Sunday, August 31, 2014

Being Beautiful

The other night at dinner, after a long day of writing, I finally took my hair out of its clip. At this point, if my hair isn't curled, it reaches the middle of my back. I'm only 5'2", but tresses that extend down that far are still quite long, no matter how short my back might be. Which means, that's a lot of hair sitting atop my head and around my shoulders. But I don't wash it everyday, and the other day, being an at-home day, my shower in the morning did not include a shampoo.

In between bites of guacamole, Talia looked up at me and said, "You should wear your hair down more often, Mom."

"I do," I replied. "I haven't worn a ponytail for at least a couple of days."

As many twelve-year-old girls are wont to do, she rolled her eyes. Because a couple of days is not what she meant. Clearly. And here I was forcing her to talk more. With words, not with non-verbal tween body language. "No," she said. "I mean out of your clip."

"Oh." I stopped for a moment and then went on. "Because I look so beautiful like this?"

I muttered the comment in jest, truthfully. I wasn't searching for compliments at all. I just knew what I looked like with my nest of unwashed hair and a tired look upon my face. In my mind, the whole look wasn't pretty.

My daughter thought otherwise. "Yes, Mom," she whispered. "You do."

I said a quick thank you and redirected the conversation toward other topics, like possible homework. (Those of you who know me also know what sorts of dinner conversations we have around here, and therefore, you expect me to tell you that we did not stay on topic. From homework, we moved onto body parts, sexual reproduction, potty issues, middle school woes, and Minecraft. Always Minecraft.) But of course, Talia's comment made me stop and think. (And I'm finding that the more I really listen to my children, the more I'm forced to think. A wonderful thing, by the way.) It made me think of what would have happened at my house when I was a child.

Here's how the conversation would have gone:
Me: Mom, you should wear your hair down more often.
Mom: Why? Because I look so beautiful like this?
Me: Yes, you do.
Mom: No, I don't. Do I really??
I didn't add the two question marks to the end of the sentence. My mom did. Or rather, it's the way I envision my mother's lack of confidence in herself. Whenever topics about her mind or body came up, she'd always put two question marks at the end of the sentence, even if that sentence was a statement. And it didn't take long for me to recognize that my mother wasn't sure of who she was. Now I have to be honest, I don't always believe I look beautiful (come on, we've had this conversation before) and there are times I'd rather look like someone else. But I've learned to be grateful for what I have, and to find the beauty in everyone, myself included. And I've also learned that children are sponges: they pick up so many things we don't think they are going to pick up. Which is why I tried to accept the compliment instead of pointing out that I had bags under my eyes and my hair really was a mess.

I don't always get it right (we've had that conversation before, too). I'm not sure I got it right the other night, either. But if one of my children thinks that I'm beautiful, then so be it. I'll take that compliment and run to the bank with it. Being beautiful in the eyes of your child is no small thing.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Waking Up

In high school, I had a major crush on one person. My crush was so huge, so epic, that it lasted from the moment I first saw this boy to the summer beyond our senior year. Of course, this was a classic tale of unrequited love. He was too popular to even recognize my existence. He probably didn't even know my name. He never, not once, even spoke to me.

Clearly, I survived. Intact, with few repercussions. While I held, at one time, onto the hope for something to happen (I mean, why couldn't my life be like a John Hughes film, right?), it didn't take long for my rational self to realize that our lives would never intersect in the way that I envisioned.

Every once in a while after high school, though, I'd see him. I always said a polite hello, but I never knew if he had a clue who I was. And that was okay. We'd gone to a small school, and girls like to talk. He probably knew that I was one of so many other girls who had crushes on him. At least he wasn't the type to throw that in my face.

Oddly enough, he still comes up in my dreams from time to time. I find that especially strange because I'm not a Facebook friend of his, and I haven't see him since 1998. Furthermore, I don't even know where he lives at this point, or what his life is like. I never even did, because my crush was just that: an attraction on my part to a very fine specimen of a high school boy.

You know where this is going, don't you? Yes, last night I had a dream, one in which he was featured--again. This time, though, my dream had me laughing as I woke up. I was back in high school, and yet, I knew that I wasn't. It was as if I were a character and a narrator all in one, my sixteen-year-old self and my forty-one-year-old self coexisted in the same plane, together. The beauty of dreams, no?

Anyway, this boy and I (and some other faceless random people) were staying at a house, and I had just gotten my things together for a shower. Unlike what I would really do (which is walk into my bathroom and then disrobe), I took my clothes off in my room, and wrapped a towel around myself. Then, I grabbed my shampoo and soap and headed toward the shower.

When I reached the bathroom, the boy was there. Although he really wasn't so much a boy. I had forgotten that during the four years of high school, he progressed from a scrawny stick to a well-muscled young man. And under the fluorescent lights of the bathroom, it was very apparent that he was no longer the scrawny stick. And that he had nothing on. (Why did I not have this dream in high school?)

"Oh," he said. "I was going to take a shower now."

"I see that," I said. I kept my eyes trained on his face, because even though I wanted to look down, I didn't want to look down. In an attempt to keep me from floundering, I held my hand between us, palm facing him, hoping to cover up anything in case my eyes had a mind of their own and decided to take a peek.

"Were you signed up to take one now?" he asked me. His blue eyes sparkled with amusement.

"I did say I'd be taking a shower, but if you want to go, that's fine." In my head, I thought, why not take one together? But I would have never said that out loud. Or gone through with it. Not at sixteen anyway.

He shifted his feet, as if standing there in front of me, naked, was uncomfortable for him. His gaze bounced around the room, confirming his discomfort. My narrator self laughed, but my teen self simply stared at him.

"Well," he said. "You should go first. It's fine." But he didn't make a move to leave, and this time, I saw his face flush red. He was embarrassed about something, although I couldn't say what. He and I stood there, looking at one another. Time ticked by slowly. I wasn't sure what to say and then, thankfully, he broke the silence.

Running one hand through his thick hair while the other one cupped his jaw, he said: "I didn't know that he'd be so active this morning."

