Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.”

Today, please welcome writer




At four a.m. on a Sunday, my eyes pop open. For years, my body has been unable to sleep past this inhumane hour, but no matter, within seconds, I have my phone in hand, fingertip guiding me toward Twitter. It is here where I first check to see if the Palestinian journalists I follow online are still alive. We are seven months into this genocide, and it’s pretty much all I can think about.

I close my eyes again to try to get in another few hours asleep before I give up and get up.

The second my feet hit the floor, my dog, Trixie, arouses from her slumber. For years, she slept in the nook between my nightstand and the corner of the bedroom on our hardwood floor. But lately she’s been using an old, small dog bed. My guess is it’s because, like me, her body is growing older and needs soft places to rest.

The sheet on my husband’s side of the bed has gone cold. He’s gone for his run. My youngest of three daughters, the only one still living at home, is deep in slumber in her own room. I shuffle to the bathroom to brush my teeth.

Today, my chronic pain seems manageable. This is good.

I fix myself an iced chai in the kitchen and head toward my favorite room in the house, a sunroom with three walls of windows. Outside, dark green cryptomeria trees stretch high into the sky. They make me feel as if I’m sitting in a tree house. I settle into my favorite chair. It’s only six years old but the upholstery is already worn and thin due to excessive use.

It’s been unusually cold for early April in Georgia. I wrap my legs in my green blanket and prop them on the ottoman. I glance outside the windows behind me. No signs, yet, of the deer. But as the day goes on, I’ll likely see close to a dozen.

Two days ago, I signed the contract for my third book. It’s starting to feel real now. My first two books were published after years and years of submitting. After they were finally out in the world, I was so thrilled. I never imagined I’d one day have a third.

I sold the book with only a fifteen-page proposal. I still have the entire book to write, and this feels daunting. The document before me is blank. I type a few sentences I know I will end up deleting. It’s all part of the process, I tell myself.

On Sundays, I check in weekly with my MFA students. This is one of the best parts of my week. I never feel like I’m anyone’s teacher—I feel like just another writing student myself. My co-teacher and I have fun questions we pose to our group every week. This week’s question—what’s your favorite first or last line of a book. It’s so cliché, but I can’t help my pick—Charles Dickens’ first line in A Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” That line has lived rent free in my head every day since I first encountered it in the ninth grade. That book is still one of my favorites.

A few hours later, I’m fixing myself some eggs to refuel. I haven’t gotten far in the actual writing, but I feel as if I’ve done some good thinking. A new book is like meeting a new friend—it takes me some time to warm up to it, to get to know it, to figure out how our relationship might work.

I check WhatsApp. My best friend, a journalist and author who lives with her family in Istanbul, Turkey, has left me four new messages. We met only a few years ago. I’ve never really connected with writing groups or writing partners in the past, but F and I are so much alike. We’re both writers, we both have daughters around the same age, and we both care deeply about international politics and feminism. We also both recently turned 50. It was such a surprise to me to make a best friend at this age—much less someone on the other side of the world! We talk every day. It’s a relationship that has sustained me through some very dark times.

Now it’s time to work out. I hate exercise but I’ve fallen into a decent routine since January involving a treadmill and a few hand weights. I’m a very late bloomer when it comes to regular exercise. I’m proud of myself for being consistent for the first time in my life. I use the promise of watching shows on my phone as a means to lure myself to the treadmill. This time it’s a documentary—The Indrani Mukherjee Story: Buried Truth. True crime is not usually my cup of tea, but this one has captured my attention. During the early part of the pandemic, when we were all still wiping down our groceries and isolating, I got hooked on documentaries. I’ve been watching them ever since.

Later in the day, I begin flipping through two books I ordered for research. One, Alicia Yin Chang’s This Is What Democracy Looks Like, is full of photographs of U.S. ballots throughout the years. I feel like I’m walking through a history museum as I page through.

Trixie is sneezing again. This is the worst pollen season she’s had in her nine years of life. She has uncontrollable sneezing episodes several times a day. Finally, where there’s a reprieve, she passes out underneath the coffee table, a stone’s throw from my feet. She’s always nearby when I’m writing, my devoted companion. I should dedicate my next book to her.

It’s a relief to not think of dinner—my husband cooks on the weekends. Tonight, it’s a mixed green salad, homemade lemon Dijon dressing, and gluten-free macaroni and cheese. My husband makes the best mac and cheese ever—I will die on this hill.

My teenager joins us and afterward, we settle into the sofa to watch another episode of Modern Family. I love connecting with my daughter in this way. I’m still getting used to the quiet of no longer having my older two daughters at home. Though I often wonder how I ever got any writing done with three children in the house.

Before bed, I check in with my day planner. I never used one until I was in my forties—but it’s become essential for me to organize my days. I mark off hours when I’ll be writing and researching the book, add in any tasks or errands that must be completed, phone calls that must be made, and highlight deadlines for my students to turn in work. My planner, along with my laptop and travel mug of tea, makes me feel anchored in my days.

The light outside is dimming. I check Twitter once more. Hind, Hossam, Bayan—they’re still alive in Gaza, still showing the world the genocide they and other Palestinians are experiencing.

It’s now nine p.m. Trixie lingers near the bottom of the stairs. This is her way of signaling that it’s time for us to go upstairs to bed. I plug in my laptop, and I follow her lead, hoping for a night where I dream of words to write.




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1. What one word best describes your reading life?

  • Sporadic.

2. When you’re writing, is there something you return to again and again for inspiration?

  • Books written by dear friends.

3. What is your strangest obsession or habit?

  • Lip balm! I always have one on me at all times — even when I sleep at night. But I only use one kind – Burt’s Bees Ultra Conditioning Lip Balm. Nothing else will do!






Other Writers in the Series