El Traje de Bano

She is fortunate she does not have to shop for el traje de bano.

Words written in my novel so far: 25,398

Miles run today: 4.5 (in the rain! Heaven!)

Bathing suits bought yesterday: 0

I remember sitting in the Language Labs at college, playing and rewinding conversations in Spanish. On a tape deck.

“Cualeselnombredesuperro?” “Jose.”

Csudfdosaugfoisdgjkinagoinsdoisdfogoisagjosd.

“Cualeselnombredesuperro?” “Jose.”

And rewind again.

See, the problem was not that I was horrible at Spanish, but that the people talked so darn fast. Speedy Gonzales fast.

And my brain needs some processing time, muchacha. Even in English.

I had taken Latin in high school, and I remember it to this day. I remember a lot of Spanish words, too. Just not strung together, like in a cohesive sentence.

My Spanish I grad student teacher had a big head, long dark hair in a ponytail and a serious manner. She couldn’t have been more than eight years older than I, but the gulf between us felt insurmountable. It was clear she had been too busy speaking Spanish and writing dissertations to join the rest of us in the 1990s.

The fact that twenty-five real live people sat in her classroom each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 a.m. seemed to surprise her each time. She spoke the real Spanish Spanish, none of that foolish Mexican stuff for her. So each “denada” morphed into “thaynathah.” It was very proper, but I couldn’t help feeling like I’d developed a lisp.

One day, a few weeks into class, we got to study something I could wrap my head around: la playa (the beach). The textbook had lots of children’s storybook illustrations of sand and sun and buckets and towels. I was in my element.

After our teacher introduced us to these fun, new beach words, she arrived at our next class with a box of beachy things. She attempted to overcome her schoolmarm rep by jumping into the room with a beach ball and shouting, “Pelota de playa!” and tossing it at an unsuspecting boy. She pulled out all sorts of la playa-ready items: a beach towel, sunscreen, a bucket and shovel… and passed them around the room, with each of us repeating the Spanish words aloud.

And then she pulled out a bathing suit.

“El traje de bano!” she shouted.

We all sat in horror as she passed the bathing suit to the boy in the first row. “El traje de bano,” he muttered, trying not to touch it too much as he shuttled it down the row.

The boys held it gingerly by one strap, tossing it like a hot potato, but I was fascinated. Did they really make bathing suits with busts that big? Without exaggeration, my bikini top could have fit into the bust of that suit seven times over.

It was mesmerizing.

As the suit got passed to me, I marveled over the almost-steel-plated bra part of her traje de bano. It could serve as a bullet-proof vest in a pinch.

Fast forward to yesterday.

My kids were fighting, and I was done, done, done with the mediation. Punishment: no pool. And: they had to go shopping with me. At the mall. For bathing suits. Because, as every good shopper knows, this is the time to get a whale of a deal on bathing suits.

So we headed to the department store bathing suit area.

You can now start calling me a Tweener, because here were the two types of suits: El traje de banos that are too matronly for my 84-year-old grandmother, and bikinis that only pretend to cover parts I’ve managed to keep private, lo these many years.

There was angst. There were suits examined in M, L, even XL. The XL ones appeared to have no more actual fabric than the M ones, just a band that stretched farther in a horizontal fashion. Do they think people who require an XL bikini bottom have three foot hips and no bum? I am mightily confused.

My kids stood outside the dressing room, and I emerged to find them inside a rounder of beach cover-ups. I wanted to join them.

We were much more successful at the LEGO store.

All of the LEGO figures were wearing more fabric than a traje de bano.

Conclusion: I will require more traje de bano fabric if I buy a 50-percent-off bikini roughly the cost of completing three freelance articles. I shepherd dos ninos to la piscina each day… help a Midlife Tweener out, el traje de bano designers!

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Reflections

Art imitating life.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Gluten-full meals I have eaten since Saturday: 8

Minutes I have had alone all summer: 3

I am not a loner.

Much has been made about all writers being introverts. I am not one.

However, and this is a big however, I do need at least a tiny pocket of time alone here and there. Since the kids got out of school, we have had one social outing after another. We have been to the lake, the pool, the ocean (are you sensing a theme here?), and spent time with two sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors.

I am afraid that my brain has stopped working.

Has your brain ever stopped working? Please send examples so I don’t feel so alone. Oh, wait. I don’t feel alone because I’m not alone. Ever.

