Friday, March 20, 2015

The Family Historian, Chapter One

Chapter one of my story, tentatively titled The Family Historian.  This is the second draft of the first chapter.  So far I have about 350 pages, or 2/3rds of the first book in what I plan to make a trilogy.  Lots might change, but the story is about Hazen, Charlie, what happens when the world Hazen's schizophrenic mother insists is real finally bleeds into the one the rest of us inhibit.

Thanks for kind words and thumbs up and patient listening while I cheer and sob and ramble about my new favorite hobby. <3

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"I want it all- and I would like it delivered." -Bette Midler

I'm home today with the boys.  Elliott has strep throat and hasn't been to school since Tuesday.  His antibiotics are finally kicking in, but daycare is closed for a family death, so both boys are rocking it with me.  It's been awhile since we've been settled into our comfortable routines, with my grandfather's funeral last week and the germy rebellion taking place over the last few days.  We're in that part of our lives where a few off days can hit hard hard hard.  I'm a little grumpy about it. 

Life right now is not pretty or balanced or predictable.  Things I eagerly anticipate (like seeing my whole family in one place last weekend) can be screwed up by things I never would have imagined (like drastically overestimating the boys' ability to hang/sleep in hotel beds/sit through a funeral/not puke constantly/let Ben and I enjoy the company of each other or anyone else for the entire weekend).  Some meaningless errands end up being so fun and I enjoy my family so much, and then the next second we all can't stand each other for the length of a Disney movie.  There is lots of hiding in the bathroom.

I'm finding solace in lots of solitary, nerdly pursuits. I've been reading my brain out and writing less than I'd like.  I'm stalling a little in my novel, and I think some of it is that I need a reader who can help me wade through the mess.  There's too much story now (350+ pages) to make an easy job of it, and finding someone who will take me in hand and be harsh when I need it is not simple.  I may start putting pieces up here, just to get some feedback and be motivated to keep going.  If nothing comes of this, I'm going to name my next kid after the main character.  I think Hazen is a cool name.  And I do want to find out what happens to her. 

I'm realizing (again or for the first time, I'm not sure) that this is not my life.  Not teaching first grade, or always doing daycare pick up, or having my weekends completely free.  This is a season.  This is our current situation.  Nothing all that huge will have to happen for a shift to come.  It just will.  Different things will click and pop and shudder and then the routine will be different for a few months and stuff might change again. 

I felt it today, being at Target on a Friday morning, chatting with other comfy-clad moms.  I feel it when my sister FaceTimes me in her glamorous work makeup, making passing statements about clients, or eating dinner at 8pm.  I do love my uniforms and my routines, but its scary to think of being stuck here forever. I find it weirdly comforting that in the shitty moments, (which are, when put in perspective, just fine) I can count on the fact that this might all be different in a year.  It mostly certainly will be different in five.  I have a lot more things I get to be before I'm done.

So that's a quick check in, as banal as it's possible to be, but I still appreciate, when I look back later, hearing myself talk out loud.  Seeing patterns (you're sad in the winter, dear) and realizing that most of my problems are petty and I'm blessed as hell.  Hashtag blessed.  Lucky.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Be Your Own Book Club March Selection

Announcing the March selection for Be Your Own Book Club: Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro.  Amazon labels it a psychological thriller, but I've run into other descriptions calling it science fiction.  Most loudly, I've heard people saying that knowing a lot about this story makes it harder to enjoy.  That was when I stopped reading the comments.  Here is the blurb from Goodreads: 

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special--and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. 

The covers are lovely, and I'm a reader who tends to appreciate that.

I'm excited to be reading literary fiction after being deep in YA Fantasy for the past few months.  I'm excited to be reading something that was suggested by a book club member.  I'm excited to be reading with you!

One other tidbit I heard about this book is that it sparks a lot of discussions, and I'm trying to find a better forum for us to chat back and forth.  I liked sharing on Twitter and in Facebook comments, but I think a message board might be the ultimate.  Any thoughts about that?

