I set up the birth tub the night before Mia was born. It wasn’t out of expectation. The next day was her due date and I figured, out of any day, that’d be the least likely she’d arrive. But she did. First thing in the morning. It had nothing to do with a mother’s intuition. I wasn’t a mother yet.
I suppose there might be some similarities to an article I wrote going viral, but maybe not. Writing is something you nurture and care for and witness its growth over time. Maybe, just possibly, it could be your own, inner child. Or maybe I’m looking too much into it.
All I know is, the day before my article on Vox came out, I met with a friend who’s a web designer for Mamalode. We talked about switching my blog to a different platform, SEO, and, finally, starting a professional page on Facebook.
I’d anticipated the pieces coming out on Vox and Scary Mommy for a couple of days. I’d flipped my blog all around, changing pages and pictures, and changing the title. I shut down my Facebook page, making all posts only visible to friends, and made myself a “Stephanie Land, Writer” page. It felt pretentious and weird, but freelancing is my business and that means promoting my brand to get clients, even if that brand is me. Either way, I had to proclaim myself publically as a writer and own it, even though it felt cheesy.
My boss called me Thursday morning right after I’d gotten up. Coraline had been up late and slept in. I was still groggy, had barely gotten out to let the dog pee, and definitely hadn’t had any coffee.
“Have you checked online yet? Your piece came out on Vox, I bet you’re excited about that!” she said.
I hadn’t even woken up my computer yet. The old laptop takes several minutes to get moving in the morning. I let it do its thing, finished my conversation, and went about attempting to boil water for coffee. My bank account was overdrawn for the first time in years. My truck wasn’t running right and needed to get checked out. And I had to mail documents for a hearing next week.
I squinted at my email account, and had a bunch of messages about people following my blog. I frowned, not really knowing what that meant, and checked my blog stats. It’d had almost 4,000 hits in the last hour. Comments were coming in so fast I couldn’t keep up and finally shut them down. Most of them were positive, but quite a few were negative.
Fullscreen capture 7162015 24823 PM.bmpI’d known the Vox piece would cause a stir, and knew it’d piss a lot of people off, possibly defaming my character a bit, but the story and writing were excellent. I trusted most people would see through it, and see the real story that needed to be told: that the big house on the hill doesn’t mean a perfect, happy, life, and my disenchantment from discovering that as a maid.
The comments kept coming in, and people were searching me on Google to get to my blog. They were sending me awful messages, but most were extremely supportive and even inspiring. I kept thinking, “I’m so grateful I started that public page last night.” Most of my Facebook page had been public lately in an effort to promote myself. I couldn’t imagine having thousands of people flipping through years of posts and pictures. I hadn’t expected the popularity at all, but maybe it was a mother’s intuition to protect her kids, I don’t know.
By noon, blog traffic had reached 10,000 hits, which was close to how many hits it’d ever received since I started it in 2009. People from larger news outlets had contacted me for permission to run the story, or if I could send them more of it. Then I got a message from an agent interested in the book I’ve been working on.
I still hadn’t brushed my teeth. I’d boiled water for coffee three times. And why wasn’t the mechanic calling me back?
I finally got a hold of Mia to tell her the news. She’s still visiting her dad until Sunday.
“So I’m extra extra famous now?” she said.
“Yup, sweetie, the book I’m writing about you will probably get published now,” I said.
I could hear her smile through the phone. She told me about her new doll, and all the accessories that came with it. I was so happy to hear her little voice.
You start out on journeys to be a writer, hidden in rooms, scribbling in notebooks, hiding them from others. They’re your private thoughts. They’re things you wouldn’t tell a best friend. Then you get published, and it’s the deepest, most confusing exposure. Part of you is thrilled to get noticed while the other part is terrified that someone has discovered how you really feel. Then you remind yourself to sit back, and enjoy it.
Because this is what over 20 years of hard work paying off looks like. This is what your kids will learn. That if you keep at it, keep working at the dream, you’ll get there. They can choose to do anything, and they’ll know it’ll be possible because they watched you do the same.

