REPORT A PROBLEM
To NaNo or not to NaNo, that is a question. On the positive side, it's fun, and it always helps my writing, even if I never look at the 50,000-word draft again. And I may actually create something worth polishing! My main fear is my good ol' tendonitis/arthritis--will writing so much in a 30-day span trigger a flare-up? Usually, I write more slowly, working on shorter pieces, and focusing on a novel chapter at a time. Is it worth it to risk injury? Still, I'm tempted. Maybe I could try NaNo but not pressure myself about reaching the 50,000-word mark.
Should I write a rebus about preparing to adopt a cat? Need food and water bowls, litter box and litter. Have to be careful, just like with a baby, not to leave rubber bands, styrofoam pieces, and string about, to lock up medicines. Preparing a comfy bed for it sounds nice, but of course the cat will prefer to find its own comfy spot, probably someplace like a sofa where most people don't welcome cat hair. When we adopted D, the lady asked, "What would you do if she jumped on the couch?" I looked at her blankly--"Um, pet her?"
Luck. I've considered 3 to be my lucky number ever since I won a doll in sixth grade after pulling that number from a jar. (At least, I think it was a jar--my memory is hazy about details except for the number and the doll.) The doll was a Barbie knockoff, but younger and not as stylish, and I had fun sewing clothes for her and buying accessories at the discount store near Lincoln and Belmont, back then a bustling shopping area with Goldblatt's department store, Woolworth's, and Fannie Mae candies, and sometimes I'd see classmates shopping with their moms.
I go to M's mother's wake but skip Mass, dreading immersion in mourning. Now I write at Dunkin', wondering. Did I ever really thank M's mother for taking me in that week years ago when I was on crutches? Am I a good enough friend to M? She's one of the best people I know, but we're different--she's a hard-core by-the-book Catholic; I'm one of the ex-Catholics she worries about. I wonder--was I supposed to put money in the sympathy card? Never sure of etiquette; wanted to give her a pretty card saying I'm sorry, take good care of yourself.
Allergies haven't tormented me this badly since 2002, although I think then I was sneezing, now I'm coughing. It's in my chest and I've been avoiding stairs and swimming. So I spend too much time plopped on the couch watching Harry Potter DVDs or Agatha Christie's Poirot on Netflix drinking tea, with felines keeping me company. Of course, my sensible part realizes I'm lucky I have entertainment options and tea to drink--I'm better off than most of the world--but the little kid in me whines, "I'm bored." Yesterday I missed a family block party, and I couldn't swim this morning.
Instead of celebrating Columbus Day, Seattle celebrates Indigenous People's Day, and that's good. I remember a coworker, an older African American man, who'd frequently sigh saying, "It all started with Columbus." As an ignorant white twenty-something, I thought he was just kidding around. Since then I've read of Columbus's cruelty to Native Americans, learned a lot more of what African Americans have suffered. Yup, it started with Columbus. Still, A. loves Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian American heritage; this year the parade celebrates Italians who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Every people has wondrous saints and horrendous sinners.
In North Carolina, an 18-year-old young man, living in a foster home, enters his house, left unlocked by his foster mom, knowing he'd be home early. Neighbors see him enter and call the police, who confront him, tell him this can't be his home. The young man is African American, the foster family white, and all the family pictures show white kids--there are none of him. Turns out, he hates having his picture taken--but the cops don't believe him and pepper spray him. His foster family is incensed, the five-year-old asking, "Why did they hate our brother?" Sigh. Good question.
How I loved Halloween as a child! We lived in courtyard buildings; all I had to do was go around to all the apartments with my paper bag and I'd acquire quite a stash of goodies. I usually was a gypsy, as that only required wearing a bright skirt and top and my mom's jewelry. Probably not very politically correct, but I was pretty politically unaware back then! Once I went trick-or-treating with my cousins; how wonderful, when M proudly introduced me as her cousin! I felt like I belonged. My son was never a Halloween fan; he feared costumes.
Friday nights at DD are bustling, and I notice familiar, mostly older faces; me and my Chromebook are probably considered regulars, too. I choose a smaller table to leave room for other Friday people. It's cool that a lot of regulars and DD staff know each by name and have long chats about their lives; one couple dispenses life wisdom to a young girl as she pauses amidst sweeping the restaurant floor. I've always loved connections between people, dreading loneliness, so much so that I haven't always been wise. Not like I had great role models, but excuses are odious.
How fun to sit at Dunkin' and read critique group members' writings, from one featuring talking canines to another dealing with intense family drama. How fun, too, to know that my real work, the stuff I get paid for, helps people and does good in the world. Yesterday was fun, too, watching hockey with my son, who right now is hanging out with a great circle of friends. My life is pretty wonderful. Every so often, I think of past sins and flinch; I wonder if others are so haunted. But as I remember it, even the saints had sins.
