Saturday, July 20, 2019

Summer Status Report

Summer-End Panic
It's nearing the end of July, and I have to say I'm feeling much different than I normally do at this point in the summer. Most significantly, I'm void of panic, and I haven't been crying. To be fair, most summers I don't cry that much. But last summer, I had to get my rewritten book to my agent by August 7th, or I'd never, ever get it to her. The crush of the school year would descend, and I wouldn't have the long hours I needed to complete my revision. Tears leaked out, and I wondered whether I could make the book as good as she wanted me to. Now, that book has sold and is almost totally edited. Instead of weeping about my next project, I can simply extend my arbitrary writing deadline to September 1st and carry on. I'll be crushed by just one job, not two.

Dan's Retina
On Monday, his doctor lowered the boom: he needed an extra week of on-his-right-side bedrest to cement that detached retina back into place. No one has been happy about this, but we've been stalwart in our adherence to the guidelines. We all prefer that Dan not be blind. Of course, if Dan were writing this paragraph, he might include an expletive or two to illustrate what it's been like to stay in bed with his right cheek on a very thin pillow for 12 days straight. He might include the descriptors, "crazy-making" or "awful" or "utterly depressing." We can all imagine it. It's not the best.

The Teen Driver
Shef has been diligently practicing his driving, and in my estimation, he's quite good. Sure enough, yesterday his behind the wheel instructor confirmed that he's doing well and that he's extremely amenable to coaching. I agree, and so far we haven't crashed even a little bit. When I told my friend Jordan that I've been the primary driving instructor in our household, she laughed. "You shouldn't be teaching anyone to park," she said. That's obvious. I'm a terrible parker. I'm not even that good of a driver. But, I'm a good teacher, and that's been carrying me along.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Curveballs

A few things have happened. First, I forgot to remind myself that I'm not free in the summers, but rather that I'm "doing a different job." I remembered this important distinction in advance last year, and I was the happier for it. This year, when I was running down the clock on the school year, I imagined myself in summer mode, making amazing progress on my second novel, cranking out impressive word counts and revising like a boss. I forgot about the minivan taxi service and the million hopes and dreams of everyone else in my household that rest of my very shoulders.

The bottom line: summer is always good, but it's not a vacation.

A second, quite significant curveball arrived on our home plate last Monday. Dan had emergency surgery for a detached retina. I didn't know much about this, but the deal is, if your retina detaches, you need to get it surgically reattached to the surrounding tissues right away. And then you need to hold it in place while it heals. This is the tricky part. Depending on where the tear is, that determines the position in which you must hold your head for a significant period of time to let the gas bubble the doctor puts in there apply pressure to the reattachment site. I might be explaining this wrong, but you get the gist.

Here's the bottom line: Dan has to lie still on his right side for at least seven days with very few breaks. He's deeply unhappy, as any of us in this situation would be. But one has to do it. If you don't do it, you might lose your vision. So, the whole thing has wicked high stakes.

The third curveball is that I just discovered I might be double-paying for my NYTimes subscription. That's probably the least significant of the three. It probably doesn't require any more explanation.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Age-Group Record

Nothing quite delights me like a track meet, and this week Mac ran in a USATF all-comers meet in the 3000. It was his first track race, and he ran it well, finishing in twelve minutes and thirty seconds.

That would be exciting enough all on its own, but as a bonus, there was a record set in the same race. A guy named Sherwood Sagedahl, age 80, ran faster than any 80-84-year-old American ever has at the distance. His time was 13:40.42. He seemed to suffer a bit with the effort, but he finished strong, soaking in the modest applause from the incredulous crowd.

We just weren't expecting this kind of excitement at a small meet in regular suburb with little fanfare. What a surprise delight, and also, kind of an inspiration. Anyone who's running at 80 gets an A in my book. You don't even have to set records for being the best 80-year-old of all time.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Summer Reading

It's no shocker that I'm loving my summer reading. I generally love all of my reading in every season, but things are a little slower in the summer. I have more time to go to the library, to place holds, to flip through multiple volumes at the same time.

Right now, I'm reading some essays on writing by one of my faves, Richard Russo. Have you read Nobody's Fool? Empire Falls? Straight Man? I really admire this guy. In fact, there was a time when I was 100% caught up on Richard Russo novels. I've now missed several, but the possibilities of summer are endless. I could get right back up to speed.

