summer

WTF I've Been Up To

I promised myself I would try to stop posting whiny woe-is-me blogs. In fact, I did post one last week, but then I pulled it. I forget sometimes that my blog shouldn’t be a dumping ground. No one wants to hear me sit in a corner and complain…unless I’m complaining while drinking a bottle of wine, then even I admit I can be humorous. It’s all the drooling that makes it funny. So here’s what’s happening and why my blog might be a little more sporadic for a while:

1) I had a tooth emergency and some ‘oral surgery’. It sucked. But the plus side is I got a whole day off to watch TV. I mean, that’s all I did. I sprawled on the couch (upright, cuz I couldn’t lie down) and moaned and groaned and watched True Blood, Orange Is The New Black, Nigella Lawson, MasterChef, and Newsroom. All. Day. Long. It was so glorious that angels sang! (Or it was taking me a while to come down from the laughing gas at the dentist.)

Me. Recovering.

2) I had an excerpt from my memoir accepted for publication. I need exclamation marks for that. Here: !!!!! The excerpt called “The Friendship Camp” will be published in the fall literary journal of Midwestern Gothic. I was so excited when I found out that I whooped and then I said ow and then I whooped again. And then I said ow. It was a vicious cycle for a bit.

3) I’ve joined a writer’s group. Two, actually. One online and one I’ll meet with in person every week. The groups are forcing me to work on my next novel and I’m 15 pages in. Not much, but it’s a start.

4) I’ve been gluten free for two weeks. It’s not as annoying as I thought. I’m now addicted to polenta, which is okay, because I can only eat soft food. And my food-belly seems to be a little smaller.

5) I’m ready to send the kids back to school. I’ve become the ultimate lazy parent, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I mean, there’s only so many crafts, outings, and ‘adventures’ a parent can realistically have before saying “Aw, fuck it!” Now when the kids ask if they can do experiments with the toaster and a fork I say, “Sure” and then “Call me if anyone’s bleeding” and then I go back to playing BananaKing on my iPad. School better start soon or the kiddos will be building a homemade methlab to earn money for Legos.

6) For the last two days, I’ve been talking like I’m wearing those cheap, plastic vampire fangs. This morning, I did a recording, and I sounded just fine. My mouth is good. My voice is good. And my jaw only hurts when I open really wide, so I have stopped opening my jaw really wide. (There’s a joke in there about Kealoha, but I will not stoop to that. It’s simply TMI.)

plasticfangs

7) All is well.

So, look for my blog periodically. I’ll try to post only important stuff like, you know, things about chafing and when we go to Applebee’s and my upcoming trip with Kealoha to a tiki bar in Chicago. You know, stuff that matters.

But if you really, really miss me, check out one of my books that you haven’t read, or force your friends to read one. And stay tuned. We’ll be releasing some free stories soon, and “Foodies Rush In” will be released as an audiobook in October narrated by the fabulous, Audie-award-winning Kate Rudd.

Happy, happy, me.

(I mean that sincerely. The laughing gas has totally worn off now.)

Chicago Trip--Part Two

I fully intended to finish this yesterday, but I was narrating by day and momming by late afternoon and evening. Not a lot of time in there to do any of my own stuff. So. We got to Chicago and went directly to the Field Museum. By this time we were already a little tired from a three-hour road trip, but the kids were excited.

(Getting the kids anywhere is always exhausting. I tell my students to avoid words like ‘anywhere’ and ‘always’ but here it’s valid. I’m constantly saying things like “Come on! Let’s move! Let’s go!” I feel like I should wear a whistle and a tacky track and field outfit.)

We parked in the belly of a parking structure. It was dark and moist and dripping with humidity. There were also plenty of shadows. I figured there were probably a dozen or so creepos lurking so I started saying things like “Let’s get out of here fast! We won’t see any dinosaurs unless you move it! Come on!” Finally, we got the kids upstairs, walked to the museum, paid $50 for admission and there we were: Big Sue looking down at us.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I knew that our family vacation wasn’t going to be this perfect vacation of bonding and cheering and general high-fiving. I knew there’d be tantrums and stress and all that. I just didn’t know I’d be the one having a tantrum or feeling stressed. Mostly I just felt old. And fat. So I wrote an opening to a story. Maybe I’ll use that somewhere.

