Oh Hey, Dreams.

This is the post I’ve waited five years to write.

Scratch that. This is the post I’ve waited twenty years to write.

I’ve landed a two-book deal with HarperCollins Publishers. After five years, three novels, and a year of living in my parents’ kitchen — I am going to be a published author. It hasn’t fully hit me yet, I don’t think.

But I must be getting close to understanding the enormity of what this means for my life, because last night, Ross and I watched Signs and I cried. If you cry during an M. Night Shayamalan movie, you’ve got something emotional you need to address.

I don’t really know how we even started watching it, since I actually said “I want to watch something fun and nice” and Signs is neither of those things.

I didn’t like it when I was younger. My sisters would pick it on a movie night and I would groan and bargain and try and push for something, anything else.

But as I got older, I found it imprinted on me. When Graham, Mel Gibson’s character, talks to his brother and tells him that there are two types of people in the world ­­– those who see signs and miracles and those who think everything is pure chance – I knew I wanted, more than anything, to be the type in the first group.

I wanted to believe that there was a reason for everything. I just didn’t know if I did.

After a while, I avoided that movie like I avoided religion, like I avoided church, like I avoided any talk of science or truth.

I was a young teenager, diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder. I was medicated and watched and I felt like a time bomb. I drove to churches in the middle of the night and sat by the doors, afraid to go in. I slept on our family trampoline just because the night sky scared me and I wanted to make myself look at it.

And with every year, I found myself pushed further from the idea that everything needed to have a point.

After all, what could my future mean? If everything was connected, then what kind of future could I be heading for?

Now, why am I talking about a Mel Gibson movie (and, despite my love for it, one that isn’t really considered one of his best?) in the middle of the blog post where I should be shrieking for joy about my book deal?

Because this book deal wouldn’t have happened without my scars, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been lost in the woods so many times. It all came together.

I wrote a manuscript about a girl who had panic attacks. I wrote them soft, at first. Lighter. A G-rated version.

And I have people who love me, people who expect to see me, scars and all, who didn’t let me do that.

Jillian Denning, the first person to read it, told me to dig deeper. She called me out, and didn’t let me write the nice stuff. She told me to write stuff that I wouldn’t know how to write if I hadn’t curled up outside of churches in the rain. Stuff I wouldn’t know how to write if I hadn’t spent time looking at the fraying rug in my therapist’s office.

She, along with Hilary Miller and Brittany Sawrey, didn’t let me off the hook. They didn’t let me write anything other than sharp, cold truth. I wanted to write in magic marker and they pushed me to write with a scalpel.

And the result was strong enough to warrant an editor in New York to give my agent a call. It was enough to make my dreams come true.

I would’ve been a writer with or without a book deal. I know this. I didn’t need a book deal to justify myself, but I can look back and see how everything makes sense. Everything God was doing to lead me here.

This justifies all the times a teacher had to write “see me, please” written under the math section of my report card because I spent the class time writing stories in the margins of my notes.

It helps make sense of all those truancies on my attendance record because I skipped school to stalk the rows of books at Barnes & Nobles.

I couldn’t write the dark unless I’d lived in it.

It helps make sense of everything.

Now, this is all far from over. I have a LOT of work to do. And it all feels so surreal. Crying during Signs wasn’t the first time I’ve cried over this.

When I got the call from the editor at HarperCollins, I was walking through Target, looking for Tylenol.

I was in sweats, snot dripping down my face, and I had to have one of the most important conversations of my career. I went and sat down on the bench with the plastic Target dog – the one intended for children to play on – and tried not to sob as a woman I’d never seen face to face told me I was now going to be paid to do what I’d always done to keep my soul happy. I’m sure I looked insane and hey – shout out to the San Dimas Target folks for not calling security on me.

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I’d honestly expected this blog post, should I ever be blessed enough to write it, would be just GIFs of Daryl Dixon doing kissy faces. Wait. What the hell, why not…

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But it felt wrong to celebrate where I’ve landed without acknowledging the footprints I’ve left in the deepest, darkest parts of forests I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. It wouldn’t make sense to pop the cork on my (non-alcoholic) champagne without realizing that even the worst panic was teaching me how to swing away.

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This is Me Blogging.

Okay. This is me blogging.

This is me blogging very carefully while listening to the Goofy Movie Soundtrack because I’ve been listening to “Stand Out” since I was literally six years-old and dancing on top of dining room tables because I felt like I understood the words on a deep soul level.

Why am I blogging carefully, you ask? And not carefully enough not to tell the world that I feel the Goofy Movie Soundtrack on a soul level?

Because I have good news. I have good news that’s actually dream news.

And I can’t *(#$)*ing tell anyone. Not on here, anyway. Social media and I can flirt but we can’t go all the way. That was a bad metaphor. Whatever.

I WANT TO SCREAM IT FROM THE MOUNTAINTOPS BUT I MUST REFRAIN.

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So, I have two options. I can just not blog for several months until I can plaster said exciting thing all over social media, or I can blog like this, kind of dancing around it, like it’s a cake for a birthday party on the counter and I want to stick my fingers in it but I CANNOT.

Anyway. I am going to do the second one. The cake dancing one.

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I’ve got a lot going on, lately. I’m 18 weeks pregnant this week, and this little one is kicking up a storm. And I have to write some stuff. Some exciting new stuff. And yesterday, I was driving and “Stand Out” popped up on my iTunes. Yes, it’s the song Max lip-syncs in the beginning of The Goofy Movie.

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If you’ve never heard it, YouTube it and laugh at me. If you have heard it, then you know what I’m talking about. If you love it and have been embarrassed to admit it until this point, I know ya feel me.

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It’s a crank-it-up-and-stare-down-the-world song. It’s cheesy as hell and I won’t apologize for it.

I listened to it in high school, when I was nervous about applying to college.

I listened to it at the gym in college, when I was on a quest to get as fit as I could get. (Result: I got very fit.

Other Result: I was pretty obnoxious about it and walked around my dorm half-naked 24/7.

End Result: My Tae-bo/Rice Cake phase lasted exactly long enough for me to discover the bakery in Heidelberg. I realized I liked being fed more than I liked abs and now I approach fitness in a healthy manner.)

There was just something about it, especially the bridge:

All I need is half a chance,

A second thought, a second glance

To prove I’ve got whatever it takes

Cheesy? Told you. Did it speak to my ambitious little heart? Yes.

One of my favorite movies to watch is Pursuit of Happyness, because I love watching him triumph. A couple of nights ago, we watched Joy for the first time. And I realized – I remembered – chasing your dreams is exhausting.

There are times when you hear ‘no’ so often that you don’t want to crank up a song and dance around singing about how you know you’re going to make it.

Because, honestly, you don’t know if you’re going to make it. You don’t know if you’re going to have a moment where you’re on the Home Shopping Network selling thousands of your inventions. You don’t know if you’re going to be offered the job at the end of the grueling internship. For every success, there are a thousand stories that end with someone in their mid-forties who gave up, is unemployed, and now has to pull their teeth out with pliers because they can’t afford dental insurance.

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And you don’t know which one it’s going to be. You don’t know what category you’re going to fall into.

The past couple years have been really hard. We lived in my parents’ kitchen for eight months while I tried and failed for almost half a year to find a job. I wrote late into the night and early in the morning, praying that something would come of it but knowing I had a very slim chance of making it.

