It’s still January (barely) so there’s still time for me to make some New Year’s Resolutions, right?
This year, I want to:
- Go to the gym at least 10 times per month
- Finish my scene-by-scene outline for the second draft of Coven Hill
- Finalize all of the backgrounds for episode one of Rise of the Hidden Sun
- Finish up the episode one animation sequences, too
- Take the kids to Europe, if our finances allow it
- Completely redo my online travel writing portfolio
- Organize the family photos dating back to 2007
- Repaint at least half the rooms in our house
So there: Some creative stuff, some around-the-house stuff, and a couple of personal or family enrichment goals.
I’ll let you know how I did when next January rolls around.
So 2011 is finally here, but before I put 2010 completely behind me, I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass to take a few minutes to reflect on the year that was. In a nutshell: Last year began badly but ended well, and in-between there were many little trials and triumphs.
The story of 2010 really begins with the end of 2009. I’ll never forget that Christmas Eve, alone in my living room watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” after Penny and the kids had gone to sleep. The mysterious back and abdominal pain that had plagued me all through 2006 and 2007 had returned, and it was joined by a new and even more disabling pain in my arms and wrists. I had to take an extended leave from work, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to return, let alone live a normal life. The doctors I saw seemed to have no clue. Things felt very bleak, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” (cheesy though it is) stirred up all kinds of emotions in me about my life, my personal goals, and what would happen to my family if I didn’t get better. So it was a difficult time for me.
I muddled through the early part of the year at home and work, just tryintg to “get by,” and I bounced from doctor to doctor at Lahey Clinic and Tufts Medical Center without any relief. They threw all kinds of potential diagnoses at me, a couple of them pretty scary, and I rang up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. But there was nothing definitive and no real prescriptive course for how I could get better.
But then I went for another opinion, this time at Massachusetts General Hospital, and things quickly and thankfully began to turn around.
Within weeks, MGH had gotten to the bottom of many of the problems I’ve had for years. Two badly misaligned joints—the sacrum and the pubic symphysis, if you’re at all interested—were the original cause of my lower body pain, and could be easily fixed. (Somehow a legion of doctors, including orthopedists and osteopaths who really should have known better, had missed this over the years.) The other half of the equation was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome—basically some nerve compression around my shoulders—which accounted for much of the arm and wrist pain. It was brought on by my body overcompensating in other areas for years and years.
Since September of 2010 I’ve been going to physical therapy twice a week and doing stretching and strengthening exercises at home, and I’m already feeling much better. But because I was compensating for pain all over my body caused by the misaligned joints, it’s now a longer slog toward getting completely better than it would have been if this had all been discovered years ago, as it should have been. It’s a great start, though, and for the first time in a while I’m actually hopeful. It feels good.
Meanwhile, the world turns, the kids keep growing, and life goes on. Here are some of the highlights of 2010:
I guess you could call 2010 the “Year of the Tornado” for Ethan. My three-year-old has fallen in love with wild weather. Tornados, specifically, but lightning storms and hurricanes, too—any kind of extreme natural phenomenon, really.
It took me three weekends and two failed attempts, but I somehow built a 144-square-foot outdoor movie screen for the back yard and my third annual Outdoor Movie Night. This year we screened “The Princess Bride” with about 30 friends. It was awesome, but I have even bigger plans for 2011.
Shortly after I got into the physical therapy program at MGH, I was able to start working, slowly, on the second draft of my novel. It still needs a lot of work, but that’s another area where I have bigger plans in 2011.
Ethan started pre-school three days a week, and he loves it.
I took the kids to the family cabin in Maine, by myself, for the first time while Penny was at a conference in Texas. I love it up there. Happy to say the kids do, too.
We vacationed at a rental house near Balch Lake, New Hampshire, over the Fourth of July, with Penny’s parents. Great time. Ethan learned to fish.
I made it to two Patriots game this year, both wins. My first Monday Night Football game: Patriots 45, Jets 3.
We took the kids to their first hockey game, a victory by my beloved Merrimack Warriors!
We totally gutted our basement and added 500 square feet of finished living space: a TV room, play room, laundry room, bathroom, and office.
On the career front, I didn’t do much writing, but one article that I co-authored was picked up for syndication by several national media outlets, including Yahoo, which put it on its homepage for a day. It was a fun story to write, too.
The year ended with a trip to upstate New York to visit family and see Niagara Falls. Ethan’s excitement alone was worth the nine-hour drive.
