Thursday, January 19, 2017


I've finally found a writing rhythm that seems to work for me. This includes the macro view of how I split my time up between work on my novel, poetry, journaling, correspondence, and yes, this blog, and the micro view of where I write (at the dining room table, in my study, cafes), when I write, and how (by hand or on the computer, depending on the kind of work I'm up to).

Right now I have a corner in my study where my decrepit old laptop lives. This is where the bulk of my work on the novel takes place, though I have a notebook I keep for it as well. The laptop can't keep a charge, so for a while every time I wanted to work on it I would have to wait while it started up again. But time is precious! I experimented with different locations in the house until I found I could work upstairs in my study, propped upright on the futon sofa. This meant I could just leave the laptop parked there and plugged in, saving me valuable moments. And today I determined that Tasha (our cat) is content to settle down next to me while I work, as long as I leave a blanket out for her and crack the curtain that serves as my study door. No more howling at doors, making me fear that she'll wake the other inhabitants.

And there I sit, tea at hand, plugging along for 500 words a day.

And some days it flows and others I sweat blood,

Friday, January 13, 2017

That White Privilege Thing

And, of course, I am aware that things might have gone differently for us at airport security if we had been:

  • black
  • brown
  • visibly Muslim
  • visibly queer
  • non gender-conforming
  • non English-speaking
  • disabled

Or any other way of not fitting in to Trump's America.

Maybe. Or maybe not, but that things might have been different for us based on who we appear to be wasn't something I had to think about in the moment. And I didn't. And that's not true for everyone.

I did think about these things when our Uber driver was pulled over on New Year's Eve. (He had new tags but hadn't put them on the car.) There was a moment's joking about jumping out of the car and running and all I could think was, Are you effing kidding me? That might be the difference between living in Chicago and living in a suburb of Denver - even if I personally don't have to worry about my interactions with police I know too many people who do, never mind the daily news.

Still pissed off that the Trib endorsed Gary Johnson,

And yes, "queer" is a loaded word, and I gave a lot of thought about whether to use it or go with the newspaper-friendly "gay/lesbian". But this isn't a newspaper, and it's how I identify, and so in the end it felt odder to me to not use it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hot Sauce Is A Liquid, and Jelly Is, Well, A Gel

We were in Denver over New Year's to visit my sister. That was a great trip and I suppose I should write about it sometime... but it also made me aware that we are not used to traveling by plane. Because while we were very careful about what toiletries to pack and not, and about not bringing bottles of water to the airport, it completely escaped my notice that the special bottles of hot sauce and homemade jellies we were bringing home, are, in fact, liquids/gels, and therefore cannot be in carry-on luggage.


After some discussion (carried out over a distance of twenty feet since we had two bags that got stopped and The Dude went ahead with the first bag and the first TSA guard while I waited - along with everyone else in line - for the people reading the machines to realize that the two bags belonged to the same family and that therefore the first guard wasn't, in fact, going to finish up with the first bag until the second bag was also brought over, which required bringing over a second TSA guard from a different line), we were able to repack all the questionable items into one bag, which The Dude then had to bring back through luggage check. Thankfully through all of this, the two TSA guards, while having their careful "I must not display any emotion" faces on, were actually quite patient and helpful and even gave G "assistant TSA badge" stickers when it looked like he might freak out. And we had come to the airport in plenty of time and so were not worried about missing our flight. The only real discomfort to come from this was that we had barely managed to close that suitcase in the first place and with the rearrangement of items there was no way of replicating that magic, so I got to carry a child-size life vest on the plane with me in my already overstuffed bags, along with our winter coats and everything G was now too overwhelmed to carry.

It's now been three out of four flights with the kids where we've managed to tick off fellow passengers, and the kids haven't been at fault for any of it. Bravo them. Not sure what that says about The Dude and me.

Thinking about the train next time,

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Kind Of Like Covering Your Eyes But Still Peeking Through Your Fingers

I'm currently immersed in my novel-writing and it is wonderful, yes: fascinating, exciting, affirming. It is also sometimes overwhelming and occasionally scary. Scary because I feel so much about what I'm doing - lots of different emotions to deal with - can I hold them all and keep working? Keep going about the rest of my life?

I now have more compassion for previous times in my life when I stopped working on various projects. I had not yet developed the stamina I have now, the mental/spiritual fortitude to keep going or to stand firm in the face of fear or the tumult of other emotions. And the certainty, learned from experience, that no, I will not actually fall apart, though it might feel that way sometimes. I also didn't have the repertoire of little tricks I now have to just keep going regardless...

While there are frustrations in never feeling I have the time I want, in some ways it is also a... blessing? My moments of creative exertion are hard fought for, carefully guarded, and occasionally thwarted, but they are also short. I barely have time to get itchy and fearful before my timer goes off and I need to take care of the next thing. I tell myself these short intervals are training for someday managing longer ones. (I pray someday there will be longer ones.) Of course these short bits also mean I have to be ready to jump on them when they arrive. Go!

