Thursday, December 31, 2015

Over and Out*

Well folks, we're at the end of the year. I started out this year thinking that all I needed to do was surpass the number of blog posts from last year (and make it to 319 posts) but then something changed (we all know what that was, and I am not going to rehash the topic). And since I wasn't doing any REAL writing, I told myself that I'd try to blog each day. Well, it worked. I might have missed a day or two here or there, but for the better part of 2015, I wrote down a few thoughts (or borrowed a picture to help me convey my thoughts).

I don't have time to blog each day anymore. I need to keep the faith and believe that I will find more publishing success in the form of a short story or novel. I need to take the time to revise that short story and novel, and I won't do that by posting here each day.

When will I post? I'm not sure. I have so much in my head--all the time--and as I've said before, writing is a form of therapy for me. (I also recently said that writing was useful for me as a form of healing, too.) I expect that I can't just shut down my brain, but I also don't want to feel obligated to produce something here each and every day.

So let's leave it at this: I'll try to post a few times a week. If I manage more than that, wonderful. And if I go less than that? Well, I'm sorry. And if I miss you all? (Which I highly suspect that I will.) Then I'll go back to a more frequent blogging schedule. Because you guys are my lifeline. And I mean that. Thanks so much for reading.

Like this? More can be found here.
*We try to be accurate here, and as my friend S.B. House pointed out, "...with radio communication, over and out NEVER get said together. I know they do in the movies, and in general people say it that way, but they just don't work together. Over means that you are done talking, passing the transmission to them, and expect a reply. Out means that you are ending the transmission and there should be no reply." As I explained to her, I actually learned that somewhere long ago. I have no idea why or where I learned it because unlike S.B., I've never been in the army. However, when I wrote this post, I said to myself, the year is over, and I might be out of words for a while (or I might not). Hence the title of this post. I hope this explanation helps clarify everything.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Big Problem

I'm not a very big drinker, but our friend Ben introduced us to two friends of his...


And now, I have a problem. A big problem.

When you mix the Rum Chata with the cool root beer, you end up with a creamy concoction worthy of any milk shake (although not as thick). It's reminiscent of homemade, vanilla bean rice pudding--a dessert that I rarely make but wish I did. If you like rice pudding, that's a great thing. And even if you don't enjoy rice pudding, go ahead and try these two together. You can go with a 1:1 mixture, or if you'd rather not overdo it on the Rum Chata, then try a 1:3 mixture instead. Get ready for yumminess.

(The folks over at Rumchata.com have the real recipe--called a Root Bear Float--which can be found here.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Other Goals

As most of you know, I'm not just a writer. I'm a teacher, a mother, a wife, a sister, an editor, a runner, a friend. I could probably find more hats to throw into that list, but then, I'd bore you. (As if you're not bored already, right?) So I need to have goals for this new year that encompass more than my writing life. Because if there is one thing I realized over the last year, it's that I am motivated by personal goals. (I'm not going to go into why that might be, but just know that it's true.)

Found this cool image here.

So, as 2015 rolls into 2016, I need to figure out, then, what those goals might be. I'm sure several of you might be able to come up with some goals for me, but I also have a short list of my own. And just like my writing goals, I have one word that will bring those goals together: Improve.

Yep, I'd like to see myself become a better teacher, mother, wife, sister, editor, runner and friend. (Along with all those other hats that I might wear.)

So simple and quite lofty at the same time.


Monday, December 28, 2015

And So...(Part III)

An email I received on December 27 after uploading my blog post to HuffPost:
Thank you very much for your blog post. It's been published and can be found at this permanent link.
 
It's also permanently listed in your author archive.

If you have any questions, please consult our Blogging Guidelines and FAQ in the backstage area (To view the FAQ, sign in at blogger.huffingtonpost.com). Our team sees all incoming posts, so there's no need to send us a note letting us know that you've posted.

While we strive to read and evaluate each post quickly, we might not feature it immediately after publication. Of course, even if your post is not featured on one of our sections, readers still find and access HuffPost content in a number of ways (including through search engines and links from other sites). And you can help drive significant traffic to your posts in the following ways:

1. Email/IM: Send a short note with a link to your post to any lists you're on and encourage them to comment and share the link. Put the link as your "away" message on IM.
2. Facebook/Twitter: Share a link to your post via Facebook and/or Twitter.
3. Respond to Comments: Responding to comments on your own post helps engage readers and grow an audience. Any comments you make will have a special badge next to them, identifying you as a "HuffPost Blogger" - simply make sure you are logged in to the backstage area where you first submitted your posts, then proceed to huffingtonpost.com to write and post your comment.

Many thanks for blogging on HuffPost
Huffington Post blog team
So that's it! I'm now a HuffPost Blogger! I guess I better get working on the next piece...

  


Sunday, December 27, 2015

2016 Writing Goals

The 27th day of December...the 361st day of the year. We only have 365 days, which means I should discuss a little something about my writing goals for next year...

Do you remember what my goals were for this year? If not, let me remind you:
1. Write and publish one profile for Literary Mama.
2. Write a review for Literary Mama with my sister, Gina. (The piece may or may not get published this year, considering we need to find a book, query Literary Mama, and then write the review.)
3. Query a total of 100 agents each for After We've Fallen and Beyond the Trees. (I'm a glutton for punishment... you all knew this, and I've already started querying, so it's not really as many as it seems. The only caveat is this: if I keep getting rejections, I need to look at my letter, my first pages, my writing. So this goal might not be realized this year, either.)
4. Finish writing my first complete draft of Hunting for Lilacs.
5. Get at least 30,000 words of The Chocolate Garden done.
6. Read and critique as much as I can for other authors.
Did I succeed in these goals? Let's see.
1. Done. (You can find that profile here, if you're so inclined.)
2. No. Not even on the radar at the moment, really.
3. No. The year did not lend itself to querying, and to be truthful, I'd like my entire writing group to read After We've Fallen before I query anymore. Beyond the Trees is tucked away in bed for now and might never be resurrected.
4. No. But I did manage to make headway on the story. I think I could finish it in under two weeks (based on my NaNoWriMo behavior).
5. Done. I added over 60,000 words to The Chocolate Garden and have a complete first draft. (But you knew that already.)
6. Done. I've helped out quite a few people this year, and they weren't all from my writing group.
Well that's a batting average of .500, right? And that's not bad if I do say so myself.

