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I feel the urge to write something interesting.

by Janelle Hanchett

I feel the urge to write something interesting.

I want to be funny.

I want to make you laugh.

But I’m gonna level with ya. I don’t have much in me right now.

Sometimes, I’m a shit-talking nutcase who thinks EVERYTHING is funny and cracks herself up in the car writing blasphemous things in her head. I get home, crank something out, and laugh while I’m doing it cause it’s fun and it’s real. There is no effort.

But lately, there’s been effort.

It’s ALL BEEN EFFORT. My whole life has been effort.

I’m in one of those spots where I just don’t see it. I’m not seeing the meaning. I’m not catching the vibe. I’m not smelling any damn roses.

I feel a little lost, though I’ve been here before.

I want to blame it on my life. I want to blame it on our lack of money, or the fact that I hate our neighborhood, or that I’m tired or worn out or stressed about school…or cause I have no idea where I’ll be in a year – will I have a job? Will I go on for my PhD (shhhh! Don’t tell! But I’m thinking about it.). Will my husband still be wishing he were doing something else? Will I have lost these final 30 pounds? When is it going to change?

Will it ever get smooth?

And when, people, WHEN, will I grow up?

When I was a kid I had this idea that someday life would make sense. That there was this place, right around the corner [Right there! I can almost see it!]  that I was heading for. It was waiting for me, and when I got there I would know. I would just know.

The hole would be filled. The questions answered. The hunger satisfied.

But instead I have life. Moment to moment, fired at point-blank range.

Nothing else. Just life.

Sometimes I look around and I see no meaning in any of this. The grind. The working. The marriage, the kids. The dog pissing on the floor. The boy who won’t EVER JUST FUCKING DO WHAT HE’S TOLD. The girl who insists on growing up and asking deep questions I’m unqualified to answer. The toddler, oh, the toddler, who runs runs runs and drags and pulls and sucks my heart right into her smile and my whole life into her chubby little palm, as she tows the last shred of my energy with her constantly spinning feet.

I want to blame all that. But I can’t.

Because I know life is RIGHT HERE, right now. This IS the spot “around the corner.” This is the space where meaning lies…there is nothing else.

And these kids bolting around, driving me nuts, are like flashes of lightning against a night sky – so astonishingly beautiful – if only I can catch a glimpse.

See them for what they are.


See the shattering light of their energy against a limitless night sky.

But instead, lately, I’ve been preferring to stare at the small dark circle around my own wandering feet. A tiny patch of ground.

I know it’s my choice. I know I’ll pull out of this. I know my perspective is small right now, and self-centered, and ineffective.

But sometimes, damn it, life just isn’t inspirational. It isn’t funny or cute or even vaguely interesting.

It’s just WHAT IT IS.

And the hardest part is that I am just what I am. A flawed human being, unable to perform all the time. Telling myself “Janelle! Write something funny! Be entertaining!”

And I’ve got nothin’.

But I write anyway, cause this is the truth, and I don’t want to be fake with you, and I don’t ever want to write because it’s what I think people want to hear, like it will cast me in a better light, make me seem better than I am, more than I am.

It’s funny, you know, the way when we’re kids we’re just SURE we’re gonna be something incredible – something special. Change the world. Be president.

And then we find we’re just one more human, trudging along, dodging life’s bullets, passing whole days sometimes, staring at nothin’ but the ground.

And I have a feeling some of you, maybe, sometimes, can’t quite find the sky either. [Even though it’s right above our damn heads.]

And maybe that’s why we’re all here, crazy as hell, laughing our asses off, looking for it somewhere.


new ground

by Janelle Hanchett

You know what’s scary? Now that I have a kid who’s almost 11, I somehow consider the baby/toddler time the “easy” portion of parenting.

Yes, I know. “Easy” is perhaps not the most appropriate word. Being 20 in college is “easy” (though at the time, we are somehow just so overwhelmed with it all). Sitting on a beach with a beverage and an open schedule is “easy.” Somebody said Sunday mornings are “easy,” but I beg to fucking differ. Sunday morning is when I realize all the things I didn’t do on Saturday now must happen today.

How is that easy?

