“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling.
“Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost.
“I made it link by link, and yard by yard,
I girded it on of my own free will,
and of my own free will I wore it.”

-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Don’t let that fancy title fool you; I hope to keep this brief.

I’m essentially blogging today for the same reason I make lists: to calm myself, to slow down & take deep breaths while creating a visual of what I need to get done.

Oh, this week. I have this picture in my mind of me, my mom, & my mother-in-law huddled in a circle coordinating our calendars & synching our watches. My mother’s participation in this week’s events depends on my sister not going into labor. In the event that she does, my mother will be removed from the equation & my mother-in-law & I will resynchronize.

My sister’s due date is March 19th. My second child, my only son, was born on D-Day (June 6), & so I think it will only be perfect if my nephew, my sister’s second child (& first boy) is born on the Ides of March. No, they don’t plan to name the boy Brutus (or Caesar), but still, it’s a fun day.

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So, let’s break down the week.

Today we are off to the pediatric endocrinologist. This is an all-day event, given the drive over & back, an hour or so at the doctor’s office, & the subsequent obligatory visit to local shops & restaurants. I admit I insist on the eleven o’clock appointment so as to allow us time to sleep as late as possible, make it to the doctor’s office, & have enough time to eat at Another Broken Egg Cafe before their two o’clock closing time. It’s a delicate sequence of events. There’s no rule that quarterly visits to the endocrinologist can’t be overly pleasant. Between the Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits she gets for breakfast & her Barnes & Noble loot, Reagan greatly anticipates these days.

Tuesday will be par for the course, save a much needed hair appointment I have immediately after I finish teaching my classes. I’d like to think I’ll have the time, energy, & appropriate weather to get some exercise at some point Tuesday evening, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Odds are, if time presents itself, I’ll be reading or writing.

The book club is reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society for March, & it is delightful. You’ll likely hear more about it later. I’ve added about 3,000 words to Edie & Dr. Foster’s sequel, & things are getting serious with the three of us again. I love making them say things. Writing is like shaving your legs. When you do it, you feel good about it, & that feeling is addictive, & so you keep at it. If you let yourself lapse, apathy sets in, & you can’t remember why you enjoyed it in the first place because it seems so laborious. Routine is the key.

Wednesday morning Henry & I will likely be getting the oil changed in my car before retrieving Reagan from school because of course the oil light came on yesterday afternoon. Not only will we be taking my car out of town today for the doctor visit, but I have a conference to attend Friday that requires a little driving. Trey says I can wait, that I can easily drive another thousand miles before changing the oil, but that would mean driving to & from the conference Friday with the oil light in my face, taunting me, ruining my alone time in the car, & if Trey thinks that is about to happen, then he really doesn’t know me at all.

Also on Wednesday’s horizon: Reagan is supposed to dress as her favorite nursery rhyme character for school. So that won’t be stressful at all. I am sure she’ll make up her mind & stick with her decision & we’ll have what we need to make a costume in the house.

After I finish teaching Thursday, I have an appointment to have a mole scraped off the back of my leg. I guess there’s not a lot else to say about that. I could post a picture of it for you, but I like to think I have better judgment than that. It’s round. It’s not dark. It just feels a little different & I want it gone.

As I mentioned, Friday I will be out of town at a conference. Sounds important, right? The high school where I’ll be teaching students to adore literature come fall is sending their teachers to a conference, & so I am joining them. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I am driving over by myself, changing no diapers while at the conference, & then driving home by myself, & so it sounds like a pretty great conference to me.

As I am relaying this week’s agenda, you will note how vital my mother & mother-in-law are to these happenings. Trey generally works during the day, you know because we have to pay for stuff & an adjunct’s salary just doesn’t do that, & so that leaves two people who know how to check Reagan’s blood sugar & dose her for meals. It’s a delicate house of cards around here, but we’re holding steady.

A shorter version of the above Dickens quote is this: We are our choices (Jean-Paul Sarte).

My life – my day to day tasks, worries, joys – is largely of my own making. I had a eureka moment one morning last week while checking my email. Every morning I check my email & it is inevitably filled with promotional emails I spend a few minutes deleting. Coupons for this, extra-special, super-secret discounts on these, etc. Crate & Barrel. Pottery Barn. Pottery Barn Kids. You get the picture.

