Tuesday, June 30, 2009

UP redux

I did it again. I went and saw Pixar's UP again yesterday afternoon with my kids. We had the grandparents meet us there, and Kid 4 sat on Grandpa's lap and gave a play-by-play through the first hour. I finally told him to be quiet (because Grandpa certainly wouldn't).

I started to worry a little about halfway into the show that I had maybe oversold it to the grandparents, even though I was fighting tears (at least 4 times - very, extremely, exceptionally rare for me in a movie). I wondered if my claim that this was Pixar's greatest achievement was maybe a little DQ*.

Turns out, not. They loved it like I did. Grandpa's fave? Fenton's. Hooray for kidhood memories, huh? After the show Kids 3 and 4 acted out favorite scenes from the movie and several "UP-isodes" that Husband has on his iPhone ("Hurry up, Russell. Time's healing this wound.") while I made really yummy peach ice cream. Mmm. Ice cream.**

So, if you haven't seen UP yet, and you get the chance, I'm just saying - see it twice.

*You know, Drama Queen
**Occasionally I channel Homer S.

Monday, June 29, 2009


It's the hair.

Like every other girl who grew up in the 80s, I wanted The Hair. The big, teased, permed, peroxided*, enormous hair. Bangs, feathers, frizz - it was all good.

And I couldn't get it, not really.

I have this really thin, straight hair** that was damaged beyond all reason by nearly a decade of chemical and heat-appliance assistance.

Like many other of my imperfect qualities that I have come to accept***, I'm more okay with my hair these days than I ever have been. It doesn't hurt that the wispy, straight look has been fashionable for a few years.

But I have occasional issues (surprised?) with hair product. For instance: Why does the mousse stop coming out of the bottle all cloudy and soft when it's still three-quarters full? Why, instead, does it land in my hand with a splat like heavy cream? And why, why, do I keep buying hair product that promises "thickening"? Seriously? Do I still, after all these years, believe it? And why, for the love, do I think a product for sale in a grocery store is better than a product sold in a salon? Oh, wait - I know this one. Because cheap = beautiful. Right.

All told, though, I'd rather have some bad hair than none at all. But to those of you who have the step-out-of-the-shower-and-onto-the-runway hair, I hope you know how lucky you are.

*Remember Sun-In? Ack.

**My niece with lots of luscious hair calls mine "paintbrush hair" because of my piddly ponytail.

*** I love being in my 30s!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Posted in Kids' Bathroom

Towels: Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo.

Wonderful Children: Hey, what’s wrong, Towels? Why are you sad?

Towels: We don’t want to live on the floor. We want to go home. (*sniffle*)

Wonderful Children: Oh, don’t worry, Towels. We’ll send you home.

Towels: Thank you, thank you, Wonderful Children. You are so kind.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Kid 3!

Little Princess, you are a delight.

You have the strongest personality in this whole houseful of personalities. Your eyes, so beautiful, are full of light and sparkle.

You are not only a school-smartie, but you know things. You have a sensitivity to things unspoken and unspeakable. You understand people, and recognize their motivations. You create and carry out plans - devious and benign - to get the things you want. I pray that this talent stays with you (along with the proper compass, which should keep you out of trouble - and jail).

You love to laugh - sometimes just to hear the sound in your own ears.

Enjoy this extra-special birthday. Laugh it up. Listen to the whispers. Let the lights shine.

I love you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Long lists

I love long, specific lists of things I need to accomplish. Because I feel so ... accomplished when I've crossed them all off. And I do cross. No subtle check-marking for me. Nice, thick line through the job.*

Today's list is long. I intend to enlist (I can't even think of another word, but why hide my nerdy pun-side?) all the troops to get it all finished. And then, a reward. I will leave them for a few hours of early-evening peace (mine) and they can watch a movie and eat popcorn.

Seems like a very fair arrangement, I have to say.

*I still have to be able to read what it said, though, so I can congratulate myself again and again on all the little things I've managed to do.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Busy Week

This week is a little bit crazy. Not that it's anyone's fault but my own, mind. I'm not blaming circumstance. I could have been well on top of all this work that needs to be done. I just chose to do other things instead. Things like read. And write. And nap in the sun.

So I'm sort of taking a day off today. To normal people this will look like a work day. I've already cleaned out a closet (gag) and re-filed all the sheet music (left over from my mom's musicality - I just had to keep it, you know?). Now I mow the lawn (my favorite chore, really) and supervise the kids' organization of the bookshelves (otherwise I won't be able to find Ms. Austen when I need my fix).

Then some baking - zucchini bread (I shredded and froze extras last year, because my garden this year is a long, long way from production) and some muffins to freeze for Saturday's baptism/brunch/family fiesta.

Then Costco. With four kids. Pray for me.

Then a birthday party at the cousins' house (water slide - not mine - and homemade pizzas - all mine) and then home to fall into bed before tomorrow comes. That's when the basement cleanout begins (pray again, if you please).

I well know that were I a woman of character, this would have been done long ago, and on a regular basis. I love people who work that way. I recognize them. I honor them. But I am not one of them. But by Saturday morning, the house will be clean, including behind those pesky bathroom fixtures, there will be plenty of good food to eat, and maybe (maybe) the weeds will be gone, at least from the front walkway.

