Monday, July 4, 2016

Vague Dancing Metaphors & Such

Hi guys.

I'm going to assume you have Independence Day plans & not feel too bad about today's brevity.

Last Monday I told you a little about my research paper (by way of my feelings re: the UK's decision to leave the EU). You can read that here, if you missed it & it doesn't sound blah to you.

Goodness, the weeks blend in the summer, don't they? I know I had book club last Monday evening. Considering our June book was kind of meh, it was a great night. We read The Crown by Kiera Cass. It is the fifth & final book in a series of hers we've read over the years, & it was my least favorite of the five books in the series. We all briefly discussed Ms. Cass's mistakes, & then agreed that even if she writes another book in this series, we aren't reading it. Then we spent an hour or two having a business meeting of sorts. We all introduced ourselves to a new member who was attending for the first time. Then we regaled one another with memories of all the books we've read over the years & congratulated ourselves on our steadfast devotion to book club. Also, there was cobbler & ice cream.  

It worked out well that our June book was a short & mindless read because I've been in a graduate school fog for six weeks now, a fog from which I am about to emerge (& now you're singing that awful Gloria Estefan song, "Coming Out of the Dark"). The fog's been pretty thick this last week. I know this to be true because on Wednesday evening, while out to dinner, I had an embarrassing encounter with a friend. We chatted briefly about our kids, & then he said, "Did you write a book?" He likely thinks I am on drugs after my reply. I think I said, "Oh, yeah, I did." Then he asked me the title, & it took me a minute to recall it, & then I proceeded to explain to him that the plan is to publish it later this year, but he may not like it.

Am I just the best salesman or what? I feel this overwhelming need to explain to men that just because they know me & I wrote a book does not mean they will enjoy the book. Buy yourself as many copies as you'd like, but the actual reading of them may not be your thing. If you love it, well, awesome; we can have coffee & talk about it at some point, or I'll give you a quiz or something, but it is unlike anything else I've written that you've read, on this blog, on Facebook, etc. It is fiction, & it is not fast-paced. There are no guns or wars. It is apolitical. I mean, okay, there is brief discussion of Feminist Theory as it has been applied to certain literary characters . . . & now you're asleep.    

His question caught me completely off guard. Then, later Wednesday evening, I got an email from a friend (also of the male variety). A month or so ago he asked for book recommendations for his daughter, who is young but reads a good bit above her age-level, & he was replying to let me know she was reading & enjoying the books & he wanted to thank me. Then he asked about my book, said he wanted to buy a copy, & I went through the whole spiel again, only slightly less awkwardly because I was typing. There are, to my knowledge, two men who've read it. One is my obviously biased father-in-law, & the other a male friend who is a coffee-drinking fiend who either genuinely enjoyed it, or can't bear to tell me the truth. At a minimum, I think all the coffee-drinking in the novel calls to him.

It's weird. It's weird to write something & have other people read it. Writing is fiercely personal & intimate at times, sometimes because of the content, & also because writing is such a solitary activity. I wrote most of the book sitting on my couch, or in my bed, usually late at night or in the early morning hours. I slowly constructed a little world where I'd escape when the need hit.

When a book is published, the doors to the author's little world are thrown open to all. It threw me off to be asked about it twice in one day when my head was a million miles away, constantly organizing a research paper, or mentally figuring out VBS decorations. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I wrote a book that's going to be published. It was akin to running into a friend & him asking about the Oreos I sat in my closet & ate a couple of weeks ago (hypothetically). My instinct was to say, What? No! How did you know that?  

My editor told me Friday she's talking to an artist about the cover. There's still some editing to do, & likely other steps about which I don't know because I've never published a book. I really still haven't registered any of this. Maybe when I actually see a cover, or hold the book in my hand, it'll register, but for now, if you ask me about it, I'll probably look & sound foolish, & maybe try & talk you out of reading it if you're a male.  

Last Friday morning, the kids & I got out of bed early to head to a friend's house. She has a pool & promised us homemade waffles & fruit & coffee, & so we decided that was worth rolling out of the bed before ten. A good time was had by all. Soak these up, because these are the closest to "vacation" pics you'll see this summer.

I'll address your burning question now. No, technically I have not finished the research paper.  Friday afternoon my mother-in-law stayed with the kids, & then Trey came home & relieved her, so I spent about four hours in Chick-fil-A working on the paper, & also developing a sore backside from sitting in Chick-fil-A for four hours. 

Saturday morning I got up & did my chores (feed the dog, change her water, check Reagan's number, fix & dose medicine for her breakfast, settle Henry on the couch with his milk), & I headed to CC's Coffee House to work. Actually, I stopped at Daily Harvest & got a muffin because their muffins are the best & keep me full a long time. I was at CC's a very long time & drank so much coffee the two young men behind the counter were likely deeply curious, but they were polite & never asked me anything not pertaining to my desire for more coffee. Admittedly for an hour of the time I was there, I was attempting to work but was a bit distracted by three cackling hens. One of them is having issues with her boyfriend &, looking back, I wish I'd have jumped in the conversation because I could have told her what she needs to do, rather than coddled her like her "friends," & then they'd have been out of there half an hour sooner. 

