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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some thoughts on critiquing

Many years ago, I signed up for a fiction writers class. In this class, I found not only a gifted professor but a writing group which met regularly for at least a couple of years and now still meets sporadically. There are some really talented writers in there. None of us were published then and I think almost everyone has sold at least one thing now.

Which brings me to my next point, this group is no longer just a bunch of critique partners, they are my friends. One of them is getting married on New Year's Eve and I think most of us are going. Our submissions to the group have dropped dramatically. Some of this is a function of life but I wonder if some of it has to do with the discomfort of critiquing something someone close to you has written? I know I am never harsh on a critique with anyone but now I worry if I will offend a friend. So I was strangely relieved when I got this as a comment on my last critique.

"You may not want to read it – not as jazzed about this one as much as the rest of your stuff."

Don't get me wrong, I would always rather blow people away with fantastic stories but I also know the likelihood of that happening every time is not possible. She and another critique partner pointed out some pretty big holes. Of course, there was also the guy who said it was the best thing I'd ever written and then tried to make it go into a world ending scenario with a new Adam and Eve which lost me a little. It wasn't that I didn't like what he said but he didn't give me any concrete ways to make the story better which in the end is what you want when someone reads your stuff. I don't know if anyone else has experienced this but I wonder how the friend phenomena extends to book reviews? I don't think I could give any of them a bad book review even if I hated it (none of them have published a book yet so I can say that without fear at this point). Sure, before it is out I can critique like crazy because I want it to be the best it can be, but what about after?



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How many days until Christmas?

In case you don't have a six-year old to ask you this question multiple times each day since before Halloween, the answer is 12 and that would be not including today. Since that is always his follow-up question, whether I am including the current day or not. If you are not reading this on Tuesday, subtract how many days after that from 12.

I know why he is excited. I can remember well wiggling in bed, listening to a Christmas record, trying to fall asleep so Santa would come but then also dissecting every noise in case somehow I'd faked him out and he'd arrived while I was still awake. Then, all you had to do was leap out of bed at an ungodly hour in darkness, pull your parents out of their bed, and then go discover what Santa brought you.

It's a little different on the other side. There is a lot more work as an adult. Someday, I want to become that mother that hums while decorating with the smell of baking cookies in the air. Then tucks her little ones in bed with a holiday story. Right now, I'm the mother that yells at her daughter to go to bed while sitting at the table with her son trying to help him finish creating his 3-D model of a flower he created that is due tomorrow that we both forgot about. As for the cookie smell, Ha. I had to carry the garbage out because a different sort of odor filled the air.

I also have this splitting headache but worse than anything else, I don't have a book to read. It is that awkward time of year when I don't feel like I can buy myself new books. My birthday is a week before Christmas and then, of course, there is Christmas. All those who love me and even those who barely tolerate me but feel obligated in some way to get me a gift, know I love books, all shapes, sizes and forms of them. So I get books, I get gift cards, and hopefully I'll get some Kindle credit. Because of that, I don't feel like I can buy books today or tomorrow or at least until my birthday. But even then I can't buy the ones I really want because I put them on my Christmas wish list. Sigh, high class set of problems but feeling stymied anyway.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

but I'll still have my teeth

Anybody ever heard of a gum graft? In case you are begging for enlightenment, let me tell you a bit about it. It is for anyone whose gums are excessively receding. If you lose too much gum, your teeth get loose and will eventually fall out. To correct this, they scrape skin off the roof of your mouth where it is more tough and elastic and then sew it to your gum wherever you need it. Then, in the healing process, your gums, who need the stuff, grab onto it and incorporate this new tissue as their own. Anyone want to sign up?

I had the privilege of paying for a gum graft two days ago. Now, my diet is restricted to soft foods for a week because of the stitches. The pain's actually not too bad but I am missing crunchy food. The dental hygentist suggested mashed potatos and mac and cheese. Doesn't sound too bad if I had the metabolism of a 20 year old. Instead, I'm turning 40 next week.

The age doesn't bother me so much. You could slap a 100 on my age and I wouldn't care EXCEPT, for the new aches and the health procedures. I had my first mammogram a couple of weeks ago which, in this digital age, was not nearly as bad as the torture I've heard can occur with the older machines. Even without the pain, there is the level of discomfort while someone handles your breast and shoves it into position. My coping strategy included not making eye contact and throwing out a lot of one liners. The radiologist probably sat behind her little shield, rolling her eyes. The thing I can say for it was it was over fast. 

Not so the gum graft, but it was accompanied by laughing gas. I am certain I had the most fantastic idea for a story while staring into the bright light that fuzzed at the edges. Not that I could tell you what that idea was now. I tried my best not to think of the abusive dentist in Horrible Bosses ( a very funny movie but I felt like I needed a shower after watching it) during the procedure.

I also know it's just a matter of time before someone suggests a  colonoscopy, which sounds to me like the fifth level of hell. That being said, I'll do them and probably whatever else the doctor suggests. I just heard on the radio last night that dancing can stave off Alzheimers, which runs in my family. A bit of waltzing may be in my immediate future.

So, as I dodder off into the nursing home, I'll be dancing. At least my partners will see me smiling at them with a full set of teeth.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Do I really have anything to say? (Insecure Writer's group #2)

Hello, why yes, I am an insecure writer on so many sad, sad levels. This blog hop was created by Alex J Cavanaugh  as a way to provide Insecure Writers Support .  I totally stole those links because I still have been too lazy to learn to do it. Except that it isn't really laziness, technology frustrates me in that things that seem pretty easy to others often elude me. People have offered to help but I'm worried if they try to show me and I can't get it, I'll look stupid. I have spent at least an hour trying to figure it out before, but like some of the higher math classes, some concepts seem to hit a brick wall in my head which leaves me jumping on the other side trying to see over it and all I get is tired and frustrated.

I'm feeling like that about writing too. I finished nano and part of me is excited about getting in there to do some clean up but then another part of me asks if there is any point to it? My pattern seems to be to work at something for a little while and then I just want to be done. That would be fine if, five drafts in, my work was published, critically lauded, and sending me royalties (really, I'd be happy with the first and last or actually just the first).

Most of the time, I send it off, hoping that it is good enough so I can stop revising, and it usually isn't. Which then makes me wonder if it is just that my stories will never be clean enough to communicate my ideas. Or is it something even more horrible?

Could my ideas suck? Maybe nothing I write has any real substance. Other kind writers and friends clap me on the back (metaphorically speaking) and say they love the stories but the rejections keep coming. After paying for an editor to give me suggestions and revising it accordingly, my YA novel (my first nano novel) was rejected by over 30 agents. Not all of them requested the full novel but at least five of them did before rejecting various versions. I made so many "Improvements" in that book, not knowing what wasn't working, that it is a mess now.  I shudder when I think about going back to try to clean it up. Not to mention that the request is not to resubmit to the same agent and I don't think there are any left that do YA that I didn't hit up at one point or another in the revision process.

