Sunday, March 10, 2019

Status Report

Television: After a long and frustrating search, Dan and I have landed on The Americans as our new joint show. I think we can all agree that The Americans is superior to the Bachelor Franchise, which has, unfortunately, provided most of our entertainment in the last several years.

Last night while we watched the first three episodes of The Americans, in which the leads are married KGB agents, we started suspecting one another of being spies. While it's still possible that Dan is a spy, he did finally come around to the realization that while I have many gifts, I'm not really suited to covert operations. The reasons include the fact I already work at two verified jobs, I go to sleep between 9 and 10 every night, and most damning, I can only understand people with midwestern accents. I'm not proud of this last fact, but it's undeniable.

Books: Yesterday, I finished a round of developmental edits on my first book and sent them back to my editor. Although I did beef up the arc of a teenaged character in a satisfying way, there wasn't a whole ton to do this time, I think because of the Massive Rewrite of the Summer of 2018. That rewrite was incredibly painful, but many times I've been grateful that I did it. I was grateful once again yesterday while I danced maniacally around my living room, celebrating "The End" for yet another time. We're close to the last "The End" now, and I can't believe it.

Daylight Savings Time: I've never been a huge fan of this day or program; however, I will persevere. It's better now that the children are older and unaffected. Yes, I'm disappointed that I have one fewer hour in which to finish my lesson plans. I could try to stay up later, but it turns out I'm quite rigid on bedtime. As I mentioned before, that limits my potential as a spy. On reflection, I'm realizing it might limit my potential in other areas, as well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Head Cold

I have a head cold. I know it's irrational, but I generally view any viral illness--really any infirmity, bacterial, viral, or musculoskeletal--as a personal failing. I don't view other people's health problems this way. It's just me.

Did I fall down in my handwashing?

Did I eat inflammatory foods?

Did I otherwise fail to most valiantly battle against prevalent airborne infections?

Certainly, there's something I could have done, and so I've been beating myself up about the cold for several days now. I've also been inhaling steam infused with oil of oregano. I've slathered the area between my nose and my mouth with Aquaphor so as not to look like an eight-year-old who can't manage her Kleenex. I've been taking ibuprofen to manage my headache. I've avoided juicy coughing in public whenever possible.

I felt a little better today. Tomorrow, I'll feel even better. I can feel righteous about my relatively short viral illness. I can try harder to avoid the next one. I can never give up.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Looking Forward

Next year, I'm not planning to be a teacher. Instead, I'm going to be a full-time writer. This decision, while not necessarily permanent, seems relatively life-changing in all kinds of big and small ways.

For instance, I'll be able to get my haircut on a weekday. Also, I can stay home if a repair person needs to make a service call. If I get sick, it won't require hours of work and worry to miss a day of school. Dan won't have to leave his job if there's an ortho appointment or the dog needs to go to the vet. We can do our Costco run on Monday mornings instead of during the apocalyptic weekend hours. It won't be hard to make dinner or exercise.

Perhaps most importantly, I have a fighting chance at finishing my second book by the deadline of January 1, 2020. That's the real reason why I'm making this change, but the whole family is kind of fantasizing about the aforementioned other benefits. Shef raised his arms in victory when I told him the plan, and I don't think he was necessarily thinking of my glorious hours in a sunny co-working space, writing snappy dialogue and clever plot twists.

Of course, there are downsides to the pivot, as well. Most notable is the fact that I like my job. Teaching is more of an identity than a profession. I've done it for nearly 20 years, for basically all of my working life. And, I recently changed jobs from secondary to elementary teaching. The switch has revitalized me and turned me into a learner all over again. I'm sorry to leave it just as I'm getting started, especially because searching for another new teacher so soon will inconvenience my colleagues.

But, being a full-time novelist for a year or two or maybe longer? That's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, don't you think? I've got to give it shot.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Greetings From the Polar Vortex

I just had that familiar feeling that comes near February 1st in teaching, the feeling that you're not sure how you'll ever make it through the dark and dismal winter with its indoor recesses and increased crankiness. And then this year we got an extra shot: dark, dismal, and colder than it's been in decades! The windchills are supposed to get down to -50 or -60 degrees Fahrenheit; the actual air temps are supposed to be as low as -25.

So, the miserable, triple-threat winter actually offered us a reprieve: we can't go to school for a few days. We'll rest and recharge and not suffer frostbite within five minutes of being outside. That's what the weather service said, btw. Frostbite will begin within five minutes of exposing any skin to the elements. Can't do bus stops in those conditions.

I'm using the time on these three days to make some strides on my second book. In fact, yesterday, I wrote more than 2,000 words! Today, I'm planning to set a more reasonable, and yet still impressive, goal of 1,000 words. Who knows? Maybe I'll surpass it.

