I read: Fates and Furies and Stuff Mom Never Told You

Hi kids.

August. Both of my kids have birthdays this month. My mother-in-law turns 80 this month, and my parents have their anniversary this month, too. We have several other family birthdays. We also have lots of international family visiting, and man oh man, it’s busy.

I started Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff, a few days ago. Though it’s not a very long novel, it’s going to take a good long time for me to read it; the language is dense and gorgeous and will take a lot to process. Typically when I pick up a novel I have no idea what it’s going to be about. I decided on this title because it was the next title reviewed in a podcast book club, so here we are. I say this because I’m only two chapters in and can’t really tell you what it’s about yet. The library needs it back in just a couple days, and I can’t renew it because there are “people in line” for it, so I actually bought the book. (I hope I finish it, now that I’ll own it. I won’t have a deadline to read it!)

The podcast I’m featuring this week (which means I listen to an episode of this before I move on to the news) is Stuff Mom Never Told You. I had it in my rotation a few years ago, but unsubscribed for some reason I can’t remember. This is a weekly podcast hosted by two women about all things and how they apply to women. The last couple of episodes have been about mental health in the black community, and work fails. The episodes run about 45 minutes. (The most memorable episode of this series was a few years ago when the hosts covered vajazzling. Do you know what that is? I hope not, Mom. Vajazzle: To adorn the pubic area of a woman with crystals, glitter, and other decoration. Yoikes.)

Have you read anything by Lauren Groff?

Vajazzle.

I read: Happier At Home and The Secret Library Podcast

Hey there.

The week goes on, doesn’t it? Today is only Tuesday.

Last week my word count was 2,956. I think I got around four hours of writing done. That’s fine with me. I will continue to do as I do and get done what I get done. I did write up a short article that I submitted to an online magazine yesterday. I do not know when I’ll hear from them, but I gather they’re looking for submissions for their winter volume.

I’m deciding on realistic submission goals. Should I aim to submit a piece or a query once a week? Once a month, as I’m just beginning here? Or is that crazy?

I want to shave my head so I can’t pull out my hair.

I’ve mentioned before that I cannot abandon a book once I’ve started it, haven’t I? (I also can’t ditch a TV series. I’m still working my way through “The West Wing.” What’s cool about that is that I’ve found an accompanying podcast, so knowing that I get a podcast episode out of every TV episode really escalates my enjoyment. 🙂 ) I started Gretchen Rubin’s Happier At Home on August 10, 2014. I know this because I track these things pretty closely, mostly on Goodreads. Here I am, almost three years later, still wondering what it’s like to be Happier At Home.

Actually, I like the book. I like Rubin’s other books and her other endeavors that you can find at her website. This book breaks down every month of the school year and offers Rubin’s attempts at enjoying herself more in her home life by way of monthly themes. The only reason I haven’t gotten through the book is because I own it. Therefore, I have no deadline to read it. If it were a library book, I’d have to have it read in three weeks.

Don’t buy me a book you want me to read.

Here’s the book. Rubin’s newest title is The Four Tendencies, if you’re curious.

I’m pretty new to the podcast I’m featuring this week: The Secret Library Podcast, but I’m excited about it. The episodes are interviews with creative people — mostly authors, but some other media as well. I was inspired by Episode #28, “Gary Wilson on Structure and Novels.” I am troubling through the feelings of writing a first draft. I was interested in what Wilson said about the way he approaches his — he writes the whole first draft without editing it or revising it at all. Wow. Man, that could be hundreds of pages of unedited story. The idea of that is both liberating and terrifying.

The episodes run about 50 minutes, on average. I like it. I’m keeping it in my rotation.

How’s your Tuesday?

I write: Building stamina

Listen. I am new to this. I have two small babes and am three days into a new schedule, complete with an out-of-town husband. I find it so easy to think big picture as opposed to what I can realistically accomplish today.

A while ago my husband and I trained for a half marathon together. (We completed the half marathon, and a full marathon the following year, though the word “complete” is loosely used here.) Anyway, I hadn’t run such a long distance before, so I really appreciated having a training schedule that accommodated that. I had to build stamina and strength and learn how to endure the boring stretches of pavement in front of me. Yes, I could’ve talked to my husband, who was running right beside me. But that would have left me more breathless and pained. One day I may share about the race that we ran together wherein he, being the nurturing, thoughtful person he is, offered me some water and I yelled an obscenity and threw the Dixie cup on the ground for hundreds of people to stomp on. Immediately following the race he proposed to me. I guess my rage must do it for him.

