Saturday, January 31, 2015

To My Daughters on Their 13th Birthday

Dear Zoe and Talia,

For weeks now, ladies, you've been reminding me--each day--that your 13th birthday is approaching. And as I said in my last post, I've replied--each day--"I'm not ready."

At the time, I meant that I hadn't done any birthday shopping and I didn't know what sorts of cakes I'd be making. I've finished those items now. In fact, I have one big surprise for you and a few little surprises in store. I also baked and frosted the cupcakes and two pies are ready to head into the oven. Those tasks are insignificant, though. Because as time went on and your big day loomed closer and closer, I realized that my words, "I'm not ready," actually meant far more than I originally thought.

I'm not ready for much, when I think about you two. I'm not ready to see you move to your last year of middle school, since high school is right around the corner. Which means I'm also not ready to see you one year closer to moving out of our house. I'm not ready to watch you make your own decisions, hopefully the right ones, because I'm certainly not ready to see you fall when you don't. And I'm surely not ready to let go of you. But I know, as you pile on the years, that I must let go, and cut the ties, if you will. It's a part of growing up, a very normal process. One that I've been enjoying since the moment you entered the world.

In case you need a reminder, the day of your arrival dawned cold and icy. I wasn't ready then, either, for the journey upon which I embarked. Somehow--miraculously even--I managed the day of your birth, and the next day, and the next. One day smoothly moved into another and now, here we are. I remember those first days, though, like they were yesterday. Me, in my groggy state, poking your tiny (so tiny!) fingers and toes and thinking that we were the luckiest people in the world to have such gorgeous and healthy babies. I also remember looking at you and thinking, How in the world can I tell which of these beautiful babies is Zoe and which is Talia? I wasn't ready to find the differences, but soon, very soon after we brought you home, you began to grow in ways such that your uniqueness set you each apart.

I'm glad I opened myself to finding those differences, and when I think about that time, I wonder if that's not the key here, too, to muddling my way through the next few years. Maybe I need to acknowledge that I'm not ready, but keep my options open, to look for direction where I might not expect it: from you.

I'm sure at this point you're wondering where I'm going with this post. You know I like to write, and you know I like to wander when I talk, so truthfully, this post could continue until your 14th birthday. (My heart rate sped up as I wrote that number. It scares me.) I can't really say where I'm going at all, other than I want to tell you how much you mean to me. I know you know that I care for you. I know you know that I have fun when we're together. But I also want you to know that even when I'm not ready--for flippant attitudes, for boyfriend talk (thank goodness we're not there yet), for drivers licenses, for phones--I'll pretend that I am. For your sake. Because that's what I've been doing all this time. I've been the biggest poseur ever, pretending I knew what to do as a parent, when really, I had no idea. But I took my cues from you, and somehow, we've made it to your 13th birthday.

I'm sure those words might be the last thing you expected me to say. That's how it goes for me. I start to write, and then, all of a sudden, words I didn't know were coming, pop to the forefront of my mind. But what I said is all true. I had no idea what to do the day the nurses put you in my arms. I still have no idea what to do. I'm not ready--ever--but because I love you, I'll try my best.

So Happy Birthday, Zoe and Talia. I love you.

Friday, January 30, 2015

T Minus 1 Day

Zoe and Talia have been counting down the days until their birthday, which is tomorrow. Each time they've told me how many days are left--"Four more days, Mom!" or "Only two more days until our birthday!"--I've given them the same response: "I'm not ready."

They're not sure why I'm not ready, and neither am I. Ruminating on that feeling is the subject of a birthday post, not the T minus 1 day birthday post.

So let's stop now, and think about the fact that tomorrow, the girls turn thirteen.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Best Medicine

I found myself on the physical therapist's table when I realized that I had, indeed, gotten myself in over my head. The clock read 9:10 a.m., and it was a Tuesday morning--one of my days off, if I could stand to call it that. On the days I didn't teach, I wrote, I ran errands, I cleaned...certainly not my idea of a true day off. But I wasn't required to stand in front of a room full of tired, bored, disrespectful students.

That Tuesday was no different. My agenda for the day could only be called overly full, and I wondered why I had kept the appointment. Why hadn't I moved it to Thursday? Who needed to see the physical therapist, the podiatrist, and the chiropractor in one day? To make it worse, I should have scheduled an appointment with the OB. Why not have my entire body probed, prodded, and manipulated within the span of a few short hours? Why not, indeed?

Book in hand, I settled against the table, waiting for the heat of the hot pad to spread across my hip and back. I hoped the warmth would force the stress and strain from my thoughts, thinking that the words of the story might help, too. That's when I heard a voice filter across the room.

