Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thing 3...

You know that scene in Bull Durham, the one where they all meet up at the pitcher's mound? If not, here it is… though be careful when viewing because the language is not for the faint of heart or small children. 

The best of intentions, I had them. I was going to write every day. Not necessarily post every day but the plan was to sit at my desk and work when my kids headed off to school at the start of September.

But then life happened. Some of it good - spending a day celebrating a friend's birthday. Some of it out of my control, as in the toilet doesn't stop filling the bowl one night and while I hear the faint sounds of water dripping, I assume it is the water softener which makes a similar noise from our basement whenever my husband is out of town. I used to panic and check every faucet and water source but learned soon enough that it is just the water softener. Until the time that it isn't and the next thing I hear is my son asking, "Why am I standing in water?" (Yes, I know that assuming makes an ass out of u and me. I grew up with brothers.)

And after many, many soaking wet towels and a call to the water mitigation company and days of loud, loud blowers and dryers, we were dry but now begins the process of repair. Thankfully there was only a minimal amount of damage but it still involves estimates and insurance agents and contractors.

So in the words of Crash Davis (Kevin Costner for the Bull Durham uninitiated), we have been dealing with a lot of shit around here lately.

And that is on top of the usual back to school adjustment period that has kids coming home exhausted and cranky and then having to get snack and homework done before rushing off to practice for one of the three if not all of the three boys.

I have a lot of distractions both necessary and some that could be rescheduled but why when having coffee with a friend is salve for my soul.

But the game must go on and thing 3 needs to be written, even if I have no words of encouragement for the houseplant dying in the corner. Seriously plant, die or don't die. That is up to you. Heck, I'm surprised you lived this long in my house because I have no interest in house plants. I do not need another thing that needs me to take care of it on any consistent basis in my life right now.

This blog post may not make any sense but it is done. And I have addressed Thing 3 from the book 642 Things to Write About.

Fine, little houseplant, I'll give it a go. You need to live. You like growing and being green and releasing blooms sporadically. You bring beauty and life to the room. You remind me of nature and the things outside that I should go see. You staying alive means I am doing something right.

And that my friends is me getting back into the game. 

As weird as it is. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2 of 642 Things…

When you are young, you only know life in your own family. Everything your family does you assume, as a kid, every other family does as well. Which is actually pretty true when it comes to babies. 

All babies need basically the same care. Clean diapers, food on demand, lots of sleep. For longer than we as parents like, our lives revolve around the basic care and feeding of this child that uses various tones and volumes to their cries to communicate their needs. As toddlers, most parents agree they need to learn to use the toilet and feed themselves. We all try to read to our kids and take them outside to play. We try our best to keep the scary world at bay just a little longer. 

But there comes a point on the playground or in the hallways at the school, that both the child and the parents realize that their family might be doing things just a little bit differently from the person next to them. It might be video game rules or word acceptability, it might be watching the news with the kids or letting them drink soda, or it could be whether your family has a Christmas tree or not in December. Somewhere in the raising of our children, we stopped focusing on the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and started thinking about what kind of adults we want our children to become. What values, traditions, life lessons we wanted to pass on to our kids while we could. And this is where many of our parenting decisions start to diverge. 

It’s hard to see at times. Mostly because it is hard to believe that someone would think there was a better way to raise their kids than the way we are. We are so often blinded by trying to figure out what works for our family that we cannot begin to imagine there is even another way, or lots of different ways to raise kids. But beyond that there is the belief that our family is great, our traditions the best, and that we need to protect our home and way of life. 

Remember those discussions about where to spend the holidays when you first got married. His family, her family? Both/or? You wanted to support your spouse but you also wanted to enjoy your holidays eating your families seven layer salad which is made with swiss cheese and mayonnaise and not the hideous combination his family puts together with miracle whip and cheddar. One tastes like home, like Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one. And the other is an abomination and a direct assault on you, your childhood, and your family. Doesn’t he understand that? 

Family and all that it means is so personal, at the base of all that we are… or at least all that we were. 

And when someone does things differently, it feels like a personal attack. 

When maybe it is just them doing what works for them and you doing what works for you.

But I still prefer mayonnaise and swiss cheese. 

And don't even get me started on jello salads. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

1 of 642 Things

As I mentioned in my post last week, I have been struggling with being disciplined in my writing. A friend showed me the book 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writer's Grotto and in a last ditch attempt to keep going, I bought the book.

The list is an eclectic selection of writing prompts from "Something you've always regretted saying" to "The Thoughts of the first man to eat an oyster." Out of respect for their work and copyright, I won't be including the actual prompts each time. But if you like to write or think outside the box, I would recommend the book. Also, who knows where the prompt might lead my mind and the two may not seem to be connected by the time I am ready to hit publish.