Both my character self and my narrator self knew exactly what he was talking about. But I glanced down for confirmation. Sure enough, his member was standing at attention. Character-me felt vindicated, knowing that even though this boy had no feelings for me, at least I was enough of a girl to cause a reaction for him. Narrator-me laughed so hard, I woke up.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Depression Hurts

I'm not a Twitter fiend, but I'm trying my best to get the hang of that form of social media. So when I read something I like, I consider tweeting it, or at least re-tweeting a tidbit that someone else has posted. Yesterday, I found (via Facebook) a link to The Good Men Project, as well as an article they had posted on their website entitled, "50 Sufferers Describe Depression for People Who've Never Been Depressed." In light of Robin Williams' passing on August 11, depression has been very much in the forefront of our minds. But one of the common themes I've heard is that many people had no idea Robin Williams was depressed. He'd taken his role of acting to the extreme, and did a very good job of covering up the fact that he had such a debilitating illness. That should be no surprise, really. Who wants to admit that they are depressed?

If you haven't read the article, I encourage you to do so. It's a simple list of what depression feels like, as told to Danny Baker, but the list is far from simple. All of the responses were thoughtful, real accounts of what a person with depression feels. All fifty of the ideas were different from one another; all of them heart-wrenching in their own way; all of them thought-provoking. This list, I'm sure, is meant to educate the masses--to put information out there for those people who have never experienced depression. To help them understand more clearly how one might feel if one were to have depression. Because in this case, the more information, the better. 

But in all this talk about depression awareness, I have yet to see a touching, insightful article written from the other side of it--from the people who live with those who have it. Most of what I can find is written from the clinical perspective, where the author might possess the credentials to talk about depression because he or she has counseled many patients, but he or she has never lived with a person who suffers from the illness. So I'm here today to tell you what it's like to be on the other side. I can't promise an eloquent response and I might not use the correct terminology (I'm no therapist, after all.), but my discussion of this issue is sincere. And I hope you can walk away from reading this post with at least a tidbit of knowledge on what it's like to live with a person who lives with depression.

1. Depression affects everyone, not just the person who is depressed. Moods are contagious, and the ups and downs, and feeling of complete loss can completely overwhelm the people living with a depression sufferer. It is difficult to stay strong in the wake of such immense negativity.

2. You must listen, with good and gentle ears. Sometimes, it helps for the sufferer to simply talk. It's important to listen, really listen, without judgment.

3. But be prepared to have advice go unheeded. Even if the sufferer seems receptive to any advice you have to offer, that doesn't mean the person will take the advice. It's exhausting to watch that person make the same mistake repeatedly, but it will happen.

4. Even if you think you understand what a sufferer is going through, unless you've experienced it yourself before, you most likely do not. It is almost impossible to comprehend a feeling of "total loss of oneself" or "being trapped within a box" unless you've been there. And it is okay to say, I don't really understand what you are going through, but I'm here for you.

5. If you do offer your assistance, or say anything akin to, "I'm here for you," then you must mean it and follow through. No ifs, ands, or buts. Breaking the confidence of someone who lives with depression can spiral quickly out of control.

6. Depression wears many faces. Sometimes, a depressed person can be extremely happy, or at least they seem that way. And other times, the person can be experiencing a down like no other, and they might tell you that. The roller coaster ride is never fun, for anyone. But be aware that quick changes can happen. It doesn't mean the person is better, simply because they seem happy at the moment.

7. Many depression sufferers refuse to admit that they have it, and will hold to the notion that nothing is wrong with them for years. This can cause turmoil and upheaval for everyone--the person who has it, the family members, the friends, the teachers. Sadly, the depression sufferer may not recognize the awful truth: that by not facing up to the truth and seeking help with a potential issue, they are causing problems for those in their inner circle and possibly beyond.

8. Anger can be a harrowing symptom of depression to deal with when you are on the other side, especially when you are a child and you see the anger but don't understand the root cause of it.

9. It's almost impossible not to feel as though you've done something wrong if someone suffering from depression lashes out at you or snubs you. Try to remember that you are not the problem, that there is likely a chemical imbalance at work, something you did not have a hand in. Be patient and tolerant, but don't let the behavior go unacknowledged.

10. You might feel resentment toward someone who suffers from depression, for a multitude of reasons. This is normal and it is okay. You shouldn't feel guilty, but if the person is willing, try to talk about it. Communication is key.

My list could continue, I'm sure. If I toss this post into cyberspace and ask for anyone out there to contact me, and let me know what it's like to live with a person who suffers from depression (much like Danny Baker did), I'm certain I'd get more than a list of ten items that could be shared. But I only have so much time, and I don't like to belabor any points.

Which I guess brings me to my point. And that is this: As the commercial says, depression hurts. But it doesn't just hurt the people who suffer from the disorder. It hurts many people, on many levels. Depression is a beast like no other, and the more we talk about it, perhaps the more we'll understand it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reading Time

Melina loves to read. She loves to have people read to her and she likes to pick up books and read them out loud, to herself, or to anyone who might listen. This probably isn't a surprise to any of you who know me or Tim. I clearly love to read, and while Tim is more of a non-fiction kind of guy, dragging him away from a book is a daily occurrence. It's a wonder anything gets done around here with as much reading as this family does.

Back to my story. Yesterday afternoon, Melina was reading aloud to me. I can't remember which book it was, and it really doesn't matter what the title was. What does matter is that the book had to do with some mice and a nice lady. It talked about what the mice liked (cheese) and that the lady liked it, too. The woman was always doing something nice for her mice. (In my opinion, it was a little too easy for Melina, but she was practicing. I'm good with practicing.) The lady was so gentle (read that as boring), I got distracted by a letter that had been sent home. And so I really didn't pay much attention until Melina got to a certain page and said...

Ready for it?

"Those look like they could be peep-toes."

Like I said, my head had been focused on the letter, not the book in front of her. But even I knew that those words would not have been written by the author.

So I leaned my head in and checked out the page at which Melina had stopped. The illustration showed the woman pushing a cart at the grocery store while in a nice outfit that included some red high-heeled shoes. Whether or not they were peep-toes, I can't be sure.

I didn't tell her that I didn't know what peep-toe shoes were until three years ago. Just like the title of the book, it really didn't matter. I simply nodded my head and told her to continue. She finished the book and put it away. And that was the only comment I got from Melina on that book. THE ONLY ONE.

Thank heavens the girl is a good reader or I'd be a little worried. (Make that a lot worried.) 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Offers

Someone recently said to me, "Don't offer that if you don't mean it." I can't remember exactly what I offered, but my response was quick and easy.

"Oh, I won't," I said. "I have too much to do that doesn't involve everyone else. If I don't mean it, I won't offer."