My hope is that one day I will accept a gift without screaming and throwing a tantrum in public. Also, I hope to spend hours upon hours — maybe not consecutively — writing. But to do that, I have to teach myself how to sit and create and think like I need to do, in smaller chunks. I’m aiming to write for one hour per day. So far this week I’ve hit that mark. I’m also hoping to finish something that I’ve been trying to get done for a while now and submit it to a magazine I’ve landed on by the end of the week.

I have no idea how to do any of this. 🙂

I read: The Handmaid’s Tale and The New Yorker: Poetry podcast

Good Monday to you.

Illness after illness have kept me from doing a lot of the things I’ve wanted to do these past few weeks and months. We didn’t take the family trip that we were meaning to do last week. I have decided that 2017 has been really hard.

Of course, I am endlessly grateful for the family and the friends who surround me, and of course, I know that my life circumstances are anything but dismal. However, these time has been tough.

I remember seeing a poem framed somewhere that expressed the glory found in days unremarkable.

I hate to say “at least,” but, at least I’m not one of the handmaids or a Wife or a Martha (I still don’t know what that is) in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. As is often the case, I am behind in current titles. But, with all of the talk about the TV series, and the fact that my husband got the book for free for some reason, I decided to start it. I knew essentially what it was about, but man, is it ever depressing. What’s really striking me is that it reads like poetry. That is so curious. I wonder how intentional that is.

I’m not loving the story, but I’m interested in the construction.

Also about poetry: The podcast I’m featuring this week is The New Yorker: Poetry. I haven’t read a lot of poetry, nor have I written a lot of it, but I’ve always been challenged by it; why not study it a little more.

I hope all is well with you.

I read: The Last Days of Night and Story Grid Podcast

Hi.

This week marks the first full week that I am no longer seeing clients. I’m giving myself a grace period of three weeks to figure out the best way to switch between full-time client-facing music therapist (and full-time mother and wife and all that), to full-time freelance writer (and full-time mother and wife and all that). It feels so gross and selfish of me to even type that out. Regardless, that is where I really am transitioning. This week is filled by kids’ appointments and my appointments and things to get done before we four leave on a family trip next week. That’s my next two weeks, and then the third week of my grace period — which is the week after we get back — I will simply have to dedicate to unpacking and organizing how my new schedule will be. This is honestly a pretty big change for me, and pretty scary. I have a few goals in mind that I am planning to share at some point this week.

In any case, I’m reading a new book for one of my book clubs. I am about halfway through The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, and even though my book club has already talked about it and is moving on to the next title, I am determined to finish it. (Just as I am determined to finish every book I start. I remember one I didn’t finish in fifth grade. I’m pretty sure I never gave the book back to my teacher. I’m assuming she doesn’t mind at this point.) The author of the book wrote the screenplay to “The Imitation Game,” a movie I have yet to see as is wont to happen with all of our baby kids.

The book’s main character is George Westinghouse’s lawyer in the copyright battle(s) between Westinghouse and Thomas Edison.
What I like about the book so far:

The main character is not Westinghouse or Edison.
The chapters are short and move me along.
There is an element of mystery: How will the lawyer navigate the lawsuits in addition to the eccentricities of all of the characters (a big one being Nikola Tesla)?

What the book lacks for me:

I find the writing to be flat. I think the content is interesting, but the language is plain and kind of boring. I’m thankful for the short chapters. The only character that is multi-dimensional, in my mind, is Tesla. Westinghouse and Edison are written to be two of the same bullheaded people. Agnes, the love interest, hasn’t really grown into anything different than she was in the first few sentences that introduced her.

This being said, I’ll still finish the book.

One of the podcasts I’m getting into this week is the Story Grid Podcast. Here is the description of the podcast on its website:

Helping you become a better writer.

Join Shawn Coyne, author of Story Grid and a top editor for 25+ years, and Tim Grahl, struggling writer, as they discuss the ins and outs of what makes a story great.

I enjoy it, but the big drawback is that the genre that Tim Grahl is writing in doesn’t appeal to me as a writer in any big way. Coyne has a name for the genre that I don’t remember, but think “The Hunger Games” and you’ll be close. However, the episodes about other topics, like “becoming pro as a writer” are informative and inspirational and the good sort of overwhelming.

Let me know your thoughts.

I hear: Pod Save America and Ane Brun

Hey.

I don’t have anything funny or uplifting to say out the gate. My writer friend asked me to list my “happiness touchstones” and send them to her. I haven’t done it yet, but if I should decide to write them out, the list will contain any activity coupled with “while alone” or “when alone” or “while no one is touching me” or “in a dark and lonely corner.” I love my babies and they make me laugh, but shit.

I haven’t finished any books in the last few days. I’ve decided to take a break from consuming audiobooks because then I get uncomfortably off track with my podcast listening. Therefore, I probably won’t burn through as many books as I had.