"Yeah, I found Wanda's engagement ring at Walmart."

I didn't have to turn my head to know the voice belonged to one of the other therapists. His words intrigued me. What woman, in her right mind, wanted an engagement ring from Walmart? I knew my thoughts bordered on snobby, but I didn't care. I wasn't a fan of Walmart because of the way they treated their employees. I never claimed that I'm too good to shop there. Because I'm not. However, I'm not sure I'd want a diamond ring from the place. As you can imagine, I wanted to know more.

"Yep," the voice droned. "I found the ring there, but I was going to take the diamond out and have it set over at the local jewelers. Or that was the plan anyway."

So his plan had been derailed, and I wondered why. Had his girlfriend discovered the ring before he could get the diamond set? Had someone stolen the ring? Had he thought better of buying his girlfriend a diamond from Walmart? I tipped my head, moving my ear closer toward his voice, all thoughts of reading behind me.

"So I went to the jewelers, and they looked the diamond over. Great cut, great clarity, great color. But...it had a huge crack in it."

The men in the room erupted in laughter, and the women exhaled in relief. And me? I laughed and exhaled, and tucked his information into the back of my head, knowing that I'd write it down, possibly using it someday in a story. I heard an "Of course!" and a "Good lesson learned!" float by. I silently thanked the therapist for making me laugh and got back to reading my story. By the time Jess wandered over to see how my muscles were doing and start the actual therapy, I'd forgotten about all the items on my to-do list. I felt light, content, ready to begin my day.

I guess laughter really is the best medicine.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Midweek Reminder

“Serious writers write, inspired or not. Over time they discover that routine is a better friend than inspiration.”
—Ralph Keyes

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Playing Games

Every night, if I'm the one putting Melina and Aaron to bed (at separate times, mind you, since one child is six, the other, ten), I hear two things:

1. From Melina: "Can you sleep with me for one minute, go downstairs, do your stuff, then come back up and sleep with me?"

2. From Aaron: "Can you check on Pou and Nyan Cat?"

Every night the kids ask those questions. The same questions. No variation on a theme. In fact, if Melina or Aaron forget to ask the question, they will call for me, have me come back into the room, and ask me the question.

I never have a good answer. For Melina, I tell her, "I'll try," and the answer to Aaron's question is always "maybe." But I will tell you a little secret here that is sure to shock you: I lie. Each and every night, I LIE TO MY CHILDREN!

At that point, I just need to escape the room and "do my stuff" as Melina says. I have laundry to fold, writing to do, twins to help, dishes to finish. Who knows what awaits me at the bottom of the stairs. I need to get there. And I've found, over the years, that my standard answer is satisfactory. They don't really care if I check on those cyber animals or come back in to rest with them, they just want to know that yes, I heard what they said, and that maybe it will happen. I think my steadfast and never-changing answer is what allows those two pipsqueaks to sleep. All is right with their world when I leave the room. If I change the answer, who knows what can happen?

The professionals say that children thrive on routine. Heck, humans all do to some extent. My children are no exception, obviously. I do have to say, as Aaron and Melina get older, I might try to slip a different answer in there one night. I'll do it on a weekend, though, in case my experimentation is a bust and the deviation from the norm causes a restless, sleepless night.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cell Communication

I said I would not complain. But if you do not know what the term "multicellular" means, nor do you have the capacity to look up that term, then you should not be in my class. Simple as that.

My Facebook rant from a few days ago seemed simple, at least to me. Until Dann commented on the post:

"Is that like a Verizon family plan?" he joked.

I know Dann wrote the statement as a joke because I know Dann. We went to graduate school together, and he is, by far, one of the most intelligent engineers I know. (He didn't pay me to say those words; I don't think he even knows this blog exists.) I always did appreciate his humor, and I did the other day, too.

And I really should thank Dann for the comment. Because when I read it, the classic light bulb illuminated in my head and I realized exactly what I'm up against as a teacher: technology and a different perspective.

My students, who have an average age of 19, don't know what life is like without a cell phone. They probably knew what a cell phone was before they could talk. Had they even learned about a biological cell, the experience came far later in their lives than their first exposure to cell phone technology. So really, can I blame the person for asking what multicellular meant?

No. But I can blame the student for not using critical thinking skills and looking up the term properly. I am a student in a biology class, this person should have reasoned, therefore, I will look up multicellular with respect to biology. That's what the person should have done, instead of asking me. That action requires common sense, though, and I personally believe our collective level of common sense has an inverse relationship with our level of technological usage.

