Onward Spring

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Last week the snowpocalypse showed up, snowing in my husband, my son, and me. My husband constantly physical, and being indoors for seven days was a trial. My son does love video games, and we took him to play outside, but after such a long time even he was missing school. My school, which never closes, was closed for three days, and my teachers cancelled classes even on some of the days the school was open. I was ready for a change of scene by the end of the week myself.

I’m going through some big shifts this first quarter at university. For starters, my grades aren’t where they’ve been at Whatcom. It’s frustrating, going from a school where I was on the Dean’s list to belly-flopping in the grade pool of Western. It’s also motivating me to find new ways to student. I’ve been blessed with a husband who knows many forms of getting information drilled into your head. He’s been coaching me along, giving me good suggestions for how to study more effectively.

Learning new techniques has been helpful. It’s also taught me a lot about what a good student really is, compared to what I thought being a good student was. I’ve had to face up to my prejudices and the standards I’ve held myself to, then take a step back and recognize that my old standards were crazy high and needed to be reset.

The time management has also become a thing – my schoolwork requires more time, which means that there’s less time for my son, my husband, and my house. I keep reminding myself that sacrifices would have to be made to get through school. This isn’t supposed to be forever, after all.

This does however put a shift in my blogging, as well, as I usually write about what happens to me, and currently there isn’t much going on with me outside of school and home. I don’t even have much time to write, which is ironic. I still try to make time to write, despite my challenges.

I took a walk with Toby yesterday. It was fifty degrees and felt balmy compared to the cold we’d had the week before. The sun was out, and we managed to see signs of spring. The lilac leaves were budding, and it looked like the willows were sprouting forth their fuzzy white buds. One neighbor had just mown his lawn, and the smell was divine. Seeing signs of life amidst the winter bracken gave me some hope that the next season would be coming quickly, with new sights and new stories.

Winter Break

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It has not happened in a long time, but this year my birthday was snowed out. Or, snowed in, I should say, as both my husband and my son had to stay home from work and school respectively. I’m on winter break, but doubtless my school would have closed, too.

The first day was fun. My menfolk played video games and entertained themselves while I wrote my newest installment for the Sanguinarian serial. Then Tuesday rolled around and my son’s school was closed again. My husband went out to brave the ice in my car instead of his truck, leaving us stuck to our own devices.

Eventually I bundled both of us up and took Toby out to play. The ice was bad on the roads but we walked over to the school field, and the powder was perfect for snowballs. So, we played. Toby had trouble making snowballs but I showed him how. We only had one rule – no aiming for the face.

We bumbled along, my son drawing happy faces in the snow, occasionally throwing snowballs at each other’s coats. Toby made snow angels.

I reached down for a fresh snowball when Toby raised his arms above his head and said, “Throw it at me, Mom! I want to show you something.”

Having already pelted him with a few good-natured snowballs, I complied. As I threw, I watched Toby drop to the ground, presumably to have the snowball fly over him. Which, if I had been aiming for his head, would have worked. However, because I threw the ball at his chest, as he dropped, he met the arc of the flying snowball with a perfect thwak of snow meeting cheek. This appeared to occur in slow motion as I watched in horror, realizing what was going to happen but unable to take it back.

“I’d like to go home now,” was all he said as I tore off my gloves and scooped snow off his cheek.

It was the perfect storm of events – the throw had been a light lob, which would have exploded harmlessly against his coat, but I had no inkling of what he wanted to show me. There was no way for me to have prevented it and my son wanted to show me a surprise, he wouldn’t have told me what his plan was.

It all had that vivid, ‘this is too real to be true’ moment that sort of echoes how a lot of people feel at the end of this year.

I’m preparing for some upheaval as we go into the new year. I’m hoping it will be beneficial upheaval, but given the nature of this year, I’m going into it expecting chaos and see what happens. The snowball is coming, it’s just whether I ducked fast enough has yet to be determined.

 

Moving Forward

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I have two more weeks of school left. This is when finals happen, when final projects come due, and when people lose their will to live. It pushes on nerves and strains patience, but it’s designed to do that and the wise student doesn’t taper off.

I have started writing again. It took a month to recover my creative drive. I was terrified that it wouldn’t come back, but it seems no matter what the shock, my creativity will come back home. I have Typhon, Inc. out to beta readers, and with luck I’ll get some feedback over the holidays. I’ve already got some, but I’m waiting on the rest before making any big changes. This is the hardest part of writing for me, but it’s also a very exciting time as well. And at least I’ll be able to make the changes when the feedback comes in.

I started a Creative Writing class this quarter, and was surprised to discover that my writing capacity is at a higher level than I credited it. Writers are notorious for low self-esteem and don’t provide themselves with much credit for their ability. Seeing is believing, I guess, and I have an excellent grade in the class so far. I’m looking forward to classes in the University.