So I move on to the next project. I've been published a few times on my short stories ( a very small percentage given the amount that I have submitted) so I think that maybe I need to only focus there.  Only, every short story is part of a novel in my head. The question becomes will anyone but me ever care if I don't write the stories? I know it is perseverence, dedication, and hard work that make it happen but I've had a long, dry spell and I'm feeling a bit parched.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

well hello wolverine

Hugh Jackson has a one man show going here in nyc. We did not get in to see that but we did get to see him when he came out the side door. Technically, my sister at 5'9 got to see him and I at 5'2 got to see the top of his grey hat. That was the prelude to seeing a show called seminar about aspiring novelists and their very rough teacher. It had Alan Rickman aka prof snape, Hamish linklater, and jerry O'Connell. It was a sobering look at how bad you have to want it to become successful in this business. Def worth seeing. We had the worst seats ever. High up with this iron railing in front of us. Then we went to a bar called Jo allens and had the tartest most wonderful cosmos. They also prepared this tostado  with fried eggs and chili. Despite how it sounded it was delicious. We sat next to an actor at the bar who is performing alongside Bernadette peters in follies. He was a veteran of the stage and certainly knew the ropes.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

captains log-nyc

it is a strange universe I have entered. On the transport, two individuals spent the entire trip slurping and sucking on one another's faces. I feared cannibalism but when they stood at the end of the flight neither seemed to have been injured. The moon seems closer here as in its half phase it seemed to be twice normal size and was a lovely peachy orange hue. In the city itself when we went to a place called smiths to eat past midnight, it seemed no different than the drunken courting rituals at home. Finally fell into bed around 2 am after checking for bed bugs. The show selections begin tomorrow. Blogging with tablet so pardon any errors.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I want to be a part of it, New York, NEW YORK

I will not be sorry to see this year go. It has included moving back to my home town due to my mom's cancer diagnosis and the death of both my parents. In an attempt to put a happy spin on the end of it, my sister and I have been planning a NYC trip for my 40th (yes, that is this month) but having trouble deciding when to go.

The point of the visit is to see so many plays my eyes bleed. Okay, exaggeration, but to cram in as much Broadway and off-Broadway as we can get in a couple of days. The problem with the scheduling was that we were trying to go during the week and they only do matinees on Wed. which limited us to only two shows.

So, in our phone conversation yesterday, with frustration building as each of us typed in different dates and read back to the other potential flights, she says, "This would be easier if we were more spontaneous and didn't have to have everything all planned."

Her comment made me think of all the ways marriage and kids have changed my life because once I was that spontaneous person, so I half-jokingly said, "Well, they do matinees on the weekends, let's just go tomorrow."

She got quiet and then said, "I think I can do that."

At which point, I began searching frantically for my phone that holds my calender ergo, my life. Some things had to be shifted but I'm leaving on that proverbial jet plane tonight for the Big Apple.We will see at least four plays and be back for my daughter's first basketball game Monday night.  

Much love to the husband for allowing the dedication of the funds. Also kudos to him since when the children began clamoring for me to stay (which made me feel worse than I thought it would), he promised them all sorts of non-Mom sanctioned activities starting with eating out or ordering pizza all weekend, no cleaning, and a movie-video game fest. I have had to play the part of outraged mom every time they mention it and have gotten to hear some good giggles out of them. Looking forward to the trip, not so sure, about what I'll be coming home to. Gulp.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Back

Whew, just under the wire, I got my 50,000 words done tonight so I can get back to real life. I had hoped to be able to identify some kind of doable routine but that didn't happen. Can't wait to see what you all have been up to. This has been my month in short:

write-started strong the first week, fell off greatly after that

kids-actually heard about nanowrimo so much they started asking how many words I had done

school-for some reason my volunteer positions seemed to expect me still to show up, hmmm

karate (should be testing for black belt soon)

jiu jitsu (got to start rolling so have mat burns on my elbow and top of foot but it was a blast)

more writing

trip to Knoxville to go wedding dress shopping with a friend. She and her husband-to-be are both in their 50's and this is a first wedding for them both. Love it. They will marry on New Year's Eve. This task relieved me because I was afraid I had entered the funeral phase of my life. You know there are the phases of life in social events-graduations, engagement parties, weddings, baby showers, and then the funerals start. I guess there are retirement parties but I haven't gotten there yet.

auditioned for a movie-didn't get cast but it was fun

Thanksgiving- I got up that morning and was cooking slamming things around in the kitchen. My husband came into the kitchen and I said, "I am in such a bad mood. I just want to snap someone's head off." Instead of running off screaming while protecting his neck, he reminded me that this was the first Thanksgiving without my mom or dad which sent me bawling but did remove the risk of someone's head being removed.

really got to writing and finally hit that 50,000+. Hats off to all of you who also did your writing time this month and probably managed your blog much better. Now, off to try to catch up on what I missed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

et tu-me?

There seems to be some sort of conspiracy occuring in those I know in that they all want to see and visit with me this month. The month that I pledged to give all my free time to writing. I am just beyond 25k which will allow me to finish but without the nice cushion I had envisioned.

 It doesn't help that I keep scheduling things on top of other things. This last Monday I scheduled a Physical Therapy appointment, working in the church library, and a jiu jitsu class all in the same two hour span. Needless to say, a couple of those things didn't get done. I have also been intrigued by an film audition notice I got and am going to travel on friday to audtion. Not a big film, no stars, no real budget to speak of, but I still have signed up because I seem to be doing the best I can to fill all my available free time. 

The thing about all that is I will finish. If I have to stay up all night toward the end I will but it would be so much simplier to do it in a measured pace the first time. I feel like I'm back in high school putting off the end of semester project. I thought I had grown beyond that.

Good luck to all of you doing Nano! I look forward to reading your posts again. I keep reading the little blurbs on my dashboard and wanting to begin reading through immediately. I guess internet is the one distraction I haven't allowed myself. Well, unless you count right now.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My apologies

I ran through some titles of blogs in my Dashboard tonight and there are so many I have yet to read that look fabulous. But this is the truth. I will probably spend the first three weeks of December going back and commenting on all of those wonderful thoughts that you so generously share with the rest of us. I am as far behind as I've ever been in nano right now. Not so far that I will never catch up but so far that it will take some 5 to 6 thousand word days to reach that big 5-0 mark.

