Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last Day

... of school, of course!

This is the latest that I remember the kids having to go: right until the last day of June. No wonder AppleApple threw her backpack aside and her arms in the air with a whoop of joy!

We said goodbye. Fooey has had the same teacher for her two kindergarten years, and what a loving and caring teacher she has been for my girl, watching her grow and nurturing her all the way along. "She's half mine, you know," her teacher said to me, as we said goodbye. AppleApple has also had the same teacher for two years. She wondered, a little bit teary-eyed: "Why is it so much harder saying goodbye to a wonderful teacher after two years than after just one?"

Well, then. Let's get this summer started. As Albus would say (in truly the sweetest way possible, every morning to me): "Smell ya later, school!"

For Sale

I made a budget earlier this week. There are certain fixed expenses that I cover every month, out of my writing. I had a sneaking suspicion that output was higher than input, and unsustainable, so I checked. This probably sounds ridiculous--shouldn't I know exactly how much is going in and coming out? Yes, I should.

Looking at finances, for me, takes facing some demons. Sometimes I wonder if this is my last frontier, a foggy wasteland into which I'm afraid to venture. My parents fought a lot about money when they were married (to each other, I mean). One of the things I've appreciated about Kevin is that we spend money quite similarly, and almost always have similar financial goals. But the truth is that I also step back a lot, or worse, close my eyes and just say, you go ahead, honey, and make the decisions. I'd rather not know.

It's strange. This desire not to know. To be deliberately in the dark.

But I have my own bank account, too. And my own expenses--largely childcare. And my own income. Which is sporadic and not-to-be-relied-upon and if I had to support our family on it, we would live in someone's basement. Maybe yours. You'd have to feed us, too.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Tracking a path toward financial non-ignorance. My conclusion is that I will need to earn more money this year. I haven't got enough socked away to cover the truly high costs of childcare. But without childcare, I am looking after these kids by myself, and there is no way to look after kids full-time and to write, too. Or to do anything that requires being out of the home, away from the kids. Want to know why parents are so happy about proposals like all-day every-day kindergarten? Check out the cost of childcare; which, by the way, is a pretty underfunded vocation, given that for childcare to make sense, it has to cost less than what the parents are earning by not doing the childcare themselves. There's my feminist rant for the day.

Anyway, my brainstorming went something like this:
ways to earn $ - ??
doula'ing?
writing
babysitting
grants

Can you see why I fantasize about being a midwife? I think it's the stable steady work that appeals as much as anything. If I were a midwife, I could join a clinic, I could practice, and I would know how much money would be coming in every single month. None of the options above offer any sliver of stability, at least not as I am currently practicing any of them.

A former boss of mine, who is a writer, made a very funny/for serious flier advertising his services: "January Blowout Sale. Book writer now and save 20%."

I'm wondering ... should I do something of the sort? Pitch, advertise, apply? (All of which take significant time and energy, too, of course). Or should I just keep doing what I've always done, which is to carve out bits of time, write and work, and sometimes get lucky--just often enough to keep the bank account at a slightly stable level. It seems such a haphazard way to construct a career. And that's what I want--a career, not a hobby.

:::

Note: beautiful photo of clover and shoe-print by AppleApple.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chalkboard Wall

Blank space. Quiet. Paint drying. Evening.

Morning. "You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace."

Rules: Only erase your own work (unless you're me). Don't write mean things. It's supposed to be a message board. Do you have something to say? Go ahead. Write neatly.

Helpful messages. Lunchtime.

Oh, what the heck. Cartooning, un-neat writing, impromptu artwork: bring it. I had to add this last photo, taken around 6:30pm, after the kids had a chance to doodle more after school. Fooey pulled up her chair to reach even higher. So far, the only issues have been a) everyone trying to chalk all at once and b) an accidental erasing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I can't get enough of these photos



Yesterday, I got a taste of summer. A whiff. A tingle of this is summer. (See above).

