Thursday, September 19, 2013

This is what I started writing on Friday:

I'm sitting here in my gym clothes, eating chocolate. I'm going to the gym just as soon as I write this. Really. I am.

Last night was Parents' Night at Our Fine Upper School. About 85% of the moms were rocking the sleeveless thing. I mean, you would not believe the number of sculpted upper arms on this population. Not me. I have flabby, middle-age upper arms with knobby elbows that always look like they need to be scrubbed (this is also true of my knees: flabby and bony at the same time, plus they're always three shades darker than the surrounding skin.

Anyway, we went to all of Jack's classes and met all of his teachers. 

But that's as far as I got. Still, I think the part about my flabby arms is important to share.
Later today, I'm going to New Orleans. I just found out last week that I'd be going to New Orleans today. I thought I was going October 19th. Quite a shock to my system, as you might imagine. I need at least a month to get mentally and emotionally prepared for these trips. I'm going for a booksellers' convention. I'll be sitting on a panel tomorrow afternoon with other middle grade fiction writers called "Stuck in the Middle." I have no idea what we'll be discussing. Saturday, I come back home.

I don't mind traveling (though I don't particularly like to fly, as I'm prone to motion sickness), but I don't much like traveling alone. It gets lonely. I don't think we're built to be catapulted by ourselves out of our homes and communities into other communities 800 miles away where we don't know anybody and have no ties.

Having said that, I am looking forward to going down to the French Quarter and sitting on a bench that overlooks the great and mighty Mississippi river.

In general, things here are going well. I've been having some bouts of the afternoon blues, but I think this is because I haven't been social enough. I was really enjoying my alone time the first few weeks of school, but I let myself get too alone. Life is hard for an introvert, achieving the right balance. So I'm planning coffee and lunches with friends and doing some volunteer work over at the Folklife Institute. I need some human connection after my writing time in the morning. 

I'm doing my best not to sign up for extra stuff, though temptation looms large. Have I mentioned that I turned 49 this year? 49 is a seventh year, which means it's a sabbath year, and I feel that I should take this year off and get some rest. There's always so much I want to do, but I just have to accept I can't do everything.

I like volunteering over at the Folklife Institute, and there's a month-long seminar on poverty at the new church I've been going to lately that meets on Tuesday nights in October. I think I might attend that. Otherwise, other than school volunteering stuff, I'm going to try to keep my commitments to a minimum.

Parenting, writing, reading, gardening. That should be enough, right? Oh, and quilting and finally getting that attic straightened out once and for all and organizing the closets ...

Do you do too much? What are you thinking about giving up?

Monday, September 2, 2013

We have a mystery on our hands. After three, possibly four years of wearing nothing but polo shirts, Jack has suddenly taken to wearing tee shirts. He had to take tee shirts with him on his class camping trip last week, and since he's returned home, he's worn nothing but. To be honest, he looks adorable, and I'm wondering if some girl on the trip told him he was cute.

But just when I wondered if Jack was morphing into an entirely new creature, today when I dropped him off at Reid's pool party he grabbed his book as he hopped out of the car. "Don't bring a book," I told him. "By bringing a book to a party, you're signaling that you expect to be bored."

"They'll think it's weird if I don't show up with a book," Jack argued. "It's what they expect."

I suppose there's some truth to that.

Happy Labor Day, to those of you who observe the holiday. Labor Day has become one of those holidays that have lost all meaning, as far as I can tell. We don't have a Labor party here, and labor unions are out of favor with a lot of folks. In fact, it occurred to me this morning we should just sack the original meaning of Labor Day and make it a day to honor all women who've been through labor. I think we deserve an official holiday, don't you?

Will is campaigning to get a Bearded Dragon. He's been doing tons of research this weekend and is already referring to them as "Beardies," as in "When I get my Beardie, I'm either going to call him 'Beardie' or 'Spike.'" This lizard campaign was taken up after the snake campaign was thoroughly defeated. The Man can not tolerate the thought of keeping dead mice in the freezer for the snake's dinner. I can't say the thought bothers me terribly in theory, but in practice it might be an entirely different story.

I'm putting in my fall garden. We always plant lettuce, spinach and greens, but this year I'm also planting broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage. I suspect that some percentage of this bounty will go to the local food bank, as I'm the only one in this family in love with winter veggies. But I'm having a lovely time looking out at my crops through the kitchen window.

I'm waiting for the back-to-school routine to truly kick in. The first week was the first week, which is always strange, and last week both boys went on their school trips, so that wasn't like a regular week, and this week we have Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah off, so it's not like a regular week.

You know what the funny thing is? I've spent my entire adulthood waiting for life to settle into a routine, and it never does.

My mother continues to respond well to chemotherapy. Tomorrow she goes in for round three of six. Her blood counts are nothing short of miraculous, and she's still not getting sick, but she's tired. Mostly she's reading and doing a tiny amount of sewing. Her spirits remain high, and folks are still bringing casseroles. Continued prayers are welcomed, and many, many thanks for the ones you've prayed already.

Have you read Susan Branch's A Fine Romance yet? Are you a fan of her blog? I love her. Reading her books and blog is like eating comfort food that has actual nutritional value. In any event, A Fine Romance is a handwritten diary of her trip to England last summer, and it's simply fabulous. Now I'm reading Elizabeth's German Garden, a book Susan read on her trip over to England on the Queen Mary II. It was published in 1898 (and you can download it for free from if you have a Kindle app!), but the feelings expressed are contemporary. Have you ever noticed that about literature, the truly good stuff? It feels like it could have been written yesterday.

I'm also reading A Green Journey by Jon Hassler. It's part of his Staggerford series, the first one I've read (and the only book of his my library has). The series is set in a small, fictional midwestern town, and this story concerns an elderly school teacher who makes a trip to Ireland. The characters seem very real to me--good people, but not perfect, not saccharine. Intelligent, observant. I'm going to buy the first book in the series when I'm done with this one.

That's my news for now. My new book came out, and you can read about it here. What are you reading right now that you would recommend?