I’m terrified about going to University, I’ll tell you. Higher level courses, bigger course loads, and the competition for classes are 3 times more. Whatcom is a friendly college that is close to my end of town and has plenty of free parking. The professors are enthusiastic and focused on their students. I don’t know what to expect from the university except for what I’ve been told by my friends that started last quarter, and the reviews have been wanting. I’m sure I’ll learn to navigate but it’s that transition period that can be the doozy.

I haven’t done well this year with investing in the holidays. Halloween was barely noticeable and Thanksgiving was good but also very short. We had a five-day break and once Thanksgiving supper was done, it was over and moving on. We didn’t even participate in much Black Friday. We got a couple items we’d been planning on, online. Luke went to Best Buy and came back within an hour and I went to a little local shop called Spice Hut because we were out of thyme and they were having deals.

With luck, the future will hold some good things for us for 2017, even if they come from unexpected corners. I imagine that the road is going to be rocky for the foreseeable future, but life doesn’t come with a guarantee that things will always be good. We just have to find the good where we can.

Recovery

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After the stumbling block that was 11/8, I spent a lot of time thinking. The future was shaping up a bit differently than I’d first imagined it, and it took a while to figure out how to proceed. What made things more difficult is that I’m at the crux of graduating with my Associates and moving up to University for my Bachelors.

I had to ask myself, do I still want to go for the English degree? Do I still want to go to school? Would it be better to take my Associates and run with it?

It’s good to examine your goals and make sure they are still what you want, but having to think that the kind of degree you’ll get might not matter, that was hard going. I had to have serious conversations with myself, determining what course of action would be best not just for me, but for my family.

At the end of the day I’m going to have a four-year degree, and that’s going to help me get a better job. The kind of degree I’m going to get, however, is how I’m chasing my dream. I want my son to see that going after your dream is not always easy going, but that you can’t give up.

“You can’t give up” is such an important message right now. There is a lot of negativity, and a lot of hate crimes occurring. People following the President-Elect who believe they’ve been given permission to instigate these crimes, and are taking full advantage of the situation. Being silent feeds their drive. Acquiescing to their actions gives them permission to take it another step further, and another. Giving up is high on many people’s minds, but giving up is the worst thing to do.

Despite wanting to give up, despite thinking that it would make things easier, I encourage everyone to reach into themselves and not give up. There are people who will, and they may rejoin the fight later, but we need everyone right now to keep fighting. It sounds small, but even making it out of bed in the morning is a victory. Not everyone can do that right now, so if you’re vertical with coffee in hand, you’re 100% more successful than some. If you’re out making connections and building community, you’re aces. These are small things, like hanging out at a coffee shop and saying hi, but these are the things that matter, maybe not in the moment but later.

I know it’s a small thing to decide to stay in school, to get an English degree. At the end of the day I’m just one person. I know it’s a small thing to show my son what it’s like to chase a dream. My son, and his classmates and friends, are the future. They’re part of a much bigger future which they are unaware of yet. They need to know what it’s like to dream. It’s a small lesson, but it’s the biggest lesson I can think of.

The Last Day of Summer

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Today was the last day of summer break.

We celebrated by taking a long walk and playing Pokémon Go. Halfway through our walk I took Toby to the ice cream shop. We trucked back down the long walk and got home. I made veggie nori, basically vegetarian sushi rolls. We forgot the avocados but they were still delicious.

Later in the day we went to the Meet & Greet. I got to meet Toby’s teacher, and made sure to express to her that I’m taking an active part in Toby’s education, and that she could contact me any time to help Toby with his school work.

My son is finally old enough that time is beginning to matter. Summer was too short; it was only two days long, Mom! He’s nervous about going to school this year, which he’s never been before. I imagine that he’ll recover before long.

Getting the kid interested in stuff is the hard part. He’s fascinated by video games, but to the exclusion of pretty much anything else. We’re trying to engage him in Real Life, but you know, what the hell is Real Life anyway?

We all struggle through school. Summer quarter is over but fall classes will start soon, and I know as soon as I start up classes I’ll be pushing through a lot of stuff all over again. Problems will pop up and run tandem with dates when work is due. I won’t know what will happen, yet, I’m just pretty sure that it will.

At this point I’m glad that everything is starting up. We attempted to do ALL THE THINGS this summer and I’m pretty tired by this point. Everything was fun, I don’t regret a moment, but there’s only so long one can run like that without faltering.

It was rather like watching my husband, my friend and her husband getting ready for Pain in the Grass. They decided not to go at the beginning, because that would simply be too long at the concert. They took Powerade, because they didn’t want to get dehydrated. They wore sunblock. Sensible, everyday things that your average twenty-something wouldn’t even consider doing for a concert. When they got home, they joked about the people who were obviously wasted. One girl passed out well before the headlining band showed up. Can you imagine?