Today, I am getting prepared. There are four more days of school, and then we shall hurtle headlong into the beach, overnight camp, strawberry picking, food preservation, swimming, and a multitude of mini-adventures ... such is the hope.

So, I started today in the kitchen (can I return happily to the kitchen after losing all interest this past month? Well, I can try). I baked a batch of bread; didn't take long, actually. I did dishes. The living-room is moderately tidy. Piles of papers have been sorted and recycled (more remain; and more are on their way home from school, no doubt).

AppleApple helped me make a giant (messy) poster of ideas for summer activities: our categories are Plans (dates for things we've already signed up for); Away (ie. zoo, beach, Children's Museum); and At Home (ie. canning and freezing, making magazines/comics, playing with friends).

Kevin is in the middle of painting us a chalkboard wall: for messages, reminders, planning, and scribbles. Photos to come. (Inspired by this friend).

I am defrosting the freezers. One down, two to go.

And the kids have spent hours together in the backyard, even though it isn't particularly warm or sunny out. The sidewalk is being chalked. A rung on the climber has been broken. The potatoes are thriving. Wouldn't it be great to have a treehouse? A trampoline? Another tier of garden beds? Chickens? A dog? I'm looking around and seeing lots of potential.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Time for a Shiny New Post

Because, though I could look at those triathlon photos forever (and probably will), the moment has passed, and life goes on, even if it appears frozen here in Blogland.

So ... in other news: we got a new couch! (Pictured above). We lucked on it half-price back in April, ordered it, and kind of forgot about it, the way one does, until the company called to say it was coming. Now. Queue frantic clearing of living-room. And then queue um, where was this supposed to go, honey, do you remember? Because we'd originally intended it to replace the ten-year-old sofa (aka gymnasium), now sway-backed and spring-popping. But the new couch looked too lovely and clean, and besides, the living-room lacked seating; wasn't that the whole point of the new couch? So we spent our Friday evening huffing items back and forth (books! shelves! toys!), removing a few, dragging the piano to a new and starring location, hiding the communal computer (somewhat), and keeping both couches. Almost got it finished before Kevin left for his Friday night soccer game.

Right away, the kids started arguing over WHO GOT TO PLAY THE PIANO. I kid you not. I had the kitchen timer going.

The new lay-out has more reading areas. More seating in front of bright windows. More seating, period. And the piano is getting played far more frequently.

Though this is not meant to be a commentary on Boys versus Girls, or Sons versus Daughters, or Mars versus Venus, here's what the boys were doing in the newly laid-out living-room the other evening.

And here's what daughter # 1 was doing.

And daughter # 2.

This is not to suggest that daughters don't wrestle. But whenever daughter # 1 enters into the fray, holding a pillow, with a gleam in her eye, I shut the show down. I don't think this is sexist, really, I don't. It's because she aims with intent. Somehow, the boys wrestle without doing each other any harm. But AppleApple comes out swinging. She wants to Win. (Maybe I am parenting her differently. What do you think?).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day of Triathlon

The crowd of competitors on the beach, just before the race starts. I'm at the back. With my jaw dropping. It was a beautiful sight. So overwhelming that I kind of got lost in it, and forgot to put on my goggles. Remembered after I'd swum about 100 metres. Gee, I can see really well, but I have to keep closing my eyes underwater.

Again, it was just awe-inspiring to see the churning arms and bobbing heads, and all the waves. Weirdly, I felt no hesitation or fear running after the pack into the water. I said to a woman nearby, "Isn't this beautiful?"

Totally geeky photo, but I guess this is what I look like in goggles. Now you know. The pink cap indicates that I estimated my swim time to be between 33-35 minutes, which was the second slowest group. Should have taken that white cap, because what with the wind and the waves, I actually got lost at one point and swam for the wrong buoy. Lost a few minutes. The 1500m swim took me 38:41, but I think that includes the arduous run up the hill to the transition zone. Hardest run of the day. I felt absolutely exhausted and couldn't catch my breath.

