Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

The years (2012)

In 2012 I had a bunch of disappointing papers to grade right before the break, but then some time to lie around and read and generally enjoy the break before the Snork Maiden and I headed out to visit Stubb on the road and pick up a stomach bug.  I’m still amazed that he didn’t catch the same thing, considering that we were all sharing a hotel room and bathroom.  I put in some applications for things I didn’t end up getting, and I got ready to join the writing group that I guess I’ve belonged to for two years now.  I don’t get to go every time, but I have met some good writers and I did get great feedback when the group discussed my manuscript in August.  I also note that I submitted some poems, and that reminds me that I really should do some submissions this break, also.

The years (2010)

During winter break 2010, we took a trip to the Southwest that gave us time with PymFan and my aunt from Denver, who met us in Santa Fe. This was the first planned “vacation” the three of us had taken in I don’t know how long–maybe ever. We’d traveled a lot, but usually in connection with someone’s work or making visits to family. And the Snork Maiden and I had done some travel for pleasure, but without Stubb.  So this felt like a really significant winter break–and it was made possible in part by the predictability of the SA schedule, which had also become a shared schedule for the Snork Maiden and me (she started sixth grade at SA that year).  In my post about this trip, I also did a Reverb10 prompt, and rereading the results (“Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010”) made me go back and find Project Reverb in its current incarnation.  I should remember this for next year!

I reflected in that post that I had a really terrific group of freshmen that year, and those freshmen have now all finished up their first semesters of college.  Well, almost all–this fellow will be back from China in a couple of weeks; his college has a January term, so he won’t start until the end of the month.  Quite a few of his classmates dropped by school in the last days before this break.

On the road

The Snork Maiden and I leave early tomorrow for her music camp, so today is about Doing All the Things.  We’re supposed to go to a barbecue at the home of two of the trivia-team members later this afternoon; I’d love to leave two neatly packed suitcases and all the other things ready to go into the car.

Right now, I’m going to head to the library, pick up one book I have on hold, and find a couple of books on CD for the long drives.  I have my eye on A Tale of Two Cities, which I’ve never read, and on Will in the World, which I saw at a branch I don’t go to very often.  Tale of Two Cities also dovetails with the Snork Maiden’s European history curriculum for next year, but I don’t know whether she’ll be interested.

I still have five pending holds, but I think the chances are very small that they will come in while we’re away.  (There’s a penalty for not picking up your holds.)  They include Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (256 people ahead of me) and Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? (63 people ahead of me).  There are way more copies of The Goldfinch in the system, though.

(As you can probably guess, I’m back to reading.)

Through the looking-glass

Okay, here’s one other reason I’m sorry not to be going to AWP this year: I could really use a couple of days off on my own.  The routine is starting to get to me (even though we’ve really only just gotten back to it).  I’m tired of being the go-to person for everything in the household and everything the Snork Maiden needs.  She’s a pretty competent thirteen-year-old, but I do still need to tell her to put this in her backpack and put that away and clean this up and by the way did you practice?  Also, there are fits of teenaged pique and frustration and school drama.  I don’t mind any of these things individually, but the whole experience is just so much more manageable when there is another parent around to do some of the last-minute errands and the ferrying around and just generally to absorb the emotional excess.  Thank goodness that Stubb is accessible by phone and Skype and that schedules usually work out so that they can chat and reconnect most days.

I don’t see a weekend I could get completely off on my own for a while, but I’m wondering if I could manage 24 hours just by myself, at home, like maybe next Sunday?

There are, by the way, some really fantastic things about being on my own with the Snork Maiden.  We haven’t been having a lot of adventures, but we’ve been having a reasonably peaceful and pleasant time with some socializing and some experimenting around the home routines, especially with cooking.  I love driving to and from school with her, and I’ve been quietly pleased with her sense of competence and ownership around the things she does at school.  She still regrets not having a really close, trusted girlfriend, but she’s become quite friendly with a classmate who’s new this year, and her guy friends remain loyal.  And she’s been doing very well academically.

Wow!  As I was writing this post, the mom of one of her guy friends called to see if she wanted to join them on a top-secret adventure for the son’s birthday.  That means she’ll be out of the house for several hours on Sunday.  Golly–I’ll have to think about whether there’s a way to stretch that out.  Unfortunately, all the grandparents will probably be involved in watching the Super Bowl, so it might be hard to find someone to drop her off or pick her up–but I’ll see what I can come up with.

