Category Archives: Uncategorized

i find happiness in dreaming

I find happiness in dreaming. One thing that drives A. crazy is when we’re on a trip — an amazing trip where we’re kayaking in Costa Rica past sea turtles — and I’m so full of life and excitement, I say, “Where can we go NEXT?” I get it, I also like to live in the moment especially while life is good — and the people we love are doing well. But sometimes I can’t help myself — thinking about what’s next is a bubbling up, my-cup-runneth-over feeling.

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next: What’s my next goal, what can I get involved in, where can I find the community I’ve been longing for. I don’t have answers, but here’s a list of places I’d love to go and dreams I’d love to fulfill. Some of these ideas come from friends who have lived them.

  • An artist’s residency for pottery in Maine or Australia
  • A writer’s retreat where I’m with other writers and someone cooks for me (oh I love when people cook for me!). Bonus if it’s someplace like Italy.
  • A yoga retreat. I saw one in Bali that would be amazing.
  • A biking trip in Northern Spain
  • Working on a farm in Maine
  • Learning how to make cheese
  • Sailing in Turkey
  • Sight-seeing in the Galapagos Islands
  • A running race in Hawaii
  • Volunteering for a cause I believe in
  • Traveling to the caves and story-book settings in France
  • Seeing the Northern Lights in Norway and visiting one of my favorite potters I found on Instagram

When I was single (nearly 10 years ago, woah), if I was struggling with feeling lonely or during a breakup, I would write lists like this and it always, always cheered me up. There’s so much to do! So much to look forward to!

Speaking of pottery, I continue to see progress with each firing, and I continue to be motivated when I sell. Today, a woman I don’t know bought a mug off of Etsy and I went to my shop while the boys were occupied and I threw three more pieces in a surge of excitement.

 

I’ve also really been enjoying the kids in a profound way. In a “they are growing up and I love them within the deepest reaches of my soul” kind of way. The song “Have It All” by Jason Mraz, which is about kids leaving the nest, makes me cry (twice this week!) because even though my boys are 6, 4 and 2, it doesn’t seem that far off when they’ll leave to explore and discover themselves. I already know how deeply I’ll miss them.

This summer, the boys and I spent two weeks in Michigan, including a week up north at a lake house. Every year I get older, the more connected I feel to my home state — the people are down to earth and kind and the landscape up north on the water is serene and beautiful. And of course, many of my friends and family are there. It makes me want to have a house there to spend in the summers when A. and I are retired. One there, and maybe one in California for the winter. I don’t know where we’ll be in a few years, but every time we move and every time I travel, I’m looking, and feeling and trying to understand what I want and where I want to be. I’m dreaming. Because dreaming makes me happy.

 

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Filed under ceramics, family, friends, great outdoors, pottery, travel, Uncategorized

spring, t-ball and pottery

Spring has sprung here in the Antelope Valley. The birds are singing, the trees are blooming, I see bright orange poppies sprouting in the fields. I’m spending hours — no exaggeration — weeding our lawn. I constantly have dirt under my fingernails and it smells like grass, always. The evenings are getting longer, and the boys are happy spending hours outside. I planted tomatoes, strawberries and jalapenos.

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My oldest started T-ball practice, which may be the cutest thing I’ve ever watched. I love sitting in the stands without any cares in the world — I’m not compelled to check my phone or do anything but sit and watch my boy chew on his glove, swing and miss the ball and on a grounder let the ball dribble through his legs.

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I’m starting to run regularly. It’s painful, but after five hard runs in a week and a half, I’m already feeling better. I know I have to slog through it to get to a place where it feels good, but this part does not feel good. But I am grateful that I have good knees and that I can run.

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I’m also spending a lot of time in my pottery shop, which A. finished. I fired my first set of pots in the new kiln. I picked a conservative setting because I was worried about the glaze running over onto the shelves, and it was my best firing yet. It’s thrilling to have the power to make mugs, bowls, planters, plates, vases, etc. The list is endless. The catch is I still don’t have much time, but I get in my shop when I can and I try not to put any pressure on myself to produce. It’s still just a hobby, afterall.

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An expensive hobby. So I re-opened my Etsy shop (erinkillianpottery) and I’m listing pots in the evenings, before my dose of This Is Us, which I’m binging on right now.