No one is knocking on the door to my office, so I am going to quickly thank two awesome blogger friends for awards they were gracious enough to pass along.

Thank you to JM McDowell for the Thanks for Writing Award. JM is a thoughtful writer who has a wonderful series about beta readers and editing. She also blogs about her archaeological day job. She is like a blogging Indiana Jones, and I love Indiana Jones.

I’m not one for rules, and truly, I give out so many personal details on this blog, the award givers are probably hoping I will withhold 7 things about myself instead of doling them out. So here are a few blogs that deserve a Thanks for Writing shout out:

Josh Mosey: I discovered Josh’s blog recently. He writes about writing. And plus, he has a baby on the way, so that’s two super-exciting reasons you should check in to see what he’s up to.

Robin Coyle: Robin blogs about all things writing. She’ll help you clean up your manuscript by getting rid of all the weak words. In fact, in some cases, you may not have any words left over. She also posts cool photos of things like libraries cooler than those in your neighborhood and black-and-white pics of bygone authors.

4amwriter: Kate is a writer. She not only writes about being a mom and writing at ungodly hours of the morning but also posts on Limebird Writers, a nifty bunch of writers who give tips, talk about writing dilemmas, etc.

And thank you to Terrilee Clarke at Run.Dog.Cat.Me. Terrilee is one of the funniest bloggers around, and not only am I one day going to move next door to her so we really can talk over the fence, but I may confiscate her Grandma Alice for my own gene pool.

So many blogs inspire me. But here are a few not to miss:

The Wanderlust Gene: Being a homebody myself, I am inspired by images from all around the world. Can you imagine living in Sri Lanka and seeing elephants wandering the streets? This blog has the most gorgeous photos and musings. A must-see.

The Poe Log: By inspiring, I mean inspiring me to laugh. She is so funny and posts lots of things about reality television. A seriously good laugh.

Eggton: I’ve probably said it before, but you will laugh out loud when you read her stuff. Plus, she posts hilarious photos of her dogs and yummy recipes, too!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I love to blog, and I’m very thankful to have people who read my words. I appreciate any time you have spent at Writing by the Numbers.

Backseat Navigation, Eyes Closed

You can only imagine where you’ll end up.

Words written in novel so far: 14,696

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Days of school until summer: 2 1/2

I can’t lie and say I never got bored as a child, mostly because my mom would shout to the world, “LIAR!”

But even with all of the free time in the summer, I remember being bored less during those long, lazy days.

Some years, I was in daycare, roller skating to Kool & The Gang and The Beatles. I was all about the disco ball but unfortunately never mastered skating backwards with proficiency.

On hot afternoons, we sat under trees on the playground and French-braided each other’s hair.

When I got a little older, I owned time. Time had no value or boundaries, and I rolled around in it, let it spill over me in an abundance I would never know again.

I love the pool; we used to spend hours there and never got bored. I love to read; just lying on my bed with nothing to do but read The Once and Future King was my idea of heaven.

But one of my favorite things was when my friend and I would say, “We’re bored! What can we do?” and her mom, who looked like a Skipper doll and often burst out into “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To,” would say, “Get in the car.”

She had a little white car (make and model unknown; see why here), and we would stretch out in the hatchback section and close our eyes.

“Here we go!” she would sing out.

My friend and I would pay attention to each turn: left on Emory, right on Holt, right into the high school parking lot… no, maybe that was the next right, into the church. Dangit!

Once you got off track, it was impossible to salvage the Navigation Game. But we tried. Oh boy, did we try.

Summer is here again. I want those fun memories for my kids. And I also want to write my novel and see its progress… I want happy memories of this summer for me, too.

As a fiction writer, they say there are two types of writers: the Outliners and the Pantsers (as in Seat of Your Pants).

I’m a Pantser for the most part. I have an idea of where the plot is going, but I’m always sad when I see that something bad has to happen to one of my beloved characters.

I’m in the backseat, eyes closed, visualizing the left on Emory, right on Holt, driving, driving… but we didn’t turn at the high school like I thought we might. Oh? We’re still driving? Wow. All the way to Lower Roswell?

With writing and with summer break, the most gratifying part is that there are still surprises around every corner.

This summer, there will be the pool, there will be lazy afternoons of reading, but if my kids give me a precious few hours of writing time each week, maybe one day, I’ll say, “Get in the car.”

They will climb in the minivan, close their eyes and get ready to play the Navigation Game.

This time, only I will know where we end up.