Where’d you go, Bernadette

This airport has a feature I’ve never seen before: two of the gates are served by a dedicated security line, and there isn’t much here on the other side except two gates and a coffee stand.  The dedicated security line wasn’t really any faster than the big ones, because it’s run by a very small staff, but it seemed friendlier.  If that’s what you like in your security lines, of course.

So there isn’t much to distract me on the post-security side as I wait to board the plane home.  I’ve been gone for thirteen days.  Since the Snork Maiden was born nearly thirteen years ago, I’ve only made one trip by myself that was anywhere near as long.  It’s a strange sensation being away from her for this length of time–the last few days in particular, I’ve really been eager to see her, even as I’ve enjoyed this trip immensely.  Stubb too, of course, but it’s different.  Also, he’s currently working out of town, a couple of hours away; she’s been there with him, and he’s bringing her home tonight, but then tomorrow he’ll head back, and we’ll see him intermittently for the next several weeks.

This trip has been wonderful–a really restorative combination of time alone, time with people I care about, time in places that have emotional resonance for me, and a small chunk of professional activity during which I got to improve my acquaintance with a couple of writers I’ve been very happy to get to know.  I LOVED IT.  I got quite a lot of writing done–my third book project feels much more situated now, and the second book project also feels fairly settled–I’m primed to send it to some new places this fall.  I did end up spending a shocking amount of money (for me) on hotel rooms, but I’m happy with my decision to do very little couch-surfing this trip.  I know that if I’d been staying with people, I wouldn’t have written anywhere near as much as I wrote staying in business-type hotels with nice workspaces (and free WiFi–which seems to be the standard now).  The very most expensive place I stayed was this, and wow, did I love it.  I only spent one night there, but I’d very happily live there for a week.  Maybe someone will give me a grant.  (Actually, that would be a great gimmick for this hotel, wouldn’t it–a writers’ residency?)

I’m not at all sure that I would have done any better at Yaddo or MacDowell, honestly.  I think that I’m probably more comfortable with either anonymity or the company of close friends than with the anxiety-inducing company of strangers, even if those strangers are also writers hunkering down to work.  PymFan and I have talked for years about doing a retreat together, which I think will work incredibly well if we are ever able to schedule and carry it out.

Oh!  And a highlight of the trip was breakfast with What Now? and a lovely leafy stroll around an Adventure City landmark.  So nice to see her for the first time in, what, seventeen years?–and to be so current with each other’s lives, thanks to the blogs, that we could just continue the conversation instead of spending half the time playing catch-up.

Boarding announcements are starting, so I’ll wrap this up.  Next week begins my NLNRU class and meetings for SA.

Eve of departure

Turns out that WorkFlowy does not beat paper for the traditional “stuff I have to do before leaving on a trip” list.  I need to be able to scribble, to reposition stuff, to make BIG CIRCLES around the important things, and to stuff the list in my pocket when I go out with canvas bags of library books, packages to mail, etc.  Otherwise, I still really like WorkFlowy.

Although I feel like I’ve done a LOT of planning for this trip, which involves several sub-journeys, two car rentals, and at least two train trips, it also feels like the most unscheduled trip I’ve had in years, because there are only a few parts I’ve completely pinned down.  I have hotel reservations or plans to stay with people (or a dorm room to sleep in, in the case of the conference I’m attending) for just five of the thirteen nights.  I’ve reserved the cars in the two places I want to have the use of a car, but haven’t bought the train tickets yet.

And I am surprisingly peaceful about this state of affairs.  I’d fantasized about having a little writers’-colony cabin in the woods, but instead I’m going to have a strangely unscheduled several days and a lot of solitude, which for me may be just as good, or even better.  I might blog more (blogging less you wouldn’t even notice).  See you soon.

Rocky mountain high

Happy new year!  I’ve been reading all my favorite bloggers’ reflections on 2011 and hopes and plans for 2012.  I have some of both, but I can’t sit in front of the computer for very long because just as I was getting up from kneeling over the suitcase I was packing for our Denver trip, I got a sudden flare-up of back/buttock pain that I think might be from my sacroiliac joint.  It’s better now, though still a bother; I’ll see how the next couple of days go, and if it’s not definitely improving now that we’re home, I’ll go to the doctor this week.