Baby Steps

The rain woke me up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I hadn’t heard it in so long, I had to listen. I haven’t slept well in a week. I don’t know why. There’s always something. People outside on skateboards, or a dog who prefers taking up half the bed. I flow through days with no idea of the actual time, because two o’clock in the afternoon is never right. I usually have a beer or glass of wine anyway.
I thought, maybe, I needed an “as of late” type of post.
In photos.
Mia’s nearly home, or will be in a week, give or take. I’ve only talked to her twice. My days all fold into each other, and I barely leave the house, wrapped up in work, and caring for these two little beings who depend on me.
Coraline and Bodhi follow me around the house like little lambs. It’s so frustrating sometimes I want to scream. But that’s the last thing I can do. So I bear with it. It won’t be like this forever. It’ll get better. I trust in that. It has to. I’m not sure how much longer I can spend without a moment to myself. I have to keep the “this is temporary” peace of mind.0709152301
But, they’re fortunately very adorable. They’ve formed quite a union in Mia’s absence. Cora follows Bodhi around with the leash, and pets her, and brings her all of her toys. Bodhi doesn’t seem to mind.
Meanwhile, I do so enjoy the occasional night of pizza and cheap wine.
I’ve come to measure success not in obtaining nice cars and fancy houses and vacations. As long as I can afford taking myself on a cheap date, even if it’s at home, I think I’m doing all right.
I work at getting my writing noticed all the time, and it’s working. After getting picked up by The Huffington Post, almost any editor I submit to notices my pitch. I’m forthcoming in Vox and YourTango and Scary Mommy. I’m sending out queries, and just scored an interview to do a piece on climate change in Alaska. It’s fucking exciting stuff. It took me so long to admit to myself I was a writer. Now I feel like I’m a good one.
DSCN1827This baby I have walks all the time. She hardly sleeps anymore. She walks from the bedroom, down the hall, to where I’m working in the living room, and back. She talks her little throaty language, saying words with such clarity once, then never again. But she does wave and smile when I open my eyes in the morning. I like starting my days that way.
Bodhi and I met with a trainer yesterday. We’re slowly coming along in our human-dog relationship, and getting to know each other. DSCN1843The picture above marks a huge milestone. I’ve put her in that kennel twice and left the house. Both times because I felt like I had no other options. It was too hot to bring her in the car and leave her in it, and I couldn’t leave her in the house because she’d destroy a door or carpet or windowsill or all of it. Those times I left her in her kennel, I returned to find her missing skin on her nose, soaked in drool, and once she figured out how to unlatch the bottom lock and squeezed out somehow. But tonight, she went in there and laid down to chew on a bone I got her.

We make baby steps. All of us do.


How to Leave your Separation-Anxiety-Ridden Dog Home Alone in 43 Easy Steps

DSCN1798This is Bodhi.
We adopted her from the pound almost two months ago.
After having her with us for a couple of weeks, we discovered she did not like being left at home alone. Now, I am not even that knowledgeable or by any means an expert, but these are things I’ve tried to ease her anxiety over being left alone in the past six weeks or so. It is merely an attempt to laugh at the great lengths we as dog owners will go to for the love of our furry beasts. Or, at least it’ll explain why I haven’t left the house more than five to ten to fifteen to thirty minutes lately.

  1. Determine your dog has separation anxiety after coming home to find your pooch drenched in drool, panting, barking, whining, scratching at exits like their life depended on it, possibly having injured themselves in the process.
  2. Read internet articles. Lots and lots of internet articles.
  3. Discuss problem at great length with friends who also have dogs with anxieties.
  4. Form a training plan, which is also called desensitization and counter-conditioning.
  5. Never leave the dog alone. If you need to, hire a dog-sitter. But mostly kiss your freedoms and social life goodbye.
  6. Begin “gaslighting” your dog by acting like you’re leaving, but don’t, saying, “What? I wasn’t leaving. What are you getting so stressed about?”
  7. Never make eye contact with your dog. Especially when you move around the house.
  8. Pick up keys, jingle them a bit, put them back down.
  9. 60 minutes later, pick up keys, go shut yourself in the bathroom, come out and put keys away.
  10. Continue this until you can pick up your keys and the dog won’t jump up and pant, following you around nervously for five minutes, looking for real signs you might be leaving.
  11. If your dog never settles over you picking up your keys, begin searching for other remedies.
  12. Spend hundreds of dollars on essential oils, diffusers, relaxation drops, vet appointments, dog training, prescriptions, Thundershirts, kennels that create the feeling of a den, and books, while making repairs on your damaged living area.
  13. Buy natural, organic food without grains. No corn! Only fish!
  14. Attempt leaving for ten seconds.
  15. Do not make eye contact with the dog!
  16. Always act like leaving and returning are normal. You know, like they used to be.
  17. If your dog still hasn’t settled with key jingles and leaving for ten seconds, try more tactics.
  18. Turn on every fan in your house full blast.
  19. Play music or talk radio.
  20. Close every curtain in your house.
  21. Turn off all the lights.
  22. Section off part of the house with large baby gates, preventing access to exits and windows.
  23. Go through the same process every time you leave for ten seconds.
  24. Turn on fans.
  25. Play music.
  26. Turn on diffusers.
  27. Give treats with relaxation oils.
  28. Put on Thundershirt.
  29. Throw treats out into the living room for the dog to find.
  30. Leave for ten seconds.
  31. Then fifteen.
  32. Then a minute.
  33. Then ten.
  34. Every time you return, undo what you did to leave without making eye contact.
  35. This will take a few weeks.
  36. Meanwhile, ignore all invitations to get-togethers and have someone stay at home so you can go to the store.
  37. Get to know your pizza delivery guy.
  38. Try to be as routine as possible.
  39. Go for long walks daily. Twice.
  40. Try different methods. Get a Kong and fill it with peanut butter. Freeze treats into a stainless steel dish full of water. Leave your dirty laundry in the kennel, or wherever the dog likes to lie the most during the day.
  41. Watch the weeks and invitations pass, but notice your dog is making some improvement.
  42. Occasionally, when you pick up your keys and go through the routine of leaving, start dropping pieces of meat on the floor to associate you leaving with something really good.
  43. Repeat all steps. Again. And again, and you, too, will be able to leave your house without worrying about your dog doing damage to themselves or your house.