I'll also do my hand exercises. And, I'll read.

There are other people for whom these days won't be so pleasant--people with jobs that can't be canceled, people with toddlers who morph into living terrors outside of routine, people who don't have a warm place to be that's all their own. I wish I could make this vortex more enjoyable for these folks. I wish I could get them a warm cup of coffee.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Tub

At long last, we're gutting the master bathroom in our home. It'll be nice to have an update also nice not to have a dark and leaky shower.

Still, we face some challenges. One of them is that I have very little design sense. I don't know what the options are, what looks good together, and sometimes even what I like. So, that makes remodeling hard. Remodeling seems to go better when people have confidence in their decision-making.

It also seems to go better when the HGTV vans come in and just fix everything in 48 hours or so for half of what I'm going to have to pay. I asked the woman at the plumbing fixture showroom why it seems so cheap when Chip and Joanna Gaines do it, and she said it's because they don't include labor costs--just, like, wholesale prices for the materials.

So, the lesson here is that HGTV is a big fat lie. Just FYI.

In any case, one component we needed to choose for our new bathroom was the tub. We selected one, a nice clawfoot job, but then it turned out that according to codes, we needed one with the drain on the right side, not in the center. If you want a clawfoot with a drain like that, it's got to be an oblong shape or a slipper style, neither of which we thought would look nice in the space.

Not that we know anything. But who needs a lifetime of doubt surrounding a seldom-used bathtub?

So the plumbing showroom gal gave us the option of a rectangular tub with some detailing in the toe kick area. This choice will also save us some cash because we won't need the fancy faucet that comes out of the floor and loops the edge of the clawfoot. When it came time to choose the faucet we will actually have, I deferred almost completely to the plumbing showroom professional. The faucet looked a-ok to me, and I just couldn't think about it anymore.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Change



A while ago, something big happened to change my writing life. Writing used to be my hobby. I worked on it diligently, and I didn't know if I'd ever be published. When I'd talk to my students about my book, they'd inevitably ask about the ultimate step, and my answer was always, "I hope so, but that part isn't in my control."

But the other parts -- learning, improving, risk-taking, putting my butt in the chair -- those parts I can control, and I do. Most weekdays, I write from 4:45-6:15am. I take classes. On weekdays, I make myself write at least 400 words. In the summer and on breaks it's usually 800, and sometimes for a random month during the school year, I raise the quota to reach an arbitrary goal. Like, I'll decide I'm writing 20,000 words in November or whatever.

But, if I failed in those word-count endeavors, it didn't matter to anyone, mostly not even to me. And, when things were extra crazy at school or home, I'd just take a little break. "I won't work on my book this week because I'm doing report cards," I might decide. Or, when school started, "I'm not going to worry about opening my manuscript until September 28th." And that was fine, obviously, because writing was my hobby.

This November, though, I accepted an offer from Berkley, an imprint at Penguin Random House, to publish my existing novel and the next one I write.

It's amazing! I feel as if I've won the lottery!

And now I have fewer choices about altering my writing schedule. I have to turn things in when I said I would. It goes beyond that, even. I don't get to say when I'll turn something in. So, it doesn't matter about report cards or a new math unit or a hockey tournament for Mac in an out-of-town locale. Writing is my job, too. It's thrilling!

The inflexibility provides an extra layer of challenge, but I'm not someone who shies away from that kind of thing. Historically, I've been more of a "bring it on" person. That's lucky, don't you think?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

This Is Not My Fave



On New Year's Day, I broke my wrist by slipping on some ice while walking into the ski chalet. I was wearing ski boots at the time, but was not skiing. I have the classic slip-and-fall break, the Colles' Fracture, which happens when you brace your fall with your arm.

I'll be honest and tell you, this highly common injury hurts to high heaven. I kept exclaiming to my very nice ER nurse how much it hurt. She nodded and said, "Well, look at it."

I think she was referring to the way the joint made an s-shape, a shape wrists are not supposed to take. After a little while in traction and some nerve blocking agent, the doctor attempted to set the bone, which couldn't be done because the fracture was of the comminuted variety. I've learned this means the bones were in a lot of pieces.

Later that night on January 1st, after my fingers swelled up and became numb, I had to take an Uber back to the ER. The doctors tried again to get it into alignment. More traction, more manipulation, and -- blessedly-- more nerve blocker. I was relieved when they achieved a better position, and I could once again feel my fingers.

Now, I've had surgery, and I have a new plate in my wrist, holding everything together. You can see the plate in the picture above. I can move all my fingers, and I can even almost type. Almost.

I'll be back to work, writing and teaching in no time. Although this broken wrist is a massive pain in more ways than one, I'm hoping in the long term, we'll think of it as a blip.

Let's repeat it together: BLIP.