Summer Progress

This summer has been a whirlwind. My parents came for a visit, and we had a great time. We watched movies, we went out to the wilds of Birch Bay, and we went out to a backyard bbq. My parents were in their element. They are a dynamic duo. My dad’s a great storyteller, and my mom is an empathic listener. They are always welcome at parties.

My dad’s favorite hobby is taking pictures, which he made sure to do while we were out and about. My mom taught me what a Zen Tangle was. It’s a complex pattern that seems like a fun way to spend an afternoon. Luke and I showed them Fool Us and Macklemore and Maru on YouTube.

By the end of the trip I was tired out. I probably didn’t have to try as hard as I did, but I’m an overachiever, even if it’s not explicitly what my parents ask for or expect. I had to make sure everything was great for their visit.

Even after their departure, I can’t seem to find it in myself to relax. I jumped back on my writing projects with gusto, worked on chores on the house, and took my son to the Raspberry Festival.

I need to figure out what to do with the rest of the summer. I am not outdoorsy by nature, but I have a ten-year-old son that if left to himself would sit inside all day. The B&G club has been a godsend, but there’s something to be said to taking him to a park or out on a Pokewalk to get him engaged in the outdoors. I think I’m stressing out about this more than necessary, because I haven’t been able to carve out a routine.

This summer has been a roller coaster, and I can’t believe it’s halfway done. Yesterday during a conversation with Allison, I laughed and said, “Remember how we were going to do ALL THE THINGS this summer?”

She laughed too.

The summer progresses at its own pace.

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High Note

We’ve almost made it through another year, and everyone is resetting. Everyone is looking at the new year as a new hope, and they’re trying to be positive. This is why I love the new year. I love it more than Christmas, more than any other holiday. Because at the end of the day, people are looking forward to something, whatever that might be for them.

Yes, bad things happened this year. A lot to celebrities that I respected died. Musicians like Leonard Cohen, Prince, and David Bowie. Advocates like Carrie Fischer. And honestly, celebrities I just felt attached too, like Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder. We live in a world where everyone is so visible to us. I am glad that I will have albums to listen to with Leonard’s rich, velvety voice when I feel sad. I am glad that I have Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I’m glad that I have Star Wars on Blu-ray. They are permanent reminders.

The new year is a time to take stock, to see where we are as we begin a new year. It feels like so little has gone right this year. However, when I looked back on it, I realized there are things to be proud of or happy for.

  • I graduated from college with my AA degree, after making straight A’s for the school year
  • I am staying on my path and headed for a Bachelor’s degree next
  • My relationship with Toby has improved
  • My husband’s construction company is growing
  • I wrote a book this year! It’s the next installment of The Gray Hat series and I’m excited to see it moving to the editing stage.
  • I had a wonderful talk with my editor regarding my next steps for my career

I’m sure there are more positive things, but it’s more usual to get lost in the day-to-day of managing life; appointments, maintenance, responsibilities. Not everything stands out but I know I’ve had more than a few good days this year.

Which is why it’s good to take a moment and look back and appreciate the good.

Moving Forward

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.

The Last Day of Summer

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

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.

The Curve

I have written this post three times, trying to communicate what I want to say. I’ve rarely had such a challenge with a blog post. So, I’ll say it up front: This post is about the the good from the bad and bad from the good.

For example, over Memorial Day weekend my family needed to go to a funeral. My husband’s step-mom’s mom passed, and while it was sad, it wasn’t unexpected. The family took it well, and had a few weeks between event and memorial to manage their grief.

With that in mind, the weekend went splendidly. My son managed to stay still through a Catholic service, which earned him a medal of honor of a sort. We were proud of him for not melting down. If you’ve never sat through a Catholic service, you may not be aware of the long, strange rituals filled with archaic terms and repetitions. Catholicism takes its rituals very seriously, rarely updating their cannon to be accessible. I remember being a young girl sitting through a Catholic Mass with my grandmother. I got into trouble because I followed her up to take Communion. (I wanted the cracker.) I got into trouble because I didn’t understand what the cracker meant, and the symbolism behind it. To me it was just a cracker. To them, it’s the Body of Christ.

Ritual is soothing to many, and the Catholics faith is nothing if not stable. To a child, there are few things more exasperating than being forced to be quiet and listen to unfamiliar chants for an hour. Toby twisted and turned, flopped and flipped, but he was quiet, and he kept mostly to just his seat. When you’re a child with ADHD, that is a testament to self-control.

What’s more, Toby’s teacher has praised him the last two days because he’s been more focused on his work. When compared to the funeral, going to school just doesn’t seem that terrible anymore. This isn’t simple supposition. This is what my kid has told me when I asked him what caused him to behave better. Apparently the experience of the service showed him that were in fact worse things than school. I didn’t imagine something good coming out of sitting through a Catholic funeral. It seems as though allowing Toby to experience first hand this tough thing had the unexpected benefit of giving him something for comparison.