So what's to be done for the coming year? Instead of individual goals, per se, I'm going for one word to encompass what my year will be. And that word? Revision. Revision of The Chocolate Garden, a short story called Personal Chaos, After We've Fallen, blog posts, you name it, if it needs revising, I'm going to consider tackling it. I haven't quite figured out what will get revised first yet, but I have time to think that through.

As for goals other than those of the writing variety? I think I have some of those, too. I'll save that for the next post.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Teaser II


Oh, crap! Are you kidding me? I'd just said his name!
"Davy? Is that you, Davy Sandstone?"
"Yes, but the name's Dave. And you would be?" His cluelessness didn't surprise me. Our interaction had been somewhat strained and, at least for me, painful over the years.
Since elementary school, our paths had crossed at the pool (where Davy had tried to drown me), the library (where Davy always managed to beat me in the Summer Reading Race), or at the movies (where we both worked the summer we were 16, and where he became known as The Popcorn Extortionist). Whenever I ran into him, I tried to exchange nothing more than an unhealthy glare. Oh, there was that one fall, when Davy had expressed fleeting interest in my friend, but I hadn't spent much time with him since we both went to Meadowlark Elementary School. And why didn’t we spend time together? Because of something I like to call The Name Shortening Incident. For the longest time, I despised Davy for that incident (I know, it's petty), but I'd gotten past it some time ago, or so I claimed. I wondered if Davy ever thought about it.
"It's Cecilia." My voice in my own ears held a guarded, almost rude, tone, and I wondered if Davy could detect it. "I had no idea you'd be here, at Michigan. I thought you went to MSU?  How is everything with you?" I asked him with a saccharine smile plastered to my face. Inside, I kicked myself for choosing this day to put my nose into someone else's business.
"Oh, Cecil!" he exclaimed, shortening my name again. "Good to see you, although I didn't recognize you without your glasses! I'm here for the art program...I decided to transfer...and I came up a little early to find out where my classes will be. Plus, one of the orientation leaders said he'd help me with a new technique I've been wanting to learn, but that meant I needed to be here today."
Davy and art? His choice surprised me. He'd always struck me as the computer programmer type or maybe even a scientist, not an artist. I tried to excuse myself as I felt my blood starting to boil, but for some reason, he felt the need to chat, and wanted to catch up on the years we'd missed. I listened with half an ear, hoping to find a good time to escape. When Davy started talking about his parents, though, I listened more closely. I had always liked his mom and dad. I was unsettled to learn that they had divorced, and that his dad now lived in Norway. Davy filled me in on the details of some of the kids we used to hang around with, and what classes he'd be taking. We also swapped stories about the bookstore.
"One book was $250! Can you believe that? And I only get to use it for one semester!" I said. I surprised myself with my friendliness.
"I can top that! My art supplies came to a grand total of $450." Davy's animated face danced before mine. We were both certain that our parents wouldn't believe us when we sent them the book bills, and I noticed that, once again, he had bested me. Was everything a competition with him?
Despite my initial hesitation, I allowed Davy (considering I'd always just think of him as that little kid from the past, and really, two could play this game) to show me where the storage closets and cafeteria were located. With a half-smile on his face, he walked me to my room, leaning in against the doorjamb as I placed my things on the floor inside.
"Mine's the door with Luke Skywalker on the front. I drew him in chalk!" Davy seemed proud as he pointed his index finger in the direction of his room. "And if you need something, Cecil…"
Davy didn't finish, just looked up at me with something igniting his eyes. Remorse? Mischief? Something else? I'd avoided Davy for so long, I found reading him to be impossible. I looked to my left, toward his room, which loomed four doors down on the other side of the hall. Would it be good or bad having Davy Sandstone so close? My past experiences with Davy had jaded me, and I didn't understand the boy who stood before me. What did he want? Why was he being so nice?
"Listen, Cecil, I have to go, but I'll see you around. We should catch up some more, you know?"
"Uh, yeah, okay. But Davy, it's Cecilia. Please call me Cecilia," I stared at his retreating back, still not sure what to make of his behavior. As I closed the door, I heard a laugh trickle from down the hallway. The only thing I was sure of was that once again, Davy had played me.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

When I was a child, one thing meant Christmas: The Muppets and John Denver.



Yep, that's right. This classic from 1979 jumped into my mind the other day, and I haven't been able to shake it. The first time my older sister and I watched it, we loved it. And every time it ran in the following years, we loved it even more. Once our little sister came along, we introduced her to it (I believe), but I don't think she holds the same fond feelings for this masterpiece.

The video is long--a full 51 minutes, so I don't expect you to watch the entire thing. So I pulled out the song that Gina and I would sing the most: Christmas is Coming.


If nothing else this Christmas, sit back, relax, and have a good laugh at the video. Or imagine two pajama-clad little girls with long hair and spaces between their teeth, walking around a 1970s-decorated house, singing at the top of their lungs. It's a great memory for me to have, and one that I'll treasure as long as I remember it.

