Monday, October 29, 2012

Climbing the walls

I can't get him to stop. I guess he's exercising, at least...

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Took my girl for a walk yesterday. I was missing my Sunday walk with K, so I talked Roo into a walk to Starbucks with me.

Ever since our big Girls' Day she's been WAY more chatty and she has really opened up to me. We spent most of the walk talking about school and friends and my old jobs. It was lovely.

...

Addie: I have a hard time picking out books when I go to the library.

Me: Me too. Sometimes it's overwhelming. That's why I usually try to keep a list, that way I know what to look for.

Addie: I mean, they don't really have a lot of books for me at the school library anyway.

Me: Like, too easy?

Addie: Well yeah. But you know, they mostly have little kid books and then everything else is expository texts.

Me: *fist bump* Way to use the terminology, kid.

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Me: This week is busy, anyway, so I want to be lazy today.

Addie: Halloween is this week! I'm so excited.

Me: Yup. And Thursday night I'm seeing a play with my English teacher friends. One of Shakespeare's plays--one that I teach all the time, so I'm really excited. It's called Hamlet.

Addie: Is it about pigs? Because I'd totally see that play.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Fault Is With Me


The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Well. Hmm. I wanted to like this book better than I did. (Sound familiar?) And that makes me feel guilty because it's incredibly popular. I shouldn't feel bad about that by now. I mean, book taste is like musical taste. It's all about what you like and only you get to decide what that is. In this case, my 11+ years of teaching are completely standing in the way of me liking anything teenagery.  Case in point: John Green's YA novel, The Fault in Our Stars.

Here's the problem. Ever since the movie Juno, I feel like we're enamored with this idea that teenagers are these witty, irreverent little geniuses who see the world more clearly than adults do. Maybe that's because in these pretend YA worlds, the adults are too busy doing things like work and paying bills to notice anything profound. But here's the problem with that: kids don't all go around talking like miniature Aaron Sorkins. They just don't, not even the really smart ones. And honestly, when they do get it into their heads to go all Ellen Page-y, it's... how do I say this delicately... well, it's kind of rude and not really very funny. The witty quips that read so well on screen are often ill-timed and downright off-putting in the real context of a classroom, which is where I most often encounter this kind of weird trying-to-showboat that stands in the way of real and honest conversation.

So to me, most characterization of teens in this vein read to me like adults speaking through kids. It reads like the way we wished we talked in high school. Because when real kids try to do it, they lack the knowledge of the world (or literature, or politics, or poetry, or whatever) that you would have to have to sling this kind of intellectual speak mixed with airy pop culture references. Don't get me wrong. I like kids. I like my job a lot. But I think the reality of spending so much time with the under-18 set has precluded me from enjoying a fictionalized version too much in my reading.

So anyway, the book. The Fault In Our Stars is about a girl, Hazel, who has terminal cancer. She meets a bone cancer survivor, Augustus, in a support group for teenagers. They fall in love, he inspires her to look at things differently, and they both have to come to terms with the realities of their cancer. It's alternately funny and very sad, and what I think I liked best about it was the author's attempt to normalize (for lack of a better term) a disease that is very, very hard for teenagers to talk about. The characters in the book talk about cancer and death the same way they talk about everything else. And I feel like there's something good in that--mixing the witty with the hard to talk about.

This was a quick read, though, and I can say I'm happy I've read it. I think that it just wasn't a good fit for me, content-wise, and that I should probably stay away from anything about schools or teens in the near future. I think I'm hyper-critical, which isn't really a good thing.

My recommendation: You should read it. You'll probably love it and think I'm crazy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On the Occasion of Your 60th Wedding Anniversary

For Ed and Lila Kynaston
October 27, 2012

The cold air bit at my face as I watched the plastic kite lift up above the house. It was fall—or spring, I don’t remember exactly—and I was at Gram’s on a “sick day.” I really had been sick at 7:00 in the morning when I asked Mom and Dad if I could stay home. But a cozy day at Grandma’s—eating butter-topped soft-boiled eggs for breakfast and spreading my toast with thick homemade jam—had done my body good. The afternoon spent snuggling under the nap blankie in front of Cable TV—Press Your Luck, I’m sure—and Gram’s love had healed me to the point where I couldn’t resist Grandpa’s offer of flying kites. The sunny, windy day was just too good to waste. “You feelin’ good enough to go outside with Grandpa, Darlin’?” He asked. Yes, yes I was. The weather had cleared and so—just as miraculously—had my cold. The twinkle in Grandpa’s eye told me he was just as excited about an afternoon of “foolin’” as I was, and I couldn’t resist. Gram made sure I put on my coat and shoes, and outside we went to have adventures.