Of course, I always encourage my students to ask questions, any and all of them, no matter what the question is. And that brings me back again to the point I was trying to make with the Facebook post. If you don't already understand the term, you shouldn't be in my class. You should be taking an introductory biology course, one rife with fundamentals that will serve you for the class I now teach.

But as usual, I've learned something from this interaction: that I need to adapt. Talk about biology--Darwin and the survival of the fittest. If I don't adapt, I'll go crazy. So henceforth, in my biology classes, I will refer to cellular phones as mobile phones and cells can remain the little units of life that they are.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Covers

People should judge a book, not by its cover, but by the words inside. Nor should people judge a book by what their neighbor thinks of those words. Read the words for yourself. Discover what they say to you, what they mean to you. Then, and only then, can you state what the book is like.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Moments

I'm not always the sharpest tool in the shed. Or maybe, it's that I'm simply a glutton for punishment. But rejection is part and parcel of this writing business, and you'd think, after the last few years, I'd try my very best to avoid rejection. To write, rewrite, revise, and revise again so that whatever piece I'm working on is in its best and most beautiful form when I submit it.

Normally, I do that. The other day, I did not.

So here I sit, waiting for a rejection that is bound to come through, knowing that--unlike other submissions, which have been my best work--I can't even hope that it will be accepted. It probably shouldn't be accepted, should it? And I have to ask myself, what was I thinking?

Truthfully, I have no idea what I was thinking at the time. Maybe I submitted in a moment of despair, knowing full well the piece wasn't ready, as a way to prove to myself that I have a long way to go. But I'm normally not a defeatist like that.

I'm just hoping the editors are quick. The quicker the rejections come, the less painful they are. Just like the removal of a band-aid. I'm also hoping that eventually, long after I've received word that this piece "just isn't a good fit" that instead of a rejection, I see a yes.

I guess we all have our moments, and I had one the other day.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Livin' the Dream

"Welcome to Huntington," the bank teller said. "How are you?"

"Great, thank you. And you?" I asked.

The young man paused and a thoughtful look passed across his face. "Livin' the dream. We'll be right with you."

The man's co-worker threw him a side glance that spoke volumes: Are you crazy? it said. Livin' the dream? Who says that to a customer?

I laughed and said, "That's wonderful, and thank you."

And I meant what I said. As I stood rooted to my spot and after Judy, another bank teller, called me to the front, I thought to myself about the man's words. I had the impression he meant what he said...the delivery of his line held sincerity to it. This guy considered himself a happy fellow. He really was living his dream: decent job, nice co-workers, thankful to be alive. On a dreary day like yesterday, I appreciated his words. They coaxed a smile from my lips for much of the day.

So ask yourself, are you living the dream? Are you happy with yourself? Are you thankful for what you have? Are you livin' the dream?

I am.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Top Ten List

Despite what some of you may think, I can be a smart-ass. I'm not sure where the penchant for being one comes from, but the capacity exists within me. I've just had to shut it off since having children. But every once in a while, a snarky comment rises from the deep sea bottom, and bops up here, on the blog.

What is it for today? I just read this article in the Washington Post, about the ten most boring things that moms find awesome. (Umm, actually, that's the title. I guess I should have put those words in quotes. I didn't, and I'm too lazy to do so.) In the article, Samantha Rodman lists...aw shoot, I don't need to tell you what she lists. The title of the article does so. But what does Rodman include? Things like "Seeing a friend without kids at your feet" and "Getting a latte." Other items such as "Sleeping until 8" and "Exercise" are also on the list. I agreed with most of what she had to say, but I found myself wondering about another list...

So I'm entitling my list, "The ten most boring things that (some) moms actually do find boring." It's a compilation of the ten things I think are boring, and you might, too. Because let's be honest, so many times during our day we talk about our kids and what we do in our day-to-day lives with them--many times with joy in our voice--when really, we'd like to hit ourselves over the head if we're asked to do that same thing again. And yet, we do them, without complaint most of the times.