Until I hopped on the bike, that is! I love cycling! I was so emotional here, at the start of the bike race. I almost wept. I'd finished the swim!

Finished the bike race on a high. Forty km in 1:18. I felt so powerful. My knack for climbing hills came in handy, and the weird thing was that I got faster and faster as the race went on (or else the people in front of me were getting slower). If it hadn't been for the strange ticking noise my bike started to make with about 15km left, the whole ride would have been pure pleasure. I was thankful to have no mechanical issues in the end. I really felt I like I could have kept going and going and going.

Which is a good thing, because I still had some race left to complete. I do run 10km regularly in training, but it must be said that it's very different to run it post-bike-ride. But the "brick" runs came in handy (training runs immediately following bike rides), and my legs made the transition without much complaint. By two kilometres, they were ticking like normal, and I thought to myself, Hey, I know how to run! That's when I picked up my pace. I pushed as hard as I could, though the last couple of kilometres were, well, gruelling. I used every mental trick available: feeling gratitude for the hours put in, picturing my children, and, finally, just running like I was doing a solo run--I always run hard on those.

The race organizers kindly arranged for the final couple hundred metres to be oriented downhill. I could hear my friend Tricia and her husband Jeff (who took some of these photos) and then my own family (including my mom!) calling out my name, and I just sprinted as hard as I could. The time on the clock was 2:53:17, under three hours, like I'd hoped. 10km run in 51:23 (not sure whether that includes transition time after hopping off bike, but if so, it's close to my PB).

Packing up afterward in the transition zone. Note the bike gloves. I couldn't rip them off fast enough after the cycling, and then I forgot they were there. Ah, the face of a happy woman. Holy bleep, people, I actually did it!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day One, meet Day Three-Hundred-and-Twenty-Five

Here's what I wrote 324 days ago, last August, (slightly edited): the first entry in a blog I called "Swim Mama! Bike Mama! Run Mama!":

Day One: The Idea
Tonight in yoga class I felt strong, fit, stable. It was a wonderful feeling, a feeling of digging deep inside my body and working with it, in a very submerged fashion. No worries, no thinking about being somewhere else; my focus for the class was "patience."

Afterward, in the shower, I thought, I'd like to be in the Olympics. But I'm thirty-five years old. Is it too late? Um, yes, endorphins, it is. But then I thought, okay, it's too late to be in the Olympics, but it isn't too late to train my body to do something it's never done before ... like becoming a triathlete. The thought jumped ahead: and it's not too late to write another book, a completely different book from the ones I usually write. This one won't be made up. It won't resemble fiction at all. I'll write about this--this exact idea, and about how I go about doing it. I'll stop saying that I'd like to run a triathlon, and I'll just go ahead and do it. I'll do it and I'll write about the process.

Some little time later, getting dressed, drying my hair with a towel in front of the mirror, I thought, this is one of those things that you'd never do if you knew how hard it was going to be.

I am thirty-five, relatively fit and active, but I've never run a race longer than 5 kilometres. That was nineteen years ago. Another obstacle: I can't swim. I took one week of swim lessons. And failed. That was twenty-seven years ago. My kids swim better than me: I've forced them into the pool in all seasons and against a good deal of grumbling because goshdarnit they are going to know how to swim.

Is it too late for me to learn? Can I swallow my pride and hop into the water and take adult swim lessons? Swim laps, learn to turn my hand the right way, breathe to the side, kick the proper kick?

What else do I need to learn to do in order to complete a triathlon? I know how to run, but my feet get hot after an hour's worth. Do I need to look into special equipment, a special diet, training regimens? Where will I begin? Alone?

I packed up my little idea to take home to my husband. What if ... I write a book about a mother of four who decides to complete a triathlon (okay, I'd really like to write a book about a mother of four who achieves her goal of becoming an Olympic triathlete, but my previous athletic achievements lead me to believe I'd be over-reaching. Somewhat.)

