Admit it, I’m a Writer

Back when I first did NaNoWriMo for real, in 2012, I had bronchitis and did some preparation for the event in bed before November started. I took time that I haven’t had, before or since, to read the forums and comment. One set of threads that struck me as particularly silly at the time, especially in my codeine-addled state, was the discussion of whether or not to call oneself a writer, especially if (like me), one hadn’t published anything yet. I thought it was silly to spend so much time and mental effort on that question when one could be actually writing something. A few commenters agreed with me; I got the impression that there were others out there that felt the same way, but I probably didn’t see them much because they were too busy writing their own novels. Reassured, I turned to something I found more interesting: designing the cover for my novel (which gave me the idea for how the book would end–so, a worthwhile activity, regardless of whether the actual design ends up being used or not), and taking a nap.

Later I realized later that this phenomenon isn’t unique to writers. I’d run into these questions of self-definition before in other communities where I’d participated, especially but not limited to online forums. Who gets to call themselves a violinist? a scientist? A feminist? Again I approached these discussions with skepticism; they seemed a little clique-y, more focused on keeping out the riffraff than doing anything useful.

But now, fast forward three years, and I’m finding my way in a new place. I’ve been enjoying meeting new people and everyone I’ve met has been friendly and interesting. It invariably comes up: what do you do for work? It’s easy to tell them about my husband’s job at Google. This town is sometimes known as “Google View” (right up the 101 from “Appletino”). And so far, my work story has been this: my part-time employer, Science From Scientists, just opened a new office in the SF Bay Area and I was able to transfer there. So, I am a part-time science educator.

This is all true, as far as it goes, but SfS is a part-time position. Even when the school year starts, I’ll probably only be at a school once a week, if that. In Belmont, in addition to SfS, I also worked at an educational start-up called the Innovation Institute. Here I don’t have that job. And my kids start school tomorrow. Looked at from that vantage point, of working at a school once a week, and my own kids being out of the house for the school day, my week looks rather empty. In reality, though, it’s not. It feels full, crammed to overflowing.

I think it’s time to come clean. What I really want to do with that time I’m not working in education is to finish editing my novel, get it into publishable shape, submit it to publishers, and if that doesn’t work out, self-publish it. That pretty much sounds like something a writer would do, doesn’t it? Hmm . . .

The thing is, even with reduced work commitments, I’m still having trouble finding time to write. I’m not blogging as much as I want to, and my novel is languishing. I look at all the things expected of me as a parent, as a new resident of the area, as a customer, and I feel like throwing up my hands. People don’t respect my time. But how will people know to respect my writing time, unless I tell them? Unless I honor it as much as I do my teaching time and my parenting time? It’s time to start telling people that I’m a writer. Maybe those NaNoWriMo threads weren’t so silly after all.

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My kind of exercise

A friend recently posted this graphic onto my Facebook wall:

violincalories

While I’d much prefer to practice the violin for an hour than to run a mile, I’ve never been that interested in calories, or especially in counting them. I don’t need to lose weight. What I seem to need is harder to pin down.

Growing up I was more or less a stereotypical nerdy kid who spent most of her time reading and wasn’t good at, and didn’t like, sports. Being 2 years younger than my classmates, and a late bloomer, didn’t help either. I have a number of memories of school gym class that are probably best left unwritten about. My high school was relatively enlightened, however, and by 10th grade they allowed students to choose individual activities like weightlifting and swimming to meet the PE requirement, which I did in the company of a similarly non-athletic friend, and never looked back.

I’m also old enough to remember big discrepancies in athletic opportunities for girls vs. boys. Good feminist that I am, I’ve watched and applauded the change over the past 40 years or so. It seems to have been a positive development, at least for other people. (Go Carli Lloyd, you are awesome!) For me personally, though, I have to say it’s been rather mixed. Some friends my age have stories of discovering hidden athleticism in adulthood: they’ve found out they love dance, or aerobics, or yoga, or lifting weights. There’s Zumba, there’s spinning class, there’s HIIT. And a lot of people–a LOT of people–seem to love running. Whereas I have a dirty little secret: I am not one of those people. I’ve tried most of these activities and I still don’t like any of them. In this one area, I’m actually kinda nostalgic for the bad old days when I had an excuse.

I did manage to do one sort of athletic thing in high school: the breaststroke. Back then being able to do a decent breaststroke was enough to earn me a slot on the school swim team. Even better, I didn’t have to do any flip turns. I swam two events: the individual 100-meter breaststroke and the breaststroke leg of the medley relay. I usually came in either third or last, but I came in third enough times to earn a varsity letter. I still have that letter, and the jacket I wore it on.

