I finish nursing her for the night. Sleepily she reaches for her pacifier. I help her plug it in her mouth, and she settles in my arm as I open Llama Llama Red Pajamafor the hundredth, three-hundredth time.
I read, but I’ve memorized the book, so I also watch her. She tugs gently, purposefully at her curls. Her eyes close, but she isn’t quite asleep. She shifts a little at each page turn, and when I finish and bring her to my shoulder, she lifts her head and looks at me. I finish a song, kiss her face, and place her in her bed as she reaches for it, milk and words already lulling her most of the way to sleep.
In Michael Chabon’s essay “Little Man”, found in his collection Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces, Chabon talks about following his son Abe around fashion week in Paris. It was something he didn’t enjoy, something he wasn’t able to connect with his son over a mutual love. In fact, he realizes towards the end, his very presence may have impeded his son’s full enjoyment of the event.
I had been only his minder. I was a drag to have around a fashion show, and because I could not enter fully into the spirit of the occasion, neither could he.
The time his son was truly able to feel comfortable in the event, was when his father pulled back and didn’t take part in the event, and Chabon realized his son had found people.
You are born into a family and those are your people, and they know you and they love you, and if you are lucky, they even on occasion manage to understand you. And that ought to be enough. But it is never enough. … [My son] was not flying his freak flag, he was sending up a flare, hoping for rescue, for company in the solitude of his passion.
This reminded me of when I first started going to anime conventions, all those many years ago. (Seriously, half my life ago, oh my god, augh.) The first few times, my mom actually took me and my friends. Now, I’m pretty sure my mother had no idea why I liked anime so much. She spent a lot of time trying to convince me to stop spending all of my expendable income on DVDs and posable figures. But she booked a hotel, drove us into the city, stood in line with me while we waited for the dealer’s room to open. Even before that, she took me to the fabric store and watched me wrap duct tape around a giant cardboard spatula for my costume.
Like Michael Chabon to his son, my mother was my “minder” for the weekend. But she also stepped back, left me to my own devices, and allowed me to have my fun. I wouldn’t have been able to scream and freak out and sink down in this pool of nerds if she’d been on my all the time.
This was an occasion in which I was understood–at least enough to be seen that this was important to me, that I had found my people, that I wasn’t “flying my freak flag” but finally, comfortably, fitting in.
As I helped set up the kid’s movie at the library recently, a boy filed in with his family, his nose in a graphic novel. Moms chatted, kids flopped on cushions, and this kid kept reading his book.
Ninety minutes later the movie ended, and we turned on the lights. When I noticed the kid again, he was standing among the other kids, book open, looking down. It was seamless, as if he’d never closed the book since I turned out the lights and hit play on the movie. And maybe he didn’t– maybe he read straight through, more interested in what he could read then what he could watch. Or maybe once one form of entertainment ended, he slipped back into the other one at hand before I could even see the transition.
I was the girl who read Animorphson my lap between lessons, who couldn’t leave the house without a book in my bag, who couldn’t handle a trip to Maine until her mother took her to a bookstore to restock. So kid, I relate.
Oof, I haven’t written in a couple of months! But I do have an excuse. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in March, and as we crest the halfway point in the pregnancy, I keep finding things that take up a lot of thinking and researching time: day care, pediatricians, which cribs are actually safe…
But while I stress over all these things that are technically for future baby girl, I’m also stressing over things that are a little more selfish. Namely, the things that I’m going to lose, or that I’m worried I’ll lose. Most of these are just me overly panicking, because I have to think about something when heartburn keeps me up at night, but they’re there, all the same.Read More »
When I used to work at the used bookstore, I had a real problem — too many books! Every day new (to me) books passed through my hands, so it was inevitable that some of them never made it to the sale shelf, winding up in my house instead.
That is a time when my tsundokugot really out of hand, so that many of the books I gave away when I moved had never been cracked open by me.
But, I work at a library now. Things are better now. Right?
Well, a little better. Now when I get out of hand and bring home a huge pile of books I’ll never read, they go back to the library a couple weeks later with nothing missing from my wallet, and my shelf space still intact.
Of course, being a library, people like to give donations, these donations being piles of books they don’t want anymore. Sometimes these donations are…less than savory (Encyclopedias from 20 years ago! Worn out mass markets that reek of smoke, and sometimes cat pee!) But sometimes these donations are great. Really great. Like, books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages so maybe I should bring them home in case I get a chance to read them great.
So, maybe tsundoku’s not as bad when you work in a library. But I love books — I love to touch them and smell them and have them in my home, almost as much as I love actually reading them. So if I’m unpacking a dirty box, and something shines out at me, or if a coworker picks up a donation and presses it into my hands telling me I must read this, then you can bet I’ll put a crumpled dollar in the money drawer, stuff the book into my purse, and sneak it onto my shelf or into my pile, where it will wait for me.
