Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Lost Years

I have several (and I mean several- there must be romance in the air) friends who are pregnant or rejoicing over brand new babies right now. There is the whiff of baby powder, the sound of squeals, the ever-constant sway that all women adopt as soon as a baby is in their arms. (We probably look like we just landed on shore after a treacherous crossing and haven't gotten our land legs yet.) And all these bundled blessings got me thinking of something- my lost years.
The years I might as well sailed straight over the side of the earth for all the good I was to anyone.
Writing? I'm laughing just writing that. I was making people! If I remembered to pull on a shirt in the morning I was doing great. Babies shrink our worlds. All those things we wanted to do- yeah, I'm laughing again.
Just like a caterpillar we stop exploring the leaves of life and curl up into ourselves.
And then it gets dark.
We wonder if we are really there at all because all of a sudden our college degrees and the books we've read and our clever witticisms are reduced to burp rags and baby lotion.
We used to command a room and now we are at the beck and call of a tiny tyrant who doesn't care if we sleep or are sick or need an adult conversation.
We almost disappear, glued to one spot, hidden in the shadows.
(I know- you just really want to have another baby now, right?)
But I'm not finished.
Just like that caterpillar who gave up everything to spin that tiny little home, we give up everything to make a home for our new family.
And just when we think we will never return to our former life, we see that we are right. There's no going back.
Because when we stretch out and reach for light and life and conversation again, we find these fragile wings unfurling.

And all those lost years- the ones where I cried because I knew I would never be a real person again- I shouldn't have been so frightened.
I wasn't dying. I wasn't hiding. I wasn't lost.
I was growing wings.
I was raising my best friends.
I was getting ready to fly.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My child puked on a dead sheep..

I'm not being funny. Or symbolic. Or metaphysical.
But how I wish I was.
The Dancer got sick yesterday and spiked a high fever. At bedtime she was still lounging on the couch listless when she realized she had to throw up.
There was a nice big bowl waiting for her. But when you're sick you're a little off- including your aim.All the yuck landed on our beautiful,  snowy white sheepskin rug.

As if it isn't insulting enough to have people trounce around all over your hide after you're dead, now the poor dead sheep has be puked on, as well.
I think I heard it give an indignant bleet from sheep heaven. (I hear the grass is lovely there)

So how does one clean a sheepskin rug?
Yeah, great question. You mostly don't.
I had to borrow a friend's very nice washing machine and do the best I could.
The rug came out clean, but matted and sad looking. (Imagine a sheep in a rain storm)

So yesterday I had to plunk down money for a steel dog brush (anyone need a dog brush?) and spent hours carding wool.
Can't remember the last time I felt so domestic.
Or stupid.

The rug, however, is delightfully fluffy and and I got to say that my child puked on a dead sheep which just doesn't happen every day.
Sometimes you take what you can get...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

That kind of perfect

Don't expect too much from yourself.
Set realistic goals.
Know when you've hit your limits.

Words of wisdom that I frequently blow through at a hundred miles an hour, appearing just long enough for me to see them in my rear view mirror and wave goodbye.

Because what I really want is to be perfect.
Not to have people think I'm perfect. That's something else entirely. I think I frequently show that I'm not scared for people to see me just as I am.
But I wish what I was was perfect. Ish. I'd settle for perfect-ish because I do, in fact, know that the role for one perfect person was taken long ago and there are no other openings.
But you can't tell me that I can't be perfect-ish because I see people doing it all the time with my own eyes.

I want to be that kind of perfect that my friend is when she gives her whole patient self to her six children and never loses her temper. (Like never. I'm not kidding)

I want to be the kind of perfect that I see when I walk into a house that is riddled with pandemonium and littered with toys and chaos and my friend breezes around with a smile and is like, "peace out, my friends."

I want to be the kind of perfect that I see when I look at my friend whose only two children are autistic and she uses up every ounce of her being to make the world a friendlier place for her daughters. While she runs a dance studio in her basement. While she volunteers for every committee and remembers half birthdays. (Seriously, I didn't know there were half birthdays...)

I want to be the kind of perfect like that person who hugs anyone and anything (strangers included) and doesn't give them a chance to feel embarrassed about it because life is just too short to waste on handshakes.

I want to be the kind of perfect that I see in people who who have full-time jobs and families and are busy but you call them and they say, "Oh, a piano? I love moving pianos! Let's do this thing!" Or the single moms I love who never think of themselves because there isn't time to wonder if they want to do something or not. They just give.