Here we go:

  1. Doctor visits. This can be going to the doctor for well-child or sick visits. Not many people I know enjoy taking time out of their day to do this. But, they are necessary.
  2. Playgroups. We all try to socialize our young ones, and some of us participate in a playgroup. We say that we're getting some mom time while the kids are playing, but really, talking to your friends at playgroup, surrounded by a gaggle of children who are not yours, is oftentimes, not fun.
  3. Stories. As in, "Mom! I have a story to tell you!" Yes, listening to your child tell the same story over again makes this list. Because you never have to listen just once.
  4. Socks. Having to find the pair of socks you just found for your child is a common occurrence around these parts. The next day, you'll have to do this again and maybe you'll have to do it for other things, too, like loveys, books, training bras...who knows?
  5. ABCs. I know a woman who gets annoyed each time she has to do this with her kids. And yet, she grits her teeth and plasters a smile on her face. Don't we all at times?
  6. Cooking. I try to prepare home-cooked and healthy meals for my kids, and I know many of you do, too. But I will be honest and say that I'd rather be reading or writing than standing in front of the stove.
  7. Eye rolls. These have become a staple of our society, and with twin almost-teenagers and two more kids behind them, I've seen my share. I find eye rolls not just boring, but aggravating. But I also find myself performing them behind my kids' backs!
  8. Practices. Carting your adolescent to practice of any kind is never exciting.
  9. Movies. How many times can I watch Enchanted with the kids? And when I try to sit down to watch a movie alone, or with my husband, I just get fidgety. I am wasting time, I think. There are so many other things I could be doing with these two hours!!
  10. The mall. I will never find the mall awesome--only boring--kids or no kids.
As an aside, Rodman and I share numbers 9 and 10 (and maybe 2, as well), but we have clearly different outlooks on movies and the mall. Which just goes to show you that every mom is different, just as every child is different. What would you include on your list?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tell Me How You Really Feel: 14

You know what's got me stymied today? A teaching statement. Go ahead and laugh right now, because inside, I'm rolling on the floor in a puddle of giggles. The woman who calls herself a teacher and a writer cannot find the proper way to give voice to her philosophy of teaching? In a word, yes. I need to fashion a statement, and the only statement I'd like to make right about now is, "If I'm not sure, I can always make it up."

Those of you who know me would understand why that sentence rose to the forefront of my mind. I write fiction, for goodness sakes. I spend much of my day in another (albeit real) universe altogether. But I don't think the powers-that-be would like for me to say that I make anything up when it comes to biology. And I don't. I never have. In fact, I'll admit I don't know an answer before I would ever contemplate spouting BS to a student. I know that having a doctorate doesn't mean I know everything (although the classic definition of scientist is a person who is an expert in their field). Having a doctorate means I have the capacity to learn and to apply the knowledge of what I've learned. Which means, if I don't know the answer, I can go look it up, understand it, and come back and teach it to the students.

But what about my philosophy? Do I even have one? I'm not sure. I know that I want everyone I teach to be as enthusiastic as I am about the subject matter (which of course, is difficult at times...I mean, how excited can you get about anatomical planes), and I want them to come to class ready to ask questions. I know that I want to make the class exciting (even when it's difficult), I want to help students learn at every opportunity, and I want them to know that if a married mom with twins can make it to the end of graduate school then, yes, they can, too. It's all about courage, and determination, and perseverance, by golly!

None of that is good for a statement, though. And with all the writing I do, you'd think I'd be able to come up with something great, wonderful even.

So I'm going back to the basics. I'm going to answer a few questions that come up repeatedly when I Google "statement of teaching philosophy" and if nothing else, I'll let them know that once upon a time, I wanted to be Ms. Frizzle.Who doesn't like Ms. Frizzle, you know? Who wouldn't want a woman like her as a member of the faculty? Maybe, if I get granted an interview, I'll even go dressed like the woman. Wouldn't that be a hoot?


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Morning Cinnamon Buns

Imagine Princess Leia, lying down on a bed, clothed in her white garment. (If I were a true fan of Star Wars, I'd know what the name of that garment is.) Can't picture it? Neither can I. So let's do the next best thing. Try to find a picture online, being careful NOT to Google "Princess Leia lying down on bed" because who knows what might pop up. This is, after all, a family blog.

See how the way those two little circles of hair rest up against the floor? (What do you call those, by the way? Are they buns? A quick search describes the hairstyle as "cinnamon bun" or "doughnut" which I guess are both true.)

Anyway, I woke up this morning like that. The back of my head glued to a sheet, with a cat on each side of my head, forming the buns. No gun in sight, thankfully. The look on my face, though, rivaled Princess Leia's in the above picture. I wish I had a photo, but alas, no one else was awake.

And just because I thought the mighty internet might have a picture of two cats serving as cinnamon buns in a Princess Leia hairstyle, I looked. I didn't find anything too interesting, except for this.

