This whole summer was one big logistical nightmare. We got the kids all moved, got my writing studio space all finished, and I mostly sat around and tried to breathe like a normal human being. I couldn’t, so I started seeing all the doctors and having x-rays and heart testing procedures. I ended up not doing any teaching at the library at all and quit a couple of other volunteer board positions that I just couldn’t physically handle as well.
I spent a lot of time just sitting and scanning or taking photos of my old journals, digging through and purging old files of art and school notes from when the kids were in elementary school, and making Scrivener files for all of the random writing I found within every stack of paper I touched. It was all very interesting to me from a “I’m always writing something, even when I shouldn’t be” perspective. I enjoyed that project a lot, even though my family got sick of me asking them to lug boxes around or to take another stack of papers to the recycle bin or “Can you read this thing that I wrote a decade ago that I can’t quite make out?” In the end, I counted 76 used notebooks and planners, plus two giant 3 inch binders full of loose-leaf paper and page upon page of stuff written on the backside of something else.
Summer band started a month ago and I’ve spent all of my time either taking two kids back and forth and back again between high school and college campuses for band practices and student orientations or in doctor’s offices letting them take yet more of my blood or more pictures of inconceivable places inside my body.
Now everyone’s back to school. My youngest started his sophomore year in high school last Monday and I thought to myself “Oh, I’ll get so much done!” But our black cat had other plans. I ended up taking him back and forth to the regular vet and then the emergency vet and then his regular vet again. Once he was better, my youngest slipped on the band field and had to go to Urgent Care for a sprained ankle. So this very wet Monday morning my midkid started his freshman year of college, but I was walking my youngest into school, carrying his enormous amounts of stuff while he swung in on crutches. My eldest took the midkid to his first day of college. I did get a “first day of college” selfie via text, so there’s that.
After that, I had nearly four hours to myself. I checked in with my Accountability Partner, and then I got to work. I made myself a more reasonable schedule of writing and writing related work (for those non-writers among us: finding short story and poetry markets, matching already written work to those submission guidelines, editing those pieces to fit word counts or to play up a theme, then writing cover letters and packaging my work so I can send them off, communicating with publishers and/or editors, doing edits for the places that bought my work, looking over proofs before things go to print, making images for new things and updating my webpage – hahaha – and my social media with images and links to the new books that have my work in them, etc.). I put everything into my Google calendar and Tasks list, but also wrote them into my paper planner, which helps me remember things better than the online stuff does (but the online versions keep me from getting too paranoid about losing a planner again, like what happened 5 years ago).
All of the planning now out of the way, I can get started with the first goal on my list: make a list of markets currently buying the kinds of stories I write. Off I go!
I also worked out weekly goals for the last six weeks of this quarter and all of the final quarter of the year. I’m hoping that I added in enough rest and recuperative time. I basically doubled the amount of time that I gave myself for similar things last year. We’ll see how that goes.
This morning I woke up, light streaming in from the edges of the blackout curtains hitting my eyes. I swore, stumbled to the bathroom, and heard the car engine start outside. I ran out and tapped frantically at the window of the small red car. My husband rolled down the window, a look of concern on his face.
“This life we lead is unmanageable.” I croaked, my voice decomposed from the lack of sleep.
“I know. You should go back to bed.” He reached a kiss from his lips to my arm with his hand.
“I can’t. I have to take the child back to work for opening shift. He had keys they need in his pocket when he left last night. No, this morning. ” I brushed my hair back.
“I have to go. The beef needs to be traded out. My sister is waiting.” His eyes are tipped down at the corners, stress of the day already pulling them down. It’s 8:05am.
“I know. Say hi to her for me.” I smoothed down the edge of last night’s dress as I turned to go inside.
I heard “I love you” simultaneously with the rolling of the window and the crunch of the tires on the driveway.
I don’t remember if I mentioned this before or not, but last month I was elected as President of the East Texas Writers Guild. I will be speaking at their first meeting of the year this next Monday night at 6:30pm. Come on out! We’re a fun group. 🙂
Tuesday, I got up and was so hopeful. Sure, I had my Spiritual Practices class that evening, but I had all day to write, so it was going to be great!
Nope. Due to some not-quite-disclosable things that are in the works, I got caught up in not one, but two different side projects. One is writing adjacent and in the end won’t require as much of my time as some of the things I’m doing now, but there was a wrapping up of one set of things in order to hand them off to someone else so I’d be ready for the next thing. I know how vague that sounds, but that’s the way life is sometimes, right?