Anyhoo, the thing is, when you have a baby, you just respond to his or her needs. And yes, they have a remarkably large number of needs. But I don’t believe a baby manipulates or gets crafty with the parents. I know there are parents out there who believe a baby exits the womb with a parental-unit attack plan, but I don’t buy it. I think a baby cries when it needs something and so my job is clear: do something when my baby cries. Meet needs. Love. Play. Repeat.

But then, all the sudden (not that this happened 8 years ago in Sacramento with Ava or anything) your 2-year-old starts banging forks on a table in a Chinese restaurant and throwing her body across the bench seat, totally ignoring you as you realize “redirection” is not going to work in this particular situation and suddenly you’re like “Oh, damn. We better start disciplining this creature right now.”

And it’s all downhill from there.

Because then, all the sudden, you’re responsible for instructing and guiding and doing the real parenting work, which will either mold the kid into a well-adjusted human or break her soul.

No pressure though.

And you can read all the books and ask all your friends, subscribe to some “school” of parenting that tells you exactly how to talk to your kids, how to handle each situation, how to not break souls, or, you can be like me (though I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it), and just go into important parenting moments (the crossroads, the high-stakes shit, the deal-breakers) totally unprepared, vastly confused, and slightly terrified, hoping your gut will pull through with something, cause fuck me I have no ideas.

Sounds like a winning combination, right?

Sometimes when these real stumpers come up, when I’m looking at my kid and they’ve just behaved really badly, or the kids at school are mean to them, or something profound has come up in their young lives that must be addressed in one profound way or another – I get this pang of anger toward motherhood, for making me the one responsible for this shit, but providing me no actual tools to do so.

Recently we were at my mother-in-law’s house. After dinner, we were all upstairs in her office when I realized it was nearing 8pm and we needed to get home. So I started the “let’s go” broken-record routine (you know, where you repeat the same words 6 thousand times and not one single kid acknowledges you until you start yelling and barking empty threats?)…ten minutes later, Georgia was removing the contents of a box she found, Rocket was engaging in some nonsense involving headphones and a fork, and Ava wanted to look at a pile of photographs she found in a box on the floor. She asked me if she could look. I said “No,” and then continued my efforts toward departure.

Five minutes later, when I was nearing my breaking point, I turned around and saw Ava sitting on the floor, looking at the pile of photographs.

And for some reason, I got really, really mad. So mad, in fact, that it took every shred of my restraint to just say (okay, fine, maybe yell): “Ava! What are you doing? I just asked you not to do that! LET’S GO!!!”

When we got in the car, I was fuming. Something about the blatant disregard for my direction infuriated me. It was the way she just said nothing, indicated nothing, but sat down and just DISOBEYED, right in my face.

Now, if it were Rocket, a special gentleman who blatantly disobeys me approximately 4 thousand times a day, I wouldn’t have been trippin’ so much. But it was Ava. Ava doesn’t do that. It was like WAY out of character.

And as I was talking to her in these angry exasperated tones, trying to decipher what the hell just happened, trying to be The Effective Disciplining Mother, I looked at her sitting next to me with her frizzy little head and dusty jeans, and I saw a look on her face that leveled me. It was a new look. It was a look of apathy. It was a look of boredom. It was a look that announced in no uncertain terms, “Mom, you’re talking to me, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about what you’re saying.”

And in that moment my voice fell silent. I looked out the window at the barely decipherable mountaintops against the rising moonlight. I saw the gorgeous order of the farmland rows, the perfect symmetry of the dirt, the impeccable lines of green, and its harmony seemed to mock my own chaos. My eyes filled with tears as the thought crept in, so clearly, so brightly, so plainly: “she’s turning into a teenager.” A couple of them poured down my cheeks. I looked out at the land, silent, turned my head away.

I felt like a stranger in this car, sitting next to this kid. My feet were on no ground, my heart yearned for an indication of my role in this new story, my task in this moment, my spot next to this person, who I barely knew and yet knew completely, with all my soul.

I felt the truth like a dagger: she’s becoming her own person for real now. She’s walking a path that doesn’t involve me the way it did 5 years ago, or last month, or maybe even yesterday.

