into the abyss

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[image by Eric Kilby]

And lo did Samantha bear her second child into the waking world, that strange and too-bright earthy realm, and it came squalling and angry, in the manner of its kind. For a day and a night the creature spat clear fluids, furious and confused by the manner in which it was ripped from its mother’s womb–and neither was its mother any less wounded. But their recovery was swift, and both were released from the institution that coddled them.

They returned to the ancestral manor, bound together in a pattern old as humanity itself, the mother offering herself as food to that which she had spawned. There they found the father and brother eagerly waiting, and the cats slinking door to door, curious and yet disdainful, their ears pricked to new sounds and their backs arched for a missing touch.

Into the abyss she spiraled, day blending into night into day again, the creature growing at a rapid pace and her own body dwindling in thermodynamic remuneration. An unending cycle, a sleepless existence, the ebb and tide of a primal mission: the propagation of self.

She inhabited a living dreamworld, untethered from her initial aspirations, for what little time remained to her was claimed for sullen rest. Each time the creature slumbered, Samantha vowed to continue her work, but each time the creature slumbered, Samantha fell into a twilight existence somewhere between waking and sleep. In this walking twilight she saw wild and incoherent visions, each of which she feverishly marked down in a notebook set aside for just such record-keeping, each of which might one day inform her work, but which, for now, remained merely the ramblings of a strained mind.

Soon, she would return. Soon, she would emerge from the abyssal brink upon which teetered all her goals and wishes, and she would once again take on the mantle of ambition that fueled her literary scrawling. Till then: perpetual night and dreaming awaits.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

pregnancy Q&A

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The Glory

I’m still recovering from post-birth baby brain, though I’m tentatively noodling around with book edits again and getting ready to tackle the submissions process. I actually drafted this blog when I was pregnant with my first child and never posted it. I was getting flustered about having the same conversation every day. And then I felt bad and didn’t want anyone to feel called out. And now I don’t remember who that could possibly be, so if we had these conversations: no worries.

Bizarrely, I didn’t have this experience at ALL while pregnant the second time! Do first-time moms exude some air of uncertainty that invites the opinions of strangers? Or do second-time moms exude some air of weary impatience that staves OFF the opinions of strangers? I may never know!


With a baby around the corner, I thought I’d reflect on the public interaction part of pregnancy so far.

Because, ah man, I would have been happy to only let my friends, family, and immediate coworkers know that I am expecting, but it hits a point that you are too physically obvious and strangers want in on the excitement, too. I work with the public, which means new people want to weigh in on the situation every week.

I’m being good-humored and taking it for what it is: polite small talk. It’s an easy topic to make chit-chat about because everybody at least knows somebody with kids. If I don’t want to answer something I laugh and hand-wave it off, but I try not to be rude because I know it’s coming from a polite place.

The most common opening question trifecta, understandably:

  1. When are you due?
  2. Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?
  3. Is this your first?

1-2-3 this is basically every conversation I have with curious patrons. I have been tempted to lie on number 3 and say I already have kids, because inevitably once I admit that this is my first baby people get the urge to gleefully explain some aspect of childbirth to me. The most bizarre thing that I didn’t anticipate: folks really want to tell you every childbirth horror story they know, all culminating in, “And then you end up getting a C-section.”

This has happened repeatedly:

“Are you planning to give birth naturally?”
“Well… I mean, I’m intending to, yeah.”
“It doesn’t matter what you plan, you might need a C-section.”

Thank you???

Everybody also wants to tell me how exhausting it will be, how you are never really ready, how your life will change, etc. They really play up the downsides. Meanwhile, my childless friends get the opposite barrage: questions about when they are planning to have kids, and insistence that “your biological clock will kick in and then you’ll do it!” But apparently once you actually get pregnant the rhetoric switches to convincing you it’s going to be terrible. Make up your mind, general public!!

There has also been a major fascination with prying out my symptoms. During the first half in particular, these were the most common questions:

  • Have you been throwing up?
  • Are you having mood swings?
  • Do you have any crazy food cravings?

Not only did people ask me this repeatedly, they asked my husband too! I finally figured it out: there are a zillion and one pregnancy symptoms, but these three are TV and movie STANDARDS, so if you don’t know much else about pregnancy, you know, “Morning sickness, mood swings, and cravings.” The reality involves a lot more issues with the digestive tract, it is wholly undignified, don’t even ask what’s going on down there, okay the answer is gas.

