design for your brain

KellywIt wasn’t that long ago when my evening ritual consisted of chick by way of flick. My girl movies added a sense of comfort to my life. Clicking up a fem DVD let me zone out before sleep, muddling the Sunday thoughts as I slipped into a childhood calm. Now, I watch DVR’d TV programming and cannot sleep until I catch up. I’ll never catch up. And now there’s too much to cook, too much to design, too much to write, and too much to edit from my wardrobe and diet.

I feel a little lost, or torn, or in between. Like a middle in the mud. Or worse yet, like a Kelly Wearstler hairstyle*. I know it will pass with some sleep and some exercise and then more sleep, and I know it comes down to pushing myself. Reading this, as an outsider, I’d probably beg to differ and offer that what it really comes down to is not pushing so hard. I’d suggest that I let things play out, calm down, realize that there’s a rhythm to things, that there’s a tide. The truth is that when I awake, I don’t like to set a foot out of bed until I’ve set a goal for myself for the day. I need to set things out before me, to be driven, to feel as if my day brought me one step closer to something other than death.

I get bored and blue when my hand isn’t in enough. And when I’m involved in too much, I feel unsettled, overwhelmed, and like a hamburger with mayo, ketchup, and mustard (Dijon).

Work has been exciting, and I love what I’m working on. Brainstorming is by far my favorite part of the process. What I don’t love is that I haven’t been spending any quality time with friends lately, which isn’t what this post is even about. I’ve been traveling a lot due to meetings and book events, so I’ve had some great girl time (and dinners) with Leigha, Abigail, Colleen, and Sydnee but I haven’t had "home girl" time. I haven’t made phone calls or returned any emails. I haven’t made dinner plans (and I really want to). I feel like I’m going through something, something they should name in a textbook somewhere. Certainly people will be quick to cough up "selfish" or "clueless," eh, but I’m used to hearing that. The fact is, I want time for it all. I want to have sushi dinner with Lesli and Bonnie. I want to have Lacey over for martinis, so we can, as she suggested, comb through my closet to see what’s missing and what’s making it. To have Wendy and Wyc over for dinner with the kids again, and to get some more time with Marcy and Joe. I have to have Natalie over already! Maybe I just need to host more play dates that start at 5pm instead of 10am, that serve sake and sushi instead of soda and sanitizer.

At the moment, though, they’re all just wants. I don’t know when I’ll have the time for it all. How is it already October 22?! In only 8 days I’ll be in DENVER, CO for a book event, then the first weekend of November I’ll be at the TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL. I’ll be at the JCC HERE IN AUSTIN on Nov. 6., then I’ll be in HOUSTON on Nov. 12, followed by SAN ANTONIO on Nov. 13. And in just one month, on Nov. 20 I’ll be in ATLANTA, GA for another book event. I decided not to go to the Miami Book Fair because there’s just too much else going on with TV, and I have no doubt my December will be hell. I turned down another book event in Ft. Lauderdale that conflicted with the kids’ birthday, and I wonder if I just say this to make myself feel like I’m doing a good parenting job. Like my canceling and choosing to celebrate the day they were born is supposed to prove something to someone. Clearly my making note of it means I’m insecure about it. But at the end of the day, who the fuck isn’t? Who doesn’t question her choices from time to time, to reassess, to make sure her values are where she wants them? Every week is different, and some of them leave me feeling weak.

Today I made a list of activities for the kids (I’ll post it tomorrow), to keep them stimulated. I realize, of course that what matters most to them is spending time with their parents. And if there’s one thing they get, since I do indeed work from home, it’s me. Even on days where they don’t get me for any significant stretch of time, they still get a few bedtime stories, I still sing to them, and I ask about their day. I’m still here, checking in with them, watching them eat their lunch as I write, clapping for them from the sidelines. It’s not an easy game, and as I read the words they sound like rationalizations. Like a string of apologetic words that form incoherent and unconvincing sentences. There will be days like this. Days where I feel guilt. Yet, I still feel incredibly proud of myself. It’s not easy making time for it all. For organized closets and new feety pajamas in the right sizes and organizing a playroom and thinking, still!, about a possible new cover for the paperback version of Moose. And now I have to come up with speeches that I’ll be giving at book events this and next month. It doesn’t end, and seriously, thank God for that.