I hold to that statement in my life. If I see a friend who looks harried, and I think I can help by watching her child, I'll offer to do just that. But if I can't do it, or I don't want to, I don't even bring up the subject. The same can be said for my volunteer time at school, or even catching up with a friend over coffee. If I don't feel that I can extend a genuine offer, than I just don't.

Not everyone feels the same way, though, and while I cannot judge them (You know me, I really try not to do that.), I can at least say that casually tossing in an offer to do something when you don't really mean it sort of rubs me the wrong way. (Who am I kidding? It really bothers me.)

So do not throw out, in conversation, how we should get together at a specific place and then not follow up with an actual invitation. Do not tell me you'll take the kids and not follow up with me about it. (This does not mean you, Cindy.) And do not send me an email, closing it with: "We should get together sometime," unless you truly mean it. Because over the last couple of years, I've turned over a new leaf. I've started calling out certain behaviors. And in my world, I will contact you to set up a meeting, and you will be forced to do one of three things.
  1. Admit that you don't have time. (Which is a lie, I know. And if you hadn't extended an insincere offer in the first place, you wouldn't have to lie.)
  2. Admit that you didn't mean what you said. (That would be tough for anyone to do. But if you did that, I'd respect you just for being truthful.)
  3. Not respond because you're not sure what to do. (The worst option of all. Now, I just really dislike you and how you deal with perceived conflict.)
You see? I will make you uncomfortable. With the click of one button, I will send you into a state where you question who you are and what sort of person you want to become. You might ruminate on what nerve I have to try and call you out and then figure out the best way to put me off. (I can tell you, even though #3 is the worst option, it really is your best bet. I'm not going to come hunt you down. I'll just have crossed you off my list.)

So let's learn something from this situation. If you don''t want to get together or do something for me, then don't say it in the first place. Your offer should be genuine, or it shouldn't happen at all. Talk about leading an authentic life. You can start there.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Choices

He wasn't sure what to do about it. And by it, he meant her. After all this time, it was apparent to even him that something needed to be done. But what? How could he get around this mess? Who could he ask? And if he asked, would they even help him? He wasn't so sure. It had been so long since he--since they--had cultivated friendships. And friends were the ones you counted on at times like these. It was clear to him now, that friends mattered. They truly mattered. If only he'd realized that earlier...

A cup of coffee and some Cheerios later, he knew what to do. He marveled at how the same breakfast routine could be so clarifying. The answer was simple: do nothing. He sat back in his chair, letting his gaze coast across the kitchen to the dog, who lay beneath the dining room table. Soft puffs of air punched the air in a rhythmic beat and caught his attention. "Let sleeping dogs lay," he said, and pushed his chair back away from the table.

And in that instant, where he chose to do nothing, he'd set the course for everything else that was to come.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cards vs. Paper

For years, my car insurance company sent me a little card to put into my glove compartment. It was my proof of insurance, and they sent me a new one every six months. Despite the fact that it was little, I managed to get that card into its rightful spot every time, because it looked like something very official.

Then, I changed insurance companies. And what they send is just another piece of paper in a large pile of papers. I have yet to manage to get the paper into the car without recycling it first. In fact, the last three times the paper arrived, I had to contact my insurance agent for another one, as I threw out, recycled, or re-purposed the other one. And then, it took me weeks to print it out. This year, I have yet to see if the paper gets into my car, and it should--the old policy expired on 8/4/2014.

What's my point? I don't have any, really. I just thought that I'd sit and write about something silly and mundane, considering the last thing I posted here wrenched too many emotions from me. As usual, though, I can use my writing as a reminder. I'm going to head over to the printer now, collect the paper I need, and set it in the kitchen, right on top of my keys. I'm sure it will find it's way into the glove compartment of my car tomorrow. Or at least sometime this week.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Birthday Lessons

I turned 41 yesterday. I'm keeping that sentence short because really, knowing that I've been on this earth for that long simply blows my mind. I had a chance yesterday to reflect on some of those years I've lived, and thankfully, my trip down memory lane produced mostly good thoughts, positive memories that reminded me how grateful I am to be alive.

But on our birthday, of all days, we expect sunshine and happiness and flowers and smiles. Maybe it's how our society is structured. I mean, usually, it's not all about us, as individuals, but a birthday is different. A birthday is the one day that we're allowed to bask in ourselves, so I don't think it's too much to ask for a few hours of joy.

So when I woke up to thunderstorms, I wondered how the day would go. And when I realized that my usual two requests for my birthday--to go for a run and to have someone else make dinner--would have to go unheeded, I really wondered how the day would go. (Just as an aside, I'm going to get my pelvis, the reason I can't run, imaged next week. Apparently, my pubic symphysis might truly be injured. I'm sure you are fully aware that I will let you know the outcome. And I had writing group last night--a good present to myself. So I had to cook dinner before I left so that I could call myself a responsible and loving parent.)

But I'm not one to dwell on negativity, so I went about my business. I dropped the girls off at school and headed to Kroger to pick up a few more items for dinner. (It was completely possible that we'd have a few extra at dinner, as two people were scheduled to visit for a few hours between lunch time and the time I left for writing group. I wanted to make sure I had enough potatoes.) I threw in the laundry and added some data to the PTO spread sheet. I wrote a few paragraphs of my newest novel and helped with first grade lunch. I even carved out enough time to sit and read a book--my birthday present to myself. By 1:15 pm, the day had gone well, despite the rain, despite the lack of running.

And then, the proverbial shit hit the fan.

My guests arrived and mentioned that they had traveled through storms to get to our house. I reminded them that I had called and told them not to come because of the rain. They complained about the two jumpy dogs. I reminded them that Shadow is excitable and that Toby is still, technically a puppy. They told me they'd have enough time to stay for 20 or 30 minutes--not through dinner like I expected, like I had told the kids would be the case. I didn't remind them of what they had told me. Because in one instant, my chest felt like it was crushing my heart. A few tears pricked behind my eyelids and I walked away, into the kitchen, to catch my bearings.

How had this happened, again? How had I let these people disappoint me again? How did I not recognize that their signature move--to come in, visit, and leave early--would be taken out of their repertoire and thrown at me, again? I know why I was blindsided. I thought they were here to see me. I thought they were here to see my kids. I thought they were here to say, Happy Birthday. But they weren't. They came in, had me sign what they needed me to sign, and when that was done, when I had served their purpose, they said, "Say hi to the kids," packed up, and left.