Here's the thing. The paper is supposed to be 5,000 words. It currently sits at 4,000. I like it. I feel it's done. I am thinking hard about it & hope to add another 500 or so words before submitting it, but I don't know if I can hit the 5,000 mark. I know I've reached the point where I am satisfied with the paper because the symptoms of all the illnesses I've Googled & diagnosed myself with this past week have disappeared. I am not even going to tell you some of the things I Googled (fool that I am). It is amazing what stress will do to your body. If this is thirty-five, I sure hope I am not still writing research papers when I am forty-five; I will need a masseuse. And a psychiatrist. 

I am aware of the significance of today's date (I mean aside from its implication for my research paper deadline). I'll be honest & tell you I don't have much to say regarding America's Independence, at least not much that would be uplifting. Yesterday in church we sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." I was nearly in tears by the end. It was one of Ronald Reagan's favorites, & it also brings to mind this stamp my late grandfather had that read, "This is a Republic, not a Democracy!" He always branded any letter he mailed with the stamp. I'll just say this, or rather, Thomas Paine will: 

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.

It's worrisome that so few among us are fatiguing themselves supporting the blessings of freedom; men are fatiguing themselves fighting for the right to use the ladies' room. 

Here are the children, photographed yesterday in their patriotic get-up. Today they'll likely transition from pajamas to swimsuits, so we did the whole patriotic-attire-thing yesterday. Pictured are my two darlings, my niece (Maisie), & the daughter of a very dear friend:

Obviously I have no overarching theme, no grand point, no sermon today. It pains me to be themeless. My mind is with the 1,000 words my research paper lacks, & what little mental energy is left is devoted to details of the upcoming VBS. It's probably for the best that I don't have the inclination or the mental fortitude to tell you what I think about America in her present condition. Additionally, I haven't been reading, & it's impacting my mood & my thought processes; I am like a car running on fumes. I need to read. I need to begin reading July's book club book, The Shack by William Young, & also reread Lord of the Flies. I looked at the Lord of the Flies summer reading questions the other day & I couldn't answer most of them, so I probably need to reread the book.

In the same way it has not truly hit me that my book's going to be published, it has not hit me that I will be teaching high school very soon. I think, I think, after the grad school class is officially over, & VBS is behind me, I will mentally be able to move forward. I have some preparation to do before classes begin. 

I honestly don't know how much preparation I need to do because I don't know if these kids are going to talk to me. Ideally, we will have long & engrossing discussions about their readings, interspersed with some in-class writing. However, it is a sad fact of life that other people don't always get as excited about literature as I do. While I am going to do some planning, I am also not going to stress myself out over every detail because I learned a long time ago that until you stand in front of a class, you don't know how you'll mesh with them. 

I fall into a rhythm with classes; classes have personalities of their own. Over-preparing to teach is like attempting to script dialogue for a first date. Some classes I like more than others (but I don't tell them that . . . until maybe the end of the year). Teaching is like dancing. You can plan the dance, you can make charts & outlines, you can watch other people dance, but until you get up & do it, you really have no feel for it. Until you're face to face with your partner & the music starts, there's no way to know if you'll stumble together or leave people in awe. Sometimes it's beautiful & everyone gets carried away & you don't want it to end. I don't expect seamlessness come fall; I  am merely hopeful I don't have a classroom full of folks with two left feet.  

I just remembered there's this spiel Edie's friend, Emily, has in Dear Miss Moreau. That's the title of my book, by the way, in case you, like me, forgot it & made an idiot of yourself trying to recall it when asked last week. 

This comes near the end. Emily is having a pretty honest conversation with her literature professor about the fact that he's dating her friend, & she says this:

"I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though. There’s always been a detectable shift in her voice when she talked about you, said your name, even if only to share an assignment with me, or disagree with something you said. At times, I’ve felt like a voyeur watching the two of you in class . . . losing yourselves in your theoretical discussions, arguing over symbolism, lost in some literary ritual performed in a language the rest of us don’t speak, a dance we don’t know."

I threw that in there because earlier in the novel, on two separate occasions, Edie is with friends who're dancing (literally, not metaphorically), & she declines to join them. I mean, the people sitting in the corner alone, thinking, are the gold mines. This is common knowledge, right?  

(I also threw it in there because when you need a surefire metaphor, dancing is a great option)

Enjoy the holiday. Be thankful, as I am, for this nation, despite its issues (my tongue's bleeding now). 

Find & keep the people who speak your language, who fall effortlessly in step with you, & cherish them. 

*I note to any parents reading that no actual dancing will take place.


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