Month: September 2010 (page 1 of 2)

How did I not KNOW this?

Friends, really. I’ve gone many, many years on this train-trip called life, and never until today did I understand why we’re actually here.

The reason is Massage.

Not kidding. Had my first massage today. I am a changed woman. Life means so much more than broken dryers and dirty dishes. It means rosemary-scented oil. It does. (I came right home and made another loaf of rosemary bread. It felt a tiny bit canibalistic. But, with therapy, I’ll come to deal with that.)

See, back many moons ago (in February) when I was singing-and-dancing on stage in Joseph, a friend gave me a gift card for a massage. Which I promptly hung on my fridge and gazed at daily. I told myself this was a special treat. A reward for some job well done. Some job that never got done, well or not, until now. But since I finished my draft (again) I knew I had arrived. And I went. And I loved, loved, loved it.

People should do this weekly.

Oh, people do? Well, I’m not those people. But for sure, I should do it again. Some day. It was utterly relaxing, candle-lit and stuff, and there was funky, new-agey music playing softly from above, and my feet didn’t even get too cold (a common ailment, if you’re me). Also, my shoulders felt Awesome, right up until I sat down on this not-ergo-anything chair and started typing.

*sigh*

So there it is. The Reason. Massage. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Done? Again.

Another draft down! Wo-hoo!

This draft is a fun one, because I get to put in chapter markers. That, for some reason, is Big Joy for me. It has chapters! Twelve of them! And they are numbered!

(Please forgive the uncharacteristic use of the exclamation point. I generally refrain. But sometimes, you just gotta do it. Or at least I do.)

Just because I have finished another draft, well, that doesn’t mean that I’m done. At least not Done-done. But this is my 2nd write-through, so next step is to print it out (sorry, trees, but I love my eyeballs, too) and read it over on paper, beginning to end, making the changes that I need to make. Then I send it to a few readers. I used to use J. and A., my oldest nieces. But, see how they’re in college now? It makes it harder for them to just go ahead and drop everything to read my manuscripts into the night. Not that they’d say no if I asked, but I’m all responsible, so I won’t ask.

Instead I’ll make my Kids 1 and 2 do it. I can handle the responsibility of keeping my own children up too late.

Also I have some writers read it. This is helpful on several levels. Do I need to tell you the levels? Okay. 1. Adult conversation. Need it and love it. 2. Writers read differently than readers do. They back me to the wall when I get lazy, and they demand my best work (whereas my Kids 1 and 2 demand only some good kissing scenes*). 3. They say where it’s good, but they also say where it needs to be better, and sometimes, they suggest how I can get there. 4. When we read in person, together, they laugh out loud. This is a bonus, but maybe my favorite bonus. 5. Sometimes, they don’t get it. And that is good. Because I didn’t explain it enough. So I get to go do it again. Better than before.

And after my readers and writers get their hands on it, I re-polish. Maybe that isn’t a word (yet) but it means I go again, see? Because even then, it’s not done. Considering that I’ll polish it up another time or three or four, then submit it to my publishing people, and they’ll give it a thumbs down (which is what we hope NOT to have happen) or a thumbs up, with a few (thousand) suggestions to make it even more polished. And then I’ll do it again. See? So when I write, I hope not to grow bored of my characters quickly, since I get to hang out with them several dozen times through their story.

But for now, we shall do the celebration dance for finishing another draft. Then we will make rosemary bread. Because draft-finishing is delicious, and so is rosemary bread.

Bye!

*This is a lie. They demand no such thing. I am shamelessly using their numbers in vain.

It’s not even Irony.

There is no heat in my dryer.

That is not a metaphor.

Just the sad fact. This morning, in a fit of early-birdiness, I put in the first load of laundry at 5:45. Then I went about doing all the things that needed doing, and at 7, I checked the dryer. It was off. But clothes were wet. “Oh, sorry,” said a Kid. “I thought I turned that back on.” Well, I turned it back on myself, and guess what? Nothing, that’s what. Well, not really nothing. Tumbling. Rotating. But no heat. No good. But of course, I already had another load washed and ready, so I ran the dryer cold. For 3 and a half hours. Now my kitchen is covered, draped, in white laundry that is almost dry. And a load of other clothes is tumbling away in the laundry room.