I'm ALWAYS up to hear what you want to read. Here are some other suggested titles for upcoming months: 

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson 
Anything by Jojo Moyes 
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer 
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel 
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (one of her novels about adults as opposed to teens) 
Why By Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeannette Winterson.

I have more books I'm interested in on this Pinterest board: bookmark 

Are you going to read along this month?  

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Coffee and Blogs No. 17

About a month ago, maybe longer, my laptop completely died.  This was approximately twelve hours after Ben reminded me, AGAIN, that I needed to back up my six plus years of pictures, encompassing the full lives of both our children, on the external hard drive he had bought for such a purpose.  I nodded, ignored him, and the next morning, the power button didn't work.  I'm not even mad.

Because I have completely blocked out the entire problem.

One day, I will take my old laptop to the computer store in town and see if there's any way to save my precious files.  I will use the sum of money that Ben* set aside from our tax return and buy a new laptop, a new piece of technology that I can gently abuse and generally take for granted.  Until then, I'm insisting EVERYTHING IS FINE! cobbling together an internet life from Ben's desktop, my phone, that Kindle...every screen I've got.  I'm losing links left and right, and can only work on my story (which I write in Google Drive so it's safe in the magical mysterious servers of the world at all times) at odd moments.  Blogging has been tough.  I miss you cuties.

But enough with excuses.  I have some links to share, and I really love thinking of you, spread across the country and world, getting cozy on your couch or treadmill or toilet or wherever it is that you find a few minutes to spare for yourself, and reading away.

Anne discusses the theory that every ten years, you have to remake everything.  I love trying to trace the years that were pivotal, especially focusing on the times that DON'T signify major milestones.  I think last year was definitely huge for me- I reconnected with a nonwife/nonmother part of me and fell back in love with words.  Ten years before that- met a guy named Ben.

Parks and Recreation ended, and I felt lots of feelings.  Similar to the computer situation, I'm in denial.  It will hit hard when the seventh season is available on Netflix.  These Parks and Rec gifs ease so many ailments of the body and soul.

I've struggling a tiny bit with how to make #beyourownbookclub a place where we can really discuss books online, connecting over quotes and questions and big ideas.  February went okay, but I think it can be better.  I'm looking into message boards- I want to avoid a Facebook group.  Anyway, Book Riot shared this quote about an inverted book club that I thought was cool. What if we all shared the last book that got us pumped?

Sarah from Yes and Yes does a monthly Network of Nice, where she connects people who can offer a service with people who need a service.  Each board has a section for requests and a section for offers.  This month there are people offering to help you with editing and proofreading, tutoring in French or Hindi, or a place to crash in Barcelona.  There are also requests for advice on marshmallow making, so if that's your thing, head over.
“We cannot simply be free to do whatever we want, when we want. The cry of freedom must be tempered with recognition of the responsibility freedom brings and the necessity of turning an open heart and questioning mind to our pursuit of liberation. ‘Liberation of what?’, we must ask. ‘And why?’.
March astrology from Mystic Mama- seems like a difficult month, lots of exact plans to iron out, lots of work to be done.  I laid an intention (come up with a nighttime routine that doesn't involve passing out on the couch and waking up at 1am) at the new moon a few weeks ago and when I checked in during the full moon this week, I could see that only writing out the exact steps EVERY DAY when I made my lists made it possible to actually follow through.

Latest podcasts I've been listening to: 
Book Riot (about books and publishing)
Invisibilia (NPR, examining the invisible things that effect our lives)
Pop Culture Happy Hour (NPR, pop culture round table style) 

The same advice, but it's worth repeating OVER AND OVER AND OVER.  When you feel crappy, you need water, healthy food, rest, and kindness.  Unfortunately for me, crappy feelings tend to make my cavewoman brain hunt for junk food and Netflix marathons when I need them LEAST.  Jes at The Militant Baker shares a diagram for getting to the root of what you need when you're struggling.  

