Saturday, March 30, 2013

Morning Brownies

"Mommy, I don't want to die," Melina said, her eyes wide with alarm. She walked from the living room into the kitchen and extended her thin little arms for a hug.

"Melina, I don't want you to die, either." I crouched low and gathered her into my embrace, pulling her body against mine and whispering into her hair. "But everyone has to die at some point. I hope you have a long life ahead of you." My grip tightened for a moment, as I tried to pour all of my love and peace into Melina all at one time.

She pulled back and almost instantaneously ran away, as if the only reason she came over was to extract a hug. Or maybe it was to give one. I'll never know.

The topic of death has, unfortunately, been widespread in our house the last few days. Tim's uncle and a friend's great-grandmother both passed away early in the week. Of course any time someone you know dies, even if you don't see them too often, it makes you reflect on death in general.

I've actually put a lot of thinking into my demise over the last 10 years or so. When I was pregnant with Melina, I feared that something would go wrong and I'd leave 4 little ones without a mother. Irrational fear? Maybe. But the rush of hormones, especially during labor, can cause some very odd moments. I knew I had hit the transition stage of the childbirth process when a need to make sure that everything was taken care of -- whether that was a plan for the next day, the next month, or for a lifetime -- manifested itself in my head.

Since that time, I have come to realize that I am not fearful of death itself, or how I might come to die one day. My fears are not about me, they are about what I will be leaving behind. The people who will presumably suffer from my absence. I fear that if I leave this earth too soon, my kids won't be ready to live without a mother. They won't know how to cope with the minutiae of life, much less the larger problems. They won't remember the little notes I slip into their lunches for field trips or that I made the effort to come volunteer in their classrooms. Too soon, the sound of my laughter, the look of my scowl, and the feel of my arms around them every day will be nothing but fleeting memories, something they try to grasp and pull in with both hands, but find them slipping away all too quickly.

I can only hope that I've taught the kids well. That even if they can't remember what my voice sounds like, that they keep in mind my words on kindness (always, always try to be kind); try to help others out, even without being asked (you'll feel amazing afterwards); try to live life in the best way possible. Be confident in who you are, what you know, and what you can share with other people; don't let anyone make you feel awful about yourself. And don't forget about your siblings: back them up and keep in mind that they are the best friends you'll ever have. They won't let you get away with anything, but they'll also bestow a love on you unlike any other. Plus, they'll remind you that every once in a while I said, "Sure, it's okay to have that brownie at 7:30 in the morning."

If that doesn't put a smile on their faces and make them remember the depth of my love for them, I don't know what would.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Stories to the Side

"I'm putting my story to the side," I said, letting everyone know that the piece I worked diligently on for many months would be set upon the shelf for a while. Maybe forever.

"I'm okay with that concept," I added.

And truly, I was. I am. I will be three months from now.

That first story of mine captured my heart and basically brought me to where I am today; it served an enormous purpose because it pushed me to sit and write, almost every day, which was good practice. The act has made me a better writer. You might not see the changes in my writing here, on this informal blog, but my manner of telling stories has made an about-face. My dialogue is more authentic. I no longer simply purge myself of exposition, and instead attempt to thread it throughout the story. I'm finding the balance for the techniques I've learned along the way. Writing is still a joy. Knowing that my writing is getting better makes the whole process even more joyful.

If I can see this experience as a move in the positive direction, can I ask a favor and require you to do so as well? Don't worry about the story sitting on my desktop. Harvey and Laney and what happens to them is a complete story, so they know their places in this world. But that story is told for right now, and I have no qualms about letting it go. Maybe forever, as I said above.

If I can let go, so can you.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Superstitious

This one needs to be short.

It is the 666th post (I think there are a few, untitled, unpublished ones out there that stand in the files, waiting for life to be breathed into them).

And while I am not superstitious, I just can't seem to find anything enjoyable about that number.

My husband, I am sure, would be able to. But we know what happens when he posts something here: We get a long and involved treatise on how math comes into some everyday situation, and by the end of the post, we might be more confused than when we entered (Love you, honey!). And his titles? Get to the point, will ya? (Love you honey, again!)

So that's all. I'll post more later. I just had to get over that hump.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Antiquity

Melina just watched an episode of the Justice League. I walked into the room and recognized it right away.

"Hey Melina!" I said. "That episode is familiar! I watched it when I was a kid!"

"You mean that there were movies when you were a kid?" she replied.

"Yes, they had this program then. How about that?" I said, really excited about the whole thing. I loved Superheros when I was little. I wondered what her response would be.

"Wow," Melina replied.

