A Year of Thanks

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something lost, then gained July 19, 2011

Filed under: family fun,favorites,friends,self-discovery — courtsbrogno @ 12:38 pm

Yesterday I was talking with a friend. The conversation is really unimportant, but a comment I made has my mind working overtime.

I said, “so and so is just rational, and I’m so much more emotional.”

What? Did I really just say that?

I am not emotional. I am the exact opposite of emotional (minus the years 12-16 when I was an emotional wreck. My mom will tell in great detail how tortured of a soul I was then. Come on, it was hormones. I also blame The Smiths.)

I pride myself on my rational mind and heart. Though I also know that this rational side has become a little (or maybe a lot) too hardened. Too protective. And I have been working with my therapist to soften this side of me, but I didn’t think I’d actually made any gains.

Until I said that sentence. Out loud. And even my friend looked at me quizzically and made a comment about how I’m not really emotional.

I can’t even blame The Smiths this time around (though I did listen to their album Louder than Bombs [their kick-ass compilation album] last night and then seriously thought about putting on all black and smoking a cigarette in bed, but OBVIOUSLY I wouldn’t do that because smoking is bad and even worse when your 3-year-old is sleeping next to you and also because it would be odd to wear all black in bed with a sleeping child, but still…).

Anyway, all last night I started thinking about this whole emotional side of myself emerging, because yes, it is emerging, and I think it all started with a breakthrough I had in therapy, then a sad movie, and the next thing you know I’m all tears in Harry Potter 7, and well, I might be on my way to actually being a somewhat normal, emotionally healthy person.

How very, very frightening.

My major breakthrough in therapy occurred last week. And it was one of those breakthroughs that I didn’t even see coming. There I was just discussing my week, and my therapist started really pushing me with one particular part.

He said, “Well, what does that mean?”

I said, “I don’t know.”

He said, “Yes, you do. You do. What does this mean? Why is this important to you?”

I said, “Ummm, I don’t know. Cause I was raised Catholic?” (Ha. My go-to answer for everything).

He said, “No. What does this mean? You know this.”

Finally, with much frustration (on both our parts, I think), and together, we came to what was probably pretty deep beneath my surface but what was also bubbling up and pretty damn obvious.

Breakthrough. Big time.

And I know this is vague, but it’s also too personal to write about, but it was like all these little lights, like the ones you use to decorate Christmas trees, lit up in my brain and then all connected.

Magical progress I’m making. But also very, very scary. It’s like being on uncharted territory (what a terrible cliche, I know), and I’m not sure what to do from here.

But still, progress is good. I think.

So a few days after this amazing breakthrough, I went to the movies with my friends Andy, Jason, and Emily. And I really wanted to see Buck, this new documentary that looks amazing, but they all wanted to see Tree of Life. I had read so many reviews of ToL and they were all mixed and mostly negative. But my small vote to see Buck was diminished by their 3 strong votes to see Tree of Life. So I went in all cranky and upset that I wasn’t seeing Buck, but within 5 minutes of the film, I was drawn in and sobbing, and I pretty much cried the entire film, and poor Andy kept handing me his popcorn stained napkins to dry my tears. And after the movie, though we had plans to all go get a drink, I just couldn’t. I felt incredibly emotionally drained.

That’s not to say that everyone should see this film. I do understand why the reviews were mixed, and some of my friends vehemently hated it. I think there are some parts that could have been edited out (like those stupid dinosaurs), but as a mother, I was engaged in the story, and the feeling of being emotionally drained stayed with me for a few days.

So for a few days, I walked around in a weird haze, and life around me seemed to be covered in some sort of mesh material. And I felt rather like I lost something, but I wasn’t sure what it was.

This weird haze engulfed me as I went about my week. Maddie and I had a few date nights when Luke was with his father.

We rode bikes:

We hiked a lot:

(The family that iPods together, stays together!)

We went and saw Harry Potter 7.2 with my sister and her son and our friends Brian and Jen and Jen’s little sister.

