October 18, 2018

It’s a different date every year. It’s an ending, with no sense of finality. In my 59 years, it has only come once with no hint of regret attached. Another baseball season has come to a close, this year a mere seven wins too short for my beloved boys of summer.

It’s time to dismantle the shrine to the baseball gods and to hang the Halloween banner out front. It’s time for a celebration, an end-of-season gathering with our fellow season tickets holder friends. It’s time to finish up this year’s crackerjack panel for the world’s ugliest blanket and stash it in the drawer with the previous three.

AND….

It’s time to start looking ahead. What will the team look like next year? Who will stay and who will go? Will they sell fried mac and cheese at the ballpark again next year?

The teams will be assembling at Spring Training in less than four months. Every team will begin the season tied for first. Every fan will believe, “This could be the year.” Oh, if only we could restart other parts of life on such equal footing, with such a clean slate. Maybe that’s the ultimate appeal of baseball.

 

 

 

Young Jane Young

janeThere are some lessons that I need to learn repeatedly. Here’s one: don’t underestimate author Gabrielle Zevin.

I first became acquainted with Zevin thru her young adult novels. Elsewhere, about dying and grieving and an alternate earth where people go when they die. It is better than that sentence makes it sound, although it was Zevin’s first novel and her skills as a novelist have improved. Memoir of a Teenage Amnesiac, about a high school girl who falls and hits her head and can’t remember the past few years of her life. Naomi essentially gets to rewrite her life in the middle of high school. Makes us adults wonder what we would have done with that opportunity. And then the Birthright or Anya Ballanchine trilogy, beginning with All These Things I’ve Done. In a near future America, chocolate and caffeine are illegal and Anya Ballanchine is the 16-year-old daughter of a Russian mob boss that controls the chocolate trade in New York City. Think prohibition, but with chocolate instead of alcohol. Think the cocaine trade, but with Mexican cocoa suppliers instead of Colombian drug cartels. The thing that made this series young-adult is the age of the heroine which necessitated the coming-of-age storyline and love interests, but I really thought this series should have enjoyed more cross-over success with adult readers. Zevin’s young adult novels just kept getting better, the plots got tighter, the characters became more believable, and she continued to be willing to play with style and form, to great effect.

The development of her talents is equally on display with her novels for adults. I have yet to go back and read her first book, Margarettown, but her second one, The Hole We’re In was a bit of a disappointment for me. It felt like Zevin was trying too hard to prove she could write for adults. The Pomeray family struggles with every hot-button issue in America at the time of the book’s publication: the credit crunch, the Iraq war, abortion, religion, affairs, illegal drugs. Then came Zevin’s breakthrough novel in 2014, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.  AJ Fikry owns a small bookstore in a tourist town on the east coast. He has never really recovered from the death of his wife, and is struggling to make a go of the bookstore, but the power of love and the power of books ensure a happy ending. My comments immediately after reading: “Charming,” and “How could this sappy former bookseller not love this one?” Fikry became a darling of independent bookstores, their customers, and bookclubs, and spent several months on the NY Times bestseller list. Zevin found success with a tighter plot, narrower focus, and likeable characters. Yes, the book is charming, but it is better than that, too.

Young Jane Young is Zevin’s latest work, which I just finished this morning. Aviva Grossman is a college student and intern on a political campaign when she has an affair with a Florida Congressman. The sex scandal and sexist scandal is told through the stories of five women. It is timely yet timeless, serious yet amusing. The story could stand on its own, with its ripped-from-the-headlines aspect and excellent plotting, but Zevin writes the heck of this book. The women relating each of the five sections feel unique and authentic. She effectively uses emails to help nail down the voice of a teenager and her gimmick (for lack of a better word) in the last section really helps bring the novel home.

There are probably better lines, truths, quotes from the book, but here’s the one that I had to stop and mark while I was reading (which is even better in context): “I believed a mother must act like the woman she wanted her daughter to become.”

Young Jane Young. It sounds somehow trivial. The cover looks like chick-lit (not that there’s anything wrong with chick-lit!) A political sex-scandal? Not interested. Sure her last book was charming, but books and bookselling is low hanging fruit for this reader. When will I learn? Don’t underestimate Gabrielle Zevin. I’m ready for her next one.