The other thing is not writing adjacent, except in that I am writing up minutes for a group that I had thought I wasn’t taking part in any more. So there was catching up for that group’s information and making sure I still had access to all the notebooks and cloud storage that I need to do that work.
By the time I completed both things, it was time to hit the gym. On Friday, I rejoined the one that is walking distance from my house, instead of the one that I only go near on the way back from taking kids to school in the morning (which isn’t a good time for me to write, due to my ADHD meds timing). I went and learned where all the new stuff was, which machines I could still comfortably use, and which ones are still out of my happiness zone. It was a good workout, and I felt better for having done it.
The rest of the night zoomed by (literally haha!). Wednesday I had two meetings scheduled, so I knew I’d have to make the most of my in-between times for writing. Unfortunately, by the time I’d gotten home from the first one and eaten lunch, a problem had sprung up.
My kids school had a potential shooting threat. They informed parents right at the same time the 504 coordinator called to ask me if we could postpone our meeting for that afternoon. Because of the way our high school sends out alerts (first in the form of a phone call from the school’s main phone line wherein a computer voice reads the entire body of the message, including the URL’s – letter by letter; then almost immediately as an identical text message, an identical email, and then as a link to an identical letter in our district app), and the fact that 90% of the more than five a week they send are either about buying football tickets or that the PTA is selling Chik-fil-a at lunch on Friday, I have stopped answering calls from the school. So I missed that phone call and drove directly to the school. It was a madhouse. Literally hundreds of parents had driven there to take their kids out of school. Since there’s only one way in and out not on lockdown, they were all in the same foyer I needed to check into in order to get to my appointment on time. I was speaking to the woman guarding the door about my having an appointment “Honey, everyone is saying that,” when the 504 coordinator called me again. Since I was already there and the coordinator was meeting me at the inner door, I was ushered right inside. I heard the scoop on everything potentially threatening that was going on, had my kids 504 meeting, and offered to take the kids home anyways, even though it sounded like there was nothing actually going on other than the parental mayhem out front. Both my kids declined. One didn’t want an unexcused absence and the other wanted to go to Writing Club (oh my heart!).
They both wanted me to keep close “on standby,” so I ended up hitting the nearby stores and doing some early Christmas shopping to keep busy, since I had no computers or iPad on me to write with in the parking lot (the notebook I’d brought for the meeting literally had two pages left and I used them during the meeting). Scooped up the first kid out, then sat in the car waiting for the second kid for almost an hour.
I was exhausted, physically and mentally, by the time I got home. I ate dinner and was just heading to bed, when a kid -the one that has never in his life sat still for a movie – begged me to watch a silly Disney movie (Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge) with them. Of course I had to.
Today was an early-to-school day for the kiddos, but I had all the chores I hadn’t gotten done Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to get to work on, plus grocery shopping, so I did those things first. Then I had critiques to do for the Pineywoods Critique Group (which has a new website with a forum and blog here), along with hitting the gym again so I don’t turn into a stiff blob like I was all last year). I also needed to finish one last bit of an old transcribing project that I had promised someone ages and ages ago.
All of this is a long way of saying: it’s late Thursday and I’m still at 684 words for NaNoWriMo. *sigh*
There used to be many places I liked to write before the pandemic, but several of them have either closed, or only have indoor seating right now. One of the places I still like to go to write is on the patio by the lakes on the UT Tyler Campus on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. The campus is quiet during those times, and the weather right now makes it a lovely place to go for writing. You can hear the sloshing of the water and the quacking of the ducks. It’s just a quiet and comforting place.
I’ve also been enjoying sitting on the patio at The Foundry Coffee House, near the square in downtown Tyler. They have made it very pretty outside with a lot of plants and strings of lights. During certain times of the day there is shade, but this time of year with the temperatures finally cooling off, it’s nicer to sit in the sun.
AKA: How I managed to spend a whole week NOT writing
This was a hard week for me. As I’ve mentioned before, my half-brother Ray passed away last month. Last Thursday I drove to DFW and dropped my car off at Katherine’s and she drove me to the airport. I hopped on a flight to California in order to help out Ray’s widow, Susan, and kids getting reading for the memorial service. I’d brought my writing stuff with me, hoping to get to spend some of my free time writing, but there honestly wasn’t any minutes to spare.
I got to their house after a long day of driving and flying and with a negative time change, I was so very tired and it was only 8pm. I tried to stay up and talk with everyone, but it was no use – I was in bed by 9:30pm PST.