Today though, I start with Thing 1 - "What can happen in a second"

I was killing it on Thursday. Seriously. My butt was in my chair a la Anne Lamott. I was actually writing and feeling good about both the words on the page and the time spent working. And then the email arrived. It wasn't anything big or important or life changing. Just one of those awkward emails you occasionally get that make you unsure of what happened or where you stand with the writer. One second…

I was sitting at home, watching tv while my kids napped when I received a telephone from a pastor at our church. My friend had been in a life changing car accident while on her way to the library with her kids. Her daughter was instantaneously with Jesus in heaven and my friend was fighting for her life. One second…

I was laying in bed one evening, overwhelmed by nothing and everything. Tired of listening to my kids whine about dinner and exhausted after a long week of taxiing and monitoring and feeding and clothing and grey days. Little One came in to say goodnight. His eyes, his smile, his kisses changed it all. One second…

I was standing before my groom. Dressed in white, our friends and family surrounding us, though all I could see was his side, my friends behind me. The pastor, a friend of mine from work, asked a simple question. There I stood, single on one side and forever tied on the other side of the words I do. One second…

The last second goal that changes the outcome of a game. The first snow flake you see knowing the rest are coming. The last text you send before putting your phone in airplane mode. The moment the characters in the story shift and your perspective is forever altered. The forgotten lunch. The quick stop to fill up the gas tank. The smile given across the grocery store aisle.

Life changes in one second.

One second we often don't see coming.

And yet so much of my life has felt like biding time. At least since I had kids, or maybe more accurately when we started trying for kids. Or was it earlier than that, when we were working toward the next move, the next job. Or even earlier still when we were waiting to get married or waiting to get engaged or waiting to be in the same time zone. Or did the biding start when I was waiting to meet the man I would marry. Or waiting to graduate and get a grown up job. Or waiting to get into college and start my own life.

When did the biding my time start?

One second.

Added together.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Letter to a Friend - To My Cheerleaders

The ones that read this blog. The ones that call me a writer. The ones that cheer me on. The ones that check on me when I haven't posted anything in a while.

I want to say thank you.

I want to thank you for believing in me even when I didn't, when I don't. It is your belief in me that often keeps me going.

I want to thank you for inspiring me, for talking with me over coffee, for sharing your stories and listening to mine, for wanting more of my characters and wanting more from me.

You have been my cheerleaders. (And as a former cheerleader myself, I know that role well.)

You encourage me with comments, with likes, with emails.

You push me to work harder, to go deeper.

You challenge me to make my dreams a priority and a reality.

You keep me honest.

I write for me. But I also write knowing that you are reading my words. Thank you for that!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Writing - a verb and a noun

Writing can be a dark, dark place. At least for me lately it has been.

I know the word writing is technically a verb but for those of us that call ourselves writers, it is so much more. It is a noun - a place where we go to do our work or where we avoid going because we have nothing to say. It is an action word, something I am engaged in right now. It can be a measure of mood - a canary in the coal mines of sorts.

Two school starts ago, I sat down to finish the novel I had started in bits and pieces while my youngest was in kindergarten. That August, with all three boys finally in full day school, I was going to write the story I had been dreaming about for over a year. I was committed to sitting at my desk each day and writing. And it felt great!

And the feeling of finishing a whole novel was amazing. Mostly because, it wasn't easy. Not only putting the words on the page but actually sitting myself down at my desk on those days when that was the last place I wanted to be. But I did it. I was disciplined. I followed through and I accomplished my goal.

Last fall when school started, I had plans to write again. My husband and I had torn down old wallpaper in my new office. We designed and painted and had contractors in to make the office exactly what I envisioned when I saw the space in our new home in Wisconsin. I had the space. I had the time with my kids off to school again. But suddenly writing was a dark place for me. A place where I was a failure. Where I had nothing worth saying. Where my self-confidence had run away and left me with insecurities. I procrastinated. I watched way too much Gilmore Girls. I felt guilty and I wrote blog posts about how I was procrastinating.

I blamed the move. And I stand by that blame to a point. It is hard to leave your support system. It is hard to keep writing when the people who used to shoo you out of the coffee shop to go home and write aren't here. It is hard to write when your mind is lost at sea, when the waves of depression and failure wash over you to the point that you hold on to the only life jacket you can find, even if it is using television as a mood alterer as I once heard Anne Lamott say.

I lost any sense that this is what I am meant to do. Still as I write this, as I sit down and make a plan to write every day, I feel the darkness rising up in my bright green and white office. How arrogant to think you have something to say. No one will read this. And don't even get me started on what a crap novelist I am.

But then my friends remind me of the joy they saw in me when I would walk into the coffee shop and tell them about a scene I had just written.

And my husband says, "I want to read the next book."

And as we wander the cute shops on our girls weekend, my girlfriend shows me a book - 642 Things to Write About by The San Francisco Writers' Grotto.

And I remember that when I write, I am my most real self. The one that isn't avoiding thinking about things that hurt but pushes into them. The one that writes because it feels good when I am done.

Sitting at the desk each day is hard. According to all the writer tweets I have read, I think this is universally true.

But it makes me…. Me.

I bought that book 642 Things to Write About.

And I am sitting at my desk.