A few other odds and ends:
The best book I read this year was “In the Woods” by Tana French (followed closely by French’s “The Likeness” and “Faithful Place”). Other enjoyable books: “The Passage” by Justin Cronin; “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann; “The Monster of Florence” by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi; “World Made by Hand” by James Howard Kunstler; “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss; and “Hotel Pastis” and “A Good Year” by Peter Mayle. I also finished re-reading Tad Williams’ “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn,” which has to be one of the top five epic fantasy series ever written.
It’s hard to believe, but I only got the movie theater twice in 2010, and that was to see “Avatar” and the Disney movie “Tangled” with Ethan and his cousins. Best movie I saw on DVD was “The Kids Are All Right.”
Favorite TV show: “The Walking Dead” on AMC. Also good: “Fringe,” “Castle,” “Life Unexpected,” and “Modern Family.”
And I think that’s a wrap on 2010! Here’s to a healthy, happy, and productive 2011.
So, where was I?
Oh, that’s right—totally AWOL from my own blog for the past 16 months, that’s where! I’m not one for excuses or anything, but in my defense I have been busy. I mean, really busy. Like, oh, Penny and I now have a second child kind of busy. (Welcome to the blogosphere, Madeleine Skye Roberts! Readers of this blog may remember her as the fetus formerly known as “Sprout” when last I wrote.)
Anyway, yeah. Busy. Here’s what you missed.
- Madeleine was born last summer. She’s gorgeous and goofy and, along with her big brother Ethan, absolutely the light of my life.
- Also, she never sleeps.
- I finished the first draft of my young adult novel, The Witches of Coven Hill, last July. At 100,000 words, it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever finished in my life.
- I plan to start revisions later this month. Stay tuned for updates and writing samples.
- New kitchen! We ripped out the 1950s decor last May. It no longer even remotely resembles the hideously green-tiled locker room from my high school gym.
- So, that’s a bonus.
- New basement! We had enough of the annual spring flooding, so we put in an extensive waterproofing system and then, just to prove we’re completely crazy, decided to add 500 square feet of livable space: TV room, kids’ play room, office, bathroom, and laundry room. Should be done in the next few weeks. Pictures to come.
- Still chugging along happily as managing editor of SmarterTravel, a TripAdvisor-owned travel website responsible for such phenomenally cool content as Where in the World? (a daily photo guessing game) and World’s Scariest Airports.
- Also home to the very best coworkers on the planet. True story.
You might be wondering—or not—why I’ve decided to pick this up again after 16 months. Honestly? I guess I just like being able to look back weeks, months, even years later, and remember all the cool stuff my family was up to. (Plus, little things, like the fact that Ethan used to call marshmallows “marshmuscles” until he was two. I totally would have forgotten that if I hadn’t written it down somewhere.)
So this blog is like a time capsule for my kids’ childhoods and my adventures in parenting. And writing. And home-owning. And pop culture watching. And all the other stuff that makes life interesting. Somehow, it seems more substantive than looking back over all my old Facebook updates.
Anyway, that’s 16 months in a nutshell. It feels good to be back.
There’s a scene near the beginning of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring where Sam stops at the edge of the Shire and says, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest from home I’ve ever been.”
Today, I know how he feels.
I abandoned my last novel, The Broken Prince, at just under 60,000 words. Once I pass that point on Coven Hill, it will be the farthest from the beginning of a novel that I’ve ever been. I think that’s kind of cool. And another sign that I’m inching ever closer to the end of the first draft.
As I mentioned yesterday, there’s a lot more writing to be done just to slog through the remaining unwritten parts of my first draft. And that’s just plot, mostly, with none of the subtlety of character and dialogue and glorious, luxurious description that make writing (or, well, re-writing in the case of this draft) so much fun. But today I’m officially giving myself a deadline.
Our daughter (“Sprout,” until we decide on a name for her) is due the first week of August, and I’d very much like to have this first draft done and resting comfortably on my harddrive by the time she arrives. I think of it as a mission imperative to get this done by then, actually. Finding time to write with one kid is hard, sometimes downright impossible when you factor in family time, work time, and all-important sleeping time. But with an active toddler and a baby at the same time? What’s the next level up from impossible?
So, yeah, July 31. I can do this. Perhaps at the expense of early-morning Facebooking and blogging, but still—I can do it. And it starts…
Wasn’t it just a week ago that I said I could see the light at the end of the tunnel on the first draft of my novel? Well… not so fast.