Merry Christmas, folks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

That's My Girl

A conversation in our kitchen last evening...
Aaron: Dad, what comes after nano?
Melina: I know! I know what comes after nano! Wrimo comes after nano.
Me: That's my girl.
Tim: Pico, Aaron. Pico comes after nano.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Unconnected

She finds herself standing in front of the open refrigerator, alone, staring longingly at the Margarita mix that rests in the door. Is it too early? she thinks, and glances at the clock. 7:35 a.m. That answers her question. She shuts the door and putters out of the room, onto a task that needs to be done, and tries to shake the want, the need from her mind.

Miscommunication is a big problem, despite the technology that exists to help with communication. We're overrun with ways to get in contact with each other and when we do, it still doesn't mean that one person will understand exactly what we're trying to say.



Rain or snow? It's December, and she watches the frigid droplets of rain as they trail down the side of the house and puddle on the driveway. The scene is almost too much to take on a day when she's got five children at home and a cake to bake for the office. She roots around in her cabinet, fingers flailing in the dark, and comes up with the jackpot: her old package of Camel Lights and a pack of matches.



Being a promoter is easy, if you believe in what you promote. But what if the people you promote don't reciprocate? Should you renege on your nonverbal commitment to promote for them? Or should you, in the spirit of giving, just continue to help them make their way? Thoughts like these filled her head as she maneuvered her Ford truck down the lane and pulled over to the side of the road. Finding her business card amongst the trash that littered her passenger seat, she tucked her hair behind her ear and readied her spiel. She had a long day of schmoozing ahead of her.



(Full disclosure: I couldn't find copyright info for any of these images. But I'm not using them to make money, so I think we're okay.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Twitterpated (Not) II

In August 2012, I joined Twitter. Now as most of you readers know, I'm not a big Twitter fan. I use it for Literary Mama purposes mostly, to give a shout out to the masses that writers I work with have published something with us. But I don't have the time to use Twitter well, and really, I wouldn't know how to use Twitter well. (I know the lesson there--if I used it more often, I'd learn how to use it. But really, I have other things to do.)

So here is my question to you: What are the rules of Twitter? I wonder if they exist, and if they did, would I understand them?

Which leads to my second question to you (which has to do with followers): Why would anyone follow me, get me to follow back, and then unfollow me? Is that behavior just to increase their followers number? I'm at 963 followers right now but I know that number will fluctuate. I don't expect people to follow me back if I follow them, and if I do follow someone and they follow me back, I don't unfollow them after that. That's just rude, isn't it?

And that leads to my third and final question (I swear): Do people really believe their self-worth can be measured by the number of Twitter followers?

Anyone care to explain?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cherries in the Snow

This time of the year, the girls start asking about Cherries in the Snow. For those of you not familiar with what that is, it's a dessert. And a pretty delicious one at that. Best of all, it's easy. In fact, the only downside I see about it is that the dessert is heavy on the artificial ingredients. Hence, I make it once a year and only once a year. (I guess another downside would be that it has cherries in it, if you don't like cherries. I would imagine that another fruit could be substituted pretty easily.)

Ingredients:

1 8 oz tub fat-free cream cheese
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 12 oz carton frozen whipped topping (reduced-calorie), thawed
8 cups cubed angel food cake (cubes about 1 inch in size; homemade or store bought)
1 20 oz can light cherry pie filling (I usually buy two cans, because we love the cherry part)

What to do:

1. Beat the cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until it is smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat until blended. Gently fold in the whipped topping.
2. Place half of the cake cubes in a large glass bowl and then top with half of the cheese mixture. Spread half of cherry filling over cheese mixture.
3. Repeat the layers with remaining cake cubes, cheese mixture, and cherry filling. Cover with foil and chill. Store in the refrigerator.

I didn't have a picture to use, so I found one. Here.
(The recipe I used here came from this place, but you can find it just about anywhere online.)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Lyric Lover, IV

It's that time of the year when radio stations pull out songs from the past, like Dan Fogelberg's Same Old Lang Syne (1980). On my way back from the grocery store the other day, I heard it. I always turn the music up and think about the poetry behind these lyrics because way back in high school, we studied this song.

As I've aged, I've learned that I can be sentimental about anything, and that I can apply lyrics or situations to my life, whether or not I've lived them. Between the high school memories and my penchant for crying, I found a few tears sprinkling my face once again on that ride back from the store.



Friday, December 18, 2015

Presents

I had blocked off Tuesday morning as the day to run a few errands and to wrap my presents for the kids. (Thank goodness that Santa's presents arrive wrapped already. I mean, who has time to do his job, right?) So I found myself standing at the dining table, scissors in one hand, tape in the other, staring at the colorful wrapping paper spread out before me. I was there--in Ohio, in my house--and yet I wasn't. For my mind immediately jumped to my mom and her ability to wrap presents.

From a young age, I was awed by the gifts my mother would churn out. Perfect corners, straight ribbons, bows that curled (before you could buy the already-curled bows). I'd attend birthday parties and mothers would comment on how nicely wrapped the gift was. Sometimes, people would ask me if I had the store do the wrapping. "Nope," I'd say. "My mom wrapped it for me." I felt proud of Mom at those moments.

These are not presents my mother wrapped. I found the picture during an image search, and it's everywhere. Who originally took this photo? I'm not sure.
I asked Mom once why she was so good at wrapping presents. "I worked for a department store during the Christmas rush," she said. At the time, I accepted her answer for what it was--just an answer. Now, as an adult, I realize that her gift-wrapping ability was an example of practice makes perfect. I know if I really tried to do the best job I could on the presents, every time I wrapped them, that I could be as great a wrapper as she is. I'm just not sure I have the energy to do that right now.

