Archive | Family

Writing Through the Holidays

Every year the holidays seem to come faster. That is, the days zip past a little quicker, and it’s harder to find time for all the important things like building gingerbread houses, visiting Santa, and yes, continuing to work on the novel. The whole getting-up-at-5am thing is also a little harder, as I tend to drink more. For instance, we had our company holiday party last night. It was fun, and I overslept this morning.

I’m still managing to get up about 4 mornings a week, so I’m still drafting about 2,000 words a week. It’s progress, but it’s slow. I’m really looking forward to January when things calm down a bit. I’ve also set aside the first weekend on January to do another of my own little personal writing retreats. I’m booking a cheap hotel room for Friday and Saturday nights out in the desert. The last time I did this I was able to finish a draft, and since I’m pretty close to finishing the draft I’m working on now, I’m hoping I can use the time to do it again.

I am also saving up my days off just on the off chance that I am accepted to the Hedgebrook Residency program for 2014. We’re supposed to find out before the end of this month. If I’m going I will need two weeks vacation time. I only get the 25th off, and Christmas falls on a damn Wednesday, so it doesn’t feel like much of a holiday, but I don’t want to take any days off, because I might need them. I’m a little conflicted about it. I hope we find out soon – if I’m not going, I likely will take the 24th off, as I would really like to spend it with my kiddos.

Anyhow – that’s the haps. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from Hedgebrook.

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We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

It took me most of last week to recover from the fabulous ordeal of the Tough Mudder. I thought I was fine on Monday, but the tired just clung to me like a toddler that doesn’t want to take a bath. On Saturday night I bailed on Daniel (we had plans to go hear some music) and fell asleep at 8:30.

Of course, as soon as I started feeling well rested our girl got the stomach flu, so we were up all night holding her hair back, then Daniel got it too. Then we got a flat tire. Then the battery died on the other car. And all that seemed suddenly like small potatoes against the fact that my mother-in-law went in for emergency surgery tonight when her appendix threatened to burst and kill her. Sweet Jesus what will tomorrow bring?

I’m happy, no thrilled, to report that we just got the word that my mother-in-law is now out of surgery and is doing fine.

And as there is currently nobody vomiting in our house, I say things are looking up.

As for the writing, I am back at it, every morning, sticking to my 500 words per day. I’m still optimistic that I can finish the draft by the end of the year, and I’m very excited to say that a recent discovery has changed the entire up-at-5-am thing: my coffee machine has an automatic timer. Hazaaa! These mornings, when I stumble up the stairs, the coffee is already brewed. It is hot, and fresh, and so perfect that the thought of it actually helps motivate me out of bed.

Hey, in times like these you take pleasure in the little things.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day. I know, at the very least, there will be coffee in the morning.

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Remote Working

One of the perks of my job is that I work remotely. I have often said how cool it is that I can take my work with me anywhere, but the truth is I never do. Because if I’m going somewhere it’s usually because I don’t want to be working. I’m am not the girl you see sitting by the pool with her laptop.

Except maybe, this week, I am.

My mom has a show opening at a gallery in the desert this Friday and I really want to go. The party starts at 6 and it’s a 3 hour drive (or 5 in traffic), so it would have meant leaving after lunch and using some vacation time, but instead I’m going to flex my remote-worker muscle.

Our thinking is that we will drive out early in the morning. We will leave at 6am, and by 9am I should be happily settled in to some public place with free wi-fi. Eventually I will be in our hotel room, or even (we’ll see) by the pool. Then, come the end of the day, I will put on my art-show-opening fancies and have a lovely night with my momma.

And then Saturday morning I plan to wake up early enough to work on my novel while I watch the sun come up over the desert. I’ve been dying for some desert time. It’s going to be a great (if short) trip.

Here is a sample of mom’s sculpture. You can see more of her work on her website. 


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Notes on the Northwest

If there’s one thing that can really make LA look like a smoggy pit, it’s 10 days in the Pacific Northwest.

Blast hereThe family and I just got back from vacation. We spent the first five days with my dad in northern Idaho to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday (that’s a picture of him with the cool shirt we got him), and then met up with some great friends we hardly ever get to see to do some camping just east of Mount St. Helens. The air smelled like cedar, and there were so many stars I gave myself a neck ache looking up.