I can do it and I will do it but right now it looms large. Not to mention, I am at that point where I feel this is the most boring piece of drivel that anyone has had the audacity to actually type out. Three days ago, it was fabulous. Experience tells me it will be somewhere in the middle. So write on those wonderful blogs and I will be reading them, just not right now, or today, or this month but I promise I will come back.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And the contest winner is...

Jeff Snell of Knoxville, Tn will be getting a new book in the mail for his winning entry in my flash fiction contest. As you may recall the only rule was that the words Jackson and Central had to be included, not necessarily together. Without further ado, here is the contest winner flash fiction story.
     

 He had been outsmarted again by Jackson.  Jackson was a ten pound orange tabby cat with a black spot on his right ear.  They had been playing a game of chess earlier that quickly devolved into a fencing match.  The fencing did not go well and he stared through a locked glass door at a smiling Jackson.  The fencing sword wound was deep and he bled on the front porch as he slowly faded into sleep.

He awoke in darkness.  Floating above him was a visage of Jackson. 
     "To gain entrance into your home you must bring me a hairless mouse.  A mouse that has been raised on cat nip and sweet creme."

He knew that he would never see the inside of his home again.  He crawled off the porch and down Central Ave.  The lights in the store fronts danced and dissolved in his brain as the injury throbbed. 
There was one and only one solution.  A feline assassin. 

Cat assassins were hard to find and expensive.   Most of them were imposters or mentally ill.  Luckily, he had needed to dispose of a kitten in the past.  His kitten Spam had stolen his wife and had a brood of tiny furry babies with her. 

He pulled out his cell phone and made the call before passing out.  It was in Gods hands now.

 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insecure Writer's Group post #`1

I love support groups, in my previous life as a psychotherapist, I used to facilitate therapeutic groups. The thing about working with people who have various types of mental illness is that you are able to recognize your own, shall we say, eccentricities. In one of the first stories I ever finished, my protagonist was thought to be a genius and he feared that everyone would at some point recognize him as a fake and a phony. The story resonated with a lot of people and at some point I realized that his fear is my own. Not that I am a genius, far from it. But in almost everything I do, especially writing, there is a fear that I am not as good as other people think I am. That I am somehow using light and mirrors to create an illusion of good. There is a name for this. It is called Impostor Syndrome. In other words, people (in this case, I) can't seem to internalize that I could actually do something well. 


Even as I crave positive feedback when I give someone a story to read, there is a part of me that almost brushes it off when I get it, in order to hear the things that need to be changed. It isn't modesty, it is a true belief that on that second reading the story they enjoyed the first time will suddenly morph into crap that they want nothing more than to wash off their hands. If I struggle with this now, who knows how out of control it will get if I actually become successful? Now, I am off to Jiu Jitsu, where the instructor told someone that I caught onto things pretty fast. I don't really believe that could be true though. 


Thank you to all who are willing to read and comment. Most of all I want to thank Alex J Cavanaugh who conceptualized and hosts The Insecure Writer's Group's. I am still trying to figure out how to get the link thing to work so I cut and pasted this one. (See, I faked that I could do it). Gulp, maybe I was a Mili Vanili in another life. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trivia anyone?

I've committed now and am Nanobound. One of the stories that has been kicking around in my brain will get its chance in the sun, at least 50,000 words of it anyway. This story is full of quirky character ideas I've been jotting down for about two years, residents of a small town. Anyway, one of them is named Cameron Bellows. The thing about Cameron is that he is quite socially awkward and likes to spout useless, random trivia. Things like that the romans had a room, called a vomitorium, where they would go to purge after eating so they could eat more or that when a coffee seed is planted it takes five years to yield consumable fruit. There are tons of websites that have this type of information and I have a book too.

Lydia Kang's site alone (http://lydiakang.blogspot.com/)could probably fill up most of his conversations. (Will someone tell me how to make it a link when I type someone else's name who has a blog?) A friend of mind in college used to memorize the trivial pursuit cards so that she could never lose. I had previously believed that to be somewhat of a waste of time, now I could put it to good use. I wondered if any of you have any favorites that you'd like to share? What strange facts, that you can think of no good use for, take up part of your brain?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Whew!

When I logged onto my account tonight it said I wasn't following any blogs. My heart skipped since I have just added a bunch and am enjoying them. Had everyone decided to unsubscribe me? And could they even do that? It must have been some sort of a glitch because in a few moments they all popped back up. It was strange how abandoned I felt in that short period. The crickets started chirping. However, that was not the point of my short blog this evening.

The point is the deadline date for the contest has been extended because my writer's group did not meet tonight. At this point, I'm pretty sure our next meeting date will be in November so I am extending the deadline to Halloween. If you want a chance to win a great book for free, spend a few moments and send your entry on in. Make me proud, writer peeps. Reminder-maximum length 500 words, use the words Jackson and Central, in any context. They don't have to be together.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Two days and counting

We have two days left for people to enter the contest outlined in the post "Drumroll, Please," to win a copy of Jackson and Central-An Anthology. I hope to get a few more entries. I'd really like to see some Halloween ones or Thanksgiving..

I may have to enter it myself since I've realized I no longer have a personal copy of the book. No, don't worry that is against my ethics. But I really would like to re-read so will have to get myself one too. I have had three copies that were mine since it came out. Each time I have lent them out only to never get them back. I don't even remember who has them now. Perhaps, they were all people who thought I ought to have given them a copy in the first place? I think it is always hard when promoting in terms of people you know. Especially, people who aren't familiar with the publishing industry. I wish we got  a whole bunch of free books but the kind with a cover cost money. We got a discount. So I gave copies to immediate family and a few people who were beta readers but mostly I just encouraged people to buy them.

I think it was easier with that book because it was an anthology that I loved. So, even if Joe Schmo hated my stories there were some in there that I knew he would like. I wonder how that will work if I ever do get a novel published. So far, all my published work has been joined together with other writers so a sale for them was a sale for me. It was easier to market when I didn't feel so much like it was completely on the worth of my work. Knowing how I can not read a story of mine without wanting to make a few changes, EVERY TIME, will I ever get to a point where I think it is great enough to really push it to the people?

I know publishing has changed. The author is responsible for so much marketing now. I have a hard time even asking people to sign up as followers for my blog. Does that ever change or do you just push through?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quantity versus Quality

You still have five days to get in an entry to the contest. Don't stress too much about it. You could even consider it a mini-nano to get you in the mood. One entry came from someone's i-phone and I have to admit, it wasn't too shabby. I mean, check it for spelling, but even something not done to perfection gives you a better chance of winning than not submitting at all. I just like seeing people's creativity.

