Priorities

Priorities

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 One of my less attractive qualities is an obsessive-compulsive need to schedule every half an hour of my day.  However, as more of my waking hours have been surrendered to supporting a new release at work, extra dentist appointments for the kids, and an impending influx of guests for Christmas, I’ve begun arranging my day by the quarter hour.

 Last night, as I stood at the kitchen island, my rear end facing the red hot wood stove and my iPad calendar open, seven-year-old Thing2 came to rest his chin on one of my arms as I rearranged my work day for today. I got my writing at 4 AM, email at 6, kids to the bus at seven, fitness at 7:30, dinner preparation at 8:30 so we can eat at right at 5:30 or whenever I actually sign off work. 

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“Just prioritizing my day,” I said.

“What are prior-ties?”

I thought for a second and then answered, “They’re just important things on my to-do list.”

Then I scrolled to Saturday. Writing got a nice chunk of the morning while the family was still in bed.  I had a block for work, but moved it to the end of the day.  There were blocks for running and breakfast at Bob’s, cleaning and  grocery shopping.  I was moving my blocks of to-do’s from one hour of Saturday to another when Thing2 held my scrolling arm tight and said, “You don’t have any time scheduled to cuddle with me.”

“You’re right,” I said. “Where should we put it.”

“Let’s do it right before we go to Bob’s for breakfast,” he said.

I added a one hour block after writing and running and right before Bob’s to sit on the couch and snuggle.  Thing2 gave me a big hug and said, “I think we got the prior-ties in order, Mom.”

Cursed

Cursed

Cursed

   Seven-year-old Thing2 and his thirteen-year-old brother Jack take turns sitting next to me when we go to Sunday breakfast at Bob’s Diner in Manchester, VT.  Thing2 is still at the age where he’s easily entertained by shiny objects and it was my wedding ring caught that his attention the other morning.

Waiting for our drinks to arrive, Thing2 grabbed my hand from the table and began inspecting the rings, twist and turning my finger.  The Big Guy told him the story of the stone (they came from his grandfather’s ring) and then of his own gold band (also owned by his grandfather).  

Thing2 tried to pull off my ring for close inspection, but I stiffened my finger and the ring would not come off.  It would twist, but it would not move up my finger.

“It won’t come off,” exclaimed Thing2.   The server had now brought our drinks.

“It’s not supposed to come off,” I said.

“What is it.. cursed?” he asked turning to ancient pop culture and Ringo Star’s ruby ring in the move Help to explain the phenomenon on my finger.  Even Jack had to laugh at the question. Our server took our order and walked away giggling.  

Thing2 was now wedged between my arm and body.  Sun flooding through the plate glass window bathed Jack and the Big Guy on the opposite side of the table.  It was just an ordinary Sunday with nothing planned except wood stacking and hanging out around the homestead.  I had his answer.

“It’s not cursed,” I said.  It’s blessed.

 

A Sharp Dressed Man

A Sharp Dressed Man

Brothers in arms

Seven-year-old Thing2 was invited to a movie with a friend on Sunday.  An hour before it was time to go, he doffed his t-shirt and, wearing only his camo pants began rummaging through the closet looking for his only button-down shirt and tie.

The Big Guy and I long ago adopted the Vermont uniform of good jeans for going out and regular jeans for everything else.  Thirteen-year-old Thing1’s fashion priorities are comfort and cleanliness – in that order.  I don’t know where he got his sense of style and panache. It’s always been clear, however, that Thing2 didn’t just fall very far from our family tree, and he’s not content to put down roots for his own tree.  He’s starting his own orchard.  

The funny thing is, I know we’ve done somethings differently as we’ve guided Thing2 through infancy and the toddler years, but for the most part, the Big Guy and I like to think we’re pretty even-steven with our two boys. Despite sharing genes and parents, however, the two of them are completely different personalities, and we’re often left wondering where nurture ends and nature picks up.

The real puzzle for me, the one I am happy to consider indefinitely, is how the Big Guy and I can have two such completely different little boys in our life and still experience the same powerful love for each of them.  It’s a puzzle, but it’s also a bit of a miracle.

