The Sunnier Side


As is always the case with this space I’ve created, it’s been too long since I posted. It’s always in the back of my mind to come back here and vent, but then life gets in the way and I’m banging out pages for short story, an essay, or my memoir and this lovely place gets put on the back burner.

While it’s the middle of October–how the hell did that happen by the way–a lot has happened since my last post which was over a year ago.

In the fall of 2016, I hit the academic market hard. I was still restricted by geography and working full time at the high school, trying to get stuff published, being a mother, trying to be a decent spouse all took its toll. I had one interview, and it did not end with me getting the job.

Another major event happened, I left my high school teaching job at the behest of my wonderful husband. I was reminded with an ever-clear action that I was not respected or valued despite my students having increased their test scores–the only thing that matters in education right now–being nominated for teacher of the year, having high marks on my evaluations, and staying 3 hours past my contractual obligation to write engaging lesson plans that were proving to be effective to students in both affluent and not-so-affluent home. Yes, I’m tooting my horn because I was a damn-good high school English teacher. Damn good.

So after some shit hit the fan, I went home in tears. My husband gulped me up in his arms and said these magic words: Why don’t you leave?

I had been at this job for five years and had some hard times, which is the case at any job in any industry in any place, there were also fleeting moments of joy, and I really loved the folks I shared a hallway with. They made the daily shitstorm bearable. We talk and talked and when it came time to give the school my 30 days, I decided it was what was best and my husband agreed.

For the first time in my life, I am not in the classroom at 11 a.m. during a weekday. At some point for the past three decades, I have either been a student or teacher in a classroom. This August came and went and my time was spent (gulp) writing.

While I miss some elements of the classroom, I don’t miss any of them enough (yet) to warrant a return. And with things being up in the air with my husband’s career, for the first time since I graduated with M.F.A., geography may not be an issue.

So, for the past month, I’ve begun to hit the academic market even harder. I’m no longer limited to a commuting distance. Now, I’m looking at places all over the country. I can actually see it happening now. The dream. It feels so much more real. More tangible than ever.

In the past, I’ve been known to get my hopes too high. I will apply for the job and suddenly my mind has decorated my office, my work wardrobe for the next year is planned, I can see my name on the door. I’m doing a lecture at this college and walking my jolly-tenured ass to class. I’ve planned which audiobooks I’ll listen to in the car on my drive to work. This makes those rejection emails so much more painful. How can they not hire me? Don’t they know my nameplate is already on the door in the English department building?

While I still let my hopes run wild because if anything I’m an idealist, I’m trying to temper the decorating and audiobook planning. I have looked on and to see what the housing markets look like in the neighborhoods of the colleges I’m applying for, but I’m totally justifying this by thinking it be smart to have an idea of where my kiddo might start kindergarten.

In addition to hitting the academic market hard, I’m also looking for non-teaching jobs in my area because–money. We need money. Those student loans won’t be paying themselves off neither will our mortgage. That too has been frustrating because I’m over-qualified with no experience outside of teaching. I have faith something will happen and if doesn’t maybe the book I’m writing will be the silver bullet to our “good debts.” I told you I was an idealist.

I started somewhere with this post and now I don’t know how I ended up where I’m about to but whatever.

I will close by saying I know how f***ing lucky I am to have a spouse that can support our family financially while I spend my days writing and job hunting. I’m lucky my husband isn’t an asshole who holds this over my head. I know I’m blessed that he understands my happiness is just as valid as his and his support means I’m able to pursue my art.

When I decided to leave the classroom for the world of the starving artist who isn’t starving because she’s married, I told him I felt guilty because had we not been married and in the situation we are in, I would have to just suck it up and keep teaching high school. If I were single, I’d still be in the classroom not having time to work on my book and look for jobs in academia. Was my depending on him for money, anti-feminist? Was I hurting my gender with this decision? Should I try to keep doing what I was doing? Shouldn’t I be able to hold down a full-time teaching job while looking for one, be a decent mother and spouse, and still find time to write because it was important to me? Don’t people do that?

