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.

Monday, June 10, 2019

On the Irrelevancy Gold Stars

The other night, Shef woke us up at 11:05pm, roundabouts, to tell us that he'd qualified for a prestigious track meet. We thought he'd missed the time standard by a measly six-hundredths of a second over the course of a whole mile run, so we were all delighted to find out that New Balance Nationals accepted his time. Woot!

On hearing this news, I rose from my bed to help him register immediately as a midnight deadline approached. After we'd completed the paperwork, I tried to go back to blissful slumber and failed.

Lucky for me, I was in the middle of a delightful collection of essays by Mary Laura Philpott. It's called I Miss You When I Blink, and while I hate it when I can't sleep, I quite enjoyed the 90 minutes during which I read Philpott's musings on parenting, perfectionism, and the infernal PTA before drifting off again. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and recommend this book, especially if you're in the minivan stage of life, as I am. Today, my minivan and I are headed to no fewer than five destinations, dropping off and picking up like bosses.

I think Philpott would encourage me in this kid-wrangling. "I see you with your organized calendar," she'd say. And, she would likely give me a gold star if I saw her in person and she happened to be carrying a sheet of gold stars.

Since that scenario is unlikely, I think I'll just imagine my gold star. I'm imagining a big one right now.

Friday, June 7, 2019

IntenseTrackMom.Com

I love the sport of running. I've been doing it since I was eleven years old, and in fact, it's the only sport I've ever done on a competitive level.

Well, to be fair, I did also play slo-pitch softball when I was seven or nine or so. As I'm not good at throwing or catching, it was a tough go; but I distinctly remember giving it my all.

In any case, because running is literally the only sport I know anything about, it's lucky for me that my oldest child has fallen in love with it. Or, maybe it's unlucky because it turns out I'm highly invested. We have a joke in our house that I run a website called IntenseTrackMom.Com. I don't really have that website, but wouldn't it be a delightful place to hang?

"Mom, are you the only intense track mom?" Shef asked me recently.

"No," I said, thinking about the other moms of kids on the team. "There's Kelly. She's pretty intense." Shef nodded. It's true that Kelly is pretty intense. I've even seen her on her feet cheering for her kid in the final stretch. She'll even stand up if she's in the middle of the bleachers with people behind her. "And Alice is intense," I continued. Alice's kid is like a ten-time state champion, and she seems pretty into track, as it turns out. "And Josie." Shef and I were agreeing about Josie's intensity when Dan broke in.

"But none of them are quite as intense as you," Dan said.

Is that true? I'm not sure I buy it. Indeed, I'm a highly-knowledgeable track fan, but I never harass coaches or officials. I'm extremely well-behaved. Delightful, if you will.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

My New Headphones

I few days ago, I wrote a short story on Instagram about the death of my old headset. I know the headset looked completely ridiculous, and yet, I felt attached to it.

Although the headset served me well, when I went to replace it, I decided to go in a different direction. I went with something a little less conspicuous than giant, over-the-ear, air-traffic-controller style. I got some sleekish Bluetooth earbuds without thinking too hard about it. I didn't make the change because I care about other people making fun of me, which they did all the time for wearing that giant accessory. I made the change for me, because I was ready.

I'm happy to report that my first run with the new equipment was delightful. It took a little finagling, but I figured out how to fit the buds in my ears and get them to stay there. Then, I just tucked the wire that hangs around your neck into my ponytail. The instructions didn't say to do that part, but it's a smart move. That way, my neck was unencumbered.

And, I'll tell you something: although the buds were not as comfortable as the old headset, they were cooler. Both in terms of temperature and in terms of looks.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Always Be My Maybe

I've been super into the delightful Netflix movie, Always Be My Maybe with Ali Wong and Randall Park. I've already seen it twice, and I love it a lot.

Here's what I find especially appealing about this wonderful film:

  • It's in my favorite genre, romantic comedy. In this type of film, you don't have to worry about horrible, heartbreaking endings or things like dismemberment, serial killing, or getting run over by tractor-trailers. There will be some unfortunate misunderstandings in the romantic comedy, of course. Main characters will make bad choices, and you might feel distressed by a supporting character's peril. But in the end, you're going to be delighted by a warm, big-hearted finale. That's just the best.
  • Randall Park does nerd rapping about tennis balls and Keanu Reeves.
  • Keanu Reeves is so funny and huge in this movie. Totally extra. And who doesn't like Keanu? I'll admit I used to be a little snobby about his performance in Kenneth Branagh's 1993 adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, but I'm now totally over that.

To be honest, Dan doesn't like Always Be My Maybe as much as I do, but I think we can chalk it up to his questionable taste. He likes Goon and Starship Troopers, after all. His problem with this particular film is that Park and Wong are "ambiguously aged." Take a chill pill and suspend disbelief, Dan. That's my advice.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Days of Delight

It's June, which everyone knows is a delightful month. Lee suggested we all write about things that do, in fact, delight us and that we do it with frequency.

I will now try to engage in this splendid activity. Here's a story of extreme delight:

On Friday, I had my last day of working at my fabulous school. There's an assembly every year at which we honor employees who have enjoyed long tenures. At the end of that gathering, the head of school reads a list of people who have either been fired from the school or who have decided not to return. After she says each name, everyone gives one clap.

It's a one-clap salute, if you will.

Before the gathering started, I told my friends I wanted my one clap to be quite robust. I'm delighted to say it was! The clap felt suitably momentous for quitting my job.

Then, there's a picnic, but I decided to skip it because Shef and I had plans. Dan knew about these plans, and while we were out, he came home from work and left a congratulations banner, helium balloons, flowers, and a necklace with an inspirational phrase. All of this was to send me off on my new adventure as a professional writer, which begins tomorrow.

Let the delight continue!