Books, Boys, and Bodies

The view from our balcony. I admit – I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done.

For this weekly blog of mine, I generally write about one of three B’s in my life:

–  Books (because a writer must also be a reader)

–  Boys (mainly my fourteen-year-old son)

–  Bodies (living with my autoimmune disease, an invisible disability).

Last week, it occurred to me just how much those three are often connected and inter-related.

Let me explain.

Last week at this time, my family and I were in Maui. 

This was a big trip for us. The last time my husband and I were in Maui was for our honeymoon, twenty-three years ago. Our son had never flown before, and I hadn’t flown since before my son was born. Which means I hadn’t flown since my UCTD (undifferentiated connective tissue disease) diagnosis. Add in my worries about COVID, and you can understand why I went into this trip with a great deal of anxiety. At the same time, I was determined to experience the trip as fully as I could. 

Which is where the B’s come into play.

In terms of books, I brought one book and one magazine with me. I didn’t read nearly as much as I thought I would. There were no days spent lounging by the pool. There was too much to see and do — including a visit to the Barnes and Noble in Maui.

When it comes to boys, my son was much more adventurous than my husband. During the planning stage of this trip, my son had told us he hoped we could go parasailing and ziplining in Maui. I had been parasailing once before, many years ago, on Catalina Island. That time, my husband was an observer, not a participant. And he opted for the same role this time around.

It was because of my son that I pushed my body as much as I did. 

Parasailing? Me? Yes, definitely. The parasailing itself didn’t cause additional pain in my leg. The only pain and discomfort came from getting in and out of the boat. But, it was a small price to pay for the incredible experience, as my son and I rode tandem and admired Maui’s beauty from such a unique perspective.

Ziplining? Me? Yes, I think so. Neither one of us had ever gone ziplining before. We signed up for an eight-line zipline adventure that promised to be something neither one of us would forget. I worried that I wouldn’t pass the knee and ankle check that takes place before we’re loaded into the van and driven into the hills. (On my waiver, I did disclose the information about my illness, and I did pass the knee and ankle check. The woman who observed me and gave me the final clearance reminded me to just go slow and hold your son’s hand to help you.) The actual ziplining wasn’t nearly as hard on my body as the hiking and walking from one spot to another. And I admit, I did slip and fall during one of our walks — thankfully, no injuries or scrapes. 

What an awe-inspiring experience we had. Views of the Pacific Ocean if we looked one way, views of the West Maui Mountains when we looked the other way. 

I felt strong, something I don’t always feel. 

Because on this same trip, I did something I had never done before. I used a wheelchair. A very good friend of mine had encouraged me to take advantage of the wheelchairs available at airports. Don’t waste your legs standing in line and walking through an airport, she said. And she was right. But it still didn’t make it any easier for me to ask for that accommodation. In fact, I waited for the day before our trip to submit the request.

We did a lot of walking during our trip. (Sand is so hard to walk on!) We did some hiking, too. There was so much to see (chickens and roosters in parking lots, waterfalls, flowers), so much to admire (sunsets, rainbows, puffy clouds), and so much to be grateful for (our trip, our safety, all that my body can still do).

And we each came home with one more book than we left with.

“Bad” Habits

These are just a few of the books I have bought but haven’t yet read.

I have a few “bad” habits. 

I use quotation marks around bad, because it’s a subjective term. My bad habits could be someone else’s “no-big-deal” habits. And they’re not bad-bad, they’re just things I could improve on.

1. I leave the printer on. Long after I’m done printing, I often forget to power it off.

2. I push through and keep to my schedule regardless of how I’m feeling. If Wednesday is my day to Swiffer the floors and vacuum the area rugs, I do it. Regardless of my pain level, I feel I must maintain my schedule.

3. I buy too many books. I have so many books on my shelf, waiting to be read. My “want-to-read” list on Goodreads numbers in the hundreds. Some of these books are written by authors whose other books I have enjoyed. Some are books I bought after listening to the author talk on a podcast or interview of some sort. 

While this doesn’t mean I plan to stop buying books, it does mean I’m aware of the situation. And the lack of available shelf space. 

How about you, readers? Any “bad” habits you want to share? Do you find yourself buying more books than you should?

Oh, He’s Going Places!

This is a big week for our family.

My son’s middle school culmination is tomorrow. 

Which means he’ll soon be a freshman in high school. 

When I was pregnant, and right after Ryan was born, everyone told me his childhood would pass by quickly. “They grow too fast,” my mom often said.

My mom, as she tends to be, was right.

High school will be a new experience. And what is new can also be intimidating and scary. Yet I have no doubt that my son is ready. He has a good head on his shoulders and a kind heart. Plus, he and his classmates have done something never before done — they spent their middle school years in the middle of a global pandemic. (Ryan was sent home in March of 2020, as a sixth grader. He returned to campus in August 2021, as an eighth grader.)

Yet, in case he, and other graduating students, need some encouragement, I offer these famous words from Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss.

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes. 
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

“You’ll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care. 
About some you will say, ‘I don’t choose to go there.’ 
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, 
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.”

“Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.”

“You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s 
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!”

Giannis

“How’s the book?”

“It’s good,” I said as I held it up and showed it to the barista. He had just brought out my blended mocha and set it down on the table for me.

“It’s about Giannis, the basketball player,” I said.

“Oh, basketball,” he said it with a bit of a question in his voice.

It might not seem like a book I would pick up. Especially if you checked out my Goodreads record and saw the last book I read was Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date.

I try to alternate, reading fiction and nonfiction. And when it comes to nonfiction, I enjoy reading memoirs and biographies. Because I believe everyone has a story. The specifics may vary, but in those specifics you tend to find the universal.

So now I’m reading Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP by Mirin Fader. (In case you don’t know, Giannis Antetokounmpo plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. In 2021, they won the NBA Championship.)

On the surface, Giannis and I don’t have much in common. 

But that’s okay. That’s more than okay. That’s why books are so valuable. They give us the chance to take a peek at someone else’s life. To realize the many ways we are similar. To acknowledge that what you see on the surface is rarely the full story.

My family and I are basketball fans. While we always root for our Los Angeles Clippers, we are admirers of the game and those that play with heart and soul. 

Players like Giannis.