Just to be on the safe side, let's all say another little prayer, shall we? Thanks, darlings.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Goal Accomplished

Hey, yeah for me. I accomplished a goal today! So, naturally I am sure you want to know all about it.

I jogged 4 miles. That's FOUR MILES in a row. With no stopping. Or walking. Or moaning, weeping, wailing, gnashing teeth, crying or whining.

I don't think I've ever, ever done such a thing before.

So far I'm feeling really fantastic (just a tiny sore, you know, to remind me of the great thing I did) and really, really proud of me.

Just think: If I can write a novel (or three, or four) and jog farther than ever before... what can't I do?*

Hooray for a great day!

*Besides, you know, refrain from thinking snarky comments, or stop laughing at tasteless 80s SNL skits...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Kid 1

Today you are fourteen! I can hardly believe it.

How about 14 things I love about you today?
  1. I love your kindness
  2. I love your sense of humor
  3. I love your grace
  4. I love your smile
  5. I love your great big brain
  6. I love your willingness to help
  7. I love that home is where you want to be
  8. I love your friends
  9. I love your sensitivity to things of the Spirit
  10. I love your dedication
  11. I love your blue toenails
  12. I love your humility
  13. I love your gentleness
  14. I love your voice
Naturally, there's so much more I could say, and so much to add - details and memories and dreams and fantasies - but let's just say I've never regretted a minute of having you in my world. If I had it all to do again, I wouldn't change a thing (except maybe that one haircut that we will NEVER SPEAK OF AGAIN). I adore you, my sweet one.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Revisions Starting!

I'm reading over the draft of my WIP and filling in those holes. Am I suposed to be having his much fun? Today was the easiest thousand words of all*. It is coming together! This is glorious. I have this goal to have a draft finished before vacation, you know, and it just may happen! Wow, huh?

There is plenty left to do, of course, and as long as my muse is willing, I'll keep waking up early to pound it out.

Fun. This is fun. I love to write, because it's fun. Fun!

*and that was the worst sentence ever written!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Emotion Delay

I got to church today quite early, and was visiting with a lovely friend for a few minutes. Another friend, unusually flustered, sat with us to ask if we'd heard the news.

This is the news: a family, who used to live in our neighborhood, went camping in a remote mountain area this weekend. One of their sons, age 10, somehow got separated from the family at 4.30 in the afternoon. By 9.30 this morning, after an evening and night of heavy rain, he had not yet been found, but his backpack had been located by searchers on horseback. There was no cell service where they were camping, and several counties worth of emergency crews and search and rescue teams were ready to help, including the super-fancy helicopter with heat-imaging technology - waiting only for the weather to clear.

My friends, devastated by the news, had tears in their eyes. I wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I not crying about this horrible, frightening, awful thing?

By a few minutes after 10.00, news arrived that the boy had been found, safe.

And then, the tears came. With the relief, the gratitude, and the release, I felt the horror of the possibilities. It was strange to find myself in a chapel full of joyful, happy people - and I was crying. Maybe for relief. Maybe for gratitude. But surely, somewhere in my heart, I had to know Little Man G was okay before I could have my cry.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm broken, that way. I don't manage to cry at appropriate times, but I seem perfectly capable of weeping long after the time to cry has passed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Not Exactly According to Plan

When Husband and I got married, we used to talk about the kind of parents we'd be. He'd be the fun, soft-spoken, happy Dad. I'd be the gentle, supportive, singing Mom.

Reality has leaped in here and changed our details a little bit.

I am not the gentle mom. I am the nag. I am the picker. I find fault. I expect, I demand. Do I think I'm a bad mom for this? No. I have a whole list of occasional worries about being the bad mom, but this one's not on it.

I am sometimes the supportive mom. I go to lessons. I sometimes sit through practicing*. I do girl-talk, but not after 10:30 p.m. (I have my limits.) I can say with the best moms, "That guy is a jerk. He has no idea what he's missing," even while I'm silently praying my thanks that nothing is going on between him (whoever he is) and my little girl.

The singing mom bit - well, that's debatable. I had a singing mom, and we'd go on car trips back in the day and make our own music. We kids knew all kinds of cool folk songs and show tunes and silly songs and campfire songs. Our car trips these days require at least one iPod, but we sing along with it, so maybe that counts.

Husband is the great dad. Fun? Often (even though all our kids roll their eyes at him**). Soft-spoken? Often. Happy? Usually. But all those things we thought we'd be have been shoved aside for a few more urgent things, more necessary things. He is the dad who says No when No is the right thing to say. He is the dad who laughs when the kids are funny, even when I think "funny" leans toward inappropriate***. He is the dad who takes charge of work projects, who buys paint brushes for kids, who lets them knock sections of wall out (yeah, heavily supervised). He is the dad who listens to prayers at bedsides, and tells "crazy stories" and sings out of tune. He is the dad working every day to provide those little necessities like food and heat. He is the dad who shows what his priorities are, and those priorities all appreciate it. He is the dad who loves his wife.

And so, even though it isn't exactly like we planned, it's pretty awesome anyway, and we are so lucky that it is working out this way.