In those moments, you don’t know if listening to a song about standing out is wishful thinking or proper motivation.

This year… this year, everything has changed. This year, the hope I’ve (read: Ross) kept alive when it was just embers under rotting floorboards has finally caught and yielded warmth.

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So when “Stand Out” came on yesterday, I was a little startled. I hadn’t heard it since all the awesome craziness started a couple months ago. But then… then I cranked it as loud as it could go and sang along with such gusto that I was getting strange looks from other drivers.

I’m so thankful that God gave me the little voice, the little pull in my gut that wouldn’t let me give up. I’m so grateful He gave me a husband who helped drag me out of bed at 5am, put coffee in my hands, and told me my stories were worth writing. I’m so glad He gave me friends that have been with me through this whole crazy thing.

So. If I’m cryptic for the foreseeable future, I’m sorry. I’ll be over-the-top excited the moment I’m able to be.

I just wanted to pop in and remind anyone who may read this to not give up. Redouble your efforts. Wake up early. (Insert all the motivational phrases).

But most of all?

Listen to that cheesy song and own it. Don’t ever tell yourself if doesn’t apply to you.

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Go kick some ass, even if you get yours kicked in the process.

It might take five years, four novels, two graduate degrees, eight months in your parents’ kitchen, and one false start… but it’s worth it.

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The Double-Edged Sword of Badassery: A First Trimester Meditation

I’ve been kind of quiet, lately.

That’s mostly because it’s hard to talk with your head in a toilet.

First trimester has kicked my ass, ladies and gents. It’s over this Friday, though, and I’m so happy this child is healthy, but MAN.

SEE YA, FIRST TRIMESTER. DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YA WHERE THE GOOD LORD SPLIT YA.

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Other things are happening, but I can’t quite talk about them, yet. But my emotions are all over the place, and I’m so excited and so nervous and so just

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The one good thing about feeling like shit for about six weeks straight is that you have oodles of time to think about life and stuff. Cause you can’t do anything else.

And I’ve been watching my daughter. Her cuteness helped me remember that there was a very good reason I wasn’t keeping food down.

She has a new favorite thing. She gets a marker, holds it like a sword, and says, “I go fight the bad guys, mom.”

And I love that. I love that my daughter a) knows there are bad guys and b) she wants to handle them herself because c) she knows she can.

But I want to be cautious, because as I lay sick on the couch, trying desperately to keep down crackers, I realized that being a badass has been a very important part of who I tell myself I am. And I realized how quickly feeling like a badass can go away, and how small I am alone.

I don’t know when the whole “badass” mentality came in, but I figure it was probably self-preservation. And it hasn’t always been good. In fact, most of the time, it’s been bad. But for a time, I felt like I needed it.

(Full disclosure: Deep, dark, crinkled pages of unpleasantness below. Proceed at own risk.)

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When you’re eleven and enveloped by OCD to the point where you have no friends and sit under a tree reading The Hobbit during lunch hour, you tell yourself that you don’t need anyone.

And when the people who were once your friends pay other kids to go pour their lunches on you, you develop a glare that makes the hired hitman approaching with a Tupperware full of shit she intends to dump on your head think twice about her plans.

When you’re fourteen and unable to stay in class for more than ten minutes without having a panic attack, you tell yourself you must be going through something bad to prepare you for something others couldn’t handle.

You must be stronger than everyone else, because that’s the only thing that makes you feel better.

So when you start cutting, it makes sense. People cringe at the deep, infected lines on your arms, and you like that. Because you’re stronger than them, and you know it.

And when you’re so terrified that high school will be a repeat of hellish middle school that you start ditching to the point where your father has to walk you into the office and sit with you every morning to then escort you to your first class, you smirk at everyone who asks why your daddy has to walk you in and tell them it’s because school is lame and you were ditching too much. You know, because you’re a badass.

Eventually, the anxiety about school dies down. But then a whole new shit storm comes up. You thought the anxiety couldn’t get any worse, but then you’re blacking out and grabbing fistfuls of your hair and pulling it out and your parents are having to tackle you to the ground because you’re trying to run in the street.

And you tell yourself that you’re a badass, because others wouldn’t survive this. You’re barely surviving it, yourself.

This is what I told myself when I woke up burning with adrenaline, too terrified to even scream.

I’m a badass. I can live through this.

This is what I told myself when someone would make an offhanded comment about one of my triggers and I would spend our whole “Girl’s Movie Night” digging my fingernails into my palms while the others sipped tea and watched Pride and Prejudice.

I just wasn’t made for a fun girl’s night. I’m too badass for a fun girl’s night.

When I fell down in my living room and shrieked, begging God to help me and I felt like He was silent, I steeled myself.

He must think I’m a badass, too, if He’s letting me go through this alone.

This little phrase also came in handy when my winning personality slashed people the wrong way and they’d slowly back out of my life like any sane person would have.

I don’t need them. I’m a badass.

My family stayed. I’d wake my father up and sit by his bed, my shaking hand vice-gripping his as he prayed that my panic would subside.

My mom held me. My sisters didn’t look at me like I was a freak. But, obviously, they didn’t count, to me. Family has to stay. It’s like a rule.

For years, I told myself I didn’t need anyone. I didn’t want anyone. I was too badass for that.

And then… then, so slowly I almost didn’t see it, I found people who didn’t leave. People who weren’t bound by blood who held my hands and looked me in the eye when I spiraled into the black. People who would wake up with me and pray. People who would see me losing my shit on the stairs and sit with me, even if they didn’t know me. Even as others stepped over me like I wasn’t there.

People started building their tents around me, even as I warned them it might not be the best idea. I stuck my head out of my little door and gave them a look.

Um… you’re probably new here. It’s not super safe to get too close to me.

And they were like cool. But I’m here.

And they stayed. And even when I crossed my arms and rolled my eyes like okay well, I don’t need you. I’m a badass, you see. Lone ranger.

They stayed.

Slowly, my tribe grew. And I realized they were the badasses. They were pitching their lives close to someone who had a habit of losing touch with reality.

They were investing in me.

And somewhere along the way, my bones stopped feeling so brittle, and I could stand on my own. I let people in. I fell in love and let people see my scars and they didn’t run. Really being badass was starting to look a lot like learning to trust people.

Somewhere along this road, I realized that I didn’t need to wear badassery as some sort of sign around my neck that read “F*** OFF”.

I’ve started learning to use it well. I’ve been in bad situations and shoved my way out, because I knew I could.

I took MMA grappling classes and got slammed around and kept coming back for more.

I stand up for myself when I need to.

And, I’m proud to say, at 27, I can finally go pee in the middle of the night without turning on every light in the house.

(I mean I still turn on the bedroom light and the bathroom light but that’s just smart, right? You’re practically signing up for a horror movie moment if you try and pee in the dark.)

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about that this first trimester, and I’ve never been more grateful for my tribe.

I’ve never been more grateful for my husband, who makes me food and listens to me whine and takes Aryn to the bathroom when I have no energy. I’m grateful for Amanda, who has been holding my hair back for twelve years and continues to do so. She was one of the first people to stick around, and she’s seen every side of me and my crazy. I’m grateful for Brit, who encourages me when my spirit is low. I’m grateful for Hilary Miller and Jillian Denning, because without our texting thread I would have to vlog my feels and it would probably just be me shriek-crying about WHY IS WRITING SO HARD. For my family, who feeds me and watches Aryn and doesn’t make fun of how ridiculous I sound when I vomit.