This wasn't about me. It wasn't about my children. It was about them, plain and simple.

And I'm so tired of this behavior. I'm tired of the wacky shit that goes on and the fact that they don't listen to me and what I have to say. I'm tired of being beaten down and thrown around emotionally.  I'm tired of trying to explain to my children why people who should be a greater part of their life really just aren't. And apparently don't care to be. Because this was a perfect time for them to stop, smell the roses, and enjoy a few moments with four kids I think are pretty special.

After 41 years, I thought I'd built enough walls to keep myself safe and warm. I thought I'd learned how to handle other people's actions. I truly believed that no matter what, it would be difficult to hurt me. But as FRN pointed out to me, after I emailed about my complete and utter shock, the actions of these people hit me hard because of their approach. "We're coming to see you and the kids," they had said. Emphasis on the kids. And when, at the end of the day, I would have to tell the kids that these people didn't care enough to stick around and say hi, give out hugs, or sit and read a book, I'd be the  one cracking their little hearts into pieces. Not them, but me. And I'm a momma bear like no other. Do what you want to me, but don't go after my children. And certainly don't make me the messenger of such bad news.

You might wonder what I said to the kids. I don't condone lying, but this time, I did it. I had no way to make them understand why the people who visited didn't care enough about anyone other than themselves to stay and rest for a bit. So I blamed the storms and said they hadn't come. I saw a flash of disappointment in the kids' eyes, but it was so much lighter than the pain and hurt I imagine I'd see if I'd told them the truth. And I will tell them, someday. Maybe when I recount to them how much I learned about life on my 41st birthday.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gimmicks

Way back in 2012, I may have told you that I started a novel. (Or, more likely, I actually told you sometime in 2013 or 2014, but that really is a trivial point.) It began with a single encounter at the grocery store, something I noted on my computer, and then came back to, time and time again. As the story progressed, I realized that one of my characters suffered from a disease. I wasn't sure which one, but within a few months, it became apparent that the husband of my protagonist had been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). After I'd finished writing the novel, and at the time I started working on my query letter, a reader of mine said, "Oh, don't call it ALS. People don't know what that is. Go with Lou Gehrig's disease instead. At least most people have heard of the baseball player."

Well my scientific self wanted to stick with ALS, but I didn't. I could see the reader's point. I changed it in my query letter and moved forward, hoping that it wouldn't really matter whether I called the disease by it's scientific or common name. That, as we all know, remains to be seen, because as of this writing, there is no book deal in sight.

Had I started that query letter today, though, I could keep ALS in the letter. Because thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge, people are aware of what those three little letters stand for. (And if you don't know what the Ice Bucket Challenge is, then you are really out of the loop. More than I am. Which is a significant accomplishment for you. Go pat yourself on the back.)

My problem? It's all a gimmick. Don't get me wrong. After having read multiple true accounts of patients with ALS, speaking to someone who suffers from the disease, and writing about it for over 200 pages, I'm more than sympathetic to the cause. I think raising money for ALS awareness and research is a fantastic idea. I'm just sad that it takes a gimmick to get it done.

So my question is Why? Why can't we realize how serious diseases are and donate money to research for them without having to throw a bunch of ice water on ourselves? Why can't we be more aware of the millions of people who suffer each day from anything and everything, and simply give a little bit because we are kind to one another? Why does it take a gimmick to get things done?

I don't have an answer, nor do I have the time to ruminate on one. I'm just thinking this. If the world is ruled by gimmicks, then I need to stand up and fight, or join the crowd. So finding myself a gimmick to get my book published might be added to my to-do list.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Miguel

The day started in a crappy fashion.

The fan made me too cold, I'd slept too little, and despite the fact that I was tired, I couldn't get back to sleep. Once I made it downstairs, I realized that the girls hadn't made their lunches the night before, nor had they cleaned off the study table. I'd forgotten to give Melina a bath, and did I have enough bread for sandwiches? No amount of caffeine or sugar could fix my mood, because, oh yes, my period would arrive in two days.

By the time I was ready to leave for work, I'd scratched myself and bled, yelled at the dog (Thanks, Toby. You can start learning to listen to me sometime soon, you know.), and forgotten to send an important email. Teaching was on the agenda, but my expectations for the lecture were few. Get through the presentation and head on to lab, where I would teach a very simple (and quick) microscope lesson.

Had the universe been out for blood today, the microscope lab would have run long. Instead, the universe sent me Miguel.

Who is Miguel? I knew you'd ask me that. He's a student in my Wednesday lab. Of course, this being the first meeting of said lab, I hadn't yet met some of the students, much less Miguel. And I thought nothing of him until I took attendance.

"Miguel?" I said, and lifted my head to look at the students.

"Right here!" a dark-haired young man wearing glasses answered. He added a huge flourish with his hand, making it quite obvious that he was, indeed Miguel. A little over the top, but you know, I needed that. So I thanked him.

"You're welcome," he said, and proceeded to ask, with an enormous smile on his face, how I was doing.

I didn't give him the answer that stood on the tip of my tongue, which could have been fine or okay or good or a number of other, bland descriptions. Because at that moment, thanks to Miguel, I was GREAT. He'd lifted my spirits with his simple enthusiasm. I desperately clung to it with all my might and then let it soak in. The class went well, the drive home was uneventful, and I even had time to get gas and head to the hardware store. My day has been turned up by down. By one student. Miguel.

I often say that it's the little things that matter, that make a difference, that change a life. In this case, it is so true.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Somehow

I can always tell what sort of day it's going to be by what's happening on my computer. Today, I have three internet browser windows open (yes, three completely different windows) with at least six tabs up in each. None of those tabs are repeats. So when I sit down here, in front of my keyboard, I have a complete assault on my eyes from a mere 13-inch screen.

And I don't like it. Those tabs serve as a to-do list, if you will. I need to check my college mail and get back with any students that might (if they're smart they will already have questions, one day in) have a question or concern. I'm in the middle of a search for literary agents who enjoy women's fiction and are looking for debut authors. The garage door needs fixing, the library volunteer list needs tweaking, and I must find out where Aaron's soccer practice is. Not because I need to take him there (Thanks, Tim, for offering to do that.) but because someday I will need to get him there. And why not pile that small and easy task onto the already enormous list of things that must be done in the next 36 hours.