I don’t want to share my medical history with strangers, so when people get even more detailed (have you had this? that? any of this other thing I’ve heard of?) I kind of give a blanket denial. It isn’t that I want to perpetuate an illusion that all is going swimmingly, but I’m not keen on talking about my bodily functions at work either! So I say everything is fine even if ten things are bothering me that day. We’re just making small talk, I’m not going to start droning, “Sinuses are stuffed, feet are swollen, my boobs leaked last night and plastered my shirt to my chest”– America, is this really what you want to hear?

Now in the second half it is mostly questions about my future plans: am I going back to work? am I going to breastfeed? Again a bunch of stuff I don’t feel the need to explain to strangers, but by this point in the conversation they’ve noticed that I keep laughing and waving my hands and not answering questions. It’s starting to get weird. Find a way out, find a way out!

Ask your friends a bunch of questions about their pregnancies (I, too, am always eager to compare complaints! I have many!). Ask your coworkers, even, if you’re friendly enough. But think twice before peppering a total stranger with all your horror stories, especially customer service personnel who are trapped into that polite smile!

open letter to baby

If you’re reading this blog, it means… I had a baby this week!! No, you didn’t miss anything, it’s the first time I’ve mentioned it here. I’m a superstitious lady sometimes. I wrote this a couple of weeks ago (hellooo from the past), assuming that when Baby Week rolled around I would be way too exhausted to assemble my thoughts. Enjoy this open letter to my new baby. Cross your fingers that the toddler is taking it well. [Edit: He is!]


Hello, baby,

It’s 4 a.m. and I’m wide awake. You are, too. I’m hoping you don’t wake up at 4 a.m. every day for the next year, but if you’re anything like your older brother that’s wishful thinking.

Every well-intentioned website and acquaintance says, “Rest up before the baby comes!” as though a pregnant woman is purposefully wearing herself out, but how the heck are you supposed to sleep when there’s so much to think about? And when your hips don’t join up right and you’ve got a 20 pound water balloon strapped to your belly? I sleep poorly enough under normal circumstances. Throw in a toddler and 37 weeks of pregnancy and a bad back and the To Do list to rival all To Do lists, and I’m doomed.

So I’m awake. It’s cool, and dark, and everyone else is asleep but the two of us. It’s kind of nice. I can shut my eyes and feel you rolling around and not worry about anyone else for a couple of hours. Soon the sun will come up and your brother will poke his head over the baby gate and yell, “Mama! I’m up! Let me ouuut!” and I’ll go slap something together for breakfast and start cycling through everything I want to get done today (I’ve really gotta pack my go bag already and put the car seat in just in case, and we still need an extra chair for my room but I don’t think we’ll get to the store because the propane guy is coming tomorrow and we have to clean up the space for the new washer/dryer, though actually maybe I should wait it’ll be easier to pack a bag after I do laundry, except what if–)

But that’s all a couple of hours away.

I’m wondering who you are. What you look like. Whether you’re doing all right in there or if there’s something we don’t know about. I’m going to worry about you for the rest of my life, so why not start now? I’m nervous about giving birth again. Your brother cracked a collarbone on the way out and had trouble breathing and a fever and jaundice and gave us all a scare for the first few days–can you please just sploop on out of me without a bunch of drama? That’d be nice. [Edit: There was some drama. But all is well.]

I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait for your brother to meet you. I can’t wait to see you curled up all ridiculously tiny on your dad’s chest–and please, feel free, I’ll need a nap. I’m nervous about all the hell months of no sleep and constant walking and wrapping a 24 hour schedule around an unpredictable pooping machine, but there are also a lot of bits I’m looking forward to. Breastfeeding, believe it or not. The way we smell the same until you start eating food. Googly eyes. Making fun of your dumb squish-face because you don’t know what I’m saying yet, and infants look ridiculous.

I’ll see you soon, baby. Try not to knock anything over on the way out.

papa lindsey

Welp, my house is haunted.

When we first moved in, I mentioned that our home had some serious DIY flare. The prior owner clearly had a tendency to declare, “Yeah I can fix that,” regardless of whether this was, in fact, true.

The light bulbs in any given room don’t match. The doorjambs have been painted over so many times the doors barely close. The bathroom door is ragged because somebody inexplicably (and shittily) sawed an inch off the bottom?

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But…why??

The dude was obsessed with power outlets, so the house has outlets all over the place, even on the ceiling (which, hey, was actually useful for Christmas decorating). It’s a scavenger hunt to figure out which outlet connects to which switch. A year-and-a-half in, I still have mystery switches.

At this point, we have mentally constructed a vision of this man: a middle-aged, gruff, white, Dad-type marching around with a tool belt, or else rummaging in a messy tool box and bellowing about things being missing even though he was definitely the last one to use it. And due to misreading some documents regarding prior owners, we thought the family was named Lindsey and therefore dubbed this paragon of self-sufficiency Papa Lindsey.