*Moms who regularly practice instruments with children earn rewards in my book. Big ones. Dipped in chocolate.

**He loves it, I can tell.

***Which reminds me of sitting on my parents' bed in the late 80s watching very naughty SNL skits, waiting to laugh aloud until I heard my mom laugh.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tough Guy

Husband came home late from basketball. Usually when he plays that long (from 5.30 - 7.00) he looks a lot... wetter. And smells, well, gross. Today he didn't. He came in looking only a little embarrassed.

I said, "How was it?" like a good wife, and he smiled and shrugged.

Uh-oh. "Did you get hurt?*"

Nod. I look. No obvious broken bones, no limping**. But something funny on his face.

"Um. Six stitches."

Will you think I am World's Worst Wife when I confess that I laughed? I only laughed a little, and mainly out of relief, because - you know - it could have been worse.

[DETAILS COMING -PLEASE IGNORE IF YOU HATE THIS STUFF] He crashed heads with a bald guy named Troy (real name, but he doesn't know his last name. Only that he has a head like a bowling ball). His skin split open right between his eye and his eyebrow. The cut is long enough that if it were open, it would probably be about the size of a quarter. Ick. But the doc stitched him up (at the end of his 36 hour shift - and that could have been worse, too) and he's off to work.

Poor baby.

But I'd rather have him stitched, bleeding, broken or sprained than deal with him when he has a cold. Or, heaven forbid, the stomach flu.

I'm just saying, the bigger the man, the bigger the baby.

*This is the guy who once played six games of volleyball on a broken wrist because he didn't want to inconvenience his date (who was not me).

** Did I mention playing basketball on a sprained ankle?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Totally Not the Scary Dad

In High School, my dad was sort of Surrogate Dad to all kinds of my friends. He was the dad people wanted to hang out with. In fact, sometimes, I'd come home and find out that a friend had come over to visit, and when I wasn't there, the friends would hang with my parents instead.

Gross, right?

Well, kind of - but mostly I loved it. Guys in particular loved my dad. My best friend's dad was not so much in the picture, so he'd come to my dad for advice and stuff*. My dad knew all my friends, even the really casual ones who never actually came to our house. He knew their names, and their major personality issues, and who they liked, and what they looked like, and what sports they played, and how they did in school.

He know because he asked.** And I'd always tell him. Except some things he didn't ask, and I assumed he knew, like who was a "good kid" and who wasn't. I have since discovered that we may not always have been on the same page, there. Because even a dad who asks, and remembers, can be fooled by a polite handshake and direct eye contact.

Once, at the kitchen table much too late at night, my step-sister*** and I were writing King Lear essays**** with a friend (M.S.) for Ms. Morris' English class. Maybe it was the King Lear family dynamic, but we started talking about our dads. M.S. said something about being afraid of her dad. I must have looked surprised (because I was).

She asked me, "Come on, haven't you ever been afraid of your dad?"

I had to think about that. They both stared at me.

Step-sister said that she lived in regular (not constant, it's different) fear of her dad, but not of mine, and there followed a strange conversation about how my dad was just different than "normal" dads. Because he wasn't scary. And dads, you know, should be a little scary.

It's not that my dad and I always saw things the same way, it's just that I lived in fear of his lectures, as opposed to his raised voice, his belt, or his fists.***** He was different from other dads, and here's how. He respected his kids (and other kids, and maybe all kids). He saw us as people, and treated us as such. Other dads demanded complete compliance, and got rebellious kids. My dad told us the rules, gave us expectations, and we pretty much obeyed.******

In all these years since that night, I have watched other dads interact with their kids. I have seen all kinds, but I have to say, my dad is not the only dad who isn't scary. Plenty of dads are, that's true. But there are lots of "good dads" who act for reasons of protection, not constraint. Lots of dads who look for kind things to say instead of insults. Lots of dads who find excuses to hang out with their kids instead of sending them away.

The dads whose kids can say "I know my dad loves me" - and not because he bought them cars or ponies, or let them do whatever / go wherever they wanted, or sent them to cool camps, or gave them unlimited credit cards - the dads who show their kids, and (*gasp*) tell their kids they love them. Those are the dads that are shaping the future. Their kids will turn out to be the confident ones, the leaders, the gentle ones, the effective ones.

Go, kind dads. Sweet is better than scary. Concerned beats insulting. Love wins over fear.

*By "stuff" I mean priesthood blessings and dating counsel. You know, Man stuff.

**And he remembered because he had a freakishly sharp memory (and mostly still does) for things related to people. Husband has the same sort of memory, but for things related to cars.

***Yes, I usually refer to her just as my sister, but this time, our different parents come into the story, so stay with me.

**** I wrote the outline, and we all used it, just shaken into a new order for each of us. I had the privilege (I spelled it right!) of writing the outline, because I had actually read the play.

***** In fact, once he gave me a print of a Gary Larsen Far Side cartoon with my name put in to read, "Eventually, Becca came to fear her father's lectures above all other forms of punishment" - it's funny, because its' true...