The kids pulled us from exhibit to exhibit. We saw lots and lots of taxidermy animals. That’s a little creepy if you think about it, so I tried not to. Still, the size of those things were pretty staggering and I started to slip into this whole writer-mode thing that sometimes happen. I imagined these animals alive and in their environment and what happened to them and who shot them and what time period was it and was it a safari or an architectural dig and where are those people now….and then Simone had to use the potty.

We loved the evolution exhibit and the animals and the dinosaur bones. My favorite was the skeleton of a giant sloth. I mean, really? They were that big? Crazy to think about.

While the kids tugged us around, I looked at other parents. All the parents had the same expression of fatigue and stress and I could hear random things like “Hurry up! Let’s go! Let’s move it!” and “Don’t touch that!” and “Put that down or you’ll poke out an eye!”

There was a younger couple making out by the stairs and it was nice to see at least two people in the museum not utterly stressed out. (Or stressed out, but in an entirely different way.)

Then we had to take the kids to the gift shop. A mental cash register started tinging off in my brain: Lunch: $50, Tickets: $50, Gift Shop: $30, Parking: $16….and that was just in two hours. That doesn’t include hotel, gas, parking, restaurants, the Cheesecake Factory, and The American Girl Store.

I can’t tell you how much we spent in Chicago. Let me just say that Illinois should thank me. Please send me a ribbon.

The rest of the vacation is your normal family stuff. Lots of walking, tired kiddos, lots of eating and waiting, and jumping on the bed in the hotel.

I took Simone to the American Girl Store and I was horrified at all the creepy dolls in display cases. At least they didn’t all scream “Mommy!” in that scary-doll-voice I sometimes hear in my head. Uhm. Yeah. She loved it though, and I guess when you’re a parent, you do things that make you uncomfortable. She got her first grown-up doll. I talked her into the Emily doll because I liked the 1940s dress. Then I got freaked out because I was actually into that doll and her dress and a little table and cute tea set that you could buy. We didn’t, but it was a close one.

Kealoha took Louis to see The Blue Man Group. Louis came back to the hotel buzzing with delight.

Finally, we came home. Kids passed out in their rooms. Kealoha and I sat on the couch. “Hi,” I said. “I know we were just in Chicago together but I feel like I didn’t even see you.” I guess that’s part of the whole family vacay thing too.

I have to say, even though it was overpriced and exhausting and stressful, I still loved it.

When I was a kid, we were really poor. I cringe when I say things that hint at my poor childhood and some of the stuff that went on. It’s all very old-school Oprah. But it’s true. We never went anywhere and there were too many other issues to ever have a family vacation. It may be average, and everyday and a little bit boring, but this trip was a big deal for me. I was able to give my kids something I never had: a family trip.

We’re going to go again in another six months or so, or a few years, depending on when we can save up enough money.

Ah, Summer. No work. No income. Gah!

Around noon today, I’ll finish narrating the last novel I’m booked for. That means at 12:01 today, I officially begin my summer vacation. Well, sort of unofficially. I still have one day left of teaching, but that’s just exams and grading. I don’t have to plan anything. So. Summer vacation. Two months of not teaching…and no narration booked. Part of me is having a panic attack, I have to admit. Usually with narration I have something lined up, but nothing yet. It’s entirely possible I could go two months without work or income. I’m a little bit terrified. Both of not working (how DOES one relax?) and not getting paid.

At the same time, I’m really excited. I have two months to focus on reading, writing, and just recharging. It’s time to get my writing house back in order, and slip into some good novels. I’ve already started “Sarum” (a novel about England). When it came to me in the mail via Amazon, I opened the box and was shocked to find out that that muther is almost 1,000 pages of very small print. 1000 pages! And it begins with like the Ice Age or something. I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Novel of England. If I make it through that, I think I’m going to read some Carson McCullers and some other classics.