And I cried. Even though I’ve read the book and knew what was going to happen, I  couldn’t help but get choked up during a few parts.

Luke and I also have had some date days and nights. I love watching him and Cate at music.

(15 seconds later he pushed Cate off the stage, but still, he does love her)

And can I just say my boy’s got moves:

As a family, we also entertained a whole lot, and I’m pretty sure in the past 10 days or so, I’ve had people over for dinner or meetings at least 7 of those days. I didn’t take any pictures because I was having too much fun, and I’ve tried to make it a point to leave my phone in another room so I’m not disengaged with my friends.

Luke has been needing a lot of outdoor time, so I took him and Maddie to see my friend Reese’s band, The Kicks, play at an outdoor event. Kids were all over, people were dancing, the sun was shining: there’s not much more we could ask for.

We also went and celebrated a neighboring town’s 100 year birthday. There was a block party, lots of friends, tons of kids, a parade, and even fireworks.

On my own time, I’ve been spending a lot of time writing my novel (it seems so pretentious to call it this, don’t you think? What would be a more humble and true name for it though? My work-in-progress? I like that better. From now on, I’ll refer to my writing project as my work-in-progress. No, wait. I like writing project better. I’m going to use that.)

So I’ve written 24,000 words, which is good, and I have a more clear direction of where this story is going. But still, some more writing worries:

1. A colleague and friend (who teaches fiction writing and has published a few good novels. Quite good, actually.) once told me that no one can be a writer if he/she doesn’t know the craft of fiction writing (i.e. has an MFA or even a PhD). If this is true, then I am  seriously screwed.

2. Another colleague and friend (who teaches poetry writing and has published books of poetry and is very accomplished) said recently that a writer is not made, s/he is born. That a writer has always been writing: at 5 writing rudimentary stories, at 12 more involved stories, at 21 more introspective stories, and so on and so on. I called my mom and asked, “Did I write a lot when I was a child?”  The answer was no. I’m prone to blame my own mother for this lack of creativity, but there’s really no merit to this except for the fact that I wanted to keep a diary but was too afraid that she would read it (and case in point, she DID read my sister’s diary and then my sister was grounded for, I believe, LIFE. In fact, she’s probably still grounded in my mom’s eyes.). Regardless, I wasn’t an avid writer when I was younger, though I was an avid reader but that’s not the same thing, so I feel like I’m doubly screwed.

3. Do writers have kids? I know this is a stupid question and the answer is “YES,” but my bigger question in HOW. I can’t write with my kids around; I get nothing done. And so this limits how much little I actually write. Which is frustrating. Writers are generally poor, correct? So who watches their kids? Surely not a well-paid nanny. My only answer can be “the spouse,” which I don’t have, nor necessarily want. But if ever there was an impetus for me to find a spouse, this is it. I can already see the craigslist ad: “looking for a husband to look after kids while I write. Will cook and clean in return.” But you know what I really need then? A freaking wife. And since I’ve never had lesbian tendencies then I feel like I’m kind of shit out of luck.

Despite my fears, this whole writing process gives me such an incredible feeling that I crave the time I do have to write. I’ve never thought of myself as a creative person, but at the moment, my whole being feels like it’s giving birth to something really creative (and not creative in the sense that I think what I’m writing is great or even good, just in the way that I feel alive from the inside out, which is an amazing feeling). I don’t feel reigned in at all. I feel free. I feel different.

Partly I feel different because my life has taken on a somewhat introspective, somber tone, which is fighting with my happy outlook on everything. I’m not depressed; I’m more just different. Like crying during Harry Potter or while alone in bed late at night.

Something kind of broke in me this past week or so, and it feels like I lost something. Perhaps what’s been lost is one of those high and guarded walls. Which is terrifying, but liberating at the same time. Because when the walls start to come down, I gain something in its place. Something that makes me feel more like a real person. Unguarded, sure, but real nonetheless.

It’s like a text I sent a friend the other day, which had nothing to do with this overall conversation about who I am, or maybe who I’m in the process of becoming, but still, I think it speaks volumes for where I’m at right now:

“I feel really comfortable in uncertainty.”

