Yo.

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Hi, y’all!

I’m Christy.  I’m a 4th grade teacher from Wisconsin, where I live with my husband (also a teacher) and my 6 year old daughter, A, and my 4 year old son, E.  I have always loved to write and make people laugh, and lately it seems combining the two has brought some joy!

Before I had A and E, I got pregnant with twins after suffering from infertility. They were born too early and died when I was 24 weeks pregnant.  Since then, I have looked at life so differently-I try to be grateful for the little things.  When things get overwhelming, I also try to remember that I have lived through that, so I should just take a deep breath and keep going.

I love life, even though it’s messy, and I like laughing at the really silly parts of it.  Almost always when something is happening to me that feels really awful, I think to myself, “Well, at least this will make a good story later!”

So, that’s what I’m here to do: tell you those stories.  Hopefully you can relate to one, or something I say resonates with you and you think,”Oh, if this is happening to me, at least it’s happening to Christy, too.”  I think there is such a big power in just having that, “Oh, you too?” moment.  With everything going on in our lives, it’s nice to just have that connection.

I’m a busy mom and I work full time, but I care about you-so drop me a message or a comment whenever you can!

In the meantime, it’s nice to meet you!  Let’s get to know each other!

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So. Much. More.

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Sometimes, I feel like a broken record, especially when I talk about my profession. I feel like there are 2 camps out there, fans of teachers (usually people who have one in their family, or had one save their life) and people who think teachers are useless and make them pay too much in taxes.

During a school year, I would say I have at least 2 stretches of time where I sit at home at night and say to myself, “I really could be good at other jobs. I have to have some other qualities that would make me a good worker for someone else!” and I stare at Monster.com for a while, daydreaming about coming home at night with NO work and being able to leave work to go to a dentist appointment without a 20 step process.

I don’t want this to alarm you, I know some of you reading this are like, “Uh, that’s my child’s teacher, or could be, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want someone teaching who hates her job.” Rest assured, I do NOT hate my job, and I tell my students all.the.time that I have THE best job on the planet, no question. They know I love them.

But, still I come back to these moments where I think I just can’t do it anymore. This has to be the last year. I can’t watch 9-year-olds take so many hours of standardized tests. I can’t be a mom, social worker, and teacher all while trying to motivate kids to learn things they have no interest in, and still be standing when I get home. I can’t give more of my energy to my students than I do to my actual children.

And then.

Annnnnddddd then.

Friday happens.

I was on my out the front door of the school, my class trailing behind me lazily, and the second I stepped out, I saw one of my former students (a now 6th-grader, who has gone on to middle school this year) grinning at me.

His smile was SO big, and then he left his mom, ran straight to me, and gave me the BIGGEST, hardest hug. I laughed so hard because I felt like he was going to squeeze my guts out. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, for real, I should remember this when I start getting down on my job.”

A simple hug.

And then.

Annnnnddddd then.

I dropped my class off at the buses, fist-bumping them and reminding them to be safe, and headed back in the building.

I was just walking through the hallway, when one of my students from last year, still on their way out the door for the day, saw me and ran straight to me, and gave me a hug. Then 3 other kids from last year saw this and started piling in. Suddenly, I was laughing hysterically, with 8 5th graders all with their arms wrapped around me.

“We miss you, Mrs. W!” “Can we come back for the Harry Potter party?” “Mrs. W, I finished the whole series and I’m onto something new!”

And then.

Annnnnddddd then.

The kids let go, leaving to catch their buses, and around the corner came this boy, a student I had last year. He was one of those kids that I will never, ever in my life forget, for a lot of reasons that I shouldn’t post publicly on a blog. But, let’s just say that he didn’t even look at me for the entire 1st month of school last year. He wouldn’t look up. He had already been to several different schools by 4th grade. By spring, he would stay in for recess sometimes to talk to me about what he was reading, because it was a HUGE deal that he was reading. A breakthrough, you might say. He always could read, he’s an intelligent kiddo, but it was never on his list of priorities (he once told me he plays video games until he’s so dizzy he almost pukes).