This is good for me. What to know why?

Because I am going to write until the automatic sensor on the dryer turns itself off. Like a little alarm clock. A reward may come at the end of the writing/drying cycle.

Because I can fool myself like that.

And also because I know it will eventually turn itself off. It will. But the clothes inside will still be damp and cold.

And even with cold and damp kid-clothes, the writing will remain done.

Until my computer blows up. (*knocking on wood-like substances*)

Hard Stuff

Don’t you sometimes wish the hard stuff just didn’t exist? Or that it would go away? But here’s a thing I’ve been pondering lately, and several people have been talking about it. And blogging about it.

If we don’t know the hard stuff, what do we really know at all?

I’m extremely lucky (lucky = blessed), and I know it. I am healthy. Happily married. Supported. With 4 excellent, healthy, smart, obedient  kids who love each other. The hard things we go through in our family are fairly consistent, but nothing, nothing compared to some of the hard things other people face. And how do I know that? Because people talk about their struggles. They write about them. And careful novelists write about the hard stuff they know – either because it happened to them or someone they love, or because they learn enough to know.

For instance, did you know that there’s a standard September book-banning issue? At the beginning of a school year, people say what they don’t want anyone to read. I have issues with that. *Please don’t misunderstand. I have plenty of standards. There are many, many books that I choose not to read, becuase of content or message or for any number of reasons. I am fairly conservative in my reading. But I don’t tell people that they shouldn’t read things (except for once in a while, my kids. Because that IS my job. Totally.) So, anyway, people campaign for books to be removed from library shelves, in schools and out. And this year, one of the books that a religious group is trying to ban is Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK. I was about ten years late reading this book (don’t ask me where I’ve been since 1999), but I was floored by it. Floored. It was really one of the most touching books I’ve read. Ever. I put it right into the hands of my then-14. She recoiled a little. As she might. The book deals (forthrightly) with rape. And its aftereffects. And it’s hard. But does its being hard mean we should never read it? Or never let our kids read it? Or ignore that the problem sometimes exists? I say no, especially when the problem (in this case, rape) is always going to be prevalent, and some girl needs to know that she’s not alone. That she’s not singled out for pain and horror.

Do I want to read any book that glorifies violence? Oh, no. But do I leave it in your hands to decide if you want to seek out such a thing? Of course. Does SPEAK glorify rape? Not a bit. Not at all. It gives a voice to a victim. It’s the responsibility of the strong to speak for the weak, of the mighty to stand with the unprotected. (And then, that victim, that weak one, that unprotected child stands strong and speaks for herself, and for others.)

Many people are saying this better than I. Click on this link to hear Anderson’s words, and see her suggestions for effecting change.

And there’s this other thing. I read on Sara Zarr’s blog yesterday this quote by author Veronica Roth:

“It’s all fine and good to walk around thinking “I’ve been saved! Woohoo!”, but seriously: saved from what? Sometimes I wonder if they even know, or if it’s too uncomfortable to think about.”

Is it simplistic, childish and unfair to say that I see both sides of that question? Some things are too uncomfortable to think about. But we stretch our brain by thinking about them anyway. We stretch our spirit. We grow. Remember growing? That’s what we’re doing here. Learning, growing, choosing – and how do we know what to choose? We learn the difference between good and evil, when it comes right down to it. Does that mean we delve, explore all kinds of evil, so we can really know it? No, not for me.

Want a metaphor? Well, you’re in luck. Because I have one.

Once upon a time I lived in Oklahoma. Which is a remarkable place. And I tried to grow a garden, because I’m some kind of glutton for punishment. Here’s the thing about gardening in Oklahoma. The dirt? Is brick. Like, you could probably cut it in cubes out of the ground and build a wolf-proof house out of it. It’s red, and hard, and solid. Seeds bounce off it. The ground sort of laughed at my efforts. Shovels didn’t really make a dent. It was sort of… baked.