I felt disarmed, fumbling to find myself in this new place, this place that just showed itself, this very moment, in the form of a kid with a hint of adult, bubbling just beneath the surface.

I wanted to reach out and grab her and beg her not to go. I wanted to scream with all my might “Don’t ever disobey me! Don’t you dare walk away! YOU MAY NOT GO!” I wanted to whisper against her petal soft cheek “Please, baby girl, stick by my side. Tell me how to make this all right.” Tell me how to get through these next few years.

Tell me how to let you go, little by little, as you need it, even though I can’t.

I just can’t.

And yet, I could.

I’m doing it right now.

I knew my place was not to scold her. My place was to hear her, see it from her side. I found myself asking “Ava, did you look at those pictures because you couldn’t see what my reason was for saying ‘no?’ Did it seem to you I had no purpose, like I was just telling you no for no reason?”

She answered with a barely perceptible sigh of relief, emphatically, “Yes. That is why.”

Then something came out of my mouth that I really I didn’t expect. I grabbed her hand and said “Ava, if I ask you to do something and you don’t know why, please ask me. Question what I’m saying and I promise you, I’ll explain it. If I’m wrong, if I don’t have a valid reason, I will say ‘yes.’ But please, baby, don’t just ignore me. Don’t just walk your path behind my back. I will always do my best to be reasonable with you, but you’ve got to trust me, and I’ll trust you.”

She smiled and said “okay, mama,” and I told her I loved her and we cruised into the moonlight, on this new ground I never asked for.

Me and my little girl, who’s moving right along just fine, into the fringes of adulthood, dragging me behind, kicking and screaming and confused, wondering how we got here and where we’re going now, thinking of the toddler banging on the table just a few years ago, wanting to hold her and put her on a damn “time out,” but instead settling for a spot beside her.

Right here, beside her.

In awe, in love.

In that strange place of motherhood, where only your gut can guide you.

us, then.

This week…we hung out with old friends we just met.

by Janelle Hanchett

This week, I’m going to tell you a little story. It’s a story about friends, and it’s a good one.

A few years ago, through the generally insipid Facebook, I became “friends” with a few women I went to high school with. As I read their posts, comments, and/or blogs, it became pretty clear to me that these were women I wanted to know again, in real life, even though I hadn’t seen them since we graduated in 1997, and I promptly fell off the planet.

You see, the truth is, I really didn’t want any high school to remain in my adult life. I was a douchebag in high school. I hated it. I was insecure, angry, fake, terrified and full of the bluster of the wholly petrified. The few “best” friends I had either decided they hated me or married my ex-boyfriend, so they were out, and truthfully, it was okay with me that I had no relics of that period of my life. To put it mildly, high school was not the pinnacle of my existence.


But our 15-year reunion was coming up and I really wanted to meet the aforementioned women again, so I asked one of them if she was going to the shindig. She said “no, I’m getting married. Wanna come?” And I said “yes” and we went and it was, in her words, “Amazeballs.”

The girls I knew in high school had grown into some seriously badass women. Wicked smart, totally independent, fucking hilarious. One of them looked at her husband after he said something ridiculous and, with a completely straight face, told him “you’re ruining my life.” The bride did insane booty-shaking dances in her gown, had her dog function as the ring-bearer, and at the after-party, donned a unitard. Are you getting this? I thought so.

Here’s a picture of Mac and me at the wedding. Are you enjoying his face? I KNOW I AM.

Not only did I experience the most authentic, fun wedding I’ve ever attended, and reconnect with incredible people, we also (through the bride) met another couple with whom we hit it off (you see, sometimes it’s just RIDICULOUS to avoid ending a sentence in a preposition, Cara Lyn (that’s the bride. She’s a bit of a grammarian)).  And that couple invited us to go camping with them this weekend (over Labor Day). We exchanged numbers but of course I assumed they’d never actually call. I wanted them to, but you know how those things go. Nobody ever actually calls.

But she did call, and we actually went. And my soul was restored on the South Yuba River. Partly because we were in hanging out in places so beautiful and fresh and dramatic it makes your heart skip, partly because I could not quite believe how much I loved these people – the women but ALSO their husbands (how weird is that?). Our three families got along like we’d known each other forever. It was remarkable.