I'm not here to lament my life. It's busy, that's for sure. Most of that chaos I've taken on myself, for one reason or another. And some of it, I will be giving up soon. I'm really just writing this as a reminder to myself, for next year. When the beginning of everyone's school schedule throws me into a tizzy and I'm about ready to pull my hair out. This can be a gentle reminder that each year, the same thing happens, and somehow, I'll manage to get through it.

Somehow.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

One Word

"Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary." ~Margaret Cousins

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Words

"Holy mackerel," I heard myself say. And then I slapped my hand over my lips.

When had I become so tame in my expletives? There had been a time, many moons ago, when I would have freely let slip a good, Holy shit, or Dammit, and here I was, uttering something that dates back to the early 1800s.

As I moved around the kitchen, putting dishes away, I thought about what other words I use on a daily basis. I stood still in shock as the memories of my words assaulted my brain. My word! has come forth most recently, as in the last two years or so. Oh beans! and Shoop! and Rats! are commonly found in my repertoire. (In case you aren't clear what shoop is, it's my attempt to not say, Shoot! because that's too close to Shit!) I won't even go near What the... (and I don't like the kids to use it) because it's too close to What the hell? We all know that's what I would mean to say if I said it, so I just don't.

The question is, why? Why do I often sound like a blue-haired out lady from the south? I blame that one on the girls. From the moment they came into our home over twelve years ago, I vowed to keep my mouth clean. And then, of course, we had to add two more children to the mix. So instead of the potty talk I had thrown around with ease, I found myself looking for alternatives. (I certainly didn't want to raise a bunch of kids who curse like sailors, you know?)

But those alternatives, in my mind, are getting old. So send your best this way. I'm tired of the whole butterflying* list that I have.

*I borrowed that term from Colleen Hoover, who used it in her book Point of Retreat. Which means that I'm not averse to any made-up term. And thank you, Colleen.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Full Plates

This morning I received an email from the managing editor of Literary Mama. In short, it asked if I would have an interest in becoming the Fiction department copyeditor, in addition to keeping my current post as a Profiles department editor.

For those of you who know me well, you're probably thinking I did a happy dance. And you're right. Although I've had no formal training besides what I learned in elementary and high school and then in college, I copyedit every day. It could be the articles in the newspaper, school newsletters, church bulletins, or emails I receive. Errors often jump from the page, and in some instances, that's not a good thing. A glaring mistake on the front page of a national newspaper? Who didn't do his/her job that morning?

But back to my story. I read the email from the managing editor with great interest, and I thought briefly if I should take on the role. It would be good experience, I thought. I followed that up by, But I am so busy. As I walked into the kitchen, I even voiced my concerns aloud.

"Should I put one more thing on my plate?" I muttered to no one in particular.

Talia, who knew what I was talking about because she had, just moments before, peeked over my shoulder at the email, had a very quick response. "You do if you're hungry," she said. 

I'll be ordering a hard copy of the Chicago Manual of Style by the end of the day.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Well Played, Barbie

The tears trickled down her face and her lip quivered as she looked up at me.

"But I wanted to wear the tights," Melina said. "I wanted to wear the thin tights."

I rolled my eyes and sighed. It has been almost two weeks since I've gone running. I've stopped in an attempt to let my body heal. In the process, though, my mind has suffered and my ability to keep my patience has waned. I had to walk away, or I'd likely yell at the sweet child before me.

I grabbed her hand and tugged it lightly, pulling her into my bedroom and toward the master bathroom. Once my feet hit the cool tile floor, I said, "Use the potty. And get dressed."

I won't lie, my sharp voice revealed my irritation, my exasperation. It held enough of both to cause Tim to notice. "What's wrong?" he said. And when I told him, I could have sworn that I heard his eyes roll.

This battle we wage sometimes with our fourth child is trivial. I know that. I realize that, as she grows up, we'll have deeper concerns with which to deal. That maybe I should give in from time to time on what she decides to wear, since it really is a simple battle. So I do. We've gone grocery shopping as Anna Wintour, Batman, Wonder Woman, and dinosaurs. We've headed to the doctor's office in pajamas and to church as a ballerina. I've even headed to local coffee shops with a girl who could only be described as a harlot, that's how disgustingly inappropriate her getup would have been on a woman. I get that I need to back off sometimes. Really. But I draw the line at one place: Melina must wear weather appropriate clothing.

And tights on a day in August when the thermometer might reach 78 degrees or higher? (And that's only because we're having a cooler than normal summer.) No way in hell will I put those tights on. Because it doesn't matter that Melina is six, she still struggles with putting her own tights on. (Crap, if I tried to put a pair of nylons on myself I might have trouble.) And I don't want to waste precious moments in the morning, losing them to a pair of nylon rubbery tights that will make Melina's legs warm, sweaty, and itchy before she even leaves for the bus stop. Plus, if by some miracle she didn't have warm legs before she headed to school, I can tell you that once she got to recess (or before) poor Mrs. W. would need to deal with a hot mess. This is because Melina runs hot ALL THE TIME. So why did she want the tights on?

I guess in my attempt to keep myself in check, I never asked her that question and I probably should have. She knows what she wants, usually because she has a grandiose scheme in her head. A shirt or sweater paired with the right skirt and tights must also then go along with the proper shoes and headband. It's how Melina's brain is built and I understand the underlying reason for that behavior. It's the same reason I like to have my house in order and everything put away. It's why I like the beds to be made and the shoes all lined up. It's what I want. It's what I like. It makes me content, and dare I say it, happy.

Did I shoot down my kid's dreams today? Did I cause a problem so severe to her psyche she'll need to crawl to a therapist someday? I doubt this episode will send her, but I can guarantee that something else I do might. In this instance, though, I actually think my solution passed muster.

After I'd calmed down a few notches, I spoke to her with gentleness and love in my voice. (Looking at a face like Melina's, it is easy to do.) I reminded her that she is ALWAYS hot and that she runs around here in her underwear most of the time (and nothing else). I then used the trick that we, as parents, do so often we don't always realize we're doing it. I diverted her attention. With Barbie shoes.