Anyway, I conned him into starting to read a particular book series last year (lots of encouragement, and maybe even a bribe or two, lol!), and the week before he mentioned to me in the hall that he was almost done. So, back to the story. This boy, this kid who wouldn’t look at me, wouldn’t say hello, wouldn’t share at a morning meeting, wouldn’t tell me what he needed help with, he came around that corner and he walked right up to me and he gave me the BIGGEST hug and then said, “I finished the series. Next, I’m going to read Narnia.” Then he grinned at me, and ran down the hall to catch up with his class.

And THAT, my friends. That is it in a nutshell. THAT is why I have the greatest job on the entire planet and why although I swear somedays that  I would be so much happier working at Barnes and Noble, I will never do it. I went up to my room and I cried and I wrote this down because I don’t ever want to forget it.

Teachers, remember: we are here for a reason. And although no one is ever going to give us a raise or our prep time back or stop with all the data already, we are worth so much more.

So. Much. More

xo

The Benefit of the Doubt

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I have read so many articles and books about education during my career as a teacher. I have read them from the parent point of view, and from the educator point of view. I have seen what politicians think and I have seen what community members think.

I’m sure all of you out there know the usual things we talk about: teachers are overworked and underpaid, teachers are overpaid because they have the summers off, schools are failing, school lunches suck, the whole education system needs to be revamped, and probably hundreds more.

I love my job, you guys. I swear. 4th graders make me OVER THE MOON happy. They are so lovable, funny, creative, and kind-hearted—my days with them are so well spent. I love books, and writing, and solving math problems, and I love how I get to laugh and learn all day. Sure, kids are frustrating sometimes, and there are a LOT of things about education that anger me (*cough*standardized testing *cough*).

But, if there is one thing that will eventually drive me away from this career, it’s stress. And it’s not stress because I have NO TIME TO DO ALL THE THINGS (although that is definitely real). It’s emotional stress.

Being an educator is this weird mix of things. Ultimately, I’m responsible for delivering curriculum to students, and making sure they are proficient in certain main areas over the year. But really, in the end I also have actual human being children in my room that I have to keep safe both physically and emotionally.

I work in an elementary building where I have gotten to know the staff very well. I’m a people person, I like to get to know interesting things about people, I like to listen, I observe. I can tell you this, without a shadow of a doubt: EVERY staff member in this building cares IMMENSELY about the children in their classroom.

Teachers have strengths in weaknesses, just as there are in any profession. Some of us are better with behavior, some of us might be more organized or more creative, but we ALL are doing everything we can to make school a safe, enjoyable, fun place for kids.

My biggest stress, then?

It’s the fact that I am consistently and never-endingly questioned on my motives and decisions.

Not giving spelling tests this year? I get a scathing email from a parent demanding to know why. I don’t give as much homework as the year before. Scathing email sent directly to the principal wanting to know why I’m “allowed” to do that. Didn’t do the same activity as another 4th grade class at my school? Oh, man.

I am NOT saying parents should never question their child’s teacher. Educators improve on reflection and analysis of their methods. Perhaps I could demonstrate the difference:

Method 1:

Dear Mrs. W,

Hey, I noticed Jim hasn’t been bringing home spelling words this year. Will he be? Or is there another way you have been practicing spelling? Just want to make sure we’re not missing anything.

Thanks,

Jim’s mom

Method 2:

Explain to me why there are NO spelling words in 4th grade.

You have no idea how many emails and voicemails I’ve gotten similar to #2 above. I dream of writing, “Oh, I respond to people who are polite,” just like I would say to one of my students who was impolite to me.

I am a sensitive person, and so are many of our colleagues. Many of us are in the field of education because of those emotional, perceptive sides of ourselves. Those are great qualities when you work with children. We all want to make a difference. We don’t make decisions lightly. Also, a LOT of the things we do are not actually our choice. In my school district, for example, I have seriously little control over the curriculum between the common core and the series we are required to use.