At one point yesterday, the men had journeyed up the river with Ava to jump off rocks and we stayed behind. It was the three of us women and two toddler girls (one of them also has a baby girl). We sat in the river on big granite boulders, partially submerged, warmed by the late afternoon sun, cooled from the waters of the mountains, cradling our deliriously happy, naked toddlers, and we talked. About nothing. About it all. We watched the babies splash, the dog try to swim. We may or may not have been fully clothed. And as I sat there with these women, in perfect comfort, I thought to myself “I want to be here, with these people, every year for pretty much the rest of my life.”

There was just something there. Something that doesn’t happen every day.

Friendship, I guess.

That came out of the blue.

And knocked my fucking socks off.

Here are a few photos from the trip. I hope you all enjoyed your holiday weekend, too.

So thank you, Facebook, for not sucking completely. And thank you, new old friends, for the same.



this picture makes her look like she’s about to fall into an abyss of water…it was actually about 3 inches deep…

he’s in love too

Ava climbed a very, very big rock. And was proud.

naked happy river baby!

9 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized, weeks of mayhem | September 3, 2012

This week…we bailed, again. This time to Tahoe.

by Janelle Hanchett


  1. First of all, I realize it’s actually been two weeks. But we’re going to pretend like it’s been one. Mmkay? I’m happy to report I have a computer again, finally. It’s rather shocking how dependent I am on this damn machine. When it died, I felt like I was going to die. However, I have reason to believe that I did not. Ha.
  2. Tomorrow school starts again (for me). I am an instructor of 4 classes – not real classes – writing workshop/tutorial type classes. However, there will be 12 students per class looking at me for direction. Please nobody tell them how I am in “real life.” They’ll never take me seriously.
  3. As many of you know, my husband and I have a ridiculous habit of taking impromptu trips – usually camping – to various parts of northern California. Usually one of us says something like “we should go somewhere this weekend,” and the other one smiles and perhaps says “yeah. Totally. Where?” The answers vary, but usually can be summed up by the following two geographies: ocean or mountains.
  4. This week, on Wednesday, we decided we needed mountains. So I got online and by some gorgeous stroke of obscene luck, got the one remaining campsite in a campground in South Lake Tahoe, called Fallen Leaf Campground, which is one mile from the shores of Lake Tahoe and 2 minutes from Fallen Leaf Lake, a place so beautiful I almost don’t want to tell you about it, for fear it may lose its hidden-heaven status. But I love you too much to do that…so I won’t.
  5. Apart from one unfortunate event involving the dog, his excrement and my car, which I will I explain to you later because indeed it deserves a whole post of its own, the weekend was amazing.
  6. Also, do you ever try to be present and calm and enjoy yourself but just can’t seem to make it happen? Yeah. I was kind of there. I was in heaven. HEAVEN. But something was awry up in my trusty old brain, and I kept finding myself irritable and impatient and just not relaxed at all, save for a few moments that took my breath away, as the Tahoe Basin only can.

And now I’m going to be quiet, and let the pictures speak for themselves. I apologize for my crap photography. Someday I’ll take a class and wow you with my talent. Right. Let’s all agree not to hold our breath for that one.

I figured we’d get some crap campsite that nobody wanted. No. We got what appeared to be the best campsite in the entire place. It was against a meadow, people. A MEADOW. Site 148. Be there. Here’s the meadow. And Laser.

And then, there was the LAKE. Fallen Leaf Lake. I had never been there. I will go back. When I checked into the site, the ranger lady almost fell over when I told her I reserved the site two days prior. She said the campground fills up a year in advance, so there must have been a cancellation and I snagged it within moments. Sometimes the universe delivers. Here’s the lake…by the way, my mom took the last two shots, which is why they don’t suck.

Laser swam in a lake for the first time. Adorable.