****** I was grounded once. For going to a party I was told not to attend. It was not quite fun enough to make up for being grounded. For a month. Yeah, my parents didn't know how to do it. Obviously.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dinner Gifts

At dinner the other night, Husband was trying to maintain some of that Terribly Important Family DinnerTable Conversation while waiting for Kid 4 to eat his food.* Husband said, "I remember when Kid 1 was three years old. She said, Daddy, of I'm still awake when we get home, can I pick the fuzz out of my toes?"

Everyone laughed. Then everyone looked at him in expectation. So he went on. "I remember Kid 2's first word." Everyone, even the ones who weren't alive when Kid 2 spoke first, said, "WOW!" and then there were comments about how it was at the circus, no, the Indiana state fair, and how it was on her first birthday, and how she didn't say another thing until six months later, when she started singing songs and speaking in full sentences. But what about when she was three? "I'm not the grumpiest fairy!"**

Kid 3 wanted her turn. "Dad, what did I say when I was three?" He winked at her. "Have you ever X-rayed a chicken?"***

"What about me? What about me?" Kid 4, actually working a bite of baked potato, wouldn't be left out. Since he was most recently three years old, everyone had cute things to remind him of: "Do llamas Moo? Daddy, baby Jesus is naked! You smell like a cookie - a yucky cookie. A little bit or a lotta bit?"

Lest you think we have some sort of super-memory in our house, I have to tell you that we cheat a little - we write these kinds of things on the calendar in the kitchen.**** And then Husband, in his Good Daddy way, reminds all those people how important they are by telling them what he "remembers" about them. *****

I love that he gives them little gifts like that - a story from their "cute phase" beats out any number of cheesy little trinkets. (Now if I could only convince Kid 3 that's true...)

*This is a new favorite game: If he eats slowly enough, all after-dinner jobs will magically get finished around him and he won't have to do any. Good thing he's so cute...

** There is a long, sordid story here, but let's get the basics: She loved her dress-up fairy wings, and one day, in a fit of the crankies, while wearing her wings, her big sister said something about her being the grumpiest fairy ever. In the angriest toddler-voice, head steaming, breath huffing, she exhibited her ability to crescendo with the best of them, starting fairly softly, "I" pause "am" pause, and get louder "NOT" big old pause, and louder "the GRUMPiest" pause for breath, and holler "FAIRY!!!"

***Maybe you had to be there.

****In fact, the #1 requirement for a kitchen calendar is "white space."

***** I was not safe. "Once, your Mom was tired of listening to you tease each other, so she said, We're a happy family, whether you like it or not!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Funny Kids

This isn't Dad related, but I wouldn't actually have funny children if there wasn't a father around here, right?

So Kids 1 and 2 are planning a secret move. I know this because I shamelessly read their emails. Especially to each other. Turns out Kid 2 is orchestrating a relocation to Cairo.

Let me explain.


Let me sum up.

We have been experiencing a cooler, wetter spring than ever we have had here. So there is a little bit of whining about the weather. Like how Seattle has overtaken the Rocky Mountain region. And now Kid 2 has discovered, by means of that inter-ma-net thingie, that today's high at home is Cairo's overnight low. So she has decided to move there.

And she's invited her big sister.

Who has agreed to save the date of July 14th.


And somewhere in those little heads, they have convinced themselves they will like the food.

I'll be expecting a call around July 15th - a "rescue us, and bring mashed potatoes" kind of call.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dad Takes the Stage*

Mothers of small children are rarely trained in the arts, but are required to perform at the drop of a hat (or the onset of a tantrum) various musical numbers, frequently accompanied by proscribed dance moves which will be sorely missed if forgone or misapplied. In our house, these spontaneous shows occur at set hours (before and after naps, during station breaks on PBS, and while snacks are being prepared) as well as on demand at random intervals throughout the day, and at all times in the car.

This command performance, though tedious, is not the least pleasant part of my parenting regimen. I love to sing, and teaching songs to children is a great language training tool. We live in a “singing house,” which has always been one of my visions of homey happiness. We sing together as a family. All of us. Even those of us who can’t.

Husband, for various reasons, can’t carry a tune in a tin pail. But by the grace of the Lord and a miracle of childhood adoration, our babies don’t seem to notice. Of course, that can’t last; and by the time they hit three or four, stuffing fingers in ears is a common sight. But in the tremendous toddler years, nothing beats a snuggle and a song with Daddy. Even if that song stays on the same note throughout and the words are improvised on the spot.

I wish every tired mom of a two-year-old could know the joy and delight of turning away from the dishes in the sink and catching a glimpse of the man she adores stretched out on the couch clutching – not the remote control and a beverage – but that precious child. The one who spent two hours in the tub followed by thirteen seconds with a magic marker and now looks as if he has possibly never been bathed. The child who asks for Spagettios with such a cute voice that her mother temporarily forgets the darling’s tendency to wear in her hair what she didn’t use to fill the pockets of her overalls. The one who picked up the phone during Mommy’s sixty-second shower and dialed Fiji or Athens or Riyadh saying, “Hewwo, Gwandpa. I wuv you.”

The sight of that sleepy little head cuddled into Dad’s chest turns the headaches of the day into at least comic relief, and at best golden memories to savor over the years – accompanied by the beautiful sounds of an off-key lullaby. Thank Heaven for Daddies who love their kids (and their wives) enough to take their moment on the stage.