Happy 60th Wedding Anniversary yesterday to my grandma and grandpa <3

That’s how I always think of Grandma and Grandpa—two halves of the same coin, always balancing each other out, always together. Home and Garden. Nurturing and Exploration. Hugs and Stories. One in the yard, one in the kitchen. Two in their swivel chairs with Scotties on their laps. Grandpa in the driver’s seat, Gram next to him with bottles of water and packages of Neccos. When I go to visit and one of them isn’t home, something feels incomplete. Today as we celebrate their sixty years of marriage, I’m proud to be a part of this family they built, this amazingly interconnected family unit. For if there’s one thing they’ve shown all of us through our part of that sixty years, it is that family is the most enjoyable, the most thoughtful, the most humorous group of people around. Family is fun. Family is always prepared. Family is always full of honor and respect and love.

Just after our wedding ceremony, Grandma was the first person we saw. She hugged Eric in the entrance of the church. “Now I have a grandson,” she said, and kissed him on the cheek. He beamed. Who wouldn’t want to be one of their kids or grandkids? This gig comes with bursting birthday boxes, matching power tools for Christmas, and an open-door (fully loaded pantry) policy. Gram and Grandpa are always there for us, and we know it because they are so consistent with their actions. When Eric and I renewed our vows, it seemed only fitting we’d have the ceremony at their house. No, not just because Grandpa had been making the suggestion that I should get married on the creek (and serve hot dogs!) almost as often as he had been suggesting I join the Highway Patrol. But because when Eric and I drifted apart, it was Grandpa who was honest with us both about what kind of commitment our marriage meant—to family, even in the most difficult of times. Grandma and Grandpa have been every bit the role models, the counselors, the models of faith and perseverance that Eric and I both have needed as we’ve navigated the struggles of our own marriage. Not only have they been there to guide us, but their model of commitment to each other is one of the strongest I know.

I wonder about that hayride, about those two weeks in Colorado, the chances they took to be together and how they could have known they were going to assemble such a stable, close-knit group. Though I don’t think they could’ve known what this—what we—would all be, I think theirs is a story of incredible luck in the coming together of two people exactly suited to balance and inspire greatness in each other. I grew up knowing this story—this legend—of how they met and how they got married the way I knew my Sunday School stories, but it was not until I lived the real struggles of marriage, of raising children, and of navigating adult life that I truly came to appreciate it for the kind of blessing it represents. I have to believe that there was something unspoken—something godly and maybe even unknowable then that brought them together under such unusual and lucky circumstances. We are all so fortunate to be the beneficiaries of the commitment they’ve shown each other and of the way they’ve put love into action for every one of us.

Last year at as we all gathered at Lake Tahoe for Grandpa’s 80th birthday—with Aunt Anne’s mojito moonshine, a gargantuan-sized container of cheese balls and a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle—I was struck by how alike we all are and how much of that we owe to Grandma and Grandpa. We are—every one of us—resourceful. We like a bargain. We’ll strike up a conversation with just about anybody. We love to grow things, and love animals. We want to know the history of our family and the stories of each other’s lives. We remember and retell these stories, reminding each other all the time. Remember the Christmas when, we say, or how about that one time. We tease. We compete. We create. We cook, all of us. We contribute, we plan, and we coordinate. We become the go-to people in our jobs and churches, and we have a reputation for doing things right. Ours is a kind of type-A preparedness that others can’t begin to understand—we plan a mean party and we run a garage sale like nobody’s business.