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I’m thinking a lot about preschool next year. And summer travel. And if I should be worried that my youngest only has a few words when he should have more. And doctor appointments. And what to make for dinner.

This is my life right now. My happy, imperfect life that is mostly at home and so different from 10 years ago when I was dating and traveling and working. It’s amazing where life will take you.

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my Washington Post article and a finished shop

Hooray! My piece for the Washington Post ran last week. Last year, I mentioned what a traumatic time I had a week after giving birth to baby L., and it felt good to write out the details. I never realized how difficult it was write about medical issues — it’s so nuanced I was a bit stressed about getting the details right. But after pestering the Stanford doctor and the CDC press officer and my friend Natasha who’s an infectious disease doctor, I felt confident when the story ran.

I also have so much more to tell, like how lonely it felt to be that sick even though my husband didn’t leave my side or how I wished I had those early days with my last newborn at home instead of in the hospital or how I sometimes look at the horizon and talk to the woman who saved my life even though I don’t believe in heaven. Lots to unpack there, I know. Maybe I can work on another piece — I just have to find the right angle.

A few weeks ago, A. finished my pottery shop and I’m throwing during my spare time. I’m a bit rusty and I need a full weekend to throw and throw to get in the groove, but I think I’ll find that in the new year and will be able to re-open my Etsy shop.

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Exciting things are on the horizon! I don’t think I’ll pull off Christmas cards this year (sadly), but we’ll see. It’s hard to get a picture of the five of us. Have a happy and relaxing holiday!

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a doctor, a preschool, a friend and a whole lot of patience

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When we moved to the Antelope Valley in January, I expected to find all of my resources fairly quickly. A pediatrician I love. A preschool for the boys brimming with laughing children, art projects and books. Neighbors with kids who come over and we sit and drink wine or coffee while they run around the yard.

None of it happened. Turns out, dreamy expectations can disappoint.

In fact, at the first doctor appointment I made for little C. for his 3 year appointment in February, I waited in a tiny, stuffy room filled with coughing kids for TWO HOURS. By the time I saw the doctor, my 7 month old was in hysterics, I was furious, and the doctor was condescending to my boy, asking me, “Can he understand simple instructions?” when little C. didn’t respond to him immediately. I left the office with hungry, weepy kids and I was close to weeping myself.

Then, the first preschool I visited was dirty and dingy and a 4 year old boy was screaming while the teacher looked disheveled and OVER IT. And the school charges $200 per week and I was thinking, “Are you kidding me?”

And all of our neighbors, while mostly kind, are older, their kids are grown and they’re ready to move to escape California taxes in their retirement.

I was depressed over it. I had all three boys in a house that was gutted for renovations, so I had little time for myself and I was struggling to find friends and inspiration. In May, I traveled to the East Coast and said, “I’ll deal with it later.” We were back for a month, and then I traveled to Michigan and said, “I’ll deal with it later.” But I couldn’t put it off, I needed answers — I spent hours on Facebook looking for doctors and preschools and activities and something to make me feel happy about where we live. HOURS.

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Also, the elementary school around the corner doesn’t have the greatest of reputations, so I was back and forth on whether to send big C. there. It’s going through a multi-million renovation, school officials rebranded it, and as of this year, it’s a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) school of choice (lottery).

My mind was in knots and I felt like I really had to work to be patient to figure it all out. I had to find my niche, especially in a largely conservative bedroom community where people aren’t the friendliest.

Everyone says it takes a year to find your groove in a new city. It was true in Albuquerque, and then I was wistful about leaving.

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And now, after 9 months here, I can happily report that everything is starting to fall into place. I’ve found our pediatrician (it’s a 45-minute drive to Valencia, but the office is immaculate, there are separate sick and well waiting rooms, the doctors are kind and smart and the wait is negligible.) After touring six places, I’ve found a preschool (though we’re on the waitlist, I’m hoping to start little C. in January.) Big C. loves school — he’s making friends of all different ethnic and economical backgrounds. It may not be the best school in the world, but at least he’s learning and happy and for now that’s all I care about.

And, most importantly, I may have found a friend who lives — crazy to say — 5 houses away. She has an almost 3 year old and a six year old — perfect ages for my boys. And she’s a former professional dancer who lived in D.C. and NY and whose mom is a professor at the University of Maryland. She showed me a dance that she and her mom choreographed based on German sheet music from the 1920s that’s housed at the university. I left our play date this morning feeling full — finally, FINALLY a friend who’s around the corner.