I also don't have the energy to make this post into something special. Just know this: I've said a lot about my Mom and her diagnosis of Alzheimer's. I've written about how I've been hurt by her and how some of the memories I have of Mom (and Dad) aren't always the most pleasant (isn't that the way it is with all families?). But the presents and the lesson I learned from them stand out to me so much. In a roundabout way, Mom gave me a present I hadn't expected. I feel as though I should say, Thank you.

I guess I just did.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dear Student V

Dear Student,

It's been almost two months since I last wrote a letter like this, and considering grades were due yesterday, I thought I'd send this out posthaste.

What is that? You're not sure what I mean with the term posthaste? Somehow, I'm not surprised, considering just last week you asked me what the word viscera meant. Ha. Yes, don't deny it. You asked me, at the almost-end-of-the-semster, what I meant by that word. I wanted to chuckle in your face, but I'm a better person than that, and I know we all make mistakes. But you came to class most of the time, so I'm not really sure how that term slipped by you. (In case you still haven't looked it up, viscera refers to the internal organs within the body. And posthaste means without delay. By the way, you're welcome.)

But unlike past letters, I'm writing today to say thank you. (Yes, I'm actually writing a positive Dear Student letter.) Because this past semester has been, in one word, pleasant. I'm not kidding, you know. I could use other synonyms to describe it: charming, enjoyable, lovely, or pleasing. (But never gorgeous.) You came into class each day (for the most part) on time and ready to learn (yeah, I saw you nodding off from time to time, but you were quiet about it, so I let you get away with it) and made it to each and every exam. I didn't hear you whine about how difficult the material was, and you were pretty respectful of me and my time. No, let's make that very respectful. You did what past students haven't been able to do for a while: you reminded me why I love science and why I went into teaching in the first place.

Due to the nature of my life right now--I have errands to run and packages to wrap, cookies to bake and blog posts to write--I'm going to keep this letter short (as if). Just know that I appreciate you and hope that you've walked away from my class with a better understanding of the body than you had when you walked in. And if you don't, well then, I don't want to hear about it. Just smile and wave the next time I see you. I don't mind ignorance sometimes.

Sincerely,

Your teacher

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Categories, II

In the Things I Never Thought I'd Hear category:
Aaron: Mom, I have a boner.
Me: How'd that happen?
Aaron: I'm not sure. It just did.
I know these things happen with him. I've seen them happen, by golly, but somehow, I didn't think that my 11-year-old son would admit to me that he'd had an erection. Or that he knew what the word boner meant. I know I didn't teach him that word (I guess I'm pointing my finger at you, Tim.) And in case you're wondering, yes, we've talked all about erections before. He knows that they just happen and that they're a sign that everything is working right. So rock on, Aaron.

But, later that day, as Aaron was playing Wii with the girls--and my mind was still thinking about our prior conversation--I heard Aaron say:
I almost exploded myself. 
He meant that he accidentally made his character explode, but yeah, you know where my mind went. I have no plans to go there again. *Shudder*

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hold On

I am a very lucky woman. I've had my share of ups and downs, but along the way, I've learned from most of those experiences. I've learned to let go of the things I cannot control, and to not dwell on the negative from the past. I've also learned to hold tight to the goodness that surrounds me. While I have many more lessons to learn, I'm okay with where I am in my life right now. In fact, I'm more than okay. I'm great.

But I know people who could use my help. And so, when I sit in my car and hear a song like the one below, and I know there is no way at that moment that I can give them a call or to wrap them up in my arms, the only thing I can do is whisper to the universe to deliver a small miracle.

This is dedicated to you, people.



"Hold On Forever" by Rob Thomas

Another night and here we are again
All our faults laid out ahead
Let it out, then let it right back in
All those voices in your head

And we both know everything, but we can't learn to leave
So I'll tell you what you need

First thing: we make you feel better
Next stop: we pull it all together
I'll keep you warm like a sweater
Take my hand, hold on forever
Just fall apart if you need to
I'm here and I won't leave you now
Don't look down
Hold on forever

Lay down all your troubles end to end
They could reach up to the stars
So many roads, you don't know where you've been
But you still know who you are

And if I seem preoccupied, I'm wondering what to do
So here's my recipe for you

First thing: we make you feel better
Next stop: we pull it all together
I'll keep you warm like a sweater
Take my hand, hold on forever
Just fall apart if you need to
I'm here and I won't leave you now
Don't look down
Hold on forever

And we both know everything, but we can't learn to leave
So I'll tell you what you need

First thing: we make you feel better
Next stop: we pull it all together
I'll keep you warm like a sweater
Take my hand, hold on forever
Just fall apart if you need to
I'm here and I won't leave you now
Don't look down
Hold on forever
Just take my hand; hold on forever
Hold on forever
Just take my hand; hold on forever

Sunday, December 13, 2015

And So...(Part II)

An email I received on December 10 after setting up my account with the HuffPost community:
Dear Christina,

Welcome to the HuffPost blogging platform! Your account has been successfully created. Below you will find a login and instructions for accessing our blogger backstage.  Before beginning, please be sure to read through the guidelines and FAQs linked below, and if you have any questions just let us know.  We wish you happy blogging.

Best,
HuffPost Blogteam

To be continued...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

And So...(Part I)

An email I received on December 8 after I sent a blog pitch to Arianna Huffington:
Hi, Christina.

Welcome! You've been invited to join the HuffPost blogger community. Please click the link below to learn more and set up your account.

Sign Up

Please note, if you cannot see the link or it appears broken, please click or copy and paste this link into a new browser window: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/xxxx/xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thanks,
The Huffington Post Team
 To be continued...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Panda's Day Out

Melina takes her Mommy role very seriously. She's mom to many dolls, stuffed animals, and figurines. Every once in a while, those friends of hers need a little love during the day, and who better to ask to babysit than her very own Mommy.

So, a few weeks ago, I took Panda to work with me.

