Tag Archives: Holidays

Let the Word Go Forth From This Day Forward:

President’s Day is NOT a trash pick up holiday in Chicago. Why doesn’t the Department of Streets & Sanitation have its holiday schedule on its website? We go through this every frakking year, running out as the truck lumbers up the street, moving both cars and hauling the cans out in a hot hurry through the snow. At least we made it this time.

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Happy Valentine’s Day To You — Now Get Shaking.

First, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day. I hope you started the day as beautifully as the Siren and I did: our 6-year-old son marched into our bedroom at 7:30 holding an oversized birthday card one of us received last year, and opened it wide so that the sound chip played The Chicken Dance at top volume. Romance lives in the Unfocused household. With that rousing call to wake, I wished the Siren — the love of my life — a happy Valentine’s Day, and we hid under the covers until the children went downstairs and we realized they were making their own breakfast — yay Montessori-trained self-reliant older kids! — with the milk that had gone bad but was still in the fridge (because we weren’t absolutely sure it had turned) and I had to run down to the kitchen and dump the cereal out of their bowls.  Good times.

I had my first full 10 mile outdoor run in weeks? months? this morning. There’s just enough ice on the ground to make it hard to really pick up the pace, and wearing enough layers to make a run in 17-degree weather comfortable slows me down too, but I was glad to be outside. One of the podcasts I listened to on the run was Escape Pod #237, “Roadside Rescue” by Pat Cadigan.  It’s a very short story, very cool and thought-provoking, like a lot of her work. Cadigan gave me nightmares my senior year of college with a short story about an alternate history where the 1968 presidential election went so much worse than it did here, and what happened to the country after. I can’t remember the title or find it easily online, but it was published around 1990 or 1991 in either Asimov’s or Analog. I was a political science major in college, and I wrote probably half a dozen papers on either the ’68 election or the careers of candidates who ultimately ran for President in that election, and the story sank its claws deep into my brain.  I haven’t read a lot of her work since then, but now I’m planning to go back and catch up on everything I missed.

Getting Back Into The Swing of Things.

How much swinging do things actually do, anyway? Are we talking about Thing, The Thing, or Thing One and Thing Two? And is this any way to open up my first blog post in three weeks? Probably not.

Happy New Year. I hope your holidays rocked. I missed most of Hanukah with the kids because of travel for work, but we did dance the Horah to Bare Naked Ladies at least one night, and got the candles lit a few times. I did manage to teach the kids the dreidel game, which they enjoyed for about five minutes until I heard Junior complain that Unfocused Girl “gets all the gimmels, and I keep getting nun!” That ended fast.

Things at the job quieted down over Christmas, but of course, just as things slowed down for me at work, the Siren‘s commitments ramped up, from finishing her NaCoBakMo cookie baking (which was very successful, thank you to those who participated), to directing the Sunday school Christmas pageant at her church. She managed it all with her usual combination of sleep-deprivation and almost frightening competence, and at approximately 4:15am Christmas morning, everything was finally done.  Starting two and a half hours later, we had a lovely Christmas. We were even able to take a few days up in Wisconsin over New Year’s.

I made no progress on the novel in December after Dec. 2. I should have been able to get a fair amount done in the week before Christmas while the Siren was sewing, blogging, and baking until the wee hours every night, but I think I’d hit the end of the mental road and it was all I could do to spend hours screwing around on Facebook and Twitter. The entire second half of December felt like an extended adrenaline crash that I’m just started to get through.

I’m determined to make some progress on Breezeway Blows Town in January, even if it kills me. I’ve done Write or Die once or twice since New Year’s, which helps.  Yesterday, I sat down to write, and it took me four hours to write 600 words. I didn’t have any problems with the words coming, I just couldn’t keep my ass in my chair, and when I was seated in front of the keyboard I kept checking FB, Twitter, email, etc. Lucky for me, the kids were perfectly happy in the basement having an impromptu Ultraman marathon in their underwear (don’t ask me why; the basement is awfully damn cold, even with the gas fire going), and the Siren was sewing more doll clothes, so nobody cared what I was doing.

I managed a little better today, just over 500 words in less than two hours, including an hour-long nap when I fell asleep after the first 72 words. I was less distracted by social media and more by legitimate, if unnecessary at this stage, Internet research. Not fast, but it beat my performance yesterday.

In order to get our NaNoWriMo writing chops back, my NaNo buddy John Mierau and I have made a solemn pact to write every day for the remainder of the month. Even if I only manage 500 words a day, that’s more than 10,000 words added to Breezeway by January 31, bringing me that much closer to finishing the first draft. More important, it will get me back into the habit of daily writing, which is the only way to get this done. Even more important than that, it will give me an excuse to taunt John on Twitter on a regular basis. By the way, if you’re not listening to his podcast of his short fiction, you’re missing out.

I’m more than halfway through the story I’m trying to tell in Breezeway, and I’m still amused by it, even if no one else will be. Meet the Larssons was interesting in its own way, but it never gave me the opportunity to write anything like this:

“They’re moving!” Frankie shouted.  The car leapt forward into traffic as he mashed the accelerator.  The side of the Crown Vic scraped along the front bumper of the beige minivan, with a tooth-rattling grind.