But sitting down before the computer to brainstorm and write, I can think of nothing but obstacles. The idea sounds ridiculous. I might as well be typing out a bit of fiction.

Time. That might prove the biggest obstacle of all. My youngest child is two. What's he going to do while I'm at swim lessons? Am I going to send him to daycare in order to train for a race that I really don't need to run? I imagine getting to the end of the story. I imagine discovering something new and amazing, experiencing pain and suffering (self-inflicted) and arriving at an emotionally salient insight. A big one. Significant. Uh oh. What if the insight is: go back to looking after your family, you ridiculously selfish woman? You were riding a bicycle while your two-year-old turned into a three-year-old, and you missed experiences that cannot be replaced or found again.

I don't know.

My husband thinks it's an awesome idea. Maybe he'd like to join me, and do it too.

Where to begin? Where to begin? I haven't got the faintest idea. I guess I'll begin here.


::::

And tomorrow, 325 days later, I will compete in my first triathlon. I'm not destined for the Olympics (sorry, self), but I haven't regretted anything about the process so far. I've enjoyed a small writing gig out of the material (though probably will never write a whole book). And the three-year-old is doing just fine. I'm just so grateful that this idea came to me, that I considered it seriously, accepted it, and pursued its existence into reality.

Thanks for your good wishes! And thanks especially to those who joined me along the way. Here's to Day 325.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sport and Art


Wait. I have something to add to my previous post. Just went out for a (luxurious) late lunch with my husband, as our evenings have been consumed by soccer soccer soccer. Got a chance to bounce my guilt/greed/gratitude thoughts off of him, which is always helpful: processing out loud.

And I realized that I feel something very strongly: neither sport, nor art, is a luxury. Both are human necessities, and if not expressed in positive ways, will find other ways out. Sport is a way for human beings to live fully in their bodies, and to compete, without doing violence to one another. At its best, sport can be clean competition, without conflict; a pure expression of physical exertion and skill. Every human should have the opportunity to experience the joy of his or her body, and of physical expression.

Sport over war.

And art is so essential to human life. Without it, there is darkness and depression and silence and disconnection. How could we live in a world without creativity, without lasting expression, without some way to translate the pieces of human experience that would otherwise be beyond us? It is so essential that you might not even recognize it around you. Buildings, graffiti, a photograph album, a blog post, the design of a garden, the words of a song that get stuck in your head, dancing.

So maybe my gratitude should go like this: I am grateful that I get to participate in sports, and that I get to create and enjoy art. These are gifts that should be available to everyone on earth. How can I share the wealth?

Gratitude


I keep starting this post, then erasing the words and trying again. I've been wondering how best to express my feeling of gratitude for the support and luck that make possible the arc of my days.

I am grateful to be able to send my children to school and nursery school where they are nurtured by caring teachers. I am grateful that I have a babysitter who picks my youngest up from nursery school three days a week, walks patiently home with him, feeds him lunch, plays with him, and loves him, so that I can write (that she happens to be a qualified teacher in her country of origin, who speaks five languages, is our fortune, too, though I'm rooting for her to get her Canadian qualifications so many more children can benefit from her gifts).

I am grateful to have a grant, and an advance, that allows me to focus on my fiction writing (and pay for said nursery school and babysitting time). I am grateful my husband has a job that covers our household expenses, so that my grant/advance can go toward writing time.

I am grateful for my family's willingness to make room for my crazy triathlon project, and the countless hours of training it's required (hours from which they are excluded).

I am grateful to live in a country with universal health care.

I am grateful for clean water from our taps, for fresh ingredients from which to prepare healthy meals, for the shelter and space of our home and yard, for safe sidewalks, and a community-oriented neighbourhood.

I am grateful for all of these things, while knowing that my fortune is neither deserved nor earned, and that the individual pursuits of art and athleticism are gifts. They are not mine for the taking. They could not exist without the offerings of many others, and of even larger, structural offerings that are pure luck: where I was born and to whom. I wonder sometimes how the relative few of us can bear to live with such wealth, when so many live with less than a little. How can I?