There are Nanwrimo rumblings on some of the blogs I am visiting. I have yet to offically sign up because I am a competitive individual and if I sign up, I will finish. So, do I want to commit?  I have completed it four times now and only done something with one of the projects. The something I did was clean it up, get some critiques, re-write, get more critiques, re-write, collect bucoos of rejection letters from agents, re-write and then get some more rejections. The fifty plus versions of it still clutter my hard drive. I don't know if I will ever approach that novel again. Although, I still love the concept, the idea of going back to it again is wearying.

So, I wonder, if nano is worth my time? Clearly, finishing, for me, doesn't translate into turning out something publishable. The only things of mine that have been published have been articles or short stories. I know I love doing it. I allow writing to be in first place for that one month and there is a feeling of accomplishment when I print out my certificate. Yes, I do print it out. I also usually find how easy it is to crank out 2,000 words a day and still get my responsiblities completed. Then, at the end of that time, I slowly move back into the hit or miss writing habits I had before.

Who am I kidding? I know the fact that I am considering it means I will be jumping into the heady love affair with words again. Maybe it is like relationships, at some point, one of them stuck. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Drum roll, please

Here are the contest details that you either have no idea what I'm talking about, have a vague interest in seeing, or have been waiting for. The contest to receive a free book Jackson & Central- An Anthology will be underway as soon as the first entry hits my inbox. It is to be a flash fiction piece, judged by myself and members of my writer's group, with a maximum length of 500 words. Two word minimum since the only other stipulation is that somewhere in the piece must be the word 'Jackson' and the word 'Central', not necessarily together.  You have up to one week to complete your entry (next Tuesday night, October 25th). There is usually wine flowing at our meetings so humor is always good but we love sci-fi, thriller, and other genres too. Consider this a what-have-you-got-to-lose challenge. Please send your entries to nancygraveswahler@gmail.com

To whet your appetite for the prize, let me tell you a bit about it. First, I can guarantee you will love at least one story in this book.  I just don't know which one because I love all of them. The poetry, I think I am not smart enough to get the nuances that make people love poetry but, some people really like it. But the short stories are awesome. From Rusty Webb's tale of lost love and war, to Jayne Morgan's story about a blind, mountain healer who may be one family's last hope. There's also Mahaila Smith's spin on two Mormons getting more than they bargained for after knocking on one door and Toni Powell's powerful telling of how childhood leukemia can define how life is lived (she writes this so well, one of her readers insisted it must have happened to Toni which made her very irritated that the reader didn't seem to understand the concept of fiction). If you don't love at least one of these, well, since you're getting it for free I guess you can just feel very superior and thumb your nose at me while I sit in shock and secretly think to myself that you didn't really read it. Fair warning, it is probably not a book to give to grandma (unless you have a very liberal grandma) as there are adult language and themes in some of the stories. In the front, it tells you which stories those are. Although to be fair, my sci-fi story got a warning just because of some brain removal and eugenic type government policies.

I'm looking forward to seeing your spin.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Agony and The Ecstasy

of watching your six-year-old play baseball. Three weeks ago, my son made his first (and to this date only) run at his little league game. He came running over to the chain-link fence after it, his face bright and hopeful. He grasped the fence and yelled to me.

"I did it, Mom. Did you see?" His joy became complete when I assured him how wonderful he'd done. I also know, as his parent, I could have beaten his joy down. Words are powerful which is why so many of us love to write.

 I don't know how many of you saw the Mel Gibson movie Forever Young but in it, there is a line where he says about his girlfriend, who has gone into a coma, that nothing is real until he tells her about it. I think that is why I miss my mom so much. Tomorrow, she will have been gone eight months. She was the person who made things real for me. Sometimes a little too real like when she would read a story of mine and then say, "it's not my favorite," without ever sharing what that favorite might be. But also letting it be okay that if I take the time to write and parent then my house will never be without toys, backpacks, or dog bones that must be stepped around to traverse most rooms.

I know I write my stories because I like to take the ideas that are running around in my head and see if I can make them coherent on paper but I also crave that external validation. I also wonder if that is why many writers seek publication. Too few authors make a living at it for it to be for the money. Maybe I need someone else's approval to make me a "real" writer.

Speaking of which, ideas are percolating about that contest I mentioned yesterday, details to come soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Suggestions?

I need to come up with a contest. There is a link at the bottom of my page to a fantastic, little known, book called Jackson and Central. It is an anthology that really does have in it something for everyone. I probably wouldn't know anything about it except that I am one of the contributors.

While I have to admit, I love the two stories I have in there. I've even been approached about turning one of them into a short film (not that I have written the screenplay yet- refer to the weeks of blogs about deaths of parents and grieving for explanation of what I have been doing instead). Although when I look back at them now I see so much I would change but I don't think my stories are the best ones. So I want to offer to send out ONE copy, completely free, including shipping to anyone that can .......what? Or the first person that....?

I plan to come up with the contest by the end of this week but would love some feedback on what you have seen work other places.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eternal Monday of the cluttered mind

Yes, the title is a nod to one of my favorite movies but this is what I wondered. If one worked five different jobs, each on the next successive day, would that be like having five Mondays? Each morning struggling to pull on the role needed for that day. I guess fifth Monday would still be the end of the work week so a cause for celebration, so maybe things wouldn't be that different.

I feel like I have so many different things going on that I never get a good handle on the first thing. As soon as I get one role to fit well, I think it is time to try on another. Then it gets to the point where I have all these roles lying around- (mom, wife, writer, teacher, friend, social worker, director, homemaker) and I can barely begin squeezing into one suit before it is time to abandon it in favor of a different one. Hey, maybe that is where the extra weight has come from, wearing too many roles.

It's on my mind because, even though the calender says Tuesday, it really feels like a Monday to me and not in a good, look how much time I have to accomplish things, way. It is gray, chilly, and raining outside. Environmental mood setters that rarely bring spontaneous joy, unless you are a vampire who sparkles in the sun I guess. I'd ask Stephanie Meyer, if I knew her.

I have three things on my must do list today, in addition to the general child care things. The first is to finish this blog (almost done), next to do my karate forms as I am preparing for the black belt, and finally to write at least one paragraph on my new story. I hope much more will flow forth but I plan to do at least one. Surely, I can fit two more things in. Oh yeah, and a shower since we had three extra kids sleep over last night and I had to make lunches for all of them this morning.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Religious Persecution-really still?

I am probably one of the most apolitical people you will meet. Don't get me wrong. I have opinions, lots of them. But most of the time, I know, I have absolutely no factual basis for what I believe (not to say there isn't one) but I haven't taken the time to find out one way or another so I won't argue much.