I am human. I have 25 9 year-olds in my class. Some of those children are facing issues that are heart-breaking, soul-crushing problems I can’t even begin to understand. I have kids with IEPS, severe allergies, medication, anxiety, phobias..I can GUARANTEE you I am going to make mistakes. I will say things I shouldn’t, joke about something that makes someone sad, tell a funny story that will make someone scared, or give an explanation to a question that a parent disagrees with. I will lose my temper and scold someone for tapping their pencil 875,600 times in 30 minutes. I may “punish” (I use that term really lightly here) the wrong kid on accident.

But, what I need parents to understand is that I really, truly, honestly MEAN WELL. I strive EVERY SINGLE DAY to be the very best human being I can be. I love the students in my room. I know their hobbies, their fears, their sense of humor. And sometimes I fall short. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to degrade me, or speak to me condescendingly, or rudely.

I need the benefit of the doubt. 

Now, I realize that you are thinking, but, Christy, you’re saying everyone makes mistakes, maybe the parent is just angry and fires off the email before thinking. You should forgive them for that. Yes. Yes. I get that, totally. But, to me, this is a society-wide problem. We don’t think about our words. There is not enough thinking-before-we-write-that (or say that).

One bad communication with a parent will ruin my day. A parent who doesn’t even have a child in my class unfriended me from Facebook and I cried-this was months ago and it still bugs me because it feels so personal-like I did something, but I know I didn’t. I had literally no interaction with her except for likes on Facebook-not a word about her or around her, and so I felt like someone was lying about me. I know I’m overthinking this, by the way. I just hate being hated.

I’m not tough. I’ve tried to be, but it turns out my emotions are my strength, and I don’t want to lose that. I want everyone to be happy that I’m their child’s teacher. I wish I could get everyone to feel the family and community that I work SO HARD to building my classroom every year. This community is built first, that way we work hard together. We laugh a lot. I laugh at myself a lot. But …

I have feelings.

Lots of feelings.

That’s why I’m an educator.

I am asking parents to step up and try to forge an actual relationship with your child’s teacher. I’m asking for you to remember to ask questions first. Please, please remember that children are sometimes dishonest about what happens at school because they don’t want your disappointment or consequences. Seek answers before you blame. And if something is really wrong, and the teacher doesn’t handle it correctly, then by all means, you do what you have to do. Stay firm to your convictions and take action.

I am asking teachers to be honest, to respond favorably to parents, to admit when you are wrong, and to remember the children are what matters. Don’t judge parents for things you really don’t know about-you have no clue what goes on in their home.

Do this, though, without blame.

We are, after all, all in this together.

 

 

 

How to be a runner in only 20 easy steps

  1. The night before, set out all your gear.  Your gear makes you feel good.  Gear = street cred, yo.  You ARE a runner. Pictured: headlamp that makes you feel like a cave spelunker, very expensive wireless headphones that you thought would make your life so awesome, but really just make your ears sweat, polar watch that constantly beeps at you to tell you you’re not going QUITE fast enough to make your heart beat where you want it to, and reflective vest so as to not get run over.

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2.Get up at some ungodly hour. You know, one where you need reflective gear in order to not fall and break your face.  Look at yourself disapprovingly in the mirror because you seriously look like a dork.

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3. Get your shoes on. Realize you’re kinda glad it’s dark, because your pajamas are also ridiculous.  Maybe add normal looking exercise pants to my “To Buy” list.

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4. Get your podcast ready to go. Do I want a true crime one? No, because I’m running in the dark and that’s when people get kidnapped. Do I want This American Life? No. They always make me cry. Decide actually to listen to music today, Hamilton is where it’s at.

5. Step outside. Oh my gosh, I think. It is so BEAUTIFUL at 5:00 a.m. Here I am, out here alone, just me and my thoughts, and the open road. Why do I not do this every day?  Seriously? Everyone should do this. I am so smart to do this.

6. Begin by warming up. You have to get your legs ready, you know. I think…oh, a 5 minute warmup walk should take me to the top of that hill at the end of this road.

7. Ok, 6 minute warm up walk, just to get me around the corner. It makes more sense to start at an intersection, and I don’t think STARTING at the top of a hill is a great idea.

