Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sleep Is The Word

This morning my son had two wisdom teeth removed. They hadn't broken through his gumline yet, so this was actual surgery and they briefly knocked him out for it.

We stopped briefly for a milkshake breakfast on the way home and he was asleep on the couch within minutes.

All day long my energy level has been similar to his, or perhaps slightly lower, with much less excuse.

Tomorrow and Saturday my daughter is taking her pony club HB examination, in Greenville, South Carolina (saints be praised--she was originally scheduled for Chesapeake, VA, which is an 8-hour drive away instead of a 3-hour drive). This is her first national-level pony club test. She's been spending the day getting all her records and plans finalized, and, I believe, is still in her pajamas.

I'm not in my pajamas. People look at you funny if you take your child to the oral surgeon wearing pajamas. Also, Bristol is resolutely a small town; my son's OR nurse turned out to be a friend, who in addition to giving me all my son's post-op instructions also asked if I'd made my writing deadline. If I show up at the doctor's office in pajamas without arriving in the middle of the night in an ambulance, I'll probably make the newspaper.

I'm not getting back into jammies until after I've done the barn chores. But we're all enjoying a low-motion day. Sleep is the word.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Second Drafts and Joy

Last week, while hanging out at the United States Pony Clubs East Coast Championships (my daughter was stellar-more on that later) I had a chance to spend some time with my 11-year-old friend Lily (her mother is also a friend of mine).

Lily confided that she was in the process of writing a book. I asked her what it was about. Her expression became a mixture of pride, panic, and anxiousness--which made me think that Lily really might have the makings of a writer.

"If it's too early to talk about it, don't even try," I said. "I can never talk about my books until I'm past a certain point."

Lily exhaled in relief. "It's too early to talk about it," she said.

I then gave her the only decent writing advice I have: finish the story, even if you know it isn't right yet. Too many neophyte writers realize about halfway through a story that it isn't coming out the way they want and they stop writing and start a new story. Odds are they won't finish that one, either, nor the which point they decide that they aren't really writers.

All first drafts suck. I so wish this weren't true. But it's only by finishing a first draft that you can ever get to a second draft. Second drafts aren't quite as lousy--third drafts can begin to be worthwhile.

I told Lily that it turned out the original beginning of my new book stunk, so I chopped it in half and added 20 new pages on the front. Also the original ending stunk, so I got rid of it. Also I changed something major in the middle, and well, you get the idea. I'm finding the story, buried somewhere in my wretched first draft.

It's such a relief, I told Lily, not to have to get things right on the first try. And Lily, being very wise for 11, happily agreed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Blog Returns!


That triumphant sound you're hearing is the noise of me meeting what turned out to be a wholly improbable deadline.


For the past month, beloved friends, I have divided my time into 1) being with my family, particularly on vacation; 2) writing my tush off; 3) moaning about writing; 4) doing the bare minimum to keep all our animals alive.

Blogging didn't make the list. Nor laundry, nor, honestly, much else. I've missed blogging. I've missed hanging out with my friends. Missed reading novels all in one go. Missed going to yoga every single day.

In the week to come I'm going to clean the playroom and my book pile and do a host of other things, including being attentive to this blog.

For now I'm just going to rejoice in 274 pages of novel that are a big improvement over the 180 pages they replace. (and yes, my books always do get bigger like that.).

Monday, July 6, 2015

Girls Play Soccer Now

"I want to try out for the soccer team," I said.

Sister Theresa looked at me over the top of her glasses. Later, when I was in high school and we served on a retreat team together, I would get to know her better, and grew to like her very much, but in 1980, when I was thirteen years old, she intimidated me. She was the Principal of St. Charles, the Catholic school of 800 pupils that I'd only been attending for two years. She ruled absolutely.

"If you like to run," Sister Teresa said, "Why don't you do track and field?"

I hated running. No matter how hard I tried, I was horrible at it--coughing and gasping after a quarter mile while my friends did easy laps. Looking back it should have been more obvious. I was fit. I rode my bike everywhere, including to swim practice and back each morning. I swam every day; at camp I got a gold medal for swimming across the lake. But I couldn't swim fast for more than a single lap. After that I had to breathe, and I couldn't. Sometimes after a hard swim meet or an especially windy bike ride, the spaces between my ribs hurt from the effort it took me to breathe.

I had asthma. As an adult I've had three separate doctors tell me that during childhood I was very lucky not to have died.