This post is inspired by a comic by Debbie Tung. Check out her Tumblr, she’s really amazing!
“You’re bringing a book on a date?”
I looked up, startled. It was senior year of college, and I was in the common area shared with my three roommates, getting on my coat and packing up my purse before going out for dinner with my boyfriend. My last step — taking the paperback I’d been reading, and nestling it in beside my wallet in my old beat-up purse.
It’s never been unusual for me to have a book crammed into my bag whenever I leave the house. Dinner with the in-laws, party with friends, a half-day at work that doesn’t include a lunch break — there’s a mass market, or a full hardcover, or now a Nook or even something downloaded on my phone, ready for me to read at the first sign of five free minutes.
I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, back to Animorphs books in my backpack, back to Dr. Seuss on car trips. That paper brick right within reach is a comfort, a security blanket, ready to help me out at a moment’s notice, to pull me free from boredom, keep me company if loneliness surrounds me, to cheer me up or calm me down if depression or anxiety worm themselves into my brain.
While I don’t know too many people who insist on this practice (I was the one in my family curled up in the back corner of the minivan on road trips with nothing but a too-loud Disc-man and an R.A. Salvatore novel) but I’d never been made to feel weird about it. Until that day, in my dorm, with my friend. Though loads of my friends love to read, this friend was pretty close to last on the list of people I would have expected to question me. My fellow bookworm, the one who ALSO made time for pleasure reading during finals week, who rambled on about stories and characters with an enthusiasm so bright it blocked out the glazed expressions of everyone who was forced to listen. I looked at this person, expecting her to realize the logic behind carrying a book you would never crack open, just because you wanted it there.
And she looked back at me, confused, like I was an indecipherable nerd, like all the passages in my brain were turned around and broken.
“Uh, yeah,” I answered lamely. “Just in case.”
All my good reasons, rooted in emotion and vague-but-real feelings of comfort, became suddenly inexplicable, particularly in the face of a person who should have understood. It all seemed weird, and silly, and maybe a little bit messed up.
I’ve left home without a book before, because I was distracted or rushed, and managed to forget. But for the first time that I could think of, I consciously, purposely, removed the book from my bag, placed it on the table, and left without it.
I didn’t need the book that night. Really, it’s rarely necessary all those other times. But I’ve always liked having that backup plan, that comfort. “Because it feels like I’ve got a good friend by my side,” Debbie Tung writes in her comic. That’s exactly right, and it’s why I’ve never left a book behind since, if I can help it (it’s hard to fit a paperback in those tiny purses I use at weddings). I always keep a book in my bag, even if I wind up with a twenty-pound purse, even if someone gives me a weird look because they don’t understand.
It’s worth it, to feel secure, and to know my friends are close.
I finished another edit on my manuscript. I sent it to my critique partner, posted it in my new writing group, and gave everyone over a month to get back to me with any kind of response.
Now I’m waiting.
And I’m trying to figure out what to do in the meantime.
Here are some ideas.
Go back to that other manuscript you shelved for a little while…though you’re sure you still need to wait on it.
Take on the vague story idea and do some research so you can slap some more vague ideas on it and maybe get something that resembles a plot.
Actually blog on your blog.
Read. Read a lot. (You need to read more kids books anyway.)
Actually clean your house, maybe finish unpacking those half full boxes in the basement.
Critique everything you can on your writing group. (Oh wow I should actually do that one.)
Just keep writing. Something. Every day. Whether it’s a story or a query letter or a weird listy blog post and even if you don’t think you’ll ever do anything with it, keep writing, because it’s the only thing that consistently makes you feel like you, that makes you feel like you accomplished something with your day, and keeps you sane enough that the people you care about can tolerate you being around.
Happy New Year, all! I’m pretty bad at making New Year’s Resolutions, partly because I never take the time to really think about it. What do I want for myself? How to I want to become better, or what good do I want to continue doing?
I came up with a few goals for the year. Some might change, some might get replaced by new goals as the year stretches on. But right now, these are the hopes I have for myself.
Keep on writing. Boy, that sounds obvious. But, I feel like I have to keep reminding myself that writing is a thing that it’s okay for me to do, that it makes me feel more whole and probably makes me an easier person to be around when it’s done. It’s hard to push away the thoughts that I should be doing other things: visiting people, working more hours, folding that laundry already. But writing is something good that I keep managing to get away with that makes me happy, so I want to make sure that I keep a place for it in my schedule, no matter how my life shifts and changes.
Don’t get pissed if I don’t write. The above being said, life happens, and I don’t always write/edit every day. Sometimes I’m really busy. Sometimes I’m just having a relaxing day lying on the couch with my husband. Sometimes the words just aren’t coming, and I really should start folding that laundry instead. As long as it doesn’t become a habit, it’s not the worst thing to miss it every once in a while.