But Papa Lindsey is real, guys. And he’s a ghost.

Papa Lindsey sneaks around at night adding outlets to the baseboards. He tries to fix the wiring in the dining room, but it only makes the lights flicker even more unpredictably. He lives in the gaping hell-hole attic space of our converted garage, but slinks into the main house at night for further tinkering.

And apparently he is not pleased with our lackluster upkeep, because he’s turning poltergeist. Let’s document the incidents in chronological order.

FIRST. My husband witnessed our son’s motorized car jolting back and forth against the dining room table leg, despite neither child nor cat being anywhere near the remote controller. I later heard a similar incident in the kitchen, though the car stopped moving as soon as I whipped my head around to look.

SECOND. Our 2-year-old son ran out of his room in distress, insisting, “I don’t like that kid!” Do we have a secondary ghost on our hands? Is this child-ghost trying to warn us about his mad papa?

THIRD. Our cat has, on multiple occasions, bolted onto the dining room table, gone stock still, and stared at the ceiling in hunter-cat readiness. This cat is no hunter. He’s a useless marshmallow. What does he think he’s keeping his eye on?

FOURTH. The most alarming incident of all. Like, really alarming and not comedy-for-my-blog alarming:

A few days ago, my husband and I were woken up by a persistent click-click-clicking noise that invaded our dreams. I rolled over in disoriented annoyance. He realized what it was and bolted out of the room.

One of the burners on our stove was on. Like, propane flame a-flaming. Luckily (??) the knob was still on the igniter, so the clicking sound woke us up. As opposed to not being on the igniter, and either leaking gas or burning till we went in the kitchen. It was about 5:30 a.m., so it could have gone 1-2 hours unnoticed if not for the noise.

Papa Lindsey, whyyyy?? Is it our lack of appreciation of power outlets? Our determination to slowly replace or patch your bizarre handyman fixes? The terrible state of the backyard?

And per my move-in blog, remember this vaguely unsettling grave marker by the shed?

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“Max”

Yeahhhh, I’m really starting to doubt whether Max was the dog. Are we dealing with the alcoholic handyman known as Max Lindsey, electrocuted by his own wiring? Or is Max the tortured child-ghost trying to warn us before it’s too late?

Time to start looking for a new house.

1/2 Italian is better than none

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Childhood hero right here

I could have SWORN I had a photo of myself as a little kid rocking my “1/2 Italian is Better Than None” t-shirt, but I couldn’t find it, so you get Madonna instead. Close enough.

I’m only half Italian, and I’m third generation, and I was raised in Southern California instead of Back East, which means I make a really good lasagna but would be totally laughed out of the room if I tried to relate to real Italian-Americans. For one thing, I don’t speak Italian. For another thing, did I mention SoCal? Because Goodfellas did not take place at the beach, brah.

(I can make jokes about Goodfellas because my mom grew up around there.)

Alas, my poor children will only have a meager quarter of Mediterranean DNA, which means they’ll probably tan even worse than I do and nobody will mistakenly assume they’re white Mexican. The near-black hair and hints of future cuddly nonna face are the only things I’ve got going for me.

Here are some of the tiny scraps of culture you absorb when you’re basically a white kid but you have lots of distant relatives with names like Antonello and you went to Catholic school through kindergarten.

You get the food, thank God. Most cultures revolve heavily around their food but Italians revolve heavily around their food. There’s a reason that when you google “Italian chef” you get this regrettable sea of pizza and mustaches:

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*kisses fingertips* It’sa me, eetaliahn stereo-type!

But you guys, there’s so much more than pizza dough. You get cannoli and cassatini, you get calzones and chicken cacciatore. You don’t really understand why somebody would put butter on their pasta when olive oil clearly exists, and when you say you’re making cookies at Christmastime you MAKE SOME SERIOUS MOTHER-EFFEN COOKIES AT CHRISTMASTIME. Even though you don’t know the language, you know enough to curl your lip and yell, “Skeevatz!” when you bite into a lasagna and get a mouthful of hamburger meat. You get to drink wine at holidays when you’re a young teen, and you force it down even though it tastes gross because 1) heehee you’re drinking alcohol, and 2) your nonna will make fun of you otherwise.

In addition to skeevatz you know a confusing mishmash of words that are sometimes Italian and sometimes just slang from New York (and you’re never certain which are which), but in any case bruta and stunad regularly creep into family conversations, and when something is giving you agita you’re tempted to sigh, Ah Jesu.

