How Becoming a Mom Changed My Nerdiness

Of course I heard from everyone with an ounce of experience that becoming a mother would change my life.  I was prepared for this in most of the big, important ways, but one of the things that’s surprised me is how being a mom has changed my life as a nerd.

First, I obviously don’t have 8+ hours a day to spend writing.  That just ain’t gonna fly anymore.  I was also never a writer who carried around a notebook – I took notes here and there, but never actually WROTE in a notebook.  Now, that’s the easiest and/or only option I have.  When you’ve got one arm pinned under a sleeping monster, straining to reach a nearby notebook is a lot easier than trying to escape and get your laptop.  (In fact, as I write this – on my laptop – I have to keep distracting little hands from pulling out my power cord. And this post will take me approximately 8 times longer to write because I have to keep tossing her over my shoulder to look out the window at the dog, who I’ve just noticed is eating his poop… BRB.)

I also was never a huge phone app person.  I’ve added at least 5 now, all related to being a mom or using baby gear, so in that little way I’m becoming a little more of a techie.

And you better believe I plan to pass along love of my fandoms to the little squirt.  We’ve already binged the new She-Ra, and she at least stared at the transformation hair, so that’s a good start.  I look forward to first viewings of Star Wars and Dr. Who, first readings of The Chronicles of Narnia, and teaching her to side with me over her dad about Hogwarts houses.

Something I didn’t expect was that, for the first time in my life, I’d be able to easily relate to other women.  I grew up on a hunting preserve, writing science fiction – I’m just not wired to connect with most women.  But with the shared experiences of childbirth, babies that just will not sleep, the inevitable poop explosions – suddenly I feel LESS like an outsider and more like one of the tribe.  By creating a tiny human, I too have a non-nerdy thing to talk about that’s actually relatable.

BUT, at the same time, I’ve found that being a nerd AS a mom is a pretty common thing too.  I stumbled upon a couple Facebook groups for nerdy parents, and that’s my new favorite use of any free minutes the mini-tyrant allows me.  Nerdy memes related to parenting, nerdy discussions about our favorite nerdy things, and of course occasional parenting questions – it’s all great.

That’s not to say that I don’t miss being a more active part of my other favorite community, my author peeps.  To those of you who’ve put up with my endless social media posts of baby pictures, please forgive, as it’s the only way to keep our friends and family up to date who live 2+ hours away.  I promise I am reading your books and watching videos and generally lurking as a fan/friend even when I’m too exhausted to comment.

So, until the next time I have a minute free of screamed, nonsensical demands, here’s AI taking in Star Wars the only way she knows how…so far.


From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Sunny M. Somerville

The problem with realizing that you spent your college degree on a hobby is that you have to figure out what to do with the rest of your life.  Vocational success not important?  Okay, then, what to do?  Life doesn’t exactly stop at 22.

After graduating from college, I took a year off.  Off – I didn’t work, I didn’t do much of anything.  I did watch a lot of movies.  I also worked on my next novels, being productive in that least productive kind of way.  But mostly I did nothing.  This downtime was mostly because I suddenly realized that, although I was no longer a mess as a person, I still had no direction.  I had no schedule anymore, no homework aside from what was self-appointed.  So, what to do?  Where to go?  What did I want – oh, yes, that old question still floats around, doesn’t it?  I was happy, but the longer I sat and looked around me, the more I realized that I was basically where I’d always been.

I get restless easily.  I hate ruts and the thought of settling.  As a kid, I’d always told myself that I would explore life and soak up as much as I could before getting married, having kids, and settling down in a “normal” life.  I think I always planned to have those things eventually – family, community, etc.  – but I have this thing deep inside me that always needs to be different somehow (think Claudia of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler).  I always knew I would want to go to college, live on my own, and experience Otherness first before I could be even mildly content with settling down.  I wanted some life on my own terms for a while.  Then, I would always have those memories and experiences that were different from those around me.  I could live perfectly normally after that, and be content. 