I feel unsettled and can’t help but point to my Libran scales. I realize this makes me sound like one of those new age woo-woo freaks who might as well tape crystals to her body, but I can’t help it. My space feels disorganized and unfinished. I realize everything can’t be perfect or mine. I realize that children bring disorder. That marriage brings compromise. So I start to make lists and take baby steps toward creating my own spaces, even if it only means wooden hangers all facing the same way. An organized closet, a cleaned out makeup bag, undergarments lined up just so, no longer roped together in a jumbled drawer. I need a sense of order, a sense of everything having its place, and I need a place where I can close a door and find framed art work and scarves, design touches without any purpose other than my liking to look at them.

I need an interior decorator who can create spaces for a family with young children. Who can survey a space and know just the thing it needs and how much it will cost. The thing of it is, I live in a beautiful home. But it’s also a house that doesn’t lend itself to fabrics and wallpapers (which is what I really love). Wallpaper can certainly date a space, though. We all of us have to do the best we can with what we have, and for me, I think it means doing my writing in a hotel lobby. I wonder if the Driskill has internet access. If only it was also baby-proofed, we’d have a game plan.

*While I think she’s absurdly talented and genuinely admire her design aesthetic, there are certain designs that shouldn’t be pushed as far.



  1. I found your blog through one I read regularly, 4th Avenue Blues.

    I can empathize, not because I am jetting around the country to book events, but I just took on a second town home community to manage and it is 40 min. from my house. The feeling that you never have time to do anything else but work is a familiar feeling and the longing to spend time with friends doing nothing more productive then drinking sweet iced tea and talking about old times is heavy with me at times.

    The baby step approach is what I am doing as well. I keep telling myself, one step at a time.

    We will find a way.

  2. i really think you should look into getting your full astro chart done. You sound very Virgo in your search for organization and cleanliness, and many Libras have much Virgo in them, as it is the sign next door.
    What matters most is your Rising sign/ ascendant- that is how you show yourself to the world, then your sun sign- in your case, Libra, your true inner being, then your moon sign– your emotional self. It will be so eye-opening, trust me!
    Libras are not usually as you describe you yourself are, I will be there is tons of other stuff going on!
    (and kudos to you for being able to put up with your polar opposite sign in a husband, and also by it being an Aries male of all the possible signs- sheeeesh!) ;)

  3. Well, that read was a full day of activity for me. I agree with Olive. While I have an interest in the metaphysical, I generally sigh and don't "believe in" stuff when push comes to shove (whatever the hell that expression means; I'd come up with a better, but your blog post…oy, I'm wiped).

    At two very different times in my life, I've had my chart done by two women who did not know me personally at all. I provided lots of info: time, date, zip code of birth. Well, "lots of info" as opposed to newspaper horoscopes. My completed charts were several pages long and detailed. And most interestingly, accurate.

  4. I don't think it ever gets under control, once the babies come. I am a fellow Libra – peace, balance, harmony are my most sustaining goals in life. The sight of an organized spice rack can send me into a state of calm just as quickly as my laundry room and its explosive chaos sends me in the opposite direction.

    When the darlings were little, I started putting yellow stickies in their lunches – with a little note. "Love you sweetheart, good luck on the test", or "last night was fun, thanks for helping make dinner", or any number of things – signing them with our special signature, heart and smiley face. I did it just as a way to keep connected with them.

    My littlest one just won a poetry competition at school with a poem called "My Mom's Love Notes".

    Point is, I guess, it's not always quantity. I work a million hours a week, my blackberry never stops, but the darlings know I'm with them 24/7/365.

    Just keep your head up.