To Gina, Jeans, Kate Angelella, Rachel Simon, Shelby, Morgan, Isaac, Becky…

To the people who stayed and made me better.

To my tribe.

So when Aryn looks at me now and pulls out one of the writing pens I use for editing that SHE KNOWS SHE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO TOUCH BUT SHE LOOKS SO CUTE SHE KNOWS SHE CAN GET AWAY WITH PRETENDING IT IS A LIGHTSABER

…and tells me she’s going to go fight bad guys, she’ll be right back… I’ll tell her I’ve got her back.

She can be a badass.

She just doesn’t have to do it alone.

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How February Was the Month My Life Changed

When I was younger, my dad would take my sisters and I to this arcade. It was our favorite because there were Go Karts and games and – my favorite – drag racing.

It terrified me, and, at first, my dad wasn’t sure if I would be up for it. It’s drag racing. The cars are secured to a track, but you’re still going from like 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. The best/worst part? You control the speed.

I say this is the best and worst part because sure, I could slow down. But it was a race. I wanted to win.

You know that feeling on a roller coaster when you go in to free fall? It turns out drag racing at that speed feels like the same thing (and I HATE that feeling. I was that 12 yr-old that got to the front of the line at Splash Mountain at Disneyland and walked right across the boat like ‘see y’all on the other side’ and my parents would hold up the whole line trying to get me to do it and it would be a huge scene where I was in tears like NO F**KING WAY GUYS and the other tourists were encouraging me and staring this mini-movement to Get Katie on The Ride and then I’d hold firm then they’d go without me and I’d sit in awkward silence next to the big stupid bear statue as kids half my age waltzed on to the boat with zero issue). Anyway. Drag Racing.

I’d climb in the car where my feet barely reached the petals. Some guy would come by and secure my seat belt. I’d look over at my dad like ha ha you’re goin’ down while trying to not pee the car, which I believe would mar my win, slightly.

And there was this light. It’s what I remember best. It was the most amazing, terrifying thing.

It was like

RED

YELLOW

YELLOW

…..

GREEN

and then I’d punch it as hard as I could, and my stomach would be left at the starting line and I’d want to throw up.

Then, there was a button on the wheel. It gave you that extra little oomph – that extra push. You were supposed to use it when you got halfway down the tracks. The car would lurch forward like a rocket launcher. I was always afraid to push it. The first couple times, I didn’t. Then, I did. I even think I won, once.

That feeling of pushing the button has been on my mind a lot, lately. I guess ’cause my entire life just changed.

For a long time, it felt like I was sitting at the starting line. This time last year, I was

unemployed

stalled out with writing

watching Big Hero 6 with Aryn on a daily basis while wearing pajamas AND

living with my parents.

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Then, things picked up. I got a job. We bought a condo. I left my literary agency and started a job at the city. Movement, but not necessarily the jump I wanted. I wanted to move.

Warp speed. Full throttle.

In January, I started freelancing and kept querying my latest novel. It was good, but, as any querying writer will tell you, torturous. It was a time of empty inboxes and a lot of writing.

Then, February happened.

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I was sitting at home on one of my days off from the city when I got an email. It was from a lovely agent. She loved Haunt and wanted to talk.

Now, I didn’t know what to do. I said ‘yes’, of course, and then I just stood in my living room. I cranked up Gabrille Aplin’s ‘Alive’ because it seemed like the song you’d want playing in the movie when a character had a breakthrough.

We had the call, and she offered representation. I was floored, and so excited.

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Then I had to go to work, which is weird. I walked in with this stupid grin on my face. All I wanted to do was shout the good news to everyone but I knew I couldn’t. I made photo copies and phone calls and was like HOW IS LIFE STILL BEING ALL CHILL RIGHT NOW?

I let all the other agents know, and gave a deadline. Within minutes, emails began rolling in – both step asides and full requests. I ended up getting a couple more requests for phone calls.

One of those requests was from Brianne Johnson from Writers House. (As in Writers House).

She said that my query actually wasn’t in her inbox — could I send it again?

So I sent her the query. Later that day at work I looked through my email and realized

I. HAD. SENT. HER. THE. WRONG. QUERY.

IT. WAS. ADDRESSED. TO. SOMEONE. ELSE.

WHAT?!

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and then like… welp. That’s done. I had a good run.

Then…. then she requested the full.

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She told me she would be on vacation, but would be getting back to the states ON the deadline I’d given the agents.

I sent it and then tried to put it out of my mind. I mean, come on. Writers House?

I realized I needed to start writing seriously in 2012, right around the time I found out I was pregnant with Aryn. I’d written a novel, but, like all first drafts, it was complete shit a little rough.

I started rewriting. And when I lost motivation, I would go to the Writers House website. They represent Stephanie Meyer, John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, Alexandra Bracken, Neil Gaiman, and so many others. They are the creme de la creme. I even printed out a picture of their webpage and put it in front of my writing binder to keep my eyes on my goal.

Ross would wake up before me, print out their home page, and tape it to the mirror before he went to work with “WRITE” written next to it in dry erase marker. That was almost four years ago.

I just never imagined they would ever request the full. I figured I was blessed enough to get that far.

Then?

Then I woke up to an email from Bri. I’ve learned to read the last sentences of my emails first, so I don’t get my hopes up only to get let down by a “however” or “unfortunately” in the second paragraph. But this didn’t look like one of those emails. It was long, and she…

she liked it?

she liked it.

she wanted to represent it.

WHAT.

My head was spinning. I don’t even know what I did with myself after that. I probably cried. I don’t know. I should ask Ross. We scheduled a call for a couple hours after she landed back in the states later that week.

We talked, I fell in love. You know. The usual.

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I had six other offers of representation on the table at that point. From AMAZING agencies and incredibly kind, kick-ass agents. But I knew, as I talked to Bri and heard her vision for not only my book, but entire career, that she was the one.

I told her at the end of the call that I wanted to sign with her.

She sent the contract the next day, and I took an awkward selfie signing it because no one else was home to do it.

The end.

JUST KIDDING. Because this whole thing is a blog post revolving around a metaphor about the button on the side of the steering wheel, remember? There has to be a little oomph in here, somewhere.

I also, in the midst of all this, realized that I had too much freelancing on my plate to keep up with the city job. I’d just signed with an awesome client for a screenplay that would take a lot of time. So, I did what seemed crazy —

I quit the city job.

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I gave my two weeks notice and almost threw up. But there’s another reason for that because, in the midst of all THAT —

I found out that I’m pregnant with our second child.

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(YES THE ZOMBIE DREAMS ARE BACK BUT THIS TIME I KICK ASS IN THEM SO THAT’S FINE). I took a test early in the morning and it came back negative. I was kind of bummed and went to watch Harry Potter with Aryn. When I decided to shower I realized I’d left the test on the edge of the bathtub and it was POSITIVE.

I was like

ROSS! COME HERE OMGOMGOMGOMG

Ross: What?

Me: *holds test up to his face which is kind of gross when you think about it*

Ross: THAT means yes?!