I should be excited. I really should. And I think I am it’s just…well…trying to find a home for the cats is depressing. There are no takers yet. My daughter is heartbroken, so is my son and Kealoha. Where are the Crazy Cat Ladies when you need them?  And then the concept of two months without an income is terrifying to me. What if I’m never hired to narrate again? What if teaching falls through? What if I can’t write a single word in my new literary novel?

I’m trying to tell myself to shut up. I talk too much. I worry too much. But then I just start talking again.

I’m trying to use that whole ‘affirmation’ thing and remind myself that this is just a vacation. I can take a vacation. And someone, someone will want to give my cats a home. And my kids will start getting better. And Kealoha and I are going to have a great wedding. And I’ll lose the five pounds I’ve been trying to since I broke my foot. And my mom will find an apartment that works for her and she’ll stop stressing me out. And I do believe in fairies, I do, I believe in fairies so much that I’m just going to clap my hands right now! clapclapclap

Yep. I’ll just repeat these things endlessly until I get so tired of listening to myself obsessing that I just plain shut it.

I’m thinking that’s going to be at 12:01 today. At 12:01 today, I’m going to sit outside and just breathe for a while and enjoy the start of my vacation.

And I’m going to turn the next page in my book.

 

My Slow Down and Read Summer List

I’m sitting in my Intro To Lit class while students are writing. I’ve graded all my papers, prepped for next week, and suddenly realize, I don’t have anything to do. Is this true? Is this possible? HOLY SHIT!

 

Let me just breathe for a second here.

 

To look busy and smart, I’m blogging instead.

 

Remember when I talked to you about my Slow Down and Read idea? It’s shimmering just before me. I can almost touch the time where I will have real, actual time to read again. FOR PLEASURE. I have one more week of narrating to go and on the days I don’t teach, I’ll be reading. That’s right. Me, a book, and if the kids are at their dad’s then I’ll have a mojito sitting next to me.

Here’s my list of books I’m going to try and read this summer and why I chose them:

MY SUMMER READING LIST (so far)

1. “Sucker for a Hot Rod” by Joselyn Vaughn. I’m actually almost finished with this. The writer is in my writing group so I wanted to check out her work. So far it’s fun with great characters and it makes me wonder why you can’t find her work next to other bestselling authors that I narrate for like Susan Mallery and Debbie Macomber.

2. “We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. A couple of years ago I was booked to read Shriver’s “The Post-Birthday World”. I don’t know if I did the book justice, but it was a beautiful story. I still think about it. So I want to read all of her books, and I’ll start with this one.

3. “Sarum: The Novel of England” by Edward Rutherford. Someone suggested this one to me and it seems like a perfect summer read. I’ll read it while drinking a Pims. Huh. Maybe I should put a drink with all these books.

4. “Punished” by Brynn Paulin. She’s another writer in my group and is one of the topsellers of erotic fiction. No joke. Like #1 or #2. So I’m going to read Punished because every good girl likes to feel naughty.

5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee because it’s been a good decade since I’ve read it and I’m curious how the nearly-forty-year-old me will compare to the twenty-something and the teenager readers I used to be (you know, the other times when I read the novel). I should probably revisit “Anne of Green Gables” too.

That’s it for now. I still want to read “Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo, and another classic novel, and stuff by C.S. Lewis, and there’s a couple new ones out, but I’m going to start with 5. Five books I can handle.

So what’s on your summer Slow Down and Read list? Have you made one yet?

And if you're wondering the drinks...

1.) Beer

2.) Scotch

3.) Pimms

4.) Any heavy alcohol served as a shot

5.) Long Island Iced (sweet) Tea

 

 

Dreaming of Summer (and an extra fantasy)

Here’s what I love about summer: I love visiting my friends Brendan and George, something I haven’t done enough of in the last years, but I love seeing their cottage and walking on the beach where the waves are sometimes so loud that it drowns out the sound of your thoughts. I love getting sand in my hair and between my toes and in the cuffs of my rolled up jeans.