I think.


I’m late, I’m late, I’m late July 7, 2011

Filed under: family fun,friends,kids — courtsbrogno @ 11:35 am

This post is coming up seriously late, 2 days late to be exact.

But it’s only because I was traveling and having fun and actually…

…doing a whole bunch of writing.

As I shared in my last post, I revisited a novel I started about six years ago, and now I’m fully immersed in it. I’ve been writing almost every day for at least two hours and at this point, I’ve written 16,808 words, and added an additional 20 pages to what I started with. This is also why my blog is late: the times I’ve sat down to write my blog, I’ve been more drawn to writing this novel. I’ve been super grateful to all the friends who’ve answered my silly questions (ex: quick: name 3 albums that came out 8 years ago), but it’s kept me going.

But damn is this difficult at times. I refuse to stop and edit what I’m writing because I know, I just know, I’ll get caught up in a terrible paragraph or a terrible sentence or even a terrible word and then I.WON’T.MOVE.FORWARD. So for now, I just write and keep going, even if it kills me that I’ve used some word multiple times in a paragraph. I can fix all that later.

There are some serious concerns I have about this whole writing a novel process:

1. When I get stuck with something, I keep thinking just “write one true sentence” (Hemingway’s advice). But then I panic: what does truth even mean? When I texted my friend Leslie in a panic about this, she responded with one word, “YOU.” So mostly, I stick to writing what I know, which means my life, which means this is slightly autobiographical, which means I’m really laying it all out there, which is totally fucking frightening.

2. A week ago, I thought I knew the exact plot this character was going to take. Now, I’m not so sure. I feel like I’m discovering her as I go, which is cool in one way and super frustrating in another because I’m pretty sure most writers have a solid sense of what’s going to happen next. Not me. But then again, I’ve never called nor considered myself a writer. Right now, I think of myself as someone who’s just practicing.

3. I will not let anyone–anyone–read a draft of this until it is done. Christine begged to read part of it, and I relented and let her read a short two-page dialogue scene. All I asked was for her to tell me if the dialogue sounded real, like how real people would talk. She read and laughed and actually gave a good suggestion to change one word, and then she sat back, smiled, and said, “I really liked it. It reminded me so much of Dawson’s Creek.

Shoot me now.

4. I have 16,000 words written, and I’m definitely writing more than 250 words a day, but I asked my friend Jenny how long a typical novel is and she said 100,000 words. Holy shit. That’s a lot. I keep looking at all the smaller novels I have in my bookshelf and think, “Perhaps I’ll aim for a shorter novel.” But then I just kind of relax and figure when the stories finished, it’ll be finished.

I could go on with a million other things I’m worried about, but I’ll save that for other posts. But that’s basically why this post is up late: writing. But also because I was in San Francisco visiting friends and family, and we had the best time ever.

Starting with me leaving the kids with my parents so I could go see Neko Case for a free show at Stern Glen in the city. I went by myself, which is something that I actually LOVE doing. Sometimes I would much rather see a show by myself than with friends. But when I got into the venue, it was so packed that I wondered how I would ever find a place to sit.

As I walked around, I noticed that there was an area marked off right in front of the stage, an area with benches no less. I walked up to one of the volunteers working this area (more like guarding it), and asked him what this special are was reserved for.

“Seniors and disabled people,” he replied.

“Well,” I said, “I’m clearly not a senior nor disabled, but I’m by myself, I’m rather small so I won’t take up that much space, and I drove all the way here from my town by myself just to see this show.” (The last part, I admit, was a total lie.)

“Hmmmm,” he thought, “Come back in 10 minutes, and I’ll consider it.”

“10 minutes,” I said, “No problem. I’m just going to stand right over there and wait. I mean, I’m going to keep staring at you, but don’t worry. I can wait.”

“Fine,” he said exasperated (but also with a smile), “you can go in.”