I’ve been having trouble figuring out how to move some of my storylines forward, so I sat down and made a list of all the scenes and/or events that, bare minimum, need to occur to get me to the finish line.
The answer? Twenty-eight more things!
Some major scenes, some minor ones, but all of them vital to the various plots and subplots. Sigh. My work here is just beginning, it seems.
I just passed the 50,000-word mark of my first draft. In some ways it’s just a number, but in others it’s a big deal, because from a pure word-count standpoint it means I’m a little more than halfway done.
I think I now have a pretty good understanding of a) where I’m taking this, and b) how I’m going to get there. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a small pinpoint of light, but it’s there. I think I could probably sit down and write the final scene right now if I wanted to.
But, it’s all about the journey, and I’m still making little discoveries along the way. The only thing standing between me and a finished first draft is just finding time to write every day.
A year ago at this time I posted a list of 10 things I was looking forward to in 2008. Before I look ahead to 2009, I thought it would be fun to see how each of those things from 2008 turned out.
1. Ethan’s first birthday. This was as amazing and magical as I’d imagined. I’m looking forward to his second birthday with even more enthusiasm!
2. The New England Patriots Invitational Tournament. Also known as the NFL Playoffs, this one didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped or expected. But ah well, 18-1 is almost as good as 19-0. Right? Nah, not really. Alas.
3. Getting healthy. Sadly, this one’s still a work in progress.
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In a word: Awesome.
5. Easter Island. I did indeed make it to Easter Island last March, and it was a great experience. Lingering health issues were kind of a drag on the trip, though, and I would much rather have traveled there with Penny and Ethan than go solo like I did.
6. Spider-Man: Brand New Day. The Spidey comics went from monthly to three times a month and featured an all-new, all-not-married status quo for Peter Parker. And, by and large, it was a great year for the character. I’m still jazzed about the series as we head into year two of the new era.
7. Creating… something. Last year was to be the one where I finally made some headway on either Rise of the Hidden Sun or my young adult novel. I chose the novel and managed to get about 45,000 words into it before losing steam around Thanksgiving. So, not a success but not an out-and-out failure, either. A work in progress.
8. New TV shows. I was really looking forward to Jericho (returning from the dead) and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Jericho only lasted seven episodes but tied up most of the loose ends nicely, and Terminator started well, then got a bit spotty before coming on very strong here in season two. Here’s hoping for a season three pickup in 2009.
9. The Red Sox in Japan. Wow, I completely forgot this even happened. It was a neat little sideshow at the time but, ultimately, not all that big a deal. I’m more likely to remember the Sox losing game 7 of the ALCS than anything about their time in Japan.
10. Climbing a mountain. This finally happened in October during our vacation to Acadia National Park. It was a wimpy little mountain, but the views were spectacular and it felt grea to be back outdoors. Maybe 2009 will be the year where I finally get back into hiking the way I’d like to, though.
This might be the first time in my life I’ve written for 14 straight days. Currently I’m about 600 words ahead of schedule. I even had two straight 1,000-word days mixed in there. It’s not quite NaNoWriMo numbers, but I’ll take it. The challenge now is to keep it going.
The good news: I’m currently 900 words ahead of my desired writing pace for the month. The bad news: I’ve offically reached the end of the outline I’ve been working from for the past few months. Everything between now and the end of the novel is basically a 50,000-word black hole. I literally do not know what happens next. Exciting but scary.
LOST will return in January. Just 70 days to go! I wish I could get excited for it, but I just can’t muster the enthusiasm yet.
This has been a great week for Boston sports, and tomorrow it gets better with Thursday night football at Foxborro! Something to look forward to.
HBO has greenlighted (greenlit?) a pilot for a TV version of George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy novels. If done right, this could reach Lord of the Rings levels of awesomeness.
It’s ironic that How I Met Your Mother is finally getting good ratings just as its quality seems to be taking a nosedive.
Driving home from work yesterday I discovered that two radio stations in the metro Boston area have already gone all-Christmas. I can’t take two months of “Little Saint Nick.”
Speaking of Christmas, Amazon now has a nifty feature that allows you to add stuff from any other website to your Amazon wish list. Penny came up with that idea like three years ago. If only we knew the right people, we coulda been rich!
I have fallen asleep on the couch watching each of the last four episodes of Fringe. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?
Fox is moving Terminator and Dollhouse to Friday nights this winter. Bye bye, Terminator and Dollhouse. We hardly knew ye.