Trapped free time

Now that it’s summer, meaning the kids are done with school this year, that brings a whole new level of schlepping kids here and there for the next couple of months. Day camp on weekdays, swimming on weeknights, and soccer one weekend morning, repeat. What that means for me, in addition to making my brain melt in terms of logistics, is that I have a bunch of trapped free time.

I remember a book I read a few years ago – ETA okay, fine, I googled it and this is it – that talked about how little free time American moms have. Part of the book went into time studies, where women were asked to track their every moment and it turned out they actually had way more “free” time than they thought. I can’t fairly recall the exact details, so do not take this as an attack on the specifics of that argument, but there’s different kinds of free time.

There’s true free time, where you get to decide what out of everything in the world you want to do with that time: read, watch tv, go swimming, get a pedicure, go hiking, whatever. Then there’s paired free time, which is only slightly less awesome, where you and your partner determine together what to do with that time, a subset of the first category. You probably would go out to eat, go for a bike ride, go get a beer, or watch a movie, go to a concert, etc. In other words, if given all options, you might prefer to stay home and sew a bag, but because you’d dedicated this block of free time to your partner, you have a slightly smaller subset of options (because you’re excluding individual pursuits, since it’s not very team-building-y to go off in your own corner and write while your partner works on their yoga or whatever).

Then there’s what I have in spades right now: trapped free time. All of these moments of otherwise free time. This happens when I’m


  • usually by myself,
  • but at a specific location (i.e., soccer), *not at home*,
  • where I cannot leave, or even when I’m allowed to, there’s literally no point because there’s nowhere I could get to and back from in time, so errands are out,
  • and have a limited amount of time.


I have tons off these blocks of trapped free time. 25 minutes a weeknight at swim lessons, 50 minutes every weekend, and then, of course, the periodic 2-hour drop off birthday party or playdate. With the 2 hour blocks, that can be a lot easier, although to be honest, it depends on the location of that. I’ve been to birthday parties where there’s nothing within a 10-15 minute drive, and so by the time I got to Target or wherever, I would have so little time to browse that I just don’t find it worth it. I personally don’t find it relaxing to look around or shop with 30 minutes or less. But at least with those, I can at least get my groceries or something where I have a very routine and rote thing I need to get done. Still I wouldn’t call that free time, as if it’s some kind of leisure.

The weeknight and shorter blocks are what I think of when I think of trapped free time. Sure, I could bring a book, but given my budget and self-imposed library-only policy, means that I have to also have time to plan in advance. To get to the library, browse for something, and get back out without my kids losing their minds or, (GASP!) if I’m on my own, before I’m late for kid pick-up. In other words: oh so rare! That leaves magazines, which, again, I don’t subscribe to because money but am wondering if they would be worth it for this very reason. It comes to my door, it comes with a variety of topics to read about, and I just stuff it in the car and have it at all times. But for the moment, I don’t have any subscriptions.

There’s always podcasts. That’s oh-kay, because I do love podcasts, but I already isten to them at specific times and most of them, I can’t keep up with. Plus it would also require me to have the time and forethought to plan in advance, because budget precludes me from walking around streaming cellular data at all times, so I download for offline or at-home-wifi listening only. So, a possibility, but meh.

So what’s left? Cute little mobile games that I download and require no cell / wifi data. Those are always good when I find a great new one, but I don’t know where / how to find new ones. I keep asking my tech-savvy friends where do you find new games and they just blink at me. Maybe they don’t play them? Or maybe they just scroll endlessly through the app store and pick ones at random? I can’t deal with the choice overload there. Having to specify which category of game I like gives me hives. I have no idea what those categories mean.

I can use trapped free time purely as down time, meaning time to just *be*. To sit, relax, listen to the kids play and eavesdrop on the parents over there and hear myself think. That’s totally an option for at least a night or two, but I can’t help but be irritated at me having “free” time that I could be putting towards my own sanity, self-care, and/or personal goals, but that I’m not using for myself because it’s usally the only time I get to myself. To me, there’s a major distinction between down time, in which you are intending to do nothing at all, and free time, which you choose to fill with something.

By the way, I totally recognize that this is a privilege in the first place: to have free time OF ANY SORT, EVER. Parents who work a very demanding schedule, multiple jobs, or have so many responsibilities they can’t even breathe, I get that my problem is really a non-issue. But still: trapped free time. Driving me. CRAY CRAY.


Years ago, My Better Half co-authored a book with his dad and his dad recently asked him about this year’s royalties statement and he realized that he hadn’t gotten one. In fact, after going back through the files, he discovered he hasn’t gotten one since 2006. So he contacted the publisher, and after looking into it, they noticed a tiny little problem. They thought he was dead.