 

The Bookmaker

The Bookmaker

BookMaker copy

Last Saturday, to much fanfare from my family, I clicked an upload button and published my first short story.  Fifteen minutes later, I had my first sale and, somewhat hesitantly, added the moniker of ‘author’ to my Facebook profile.

Hesitation has been the hallmark and stumbling block of my short writing career.  

I’ve wanted to write most of my life.  Only in the last year and a half – on joining the Hubbard Hall Writer’s Project – did a professional writing career seem like a realistic goal.  

Over the year as I’ve sketched and posted, seven-year-old Thing2 has written and sketched with me.  He’s filled 5×8 notebooks with trees and robots and star systems.  He’s pilfered printer paper to produce his illustrated, staple-bound paperback stories.  

The weekend before I published my story, I mentioned his endeavors as I was standing in the living room of a friend and writing mentor and his wife.  I had been working on their computers, and my friend was taking the opportunity to harangue me for my hesitation, even enlisting thirteen-year-old Jack to keep me on the hot seat until I hit ‘Publish’.  

“I think you’re scared,” said my friend’s wife.

 “You’re right,” I said and pointed to Thing2 who was hanging on my friend. “You should see the books he makes,” I said.  Thing2 smiled shyly.  I thought I was off the hook, but my friend’s wife smiled, apparently knowing her husband would not be so easily distracted.  “He’s really talented,” I said.

 “And I bet he doesn’t doubt himself,” said my friend.

 “No he doesn’t, I admitted.  

A week later, we were at Bob’s diner.  I was enjoying the glow of seeing my first royalties.  

Jack and Thing2 quickly put my accomplishment in perspective as they setup a game of table hockey, complete with salt-and-pepper shaker goal posts  and a straw wrapper puck. Fulfilling the requirements of my primary job title, I did the mom thing and barked a reprimand.   

Thing2 asked for my notebook, and I gave it to him. 

“Are you starting a new story?” I asked.  He grinned and nodded, staking out the back 10 pages for illustrations.

“Mommy,” he announced, “I want to write a book just like you when I grow up.”

“You’ll be a great writer,” I said.  There wasn’t a shred of doubt in my mind or voice.  The Big Guy concurred with the same confidence he expresses when he’s encouraging me.

That’s when it hit me.  Thing2 and I have the same dream.  I see his innate talent, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have his hills to climb.  Each of us will only succeed, however, if we don’t start (or in my case stop) worrying if we have the right stuff and just climb. 

Cause or Effect

Cause or Effect

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A few months ago I got on the Pill.  Not the one that keeps little surprises from happening in a marriage but the one that was supposed to help keep my demons away.  After a few weeks of trading the demons I’d known all my life and gotten used to (even if I don’t really like them) for a terrifying set of new demons I didn’t know, I went off the pill.

The move wasn’t just bravado, although there was some involved.  A summer return to a regular fitness routine power a good part of my swagger, and for the last few months I’ve been on a more even keel.  My demons have been relegated to the periphery.  

They never stay there, however.  When I tire, they get stronger, as they did Sunday.  From their darkness, they beckoned me to stay home from my run and retreat to my fantasy world – just for a short while.  There were seven miles ahead of me, and the temptation was strong.  Ultimately, I got out of bed, deciding this was the perfect time to test the effect of endorphins on depression.  

It always takes me a mile or two to get warmed up and start enjoying the exercise.  It’s the point where the world melts away.  Stories are written on those runs.  Problems are solved.  At the three mile mark, however, my demons were right beside me, and every muscle was exhausted. 

At the fourth mile, Boogie Wonderland came on the mp3 player.  My stories were interrupted by images of seven-year-old Thing2 be-bopping in his rainbow wig and cape, and my pace quickened.  As the air cut around me, I could feel the wind unfurling my own cape.  For the rest of the run, every step took me into the stories I’m writing and away from the darkness. 

Looking back, I’m still not sure if the endorphins were the causes or the effects.