What have I learned from Grandma and Grandpa in my 33 years? What I have I seen them do and learned from my aunts, uncles and parents because they live it too? I’ve learned to make people feel special, to remember the important details about their lives. I’ve learned to pray, to believe that God directs where we’re headed. I’ve learned to create, to make things for myself and others because there’s pride in hard work and beauty in the homemade. I’ve learned to shop with coupons and purpose, and to return things to Costco if they’re not to my satisfaction because darn it, I expect quality. I’ve learned friendships are for life and that you take care of your friends with love and understanding, too. I’ve learned to open my home to those who are lonely or who need a family close by. I’ve learned that fresh flowers will always brighten someone’s day and that when someone is sick, you take them chicken and noodles. I’ve learned to stock my pantry, to follow a recipe, to give generous gifts. I’ve learned that it matters who I spend time with, what words come out of my mouth, and whether or not my actions back up what I promise. I’ve learned to go exploring, to remember where I came from, to say I love you out loud. I’ve learned to be there, to call often, and to not wait too long in between visits.

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Grandma and Grandpa, your marriage this far has been every bit as much a gift to us as it has been, I’m sure, from you to each other. This family you have created is a testament to everything that is wonderful about the two of you, and how that is magnified in your commitment to each other. I love you both so much and I’m so happy to celebrate with you today. Happy Anniversary!

Heather

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nobody Puts PDawg in a Corner

Growing up we had, if I'm guessing, about four VHS tapes at our house. One was White Christmas, one was Somewhere in Time, one was a skipping, recorded-from-TV copy of Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, and the last was Dirty Dancing.

Guess which one I watched A MILLION times.

And I'm not gonna lie, those dance scenes (which I watched four times as often as the parts with anyone talking) were the epitome of everything I wanted to be in life. When Penny does a swivel kick onto Johnny's shoulder and then he pulls her across the floor in a dragging split?

I die.  Seriously, as if that mauve, beaded dress she's wearing isn't enough. I want to be her in that scene.

I was thinking the other day about how much of this movie is now embedded in my memory (taking up space for more important things, I'm sure). And while it's not the model of a) a good movie, or b) anything super edifying, I managed to glean all kinds of wisdom from my countless hours in front of the TV, studying at the feet of Miss Frances Houseman and Mister Johnny Castle.

And worry not, good people. Yes, there's a whole abortion storyline,  but that was completely lost on me--I was so sheltered and unworldly I don't think I knew what they were talking about until I was about 20. So this movie didn't do much to corrupt my moral fiber or pollute my innocent mind except give me the impression that if there was gonna be sexytime, there should first be some shirtless slow dancing to a little Otis Redding or the like.

Anyway, I present to you...


Lessons from the movie Dirty Dancing

1. It's a bad idea to sit in a corner, even if you have the best view of the show, Frances.

2. When large groups of people get together and kick-ball-change up the aisle, good things happen.

3. Signs that you're a rebel (read: likable): Lipstick. Tying your shirt so your stomach shows. Halter dresses. Smacking your gum. A black bra strap, hanging out the side of your shirt. Hip movement.

4. Bad dudes hold their leather jackets over one shoulder. They're like the wind, man.

5. If your father stares out at the lake when you're talking to him, he's really mad at you.

6. Douchebags are into Ayn Rand.

7. Nerds are into the Pachanga, and freedom rides with the busboys. Never volunteer to help out with the magic show. NEVER carry a watermelon.

8. If you are lucky enough to find yourself alone while "Wipeout" is playing, you should look side to side before doing a deep lunge on the railing and then hip-swaying up the steps.

9. Uniform of awesome people: knee-length cut offs, keds, white cotton/lace bras, footless tights, ballroom shoes, giant curly hair.

10. The single biggest sign that you've made it in life? When a guy can lift you over his head.

This guy.

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His tantrum was spectacular, but it was short lived. Apparently he's been saving it all for me at home, because his teacher basically said in his parent-teacher conference the other day that she wants to adopt him. I always feel guilty when people ask (as she did) what we do that makes our kids so good. The truth is this: not much. I pretty much just drive them around and put food out for them a few times of day. They're so easy now. They kind of just don't do anything bad. (Though I'm still laughing at H telling me "poo for you!" the other day. My kids don't even know how to be disgusting or awful.)

