Finding Time to Write

One thing that many writers (and other creative types) with day jobs kvetch about to no end is when to find the time to write. How the heck are you supposed to write the next Great American Novel (or Young Adult Dystopian Adventure Set in a Not-So-Distant-But-Bleak Future Where Kids are Pitted Against Kids and Centers Around an Empowered Teenager Girl Who Not Only Has Special Powers but also Has Cancer and Must Choose between the Two Boys Who Don’t Know How to Live and Love and only Learn to Do So Through the Limited Yet Caring Time Spent with her in Her Final Days) if you work 9-5 and juggle other responsibilities like a spouse and kid(s)? I mean, it’s hard enough to squeeze in exercise and home-cooked dinners, let alone find time to write a book. I can’t say I have the end-all-be-all answers to this dilemma, but I know what works for me. At least, I know what works for me today. If I can find at least one, quiet hour a day to devote to a writing project, that’s a win. But it’s a struggle for me, a target that refuses to stay in one place. I try to write every day, even on weekends, and I wouldn’t be able to do it if I didn’t have a few tricks up my sleeve.

  1. Write early. As my semester progresses, I get slammed with papers to grade. That’s not a bad thing—I love that my students are completing their work, but it means all of my daytime hours are monopolized by grading. To get my writing in during these times, I’ll start early and write before Josh and Virginia get up to start the day. For me, this means a 5 AM wake-up, which takes some getting used to. My New York Pitch Conference friend, Monique, who not only works full time, but is also a mom to four kids and a wife. She’s writing a memoir and is up and in front of her computer, coffee in hand by 3:45 AM. Mad props to her—that takes a level of commitment and discipline not shared by everyone including myself.
  2. Write late. My husband can do this. He’s a night owl and can often get as much or more accomplished after dinner than a lot of people can during bank hours. And often this strategy can work for many writers. Like writing early, the house gets quiet after everyone else goes to bed. This can be an ideal time to concentrate and rack up your daily word count. If I’m not nodding off to Dancing with the Stars by 9:30, I might be scribbling something down, too.
  3. Write anywhere. An opportunity to write can spring up anywhere. Unfortunately, it seems like I come up with my best ideas when I’m running, a time I don’t carry around my notebook and pencil. I take advantage of those ideas by recording them with the voice recorder on my MP3 player. Although I look like I’m talking to myself, more than a few times that recorder has been my savior. An old writer friend of mine said that she used to write in her car at stoplights. She was a single mom of an infant and chipping away at a master’s in journalism. Car trips were only few times Ariel would be able to be alone with her thoughts, because that’s when her daughter would nap in her carseat. She’d have her spiral notebook open on the passenger seat next to her, and when she’d come to a stop, she’d scribble down a sentence or two before moving on to the next stop. That’s some bad-ass determination.

A lot of this is tied to me just trying to keep to some sort of a writing schedule, even if my kid comes down with the stomach flu, or the hot water heater conks out and I’ve got to scramble to find a plumber. It’s a commitment to fitting in time for all the work that goes into creating something you hope to share with an audience at some point. When Josh and I lived in L.A., we knew a handful of unemployed actors who sat around complaining they never got any acting jobs because they didn’t have an agent. They weren’t doing anything in the meantime, i.e., auditioning, putting together a reel, taking improv classes. They simply pointed to the fact that they had no agent and used it as an excuse to do nothing and whine about it. We also knew a bunch of actors who hustled every day and put themselves out there relentlessly so they could make themselves available for their big break. They just went for it. Sometimes I think that a big difference between creative people who eventually make it and those who fall by the wayside is a sense of stick-with-it-ness. Going for it even when there is no tangible reward other than the work itself. There’s no easy way to do it. You just work harder at it and become better, and with a bit of talent and a dash of luck, eventually it’ll pay off. Fingers crossed. Of course, if you’re writer and your uncle is the president of HarperCollins, if you can’t get anything published, you’re a lazy, no-talent schmuck. Then you clearly don’t need my advice.