I don't want to cause any copyright issues, so you'll have to look at the link to see the cat. She's too cute to ignore, if you ask me.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lines by Melina

Melina must be a budding writer, because she comes up with some great lines. And we all know that great lines are important for good writing. I'm not sure the line she muttered the other day would be a good first line, but depending on which way you'd like the story to go, I guess it could open a rather interesting story. Or, it could be an apt ending to a different story. You decide.
"Sorry, Mom, my hand is occupied."
And FRN? Keep your mind out of the gutter. (Or don't.)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Smoothness

I found this little gem, online, of course:






Next Sunday, I'll start this practice. This Sunday is almost done, and thank goodness it is. We've been hit by the GI bug that's whirling around these parts. At this point, Melina and I are the only two casualties.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.



Saturday, January 17, 2015

Seeing Jesus

Do you know who Maroon 5 is? I'm sure you all do. Who hasn't heard of the luscious Adam Levine, right? As for the other guys in the band...well...I wasn't even sure what they looked like until the girls received Overexposed--the clean version--for Christmas.

The other day, we finally opened the CD, slid it into the computer, fired up our legs, and danced in the living room. And then--then, we looked at the liner notes.

"That guy, Mom, looks like Jesus," Melina said, pointing to the man (boy maybe? he's younger than I am) I later found out to be James Valentine. Don't know who he is? Like I said above, I didn't either. But here's a picture of him (below) from Zimbio. (If you go to to the link, you can actually see the source of the photo at the bottom. So, to be correct, I guess I should probably credit the real source, Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America.)


Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Jesus didn't wear bow ties.

Okay, I admit. That thought probably wasn't what you were thinking. And I wasn't either, when I saw the photo. I was still thinking, and amazed by the fact, that I'd never seen that face in my life. How could I have listened to Maroon 5 this long and not have seen the rest of the bandmates?!? By the way, I should mention that the above photo is not the picture in the liner notes, but I thought James (can I call him by his first name?) looked more approachable in the above photo. The liner note photo is more of what I--and probably everyone else--would call a mugshot:

(I couldn't find the source of this photo, but please know that I didn't take it, nor do I take credit for it.)

Tim and I explained to Melina that James Valentine's appearance is probably far different from the way we think Jesus looked. We gave her a few necessary details: we talked about where Jesus lived, and what people who live there look like today. We didn't pull up "internet evidence" although we probably should have shown her something in order to plead our case. This is the child who stares--every week at religious education--at a classic depiction of Jesus: white man, long hair, blue eyes. No wonder Melina thinks James is Jesus.

Later on, she convinced me that yes, our discussion points had gotten lost in conversation.

"Can you hand me the liner notes with Jesus, please? I need to see Jesus."

Some would say that we all need to see Jesus.


Friday, January 16, 2015

For Life

The folks over at Brain, Child have been revisiting some of their favorite contributions from 2014. One of these pieces is an essay by Sarah Kilch Gaffney, entitled For Life. It recounts the reasons why Sarah and her husband, Steve, decided to name their child Zoe. You see, Steve had been diagnosed with a brain tumor at the young age of 27, but still wanted children. And so did his wife. Two months after the diagnosis, Gaffney became pregnant with a little girl. "We named her Zoe because it means 'life' and we could think of no meaning more fitting for our child," writes Gaffney.

Gaffney's poetic account of their decision reminded me of our own Zoe, a healthy little lady born almost 13 years ago. She's blossomed and grown since then into a unique soul--stubborn like her parents, but sweet as an angel. But when Zoe came into this world, it looked like she needed a little help, a little life, if you will.

Let me explain. Around the time of Zoe's birth (and Talia's, because in this house, you can't have one half of a twin pair without the other), but before she lived outside my uterus, Zoe was known as Baby A. I didn't want to know the gender of the twins before they were born. And since two babies inhabited my body, the doctors referred to them as A and B. (You probably know how doctors use this system already, but I'm informing those who don't.)

Since we didn't know what the gender of the babies would be, Tim and I put together a list of names we liked. Zoe Annabelle and Talia Clarice rose to the top of the girls' list. I can't remember what we had written for boys. But before I went into the operating room for the c-section, we never discussed which baby would be given which name. We just knew that if we had two girls, one would be Zoe, the other Talia.

Well, as many of you know, the reason for a planned c-section was Zoe: she blocked the exit with her wisp of a bum. And maybe due to her position, or maybe not, when the doctor extracted little Baby A from my womb, her body looked blue. She need some massaging and a little bit of oxygen. She scored lower on the Apgar than Baby B, and Tim, who stood on the sidelines, watching the entire debacle, made a quick decsision.

If anyone needs a little life, it's Baby A, he said.

