In 6th grade, pervasive note-writing began. I don’t mean jotting down Mrs. Mallott’s “foods lab” tips for no-bake peanutbutter cornflake clusters, or defining Mr. Benson’s vocabulary of the week in our own words. Finally freed from the constraints of Elementary School D’nealian on newsprint, we forged our own unique penmanship blend of script, print, and puffy letters. My girlfriends and I filled pages of wide-lined missives riddled with code words and acronyms “SSS! LLL! Sorry so short! Longer letter later!” Hiding behind Language Arts text books, we fashioned custom signatures and generously employed white-out for corrections and/or manicures. We folded our letters into triangles—tucking in the ends like the paper footballs the boys would flick toward thumbs-and-pointer-finger field goals during free period.
We palmed these secret messages in the bathroom, or passed a dedicated notebook in the hallway among two or more contributors, alternating period by period. For all the instruction we missed in our trance of self-expression (THE PRESIDENTIAL FITNESS TEST IS TOTALLY BOG) and self-reflection (I BLEW MY OWN BREATH UP MY OWN NOSE AND IT DID NOT STINK), I now realize we actually practiced something of value; the art of puzzling over ourselves and our lives’ moments, word by word.
By day I wrote notes, and by night I wrote in journals. From girlhood through young adulthood I filled blank books with hopes, fears, shame, and hearts sketched with the mandatory shine-indicator. And then I wrote letters--from camp all summer long to my friends at home, and from home all fall, winter, and spring to my friends from camp. I wrote to my grandmas, to my sisters away at college, and made tiny words on both sides of blue aerograms for my brother overseas.
With email barely on my radar during college, I brought thin markers with me to PoliSci 104, alternating colors by paragraph for five loose-leaf pages to my boyfriend living one state away. The world wide web appeared soon after, as I sat at reception desk after desk, but it bore no relation to me. I whiled away hours at my temp job filling notebooks with 20,000 Leagues Under Why Me and poetry about Husband’s flaxen arm hair. Yes, flaxen. Yes, arm hair. When I graduated from journaling-per-hour to a salaried position selling TV air time, I made sales opuses of sales letters—losing myself in whatever creativity with words I could muster among cost-per-thousand impressions.
As a new mom with a traveling husband, I wrote my way through naptime and tummytime, sending out notes of exhaustion and isolation, folding rage into humor, tucking sweet memories into emails for a few trusted family and friends.
And then, on a lonely October night in 2008, one of those friends said the word “blog.” I found myself captivated by the internet for the first time. Spending 18-hour days at home with a four-year-old and one-year-old, I devoured irreverent parenting humor as quickly as I became obsessed with writing it.
Five years later, I have a 6 year old and a 9 year old. I’m a lot less desperate, significantly less exhausted, and mercifully less isolated these days. After half a decade of passing notes among internet friends, my drive to crack you up in study hall remains. However, more often than not, I return here to puzzle out life’s moments, word by word, with you.
Thank you for reading them.
p.s. The Well-Versed Mom won Nancy Davis Kho’s new book! Congrats!