All it takes is a 4 year old to make you feel quite ancient.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Short, left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball

Baseball season is about to start (Go Phillies! and Go Mudcats!), and when I took a look at the Phils' roster, I noticed that they have three pitchers who are listed at under six feet tall: Antonio Bastardo, Mauricio Robles, and Raul Valdes.  Curiously, all three are left-handed.  We're defining handedness as the hand with which one throws.  Does anyone really care that Antonio Bastardo bats righty?  I'm sure that's not on Charlie Manuel's mind when he calls Bastardo in from the bullpen.

This got me thinking: two easily recognized physical traits that are valued in pitchers are (1) height, and (2) left-handedness.  Well, what's their relative value?  Is left-handedness valued over height, or are they more-or-less the same?

If being left-handed is more valuable than being tall, then if I were to look at the shortest pitchers in MLB, I'd expect to find more lefties than a random sample.  So, I made a spreadsheet of all the pitchers on the 2013 40-man rosters (thank you, ESPN.)  There are 663 pitchers, and of them, 203 are left-handed.  That's an incidence rate of 30.62%.  Next, I had to decide on a definition of "short."  For our purposes, I decided that our group of short pitchers would be those listed under 6'0".  Of these 663 pitchers, 51 are listed at 5'11" or shorter, so I'm looking at the shortest 7.7% of pitchers.

Among these 51 pitchers, there are 17 left-handers.  That's an incidence rate of 33.3% slightly larger than the incidence of left-handedness among all the pitchers, so maybe we're on to something with this idea, but we need a little bit more information to make that call.  Let's suppose I took 663 slips of paper, wrote "Left" on 203 of them, "Right" on the other 460, put them in a hat, and pulled out 51 of them (without putting the pulled out slip back into the hat, which is important.)  If I did this experiment many times over and wrote down how many Lefts I got each time, the average would be about 15.6, but the deviation -- that is, how much I can reasonably expect my number of Lefts selected to vary from one experiment to the next purely due to chance, is about 3.2 Lefts.  Our 17 short lefties are well within what we'd expect from choosing pitchers completely at random.

It appears that being left-handed is not valued over being tall for Major League pitchers.  There goes my chance of ever being a professional baseball player, unless in the next few years I can figure out how to throw an unhittable knuckle ball.

How About That?

I've said before that I hear complete conversations in my head. No, I'm not crazy. I hear my characters conversing with one another, in my mind, at the oddest moments. I usually get to the computer as fast as I can so that I can write the scene down before I forget it. This happens often, much more often than I thought it ever would, but I've heard other writers say the same thing.

Well imagine my surprise when I get a phone call from one of my characters!

And I'm not kidding.

Again, I'm not crazy. It really happened. I can't give you all the details, but let's just say that I spoke with someone today that totally embodied Callum, at least over the phone. Had I not just "met" this person, I would have told him that I had an entire novel sitting at home, with his doppelganger as one of the stars. How crazy is that?

Which reminds me that I told him about this blog, using it as an example of my writing. He can see the real me here, whether he wants to or not. And now, I have apparently revealed how much of a true lunatic I am. If I haven't scared you yet, CB, I hope I can still help you with your honorable endeavors.


Just My Luck

Usually spring around here has started to peek out its little head. We've got a few daffodils popping up, but because of the cold, those flowers halted their progression and due to snow last night, are covered by a good 3 to 4 inches of white stuff. Downy flakes this late in the season are not welcome here, I think. Especially because they cause delays and closings. Like today. The day the kids are supposed to go back to school after AN ENTIRE WEEK OFF.

Bitter? No, I'm really not. It wasn't a bad thing to sleep until 6:30 am and not have to get up and get things going. But I do have to wonder about a school district that calls for no school the night before, at 11 pm. Lot of things can happen between 11 pm and 5 am the next day. Let's take a look at three of those scenarios:
1. More snow can fall, justifying the closing of the school.
2. The snow can stop, making the school district look silly the next morning when the kids are all outside enjoying the day that really should have been spent in school. (I know, I'm so mean; it sounds like I'd rather my children learn than play. That isn't true.)
3. A warm up could occur overnight, melting the snow that closed the school in the first place.
The third option is rare, but not unheard of. It is possible to think that the snow will pile up when you go to bed at 11 pm, but then, due to the fickleness of the weather, the temperatures have risen over night and the promised snow not only didn't come, it isn't there.

So school district? Why don't you just wait a little longer in calling for a snow day? A two hour delay would be sufficient today. In the meantime, we'll make the most of our last day of vacation for nine weeks.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Room Clearing

Easy Ways to Clear a Room of Four Children:

  1. Yell out Who wants ice cream?
  2. Ask if anyone is ready to help fold the clothes.
  3. Mention that the dusting needs to be finished.
  4. Call out that the cat has vomited, repeatedly, in the room.
  5. Suggest that the kids help with said vomit.
  6. Mention that the Scooby-Doo DVD they just saw has bloopers that they've never seen.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Broken

Spring break is great, right?