This is when I realized my problem. I have been comparing my journey to wherever the hell I’m going with others. I don’t know how those professors listed on those English department pages got to the point where they were the one selected by the committee. Their struggle was different mine, and I really needed to stop worrying about everyone else. Everyone gets to where they are going in their own way. The stops are going to be different, the type of snack they stop for is going to be different. The road bumps that will affect their ride will be different. Maybe there are some folks who are able to do it all, but I’m not one of them.

Last May I was in a dark place. I had reached the same weight I was when I was 6 months pregnant except I was sans baby. I was struggling to enjoy time with my husband. Most evenings were spent with us on separate ends of the couch joylessly watching TV then crawling into bed. I was pulling into the parking lot at work and sitting in my car trying to hold back tears of sorrow and pain because I was giving all of myself and not feeling valued. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t exercising. I don’t know if this is what depression looks like because I’ve never been diagnosed with it, but I definitely felt like shit.

Flashforward to today, things are way better with my husband, I’ve been writing every day. I have finished a few books–nothing to write home about but reading is reading–and I’ve lost some weight. I feel great, and I’m scared.

Every morning for the past couple of months, I’ve been waking up early and working in my office on my memoir, job documents (one of these days I’ll post about the ridiculousness of those documents), and job applications. I’ve been exercising and have even taken to mid-day walks which do not count as my workout but do amount to one of my favorite times of the day.

I can’t lie and say life is great. It’s better. I’m still scared as hell because I don’t know if this risk of losing my full-time job with summers off and benefits is going to pay off with my getting my memoir published and my achieving my end goal of being a writer with a tenure-track job, but it’s sunnier over here, so for now, I’ll take it.



On a Moderately Personal Note or (Shut the F*** up and Write)

Disclaimer: I don’t think my husband knows about this blog, and while he helped me come up with the title (I seriously suck at titles;it’s a curse), I don’t think he’ll ever read this. Babe, if you read this, please tell me.

Okay, I have the best husband. No, seriously. I know this sounds like bragging, but he really is awesome. First off, on a non-One Mean MFA career note, the man is an incredible father. He loves our kid a lot. I can see it in his face, in the way he holds our little one, and in how he wishes our kid will learn to walk quickly so he can chase the Mini-One Mean in the yard. It’s amazing.

As far as my career is concerned, he is even better. I knew he would be a great dad; it’s one of the reasons I fell for the guy. He loves unconditionally. When he loves, he gives all of himself. It’s something I wish I did. I don’t love like that. I’m guarded. I don’t trust. I worry and am not confident that I can be loved unconditionally. I love him unconditionally now, but it has taken me years to learn to love in the way he does. Even when I f*** up (which is often), he forgives and does something incredible. He reminds me why I love writing. I love writing because I love people, and he is the people that I love.

Okay, I know you’re thinking, “Shut the hell up, One Mean. No one wants to read a stupid lovey-dovely bullsh** story–and right before Valentine’s day. You stupid whore. Shut. Up.” Well, I won’t shut up. I love him.



Mr. One Mean MFA.

A few weeks ago, Husband and I had a huge fight. I hadn’t been writing, reading, and my agreed upon house commitments were falling wayside (don’t worry, our kid was still being well taken care of, and I was all caught up with my television shows). I was in a deep rut. I had abandoned myself. I forgot who I was before marriage and Mini-One Mean.

Since we’ve gotten married (strangely enough), it’s been rough. I think losing my mother didn’t help with that. When you lose a parent, you lose yourself. You’re angry because your mother was young and wonderful and now who the hell can you talk to when you’re having an existential crisis. Whose going to talk you off the ledge when some teenage son of a b**** cuts you to your core, and vodka feels like the only solution? You remember you are mortal and that sh** is real. Anyway, I was in a rut. Things were not great. Since we’ve been together we’ve always been great at communicating, and we’d both shut down. We weren’t interacting with each other. We had good days, but mostly they were blah days.

This past weekend I spoke a conference for the first time in a long time. It felt so good to be an academic for five minutes (I’ll be writing about this sometime soon). I was excited, Missy and I were about to get into some trouble (again, don’t worry Missy and One Mean MFA will have another reunion in Minneapolis at AWP this year!). Husband was upset because he felt like (rightly so) that I wasn’t doing enough to get out of the high school job that I’m still at. While conferences are part of this, it’s not enough. I need to be publishing.

