Sunday, November 21, 2010

Good days, birthdays, catching up days

November is not the hell-a crush of October but it's not much less of a vise-grip type life. I remember thinking in September, my, this semester is going to be a cinch. And then October. November actually has as much going on but it's less of a surprise than October. Also. November has my birthday and Thanksgiving which are great reliefs, no?
Well, my birthday wasn't exactly a relief. Since I was pregnant last birthday, I decided to do this one up. 5 days of birthday beginning with Pinot noir tasting on Wednesday, happy Veterans Day mellow birthday day Thursday, Friday friends over for polpettes and orzo soup (they brought me Gerber daisies. I love gerber daisies) birthday, Saturday babysitter birthday, and Sunday, more friends for spanikopita, tatizki, tabouleh, falafel birthday. Much good birthday. Nice talking on the phone with my mom and mother-in-law, sister-in-law and cousin. Five days of happy birthday from Z and a lot of "but it's my birthday" voice to Erik. He survived all five of the days.
He also bought us a couch for my birthday (and Christmas and my Christmas present to him). We shopped around thinking we'd never buy one but then there was this perfect sectional with leather on the outside to keep the cat from scratching it to death and microfiber on the cushions so it's soft and warm.
There was no chance it would fit, Erik said. And I said, it will if we keep the sections apart until we move the cable to the other side of the room.
The couch came today. At first, we just shook our heads. Even the small half looked like it had swallowed the room. The bigger half? Well, we could keep in in the kitchen where it could serve as an island/flotilla/spanikopita-making rest spot.
But it did fit, sections apart. And then Erik got highly excited about his ability to restring the cable until someone official came and snaked it behind the walls for more elegant effect.
We moved the TV. We put the sections together. The couch fits. We haven't moved off it all day.
Well, that's not entirely true since I have still November to deal with which involves finding a new day care person for Max, hosting a second guest writer in as many weeks, responding to some seriously great essays in some newly fun ways for me, and making appointments with the center for biodesign in Phoenix. Also, AWP deciding and money-getting (I'll go if I get funding from the college), and furious grant-writing and planning for Thanksgiving and general undergrad advising and students who need advising and letters of recommendation and extra love because it's November and I'm happy to give it because they are such the loveliest of students.
Tomorrow's guest writer will be talking about research in personal essays which will be particularly helpful for me since most of my research is internet research that stands distinctly opposed to my personal essay writing but since I'm on my way to visit the biodesign folks, I had better learn this word "incorporate" instead of big stony text blocks that read, "research here!"
I had a food thing to mention. What was it? Spanikopita? I did indeed make triangles. Again, I thought, there's no way that whatever Tyler Florence is saying about "fold like a flag" makes any sense, but I folded and it did. And I made chicken stock using just drumsticks--that was good and cheap at $2.38 for 4 drumsticks (plus, I saved a drumstick for Zoe's lunch making me a frugal cook and a good mom.) But I can't think of any fancy cooking moments. Except the polpettes and orzo which I made twice in a week. With homemade chicken broth.
So today was great thanks to the couch configuration. Also, the Huff Post. Kind words from many folks made me so happy. Also, nice words about an essay from the book of food and Mormons and fertility which is very good news. Also, nice words about the whole book which just makes November so much better than October.
Oh, on the note of babies--kids were sick and so was I which was a drag (worst cold ever. Sleeping on one side, turning over, sleeping on the other, hoping I could breathe through that nostril). But Zoe calls Max sweetheart because he's sweet and he has a heart and Max walks like some sort of crab, three-legged dude with his left leg sticking out, propelling him fast along.
Oh and Zoe and I are writing a book and I asked her if it was OK if I worked some while she was at school since at this rate the book would be done when she was 23, and she said sure, as long as I mentioned it was "illustrated by Zoe." I promised.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Conferences and Breathers

I really wasn't going to go. It was so far. A 2 hour drive, 3 hour flight, another 2 hour drive. Three nights away. Four whole days. It wasn't really worry about the kids that made me want to stay home. I knew they'd be fine with Erik and, since his mom came down to help, that no one would really notice my absence. It was a kind of laziness and a kind of tiredness of the writing business. And I would miss my people so much. I knew they'd be fine without me but not so much vise versa. Plus pumping. For four days. Ick.

But I made myself get up at 4:00 a.m. and drive in the dark down the mountain, looking out for elk and training my eye on the white line on the road. Once, the white line disappeared. I almost drove off the road. I hit traffic. I didn't care. If I missed my flight, I'd turn around and come back. But the traffic was due to an accident and abated pretty quickly.

Conferences are good for several things--especially this one. A chance to read your theories about creative nonfiction, a chance to hear others read theirs. Alison Bechdel, one of my heroes, spoke. I got to act like a grown-up or, rather, an adolescent, and go to too many bars and stay up past midnight (I know! Past midnight!). I saw people who I miss all the time and have deepened friendships that were slight before my conference going. I made new friends. I represented, as I said on Facebook, the crazy woman who has a baby and still goes to conferences. Not many folks at the just-had-a-baby-stage went. There were young-uns there, just out of grad school. It may be insane to travel while pumping and leave your ten month baby at home but it's also a choice you can make and survive, I wanted to tell them. Plus, they're a good audience to complain to about the 4 days of pumping. They've lived in Iowa. They've been to the state fair. They've seen the dairy contraptions attached to the udders of cows. They understand my pain. So did Margot. Thanks Margot! I want to say publicly, for hanging out with me and for listening me to also complain about the pumping. It's also good to go for the new ideas and new projects and general sense that at least 400 people in the world care about nonfiction and of those 400, at least 6 wanted to read again the paper I'd delivered and want a copy of their own. A little positive encouragement goes a long way these days.

And I admit. It's good to take a break. I didn't know it was a break. It was work in its own way. But, when you get home and you have to feed the people and there are no servers and very few excuses to go to lunch. I swear, if one didn't have to feed the children, they would be nothing but a breeze but they like so much food. Dinner, breakfast, lunch. And I like food too so then I cook for me and for Z and for Max, similar foods but delivered differently and by the time I'm done the kitchen is undone, I think, hmm, airplanes don't suck entirely.

But the way Max leaped out of his grandma's arms and tried to fling himself across the room at me and the way Zoe ran over to me to give me her notes that she'd been writing each day I was gone, I remember why I may well never go to a conference again.