I'd agree with that statement if you actually go somewhere else. Or, if my break coincided with the kids break. But it doesn't. So this week, while they have been home or when we've been out, all I can think of is how much I need to get done at home. The laundry, the cooking, the lectures, the writing, all of it has suffered this week.

I try to tell myself, repeatedly, that we've spent time with friends and time together, which is quality time. Saying that and realizing it is, indeed, true, has healed the wound a bit. But I'm still scrambling today to make sure I'm prepared to teach tomorrow, and I despise that feeling.

In the end, I'm definitely broken and ready for this lovely crew to head back to school next week. We've only got 1 quarter left, which means in 9 weeks I'll be doing this again. I think I best prepare myself, don't you?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mom Moments

I had lunch with a group of friends yesterday. We brought our kids together for pizza and snacks at someone's house, and even though there were 9 kids there (1 still had school or we would have had an even 10), the four of us managed to sit at our own table and hold a nice discussion, albeit an often-interrupted one.

A good time was had by all. Conversations veered this way and that, and ran the gamut as far as topics went. I won't reveal anything here, in an effort to protect the innocent.

When it was time to go home, I shooed the kids out the door and unlocked the minivan for them. And then, I made a mistake. I peeked inside my friend's Yukon XL.

I've never been a fan of the SUV. They cost quite a bit and have terrible gas mileage. Heck, they don't fit into most older garages. Those were my feelings until I had 4 kids. Now, I think it would be great to have space for extra passengers and groceries, luggage and pets. I almost fainted when she showed me the cargo space at the back.

"I need to get one of those," I muttered.

"I only have two kids," she replied. "But I love it."

We aren't in the market for a car right now, and even when the minivan goes, I certainly won't be buying a new car, we'll look for a used one. But I'm thinking that maybe I should go out and pick up some extra hours or something at school, find another part-time job, just to be prepared. Because when the time comes to buy something else, its going to be really difficult not to want to seriously consider that stinking SUV.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chug, Chug, Chug...

Less than a month.

50,551 words and counting.

First draft almost done.

Just had my very own NaNoWriMo.

Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hmmm...

"Mommy, did girls use to wear dresses all the time?" The question comes as she colors in a picture of a princess, riding on a horse.

"Yes, they sure did," I reply.

"That's weird, right?" says the girl who wears dresses all the time.

Hmm. How's that for irony?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tears

My hormones must be getting the best of me.

Why else would I catch myself crying in church over the possible demise of a character in my story?

Why else, I ask?

I'm sure that was the reason, and I find it funny that I am already so attached to a character that currently lives mostly in my mind. Call me crazy and I won't correct you.

The problem these days is that if I start to tear up over one thing, it then leads to another and another. I keep the tissues handy, and if I had to, I could make the excuse that I am crying over the election of the new pope.

Of course, one thinks, the mad woman in the pew is so relieved to have a fine, upstanding and honorable man at the head of the Catholic Church. Those are tears of joy, I'm sure.

Uh, not really. Unlike many in my parish, if I shed tears over the pope, it won't be because I am content that the Catholic Church has chosen someone from humble beginnings. They are so thrilled, some say, because he "often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina's capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church. He accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes." (Politico.com, http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/pope-francis-biography-key-facts-life-in-latin-america-and-background-88818.html#ixzz2NsmweIdr)

Yes, that is all good and well. But are we finally headed in the right direction here in the Catholic Church? Might we learn to accept all people, regardless of who they are, for the special place they hold in God's heart?

Nah, of course not. Because the new head of the Catholic Church still finds that it is okay to condemn gays and adoption by gays. Marriage by priests? That isn't going to happen, either. And the role of the woman in the church will still be relegated to the minor side kick. (Don't even get me started on the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception. When science and religion battle in my head, science wins out, hands down).

So I think that even though we're in the 21st century and times have changed, and that the church could stand to strengthen its community by leaps and bounds, that just isn't going to happen, at least not under this pope. I'm somewhat saddened by that fact, but I can't claim I'll shed tears over it.

Instead, I might try to do something about it. Let me remind people that in John 13:34-35 it says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love for one another is the key. Love your neighbor, your friend, your colleague, the person on the bus you've never met. Love them, respect them, and do good by them, no matter what their religious affiliation or sexual orientation. Show that love by being that example. If enough people in general (including you Catholics) took just one step each day toward being kinder and gentler and more loving to those around us, it would pull us in a far better direction than choosing a leader who, at least in my opinion, plans to perpetuate a deep chasm within the church.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Good News!

I just had to share the news of a new arrival. Not in our family, but in an extended family sort of way.

One of my bestest friends in the world just had her second baby, a little boy. Well, he isn't that little considering he weighed in at 10 pounds! He's a cutie though, and the family is doing well.

