Quick Update

ImageGreetings from on board the ship! I’ve been snoozing in our room after a busy travel day that started at 3:00 this morning and almost resulted in me missing the boat entirely. (Literally and figuratively. I’ll write more on that later.) My dad is still napping beside me in our teeny little room.

I have wifi access for now while we’re still docked, but won’t once we shove off. I’m not sure how much Internet access I’ll have in the port cities, so this could be my last post for the next week. I will be taking notes and jotting blips down to fill in the gaps of the trip when I have steady access to the web again. Until then, have a fabulous week!

Realness

It’s starting to feel real: in two days I will be on a boat drifting in the Caribbean. Nutsanity! Until then, there’s been a lot to do at work that’s kept me busy. A colleague has been on vacation this week, and with me out next, there’s been plenty to keep on track and moving through the editorial process. Tomorrow I have a 156-page manuscript to plow through. Oy!

Tonight I plan to get all my ducks in a row in terms of doing laundry, compiling various necessary documents, and picking up a few odds and ends. I need to get a new hairbrush and some toothpaste to take with me. Start charging my camera batteries. Maybe pick up a Lonely Planet Caribbean guide if I can get my hands on one. I’m a fan of LP and usually browse through a copy before I go anywhere, but I may skip it entirely this time around. This trip feels looser, more go with the flow-y. I don’t want to stress myself out trying to squeeze in side trips just for the sake of having checked it off a list. This trip, being there will be enough.

I feel so fortunate to have my parents in good health that they can make these kinds of trips. Who knows how much longer we’ll all have together; might as well make the most of it with a jaunt in the Caribb!

This month, I have been participating in Fitocracy’s Spark Challenge. Each month there is a new challenge requiring about 15 minutes’ worth of effort for 15 days or more. Every time you log the activities (April’s challenge consists of circuits), you get a “spark.” Collect 15 sparks and you get a very snazzy badge of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I am determined to get this badge. I joined sometime around April 8, which means I was already at a disadvantage to getting all my sparks in this month. It will be particularly trying to make sure I stay on track while I’m vacationing—even though there’s a gym on board, how much motivation will I have to keep exercising in paradise? At least it’s only 15 minutes, and hopefully I can get our room to myself for the four circuits of squats, push-ups, planks, jumping jacks, reverse lunges, and glute bridges. (Did I mention I’m sharing a room with my parents? Oh boy.) Or else I’ll just have to suck it up and grunt away as I push myself off the floor again and again, avoiding eye contact with my dad.

Processing

I don’t want to write about Boston and yet I do. It’s what’s on my mind as well as everyone else’s and sometimes we need outlets to channel the negativity, the despair, and the grief.

I have shied away from going to certain destinations because of unrest. When choosing a vacation destination in 2010 after finishing my teaching contract, I knew southeast Asia was the place to go. Indonesia seemed particularly attractive, yet the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings gave me pause. Sure, I’d already made a trip to North Korea, but that seemed less volatile than extremist bombings. I passed up Bali and settled on Malaysia and Singapore.

And yet, I visited Boston just a few weeks ago and these bombings don’t make me any less likely to visit Beantown or to discourage others from going there. When dangerous events happen close to home or in familiar territory, we absorb the shock and life goes on. When dangerous events happen in places we have never been, we stigmatize that place as being unsafe and strike it from the list of places we’d ever want to visit.

We live in a wide world. Emphasis on live. We shouldn’t limit the choices we make because of perceived risk, however infinitesimal. The odds of being killed in a terrorist attack worldwide are 1 in 9.3 million. The odds of dying from heart disease are 1 in 5. Which is the bigger threat? Which sleeps in your bed at night? Which do you have control over?

Anything can happen to anyone at any time—a car accident, a slip in the shower, a brain aneurysm, a lottery win, a casino windfall, a random act of kindness, a double rainbow sighting. The world is an uncertain place, as it always has been and will continue to be. The events in Boston are a reminder to live expansively, to not cower, to persist in moving forward. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Lilacs Burning Bright

I have become something of a candle fiend in the last year. Particularly on dreary afternoons or cold nights, I’ve got a little flame burning on the kitchen table or on the end table in the living room. Today I broke out the lilac scented one because spring just isn’t coming fast enough.
2013-04-13 candle
My childhood home had purple and white lilac trees in the yard and the smell of lilacs reminds me of Mother’s Days, birthdays (my mother’s and sister’s are a week apart in May), the excitement of the end of the school year, and the reassurance that yes, winter has finally passed. Though some find the robust aroma of lilacs too fragrant, it’s a homey smell for me. The flowers’ short lives go by so quickly every year—it’s nice to be able to unleash it any time.

Last night we had some friends over to play A Penny for My Thoughts, an improvisational game that is quite literally made up on the spot. Each player has lost his or her memory, and the players are trying to help one another remember. By offering one another clues and suggested courses of actions, the players slowly begin to “remember” what has happened, collectively making up a compelling story for each character that ultimately reveals what happened to trigger the memory loss to begin with. If you’re confused by all this, you’re in good company. It takes a while to get the hang of the game, but it’s worth it. We started to lose steam as the night wore on (by 11:00 when we stopped, we still hadn’t finished all the stories), but over the course of the evening we had revealed some astonishing character developments, involving all the torrid affairs, dying lovers, bloody hands, car accidents, and facial scars you could ever hope to find in a mid-day soap.

The game is an intriguing exercise in relinquishing control, as your character’s actions are provided by the players around you. Afterward, Colin pointed out that I had been blocking some of the suggestions for my character, of which I had been completely unaware. It’s tough to find the balance between shaping the character’s story (and thereby giving the other players something to go on when they’re offering suggestions) and allowing your pre-conceived assumptions about said character to be thrown out the window in an instant when the suggestions pull you in an entirely different direction.

I also gave this honey mojito recipe a try, improvising a cocktail shaker with two cups. (Can you tell I’m ready for summer?) Making a simple syrup out of honey completely opens the field for all kinds of cocktails I had previously dismissed as not being SCD-friendly. Time to start stocking the liquor cabinet…I see more games of Penny for My Thoughts in my future.

2013-04-13 penny mojito

Writing Lately

On the fitness front, yesterday I had an excellent 5k run at the gym. After three months, running is finally starting to feel natural. And my thighs and lungs have noticed.

A former colleague has self-published a post-apocalyptic zombie serial. If that toots your horn, the first book is available this week for free download on a variety of platforms. Writers gotta help out other writers, yo.

That said, focusing on my writing and throwing it out there to be published is another aspect of the self I am/self I want to become deficit I mentioned yesterday. Blogging is a step to writing more freely, more regularly. But I haven’t touched my creative writing for a while, and that’s where my writing could really use the practice. As an editor, I’m surrounded by other people’s words every day, and though they typically deal with the relatively dry topic of high school mathematics, there are still opportunities for creativity there. For the past three years, I have been gently coaxing flavor out of these 1,000+ page textbooks, quietly enlivening the problem scenarios to give students a bit more variety, a slightly spiced math education. It is no substitute for my own free reign of creative writing, but every small bit of exposure to words is another opportunity to amp up the skill set. Some days, I am reminded of John Ashbery’s “The Instruction Manual,” which begins:

As I sit looking out of a window of the building
I wish I did not have to write the instruction manual on the uses of a new metal.
I look down into the street and see people, each walking with an inner peace,   
And envy them—they are so far away from me!
Not one of them has to worry about getting out this manual on schedule.   
And, as my way is, I begin to dream, resting my elbows on the desk and leaning out of the window a little,
Of dim Guadalajara! City of rose-colored flowers!

And so it is that every poet, author, creative type dreams about the world beyond when they’re meant to be doing something else. Whether it is the internal, created world or a freely existing world depends on the writer. Usually it’s the former, that richly imagined wonderland where anything is possible. But for me it’s a bit of both—travel fans the writing flames.

Speaking of which, in a week I will be cruising the Caribbean with my parents. They leave today for their first cruise, then are piggybacking it with a second for which I’ll be joining them. Heat, ocean, sand: bring it! This spring has been arriving slowly; we are supposed to get snow today. I am hoping this jaunt satisfies the travel bug for a while and, at least temporarily, quiets the dreaming.