 

 

Simple isn’t enough

I interrupt my regularly scheduled simple pleasure post to announce that I purchased a reusable plastic cup with my Starbucks on my way home to be mesmerized by yet another unprecedented environmental disaster as it unfolds on live TV. And now, quite frankly, I feel like shit. Simple acts are just not going to cut it. #hurricanemichael #hopeless #unclimatereport #vote

The Hobbyist

It’s time to reframe my life.

I’ve stumbled across a lot of stuff about hobbies lately. A post by a person who wants to find a hobby but is afraid they will be bad at it, articles about why hobbies are good for you and how to cultivate them, a blog by a writer who is learning to focus on the ONE thing instead of spreading themselves thin, and more. The more I read, the more I realize…I got this.

I used to lament that I didn’t have any true passions, no hobbies or interests that I wanted to totally immerse myself in. I even struggled (not particularly successfully) to find ways to keep the daughters from this fate. The story of my life is that I know a little about a lot, and I do a lot of things very averagely. Now, I finally realize that I am really good at one thing and that the story of my life will be titled “The Hobbyist.”

Note: A quick search for books titled “The Hobbyist” came up with two hits. Both books are about sex addicts. If I’m naive about some slang meaning of the word ‘hobbyist’ then I’m just gonna claim a kavanaugh. Impeach me. 

It’s been a long time since I had a job that contributed anything financially significant to my life. Certainly raising the daughters and keeping the household running (well enough) was/is a legit job, but I am often asked, and was in fact asked just last week, “what do you do all day?” I never have a good answer. I say that I play racquetball and that I volunteer at a school sometimes, but I hate feeling like I have to defend myself and account for 8-10 hours a day that other people aren’t asked to account for. Enough I say! This is how it’s going down the next time:

Unsuspecting Someone: What do you do all day?

Me: Oh, I have lots of hobbies.

Unsuspecting Someone: Such as?

Me: I’m a reader. I don’t read huge numbers of books and I read across many genres. I’ll talk to you about books, but I might not remember titles, authors, or plots with any detail. I think books are essential home decor. I’m a writer. I have no aspirations to create anything greater than my little blog. You’re welcome to read it, but you probably aren’t interested. I don’t write about anything in particular. I’m a racquetball player. I’ve been playing for a gazillion years but I never practiced enough to get better than average. It’s fun and I have no desire to play more often or with stiffer competition. I’m a gardener. You might not realize this by looking at my yard. I enjoy puttering with plants, watching them live and die. No, I don’t want to hire the neighbor boy to cut my grass, I actually kind of enjoy mowing the lawn. I’m a knitter. Sweaters are really hard, it’s much easier to buy one, it will probably fit better. I do make things for other people, but not necessarily what they want me to make for them. Lately I’ve knit scarves and blankets and stuffed animals. Sometimes I knit things and just put them in a donation box going to the thrift store. I’m a birdwatcher. I watch birds, I don’t keep a life list of birds I’ve seen. I put birdfeeders and birdbaths in the yard and I watch them get used. I can identify some birds by sight, no birds by song, and there are many that I still refer to as LBJ’s (little brown jobbers.) I am a puzzle and game enthusiast. I do jigsaw puzzles and word puzzles. I play computer games and board games and card games. I’m not necessarily out to discover new games and puzzles, I like playing the same ones over and over. I’m a dog owner. You might not consider this a hobby, but it is something I enjoy and that I have chosen to do and that can take up a lot of time. Is it a hobby if I called it being a dog trainer? I’m a sports fan. Specifically I follow the Houston Astros, the Dallas Stars, and Purdue basketball, but my casual fandom seemingly knows no bounds. Those are most of my current hobbies. How about you? What are your hobbies?

You don’t have to be good at a hobby. You don’t have to achieve goals with a hobby. You don’t have to create anything lasting with a hobby. It doesn’t have to be the only thing you do, and you can start and stop doing it whenever you want. It isn’t something you have to get better at, it’s just something you should enjoy. From now on, I’m saying it loud and I’m saying it proud: I am a hobbyist.