  5. SK, With the Fall weather ushering its way into TX{I am in Dallas} maybe the sense of unease of not being able to do enough is seasonal. All of the pans I had in the fire have taken off and I am so damn overwhelmed with Cancer and being with my family that I am dropping the opps that I worked a lifetime for. I say that not as a poor me, I am saying that as a woman in your shoes, I would let Some.Things.Ride. But not the things you woud think.

    You only get a few shots Lady at making your dreams come true, and that is the F-ing truth. I get the sense of timeliness with Phil's health issues. I get the argueing endlessly even though you love each other to pieces. Life is a tough damn row to hoe. Your kids are only young once but listen, if you two raise them right, they will love you more for fufilling your dreams and loving them as well, then if you gave all to them and missed your chance to have the career you wanted and Phil, if he is the man you have written about will respect you more for reaching for the prize.

    People underestimate and diss on you all of the time about having a Nanny or Phil also being a predominant caretaker. To those people I think how very Fu-king sad. The more people who Love and Nurture that a child has, the more a community to love He and She.

    You wrote about a time in your life that shaped you, like it or not, and that time spurned a blog and books and a direction that is new and exciting. Ride the wave girl, enjoy it, sneak in purees and reductions when you can, write emails to those of your friends who you'd love to connect with, because the time will come when there is time. It just takes the effort of a few words to touch people and make them know you understand and get them. That you miss them.

    Hell Sk, Your books and your blog have certainly done that.

  6. It's the unfortunate reality of women who want to have and do it all. We live our lives in dog years.

  7. I have traveled to Austin a few times and I do believe the Driskill is wired. And I KNOW they have a dude playing a piano which goes great with the cocktail I tend to go for over afternoon tea. You should check it out.

  8. As a fellow addict to benchmarks I think its very important to set goals for yourself – breaking it down into hourly, daily, weekly etc increments is the only way to stay on task and focus. Even if that task and focus is on letting loose and having some ME time!!! Make sure you schedule that in!


  9. I love hotel lobbies too. I guess they're a good mix of total comfort and feeling like you are where things are happening, people coming and going etc.

  10. I am a sad camper that the appearances you cancelled were your South Florida ones. Please try to make your way down here. The temperature has gotten below 90, frizz isn't too bad anymore. =)

  11. "I get bored and blue when my hand isn't in enough. And when I'm involved in too much, I feel unsettled"

    I know EXACTLY what you mean.

  12. You voiced exactly how I'm feeling these days. I just took on my 4th paying part time job (which I actually think I'm going to enjoy a lot) – add in my writing time, plus time for my college class and family, and that's way more hours than there are in the day. I'm exhausted. But it's what I need to do right now. All of the other things I'm just setting aside, refusing to think about, until there's time for them.
    And I, too, am missing my girlfriends.
    But please do not feel guilty about the time you may not be spending with your kids. Follow your dream where it's taking you. You've earned it. I've been both a working mom and a stay-at-home mom (and a part-time working/stay-at-home mom) – there's no specific right or wrong way – you have to do what is right for you and your family.
    And by the way, I'm Aries…so I don't think you're feeling this way because of your astrological sign…it's just because you're a mom.

  13. Just remember when its all said and done that these are your children. And these are there most beautiful years when they depend on you and your husband fully. I'd be willing to bet that these are the years you will yearn for most when they are grown, living their own life.

    FROM SK: Comments like these are what kill me. Not, "wow, you're so right" kill me, but "I've heard it before, have written about it before, and it still doesn't change the fact that I have to follow out all my dreams." My children are part of the dream. I also hope to raise children with their own dreams, dreams that extend beyond family and into fulfilling something else, something only they can bring to the world. I hope to raise children who value family as much as they value their unique roles in this world, as much as they honor their own careers and drive. It's all part of it. So I hate when people say that these are the years I'll look back on and miss, as if it's some "warning" not to let them go by too fast. This isn't an Adam Sandler film. I never want to be the woman who thinks to herself, "once I had children, I gave up on everything else, and it was worth it." Children are part of our lives, but they aren't supposed to replace our own lives.