Binging Like a Queen

I have an embarrassing admission. Since Hulu made every season of every Housewives franchise available for streaming, I have become horribly addicted to Real Housewives of Orange County. This show makes me feel so dumb for watching it, I would not be surprised if Andy Cohen himself were sneaking into my bedroom every night to pluck brain cells through my nose with tweezers in my sleep since midsummer. On the surface, I can’t figure out what I like about it. Certainly nothing about the lives of the women on the show is like my own. I don’t live in a giant, new construction in a gated community in Orange County. I don’t walk around in public in high-end, designer clothes and full makeup. I have never had my nose, my boobs, or my face “done.” I don’t drive a Mercedes or a Hummer. And I don’t drink Chardonnay with every meal. Maybe it doesn’t matter that I can’t relate to their lives in any meaningful or shallow way, because I am completely obsessed with it

I like quality, Emmy-worthy TV. Breaking Bad. Mad Men. The Daily Show. Modern Family. Orange Is the New Black. But I also love a lot of shit. Dancing with the Stars. Survivor. Downtown Abbey (sorry, but it’s so bad now!). And yes, Real Housewives of Orange County. The amount of manufactured drama on that show in one season could keep the average soap opera afloat for years. On one episode, the girls all went on a camping trip together. Really, it was glamping with high thread count sheets and bathrooms and kitchens and lots and lots of wine. But, they did have to barbecue their own dinner and dispose of their garbage. Watching Vicki, Heather, and Alexis wave away bugs and complain that they were pissed they couldn’t just order a pizza did give me a small swell of joy and a sense of superiority. Even I could have dealt with camping better than those high-maintenance bitches. (My husband disagrees about that.)

Crap entertainment has always been around. During the Renaissance, a popular form of entertainment was what was called “bear baiting,” where dogs fought bears chained to a post. The dogs were trained to attack the bear’s throat, while the bear could take potentially lethal swipes at the dogs with his paws. This is what passed as entertainment for the aristocratic class. Commoners had Shakespeare, the rich had bear baiting. In fact, Elizabeth I loved bear baiting so much, she’d watch it for hours at a time. She was binge-watching. Comparatively, this puts Real Housewives in an entirely new perspective. Obvious parallels aside, at least the ladies are only trying to cut each other down with insults and gossip, not their fangs and nails. But if I have some time to kill, I can settle in sometimes and watch three episodes in one sitting. I don’t feel very proud of myself after, but at least now I can think, if bear baiting is good enough for the Queen of England, RHOC is good enough for me.

The Unbeautiful Game

In general, I don’t really mind getting older—people tend to take you more seriously, my experience and world seem to broaden with each passing year, I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin—but nowhere does it suck more to be the oldest than when you play contact sports.

I played quite possibly the worst soccer game I’ve played in decades last Sunday. It was embarrassing. The whole game, my lungs felt like they were on fire. I was slow. I kept losing my balance. I wasn’t communicating to my teammates. My passing was weak and inaccurate. In the few times I did find myself in control of the ball, my confidence would evaporate, and I’d find a chance to get rid of the ball as soon as I could. Ugh. This was not what I had envisioned for myself when I fantasized about making a return to soccer last summer—sprinting hard, winning the ball, and scoring goals. I certainly didn’t expect to be the best player, but I never thought I’d be the worst. I was the worst. And by a pretty wide margin.

It got me thinking, when is the appropriate time to plan a graceful exit from the game? My contribution to the game now is limited at best, and at worst, I just get in the way. It’s too late to pull a Derek Jeter and retire with my dignity still intact. No one’s going to name a sandwich after me, at least not one that’s any good. The closest I’ll ever get to a parade of fans wishing me well after my final exit off the pitch would be Josh, Virginia, and maybe my mom taking me out to lunch at our local Indian buffet. That doesn’t sound so bad, actually. And what would post-soccer-retirement look like? Well, I’ve essentially handed the baton off to Virginia already, who plays soccer in the spring and fall. Watching her play is heaven. I freakin’ love it. She’s not the star of the team, but she holds her own and manages to make smart plays every game. She improves with every game, every season. And the best part is watching how much fun she has out there.

I can see my soccer-playing days are numbered, but in the end, that might be a win for all parties involved. My new role will eventually be restricted to the sidelines, which is already a pretty good fit.

Pitch Conference

This past weekend, I attended the New York Pitch Conference. For the most part, my life as a writer is spent in isolation. I don’t mind it. I consider myself an introvert, and solitude suits me. I think many, if not most, writers are like this. But every now and then, we pry ourselves away from our computers and get out of the house/library/Starbucks long enough to show up at writers’ conferences. In a nutshell, the NY Pitch was a rush of excitement and fear and exhilaration and nerves rolled into one, which extended over the course of four, full days. Yep, four days of talking about writing was even better than it sounds. Nerd alert.