I got upset that he was upset.

“Speaking at conferences is important.”

“And publishing isn’t?”

“It is, but this is part of the academic stuff!”

“One Mean, you’re not writing.”

“When am I supposed to write?!”

This has been a challenge for me (as it is for all writers–I know perspective and all that jazz). Being a teacher at the high school level limits my time to do anything, including parenting. I often leave work many hours after the official school day ends and then it’s mom duties, wife duties, and before I know it, it’s bed time. Of course, I was also squeezing in a ton of TV, not reading, and not exercising.

“Do you know what I’d give for 30 minutes a day to just f***ing write?”

“So do it!”


It seemed like the best time would be after dinner when our mini-us was sleeping and we’ve had dinner.

“What about the kitchen? Oh God, it’s like never-ending the crap I have to do!”

“If you were writing, I’d be okay with the kitchen being a mess.” I thought he was bullsh**ing me, but he wasn’t.

Since this horrible fight where I cried and got super upset, he’s helped me with the wifely duties, but and the biggest thing I’ve had to give up was television. I’m really behind on all my shows, but for the first time since grad school I have a routine. I’ve even managed to squeeze reading a book into the week AND have been writing more than ever.

I always wonder how the successful writers do it.

There are a million articles about the habits of successful writers. It seems they all skirt around two issues.

The first being, you have to fucking write.

Shut the f*** up and write.

The second is being single helps. I don’t want to blame motherhood or wifelyness on my lack of writing because those things are not the reason I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t writing because I had found other things to make a priority. I have serious guilt issues and sometimes feel like I need to abandon everything for my husband and child. This is not the case. In fact, my husband fell in love with me because I loved to write. He loves the writer version of me, not the version who is all caught up on Downton Abbey, yet she doesn’t have a writing project she’s working on. It’s so easy to let that version of one’s self go after marriage and children, but I’m not happy teaching high school (more on this “revelation” soon).

I’m blessed to have a husband who actually believes in me. He sincerely believes there is talent in my fingertips waiting to reach the page. Needing to reach the page. He believes in me way more than I do. I often hate what I write. In fact, this feels self-indulgent, and I probably relied to heavily on curse words when I could have inserted more humor. Regardless, he loves me so much he’ll let the clean-freak version he knows me to be go to the wayside if it means I’m being the nerdy writer he met in college plus a few pounds.

I’m lucky.

I know this. I thank God every day, even when I’m in rut.

So my advice to those of you who are in a rut, maybe you’re single and maybe you’re busy as hell. Regardless, you can find 30 minutes, hell maybe you can start with 15 or 10 minutes. I know I started writing over an hour ago. I got lost in the words and the story and here I am, still writing. It happens. The first day I committed to 30 minutes, I struggled; 30 minutes felt like a lot, but today it seems it may not be enough. Cut something out of your life you’ve been prioritizing and writing.

Shut the f*** up and write.

Back from the Dead

It has been entirely too long since we’ve spoken and for this I apologize.

I am pleased to announce that the paper was a success, despite my amateur knowledge of  journalism and inexperience, as well as a lack of support from the administration. I now have a small amount of knowledge about journalism, media law, and AP style. Oh, and I can sort of use Photoshop now. I hope all you’re seeing is what I like to call “resume building” or “lines on the CV.”

I also managed to survive teaching a night class at the college, but have decided that I will not be doing it again this spring because my waistline paid dearly for the late night dinners and my ability to stay awake past 10 was beginning to wane.

Husband and I also survived our first year of marriage without any major issues. We still love each other and can say we are more successful in our marriage than over 70 percent of celebrity couples. In case you’re not sure, I made that statistic up. Pulled it right out of my a&$.

Husband and I also spent our first Christmas together. We were with my family and spent quality time with Frankenmommy and Black Sheep sister. I think he was a little overwhelmed at how much food there was and how much talking at the table over coffee went down, but he survived, and I’m so grateful he was with me. I needed him by my side when my family got a little crazy and mildly negative and somewhat depressing (post to follow). I think he enjoyed it. It’s tough to tell. I’m not sure how well I will fare when I’m not with the crazy Italians for the first time next Christmas.