As always, I carried my little notebook with me everywhere to jot down ideas and observations, but the thing is, I’ve realized, I didn’t jot down a single thought. Great details kept catching my attention, but they never made it into the notebook. I kept beating myself up for it, every time I didn’t pull out my notebook, but if guilt actually got things done, there would be a lot fewer to-do lists in the world.

The thing is my kids are still young enough that I have to keep a pretty close eye on them, especially when we’re out in the wilderness, or by a lake, or a road, or well, really anywhere that isn’t our home. The only time I don’t have an eagle eye on them was when they’re strapped into their car seats (but I get really car sick, so even if Daniel is driving that’s not a good time for me). I continue to carry that notebook, but it’s always so buried under diapers, peanut butter sandwiches, and random lego pieces that I just don’t ever bother to dig it out. Instead, I keep telling myself I’ll write it down later, but I never do.

Like everything else in this life, I’m starting to realize that taking notes is a matter of practice. Just like exercise or eating well, you have to keep doing it, or the inclination to do it at all will slowly fade.

It’s not like I need another thing to do, but this is important. It’s those little details that make stories great. Writing them down is a way of not only reminding myself to be a keen observer, but also for remembering them later.

The details are already starting to fade (sadly), but here’s one little gem I will always remember: At one point my step-mom was describing a friend of hers that we were heading out to visit and she said “just wait until you see how she walks.” I thought that was such a funny thing to say about someone, but you know what – her friend actually did have a lovely walk.

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Concerned Parent or Low-Life Hacker?

A computer geek friend of mine has a daughter who just turned ten. She asked if she could have her own email account, so he help her set one up, and then, without telling her, he adjusted the settings so that he would be bcc’d on every email she sends. It’s a big scary world out there, and he just wants to keep an eye on who she’s emailing with, and what she’s saying when she does.

I’ve been mulling this over since he told me about it a few weeks ago. My daughter is only 6, and has not, as of yet, expressed any interest in email. When she does, I know I will worry about who she is emailing and what she is saying. We (my friend and I, and well, everyone we know) didn’t grow up with email. Introducing it to the lives of our young ones is admittedly scary, but does that give us the right to invade privacy, to betray trust? Am I being overly dramatic?

When I was in sixth grade my dad got a word processor, a Brother, with a giant body and a tiny little screen (ah, the eighties). He set up a file for me and told me it was my personal, private file. He encouraged me to write every day, to record my thoughts. Even back then I loved writing so I took right to it.

The first thing I wrote about was how much I hated my teacher. She was pregnant and prone to outbursts, followed by tears, and I think I used the words “fat cow.” I know, I know. But I was 11.

Anyhow, I finished that first entry, saved it to my private file and went about my business playing with my sister. Not two hours later my dad came in to talk to me. He was concerned about the language I had used. How would my teacher feel if she knew I had called her that?

My face burned and I felt so embarrassed. It took me years to come to the realization that I was not the one who should have been embarrassed. My privacy had been invaded. I had been set up. (Dad, if you’re reading this, I  love you, but that was lame.)

To this day I don’t store my thoughts digitally. I write in a journal that I keep with me at all times, and if I want to call someone a fat cow, I do, because it’s my private journal and it’s nobody’s business anyway.

Which brings me back to hacking your kid’s email. On one level I totally get it. On the other I really think no good can come of it. Emails are private, unless of course they’re not because you accidental reply all or your ex forwards them on to your friends.

It’s a complicated life. Parenting is hard.

Any thoughts out there from parents of kids with emails?

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Wrapping up the Crazy Just in Time to Write

Ahh, summer… with the lazy days around the pool, the deepening of my LA tan, and the- wait, what?

Man, I miss summer vacation. I no longer get to lay by the pool, but I do get to figure out how to juggle my hours at work so I can drive two kids to preschool, swim camp, soccer, and music, and that’s all before the first of July.

The first half of July is always a little crazy around here. There’s the 4th, of course, then our anniversary, then our daughter’s birthday, and this year, just to make it all a little more interesting, throw in the wedding of one of our best friends, in Chicago, which meant we had to fly both kids to the Bay Area first to stay with their grandparents, and then just try to fly back to San Francisco a day after a major plane crash. Just try. In fact, try doing it with a raging hangover. That’s even more fun. When we got to the airport Sunday morning our flight (which was scheduled for 11:30) had “5:45″ written next to the flight number and I actually turned to my husband and said “what do they mean 5-4-5? Is that code for something?” As it turns out, it was code for canceled.