Thursday: I knew I’d need to do the unthinkable and call Uber for a ride to the train station. Josh hates Uber. The guy was late and needed for me to give him turn-by-turn directions to 30th Street Station. Yes, the name of our train station is its location. He dropped me off, I hurried to make my train, which turned out, was running 45 minutes late. Of course, this made me tardy for the first day. When I finally rolled in, I’d missed the intro by Michael Neff, the conference director, which pissed me off, but he was kind enough to reassure me it was fine and to just go to my group. I was part of the women’s fiction/memoir group, led by the peerless, Susan Breen. Susan herself had gone through the conference back in 2006, which resulted in her getting her novel, The Fiction Class, published. She knows what the conference is like on both sides of the desk. I feel very fortunate to have met and now worked with her.

We jumped in immediately and read our pitches. I went first. Susan had some bits and pieces of feedback for me. I’d been working on my pitch for a solid month, so I hoped it was pretty tight. But I did get a couple of very helpful comments, which I implemented immediately, and I think my pitch improved as a result. Everyone’s project sounded interesting. Seriously, I could see commercial potential in each one—this was a strong group.

Friday: We started the day meeting as a group once again, pitching to an agent, Michelle. I went first again, and was so, so nervous. Michelle is really smart, super quick, and has a great sense of humor. I read the pitch without passing out. After getting the first pitch out of the way, I could feel myself start to relax a little. Our group debriefed afterward, with Susan offering more feedback. That afternoon, we had the opportunity to meet with an expert to go over the first page of our manuscript. I happened to meet with Susan’s agent, Paula, who suggested something I thought was great—under each title, write a short line that helps establish the world of my novel. Thank you, Paula!

Saturday: This is the biggest day of the conference, where we’ll have the opportunity to speak with two editors. Everyone’s nervous, jittery. Some pace. Some continue picking away at their pitches. Some zone out with their headphones on. And many, myself included, chatted with other writers. I’d met some amazing people this conference, people I probably would not have gotten to know otherwise. Since I’m up last in the first round, I’ve already had a run in the morning and then walked to the studio, so I’m feeling pretty OK. Also, I was so relieved that both agents from the day before were so approachable and genuinely nice, I really felt mostly relaxed and focused on my pitch. On Saturday, both editors continued the “nice, friendly” trend. All of us in our group noticed that each seemed to love writers and books, which is a total bonus at a writers’ conference.

Sunday: Final round with another editor. This editor decidedly hated my book concept. It was not her genre and definitely not her cup of tea. OK, OK, not interested, got it. A book really can’t be for everyone, you know? I had my last one-on-one with Susan, who seemed to think my pitch was really working. By the end, I’d pitched to two agents and three editors, and four out of the five wanted to see more, which was super encouraging. I boarded my train home with a bit of a swelled head, feeling like I had a manuscript that could sell. This was a 180 from the previous year, when I queried agents and all rejected my book. I took a hard look at my manuscript and with the help of a book coach, figured out the problem was with my tone, which meant I needed to do a page-one revision. Back to the drawing board. But after working so hard on the novel this year, I was grateful for all the feedback I received from this conference over the weekend. Now that I’m home, I’m back to querying. I’m feeling hopeful and excited, but that knot in my stomach isn’t going anywhere.

It’s Not Halloween, Jackass

As I sit down to write this post, I realize that what I’m about to say may motivate someone to throw a brick through my window—please don’t—but it needs to be said. Philly, I love ya, but what’s with the sports jerseys, any season, any occasion?

I honestly don’t have a problem when fans wear their favorite team jerseys at the stadium or while watching a game on TV. I get it. You’re fans. It’s fun. It’s when I see a grown man in July wearing his Eagles jersey for no good reason other than it’s Tuesday. Or the moron who decides it’s OK to wear his Flyers jersey to Thanksgiving dinner, like it’s his formal wear. No, it’s not formal wear. And that’s not your name on the back. It doesn’t matter that you’ve shelled out hundreds of hard-earned dollars for the thing.

I give a pass to kids. The name on the back of their jersey may be a player they look up to, someone who inspires them. That’s fine if you’re twelve. Not so much if you’re 44. What, are you a big fan of Chase Utley? Do you want to be like him when you grow up? Do you loooooove him? Exactly. Kids also like to dress up as their favorite superhero for the same reasons they want to dress up like their favorite sports heroes. Grownups don’t do that. At least not on a Tuesday in July. When Virginia was little, we took her to Disneyland for her birthday. She was dressed to the nines in her pint-sized Cinderella costume. And every time she spotted one of the Disney princesses that roam around the park, she’d tackle them in an adorable bear hug. It’s cute when you’re three, less so as you get older. Behavior like that gets adults arrested.