The problem was, Cornerstone University and Grand Rapids weren’t that different from everything else I’d ever known.  I hadn’t really experienced the Otherness that I felt I needed.  Here I was, already settling in one year after college, and I didn’t feel like I’d ever moved.

So, after a year of doing nothing, I made a break for it.  July 2005, I plopped myself down three hours away from every home I’d ever known and moved to the Detroit area.  Honestly, that is why I moved – it was an experiment of getting away from my comfort zone/bubble.  I needed change.  I needed drastic.  I needed surroundings that were fresh and new and completely disconnected from everything back home.  I needed something that was different which was just mine, my own experience.  I’d always said I absolutely did not want to live in Detroit, so naturally this seemed like the most drastic move I could make.  I wanted a place different in setting, feel, tone, and perspective so that I could explore and also maybe figure out what I wanted for the rest of my life.

On a Tuesday I had no life plans; by Friday I was living in the suburbs of the D.

I liked it immediately.  There was an artistic, creative energy about the place – Birmingham, Troy, Royal Oak mostly – that I loved.  I’ve never been heavily addicted to urban-ness, but the variety of places to go was great.  I liked how one city blended into another like a puzzle, and yet each city was distinct.  Birmingham is money, Troy feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up and so is focused around the mall, and Royal Oak is a little niche strip for hipsters and artsy types.  Detroit itself, let’s face it, was kinda clinging to life, but it’s still so big that even with half the city functioning it would be a force to be reckoned with.  There were concerts and art exhibits and restaurant openings and book readings and baseball games, etc. etc. etc.  And young people really seemed to be far more numerous over there, or maybe I just noticed them more because of the job I took as a model scout – youth were our marks, so of course I picked them out of every crowd.  The sheer volume of younger people somehow seemed to control what happened in a city, if that makes sense.  Events and places catered to young people to keep us entertained, to draw us in.  Our VIP status as model scouts (ha, what a joke…but anyway) didn’t hurt either.  I saw all the good sides of the clubs, bars, etc.  We never had to wait in line.  I never, in the 6 months I lived over there, paid for my own drink (this was for a variety of reasons, but it did make learning to drink easier).  And because my coworkers were a tremendous bunch of fun natives, they showed me the places to go, the people to meet, and the food to eat.  

Here’s another big difference I noticed about the east side of Michigan – people go out to mingle with people other than the people in their party.  There was a more inclusive, communal approach to being social.  It didn’t hurt that, as model scouts, we had to talk to like 50 people a night.  But, even when we weren’t scouting, I noticed this different approach to socializing.  I don’t know if I’d say people in Grand Rapids are less friendly, per se, but the most you get out of most people here is a reciprocal smile of acknowledgement.

Anyway, because the Detroit area is considerably less church-infested than Grand Rapids, I encountered people who had very, very different worldviews from the average person in my Cornerstone/Grand Rapids bubble. It was wonderfully refreshing.  I made friends with openly flamboyant homosexuals, one of whom was the best Christian I met over there.  My closest friend was a self-proclaimed “pot-smoking, experimental nymphomaniac.” I made friends with Buddhists, Catholics, and Kid Rock fans.  Overall, I liked the variety of people I met, and they forced me to question things I’d always believed but never been forced to questions.  I’ve always hated white noise and people who can’t think outside their box, so this gave me an opportunity to prove to myself that I was stronger than that.  While interacting with these people, I found I was able to hold to what I believed but maybe growing it a bit.  I found that all this interaction solidified in my mind that not everything that is Other is bad, and not everything that doesn’t agree with what I believe is to be hated or feared.  At the end of the day, you can fundamentally disagree with someone but still love each other.  Maybe that is what Detroit did for me more than anything – it widened my experience of humanity just a little bit.