Congratulations to you and yours, Julie!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Friday Follies

Fridays are a joy for me. I have between 9 am and 12:30 pm to get my act together. I usually fill the time with book writing, lecture tweaking, and reviewing for class the next day. Yesterday, I planned to do just that, plus meet a friend for a quick cup of coffee at 11 am.

At 10:47 am, just as I was ready to head out, there was a knock at my door. I peeked out the window and saw a neighbor of ours. A sixth grader, whose mom and dad were out of town. It didn't look good.
Me: Hi J. What's up?
Him: Oh Hi. The dogs got out. Both of our dogs got out.
Me: I was just getting ready to go out. Hold on. Come in, and let me call my friend and then we'll go look.
He came in, I picked up the phone, and couldn't find my friend's cell phone number. I glanced over at the kid, who punched furiously into his phone, possibly texting his mom.
Me: You don't even have shoes on. Go ahead back to your house and I'll come get you. I need to let my friend know I won't be coming.
Him:  Okay. Thanks.
For the next hour or so, I drove around the neigborhoods. Part of the time he was with me, other times, I let him off and he got on his bike to look around. I looked like a burglar: driving slow and casing the houses. A few people had seen the dogs, but they'd been running like the wind and couldn't be caught. I checked large open spaces, and tiny yards. I didn't see anything.

I returned to my house and had just opened the computer when there was a knock again.
Me: Hi J.
Him: Someone has Stanley. My mom is headed home [she had been on her way out of town, to a place 2 states over and had turned around to take care of this], but he's at 612 XXXX.
Me: Come in. Let's find out where that is and we'll go get him.
We find the house, we get the dog, we put him in the car. I drove the child and the dog back to their house, and when I opened the door to get the dog out, I made sure to grab him by the collar. Which wasn't the thing to do. He basically dragged me to the door, where I fell upon the stone steps.

And now, I have bruises on my knee and a scrape on my hand and some lecture reviewing to get done because I didn't yesterday. I'm not complaining. I'd do it again because helping the poor kid is the right thing to do, and I'd hope that a neighbor would help my child if it happened to us. And by the way, this neighbor did help us once, big time. They cleaned up after Lucy in the big vacation debacle. (Don't remember that one? Read about it here.)

Moral of the story? There are two. Karma will get back to you eventually. And of course, go check your gates to make sure they are secure. Then, if you have dogs, your Friday won't be so insane.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Weird Laws

Z and T: Hey Mom! Can you really not fish for whales on Sunday here?
Me: I don't know. Why do you ask?
T: Mr. V said so. He also told us to look up weird laws for the state. Can we?
Me: Okay.
Z: Mom, can you come here?
Me: I'll be right there.
Z and T: What does this mean? [They point to the webpage on the computer monitor.]
Me: Oh. Cross-dressing? That's when a boy wears girls clothes and boys wear girls clothes.
Z and T: Oh. Well it's banned in that city.
Me: Huh.
Z and T: And what about this, mom? [They point again at the screen.]
Me: Anal intercourse? Hmm....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Running or Writing?

January marked the start of my 23rd year of running. It seems odd to say that; as in, can I really be that old? But we've had that conversation many times here on the blog and I'd rather not beat a dead horse, as they say. Running is many things to different people, but for me it has been a joy, a comfort, a haven, and a doctor all rolled into one.

The other morning, I had coffee with a friend. We'd been trying for a year to get together, and life seemed to always be in the way. We'd plan a time and place and one of our kids would get sick, or a snow day would present itself, keeping us from meeting up. Well, we finally made it to see one another and we had a great time. It was good to chat and catch up on family life as well as talk about what was going on at school.

At one point, M mentioned that she used to run, and that she needed to get back to it. Run, you say? Of course, my ears perked up. After this long, it's a reflex. M said she'd been attending a small group that met a few times a week for a jog, but they pushed her from 1 mile to 5 within a month and she ended up sore and at the physical therapist's office with SI (sacroiliac) joint pain.
Me: If you can do that, wow. But I'm betting that's why you got hurt. Too much, too quickly.
M: Yeah, I'm thinking that, too.
Me: How fast were you guys going?
M: Well, we'd finish 5 miles in about 40-45 minutes.
Me: That's my target range. Maybe we could run together sometime.
I like M. I'd love to run with her or I never would have suggested it. She straightened her back and her face became animated. She looked excited.
M: I'd love to do that. When do you normally go?
Me: I try to get out somewhat early, but I could be flexible.
M: We were going before school, meeting at 5:15 am. Do you think you could ever do that?
You all know I'm an early riser. I rolled out of bed today at 5:23 am. I used to meet a friend to go running at 5:45 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I never thought I'd say no to getting up and running so early. And I didn't. But here's what I did say:
Me: Well, I've been getting up early to write...
And there it is. Has my running been replaced by writing? I don't think so, because I still need to run to keep my demons at bay. But when I told Tim of this exchange, his response?
Tim:  Wow. That says something.
Indeed, it does.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Those Dirty French

Melina: Hey Mommy? Can I have my dessert now?
Me: Sure. What would you like?
Melina: Do we have any ice cream?
Me: Yes, we do.
Melina: Can I have some of that dirty ice cream?
Me: Pardon me?
Melina: I'd like some of that dirty vanilla ice cream.
Me: Oh, you mean French vanilla.
Melina: Yes. Some of that, please.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Speaking Loudly

I try not to be a yeller.