I'd like to agree with the letter urging people to avoid referring to "the poor." I grew up on welfare, and though I now belong to the middle class I flinch when I hear "the poor"; the assumption seems to be that "the poor" are separate, a different subset, not "us." Person-first language might be a start. For example, it is proper etiquette to use "person-first" language when referring to people with disabilities, to emphasize that people who are deaf or use wheelchairs are first of all people. Likewise, people who are poor are much more than their economic statuses.
Sunday morning craziness. Am good and take the bus to the Y and am just getting ready to head to the showers--but learn the lifeguard hasn't shown up. Why not relax in the sauna? Good idea--except the lifeguard never showed up, the substitute won't be there in time for more than a few minutes of swimming, so now I'm drowning my sorrows in coconut-flavored decaf. As the Y person sighed, admitting frustration, "First world problems." Yup. But a rosacea attack from the sauna doesn't help, and I keep blinking despite eye drops and eye ointment. But the coffee is good!
Years ago I read an essay by James Baldwin, and he wrote that in our country, "white" really just means "not Black." I immediately thought, "Yes!" I only think of myself as white when thinking of privileges I have because I'm not Black, discrimination and rudeness I don't have to endure. That's not how I feel about being Irish American, Catholic (now ex-Catholic), female, heterosexual, or other facets of my identity. A new PBS program is supposed to be all about whiteness, its goods and bads, including white privilege. Some diversity advocates applaud this program, but I'm not so sure.
M's birthday. Somehow, I usually remember birthdays, and the person being gone from this earth makes no difference. M and J are still best friends of mine, although now with a different address, and how I pray that they still exist in some fashion, not just the cliched "in my heart." Of
they live in my heart--but don't all friends, dead and alive, live in your heart? Sometimes--this is silly--I wonder how they're doing, much the same way as you might think of a friend who's moved to another continent and hasn't been in touch in a long while.
Sometimes I dread human interaction. At the pool, the other guy in my lane says, "Could you keep to one side so I don't bump into you?" Um, what side are you on, I ask--I'd switched sides after seeing him, at the other end, suddenly on a different side. Luckily my swim teacher cheerfully diffuses everything--"Plenty of room for everyone! Easy peasy!" But some of the joy of early morning swimming was gone. It's fifty years ago, but I remember with pain the little store man telling me not to touch the edge of a doughnut. Forgive us our trespasses.
-I'm grateful I live near a comfy Dunkin' Donuts with free WiFi.
-I'm grateful I can see and I can write.
-I'm grateful for my creative, supportive critique group.
-I'm grateful for my wonderful son who will be an amazing teacher.
-I'm grateful for my email buddy.
-I'm grateful for Match.com events and meeting people.
-I'm grateful I don't live too far from a Y.
-I'm grateful for the blue pool early on a Sunday morning, the smell of chlorine clinging to my skin hours later.
-I'm grateful for heroes like Frederick Douglass, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Helen Keller.
"3" has been my lucky number ever since sixth grade, when we were given numbered slips of paper and my "3" was pulled and I won a doll! It was a knock-off of Barbie, younger, with brownish hair instead of the dark tresses of my Barbie. I sewed dresses for her and introduced her to the dollhouse I'd created out of grocery and shoes boxes, painted with bright tempura, furnished with accessories found in an Uptown discount store. I played with dolls longer than you were "supposed" to, abandoning them with regret--but, looking back, what a creative pastime it was!
Funny how mistakes can lead to good. If I hadn't stupidly ran for that bus, I wouldn't have spent a year on crutches and been inspired to serve people with disabilities as a career. If I hadn't stupidly married my ex, I wouldn't have my son! He impresses me so much--how he is a feminist and respects women; how he strongly supports LGBT rights; how he is such a kind older cousin to his cousins; how he avoids being jaded by the unstopping barrage of racism he encounters; how he's part of a circle of friends so close they're family.
I love flavored things--toasted almond, coconut, blueberry, pumpkin, sugar cookie, hazelnut, French vanilla, and cinnamon coffees at Dunkin'. At 7'11, I love pumpkin spice and spiced apple cider lattes, and I look forward to Starbuck's eggnog lattes! I like colors--clothes that are royal blue or bright red or kelly green. I like music that is vibrant--classical symphonies like Tchaikovsky's 5th or 1812 Overture that boom, or peppy pop music that makes the foot tap or the body sway. A friend once told me what she believed was wisdom--about being content with contentment instead of reaching for happiness. I want joy!
Many writers advise getting up an hour early, or staying up an hour later, to get time to write. But I've learned that when I deprive myself of sleep, I don't function that well, including creatively. I discovered this by accident, in college, oversleeping after cramming for days on end, consistently burning the three a.m. oil. After finally getting a good night's sleep, I was amazed at the clarity of my thoughts, the freshness of my ideas. I started sleeping eight-hour nights--and my roommate got angry, assuming I'd changed on purpose to deprive her of time with her boyfriend. Sigh.