Panda in the front office, near the secretary's area.

Panda with the fish tank. She was loved watching the fish but felt bad that they were held captive.

I had to stop Panda from trying to eat the plant.

Who doesn't like to rest up against a specimen of a human brain?

She had trouble seeing the slide under the microscope.

Her ferociousness scared some of the kids and they had an exam. So I let her face me while they took the grueling test.

Panda found out that I use computers quite a bit during my day, and that they are good resting places. This computer nap was in my lecture room.

Panda helped me grade the exams, but due to FERPA, I didn't let her see the students' names and scores.

She begged me to let her help drive us home.

A quick stop at the elementary school library for some volunteer time. Here she's pretending to be a book.

Panda had quite the day. Before I knew it, she'd found a napping place among the librarian's puppets.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

#TBT, Part Deux

I'm not a #TBT participant. Normally. But yesterday was so busy, as was every other day, and I've been sleeping in way past 5:15 a.m. Which means my blogging time has been limited. In addition, FRN was so kind to scan a bunch of old pictures, and I've been laughing my way down memory lane.

So today, it's #TBT, despite the fact I did not ask permission of my big sister to post these lovely gems.

Yep, that's me. Gotta love that bonnet.

I love how G has her hands on her hips, and me? Hands on the tummy...messing with my belly button.

I have always loved this picture, despite the fact that I look like a boy in a red dress.

Usually I cried if I had to sit on Santa's lap. Not sure what happened here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chapter 29

I had no plans to lie here all day in this hospital bed, but with David next to me as a guard, I knew I wouldn't be moving any time soon. Or at least not soon enough for me. He still clung to the belief—put there by Marissa—that I'd be headed to rehab. I still clung to the belief that I could go home. What an impasse.

I adjusted my shoulders and tried to move my legs. They felt heavy and full, as if leaded shrapnel had filled the hollowness. Crap, maybe Marissa was right. How could I go home if I couldn't get out of bed myself? I fell back against the pillow and closed my eyes. How had I gotten here?

I thought back to everything I'd done in my life. From the Air Force, to marrying Angie, to having the kids. I tried to keep my faith and foremost in my mind as I could. Sure, I'd have my moments, my sins, but I'd learned my lesson and moved on. Was this God's way of punishing me? Saying I'd done something wrong? It was easy to believe that. Place the blame somewhere else. Marissa would laugh and say that God didn't punish and that my body had some issues. She'd tell me to focus on the positive and stop worrying about things that didn't matter. But they did matter, didn't they? Because if God was trying to teach me something, tell me something, then this could happen again, right? I needed to learn from the situation. I just wasn't sure what I was supposed to learn yet.

"Hey David," I whispered. He opened his hazel eyes and looked at me. I'm not sure what he'd been doing all night but he didn't look good. Too tired for his age. "I need to use the restroom."

"Uh, Dad. That's why you have a call button."

"But I want you to help me. I need to see if my legs work." I saw the turmoil written on his face. He knew if he made a misstep, he'd have Marissa, Trevor, and Luke on his back, as well as the medical professionals who were helping me. On the other hand, maybe he understood a bit about pride.

"We can try one time and if you're not strong enough, you're going back into bed and you're pushing that button."

I knew better not to argue. "Okay."

David helped me swing my legs around and then placed his hands underneath my armpits. He wasn't the tallest of the bunch—5'10" was shorter than Dominic—but he had a strength that came from having the time to work out. No family, no kids. Just a job and a partner. I straightened my body out and tried to put weight on my legs. One moment, I was looking into David's eyes. The next, I was sitting on the bed.

"And this is why, Dad, you're going to rehab." David's face fell.

I could do nothing but shake my head, hoping the tears that pricked the backsides of  my eyelids stayed at bay.

I never did make it to the bathroom. David called in the nurse, who went ahead and gave me a catheter, something David said they probably should have done long before. Then he told me to wait because he was going to see about what rehab facility I'd be headed to. No one gave me room to argue, but I had so many questions. Which facility? Would I have my own room? How long would I need to be there? Could Angie stay with me? And how much was a rehab stay going to cost me? I'd worked long and hard for my money. That last thing I wanted to do was to waste it on rehab.

"I know exactly what you're thinking, Dad," David said as we waited for the nurse to return. The whir of the machines and the hum of the air conditioner were about to drive me nuts. I'd give anything to be sitting on my porch, listening to the drone of the neighbors' lawn mowers.

"Oh yeah? What am I thinking about?"

"You're wondering what all of this will cost you."

How did he know that? I was very surprised. David hadn't been the best student and he seemed lazy at times. Sure he'd done well for himself eventually—he'd graduated college, gone on to law school and had found himself immersed in teaching law actually. Something, I was told, that David did very well. One of the best at the college, in fact. But had David always been good at reading people?

"Uh, yeah. I am. Among other things. How'd you know?"

"Because we are more similar than you'd ever care to admit, and right now, that's what I'm wondering." David leaned back in his chair, his gaze trained on me.

I snorted. "Aside from the eyes, you and I are nothing alike," I said. I couldn't see it. He was so different than I was, physically, emotionally, everything. He'd always been high strung and easy to ignite, much like Angie. And he possessed a passion for art that I could never appreciate. Not to mention his preference for men. Where did that predilection come from? Had we done something in his childhood to make him want to like men instead of women? I'd never understood his stance on that, and in fact, I'd shunned him for a while, back when he'd first told me about who he really was.

