30 words

As a newspaper writer, I learned to write tight. A recent call for 30-word poems from Right Hand Pointing got me thinking super tight. The deadline for submissions is the end of the month, but I got mine in tonight and had to write a 30-word bio…

This is what I wrote:

Angel Ackerman left the dying newspaper industry, suspended her master’s program to raise a daughter, has traveled diversely through multiple continents and lives passionately riding waves of passion and agony.

Parenting, Existential Angst and a Book Review

My semester off from my master’s level work on World History has reached its end… only a few more weeks left until the academic session I skipped comes to a close.

I want my degree. I love African history. I am fascinated by colonialism, Islam, Francophonie and obscure languages. But I am forty-something and my daughter, at almost 13, floats between child and young woman/ angel and royal handful.

So my place is here. At home. I get it. But parenting is a thankless job, even with love and a well-behaved-almost-adult as its reward. Sometimes it gets hard to exist only as the nag, the disciplinarian, the cook, etc.

And sometimes I miss long discussions debating the similarities of the industrial and technological revolutions. 

I have been reading, and enjoying, Philip Gourevitch’s book We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow we will be Killed with our Families: Stories from Rwanda. It is a sobering book.

More on this later… my daughter is on her way home and I have to sneak a doughnut before she arrives.

A PJ Monday

So, I’m still receiving comments about how fun P.J. is. I have to admit, I didn’t expect him to be so popular.

I had a rough start to today. Let’s just say there wasn’t enough caffeine and sugar in my system to compensate for my Black Friday weekend in retail. Number seven. When I first accepted a job working part-time, I never thought I would stay this long. I wanted something to allow me flexibility and to leave my stress at the time clock. Both are usually true.

P.J. and I headed to West Chester early this morning and spent the day doing homework in my office between helping students as a history department graduate assistant.

Before too long P.J. had to use the facilities and you can imagine his confusion when I had to explain to him why the ladies’ room had urinals. You see, P.J., this building used to be a dormitory and it once housed male students.

We finished our work and had to decide what the next leg of our day would bring. After much debate, we opted for coffee. The nice man at Dunkin Donuts sold us TWO peppermint crunch doughnuts for a dollar. That meant we didn’t have to share! P.J. couldn’t have been more thrilled because he knows I am a bit of a glutton.

But I did have to be in the adult in the room and point out to P.J. that we needed “real food” and not merely sugar. I have a long night ahead and the sugar/caffeine roller coaster would do me more harm than good. We walked outside and right next to the Dunkin Donuts there was a natural food store (Great Pumpkin Market). That sounded great as P.J. and I have eaten more than our fair share of junk over the holiday weekend.

They had some raw honey at very reasonable prices so I picked that up and I discovered one of the “power sandwiches” I would eat occasionally during my vegetarian days.

As I walked toward the front of the store, I found a discount section and there was a power sandwich AND some fake turkey salad.

The clerk turned over the discount items and discovered they were out of date so she gave them to me for free! And since a bear is a scavenger P.J. didn’t mind at all.

Like good children we ate our dinner first and then had a doughnut.

The Adventures of PJ the Bear

A good friend recently gave me a little stuffed bear, a Corduroy bear. It’s a stressful time of year for me. The end of the semester. The holiday seasoning working retail. Family obligations. So when I received this bear, I got a little silly. I named him PJ and started taking photos of him. To my surprise, a lot of my friends started to look for his adventures.

My one friend says it’s because PJ is fun and non-political.

First thing PJ and I did was to go grocery shopping.

Then we came home and PJ took a nap.


When I went up to wake him, I discovered a very naughty bear.

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For more on his adventures, see his photo page:

https://angelackerman.com/photography/personal-photography/adventures-of-pj-the-bear/

 

I gave up my Fitbit.

About three weeks or a month ago, I was standing in the kitchen at work and my bracelet broke. But, you see, it wasn’t merely a bracelet. It was one of the custom Fitbit bracelets my husband made me.

I slipped it into my pocket where the old Fitbit Flex could at least continue to track my steps and continued my day.