Anyhow – all this is to say how super busy things have been the last two weeks, but I’m happy to say we are nearing the end of the crazy part.

This Friday I head out for a weekend with my writing group. I’ve been prepping for it (on the few mornings I’ve been able to get myself up early to write). I know what I want to work on. I will have two solid days, and half of Friday, to write, write, write. Historically these types of things go well for me, but I always feel nervous leading up to them. I so desperately want to make good use of the time that I have to remember not to psych myself out.

Just go. Write. Sleep. Write some more.

Wish me luck.


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Las Gracias De Dona Diabla

(Just for fun, I’m embracing my Spanglish for this one.)

Last Friday la familia y yo took a trip up to San Francisco for an event hosted by the Ecuadorian Consulate.

Mi suegro recently published a book se llama “Las Gracias De Dona Diabla.” It has been very well received in my father-in-law’s native Ecuador, and the country wanted to recognize his work here in the states.

Juan, like most artists I know, was a bit nervous about presenting his work. There was to be a musical performance, a speech by the consulate, and then he was to do a reading. He said that if 40 people showed he’d be thrilled. So it was muy emocionante to see the space absolutely packed. If I had to guess it was more like 150 people.

JuanThe event was followed by a book signing in which they completely sold out the 75 copies they brought for the occasion. (That’s a photo of Juan signing books there a la derecha, con la prima de mi esposo.)

The success of the evening has only stood to reinforce how frustrating it is that I have not yet read the book, and will likely not be able to any time in el futuro pronto. Conversationally, my Spanish is barely passable, and I struggle to read or write the most basic bits.

Juan, on the other hand, has a better vocabulary in English, his second language, than most Americans. I can only imagine that in Spanish, his prose are layered and nuanced in a way I will likely never be able to appreciate.

Fue el mismo con la presentacion. The entire night was in Spanish. Not that it mattered much, as I was busy chasing our little guy around behind the scenes so that his complete disregard for formal occasions wouldn’t interrupt the festivities.

I have already begun my campaign for a translation.

In the meantime, sí puedes leer en Espanol, you should find a copy.

Muchos muchos felicidades a mi suegro.

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Mood: Improved

Okay, okay, I’m getting over myself.

Sorry about the last post. In fact, I almost deleted it, but somehow that seems contrary to the spirit of blogging. Embrace the good, the bad, and the whiny, I say.

So onward and upward. I think I was just feeling down because my guy and our daughter were in Quito all last week (visiting his half of the family), having a grand adventure, and if it’s one thing I cannot abide, it’s having to stay home while good adventure is happening. Not too long ago I braved an 18 hour flight to Singapore with two kids (one being just a baby – who also had the chicken pox), rather than miss an opportunity to travel. But back then I was a freelancer and had the freedom to say to clients that I simply wasn’t going to be working for two weeks. I can’t do that any more, but I do have health insurance, which is pretty awesome in its own way.

In any case, those two precious people are due home any time and I already feel better knowing that I get to sleep next to my man tonight and in the morning both kids will pile on top of us (at some ungodly hour, I’m sure), and all will be right with the world again.

I also managed to get my ass out of bed to do some writing this morning, which always improves my mood. I’m facing a pretty good challenge with the middle section of my novel. Two of my readers said they liked the first half of the manuscript, but thought the second half lagged. My other two readers said exactly the opposite, so I need to do some serious thinking about what my next steps are.

But for the first time in a while I’m feeling like I can figure it out.

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Don’t Just Do Something Sit There

I was chatting with an old friend the other day about my story. You guys know him as Steve the Pirate. He’s a DJ, and as I’ve written a DJ into my novel, I wanted to get his input, and he asked why, in all the time we knew each other back in the day, did I never mention that I was a writer?

I made a crack about being too dense to realize it. Sometimes I feel like it takes me a really long time to figure out the simplest things. Mitochondrial DNA and the Krebs cycle – no problem, but figuring out what I wanted to do with my life – that one took me a while.

