How Best Friends with College Rivalries Say Thank You


Last year when we had our Indiegogo campaign, I wrote “Generous Souls” posts for each person I knew who donated. Here’s the post I wrote to thank Andrea Torres, my best friend and first writing partner from 7th grade, for her generous donation last year.

So when we launched our campaign this year and Andrea matched last year’s gift before I even put the word out, I thought, “I need to write another post to thank Andrea. Luckily I have so many good Andrea stories!”

But by the time I sat down to write, the Big Game had already been played. You know which “Big Game”—it’s the one best characterized by this picture

And this video.


You know—the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending… exciting, thrilling game in the history of college football. The one where California wins the Big Game over Stanford.

Only this year we didn’t win. More like we got crushed. And not just crushed. Our hearts and spleens and livers and kidneys were pulled out through our pores and strained and made into paleo-smoothies with genetically modified strawberries (because all smoothies taste better with strawberries and let’s face it, all strawberries are genetically modified these days) and then the Stanford team fed their strawberry-organ-meat smoothies to their ruthless fans who gulped them up with fury and frenzy. It was horrible.

(At least, that’s what I gathered from reading my Facebook feed. I haven’t watched a college football game since the third trimester of my first pregnancy–that’s seven years ago for those of you keeping track at home.)

So even though Andrea is a generous soul and she made all the family vacations from my teenaged years tolerable because she came along and she let my little sister store all her stuff in her house when my sister studied abroad for a semester. And even though she hosted our family and let us drink the fancy micro-brews she left in the fridge when my sister graduated from college and even though she’s actually thinking of flying out for the Write On Mamas book launch party and even though I didn’t even remember that the game was happening this past weekend.

Still. Once a Bear, always a Bear.

And maybe Andrea’s Stanford degree is her only character flaw, but this time of year, that’s enough.

(But that shouldn’t stop you from donating to our campaign! We’d still appreciate your help and your contribution. Even if you went to Stanford.)

Meet Sue LeBreton the “Quick-Draw Commenter”


1375255_10152250035388222_1916757086_nUsed to be around these parts that if you had a blog and you linked it to your Facebook wall and I found it on my feed that I’d go and leave a comment. The first comment.

But then Sue LeBreton and I started following the same blogs.

I met Sue at Kate Hopper’s Madeline Island retreat (because I couldn’t possibly write a blog post without mentioning Kate Hopper). My first impression of Sue was that she was sweet, you know, in that Canadian sort of way. I invited her to be our first international member of the Write On Mamas. She accepted. I asked her to write an essay for our upcoming anthology. She accepted.

Sue wrote about listening to her tween read to her as she lay in viparita karani (legs-up-the-wall pose) and how it brings her back to the days when her daughter is 18-months old and in the hospital with infant leukemia. I won’t spoil it for you because I know you’re waiting to read it from your very own copy that you’ll get with your perk after donating to our Indiegogo campaign (See how I worked that in there?)

That’s the middle story—Sue and her beautiful essay. But the real story is how I used to be the first person to comment on blogs. And how I was so sure that I’d be the first of the WoMs to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign just launched a day ago (or two days ago, depending on the blog you’re reading).

But nooooooo. Quick-draw Sue beat me to it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for her contribution. My question is this: How did she beat me?

I’m telling you—a mutual writer-friend has a guest blog on a site. I click on the link. Sue has already left a comment. And a thoughtful one, too! Not just the generic “This is awesome! Thanks for sharing! Smiley face.” I look at a profile I’ve written for Literary Mama. Sue has already left a comment. How did she even know this profile was up? I didn’t even know the profile was up. I suggested to Sue that she link to my blog in lieu of fishing for Indiegogo donations and she found my blog post that not even Google knows about.

I’m in awe. (And feeling a little displaced. What’s to become of me? Will I be Second-to-Sue from now on?)

So here’s your challenge. Post a comment before Quick-draw Sue does. GO!

It’s Indiegogo Time Again!


Woo hoo! Write On Mamas Indiegogo-campaign time is here again!

What is Indiegogo-campaign time? Who are the Write On Mamas? you ask.

Well, who are YOU? I ask. As far as I know, the only people who even know about this blog are Write On Mamas themselves. And my mom. Who I suppose is a Write On Mamas-mama.