Our story ends well. As I said, Zoe will turn 13 in a few weeks. But over the years, I've noticed a few things about Zoe (holding onto viruses longer than Talia, for example) that make me think Tim really did choose her name well. Like yes, she needed a little life then, and maybe sometimes, she still does.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Magic Elixir

Thursday.

Thursday, no appointments.

Woo hoo!

Thursday, no appointments, but an early dismissal for the kids.

Which means I'll still have time to write.

Woo hoo, again!

And then, the littlest falls ill, and my time for writing slips away. So instead, I'm thinking of writing, and how I can work my way through some of my writing goals. Who will want to read what I have to say? I think. My stories might not be that great. So I turn to the internet for inspiration and find what I'm looking for. (No, not another One Direction song--although here's another popular one for you.) I mean this:
Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ~ Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tell Me How You Really Feel: 13

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that yesterday, Aaron underwent a urethral meatoplasty. Big words to say he had his urethral opening widened. He'd had trouble for a while with the simple act of eliminating urine. It happened, no problem, but the stream was always, shall we say, pretty narrow.

Well, Aaron sailed through the procedure (thankfully) and had to urinate when we arrived home. I stood outside the bathroom door and listened to how much better his hose worked.
Me: Finally! That sounds so much better!
Aaron: You won't be able to tell if it's me or Daddy in here!
I laughed and took care of a few more items. Aaron went about his day. Then, Melina arrived home.
Aaron: Melina! Stand outside the bathroom door!
Melina: But I have to go potty!
Aaron: Just a minute. [Inside the bathroom, I hear the rush of fluid.]
Melina: Wow.
Aaron: You know the hose thing out side? I'm like that now. It's no longer just the stream setting, it's the soaker setting.
Me: Hah!
Aaron was so excited by his new improved stream, he hollered at the twins when they came home. The minute they came home.
Aaron: Zoe! Stand outside the bathroom door!
Zoe: Really? [Eye roll.]
Aaron: Listen. [Inside the bathroom, he begins to go.]
Zoe: Oh. My. Goodness.
Yes, even the grumpy almost 13-year-old could tell the difference and celebrate Aaron's success. So, we went through the same routine when Tim came home at 6:15 p.m. We didn't celebrate nearly as much as would have if, say, Michigan had won a national championship or something like that, but smiles graced all of our faces for much of the evening.

Remember, everyone, it's the little things. The little things that keep us going around here. I say that phrase quite often, but I actually mean it, too. And today, because of the little things, I'm feeling grateful. Which is another sentiment I talk about a lot. Just thought I'd tell you how I really feel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Clarity, Part II

Life can be so funny sometimes. And by funny, I mean interconnected--in a strange way. Yesterday, I talked about clarity. While I used the word in reference to writing, clarity is just as important in the spoken word.

And that, my friends, bring us to today's post, where I'm going to talk about a simple act of miscommunication that, had the speakers been more clear, my day today would have started off on a slightly less-annoying foot.

Let's go back to 7:30 a.m., when Aaron and I arrived at the hospital thinking that he'd undergo a simple procedure to widen his urethral opening. We arrived, thinking that he'd be sedated. We arrived, thinking that he would not have to undergo general anesthesia. We arrived with these assumptions in our head because the medical personnel at the urologist's office told us to expect as much. And by medical personnel, I mean the nurse practitioner and the urologist.

"Don't worry," they had said. "We should be able to do the procedure without using general anesthesia."

But this morning, I wondered why the nurse started prepping Aaron as if he'd be going under. I asked the nurse about the anesthesia, who told me to wait until the anesthesiologist arrived. And the anesthesiologist? This guy did not mince words when he said, "Well they lied."

My eyes pricked with tears. I'm not a big proponent of change--when it happens, I have to be ready for it, prepped and ready, mind you, and I hadn't been prepped at all. My anger rose against the anesthesiologist and then again at the urologist. What happened? I asked the urologist. Why didn't I know that Aaron would be undergoing general anesthesia? The man didn't have a great answer, which didn't surprise me. After all, he had already proven that he lacked clarity. He did, however, offer an apology.

But then, as I sat in the squeaky chair next to Aaron's hospital bed, a moment of (yes) clarity passed over me. I realized that the day wasn't about me. It wasn't about the feelings I have toward anesthesia, or the bad memories I have of it from the girls' c-section. This day and this procedure, had Aaron's name written all over them (I mean, I don't even have a penis, you know?), and if the anesthesiologist felt general anesthesia was the right path, the route he'd take with his own child, then who was I to say otherwise?