Buddy Boy was up for a bunch of academic awards yesterday at school and he cleaned up. Allow me to get even more mom-braggy for a minute: four awards in one ceremony. A new family record.

I'm glad our kids are smarties, but I'm even happier every time I hear that they're acting the way we want them to in class. There was a time when I worried about Henry's ability to master things like eye contact with adults and HOLDING STILL FOR GOD'S SAKE. When I heard in his conference that he pays really good attention and is always focused in class, I about jumped up and down. He may be climbing the walls at home (literally) but at least he's being a good kid in second grade.

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I asked Henry's teacher if he gets in trouble for talking to his best buddy, Rohan, in class. She said he doesn't even sit by him when he has the opportunity to choose his seat. I love this picture E snapped of them at the awards assembly. Best buds. You don't mess with the Rohan.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Whoa, Bunny.

Well, we almost had another Lucky Puppy situation on our hands. Only this time, it was someone else's kid and I can't take that kind of guilt. The weeks that Lucky Puppy was missing were crippling. (For me, not for Henry.) No kid is going to lose her special stuffed animal on my watch. At least not for good.

My friend Karin and I have been walking in the park on our prep and today we took another friend's daughter with us in her stroller--she was at school with Daddy today, so we borrowed her to keep her busy looking at ducks.  All was well until we made it almost all the way back to school and realized we didn't have Bunny with us anymore. I ended up sprinting back to the lake (because at this point we were going to be late to class if I didn't hustle). There Bunny was, face down on the sidewalk in the leaves. Poor Bunny. But seriously, THANK GOD we found her (him? it? I'm fuzzy on the details of Bunny's back story...) or I would have felt like the worst one-hour babysitter, ever.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stubborn little cuss

Henry wouldn't come out and take a picture before the school carnival.

Henry was having a meltdown.

Henry wanted to wear the mask that went with his costume and I said no.

Henry hit his sister.

Henry stormed out of the room.

Henry said "POO FOR YOU, MOM!" and told me it was the worst October, ever.

(I had to bite my tongue. I wanted to laugh, so bad. My kids are so good that even when they're being bad, they're not really bad.)

I got a few pics of his sis...

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And then finally, after more screaming and crying, I finally called his father (who was on his way home from work) and he talked him down out of his tree.

I don't know what it is about me that makes my children more angry/stressed/emotional/crazy, but I seem to have that effect.

E, on the other hand, can talk to them for three minutes and suddenly it all makes sense.

We finally made it to the carnival, and we met Grandma Mary, who was in her traditional Snow White dress. Grandpa Norm was there helping, as always. My sister and BIL were there, too, with their three angry birds, but I forgot to get a pic. I'll nab one on Halloween.

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It ended up being a good night, but holy moly, my Hanko had a HUGE fit. He must have been as tired as his Mommy was after a full week of school.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Recent Reads

Welp. I got a little bit behind on my reading. I read something like 9 books this summer and I was blasting through them, one after another. Then I got to Middlesex. And it felt like it took me a hundred years to get through it. I felt like I was back in high school and I was reading my summer reading and I was dreading the time I was spending with this book, but I was too stubborn to call it off. I have a strict one-book-at-a-time (well, one book-book and one audio-book at a time) rule so I don't get all stressed out, so that one book kept me from reading anything else until I finished it.

Anyhoo. I finally finished that monster, and I also just finished rereading a classic from my sophomore year of high school (which was lovely).

And just in case you needed further proof that I am OBSESSED with charts, I give you my Goodreads stats page:

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99% of the reason I'm on Goodreads is the fact that I like seeing my progress on that chart. It's like the same thing that keeps me working out--I like to see my mileage for the week. All of the sudden I'm 11 again and I'm trying to be the kid on the wall at the library who reads the most books in the summer reading program. I have to say, also, that getting my MFA is good motivation to read, but I'm so in the habit now of reading like a madwoman that I'm quarters ahead of myself. I actually made myself download something just for fun this time, so we'll see how much literary value it has when I get a little further into it.

So yeah. To the books...


Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Okay, okay. Before I get into this review, let me tell you that I already know two things. 1) Everybody and their mom loved this book. 2) Me not liking this book feels like admitting that I am a less serious literary person. That second part hurts me inside, but I have to be who I am. I actually feel kind of bad for recommending this book to one of my students last year because I had heard it was good. Oh well. Thanks a lot, Oprah.

I just didn't like this book. Literary people be damned, it just wasn't my cup of personal tea. Not my jam. Not my brand of size 8 long Express jeans. I suppose there was a point about 400 pages in (to the 544 pages--not that I was counting every dreaded one) where I was like, okay, I don't hate this book. It's kind of interesting. But that faded and by the end I was back to just not caring about anyone or anything that happened.

I think my problem started off being a stylistic one. The book shifts between very slow exposition about the main character, Calliope, and a very long and drawn-out flashback about her grandparents. All of that is fine, but the shifts didn't feel natural, like something was unbalanced about it to me. It took forever for the main story to get going. It felt like I got caught up too much in the grandparents' story and that was a distraction rather than it illuminating something wonderful about the main character. By the time Eugenides got around to the main character's story (at least, the bulk of it), I just wasn't invested. For the rest of the book I just felt like the characters were too distant and I didn't find myself caring enough. There was also a digression near the end that felt unresolved and kind of pointless--and again it felt out of balance to me.

I will say that I think (and this was pointed out to me by one of my fellow MFA-ers when I posted about it on Facebook) that a lot of the buzz about this book had to do with its subject matter--gender identity--which was (maybe?) not something as prevalently discussed in 2007 as it is now. I know that seems like a teeny distinction of time and the world is not a new place, but I didn't find it shocking or unusual enough to say that the subject matter made up for the frustrations I had about the way it was written. I'm also sure that the stylistic things about it that I didn't like were just personal preference. It wasn't a bad book at all, but it just wasn't my kind of book.

My recommendation: You might want to read it if you're curious about gender identity or the way we characterize men and women in fiction. But if you do, just know that it's very long and very dry, especially for the first 300 pages or so. But I can't really say everyone I know should read it.


Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

This book was something I read as a sophomore in high school, and I remembered liking it but I didn't remember much about it. It was kind of an interesting thing to go back and read it again--in fact, I was listening to it as I walked the park this past month or so. It was written by a South African author and came out in 1948--just before the start of apartheid in South Africa. It's interesting for two reasons: first, because it shows the conditions just before apartheid from an almost unbiased perspective, and second because it is written in a style that echoes that of the King James Bible.

I liked it again this time, but listening to it again taught me a lot about my own writing style and what I like in my fiction now (as opposed to when I was fifteen). It has a euphonic, almost musical quality to it. The repetition of phrases made it really soothing listening. But it is written in a very distant third person perspective, and my connection to these characters was not as close as I would have liked, now. But I think in the context of the story it works because it's like reading a legend. It reads (and listens) like a story that would be passed down from generation to generation, and I think that for this kind of journey/reunification story that's the kind of thing that works.

This is a beautiful book. Not a surprising or a modern one, but as I was reading I remembered how much (and this is going to sound silly) I like stories where the character is searching for something. In this story, it is the main character, Stephen Kumalu, who is searching for his son, Absolom. There's a nice sense of momentum to a story, and a bit of mystery when the main characters are going from place to place to get information. There's also a crime in this book, and it provides a nice opportunity for the author to shine a light on the social injustices and issues of that time. But this is an uplifting, positive book, even when dealing with difficult things. I can see why it's been around for so long. (I still need to check out the movie, now that I'm done!)

My recommendation: A good read or listen. This one's a classic for a reason.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No politics before bedtime!

What was I thinking?

Aiiight, boyz. Let's do this.

E was gone last night and I got myself completely spun up watching the debate. Like, crazy tense, even for me. I claim that this is only partially my fault. If we're being honest, that whole Real Housewives reunion-style Town Hall dealie was imagined solely with the purpose of getting me all excited and shouty (I half expected Andy Cohen to come out and ask the candidates to play "Marry, Shag, Kill..."). I was talking to my TV. I was taking sides. I was laughing at the smirks they were each making while the other talked. I was judging their shoes and the audience member's bangs. Big time.