Yes, Barbie--the blond doll that I've given a bad rap to for ages--became my sidekick. She wasn't my sworn enemy any more and for a few moments, I hoped she would become my savior. For inside Melina's shoe bin (which I have to say, is messy...the shoes ARE NOT all lined up, like soldiers) a sparkle caught my eye. And I was reminded that back in the spring, we chose a pair of Barbie shoes with glittery sides and pink flowers on the toe. We hadn't seen them all summer, so maybe, just maybe, if we pulled them out today, it would be like new shoes. (And these shoes did not need to be worn with tights.)

Sometimes you wonder where you get brilliant ideas. Other times you think that you had a bad idea and it just happened to work. I don't know which of those is true for today. But Melina nodded her head with enthusiasm and pulled on her socks, then threw the shoes on, and ate breakfast without complaint. She smiled and blew kisses as she walked out the door and down to the bus stop. Then she pulled out her famous parting line: "All the goody bags in the world."

Melina says that at night when I put her to bed or when she's leaving me. She's gracing me with all the goodness that she can, and hoping that my day (or evening) will be as wonderful as hers. I realized then that the tights had been long forgotten. Everything in her world had made it through a minor disruption, a small blip that Barbie had somehow righted.

I guess I can't give all the credit to Barbie, but I'm a good enough person to acknowledge when I've had some help.

Well played, Barbie. Well played.





Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Five Hours

Four lunch boxes stood on the kitchen counter, ready to be filled and carried out by the children. The food the kids would eat at noon was still in the refrigerator, placed neatly into containers that would fit snugly into the box. Their water bottles waited for them, too, lined up and ready to go. This is the first year that all four boxes were filled simultaneously, an action that holds a significance I'm not quite ready to face. Because all four little beasts are out and about at school, all day. It's just me, the dogs, and the cat.

But as I sit here and key this in, I realize that the time had to come, eventually. That since 2002 I've had very few moments to myself and that this morning, on a day when the children leave and I don't have to get to work (I don't start until Monday), I will have at least five hours alone. (It would be six hours, but I have plans to help out the first-graders at lunch today, to make sure the buyers know where they go and that the packers know where to find their lunches.)

Five hours! That's a long time, and yet it isn't. It isn't even an entire work day, and with everything that could be done around here--cleaning, laundry, general straightening, writing, working on lectures, weeding, training the dog--I almost feel as I should just take those five hours, sit with a cup of coffee and enjoy the almost-but-not-quite silence. If I do that, though, my mind will wander to so many places it shouldn't go today. Did Melina find her classroom? And is she going to the bathroom too often? Can she hear her teacher all right? (All of those are true concerns for her and me today.) Did Aaron get to fifth grade math and back with little to no fanfare and how about Zoe and Talia? They left with lunch boxes, backpacks, and violas in hand. It was a large load for a twenty-minute walk. I'm sure they made it, but how did they fare? And did they open their lockers on the first try?

I could go on, but I won't. But I have convinced myself that writing or cleaning will be a better option for me to take on today. The best option would be to look at my lectures, but I think that will wait for tomorrow. Because I'll have another five glorious hours to myself again then.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'll Take the Debt

A friend drew my attention to a wonderful post by Glennon over at Momastery. Glennon has incredibly insightful and inspiring things to say most of the time, and this time, it was no different. She posted about her kitchen, the one that shows up from time to time in her pictures, the one that many people, apparently, have asked her to consider renovating.

I have to admit I was drawn to the post simply by the title, Give me Gratitude or Give Me Debt. Such a descriptive title, really. You know where she's going to go, and if you know anything about her, you know she chose gratitude over debt. Her response to those who said she should renovate? Classic, Glennon, really.

Over the course of her post, Glennon pointed out what she loved about her kitchen and that everything in it suited her needs and the needs of her family. All of the appliances and the floor, the space as it is, is sufficient and functional. And for a moment, because of her post, I second guessed myself. Because, as many of you know, we underwent a kitchen renovation a little under a year ago. And many of you also know that we had to get a Home Equity Loan in order to do so. I guess what I'm saying is that I willingly took on debt. Her post today made me ask myself, were we right to do so? Should we have not taken on a loan? Should we have waited and simply been grateful for what we had?

I questioned myself for about one millisecond before I snapped back to my confident self. I realized that our decision to renovate suited us. For us, it was never a case of not being grateful and fixing what wasn't broken. Our kitchen was so completely broken that holding onto it any longer would have been a crime. What might be good for Glennon and her family didn't necessarily translate over to ours. And I'm guessing that she would most likely applaud our decison to do the research, weigh the costs and benefits, and not get caught up in what other people say. Because that's what she just did, right?

So I won't feel bad about a kitchen that came along with a Home Equity Loan in tow. Because I'm sitting next to a digital camera that is twelve years old. The table in our study is from the late nineties. Our coffee maker is the one we received as a gift at our wedding almost fourteen years ago. The same can be said of our bath towels. And I'm grateful for every last one of those items we have.

Monday, August 11, 2014

---

Today was so busy, I didn't have time to think, much less write. So you're stuck with a non-post. I guess I could have simply not posted at all, but somehow, the more my fingers dance over the keyboard, the more I feel like I'm contributing to my quest to fulfill a dream.

The question that remains, though, is will that dream ever be fulfilled? The members of my writing group and I ask ourselves that all the time. And to be honest, I have no idea. I'd like to think that someday we'll have books on the library bookshelf. But no amount of hard work is going to guarantee that.

But what can I guarantee? That my kids will ask me a bazillion questions once I get on the phone. That a blog post can sit waiting to be finished for weeks (I kid you not) because I'm not happy with the wording. That Toby will try (relentlessly) to get in Shadow's face. And that Aaron, who will be ten in November, will climb into bed with me sometime during the middle of the night.

Mundane, ordinary events that I encounter each and every day. The things that give me ideas, spark my creativity, and in a way, push me toward the realization that someday, I will be published.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Revising

I'm in the middle of another revision for my YA book, Beyond the Trees. So far, I've sent out a total of 30 query letters (over the last year and a half), and no one (not one) has asked for even a partial manuscript. Which means that I need to revise something...the query letter, the first pages, maybe even the whole book.

So yesterday, I looked at the first three chapters (the ones that most people will ask you to attach with your query letter) and realized that I'm not happy with the opening. I don't have a memorable first line, and while I do think the actual story is good, I need to make sure people want to read from the beginning. (I think I knew this before I started querying, but by golly, I want to get this book out there!)

Hence, my quest to find a great first line, a wonderful opening chapter, and a means into the reader's heart.