The podcast I’m loving lately is Pod Save America. The hosts are three (or four? I can’t be sure) Obama speechwriters, and they are as wonderfully conversational as three (or four?) enraged Obama speechwriters can be when discussing the current political climate. It’s a funny podcast, if you still have it in you to laugh at anything that is happening nowadays. Most of the episodes run at about an hour, and they typically post two episodes per week.

I try to listen to a new album each week. I haven’t done this for a few weeks because I am still trying to get back into life as it used to be lived way back in April when all of the sicknesses hadn’t happened yet. This week I’m going to be getting into Ane Brun.

All righty. I’ll write at you next time.

I write: Accountability

I am supposed to have two pieces of writing ready to share with my writers’ group on Saturday. Here’s one:

I was in the hospital.
I’m going to use that as
an excuse.

Critiques? Comments?

I actually do have something that I started in November when my writing penpal and I challenged each other (and ourselves) to write every day. I think our target was to write 500 words a day. Some days it happened, some it didn’t. I liked having a person on the other end who was expecting my writing at the end of the day. Having her there gave me a reason to do the thing I enjoy most. Since November, we have fallen in and out of contact, but we’re going to try to get back to sending each other some work on a regular basis.

I wonder how Saturday’s group will go.

I want to start submitting some of my writing for publication and to contests, but there is plenty of work to do on it before that happens.

I am so impatient. Why can’t it all happen right now.

I read: Quiet and On Being, and what else is up today

I think I should start a podcast called “The Introverted Mother” where I spend the 30 minutes of airtime locked in a small, dark closet with headphones on, sitting in silence. I could call it “work,” or “a creative project,” but really I’d be recharging, as they say. Would you listen?

My husband has the day off work and is doing house projects while our 21-month-old daughter stomps around and yells out for “nummies” from Mommy. Since the hospital stay and the traveling husband and the upset schedule, the littlest one has been nursing like a newborn. Unlike newborns, though, this one can lay herself across my lap and pull at my shirt while whispering “nummies now.”

I am “working” right now — yes, on business stuff, but also on finding some semblance of sanity while my messy office’s door is shut tight.

I recently started reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Man oh man am I an introvert. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I guess — although there seems to be. Cain argues that extroversion is much more highly valued (at least in America) than introversion as evidenced by the open work spaces and the encouragement to collaborate. She even discusses how extroversion is supported in elementary classrooms.

I consider myself an irritated introvert. I remember going to a leadership camp of sorts in high school and being disgusted by the jumping, hyper, balloon-gripping greeters at the entrance. When my dad saw them, he just laughed and said, “Have fun.” That was the same leadership conference where every single audience member was instructed to stand at the end of every single speech that was given and shout, “That was O for Outstanding!” while making an “O” shape with our arms. I didn’t do it. I also convinced some of the people in my group that it was impossible for every single performance of every single speech to be “outstanding.”

The podcast I picked to hear this week is On Being. I am two years behind, but I remember liking it. And it’s produced here in Minneapolis, so there.

Let me know in the comments what you think of things.

My time in the hospital

I wonder for how long I’ve been ignoring the messages my body has been yelling at me. Certainly I should have known that the sensation of vertigo was enough to leave work, but I was so eager to get back to seeing clients after having had laryngitis for a week that I decided that nothing was going to keep me from doing just that. I was upset with myself for being sick so much. I was frustrated that I had to cancel so many sessions. I was worried that I was going to be fired. When I didn’t have a voice to use to call the group managers to tell them I wouldn’t be there, I read a whole lot into the responses I got from their e-mails. Were they pissed? Were they going to look elsewhere for services? I wish I weren’t so sick all the time.

In mid-April, I had some stomach troubles. I am used to this, but some were bad enough that I had to cancel a couple of sessions and meetings. A couple of weeks later, I caught a cold, which very quickly turned into laryngitis. This, too, I am accustomed to having happen — in the last couple of years, it seems that I lose my voice when I get a cold. There went another few days of sessions. The Monday after my cold hit, I finally had enough of a voice to use to sing in my sessions. I was determined to be fine that morning, and more determined yet to get back to my normal schedule. Being sick is just as much a mental exercise in guilt as it is a physical experience in discomfort or pain.

I felt well enough through my first session, though I remember thinking that I was feeling some dizziness on the drive away from the client. The sensation got worse, and coupled with a headache that originated in my temples and radiated to my eyeballs. But, I still had a voice, and I didn’t think whatever this crap was could be contagious, so I drove on to my next client. There I was, face to face with my client, and I was having trouble focusing — not my attention, though that was compromised, but my sight. Needless to say, I was not the best therapist in that session. I was simply trying to get through it without having to move for fear of falling over.