I was enjoying the fight. I was glad I was not in it, but I was deliciously invested in their squabbling.  Classic Heather Reality-TV-Reunion Response.

Let my message here be clear: I want more reality TV in my political television. Ooh, I loved it. Perhaps next time Romney can wear a pirate costume or Obama can be sipping some Pinot Grigio.  There can be tables for flipping and someone can have a pregnancy scare. They already brought the thinly-veiled hatred, the awkward and rehearsed zingers and the stomping around the stage. And SOMEONE NAMED CANDY WAS RUNNING THE SHOW. All we needed was Tyra Banks with a handful of photos to pass out. "The next name that I am going to call is..." {DRAMATIC PAUSE.} We could do that and then Heidi Klum could kiss the loser auf wiedersehen. Anyway. I was into it. A little too into it, if we're being truthful, and I found myself in a state.

So the debate was over and it was, like, 8:00 and I was a GIANT BALL OF EXCITEMENT! I had twitter open and the Facebooks and I was texting my little heart out. I could not get enough of this stuff. I blew up my poor friends' Facebook feeds with ridiculous commentary. I was flipping channels like a madwoman to see what the post-debate response was and refreshing my feeds like it was 2001 and I was on dialup. I tuned in to Jon Stewart even though I knew he wouldn't get to it until the next day. I was fiending for jokes about Lady Binders... And then I was like,

Wait. Heather. Let's pause for a moment. You have to work tomorrow. Remember why we don't watch sports?

And then I had this moment of very serious contemplation about the meaning of my life. Because I DON'T watch sports. On purpose. You know why? Because my life is complicated enough. I don't like to be mad/sad/glad/tense arbitrarily about things that don't matter. I don't like to hand off the responsibility for my emotions to outside forces. Any outside forces. Sorry, Candy. And while I 100% believe that politics matter, for real, in my real life, my being wound tighter than a Jennifer Lopez ponytail at 8:00 PM is never a good idea. Even if it is in the interest of us being honest about foreign policy. I had slipped the surly bonds I keep on my shit.

So I took a Benadryl, put on my sweats, and settled in to watch something calming and peaceful--Boardwalk Empire. I was passed the heck out by 9:00.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thor, Zeus, and Mushu

I'm not sleeping well.

Something's off, and either I'm having nightmares that I'm lost on the subway in New York with no shoes or E is talking in his sleep and waking me up because he's taking apart imaginary transmissions full of rats. It seems like when I'm sleeping well he's not, and vice versa. Sleep is my favorite place to be, and it's not happening so well. Most nights I'm falling asleep only to wake up an hour or two later, and then if I make it through the night I can't wake up on time. I've been an early riser for the past few years, so I don't know what's up. I just hope it goes away soon.

But.

E was gone the other night and I told the monkeys we were having a sleepover in my room--a movie night, and I was picking the movie (because I cannot--NOT--watch another episode of Spongebob or Phineas and Ferb), and darn it, we were going to watch The Little Mermaid. But of course we couldn't find the Little Mermaid. So I made them watch Hercules. And it was awesome.

Me: That's Mount Olympus, where the gods lived.

Henry: Why does that guy, Zeus, have lightning? I thought Thor was the lightning god.

Me: Well, Zeus was in Greek Mythology... Thor was in Norse Myth...

Henry: Like, Vikings and stuff? Like How to Train Your Dragon?

And so on, from there. A nighttime lesson on two of Mommy's favorite things: Disney movies and mythology.

We didn't sleep much, but Henry sure thought Hades' hair was funny.

Movie night in my bed with the monkeys!Disney movie marathon continues while our blondies bake...

Sunday we watched Mulan. Making our way through the good ones...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Groundhogged

Well that didn't work out like I thought it would. Last night (before I fell asleep in the middle of a thought), I opened this post and titled it Groundhogged. Meaning, the way it feels like you're living the same day over and over again, Groundhog Day-style.