  14. Hi Stephanie~

    Being a fellow Libra, I totally hear you.

    I'd have to agree with Olive, who was very accurate. I AM a Libra with a Virgo rising, and it's true about organization and cleanliness. My Virgo truly comes out in this case, however, Libras can be the same way. A double WHAMMY!

    But where many Libra's share the same thing…is that we ALWAYS have to be "creating something." And if we're not…we get very bored.

    We have a tendency to second-guess ourselves, which I'm slowly leaning how to stop doing…thank god!

    We crave the excitement, yet love simplicity.

    Maybe it's just an age thing, but being 53 years old, I'm finally learning how to enjoy the moment and take them as they come. We have a tendency of always wanting to look ahead; without savoring the moment we're living in.

    I truly enjoy being a Libra.

    But the ART of BALANCE…is ALWAYS a challenge, isn't it?

    But hey…Libra's LOVE a challenge! HA!

    Thank you for sharing an honest post.

    And Happy Belated Birthday!

  15. God I thought the same thing when I saw that frizz-a-doodle on Kelly Wearstler – pushing the envelope is good, but wtf?

  16. I am SO excited you are coming to Atlanta. Its funny, I just moved from Denver to Atlanta- I'm glad you're doing both. Park Tavern should be great. I cannot wait to finally meet you!

    Having just graduated, moved to a new city and become recently single, my list of wants/needs/goals is so long right now (and I don't yet have the complication of kids and a husband). I've learned that as cliche as it might seem, one thing at a time is best. I keep adding one thing into my life, start to feel settled, then add something else. The busier I am, the better I seem to do. When I have a break in my schedule, I try make the most of it.

    I re-read SUAD for the third (!) time after my recent break-up. Its a constant reminder not to settle and to keep enriching my life. Thank you.

  17. jodie–it's just like attending an event or going to the gym or camp at the Y (as in Young Mens Christian Association). all are welcome!

  18. I don't think the kid thing is an either/or. Many women have their own lives AND have kids they spend a lot of good time with.

    I think having kids and then overloading your schedule so it's harder to spend time with them is something you may regret later on. I just don't think watching your kids with one eye while you write is really quality time.

    I understand the "follow your dream" thing. I just think it's probably not realistic to expect you're going to do a great job and all of it. For me, the default would be to do the best job at being a mom and letting go of some of the other stuff.

    With any luck your life will extend 70 more years. There will be plenty of time to do everything. It all doesn't have to be done now.

    Life is about choices and tradeoffs. Some things that I had to forego in my 20s are now happening in my 50s. In those 30 years in between I did other really cool stuff. I just didn't try to cram it all into my life at the same time.

    It's important to step outside yourself and try to look at things from the point of view of your children.

    Sometimes I forget how young you are. I think your view will probably change as you mature.

  19. This discussion about tradeoffs and motherhood is so old, but I can't help but add a few thoughts.

    1-If SK were a man, or if this were Phil's blog, I wonder if there would be any of these enjoy-them-while-you-can-or-you'll-regret-it type warnings.

    2-Children are a part of the total fabric of our lives.
    The notion that mothers' focus should be exclusively on their children is a modern one, only since about the time of Rousseau.

    3- Carolina's right when she says "I'd be willing to bet that these are the years you will yearn for most when they are grown, living their own life" — but not because SK has a career (how ridiculous!!); it's because she often dwells in past memories — hence the memoirs and the blog. It will probably make for a good book.

  20. Well, where did you write before? Not Moose but SU&D? Coffee houses, right? Maybe try there again.
    I love bookstores myself. There's something about the smell (and not the coffee smell either- blech) of a bookstore that makes me feel like writing. Maybe it's the lighting, or maybe how everything is white noise but not too loud, like a hush but not as quiet as a library. I wouldn't feel guilt over the babies, while your career might be unconventional it is a career nonetheless and every mother feels guilt.