The next day I woke up at 4:45am, but managed to coax myself back to sleep until about 6:30am. I went to make coffee, but my nephew ran out and shooed me away, telling me that his dad always got up and said “Make the coffee, Joe,” and he was determined to keep on making the coffee, even without his dad around to remind him. Just like that, I could hear my brother in my little nephew’s voice and see him in his every movement. I had to shoo myself away before I cried all over the little guy.
We spent the rest of the day taking kids to and from school, organizing, then cleaning rooms of the house and the patio so it could be all ready for the memorial service the next day.
The next day I was again awake at 4:45am, but this time I got up, made my own coffee, and spent some time taking photos of photos in my birthmom’s room (which was where I was staying). Her walls are absolutely covered in photos, many of which I’ve never seen before. I stood up on a stool and angled myself this way and that to get the best photos possible. Once the other’s were up, I started decorating the house with photos of my brother and his family, and then put out the tablecloths, and washed up all the dishes and platters I thought we might need. An hour before people were due to arrive, the first visitor showed up. He was the ex-husband of my brother’s housemate and since he was early, we put him to work carting drinks into the house, setting up the coolers, and re-installing the door to the garage that Joe had taken off a few weeks ago (and was unable to put back up alone).
After that, everyone else started arriving and over the course of the day I manned the buffet table, meeting many members of the housemate’s family and Susan’s family. There were even some little kids there. Everyone brought fruit. It was fruitopia. The day spun by so very quickly. We were unable to have the main part of the memorial service, due to some clerical errors that kept Susan from being able to get Ray’s death certificate (and therefore also his remains), so the little tree she was going to plant in his honor remained on her front porch. A few of us spoke about Ray, even his little son Jeff, and we all cried. It was nice to meet so many people that loved my brother and sister-in-law.
Because it was also the busiest day of the band year back home, I skipped out on the early evening’s visitor (who had come late due to his work schedule). I went back to my room and watched the livestream of my kids marching at UIL Contest and then looked for photos of them from the Rose Parade earlier in the day. I texted with them, congratulating them on their Sweepstakes win. And then I went back out and joined the conversation.
The next morning I did not get up early. We all got up a little later and then moseyed over to church, which was part Southern Baptist-part rock band church-part surfer dude speak. Everyone there was really nice and no one bugged me about my mask. After church was lunch and after lunch my best friend from high school came and scooped me up and we ran off to Starbucks for a while. I was sad to leave her when our time was up, but I love how easily we slipped back into that friendship for a couple hours.
After that, Susan and I loaded up the kids and went to the beach. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for Joe and I to get thoroughly soaked from the waist down and for Jeff to lecture us on the improbability of us turning into merpeople and Susan to get creeped out by some weirdo. A couple hundred beach pictures in ten minutes, really. But it was good. I always feel better at the beach.
Susan dropped us back at the house and stayed just long enough to say hi to the chair lady. Then she drove back out to pick up Angela. I made my “famous” chicken spaghetti and “Aunt Mandy’s” green beans for a late “fancy” dinner. I laughed at that. Chicken spaghetti is the easiest thing ever. I taught Joe my secret sauce, just in case they liked it. Oh boy, did they! Jeff said I took him to “Flavor Town” and “Delicious Land.” I’m so happy it was well-receieved.
We went to bed very late that night, in some part due to a conversation that needed to take place out of the earshot of the children. We had to wait for Joe to fall asleep. In the end, an agreement was reached about what would happen with the kids if something happened to Susan. It was a hard conversation, but necessary. I was really glad to be included.
The next morning we all got up at the crack of dawn so Susan could drop me off at the airport and then take the kids straight to school. I waited in the longest TSA line I’ve ever seen, but made it to my gate all right. The flight itself was mostly okay, but there was a medical emergency towards the end in first class, so we ended up spending quite a while at the gate waiting for that to get sorted out. Then Katherine picked me back up and we had a late lunch and then went to rest at her house for a while before I drove home. I was feeling so foggy and out of it, I was worried about driving home. I did end up making it home okay, but I had to stop for a while halfway home and walk around for a bit to get my brain back online. So I didn’t get home until about 7:30pm (I’d expected to be home by 5pm).
Tuesday I spent cleaning my entire house. Being away from home on a super busy weekend makes the mess so much worse. But I was also still feeling so groggy and weird that it was hard to get anything done. I started to worry that I was coming down with a cold or something. I attended my Spiritual Practices group, but I absorbed none of the conversation, alas.
