Summer Updates

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated this blog. This summer has been a whirlwind of activity and I’m working on a couple of different things, so I’m playing catch-up with this post.

What I’ve been doing lately:

Every summer, I try to jump into as many natural bodies of water as possible. Pools are fine, but give me a Midwestern lake or river over a water-filled concrete hole any day. I spent a weekend with my family in Long Beach, Indiana, where I whiled away an afternoon bobbing along the surface of Lake Michigan, letting my toes drag over the sand. On another trip to the Chain O’Lakes in north-central Wisconsin, storms threatened to cut down on my swimming time and lent to a lazy day of pub-hopping and indoor board games. But one afternoon, the sky cleared up and the sun came out so we hopped aboard the pontoon boat, and even though it was only in the mid-60’s, I jumped in the lake. There’s something about swimming in a deep body of water where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, and you float along thinking of what kind of primal creatures might be swirling in the depths beneath your feet. My brother and I were the only ones in the water while the rest of my family stayed on the boat, and I paddled along as sunlight glinted off the surface of the lake and through the thick green trees, and it was heaven. These are the kind of days I dream about in late January when the icy winds howl around our cozy little house.

In the spring, I decided to give up on a novel that I had been working on. I was about 45 pages in, and the idea of my premise was no longer drawing me to the page. At the same time, I realized that a short story I recently started had enough teeth to sustain the length of a novel. Wah-wah-waahhhh. I abandoned my earlier project to a Google Drive folder of cast-off ideas, and now I’m humming along on my new premise, starting from scratch. I still have my first novel-length manuscript from 2014 sitting in a file, and the process of working on it taught me so much about my own creative process. I don’t look at bulk amounts of cast-off pages as a waste of time at all; they’re practice towards what will someday be a complete piece that I’ll be (hopefully) proud to share. Some projects tell you when they’re ready.

On the interwebs, I’ve been writing some other fun things:

  • Game of Thrones recaps for Heauxs, a pop culture site. Seriously, check them out–there’s tons of reviews and think pieces and travelogues written by some hilarious, intelligent, and incredibly talented people. Writing these weekly recaps is fulfilling all of my 2007-era Television-without-Pity dreams.
  • I performed a piece about ancestry and identity at Miss Spoken in July, and shared it over at Drinkers with Writing Problems.

Let’s see, what else… In pop culture, besides Game of Thrones, I’ve been obsessing over Twin Peaks: the Return, and catching up on Outlander. The former makes me want to revisit the Pacific Northwest, and the latter has me researching camping in Scotland. And speaking of camping, Kurt and I are going on a fall road trip to Acadia National Park, so I’ll be posting some new travel blogs in the near future. Send any Maine recommendations my way. We also have a canoeing trip coming up as well as a visit to the Ozarks, so I have a few more chances to jump into a lake before the end of the summer. I suggest you do the same.

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Summertime

I blinked and June  and July were gone. How is August almost over too?? I swear that summer just started. In a midwestern city where summer flies by so fast, we feel the need to be outside every single moment so as not to miss a precious drop of sunshine.

Remember when you were a kid and summer was the greatest time ever? Long days at the swimming pool, cruising town on bikes with friends, sprawling out in the backyard to look up at the moon while cicadas chirped a soundtrack to your most secret sleepover conversations–summer meant pure freedom. No school. No responsibilities. Even when I eventually had summer jobs as a teen, they were easy, carefree times. I’d scoop ice cream for a 4-hour shift before my friends came to pick me up from work so we could drive around, playing Alanis Morisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” on repeat and riding past boys’ houses.

As an adult with a full-time job and a mortgage, it’s hard to capture that delicious taste of summer freedom again. How do you fit in long, lazy weeks of bicycle-riding, dock jumping, keg beer drinking, and s’mores burning amidst the work week, the paying of bills, the doing of laundry, the running of errands that never go away? I used to have a co-worker who, every time I’d run into her and ask how it’s going, would reply “Same shit, different day.” That phrase perfectly describes the grind that is adulthood.

How do you make summer magical again? It’s all about catching the little moments when you can, as often as you can. You head out after work to the local street fest near your house to listen to a band and eat meat on a stick. You drive up to Wisconsin to spend 36 hours at a cabin to ride on a pontoon boat while drinking New Glarus before jumping out into the deep dark water in the middle of the lake, floating on a pool noodle and letting the sunshine beam down on your face. You go to a  giant music festival and sweat through the summer heat until the sun goes down, the night air soothing your sunburnt skin, and you share a spontaneous moment with tens of thousands of people when the headliner plays their biggest, most classic song, and you all sing along and feel the communal thrill of happiness over being present for this moment of time. You go canoeing with a few dozen friends, lazily floating down the river while drinking light summer beers and laughing at what everyone says, because everyone is hysterical when you have known each other for so many years and have a rich history of shared, hilarious stories. You let yourself float along the edge of the bank of the river, feeling the current tugging at your feet while a sun shower breaks out overhead, dappling the water all around you while warm raindrops bounce back up onto your face. You stand on the back porch of the house you bought and listen to the cicadas, the soundtrack to every summer of your Midwestern life, and remember the times you heard their chirps while riding around in your best friends’ Geo Metro listening to “Jagged Little Pill” so many years ago.