My (junior?) year of high school, I had the same routine every morning. My dad would drive me to my best friend's house and I'd sit on her bed and watch her finish getting ready. (That's where I learned about eyebrow pencil. Thank God.) I'd sit there and pet her cat and wait until she was ready to go and then we'd walk to school together from her house. Every morning we'd round the same corners and pass the same hedges. The same cars would pass us. We'd talk about the same things we talked about every day, since we spent almost all of our waking hours together at dance and school. And then, inevitably, she'd say do you ever feel like you're just living the same day over and over again? Like, every day it's the same thing at the same time and you're always in the same day.

Yes, I'd say. Because I did.

We were so deep.

I was just about to write last night about how it felt like I was living the same day over and over again. Only I fell asleep to early, which really is emblematic of my whole routine. Or rut, is more like it. Because I'm always falling asleep too early because I'm always tired because I always forget to bring enough food to school and I always get frustrated with something-or-other and I'm always running behind and I'm always too tired to cook dinner and then I'm always useless after about 8:00 PM.

But today was a weird departure from the routine. Just a smidge, but enough.  Addie woke up and said she'd been up in the night with a stomachache. As always (because someone around here is complaining of a nebulous ailment about, oh, say, 85% of mornings), I told her she was fine and she should go to school. Neither E nor I could take today off. Of course that means she barfed right before school.  So the day got brought to a halt and I came home to take the afternoon shift.

Maybe it's the fact that it's exactly the perfect temperature outside today with zero wind. Maybe it's the fact that I had to wake up enough to teach people so I was in a good place when I got home. Maybe my one recent trip to the gym (that's one out of one attempts in recent history--jazz hands!) makes me feel like I can do anything. Maybe it's the fact that in the same week my grades are up to date and I met my most recent deadline for the MFA program. Who knows. But I spent the better part of my day at home attacking the dishes in the sink and the laundry on the couch and the litter in the litter box. And all the while the windows were open and the dog slept in his chair and the cats yawned at me like why haven't you been home to watch me sleep during the day lately, human?

What a nice day.

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Monday, October 08, 2012

Mindless

Tonight, no thinking. I've been writing and editing and THINKING for three days. Tonight?

Pickles. Housewives. Celebrities dancing awkwardly in sparkly costumes.


You know you need a break when you think to yourself hey, I need to watch more reality TV, or man, I sure wish I had time to crochet right now. That's right, I WISH I HAD MORE TIME TO CROCHET. But every stitch in your afghan is another word not in your novel. Or something.

And while we're still on the subject of pickles--we are, right?--can I just say that I have a serious addiction lately to a very specific, very salty snack? Get ready for this, people: Hamburger dill slices (the cheap, chemical-soaked, florescent green ones with the waffled edges), wrapped in salami. Every night is Saturday night with PDawg.

No, seriously. Delicious. Probably bad for me, sure. Perhaps I have some kind of salt deficiency? I am not going to bother to find out. I'm just gonna go with it and keep buying my pickles in big jars.

So, yeah, I watched the first episode of the Real Housewives of New York City reunion. And it totally filled the void in my soul that can only be filled by watching other people fight. Do you know this about me? When other people start fighting and it has nothing to do with me? I kind of love that. TV makes it better because I don't have to care about them. But in general, I love to stay out of the fighting, and I'm FASCINATED by it. And boy, does the Real Housewives franchise serve it up.

Anyhoo... Dancing with the Stars is about to start. I've got it on mute, but it looks like it's going to be a promising night of spray tans, giant hair, and bedazzled underpants. What they're doing on TV looks cool too... I KID. I mostly watch this show just so I can figure out what Bristol Palin did to her face. That, and I'm kind of curious to see what happens to her chin implant "dental work" if she falls.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

At home with beasts.

Look out. Crazy Cat/Dog Lady Post.

Someone knows he isn't supposed to be on the couch... He wants to sleep but he's watching me to see if I'm gonna kick him off. #baddogHurley Dog. All day.All the animals were so happy I was home today. Total confidence-booster, even if they're all sycophants.Standoff.

I had a release day today to write a report, so I planted myself on the couch from about 8:00 AM, on. I had a pot of coffee going and I made up my mind not to move until I got everything done.