Looking up, it seems as if this semester hasn’t been so bad, and yet I still dread waking up to go to work and do not enjoy cooking, reading, or writing nearly as much as I have in the past. I feel as if my identity is slowly slipping away from me. So in an effort to regain who I am, I have made the following resolutions. They aren’t necessarily new year’s resolutions because I’ve been working on them since October, so please cease with the eye rolling, I get enough of that at work.

This is how I reclaim my identity…

  • Keep the house clean by not going to bed with a messy house. (It saddens me that I even have to make this part of my identity recapture project, but alas I do. I was once the biggest neat freak ever, then all of a sudden over this past year and half, things have gotten messy. It’s been awful. It’s time to reclaim the Lysol and Clorox and make things shiny.)
  • Complete at least one organization project a weekend. (This is partly because I fear becoming a hoarder. My father is a hoarder, and I think having an organized house leads to other aspects of your life being organized, including one’s finances and ability to manage time. These “projects” may entail cleaning out a drawer, or a closet. They will be big some weekends and small other weekends. It will depend on what I have time to do. I’m hoping to have the house in order by May. I’m not delusional in thinking it will happen overnight.)
  • Devote at least 30 minutes a day to writing. (I’m happiest when I’m writing, and 2012 was a year that I did not feel so good about myself, the direction my life was taking and it’s time to get that back. Writing is a calling, and it’s been yelling at me for months. “Come back!”  I’m coming back thirty minutes at a time.)
  • Submit at least 1 story or essay a month. (I have quite a few essays and short stories sitting on my hard drive and flash drives that are dying to be available in print or online. Enough is enough, I need to suit up and send them out. I’m not going to get a professor job with my fiction and essays sitting on my computer. They need to be on your Kindle or your bookshelf.)
  • Read at least 30 minutes a day. (This one, so far, as proven to be the biggest challenge. I have been unable to find anything to read that holds my attention. I blame Facebook, Twitter, and my insatiable addiction to television. While I know I read meaningless crap everyday, it is time to refocus my love of reading. There was a time in my life when you couldn’t find me without a book in my hand. I used to devour books. I miss the attachment I had with characters and the near euphoria of experiencing a damn good story. Not to mention, this 30 minutes a day will only make me a better writer.)
  • Take better care of myself. (This includes grooming–ladies we all get lazy with the shaving of the legs and washing the makeup off of our faces before bed–well no more!–I refuse to not take good care of myself. Taking care of my grooming and putting more care into my outfits and how I look when I leave the house will help me regain some of the confidence I’ve lost. Husband is always telling me how sexy it is when a woman is confident and how unattractive low self-esteem is. Well, I need to be sexy in my eyes in order to be sexy in his, so a-grooming I will go!)
  • Be a better Catholic. (These past few years I’ve neglected my spiritual health. It’s so easy to just not go to mass. I know many people do not agree with the teachings of the Catholic faith, but I do and since I do, I should be practicing what I believe and get my a** in church. It’s one hour, once a week. I do my best during the week to be a good Catholic, and going to church regularly helps keep me in check.)
  • Follow through. (In general, this is difficult for me. It’s one thing to set all these goals, it’s another to follow through on them. The thing is I struggle to follow through on small things like laundry. I will start a load of laundry, get it into the dryer and leave it there for two days. I think if I can start by following through on things like laundry, good eating habits, exercise, and so on, I can make these goals a reality.)
  • Spend less time at work. (Let’s be honest, that place is sucking my soul right out of my body. I know it’s a clichéd image, but damn it, it is the truth. It’s not just soul sucking, it’s soul crushing. As an example, the newspaper was a huge success this December. It was the first issue the school saw in over a year. It was well designed, the kids did everything, sold the ads, did all the writing, fact checking, editing, and so on. When I was hired to be the adviser, the principal wanted me because I had helped the students produce the first literary magazine issue in over 5 years. The principal was adamant that I do it and demanded that we have a hard copy of the paper. I was then not given the resources to do this. The class ended this semester, so I don’t have a newspaper class in the spring. We had to meet after school. The computers did not have the necessary software to layout the paper. I fought and fought. The kids were so determined to lay out the paper, they did it on their own computers, which they brought to school with open source software. We even met on a Saturday to finish laying it out. When the paper was finally delivered to students, the faculty and students flipped. They loved it. I was then, however, snubbed repeatedly by the principal AND have yet to even get a thumbs up, head nod, let alone a “good job.” Now, I didn’t spend my month of December at school until 7 p.m. to get accolades from my principal, but acknowledgement that it was even glanced at might have been nice. This, of course, is just one incident of many that have pushed me over the edge. I’m no longer volunteering at school this spring. I leave fifteen minutes after the bell rings, unless there is a meeting. Frankly, that place can suck it. Life is too short to be spending it where my dedication is under-appreciated. If people want devoted teachers, then they ought to give them some damn adulation. I’m a newlywed and staying at work until 7 p.m. is madness.)