The water was not deep, so the kids could go way out and play. They played with logs and an old pallet. For like hours, in heaven.

perfect, right

happy kid

the prized pallet

Georgie spent a lot of time on Nana’s lap, or throwing dirt, eating dirt, rolling in dirt and scooping dirt into a green bowl, “jumping” off rocks, and asking for “later,” which she thought was the name of marshmallows, since she kept grabbing them and we’d say “Later. We’ll eat those later.” She kept holding them up saying “later.” When later came, we asked Georgie, “Do you want some later?!” Not gonna lie, it was funny even after the fiftieth time we asked her to go get the “laters.” She also, as you’ll see, passed some time eating chips out of a bowl with a giant serving spoon. Yes, yes I am that kind of mother.

my wonderful mom, and a very happy baby





















it’s hard to explain this face. she makes it all the time. nobody knows exactly why, but obviously it’s a win.




















getting ready to jump off a 3-inch rock…she says “ready, go, SET!” and “jumps.”

I don’t lie

brilliant toy. highly recommended.

two days later. still fun.

Ava, well, she was Ava. She read, mostly. Yelled at her brother, played, asked complex existential questions. Got annoyed, cracked jokes way too funny for her age. And cradled the baby for a minute in the hammock.

ANNOYED. And Rocket missing his front tooth. He’s officially entered the goofy kid stage.

 We went to Taylor Creek, a stunning watershed alongside Lake Tahoe. It was gorgeous, and across the street from the campground. Go, people. Go.

Taylor Creek watershed, Tahoe to the right…

wading in the creek

When he wasn’t running around tormenting his sister or playing like a madman, Rocket pretty much lived in the hammock, singing to himself and making up stories – talking to himself, lost in pure imagination. I love it when they get lost. Ha.

nothin to do…

He turns 7 in a week…hold me.

thanks, mom, for capturing this shot before Ava started hating me

Tomorrow, the crazy begins.

But today, today my heart’s in Tahoe. Have a great week, all.



18 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized, weeks of mayhem | August 26, 2012

Playdate calling cards for the rest of us

by Janelle Hanchett

So that whole Push Present post, along with the brilliant comment by Stephanie over at Momma Be Thy Name (if you aren’t reading her, you should), got me thinking about “playdate calling cards.” So of course, like any sane human, I Googled that shit. I know, I’m a thinker.

I found out all sorts of interesting things. Not really. To be honest, it’s a rather insipid topic (which fully explains why I’m writing about it, right?).

I pretty much only learned that they go by multiple names: “mommy calling cards,” “mommy playdate cards,” and, for those into the whole brevity thing, “mommy cards.”

First of all, don’t call me “mommy.” I thought we’ve been over this.

Secondly, do these things exist because it’s too difficult to put somebody’s number in your fucking cell phone? Or is it just to be cute, even, perhaps, what I might call Excessively Cute? and you know how I feel about The Excessively Cute.

These are deep questions. Can’t be answered at one sitting.

However, while contemplating this inane topic, I realized that I could perhaps get behind the whole “mommy card” thing, were they not called “mommy cards,” not quite so damn cute, and didn’t imply that my ENTIRE IDENTITY can be conveyed by the words “mommy to Ava, Rocket and Georgia!”

So basically I pretty much can’t get behind them. Or I could, if they were recast into some totally inappropriate, renegade version, you know, something we might call “Cards to weed out the women who wouldn’t want to hang out with me or my offspring anyway.”

Not particularly catchy.

But alas, all the “mommy cards” I saw said variations of the aforementioned statement “mommy to ____” followed up with contact information. Some of them said “Let’s have a playdate!” at the top.

Now these simply will not work for me, so I figured I’d make a few that would.

I could hand these to women who chat with me at the park, seeing the in-public, well-behaved (more or less), not-saying-“fuck” version of me. [I try not to say the F word around other people’s children. Or my own, though that’s always a bit sketchy. Let’s change the subject.] And then, they would have fair warning that I am THAT type of mother with THOSE types of children…and then, she can run.

FYI, I don’t drink anymore, on account of the last one being TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY THE WAY I USED TO ROLL.

Sorry for the all caps. It’s a disease.

You know, now that I really think about it, I think I really, really like the idea of these things.

They are just so damn versatile. Don’t you think?

But seriously. Stop calling me “mommy.”