And A. is almost done with my pottery shop so after a year hiatus, I’m close to reviving that creative energy.

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I may not be in the town I want to live in forever, but I do want to make the most of being here and enjoy the access to the ocean, the California sunshine, a cost of living that allows me to soak in my little guys while they’re little and do pottery and work on my writing. Everything has a positive and a negative side — and right now, I’m practicing gratitude and reminding myself of all of the positives of California living.

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my new happy place and more

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Whenever I move, I need to find a happy place away from the chaos of little boys. Where I can unwind and think. (Lately I’ve been squeezing my temples with my palms when I have all three boys clamoring at me, as if my head will explode. Sometimes I think it will.) And because I don’t have my pottery shop yet (soon!), I’ve been looking in the community for this place.

So far, the trails behind our house up to the aqua duct have been where I go to get away. I take the dirt trails to the paved path, and up there, if it’s not too windy, it’s quiet and I can see the houses and yards below — small, as if I can hold them in my palm. The other day, I ran up there as fast as I could. The mountains stood in the distance, beckoning me. And, down below, there was a grove of Joshua trees. I wandered down into the quiet. About 20 ravens gathered in a tree and were chatting with each other, as if on a break from their hunting and flying to gossip. A lizard darted across the path in front of my feet. A butterfly flitted by my face. And for a moment, I forgot that we live in a city. I stood still and absorbed the quiet.

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Yesterday, after registering C. in Kindergarten (to my disbelief), I wandered into a coffee shop in Quartz Hill called the Sagebrush Cafe. A local artist’s acrylic paintings adorned the walls. Women in skirts and pony tails sat cross-legged, chatting and laughing. The cafe sold sandwiches (avocado toast!) and a delicious latte and I felt, for a moment, I was back in an urban center instead of a conservative enclave in California. I could see myself meeting girlfriends there and talking about schools and parenting and arts. And I could also see my pottery in there — perhaps some mugs and pour overs.

Our house, thankfully, is coming together. Our kitchen is (mostly) done — we still plan to add a counter, another cabinet and a backsplash. The floors are in.

 

IMG_9944We painted the kitchen, living room and dining room. Our window seat is done save for the doors — and I love our cushion and pillows. The bathroom is usable. We’re working on the yard and the garage now.  The projects are never-ending, but now we’re not living in a construction zone and I’ve been cooking healthy foods (thank you Cookie and Kate blog!) And I feel so much better than I did in the winter.

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And… and! We have a summer full of travels and friends and then I can get back to this community when C. starts school and we can both make friends. Yes, after a long winter with some scary family illnesses and a renovation, I’m feeling good. Hope you are too, wherever you are. Happy weekend. x

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back in the california desert in a fixer-upper

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It happened so fast. And then I was in denial. And then I was excited. But by late fall, we found out that we were moving back to the California desert. In January. After only a year and 1/2 in Albuquerque. Just as I had found a community of cool moms.

Then, we decided to buy a house. First-time homebuyers. You know, to make things easy. We were moving to a market that doesn’t have a lot of rentals. We were moving to a market that plans to add a lot of jobs in the next few years. Interest rates were still low. And I wanted a kiln.

So the week after Thanksgiving, we flew to Palmdale with baby L. and left big C. and little C. with my parents. We found a real estate agent and we decided we’d buy a house that week. The first day, we walked into a house the right size for us with vaulted ceilings and lots of light on a corner lot in the right neighborhood. We knew it would need work, but we said what the hell. Let’s do it. We put in an offer, and we closed within 30 days.

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The house, built in 1990, turned out to be more of a fixer-upper than we expected. That first week in town, we stayed in a hotel. We pulled out the carpets; we scrubbed the floors and walls. We demolished the kitchen. We pulled out the bathtub. We laid carpet in the bedrooms. And then we called in A.’s father for emergency help. “We need you,” we said. (And by “we,” I really mean A.)

The second weekend, I drove the boys to my aunt’s and uncle’s house in Atascadero. I teared up when I saw the ocean. It had been a year and a half since I’d seen it — the glorious, vast ocean that makes me feel alive and connected to the earth. And what a year it was — the closest brush I’d ever had with death.

