our “necessities” of their basic necessities. (And then there’s that part of me that wants to spend the money on a house to live in a good school district…)
11) I’m an emotional person at heart, but I strive to be rational. And I think this makes me a good writer. It helps me sympathize with others, anticipate my audience’s thoughts and questions, and communicate an inclusive message. According to Myers-Briggs, I have an ISFJ personality type. It’s pretty accurate, although I have learned to put on the extrovert face for teaching. I’ve gotten really good at it with practice. I’ve become so convincing that I even regularly submit proposals to speak at professional conferences. Quite a road I’ve traveled since that terrifying speech about Ulysses S. Grant that I gave in 6th grade Social Studies class (Thank you, Mrs. Sutton). I’ve even become known—sadly—for my eulogies that I’ve given for family members. I gave a memorable eulogy for my grandmother in 2011. Unfortunately, I had to give another this year for my father (See the “Behind the Writing” page for a list of videos.)
12) I find my voice best when I write (preferably on a real keyboard, not those pop-up Smartphone ones that you swipe with one finger, partly-hoping that it detects the word you want, partly-disgusted when it doesn’t, and partly-amazed when it does.) I know that writing is a calling that I will always pursue, even if I never make a cent from it. I can’t stop. If I do, it eats at me. Still, when I’m going through a dry spell (usually when there is stasis in my life—no major changes), I worry that my creativity is gone forever. Then, something changes. And I’m amazed again that it returns. One of the greatest compliments that I long for in life is to hear people say that what I’ve written touches their hearts.
I’ve also found that I have a talent for creating montages of photos and videos set to music. (See the “Behind the Writing” page for a list of videos.)
13) I think about the past a lot, mostly because I try to derive meaning from it to see how it has gotten me to where I am today. It’s one reason why I’ve wanted to write this book. I think it’s fascinating to contrast our past and present selves, and then pinpoint the decisions and circumstances that guided us to where we are today.
14) I know that who I am depends on what I’ve experienced. It is just one version of truth. And you have your own version of truth. I acknowledge that your experiences have shaped you differently. And I think that it would do everyone a lot of good if we could agree on that.
15) I am a mother. I don’t really identify with any particular brand of motherhood out there. But here’s a glimpse at what I’m like so far. During diaper changes, I hold one-sided adult conversations with my 11-month daughter (as of July 2014) that go something like this:
“Do you have thoughts, baby girl?….
You can’t do that! It’s illegal in this state!….
Well, I don’t even care if you have a permit…
You’re going to have to take it up with the judge, honey, and from what I hear, he ate some bad Thai food at lunch so…
You’re just going to have to take your chances.”
But really, I’m still figuring out what that means in my life for me to be a mother. And how different motherhood looks on other women. And that’s what this book is about.