There’s definitely a cut off age for costumes, Underoos, and wearing your Spider-Man pajamas in public. I say let’s extend that to sports jerseys. I know, plenty of people dress in costumes sometimes.  But at least the guys and gals who like to dress up as Klingons have the decency to wait for Comic-Con as their occasion. It’s like a social agreement. If you decide to wear a costume in public, people will stare and judge. I know that Julian Schnabel may disagree, but he probably understands he’s being self-indulgent. So unless you’re at work directing the next Diving Bell, put on a real shirt.

Last Chance Workout

The Biggest Loser is back on television. I really thought the show was done after the “winner” of last season, Rachel Frederickson, dieted and exercised down to proportions comparable to a concentration camp victim. She looked as if she had traded one eating disorder when she was 260 pounds at the start of the season for another, when she weighed in at a skeletal 105 pounds for the season finale. Trainers Jillian and Bob’s stunned reactions said it all when Rachel walked on stage for her big reveal during the finale. Josh and I, too, had to collect our jaws from off the floor when she emerged from behind the curtain. It’s kinda scary what people do to themselves for a reality show.

And this season, they’re back at it again, but this time, the show is using obese, former athletes (many of them college, Olympic, and professional athletes) as contestants rather than obese, mere mortals. I think the idea the show is playing with here is that athletes already have bodies and brains that are designed to be pushed to greater limits. They take coaching and discipline well. I anticipate that many of these contestants will see more dramatic reductions in weight and increases in muscle mass than contestants from previous seasons. Their “before” and “after” photos are going to knock our socks off.

The thing is, though, it’s the same show with the same, distorted messages about health and weight. I don’t think that an extra 100+ pounds on a person is healthy, but I also don’t know how healthy it is to lose half your body weight in the course of six months. In Rachel’s case, she lost 60% of her body weight. This season, Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney says that the show provides these former athletes a “final chance to recapture their glory days.” Really? That’s like saying your best days were in high school. Buh-bye, best days. It’s a slow slide to death from here. And the stereotypical messaging about “fat” just keeps coming. During week one, contestants emphasize how “disappointed” and “disgusting” they feel now that they’ve “let [themselves] go.” One poor guy feels he can’t be a role model to his little brother, because he’s fat. Gina, a former cheerleader, says “I feel like I hold the family back because I’m overweight.” Right, because a thin wife and mother is so much better than a fat one. Just ask Christina Crawford, Joan’s daughter.

And by the way, since May, Rachel Frederickson has gained twenty pounds. According to an article in Us Weekly, Rachel, along with The Biggest Loser national audience, also recognized that she was too light at 105 pounds and felt that gaining twenty pounds put her in a healthier weight range. But health isn’t really The Biggest Loser game, even though it’s embedded into the brand’s messaging. No, it oversimplifies health, equalizing it to numbers on a scale, and that’s not healthy for anyone.

Even Parasites Perform a Service

Early this summer, my bicycle was stolen. Some asshole broke into our backyard, took my bike first, came back, and was in the process of wheeling off with my kid’s bike when Bruce, our awesome neighbor, intervened and ordered the intruder to return it. Virginia’s bicycle was saved, mine was long gone. Josh was livid about my bike. Almost immediately, he cruised around the surrounding area, hoping to spot it and reclaim it. We’ve had success with this tactic in the past, as have other friends who’ve lost bikes to thieves. But this time, it was clear. My bicycle wasn’t coming back. And to tell the truth, I wasn’t that torn up about it. Sure, I was upset that a person felt he had the right to break into our backyard and steal our property—that sucks. But the fact my bicycle was gone? Eh…I think I’m OK with that.

Every summer I decide that this will be the year I utilize my bicycle for around-town errands like a proper city girl. I mean, Philly is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. I envision trips to Trader Joe’s and rides with VA down the path to camp every day. I’d bicycle to cafes, where I’d get some work done over an iced coffee. Our Nissan would simply sit parked at the curb and collect bird poop all summer. This scenario never happens. Philly gets pretty steamy during summertime, and bicycle riding can work up a sweat pretty quickly. I learned this early on a couple summers ago, when I decided to bicycle to a ladies lunch. The restaurant was about a mile away, and it wasn’t even that hot—80s. The ride itself was pleasant. I enjoyed the feel of the wind when it passed through my helmet, as I glided quickly through West Philly to my destination. It’s when I arrived that I started sweating. As soon as I locked up my bike, my clothes clung to my body and when I took my purse off, I had a sweat mark that matched my purse strap across my chest. The helmet, though, is the worst for sweat. When I took it off, it seemed to unlock all of my pores in my hair. I had sweat literally dripping down my face onto my plate for the entire lunch.