However, I will say, without fear of being accused of ignorance, that putting someone to death because of what they believe theologically is WRONG. You all may be completely aware of this if you are not a news ostrich like me. There is a Christian pastor in Iran that has been sentenced to death for not recanting his faith.  Here is a link to a blogger that does seem like someone who has done his research.
http://blog.chron.com/partisangridlock/2011/09/iranian-pastor-sentenced-to-death-for-apostasy/

I was shocked to hear about this. I'm still wondering if there is an angle to this story that I don't know about. I think too often I insulate myself in my safe bubble of familiarity knowing that stuff like that doesn't happen in my country. But, is it really okay to forget that it still happens other places?

I went to church today and practiced my Christian beliefs. I didn't have to. I could have stayed home lying in bad. Or I could have gone and met with the group that is building the mosque a few miles away or listened to Hebrew in the synagogue or to the top of the mountain to sing Kumbaya. People could judge me, talk about me or if they wanted to say I couldn't worship with them, but nobody is going to kill me. At least not about that and not in a government sanctioned attack. So, whatever you did today or yesterday or anytime this year to celebrate your God or lack of it, be thankful you live in a place that isn't going to kill you over it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I hate the frappin cold

First, let me say, Welcome Chris. I was very excited to see a new follower along with my beloved 12. In part, because when narcissitically blogging, as I do, I want numerical verification that someone is willing to read the words but also because she is one of my best friends from Knoxville. Comments from any and all would also be great. But I digress from my intended plan of griping about the cold.

When my husband and I were first dating he discovered I had an interesting habit during cold months. I would get in the car and scream. This was usually a reaction to my pants touching the back of my legs when I sat down. Followed immediately by saying, "I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold, " at escalating volumes.

This ritual to deal with the weather dated back to childhood in emulation of my mother. I also did it if in the car by myself. He tolerated this in the early days but, this habit of mine, was one of the things that had to go in pursuit of an actual relationship. Jeff couldn't handle the screaming in the confined space. I guess that bodes well for me in terms of never having to worry about him murdering me in a closet. But he no longer has to hear it, only my children. I still do it when I'm by myself too.

Which leads me to discuss the weather. I realize it has only gotten down to 40 but that is just a precursor of the cold that is to come. Months and months of potential chapped lips, searching for gloves, and chill bumps. The only good thing I can say about it is it kills mosquitos.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TA not T and A in Writing Stories

I've always wondered if my training as a psychotherapist had impacted the way I see characters. I know I have an easier time writing in first person than I do in third person. I tend to get a bit clinical in third person. Whereas in the first person, I am practicing walking in the person's shoes, something that is encouraged if you want to sit with people in pain and try to get a sense of where they are. You have to be careful with that because it isn't the best idea to curl up on the floor and cry with your client but I think you know what I mean. Turns out, the answer to that writing question is a definite yes.

I've mentioned the book I have been reading on how to write short stories. Writing the Short Story A Hands-On Program by Jack M. Bickham who writes for Writer's Digest. In the last chapter I read he talks about Transactional Analysis (TA). It is rather like the id, ego, and superego I discussed a few days ago but different in that it deals with the conscious state.

To briefly summarize, TA postulates that we all have three different modes of operating from. They are the Adult State, the Parent State, and the Child State. How we (or our characters) act depends on what state they are in. BTW, this is a great thing to do in marital therapy because a lot of couples get stuck in one person always being in the Parent and the other in the Child which grows wearisome for both if they don't recognize it. When I try to tell my husband to get off the computer he has been on there too long. I have left the adult state with him and moved to the parental one. Surprisingly, he resents this :) which can lead to an argument depending on which state he is in.

The author suggests if you have a boring scene between two characters, they are probably both in the Adult state, so change the states one or both of them are operating from. The child state is usually guaranteed to generate some conflict as that is the "I want," me, me, me state.

The author also points out that TA teaches about life scripts. This is that you decide very early on what kind of person we are going to be and how are life is going to go and then we make sure our life fits that script even if it leads us to some dire situations. So, maybe I am using that Master's Degree after all. If nothing else, it gave me a nice superior moment when I read the chapter since I already knew the information.

Several people have said they have been having trouble posting on here. If you have been trying to post but have been having trouble, let me know so we can figure it out. I would love to hear your comments. I am on fb and my email is nancygraveswahler@gmail.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hello, my name is Nancy and I am a plant killer

This is not Murder One by any means but all plants that I own will eventually die. It is a rule. In fact, I think it fortunate my pets and children let me know when they need water and food or they, too, might be in for an early demise. Some of the plants in my home have not yet expire, they are, as Miracle Max in the Princess Bride would say, only mostly dead. I do wonder why I keep bringing these leafy victims into my home. Is there a sadistic side to me that is only expressed in this way?

Peace lillies seem to last the longest as they droop their leaves when they need water but I have no long term hope for them.  I have kept one from each of my parents funerals in the land of the living, if at times gasping for water. Speaking of land of the living, I can recommend a good zombie novel, Feed by Mira Grant. It was a Hugo nominee. Not too shabby for a zombie tale. I wonder if there is any market for zombie plants? I think I may have some here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Short and Sassy

I'm shifting through ideas for the next short story I want to write. There are two front runners. The first involves a government plot, memory sharing/storage, and a bit o' romance. The other involves for sure a guy named Spider (not sure why but he keeps coming to mind so I guess I will include him), mythological beasts, and eclipses. Neither story is mapped out and both are fuzzy on details so I have to decide where I want to put my energy.

When I first began finishing stories (notice I didn't say writing them as I have done that since I could first scribble out lines on paper and "read" them to others), my goal was to be a finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. Now, it is five or so years later and I am not even submitting any more to them. While I can't guarantee I will every see that winner email, I can guarantee that I won't if I don't start writing and submitting some sci-fi or fantasy. One of my favorite lines in the movie Facing the Giants is when the dad says to his son, "You can't be any more not on the football team than you are right now." I figure I can't be any more not winning that contest than I am right now so I am going to recommit some energy to it.

According to the book I've been reading, you have to analyze the competition. He suggests taking stock of what are the averages in whatever publication you are shooting for. For instance, average length, point of view, setting, etc. I've also subscribed to a daily dose of sci-fi that comes right to my inbox from Daily Science Fiction. It's free! I also figure the best way to get back to the sci-fi is to read it. So far, I haven't found much that is consistent in every story, or even most, from the anthologies but I haven't read them all either.  If either story idea tweaks anyone's interest and they want to vote, I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

First Blood to the other guy

Last night, at jiu jitsu, we learned how to deal with someone throwing a haymaker punch. You duck under their arm while protecting your head with your arm and catch them around the middle. Then, clench to the back so they can't get away. Of course, anyone who knows anything about fighting wouldn't be throwing a haymaker since the motion is telegraphed from quite a distance. Our next move involved going from the guard (or position 1 as I learned last night) and letting the person get up, pushing them away and then keeping them away with your feet on their hips. Then, switching with a quick twist if they tried to throw your foot off.