Memories –

  • At the model scouting office, Diego was responsible for one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard: “Thank God you guys are back.  The most exciting thing that happened all day was when I walked by the mirror.”
  • When trying to get into my car from the curb, Sophie was responsible for one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen:  She fell and slid down the side of my car, making a smearing sound against the glass like you hear in a cartoon.
  • Sophie, as we walked past the nicest car I’ve ever seen: “Oh, f*** men.  Can that have my children?”
  • We ran into Chauncey Billups at a Mongolian Barbecue.
  • We accidentally scouted Jack Johnson’s barefoot drummer in a mall.
  • We accidentally scouted Mario and his friends/bouncers in a mall, and he was so amused that he invited us to his birthday party.
  • I literally ran into John Heffron, the second season winner of Last Comic Standing, in Somerset Mall.
  •  “Cheap Gay Layaway” at Old Navy.  Dominic found a man-purse he loved but could not afford, hid it behind a rack of clothes, and then 3 months later we found it in the same location.  When telling the checkout girl, she said, “That does not speak well of us, does it?”
  • Craig telling the story of when he’d drawn the perfect picture of Sonic the Hedgehog only to have the nuns at his school take it and throw it away.  This had been when he was in second grade; he was still bitter.  I loved him instantly.
  • Troy acting like “Sexy Little Drummer Boy” while walking by the door as we were trying to have a serious meeting.
  • Carmen calming saying like a GPS, “Head-on collision,” as Sophie for no reason drove straight at a van like a game of chicken in a wide, wide parking lot.
  • Various outings with Felix in his car because I liked the sound of his car’s blinker.
  • Once I quit scouting, I worked at People’s Pottery, a high-end craft store (if that makes sense) in Birmingham.  Sarah and I spent many hours playing “Hide the Duck” in the store when it got slow.  This is played by…hiding the duck, a figurine we didn’t like, somewhere in the store and then making the other person find it in a hot-cold method.
  • That girl who came in with her rich husband (it should be a given that there was an age gap of like 20 years) and pointed at things she liked until she’d racked up a bill of $850.  I contributed to $500 of this by convincing her that all the ugly stuff in the store that we were sick of looking at was totally awesome.
  • That semi-hot, constantly-drunk guy who came in repeatedly and one day wondered what the wine bottle stoppers were.  When I told him what they were, he looked at me in almost hurt disbelieve and said, “Why wouldn’t you just drink the whole bottle?”
  • The older Romanian lady telling me that I could get a job at Hooters.
  • The “homeless” guy I encountered in the store’s back alley who held out a bill and asked if I had change for $100.

 Gosh, it was fun.  I know most people (certainly those in my circle of friends) look back on college as the most exciting time of their lives, but for me it was this 6-month experimental period in the suburbs of Detroit.

But, as I mentioned in my “Spiritual Geography” blog post, I didn’t like Detroit enough.  I was so busy most of the time that I didn’t have a lot of time to sit around and think, and this was probably a good break from my usual mode of over-analysis.  But, once I slowed down and started reflecting on my life again, I knew that this experiment was over.  I’d gotten my time away, and now  I wanted to go back to be nearer to friends (whom I surprisingly really did miss), nearer to family, and nearer to whatever idea of “home” I had.  It was just time to get back to normal.  I’d had my “different” like Claudia from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

So, I moved back to Grand Rapids to start the next chapter.  I will always look back fondly on my time in the Detroit area because it gave me memories and experiences that are just mine. This will give me that sense of different that I need, and now I can be perfectly content living a normal life in white bread, conservative Western Michigan, if that is what happens.  (Also, I have the added fun now of knowing that nobody knows what I’m talking about whenever I say that I can never look at people the same again – I often slip into model-scouting mode when bored in a crowd, taking people-watching to a whole new level.  And, I like confusing guys when they talk about strip clubs and I say, “Yeah. I miss my old job.”)

“Bad Gene Thing”


My family is very good at self-mockery – both sides, but today I’ll focus on my dad’s side.  “Bad gene thing” is a long-running joke, but all our quirks (genetic and otherwise) are loved, as they unite our little branch of the Somerville clan.

