Huhns in Space

As you may have heard, that intrepid man-about-town Richard Branson has developed a spaceflight program for civilians, Virgin Galactic. Anyone who can cough up $200,000 is now eligible to venture into the great unknown. (The latest person to sign up was Ashton Kutcher. Don’t ask me; I have no idea.) (Side note: is anyone else concerned that nearly every member of VG’s official “Team” is touted as a leader of business or finance? Shouldn’t someone working on this program have, I don’t know, worn a space suit at some point in their lives?)

Anyway, you would think Virgin Galactic would be a perfect fit for my brothers and I, because even before we discovered we had an honest-to-God astronaut as a cousin (that’s him on the right, in the picture below), we were utterly transfixed by everything having to do with outer space. Astrophysics. The Final Frontier. Light years and black holes and strings, oh my.

And astronauts are frickin’ rock stars to us. Continue reading

On (Attempted) Writing

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Last week, I started reading Open, the autobiography of Andre Agassi. And, jeepers creepers.

This is by far the best sports bio I’ve ever read. Andre’s story is incredible, better than fiction. (The man hates tennis with a passion, always has. The reason he wound up doing it is heartbreaking.)

To write his story, Andre had the good sense to employ the Pulitzer Prize-winner J.R. Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar, the writer’s own exquisite memoir. According to the end-notes of Open, Moehringer moved to Las Vegas so he could work on the book full-time, meeting with Andre every day (for hours.) He also employed a research assistant and a fact-checker.

And it still took him two years to write the book.

This is the norm: the best and most successful authors pour thousands of hours into their projects. Laura Hillenbrand, author of the fantastically good (and wildly popular) Unbroken, which is still atop the hardcover bestseller lists more than a year after it was published, went nine years between her only two books – and she writes full-time, has no children, and, due to a chronic physical condition, rarely leaves her house. According to his memoir My Reading Life, Pat Conroy used to leave his small children for months at a time; he’d move to foreign countries to write in solitude. Even Stephen King, one of the most experienced and prolific writers in America, can spend a few years working full-time on a single novel. Continue reading

Changes – Mommyish

In 2006, my family changed dramatically – not just once, but twice.

That April, at the age of 35, I gave birth to my first baby, a beautiful boy who stole my heart and completely upended my life. That whole first year was a blur of broken nights, and days spent sitting on the couch in a daze, nursing my son and trying desperately to piece together exactly what I was supposed to do during the next five minutes…and then the five after that…and the five after that.

I was still in a saggy state of confusion when, less than three months after my son’s birth, my brother told me some startling news he’d just learned. He laid out the details matter-of-factly as I sat, gaping.

A couple of weeks ago, after posting my Grandma’s story on their website, the editors of Mommyish asked me to write a piece for them, about how it felt when I first learned the news. I hope you’ll join us here for the rest of the story…

My Swiftly Tilting Planet

On the Tuesday before Christmas, when my husband was on vacation, we took our boys to a water park, located at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville.

This is the place where they house the Spruce Goose and lots of other vintage aircraft, in two gigantic, glass-fronted hangars. Last June, the museum opened an indoor water park in a third hangar. There is a wave pool, a water feature for toddlers, a regular pool (complete with basketball hoops), and four huge swirly slides, which begin inside a hollowed-out, 328,000-pound 747, which is perched on top of the building.

Very cool.

Since our boys are only 3 and 5, hubby and I had to go down the slides with them (which meant I had to get into a bathing suit, which is not quite the jolly fun it once was. Alas.) During my first trip down the slides, I got a very strange, light-headed feeling. That’s weird, I thought. Since I had no other choice, I decided to ignore it.

So we kept going down the slides, and into the wave pool, and into a round section of the regular pool that has jets that shoot you around in a tight circle – hubby dubbed it the “toilet bowl.” All in all, it was a very fun day. The boys were in Heaven.

By 5:00 the next morning, I was in Hell. Continue reading

Monks with Brooms

The newspaper headline caught my eye last Thursday, because it sounded like the set-up to a late-night comedy sketch: “Monks brawl with brooms in Bethlehem.”

This has to be a joke, I thought. Just one year ago, I spent a couple of days with a group of monks, on a sort of silent retreat to a monastery deep in Oregon’s wine country. My monks were all beatific smiles and soft voices and gentle movements. Almost from the moment I set foot on their property, I felt all my worries being swept away in a flood of serenity.

Monks don’t go on rampages, I thought. Curious, I read on.

The story was no joke.

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Today I am guest-posting for one of my favorite bloggers, the great Karen Spears Zacharias. I hope you’ll join us there for the rest of the story...