Of course, there are other demands on my time. I'm also reading On the Come Up, Angie Thomas's second novel. It's a propulsive story, and I'll likely be finished in a day or so. Bri, the main character, lives in the same world, the same neighborhood, as Starr and Seven and Sekani from The Hate U Give. As I've been making my way through this new book, I've been thinking about how hard it is to write second novels. Angie Thomas tweeted about the difficulties while she was working on this one, and I'm quite familiar because I'm also currently writing a second novel. That process is only intermittently delightful. Still, Thomas's sophomore effort is solid, and it seems to have come out on time. #Winning.

Also on my nightstand, I've got two library holds I'd really like to finish by the time they're due, including The Travelers by Chris Pavone. If I complete it, I'll be 100% caught up on Chris Pavone novels. 100% delights me every time.  Also, I've got Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I didn't know that Kate Atkinson had detective novels, but then I found out. I love detective novels, and I was utterly wowed by her book, Life After Life.

There are more books, of course, but those are the ones I'm thinking about on this day.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

This isn't MMMbop

I've decided to delight myself by branching out in my music choices, like beyond Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA" and "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers. So, right now I'm streaming a playlist on Spotify by the NPR Music team that claims to be the best songs of 2018.

The songs are different and fun. Some of them are in other languages, which makes sense. Probably not all of the best songs of 2018 were written and recorded by English speakers. How ethnocentric of me to be surprised by the Spanish and French I'm hearing, amirite?

Although I'm enjoying by the music, I'm also feeling a little bit like a faker. I'm not cool enough for these tunes. I'm pretty basic in most of my aesthetic choices. Just check out my olive green Bermuda shorts, my grey t-shirt, my Apple watch. I didn't even wear any mascara today.

The person who listens to this NPR playlist has perhaps a different, more vibrant sensibility. She probably either does her hair on the regular, or she DOESN'T do it, but with a sense of irony.

I just haven't done my hair this summer because I'm lazy. I haven't worn mascara for the same reason. It might be delightful to be the person who has actually heard these songs before and nods along while wearing perfect eyeliner, like, yeah, this is definitely one of the best songs of 2018. But it's also fine to just carry on and listen to the music if it pleases me, which I think it does.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Meditation. Again.

I've had a meditation practice going at various times in my life, and I'll admit, it's super helpful in reducing my stress, making me feel more deliberate, and--this is according to science--lengthening my life and generally maximizing my health. What happens, though, is that just when I need mediation the most, when I feel the most frazzled and out of control, I break the habit.

But now my life is changing, and I'm hopeful that I can just make regular meditation a thing. How hard can it be? I'm especially motivated because I'm reading a delightful book entitled The Last Best Cure by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. The author is a science journalist and has compiled copious evidence that certain practices (meditation, yoga, and acupuncture) can reverse damage to the brain and immune system caused by stress and its attendant chemicals.

This is one of those books where I stop frequently and subject my family to nuggets of fascination.

"Did you know that the number-one predictor in whether or not you'll have a repeat heart-attack is pessimism?"

"People who meditate have no decline in attention and concentration as they age. It's proven by brain imaging!"

"Hey, listen to this -- this is incredible. People who have had adverse childhood experiences actually have smaller hippocampuses. Like, the area of the brain is smaller and makes it harder for people to process emotions and manage stress forever."

No one at home seems all that interested in these little tidbits, but I am. I've recommended the book to like 20 people already. I'm going to recommend it to you, as well, especially if you have an autoimmune disease or other chronic health problem. If you have one of those, you should get this book immediately. And you should start meditating. It can't be all that hard. I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Delight and Dread. Both. A Duo.

We're writing about delight this month, so I'll admit today's topic is a stretch: Shef is taking driver's ed.

Ok, so on the one hand, I can't wait for him to procure his driver's license. I've spent the last several years of my life driving him hither and yon, to and fro, near and far. I'll be delighted to just send him on his way to wherever he's going and not spend my prime mid-life years in the goddamn car.

On the other hand, driving is terrifying. On Monday, I went to a required parent education class at the triple-A that confirmed that operating motor vehicles is too dangerous for teens.  During the 90-minute hell-fest, the state-mandated instructor showed me crash statistics, videos of people whose lives have been ruined by teen drivers, and information on organ donation. My big takeaway from the seminar is that no teen should, in fact, be driving.

And yet. We cannot deny that our quality of life will improve once our teen can drive, at least during daylight hours, off the highway, and with his cellphone in the trunk. I have days of delight ahead of me when I don't criss-cross the metro area, shuttling him to various commitments. I'll be happy in the future, as long as he doesn't die from driving.