I remembered the day like it was yesterday, sitting on our porch, a beer in hand, listening to the wind rustle the grass. David had a terrified look on his face. He'd told me that he wanted to talk, that he had something to tell me, to tell us. Was Angie there? She'd always had orders to fill, but that day, David waited until she was at a good stopping point. Had I known what he was going to say? In the back of my mind, I'd always suspected that David was different, but I didn't really think he could be gay because being gay was wrong. Being homosexual was a sin. The Catholic Church said so. But somehow, I wasn't completely shocked when David blurted out, "I'm gay." Essentially three words. No beating around the bush.

"I've thought about how I'd tell you guys this for so long," he had gone on to say. "But I wasn't quite sure how to say it. I figured the fewest words might be best." He'd have rambled on had I not stopped him.

"I think I knew that, because I'm not really all that surprised by what you have to say. I'm just sad that you said it." My heart felt heavy in my chest.

"Sad that I said it or sad that I'm gay?" David's pale face grimaced in the summer sun.

He'd posed a good question that day, because I thought it was a little bit of both, actually.  I didn't want a son who was gay, for several reasons. Gay wasn't right. But I knew I couldn't force him to like women, and forcing anything on David never worked, anyway. But I also knew what society was like and was still like. Years ago, people who were gay had to hide. Had it gotten any better? Probably not by much. This region of the country, me included, were pretty conservative. No, make that very conservative. They wouldn't accept him for the person David said he was. And that meant he'd have to hide in life. Maybe David should have just kept hiding his true self. Was not acknowledging something the way to go?

"Are you sure you're gay?" Angie had asked.

"Mom? Are you serious? Am I sure? No, it's just a phase." David rolled his eyes and paced back and forth on the porch. "I've thought long and hard about how to tell you this…I kind of hoped you'd just figure it out. I know it goes against what you believe, but for as long as I can remember, something inside my heart spoke to me. It said, You're gay. And I've never doubted that fact."

"Never? What about that girl you dated in high school?" Angie's question hovered in the air for a moment then popped like a bubble.

"That girl? She was a good friend. A very good friend, someone I really tried to like in that capacity mostly to appease you." He had looked away from us then, and I felt bad. Really awful. I loved my kids, my son. I wanted to see him happy. I couldn't agree with what he was doing, but could I still have him in my life?

"This is a lot for your mother and me to take in. We'll be in touch."

The words had sounded so formal to me, and yet I couldn’t take them back. Instead, I watched him walk away, head hanging, hands in his back pocket. He got into his car and drove away.

David had that same stance now, in the hospital, as my focus returned and I looked at my middle child. Had my words hurt him now like they did then? Did I owe it to him to find out how we were alike? What else did I have to do besides talk to him? I might as well apologize; I had nothing better to do that day.

"Okay, I'm sorry. Really." I fiddled with the IV attached to my arm so I wouldn't have to meet David's eyes.

"For what?" David asked.

"For that comment. The way I said it. Now that I think about it, the tone of my voice made it sound like I'm not proud to have you as a son. That I wouldn’t want to be like you."

"Well, you don't want to be like me. I think if you'd had any tendency to like men, you'd have hidden it. You still would even in this day and age."

"Well, that's a moot point because I don't like men. And I'm married."

"But you still think being a homosexual is wrong, don't you?" David squinted his eyes, waiting for my answer.

"Yes, I do. But you're also my son. And I've learned over the last several years that having a son who is happy is more important to me than what you're doing behind closed doors."

"Really, Dad?" David didn't look too convinced, but he nodded his head. "We can revisit this another time. But if you really want to know how I'm like you, I value the same things: a good work ethic, family, and money." He nodded his head again, punctuating the last part of the sentence, placing an emphasis on the money.

"What do you mean about that last part?"

"Well, it seems like it's always been about the money for you. Hasn't it?"

"Yeah, money's important. When you don't grow up with much…you know, I've been working since I was seven—"

"All right, Dad. I know. You've been working a long time. But here's what I know. Today you might be going to rehab and you're worried about how much it's going to cost you. You want to know the bottom dollar and you don't feel like paying it. But I also know that you and Mom have money in the bank—"

I cut him off this time. "Yes, we have money in the bank. But we'll need that money for so many things."

David stopped for a moment. "You know that old saying, you can't take it with you?" He waited for me to nod my head. "Well, you can't. Having all the money isn't going to do you any good from beyond the grave."

"Geesh, I'm not there yet, David."

"And if you go to rehab—one of the good facilities—it will be a long time before you do get there!"

He was starting to sound like Marissa. I wondered if she'd spoken to him, or maybe they were more similar than I thought, too. I had a feeling I'd be going to rehab today and it was clear to me that I needed to wrap my head around it. I leaned back against the pillow and rested my eyes. It was going to be a long couple of weeks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kitty Cuteness, XIV

Wow! It's been a long time since we've seen photos of these guys. As you can tell, a lot of sleeping goes on around here when the kids are away.







And, we of course need to add another shot of Shadow.


Monday, December 7, 2015

These Things I Know

A year ago today, I lamented about my oven, which had an issue I thought would never be resolved. The company finally repaired the problem, as you know, but what you might not know is that my oven now runs hot. I don't know why I'm telling you this now, on a year later. I just thought you should know.

And so, because I have nothing else to do this morning, I'll tell you about a few other things that I know.

We drove to Michigan and back from Michigan with the best dog ever. I think the grandparents and the cousins were glad to see the big guy. Now, I want to take him everywhere, but I know that's not possible.

I'm not sure why we expect my mother to eat food that doesn't taste good to her. She was never an adventurous eater to begin with. Why would she try things now, when many foods have started to taste like sawdust?

Melina sat down to watch Scooby-Doo yesterday and I realized that the episode she was watching was older than I was. Crazy.

I'm scheduled to sub today in the same classroom in which my friend serves as an aide. I will be honest--part of my reason for saying yes to the job was so I could see her. Have our schedules really gotten that busy? Yes, yes they have. (Update: as luck would have it, Melina woke up with a fever. So there's not seeing my friend today...)

