Some New Year’s Reflections

When I was little, I had myself convinced that even numbered years were better than odd numbered years. I can’t remember the details of why I thought that, only that I believed it was so. I know my 10th grade year was better than my 11th.

I’m looking on my Facebook feed and most of it says GOOD RIDDANCE to 2013. 2013, however, was a very good year for us. This year saw some fruits of years of striving. Of getting out of some holes. If you’d asked me if I was glad to be done with 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, I would have said yes.

It started off rather with a whimper. I was working on a book that I was losing hope and passion for. Things seemed to be stagnating in all areas.

This year, we bought a house. When we were looking for a home, prices had begun creeping up again and it seemed unlikely we’d find one in our price range, in this general area, that would house a family of our size.

Little Girl had three requirements: a pool, an upstairs, and a fireplace.

I found this home languishing on the Internet. The realtors hadn’t shown it to us because it was out of our price range by $25-50K. We asked to see it anyway and decided it was overpriced, given its condition.

The kitchen of this house is wonky. It looks like someone bought random IKEA and Home Depot cabinets and put them together crookedly, then hired someone to put a nice granite counter on top. The island was so big you could not walk around it on one side. But the natural light was great.

I stood in the kitchen and looked at the view of the mountains. Always, this side of the mountain has been the view I loved, with almost sheer cliffs of rock. To the left are rolling hills, green in the winter, brown grasslands in the summer.

It is the kind of view that makes everyone walking into the backyard say, “Oooh!”

So I stood there at the sink, imagining doing dishes there. If we get this house, it’ll be a miracle, I thought. It seemed out of reach.

We sent in an offer, were rejected, then sent in another offer which was approved. Then came the arduous process of securing a VA loan, where reams of documents were needed, letters of support from our landlord required, along with all the usual stuff. A $100 cash deposit was scrutinized and needed an explanatory letter. (Funny thing is, when you buy a home with 100% cash, nobody asks where the money came from, through legal or illegal means). I think the escrow was 90 days and everyone thought it’d fall through several times.

This year, I had another sort of miracle too. I rediscovered my passion for this book. I started working on it in 2011. It had been through countless revisions. Cutting a main character, cutting another character, adding one back in. It was feeling overworked and required another re-write, the prospect of which felt rather like agreeing to get a root canal without pain meds two days after you had four teeth pulled. I did not want to do it, truthfully, but I saw why it needed to be done.

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says, “The deepest secret in our heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world.” I think that’s what was part of the missing element. To write a book like this, sometimes you need to specifically recall and relive very negative feelings, which is emotionally draining. So I sat down and, to paraphrase the famous words of Hemingway, bled out at my keyboard. I feel like I imagine a method actor must feel after changing himself for a character, like I’m the Daniel Day-Lewis of writing.

Other good things that happened in 2013 of professional note for me: My book The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns won the Pulpwood Queens Bonus Book of the Year Award. This may not be a super famous award, but it was a huge honor, plus the Pulpwood Queens have a knack for picking books that go the distance. Then, the American Library Literary Tastes Award chose my book for Best Women’s Fiction. Let’s be honest—the book didn’t get all that much attention, and I thought it’d be one of those books that faded into obscurity. It was just the boost the book (and I) needed.

As a result, I got to travel to Chicago in June to appear on a panel with Laura Lippman and Naomi Novik. In August, I went to NYC for the first time to meet with my new editor, publisher, and agent, and signed a contract for my third book.

 This year I find myself more grateful, though, for lots of little things I never used to think about too much. Every time I can fill up my car with gas and still have some money for food, I feel grateful because it wasn’t too long ago when I’d have to stop at just a few gallons. When I go to Costco and I can get some items that aren’t on my list, I feel very happy.

My kids have grown up a lot this year, as kids are wont to do. Not just little steps, though—big leaps. Little Girl’s writing (both penmanship and how she expresses herself) has improved tenfold. My son’s doing great at his new middle school and has made more friends there than he did through all of elementary. My daughter’s pulling all As at high school and plays water polo. All display a diligence toward school, and a love of learning for the sake of learning, that I didn’t have until college.

And of course, we got a dog. For the dog I am also thankful. He was a needle in the haystack of Craigslist dogs, and though he requires a good bit of work, he has enriched my life tremendously. He makes me take breaks and get out into the fresh air. He keeps me from going nuts, just talking to myself all day. He does hilarious things—actually, introducing him to new things reminds me of being a new parent, and enjoying watching your child discover the world.

I guess this year was the year of gratitude and faith for me. I know there were other things that didn’t work out in 2013—like when Cadillac’s car got totaled and we didn’t want to get a loan for a new car until well after we got our house loan. Or when multiple leaks and moldy smells appeared shortly after we moved in. Some days (or months) have both peaks and valleys, but somehow it’s easier to just remember the more pleasant parts. To know that the bad ones too will pass. I guess I never fully believed it before, but I do now. This knowledge is what I’m thankful I learned this year.

Whether your 2013 was bad, good, great, or indifferent, I wish you the best in 2014.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

One thought on “Some New Year’s Reflections

  1. Happy New Year! Congrats on the new house…. we thought about it about a year ago and, as you know… prices skyrocketed! Oh well….

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