“Fuck!” Luca shouted.  Tony twisted around and saw the pimp had spilled his mocha frappucino all over himself and the back seat of the Vic.

Tony snarled and yanked the gun out of his pocket, ripping the lining.  With his left hand, he mashed down the power window button and fumed for the 2.75 seconds it took for the window to open.

See what I mean? Meet the Larssons got way too heavy.  Breezeway is still just plain fun, the way I meant it to be.

I thought about writing a 2009 wrap up, and maybe I will, but right now I’m really looking forward to 2010. I’m going to finish the first draft of Breezeway soon, hopefully before spring, then move on to revisions. I have plans for my running, which I’ll talk about separately. And I just started watching Firefly, which I downloaded from iTunes. I’ve never seen it before, and series opener, at least was fantastic.

I’m back in that comfy chair and I’m falling asleep again. Better hit PUBLISH before it’s too late.

Spring Sunday Stats #8: Staring Over the Edge at 40.

It’s Memorial Day, in memory of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and others who have died for our country, including the 4300 Americans who have died in Iraq.

My father came in from NYC on Thursday and stayed until lunchtime today, his longest visit since I moved to Chicago for college in 1987.  We had a great time; the highlight of the weekend was the long afternoon at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  He’s retiring at the end of June, and I hope that this is just the first of many longer trips.

I had a very frustrating week (starting with the Sunday/Monday Frequest Flyer Fail), but seriously, what else is new?  The work piled on, and I seemed utterly unable to get anything actually accomplished, just felt like I was on a treadmill from hell.  Thankfully, it was a short week.  I worked at home on Friday, and managed to get a few open loops closed out before the weekend.  This post is late enough, so let’s go straight to the stats.

On Writing: Between work and my father’s visit, I wrote next to nothing, just 150 words in Project Hometown on the train home from work on Thursday.  I did write my piece of a viral story yesterday, maybe 200 words, which was fun.  I’m not sure if today counts as part of the past week, but since it’s a holiday, I’ll claim it; I wrote 362 words in Project Hometown this afternoon.  The total is now 4,422 words.  I think that’s far enough along to post a meter.

I’ve been sitting on “Jimmies,” and need to get it out.  I also had an idea for a new short story last week — a time travel story I like much better than the last time travel idea I had — and may take a shot at that sometime soon as well.

On Running: 20.5 miles for the week, best in months.  I dealt with my frustration by running early Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, even though I was exhausted.  Not long runs, just 3.75 miles each, but that got me 11.25 miles during the week, plus 9.25 miles on Sunday at a respectable 1:19:32, or 8:35 min/mile.  A great long run, much better than the last few weeks.

This weekend, I registered for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago this October, a 10.5 mile race with a handful of obstacles thrown in to make it interesting (climbing over a wall, running up and down the stairs at Soldier Field, scrambling over parked taxis, etc.).  This is the third year the race has been held in Chicago; I’ve registered each time, but both of the last two years have had to blow it off for work.

This year I was confronted with something new:  For the first time, when confronted with the question “Age on race day” I had to answer “40.”  In seven weeks, I’ll be in a whole new age group.    So long, 35-39!  Luckily, Mike is doing the Urbanathlon too, so if I collapse on the course someone will notice and call the Siren.

I also signed up for the World Wide Half Marathon, part of the World Wide Festival of Races, also in October.  This is a virtual race series — everyone runs on the same weekend, but separately – which started with the Half Marathon in 2006 as an idea spread through the Phedippidations podcast.  It’s a lot of fun.

What I haven’t done yet is register for one of the nearby half marathons in June. Gotta get off my ass and deal with that.

That’s enough of this. I’m going to watch Lego Cake or Death again.  We’ve watched it about 10 times this weekend with the kids.

Finishing Off 2008. Good Riddance.

Projects undertaken in the Unfocused household in the waning days of 2008:

  • I made a shield for Unfocused Girl’s impromptu Athena costume, using a cardboard cake circle and duct tape.
  • Mrs. Unfocused hung Unfocused Girls’ giant paper mache sea creatures from the ceiling of the kids’ room.
  • I started a new short story, because I need a break from outlining Project Hometown and I wasn’t at my desk to work on the revisions of Meet the Larssons.
  • Mrs. Unfocused made a quickie Bolt birthday cake for Junior.  No pictures — I’ll post photos of the more elaborate one she’ll make for his birthday party in a couple of weeks.
  • We learned to play two of the games the kids got from Santa:  Clue, Jr., and the Scooby-Doo Haunted House 3D board game.
  • I started teaching Unfocused Girl how to play chess.
  • I made Junior cry by capturing one of his pieces when he demanded that I teach him chess, too.

We don’t have any particular plans for tonight — we’ll probably watch a movie with the kids, stage a fake countdown around 9pm, go outside and make some noise, then put them to bed and go back downstairs to have some champagne.  Or some more champagne.

Happy New Year to you and yours, and here’s hoping 2009 is a better year overall than 2008 has been.