Coughing. I am tired of coughing. Sure, I know there's people dealing with much worse problems than a cough that won't go away fer two months, but thinking of people suffering horrible things hardly cheers me up! I've never understood the logic--"Feel happy! Other people have it worse!" Because then I start feeling bad for those people and the world seems even more horrible. Although, perspective is important. I think It's OK to complain as long as you realize that your problem isn't the worst in the world and you're not pretending that it is. Still, wish I'd stop coughing!
Am I sick or lazy? Do I push myself enough? Should I be going to all these specialists, spending money we don't have on elaborate tests, to figure out why I've been coughing for two months, or should I just suck it up? Once, when I fumed that I was sick of my knees, a friend said, in preaching tone, "It can't be that bad." Of course, later I needed knee replacement surgery. Still, I wonder. I've always been sick a lot, missing a lot of school and work. Still, teachers and bosses have always called me a hard worker....
Sipping salted caramel hot chocolate at Dunkin' Donuts listening to a pop song I don't even know the name of but that has the lyrics, "Wake me up when it's all over--when I'm wiser and I'm older--" and I feel like dancing, but with Chromebook words, saying how great it is to be alive and to be able to enjoy music and write and people-watch high school students studying together and a mom treating kids to ice cream and the counter guy who recognizes me, and to sit at a back table and play with words and ideas. Thanks, God.
When I see pictures of writers who look significantly younger than me, I feel so jealous. Or is that I feel chastened, as though some accusing finger is pointing at me, some stern voice saying, "That young woman has already had ten books published and half of them on the bestseller list, and she's raising half a dozen orphans while working full-time. What is YOUR excuse? How DARE you call yourself a writer?!!!" I feel like slamming my notebook shut in despair. But I have to remind myself that each writer's journey is different. The world needs my writing, too.
When my son was little, I had to take off work every Halloween. He had a terror of people in costumes, ever since he was two and a guy in a gorilla suit accosted him at the mall with "Boo!" The guy apologized, and I kept telling T, "He's just a friend of the Cookie Monster." My little son didn't believe me--although every so often I'd catch him musing, "Friend of the Cookie Monster..." So I'd take the day off and we'd watch Halloween TV specials, play Halloween computer games, and eat Halloween candy. "That was fun," my 23-year-old reminisces.
Although I hate winter weather, I like the traditions that bloom, Walgreen's orange with pumpkins, purple and black with witch and other scary costumes, and at Dunkin', besides pumpkin donuts and lattes, now there's peppermint mocha and sugar cookie flavors. I like giving out candy on Halloween (and eating leftovers), visiting my brother and his family for Thanksgiving, watching football with my son. Christmas is expensive, but what fun to decorate the tree and have the family over on Christmas Eve, and go see a movie on Christmas Day with my son! I love the love and joy of holidays.
When I was in early grade school, the teacher told us to bring in leaves for an art project. I was excited--I loved autumn leaves! But I liked the kind that crinkled when you stepped on them. I loved the sound. So, I brought in a bunch of dry leaves--not what the teacher expected. But maybe that was because I was so nearsighted and didn't yet have good glasses. How could I fully appreciate red-green-orange colors and the beautiful geometric shapes? Of course the crunchy sound was more appealing. I couldn't distinguish the color turquoise until my fourth grade glasses.
I saw a list of kids' books that boomers are supposed to know and love, but many I've never heard of, or only knew as an adult reading to my child. My mother made sure I had books, but most were inexpensive Little Golden Books, or shiny-covered books from Woolworth's: "The Five Little Peppers" and "Mrs. Wiggs and the Cabbage Patch." When I became a book addict, we frequented used book stores seeking Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. But Dr. Seuss books were expensive and we just couldn't afford them. Finances may be why my literary experiences are uneven.
Lunchtime at Dunkin', and I'm crabby and feel regret--shouldn't have let my son know that I'd be rushed if I stopped to get his headache medicine on my way here. Sigh. What a horrible mother I am! Of course, he's an adult, it's not like he's six--but still. It's just that writing at Dunkin' on my lunch hour is a luxury--it takes ten minutes to get here, then I like to allow fifteen to get home, and there's the time it takes to open computer, get it set up, order coffee, etc., etc. Still. But I got his headache medicine!
Wish I weren't socially awkward--I waver between seeming unfriendly and overly friendly, never just, oh, the appropriate degree of friendliness! But getting to know my father's side of the family, I realize it's genetic--none of us seem perfectly at ease interacting with other humans. We all make great grades, academically--but that's only one kind of smart! I tell T that when I was a kid, I was called "retard," and I think that's how the mean high school kids regarded me--until class ranks were posted. T says, "Mom, that's just because you're socially awkward. Socially awkward people never seem smart."
How I wish Daylight Savings Time lasted the entire year! Instead, when days are already becoming shorter, with cold beginning to descend, our evenings are made even darker, and as a city dweller, traveling home from work in darkness has never appealed. The government has shortened standard time--Daylight Savings Time now begins earlier and ends later--but why does it need to end? Maybe back in the day when most folks were farmers, the early sunlight hours were necessary--but now? How I look forward to March and warmer weather and longer days--for now, thank God we have holidays to warm us.
The Tip Jar