I don't have a better term for what I mean, but I am sure you get my drift. I don't think yelling is very effective for dealing with children in the long term. Sure, it gets the job done at the time, but as for helping them learn the lesson and carry it forward, I don't think yelling works; it just makes the kids resentful later on.

Yesterday after school, I left Melina with Zoe and Talia so that I could bring Aaron to an appointment. The twins seemed a bit tired after school, but I didn't push anything, because we needed to be somewhere by 3:15 pm. I thanked them for watching Melina, said goodbye and I love yous, and headed out.

When Aaron and I returned, I checked on everyone. Progress had been made on homework, and snacks had been eaten. I headed into the kitchen to see what dishes needed to be done, and on the island, an envelope caught my eye. The envelope had not been there when I left. I picked it up, turned it over, and smirked. This is what it said:
Dear Mommy. Please do not yell when you open this. We love you. Zoe and Talia.
I knew immediately what was inside. The fifth grade has a pretty good system down at our school. They really want you to master the material, so they give you chances to make up work if you are late about it, BUT they do require a late slip to be sent home that needs to be signed by the parent.

Over the course of the year, the girls have not received late slips, but I have nagged them to check their planners.
Me: Are you sure you don't have homework.
Them: Uh, well, just math. I just finished it.
Me: Then why does the planner mention a paragraph in reading that is due?
Them: Oh, I forgot.
Me: YOU ARE IN 5TH GRADE! THIS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, NOT MINE. I WILL NO LONGER BE CHECKING YOUR PLANNER. DO YOU THINK I'LL BE LOOKING IN YOUR PLANNER IN COLLEGE?
Them: Probably not.
It's been tough, but I've held myself responsible by not touching the planner. And over the weekend, when the math packet had been accomplished and the piano all done, I only mentioned other homework once.
Me: Are you sure you've done all your homework?
Them: Yep.
Me: Okay.
Apparently, they hadn't done all the assignments over the weekend because inside that bright white envelope the girls had tucked their late slips. I opened it, knowing EXACTLY what was inside (sometimes it is incredible how moms just have that intuition, you know?) and read the short letters. I walked into the study area and asked them about it.
Me: I see you both have late slips here.
Them: Yes.
Me: What happened?
Them: We didn't check our planners.
Me: I knew this would happen, but I didn't want to look at your planner. Your assignments are your responsibility, right? Not mine. How does this make you feel?
The tears flowed, from both girls. They were upset with themselves and I realized in that moment that the actual act of getting the late slip was punishment enough for them. They were disappointed and embarrassed and felt bad enough that anything I did would have been overkill. We discussed what needed to be done (again) and hopefully, we'll move forward.

Sometimes I think it's the feeling inside yourself that appears when you mess up that speaks the loudest.

Monday, March 11, 2013

This Just In

If you've ever picked up what you think is bad literature, I want you to say an Our Father or Hail Mary as penance for ever cursing the person that wrote the book. I know I've read and commented on books hailed as best sellers that I simply didn't enjoy. I often thought, "How could they?" and "Don't I deserve better than this?" But let me tell you this: IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO WRITE A BOOK.
If you don't believe me, go try it, and come back with a full report.

I had very little time last week to make progress on either one of my newer stories. Had the inspiration hit, like it did two weeks ago, I'd have made the time to get the details on the paper. But nothing struck me as gold, save for a couple of conversations that were quickly keyed into the word document. And so I'll sit here this week, alternating between a couple of stories and lectures and Facebook and email and hope that I can get back into the groove and move something, anything along. I know where the stories need to go (which often can be a problem with writers, the uncertainty of where you want to take your characters), I just need to get them there.

So please, send me your inspiration. I'm not asking for a miracle here, nor the ability to craft a sentence the way many of my favorite authors do (I've read that Marisa de los Santos actually writes a sentence, tweaks it, and retweaks it so it is perfect before she goes on to the next one. But she's a poet, so I guess I expect that behavior.). I'm good with a couple of grunts and ellipses and other fillers to get me from the forest in a land of magic to the desert in another world. I can always go back and adjust everything in my attempt to forge a good story. Just a couple of positive thoughts headed my way would be sufficient.