Though I hadn’t seen my next few clients in a couple of weeks, I called off the rest of my day and carefully drove myself home where I wept to my work-at-home husband about what a failure I was for being sick, yet again.

Having two kids under the age of four does not lend itself well to being a sick mama. But my husband never complains when he needs to take the full responsibility, and I went to bed and was miserable with body aches and fevers and chills the rest of the night.

The vertigo was so bad in the morning that I couldn’t sit up, so I pulled over my phone and e-mailed my day full of clients saying, another time, “I am sick.” I spoke to a nurse who said I might have the flu, and then my doctor said that I’d have to go in for an appointment to be prescribed anything. I wasn’t able to drive, so my husband took me in.

At the appointment, they weren’t able to measure my blood pressure on the machine because it was so low. The doctor said they’d have to run some blood tests to see what it is, but that since they’d need to send it over to the hospital, I might as well just go to the emergency room.

I’m busy calculating how much time there is left in the day before we have to go pick up the kids. I knew a trip to the ER would be lengthy.

When we got to the ER, they said I should’ve been brought over by ambulance because I was so hypotensive and my heart rate was so high. I thought, “How much would that have cost?”

I figured that once I got to the emergency room, I’d get IV fluids and feel immediately better. This was not the case. We were there for a few hours. They ran a number of tests on me. My husband was with me until he had to go to pick up the kids, and at that point, we learned that I had to be admitted.

Fortunately, my mother-in-law is local and was able to help with the kids’ bedtime. I spent time between blood draws and fever spikes e-mailing my clients to tell them I wouldn’t be seeing them that week.

The second day in the hospital was the worst. I had had a 102.9 fever the night before and hardly slept, and that second day I was emotional and embarrassed for being there. The doctors said I had two separate infections that had gotten to my blood and gave me sepsis. I was dizzy because my blood pressure was so low. I also had developed a rash on my arm, and they were concerned that the infection might have gotten to my wrist, in which case antibiotics wouldn’t help. I had an echocardiogram because that particular strain of strep could affect the heart. I was on two antibiotics, and then they changed one after learning about the certainty of strep. I didn’t have an appetite.

On the third day in the hospital, I wasn’t dizzy and I was finally comfortable. I was in the hospital for four days, and they discharged me with a PICC line so that I could have daily IV antibiotics on an outpatient basis for two weeks.

I’m done with the daily treatments and have a follow-up appointment this week.

My parents were able to come up and stay with me for much of the time I was getting treatments. I chose not to work during that time, and will be going back to seeing clients tomorrow. All of my clients were understanding and gracious. All of my clients wished me well.

Throughout this whole thing, I’ve mostly been in disbelief. I am sad when I hear my son tell people that I was in the hospital because I was sick. I am mad that I wasn’t able to play with my little people while I was stuck there, even though they did come visit me every night.

I wish I weren’t so distracted that I let everything get so out of hand. I wish I paid better attention to myself so that I could be better for my family. In all of it, I feel like I was the inconvenience, disrupting the flow of the day.

Anyway. That’s my account of my hospital stay.

Perhaps I am back at it

Hey.
I had a rough few weeks.
My husband was out of town, I have two babies, I got sick, etc., etc.
But, here I am.
Over the weekend I went to the conference “Writing the Novel & Crafting Your Career,” given by The Loft Literary Center. Sure, I haven’t written the novel yet, and sure, I am unsuccessful in getting myself into the habit of writing on any sort of regular basis, but I felt compelled to go and be surrounded by other writers. (Do I consider myself a writer? I don’t know. Not yet, maybe.)
I was inspired and simultaneously devastated. I knew I’d feel those feelings. One of the panelists I heard phrased it nicely — she had a lot of “overhead.” I have a lot of overhead. I have a full-time job (not in writing), I run my own practice (not in writing), I have two little kids, and my husband travels for work. I have a lot of overhead. What was devastating and deflating was to feel the excitement about what could be, some time, maybe, in the far-off future, but knowing that there isn’t any feasible way I’m going to get any kind of quality writing project done any time soon.
That same person was on the panel consisting of debut novelists, telling the audience about what their processes were in getting their novel written, getting an agent, getting it sold, and having it published. That person’s process took 14 years. You know what? That seems like a realistic timeline to me, actually. Fourteen years. Maybe I can do that. Should I put an alert on my Google calendar?
The podcast I’m featuring this week is The West Wing Weekly. I remember watching the show with my dad when it was airing. I love it, and have yet to finish the series. I like this podcast because it breaks down each episode with actors who were in it.

I hope to be back here again sooner rather than later.
Bye.