But, except for the swimming test my alma mater, Princeton University, required me to pass as a freshman, and recreational splashing around in the pool, lake, or ocean with the kids, I haven’t really swum in over 30 years. Whenever I set out to try, I’m reminded of several things:

1. Chlorine. It irritates my skin, eyes, and nose, and turns my hair green. Forget contact lenses. One drop of chlorinated water and my eyes are on fire.

2. Cold water. Enough said.

3. Weird strokes that I can’t really do. Three or four of my childhood summers were spent at Audubon and Clearfield Recreation Centers in Williamsville, New York, struggling to learn how to do the front crawl, the stroke that some people refer to as “freestyle” and most people apparently refer to as, just, “swimming”. While I can now do a decent-looking front crawl for 1-2 pool lengths, I still don’t really understand why anyone would want to. (Especially when they could be doing breaststroke, sidestroke, or elementary backstroke.) And I will spare readers my feelings about the butterfly, except to point out that when I attempt to do it I look and feel like a whale beaching itself.

4. Goggles. I’ve never had a pair that didn’t leak or a way to dive in without having them fall off my head. And, see #1.

5. Flip turns. See #1 and #3. Breaststroke doesn’t use them. Another point for breaststroke! And finally:

6. Anxiety.  I have anxiety about most aspects of swimming, and especially about being underwater. I enjoy it to a point, but I get winded easily and when I feel like I can’t breathe it gets worse. I got trapped underwater during a senior lifesaving class, and failed it. I still occasionally have anxiety dreams about swim meets, too.

But here I am, in California, in an apartment complex with a pool. The past week I’ve been swimming in the afternoons before dinner, and perhaps surprisingly, I’ve been looking forward to it. I bought some prescription goggles a couple of years ago that I never used in Belmont, and they are surprisingly decent. I can actually see the end of the pool and not crash into it and jam my finger. I don’t dive in off the side or anything so radical as that, but they stay on as I breaststroke back and forth. And they only leak a little bit, in one eye. The chlorine in this pool isn’t too bad, and the water is warm.

I wish I could say I am loving it so much that I am not even hearing the voices that tell me I’m not swimming enough, not doing it intensely enough, that I probably still look like a beached whale, or at least like a dork out there doing these slow breaststroke laps. I even let those voices talk me into some front crawl laps, just to see, but I got tired pretty quickly and went back to breaststroke.

I’m just doing it while it’s fun. When it’s not fun anymore, I stop. And, the pool is especially beautiful at night.

pool

Postcards From the Drought

We aren’t living in our new house yet, because we are still waiting for furniture and contractors to finish. But we already got a warning on our front porch:

Warning for watering on the wrong day

We go over there most days to supervise contractors and check things out, but we hadn’t ever seen the sprinklers running. They were on a mysterious timer in the garage. The greenness of the lawn did suggest that they were still on “realtor” setting to make the house more attractive for selling. This confirmed it. I turned the system off completely. One of the contractors showed me how to turn it on manually if I want to, during the approved times, but I’m not sure I should.

This past weekend we went to another CITO geocaching event. I brought Hallie. We found our first caches in California not long after getting off the plane the first weekend. We were even FTF on one of them, and while we were there looking for it, we met a young cacher who told us about this event this weekend, at the Lexington Reservoir. (All these Massachusetts town names keep coming up: not just at the Lexington Reservoir, but also near our new address on Beaumont Square. When we say “Beaumont” to people, they hear “Belmont,” our old hometown. Not only that, but Beaumont Sq is within walking distance of Cambridge Ln, Waltham St, Newton Dr, Woburn Ct, and Waverley Pl. Coincidence?)

Lexy Reservoir today

The reservoir looks low, and another cacher and longtime area resident confirmed it. He said that when he was younger they used to be able to waterski and fish on this lake.

Dry creekbed

We filled our small bag with trash pretty quickly and decided to find some of the other caches in the area. One was called “gravity overcomes friction” and you needed to climb up a hillside. On the way up, we crossed what looked like a dry creekbed.

I had to find a way up that avoided the bushes to keep my legs from getting scratched. The view from near the cache zone was worth it!

View from near the cache. Friction temporarily overcame gravity!
View from near the cache. Friction temporarily overcame gravity!

I’m going to end with another picture of a path, because I’m still not tired of pictures of paths and roads 😉 You can see how everything is not green, even now in the middle of summer.

The road less travelled . . .
The road less travelled . . .