I found I am not nearly as coordinated as I thought since I kept missing the hip when my partner threw off my foot. Although, when done correctly it looked like a pretty cool move. While practicing, one of my partners said, "you're bleeding." Since I had not done anything to draw blood, it surprised me to see the bright red on my lower shin. I don't know if it makes you look tough or wimpy to have blood on the bottom of your pants. One of my partners had it around the neck area from when he was in my guard.

We finally came to the conclusion that one of my partners nails had scraped me, one of my male partners since I was the only woman in the class. I was so relieved it wasn't the other way around. Because if it had been, I am certain one of those guys would have at least thought about blaming the injury on my femininity.  Now, at least, if I do something stupid in the future I'm not the first one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

id or ego

Sigmund Freud once postulated that our psyches are composed of three primary drives. The id, which is the childlike, 'I want it now.' The ego, which is basically the grown up that says, 'No, you can't have it now. You have to work for it. And the superego which makes sure everything that is done is both aboveboard and moral. Having grown up in the south, in a Baptist home/church, my superego is overdeveloped. So even though I may occasionally lapse, I am mentally punished greatly for it.

Last night, my id danced around with ideas as I drove to Knoxville for writer's group. Most people's eyes glaze over after an hour or two of writing talk but not other writers. We can talk about it for hours. In addition, Lou, our hostess, always has fabulous noshes and wine. I thought I had my id pretty well under control after I arrived as I very responsibly said no to a second glass of wine since I was driving back to Chattanooga in a few hours.

Even foregoing the wine, the food was wonderful. She had smoked cheeses, crackers, wasabi peanuts, and carmelized pretzels for appetizers. the entree consisted of  a pumpkin-sausage pasta dish that had a hint of the flavors and blended well with the wine. The writing talk flowed and I reveled in it.

We talked current projects (although as I am writing this my superego reminded me I forgot to ask one of the writers what he was writing on, hope he wasn't too offended, sorry David). Anyway we touched on outlining, blogging, story rights, self-publishing, story lengths, submissions, technique, story types, plot lines, and even did a writing exercise.

Then eleven came (I'd been there since 6:30), my ego gave me a swift nudge and reminded me that what ever time I left, it would be an hour and a half before I got home. About fifteen minutes after that, I began to make noises about leaving but then kept remembering other things I wanted to ask. Or, I wanted to hear what the others were saying. So, in the end, I arrived home around one in the morning. My kids get up at 6:30 so I do too. I am worthless today and missed jiu jitsu class this morning.  I think the id is where most of the writing ideas come from so I wonder, what are the appropriate conditions to let it come out and play?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

gonna do it

I made my decision this week. I am planning to pursue my black belt. I was signing up for the pancreatic cancer 5k and thought about how much that stupid cancer has taken from me. It occured to me then that I don't have to let the black belt be one more thing that my moving took from me. I don't know that this is a good decision given that my behind will probably get handed to me in pieces in the sparring and the breaking but once it is done I will know that I didn't let this get taken from me too.

BTW, this is unrelated to Jeff being barricaded in his office. He did finally see the humor in that. However, he has now stated that I have declared a practical joke war. Since he loves that sort of thing and I do not, this is not a prospect I am looking forward to. Here's hoping this goes the way of many of the things I ask him, by that I mean he forgets it entirely unless I bring it up again.

I am looking forward to attending my writer's group on Tuesday night in Knoxville. Too bad I have to teach improv earlier that day or I would head up early to get some practice in. I have been doing the steps of the short story book and am making progress. I am at the protion of hte book where we are working on different types of stories.  There are three kinds-conflict, decision, and a type of mileu thing. I know I don't do the third type but it looks like the majority of my stories have been decision type so I have got to write some conflict ones. We will see how that goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I've baricadded him in but it may only be a matter of time

Sometimes it's great to have a husband that works at home. Other times, not so awesome. For instance, in the middle of one of his work crises, I asked if he had changed out the catbox. He sighed the sigh of the long suffering and then said, "Not now, Nancy,"  or it's not a good time or something like that. I, never one to just keep my mouth shut replied, "It's never a good time," which is my defense is true because who ever wants to be reminded about cleaning out the catbox. In  his defense, it probably wasn't the best moment. It might have ended there except he went back in his office and closed the door. An act he usually reserves for when the kiddos are home. It was a clear message and as far as I was concerned- a challenge.

Since I didn't have a door to close I took several bins and piled them outside of his door. I have a plethora of things like that because I am horribly unorganized always thinking if I can buy the right organizational tool (bins, shelves, so on) things will be better. So, that was about 30 min ago and he either has not discovered the barricade or is choosing to ignore it.

I'm thinking when I see him again I will say, "Thank goodness you're safe. I just barricaded an ogre upstairs."

If he has regained his sense of humor, than he will think it's funny. If not, I have just heaped the proverbial coals onto the fires of matrimonial discord. It seems like that thought might make me go and move them but it doesn't. Truthfully, I just want to see what happens. If I never post again you will know things went horribly wrong.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Winging it

Improv class went great since we didn't all get swept away in flood waters. Not too much in terms of funny today, more skill building and getting comfortable being silly on stage. The best part was the group maniacal laughter in the game "Yes, Let's."

All the area schools were either delayed or cancelled today due to the nine and a half inches of rain we received. Last week, my grass literally crunched when I walked across it. Today, I am certain it would slosh. The first day it was fun to go out and play around a bit in the rain. I am over it now. When I put the kids in the car to go to school today, I gave them the survival rundown.

"Okay, if we get hit by a flash flood we may have to climb out the windows because you never stay in the car."

My nine year old replied, "That would be stupid to stay in the car, Mom." So clearly, I must have given this talk before and instead of just being able to let that lie, I had to go back and correct her by saying, "People who stay in the cars probably aren't stupid, just scared and confused." I will blame the first statement on her father because he isn't here to defend himself. In case he does read this tomorrow, "hi, honey, just kidding."

Anyhow, the note cards are going slowly and we still aren't even into creating the storyline yet. It certainly is a different process than the free form wing-it style I usually write by. Speaking of wings, today I had an experience that will make its way into one of my stories someday as a harbinger of doom. Outside my kitchen window, hangs my bird feeder. I noticed a lot of feathers around in the bushes and some red on the feeder. When I went to investigate, I found a mostly decapitated bird head stuck in the feeder barely attached to a bloody spine. Yick! (which would be Yuck and Ick, that was initially a typo but then I decided I liked the word). Some hawk or owl must have thought he found a buffet tonight.