So I gave consent for the anesthesia, and in the end, Aaron had the procedure done. We're home now, after having eaten some chickpeas and rice and topping the meal off with a huge sundae from Dairy Queen. The sun is shining, I'm warm inside, and Aaron now has a urine stream like a fire hose. What more could I ask for, really?

Let's breathe in and out and say together, clarity. Clarity. Sometimes, you have to dwell for more than one day on a subject. I promise that tomorrow, I'll have moved onto to something else.

Like unicorns and rainbows.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Clarity

 According to Merriam-Webster:
clar·i·ty
noun \ˈkler-ə-tē, ˈkla-rə-\
: the quality of being easily understood
: the quality of being expressed, remembered, understood, etc., in a very exact way
: the quality of being easily seen or heard
According to good writers and editors everywhere:
Clarity is non-negotiable. 
That means, do not forsake clarity for style, ever. Writers who do just that irritate me to no end. And yet, those same writers have taught me some valuable lessons. 

 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I'll Take You There


(I did not make this, although clearly I agree with it. You can buy a poster of this pre-made image here.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Edu-ma-cation

Today's a good day for a little edu-ma-cation. And I mean the real kind, not the kind that FRN is thinking of as her mind wanders into the depths of the gutter.

So, what's it going to be? I think something easy, like Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day, should do it. If you don't sign up for the wotd, you should. Even a little more mental stimulation at the start of some days can lead to great, great things.

Anyway, the word for today is:

Ne plus ultra

I always laugh at that word and I'm not sure why. Perhaps because my French-trained brain wants to pronounce the word quite differently than how it should be said, nay-plus-UL-truh.

No matter, do you know what it means? I think you do. Hint: acme is a synonym. If you'd like to get the entire definition, head on over to Merriam-Webster and look it up. And then, just for practice, use ne plus ultra in a sentence.  

Consider yourself edu-ma-cated for the day.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Writing Goals

Someone kindly reminded me yesterday that everyone needs goals. And we do. I do. But I've previously said that my only goal for this blog is to post at least 319 posts this year, and that I have some minor goals (trivial ones, really, mostly said in jest) in mind for 2015. The question is, what are my writing goals?

Do I have any of those?

Yes, I think I do. And this is what they are:
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.
And I only have 355 or so more days to do this. I guess I better get started.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Red Rover, Red Rover

It's taken me long enough to figure this out, but I truly believe part of what makes a healthy life are the people you choose to surround yourself with. Hopefully, you have a good smattering of people in your microcosm. Or maybe I should say a good smattering of good people.

But I've found that, at least in my life, there exists a subset of people who I think will support me no matter what, based on what they tell me. Now, when push comes to shove, as they say, those people cave like a wet piece of cardboard, and instead of supporting and helping me, it's the other way around. I'm okay with that scenario, now that I'm aware that it happens. After all, I'm a big supporter of supporters and supporting, and I hope that I'm actually a big supporter of yours.

I've also found (I know, no one likes an "and then" story, which is sort of where this is going, but remember--this isn't a story, thank you very much), I'm lucky enough to have the support system I really need, and usually, it's made up of two sorts of people: those who are sincere in their claim that they will support me, and those who don't state anything at all, but are there, nevertheless. No matter what.

Both sets of people are wonderful, helpful human beings, and great additions to a support system. But when I think long and hard about this topic, the sneaky, quiet ones are the people I'd choose each and every time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Holding On

I learned a long time ago not to laugh at what inspires me, but to simply take hold of the inspiration and not let go until I'm done with it. But today, when inspiration hit, I couldn't help but chortle. And now, I'm doing it again--laughing that is. For this, THIS, served as my inspiration for today:


One 41-year-old woman + One Direction. I never would have thought it could be true.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Let's Play

I'm heading into another round of querying, and because I'm somewhat sadistic (I guess that's what I should say, or maybe I'm just completely messed up...who really knows?), I'm starting to get really wonky when I think of queries and agent response times.

I know, I know. I've lost you at this point. What I actually mean probably needs some explanation. So, here we go.

When a person queries an agent by email, several outcomes are possible.
1. You get a positive reply back.
2. You get a negative reply back.
3. You don't get any reply back (termed closed no response, or CNR).

I'm actually familiar with all three of those scenarios, but a positive response only counts when it leads to representation. Minor point, right? Anyway, my least favorite of the three outcomes is the third, and you probably already know this. I'm sure I've mentioned it before...that I think the agents should at least give some sort of definitive yes or no to the author.