The Somerville family has instilled in me things I appreciate deeply.  It is from Dad’s side that my brother and I get our intellectual bent.  It’s from here that we love learning, science, literature, debate, wit, puns (oh, the puns), etc. Our grandparents, while not completely understanding the cultural generation we came from, always treated us with what I can only call respect.  They never talked down to us, and they took what we had to say about various issues seriously – I cannot begin to explain how this strengthened my adolescent confidence. My faith comes from all over the place, but the fundamentals I am grounded to come from what I gleaned from Grandpa Lloyd and Grandma Judy – this is a good legacy.  I know that my love for literature stems from the books on tape my Aunt Sharon  (my dad’s only sibling) read for us, and we listened to Secret Garden, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator so often that we wore out the tapes.  And, the Somerville side has always talked about “Irish this” and “Scottish that” so that through family I feel like a part of something stretching back into history – a something full of outlaws, circus owners, poets, Celts, hymn writers, and dragon slayers.

(Sidenote: An early Somerville family shield holds a picture of a dragon on a cart with flames coming out both ends.  The story is that an early Somerville gained lands by slaying the last “Wurm” by rigging a cart with a spear that gored a dragon through the mouth and out the other end.  Classy.  Another Lord Somerville instituted the custom of giving a side of bacon to house guests – loving bacon as I do, I like this connection.  Of course, then there was the much more future Lord Somerville who partied away all the family wealth.  This also seems to fit.)

It was difficult as kids to watch what we said around our conservative Somerville grandparents.  One time I blurted out how I had won at euchre the night before, and I remember my dad stiffening — as part of the “filthy five,” card playing was not encouraged.  (I should have known better because of the story of how my dad as a kid had been punished for watching “Mary Poppins” – this was his first movie, his second later being “The Godfather,” which I always thought was a hilarious contrast.) My dad was always more subdued around my grandparents; we were always scolded about little things that in our own home would have been fine.  I remember, as a kid, knowing that this was a way of showing respect to my grandparents.  But, I also thought that we were hiding who we really were from them, and I never liked it.  It felt like a lie, even if we were doing it to make them more comfortable.

 At Grandpa Lloyd’s 80th birthday celebration, something changed.  I think we had the first real, open, free discussion.  It started with what in years past would have been avoided subjects – war, civil responsibility, and our relatively liberal stances. For some reason, we just started blurting our real thoughts.  I don’t know why the wall fell, but it did.  Aunt Sharon even went so far as to say to Grandpa, “You’re the only Baptist in the room.  We’re liberated Baptists,” which years ago would have been sacrilege.  Christian and I, as always, were listened to with equal standing, but we argued too, which took this whole experiment a step farther.  As unusual as this all was, Grandpa took it all with less confusion/disturbance than I would have thought.  He of course went on a preacher-ly detour into the nature of grace, but we jumped back in at times – definitely a new turn – and somehow managed to remain in the conversation.  It was…beautiful.

The Somerville side of my family is not exactly stuffy or devoid of fun.  My great-uncle Alden once said with a twinkle in his eye that our ancestors traveled “one step ahead of the posse,” and I quite believe it.  Alden also once said, “If I’ve done anything in my life to be sorry for, I’m glad.” I love these witty people on this side of my family.  Also, we are supposedly related to both Emily Dickinson and P.T.  Barnum, and Aunt Sharon has pointed out that this is the perfect description of the poles of our family – we’re poets and circus freaks all rolled into one. We take little seriously.  Even at Grandpa Lloyd’s funeral, when the fire alarm went off because of the caterers in the kitchen, we started laughing, which eased the “oh, no” looks of the guests immediately.