*I wrote this little tribute thing a few years ago and just came across it. Lucky me.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Father's Week

So this is the week leading up to Father's Day. I will remind you of it now and then, in case you might need to stop blog-reading and hustle over to Amazon or iTunes to buy something for your man/dad/grandpa.

I can sit here, comfortably blogging the day away, because I don't actually need to buy Father's Day presents for Husband. Husband has his own theories about Father's day, which I will detail below.

1: Father's Day is dumb.

1.a: If it's all about being nice and cooking me a meal, how is it different than every other day?
1.b: Presents cost too much money. Don't buy any.

2. If I really want to celebrate, I'll do it by honoring all those people who made me a Father in the first place.

2.a: I'll buy my kids a present, a really cheap one, that I can play with them.
*balsa-wood airplanes
*whiffle golf balls
2.b: I'll make a fabulous french breakfast (you know, french toast?) for all those people.

So Father's Day is a little different around here, and we all like it that way. Except sometimes I want to do something better... something surprising and happy-making.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fun reading

I just finished reading a manuscript for a friend.

It was brilliant. I want to speak in capitals and use copious exclamation points, but I won't - because I want to be taken seriously, here, not like a cheerleader with anxiety.

I am very lucky to have writergirl friends, ones with creative capacities that absolutely blow me away. So this book: I can't tell you its title, because it doesn't exactly have one yet, and I shouldn't tell you the author's name, but let's just call her Emily (because there are only about forty-five million Emilys* running around these days, and also, that's her name) but I can tell you that it has just the right amount of magic to snatch me in. It has funny dialog (internal and out-loud) and great characters, and a hint of romance, and is written with a sense of beauty and wonder that you only achieve by being a woman of grace.

It is such a fine middle-grade novel, in fact, that were I in any position to do so, I would publish it myself. **

Here's the fun part. I met author Emily*** a year ago, and had my first taste of this story then. Over the past year, I have read several versions. Through these versions and revisions, I have watched her characters change (a lot of change) and her prose tighten up and her plot deepen.

I have noticed what questions she asks, and how much she knows about the characters that she doesn't put into the story. It has been a great learning experience for me to see how she works her revisions, sometimes taking into account changes suggested (by me and some other fine, fine readers), and sometimes not, just keeping to her vision. In all the things I've learned about writing over the past year, this has been a huge, fun part. I'm learning how to be a writer by subjecting myself to really good writers. And that is so much fun.

So, thanks, secret writergirl friend, who may or may not answer to the name Emily. You've given me a great gift in this story, and I can't wait for someone way more significant than me to validate you with a fat contract...


**I'm not.

***Far as you know.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Word Count Update

This morning I hit 40, 000 words! Out of 50, 000! For those of us less mathematically inclined, that's 80%.

(Actually, Im at 40, 111 - but the math is not happening. So 80% it is. As far as I know.)

It's been fun to see the story take shape, and I got another laugh out of Husband as he came in to check the progress this morning. I think by early next week, I'll have my ending, and then I can go back and fill in the blanks. There are many, many blanks.

You could picture it as swiss cheese, but I'm afraid it might be even more hole-y than that. More like fine Brussels lace.

But soon, soon it will be a real first draft!

And mighty celebrations will ensue, with grilled meats and fanciful salads and explosions of light, gathered friends, and days of relaxing.

Wait. That's our trip to Portland for the 4th of July - but if it happens at the same time, I'll take it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I've just been looking over Justine Larbalestier's post about libraries. She asks her readers for library stories and I immediately thought of one. One completely inappropriate to share with Justine and her fans. But, you know, okay to share with you.

My first real job was in the Batesville Public Library. I was in high school, and had no earthly idea how lucky I was to be offered a job I never applied for. In the 2 years I worked there, the building doubled in size and classiness. When I was a freshman, hot senior boys would lean over the desk to seek my guidance - you know, if someone wiser was unavailable. They often smelled very nice and occasionally offered me rides home after work*.

One Saturday afternoon in November I got a call at work. This was very rare. It was from my Dad. Even more rare, as he's always been a guy in favor of the Appropriate. Hanging out on the phone at work never fit into that category.

He was calling from Chicago. He and my mom had taken a trip there for a short getaway, and she ended up hospitalized at Northwestern University. He called at work because he'd just checked on my brothers, and wanted to be sure I was fine, not worried, all that.

I asked to speak to my mom.

Loud, loud pause.

My dad then told me what he had assumed I'd known: My mom was in a coma.**

Standing there in the center of the quiet, wood-paneled, windowed library, I had the first real intimations that I would lose my mother. Soon.

And somehow, I drew comfort from my surroundings. I felt hugged by those walls, those stacks, those chairs and tables I knew so well. I quickly ended the call, and by so doing, managed not to cry. I stood, hand on the phone, breathing in the familiar quiet, regaining composure to finish my day at work. After a few minutes, I made it back to pulling overdue check-out cards, filing, reshelving VHS cassettes.

The calm of the library surrounded me that afternoon, as it had before, as it would again, but in a different way. I felt like life would carry on. The world would continue to spin. I would survive whatever was heading my way.