Not only was I super productive, I took a crapload of pictures of my dog and cats. Always a good time.

I also had lunch today with my Grandpa so I could ask him about a writing project idea I have. He's always telling me family stories and he wants to have me write the family history (which seems too daunting all in one dose), but I would like to get started looking at his research and reading what he's written so I can start to focus on one person's story at a time. Grandpa was pleased and we had a good lunch. And he told me he doesn't like my yellow nail polish... but strangely that didn't sound awful, coming from him. It just made me smile. I wouldn't really expect him to like my yellow nail polish.

Gpa also had some ideas for the hedge I want to plant in our backyard, so it was a doubly good lunch.

Tomorrow's the homecoming football game at our school and I have to go because I thought signing up to work it would be a good idea. Why? I don't exactly know. But once again it's football time.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A Place to Write

I like our house. I do. But there's no Heather Room in our house. We've got three bedrooms, four bodies. That means all of our space is taken for people's beds. When E was in law school, we moved the monkeys into one room, into bunk beds. That worked well and he had a quiet space to study, but they outgrew their fascination with sharing a room. As much as they like to have "sleepovers" in each other's rooms on weekends, I think that Roo, especially, needs her space.

I understand that. I don't think I ever thought so much about needing space to myself as I have since I started my MFA program. I was writing before, but not usually in long chunks of time and not usually with any degree of regularity. I can bust out a blog post on the couch or on my bed, but when it comes to summoning the motivation to stick with a piece of writing for more than an hour, I can't do it in a place that's distracting or too comfy. So the couch is out and the bed is out.

I wish I had a door I could close. And a big room with a window and a comfortable (enough) chair. And a writing surface. And a stereo. But that's not reality right now. And thanks to the housing market we need to live here for approximately 472 more years before our house will be worth what we owe on it.

Most of my writing gets done at the Starbucks on the corner near our house, but it has proved to be less reliable lately in terms of atmosphere. I can pop in my headphones and my cinematic scores and block out the buzz of conversation and the whir of the coffee grinder. I can usually score the corner booth with two tables and enough room to spread out. But (and I am sorry, because I know this makes me a total jerk for actually writing it) there's a really SMELLY guy who has also decided that the Sbux is his personal office. He's been there ALL THE TIME LATELY. And I just can't take it anymore. If coffee won't negate your smell, Dude, nothing will.

I feel the most inspired to write when I'm outside, anyway. Even at school, I frequently find myself wishing there was an outdoor area for teachers to sit and eat lunch or grade papers, or whatever. I know if there was such a thing I would end up sitting there to read or grade. I just love to be outside... for me that's the best mix of distraction and silence. So I've been thinking a lot about somewhere I might go that has a nice patio... a coffee shop, perhaps, with a view? But I haven't found it yet.

UntitledFinally writing something. Sitting on Gram's porch swing...

It was time for a change. I tried a new spot this weekend. Or more accurately, and old familiar spot for a new purpose. I set up shop on the porch swing at Gram and Grandpa's house on Sunday morning. Their yard is beautiful. And they have snacks. I decided to unplug, to write by hand as I tried in the late spring. It was actually a really good thing to do again. No distractions of Facebook or email or the ten billion other things I waste my time looking at on the interwebs. It's surprising how much you can write when you don't stop every five minutes to look at pictures of cats. The swing was lovely and the yard was quiet. The only problem was that since it's Grandma's house, it's perhaps a little too comfy. I found myself dreaming of the Nap Blankie after a while and thinking I might go into the house to get it.

Anyway, today I tried another new spot. A Panera that's farther away than the Starbucks, but I like what they have to offer in two categories: A) comfy chairs with little swingy circle table thingies, and B) bagels. So that worked well. The good chair has a view (albeit kind of a sad one) out the back door, so I get a little dose of light if I sit there, too.

Writing by hand makes me feel like Jane Austen. Well, a poor man's Jane Austen who has to listen to Pandora and be within reach of snack foods while she writes. Jane Austen, if she had Internet. And the good seat at Panera.

E's been working hard on our backyard and my hope is that once the patio cover is built, I can use that space for writing. I really hope. But for now the search continues.


Backyard progress.