Me: YES! OBVIOUSLY!

Ross: I’ve been literally seeing that all morning and thought nothing of it.

Me: *glare* *hug* *glare*

So. Needless to say, this has been a life-changing month.

What even just happened?

I wanted things to move. For so long I was like… I’m in the car. I’m buckled up. The light is yellow. Come on.

And now things are moving, and my stomach is still at the starting line. I’m still scared as hell and might throw up, but I wouldn’t change a damn thing. This is incredible.

Actually, now that I think about it, that sick feeling could very well be the morning sickness. Let me get back to you on that.

Til then — I’ll just punch the gas, be thankful, and take this win.

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Confessions of a Netflix Philosopher: My New and Reluctant Obsession with Zombies

I’m on season three of the walking dead.

I started last week. This is actually a big deal, believe it or not. A milestone, perhaps. Feel free to send your congratulations.

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Those who know me know I pretty much love all things creepy and mysterious. Vampires/werewolves/ghosts/shapeshifters/etc. call me up, and I’ll tell you the best stories/movies/soundtracks.

Sure, they scare the crap out of me. My childhood consisted of this cycle: Find scary movie > convince mom to let me watch said movie/watch it secretly while accepting the inevitability of a grounding > finish the movie > THAT WAS SO AWESOME OMG *talk about it with everyone* > Get ready for bed > Lie awake in complete and utter terror until the adrenaline finally wears off and Ifall into a deep and nightmare-filled sleep > Wake up > Do it all again

Vampires were especially my jam. Interview with The Vampire. The Lost Boys. Fright Night. I would watch these movies with the same enthusiasm with which I approached my father’s dares to put my tongue to the edge of a battery or swallow a whole teaspoon of Wasabi

Basically like HELL YES

NO

WHY WOULD I DO THAT

WAIT I DID THAT

THEREFORE LET’S GO AGAIN

COME AT ME BRO

It was a beautiful blend of

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and also

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As I grew up, I found the merit in vampire movies. I found the complexity, the themes of redemption, and wonderful symbolism about the war between our flesh and our souls.

Zombies, however? Zombies and I NEVER made it past the first date.

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Where vampires were all Keifer Sutherland on a motorcycle, Zombies were REANIMATED CORPSES. No witty dialogue, no wrestling with the darker nature of humanity. Just hungry flesh, which is disgusting. Everyone has been talking about The Walking Dead forever, but I’ve always just dismissed it. No frickin way. I never really knew why I felt this way until I was pregnant, but I think it started a few years ago.

When I was a sophomore in college, I went to Nicaragua with my Dad. Our group took a twelve-hour boat ride up the Rio Coco River in order to deliver some medical supplies to the tribes up there. Before I left the states, I stocked up on medical supplies: rubber gloves, gauze… everything. We were going in the jungle – I didn’t know what to expect.

When we finally reached our destination, I realized that bringing those supplies had changed my place in the group. Our friend Noel got a cut, and my dad told him to ask me for a Band-Aid. He only speaks Spanish, and as I put on my gloves and cleaned his cut, he started calling me “La Doctora”. I thought it was a joke, but it took me all of three seconds to realize it wasn’t. I was the closest thing they had to a doctor on that river, and that’s what I became.

People brought me their children, cut and bleeding. One girl had a machete wound across all four fingers that was wrapped in a disgusting old handkerchief. I had to take it off to clean the cut, and she screamed. I looked her in the eyes, trying my best to explain in a language not my own that I wasn’t trying to hurt her.

I was okay doing that, though I always left each encounter shaking and ready to cry.

Then, on one of our last days, a young man brought his elderly father to me. My dad pulled me aside and warned me that there was nothing I could do for his condition, but that it made his son feel better to bring him to “La Doctora”.

I was expecting another cut. Maybe a burn.

But the guy pulled his boot off and I realized that half his foot was eaten away by Gangrene. I had to keep my face blank as I explained to his son that I would try and clean the wound, but he would need it amputated.

The man didn’t flinch as I took my gloves and tweezers and tried my best to clean the remaining skin while killing the flies that were feeing on the dead, necrotic flesh on his foot. It took almost half an hour, and he thanked me as he – to my dismay – shoved his foot right back into the boot and limped off.

I cried, shaking and deciding I couldn’t do it anymore. There was no medical aid, up here. That old man was going to die. I knew it, his son knew it, and there was nothing I could do.

I’m done, I thought.

I’m nineteen. I’m excited about the Twilight movie coming out next year. I still buy Bonnie Bell lip gloss. I’m so done with this grown-up shit.

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And I pushed it as far from my mind as I could. We left, we came home, and I resolved to be nineteen.

I wanted to stay nineteen. I didn’t want to see the darkness I knew was right outside my door. I didn’t want to have to look into someone’s eyes and know they were dying. I didn’t want to “grow up” if that’s what “growing up” meant.

That’s where zombies come in.

When I was pregnant, I had horrible, awful zombie dreams. In them, I’d be responsible for getting everyone safe, and I’d realize as a hoard was coming over the horizon that I forgot the dog, or something. Or that I left the door open. Or that I forgot all the food. I failed to protect those I love.

I’d wake up in a cold sweat, curse the inventors of zombies, curse the maker of zombie movies, and shake Ross awake just to remind him how much I hated zombies.

So a couple weeks ago, I was really frustrated with myself. I felt overwhelmed and angry and I was surfing Hulu and what did I find but… Fear the Walking Dead.

I did what I usually do when I’m about to do something stupid. I double-checked that Ross wasn’t around to save me from myself…

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…and then I watched the first episode.

In the first twenty seconds, there’s a girl zombie eating someone and at first I was like AHHHHHHH WHYYYY but then… then I wanted to keep watching. The characters were actually really good. They were good enough for Ross and I to watch all six episodes. Then we realized the second season wasn’t out yet he was like….

“There’s always the original Walking Dead.”

I didn’t know if I was ready. This was the big leagues. The Walking Dead. It didn’t get any more zombie than that.

“Just the pilot,” I said, uttering the words responsible for the thoughtless murder of thousands of potentially-productive hours everywhere.

And I liked it.

I loved it.

I was ready for it.

I stayed awake, not because I was scared, but because I was trying to understand what this new part of me was. This part that LOVED zombies. The part that now listened to “Zombie” by The Cranberries with renewed enthusiasm and anxiously waited for Aryn to go to sleep so we could watch another episode (because I do think that show is WAY too much for a kid).

What about zombies made me want to throw up before, but made me totally fine, now?

I realized what it was.

I grew up.

I am responsible for another living person. I have to feed her and clothe her and keep a job that’s challenging to make sure to be able to help pay for the mortgage that houses her. I’ve been through labor and seen horrible things unfold in the world around me. I’ve seen people die and watched people I love make hard, life-changing decisions.

Any bumbling idiot teenager can handle a vampire. Werewolves are great campfire stories. Zombies, however… zombies demand everyone become a grown-up. Zombies demand that you think about others and made selfless decisions. They demand that you find the part of yourself that wants to turn away because it’s too hard and make it turn to look at the blood. That used to terrify me. While I was pregnant, this thought fed on my darkest fears: that I could not – despite the baby growing inside me, the ring on my finger, the fancy letters after my name and the job I had – adult.