  21. I agree with JulieO. I think you sometimes forget that you wanted everything in your life right now. You go into that SUAD. The husband, the partner, the kids. Now that you have it, you should make an effort to make them as much as part of your life as you can. This doesn't mean that you can't work 40+ hour weeks, or that you can't travel. But you can cut back on some things, because, your kids, your husband are things that you wanted.

    You never talk about vacation. Why not plan a vacation with phil and the tots sans the nanny? Go to a kid friendly place and make it just about the four of you. Because at the end of the day, you will always be able to make the NY times best seller. And if your show gets cancelled, chances are, people are going to forget about it.

  22. is there some special event going on at Park Tavern, I mean other than your presence ;) 10 bucks to get in?

  23. I'm busy with Moose — I just have one question, you've probably answered it before but if you wouldn't mind? How come its dedicated to your mom and Lea and not your dad? I read SUAD and your dad sounded like a treasure.

    FROM SK: SU&D was dedicated to my Dad. And given the nature of body image and my relationship with my mother, my dedicating Moose to her and my sister seemed fitting.

  24. I will NEVER regret the years I stayed home with my kids when they were young. To say they were just a 'part' of my life would be a total lie.

    Go on and do what you want to do but hopefully realize that to them you are Mom and they could give a flying fuck what else you have going on. Truly. Make the time for them, make THEM a priority. Since you are a work at home parent (as I am assuming Phil is?) block out the morning, or afternoon for them? You are lucky to have the freedom to do this as so many women don't.

  25. Have to wonder if your book readings include in the cover price the book and a blow job? Or more? If I bought your book don't I deserve the right to attend one of your readings?

  26. I agree wholeheartedly! Time for the family to go on a VACATION where they enjoy themselves for what they are.. Go for it Steph, appreciating your family and making memories is so important..

  27. Janey,

    Once you wake up from being a crass asshole you'll realize the dates Stephanie is reading she doesn't charge any money nor does she make any money.

    You deserve a blowjob for being such a dick.

  28. Tia, I don't think Janey is misreading the post with the dates, times and PRICES of attendance. If it is not charging admission then what is it saying? From where I sit I only see one "free" event. Since when do book readings charge admission? And in this economy? I don't get it.

    And Stephanie, WHY do you write things like this:

    "I need an interior decorator who can create spaces for a family with young children. Who can survey a space and know just the thing it needs and how much it will cost. The thing of it is, I live in a beautiful home. But it's also a house that doesn't lend itself to fabrics and wallpapers (which is what I really love). Wallpaper can certainly date a space, though. We all of us have to do the best we can with what we have."

    Give me a BREAK!! You can't be serious! Do you realize how elitist this sounds?

  29. Well then I don't understand the admission/cover charges either then:

    Thursday, Oct. 30
    7:00 PM
    $8 Adults
    $6 Seniors, Students, Children

    Thursday, Nov. 6 Book Lover’s Luncheon
    11:00 AM
    $28 General Admission
    $25 Students, Seniors, JCAA Members
    JCC Community Hall

    Wednesday Nov. 12
    7:15 Pre-lecture ice cream reception
    Free to series ticket holders
    $9 JCC Members
    $13 Public

    Thursday Nov. 13
    7:30-9:00 PM
    $10 per person or $30 for 2 tickets and a copy of the book
    Barshop JCC/ Holzman Auditorium
    12500 NW Military Hwy
    San Antonio, TX 78231

    Nov. 20
    7:30 PM
    $10 Members
    $15 Non-Members
    Park Tavern

  30. Interesting . . . you're going to Atlanta, Georgia and you've been just about everywhere in Texas, but nothing in posh Scottsdale, Arizona?! Speaking as a NY transplant (and there are quite a few of us out here) Scottsdale's like the NYC-meets-Long-Island of the Southwest!

    I'm sure it's your publisher choosing the destinations rather than you, but I'm curious. It seems like an obvious destination, given your intended audience.

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