I couldn't catch a ball, either. I was somewhat nearsighted in one eye and extremely nearsighted in the other, which left me with no depth perception. (I didn't get glasses until I was 17.) I couldn't track a ball coming at me. Gym class terrified me.

But I loved soccer. I don't know why. The Pepsi Youth Soccer League--named, of course, for its sponsor, the local bottling plant--started in Fort Wayne a year or so before I decided to join. Soccer had just gotten started in the United States; Pepsi teams played 11-on-11 on a full-sized court, even the five-year-olds, which meant that in my younger brother's games the goalies were usually stretched out on their backs, gazing at the clouds, while somewhere midfield 20 small children kicked each other in the shins in the vague vacinity of the ball.

I wanted to try it. Fall of my 7th-grade year I joined the Purple team (with only one league sponsor, we were known by the color of our jerseys) of the oldest division, the 12-year-olds. I was one of 3 girls and 13 boys. Most of them had played soccer for a least a year and most of them had better coordination than me. But it was fun--fabulously fun. Running still made me cough and wheeze, but I loved playing right wing, racing to get my foot onto a midfield pass, kicking it sideways to the center. I loved the camaraderie of our team. I loved my jersey and my cleats. I played on the same team over the summer, riding my bike to practices at the local high school, travelling all the way across town for Saturday morning games.

Then I aged out of the Pepsi league. Most middle schools and high schools fielded teams of their own. I don't know if the public schools had girls' teams then. I don't think they did. The Catholic Youth Organization, which ran sports for our city's dozen Catholic grade schools, did not.

(In college I would play again, on our house intramural team. I ran hard enough despite my asthma that the refs became accustomed to calling time-outs so I could vomit on the field. I still played right wing; twice my house won the championship. One year we had a varsity midfielder on our house team--she and I worked well together and I averaged 3 goals a game. But it was her skill, not mine.)

All this came back to me yesterday, as my whole family sat glued to the Women's World Cup Final. The athletes, both sides, were fit and skilled and beautiful. I watched team USA score five goals for the win. I saw how they all ran to a corner of the stadium afterward and searched the stands for their families--saw their eyes light up, saw them blow kisses and mouth, 'I love you.' Saw them draped in the Stars and Stripes. I felt so happy, so unreasonably elated. It took me a few minutes to understand why.

"I hate running," my 13-year-old self told Sister Theresa. "But I like soccer, and I want to play. Look," I pressed, "it doesn't say boys' team. It just says soccer team. There's no reason I can't play."

Sister Theresa shook her head. "Girls don't play soccer," she said.

They do now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Making Mothers Cry

I wasn't going to write a blog post this morning--I've got a novel under a highly improbable deadline. But when I sat down to work and opened my Facebook feed, I saw a post from a friend saying that she'd been listening to the radio all day about people saying gays were "pushing marriage down peoples' throats." My friend's post included a link to a humorous essay written by a university English professor, on all the startling ways that gay marriage had not affected her straight marriage so far.

(For the record, I think that in a week or two we're going to have to adjust and quit calling it "gay marriage" and "straight marriage." It's just "marriage" now.)

Maybe it's only because I know her well, but I could feel the pain in my friend's post, feel how hard it was for her to hear people bashing gay marriage on the radio. My friend is one of the most caring, honest, trustworthy women I know. She's a wife, a mother, a Christian, a churchgoer, a hardworking professional. She's got a great garden. She reads good books. She's also gay. She's married to another woman.

Her marriage inspires mine. I've told her and her wife that before.

So I thought I'd tell you how, on the day the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, two women I care about burst into tears. One is in her 40s, the other in her 70s. Neither is gay.

The both have a gay child.

I texted one of them right after the ruling--I'd have just run over to see her in person, but she was out of town. She texted back that her high-school-aged gay child had just phoned her with the news, overflowing with happiness, and then she texted back that she was crying tears of joy on her child's behalf.

The other mother posted on Facebook to her gay child, who'd been in a committed monogamous relationship for the past 21 years. I'm just going to copy it, I don't think she'd mind:

I am in tears of joy at this news. I love you all so very very much! You have all been so patient and brave about this and I am so proud and happy I am bursting !

C'mon, everybody. Think what you want. Worship how you want. No one can stop you; no one is trying to. But quit saying mean stuff in public. Mommas are listening.