OK–the Write On Mamas are a group of moms who write (duh) and we’re putting together an anthology of our essays. This is where I stop trying to be funny, so listen up–last year we raised just under $8000 in our Indiegogo campaign. We used some of that money to hire a developmental editor (the awesome and fabulous Kate Hopper) and she worked personally with 25 of our authors to help them shape their essays. The rest of the money we raised will go toward the cost of designing the cover, layout, printing costs, promotion, that sort of thing. Problem is, we didn’t raise enough the first time around. We need a little more to reach our goal.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s “WOW! How can I help?”

Click here to get started. It’s fun! Delightful, even. And any pain you experience is purely psychological.

That was what you were thinking, right? Or was it, “Tell me more about your project.”

We’re writing about writing. “Writing our mothering and mothering our writing” as WoM member Allison Tierney put it.

I’m on the editorial team along with Mary Hill and Joanne Hartman. Our job is to take the essays already given the green light by Kate and to shape them into a coherent whole. What are our themes? What’s going to make the book work? Who’s our audience? (Answers TK).

Every Friday Mary, Joanne and I meet at Bittersweet Cafe in Oakland (Joanne is working her way down the hot chocolate menu). We come with our binders of the work-in-progress. Each week we look at a handful of essays. Along with light copyediting (we’ll hire a professional copyeditor to do the heavy lifting thanks to the funds we’ll get from our Indiegogo campaign HINT HINT) we look how to highlight the very best in each essay and discuss where it might fit in the anthology.

“WOW!” You’re thinking. “That’s awesome. What a great way to build community. I wish I could help. What was that number again?”


Now didn’t that feel good? Post a comment. Share on Facebook. Let everyone know that YOU are a rock star philanthropist. (Or share anyway and be a poseur philanthropist, that works too. Unless nobody else donates. Then it doesn’t work at all. So think about that.)

And thanks, Mom, for already answering the call!

How Does Your Garden Grow?


The garden metaphor is one of my favorites. I don’t want to use it ad nauseam, but I kinda hafta, in the account that it’s so cool.

Reposted from Raising Happiness, which offers science-based parenting advice:

I was so sure we were going to beat the odds. Five months into our high-risk twin pregnancyand I was the picture of health. The twins were doing great. We’d found a doctors’ group that specialized in high-risk pregnancies and we were in good hands. Our increased effort to build our village meant lots of play dates with friends and mini-vacations to visit family. My husband and I even made time for regular date nights. This “positive thinking” thing was definitely paying off.

But then two weeks before the end of the second trimester and three days before Christmas, a routine ultrasound showed signs of premature labor. My doctor immediately admitted me to the hospital for mandatory bed rest and medication to help stop the contractions. One week later the contractions started again and the twins were born via emergency cesarean section. Matt held my hand during the surgery and then he followed the boys the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. Michael (Baby “A”) weighed 1 pound, 12 ounces at birth. His brother Wagner (Baby “B”) was born at 1 pound, 9 ounces. They were 12 inches long.

If I had looked at the goals I had set up for myself during this risky pregnancy (carry twins to 32 weeks, avoid extensive medical intervention, have fat, healthy babies), I had failed at all of them.

But then I used my fancy garden metaphor. Read the rest here.

Dumping on your friends? Or Building a Village?


If you’re following along at home with your own copy of Raising Happiness, this what I got out of Chapter 2 with a little help from conceptual metaphor analysis.


“I want to keep the news of our pregnancy to ourselves for a while,” my husband Matt said. “This is a private matter and it’s a scary situation. I don’t want to just dump it on people.”

I strongly disagreed with him. Given what the doctors had predicted, we were headed for rocky times—a month in the hospital for me and at least that much time in the hospital for our twins once they were born. This was not the time to keep news to ourselves.

People often talk about abstract concepts—patience, control, power, news—in terms of an object metaphor. We say, “I lost my patience.” “They grabbed control.” “He throws his power around.” Wekeep secrets and give news, as if it’s something tangible such as a ball just hand over to someone. (“Here, take this news. I don’t want it anymore.”) And negative events are often framed as having weight, as in: unbearable news or the burden of bad news. Heavy sorrow.

“Doctors tell us there’s a 50/50 chance that the twins won’t make it,” Matt reminded me. “I don’t want everyone to know that we’re expecting and then have to give them bad news. They’d all feel terrible for us and then I’d feel responsible for unloading on them.”

“We can’t do this all by ourselves,” I countered. “And I don’t want to hide our troubles from our friends and family.”

That’s the short story. Matt was wrong. I was right. Only I didn’t say to him that way. I said this way, in the rest of the blog post.

