P is drawing a picture of a thunderstorm in her composition notebook right now. The clouds in her picture are orange, and for the lightning, she is using a black dry erase marker. This is annoying since she has her Crayola markers to use, and dry erase markers are specialized and more expensive, etc. etc. She does not fight me on this, fortunately, and for today the dry erase markers will live another day for the whiteboard, and we can delay the slow, wholesale consumption of office supplies in this house.

I’m two weeks into remote learning with my kids, and I admit that the task has absorbed most of my bandwidth. I am lucky. My parents are a huge help in prepping breakfast and lunch every day. This frees me up to have the patience to corral and prod my kids to do their morning chores, have breakfast, use table manners, and log in to their computers, all without the aid of YouTube. When their lessons begin, I start my day of cycling back and forth to each one, paying attention to what the teacher wants and what they’re supposed to be doing, and if I see one of them lying on the floor or spinning around, I help them correct. I spend my day making corrections. Maybe this is too heavy-handed of me, but I don’t see any other way. It’s like driving a vehicle with bad alignment, where the only way to stay on course is to keep pulling on the wheel. When you let off, things drift off course.

This morning I spent ten minutes working on my manuscript. Dependapotamous sent me a fantastic short story by a guy named Dustin M. Hoffman (not to be confused with the actor), and I love the way he uses imagery (cigarettes!) to tell this story about construction workers just before the 2008 financial crisis. This morning, with this short story in mind and whatever I learned about figurative language the other day, I fleshed out some more of my chapter. I think writing is like this: every time you sit down to write, you push yourself to learn at least one new thing; it’s this constant act of untangling ideas and making sense of them and trying out new ways to say what you want to say. A lot of things are like this.

I’ll take my small win today, and the one from last week, and the one I’ll get tomorrow and next week and next year, until it adds up to something real, something that looks like I know what I’m doing!


Hi there. I'm a writer and reserve military officer with a day job. I write fiction, professional essays on military topics, and wax philosophical about books and movies. I live in Florida with my husband, two kids, and two cats.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: