Saturday, February 14, 2015

AFTER THE WRITING CLASS

If nothing else wonderful or even particularly good happens to me this year, I won't mind, because I took Maria Semple's writing class. (My last post on January 26th was the night before the class started, and I apologize for this late follow-up).

Maria Semple's hilarious and smart novel Where'd You Go, Bernadette? has been close to my heart ever since I read it 2013. I was excited to see she was teaching a class at Hugo House, the writing center here in Seattle. I've been taking classes for there for past four years in a sort of do-it-yourself writing education.

I'm reading it again and it's still super


The intensive novel-writing class sold out in a blink and I ended up on the wait list. I was lucky to get a spot in the class five days before it started. I managed to get through a giant stack of reading in those five days, and then I managed to be in the class Tues-Friday from 9:30 to 3. It was no small feat for me. In fact, it was the biggest schedule commitment I've had since coming down with Lyme.

Yes, I was a puddle by the time I made it home at 3:30. It was all I could manage to take care of my dog Cleo and get myself turned around to be ready for the next day. It took me the rest of following weekend to get my body back in balance.

It was worth all of it, and then some. Maria filled the room with her giant, generous, funny personality. That alone would have made it worth it, but she was also an excellent teacher. She also knew her writing craft backwards and forwards. I learned more than I imagined I ever would in four days.

I feel like I should somehow go on for the rest of this blog post with endless superlatives about Maria and her class but it's enough to say that, given how Lyme puts limits on what I can do and where I can travel (meaning, mostly nowhere), the class turned out to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. Despite how crummy I was feeling the Saturday after the class, I managed to sit down for a couple hours to start my novel. I've been working on it every day since, as I'm sure I will be for quite some time to come. It's making me tremendously happy.

Monday, January 26, 2015

LITERARY MARATHON

In December I tried to sign up for a writing class with beloved Seattle author Maria Semple, only to be waitlisted. The first fifteen spots were gone in the first hour of class registration at Hugo House (the city's literary center). So I signed up for the waiting list.

I learned last Wednesday that a spot opened up. I could take the class after all! The class starts tomorrow, Tuesday. Last Friday all the reading for the class came spewing into my inbox. Some 200 pages. Ten pages from the 14 other students in the class, requiring my constructive comments, and a sample of other writing selected by our teacher. I had three days.

I never thought I'd read it all, but I finished in time. This morning, actually. I felt triumphant! This afternoon I had to take a longer nap than usual.

Now comes the bigger challenge: being at class from 9:30 to 2:30 or later, four days in a row. This is the absolute biggest thing I've done, in terms of continuous time commitment, since I came down with Lyme. I am a little apprehensive, but mostly excited. Will keep the blog posted!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

EVERYONE TAKING CARE OF EVERYONE

The Invalid, Wolfgang Heimbach

I am  home in DC visiting my parents over Christmas and New Year's, an extended visit of a few weeks. My father's recently had a major operation (the Whipple surgery) because he was high-risk for pancreatic cancer. The recovery is harrowing. He's in pain, it's hard for him to eat, he's lost wait to point of looking like an entirely different person.

Still, it was a good Christmas, with my young nieces and nephew cavorting through the house, and the grown-ups lingering in conversation at the dinner table, and my dad cheering up considerably as the days went by.

Now the rest of the family's departed, leaving me and my parents, and some extra germs. My mom and I have both come down with a nasty bug my niece and sister-in-law were just getting over when they arrived.

Also there are the two dogs: high energy Cleo and aging Kramer, who is quickly coming un-house-broken. Among this group of humans and animals, we all (except for perhaps Cleo) need some kind of special help.

So we're making each other cups of tea, cooking up chicken stock, encouraging each other to take naps, and discussing which nutritional supplements are the most palatable. My father bravely endures an episode of pain while I, still a little flu-ish, load the dogs into the car and take them to the dog park so my mom can get a break from taking Kramer out. None of us wants more pee on the carpet.

When my dad's not in pain, he tidies up the kitchen and takes Kramer on short walks. My mom does the laundry, because my mold allergy is too severe for me to go into the basement laundry room. I do as many dishes as possible, thinking always of the countless dishes my parents did when I lived here, during the endless years (in reality five) I lay in bed with undiagnosed Lyme disease. (I can never do enough dishes to repay them for all they did for me.)

My father seems to almost prefer getting through his periodic bouts of pain on his own, but afterwards he wants to talk about what's happening to him, how he's juggling tiny meals and antibiotics and oxycodone (which he hates taking), not to mention a drainage tube sticking out of his side to help clear a post-surgical infection. So I sit and listen, wishing there were more I could do.

We all help Kramer get up and down the stairs. She wants to go up and down the stairs, far more than we want her to, because she gets confused and stops halfway up or down, unable to take another step and squeaking in senile distress. Someone walking alongside her solves this. We trudge up and down the stairs with her, giving her words of encouragement. And when Kramer has an accident despite all the trips outside, my mom patiently cleans the carpet.

Life is suffering, I can't help thinking. Maybe not all the time, the way Buddha declared, but a large part of it. Samsara slapstick. And when another day of samsara is done we sit down to dinner, transported to another, more glamorous world of suffering, a film noir starring Bogart and Bacall.