And so these are my goals. They are lofty and ambitious, but I’m feeling feisty this year.

Enough is Enough

I decided against the haircut. I have been trying for years to grow my hair long like Kim Kardashian and while I will never have Armenian hair, I do have good hair, and I’m not cutting it.

In an effort to make over my life, I’m starting with my health. My physical health. I already workout a little (not as much as I used to) so adding more days and variety will help with that. The real makeover is in the food.

I recently started working with a dietitian. I’ve tried everything, Weight Watchers, Jillian Michaels, little or no carbs–you name it I’ve tried it. The only thing I haven’t tried are cleanses because there is no way that is healthy. I decided to work with a dietitian because they are specialized, and qualified. They go to school for this and they understand how eating, exercise and the body work. With Weight Watchers, the group leader is someone who was successful with the program, not someone who understands how sugar, and protein and other nutrients fuel the body. The dietician is expensive. While, I absolutely cannot afford this, I am doing it anyway. My mother said “[insert given name here], it’s an investment in your health.”

She’s right.

I should probably note that, I’m not a walking blob. I’m overweight, but I’m not to the point (nor will I let myself) where I can’t where normal sized clothes. I am, however, overweight.

A lot of my anxiety and self confidence issues stem from my weight. I’ve always struggled with it. Since I was about 10 years old, I was the fat kid. I have two sisters who should and could easily be models. They are lean and gorgeous. So gorgeous, fact, that my whole life I was always considered “the good eater” versus my one sister (who is about 21 months younger than me) who was always told how beautiful she is. I have always envied my sisters, their beauty and their smarts. Growing up boys always paid attention to them, while I focused on my grades and extra curricular activities. Even in college, my roommates were the ones who got attention. Of course, this didn’t help, but it was also something I couldn’t control. While, I’m sure my appearance didn’t help, my personality probably didn’t aid in my not getting attention from the opposite sex. Growing up, I was never so obese that I looked scary, I was chunky. In fact, my whole life (even now) my nickname from my family has been a word that derives from chunky. In fact, one of my uncle calls me “chunkina” which is is like girl chunk.

So, you can image how these nicknames, and experiences have scarred me. In college, I was put on a migraine medication and within about 5 months I went from a size 14 to a size 6. That’s about 40 pounds. Of course in college I did more walking because I lived on campus. Still, I always had a voracious appetite and this medication made it go away. Best. Thing. Ever. I still enjoyed food, I just didn’t eat too much of it. My family continued to called me, “chunkina.” Frankly, it was probably warranted because never let go of the fat kid inside me.

Well, when I graduated I didn’t have a good job and didn’t have health insurance so I stopped taking the magic medication. And on packed the pounds.

Now, I’m back to my high school weight and none of my cute size six clothes fit. My anxiety is through the roof, and I hate myself.

So last week, I made an appointment and started a program. The eating plan officially started today so of course I have to wait until next Friday to know if it is working. I’m sure the first week will be good. I’m focused and more motivated than I thought I’d be. I’m sure the expense is forcing me to be focused. I’m like this with the gym. In the morning when I get up and don’t want to go, I think to myself, “get up, you’re paying for a membership.”