I clicked on one of the emails, I think one from Ann Taylor Loft, & I quickly browsed the featured items, & then, before deleting it, I noticed the obscure option at the end of the email to Unsubscribe. The emails flood my inbox at my invitation; they continue to flood my inbox because of my inaction. I have no one to blame for the daily barrage of emails but myself.

All the things I rush to do in my free moments are things I take on because I love them. I stay up reading, sometimes reading books I don’t initially love, because I so loathe the idea of attending book club unable to contribute. It is nothing less than sheer joy for me to sit & discuss books with other people who read & love books.

I read because I love the escape it provides & because it keeps my mind active (& because it helps my writing). I write because I love it; it is cathartic, & there is a permanence to it that I love. I was sitting up one last night week stressing over the book blurb. It is coming along, which is good because it is due soon.

I worked myself into a little bit of a frenzy. Summarizing a 96,000-word book in a couple of paragraphs that are so gripping people will simply have to read the book is daunting. You can’t waste words; you want to give thought to each one, to determine if you are saying exactly what you intended to say.

I stepped away from the computer & calmed myself down. I said, Anna, you invited this into your life. You wrote a book because you wanted to do so, & someone wants to publish it because you sent it to them hoping you would find yourself in this exact position, under contract, putting together a blurb that will appear on the back cover of your book. My next book will be titled, How To Self Motivate: A Guide For Writers Who Tend To Whine.

I have a lot on my plate right now. This week several things seem to be converging at once. I mean, I haven’t had a mole removed in over a decade, & I haven’t attended a conference, well, ever, that I recall. I’m certain I’ve never had a blurb due for a book that will be published.

I’d rather a full plate than scraps. I quickly become worthless when I have very little on my plate. If I have ten things to get done, I get up, & I make a list, & then I check off each item like a boss. If I have one thing that needs to be accomplished, things get very iffy; sweatpants and Gilmore Girls & carbohydrates are usually involved.

I delete twenty emails every morning because I shop online a lot & I gladly sign up for mailing lists. I can hit the Unsubscribe button at any moment.

I sit up at night reading for book club because I love book club. Attendance is not mandatory. They’d probably let me join them even if I haven’t finished the book. Sure, they’d whisper about me, but I would deserve their scorn.

I sit up at night writing & fretting over blurbs because I love to write, & lo & behold, someone is going to publish something I wrote. The deadline pressure is sometimes frightening, but always exhilarating. It makes me feel like I am in college again, & I loved college. All the books & the reading & the deadlines just made me giddy. Honest.

I will be busy over the summer reading novels & short stories & preparing to teach high school English next fall because I chose to take a job I believe I will love & one that will allow me to be near my diabetic daughter. I made that choice. When I was debating it all, I talked to Trey about it. He said he was not offering much advice because it was my decision, & he wants me to be happy (translated, this means he wants me to be happy, which means he genuinely wants me to be happy, & he wants to hear silence &/or Happy Anna rather than complaining). I’ve been looking over the reading lists for next year. I don’t yet know my whole schedule, but I do know I’ll be teaching AP (honors) English to seniors, & one item on their list of novels is Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I’d teach that one for free.

It’s all at my invitation. I could break the links of the chain, but I kind of like them. I am happy with my choices. They anchor me. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I am spending this morning at the pediatric endocrinologist. Certainly, had it been my choice, I’d have never chosen this for my daughter. I did choose to have kids, though. I wanted her, & I went into that decision knowing there would be hurdles I couldn’t yet fathom. The hurdles have come, & they will continue to come. I remain happy with my choices.

Even the small choices can become links in the chain, so pay attention to them. I sat down one day nearly five years ago & decided to blog. I had a three-month-old who was growing & changing daily, & I felt compelled to somehow catalogue her – pictorially, but also linguistically, because obviously I feel words are the epitome of creative expression. The blogging led to a desire to try a longer piece of fiction. I am now under contract & will, the Lord willing, have a book published.

I am happily fettered.

AJZ