Oh, and you’re not superstitious, but it doesn’t hurt to make the sign of the cross or the sign of the horns once in a while… just in case.

You know that what happens in the family stays in the family. You know that your siblings will always have your back and you’ll always have theirs, because you all have to be there for each other when your mother is dead. It is super confusing and sad to you when people genuinely don’t like their siblings, so you welcome them into the fold. Seriously, you barely know your friends’ families growing up, but they know every one of your relatives by name and might even hang out at your house without you.

You weren’t even raised Catholic but you somehow absorbed that Catholic guilt anyway. The vaguest promise is practically a blood oath, and once you have kids… hoo boy, you’re basically never going out again.

And finally, it takes a lot to get on your bad side, but once somebody is there… man, you can hold a grudge for life. You’re not proud of this. In fact, you could even say it fills you with guilt. But what are you supposed to do? THEY DISRESPECTED YOU!! Or worse… your mother. D:

rerun: are you afraid of the dark

I’m in the middle of a party-filled Memorial Day weekend (Belated Annual Book Club Croquet! Nonna’s birthday party! Sister-in-law’s birthday party! There isn’t even an actual Memorial Day party!), and it’s wedged in between my last two exhausting work weeks as I frantically try to wrap up everything I’ve ever done before officially Leaving the Work Force.

So you get a re-run. 

This blorg was originally posted in January 2015. I woke up at 4:30 again this morning, so it seemed appropriate.

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2014-04-14 lunar eclipse, captured decently by my crummy little camera

I’ve been awake since 4:30 a.m., not for the first time this week. The standard waking time for many day workers, but not for me! It seems I can’t sleep through the night anymore. Tension, excitement, nervousness, overthinking– shake it all up in a bag and then smash it like a piñata, because I couldn’t tell you.

It occurs to me (as it occurs to me every year or so, this isn’t a very original ponder) that I don’t remember when I stopped being afraid of the dark. There isn’t even one clear transition period, because I have distinct memories of time periods in which I alternated loving and hating it.

Toddlerhood

I’m informed I was one of those charming babies prone to night terrors. Sorry mom and dad!

Pre-4th grade

Still pretty terrified, mostly due to the horrors of Pet Sematary and Child’s Play, the latter of which traumatized me and my siblings for years. Our closet had no door! It was just a gaping black pit! And dear lord, the gap under the bed! My brother and sister (all crammed in one full-size bed with me because who could sleep alone??) made me turn off the light each night, at which point I would athletically LEAP into bed to keep my feet from the gap. This is the first and last time I’ll refer to myself as athletic.

You know what, mom, you deserved my night terrors– for the future crime of letting us watch Child’s Play. For years I had it fixed in my head that it was a mistake, and we thought it was for children because of the title. But my adult brain has caught on! You knew damn well it was a horror movie! Fool me once, shame on you. Let me watch Child’s Play 2 and 3, shame on both of us.

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YOU KNEW!!!!

Around 5th grade?

Suddenly I loved the night. I don’t know how the switch happened, I just know I was around 10 or 11 years old because I remember we were in our new house and I was still friends with the neighbor’s kids. Before they gave me lice.

I would sneak outside after sunset and either walk around our cul-de-sac, or sit quietly on the curb, and think. I really enjoyed quiet time to think, and it was exhilarating to sit outside in the dark by myself. This is also the time period in which I switched to reading adult books, and my kid mind was blown away, my brain firing like crazy absorbing complex ideas and words. I have very clear memories of philosophizing about darkness and wondering why I hadn’t enjoyed it before.

So I suspect the change was reading-related. I was growing into my big kid brain, not very sophisticated yet, but transitioning from passive absorption of external stimuli to active absorption followed by some kind of clumsy regurgitation of ideas. AKA the time period when you first believe you can write poetry.

Sadly, you cannot.

High School

Every time I walked down the street, it was with the conviction that I would be hit by a car and die. I was reading nothing but ghoulish true crime, murder mysteries, biopics of serial killers– but oh no, that didn’t even phase me. Getting hit by a car? WORST FATE IMAGINABLE. And it was definitely going to happen when I was on my way to school to take a very important test. Because then I might survive, but totally fail my class! Did I mention I’m Hermione Granger?

I don’t remember how I felt about the dark, though. Probably okay as long I wasn’t near an intersection.

College

Aaaahhh! Fuck the dark, I’m gonna be murdered!!

All of a sudden, the serial killer literature that did not bother me in high school came back to haunt me, and I had nightmares for the first time since toddlerhood. Somebody was definitely going to climb through my window and strangle me in bed. Why oh why did I read Perverse Crimes in History?