This is going to stay with me. I am a protective mother, I admit it. I often try to protect Toby from experiences I think he won’t like. I see now that what I’m doing is narrowing his field of experience, which isn’t teaching him anything. I’m not going to throw him out into the street and expect him to fend for himself, but it definitely is an argument for trying things for other reasons than just suiting my son’s tastes.

Not long after we got back, I got into an online conversation with a girlfriend of mine who is also attending school. She is beginning to see the downside of being as talented as she is. My girlfriend is marvelous, she’s got a good head on her shoulders and has a business sense that is getting her far with her teachers at her school. Quite recently she endured some thinly veiled teasing that made her feel awkward and uncomfortable. It made her quite upset.

I chimed in with solidarity in the online conversation, but mentally I turned this over in my mind. I realized why she was so upset. In part, it was because being the best in the class is supposed to be a good thing. There aren’t supposed to be any downsides to earning the highest place through hard work and talent. She had worked hard to get where she was, so why wasn’t she appreciated?

I never thought about it. People don’t warn you that being at the top has downsides. Everyone wants to get to the top so bad, I’m not sure anyone would listen if they did. When you make it to the top, however, those who want to be where you are have no incentive to treat you with respect. They will do everything in their power to shake you loose, and not lose a night of sleep doing it. It made me sad to realize this was something that would happen. After all, good things should be all good, right?

Everything in life is a little bit good and a little bit bad. Some things are very good, some things are very bad, but typically there isn’t much that you can’t find a little bit of the other. When it’s good, though, we expect it to be all good, all the time, with no interruptions. Why wouldn’t we?

Both of these lessons were worth learning, and have given me a lot to think about. I’m a fan of trying to make things as simple as possible to keep them efficient, but recently I’ve learned that efficiency may not be the most useful human trait. Sometimes we have to remember that it’s more complicated than we think it is.

 

Tornado Hallway

I didn’t grow up in Tornado Alley, but I did grow up in a tornado hallway. I’ve lost track of how many funnel clouds I’ve seen threaten my subdivision when I was growing up. The skies would turn black. Not the open black of night, but oppressive, thick black cloud cover that cuts the sky out and replaces it with aggression. There’s a taste in the back of your throat like dust and ozone. Once a funnel forms, your eyes are locked, waiting to see if the clouds will kiss the ground and try to drag it back up to the sky.

After a while, though, living under the constant threat of sky strafing, you get inured to it. I mean, it’s a natural disaster that no one controls, not some human threat, after all. There is no objective, just barometric pressure and wild winds. You know to listen for tornado warnings, and you find low spots for safety if you’re out in the weather, but otherwise it’s nothing more than an insurance claim waiting to strike.

I find this experience has prepared me for life as a non-traditional student. There are days that go by where things are almost peaceful, but then my son will need a doctor’s appointment or my spring break doesn’t coincide with my son’s so I need to be in the first week of school and to have someone watch him while I’m in class. My date nights have gone from once a month to once a quarter. Homework dominates every aspect of my life. I’ve pared my social time back to the quick. Writing? Forget it. I can dash off a blog post but anything more demanding is relegated to least priority.

Why did I do it? Honestly, I do it because it satisfies a host of requirements for my life going forward. I did it to be a better writer. I did it to become an editor. I did it to have a four-year degree under my belt so I qualify for a job more complex than to bring fries to a table. I’m not dissing on anyone’s job; I simply am fed up with being a customer service muppet. For my sanity I require that I am more employable, even if I don’t plan on working for a major corporation.

I’ve done some very awesome things in the last two months. I went to Vegas for the first time in my life, with several girlfriends who are awesome, supportive, and hilarious. I went to NorWesCon and learned a lot about myself as an author, and how to further my career going forward. I have submitted another story to the Tokyo Yakuza crew per their request. I have even managed to overhaul my next novel and set it on a firmer path.

The silver lining to the funnel clouds above is this: I am handling it. My grades are great, my kid is doing fine in school, and my husband is gallivanting and being his social self. The most important pieces of my life are in order. There is a lot of sacrifice, and its being borne up by significantly less time with my friends. I’ve left people wondering if I’m still their friend anymore, which pains me. I appreciate everyone who is putting up with this major change. I put my social life above everything else for a large portion of my life. Not doing so is weird.

The funnel is high above the earth right now, and I can spare a glance out at the world for a moment. Knowing that it’s going to take years to make my goal brings more clouds and more wind. The truth is, that the funnels will never completely disappear. The point is to keep going despite them, and not let them distract you from your goals.