Besides the sweating, bicycling around town isn’t all that enjoyable for me. You need to be on high alert if you’re going to bike in the city. Cars, buses, pedestrians, trolley tracks—it can feel like they’re all out to get you. Trying to navigate where I’m going while at the same time determining if the driver yapping on her cell phone actually sees me (or instead will, in fact, make a left turn into me) can really ramp up my anxiety levels. I’d always rather walk. Walking’s slower, but when I allow enough time, I love it. I have the time to look around, people watch, absorb my surroundings. I can do things I can’t or shouldn’t on a bicycle—I can take a phone call, check email, listen to a podcast, sip a lemonade. And if I’m pressed for time? Well, that’s what bus tokens are for.

I wish I wasn’t such a bicycle wimp, but I can no longer deny it. Josh bicycles to work whenever the weather allows. For him it’s convenient and easy. Most of my friends are avid cyclists as well. That’s OK. They can all leave me in their dust. Now that I think of it, I’ve got a pair of rollerblades I haven’t used in 20 years. I don’t want anyone coming into my house and lifting my stuff, but if someone had to, the rollerblades are in the downstairs closet with the wristguards and kneepads.

Day Trippers

My brother, J.B., came to town over the holiday weekend. I always find that when out-of-town guests visit for a few days, we all get the chance to be tourists. We’ve lived in Philly for seven years, and for the first time this weekend, we had the opportunity to be utterly charmed by New Hope and Lambertville, two towns that hug the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware River.

New Hope seems to suffer from an identity crisis in some ways. Is it a sleepy little B&B getaway? A patchouli-scented hippie village? A biker hub? An overtly-friendly LGBT town? Yes it is. J.B., Virginia, and I drove up on Labor Day and landed in New Hope right around lunch time. The sidewalks teemed with tourists, but we had our pick of restaurants and cafes. Like New Hope’s tendency toward multiple personalities, the restaurants aimed to please most palates, which was a good thing for us—two adults and a kid often require a menu with variety.  After a bowl of fettuccine with clam sauce, a heart-stopping salad with steak and cheese, and a mediocre burger, the three of us were off to explore. Most of the boutique windows featured cheesy gifts like fancy soaps shaped like purple fortune cookies and women’s tunics detailed with gold trim. We passed a leather goods store, a cards and gifts store, and too many vintage clothing stores, none of which tempted us to go in. A nice walk, but I wondered how those places managed to stay alive on what appeared to be a high-rent street.

We crossed the Delaware River, stopping for a photo midway that featured Virginia and me straddling Pennsylvania and New Jersey, declaring on Facebook “Two states at once!” Lambertville was just across the river, but tonally wholly different from New Hope. The sidewalks were wider and more accommodating. Benches welcomed tired tourists with a place to sit and sip iced coffee. As a result of poor shoe choice, Virginia was working on two painful blisters, which could have cut our day short. But at Lambertville Trading Company, a quirky coffee shop, two baristas with hearts of gold came to our rescue with a few bandages to help with VA’s feet. They did the trick, and for the remainder of our afternoon, we stopped off at antique shops and a pet accessories place. We even met a couple who were out walking their pet pig.

By the end of the day, we were ready to cross back over the river for some New Hope ice-cream before getting back into the car for our hour-long drive back into Philly. I always love hosting my family when they visit, and the added bonus is that through day trips like these, we get to forget that we’re locals and embrace the opportunity to view the area with new eyes as well. Lucky us.

Winter on the Brain

School, the first concrete sign that fall approacheth, has started for me already, but it hasn’t yet for Virginia, and quite frankly, it’s still pretty summery around here. The weather’s warm and the leaves are green. The day after my in-service, I was back at the pool with Virginia and her pals, no sign that summer was in its last throes. Some of Virginia’s friends are still in day camp or on the tail end of vacation with their families.