A good library *** still gives me that feeling of comfort, of eternity.

*I took them, you betcha.

**I'm still not sure, these 20 years later, how I could possibly have known that if he hadn't told me, but that isn't the point. I think.

***No offense to my current, not-so-much library

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Heard-hearted Taskmaster of Death

I am the spider slayer. Now, I'm the last person in the world who would call Husband a wimp. He is a strong, manly, testosterone-riddled guy. He can lift heavy furniture and unscrew the stickiest lids.


He hates spiders. If he sees one in his vicinity, he must-must see it dead. Soon. Preferably with a shoe as the instrument of death. But shoes, especially manly size 13s, are not so delicate to destroy tricksy arachnids in tight spaces.

So I am the spider slayer.

I can do the job bare handed, if necessary, but I prefer one square of toilet paper. That's just the way I roll. A quick pinch, a combination of crunch and goo, and flush it away. (The flush is Husband's demand. It must be flushed. Every time. When he's home.)


I can't do mousetraps.

The house we live in was built on a former dairy-barn site. This makes for extremely good dirt and plenty of small rodent possibilities. We have been very lucky. I have never actually seen a mouse inside this house. In the garage, yes. Outside, oh yes. But not in my knife drawer (ick) or my pantry (ick) or nesting inside my extra roll of paper towels (ick-ick-ick).

This is not our first house, though, and other houses were full of mouse opportunities, some mentioned above. I am shuddering right now, just thinking of it. And I grew up on "property" where mice were expected and cats (ick again - sorry) required.

And through all those years, I never got over the revulsion of emptying a mousetrap. I just can't stand to witness the disposal of a creature that nurses its young. Call me a softie, call me oversensitive, but if there's a way to avoid it, I will find that way.

And then there was yesterday. I went outside to mow the lawn, and as I cleared up lawn-chairs and baseball bats and tubs of collections (don't ask), I found a bird.

It was dead.

Lying on the grass with its little beak open in pathetic agony.

There was a small explosion of spready feathers.

My first concern was "who would do this?" What kind of horrible creature kills a bird and doesn't eat it? Something is running around my back yard killing birds for sport.

My second concern was that the poor thing was lying on my grass. That I was about to mow.* And Husband was at least 45 minutes and two meetings away.

1. Mow tomorrow (Scarlett O'Hara lives in my heart)
2. Mow around it (effective, but tacky)
3. Move it

Sigh. I had to move it. I couldn't really leave it lying there, waiting for my sensitive, impressionable kids to find it and cry/gag/bring it inside. I was wearing plastic knock-off crocs** and the thought of moving it with my foot was unbearable. Because I'd have to kick it several yards, and I didn't think I could bring myself to do that. Plus I might feel it. And there were bugs.

So I marched (okay, really just walked) into the garage and pulled a shovel off its hook. I placed the tip of the shovel under the little [TOO MUCH INFORMATION. BETTER JUDGEMENT, HERE. I'LL BE FINISHING THE STORY. SHE SCOOPED UP THE BIRD. SHE PUT IT IN THE TRASH CAN. SHE DID NOT DROP IT. SHE DID NOT HAVE TO TOUCH IT. BACK TO THE DRAMA QUEEN.] and the light little feathers disappeared into the vortex of the lawnmower.

So even though it was a horrible thing, I managed to do it. I found my brave, steeled my soft heart, and took care of business.

And the lawn looks fabulous.

*Once as a kid, I was doing the grass (we had a riding mower) and I ran over a frog. Who knew it could bleed so much? Ug.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Live in my Story

Moments like this, I want to jump inside my story. Just for this scene (because Death Before Returning to High School, that's my motto) while my characters are doing something cool that I can't actually do.

They're remaking a dress - a costume. They have scissors and beads and sequins and glue guns and yards, yards, yards of that tulle netting stuff. I am no sew-stress, but I can envision the transformation from cheesy, clunky puff-sleeved ballet costume to elegant, flowing, goddess-worthy gown.

I'm a little giddy with totally unusual creative juices.

I think I might be jealous of them (the characters, not the juices) and do you know what that means? Either that I'm totally losing my grip on reality (possible) or that these girls are becoming People to me. That's kind of amazing, you know?

I have written people that felt real to me before, but mainly because they reminded me of someone I knew (me) and I was constantly bugged by their (my) selfishness, or stupidity, or shallow reactions, or lack of confidence. But these new characters, they're not like anyone I know. They're coming "alive" (don't call the psych hospital, it's just an expression) of their own merits.

Not only that, but I LIKE them.

This is a momentous occasion. I think I'll go for a celebratory jog.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'm Not on a Quest

Once again, I'm wondering why I don't learn how to write fantasy. Everyone wants it. And why not?

It has high stakes. Death lurks around every corner.

Misuse of magic is a great way to get into trouble.

Who doesn't love a quest story?

Plus, dragons. Swords. Elves. Totally invented creatures and borrowed-from-Mythology creatures and conveniently ready-to-save-your-characters monsters*.