I want to be the sort of perfect that I see  when someone stands up for what they believe in no matter the consequence of social outrage or ostracism. (Like admitting you still like watching old re-runs of Full House)

I want to be the kind of perfect like my husband who can put in a sixteen hour day and never once, never, ever, (freakishly never) say he is tired or worn out.  (I, on the other hand, fold a towel and stretch and groan and say how exhausted I am)

I want to be the kind of perfect where I could go outside and do this:

I am surrounded by the kind of perfect I want to be every day. And I might wear myself down and out trying to imitate some little scraps of perfection, but I'd rather be worn through, short of my goal by a thousand miles, and a little better than be comfortable, practical and realistic and just the same old me.

So if you ever wonder why I am trying so hard to make the beds, while simultaneously wishing I didn't care about the state of my beds...
Or watch me try to play memory with my five year old when I really don't care where the other roller skate is...
Or see me trying a recipe with capers in it when I don't even know what they are (are they like peppers made out of fish?)...
Just smile and let me go.
I'm really busy completely failing at being perfect.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I will never get my trophy back

There is a locket that the Cowgirl got two years ago.
For two years she's pulled it out of her jewelry box or off her lamp or out of the pocket of her dirty jeans and worn it when the mood struck her.
But this week she realized something about her little locket.
Holy lock of hair, Batman, this thing is empty!
And she suddenly decided that it was very important for her locket to have pictures in it.
I was sitting surrounded with four hundred pages of manuscript, editing like mad, after a long day of babysitting for sick friends and delivering meals and doing laundry when she came up to me and showed me her empty locket.
"Can we take pictures of Berry and Rebecca and print them off and cut them out and glue them in my locket?" she asked me.
I heard "Blah, blah, blah, extra work, extra trip to store, blah, blah, work."
I don't know how I managed it, but I laughed and said no at the same time, not even losing my place as I ruminated over to comma or not to comma.

And if someone wants to know why I shot down her dream so fast I have three reasons.
1. Sometimes I stink as a mom
2. I really just heard, "Blah, blah, work."
3. Berry and Rebecca are not relatives or friends. They are our rats.

Like all good folks of the frontier, however, my Cowgirl is resourceful. She went to the man with the plan. She asked the Artist.
And before I knew it, there was a full photo shoot. (I kid not) And then he put his work aside (please don't show this to his clients) and spent an hour designing little rat portraits in the shape of hearts (because her locket is heart shaped and he wanted it to fit perfectly).

That night we went to Walgreens and picked up his glossy portraits.
Yesterday my Cowgirl went to school proudly displaying her love for her rats around her neck.

And the artist gave me a wave from the victor's platform where he was standing with the "Coolest Parent Ever" trophy.

Oh Crappola. Now I have to buy a pony....

Friday, January 11, 2013

How did we all get Radium kids?

My children aren't phosphorescent.
If I turn out the light they don't glow like the dials of a watch.
They aren't radioactive.
Active- yes!
Radioactive- no.
So please explain why it is when you fill up a room with the most incredible, wonderful children- hundreds and hundreds of them- my child is the one who is

Light-up-my-life, mushy-musical-montage, bad-eighties-special-effects kind of glow.
I think they are the most brilliant, blinding little things I've ever seen.
And I get it- when you look at them they have a crooked tooth and messy hair and they look pretty much like the fifty kids on their left and the fifty kids on their right.

Unless they are standing next to your kid.

And then they kind of light up because they are standing next to a kid who

I totally get it.
The cowgirl dead center in her school musical

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

33 going on 103

You know how I kind of have an old soul?
I used to look longingly at the teacher's lounge door, feeling bored with the third grade cliques and the tedium of recess. I would have taken a fascinating adult conversation over four square any day.
Well my freakishly too old spirit is influencing my body.

Exibit A:
Bruise of massive proportions.
Now go ahead- ask me how I got that monster.
It's a great story.
I. Sat. Down.
At Noodles and Company I was casually taking a seat, bumped my leg on the corner of the booth as I slid in and wa-la!
Whole new meaning to thin-skinned.
And yes, that was Noodles and Company. If they want to avoid the bad press they are welcome to send me a year's supply of Japanese Pan Noodles. I think that will alleviate the pain and suffering.

Exhibit B:
My mysterious illness last week.
I went to sleep and woke up with what looked like a third degree burn on my neck. After a three hour hunt tearing my room apart looking for a bed bug or spider (actually cut open my box spring because I hate bugs that much) I found nothing. I determined it was a freak allergic reactions and left it alone. Three days later I was in so much pain I finally gave in to the Artist who had been looking at me for seventy two hours saying, "Seriously, you're not going to go to the doctor?"
After four seconds in the exam room the doctor told me I had shingles.
You know- the retired old man disease.

And the Artist is laughing his oh-so-young and cute head off because I am the one who runs from sugar and white bread and all things over processed, thinking that will keep me young.

I am a great admirer of maturity. I respect my elders. I would just like to get there gradually. I am asking my body to hold it together a little longer because I am having too much fun to bleed spontaneously and sprout goiters and.... hold on.
I just realized I am talking about my aches and pains. That has got to add fifty years to my age right there.