Hell yeah! I had second row seats!!! Sure I was surrounded by seniors and disabled people, but I had a beer, the sun was shining (in San Francisco. Amazing.), and I was in the second row. And you know what? Seniors are rad. I had such nice conversations with them, and one lady even gave me a cold beer half-way through the show (there was no way I was going to risk losing my awesome seat by getting up to buy a beer.  No way in hell).

And the Dodos were great:

But Neko Case really stole the show. I’ve seen her twice before, but this show is now my favorite. She has the most amazing voice, and she was chatty with the audience, and she was humble, and my God, just incredible.

And even though video recording was forbidden, I broke the rules and took this video of my favorite song of hers (and let’s be real, everyone around me–even the seniors!–were recording songs with their phones. I even helped some cute little old lady figure out how to record on her iPhone. Those seniors, they certainly are embracing technology).

The only thing that distracted me from Neko Case was the hot, hot, hot sound guy.

While his head is turned to the side, trust me when I say that he was beautiful and just my type and hey hot sound guy, I doubt you’ll ever read this, but if you do, find me. I’ll love you forever. I promise. Well, that’s if you’re cool as well (which in the fantasy I’ve created of us, together and happy, you are).

From the show, I got in my car and drove to meet Tasha at the bar she tends on Sundays (because it’s not enough that she works 40 hours a week as a scientist!). We drank beer, I told her about the show, and after about an hour, her shift was over, and we headed to her house.

We made a quick clothes change as the beautiful San Francisco 85 degree weather was turning back to more typical SF weather: cold and foggy. Then we drove to meet Garth and have dinner at Burma Superstar, and I can attest that not only was the company awesome, but the dinner was amazing. There’s a reason an hour wait is typical at this restaurant. The food was just.that.good.

From dinner, we wandered around the area, walking in and out of stores, eventually stopping to have coffee and dessert. We found this GREAT little bookstore and record store all in one, and spent a pretty significant amount of time just browsing.

We all had a great time, and it was so nice to see Tasha and Garth. I miss them both tremendously, and Tasha, damn Tasha, I miss her the most! I’m so thankful we had some quality time together. And I have to give big props to Garth who helped me with a portion of writing this novel by describing–in perfect detail–his old record player and stereo system. He even sent me an email of the description and I cut and pasted it into the novel, changed some wording and the tense, and pretty much used the whole thing verbatim. It’s now one of my favorite scenes.).

Sunday was a very good day.

The next day, my entire family joined up in Marin county for my cousin Nicole’s son’s birthday party. Me, my kids, my mom and day, and my sister and her family all had a great time celebrating Beckett’s 2nd birthday and meeting Nicole’s 5 week old new son, Finn. Plus, we saw more family–it was a mini family reunion–and it felt so good to be together.

(Happy 2nd birthday Beckett!)

(My beautiful cousin Nicole and her new son, Finn. He’s gorgeous.)

(I think my kids are perfect, well nearly perfect, but I cannot–for the life of me–get Luke to smile for a photo. He looks like he hates us. But I know the depths of his love. It runs deep.)

(Beckett’s birthday present: a newly constructed side yard with toys galore. All the kids were in heaven)

(Can I just brag for a moment? How beautiful is my daughter?)

(Luke playing on some kind of construction worker toy. My dad said he looked like a natural on it and maybe he’d have a career in construction. Bite your tongue, father. Not on my watch.)

(Maddie, my sister, and my mom. Also in the background, Jon, my absolute favorite brother-in-law ever. Also my only brother-in-law, but still…)

(The Mayor, aka my dad, who makes friends with everyone wherever he goes, and Cate)

It’s been a great week (plus two days), and life’s been a bit busy, but still so, so, so good.

Hopefully, posts will be up as usual on Tuesdays, and I’ll try my damn hardest, but if I’m in the middle of writing something good (or really rather shitty, but something with perhaps the potential to be good? Or kind of good? Or at least a step up from Danielle Steel or for God’s sake, better than Dawson’s Creek.), then I’m going to be late on a post or two, or maybe even skip one.

But I feel alright with that.