Tales from First Grade

As far as I can tell, there are two different ways to determine whether you’re truly an adult. The first is that you can only swing for thirty-five seconds before throwing up, and the second is that when your parents come to visit, they begin to leave things behind.

Now, I use the the term “things” pretty loosely, here. I’m not talking about when you were in college and your parents would drive out on a Sunday, carefully pretend not to notice that you’d shoved all of your illegally acquired items into the closet right before they arrived, and then take you to Target for some celebratory ramen and mascara. I’m referring to those things that you can’t consume. Mementos. Your childhood  in the form of old rag dolls and ancient French textbooks. For example, every time my parents come to visit, they leave behind at least three big boxes full of books. If you’ve ever had to move books, you know that they are heavy, so once the boxes are parked on the living room floor, they’re destined to stay there for a minimum of three weeks. (Or possibly until I die.)

I equate these books with rodents. Leave them unattended for too long and they begin to multiply.

Dylan, who would at some point like to have his living room back, was going through the boxes the other day and discovered an ancient Kelsey artifact. Buried amidst my ninth grade report cards and a bookmark emblazoned with the word ~*imagine*~ was my journal from first grade.

Throughout my life, I’ve wanted to be many things. A singer. A teacher. A National Geographic photographer. (Most notably, I wanted to be named Katie.) The one constant, though, is that I’ve wanted to write. Even at six years old, I had stories to tell.

Please enjoy.

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“I dug in my garden to China. It was hard work but it was fun. I knew how to talk Chinese. It took me five years to learn  how to talk Chinese.”

As you can see,  entry illustrates both my love of foreign languages and my sweet green and yellow sweater.

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“I have an invisible horse. He likes me. I am good with him. I found him in the Western.”

But where did I find that awesome hat?

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“I have a hamster at my house. He is cute. He is fun to play with. He died. I am sad.”

Something about this journal entry reads as very Postmodern to me. Regardless of its categorization, I think we can all agree that it is pure literary genius.

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“There was this lady in my mailbox. She scared me. She was skinny.”

Um. What exactly was I trying to illustrate, here?

(Maybe I’m not an adult after all.)

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Birdhouses and Sweaters

The bad news is that I have no idea what I’m doing.The good news is that the aforementioned bad news has not yet sent me into an existential crisis. (Or maybe it has, but if this is an existential crisis, then I find it all rather disappointing. I would expect there to be more tears and fireworks, both literal and figurative.)

Mostly, I am fascinated by my own inconstancy. I love new projects with a hideous, wild abandon, which explains the hundreds of dollars worth of expensive merino yarn crowning the dresser like some sort of home-decor Pinterest project gone wrong. How many sweaters have I knit, you may ask? (Hint: less than one.) My hands cramped far too badly to ever become anything more than an amateur fiber artist, so I set my sights on becoming someone who paints birdhouses instead. (I’m not sure what that person might look like, but I’m fairly certain that I’d like to be them.) Unfortunately, I was unable to become the Monet of the birdhouse world because I had to buy the paint. And the brushes. And the sealant. And the book on how to paint. By the time I recovered from the Walmart trip, I didn’t even have the energy to peel the plastic shrink wrap off the paint bottle. There’s now a streaky white birdhouse sitting on my front porch — or at least, I think there is. I can’t say for certain because I refuse to acknowledge it. (We all know that staring abject failure in the face isn’t good for the skin.)

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When I was nineteen, writing was easy. (Or maybe it was just life in general that was easy, but nineteen-year-old Kelsey certainly didn’t think so.) My days were spent in one of two ways: I was either committing indecent acts of love, longing, and self-reflection, or I was writing poetry about those same indecent acts of love, longing, and self-reflection. Simple. I lined my pockets with loose stanzas and slept on a bed of cliche metaphors each night. It was easy and rich and I loved every damn moment of it.

So then how do I explain what happened next? There’s no sense in any of it, and all I know is that it stopped being easy. I stopped loving it. One day, for reasons that are vague and tenuous, I stopped writing and focused my energies on painting birdhouses and knitting sweaters. Why? Who knows. Maybe because you don’t ache when you paint a birdhouse and sweaters don’t sap your emotional strength (at least, not the way I was knitting them).

Here is the thing: I’m deliciously and unbearably human, but I demand to be loved in spite of all my failings. There are those who say they don’t want pity, and then there’s me. Pity me. Love me. Tell my my hair is shiny. Tell me that the world has enough sweaters already. That’s what I want, but it’s not what I need.

Now I find myself staring down the computer screen and wondering what will come next in my perpetual quest to embrace the Next New Thing. I hope that I can harness this unbridled desire to return to my roots, but I’ve lived this story before. I already know the ending. Girl writes. Girl stops writing. Girl writes again. Girl starts a blog because that is what one does when they want to be a writer. Girl can’t think of anything to write, and so she buries her head in the sand for five years. Girl yearns to feel words stuck between her teeth and opens up a blank word document. Girl is torn between poetry and short stories and picture books and planning for National Novel Writing Month and grading Spanish quizzes. Mostly, girl is tired. Girl writes the word “girl” over one thousand times during the course of her blog entry and wonders if she should replace it with the word “woman.”

You’d think there would be some sort of message behind all of this rambling, but if there is, I haven’t found it yet. I just keep spitting out words and hoping they fall into the shape of something useful, which, if you think about it, sounds remarkably similar to the general process of creating stories. I may not know what I’m doing, but I’m definitely doing something.

Please, please let these words be more powerful than half-painted birdhouses.

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October First

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Since tomorrow is October first, two important things will happen:

  1. In order to better traumatize the neighborhood children, Dylan will change out our boring, ordinary porch light bulbs for spooky purple ones.
  2. I’ll start outlining my seventh (!) NaNoWriMo novel.

(I think we are equally excited.)

My mother is the one who introduced me to National Novel Writing Month, so she’s the one to blame for the past six Novembers. Six years of frantic typing, meandering plots, poorly-designed covers, and antagonists who randomly disappear halfway through the novel have not yet (if you can possibly believe it) resulted in a polished, complex story that’s ripe for publication.

Here are some things that I have achieved over the course of six National Novel Writing Months:

  1. 302,954 words
  2. Two finished novels and four semi-coherent “things” that resemble stories
  3. Carpal tunnel
  4. Several classes of students who, while incredulous at first, end up finishing the competition and finding themselves remarkably proud of what they’ve accomplished
  5. Countless grey hairs (the kind that make me look like a witch rather than an elegant, dignified author)

But hey. Witches are kinda cool. And at least I’ll have the spooky purple light bulbs to match.

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Everything Else Will Remain the Same

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There is snot on my keyboard.

It’s not my snot. It’s imperative that you know that. There are many things that the snot is (for example, green, sticky, and copious), but I’m more concerned about what it is not. (Mine.)

See, my tiny, precious son has a cold that is neither tiny nor precious, and out of all of the places in the world he could have chosen to sneeze, he settled on my keyboard. This is possibly a sign of love, but more likely a sign that autumn is upon us.

I live for fall. I love everything about it — the juxtaposition of the changing leaves against a pre-storm sky, the tacky Halloween decorations on my neighbor’s lawn, the sweaters and fruit pies and rotting leaves underfoot. Most of all, I love the overwhelmingly insistent urge to write that needles under my skin each September. There’s just something about chapped cheeks and nutmeg that begs for stories.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written. I’ve lost touch with my online writing community and my half-finished novels have lost the will to become something worthwhile. But still — there’s a pumpkin on my porch and a story lying in wait beneath the rubble of real life. The seasons will keep changing, but everything else will remain the same.

There’s snot on my keyboard. It’s time to write.

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