Now, the same thought makes me feel strong. I can make hard decisions. I can help take care of my family. I’ve got scars that I don’t mind showing and ones that I do, and I don’t f***in’ scare easy.

So bring on the zombies. Bring on the responsibility, and for the love of all things good, bring on SOMETHING THAT WILL KILL THE GOVERNOR OMG HE IS THE WORST CHARACTER IN THE HISTORY OF CHARACTERS

TELL ME HE DIES

WAIT DON’T TELL ME.

And bring on season 4 at 2am, because I’m a grown-ass adult and can do that.

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The Day of Roadkill

There’s this moment that happens.

The moment when you’re on an airplane and everything is fine and then all of a sudden –

DIIING.

The “fasten seatbelt” sign goes on and you realize,

Oh shit I should’ve stayed home. This is going to suck. The Captain is going to get on and be like ‘we’re good, guys’ but I am going to hear the panic in his voice and know that this is IT–

Maybe that’s just me. Anyway.

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I could’ve swore I heard that DING when I woke up this morning. Fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be a rough one.

It started out well enough. I wasn’t late to work. I managed to pull off a statement necklace and simple striped shirt which made me kind of look like a fashionable Tim Burton character. It was mildy chilly outside.

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Then I got to my desk and saw a note from my boss indicating that I had done something wrong. Something I needed to fix.

DING.

I shook it off. I joked about it to myself. No big deal. Ha ha, Wednesday. Very funny.

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Then? A rejection in my inbox. Again – just a query rejection. Nothing about my pages. I tried to shake that off. That one was harder.

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Because there’s been this awful thing nagging at the back of my mind, and it’s been there for quite a while, working its way through my chest like an infected splinter I keep thinking I can ignore. Except I’m pretty sure if I don’t start looking at it I’m going to go f***ing septic.

It started when I was little (Doesn’t it all? Half the time I think childhoods are for digging out this horrible mess of razor wire and then adulthoods are where you put on some sub-par gloves and start trying to untangle it). I was a pretty weird kid. I had inch-thick glasses, a constant conviction that someone in my life was probably a vampire, and a deep love of animals of the stray and mangy variety.

There was one thing I could do, though. I could sing.

I don’t remember when it started, but I do remember singing Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back to Me barefoot on the dining room table in my nightgown.

(If realizing I belted out “THERE WERE NIGHTS OF ENDLESS PLEASURE” in front of my father at eight years old doesn’t embarrass the crap out of me, nothing will).

It was my thing. In middle school, I had very few friends. I wore a green raincoat every single day (thanks, OCD) and tried to navigate friendships without telling them too much of why I had to wear my hair a certain way and had to stop by the bathroom during every passing period. I was a weirdo. I mean, I consider myself a nice person but even I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with me. But singing – singing leveled the playing field. When I had a solo at a concert, I wasn’t a freak. On the contrary… I had a few moments of popularity. I couldn’t function like a basic human most of the time, but I knew I could belt out some Les Mis.

I got in to the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts on a singing scholarship (but didn’t end up going. Long story. Okay not that long – it seemed like a hellhole). I became an Opera minor in college and was even preparing to go study with the music department in Germany.

Then, somewhere along the line I realized I effing hated it. I hated the back-biting and the competing and the stupid nude tights and thick stage lipstick. So. I quit.

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How liberating! How freeing! No more being trapped in a building constantly abuzz with la-la-la-LA-La-la-laaaaaaa warm ups wafting through the air like the little fists assaulting my eardrums.

No more giggling when I had to sing something in French that sounded like “Le Boner” and getting stern looks from instructors.

No more… no more being special.

No more backstage passes. No more people parting for me because I was the star of the show. No more knowing that I had something I could do.

Here’s the thing. I thought I’d handled it quite well. Years passed and, with the exception of a very painful throat condition that arose from halting the voice exercises I’d done for twelve years in the span of a month, I was fine. Barely any fallout, I figured.

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A dear friend of mine asked me a question this weekend, and I thought I could answer it. She asked me if I thought I was enough.

I always say yes. Who doesn’t say yes? What Christian, for that matter, could say no to that?

Of course, I said.

This is where today came in. Because I realized I so don’t.

I don’t think I’m enough, and it’s exhausting.

The worst part of having a baby was that afterwards, I was REALLY big (like seventy extra pounds big). I hated that I couldn’t wear heels and feel pretty because I was so used to feeling special. I liked going to family functions and being able to tell people I was in grad school and married and studying abroad and signing with an agent and writing a book and whatever else kind of bullshit I said to try and throw dirt over the real problem. I liked singing because I was – literally, because of the stage – above other people.

I’ve thought about this a lot, but not really, you know what I mean?

There’s been this snake in my headspace, coiled and hissing and I’ve just had this vague heh I should probably deal with that at some point kind of attitude.

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It came to a head today.

Today, when there was nothing wrong, really. But when I kept refreshing my email on my phone because I need someone to tell me yes. I need someone to tell me that I am special. I have effing blisters on my finger from refreshing my phone so often. That’s where I’m at.

And nothing came. No emails, no “yes”. Normally, I can handle that. It’s part of the game, and it’s actually part of the game that I enjoy. I love not knowing if today could be the day that changes my life.

But today, I couldn’t handle it. The splinter started moving, dragging poison behind it and the snake started hissing and the dirt on top of all my shit blew away and I was so effing angry. I was angry that I needed the validation and angry it wasn’t coming.

And then –

And then my boss asked me to sort pictures of roadkill.

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I wish I was kidding. The girl who saves worms from the sidewalk during rainstorms had to sort closeups of dead, mashed skunks into a “miscellaneous” file.

On the way home, I cried.

And I prayed that I would stop needing to prove myself to someone. The someone I wanted to get angry at because who the hell made me like this?! It was somewhere around the third stoplight that I realized the someone is and always has been me.

I’m trying to prove myself to me, and I have no idea why.

Like I have no idea why I’m writing this. Maybe I’ll post it, maybe I won’t. Maybe an oversharer like me will never get over the impulse that’s like

HEY I JUST HIT A VEIN I SHOULD TELL EVERYONE.

Or maybe I just want prayers, and I want to add my voice to the people out there who are trying to be authentic. I have a pretty gorgeous profile picture, I can afford to be ugly in here, right?

See, that was a joke. But kind of not.

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The Importance of Bath&Body Works Lotion and My Brief Time as a Lois Lane Impersonator

I started my junior year of college wearing a pencil skirt.

As in, “I woke up to drive my mother’s packed van to Malibu with all my sh** loaded in the back while wearing a pencil skirt”. I even had a French twist in my hair and was wearing painful heels.

Why, you ask? Because a mere few weeks before, I had found my ~calling~ and wanted to start off right. And starting it right meant that I wanted to drive up to my new dorm and get out of the driver’s seat looking like Lois Lane. Even though it was 5am. Even though the important “meeting” I was getting ready for started at 3pm. It didn’t matter.

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Let me back up, cause this is a good one. Seriously. I’m snort-laughing while I write this.

Here’s what happened. My sophomore year of college, I went to Germany. Pepperdine has an amazing study-abroad program that has campuses on several continents. I chose Germany because Heidelberg looked like the town in Beauty and the Beast – the one where everyone goes “Bonjour!” never mind that that’s French. That’s what the city looked like. And that’s about how much thought I put in to where I wanted to study abroad. Also there was STRUDEL? Sold.