8. Allright, here we go. This is what its all about time to start running. Since I’m just a beginner again, I think I’ll run until that house with the little free library in front of it.

9. Actually, it might be more reasonable just to go to that first tree, and then I’ll take my walking break. I don’t want to hurt myself since I’m just starting.

10. Slow down to a walk once you reach the tree. Immediately pretend like you were just stopping to look at something and start running again, because you see “that guy.”  “That guy” is the guy who was just beginning to run 3 years ago, the first (or maybe second time) you were beginning to run. Look at him go now! If I wouldn’t have quit, I could be running like that. Dang, he got so skinny!  How nice for him. Man. I can’t let him see me walking. Pick it up, pick it up.

11. Ok, he’s around the corner. You can walk now.

12. Turn the corner, and immediately get splashed in the face by a sprinkler. Step in a puddle. Yell to yourself, “SERIOUSLY PEOPLE NOBODY NEEDS YOU TO WATER YOUR GRASS ANYMORE ITS PRACTICALLY WINTER AND ITS GONNA DIE ANYWAY AND NOW IM WET AND I HATE WET!”

13. Alright time to run. But, maybe I should wait until I dry off a little? I don’t want to slip. Well, I better run. I’ll stop at the Moore’s this time. Well, once I get past, so if they look out, they’ll see that I’m running and think, “Oh, wow, look how athletic Christy is.”

14. Stop before the Moore’s.  Tell yourself: They’re sleeping anyway. My heart’s at a good rate to stop, I think. Don’t want to overdo it. Plus I’m not exactly breathing right now.

15. Allright, walk a little bit. Oh my gosh. That house has SO many cupboards. What do they have that they need so many cupboards? I wonder if its illegal to glance into people’s houses as I run by. I’m really just looking at the cabinets. Well, and maybe to see if it’s messy. And I don’t look in houses of people I know. People should shut their blinds.

16. Christy. Time to run. You’ve got this. 10 seconds in, you eat a bug. How do I manage to eat a bug EVERY TIME? Spit all over the sidewalk. See someone walk by and pretending you’re coughing. Get going.

17. Run

18. This is really not my sport. I am mentally weak.

18. I probably should be doing yoga. Wait. That probably won’t work either.

19. Ok, I’m walking. You know what? Walking is better than not being out here at all!  It’s better than if I were asleep! I AM PROUD TO BE WALKING. WALKING WITH PRIDE OVER HERE. WATCH ME WALK WITH MY HEAD HELD HIGH.

20. Man, I am an awesome runner. Mission Accomplished.

 

Right from Wrong

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This weekend, I was at a children’s museum, watching my kids play, and I overheard a conversation by a couple sitting next to me. The lady was telling her husband about a 17-year-old (I think in her family?) that had died in a car accident, a roll over.

I heard her say, “I mean, how stupid can you be? Slow down!  It’s that easy. All these ridiculously stupid young kids, just wasting their lives because they don’t give a crap about anything. Do you think he thought about his mom when he was going 90 miles an hour down a country road? Honestly, it’s clear that his parents never taught him right from wrong.”

I just…you guys. I really cannot believe people think this way. I really cannot believe that people think a mistake a child makes is always a direct result of the parenting they received. That when a mom or dad looks away for a minute and something bad happens, that it was ALL THEIR FAULT.

Should that kid have been driving 90 miles per hour?

Duh.  Of course not. I mean, hello.

But we have this habit of jumping straight to the conclusion mistake makers are BAD people. We think, “Oh, my kids would NEVER do that.” We write horrible comments on the internet, “Where were the parents? Doesn’t anyone know how to parent anymore?”

I think if you asked my loved ones about me, they would tell you that I am SO careful. That I’m TOO careful. Maybe even that I am obsessed with doing the “right thing.” I’ve seen tragedy and loss, and so I over compensate for that. When I was in high school, my friends had me sit on my hands so they could teach me to swear, otherwise I’d cover my mouth and laugh after I said the word.