I need to sit down with a list of writing goals, and I need to do it soon. As much fun as this blog is, I won't be posting every day next year (sorry FRN). The blogging gets in the way of novel revising, and if I want to EVER publish one of my books (self or otherwise), I cannot spend as much time with you folks.

Thinking about not blogging as much makes me sad. I don't want to feel sad, especially on a Monday morning, so I'll think instead about Christmas, and what our tree looked like in 1982.


(My folks still have that couch you can see behind the tree. There are two of them. They should have been retired years ago, but you know how parents can be...)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

If She Remembers

I haven't seen her since early October, right after I dyed my hair black. Despite the package claiming that the hair dye was semi-permanent, the color hasn't faded much. I'm no longer Snow White, but I could very well be a younger version of herself, at least as far as my hair is concerned. With me being out of sight and out of mind, will Mom remember that I died my hair? Or will she, when I walk through the door, be just as surprised as the last time I saw her?

I wonder this as I pack my bags. I wonder it as I load the car. I wonder as I climb into the driver's seat. I also wonder, what do I hope to happen? If she's forgotten about my hair, it simply reaffirms the fact that she has Alzheimer's disease. And if she remembers? What does that do? Does it give me hope that the deterioration of her brain has slowed? Or does it simply mean that she's gotten lucky, and one random, nonessential piece of information managed to find it's way into her memory and hold on for two months?

Because isn't that always how it goes? We try and try to remember all the important things in our lives--names, dates, faces, experiences--to no avail, and then something comes along that means nothing of importance, and it lodges itself in our brains.

I suspect she won't remember that my hair is dark, and that's okay. We have more important things to do than to dwell on something so trivial--playing with the grandchildren, decorating the Christmas tree, sitting around the dinner table as a full family. If we're really lucky, maybe one of those moments will reach out, grab on, and not let go.




Friday, December 4, 2015

Amusing Cats

Despite owning four cats, I am not a cat person. I don't swoon over every cat I see, nor do I treat my cats like people. However, as you can tell by the Kitty Cuteness series (which will possibly return next week with its 14th installment), cats amuse me.

So when I find something like this, I must share. (If you're interested, you can find these photos yourself if you go here.)








Good little bit of Friday fun, no?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Heaven/Space

Aaron and Melina, watching a new episode of Doctor Who...
Melina: Oh! [Enormous smile fills her face.] It's heaven!
Aaron: No, it's not. It's space, Melina. Jeesh!
Heaven? Space? Same difference to some, no? And of course, just that snippet of a conversation provoked some thoughts and made me wonder. What sort of story could I write about heaven and space? Heaven or space? And what if they are the same? Furthermore, would Melina describe heaven and space the same way? I think she'd see heaven as a closet with unlimited sparkling dresses and bejeweled shoes, but maybe I have underestimated her.

The end of my semester is looming near, so I won't have time to think about where I can go with those thoughts in terms of a new story, but I want to leave you with a few pictures that might help you create something wonderful. (I usually try to say where I find pictures, as I can't claim to have taken most of the pictures I post. However, I can't remember where these came from. I'll look it up later and acknowledge.) Let's see what you can do.





Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hello

Hello, how are you
It's so typical of me to talk about myself I'm sorry
I hope that you're well


I could go on and sing the rest of that song, but I don't have much of a singing voice. (I don't know about where you live, but this song is playing on the radio ALL THE TIME.) And really, all I wanted to do was say hello. It's been a long time since I asked how you all are. In fact, for the past month, I've made it all about me, something I'm not really used to at all. (But wait, you say. This is your blog. Isn't it really all about you? Everyday? Yes, I guess that is one way to look at it.)

So today, I'll hope that you're well, and that's all. Not so exciting for a Wednesday morning now, is it?

(Yeah, that's all I have for today. Sorry. If you need something else, go watch this video.)




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 30 (Lessons on NaNoWriMo from an Amateur, Part II)

Here we are--December 1, 2015--and NaNoWriMo is (finally) over (as of 11:59 last night). Although I finished my 50,000 words two weeks ago, that month was the longest 30 days of my life. I'm not kidding. Even after reaching the 50,000 word mark, I couldn't walk away from the novel (I ended the month at 61,823 words). I felt like I had to write at least a few more words for the book each day to help with our regional word count. Really? Why did I feel so obligated? I have never even met most of the other people in my region. And hadn't I already done my part for the Dayton region? (Yes. The short answer is yes. The long answer involves my OCD tendencies and is, as always, the subject for another post.)

While I had plans to write a wonderful "I'm back" sort of post today, or maybe even share a scene from The Chocolate Garden, I realized that I needed to make sure that everyone out there who might be reading this--that means all five of you--understands exactly what it takes to "win" NaNoWriMo.

It isn't a fancy new computer or new pencils or even a plan (those help, as I discussed in Part I of this series). It's not a quiet, secluded place or a great cup of coffee, although having a space like that and a good beverage also aid in the quest to put down words. The only thing it takes to write a novel in 30 days or less...the most important component of NaNoWriMo...much like any other endeavor you might undertake in your life, is to...


I know, I know. Nike had the market on that phrase, Just do it, years ago. And as you can see from the above video, my kids (who mimic Mr. LeBeouf ALL THE TIME) have finally gotten to me. But as trite and simple as the phrase may be, it's also true.

Sit your ass down in the chair and write. Don't wait until tomorrow to start. Don't assume that the perfect story will begin dancing in your brain. Don't hope that the characters show up and start talking to you. I don't care if you have laundry to fold and food to cook or a job to go to or people to entertain. (If you have small children, or any children for that matter, please attend to them, at least briefly.)  Pull out your writing instruments, sit in front of them, and get to it. (Just do it!) It doesn't even matter if the sentences you form are more similar to, "The red boat sailed on the water," than "A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it."* You can still do all of the things you need to do in a day and manage to squeak out 1667 words on average, per day.