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And I thought, as most nineteen year-olds do, that this trip was going to change my life. Maybe it would have, too, had I not expected it to do so by changing me.

It was wonderfully cold and there was a charming Christmas Weihnachtsmarkt with string lights in the streets and I lived on a mansion over the river and our classes were on the top stories above a café. I traveled to Milan and Interlaken and Edinburgh. I made new friends and even met my husband (though I didn’t know that at the time – he was just the redhead wearing Liederhosen and a tie-dye shirt singing The Sound of Music in the kitchen while making pasta).

But I flamed out by November, because even though everything was perfect… I was still the same. My anxiety still stood by my bed at night, eyeing me over the top bunk. I was still prickly and judgy and angry. So I gave up.

I got on a plane to visit home for Christmas and never went back.

And that’s when things got interesting, because I couldn’t go back to Malibu, either. I was a nomad, given permission by the Dean to take a semester off. So I did, and it was a hot mess. I joined an eighties rock band based out of a nearby community college. I still remember sitting outside the auditorium during Battle of the Bands before our set, reading Atlas Shrugged while wearing black leather and bright blue eyeshadow because GUESS WHAT I WAS STILL ME AND DIDN’T WANT TO TALK TO ANYONE.

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I tried and failed a math class taught by a woman who wore embroidered cat vests and didn’t allow coffee in our 7am section. She reminded me of Dolores Umbridge and was always writing “see me, please” on my half-finished assignments with increasingly manic-looking smiley faces because she didn’t understand that I was enrolled in her class solely to stay on my father’s health insurance.

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I walked in to local businesses to look for jobs, but no one was hiring.

After several months of “caccooning” (at least, that’s what my father called it when he’d find me wrapped in blankets watching The Office at 2pm. Example of proper usage: You’ve seen this season six times you need to stop caccooning and get out there).

By the time August rolled around, I was desperate to get back to Pepperdine. But I didn’t just want to go back, I wanted to go back ready. I wanted to be a new person. I wanted to know exactly who I needed to be. I’d stay up until 4am, watching movies and journaling, looking for that spark that I’d lost. Because I had to have lost it. The thought it simply burned out was too painful to consider. I wasn’t broken. I was just in pieces. I could find all of them and put myself together and wind myself back up and everything would be fine.

Then one night, I was watching Superman Returns and it hit me. I wanted to be Lois Lane.

I wanted to be a journalist.

Ah-ha! That was it! I wanted to work at the Daily Planet and uncover corruption and fall in love with the hot nerd in the next cubicle. Done.

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I went to the newspaper office at school and asked how to sign up. It turns out there was an informational meeting the next week. What a coincidence! I’d be there!

Which is how I wound up teetering up to my dorm in stilettos, pit stains creeping down my tan tank top as I tried to carry boxes up to my second-story dorm room. Cause I was Lois Lane. A future journalist.

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I went to the meeting, and it was… fine. Whatever. All dreams start out, rough.

I enrolled in journalism classes and wore that same effing pencil skirt to my first class. Afterward, I sauntered up to the teacher and introduced myself with a brusque handshake and a “I look forward to working with you”. He looked confused but I gave him my best future-Pulitzer Prize-winning smile and stalked off like I was THE COOLEST. People parted for me, seriously. In retrospect, it was probably because they’re like a) why did she just shake the teacher’s hand b) why is she catwalking down the center aisle and c) is that a pencil skirt?

So, the semester started. I wrote articles for the paper, which was… fine. I even made the front page, which was… okay. And then I stopped really doing the homework for my journalism class. I started failing pop quizzes and sitting in the back. I stopped wearing pencil skirts and started questioning all my decisions. Lois Lane didn’t wear sweats. She didn’t eat peanut-butter crackers, loudly, I might add, while the acclaimed professor taught.

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Then, one day, while we were discussing ethics, I realized I’d crash-landed in the wrong effing profession. We were talking about the best way to approach the family of a victim, focusing primarily on a specific case where a journalist won an award for snapping a picture of a mother screaming over the body of her drowned child. Was it ethical? was the question, along with how do you go about asking for a quote for your article?

I realized my answer was YOU DON’T YOU LEAVE THEM THE F— ALONE AND RESIST THE URGE TO ACT LIKE A BIRD OF PREY AROUND A GRIEVING MOTHER WHY ARE WE EVEN HAVING THIS DISCUSSION

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I left and walked down the steps of the building, realizing that I’d made a terrible mistake. Again. I’d taken the wrong path. Again.

Then, two things happened, and I believe the culmination of events was divine intervention. The first – I wound up in Dr. Julie Smith’s office, near tears and confused. After a half hour, I walked out of her office an English major.

It was what I’d always wanted, but never let myself consider. It wasn’t a “real” major. That was the “have fun waiting tables” major, wasn’t it? Better than the ‘how to insert yourself like a crazy person into someone’s face and ask them to talk about their deepest sorrows’ major, I figured.

Second, I read The Lovely Bones.

I’ve always been a sci-fi/fantasy type person. The bigger the world, the better. Bring on the magic and the forbidden love and the ancient prophecies. But, for some reason, I picked up Alice Sebold’s book and it just did something to me. Her language was like a silk spider web, weaving somewhere deep in my chest and tying up all my loose ends. This is what I wanted. I wanted to chase these words. I wanted to study this.

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

And I was changed. I found me when I wasn’t looking. She was sitting there between the pages, ready to bitch-slap me and ask me what took so long.

This time was characterized by two other things: a) I stopped wearing pencil skirts and b) I used a specific lotion from Bath and Body Works that Santa had left in my stocking. I forget the name, but it was like Cherished Chocolate Daydream or Belief Serum Glitter Gel or whatever. It was delicious and I used it daily.

Anyway. Today, I opened the bottom of my desk drawer at work and found a bag. A sweet friend over in the planning department got me some lotion for Christmas and I’d forgotten to take it home. It’s not the same as the one from junior year, but it’s pretty close. I opened it and the smell took me right back to my bed next to the window on Lower Dorm Row, the rain beating against the glass as I read. This lotion is called “Ten Thousand Wishes” so you know it must be good stuff.

Then I remembered what it felt like to change course, like that. I was knee-deep in Journalism credits, but I jumped ship, anyway. It wasn’t too late and it was the best academic decision I ever made.

Then I looked up the requirements for the Columbia Publishing Course this summer, because it’s time for another daring move.

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In Which I Might Be Singing the Praises of Being Reckless

It’s 7:40 on New Year’s Eve, and my entire family has already eaten most of the traditional cheesecake. We usually wait until midnight before we dig in. But, this year, we wanted to eat it early – so we did. It got me thinking about what I learned this year.

I’ve always been a pacer. You know the type – the person who circles a decision thirty times before making it. I make pros and cons lists. I text my #squad like

guys this is serious

i need opinions

why is no one answering me i’m in crisis

HELP it’s the last week of holiday drinks and i have to choose between a peppermint mocha and an eggnog latte sound off opinions pls

And then after careful consideration I make my choice (eggnog, obvi).

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This year, I made some scary decisions. The kind you can’t change. Those are the ones that freak the sh** out of me. The ones you can’t be like JK TAKESIES BACKSIES. I quit a job on a conference call. I sent an email terminating a professional relationship. I cut my hair off.