But I can't seem to get into it. I like to read a (very) little really well-done YA fantasy, but I'm not sure I love it enough to attempt to write some. I think I'm stuck firmly in the real world. To me, the real world is exciting enough (even with lower stakes) and dangerous enough (even for normal people in normal situations) and funny enough to make for good stories. Maybe not totally commercial stories that film companies fight for, but still, good stories that some people relate to. By which, I mean Me. Because really, who else has to care?

* Actually this bugs me: the introduction of a "dangerous animal" only to find that, hey! he can save my life now!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Write for Yourself

I hear a lot of chatter about Writing for Yourself as opposed to Writing for The Market, or Writing for Publication. And when I hear that, I think, "Well, that's just silly."

Because who doesn't want to be published?

Isn't that why we're doing this? Sitting at our computer desks (or lying on the floor, or flopped in recliners, or taking notebooks into the bathtub) scratching out words so SOMEONE WILL READ THEM. And laugh / cry / gasp in wonder. And then tell us we're brilliant. And ask for more.

But. Maybe not. At least not always. Here's what I'm thinking today.

Once upon a more innocent time (1991-1993) I wrote nearly constantly. I was in college, scribbling out papers and assignments and tests, keeping lengthy journals, writing many letters (remember letters? Stamps? Envelopes?) and never having a thought of being published*. I wasn't taking writing classes (because I'd rather be reading books, thank you very much) and nobody was telling me how much work my writing needed. It was just coming out of me, like Soul Vomit. And I loved it.

Fast forward many years to the point where I had a finished manuscript sitting on a publisher's desk for months. And months. Agony. Misery. Woe.** I wanted that book published. I knew it was brilliant. I was certain it could change the world, or at least the course of teenage reading. I needed that book to be published.

And then it was. Like magic, except it took longer. And then I read it again, and felt the weight of its flaws, and questioned the sanity of the publication team. And then I revised again, and again, and once again, until we all agreed it was good enough (but nobody was saying brilliant anymore, which is as it should be).

So I wrote another one. One that made me laugh, sometimes in a rather unladylike manner. I wrote and shared and changed and rewrote and received critiques and rewrote and polished and rewrote some more. And as that manuscript sat for months on the publisher's desk, I wrote another one.

I worked daily on a story that a friend asked me to write***. And as much as I loved the idea, and pecked out a few hundred words a day, I didn't feel it. I wasn't in love with the writing. I wasn't even really in love with the characters that were coming onto the screen. In my head, yes. On screen, not so much.

So I put it aside. Saved in its own little folder, Ruby's Great Escape waits for me to want it.

I started something else. Something different, and a little silly, and maybe currently overdone in the market (no, not vampire romance - boarding High School, if you must know) but fun for me. And do you now what happened? At some point in the last couple of months, I have learned to love the writing for the sake of the writing. And as of today**** I don't care if anyone ever reads it. Or claps for it, or buys it, or makes it a LifeTime miniseries.

I have found the joy in the journey. I have captured the happiness of writing for myself. I feel the juice flowing early in the morning hours and I sit down at the computer not because I feel an overwhelming sense of duty, ***** but because writing is fun.

Writing is fun.

This may not be news to you, but I'm feeling it as a sort of breakthrough. I write not to earn money (*snort*), but because in my soul, I'm a writer. I write because I like to write. I write because I like to read. I write because God gave me a little talent, which seems to grow as I water it (and shrivel as I ignore it, much like the Wandering Jew in my family room). I write because I love words, and nobody really wants to hear me talk this much. I write because I'm a writer.

I am a writer.

*I may be lying, here - I distinctly remember printing an extra copy of a few particularly well-written letters and clipping them in my journal. Maybe I thought they were readable by someone other than the addressee.

**Thank you, Mister Sondheim.

***In fact, she gave me permission to turn an experience of hers into a story of my own.

**** Check back tomorrow for complete Position Flip (because a woman who doesn't change her mind doesn't have one).

*****Okay, often because of that, too.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Happy Sounds

Here are some of the things I love to hear today:

Singing birdies
Kids laughing together
"Feed the Birds" (from Mary Poppins) on the violin
The email-arrival "bing"
Kids singing together
Consistent keyboard tap (1300 words)
Katie Melua on the iPod
Kids working together

Husband, working across the entry hall, is hearing what I'm hearing. He just raised his eyebrows in parental amazement. I think God just heard a "thank you" from both of us.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ode to the Offended Muse

Some of you already know that if I don't write first thing in the morning (well, maybe third thing, after a few pressing hygiene* matters) that my muse walks off in a huff, refusing to sing in my ear all day. She's such a prima donna.

Some of you also know that now that school's out around here, I'm taking "make a hot breakfast for the family" off my list of things to do every day, allowing me to both sleep till six if I so choose AND write first thing.

But today is my anniversary (not just mine, Husband's, too, natch) and so I got up and made him some banana pancakes - with (*gasp*) white flour. He has since reaffirmed his pledge of eternal devotion. He's so easy. And I gave him golf clubs. This is a big deal, since we're pretty ferocious budgeters around here, and gifts are usually for the kids.

The point of all this is that I now have one very happy husband an one ridiculously offended muse.