As you all know, I haven’t been feeling right. FH and I talked about it and he said something that I think is on point. He said, “if something in your life is making you unhappy, get rid of it.”

Well, the thing that is making me unhappy is my health and appearance. When I feel like I look good in a bathing suit, things just seem sunnier. Maybe I’m vain, I don’t know and I don’t care.

I’m tired of getting dressed in the morning and feeling like if I was thinner I’d be able to dress trendier. I’m also tired of worrying that I’m going to hate all the wedding pictures because I’m cow. I’m also tired of worrying that FH is going to look at me one day and think, “that isn’t the girl I fell in love with.” While, I don’t actually believe he would think something like that, I know that I look at myself and think, “where is the artistic, confident girl that proudly walked [insert undergrad institution here].”

I guess, I’m thinking if I make over my physical self it will be the beginning of loving my interior neurotic self.  I don’t know if this will actually work, but I have faith. I know it’s time to get over this weigh issue. I don’t want to start my new life with FH hating the old me–the child in me. I want to start our life together happy with myself.

Honestly, it’s been over 15 years that I’ve been struggling with this problem. Enough is enough. The fat kid must die.

The excess weight has been warned. Not get off bitch.


Fireworks With a Side of Ignorance: Delish

Without getting too personal I’d like to tell you about my Forth of July. The boyfriend and I went to a party that was hosted by one of his “co-workers.” I say “co-workers” because the boyfriend works in a sport and they are more like teammates than co-workers I guess. Any way, we arrived and it was really laid back and the setup for the party was great. The boyfriend’s teammate had tents set up to provide shade and even rented a port-a-potty to prevent his likely intoxicated guests from making a mess in his house. Dude was prepared.

The host was really into The Forth and had purchased about $2000 in fireworks and even rigged them together so that all he had to do was light one fuse and then enjoy the fireworks. It was great to watch he and friends set it up. Luckily he lives in a cul-de-sac so he set up three huge pieces of plywood, which later caught fire. , in the center of the cul-de-sac so everyone on his street could see the show. The boyfriend and I watched as the host drank from a beer bong, then played beer pong, and then set up fireworks. As we left the party the boyfriend and I kept saying to each other it was a miracle no one was injured. The fireworks, though probably the very illegal kind, were great. I’m sure people in the neighborhood thought they were the city fireworks.

While the drinking games were going on the boyfriend and I sat with some of his friends and shot the breeze. Because everyone and their mother seems to be engaged or married, including a recently engaged couple we were sitting with, marriage was an obvious topic of conversation. Frankly, I’m so over hearing about marriage because I’m obsessed with getting married and can’t wait for the boyfriend to propose. We’ve been dating for five years in October and I’m ready. I’m overly anxious about it, and when I hear commercials on the radio for diamonds or see commercials with couples getting engaged I find myself eagerly changing the channel. I’m so tired of thinking about it, I know the boyfriend will ask me when he’s ready, but I’m ready!  So when we sat down and the first thing we started talking about was marriage I found myself closing off and not saying much.

I have very strong feelings about marriage, but I don’t go spouting them off at parties. Just like I keep my political and social beliefs to myself. Anyway the anti-Catholic spouting and the beliefs that this group of people felt about marriage was really making me itch and I watched as my boyfriend was smirking at me when I was using all the muscles in my body to keep my mouth shut. 

Don’t get me wrong, everyone I’ve met that is part of this sport’s culture is super friendly and great, it’s just plain ole ignorance that is my issue. I was grateful that the sun was setting and the fireworks were underway before I was forced to school a party of people about Catholicism.

I did have a great time, aside from that thirty minutes of torture.

The thing is when I talked to my mom about it–I should note my mother is what Jim Gaffigan would describe her as a “Shiite Catholic”–she seemed disappointed that I kept my mouth shut. I explained to my mother that schooling a party of people about the Catholic faith would have been completely inappropriate.

Anyway, the thing I took away from this was that fireworks really have a way of bringing people together and that social, religious and political discussions really should remain at the dinner table only during Thanksgiving.