And as I tried to plant seeds (because a woman of character grows things in the dirt) I realized that this ground needed to be broken. Split. Harrowed up. And I made it happen. Do you know what? It hurt. It hurt me to push through that hard. To use muscles I’ve never used before. To see very little success. And to move away before I could enjoy the fruits (but that’s another metaphor entirely). But what if my heart, protected, untouched and hidden, baking in the warm sun, has hardened like Oklahoma dirt? What if, by staying away from the shovel and the pick, crucial seeds are bouncing off my heart?

There are things that need to grow in my heart. Sympathy. Empathy. Understanding and forgiveness. But if I can’t let the seeds in, nothing will grow. It can’t. I’m not allowing it. So I need to let my heart be broken open. I’m not talking about inviting abuse. Not at all. I’m talking about allowing some of the pain that real people experience every day to crack me open a little so something beautiful can grow. And when our hearts get a little harrowed up, a little broken on behalf of someone else, I think our souls expand. I think that learning to understand others’ pain makes us bigger. And from the fertile ground of a broken, harrowed heart, beautiful trees can grow, to shade the weary and feed the hungry and make the world a little more beautiful.

Right Now

The rain is pelting the windows,
Splat-smack-slam
And the sun

Oh, the sun,

Lights up the yellow leaves on the trees,
Soggy and dripping and gorgeous.

Could I ever ask for more than a sunny-rainy
Perfect autumn day?

(Thanks, Google, for the ideal messy photo. I’d take one just like it if I had the skills.)

Fortune favors the Ironic

You know that thing where you have a manuscript to finish, that’s waiting for you, that’s holding it’s breath (that’s a metaphor – manuscripts don’t breathe, only Real Live books do), just waiting for the final touches to be put on it? And then, then you have this funny realization that Every Single fortune cookie you’ve ever opened had a crap fortune inside it? And that that would make a great, great character trait for someone who is NOT in the current novel?

Yeah. That.

In fact, I have probably gotten good fortunes in my life. Just not within my memory. In fact, last week when we celebrated my birthday, my parents and sisters and I ate Chinese (at Shoots, yum) and half of the table had to leave before fortune cookie time. So we tried a little experiment. I cracked open a cookie (which, at Shoots, is dipped in dark chocolate, because why not?) and read this:

“You wil make many changes before settling satisfactorily.”

Um?

Really?

Not even “happily?”

Just “satisfactorily?”

Thanks, anyway.

So I took another one.

“Focus on your long-term goal.”

Thanks, Mom.

And again, because Dad left early to go teach a class, missing his chocolate-dipped “fortune”:

“Listen these next few days to your friends to get answers you seek.”

Noted.

Oy.

But were they all like that? Oh, no. Julie’s was awesome – something about delirious joy and romance. I’ve blocked it out of my mind, if you can imagine. Husbands are always, always good — promising dollars-and-cents fortunes.

But I get advice cookies. And, frankly, not very great advice. And when I think about it, I sort of get in a huff. Not enough to stop eating Chinese, but maybe enough to start bringing my own pieces of paper to shove inside the cookies.

“Size 8 jeans are just around the corner for you.”

“Your wit and charm will continue to stun and stupefy all you meet.”

“Your husband thinks you’re the most beautiful woman in the world, and he is absolutely right.”

“All calories from lemon chicken are hereby negated.”

“Your children will act like perfect angels for the next seventy-two hours, we promise.”

See? It’s not that hard. Maybe I’m in the wrong business…

No. Wait. I’m not. This is the perfect business for a disgruntled fortune-cookie receiver. Just as soon as I finish Ivie’s story, I’m going to use this. Somehow. (I’m sensing revenge for the lame-fortuned. Stay tuned.)

Ahhh. I needed that.

Kid 1 and I took a little road trip this weekend. And very little patience was required for at least thirty hours. Wow, right?

