Monday Earworm: Fiona Apple, Summer Debrief, and Newsy Bits

Hello! I hope your cultural summer has come to a delightful close and that you’re excited for fall. Tonight’s post is going to do triple duty because it’s been that kind of summer over here. I don’t know whether to be glad it’s finally over or what! I’m going to tell you all about it, but first, let me start us off with a lovely tune to get us in a very mellow September mood. Then read on…

 

So, this summer. Goodness gracious.

I never realized how much I depended on my summer holidays — the poolside barbecues, getting together with family and friends. Even during the first year of the pandemic, we still managed to have socially distanced, masked-up, teensy-tiny outdoor get-togethers with my parents and brother. It was something. And like I said, I had no idea how much I relied upon those events to set the cycles and rhythms of my year until I couldn’t have any. This year, I didn’t get to participate in Memorial Day because the day before, I came down with covid. July 4th was canceled because my oldest had it. And last week, my son came down with it, followed by Dear Husband. So no fun Labor Day weekend festivities, alas. And I find myself focusing on the loss of the traditions because, frankly, in my house we’re all vaccinated and boosted and so for us, so far, covid has not been tragic KNOCK ON WOOD. (DH isn’t well yet. Hopefully soon, though! He does seem to be slowly on the mend.)

I found myself going through a lot of feels about it all this summer, though, all this sickness. Quite the range of emotions. There were so many things that got canceled, besides just the backyard fun. Vacations, projects, even some extra-curricular activities. All of them just pre-empted. And I had to do some real internal investigation into my mindset about how I approach summer break in the first place.

I inherited a stunning, even shocking, work ethic. I won’t say it’s the healthiest thing I could have learned — in fact, it conclusively is not — but here we are. And I was thinking of summer break not as a real break, but as a chance to cram in all the work that I have to put off the other ten months of the year while I’m working sixty to seventy hours a week teaching. This was, needless to say, bonkers. I’d been coming back to school every August at a deficit already because how on earth could I ever fit in All The Things (and by “Things” I mostly mean work, usually including but not limited to writing a new book) that I told myself at the end of May I would?

I needed a reset, and I rather unwillingly got one. It took me a while to formulate a good attitude (or semblance of one) about it. I came to recognize, by the time I went back to school last month, that I need to not think of June and July as a marathon to some accomplishments finish line. I need to think of them as a break. Yes, get some stuff done: there will always be house projects I want to tackle and books to write. But also? Freakin’ relax. Do these that make me happy.

So here, in no particular order, are some things I *did* get done (yes, I’ll be working on new ways to cast that) over the summer that made me happy:

  • I made some crucial updates to my website, including adding in some newer reviews of my books. The site as a whole is still not exactly where I want it to be, but web design is not my super power, so this will have to do for now. (Feel free to send along suggestions for improvement.)
  • I made some crucial updates to the blog here, too! Most notably, I restructured the pages, and now I have dedicated pages for my zine Sonic Chihuahua, the classes I’m teaching, and my hobbies — including the jewelry I make. (If you click on the Hobbies tab above, you’ll see some other features there, too, and more will be added to this section as time goes on.)

(Side note for shameless self-promotion, because writers have to make a living, too: The poetry class I’m teaching for Grackle & Grackle this month has sold out, but you can still jump into my two one-off fiction workshops coming up in a few weeks, offered by Writespace and back by popular demand! They’ll be on Zoom, so you can join us from anywhere. The first is a three-hour generative class on building character-driven stories using a blend of literary analysis, pop culture, and narrative craft, happening on September 24th. The second is a three-hour generative class on writing Gothic fiction, happening on October 1st. Click here for more details and to register!)

  • I read lots of books. Like, lots of them. The first week I was sick with covid, I read literally ten. And while I also read the things I needed to in preparation for the school year, I also gave myself permission to read plenty of books that just flat-out made me happy. Fun books, funny books. That was crucial, especially while I was sick. (You’ll see the epic list at my Year in Reading round-up come January.)
  • I also did a fair bit of writing. In addition to getting out two new issues of Sonic Chihuahua, I did a full-scale edit of a novel which is currently out on submission, and made real progress on the novel I’m currently drafting. Did I do enough writing? I never do (Can you hear that old mindset creeping back in?), but I moved the needle forward, and that’s what matters this time around (And there’s the new mindset; I’m still breaking it in).
  • Some of my work was published this summer. I had two poems come out in A Fire To Light Our Tongues: Texas Writers on Spirituality, and my essay reviewing Kristen Bird’s The Night She Went Missing was published by Literary Mama.
  • I made two baby blankets for new babies in my life. Both new babies live far away, and so I haven’t met them yet, but I can’t wait to give them snuggles!

blanket for Valerie
blanket for Rosie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I rekindled my love for the card game Solitaire. (As in with actual cards, not on a screen.) I played it all the time when I was growing up, and I played it a lot again when I got sick at the beginning of the summer and had to isolate. I found that it brought me a sense of inner calm that worked better for me even than formal meditation. So then I kept using the game as a way to soothe myself during times of stress or fatigue, and it worked beautifully. The game requires just enough strategy to distract me from whatever might be causing me anxiety — or even eyestrain — and relies on just enough luck for me to not care too much about whether I win or lose. 

I have much to be thankful for, orneriness about my dashed summer plans aside. Not least of those is my relatively good health now KNOCK ON WOOD AGAIN. So I’ll sign off for the moment, with the intention that I’ll get back to more regular blog posts around here in the new season. Such is the plan.

Be well!

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