What I'm saying is that my gratitude is mixed with guilt, and questioning. What luxury--to train my body to complete an arbitrary task that has nothing to do with real survival. What luxury--to sit and to think and to create in repose, without anxiety or fear or threat. Are my luxuries just for me? Is that how I'm using them, and if so, does that not express greed rather than gratitude?

:::

I've noticed an uptick in visitors reading this blog, and it would be a pleasure to hear your voices (thanks, Rebecca, for the inspiration: your post on engagement made me want to invite more engagement and conversation, here, too). So, what are your thoughts on being grateful/guilty? How do you take the luxury of your individual gifts and use them to satisfy something greater than your own comforts and desires?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sunshine




The child not pictured is inside, upstairs, huddled in his bed, too sick even to enjoy unlimited access to the computer. So we aren't off to swim in a lake, as planned. If I don't get another chance to use the wetsuit before the race on Sunday, well, so be it. I'll swim on Sunday. The sun is shining, the sky is bright, the girls talked all the way home from school (and held hands), and the supper menu is enticing. It is based around the chicken stock I've been brewing all day: hot and sour soup for those of us so inclined, and miso for everyone else, with pasta salad on the side.

re writing: The last story didn't get finished today, but it got continued, and that was all I could ask of my weary brain. I've noticed myself tending to muck around on these last few writing days and suddenly gain inspiration with seventeen minutes left on the clock (avoidance is not my usual style, but with this story I've begun to appreciate the kick-in-the-pants of working under pressure).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writing as leftovers

Today I am supposed to be writing. I am very nearly done reconstructing several stories in the early section of my Juliet Stories; but it has been much more taxing than anticipated. It's not been hard work, exactly, but work that makes me impatient and mildly anxious. The early section of Juliet belongs to the book as it was originally conceived, only fragments of which still remain. I have reimagined these stories more times than I can count. There remain lasting sentences and phrases repurposed for different contexts. It's dizzying.

I feel like I'm eating leftovers for the tenth day in a row. I've had this meal before. I can eat it cold, or heat it up, or add some hot sauce, or wrap it in a tortilla, but dammit, I know exactly what I'm eating, and I'm so very very tired of it. But if a friend came over, and I wrapped some up for her, she would probably think it tasted awesome. Know what I mean?

I'm down to the nitty-gritty, to the less-than-glamorous, stuck-in-the-kitchen part of the process. I accept it.

Here's what I hope is happening: that I'm transforming these leftovers into a really fantastic meal that I'll get to share with a tableful of welcome company. And it will all be worth it, even though the kitchen is getting hot, and the onions are just shy of burnt, and the sun is shining, and I'd really really really like to run outside and play.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ode to Cheesies


Ever feel like you're just not into the domestic necessities? I can usually find some smidgen to enjoy in some portion of the daily chores that Must Be Done. But not right now.

Right now, due to soccer-all-the-time, I am washing dishes in a grumpy stupor after 9pm. "Remember when I got to wash dishes right after supper while listening to 'As It Happens'?" I said to Kevin last night, who was also in the kitchen, putting together lunches for school. "Who knew that was such a treat?"

And hanging laundry--an often peaceful activity, a moment of quiet in a noisy day--right now, feels like a relentless intrusion on my time. There's so much of it and so many stages to the doing of it: gathering, washing, carrying the basket up and down stairs, hanging inside or outside, gathering, folding. The only thing I refuse to do is to put away the stacks of clothes neatly piled and arranged from youngest to oldest, on my bed. C'mon. It's the least they can do.

Even cooking is not drawing me these days. I haven't baked bread in over a week. I've been stocking up at the half-off shelf at our nearest grocery store (and because our grocery store is frequented by a lot of students, the half-off bread is usually the best they sell: multi-grain or spelt or Red Fife wheat).

