Monday, August 10, 2015

The Summer Straddle

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. 
I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar 

How about a tip of the hat to Sylvia Plath for composing the above metaphor about the nature of indecision while also using the word crotch.  That takes skill.

I'm going to say a few things about this past week's theme, which, if you haven't guessed, is indecision, but I doubt I keep you long today.  If you're unfamiliar with the language, "I doubt I keep you long today," is adjunct instructor speak for, "I'm going to let you go half an hour early, & I probably won't be mentally present in the short time we're together."

I've been working on a little side project about which I'll share more momentarily.  It's taken me away from the blog & eaten up a good deal of the little time I have to do meaningful work on the computer (you know, basically anything other than scrolling Facebook).  I freely admit this blog was written in haste, & I doubt I'll proofread it, so apologies in advance for any errors or incoherent or boring content.

The week that lapsed since I lectured on Ruth has been a doozie.  Last Monday evening, Reagan vomited.  Twice.  I know that's not revolutionary, but a stomach virus can wreak havoc on blood sugars, & to survive a stomach virus without having to head to the ER is quite an accomplishment for a diabetic.  Were I to compose a list of things I fear most, "Reagan vomiting" would certainly make an appearance.

We'd been at my parents' house, where I flee for an hour or so of solitude during which I commune with nature while exercising & listening to Queen.  Reagan complained of her stomach hurting when we arrived home, so naturally I made the sign of the cross, & then checked her number.  It was 140, so her stomach wasn't hurting because she was low.  She wanted to eat, so I gave her insulin & made her a sandwich, of which she only ate half.  Then, she vomited.

Trey thought maybe she'd gotten too hot playing at my parents; I suspect he only said this to attempt to calm me.  I immediately assumed the worst, that she'd picked up a horrible stomach bug while playing in the bouncy house that was made available for kids during VBS, a bouncy house that's no doubt made the rounds in the Twin Cities on a veritable tour of germs.

So I cleaned up the vomit, muttering silent prayers with such fervor that I didn't even gag.  The immediate problem was that I'd dosed Reagan for a sandwich, which she hadn't finished.  I gave her  a few bites of banana, hoping she'd keep it down & it would eat up the remaining insulin.  Things get dicey when you've pumped a child full of insulin & then they begin vomiting, unable to keep down anything to counteract the insulin.

About eleven thirty, Reagan threw up the banana.  My only hope at that point was that neither of the vomit specimens consisted of what I consider to be hardcore virus vomit (my sincere apologies for that last sentence).  She said her stomach felt fine & she was tired & wanted to go to bed.  I had a ten minute debate with myself about letting her go to sleep, or hauling her to the ER.  Sounds crazy, I know, but I envisioned her waking at two or three in the morning to vomit profusely, by which point she'd definitely be in dehydration danger.

I was still worried about her number, because she had insulin on board & hadn't been able to keep anything down, but, silver lining!, dehydration causes sugars to go up, so I thought maybe the vomiting would counteract the insulin I'd given her for the sandwich she never ate.  So often now my life is one long word problem.

Thankfully, the eleven thirty vomit was the last.  She slept all night, her numbers were fine, & I was able to go see Southpaw all by myself Tuesday night as I'd planned while a healthy Reagan & Henry played with their grandparents.  So much win from a situation that had the potential to be completely disastrous.

The whole incident highlighted concerns I'm already grappling with over Reagan beginning school in a few weeks.  Had the diabetes diagnosis not rocked our world, she'd likely have attended WEE School this past year (that's Weekday Early Eduction).  Since she has a December birthday, Kindergarten isn't an option this year, & so she begins the four-year-old WEE School program in about three weeks.  It's three days a week from eight thirty until eleven thirty, & while that doesn't sound like much time out of my sight, it's going to be a long three hours for me.