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Now, we’re living in a construction zone. I didn’t enroll the boys in preschool since big C. starts kinder in the fall and it’s our last chance for freedom — to not be bound by a schedule. So they’re adjusting to no schedule and a new space. And I’m adjusting to very little “me” time. But we’re exploring our new town. We met my parents in San Diego last week. We can go anywhere and do anything and it feels good.

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A. rigged up a sink and we bought all new appliances. It’s livable, but a bit cluttered. All I really want to find is my blender so I can make L. varied baby food. He’s living on banana, sweet potato and baby oatmeal lately. But he just turned 7 months so he’ll be OK.

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Dad O. has painted the bedrooms — the boys’ room, the baby’s room, the guest room — and he’s working on the master now. (I had no idea colors were so hard to pick out.)

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We’re slowly unpacking. It sounds hectic. It feels like it should be hard, but since I’m not working, I don’t have much stress. A. is doing the bulk of the work (he’s my hero). I put my Etsy shop on hold till I have the space to throw again. I bought a kiln — it arrived today and it will be a while till I try my first firing. But for now, I’m living in the moment with these boys in our new house that we have yet to call “home.” But we will call it that — soon.

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the outdoors, northern new mexico and more pots

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Last weekend, we drove up to Northern New Mexico, where one of A.’s coworkers owns 220 acres of land that’s been in his family for a century. He’s an Army guy who went to West Point and carries a gun on his hip (but I didn’t see it). It was the first time I’d chatted with his wife, and she was easy to talk to and had many qualities I admire (easy going and a problem solver).

We stayed in the house that’s been in the family for 100 years. It was built in 1898 and there are no hallways. The house feels like it’s out of the ’50s, with a TV from that era, a kitchen with a stove that has an opening to burn wood and a toilet that’s so low it was easy for my 4 year old and 2 year old to get on it.

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There were Readers Digest books from the ’40s on the shelves. The floral curtains and the smell — oh that smell — reminded me of my grandma’s and grandpa’s house in Flint, Mich.

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The next morning, we drove up to the land. Open, beautiful land where elk and bears roam at almost 9,000 feet. The leaves were starting to turn color. A. brought a newly crafted tire swing for the boys, and another guy made ribs on the slow cooker. I had decided to go home that night because L., at 2 1/2 months, is a bit young to camp — he’s already had two colds in his short life — and the temps got down to the 30s. But I enjoyed my morning/early afternoon out there and I know it was the right decision, even if I missed the ribs and the stars. Just being out in the fresh air and staying in what felt like a museum invigorated me.

Another thing that has invigorated me: I opened my Etsy shop (Erin Killian Pottery) more than a month ago and already have 15 sales and 9 good reviews. I was worried I’d be overwhelmed — you know, with three kids under 5 including a newborn — but I haven’t felt like that at all. It’s a fun challenge.

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The pace has been perfect — a sale every few days. With the two older boys in preschool three days a week, I’ve been able to get an hour in here and there to throw more.

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And I was pleased with my last firing. One of the potters at New Mexico Clay, where I do my firings, said, “They’re looking really good,” and she sounded surprised when she said, “You did all of this with a new baby?” Well, babies do sleep a lot and L. is particularly chill. (Besides a few days of gas, but gripe water helped with that.)

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I bought a book Mastering the Potter’s Wheel: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks for Potters, which has some important tips for me and is also inspiring. I keep waiting for my love of pottery to wear off and it hasn’t happened yet. So I’ll keep on throwing and keep on growing and keep on finding ways to feel invigorated. I’m sure the cool fall air will help with that, too, and getting ready for family to visit soon. Here’s to making the most of life and living in the moment. Hugs to you all.

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on healing, exercise and pottery

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It’s been six weeks since my surgery, and I feel back to normal. Well, as normal as you can feel with a newborn. Luckily, L. is a decent sleeper. Usually. OK, last night not so much, when he was up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. But three nights ago my little 7 week-old gave me a 6-hour stretch, which had me dancing to “Foot Loose” around my living room. (Another exaggeration, I can’t help myself today.)

I’ve been walking and I tried to run a few days ago. That wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to run after a pregnancy, but now I have a surgery to contend with, so it will take more time. I’m trying to be patient.