I haven't baked a cookie, square, or cake in ages. I offered my two youngest a half-bag of cheesies to snack on while we sat waiting in the hallway for AppleApple to be done her final piano lesson. I'd assumed we'd be alone, because the music school is pretty much shut down, but of course there was a mother across from us, watching my offspring coat themselves in sticky orange powder. I pretended no shame.

Maybe I wasn't even pretending, come to think of it.

I am consumed, right now, by two major projects. One is the triathlon, which will happen next weekend (not this one). I am training heavily, and it is eating a great deal of my time, mentally and physically. What I'll do after it is over, I just cannot fathom. I can't really think that far. I love the early mornings, but they take a toll. I would like to get together with friends and enjoy a drink of an evening, again, for example. But meantime, I am aimed like an arrow at a target, with a focus I just can't turn off.

My other major target, on which I feel just as significantly and undistractedly aimed, is my Juliet Stories, several of which I am reworking in quite radical ways. I am rolling with ideas, especially after a conversation this morning with my editor, and trying to be patient and to work within the limits of the time that is put aside for writing work. I am grateful to Kevin, who is taking over everything this weekend, so that I can write.

And so the kids are eating cheesies, and I am resenting the laundry, and we are doing a lot of last-minute barbequeing.

I just realized something. It's not pretending. There's no shame. I've lost whatever guilt I once had, as a mother, about pursuing interests that don't revolve around my children and my household. Right now, I am wired tight as can be, focused, excited, energized, exhausted, stretched, and it's all good.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Evenings

Borrowed wetsuit. Climbing in and zipping up. Even the ten-year-old is impressed with the super-hero get-up. 7:30pm, Monday.

In the lake. Taking the wetsuit for a spin. The water is mucky brown and thick with sediment. The sky and trees, perfect. 7:45, Monday.

At the park for soccer practice. Glad it's within biking distance. A tree she can climb. Mother reading on picnic blanket only wishes the mosquitos hadn't found her and told all their friends. 8:15pm, Tuesday.

Piano plus soccer uniform = unplanned post-game down-time. He's not practicing (lessons are over for the summer); he's making music. 9pm, Tuesday.










Long evenings are short-lived, in our portion of the hemisphere, and we are filling up the extra light with outdoor activities. Arriving home after 9pm with wide-awake children is taking a toll on my early morning training, and perhaps also on my midday thinking, but I'm going with the pull of the season. And the pull of older children with their own schedules and interests: soccer soccer and more soccer. We plan to head back to the lake this evening, this time with friends and a picnic. The kids can cool off in the water. And I hope to swim farther, this time, be braver, with an extra set of eyes on me. Race day is in less that two weeks: in the same lake pictured above.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beautiful brown rice bowl

We're going to try taking the brown rice bowl of deliciousness on a picnic supper this evening. I've already made the dressing, and will bake the rice later this afternoon. Since I'll have the kids at swim lessons after school, Kevin's going to pop home and prep the other toppings. This was our final meal at the cottage a few weeks ago, introduced to us by our awesome host Janis. It hits the spot. And it's crammed with nutrition. And because you can top your bowl however you choose, it works well for a family of differing tastebuds.

Brown rice "Buddha" bowl

Prepare dressing by whirling the following ingredients together in a blender: 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes; 1/3 cup water; 1/3 cup tamari; 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or a bit more, to taste); 2-4 cloves garlic; 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable oil (or up to 1/2 cup less); 2 tbsp tahini. (Makes enough dressing for leftovers).

Prepare brown rice for your family or guests, in whatever amount works for you. (I cook approximately two cups of dry rice, which turns into a whole lot more).

Now here's where it gets fun. Feel free to add, subtract, and improvise with your choice of toppings. I'll list what that we've tried.

Cube and saute one block of tofu, which you can marinate in advance in 2 tbsp vegetable oil plus 1-2 tbsp tamari.

Toast 1/2 cup sliced almonds (or other nuts) in a dry pan.