One of my nicknames at home is "one-track Annie". This refers to my ability to never forget what I was going on about in the face of interruptions. I can file away a phrase, an idea, a feeling I need to explore and then come back to it when I need to or when the opportunity presents itself. What can be an irritating conversational habit that I need to guard against (hence the nickname - it wasn't a compliment) is proving essential in moving my story forward. (It's also very handy when parenting small children - they have honed this skill in me to a razor's edge.)

I'll tell you, this writing stuff, it's a trip, for sure.

Composedly (ha!),

Friday, December 16, 2016

Learning Spanish

I've started learning Spanish again, using online lessons from Duolingo, supplemented by word-of-the-day emails and grammar essays from SpanishDict, and general attempts to read and understand things around me.

I've wanted to learn Spanish for a long time, mostly out of a sense of "this is something I should do" as the U.S. becomes more bilingual - especially after moving to our neighborhood, it just seems the neighborly thing to do, at least if we really want to be part of it. But now that I've started studying it more consistently, and am seeking out material that I can "read"*, I am falling in love with it on its own.

Previous attempts to learn on my own didn't last, but the online classes make a huge difference. I'm forced to write and to listen, and there are all the little behavioral tricks that feel kind of stupid but really do work - collecting points, maintaining daily streaks, moving up levels. Their algorithms note when I've made mistakes and give those words to me again. And because it's just me and a computer I don't mind making mistakes so I just plunge onward. I'd be a bit bored if this were it but that's why I'm supplementing with my own reading and music.

I had a moment the other day that confirmed how I've been doing this. I've been reading books (fiction) by immigrants or the children of immigrants**, stuff written in English but with Spanish words and phrases as well. Nothing you can't get from context or that's essential or that isn't explained in some way, so it's not necessary to understand it. But still, it would be nice to. And there was a sentence in Spanish that I just... understood. There was no cognitive shift of, oh, this is in Spanish so now I'm translating. No, I just read it. And then I realized what had happened and that was so cool.

My goals have now changed around my learning, now I really want to be able to read literature in Spanish, rather than just have grocery store conversation.

And for those of you wondering how am I managing to fit yet another thing in to my day - 1) I study on my lunch break or on the train, and 2) you may have noticed that I'm not on Facebook much anymore.

¡Hasta la vista!

* I've found bilingual editions of various poets, most awesomely a volume of 20th-century Latin American poetry which gives a really broad range of voices and themes. Children's books are good too, particularly those I already know in English. And I went ahead and got myself a bilingual Bible. Seeking out stuff I would want to read anyway.

** For example: Sandra Cisneros, Junot Díaz, Cristina Henríquez, Esmeralda Santiago. I'm open to suggestions!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

In The Interest Of Full Transparency

Well, gosh, after those admiring comments on my last post, I have to come clean and say that I have NOT managed to soldier on in the face of work needs and plunging temperatures, neither last week not this.

Whenever I post goals or set expectations for myself here, it's always coming from my most aspirational self. What I'm able to do when life doesn't get in the way. (Travel, illness - mine or the kids, work, weather.) Honestly, I usually only manage what I'm hoping for about two weeks of the month.

And this month is no exception. Last week and this one are two of my busiest in my work year, so I've been trading some of my running time in the mornings for writing instead, and just running enough to keep me on an even keel. And then I'll be traveling at the end of the month...

I won't say that the cold and dark and snow/ice doesn't make it an easier decision...

7 degrees was just a wee bit too much this morning,

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

November Training

I started off the month with higher weekly mileage and a couple of 12 mile runs but then ended up re-evaluating my goals (more writing, less running). The stomach bug proved a useful "reset", making it easier for me to drop back on both the length of my runs and my overall mileage.

(And the combination of cold and dark helps with that as well - I can get myself out when it's cold and I can get myself out when it's dark, but it's awfully hard to face both that early in the morning.)

Looking over my training journal I am happy to see that I have managed to be consistent in rebuilding my strength/speed training over the last two months, managing 1-2 sessions each week. I'm going to need to get faster if I'm going to keep up with my 8-year-old, at least for another year or two (and only over longer distances).

I'll start training more seriously for the Soldier Field 10M at the end of February, I know from past experience I can only stay focused on training for at most three months. I was about to write that serious marathon training will start in June, but who am I kidding? With all the many changes in my schedule that come with summer and then the start of school, I'll be pleased if I can keep my mileage up and get enough long runs in to feel confident that day. An October marathon just hits at the wrong time for me to be able to seriously train for it. And that's okay. This is to raise money for Chicago Lights and for the fun of doing the Chicago Marathon again, not to try to prove anything to myself. At least that's what I'm going to keep telling myself. If I repeat it often enough maybe I'll manage to train that way too.

Training sensibly (or trying to),

So, a "normal" week for me right now is 24-28 miles, with one long run of 8-10 miles and one workout comprised of hill repeats, a tempo section, or speed intervals. This week is a busy one at work so I cut back to 4 runs, but a couple of those are a bit longer than usual to keep my overall mileage within that range.