Of course, I have my own thoughts on what makes a great first line, but as I learned from a writing conference I attended in the spring, a first line should allow for an opening of narrative space. You should be able to go anywhere with the first line. Even somewhere a reader wouldn't envision. (The same holds true for the first line of every chapter.)

And so I thought to myself, what sort of opening line might be able to pull off a miracle? I couldn't go with "It was the best of times and the worst of times..." as that one is already taken. And the quintessential "It was a dark and stormy night." is overused. (Plus, there is a debate surrounding that one. You have two camps: those that love it and those that don't and think it is one of the worst first lines, ever.) Would I be able to come up with something better than what I had?

I think I have. Is it the best I can do? I'm not sure. But with the new line, I also have a new thread that can weave through the story. That thread might enhance what I've got. I can only hope...and keep revising.



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Three Rs

As you all know, my three Rs are reading, (w)riting, and running. I'm taking a hiatus from running right now, in an effort to let my pubic (there it is again, Nikki!) symphysis heal. But I'm not letting up on the (w)riting and reading. If I did, I'd probably--no certainly--go insane.

And while my reading is mostly for pleasure, I glean information from everything I read, and tuck it away for possible future use. I see what works, and what doesn't, whose style I might want to emulate, and where I can go in a new, different direction. I also look for mistakes--from everything grammatical to repetitive exposition or dialogue to basic lack of research.

Sadly, I ran into a book recently that, while lauded as a wonderful tale and the first in a trilogy of YA books (now that is something that's starting to sound very repetitive), is lacking in the research department. Woefully lacking, if you don't mind my use of an adverb.

Case in point? The author's use of the Witness Protection Program. I don't know anything about such program, truthfully, so I looked up what I could online. (Wow, the internet is a wonderful thing.) Even before I researched what I could, I thought that someone placed into the program wouldn't be sent off to their new location in a flashy car, with no communication device, and no escort. Sure enough, just a few minutes of tooling around on my computer and what do I find? (See the whole article here.)
After the witness receives a pre-admittance briefing by Marshals Service personnel and agrees to enter the program, he and his family are immediately removed from their current location and taken to a temporary, secure holding area.
Holding area? What a grand idea, one that makes a ton of sense, actually. And, they're taken to that new, secure, place by someone of authority, a police escort, if you will. Huh. Further research also implies that the witness would have access to 24-hour protection while in a high threat environment. It's not clear to me how long that 24-hour protection would be available, but if I needed to ask that question for my book, I'd go out and find the answer. I don't know, maybe actually contact an authority and ask the question? Clearly, this author did not. While I understand the need to make the plot line move forward, it is necessary that the story is plausible and plausibility means good research.

Another example? The author mentions that her mother had graduated college with a Biology degree and taught at Princeton. Really? Somehow, I doubt that could happen. Not that her mother had a Biology degree, but that she would be able to teach at a university like Princeton with only a BS degree. Our local community college requires at least a Master's degree to teach, which means that a place like Princeton University might (probably would) hold to that minimum requirement as well. And so I checked my trusty internet and thirty seconds later, I had my answer.
Essential qualifications: Advanced degree required. Preferred qualifications: Ph.D. or doctoral candidates preferred; prior teaching experience preferred.
So little time to take to make your story authentic, no?

And then we have the little things that aren't really related to research and yet, could be considered a part of it if you're not up on your grammar. But you know me, so you know that while I really call them little mistakes, they are not. Presumably the book passed through the hands of beta-readers, an agent, an editor, and a copyeditor and yet, these little things happened. I won't bore you with the details, but please, please check your work. And then double-check it. And triple-check it. I know mistakes happen, but we can minimize those mistakes when we all do our job and do that job well.

At this point in our conversation, you might ask, What book is this? I won't reveal the title, but I have to tell you that this book is only one in a long line of books chock-full of errors. Maybe the agents and editors are so excited by the pull of the story that they ignore what's right in front of their face: quality writing. That scares me on so many levels, only one of which is the fact that I try, really try, to write a good story that is well-written. And that good, well-written story just might stay hidden on my bookshelf if this trend continues.

So please, fellow writers, make your three Rs reading, (w)writing, and research, with a slight emphasis on research at this point. You might just help all of us out.

Friday, August 8, 2014

#HappinessHappens

August 8 is Happiness Happens Day. Actually, the entire month of August is Happiness Happens Month. Yeah, I didn't know this either, but according to the Secret Society of Happy People, it's true. (The society was founded in 1998...weren't people happy before that? And why on earth, does the society need to be secret? Plus are we any happier now, because we celebrate a happiness day, than we were before? Questions, all these questions, some of which I could find the answers for, if only it weren't 6:29 in the morning.)

Apparently, when the society was founded, "the emphasis on how to get happy was more about understanding what was wrong than recognizing what was right." Um, okay? I guess that means you need to figure out what is off-kilter in your life, adjust it, and hope for the best? Isn't that the negative way to go? Or is it the easiest? Is it less work on a person's part to fix what's broken than to understand what's going well and aim to do it again? I have no idea, because I'm no therapist (obviously). And I'm truly of the school that what works for one may not work for all.

But since today is Happiness Happens Day, and I think that most people deserve to be (and want to be) happy, I challenge you to really look at your life. It doesn't have to be today. I know some of you are in the midst of shopping for school supplies or putting together lectures or worrying about a job you've applied for or simply overwhelmed by the sheer amount of laundry piling up in your room. And since the whole month of August is devoted to happiness, you've got plenty of time. So sometime before the end of this month (remember, there are 31 days in it!), take a quick peek at your life, find one thing you're happy with, and try to duplicate that happiness somewhere else in your life. If you're the sort that works better from the opposite side of the spectrum (this is coming from the gal who learns how to write from trash, remember?) then identify an area where you could stand a little more happiness. And figure out how to get there!!

Ready, set, go!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

And Then...

I promised you something more literary for today, but I'm here to tell you that I lied. Flat-out lied. I've got nothing to say that is remotely inspiring for anyone, and I haven't done any real thinking about life, writing, teaching, or parenting. Which of course, makes you ask yourself why in the heck am I posting? Right?

Because I must. Seriously. I need to at least write a little or else I don't scratch the itch. Plus, I have something to tell you.