I wish I could go back to mindlessly throwing myself at every project and burning my candle at sixteen ends. I wish I could steal my energy from my youth, when I was so more apt to waste it. But the truth is I couldn’t even handle the concert crowd… I opted to stay at my friend’s house and watch her kids and mine, instead.

Yep, the end of this summer vacation not only heralds school, but also a changing of lifestyle. It’s not the worst thing in the world, just more of a natural progression.

That’s right. I’ve gotten old and boring.

As my dad would say, “It beats the hell out of the alternative.”

Gotta Catch ’em All

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Summer has gotten out of hand. Trying to balance all the things that need to be done with all of Toby’s summer school responsibilities and my school work has made everything into a short, sharp series of vignettes. It’s time to do this now, okay after that it’s time to do this!

The one thing that has made everything more bearable is PokemonGo. My son loves Pokemon, we’ve been catching them all on Netflix for at least the last two years if not longer. Ash Ketchum, the protagonist, is 10 years old, a perfect role model for Toby. Honestly, the kid is a great role model. He is kind to animals (Pokemon but you get it), he has a never give up attitude, he always shows good sportsmanship whether he wins or loses, and he always gives other kids a chance to be friends.

Toby loves video games, and sometimes getting him interested in leaving the house is a challenge. PokemonGo has been a great way to entice him out to take walks. I let him use my phone, and that of course means I play overwatch, making sure that he doesn’t head out into the street or in front of other people on the trails or wherever we end up going.

What’s even more fun is my husband is also playing along. If Toby was hard to get out of the house, Luke was impossible, so this game has managed to get everyone out and about. We’ve talked to more people in the last week than we have ever, random strangers also looking at their phones and talking about Wheedles and Pidgeys.

In the past week I’ve spent more time with my friend Allie than I have in months. I’ve played a game with Toby, teaching him to pass turns and such. I’ve learned more about Pokemon than I think was possible. I’ve also walked miles of my city’s prettiest parks.

What gets me is how this game has brought my family together. Nights in the past were spent on individual devices, with the TV on in the background as we all zoned out and ignored it. I hated what was happening but I could not find a way to engage my husband and son. I appreciate that video games are their thing and not mine, but it was getting silly. Now we’re talking about Pokemon nights and making plans to go out to the parks two or three times a week.

This by itself has made my summer much better.

I am also writing my stories and books. I am working on publishing a short story through our press, Barely Salvageable. We have Hot Mess Volume 2 in the works. I’m also writing a story to try to get published through another publisher, but that’s more of a ‘let’s cross our fingers and hope’ situation. I haven’t forgotten about my novel, by the way. It’s just moving at a slower pace because I’m learning more about my writing process and that’s taking time.

I wish summer was more of a, ‘sit down and write’ time for me, but being a mother and a student and a wife, summer is more like the crazy-go-round that you can’t step off. It’s like the holidays, except that it’s three months long. So it just becomes a matter of dive in and swim, because there’s nothing else you can do.

Cruel Summer

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Now that I’m back from vacation, summer has truly set in. Toby is in summer school, so we still have a modicum of schedule to keep the house in order, but it only takes us so far. We’re left with swaths of afternoon without structure.

There’s a challenge being a parent of an only child, and that is your child looks to you not only as a parent, but as a playmate. I would like to say that Toby has plenty of friends, but they are all friends during the school year. The one friend we had outside of school had to move to Seattle, which has been difficult to cope with. I’ve had to step it up.

Today I wound up in Target for a few essentials, and as I walked through I found a couple of squirt guns. I’ve never been a fan of them, but at this point my boy needs something fun in his life. I brought them home and set them somewhere I knew he’d find them. He homed in on them like a missile. “What are these, Mom?”

I spent the afternoon getting splashed, and listening to my son laugh delightedly as we played chase and doused each other. I didn’t mind the spray. It takes some effort to get back into the kid mentality, to run like mad but not so fast you outdistance your kid. I’d prefer he had friends to play with, but that is a challenge that we didn’t expect. He has lots of little friends, but making friends with the parents has been challenging.

We are going to the Boys and Girls club on Friday, to try a new venue. Hopefully we can make a connection with some families and develop some lasting friendships. I know that I had few friends until I was older, but Toby is so much more outgoing than I ever was as a child. He makes friends; I just have to figure out how to make friends with the parents, at least to some degree.

This blog post was intended to talk about how wonky my schedule has been lately, but apparently that’s not what is highest on my mind. Toby’s lack of summer friendships has overtaken every other concern for the moment. When we get past this, we’ll be able to relax and enjoy our summer.