My second Improv class with a different group of kids is tomorrow. It's hard to believe I'm getting paid ( not much but a teeny bit) to run around and act crazy. That is almost as cool as getting paid for a story but this time I wasn't even tempted not to cash the checks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

a little progress

I'm reading a book now about how to create a short story. Now, I have created many short stories in my time but like many writers, I always wonder if there is a better way to do it. The author of this book claims to have a "map." I am only partway through but what I know at this point is that I have done more introspection with this process than I have done in my writing previously. That, and there are a whole bunch of notecards that are being used.

I went through about 40 the first day. It isn't the same notecard system that Tom Bird uses but I will be interested to see where it takes me. The author also claims that by the end of the book you will have at least one short story written. He does not claim it will be submittable as he clearly states something along the lines of you will have a story written at the best level you are able to write it. Which I guess means if I am at the sucks level than that is about all I'm going to get. Either way it is good practice and has me focusing on something. It is certainly a different process than I have used before since The IDEA is always what hits me first. My last two assignments were to write at the top of 20 different notecards attributes I admire in people and then do the same for things I do not like. Tonight, my job is to fill in on each card a way to show that attribute and not just tell it. We haven't even begun to talk plot.

Tomorrow, I am set to teach my first improv class. I am excited and nervous. You never know what kind of actors are going to show up, especially in the 1st through 5th grade range. I have big plans for them though and I think they will have a blast. Now, I am off to write more notecards.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Short bursts of inspiration

I find I am not inspired for nearly long enough to get anything done. My energy waxes on and off faster than Ralph Macho's hands. However, a good friend did read a short memoir I'd written and gave me this comment, "Beautiful, a wonderful tribute to your parents." While I did my best to appear modest and demure, inside a happyfest began with free drinks to all. The ego was the first to belly up to the bar, what a lush. This is the piece I submitted for publication. But as is often the case, there is no deadline by which I will hear whether this is accepted by them or not. I find those moments of elation that fill my motivational balloon don't sustain in the midst of all the needle wielding editors. So I guess I am going to have to fall back on hard work. The author Ann Patchett suggests setting aside one hour a day to spend on the craft or whatever it is you love and keeping a log to see if you do it. That is in keeping with the book Outliers which postulates to be successful at anything requires a certain number of hours put into practice. This was the good kick in the pants I got today. 

The not so good one involved my fashion choices and my son. I admit I often eschew conventional sleepwear in favor of a soft cotton t-shirt. But I don't think that occurs so often that when I headed out the door wearing a t-shirt (that yes I might have slept in a few times) and a pair of shorts that my six-year old needed to say, "Mom, I don't know if they will let you in wearing pajamas." While I did not go in and change, I did think on that a bit. And now I wonder, is it that I usually dress up more to go out or that I need to start wearing real pajamas? Ah, the microscope we live under when children are around. Not sure I'd exactly call it refreshing. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Winds of Change

You may have noticed a new name at the top of this blog. If not, please direct your eyes to the top of the page and spend a moment taking it in. Are you back? Now we can go on to the explanation. While the previous title certainly described the life I lived while creating this blog, the Cancer and Alzheimer's portion are no longer present. Don't get me wrong, they left their marks, indelible wounds on my psyche and soul but I sincerely hope and pray those two offenders do not make it back into the cycle of this life (you are welcome to add this to your prayer list too).

Kicks in the pants (KITPs), on the other hand, are part of everyone's life. I plan to tell you about the kicks I get and I'd welcome some comments about the kicks you are getting too. Since it is my blog, I'll start. In juggling motherhood, wifehood, teaching, and writing, some balls get dropped. I have two children. The elder has learned to remind me, often in an annoying fashion, to sign her up for the activities she wishes to participate in. The younger has a sweet, trusting spirit that believes he only needs to ask his mother for something and she will come through every time. Well, this summer, my son's only request was to play baseball. I saw the sign-up sign and put it in my mental agenda. Turns out I read the sign wrong and missed the deadline.

This was a two-fold offense because not only had I let him down but it was so totally my error and I hate being wrong. When I told him, hoping it would be one of those moments that he would shrug off, my son cried to the point of running to his room and burying his head. Then I called him out and while apologizing my behind off cried as well. It wasn't intended to be manipulative but I have to admit to feeling some relief when my observable misery softened his a bit. This one has a nice ending for him since a friend of mine found another league (30 min away) that he can still play in. I figure the drive is my nice KITPs natural consequence. So any kicks coming your way?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A New Hobby

I figured it was time to give up my most recent hobby of crying because I miss my parents and try to find something else. I mentioned Jiu Jitsu in my last post, it is an hour of twisting, turning, body contorting, power-building umph. I have yet to get bored in a class and as a plus have lost five pounds. You may wonder what does this have to do with the blog title and I'll tell you. It would be that this type of martial art is kicking me in the pants. I have mat burns on my knees and sometimes a crick in my neck but it is the only place I feel at peace. I think maybe it takes so much of my focus that I can't worry about anything else. 

Today, Mom would have been 73, instead she is forever young in the heavenlies but I do miss her here. I wonder what she would think of this new hobby of mine and then I know. She would roll her eyes and give me a half smile to let me know that while she wouldn't want to do it, she'd come see me if I wanted to compete. Not that I will compete. In fact, I feel like a freshman again with all that I don't know. So far I have learned how to submit an opponent from a standing position, flip them over my head if they are sitting on me, and put a choke hold on that left me coughing when my partner did it to me (I didn't tap out soon enough). I will say I prefer the female partners since I almost didn't keep a straight face the first time a guy laid on the floor in front of me, tapped his chest, and said, "Mount me." 

Now, I find myself saying it to other people. It's a whole new vocab. Speaking of vocab as a really poor way of segueing to writing, I still have not heard from the Chicken Soup for the Soul folks. Neither have I begun anything new. A writer friend of mine, Rusty Webb, just put one of his novelettes up for the Kindle. Since Jeff just bought a tablet, I downloaded it tonight. I am thinking about putting some of my stuff up there as well. I'll have to find guidelines somewhere. I am going to read Rusty's story now and would highly recommend it (even without reading it) to anyone who enjoys either westerns or sci-fi because I know he is a solid writer and it is a steal right now at $.99 for the Kindle.  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Retraction of a sort

As I said before, I loved the book "The Hunger Games." However, I did not like the third book in the series at all. Depressing is how I'd term it even though technically it had a happy ending. So reader beware it is not trumpets and triumph. As for my own writing, I have submitted a short to one of the Chicken Soup books so we will see if it gets accepted or not. I'm just relieved I finally finished something again. There is a novel waiting to be finished that I am looking forward to getting to. I say that as if the time is going to just appear without me marking out time and making it happen. Do I accept that my house is going to be a mess forever if I give myself a chance to do the writing? There are so many things competing for my time including the grieving that is still hitting arbitrairly. I'm not sure if I told you guys that I have started taking jiu jitsu. I'm happy when I'm there maybe because I'm focusing on learning something new.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Books as a lifeline

I would like to jump on the bandwagon here and highly recommend "The Hunger Game." I got caught up in it immediately and read it through like I haven't since my first read of the Harry Potter books or Twilight series. Anyone who enjoyed my short story "Third Trial" will like this story. Not to compare the two in the sense that one is a novel and incredibly successful and not written by me. The other is a short story, published in a little known anthology, and yes, written by me. It is the anthology that there is a link to on this blog because that is by far the crowd favorite in stories I've written. Not my Mom's favorite but I never could glean which one was. Maybe the other story that is in that book about Alzheimer's.