That's a wrap for now.  What are you reading and loving?  How are you handling the gritty, brown snow butt-end of winter?  The days are getting longer, lovelies.  We'll get there soon.

*Are we noticing that Ben is basically my parent?
**Gorgeous illustration by Kate Pugsley on Etsy, text added by me

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Be Your Own Book Club: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

The February Be Your Own Book Club selection was Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.  I waited for longer than I thought I would to read this book.  The timing never seemed right.  I'm glad I saved it, because I really loved reading it during the month that held a star studded SNL reunion and the Parks and Recreation finale, because I would literally watch those things with the book held open on my lap.  It felt like a backstage pass.

I found the book to be lovely and dishy and I heard Amy Poehler's voice the entire time.  As I read through, I realized that I really liked the parts about career more than family.  Even though I loved her chapter about insecurity with your physical appearance and also her owning up to mistakes she had made, I was more invested when she was talking about being friends Maya Rudolph and hungover with Keenan Thompson. I also live in Massachusetts and one of my best friends is from Burlington, so I got really excited with all the local mentions.  My high school theater teacher has always insisted that he lived in a house with Amy Poehler when they both went to Boston College, and when she mentioned "Kara and I moved with with a bunch of men and women off campus..." I almost jumped out of the bathtub.

I read the Parks and Rec chapter laying on the couch, tearful, waiting for the finale of my favorite television show.  Most of my favorites I find later, after the run, and I was so proud to be watching this show in real time, and celebrate the finale with other people on Twitter who were also calling everyone poetic, noble land mermaids and singing one liners a la Jean Ralphio. Leslie Knope is my favorite thing Amy Poehler has ever done besides Smart Girl At The Party (I feel that particular organization holds her name more than her heart, honestly).  The notes about how the characters and style developed were little gems, particularly on that night.

I lied about liking the career stuff more than the family stuff. I read the chapter about Amy taking her children on moon hunts while my own two were rolling all over me and I cried.  THAT was my favorite.  I love how she talks about her love splitting her open and wanting to eat her kids.  I KNOW! Additionally, I have a few mother wives of my own, and they keep me alive.

The book had a few drawbacks for me personally.   I found it disjointed.  Nothing moves in the chronological order of her life, which is in no way necessary for this style of memoir, but I felt like we were jumping around a lot.  There was also a lot of stream of consciousness writing, which made it hard to quote the book.  I kept wanting to pull a quote for social media, but then I would realize that the awesome feeling I was getting was cumulative.  Each chapter was like a sketch, and you needed what came before to understand the punchline.  Again, the style sounded like Amy Poehler, worked perfectly for the book, and screw me if it doesn't work for my Facebook status.

I know a lot of you lovely ladies were following along this month, and I loved seeing you post your pictures and quotes!  I'm going to pose some questions that I would love for you to answer in the comments.  If you followed along this month or are planning to in the future, please drop me a line so I can see what kind of interest we have.  

1. What was your favorite chapter in this book and why?  Did you lean more towards her career or personal discussions?

2. Were you familiar with a lot of Amy Poehler's work before you read this?  Do you have a favorite performance or character?

3. DID YOU KNOW SHE WAS DATING NICK KROLL?  Do I live under a rock or something?

4. If you could be one of the following celebrities mentioned in the book, which one would you be and why?  Choices: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Louis CK, Chris Pratt, Seth Myers, Aziz Ansari.  IT HAS TO BE ONE OF THESE.  Or someone else, if you have a good reason.  (I think I would be Maya Rudolph.  She's hilarious and gorgeous and married to Paul Thomas Anderson and I really like that she can split the difference between hilarity and dramatic roles.)

5. What do you want to read in March?  Or any other month of the year?  More book recs, please!

I'll announce the March selection and have a decent start to a reading list later this week! Thank you for reading with me, you beautiful, rule breaking moths. xo

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