It is time for me to pet her, to stroke her head, to tell her how much I love her and that almost nothing in the world could make me neglect putting her first in my day. Except that little marriage thing.

Oh, little Muse? Come out, come out here, sweetie.
You are the greatest Muse any writergirl ever had.
You are lovely and charming and witty and you have great hair.
I love your style.
I love your flowy, Greek-theatre style gowns (always the purest white).
I love your persistence.
Thank you, dearest Muse, for sticking with me,
for waking early
for working quickly
for speaking gently
for spreading adverbs like pollen on the wind
for comedy
for sensitivity
for availability
for consistency (we'll never speak of YOU KNOW WHAT again...)

Won't you please come out and play?
Won't you please come sing in my ear?
Won't you please forgive me for, just this once, putting husband before you on the schedule?
Come on, little one. Come sing with me.
I brought cinnamon bears.

*Hygiene is a word I can never, never spell correctly. It took me seven (SEVEN!) tries to get that one right. Weird is another that gives me trouble (duh). And vacuum. I think it wants 2 cs instead of 2 us.

Happy anniversary

Fifteen years ago this morning I woke up really early. Really-really early. And I put on a white dress, and I rode in my parents car for the last time as Primarily Their Kid. When I got back into a car, it was a different car. Much smaller. Much more recently washed and vacuumed. With a brand new husband, and then all of a sudden I was Primarily His Wife.

The world changed that day.

Once someone heard me say that I would have changed everything about my wedding (dramatic, much?) reception. That someone may or may not have been my husband. So I was an idiot then, I'm an idiot now. It helps to recognize me. And in my defense, I meant that I'd change the flowers that were wrong, and the cake that was hideous, and the photographer that was related, and the food that was mostly free.

But I didn't mean I'd change anything about my marriage. Because I married up. I married someone who is kinder than I, who is sweeter than I, who is more sensitive than I. I married a guy who ponders and studies things of eternal significance. I married a guy who thinks family is the most important thing in the world. I got really, really lucky, and I've stayed lucky for fifteen years.

Yeah for marriage.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


So I had a pretty successful writerly morning, getting almost 1000 words before 6.30. When Husband got home from basketball, he asked to hear some. And HE LAUGHED! OUT LOUD! TWICE!! THAT IS A LOT OF CAPITALS! NOT TO MENTION EXCLAMATION POINTS!

So hooray for a success. In writing.

On the parenting front, however, I have 2 disappointed little people. Kids 3 and 4 were expecting to join Kids 1 and 2 on a pre-camp hiking trip. But the hike that was (3-miler) turned into the hike that should have been (fairly grueling 6-miler) and the planners realized that they didn't need my car or my little people along.

So we're nursing our sadness in a game of Wii Indiana Jones.

I think it's working.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What makes a successful day?

I'm turning into a very accomplishment-oriented kind of girl. This is new for me in the past few years. I may have mentioned in some past post my tendency to make lists to cross things off. And my tendency to put already-finished things on that list so I can cross something off before I start.

So what makes a day successful? Crossing off everything. And then adding other things I've done, just to feel the joy of crossing some more.

Write: check. Met the goal and landed on a happy number. Just for fun.

Walk: check. Plus, half of it was a jog. Not a beautiful thing to watch, but a good burner of calories and adipose tissue.

Shower: check. (See? I knew I had to do it anyway, so on the list it goes.)

Shop: check. Not for much things fun, but plenty of produce and one box of happiness for Husband's anniversary present.

Clean Kitchen: check.

Clean bathrooms: check (done by kids, hooray.)

Nap: check. Only 20 minutes, though. Do you find yourself disgusted by me? Sorry.

Return phone calls: nope. Put it on today's list.

Return emails: check.

Return library books: check. (Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Nobody's Princess - both 4 stars.)

Study: check.

Family Night: check, by passing most of it off to Kid 1.

Play with Kids: check. A rousing game of Imaginiff... (with very few huffy breaths and only two incidents of violence.)

Movie Date with Husband: check. Joined by Kids 1 and 2 because, why not?

So yesterday was a success, and we'll see how things go today. I need to make a list now...

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's June!

Word Count Update: 32,000 exactly. I stopped mid-sentence. Not really. I just happened to look at that point, and I'd made my goal for the day. Yeah! The first real day of summer vacation, and I've done one of the things I've set out to do. (That being 1500 words a day.)

Our first Stay-cation was a success. Everyone loved the hike, nobody got too hurt (even with three of us - not me - finding the stinging nettle plants) and there was perfect, gorgeous thundery cloud cover. And husband and I still managed to get out after dinner to a free concert (Peter Breinholt - he's got a fun style, even if all his songs sound exactly the same) and home in time to see Pushing Daisies.

Have I mentioned lately that I never watch TV? I was obviously lying. But I only watch Pushing Daisies and the occasional PBS documentary (like the Jimmy Stewart one they ran last night). And on that third-to-last episode of Pushing Daisies, we heard Emerson say the word "Craptastic" - a family favorite.

Husband informed me that he's been researching what's the proper 15-year anniversary gift theme. He assured me 'tis titanium. As in golf clubs. (He's lying - it's really crystal, as in goblets and candlesticks.) Not a bad idea, though.