Putting On My Own Oxygen Mask First


This is Guest Post #1 of 10 from Christine Carter’s Raising Happiness blog. You can read the full post here. In fact, you’ll have to, since I’m only posting a teaser here on my blog.

In August 2009 I discovered that I was pregnant with twins—a rare, 1-in-25,000 kind of pregnancy in which the twins shared both a placenta and an amniotic sac. The protocol for this kind of pregnancy is to monitor the mother and babies twice a month. If the mother is still pregnant at 28 weeks, she is admitted into the hospital until the babies are born.

A normal pregnancy is 40 weeks, but for a monoamniotic/monochorionic pregnancy such as mine, the best-case scenario is that the babies are delivered around 32 weeks’ gestation—the point at which the risk of the twins dying from prematurity is less than the risk of dying from umbilical cord entanglement in the womb. Babies born eight weeks early may still need help to breathe and eat. Although many do quite well, they are still at risk for learning and behavioral problems later in their development.

You don’t have to be a cognitive scientist (as I am) to know that in the face of scary and uncertain circumstances humans often act irrationally. I knew I was asking for trouble by Googling search terms such as “mortality rates for preemies.” But I did it anyway. I learned about horrendous fetal birth defects that I never knew existed and found entire forums of scared mothers.

The truth of the matter was that I had stumbled upon tragic circumstances that were actually quite rare and none of them had anything to do with monoamniotic pregnancies. But the more I read about these worst-case scenarios, the more probable it seemed that they would happen to me.

Cognitive scientists call this the salient exemplar effect—a memorable or tragic event makes such a great impact we assume that it happens more frequently than it actually does. For example, (statistically speaking) terrorist attacks and plane crashes are quite rare when compared to other accidents or acts of violence. And the likelihood that a terrorist attack will cause a plane crash is even less likely. Yet the tragic events of 9/11 frightened many people into thinking that air travel was riskier than actually is.

Left hanging? Read the rest of the post here.

Meet Janine Kovac, a Cognitive Scientist and Happy Mom of Three


(reposted from

After completing my degree in cognitive science at UC Berkeley, I was pregnant with what my husband and I thought was our second child. Then, surprise! We were having twins. I had never given much thought to how a twin pregnancy could be different from what I’d already experienced. Then, halfway through our first ultrasound, the sonographer excused herself and returned a few minutes later with another sonographer to verify her findings. Usually babies (twins or not) develop in their own gestational sacs. However in my case, my boys were sharing both a placenta and an amniotic sac. It was a 1 in 25,000 kind of pregnancy.

Sharing the same space meant there was nothing to keep the umbilical cords from tangling, braiding, and knotting together. And if one twin died in utero, there would be no way to save the healthy twin—we would lose them both. A crimped cord that cuts circulation to point of asphyxiation was not inevitable, but it was unpredictable and unpreventable. The odds of survival without complications in this kind of pregnancy hover at about 50%.

After carefully outlining the risks and the protocols our doctor said to me, “There is nothing you can do to prevent the babies from dying. Don’t let it stress you out. You can’t do anything about it.” And then he sent me home.

That’s when I turned to Raising Happiness and the Greater Good Science Center.

Interesting, huh? You can read the rest of the post directly on Christine’s site.

Meet Christine Carter Who Wants You to Meet Me


In 2008 I was up to my ears in parenting books and I couldn’t help but notice that many of these experts did not agree with each other. So I began to evaluate their works not on the basis of their words but rather on the abstract structures behind their words.

I know. It sounds boring. But it’s fascinating. So fascinating that it became the subject of my thesis A Linguistic Analysis of Parenting and the thesis won a fancy award (The Glushko Prize for Distinguished Undergraduate Research in Cognitive Science).

As I was compiling data for my research, I came across Christine Carter’s work. At the time she was the executive director for the Greater Good Science Center. It changed my life (and my thesis).

I’ll be the first to admit it. My thesis is rather dry. There are no pictures or exclamation marks anywhere. But I stand by the content. It’s pretty rad and gave me a way to navigate in the NICU when my husband and I were flanked by more experts who didn’t agree with each other. And Christine’s work (you can experience the Full Christine here) became the road map.

In 2012 I wrote a series of posts for Christine’s parenting site, combining what I gleaned from her 10 Steps For Raising Happy Kids with stuffy abstract cognitive linguistics. I’m reposting them the essays for your enjoyment. Please check out and if you have the chance. She offers a fantastic online class and all of her advice is science-based. Awesomeness. Exclamation point.