I didn’t drink (I still don’t). I think I puffed one or two cherry swisher sweets in a parking lot in high school. I’ve always done everything in the right order-work hard, put in the effort, good things will come.

I have a wonderful mother who loved me, parents who gave me a curfew and were very strict. I worked 2 jobs through high school and got straight As and got scholarships and admission into a Big 10 university.

And…guess what?

I’ve been in a car that was going 100 miles per hour. More than once.

When I think about it, when I close my eyes and picture that happening, dread completely takes over me. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have done something so absolutely risky?

100 miles per hour, in a convertible, down a very bumpy and twisty country road AT NIGHT. I could have been this kid. I could be the dead one, but I’m not. I’m here because most of the time we (luckily) live through our mistakes. I had a crush on a boy and I let him drive me home going 100 miles per hour, even though I was terrified out of my mind. And I can tell you that no amount of “good parenting” would have stopped me from doing that. I was young, I was not thinking, and I didn’t see a way out. I certainly wasn’t thinking, “Oh, Christy, if you crash, think of how sad your mom will be.”

I’m certainly not saying that we don’t need to learn to be good parents, or talk with our kids about risks. That matters. Of course it does.

But if someone like me, someone who ALWAYS followed the rules, can get herself into a situation like that, I just figure-anyone can. We are HUMAN. We make mistakes. Some little, some big. It’s how we learn. I’m ready to stop blaming and stop judging. When something terrible happens, we are sad. We comfort who needs it. We love each other and learn from each other and we stick together, because what other choice do we have?

And, also, I’m pretty sure I should just stop reading internet article comments forever and ever. That might help, too. xo

 

 

 

 

Do’s and Don’ts of Adulthood

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In this life, there are things that I KNOW I’m supposed to do.  For example:

*Learn from the past

*Forgive

*Call your mom

*Dance like no one’s watching

 

and things you’re NOT supposed to do:

*Hold grudges

*Worry about the future

*Eat too much cheese

*Cross your eyes (because if someone slaps you on the back, they’ll stay that way!)

 

I know these things rationally, and yet I mostly don’t listen to them (I mean, I dance a lot, but I could certainly call my mom more and cross my eyes less). Recently, I’ve had a dance with that good ‘ol “Ohmygosh I can’t believe I did that and I really think I’m a terrible human being who doesn’t deserve anything good.”

As I grow older, as I experience more, as I navigate through life, I am just SO ashamed of the way I’ve acted in the past. It’s funny because I can forgive people, but I have the worst time forgiving myself. I over-analyze myself on a daily basis. Things I said, things I did, when I laughed when I shouldn’t have, when I snapped at someone who didn’t deserve it, when I ate something I shouldn’t have and broke my diet.

I’ve tried to figure out why I do this. My first guess is because when I was little I was told my one of my parents that everything I did was wrong. I was constantly crouched down, ready for the attack. That “fight-or-flight” feeling has stayed with me all these years later, even though I don’t have to feel afraid like that anymore.

Now, though, I need to figure out how to forgive myself!  I have this list of things, I could list it here right now, that I cringe about whenever I think of them (Quitting a job in a bad way, dating the wrong guy, losing friendships, not trying hard enough with certain relationships, that time in 4th grade I permed JUST my bangs). For most things, I think I’ve made amends, but sometimes I haven’t gotten the chance. I’m the person that seeks redemption. I like “closure” (I”m not sure that’s really a thing, but I do like to have at least some sort of finality). I need to have a chance to explain what happened. For example, when I was REALLY in the depths of grieving the twins, I started randomly unfriending EVERYONE who was pregnant or who had a baby the age(ish) of the twins, or had twins, or was a twin, or said the word twin…you get the picture. I just went crazy, deleting them all from my social media. Of course, I regret that now, because some of them were my actual friends and I just hated them for their fertility, and it’s embarrassing to try to “re-friend” them and have to admit it was just my jealousy.

