Heart Palpitations

Criminey sakes, as my eldest daughter says. Busy days. The last few days — well, actually, all of June so far — have been really full, with last-minute community service, term papers, tutoring and a graduation on my kid-and-school agenda. My youngest announced to me two weeks before school ended that she had 20 hours of community service to do before school got out June 17.

“And just when did you expect this to happen?” I asked her. She replied that if she did 5 hours a day she would be done in 4 days. Ha! Ha! I say. Because any community service she has to do, I would have to do, too.

The next day I was on hell-deadline. Worse than usual, I mean, because the Alameda Sun editors were gone or sick or on vacation. I was covering about 10 stories that week (first week of June) including writing a book review, my column, several short pieces, going to events, writing captions, etc. All from home on a Saturday. But Community Service Slacker-Girl needed to do community service and time was short, so I had her bake some cookies for the firefighters. We had two tubes of slice-and-bake dough. I figured that would keep her out of trouble and fill at least an hour while I: A) got through deadline, and, B) thought about what else she could do.

But Slacker-Girl doesn’t bake. In fact, she eschews the kitchen unless threatened, because it involves actual work. Once or twice a week I manage to get the dishwasher emptied upon pain of death. Aside from that, as you know from reading previous posts, Slacker-Girl does not use her Lifeskills in the kitchen.

So how do you use the oven? How do you turn it on? Where are the potholders? Where is the spatula? How do you open the package? Where are the scissors? How big do you make the cookies? Is that too big? What about that? Is that too small? Is that too many? It has to go in the oven. It’s hot. I’m afraid of the oven. It’s too hot. Will you do it for me? Now what do I do while I’m waiting? How long do you bake them for? I forgot to set the timer. Check and see if they’re ready yet. I can’t tell. How brown is brown enough? They’re melting into each other. Is that OK? Oh, no! They’re RUINED! They’re brown! That’s OK? Oh. They have to cool on the tray. How long? I don’t know, I threw the package away. They’re sticking to the cookie sheet. Oh, no! It broke! I can eat that one. That one, too. Now what do I do?…

You see how this goes. This went on for more than three hours, back and forth from the kitchen as I tried to write on deadline. At the end of three hours, two tubes of cookie dough were baked, wrapped and ready to go. It took us two trips to get them to the firemen because the first trip all the fire guys were out on a call. I still had stories to write, and she says, “What next? What can I do next?”

Nothing, my dear, nothing at all until I finish writing these stories. I had to run out to cover an event, and while there, ran into Stuart and Annie, who reminded me that she needed help delivering Meals on Wheels Sunday morning. Yay! I signed Slacker-Girl on for that one immediately. Annie also suggested that my youngest could help out at the Paden School Ice Cream Social, as well as a few other choice events. I said, “That’s the ticket,” and consigned the Slacker to indentured servitude for the next two weeks.

Now, after an additional two long afternoons in the depths of the Alameda Fire Department Station 1, where she stuffed Vials of Life and enjoyed Tucker’s Ice Cream with Courtenay and the gals, as well as a few days of visiting her Nana and Nana’s friends in a nursing home in Oakland, the girl has completed her service and is entitled to enjoy her summer.

As for me, I’ve been dodging bullets (metaphorically speaking, of course), writing blurbs for Alameda Magazine, continuing to promote Red Hills Review, and writing furiously — in my brain — getting ready for our 10-day vacation in Arnold/Blue Lake Springs, where I plan to finish the first draft of memoir-cum-short story collection. That’s huge — it’s been cooking for nigh on four years now, so I’m (finally) seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Want to read a draft? I’ll need readers; e-mail me if you want to read something a little dark and bitter. Like good chocolate, but not as sweet.

Criminey, I also have to get the draft of the poetry book together, get it out to poets for cover blurbs and then to press. It will be a busy fall.

Ack, ack! I have work to do.

Advice to Aspiring Writers: Drink more coffee.

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