But fall is around the corner—I can feel it. Pretty soon we’ll be in the thick of school and homework and after-school sports and music lessons. As the scents of sunscreen and grilled meats are replaced by apples and cinnamon, we’ll be scrambling to make/purchase Halloween costumes and bags of fun-sized candy. And once we start fretting about what we’re going to do for Thanksgiving, I will have finally given in and packed away any tank tops and shorts remaining in my bureau.

And then it’s the impending march toward the winter holidays. It’ll be mid-December when digging our car out of the snow and scraping the ice off the windows becomes our new normal. At least once, I’ll turn to Josh and say wistfully, “Doesn’t it seem like summer was just yesterday? I feel like I could have been sunning by the pool, like seconds ago.” It’s because summer is awesome and winter sucks. We miss summer. No one is wistful about winter. “Doesn’t it seem like yesterday we got caught in freezing rain?” Or, “It wasn’t too long ago that I missed my bus and had to walk home alone on a windy, frigid afternoon without gloves.” We endure winter. And now, at the end of August, I can already look ahead and dread winter. I dread winter when it’s perfect outside. When I’m still wearing skirts and sandals. When I can still buy a soft-serve vanilla cone from the ice-cream truck.

When we lived in L.A., Josh always complained that he missed the seasons. He hated that it was always summer in Southern California and said the lack of seasons made it hard for him to keep track of the passage of time. I think I’m exactly the opposite. I want summer all the time. I don’t find it boring. I also really don’t need the constant reminder that time is passing, especially if it comes in the form of snow and sleet. I grew up out west, and even with California’s more temperate weather, I never had trouble assembling my memories chronologically. But seasons is how it’s done in Philly, and I’ll be better off the sooner I can figure out how to roll with it. Otherwise, no matter the weather outside, in my head it’ll always be winter.

Hello Muddah

Last Sunday I dropped Virginia off at sleep-away camp. I think the most anxiety I felt about actually leaving my 10-year-old behind for a week was when I first signed her up, way back in January. Oh my god, I thought, I know Virginia’s ready for this experience, but am I? No. A week just seemed too long to go without summertime’s daily rituals. When I registered her for camp last winter and looked at my calendar, all I could see was that sad, lonely week in August—no hustle and bustle in the mornings, no lazing at the pool, no cozy reading, TV watching, crafting, or Connect Four. I realized I’d be perfectly happy if Virginia never left home, ever.

I consulted with friends who were parents of veteran sleep-away camp goers. “I’m already so sad about it,” I’d complain. “A week away without my girl—I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.” Every single parent looked at me like I was Benedict Arnold. “Stop it. Quit your pouting. Think about it—it’s a week of freedom,” they’d say. “You can actually go see a movie. In the theatre.” “And dinner!” another parent would pipe in. “You can do both!” I had to admit, dinner and a movie did sound pretty good. And I probably wouldn’t mind a week off from packing a lunch box every day. All right, I decided. Nothing to worry about. Virginia’s going to have a fantastic adventure that week, and you’ll just have to suck it up and behave like a big girl. Don’t be surprised if you even enjoy a taste of freedom for a bit. She’ll be back before you know it. OK, got it.

I’d been so successful in putting the week of sleep-away camp out of my mind that it was only a few days before camp, when I realized it was almost here. Sleep-away camp had sneaked up on me. Before I knew it, Virginia and I were in the car on our way to Woodward, her duffel, sleeping bag, and heart pillow stowed in our trunk. And when I got home after dropping her off, I felt a little lost, a feeling I haven’t quite been able to shake all week. The house is so much emptier without Virginia. I’m getting a ton of work done—almost too much, really. I can sit and work at my computer for hours until Jazz finally has to sidle up to my leg, imploring me with his one eye, that this dog is not just going to walk himself. When I wander downstairs to start dinner, any urgency to cook evaporates. It’s like my single days when I was perfectly happy to make “dinner” out of chips and salsa and use my oven for extra storage. This week is not terrible, though, either. Since I’m not exactly cooking much, Josh and I have enjoyed eating out more. We get to watch Orange Is the New Black well before Virginia’s bed time. And we’re seeing a play in the middle of the week. We haven’t done that in more than a decade.

This strange, new freedom is coming to an end—Josh and I will pick Virginia up early on Saturday. I know that from stalking her camp counselor’s Facebook page that Virginia is having a great time during this week of independence. I can see her joy in her easy smile, photo after photo. And that joy is hers. I’m really happy for her. She’s probably learned a lot about herself, grown up a bit, too. I hope that I will get better at learning to let go, when Virginia wants to do this all over again next summer, but for two weeks instead of one.