Widen my reading. I feel like I read a big variety of books. But, there are genres I wish I read more of, like memoir, or that I want to get back into, like epic sweeping fantasy. Or books I want to try out more of, like narrative nonfiction or handy-dandy self help books.
Read more children’s books. A specific one, but also, I feel, necessary. I don’t feel I read enough children’s books last year. And I’m trying to write children’s books. So I really need to work on that.
Stop dwelling on things. Oh, this is actually really hard. If I’m left to my own devices for too long, I start thinking about all the things I’m angry or sad or regretful about, and oh boy that just ruins the day. These include events that happened way back in my childhood that probably no one remembers except for me, and I really need to move on and stop letting things ratchet up my anxiety and send me crashing into the ground.
Deal with my anxiety better. I got much better at dealing with anxiety last year. I’ve started removing myself from situations, I breathe, I exercise more (especially when I know I’ll be entering an anxiety-inducing situation). Now I want to get even better at it.
Stop being so critical of other people. John and Hank Green have a quote that I’m massively paraphrasing, that one of the problems with the world is a failure to imagine others as complexly as we imagine ourselves. I’ve started to do that with little made up stories of why that person yelled at me at work, or thought it necessary to cut me off on a rainy highway, and that keeps me from being so mad. Which keeps me from dwelling. Which is good for my anxiety! (It’s all coming together.)
Those are some thoughts for betterment I have for myself. What about you? Any resolutions about writing, reading, or life in general? Are my goals ridiculous? Let me know, and have a great year.
We go to Walt Disneyworld on Friday — that’s only two more sleeps away! Which means I’ve been packing. My suitcase is most of the way there, stuffed to the brim with enough shirts for a trip three times as long (I like to layer my tank tops…also I really like tank tops) but I have to make sure my carry on for the airplane is all set, too.
My Animal Kingdom Bag. It’s a little small, but I like to use this as a park bag, so I keep it on hand on the airplane. It can fit quite a bit inside of it, and I’ll have our tiny suitcase for things I like to have on the plane that I won’t be using during the flight.
NOOK. Having a Nook has been really handy for trips. I can buy books, load library eBooks, and basically carry a whole library to suit my reading whims while I’m in that metal tube for a few hours.
Paper Book. Of course, technology fails us sometimes, so I like to keep one paper book in case my Nook freezes, or if I need the feel of a “real” book in my hands. Pictured below is a Terry Pratchett novel, but I might bring something else from the library book sale…
Notebook. Gotta have one of those! NaNoWriMo is coming up, and I’ll be behind when I come back, so I want to get as much of the plot hashed out as possible, and I may need to write some of the story by hand.
Water Bottle. This is also more specifically for toting around the parks, but a Hank Green video also gave a good tip about bringing an empty water bottle through TSA and filling it up at a bubbler once you’re in the terminal, so you don’t have to buy expensive bottled water before boarding.
My Personal Pharmacy. Not pictured. But, my husband and I have a history of feeling…ill…on the first day of a trip (traveling, dehydration, lack of sleep…hooray!) so I’ve got my ibuprofen and a whole slew of stomach meds packed away. I’ve also got my sunscreen so I can shield my pasty, pasty skin after we land, and hand sanitizer since other humans are disgusting.
My Phone. Duh. But really, I use this for podcasts, audiobooks, music, games…it’s an entertainment necessity.
Portable Battery. New addition! On our last trip my phone konked out before the end of each day. While I won’t be using it for pictures this year (yay new camera!) I still want to use the Disney app and creep on Twitter if we’re stuck in a line. Plus that first day, we likely won’t be able to charge our phones after playing podcasts for 3 hours, so we’ll need to keep the phones alive somehow.
So, is this overkill for a flight? What do you stuff in your airplane bag?
Sometime last year, I came to a decision that’s changed my reading: I was going to let myself give up on books.
I’ve given up on books before. Three separate starts couldn’t get me through The Count of Monte Cristo, and I just could not handle the third Shopaholic book. But it was always with a lot of hemming, a lot of guilt. How could I leave this book unfinished? How could I abandon this story?
Here’s how. My Goodreads list of books to read is in the hundreds. And even that’s just the mountainous tip of the book pile. There are books that I forget to add, new novels that don’t make it to that list, and all the other books, kid’s lit and nonfiction, that I just pick up on a whim and begin. When I’m reading a book that I wasn’t in the right mood for, or that I honestly don’t like, I think of all those books that I could be reading, that I’d rather be reading.
So why don’t I just read those instead?
I have more books on my list than I could read in a lifetime. I shouldn’t feel obligated to waste more of that time than I have to.
Do you abandon books? Does it kill you inside, or are you fine with it? Or maybe I’m just spouting blasphemy as far as you’re concerned? Let me know, and tell me some books you’ve ditched!
Here are some recent ditches of mine, some because I just didn’t feel like it as much as I thought I would, others because I just could not enjoy myself, at all (you can guess what’s what!):