The Denver trip was fun anyway–I am so glad we made another winter break getaway, and I’m increasingly convinced that this needs to be an annual tradition.  Summers, as I observed a few months ago, are pretty cluttered around here.  The last two weeks of December, though, are quiet and slow and seem to be a good time to escape.  Last year, the effects of the complete change of the New Mexico trip–doing and seeing new things, reconnecting with people we don’t see enough, eating different food–lasted well into the new semester.  It still brings me pleasure to wear the bracelet and gloves I got on that trip and to think about the day and the place I bought them.

On this trip, we poked around Denver, made a day trip to Boulder and another to Winter Park, visited with a high-school friend of mine and his family, and spent a lot of time just hanging out with my aunt and cousin–watched a movie (Noises Off), played Pictionary and Scrabble, cooked (my aunt and the Snork Maiden made mini lemon souffles).  I think if I were fine-tuning the experience, I’d add in a day or two for the three of us to go off and have an adventure on our own, too, but for this trip I don’t think I would have wanted to give up any of the days we had.

I also had time to think about the year behind and the year ahead.  More on those during my next session of sitting!

The face of battle

Do you read Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s posts on writing and productivity on Inside Higher Ed?  Her current post on summer planning is catnip to me.  It’s funny, I’ve been ruminating, not to say perseverating, on the topic of summer work and balance for weeks now, and yet I haven’t really sat down to concoct a real plan, as she recommends setting aside 30-60 minutes to do. 

My summer charts of years past have tended to focus on blocking out the things that had to be done on or around certain dates and on trying to group them so that they left large chunks of time for my own work–but what I didn’t do much of was actually planning what to do with those large chunks of time.  I have never really thought of planning to finish a piece of creative work by breaking it down into tasks, as she recommends, but it is possible to create such a plan.  Even if the plan doesn’t perfectly match the actual process, it might keep me ticking along more steadily. 

Also, I have significant amounts of NLNRU project work this summer, most of which is relatively open-ended: progress needs to be made on several fronts, but there are few items that can just be finished and ticked off; most of these projects will be going on throughout the next academic year, some beyond.  There, too, I think creating task lists will help me progress–and, importantly, see the progress I make. 

Today I’m sitting down to grade exams for about an hour, and then I’ll hit the road to go and spend a little time with a writer who’s very special to me and who has given me scads of good advice in the past.  It’s a long drive–I think I’ll devote some mental time to this as I go, and when I stop during the drive to take a break, I’ll devote 30 minutes to the planning and see if I can get down to the level of individual tasks.  (Because, like so many of us, I love a list.)


I tried to post last night to say that I was waiting around to be one of the last people to board the airplane because I had forgotten to check in online, but the posting-from-phone thing wasn’t working. 

When I got on the plane, I took the first available seat, relieved that it was on an aisle, and not too disturbed that it was next to a young woman with a baby.  While in Denver, I had dinner at the home of one of my high school classmates, and his wife told me that when she flies with their one-year-old baby, the people sitting next to her never talk to her until the end of the flight.  Then–relieved, we assume, that the baby hasn’t spent the flight screaming or crying or spitting up–they start to chat with her as the plane is taxiing to the gate.  Being past the years of flying with a baby, I kind of understand this–knowing from experience how labor-intensive  it is to travel with a baby doesn’t always result in wanting to make human contact with someone else who is, for fear of getting sucked into the drama of the screaming or the vomiting or whatever.  I realize that makes me not the world’s nicest person, but anyway.  On the flight from Denver, though, both I and the woman on her other side chatted with this mom, and we all bonded over being mothers and it turned out that the third woman had been at AWP and that we’d even met before, at an event maybe seven years back, and the baby’s mother had gone to college at GU, so we all had a very nice and friendly flight. 

Oh, and the baby was charming.

It was a fun conference.  More on that later–lots to do before going back to school at SA and NLNRU tomorrow.


I’ve got to get my act together for AWP.  Thursday is the registration deadline, for one thing.  I do have a hotel room, having booked it months and months ago, and will be sharing it with my friend Midwest Writer.  NLNRU is paying my expenses (yay!), so I don’t have to make the case to Starfleet Academy for the funds, only for the time off.  (I could use personal days, I suppose, but I’d rather have this considered a professional absence.)  I also need to plan the next several weeks enough so that my classes can be doing something useful while I’m away.  Got to get to all of this soon, like today.