When I got home, I relayed the catastrophe to my husband. The next day, he fixed it. He fixed it while I was at work. My Fitbit broke on Saturday and I went to work Sunday without it.

Sunday is the first day of the week. This whole week would be “under” since I missed a day. I couldn’t “make up” those steps. I’d spend the whole week below my Fitbit friends in the rankings when I knew I had more steps than that.

So I challenged myself to take the week off.

It took until Thursday for someone to email and ask me if my Fitbit died. I’m really surprised that no one emailed or called my husband to see if I had died.

By the weekend, I didn’t miss it.

I’ve been wearing my Fitbit for more than two years. My Fitbit story is NOT the usual Fitbit story. I needed to lose ten pounds. I had some health issues that led to me gaining weight and I needed to lose about ten pounds. I was 39 and thought I had to do it now because the next decade historically is not kind to women in my family.

Well, when you walk a mile every hour at work, and suddenly cut carbohydrates, increase protein, remove junk food from your diet, give up alcohol and fancy coffee drinks… And decide to bike with your daughter, box in the garage and lift weights… Those ten pounds come off easily.

One month later, I had lost thirty pounds.

Oops.

I bought a Fitbit to make sure I ate enough for my increase in activity. And then when I understood how much food and what food my body needed, I kept wearing it because I liked the step goals. I loved seeing the charts and the impact. But then I started to know without looking. So, then my focus turned to my sleep habits. Now that I never mastered. My sleep habits stink. I’m a mom, after all.

I lost my drive for a lot of my activities. I used to roam the neighborhood for miles, do walks in new towns, even tried to run a 5K. I used to lift hard every day. I used to kick box and do yoga. But suddenly, my soul got tired.

Maybe it was stress.

I had regained about 15 pounds of that thirty lost, and it needed to return. It returned as muscle. I went from underweight and bony to muscular enough to toss forty pound boxes around in the freezer at work. I can carry a 35-pound of popcorn kernels on my shoulder across the entire store. I can do push-ups and chin-ups.

I have visible abs.

I don’t have wiggly arms.

So WHY did I stress myself out if I didn’t hit five miles a day? Why did I feel guilt if that number hovered around 10,000 steps? Why did I hate myself if I sat?

Even one “rest day” would drive me insane.

And the only time I watched a movie was if the battery died.

So, I’m glad I gave up my Fitbit.

Movement in the face of stillness

My mother taught me never to stand still. She wanted to teach me that I should always make my bed and I should never leave the house without doing all the dishes, but I failed in those lessons.

I spent much of my twenties doing exactly what I thought I was supposed to do: I embarked on a career, I bought a new car, I rented an apartment, I got married, I paid off my student loans.

In my thirties, my husband and I focused most of our energy on our daughter. My career as a journalist became more precarious. I went to work part-time as I earned a second bachelor’s in International Affairs.

By my late thirties, I started traveling with a friend. I realized maybe I didn’t want a traditional professional occupation, but I couldn’t label what I did want.

Now I’ve crossed 40. I am working on a master’s degree in world history at West Chester University. I’ve had a few small acceptances with some of my creative writing. I’m contemplating pursuing more paid freelance writing work.

And I also might take a semester off from my master’s work. My daughter is nearing 13 and I never realized how much she’d need me now.

These are the thoughts I was thinking this morning as I held my office hours as a graduate assistant in West Chester’s history department. I stumbled upon one new publication that may be a good fit for me as a journalist wanting to return to the trade and some of my more alternative leanings.

And while I sit quietly, alone, in this office, I ask what will I do with myself this winter with no schoolwork and only my tedious retail job? And I realize this time will be introspective and hopefully give me more stillness so that my true desires come into focus.

While I ponder these thoughts, which are not easy thoughts, I receive an email.

“Thank you for your revisions.” “We’ll contact you with a publication date.”

An essay I submitted to an online literary magazine a few weeks ago seems as if it has accepted my piece. The piece is about weather, Djibouti and broken bones. It’s a quirky publication too so this may be a sign…

I must keep writing.