Anyhow, he wasn’t buying the density argument, and it got me thinking that even though that’s what I fall back on as a canned response at cocktail parties, it’s not entirely true. I think the truth was that I was so afraid I would never figure out what I wanted to do that I was trying to test out every possibility, and never gave myself the time to see what was right in front of me.

So what changed that? What made me see the light?

Getting pregnant. Kind of.

What happened was that I got pregnant right as I finished a big film project, and by the time I was ready to take interviews anywhere I was bulging around the middle in a way that was hard to hide and the truth is, no matter what the laws say, no one is going to hire a pregnant lady and spend three months training her just so they can pay her to take maternity leave. So after a few frustrating tries, I gave up.

Daniel was in grad school at Stanford and we were living in student housing, so I just settled in and embraced my lazy self. And after about two days, a pattern began to emerge. I would take long walks, cook, read, and write. Left with no demands on my time, those were the activities I took up.

I wrote the first half of a terrible novel. I wrote a few short stories (and even submitted them to journals). I read Writer’s Digest. Not because I was on some mission to become a writer, but because those were just the things I felt like doing when I woke up in the morning. I had always loved writing, but because it came easy I never gave myself credit for being pretty good at, and I certainly never took the time to develop fiction writing as a skill.

That was when I decided I would apply to grad school, and really work at being a writer. And here I am. Five years later, a working writer.

It was being forced to slow down that finally opened my eyes. It reminds me of something a Buddhist teacher of mine used to say: “don’t just do something, sit there.” Sometimes you have to sit really still for a while before you know what you’re supposed to do next.

I’m very thankful I had that experience, because now, with two kids running around, and a full time job, I don’t think I’ll have time for any extended meditations for oh, about 16 years.

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Warm air, jet fuel, cigarette smoke and plumerias.

I didn’t post on Monday. I was busy drinking maitais by the pool in Hawaii. Okay, well, in truth, I was busy chasing the kiddos around the pool, which was even more fun, and I did sneak in a maitai or two.

I was ready for a little vacation. We went to a resort just outside Honolulu with my husband’s mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, cousin, and my mom. Here are a few photos (which you have already seen if you follow my Instagram feed).

April Davila April Davila April Davila




It was perfect, but I didn’t blog about it while we were there because I always feel like blogging about being on vacation is like inviting people to rob you.

But now that we’re back I can say – it was lovely.

More than that, it got the juices of my deep deep memory flowing, and as a good little writer nerd,  I’m proud to say, I did my fifteen minutes of writing every day and then some. I wrote almost exclusively about memories of other places, of the times in my life that I have lived on other, much less resort-like, islands. The smell of that thick warm air, jet fuel, cigarette smoke and plumerias kept transporting me, even as I loaded car seats in and out of rentals, to times I almost never think of anymore.

For two summers, when I was thirteen and then again when I was fourteen, my sister and I went to live with my dad on a small island in the south pacific called Kwajalein (here’s a map of roughly where our home was – if it had an address I don’t remember it). My dad, a retired Marine captain, was managing the airport there at the time. In my memory it is such a magical place. We went SCUBA diving every day. There were no cars on the island except for official military vehicles. The place was overrun with kids – military brats whose parents worked all day. We had such a blast. The air was hot and sticky, and our double wide had a plumeria tree growing over the top of it, and there was no air conditioning so the smell of plumeria wafted through the windows all day. I think I did keep a journal back then, but even if I could find it, it would probably just be full of gushing about Brad, the lifegaurd at the pool. Brad.

Then there were the four months I lived on the much drier, even even less populated, South Caicos, at the School for Field Studies. I studied fishery management and went SCUBA diving every day. I went on a date with a very large, local man named Ganger. He took me to the only restaurant in town – Aunt May’s – the carrots were delicious. My classmates and I took our tests under water with pencils on slates. We drank a lot of rum. We stopped whatever we were doing at sunset and gathered to watch the spectacular show.

These are the memories that came up for me in Hawaii. It’s amazing how scents take us back. I wonder if I’ll ever actually go back to those places. They are so remote, it’s hard to imagine. The whole thing has me feeling pretty nostalgic. I suppose there are stories in these memories, but for now they are just notes in my journal, to be mined at some future date.


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