This was news to us. I figure one of three things happened. 1) The publisher is wrong. 2) Maybe he did die & he & my kids are both half zombies? Or 3) the most disturbing possibility: I see dead people.

Turns out they have an author with an identical name who did die. Where ‘identical’ should be read as: same first & last name, different middle initial. Critical difference.

Alone. Together.

I listened to a fascinating interview today with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, who has written a book about being single, and how the way that society thinks about single life has changed dramatically over the past century. What I found most interesting though is that, as an aside, really, he talked about his own personal life – that he is married with small children and living in New York City – and, when asked if he spent a lot of time alone, his response was “when you live in New York City, you don’t have much opportunity” to be alone – it becomes “a fantasy.”

Man, you got that right. Have you been to NYC? It’s impossible to carve out any niche of solitude (although it helps to wear your earbuds everywhere to drown out everyone else). When I was last there, I got on a bus from the Newark airport to Manhattan, where I could claim an entire row to myself & all my crap, and waves of relief washed over me immediately, “oh thank GOD. I am SO sick of being around all those people. In the airport shuttle, in the airport, on the plane. Jesus! I am just so glad to have some space to myself.” Then we stopped at the next airport terminal. And the next. And it quickly became apparent that there wasn’t going to be any personal space on this bus – it was just that I was the first stop! Then we got to the Madison Square Garden stop and I got off the bus only to navigate seas of people. Everywhere. All I wanted was to get to my hotel room and collapse. It was late Sunday night and I was exhausted after a long day of flying standby, hoping to make connections. And even after the respite that my claustrophobic hotel room provided, it was back to being thrown into throngs of people everywhere I went. It was impossible to find a seat on a bench to myself in museums. The stairs outside the public library in the park were just teeming with other solo folks just trying to make private phone calls in public. On the subway, at restaurants, in line at coffeeshops, on walks through Central Park – there is no space to call your own. I could never, EVER live there.

But it got me to thinking: would his thinking about single-hood and being alone have developed if he lived somewhere else, in some other context? Where the experience of having alone time was neither novel nor particularly noteworthy? Would it have struck him to study being by yourself if he weren’t living in a context in which the only way you can be alone is together, with milions of others? I think it’s a striking example of how one’s thinking can be, to at least some degree, a product of one’s circumstances and context…

Too Cool for Cool Tunes

My friend Doug once famously said, “I’m over trying to be cool anymore. I’m too old. I just don’t have time for it. It’s fucking exhausting.” It’s funny because it’s true. Especially when it comes to music.

I happen to live in a really kick-ass part of the Phoenix metropolitan area. My ‘hood has the best independent bookstore in the valley, great restaurants, and one of the remaining independent music stores.

Wait. What was that last one? Did you just hear the needle scratch sound effect too or was that just me?

I almost never buy CDs anymore, and obviously I’m not alone. I remember being seriously annoyed when I had to replace all of my tapes with CDs to maintain and replicate my collection of tunes. Then I was annoyed again when everything went to iTunes, but I sighed and dutifully went about uploading all my CDs so I could listen to my music on my iPod. And then I went to eMusic, but am now considering dumping the whole iTunes world altogether in favor of Pandora & Spotify. Why? Well, Pandora is like the independent radio station the friends who used to make me mix tapes and introduce me to artists & tunes I wouldn’t have otherwise known. And in today’s musical landscape, it can be hard to separate the How did I live before I knew about these guys (think: Foals) from the Don’t even try to tell me THIS SHIT is ‘music’ and so help me God, if you do, I will unfriend you (I’m looking at you, insipid Ke$ha). And Spotify to replace the idea of iTunes and the record store – giving me access to my shit 24/7 without me having to deal with the upkeep. But, lest you think I am contemplating this shift without exasperation, I give you an audible “harumph.”

I am Officially Old™, because I am too tired to keep up with good music. So please, please. Don’t ask me to switch platforms again. I am done.

Decision Made

I belong to an audiobook club, where I get one download a month, and I couldn’t find anything to use my latest credit on…until I read the following review for Stephen Colbert’s I Am America (and So Can You!).

“Now, I have to admit that I was a fan of his TV show, but it soon became apparent after listening to this book that it is not much more than a 3 hour homophobic diatribe. He starts out by saying that “baby carrots are trying to turn me gay” which, I also admit, caused me to chuckle a bit. But this guy is a racist, homophobic Republican who thinks the world should return to the good old days of the 50s. It’s not 1955 anymore…deal with it.”

Clearly, this reviewer is *not* a fan of his TV show, because that would imply they understand satire. That review alone cinched it. Book selected, and it has been a good selection. Maybe I should base more of my decisions on people’s poor reviews, rather than the positive ones. Because people are idiots.