No, I didn't procure an agent or win the prize for best instructor. I don't have a story being published (although I will in the fall) nor did I manage to find another editing gig (I am enjoying the one I'm currently on). Nothing quite so profound and life-changing, unless you think that having another dog is a life-changing event. (And to some, I know that is true. For us, it remains to be seen.)

I'll be quick: I looked on Craigslist for a suitable new friend, found one I thought might work, took Shadow and the kids to look at him, and came home with a dog. A former owner called him Glenn, but the man who transferred him to us calls him Toby. Toby sounds like a nice dog name; Glenn just sounds outdated (sorry, Glenn L., but you probably don't read this anyway, and you're human.) He's a Black Lab/Bassett Hound mix -- something I never thought I'd see. Ever.

And here he is:


(See how those feet turn out, like the Bassett Hound? Hilarious. Really.) So far, the only one that's really annoyed by him is Lucy, the cat. Shadow is a close second, and Tim is bringing up the rear. Maybe it's a male thing?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rock, Paper, Scissors...

At the breakfast table this morning: 
Melina: Mom, if a man and a woman get divorced, and they have one child, who gets the child?
Me: It depends...
Melina: They do rock, paper, scissors, shoot, don't they?
(Sorry for two posts about light-hearted conversations, but after writing Unfinished, I needed a mental break. Plus, I'm gonna miss having this child around all day. Moving on to possibly heavier -- and more literary -- fare tomorrow. Maybe.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wife Support

Around the dinner table this evening:
Zoe: Melina, do you want to get married someday?
Melina: I think so.
Aaron: I want to.
Talia: Me, too.
Melina: Well Aaron, if you get married, you'll have to go shoe shopping with your wife...
Aaron: My least favorite part.
Melina: ...and buy her tampons!
Funny thing is, Tim never goes shoe shopping with me. And while I know he'd purchase tampons for me if I asked him to, I'm not sure I ever have.

Another funny thing? I think Aaron would rather stand mesmerized by the choices in the feminine hygiene aisle than step foot into a women's shoe store. Truthfully, I can't blame him.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Unfinished

The bookshelves stood against the wall, all three of them unfinished.

"I'll get to them someday. Take a stain to them, once I've decided what color to go with," she said as she wiped her hands against the dark blue denim covering her legs. "Now what color to go with..." Her voice trailed off as she turned off the light, plunging the shelves into complete darkness.

That was twenty-five years ago, and those shelves still stand, as pale as desert sand, the same color as the day they came through the door. There's been no time to find the right color of stain, nor the inclination to do so. There have been appointments to get to, weeds to pull, carpet to replace, and bills to pay. The busy-ness of life never allowed her to get to staining the bookshelves. At least, that's what she tells herself.

For it isn't the chaos of the ordinary days that interrupted her quest to place some color on those shelves. It isn't the fact that you or I might have taken her time up with a cup of tea. It's not even that a good book got in the way, as good books often do. It's that she never had the ability to choose a stain -- to make the commitment, be confident in that choice, and then be happy with the choice. It was all too much. What would the husband think of that color? And the neighbors? What if she chose the wrong shade, something that attracted attention against the ivory wall? She didn't put forth the effort to go within and find out what she wanted -- what would please her. (For goodness sake, it was her house). It was easier to simply keep the status quo.

And now? Sadly, now, it's too late. Her brain is not the same and never will be, and making a decision as to what color to stain the shelves -- while before it would have been difficult -- now it is impossible. Add in to the equation that those denim covered legs are a part of a body whose arms are no longer strong enough to do the staining by herself and guess what? Her bookshelves will remain unfinished until the day they are no longer her bookshelves.

A tear wells up in my lower eyelid as I think about those shelves that stand tall against her wall. Despite the lack of stain, they never felt unloved. For they were filled from the moment they arrived at the house. They've been overflowing for years, with books on religion, politics, poetry, psychology, and self-help manuals. They house notebooks of inspirational quotes and calendars from years past. All these years, the information to become who she wanted to become was right at her fingertips: on the flat wooden shelves of those unfinished bookshelves. If only she'd had the courage to open the books, take the information to heart, and make the change. If only she'd chosen a Golden Oak or Colonial Maple. If only.

A wise woman once said to me, "I love her for who she is." And I do. I really do. But I also have to wonder who she could have been. Who she could be today. For like those shelves, she's unfinished. And will be until the day she no longer is.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Words from Other People

Sometimes I like to take a break from the rush of words that comes out of my mind and fingers. Especially when other people can say it better...


Friday, August 1, 2014

Belonging

According to me (and it should always be about me, no?), items in our home have their places. For example, we don't have end tables, so in order to always know where the remote controls for the television and Wii are, I place them on the TV table. On the corner. In plain view for everyone to know where they are. Amazingly, every morning, I find them elsewhere: perched on the coffee table, lounging on the computer table, or snoozing in between the cushions of the couch. It's no surprise then, when I hear someone mutter, "Where is the remote?" You know my answer. "If you'd have put it back where it belongs, you'd know where it is."

We hear that often around here. Or maybe I just hear it in my head, because I find myself whispering that for much of the day. Just yesterday, Aaron asked me, "Where's the gold duct tape?" Mind you, this is the tape he'd been using for much of the day in his attempt to fashion a spear. (Which he did. It's a very awesome spear, too, made out of cardboard, of course. See why a cardboard coffin makes sense?) I had to scratch my head. Where could the poor child have put the tape? I knew that I didn't put it away, and much to the disappointment of the kids, I knew it hadn't put itself away. Thankfully, it was time for Aaron to go to bed. He must have been tired, for he didn't argue when I said I'd look for it. He simply asked, "Can you put it on the piano?" and then got ready for bed.

His question, though, brings me back to the topic at hand. Why put the duct tape on the piano? Why not put it in the tape bin? We actually have one of those on the first level, in the room we now call the study. We also have a box full of just duct tape (well, it might be close to empty now, since it is the end of the summer, and we've had a cooler than average one) in the basement. Why not just ask me to put the tape back where it belongs?

I think it's because Aaron (and the rest of the folks that inhabit this place) don't really know where things belong. If they think long and hard enough about it, or take the time to look around, they can see bins, and bookshelves, and drawers with spaces for toys, books, and other objects of desire. But despite my attempt at order, if I left for a few weeks, I'm convinced I'd come back to a house riddled with chaos.

What the kids and Tim don't understand, is that chaos lives on a slippery slope, and it all starts with one remote control.

Put that remote back where it belongs, will ya?