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I didn’t really realize I was becoming this jumping person until we were hanging out with some friends from church, and they asked how to know whether or not they are ready to date.

Before my wise husband could say anything, I kind of snort laughed and told them that you’re not ready for things, sometimes. You just effing do them. I then proceeded to tell them that I thought that the best dating policy is something along the lines of hey do you like each other are both of you single then go for it. Kiss and fall in love and take some risks. If it works, great. If not, you learn.

And I was promptly uninvited from having any influential conversations with young twenty-somethings ever again. Not really. But kind of. (I’ll work on my delivery. Maybe.)

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Now, this message isn’t for everyone. One of my closest girls, when I mentioned this idea, was like I won’t lie that’s kind of scary. And I have to say – it so is. And this goes out to all my pacers, out there. My list-ers. My text-a-thousand-people-before-making -a-decison-ers. My peeps who look over the cliff and need to just jump.

(If you’re overly impulsive, then don’t listen to this. This isn’t for you. Go away and find another blog about how to properly use a day planner and for the love of all things good stop getting split-second tattoos, because that Spongebob Squarepants ink ain’t never coming off. That is not the type of jumping I’m talking about.)

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This is just for the people like me, who take shaky breaths and think too much about the what if I regret this. What if I’m not ready for this.

I was the last one awake a few nights ago. My daughter was kicking my spleen (okay I’ll be real and admit I don’t know where my spleen is so basically she was kicking my general middle area). My husband’s fingers were touching mine, and Cricket, our puppy we swore up and down we were NOT KEEPING had slipped up from her place on the foot of the bed and curled up by my shoulder. I realized, as I stared up at the ceiling, that my bed is full of decisions I was not ready for.

When Ross and I decided to get married we were discussing what we were going to do after graduation and he was like “well… I have an idea, but you might think it’s crazy.” And we decided to get married. I freaked out all year about it. What if I don’t like him in a year. I’m twenty-two. What if. 

But I knew, deep down, that he was my guy. I prayed and I felt steady about it. I kept waiting for that giddy I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS OMG feeling, but it didn’t come. I wasn’t full of sparkles and glitter and confetti. It was more like a steady-burning coal, deep in my gut. I knew I was making a good decision, but I was still scared as hell.

Come my wedding day, I didn’t wake up smiling while little birdies put Baby’s Breath in my hair. I woke up and thought shit I don’t have a razor and I can’t get married with unshaved legs so I went to Albertson’s before anyone else woke up and stood in the hygiene aisle in my stained sweatpants asking strangers what kind of razors do you use if you’re getting married I know that’s a weird question but like is this the day to splurge on a nice one or should I just be utilitarian and go for the Valu-Pac help I’m getting married wait should I have waxed what the hell was I thinking waiting until now to debate this

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During the entire ceremony, all I could think about was that scene from The Incredibles where Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl are getting married. That’s seriously what I was thinking:

“I, Katharyn,…” *Pay attention you’re making LIFELONG VOWS, RIGHT NOW. STOP THINKING ABOUT THE INCREDIBLES* “Take thee, Ross” *When are they making that sequel? It’s been like… ten years. When did I see that? Middle school?* *PAY ATTENTION OMG* “To be my lawfully wedded husband” *but seriously that movie was so good. Why weren’t Bob and Helen’s parents in that scene? Do they not have parents? That doesn’t make sense* *OMG SERIOUSLY KATIE STAHHP*

I wasn’t “ready” for that day. It just happened, and I jumped.

Aryn wasn’t a surprise. I just started to feel like there was someone missing. I told Ross that I thought someone was missing, and he agreed. We both knew we weren’t ever going to be “ready” to completely upend our life with a baby. We just jumped.

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We were NOT GOING TO KEEP THE DOG. We were going to find her a home because there was no way we have the time or energy to keep a puppy. But she just melted our hearts and Aryn calls her “Cicket” and we just jumped.

There are some things worth scouting. There are decisions that need to be considered and weighed. But once you decide… just do it. Don’t be so afraid of regret that you just stand still doing nothing.

So as much as this year was about trying, I also think this year was about learning to jump. Push “send”. Say the words you can’t take back. Eat half the cheesecake before the ball even drops on the east coast.

In 2016,

jump.

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What I Won’t Be Saying in This Year’s Christmas Card

It was one of those days. Okay not really. I actually got out the door on time and the house wasn’t a complete mess and I wasn’t late to work.

But it became one of those days.

I got home and had some time to myself. I decided to read and drink some coffee (Eggnog + Black Coffee. Try it. You’re welcome). But then I got sleepy so I curled up. Then the coffee kicked in and I was like DANGIT. But I think it was more than coffee keeping me awake. It’s what someone said to me at work today, something that got under my skin line a splinter and made me increasingly irritated all day until I was just ready to snap.

For those of you who don’t know (because most of the time I hide this with the same kind of secrecy with which you guard a disgusting sexual fetish) I’ll remind you. As of right now, I’m an Intern at City Hall.

Yep. I literally have April Ludgate’s job.

I’m a twenty-six year old intern. My last job was what one might call a “real job”. Salary and benefits and all that. But it was kinda like

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So, after I had a mental breakdown and sobbed in the lobby at work to the point where my therapist was calling me telling me to WALK AWAY, KATIE, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU quit with a staggering amount of maturity, I needed to find something else. Something that would pay the bills and buy food and health insurance and all these weird adult-y responsibilities that just showed up one day like HEY NOW YOU HAVE US DEAL WITH IT.

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But I also wanted to be able to write. Writing is something that breathes life into me and makes me feel strong and capable and dammit I’m actually not half-bad at it. And after spending too much time trying to be good at things I wasn’t made for (wazzup, every childhood hobby that requires a ball), it feels really, really good.

I had to find a balance. I’ve heard of/known artists who were living off of other people whilst they wistfully stare out of a window, eat Chef Boyardee out of the can, and convince themselves that they can’t do anything because art.

There’s a middle-ground, here, and that’s where I’m at. I’m working at a job with lovely hours and fair pay and a kickass commute and yes my boss is very type A and yes I have doubted my competency and ability to make a photocopy and yes I watch The Office and feel so much like Pam that I want to cry.

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But it’s a means to an end, and I have to believe that.

So flash to today, where I spent the entire day painstakingly printing letters and putting labels on envelopes. I was showing some of the other workers how to fold the letter into the envelope, and okay – I was having a little trouble

BECAUSE IT WAS TRIFOLD AND CONFUSING AND WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE AN ORAGAMI ARTIST OR SOMETHING

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(didn’t think I’d do a blog post w/o a Supernatural GIF, did you?)

but then, one of the workers, bless him, watched me struggle and joked to the other worker:

“Dude. She has two Masters degrees and can’t fold paper.”

YES HE SAID THAT

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He was kidding. He was kidding and it’s my own damn fault cause I joked like that once and he heard me and thought it was hilarious so now he says it all the time.

When I get chastised by the boss for a stupid mistake on a memo —

Don’t you have two Masters degrees?

When I am fighting with the stupid printer —

Don’t you have two Masters degrees?