My aunt Sharon is definitely in the running for the quirkiest person of the Somerville family, and I’m pretty sure I grew up hero-worshipping her a bit for her love of stories, eclecticism, and all around verve.  My devotion may also have been based on the fact that I look like a mix between my Aunt Sharon and my mom – people have often seen my mom, aunt, and me together and assumed that Sharon was my mom’s sister instead of my father’s.  I have the Somerville dark eyebrows that are darker than my hair, and so does my aunt.  Dad commented once to Aunt Sharon and I that our shared appearance was simply a “bad gene thing,” but I think the comment rose out of childhood bitterness from when my aunt used to tease him that he was adopted because he looked nothing like either of their parents.

I love listening to stories from when Aunt Sharon and my dad were kids.  I’ve probably heard the stories a hundred times – knowing Dad – but I like the nostalgia.  The stories show that my brother and I are merely continuing the pattern of Somerville siblings with overactive imaginations.  For instance, I like the one about how my aunt used to sing in their front yard when cars drove by because she read a story about a famous opera singer who’d been discovered at the age of eight by a famous opera singer who’d driven by her yard and took the little girl in as her prodigy.  Then there are the many stories of how Aunt Sharon used to torture Dad, like when she left teeth marks in his arm and, when accused, denied biting him.  That takes a fun mix of guts and stupidity, and I applaud her for it.

As for my father, Dad doesn’t take anything too seriously, and I definitely have inherited this approach to life from him.  I fully admit to being a Daddy’s girl when I was little, and apparently this started very, very early.  When I was 5ish months old, Dad allowed me to be a part of the best April Fool’s Day prank ever.  While changing my diaper, he knew my mom was listening from the other room as he rattled off “This little piggy went to market.  This little piggy stayed home.  This little piggy had roast beef…” dramatic pause… “Paula, Sunshine has 6 toes!” My mom came running.

Other examples of my dad being a nut:

  • One time when Christian was around 6, we were fighting until Dad sat us down and gave us some long lecture, and at some point Christian and I wordlessly made up because we were bored.  Dad, with his most serious face, said to Christian, “Look at your sister and say, ‘I. Am so.  Sorry.’”  Christian then turned to me and mimicked, “I.  Am So. Sorry.”  Dad lost it laughing and all was forgiven.
  • Dad once asked me to smell his head because he was sure it smelled like a cucumber.
  • Dad has attempted to win an argument by insisting, “I only hear when I’m right!”
  • He once literally skipped through a screen door.
  • Dad arranged pennies on our kitchen table in even stacks of 10s, and I rearranged the piles to spell out “OCD.”
  • He told the doctor discharging him after getting a pacemaker that he was going to KFC for dinner.

Dad’s ability to find and make humor in life definitely affected my childhood, and I learned from his example not to take myself too seriously.  Dad taught Christian and me a lot by example, probably more than he realizes.  We were taught Biblical Truth and right and wrong and each received our fair share of spankings, but along with that we saw from his example that a godly, loving father wants only what is best for us.  Even Dad’s OCD-like interest in numbers and science showed us that God has created a world that is fascinating.  He showed us that we could be creative and funny and weird and still be smart, confident, fairly well-adjusted people.  Growing up around my friends’ parents, I always, always felt grateful for my father in comparison.  My dad showed interest in us, what we cared about, what we thought about, and who we were turning into as people. Dad treated us like we were capable of making right decisions on our own rather than browbeating us.  Honestly, I feel a little gypped because I never had anything to rebel against.  Dad has taught me many valuable life lessons, even if only from stories of his own poor choices in earlier life (these would be the 1970s, or his “herbal period”).  I have been spared from making many mistakes in my own life because I heard what the consequences were like for him and I had no desire to go there for myself.  I will forever be grateful for how Dad nurtured us and allowed us the freedom to think for ourselves.  Dad was and is our friend.

Looking at everything, I don’t apologize for saying that my mom’s Gummer side has had more impact on my daily life because it is true, but I don’t want to forget the Somervilles at all.  While my mom’s larger family has more of an apparent influence in my life, I do deeply appreciate the Somerville side because its depth, passion, and faith balance out the Gummer…well, craziness.  But more on that later.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: