In Charge of Fun

Words written in novel so far: 17,770

Games of Apples to Apples my dad won yesterday: 1 (he was very proud)

Days until Fathers’ Day: 1

When I was growing up, my dad was the Executive in Charge of Fun for our family.

During the work week, he got up early, spent ungodly amounts of time driving to work in downtown Atlanta, and came home hoping to disappear behind a newspaper. Many nights found him asleep on the recliner. Or asleep on the floor. (He insisted he was doing The Sponge as a yoga move.)

But recreation was Dad’s specialty. I mentioned the sailboat yesterday; that was an ongoing treat. But he also took me to the circus, to various and sundry museums and out to eat at restaurants with white tablecloths and shrimp creole.

When it was time to plan vacation, Dad talked to people and researched the heck out of it. And this was before the Internet, people.

We traveled all over the Southeast, touring historic homes, jumping in the ocean and obsessing over the Wright Brothers, his favorite. In the days before digital cameras, we visited Charleston and came home not with photos of The Battery or horse-drawn carriages, but a series of pelicans. Flying. And landing. And flying again.

By the time I was 14, I could correct the tour guide at any antebellum home about why the houses didn’t have closets.

There might have been a bad moment in the Florida Keys when we got out of the boat that took us snorkeling.

I was so excited. “Didn’t that coral feel so weird?”

My dad just looked at me. “You weren’t supposed to touch the coral.”

“Yes, we were. The guide said, ‘be sure to touch the coral.'”

“He said, ‘don’t touch the coral. People are destroying the coral reefs by touching and killing them.'”

“Oh.”

Tomato, to-mah-to.

Anywhoooo, my dad was also the one who worried over guided my college and career choices. When I started getting apathetic in sixth grade math, he took the family on a tour of colleges and quoted SAT and grade point average numbers to me.

When I showed an interest in planning events, he took me out to lunch with an executive who was helping him orchestrate a conference.

When I applied to colleges and considered going to a secondary one because my friends were going there, he said, “Okay. But there is nowhere more beautiful than Chapel Hill in the fall.”

There is nowhere more beautiful than Chapel Hill in the fall. I was there.

And when I started writing in earnest, he was the one person who read every word. Every single word.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Fathers’ Day!

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Finding the Fun

This is more fun than actual planks. I am fond of the ocean. Propping myself up on my elbows? Not so much.

Number of seconds I can hold a planks pose: 2.2 seconds

Miles I can run: 400 (you know, over months, and maybe with some Cadbury’s mini-eggs thrown in for fuel)

Inches of dust on my furniture: 3

I probably watched too many Disney movies when I was a kid. Sometimes people roll their eyes when I start saying things like, “Just a Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down,” or “Whistle While You Work.” Sometimes those people are my kids.

I have an annoying habit of expecting life to be fun. This works about 85 percent of the time. Life is pretty fun, in my world.

Except when it isn’t.

This is when being a writer comes in handy. Coleridge’s suspension of disbelief was written with people like me in mind. It’s called “Being in Your Own Little World,” and when people say that, I have a feeling they don’t mean it in a good way.

After a not-so-fun week like mine has been, let’s look back at my Tools for Life Success When Things Aren’t So Fun:

1. Taxes. I may be carrying on a legacy of negativity from my dad on this one. When I was five, my grandmother sent me a new sweatsuit, which made me want to run. I begged and pleaded with my dad to run down to the end of the street with me, because my new duds would make me go very, very fast. He may have been worried that my lightning speed would show him up, but he said no, he was working on Taxes. Total cop-out. He then told me if I ran around the house 20 times, he would deign to lope down the street with me. In about 4.2 minutes, I was back inside, ready for his running services. I had run around that tiny house 20 times, and dude. It was time for him to feel the sunshine on his shoulders. My mom eventually made him lace up his shoes, but it was the grumpiest run ever; it kind of sullied my gorgeous sweatsuit. I never asked again.

So guess what I had to do this week? Itemization on my taxes. Since I already run now, running around the house just wasn’t an option. So I pretended I was something really boring, like an actuary or accountant. I moved my right hand to the far right of the keyboard–who knew that numbers existed there? And in a really weird formation! Like, exactly the opposite of the phone, which I use quite a bit. I wiggled my fingers around on those keys like I was a math genius. And several hours later, I was done. I looked up to see if I’d be awarded a medal or something, but getting to write a check to the government is my reward! I’m working on finding the fun in that.

2. Dusting. When I lived by myself, I kept my little one-bedroom apartment super-clean. Bathroom: cleaned daily. Kitchen: spotless. Floors: vacuumed obsessively.

Then, when my mom came to visit, she said, “I have never seen such a clean apartment with so much dust. Did you know your coffee table was actually dark wood?”

I feel that dust is a cosmic joke. Did you know that if I wipe off our TV cabinet today, it will have dust on it tomorrow? Is there any chore more soul-crushing?

So. Here’s the deal: Call a really good friend or family member who doesn’t care that you are using them as a crutch. Then pick up your dust rag and talk about every stupid thing in the world until the entire house is dust-free. Sometimes, I don’t even remember wiping things off, but I do remember hearing about the next-door neighbor who comes out in her nightgown to praise the moon on her balcony.

3. Planks. I am not averse to exercise or working hard. Or setting goals.

I even used to like crunches, a very, very long time ago when we had the chance to win Presidential Fitness Awards (which I never did, because I couldn’t do pull-ups). While I have been very diligent in my lower-body workouts, my arms are not on the way to looking Angela-Bassett-as-Tina-Turner-like. It is sad for me that when I go to point to things, like birds or a stop sign or the ice cream shop (now that I think about it, this could be the problem), my triceps wiggle. Again, cosmically unfair. I use my arms every day. See? I’m typing right now. They should be toned to within an inch of their lives.

My abs are fair-to-middlin’. Planks, my physical therapist friend tells me with a long-suffering sigh, would be the ticket to Super-Abs.

Now that bikini season is approaching, I re-kicked off my exercises to achieve Photo-Ready abs and triceps. I decided to do it during TV time at night, while my husband lounged on the couch.

Me (while in plank position with shaking arms): It hurts! It hurts!

My husband: Where?

Me: Everywhere! Make it stop!

He is annoyingly athletic, like if someone said, “Your car has been driven to Alaska, and you need to run there to get it back,” he might just start running and get there maybe needing an extra glass of water. He can do the stupid “two-point plank,” which I didn’t even know existed and might have been a torture device during the Cold War.

The only fun in the whole process is seeing the look of disbelief on his face as he watches me fail miserably. It makes me laugh hysterically, which by the way, is not conducive to good plank position.

4. Sitting in a hospital waiting area. You might think this would be depressing. But it’s not, not really. You are there for sad reasons, but when some kind of Hollywood insider show is on, you can catch up on all the stuff you never realized you needed to know. See, if I’d been writing instead of sitting at the hospital, I never would have known that there is a person known as “The Buxom Bandit” who ran an international drug ring while being an in-demand pin-up. And Joan Rivers actually has a reality TV show, which leads me to wonder why Rosie O’Donnell had a show cancelled, but Joan Rivers’s is still on. These are fun questions that have absolutely no impact on my life whatsoever. See how fun that is?

5. Laundry. It may smell good, but laundry is never fun. Don’t even try to make it fun. You will only disappoint yourself.

I hope I have helped you overcome chore-phobia, things that might seem, well, not fun. It’s in your hands now. How do you add a dose of fun to your dreaded tasks?