Since Reagan's diagnosis, I've thought a lot about school & a thousand other situations in which she won't be under my nose.  I realize that every mom has mixed feelings about their child beginning school, but, as with a stomach virus, it's a whole different ball game when your child is a diabetic.  I don't yet know exactly how things will be handled regarding Reagan's medical needs.  I am supposed to sit down & talk with her teacher at some point in the next few weeks, & I am going to attempt to pretend to be calm & relaxed during that conversation.  A young boy was diagnosed as diabetic while attending WEE School a few years ago, & so that gives me hope that they realize diabetes is a serious disease.

We're looking at one year of WEE School, & then of course thirteen years of all day school.  My long-term plan (because you know I have one!) is to eventually teach at Reagan's school.  I thoroughly enjoy teaching at the collegiate level, & were it not for her diabetes, I don't know that I'd ever consider teaching anywhere else.  There's something so freeing about looking a college student in the face & saying, with all sincerity, "That's not my problem."  They're supposed to be adults, & so I pretend they are & treat them as such, placing responsibilities on them that would be out of line were I teaching junior high or high school students.

In the past few weeks, out of the clear blue sky, I was offered a job teaching at my alma mater, where we plan to send Reagan in a year.  Here's where the indecision becomes thick & heavy to the point that one night, I didn't read Harry Potter at all, I just sat & thought.  Were it just Reagan & her diabetes in the picture, I'd have taken the job, canceled our WEE School plans, & Reagan would be in the all-day pre-K, allowing me to hover over her in between laying down the law for my students.

But, there's the matter of Mr. Henry, my sweet two-year-old who's not going to be two again, ever.  Probably the best thing about teaching as an adjunct at the collegiate level is teaching two or three classes on Tuesday & Thursday morning, & then going home to my kids, both of whom will soon be in school all day.

When discussing the situation with Trey, he said, "It's only one year.  We can figure out what to do with Henry for one year."  It's only one year, indeed.  It is the last year I'll have them both home nearly all day, as Reagan's WEE School lets out about the time I finish teaching on Tuesday & Thursday.  I want that year.  I realize the stars may not align for me next year, or the next, in terms of a teaching position at Reagan's school, but if that's the case, I'll hang out in my car in the parking lot & read until it's time to check her number.  I mean really, that sounds like a great day to me.

I agonized over this decision.  I'm rehashing it now as I type.  I mean, it's teaching English, sitting on a throne stool all day & saying things like, "Yes! That is alliteration," & "Who can explain the importance of the Oxford Comma to me?" & "Yes!  That is a comma splice.  Ten points to Gryffindor!"  Sigh.

What I take away from this is a renewed sense of the precious time I have at home with my kids, because let me tell you, sometimes it does not feel all that precious.  I am going to make the most of this year, this one final year during which the three of us will have endless hours to make pillow caves & snuggle in the king size bed & watch Daniel Tiger.  We have one more year during which our uniforms will be our favorite pajamas, during which we can pile in the car whenever we want & drive through the Chick-fil-A window, laughing raucously at whatever mundane thing the kids have decided is just hilarious.

Every August, about this time, I feel I've got my feet in two worlds.  It certainly feels like summer because we're sleeping late, showering infrequently, & it is, literally, one hundred degrees outside. This next week is the last carefree week for me before the fall semester begins & a semblance of structure is foisted on the three members of my family who spend 85% of their time in pajamas.  The straddle feels different this year, though.  With Reagan starting school soon, I feel I'm not only slowly stepping away from another lazy summer & into another semester as an adjunct, but into a world that will dominate our family for the next two decades as Reagan & Henry become students.

Five years ago, in August of 2010, I learned I was pregnant with a little girl.  I drank a few cups of coffee, & she's a few weeks away from attending school for the first time.  Let me tell you, I am not without emotion, both because she's my little girl, & also because her health is precarious.  Since January 16, 2014, few are the hours Reagan & I have spent away from each other.  It was not only a desire to teach English that made me consider the teaching job I was offered, but a strong desire to situate myself as closely as possible to Reagan.

I've decided the best thing for Reagan, for our family, right now is WEE School, which allows her to ease into the routine of a school week, & allows me to spend one last year at home with my kids.  I hope & pray I've made a good decision, & that the three of us make many lasting memories in our pajamas this year before the cruel world of daily showering & "real" clothes descends upon us.    