I thank you in advance and realize that, just like a child, it takes a village to craft a good story, because I might not have been clear when I said: IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO WRITE A BOOK.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Misstep at the Spermbank

How's that for the title of a post? That one is, I'm sure, drawing you right in, isn't it?

Well, this morning I was tagged in a post by FRN. It was a screen shot for a local news station and it said, "What's Hot: No Red Heads. Sperm Banks Reject Gingers." Clearly, being a female, it doesn't impact me. But my little red head, Aaron, who yes, is male? Well, my first thought was, "How in the heck will he get extra cash during college if they won't take his sperm?"  Just kidding. While I've known several people who did just that, I am seriously hoping that Aaron would choose a more mundane route for making extra cash, i.e. working at the library or the student union.

I did a Google search and found that in 2011, the Danish firm Cryos decided to stop taking sperm from Gingers. Apparently infertile couples don't choose to have Gingers. I didn't choose to have 1 red head and 3 blonds, but you don't see me complaining.

Do people know what they are missing when they choose to omit a population? Can you imagine a world without Daphne and Shaggy? Ariel the mermaid or Angie Everhart? All kidding aside, Lucille Ball, Susan Sarandon and a whole host of other celebrities are Ginger. And that is the tip of the iceberg. What about Vincent Van Gogh and William Shakespeare? Mark Twain and Galileo? If we'd had technology to opt out of Gingers, our history would be quite a bit different.

And then I think of the Gingers I know personally. Aaron comes first to mind, of course. I hope the child has children someday, because to not share his genetic potential would be a waste. I've said many times that I wish I had his brain. And even thought he is considerate and shares his knowledge and will hopefully do so as he grows up, I wouldn't mind having a couple of little Aarons (Gingers or not) for grandkids.

I also have several friends with the distinction of Ginger, each of whom possess characteristics that make them stand out far more than their red hair does. Looks like people never will understand the basic fact that we are all different and should be loved for who we are, and not what we look like.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Opportunities

Last spring, I took the plunge and signed up for a writing class. All of you know that, and you know it lit the fire under my bum and got me going down this writing road. Since then, I've been looking at free seminars and more classes, but I haven't had the time to do anything about making myself a better writer. Well, I've been writing, which is probably the best thing one can do. But learning more about show versus tell, and how to balance dialogue, and other items they call the "craft of fiction" is something I'd like to do in a classroom setting. From a published author.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My writing group (wonderful, superb group of ladies that I am so lucky to have fallen together with) decided that we needed to approach the local author we knew and ask if she'd put together a custom class for us. We had a specific list of what we wanted and presented it to her, nicely. And she said yes, she'd love to hold a class just for us, but that she needed to think about the best possible way to get in what we wanted.

We waited. We knew she'd come back with something and that we felt comfortable going back and tweaking what she proposed.

But then, this is what came over my email yesterday:
Here's what I think you women are ready for. I know it may seem pricey, but let's see if we can brainstorm together and figure something out:  I'd love to read everyone's COMPLETE manuscripts (or as complete as you're willing to hand over, hopefully a good portion). We'd take turns, and say, we'd all read T's novel, then meet to workshop it. I would definitely cover all that you've asked me to. Then, we'd meet up a couple weeks later to workshop the next person's work.

Does that sound feasible? What you were looking for? I want to stress I'll give you LOTS of written feedback and will thoroughly mark up w/comments all your pages with suggestions, questions, guidance, etc.

Talk it over and let me know. AND, if you have another vision of how this might go, PLEASE PLEASE let me know. Let's make this work.

Thanks so much for trusting me with your work! 
Our fearless leader sent a reply to just the writing group ladies saying she'd be up for it, and all of us, complete manuscript or not, raised our hands in solidarity and said,YES! LET'S DO IT! We hope to schedule the sessions sometime after mid-April and into the summer.

So now, I'm going to sit like a madwoman and finish up my story because I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR A PUBLISHED AUTHOR TO GIVE ME COMMENTS AND FEEDBACK ON AN ENTIRE MANUSCRIPT. Sure, I have to pay for it. But what a great way to learn what I need to learn so that perhaps, someday, I'll be published, too.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Conversations with God

I pray. A lot. At least I think I do. I pray when I fold laundry, when I run, when I am doing dishes. It isn't a constant stream of prayer, but if I think of something that I need to tell God, I do. It doesn't matter where I am, although if I am conversing with group of people, I try not to say my prayer aloud, as it would swing the direction of the conversation and confuse people.

I figure since God and I speak so often (And yes, I admit that a long time ago, God spoke to me...I saw writing on the wall: God's way of speaking in words without using his voice.), that someday I'll be able to sit down and actually ask some questions of the good Lord. I mean, don't we all have things we'd like to know about everything, and the answers just aren't there?

