A summer of reading

Over this summer, I fully wanted and intended to read for my own “fun” – and did so to a certain extent. Somewhere in looking for fun reads, there was the personal discovery that I really enjoy non-fiction history. And so I found myself reading this book about George Washington and his rather unknown deftly political side. It was a really informative book, but I’ll say that the author jumped around a *lot* timeline-wise, and I found it a challenge to keep track of that as well as virtual armies of people who didn’t always warrant the importance in the narrative that was given them.

After that, I read this book, minus 70 pages that were mysteriously not put in the book at time of printing…nevertheless, I loved this book – even with lots of stocks and trading minutiae, it’s a fascinating piece – and both books should be read right now by anyone who thinks that our current economic woes are anything new.

But in the midst of this, I was continuing to read to my pre-teen, who is on the autism spectrum. I got this notion of reading to him from another parent who blogs here, and who has had plenty of conversations with adults on the spectrum about so many things that have opened my brain.

We had a challenging summer. I won’t get into much of it, but one of the saving moments was our daily read. Often, it would be us sitting outside under the cover of our deck, and he can deal with about a half hour most of the time. Some days, like yesterday, or when we finished Homer Figg’s adventures, I find that I can read on and on, and he will just lie down and listen.

I just told the author of our latest book that I find it very difficult not to read “en voice”, as it were. Accents are just fun to play around with, but I realized after trying to do Maine and Belfast that I was most likely incomprehensible to my child. Plus, my younger son was getting irritated with my performing. I’m just not appreciated in my time….

As we go along, though, this is a dream realized for me. From the day he was born, I anticipated the moment when we would sit and read together. My mother had done that with us, even to the point of recording herself reading so we could listen in the car – one summer had us listening to the Hobbit all the way to Montana.

I had read to my brother (theatrically – he appreciated my talents at least), to my cousin, to the kids I babysat and nannied for…I couldn’t wait with my own child…but then the day did not come. He would not sit still. There was always something in the way of the quiet and peace that comes with those moments. And I gave up on the dream.

After our second child came along, I was more cautious about what I wished for. I did not push him to learn to read, and I read to him when he sat still, which was rare. Now, he is a proficient reader, but nothing like I was as a kid. He prefers math and science, art and music…and I promise to myself that he will grow into it if he’s not pressured.

That’s what makes reading with the older one so much more than I ever thought I’d get…it’s just the two of us, and I read as clearly and emotionally as I can. He sits and listens. Once in a while, I have to gently ask him to take his fingers out of his ears – I think it’s become a reflexive comforting method for him, and he often doesn’t know he’s doing it.

I’ll put up a review of those two books when we finish the Titanic one,  but after that, I think we’ll do Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson, and she’s got others that look equally good. Let me know what you read with your kids….


How I earned my first 2 dollar bill….

I have to thank my husband’s auntie for this experience. She, of her own volition, got on the stick and asked whether she could use my short stories for a reading group in her retirement community. It slays me, really! I don’t know what I imagine, but it’s nice so far, and having a deadline looming overhead is keeping me moving a little bit.

Actually, if I’m being quite honest, reading critically for short story writing has turned out to be much more helpful than I’d guessed. First off, you don’t want to be a rambler if your narrative is supposed to be succinct by nature, so you start thinking about how to say everything in much smaller, more meaningful mouthfuls. When you write long, you get a little lax. I’ve used the running metaphor for writing before, and it still holds true. When I set out on an hour or more looooong run, I’m only worried about being able to make it for the return leg, so I take it easy, and coast, and delve off into fantasy or two. On the days I go fast and short, I have to remain in the moment, focus on form, and push myself. This is exactly how I am feeling as I move through short stories. A little bit of endorphin, a little panic, a glance at the clock every few moments, and eventually, I can see the end nearing. I’ll breathe when I’m done.

Through the auspices of this reading group, I’m expanding a story I mentioned before, based on someone I observed in our neighborhood. Instead of one tiny piece of his pie, I’m making the rest of it, into a village narrative. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m in the home stretch of the second in the series. I wish it had been easier and more quick, but holy hell, we got the mother of all snowstorms last week, and I’ve been on my own with our kids, with my husband overseas on business. To quote Metallica, “…frayed ends of sanity/hear them calling me….” Tonight was a particular challenge, with our younger child going apeshit several times. He’s always been high strung, a colicky personality to the bone, but tonight was a new level of freakout. It’s tough to get him ramped down from those moments – you tell him he’s got to chill and do some breathing, and he screams that he’s CALMED DOWN NOW!!!!!!! I have never met this kind of kid before…and it’s chemistry, too – his extra-extrovert to my sanguine (normally) introvert. We collide like matter and antimatter – and clusters of black holes are littered around us by day’s end. I love his passion, for the most part, but it might kill me.

And for my efforts, I have gotten a modest fee, and a genuine two dollar bill to frame and baffle my husband with when he arrives home. It’s not perzactly publication, but if I can get a little feedback, and a collection of stories to play around with, it’s well worth it.

To be continued…..

The runaway train

Yes, so I keep getting derailed. This time was my own fault, for agreeing to put together the 5th grade “yearbook” for the PTO at my son’s school. I guilted myself into it, because the co-presidents have energetically manhandled every other task and event at the school, while I, the vice president, have responded to the jobs I’ve felt capable of managing. Somewhere in this year, I have realized how little energy I have for doing multiple tasks. Watching other parents, I can only assume that this must be an inborn capacity; this seemingly boundless, bottomless wellspring of energy that they have and I do not.

I can only see that this has been one of my longstanding problems. It was a huge problem during college, but I still graduated, mostly due to dogged determination. But I sit and wonder now whether it’s purely because of ADD, never diagnosed, they didn’t have that label when I was in school: I know it’s there. Or is it a function of something else? My guess is the ADD, which leaves me trying to figure out how the heck to defeat it rather than the other way round.

I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, from date books, to-do lists, midday coffees…I would never consider meds, but there has to be a better solution than my current one of: procrastination, or panic, or being overwhelmed and never able to think straight. *sigh* Some days I can really get focused, hammer out a task, and feel like I’m seeing the whole day and how it should go. Usually it works better if I have a plan from the beginning of the day, or a partner 🙂

Through the years, I have tried to be less rigid than I used to be about schedules – because it seemed to irritate everyone that I had expectations for when, where, how, et cetera. I didn’t want to fall into the type A, micromanaging, control freak zone that…ahem…some persons (I share DNA with) have always been like. Perhaps the deal is finding a happy medium. But again, every time I try to plan, and things go awry – as they tend to with kids in the mix – I get someone like my husband reminding me to stop trying to plan. So what do I do? I like being able to roll with the punches, but it seems to feed into this little weakness I have. And I think I’m talking in circles now…probably another sign of that which afflicts my feeble mind.

And while I’ve been editing photos and going mad, slowly, I had another book idea pop into mind. Something else to cloud the magic mirror of the mind! I may get this right someday, probably when I’m 103 and it’ll be the night before I drift off into the ether….