A coworker of mine who was a good friend randomly ghosted me about 5 years ago. Unfriended me from Facebook, took my number out of her phone, and if I ran into her anywhere, was cold AS ICE. I, to this day, have no idea what I did or what I said.  I actually don’t have any mutual friends as she does, so I know I couldn’t have said something mean about her (I actually know I’ve never said anything mean about her in my life), I just…I don’t know. Anyway, it STILL BUGS ME. Could I have handled it differently? Could I have done something better?

This is where I say, “Uh, Christy? You are not the person who needs to make amends here. It’s her! She tossed you aside without a second glance and never explained anything to you!” And, still, who can’t I forgive? Myself.

Peace is something I’m really trying hard to achieve. Stress-free living, if you will. Forgiving myself. Trying not to dwell in the past (I mean, it really is time to let go of the awkward speech I gave in 6th grade running for student council and pointing at my class every 30 seconds saying “Let ME help YOU!” Shudder.

What do you do to forgive yourself? Do you believe in regrets?

To My Fellow Teachers, as the School Year Begins, With Love

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This will be our year, yo.  We’ve got this.  Here’s the plan:

  1. Love those kids in class in the BIGGEST way possible.  Love them even when they can’t accept it.  Love them even when you wish you could beam them up and out of your classroom, even when they have pushed every. last. one. of your buttons.
  2. Remember that parents, even the MOST DIFFICULT ones, are almost always doing their best, too.  Try not to make assumptions about them.  It’s easy to place blame and to judge about how well (or not well) they are taking care of their kids. That’s not our job.  We are looking out for the children’s safety, sure, but we don’t get to snark about which parents let their kids watch rated R movies or eat too much junk food.
  3. TAKE CARE OF YOU!!!  Find time for yourself.  Leave your bag of work at school.  Take bubble baths, and exercise when you can, and read books and watch Netflix and eat chocolate and go shopping and take a little weekend getaway.  Your students are important, but don’t ditch your families to go work.
  4. LAUGH.  Omg, please laugh. Our work can be so serious, and sometimes downright depressing. We see things and hear things that can begin to kill our spirit.  Laugh with the kids, laugh with your co-workers. Find the funny in the situation. Tell your students stories that will make them laugh.  Let them know you have a sense of humor.
  5. Let your students get to see the real YOU.  I’ve cried in front of my students, I’ve told them things that I regret doing, I’ve told them my best and funniest stories. I have TOTALLY messed up and apologized to them. If they could, your students would hold signs that say, “Will work for stories!”  They love it. A 5 minute story about how you accidentally shaved a little tip of your nose off with your razor while shaving (I mean, that’s never happened to me, but if it did) will get so much more focused, concentrated work time.  I swear.  I wouldn’t lie to you.
  6. DANCE.  Listen to music. Sing.  Be silly. Dance in the hallway.  Play music WAY TOO loudly. Stop school early and dance around. When things get really bad, dance it out, yo.  Dance. It. Out. (I highly suggest Milli Vanilli and Vanilla Ice when things are SUPER bad). Vogue when you walk down the hallway.  Or walk like an Egyptian.
  7. Never forget that most of our students remember the moments from our classes.  That time someone missed the garbage can by thismuch and threw up all over the floor (again, that did NOT happen to me in 2nd grade when the substitute teacher made me drink my milk carton even though I TOLD HER I felt sick to my stomach).
  8. Lean on each other. We’re all in this together, you guys. We can’t do it without each other. Don’t be so proud that you don’t go ask for help. Admit when you’re wrong, and remember that you’ll (hopefully) be able to laugh about it later.
  9. Don’t smile until November.  Make sure these kids KNOW that you are NOT MESSING AROUND.***
  10. Forgive yourself, and everyone else, too. Remember that it is ok to get a sub when you’re feeling sick, and that sometimes you finish your amazing read-aloud and skip the last subject of the day. Play a game when everyone is just exhausted. Kids have cranky, bad days, too, and they might need a little something extra. So might you. Whatever you do, do it unapologetically.

My teacher loves, WE’VE GOT THIS.  It’s going to be our best year yet!  Go get ’em!

***Um, this one was just to trick you, because this is the worst advice you ever got from your 100 year old college student teaching supervisor.  SMILE when you WANT TO SMILE!

