Words from the Wastebasket: Outtakes from a Work in Progress


Priceology / Sunday, June 1st, 2014
At the goading of many friends, I have written the beginnings of a book manuscript and am in the process of making deep editorial cuts to recenter the work. The book is called Status: Finding Grace and Meaning in a Life Online, and it delves into the subject of how we struggle to find self-worth and purpose in digital spaces, offering up online artifacts from my own Facebook page as cases in point and talking, ultimately, about what an authentic, messy, attempt at Christian life looks like when lived out online.
I am a fast, unrepentant writer and an editor who relies on the kindness of strangers for input and direction. I must borrow phrases from dear friends to explain what this post is. My friend Jill calls struggling works in progress “drafty drafts.” If I had her red stamp to note the fledgling status of this interlude, I’d use it here. 


I love the truth of the following passage, but the idea of “killing the darlings,” those which you love but must be sacrificed for the betterment of the work as a whole, a phrase I borrowed from Amy and Vickie, both dear colleges and dearer friends, had to apply here.
So here is a bit about me, straight from the wastebasket. 

Introductions are in order. In the spirit of all things alive online, let me begin with me.
I am a thirty-two-year-old wife and mother of three children with a Ph.D. in literature and new media studies, a homeowner, pet owner, literary magazine editor, and professor. I am a Christ-follower. I am a white American who stands five six and carries the accumulated and neglected baby weight from three pregnancies, as well as the aftermath scar tissue from three, count ‘em, threecesarean sections and more stretch marks than stars in the sky. I have twin penchants for writing and coffee, especially free verse poetry and equally especially grande Americanos with cream. I live very much online, partly because of my job as a professor who teaches hybrid and distance learning courses but also, maybe even more honestly, because I like living online. It suits me painfully well.
Let me explain, as I have several confessions. We’ll start with bad habits. I have a shoe pile—just my shoes—that forms in the foyer of our house throughout the week. This isn’t to preserve carpeting or prevent germs or dirt from being tracked in, like a cultural or germaphobe practice that I’m copying. The shoes go there simply because it was all I could manage to wear them out and about, and once I’m in, I’m in.

The tame father-son shoe section. My pile (not pictured).

Actual sign my daughter posted after we broke glass in the kitchen.


Jewelry is the same. It all comes off in various phases, starting with the key hook by the front door, which will double as a necklace holder, the rack holding my husband’s guitar pedals, which houses bracelets nicely, and my wedding rings that I leave in a tiny porcelain bowl beside my sink. I simply cannot keep any of it on. I have babies to hold, dishes to wash, clothes to fold, all of which require flexibility in my fingers—and apparently my wrists and neck, too.
Pants and the ponytail are last. My husband has begun laughing at me because he has, in recent years, picked up on the pattern of my saying, more regularly than I realized, “I’m going to go change my pants first.” And what this means is that I’m switching over from whatever is not yoga pants to whatever is yoga pants.
I’ve nearly stopped announcing it because it garners such negative attention for my affinity for pants with stretch and a fortunate, blessed wide waistband, but occasionally it slips out, and I become the subject of a Someecard where a twentysomething is sitting on her bed being lazy while talking on a corded phone, supposedly to another female friend. Hello, Someecards, no one talks on a corded phone anymore. Also, we don’t all look like the seventies’ version of Suzanne Somers although athletic knee-high socks coming back into fashion would cut my shaving time in half in those hygiene-heavy summer months.
Speaking of hair, when the pants are on, the ponytail goes up. It’s really non-negotiable.
I have three of these four ‘undoing’ rituals at work and friends’ homes. The exception of the four is that I wear the same pants once I’m in the door. Every other ritual remains the same; wherever I am, it’s home.
As a mother, my car is my home, too. Much like the shoes by the door, objects accumulate in my car from week to week. Multiple sizes of diapers, swim diapers, spare sets of clothes for one who is potty training and the other who still spits up sometimes. Before I know it, straw wrappers are littering the floorboards with sippy cups and bottles, papers from work, stray books and folders, and Goldfish crackers who either swam away from my son or whom he, benevolently, threw back.


It’s not all their fault. People have necessary accoutrements. Again, not their fault. But we drive through drive-thrus more than I’d like to admit, and the “evidence,” I’ve begun calling it, routinely gets stuffed under car seats and into backseat floorboards to temporarily hide these shameful outings when an unexpected person enters the car. This is something I have not yet grown out of, this ‘trash in the car’ thing. I’ve tried the trash bag system—yes, I count it as a system because it didn’t work for me, and I need to justify that by chalking it up to a complexity in the mechanism, so system. Also, I’ve practically pushed the children to blood-brothers’ style swearing that we’ll never let it get this bad again. Nothing has worked, so I file it under confessions you need to know before we begin.

I want you to see me nice and authentic, not just a dusting of cake flour on my nose while I’m in the kitchen of a chapter, lips perfectly lined and pouty, while I whirl around on 1950s’ laminate flooring in an apron that might as well double as a tutu. Cake flour on a girl’s nose? Child’s play.


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