Grate a couple of carrots.

Grate a beet (raw), if you have it.

Snap some raw asparagus into two-inch pieces.

Wash and tear a couple of cups of spinach leaves.

Saute some shrimp, if you want to undo the glorious veganism of this recipe (and if you have shrimp-lovers/tofu-haters coming to your table).

To eat: fill bowl with cooked rice, add toppings of choice, drizzle on a good dose of dressing, and devour.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What she wore to her piano recital




It's the green socks. And the headband. Man, do I love this girl. She makes her own style and she owns it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Juliet Stories have their own ISBN number

My next book exists in a publisher's catalogue. Look for it on pages 22 and 23, House of Anansi. My picture is in there too (does it look too serious? too intense? too "brooding-writer-who-would-be-no-fun-at-a-party"? Maybe I should send them a different photo for the cover).

The irony, of course, is that I continue to polish this new book, so for me, it's not finished enough to exist anywhere; the catalogue copy, to me, reads like a birth announcement made at 34 weeks gestation. I never named my babies in utero, and always felt a bit superstitious about pre-birth baby showers. Let's get this baby born, bathed, and bundled before sharing the good news. But how done is done? I remember a funny conversation with the doctor who oversaw the early months of my first pregnancy. I said, "So when I get through the first trimester, I can stop worrying, right?" (I was terribly anxious about miscarrying). And she gave me an odd look: "Um, I'm not sure you ever stop worrying," she said gently. Riiiiight.

So I suppose, if conflating book-production with having children (a facetious comparison, let's be honest), it stands to reason that even with the last "t" crossed and "i" dotted, joy will continue to mingle with unease.

The other morning, we were reading an article in the newspaper about a man who is training for a traithlon. It's part of a regular weekly series: the paper profiles someone relatively well-known and a trainer helpfully critiques his/her exercise plan. I was shocked by how little training this man was doing, and how confident he sounded, and Albus thought that the paper should come and interview me instead: "You should be in the newspaper, Mom." I explained that the fellow was being profiled not for his excellent triathlon-training, but because he was relatively well-known. But, I said, when my new book comes out, we probably will be able to read some things about me in some newspapers.

The kids were blown away by the idea. That's when it struck me: Albus and AppleApple were 2 and 14 months, respectively, when Hair Hat came into existence. They had zero awareness of their mother being anything other than their mother. It was news to everyone that, in fact, I'd been in the newspaper when Hair Hat came out, and they thought this was just plain awesome.

But dancing oneself into the public eye involves grabbing for a double-edged sword. I was fortunate enough to read multiple positive reviews of Hair Hat before the first negative review came in, several months post-publication. It gutted me. (Obviously, I recovered). So that's what I explained to the kids: when the new book gets reviewed, we all have to pray that it falls into the hands of readers who appreciate it. Because no book will please everyone, and there's much luck-of-the-draw fate that can befall a book. Such is the way of art, and individuality, and taste. Even positive reviews almost always highlight some small flaw, as if to note: nothing's perfect. Fair enough. Nothing is.

I think this sobered the kids up a bit. Me, too, but for different reasons. Last time around, it was really just me who was affected by the publicity process. I could turn away and bury myself in my babies' oblivious needs. I identified myself, even in my own head, as "mother," not "writer," and that comforted me. This time around, it's different. I've got no babies, nor have I the prospect of more. Instead, I've got some interested parties tagging along for the ride. And I'm beginning to wonder: what's the tipping point at which I become more working-mother and less stay-at-home mother?

It feels like I've metamorphosed without noticing, during this long stretch between books.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yesterday





It was a busy day, but nevertheless, twice I found myself sitting on our picnic blanket with the two little ones, watching the clouds, collecting pine cones, listening to them play, watching them run and jump and climb trees. We whiled away part of the afternoon in our front yard. And we were able to bike to the park for AppleApple's soccer practice. It meant a late evening for everyone, but worth it.