Here's to youth for the brief moment when it is ours.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I have been getting some emails lately. ABNA (Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award) is about to open for 2013 and inquiring minds want to know what my journey was really like.
Were there secret meetings?
Who was in the black town car with tinted windows?
What about the money and contracts?
 At least, that is what the writers with visions of NYT bestseller lists in their heads want to know.
My other friends, the majority of the people I love, don't write and if they want to know anything, they just want me to expose what the life of a writer is really like.
Then I tell them, they make a very disappointed face, yawn, and let me go back to my laundry.
I will not be posting my publishing story here because some of you just come to see what current mess I've gotten myself into and don't really care about books or agents.
I will simply let you know that I set up a new page.
That's right, slide your eyes up and to the right. See it?
It says ABNA.
I will be updating it and giving details. And just so you know if it interests you or not, I am pasting my first entry below. If it makes you curious, just pop in sometimes and get the scoop and join the conversations.
I won't know what questions are burning in your hearts until you ask them. As promised, my first installment of "A Year Ago Today."

Welcome to my ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) page.
There is a plethora of curiosity about this contest and I want to give my fellow writers the low down.
I don't think I have ever said "low down" before. That made me laugh.
Anyway, I am contacted often with questions about the contest. I know what fellow writers want- they want the gritty details and most all, they want some numbers. I know what readers want- they want to know what happens behind the curtain before they pick up a book and read it. Time to fork over the answers.

I'm going to call this "A year ago today" and walk my readers through the emotions and practical steps I took to get my book off the ground. I will just start highlighting points of my journey to publication until I reach the big climax- winning ABNA, and in August I'll tell you all about releasing a book through a big house publisher.

So, for my first installment let me take you back exactly one year to January 8th, 2012. My book had been available for exactly four days on Amazon and I had never heard of ABNA.
After trying to get an agent and publisher and failing big time, I gave up on the idea of publishing books. I decided to make my first, and I thought, only, book available to my friends and family through Amazon KDP (kindle direct publishing). That way they could have it for free and if felt good to finally share the fruits of my labor.
After four days my book had been downloaded by far more than my family and my three friends. Okay, I might have more than three friends, but I certainly don't have thousands. Of course, none of that had any monetary value (I didn't make a cent because I didn't charge a cent) but since I never expected to make a cent, that didn't really matter. I was reeling from the fact that thousands of people owned a book I wrote. That was good enough for me. And scary enough for me. I had meant to put my toe in and found myself falling off the high dive into the deep end. There was an indescribable fear as I waited to see if I would belly-flop and anticipated the pain of horrible reviews.  It made for some sleepless nights.

You can see my blog entry from exactly a year ago today

I made one last effort to query and sent out my KDP stats along with my first reviews that came in. (I was shocked to see reviews in twenty four hours!) I never expected anyone to read that fast! But read they did, review they did, and I sent it all out to ten more agents, wondering if maybe life had a few surprises for me yet.

A year ago today, I was glued to my computer, clicking refresh to see how many new people downloaded my book, wondering if any agents would write back, with no idea how my life was about to change...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The gift of a question

I celebrated my birthday and the New Year with the Artist. We ran away from home, booked a room for the night
view from our room New Year's morning

 and spent the evening at restaurants, theaters and finally, eating blackberries in our hotel room while we lounged and talked about the year past and the year approaching.
I scratched his head while I thought aloud of the unexpected gifts this year has brought. I thought of  how I trembled a year ago when I announced to the world that I had written a story. I thought of how he had been there, so certain of my success that he laughed at my terrors.
And then, because it has been weeks since I've been away from my little girls and able to say all the  grown up thoughts in my head, I started to rattle on and on about my current work in progress.
I told him where my characters were, what they were saying, what they just finished doing, what they didn't know they were about to do. I followed all this with an apology because I knew I was talking too much and being boring.
He opened his eyes and told me not to stop. He smiled up at me and said he loved my stories, could listen to me talk about them all day.
Just as I was processing the delighted surprise that those words gave me, he said, "What happened next?"
And I realized that my birthday gift was not a hotel room overlooking an avenue of lit trees and bundled shoppers.
It was not a gourmet meal where my shoe pressed up to his under a white table.
It was not the stack of eight new history books that all look so delicious I can hardly stand to start one because it will mean putting the others aside for another week.
It was two brown eyes looking up at me, seeing more in me than I've ever seen in myself, intrigued with the thoughts of my mind and the feelings of my soul, and asking the question, "What happened next?"
It was the wonderful moment when I let my head sink into the down comforter while the sound of rolling suitcases clattered down the hall and I said, "well, next she goes up the stairs...."

The question isn't, "What was my birthday gift?"
The truth is my birthday gift was the question.

breakfast with the Artist