My hands shook as I looked down, and I fought the urge to cry and laugh at the same time. Yes. Two Masters degrees (well — 1 7/8 but who’s counting) and I’m folding paper and putting it in to envelopes and sometimes spending the entire day feeling like a moron. There are days when I go home and kind of forget that I’m capable of doing anything because I didn’t understand an Excel formula.

And this is all so raw, considering it’s Christmas season, AKA the season where you get letters like HEY WE’RE DOING SO GREAT HEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHAT HAVE YOU ACCOMPLISHED THIS YEAR and I want to be like

I’M WORKING ON IT STAY TUNED.

Maybe I would’ve laughed what this kid said last week. Maybe I would have made a yeah don’t I suck face, but not this week. This week, I was bolstered. Jill, Hilary, Amanda and I had book club at Duke’s in Malibu on Monday. Jill, being Jill, asked us all to think of a word for this year. I have quite a few, I think. It was hard to narrow it down. We went around and talked about how we’re all fighting for our dreams and its effing hard because no one ever told you that becoming who you want to be would look a lot like failing over and over and it feels like everyone is watching you struggle.

But later that night, Jill texted our group:

“The word of this year is ‘try’.”

And I almost wanted to cry. It’s try. I’m trying. We’re trying. I’m going to be a writer because there is literally nothing else I could be.

And then my girl Brittany sent me an excerpt from a book about trying. About how sometimes, you just need to pray through shaky breath and whisper —

I’m going after this with everything I have, Jesus. Please just cover me.

That’s exactly it.

And this week, it’s paid off. I’ve finally put my book, A Haunt for Jackals, out in the world, and things are already happening. I made the top 50 out of over 400 entries in the PitchMAS blog, where I got six requests. I submitted it to an editor who had requested and queried a couple agents. I’m back at that lovely/scary place where every email could be life-changing. It’s got me like

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and

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I’m a twenty-six year-old intern with two Master’s degrees (okay, 1 7/8) and I’m trying.

So I looked up at the two guys and said “hell yeah I have two Master’s degrees, which is why I’m folding this paper like a badass.”

Which, okay, made them laugh harder.

I wish this story was completely triumphant, but I’ll be honest — I spent the rest of the day in a slow decline.

wtf am i doing with my life

yes i can call these people to confirm the mailing address

yes i can reprint those

and by the end of the day I felt like crap. I felt stupid, and I felt like a failure.

But I need to remember that I’m blessed to have a job that, sure, looks a lot like failing and, sure, isn’t what I expected I’d be doing.

I am a twenty-six year-old intern, and I have a job that lets me go home, put on my comfy pants,

and try.

I can’t say that in my Christmas card, but I want to. And maybe I should.

And everyone else with their snide little comments can just be like

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In Defense of The Dark and Bloody : Why I’m Fine Being “That” Mom

I was recently out to dinner with some extended family. Another twenty-something and I were talking, and she asked me what Aryn likes to do. I mentioned the usual stuff – running around half-naked screaming “Let It Go”, dumping things on the floor and saying “uh oh” even though it wasn’t an accident, and watching her favorite movie, Jurassic World.

“You let her watch that? That was a bad call,” she said. For a moment, I froze. Jurassic World is pretty scary. It’s rated PG-13. The thoughts started running around in my mind like bad mom bad mom bad mom and then – I stopped. And after I’d swallowed the urge to be like

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I smiled, and said that if Aryn likes it, then I like it. I mean, I wouldn’t let her watch Silence of the Lambs, or anything. Not until she’s at least five, geez.

But I’ve seen this a lot. Not just in the mothering community, but in the Christian community, as well. I’m smack in the middle of that, so I hear a lot of that’s not suitable/appropriate/ I can’t believe you let her watch that.

I have to smile through grit teeth, because it makes me want to scream. In order to fully understand this, you’ll have to sit through the cracked, strange part of my childhood that I’m always hesitant to bring out. Then I remember, hey. It’s my blog. If you want normal, look somewhere else.

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I’ve had a severe anxiety disorder since I was eleven years old. I’d had anxiety before then, but my first week of middle school it exploded. Those three years pretty much suck for everyone, so dumping a heaping pile of OCD and panic attacks just made the world break open beneath me and swallow me whole. I fought it for two years, but it became so bad that I didn’t finish eighth grade. I stayed home and watched daytime TV, waiting to have lunch with my mom when she came home on her lunch break.

My mind was an unraveled live wire struck down during a storm. No one could get too near it because they were afraid the coils would snap and bite if they came close. I just stood there, sparks cracking around me, frozen.

My faith kept me alive during those years, though it was hard to relate to people. I had no friends, and the anxiety had become so bad I was knee-deep in extremely embarrassing OCD and thought if I told anyone the extent of it, they’d make fun of me. So I turned in on myself.

And I discovered story. I’d always loved books and movies; my Dad reading The Hobbit to my sister and I is one of my earliest memories. But this was different. One night, when my parents were both out, I watched Interview With The Vampire on TV. My only other exposure to it had been months before when I stopped to look at the VHS box at Blockbuster and my mom was like “Nope never never in a million years do you understand?”

But my mom wasn’t home, so naturally I was like

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And I was enthralled. It was bloody, and dark, and parts of it were straight up sick, but — so was I.

Louis was in a bad situation. He hated who he was. He hated what he did and what he wanted to do and that he was so isolated and alone. So was I. But he fought. He pushed back. He was also Brad Pitt, so. There was that.

I met Maximus from Gladiator, and Cora from The Last of the Mohicans. Movies with blood and kissing and death.

Suddenly, I saw the bravery I wanted to emulate acted out in a way I could understand. And my mom, even now, will roll her eyes and cover her face when I mention it like “Oh, Kate-o! I can’t believe you watched those things!” and she still doesn’t get it. Nothing I saw on a screen was worse than what I saw in my head. Virtue set against a glowing, happy backdrop made no sense to me. Happiness born of a normal life was foreign. But this? This weird little light in the darkness? I got that. Watching people stand against completely impossible odds helped me breathe.

It gave me hope.

I’ve felt that way ever since.

So when people tell me that something isn’t suitable, I have to laugh. I believe that the most beautiful, loving thing ever done in history was done during a brutal execution. The Bible itself is full of things that aren’t pretty or suitable. But that’s not the point. The point is that it’s true, and that there is hope in the midst of all the blood and dirt.

This feeling is even heavier on me as a writer, especially as I handed my mom my latest manuscript for her to read before I query. And I remembered some of the cussing and some of the kissing and I was like

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But I want to say this loudly, and I want everyone to hear.

There can be good stuff in the dark stories. There can be hope in things that others deem “unsuitable”.

I need Dean Winchester because he’s fucked up and tries to be good anyway. So am I.

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I need Kara Thrace because she tries to be brave when she’s terrified and so do I.

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I need River Tam because her mind fights her and she fights back, and I’m learning to do that.

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So if Aryn wants to watch dinosaurs, I’m going to let her watch dinosaurs. Those characters teach her how to be brave; how to look up at something completely horrifying and carry on anyway.

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(Also, how to pit one carnivore against another while wearing heels, which I think is a skill we all agree is important.)

I’m going to teach her that evil is real, and it’s as real as the good she’ll see. But the good is stronger – that she is stronger. And if she wants to watch something that reminds her of that truth, then I’ll take that over Sophia the First any day.

There.

Now let’s see how this goes over at the next church potluck.

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