Here’s how it went down. My sister who is NOT Betsy in BBM has a daughter who turned 16 this weekend, so for a surprise, she arranged for us to meet half way between our houses (in exotic and fabulous Boise, Idaho) for a girls’ night/day out. Kid 1 and I left in the middle of her last class (choir, anyone? Let’s go.) and drove with one small suitcase and a whole lot of car snacks.* We were all sneaky checking into the hotel (which was very lovely), telling the cute hostess that this was a top-secret check-in and under no circumstances should she tell our cousin that there was anyone else in the room. She was awesome about it, even though the room was reserved in my sister’s name, and that might not have been entirely legal to let us check in. But hey, we look as honest as the day is long, right?**

So we hid our bags and went out in search of balloons. Which we found. Note: 8 well-filled helium balloons is about the limit for the back seat of Husband’s Mini Cooper. Not sixteen. Just eight. We also hit a bookstore, where I schmoozed up the adorable workers and signed the store’s stock (but only of my books – not anyone else’s). We’d had a top-secret text telling us that they were another hour away, so we got sandwiches and kicked back in the now-decorous hotel room. Then we got the phone call.

Sister: I blew it!

Me: What?

Sister: We’re an hour away, and I told her!

Me: Bozo.***

Sister: (Funny description of the telling, which is inappropriate for polite audiences, which you all are.)

Niece in the background: They’re really there? Meeting us? (*squeals of teenage joy*)

An hour later, we squealed some more, and hugged, and giggled, and stayed up way too late talking and squealing and giggling. When it came, it was a nice quiet sleep, until some annoying alarm started honking. I thought it was a car alarm, except every 8 honks was longer. I dragged my body out of bed and crashed into my sister, who was also seeking the source. Which she found. In her purse. Phone alarm. Fie. (I couldn’t go back to sleep, because I’m trained like that, even after staying up WAY too late.) But everyone else managed to go back to sleep, so I waited politely until I was too excited to wait anymore. After I showered and dried and applied at least 2 beauty products, I woke them all up and channeled a scout master (“We’re burning daylight, people!”) and we started some more fun.

We ate omelettes. Yumminess. We went to the mall, because teenage girls enjoy malls, as a general truth. We tried on clothes. Some of us more successfully than others. We ate smoothies. Good ones. We got pedicures. This was my second time trying that game. I like it. I should find reasons to sit in a massage chair while someone beautifies my feet, just a little more often. Want to see the cousins’ toes? Sorry. I tried. But the wordpress security monkey won’t let me upload the file. So you can take my word for it – the toes are adorable. All forty of them.

In the early afternoon, we had to bust out of there, so they could make the slightly longer drive before too late, and so I could get home before dark. Did you know I hate, hate, hate to drive in the dark? But I love, love, love to drive with my Kid 1. We listened to many musicals, including music from “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Promises, Promises,” “Evita,” “Newsies,” “Hairspray,” “Legally Blonde,” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” We may be nerds, but we’re nerds who can carry a tune.

So, to sum it all up, it was a lovely weekend-night-day full of good food and fun conversation and pretty toes. And very little patience required. Thanks to the Husbands (both mine and hers, we each only have one) for making it happen, and Happy Birthday, sweet Niece!

*Here’s what keeps Kid 1 and me happy in the car: Bugles (original), homemade oreos, drinkable yogurt (just me), red vines, carrot sticks and celery, black grapes, those yummy multi-grain crackers (Breton, I think), and Gardetto’s deli-style mustard pretzel mix. Also Lemonheads. And salami.
**I’m referring to mid-June, long, long days. Natch.
***I didn’t really call her that.

Patience

Once I had it.

Then I lost it.

Not forever, you know.

But, temporarily lost it.

Once I listened
When they said, “Mom.mom.mom.mom.”

Once I asked, “Can you tell me that again,
so I really understand?”

Once I wanted, really wanted
to know about the day.
The friends.
The classes.
The trauma-drama.
The giggles.
The boy.
The tears.
How the mud got on the jeans.

I’ll want that again.

But maybe not today.

Once, listening to the music practice made me glad.

Not so much today.

Once the requests were met with, “Sure.”
“Help yourself.”
“No problem.”
“It’s my pleasure.”

Today? More likely, “Seriously?”
“Who do you think you’re talking to?”
“You’re killing me, Smalls.”

And it’s not just with them.
It has disappeared with myself, too.
I have no more patience for low word counts.
Slow revisions.
Missed obligations.
Belated action.
Dusty bookshelves.
Piles of clean clothes growing dirty again before they’re folded.

It’s time for a day off.
A day without the need for patience.
No patience required.

Ah. I need it.

(And I’m getting it. I think.

Details will follow.)