I'd like to know:
  1. What is God's favorite color?
  2. Speaking of favorites, every parent says they don't really have a favorite child, but who is His favorite child (person) of all time? And why?
  3. Assuming He made everyone and everything, or at least set the ball in motion (I can't ignore the evidence; I believe in evolution, but I also think something greater out there had to exist to get things moving), how in the world did the nephron of the kidney come to be designed? You might find this a silly question, but try teaching that subject every semester and then see what you do. I dare you to Google nephron and countercurrent mechanism.
  4. If there is one thing we could do as a people to make this world better, what do you think it would be? Aside from simply being nicer to one another?
  5. Are we looking in the wrong place for aliens? I think so.
  6. Does pi ever end?
As usual, I could go on but won't. Anything pressing come to mind for you? God and I would like to know.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Delays/Closing/Cancellations

The forecast called for snow, somewhere between 4 and 8 inches, depending on where you are in our little region. As most of you readers know, even an inch or two of snow can send schools and businesses into delays around here, so I braced myself for a closing. But the girls were home sick yesterday, so a closing wouldn't actually be that bad today.

Did I do anything about it? Certainly not, as I have no control over the weather.

My children think differently.
Talia: Hey Zoe, we need to go turn our pajamas around.
Zoe: Oh yeah. Let's go.
If you aren't in the loop on this one, the story goes like this: wear your pajamas inside out and backwards at night, and you'll have a snow day the next day. Apparently even the fifth grade teachers told the kids to wear them on Tuesday night. Maybe they all need a vacation, but you know, spring break is around the corner.

The girls didn't stop there, though. I went upstairs to see if they were in bed yet, and I lightly knocked on the door. As I walked into their room, I could see the two of them stop moving.
Zoe: We're doing our snow day dance.
Talia: It worked last time.
Me: I truncate the dance! Now get in bed!
I had to explain what truncate meant, but hey, it's always good to improve their vocabulary. They'll have plenty of chances of doing so today on their lovely off.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Putting on the Brakes

Do you know what that sound is, highness? Those are the shrieking eels. They --

Wait a minute. It's not the sound of shrieking eels, it's the sound of screeching brakes. The brakes that have put a halt to my manic writing.

I checked my dissertation yesterday, a fine (ha-ha, that's funny) specimen of writing that I wrote in 8 weeks, with plenty of revising. It is 115 pages long, and could have been longer, I suppose, but I had twins at home and places to be.

And where do I stand with my current piece? 107 pages. In 12 days. The story has a long way to go to even be called a first draft, but it's already way more interesting than the hardcover bound black book sitting on my bookshelf.

I think I'll give myself a break, not berate myself for being unable to keep up a pace of approximately 2300 words per day. The only things is, if I could manage that pace, I'd be done with a pre-first draft within the month. I can't tell you how tempting it is to tell Tim I'll be away for a few weeks...good luck with the kids!

Monday, March 4, 2013

What's the Fuss?

This is one of those posts that will probably divide my sisters and me, at least that is what I expect. My older sister will side with me, and my younger sister will be against me. Come to think of it, my older sister might not even know what I am talking about. I don't mean that to be offensive. I just mean that she doesn't have a propensity toward popular music, at least I don't think she does. (And she's probably a better person for it.)

So a while back, I heard this announcement that Jay Z and Justin Timberlake had a new song. Oh goody, I thought. (Remember when I said I don't always tell the whole truth when I recount tales? Yeah, this is one of those times.) I'd never been a fan of either, but I'm willing to give most things a shot. I stuck with the radio station and awaited the release of the new song. I have to say, I liked the title (Suit & Tie).

Unfortunately, that is where my happiness ended. I can't possibly explain or describe how grating this song was to me, but my first thought was that I could do better (and if you've ever heard me sing, then you know how bad I think this song is); the second thought was that people were loving this song! LOVING IT. Proclaiming it a colossal collaboration! My third and final thought before I turned the dial (not really) was that the lyrics were a mess (at least some of them).

People are, of course, entitled to their own opinion, but I just don't see it.

So go and post on Facebook how excited you are for the tour dates and how much you can't wait to go see these two together. But when you get there, and you hear this song, and you realize that the repetitive drone of the words suit & tie lead to a 70s flashback voice that twinkles and sounds somewhat like a more sophisticated Justin Bieber, and you wonder why the heck you spent the money to go see this, don't say I didn't warn you.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Truth in Fiction

Sometimes what I write is true. Sometimes it is complete fiction. And other times, the plot might be fictitious but it is rooted in the truth. Sometimes what I think is actually fiction turns out to be somewhat truthful.

Case in point?