Props to dad, he gave me a weird look when I asked for this book, but he bought it anyway

Props to dad, he gave me a weird look when I asked for this book, but he bought it anyway

I’m well aware that this was some psychological manifestation of my fears about leaving home. Safety net: GONE. I went from a bustling household of perpetual motion to long periods of isolation. Once again I was leaping into bed to avoid the boogeyman (now a serial killer waiting to grab me by the ankle, natch). Sophomore year, when I first moved off campus to my own apartment, was certifiably the worst. Just frozen in bed, desperately needing to pee, unable to get across the hall to the bathroom.

Modern Day

And now… I’m fine. I can once again totter around my home without turning any lights on, or walk outside by myself, and it won’t even occur to me to be spooked. I know this switch happened sometime around 2009, because again I have snippets of memory of walking around at night and realizing it didn’t bother me anymore. In fact, I’m once again in the phase where pre-dawn stillness is cause for reflection and not an immediate grab for the light switch.

I can’t help feeling suspicious about the timing. Like my age-10 reading revolution, this was a significant year for me psychologically. My adult self finished cocooning in 2009 and emerged with a self-confidence that I had not experienced since high school. So much changed in my life in the course of a few months that it was dizzying, and my meek depressed self of early 2009 seemed like an entirely different person. I’m still working out the many ramifications of that rapid change, and I suspect that losing my fear of the dark was one of them.

The Future

Oh man I really hope night terrors skips a generation and my baby isn’t a screamer. :O

Update, May 2017: My baby is a bit of a screamer.

80s/90s kids knew how to get done up

I was born in the mid-80s, which really makes me more of a 90s kids in terms of pop culture, industrial rock, and action figures based on R-rated movie franchises. It also means I grew up in a glorious stew of transitional 80s to 90s children’s clothing, hollaaa. I can only hope my own children’s baby pictures will be as fantastic in twenty years as my own. If they aren’t, then I haven’t done my job right.

I’ve got a mediocre scanner and a pile of old photos, LET’S DO THIS.

Let’s start real mild, with Sam’s first hints of cosplay. I should also make note that this is the most Italian I ever looked, and why did growing up lose me the ability to retain a minor tan?

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I really only included this because of the tan.

It was a time… of matching mottled hot pink dresses.

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Chub rub is real and it begins at an early age.

It was a time…of asymmetrical patterns, puffy sleeves, and the color turquoise.

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To be honest I still want everything in turquoise.

It was a time of random shapes! Track suits! Head bands!

[Shout out to my big sister, I left a message asking if I could put up pictures of you and you never answered, now it’s too late.]

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We’re smiling because we don’t know any better.

Birthday parties still meant dressing up, of course. But, what’s this? BIRTHDAY SWEATS? SUSPENDERS? SOME KIND OF FADED CAT DECAL? I kid you not, this is me dressed up to party when I turned 3.

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And I look really excited about it.

But hey, birthday meant My Little Pony cake, Barbie and Ken, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and whatever gizmo Fisher Price was pushing at the time!

[In fact…all of that is true again other than Raggedy Ann and Andy. So expect them to make a comeback at any moment.]

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Give it up for hot pink 80s dining room.

Easter is always a time for big floral dresses and white stockings, but back then it was really a time for BIG FLORAL DRESSES AND WHITE STOCKINGS.

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“I’m on to your bullshit, Mom. What is this.”

The 90s crept in with their shorter hair styles and smaller floral prints, but they didn’t get rid of puffy shoulders. Not yet.

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Did I mention the mary janes and white socks?

Picture day at school is a big deal. Like, you are going to be memorialized in this outfit for all time. I’m going to spare you the horror of my middle school years till another post, because the world isn’t ready to look back on that yet. Instead, enjoy more floral, chunky jewelry, and big bows.

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I know it’s plastic and I don’t care, I wish I still had this necklace, look at those gems.

You REALLY want to look good, though? Braid your hair the night before so it gets kinky except at the bottom where the braid tied! PUT THAT SHIT IN A SIDE PONYTAIL. PAINT YOUR NAILS, BUT DEF DO IT YOURSELF.

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You know what? I stole this necklace from my mom, and I *do* still have it, and it’s the BEST.

So, from the first 3 siblings in my 6-sibling family to yours, I say this:

Pull up those jeans. Higher. Turquoise and purple will always go together. Your floral prints can be large or small, but they must always be paired with a competing pattern. And if you don’t want to hold your sweater, just tie it around your waist. Yes, even if you’re wearing a dress.

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