Cause or Effect

Photo

A few months ago I got on the Pill.  Not the one that keeps little surprises from happening in a marriage but the one that was supposed to help keep my demons away.  After a few weeks of trading the demons I’d known all my life and gotten used to (even if I don’t really like them) for a terrifying set of new demons I didn’t know, I went off the pill.

The move wasn’t just bravado, although there was some involved.  A summer return to a regular fitness routine power a good part of my swagger, and for the last few months I’ve been on a more even keel.  My demons have been relegated to the periphery.  

They never stay there, however.  When I tire, they get stronger, as they did Sunday.  From their darkness, they beckoned me to stay home from my run and retreat to my fantasy world – just for a short while.  There were seven miles ahead of me, and the temptation was strong.  Ultimately, I got out of bed, deciding this was the perfect time to test the effect of endorphins on depression.  

It always takes me a mile or two to get warmed up and start enjoying the exercise.  It’s the point where the world melts away.  Stories are written on those runs.  Problems are solved.  At the three mile mark, however, my demons were right beside me, and every muscle was exhausted. 

At the fourth mile, Boogie Wonderland came on the mp3 player.  My stories were interrupted by images of seven-year-old Thing2 be-bopping in his rainbow wig and cape, and my pace quickened.  As the air cut around me, I could feel the wind unfurling my own cape.  For the rest of the run, every step took me into the stories I’m writing and away from the darkness. 

Looking back, I’m still not sure if the endorphins were the causes or the effects.

Sunshine Good Day

Halloween happy

Jack was born in the summer.  By default, our summer travel routine and the vacation plans of most of his classmates made most of his birthday celebrations quite a bit smaller and tamer than the circus-like orgies of cake and presents that are depicted as normal and desirable in movies or ads.  His birthdays are often spent with family doing something special at the beach or going to a favorite museum.

We knew that  six-year-old Thing2’s October birthday made the more traditional kid birthday party more likely.  He’s seven today, and we planned his birthday over the weekend.  Watching Jack’s interest in traditional kid birthday parties (even when we offered) begin to fade when he was around nine, I know there won’t be many of these left.

Thing2, the Big Guy and I decided he should invite his classmates, and a few weeks ago, I filled his backpack with his homework, lunch, and seventeen invitations.  Knowing that not everyone RSVPs for kids’ parties, the Big Guy and I got the house ready for a halloween-themed party on Columbus Day Weekend. 

Three kids and their moms showed up.

At first I was a little nervous about Thing2’s reaction to the dearth of kids (and presents, of course), but he didn’t seem to notice.  For two hours, the kids cavorted in the sun and the leaves for two hours.  They beat apart and divided the treasure from a piñata filled with candy for 16 kids.  There was no pin-the-tail on the donkey or other party games.  Instead, they screamed and laughed as they chased each other through and around the house.  The Big Guy in his Herman Munster costume and I as Lily Munster sat at the table with the three other moms getting to know each other a little better than we do at the bus stop.

Thirteen-year-old Jack’s own memories of these few traditional kid parties are often impressions of sunny days, the details blurred by distance.  I know this day will blend into the collection of parties we’ve thrown for Thing2 as well.  But I’m hoping that his memory is marking that, while a larger party would have been fun too, sometimes less really is more.

The Game

The game 10 18

I woke up a few Fridays ago determined to get my ‘down’ time in on the trail before the workday started.  I got it.  I also got a lesson from  Mother Nature down time management.

I got the kids to the bus, miraculously in time for the first stop.  Then I headed to the trail at the park.  It had been raining all night, and there were still drips and drops, but there were also peeks of sunshine.  By the time I stopped at the park, it was drizzling, but I wasn’t too worried.  It was about to clear up.

Wrapping my mp3 player in a plastic sandwich baggie and then into my belt, I pushed play and headed down the trail.  Five hundred feet into the park, the sky opened up.  Instantly, I was drenched from head to toe and supremely grateful that, in my now-soaked shirt and running pants and looking like a jelly donut entering a wet T-shirt contest, I was the only person in the park.  I thought seriously about turning back.

It wasn’t fortitude or courage that kept me going.  It was the knowledge that I had a To-Do list a mile long.  Work was next on the agenda, then (hopefully) blog posts, getting ready for a class I was about to help teach, laundry (always laundry), vacuuming, dinner and writing before bed.  I knew this was the only time to get my down time.

I took refuge under a shelter when the rain was too blindingly-heavy to navigate the path.  When the rain slowed, I restarted my run from the beginning, figuring I couldn’t possibly get any wetter.   Mother Nature laughed and let out another sprinkle.  As I got to the end of the third mile and started the fourth, it had stopped feeling like work and begun feeling like down time – without and with the rain.

That’s when it struck me that the rain was just part of the game.  The weather is going to do nothing but get worse over the next few months.  As I write, it’s still dark this morning.  Weather and time changes close in with their excuses not to run, but the dark is also part of the game.  Winning that game and getting that down time – on the trail or the keyboard – is ignoring those excuses and getting it anyway.

 

Seven

December 2006 009

I’m making a third birthday cake for Thing2 today.  He had one for his party over the weekend, we took cupcakes in for his class today, and we’ll have our family celebration tonight.  It’s the last cake for the last seventh birthday I’ll ever make for one of my children, and while I don’t want to do this again, I also don’t want it to end.

What I Know

IMG 3033

True story:  until about a few weeks ago, I had never actually written a fictional short story from beginning to end (not including high school assignments).  I’d written a lot of great beginnings with a few twists.  Then I’d get lost in my own twists, not knowing where to go, and into my drawer of journals and half-written novels the story would go.

Part of it was that I didn’t really know how to write a short story.  I’ve read hundreds of them in my lifetime, but this summer I went back and read old favorites and new discoveries, trying to see them from a different perspective.  Then on one of my tag sale stops, I stumbled on a dog-eared copy of a book called “How to Write a Short Story”.

Little of the advice in the book was new, but it did contain one little nugget that I’m still mining.  The gem that caught my attention was a writing prompt that suggested taking 5 objects in the house and writing the histories of each of them.  The exercise (which I’m still using) helped me see where my sweet spot really is.

Once upon time, I thought I would write science fiction or historical fiction or even romance because I devoured books in those genres.  I wanted to write something big that would change lives.  Each time I tried to follow any of my favorite authors down that ambitious road, however, I got lost.  

Then came the blog, and, instead of writing about adventure or heroes’ journeys or history or the glamorous life, I ended writing about my family.  They were close at hand, and my two boys ooze inspiration, even on the days I can’t quite identify the stuff oozing from their backpacks.  Even when my first post on the subject garnered a really positive reaction from our writing mentor, there was always a nagging doubt that this isn’t what I was supposed to be writing (It’s as unelevated a subject as you can find, and the internet abounds with mommy blogs).  

It wasn’t until a cleaning marathon and its resulting discovery in the attic helped me use that ten cent prompt to write my first short story that had a beginning, a middle, and and end that I finally came around to the fact that family is exactly about what I should keep writing.

I’m never sure when I hit the ‘Publish’ button if something I’ve written is terribly good or just terrible.  I was even less sure when I left some of my stories with a friend who is giving me feedback as I print out and finish them.  But I do know that I’m having a good time writing them because I finally got comfortable with the age old advice to write what I know.