Merry Christmas. Now I’m Ready for Your Stinkin’ Zombies.

The Mrs., who loves me and knows me all too well after more than 20 years together, put a box with this and this under the tree for me.  I am now ready for your basic zombiepocalypse, Obsidian blackout, or sudden change in the laws of physics.

Not to mention clearing out shrubbery and those annoying maple saplings that pop up by the compressors for the A/C every spring.

Here’s hoping you got something really useful for your gift-giving holiday of choice, and that you have a happy and healthy 2009, and that no one tries to eat your brain.

Stalking Santa.

NORAD tracks Santa. We love this.

Adam Sandler Still Rocks.

I’m too tired to post anything meaningful, so instead, I give you a live performance of a holiday classic:

Chappy Chanukah, everyone.

A Rejection. A Submission. More Outlining. No Editing. TGIF!

Just a quick update tonight.  Another rejection slip in today’s mail:  “Jimmies” was rejected by one of the big three pro magazines, the only one of the three that I thought would want it.  I spent a while this evening combing through my bookmarks of submission guidelines and finally made up my mind to send it to a semi-pro journal that I like; the editor rejected TTB a couple of months ago, but that hardly makes him unique.

I’ve just about finished writing the synopses of the story for Project Hometown from the viewpoints of each of the major characters.  According to the Snowflake Method (link on the sidebar under “On Writing”), the synposes are supposed to be one page for each of the major characters, and half a page for the minor characters.  That didn’t work for me; of the four major characters, the synopses are approximately 1200, 350, 750, and 900 words.  I’ll have to try harder for the minor characters to keep to a limit, or I’ll be dealing with them through the end of the year.  After I finish the character synposes, the next step is to go back and expand the overall plot synopsis.

No revisions this evening due to exhaustion, researching where to submit “Jimmies,” and (most important) much needed & wanted catching up with Mrs. Unfocused — it’s the first night since Sunday we’ve both been home all evening.  This evening she noticed I got a haircut.  I got it on Wednesday.

Tomorrow’s Saint Lucia Day, which means Unfocused Girl and Mrs. Unfocused bring up coffee and cinnamon rolls for us all to have in bed.  I love Swedish holidays!  Happy Saint Lucia day!

Saltwatch 2008-09:  Days after Dec. 1 without seeing a City of Chicago salt truck:  12.  The good folks at Chicagoist have been on this story for a while (here’s a link to a recent post about my Alderman ripping Mayor Daley a new one, which I’m glad to see, even though I disagree with his proposal to raid the Midway privatization funds to fund snow removal).  As a commenter said earlier this week, apparently Daley’s snow removal plan is to wait until Sunday, when it’s supposed to go up to the high forties, so the snow will simply melt.  Long-term, we can all just wait until June before leaving our houses.

Fall Sunday Stats #8: Long Weekend.

Miles run driven: 1610, round trip.  After a great Thanksgiving dinner with old friends, we spent most of Thanksgiving weekend in Brooklyn, in my old neighborhood.  Park Slope was on a gentrifying, yuppifying trend when I left in 1987, and it has continued on the same path since, which means it has MUCH better restaurants than when I left.

I am proud to say that even though the yuppie sports bar (which my little group of juvenile delinquents always called “The Fern Bar” in a tone that was positively dripping with disdain) is still open and was only a block from the apartment we rented, we didn’t eat there.  I remember swearing an oath in blood with several of my friends that we would never give The Fern Bar our custom, once we were 21 and old enough to get in.  I kept my part of the bargain.

Instead, I showed the kids the house I grew up in (from the outside), the pizza place I used to go to, and various places I used to hang out.  The kids put up with my blathering on about my childhood with good grace; they were just happy to see their grandpa and try a few new things.

Much to my daughter’s chagrin, she and Junior liked New York pizza a lot — perhaps even better than Chicago pizza, which caused me to laugh maniacally in the middle of the Smiling Pizzeria.  They liked the park and the little local bookstore with the feline-in-residence.  And the place that sold Smurfs back in the day now has entire walls covered with Thomas the Tank Engine products (I did find one Smurf on a shelf of unboxed figurines for sale; I think it was Sultry Smurf, but I’m not sure.  Mainly, they liked the big park.

On the last day before we left, we went into Manhattan to meet my mother; before we went uptown to the Museum of Natural History, the Mrs. suggested we take the kids to Forbidden Planet, the science fiction/comic book store where I used to blow all my free cash.  I didn’t argue, and Junior and I had a great time; Unfocused Girl was less impressed, although she ended up with some good stuff, including a Thor graphic novel (and since Junior can’t read, all the comics that he asks for end up inuring to her benefit, too).

I think they liked seeing where I grew up, even though they didn’t like the crowds and I rambled on a bit long a few times.  Probably the thing I said that caused the most consternation was my description of stickball, which we used to play in the street, since they know that if I caught them playing anything in the street, they would be in serious trouble.

How about the writing? I have finished my edits of “Jimmies,” and expect to submit it this week.  I plan to start revisions of Meet the Larssons, but I have (surprise) to go out of town for work for several days this week and may not get much done until the weekend.  Blah.