I know you can. Because I did. And if I can, so can you. (For all you whiners out there, let me restate--again--that I have four kids, five pets, one husband, two part-time jobs, a very part-time editing gig, and a house to keep under control. I cook, I sorta clean, and I run a few times a week. I know people who have more responsibilities than I do who still made the 50K mark by yesterday. Just sayin'.)

Now, I know these words aren't the most poignant or profound, but I can tell you that next November 1, when I feel like watching another Buzzfeed video or True Facts installment instead of pulling up a new Word document on my computer, I'm going to come back here and read this post again. Talk about lighting a fire; it might do the trick.

*Thanks to Charles Dickens and A Tale of Two Cities, for this gem.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 29

You had to know this was coming...


That's right, we have only one day more of the crazyness! And then, I can walk away from this book for a while.

(Did I do any writing yesterday? Not much--35 words to be exact. But I ran a 5k race in a respectable time, something I wouldn't have been able to do a year ago due to that not-sure-how-I-got-injured injury. So there's that.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 28

I am so, so glad this month is almost over. You'd think posting easy posts like those I've been putting together this month would be welcome. They are so not! I don't like focusing on how much I've written (or not) and I don't like that my posts lack merit and wit. (I know, stop laughing. My posts rarely have either.) And some days, like today, just frustrate me because...



Yes, as you can see, if I had written just 35 more words on The Chocolate Garden yesterday, I'd be sitting at 61,000 words for the month (a nice round number).

But I couldn't. I just couldn't. (Which is silly, really, because this post is longer than 35 words.) I guess I have my goal set for tomorrow.

And tomorrow reminds me that we're one day closer back to the old grind. The break has been a pleasant one, to say the least. I hope you've enjoyed your little holiday as well.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 27

Is this getting tedious for you yet? It is for me. But I said I'd keep a log of my NaNoWriMo writing for the month of November, so buckle up for a few more days, will ya?

Yesterday I took some time to revise a short story I had written a long time ago. (Okay, not that long, but at least a year.) My writing group had looked at it, but I wasn't happy with the ending. Or the opening lines, for that matter. And I really don't know if it has potential. I'm certainly not wowed by it, but then again, I'm not wowed by this award winner, either. (I'm not going to apologize for that comment; writing is clearly a very subjective business.)

I also took some time to simply look around the internet for what was trending. What did I find? Glitter beards. Yes, I said glitter beards and included a picture from the site as well.

http://www.earthables.com/manscaping-trend-glitter-beards-1474751792.html
I'm not going to judge. I mean, I wear a striped fleece after all. But if Tim decides to do this with a beard he grows in the future, he can forget any smooches from me.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 26

When day 26 lands on Thanksgiving, you can imagine that I didn't get any NaNoWriMo writing done. In fact, I only wrote 66 words for The Chocolate Garden yesterday. But we had a good day, and I'm thankful for the fact that both pies turned out well and so did the turkey. I'm also thankful for the crazy family I live with and the lack of silence I get on a daily basis. Someday, it will be so quiet around here, I might go looking for noise.

And on that note, I thought I'd let someone else say (in more eloquent terms) a little something about gratitude. For it is important to be grateful every day of your life, not just on Thanksgiving Day:
You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnack

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Captain's Log, Day 25 (and Happy Thanksgiving!)

This is how the 25th day went...

It started out with a little writing. How much, I don't know. But Thanksgiving is today and the desserts needed to be made yesterday. (Yeah, Tim is a good cook, but baker, he is not.) And those kids of mine had made requests: 1. Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, 2. Cheesecake Pie, and 3. Brownies. Two of the three recipes come from my mom, and as you all know, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's this past summer.

Most of the time I think about Mom, I'm okay with the diagnosis of Alzheimer's. I mean, what can I do? Worrying about the diagnosis, about Mom, or about my own possible diagnosis down the line would do nothing. But as I went through the motions of making those desserts yesterday, a sadness overwhelmed me. My mom can no longer follow a recipe. The desserts requested by the kids will no longer be made by my mom.

Because I don't want to forget these recipes, I'm posting them.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (recipe that Mary C. uses, from my Aunt Jean who got it from a fellow teacher way back in 1973!)

1 envelope gelatin in ¼ cup water
1 ¼ cup canned pumpkin
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon mixed pumpkin spices
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated

1. Beat egg yolks slightly, then add ½ cup sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt, and spices. Cook until thick over medium heat, stirring constantly.
2.  Dissolve gelatin in cold water and add to the hot pumpkin mixture. Mix thoroughly and cool.
3. While the mixture is cooling, beat the egg whites until stiff, adding the other ½ cup of sugar. Then fold into the thickened and cooled pumpkin mixture.
4. Pour into baked pie shell and store in the refrigerator.

The very observant will notice a small smudge at the bottom of the pie. I needed to taste the filling to be sure it was okay.

Cheesecake Pie

Crust:
1 ¼ cups plain graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup butter, melted

Filling:
1 8 ounce cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
dash salt
2 eggs

Top layer:
1 c sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
½ t vanilla

1. Mix crumbs and butter and press into buttered 8 in pie plate, building the sides.
2. For the filling, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually blend in ½ c sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each.
4. Pour filling into the crumb crust and back at 325 for 25 to 30 minutes until set.
5. Combine the rest of the ingredients and spoon on top of the baked filling.
6. Bake 10 minutes more and cool. Keep chilled.

This pie looks better when you make it in a glass pie plate. Alas, I only have one of those and the Pumpkin Pie was already in it.