So, I mentioned a side project & I know you're burning with curiosity, so I'll spill the beans.  Approximately once a day, I decide to quit writing & quit pursuing possible publishing avenues for my book.  At present, it is in the hands of an editor who, having read the opening three chapters, asked for the full manuscript.  When a full is requested, the wait time is anywhere from three to six months.  I am not kidding.  Many of these editors work part-time in acquisitions for publishing companies.  They have other jobs, some are writers themselves, & when they request a full, it means they're interested & they're going to read it slowly & make a lot of notes because even if they decide against acquisition, they usually give you solid feedback as to why they've reached that decision.

Meanwhile, I learned (via several writers & editors I follow on Twitter) about an interesting upcoming opportunity for writers with a completed manuscript.  You can follow all the action on the #PitchWars tag on Twitter, but the condensed version is this: A group of published authors & editors are volunteering their time to mentor authors with a completed manuscript.  Interested writers can submit their opening chapter to five mentors (out of a total of about 100) they think would be a good fit (based on their bios about what they've written or edited & their general interests), & then the mentors read over the material submitted & select the writer with whom they want to work.

If you're selected, they do an overhaul of your manuscript, getting it in shape for the agent round, when literary agents look at the newly polished novels.  These people have all volunteered their time, no money exchanges hands, & it is a great chance to have someone who knows the industry go through your manuscript & suggest needed changes.  Even if the agents involved aren't interested, the manuscript will come through the process in better shape for having been through multiple editing rounds for which many authors pay top dollar.

It's not required, but suggested, that hopeful mentees (weird word, I know) have an author website on which they post a biography, similar to the one the mentors post.  The mentors want to know not only about your manuscript, but about you, since they'll be working closely with you for several weeks.

I went back & forth & back & forth over submitting material in hopes of securing a mentor.  If I am selected, that will be exciting, no doubt, but it will also mean a time commitment I'll have to maneuver along with beginning another semester of teaching & adjusting to Reagan as a school girl.  I reminded myself that a few short years ago, I spent an entire semester running to the bathroom at the community college in between classes to pump breastmilk for Henry, & shortly after that frazzled semester, I learned how to care for a diabetic child.  So, if I am selected, I'll figure it out.  

In addition to waffling over the possible time commitment, I knew I'd need to set up an author website, which was not something at the top of my to-do list.  But then I thought, Anna, you wrote the whole long book, you're waiting to hear from one editor who wanted to read the whole thing, so yes, yes, you can set up a website.  It's really something I should've done already, as some publishers ask for links to your web presence, so this was the kick in the pants I needed to sit down & do it.

So, in case you haven't figured it out yet, I've totally been stepping out on you guys this last week, ignoring this blog until just this minute.  I've set up a website at wordpress.  At present, it's still a address, but if I am ever interested, it's my understanding that I can spend twenty or so bucks a year & drop the "wordpress" part so it'll be  Right now, it's  I guess if I ever make twenty bucks selling something I've written, I'll pay for the domain name, & you can say you knew me when.

It's silly, I guess, but setting up this website (in the wee hours of the morning when I could've been reading Harry Potter or listening to the silence in the house) feels like I'm making some commitment, some agreement with myself to keep trying & quit having daily conversations with myself about the issue.  Go look around if you're interested, & PLEASE, if you see a typo, TELL ME.  I likely won't blog often on that site, as other writers & editors are basically interested in writerly-things & not my kids or what I bought at Target, but if I post anything over there I think might fascinate you, I will let you know.  

Well, look at that.  The bell rang ten minutes ago.  So much for my promise not to keep you long.

Reagan & Henry, I love you & I look forward to the year ahead.  I look forward to more of this:

In life, you will be faced with choices.  Often the decisions you face won't be between good & evil, black & white, but between two appealing options.  If you're like me, & I suspect you might be, you will agonize over what to do.  Don't agonize & second guess yourself to the point that you can no longer enjoy the delights of the path you do choose.  Select a fig & sit down & eat it in the shade of the tree.


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