We took the boys rock climbing in the Jemez mountains yesterday and A. set an easy climb for them (and me), but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Rock climbing is harder when you’re carrying extra weight and I have 10 more pounds to go. But it was lovely being in nature — trees! Fresh air! Sunshine! I’ve missed day trips like this.

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In other news, I opened an Etsy shop to sell my pottery. I was simply investigating how to do it, and then suddenly it was done. I went with Erin Killian Pottery so it’s easy to find. My sister-in-law is a graphic designer (check out her stuff at Beth Killian Design) and she whipped up a logo for me.

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I haven’t formally announced the shop to family and friends yet — I want to tweak it a bit and maybe add a few more items. I’ve read it’s good to have 20-30 items to start and I have 16 up there. Who knows, that might be enough. On Saturday, I started to throw again for the first time in two months. I made four mugs and three small ring bowls and felt relaxed and in my element. I’m pretty sure I think better when I’m throwing clay. A. said, “Look at you, you’re filthy!” and I nodded and gave him the biggest grin. It feels good to be back to myself again.

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the first weeks (not home)

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If A. and I have learned anything in the past two weeks, since our third boy, L., arrived at almost 11 p.m. on July 5, it is to respect the fever.

In L.’s first two weeks, he spent three nights at home. All of the rest were in the hospital. The first two were the standard recovery nights. The next one was because his bilirubin numbers (jaundice) were too high and he needed light therapy. And then, a week after he was born, I was admitted for a 104 fever.

The fever came on five days after L. was born. And it broke with Tylenol. But by the third day, I knew we had to go in. Something wasn’t right.

At the OB/GYN triage, my fever spiked. The pain was concentrated in my lower back and head and I was so cold the nurses put four warmed blankets on me and I was still shaking.

That Tuesday evening, my pulse reached 220, which had the doctors running to see what was going on. I was on IV antibiotics, but it wasn’t till the next morning that they knew that I was septic (blood infection). That afternoon my right lung started to hurt when I breathed. And by Thursday, my liver enzymes were rising.

The blood cultures finally showed I had group a strep — an aggressive bacteria that releases toxins to shut down your organs. And the way to treat it is to act fast and get rid of the source of the infection. For me, that meant an emergency hysterectomy.

My doctor told me I was the fifth case the hospital had seen in two years (some were flown in from rural New Mexico, one was after a home birth), and the other four ended up in the ICU. One of them died. Because my doctors acted fast, I didn’t have to go to the ICU and I came home a week after I was admitted. I’m still finishing up IV antibiotics to get rid of the blood infection.

It was a scary week, and I plan to write about it more fully, but that’s what we’ve been up to. And I’m grateful for good health care, fast-acting doctors and, truly, my life.

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getting ready for babe no. 3

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I’m two weeks away from my due date, and feel like I’m barely holding this baby in. Achey back, waddling when I walk, pressure on my bladder, swollen ankles. The baby is doing constant dance parties inside of me and punching me in uncomfortable places. I’m amazed I ever worked in this state. I’m eating well — I cut out all ice cream and treats in the last three weeks — and yet I’ve still gained 45 pounds. This pregnancy? Hardest yet. It’s probably because I’m 39. And because we’re living in a dry climate at almost 6,000 feet. And I’m spending my time with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. And it was 100 degrees today.

But the end is near. And the sleepless nights holding a sweet newborn are quickly approaching. We still don’t have a name. A. is finishing up a dresser for the big boys — made entirely out of 2x4s — so we can move the one with a changing pad into our room. I registered at UNM hospital last week, and A. installed the car seat (three seats in the back of a tiny Mazda 3, thank you very much).

I’ve been trying to keep the boys engaged with fun summer activities while I rest. Play dough, ice pops, the trampoline park, playing with the hose in the backyard, play dates with friends, library time and dinners on the deck.

Today, I picked up the last batch of pottery I’ll do for a while. My mind spins daily thinking about different combinations of glazes and what my “style” is. I’m cleaning up my shop, knowing I’ll have to shut it down till probably the end of August, though the thought makes me cringe. Then, I’ll throw more and open an Etsy shop. I’ve realized I can’t keep this hobby up without selling — it’s expensive and we can’t keep everything I’m making. And the truth is, I’m excited about a new challenge, but I won’t be able to launch it till the fall. Until then, I’ll put my energy into three boys under 5 years old. Wish me luck.

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