You Should Totally Write a Book!

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8th grade.  Miss Bolander. She wrote on my paper, “Christy, you have a GIFT for writing. Please don’t forget me when you write a book!” (Miss Bolander, by the way, I can’t find you! You got married and I don’t know your new name, so…)

In college, I had to read this book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book that supposedly a million people love and it drove me totally crazy.  Just like The Goldfinch, a book that won 800 awards, even thought I hated every.single.character in it.

But then, I decided I was going to be a teacher. I don’t even really know why.  Kids liked me, so I thought that’d be pretty cool.  I know, everyone tells you, “Teaching is my calling and I knew since I was 2 that I would be spending my life with our country’s future!” but I really kinda just went with it.  Of course, I’m glad I did, and I absolutely know that I have one of the best jobs anyone could ever have.  However, I lost writing along the way. I stopped writing almost completely, and focused on my love for French and traveling and being a teacher.

Then, my life flipped upside down.  Suddenly, my father-in-law was dying of cancer.  And 3 weeks after he died, I found out I was pregnant with twins after 2 years of trying…and then, well, then they died.  They died and I was at a total stand-still.

Words found their way back to me. It was like going home again, pouring out my soul into the keyboard and suddenly I was making, to quote Hamilton, “palaces out of paragraphs.”  Ok, I”m kidding, I was rambling on, spilling my grief survivor tales, probably not making much sense and definitely not using proper grammar or punctuation, but it still felt like home to me.

I have a friend, her name is Peg, and she’s one of those people of whom you are just completely in awe. She’s the friend you have that is so full of love and wisdom and kindness, and I truly, truly care about her opinion of me.  Disappointing her is like my worst nightmare. A compliment from her can last me for weeks.  In my house, if Peg thinks it, then it is true.

Anyway, she made a few offhand comments about how I should write a book. Looking back, I’m guessing she was saying like this I say, “Hey, you guys, let’s ditch work tomorrow and go to Las Vegas!”  As in, I probably took it a lot more seriously than she meant it.  But, I googled it, and there are all these statistics about how something like 80% of the population want to write a book, but hardly anyone actually follows through.

Well, I decided I was going to do it.  I was going to write a REAL book.  An honest and raw book where I could tell the TRUTH about having your babies die.  That it wasn’t a tiny ripple in a little sea of water, it was a freaking tsunami that wreaks havoc all over your life. I wanted to write a book where people could see that losing a child has the ability to make you crazy, but you’re not crazy if you feel like this, this, and this.

And … well, I did it.  You guys.  I did it.  I’m so proud right now I can hardly stand it! But, I would like to chronicle my journey to get here, to being an actual, real life “Author.” *Note I did not say NYTimes best-selling author…but I am an author. 🙂

I always start with research, so I went to Barnes and Noble first. I picked up a book called Your First Novel, and after I read 2 chapters I knew I wanted to write non-fiction. I wanted to write a memoir. I read a BUNCH of advice about how no one wants to read memoir and it only gets published if you’re famous, but I didn’t care. I knew I was probably the only person going to see it, anyway, so I was writing it for me.

Next I ordered a book called Your Life is a Book (How to craft & publish your memoir).  Anddddd it was about that time that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this by what I could find in a book.  I needed to first get my story out.

This was the first story that I wrote out.  And, oh, it felt so good. I was giving life to this moment that had stuck with me after all these years. I read it and re-read it and completely worked it over, and I was amazed that it had all come out that way.

Then, I discovered something called NaNoWriMo.  It was a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. This mean 1,667 words a day. Let me tell you, I did NOT accomplish this.  BUT I wrote ALL the time. In every spare moment. I wrote in the car, on my lunch break, while my kids took their baths. And I had about 30,000 words of totally mashed up stories, the ones that came first for me.

In the last almost two years, I have read SO much about getting a book published. I have done everything I’m supposed to do:

*Actually finish the book

*Go to writer’s conferences

*Find a writing critique group

*Give your work to beta readers (waving!  Thanks friends!)

