Kids, don’t kill your wizard

Gandalf-2What does it say about the modern parenting experience that I’m reduced to telling my kids I will lose hit points if they don’t stop squabbling?

This time of year is always wonderful but also so hard. The adults here are exhausted. Kids are hopped up on sugar and screen time and vicious cycles of anticipation and letdown. We’re all thrown together in a small house. Everyone says “Let’s just stay home today and do nothing but read,” but that’s not the reality. The reality is we’re constantly chafing at each other and someone must walk the dog or he will pee on the floor. I’m trying to find creative renewal after working so so hard this past year. (I had one week of crazed holiday prep. Now in my remaining week of break, I intend somehow to do a year’s worth of cleaning and take care of that little matter of starting a new book.) I feel like a drained battery.

I’ve never been so aware of how delicate my energy is. As a parent, a working person, someone who’s trying to write, I’ve realized it’s all about guarding your life energy. If you don’t, you can’t create. So it means exercise and clearing clutter and staying alkaline and somehow trying not to drink too much red wine. But it’s also not reading depressing news stories. And it definitely means trying to reduce the exposure I have to squabbling.

So while Grant is away visiting family, and I stand alone and brave as the sole parent/cook/tech support/mediator, I have a hit point counter. On the way to the airport I explained how all the daily crap kind of chips away at my points until I have a total mom-burst. But in a game you would never let your family wizard lose so much energy they couldn’t cast spells or cook you omelets or whatnot.

And this seemed like a perfect way of putting it, accessible to the game-addled child of today. Until my son reasoned that if I were an opponent, his goal would be to get me to zero.

Sigh. Holding steady–for now–at 100.

2012 I hardly knew ye

2012, you’re a blur. A hard year, during which it seems I mainly worked. Worked hard at a new job and then came home and worked nights and weekends on my neverending novel revision. (I have still spent nearly all of holiday break grumping around as I try to finish this latest go-round.) But it’s important to look back. I used to record a bit of every day into my Moleskine agenda. It’s been many many years since I’ve kept anything so luxurious as a diary, and I think I read once that Leonard Woolf, Virginia’s husband, didn’t go in for diarying either, but kept a notebook with expenses and short to-do lists, appointments, etc. From that you can reconstruct your life. So I keep things like movie ticket stubs, and I know that receipts (if they are old enough) take on magical summoning properties—and other flotsam, trusting they will someday transform into madeleines. And I try to write a line or two of summary in the agenda – though now I find I go back and do a month or two at a time. That’s the wrong way to go. (Resolution: Do it each night from now on.)

I’m cheating on my revision now to write this—I have only a little time to write—but here are highs from the past year.

Crossfit: Someday I’ll write a longer post about this. But the fact that I can now execute a squat while holding 70 pounds over my head is nothing short of miraculous. I’ve had to do things that terrified me. I couldn’t do handstands when I started. Hated them. Prayed, please no handstands in the workout today. Now I eat handstands for breakfast – raaah! Also, when you’re middle-aged, you know what you’re good at and you tend to do that stuff only. It’s REALLY good to do things at which you suck.

Watching: No movies really stick out for me this year. Shame, which I thought was great, was officially released in late 2011, so I’m going strict here and won’t count it. The movie I LOVED most was Moonrise Kingdom and with secondmost love: 2 Days in New York. Enjoyed Beasts of the Southern Wild. In kids movies, (which I’ve seen plenty of) Pirates: Band of Misfits. Reluctant “mehs” to Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, and The Hobbit. I am SO tired of same-looking CGI and endless battle/chase/alien smackdowns, it’s all boring as hell. But I haven’t been to many movies this year and I haven’t yet seen a lot of the Oscar bait – Lincoln, Django Unchained, etc. On TV I’ve really enjoyed Girls, Portlandia, Homeland. Somehow I’ve fallen behind on Breaking Bad. But Breaking Bad is in a lifetime Hall of Fame all by itself, so it little matters what year I get to it.

Category by himself: Martin Freeman? BEST. HOBBIT. EVER.

Life: My children are growing up. I don’t know how to write about them—certainly not on a dashed off blog. But they are entering new phases of life at 11 and almost 8. I’m struggling to be a good mother and often just feel overwhelmed by that: the PTA meetings I don’t go to anymore, the playdates I can’t manage to coordinate, the alternatives to screen time that I’m desperately trying to provide. And then in a larger life sense, I wish life were not so narrowly focused. I have hardly any time for friends, let alone volunteering, but I wish I were doing something … extra. Gun violence in our country and the ongoing violence against women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India …. you’re getting me down. I have a wish to do more with my life than what I’m currently doing and a wish to have it count as something that positively impacts other people. I sense a reckoning looming – I’ve gotten too busy and too stressed and it’s gone on far too long with too little restoration. Reckoning, I put you off. But for how much longer?

Reading: Thanks to my new system of index cards, I’m keeping track of every book I read and when I read it and what my reactions are to it. In 2012 I read slightly more than 30 books. Highlights:

Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
Bleak House by Dickens
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
True Grit by Charles Portis
Immortal Beloved series by Cate Tiernan
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Music: Kendrick Lamar! For which I am endlessly teased by our guitar teacher (who’s always like, “I didn’t know you …!” This time it was “I didn’t know you listened to rap!”). So now whenever she sees me she’s like (scary rapper voice) “Stand up. Drank. Sit down. Drank.” And I’m like, “That’s not even my favorite song of his!!!” Good Kid M.A.A.D City just delivered on all levels. Loved it.

Happy 2013 to all!!!

Goodbye, Alice

I’ll always think of you watching the world go by from the top of Buena Vista Park while the fog rolls in.

A quick life recap

Oh boy, it’s been a while. I think I was up to something this past year, and here’s my best guess as to what it was.

– I bought my first smartphone. After dithering, I went for the iPhone (as my friend Juana said, anything the Blackberry can do, the iPhone can do cuter.) Now I’ve got tangled ear buds and twitchy fingers like everyone else in the Bay Area. But I do like … hell, love it.

– I picked up some freelance work as the project editor of a YA nonfiction series with the mission of bringing essential information to America’s youth. The first title is How to Be a Vampire, and I’ve since how-to’d my way through How to Be a Zombie (lurching soon toward a bookstore near you). Naturally, How to Be a Werewolf is in progress.

– I liked Breaking Bad.

– I got a Google Voice number.

– I started editing for NVIDIA and learned a whole lot about parallel computing and other things that just blow my mind.

– I bought my first midriff-exposing yoga top (although I don’t always wear it).

– I did a lot of rewriting and revising (including a bank-robbery scene that I still don’t know if anyone likes) and for the most part I did it without chocolate.

– I vaguely remember being bored to death by Wolf Hall when it came in the New York Review of Books, and now I fully intend to read it while awake since it’s won the Booker.

– I really liked Humpday.

– I started thinking, if Grant can blog three times a week, I can blog three times a year, dammit.