Here's where everything is starting to go loopy, though. As I sit and send my queries, I think to myself, okay, how quickly can I get a rejection? Can I somehow receive the quickest rejection ever? Who, according to QueryTracker, has the quickest response times? Then, after I query the right agent (who of course, represents the genre I'm interested in), I sit in front of my computer, incessantly refreshing my inbox.

Crazy, right? It is, I know it is. And of course, just when I think I might get the speediest rejection in the Midwest, Ms. Agent with the Quick Turnaround time does the unthinkable: she doesn't even bother to reply. Yep, another CNR, baby.

And yet, I keep playing...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Family Kindness Challenge

My mom used to put notes in our lunchbox from time to time. I don't place notes into my own kids' lunches every day, but I do write out a silly or funny or heartwarming one on days they go on field trips. I'd like to think that the notes make them take a part of me with them, even if I can't be a chaperone for that day.

Thinking of notes in the lunchbox is a great way to introduce Lunchbox Love. If you haven't heard of this site, go ahead and check it out. Lots going on over there, that's for sure, namely, some great lunchbox notes. And because I like to think of myself as a mostly sunny, half-full kind of person, the type who enjoys positivity and a clean new slate (much like a new year can bring), I'm sending you that way to sign up for their Family Kindness Challenge.

What's it all about? If you're lazy like I am sometimes, I'll bring the news to you, as taken from the website:
By signing up for the Kindness Challenge, beginning Monday, January 5 you will receive a daily email for 32 days with a simple, inexpensive (usually completely free) act of kindness for you and your family to do. Then, join us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and share what you did, how it made you feel, or show us with a photo, using the hashtag #LBLKindnessChallenge. The challenge will culminate just before the beginning of International Random Acts of Kindness Week. At the end of the challenge, four challenge participants will be chosen at random to win some great prizes. So grab your spouse and kids and let’s get started. You won’t believe how great you’ll feel while making someone else’s day!
Had I written the paragraph above, I'd have added a few more exclamation points to that last sentence. But I didn't, so you'll have to deal with the grammatically correct one exclamation. However, think of these little acts of kindness as an exclamation in your otherwise mundane day. I mean, who doesn't want to spread a little love?

(Can you tell I went back to work today? That I've had a few too many sips of a caffeinated beverage? That I'm reaching for something, anything, to keep me from slipping away into the abyss that is basic human anatomy and physiology?)

If you sign up for the challenge, I'd love to hear about your experience.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

319

Every year since we started this blog, I think to myself, what can we do differently? (I say we, when really, I mean me. Tim hasn't written a post in a very long time, and truthfully, I think he's okay with his lack of writing. He keeps his demons at bay in a far different manner than I do.) Can we add more pictures? Can we write in a more profound and literary style? Can I link to bigger and better things and possibly become bigger and better?

And then, I realize that the reason we write this blog is mostly because of two things:
1. We want to remember this time in our lives.
2. We want the kids to remember this time in our lives.

So, once again, we have no plans to overhaul the blog. Maybe we could add a few more pictures. I certainly could add a few more posts, but doggone it, I hit 318 last year. (See what I did there, by switching to I? Taking the credit for all those words?) How much more can I say?!?

Which means that my only goal for this year and this blog is to make it to 319 posts. I wonder if you're ready to take the plunge with me. And by plunge, I mean that I can only hope that we won't fly too far off the deep end this year.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Saturday Inspiration

On a rainy day, it's difficult to find good Saturday inspiration. Unless I Google something easy, like "Saturday morning inspiration." What a concept, right?

What comes up? This little, lovely gem from Sarah Green:


Amen to that, I say.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Goals

Sometimes, it's nice to have someone else pour your coffee. Or take the clothes up and down the stairs to the laundry. Or vacuum the carpet, take the garbage to the curb, cook and serve dinner. Sometimes, it's nice to be the last one up in the morning. Or the last one to go to bed. Sometimes, it's nice to see your name in print.

Just a list of minor goals for 2015.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

More Words for the New Year

Last year, I found myself on New Year's Day, looking for inspiration. I found it, in the form of a quote that had been bouncing around Facebook. Here I am, one year later, sitting at the computer, and stumbling across another quote, one that holds meaning for me (and maybe you as well). I'm too tired to wax poetic on this quote...I only intend to share it:
In life, you will realize there is a role for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you, some will love you, and some will teach you. But the ones who are truly important are the ones who bring out the best in you. They are the rare and amazing people who remind you why it’s worth it. ~ Author unknown
The quote has made many rounds already, but I think it's a good one to reflect upon. Here's to a wonderful 2015...I'm looking forward to more rare and amazing people to add to the collection I already have (you know who you are).