*Get your work edited (hi, Alyssa!)

*Begin a social media presence (hello, you!)

*Make a non-fiction book proposal (hello, 70 pages of proposing!)

*Write a query letter that should excite a literary agent (For a NYC big publishing company, you can’t talk to the publisher themselves, you need an agent to take you on to sell your book)

*Wait

So, I sent my query letters, and I waited, and no one replied. I kinda knew they wouldn’t, but I had a little, tiny bit of hope. I felt so confident about my manuscript, you know? I did get 3 rejection letters, which was exciting.

In the meantime, I’ve messed up. I have explored self-publishing, hybrid publishing (a mixture of self and traditional) and traditional NYC publishing/traditional small press publishing.

The biggest thing I want to warn you about are Vanity Presses.  Right off the bat, you should know that there are ALL different kinds of these.  All of them will get you a book published, but some of them will cost you SO MUCH MONEY and you will get a good book, some will cost SO MUCH MONEY and they will get you a terrible book, and then you have the same options for less money.

I almost signed a contract with a company that I would have LOVED to work with.  LOVED. I felt a strong connection with the owner, she talked about strategy meetings and marketing and book launch parties and the covers of their books were gorgeous and everyone I knew was excited for me. They were the first people outside of my friends that told me, “Wow, this is amazing.” I couldn’t afford it, though, you guys. It was my dream, but it’s what I wanted a publishing company to do FOR me, I didn’t want to pay for it. One thing that kept nagging at me was, if they didn’t make anything off the books I sell, why would they care how many I sell once they’re done with their part? Now, these people were legit, and I know they care. I still couldn’t afford it.  This would be an example of a good and decent hybrid company, but still not for me.

Then there are the bad.

A few weeks ago, I did this Twitter campaign with a Facebook group I belong to. You had to tweet your book pitch once an hour and if a publisher/agent “hearted” your tweet, then you should send your query to them. I got one heart and I was SO PUMPED. I mean, like running around, yelling.

I sent my query and my first few pages as requested, and I got a response very quickly. I got done reading the response and I was FURIOUS. I couldn’t sleep that whole night because I was SO MAD. I just HATE when people take advantage of others.

So their response started with, “I, too, have had a miscarriage, so I do think this topic is very important.”

UM. If you READ any of what I sent you, you would know I did not have a miscarriage. Also, I think everyone should know this, even if they haven’t experienced it themselves. I read TONS of books, and I’m telling you I’m never going to fall run through stones and end up back in time, but I still pull something from it.

The next line was about how my writing was good, but “needing some polishing before it hits the prime time.” And, OH, GUESS WHAT?  This lady normally has others edit it, but she really wanted to be the one to do it and she would lower her price for me so that it would only be about $3,000 instead of $4,000.

Steam. Coming from my ears.

Then.  AND THEN.  The last paragraph said, “To give you an example of what I would change, I would maybe jump back in time after the first chapter when the romance with Geppetto is just beginning.”

Do you guess that my memoir about surviving the loss of infant twins involves any kind of ROMANCE WITH A PUPPET?

Yeah, NOT SO MUCH.

I was most angry, because people pay that money. They pay money to companies who know you are vulnerable, and you have dreams of selling a book that’ll be turned into a movie. I’ve heard horror stories about paying SO much money and getting a book that’s not formatted right, with typos, inconsistencies, a cover you could have made yourself using the software.

Tomorrow, I will be getting a contract in the mail from a local publisher (SQUEEEEE!!!!!), here in Wisconsin. I am SO excited, but I’m so nervous about the contract itself. It is a legit publishing deal. I didn’t meet my dreams of securing a literary agent and getting published by, say, Simon and Schuster, but I am SO proud. I’m proud of the blood, sweat and tears that I poured into this. And soon, I will have a cover, and a title, and a way to pre-order, and my very own launch party and book signings.  More than that, though, I’ve finally built my palaces out of paragraphs and if my words help even ONE person, it will have been worth it.

I wrote a book.  I think you totally should, too!  Just be careful.

XOXO