Tuesday, October 18, 2016

For the Joy of It

I've thoroughly enjoyed watching my kids run their cross country races these past few weeks. As a long-time runner myself, it's great fun to watch my kids--and the dozens of others--run their own pace. My three are competitive and want to win; my oldest son darted to the front of the pack in his race, yet smiled wildly at me when he heard me cheering. "Look at me, Mom!" he seemed to say.

I know he was thrilled and proud to win, but he was also just delighted to run fast.

The boys (each race was gender and grade specific) behind him were also happy to run their hearts out, at whatever speed they chose. The crowd cheered the front runners, sure, but they also clapped and yelled for the boys who chose to trot instead of sprint, who laughed with their buddies instead of trying to beat them.

It's all about the joy of running, and how each defined it, and that was a joy to witness.

Also last week, I finished a wonderful new middle grade novel: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan. This book is written from multiple perspectives and in verse; each student writes poetry of all sorts to describe and record his or her feelings about the fact that their school will be torn down at the end of the school year. (Read my full review here.) Because I write middle grade, I read a lot of middle grade, yet I resist the temptation to push all of the ones I love on my daughter. But this one was so very special that I asked Lorelei to read it (well, technically, I asked her to read the first five chapters and she could choose to read on or not).

She read the first five chapters, and then kept going. She loved it almost as much as I did! But her reaction was very different than mine. I blogged about the book, tweeted about how much I loved it, posted and reposted my review on social media.

What did Lorelei do?

"Mom, I'm going to write a collection of poetry all about Sunny (our puppy)!"

And she did. Wonderful, clever, sweet little poems that were, to this writer-mom, extraordinary. A dozen of them! She played with many of the types of poems in the book and applied her own wit and intellect and subject matter and sat for a few hours writing them down then reading them out loud to me.

I told her, "These are so great! I wish that Highlights or some magazine was asking for poetry because you could send them in!"

She just smiled and shrugged, went back to her verses. 

What a lesson, and one that was the same but less clear to me than when I watched my son run: Do things because you love that thing, because it's just so very fun to do. I lose myself in the publishing side of writing, becoming consumed by who to query and getting frustrated by rejections. But I'm going to remember her carefree smile and shrug and try just a little to find more delight in creating stories rather than getting them in front of you, dear reader.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Scrolling for Birth Years

Earlier this morning I forgot my apple ID password. Again. I'm blaming it on the iPhone update, which I was forced to do and now I hate. But, if I'm forced to be honest, it probably has to do with my memory. One of the things I had to do in order for Apple to acknowledge that I am, in fact, me was to ask two security questions and my birth date.

I passed the first two tests (whew!) and got to my birth date. My finger easily found July and I had to let the numbers roll, Vegas-slot-machine-style, to "31." Okay, done.

Then, to the year. I feel like scrolling to "1976" took a while. Like, too long for this newly 40 year old's liking. But I chuckled to myself, knowing that age ain't nothing but a number. It's just amazing to me that kids born in the 2000s are getting driver's licenses this year. And kids born when I graduated from college (1998) can vote in this crazy election. Silly statistics like these blow me away each time I read them.

A few hours later, I sat at my computer, buying two airline tickets. These aren't just any airline tickets to carry any ol' person from Place A to Place B. Nope, these tickets are carrying my mother and her father, my sweet grandfather, from Erie, Pennsylvania, all the way to me in Seattle, Washington. My 94 year old grandfather is flying across the country to attend my children's Grandparents' Day at their new school here in Washington. I'm so excited. I'm a little nervous, too--he is in excellent health for such an old guy, but I know this sort of trip takes a certain amount of courage, and I'm so lucky that he's got that amount (and more, methinks).

I had to enter his birth date into the system to buy his plane ticket. 1922. Man. 1922! I had to shake my head at the fact that, just a few hours earlier, I was blown away by my own birth year. I've got nothing on my Grandpa, and that's a fun thing.

My fingers and toes are crossed that his journey is as quick and easy as possible. I can't wait for him (and my mom!) to get here. The times when four generations of my family can be together, under one roof, sitting at one table, laughing at the same stories is so very limited and, therefore, so very precious.

I bought two airline tickets so that I could have this priceless stuff of memories!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Expenses: Then & Now

I'm so happy I have my old journals from my time in Kolkata, India. Last night as I turned the pages and read some of my over-the-top sentiments about the scenes I was witnessing, about the sweet boy I was falling for, about the bizarre food I was eating and its effects on my stomach, I came across my expenses for the entire trip.

The facts: I wanted to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity after graduating from college, so I took all of the graduation money my family generously gave me, changed it into Traveler's Checks (remember those?) and boarded a plane. (I had fundraised and earned enough money for the plane ticket.) My plan was to stay as long as I could--in the late 1990s, you could buy a plane ticket with a flexible return date, so I'd just schedule the date as I ran out of money.

I ended up staying for six months. Every four or five weeks, I would leave Kolkata to travel. I wanted to see as much of India as possible, and short breaks from the pollution and emotional difficulty of the work were good things. The first month, I took a train north to tea-infused Darjeeling, then took a bus west into Nepal, where I stayed in Katmandu and listened to trekkers tell wild tales. The second month I went to a quiet town on the coast, Puri, and saw where a huge hurricane left its mark. Next I headed to Agra, by way of busy Delhi, to see the unbelievably perfect Taj Mahal. Finally, six weeks before leaving, I took a train to Kerala, perched on the southern tip of India, and stayed with the family of one of the Sisters with whom I had been working. I rang in the New Year in a huge Catholic church, thanking God for last year's blessings and beginning the New Year with prayers and hope.

I lived in cheap hostels and ate at tourist dives, wrote dozens of letters home each month and bought used books in shops along Sudder Street in Kolkata. I drank Kingfisher with the other volunteers, laughing at the craziness of the city and trying to solve the big problems of the city and the world and humanity with my new friends from Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Ireland, and other countries.

How much did all this cost me? $880.

I've been thinking about that amount all day today, as I shopped at Cosco for my family of five (plus one puppy), as I wrote a check out for a new thingamajig we're putting into the garage, as I signed up for a special class at the Crossfit I frequent. It feels like life here in America--my life here in America--costs $880 a day.

Just trying to make sense of this one small figure and how it brought me so much.