Wednesday morning was my pill box refill day. I couldn’t find the pills I needed to fill the box. I finally realized that the reason I was so out of it was that I had picked up my medicine at the pharmacy before I left on the trip, but had forgotten to put that one in the box I took with me. So I’d skipped it for a couple days by accident. (And now I know just how essential it is to my health and well being.)
I taught a lesson at the Wednesday Whatchamacalit group that day and it went well. That is detailed in an earlier post. Later. I spent the rest of the day resting/spending time with my younger kids because I knew that the next day I had some more big cleaning to do.
Thursday I went over to the David House and helped him get it cleaned up because my dad was coming to visit. David was supposed to have finished moving rooms before my dad came to town and he had not finished. Plus there was resetting the room he’d moved out of and resetting the closet of the room that stored the stuff that used to be in that room and putting stuff from the room he was moving to into that closet. If it sounds circuitous, it really was.
After that was the recycling. I don’t think anyone has taken the recycling out of the house since January. I filled my entire Jeep up from top to bottom and back to front. It was only about 2/3 of the total recycling. I had other errands to run, though, so I did that and never got back to check on the David House.
This morning I got up and realized that I’d never gotten around to doing the critiques for the Pineywoods Critique Group, which was just as well because I hadn’t sent anything in over the last weekend, either. So the spouse and I went and got haircuts, which we have literally never done at the same time before. Then we ran a couple errands and ate lunch. One of the errands was picking up all the boxes of history for the ETWG Historian position before the current Historian moved and took them with her.
This was the last thing on my To Do list for the day besides feeding and chaperoning the band. It’s also the first real writing I’ve done all week. I’m not sure I’ll have time during the weekend to write, unless I am very careful with my time. We have the game tonight, my dad in town, an afternoon church party tomorrow, dinner at my dad’s and games, then church Sunday morning, and an ETYO concert Sunday afternoon. I may not get anything sent in to the critique group this weekend either. Chapter Nine of CQ needs re-drafting. Maybe I’ll send them some more poetry.
I will be speaking this Monday at the East Texas Writers Guild members meeting at 6:30pm via Zoom. This one is a little last minute (their scheduled speaker fell ill), so I am cobbling a few of my 20 minute lessons into one hour long speech about “Bringing Creativity to NANOWRIMO.” Hope to see all you local writers there! (If prompted for a password, it is “2020”.)
First thing this morning, my dad called and told me that he had left his suitcase behind yesterday in his haste to get out of the house on time. All his medications were in there, as was his laptop. So I needed to drive and meet him halfway between our town and his and hand off his stuff. The only problem? I was supposed to speak at the Wednesday Writers Whatchamacalit Facebook Group at 11am and there was no way I was going to make it back in time for that.
So I did what any half-way reasonable human would do: I found a place online that would record me giving my presentation, along with my slide show, and I recorded it and sent the link to the group, promising to come back and do a Q&A in the comments section once I was home.
So that is just what I did and it went really well. You can watch the whole thing for free here (you may need to register for a free account with Panopto first.) or go here for the WWW group and comments
You know how we thought the Feast of Tabernacles last year was weird? Yeah, this year is weirder.
If you are new to this blog and do not know: we are an interfaith household. My husband’s family belong to the United Church of God. More info on the Feast of Tabernacles can be found here.
David is headed off to Utah with church friends from all over. I dropped him off at the Tyler airport today after spending all day with him yesterday trying, and failing, to get his phone fixed before he left. We ended up getting him a new one instead, as T-Mobile doesn’t recognize Sprint’s care plan after their merger.
David waited til the last minute to tell us what he was planning, then the pandemic threw a wrench in things as well, with some locations deciding to limit visitors all together. So Utah was super last minute, which meant getting him a reasonably priced airline ticket was going to cause some issues. He ended up on three different planes with one eight hour layover in Dallas and one twelve hour layover in Phoenix.
He was totally calm about all of this. It was me wracked with worry. What if he missed a flight? What if the Phoenix Airport wouldn’t let him spend the night inside? What if he forgot to pick up his luggage in Phoenix and ended up in Utah without it?
My anxiety levels were already crazy, but sending my 19-year-old off on his own for the first time drove me over the edge. Hence the All Crochet All Weekend confabulation.
He got there just fine. His friends eventually picked him up at the airport. He’s great, he says.
Meanwhile, the other four of us are at home this week. Nick and Greg are going to watch videos livestreamed from other locations. They can do it in the morning with a Florida site or in the afternoon with the Utah site David is at. (Ree and I? We are doing school work or writing or practicing instruments. We’re fine.)