One of the stories I am working on right now falls into the last category. I had something happen, I used it as a jumping point, and I'm working on it from there. I have a vague idea of where I'd like it to go, but the in between places still have yet to be determined.

Had you asked me two days ago, I'd say that aside from that initial interaction that sparked the story idea, my inspiration was coming only from my mind. That all of the things I had planned for my characters stemmed from some pit within me. But separate conversations with my sisters, and a good long run (always a mind cleansing and truth revealing action for me) made me realize that two of my most recent characters are beginning to look very much like my sisters!

I won't say how or why or who, and since I can't tell their stories (as in I only know my point of view, of course) and wouldn't want to anyway, the rest of this post will be boring, vague, and pointless, so I might as well stop now and go do something useful, like put together a study guide for my students.

Not only was I a neglectful parent last week but I was a neglectful teacher. Life sure gets in the way of writing now, doesn't it?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Honestly Love You

Note to Readers: There are many times when I kid around and say things just to be funny. Sometimes they work, sometimes, they don't. Please be advised that most of these times, I realize that the topic of which I speak is serious. Also, I don't always tell the truth when I retell a story.

These days, I find myself with a stalker. Yes, a stalker.

I know, how could a little A & P instructor who mostly stays at home and do nothing but volunteer, teach, and write, have a stalker? I can if she's my sister. Yes, you heard me right. My sister is stalking me.

Let me paint the picture. Early this week, I sent her an email asking her to read a little piece for me. "Is this readable?" I wanted to know. What I should have thought to myself before sending anything to her was, "Am I sending this to the right person?"

Had I asked myself that question, I would have come up with the answer that no, FRN is not the right person. Not because she's not a frequent reader (she is). Not because she wouldn't be the intended audience (she's not YA, but she's been known to read YA, so again, she is). Why then? Because she owns a smartphone or an iPhone or some other technologically savvy phone that keeps her plugged in at all times.

The phone is the problem.

"More," she said, politely I might add, the first time she replied to my email. Great, I thought. I kind of like this idea, too. I think I can do this. And I sat down and pounded the keys as if I couldn't get the story on the screen fast enough.

But then, she started to become demanding. "Any more?" No.

She tried again, sweetly this time in her attempt to extricate more pages from me. "I LOVE the XXXXXXXX! That he XXXXXXXXX!"

And of course, I send her more pages because who doesn't want to hear that someone likes them, right? (I am having a Sally Field moment right now. Let's pause.) The words keep coming and I'm not showering or eating or vaccuming at all; the kids are barely being tended to and I forget to go to library time for Aaron (Yes, I did that. I forgot to go to library time for goodness sakes. All because of a story. Get a grip, I say to myself!)

It wasn't until she started to get belligerent that I realized I had a problem. 

This comes right from her mouth: "You do realize I wake up and the first thing I do EVERY morning is grab my phone. 1) check your blog, 2)check my email, 3) check FB 4) roll back over 5) check blog/email again then get up and work out."

She signed it Pathetic, and I tend to agree, don't you. But wouldn't stalker be a better word?

And then there was this, sitting in my inbox: "You're a %%^&$##@! MORE!!! -Neglectful mother from the north."

That's when it hit me. FRN is not only pathetic and a stalker, but truly a neglectful mother because I'm certain her child is saying, "Hey mom, I need to show you this," and she has her face to the phone and waves her hand and responds, "Of course, honey, go ahead. I'm watching." But she really isn't. FRN is stalking me or reading my pages and truly playing the part of the neglectful mom.

Just like me. 

Which just gives me fodder for yet another story. I'm so $%^#@^&!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Surprise, Surprise

Since Melina isn't five yet, surprising conversations still result when the two of us talk. Sometimes, she tells me about why we should write about Daphne from Scooby-Doo and how Daphne really wants a piece of chocolate. Where's the tension? The motivation? Or maybe Melina is just that smart and she's actually telling me that she wants a piece of chocolate. I like to think that is it, of course.

Yesterday, we had another surprising conversation:
Melina: Mommy, someone at my Sunday school once said they were jealous of my eyes.
Me: What? What did she say?
Melina: She said she was jealous of my eyes.
Me: Oh. Really?
Melina: Yes, she said it was because they were pretty.
Well all right then. I guess the girl wanted to tell Melina her eyes are pretty. They are, but the other little girls also have very pretty eyes.

But here's the thing. Her Sunday school is for four year olds. Some kids might be a little older, but still...four. Are we starting the use of this word already? At four? I had to explain to Melina what the word actually meant, after she asked me. It's not a bad word, but one that we don't routinely use around here.

The only thing I can say is that the girl must be bright. She used the word properly.

***
Is anyone else gobsmacked at the thought of it being March 1 today? I've known all week it was coming, but I just sat down and was hit over the head with it again. Amazing.