But "The Hunger Game" is the same type dystopia (as an editor called my story in a not so flattering way). It is also the kind of sci-fi that feels very reachable. I think there is almost nothing I love more than a book that demands to be finished. If only I wrote books that demanded finishing instead of lazing around on my hard drive, the characters perfectly happy to nap the day away if I will just leave them alone. Then I read a book I love, like this one, and it makes me want to go over and shake them awake. My dream has always been to be able to write books that will make people feel the way I feel when a story sweeps me away. No matter what a person's life circumstances are they can escape them for a time. I wonder if part of the reason I loved this book so much is that I feel like I am in the midst of my own survivor story. Certainly, the stakes are not nearly as high as they were for the main character but she still had to survive, wake up each day, keep breathing, and make it through.

I am in process of a much smaller endeavor right now. I want to get some thoughts down for a "chicken soup for the caregivers soul" book. I will let you guys know if I get it written and submitted. If they reject it, so be it but at least I will have put something out there. I will have woken up, kept breathing, and made it through.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Well it's only been a month

That title is my attempt to feel better about my lack of keeping up with this blog. Things are going probably about the way things go when someone has lost both their parents but has two children so can't really just sit in the corner and sob. To use a totally bad cliche' life really does go on. It is not a respector of personal trials. I think that is actually a great gift. I have not been writing but I have been doing lots of thinking which is totally progress (or at least I tell myself that).

The kids are getting ready to start school and ask me if we can return to Knoxville on a regular basis. It feels rather selfish to stay here to be with my family but I justify it with the knowledge that it is better just to stay then to leave and have something bad happen and turn around and come back.

Jeff is not sick as often living here outside of the office of germs. That being said, I think I am getting too dependent on him working from home. I'm like, "Hey, I'm going to run to the grocery store and leave the kids here, ok?" What can he say but okay but then that leaves him having to do double duty so I am trying to pull back on that.

No big news, just wanted to get an update on here before August ended.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The weight of Grief

I stepped on the scale tonight for the first time since the loss of my parents and discovered I am within five pounds of what I weighed while nine months pregnant with my first child. Admittedly, I was a small woman prior to that first pregnancy but this time the weight isn't a cute basketball in the front of my shirt. Instead, it is carbunkling all over my body. It's not like this came as a great surprise. I knew the doughnuts, desserts, muffins, cake, and ice cream while doing zero exercise would have to add up. I wonder if on some level I thought that crying worked off calories. If so, then I would be looking like an aerobics instructor.

Inertia has also been wrapping itself around me. It isn't just exercise I don't feel like doing. Nothing seems to interesting except books. I could travel far and wide for long periods of time between multiple covers if my children didn't keep interrupting me wanting things like food or affection.

I felt very proud as I did a few laps in the pool tonight. I'm not sure they counteracted the large bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream Jeff served me tonight but better than not doing them. My goal now is to do something active every day. We'll see how that goes now, won't we?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Beach Bound Baby

I just have another five hundred and twenty-three things to do before we can go. I just printed Kelsey's birthday party invitations and plan to have them ready to mail. It will be too late if I don't do it before we get back. I am excited about doing a Harry Potter birthday party. Probably a little too excited,truth be told, it is her party. Maybe, since I turn 40 this year, I can talk Jeff into doing a Harry Potter party for me minus the Aqua quidditch since it will be in December. The big question I have about this party is do I put any of the kids in Slytherin?

I woke up this morning full of anticipation. Not only are we getting out of town but the writer in me is slowly re-awakening so I may get to spend some time on it while there. I am also planning to do a few test runs of the aqua quidditch game with all the cousins. I need my brother-in-law to come up with the brackets. He did a great job with the corn hole tourney. There is so much to do this summer, I am not sure how I am going to fit it all in. The crying jags only come about every couple of days now. I still miss my parents and always will but one thing about having children (not sure if this is good or not) is that they do not allow you to dwell on your own issues too long. So here's to family, the beach, and writing-may they all go well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vacation, all I ever wanted

That might be a bit of an overstatement. There have been lots of things I've wanted over the years beyond a vacation or even on one. We are gearing up to head to Gulf Shores at the end of this week. It will be the first beach vacation I have taken without my mother in fourteen years. It would be in twenty years except Jeff and I had a Charleston beach excursion when we were dating. That would be the one right after Jeff got back from radiation from his brain tumor and we rented Phenomenon. Now, I had seen this movie before but didn't want to ruin the ending for him. After a total melt-down on his part, I decided perhaps there were worse things than ruining the ending for someone.

I don't know how this beach vacation is going to end. I hope it will be well. There is some family friction that I hope can be managed while we are there. I have been praying for peace and laughter for everyone going. Still, I know God doesn't always say yes to prayers or this would not be the first vacation without Mom because she would still be here.

I am always so eager to get to the beach but the process of planning, preparing, and packing is arduous. I feel like I am always going to forget something. I also have this desire to leave a house that has been cleaned in case I die while I am gone. I don't want someone else to have to vaccum or throw things in the closet when the mourners come. Because, let's face it, if I were to die now there would be tons of sympathy for my family which translates into lots of company and meals. In fact, I wonder if anyone has ever faked a family death for the casseroles? Might make a good short story, hmmm.

I don't know if I will check in again before we leave or not. The thoughts that come now are random and often meaningless. I am a bit nervous about boarding our dog for the first time. I'm trying to decide if I need to rename this blog. When I first began, I thought I would be dealing with Cancer and Alzheimer's so much longer than I did. I realize those diseases don't have to be capitalized but that is how I think of them. Sometimes in bold too. So if anyone has a suggestion for a new blog name feel free to post.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer must not be a great blogging time for me

So here's my check-in. Jeff turned 45 on June 7th, and two of my nephews had birthdays as well. I attempted a German Chocolate cake for Jeff that tasted all right but did not look pretty. The kids are enjoying musical theatre camp although Kelsey was very sad to not get a speaking part. Christopher has a small speaking part but I explained to her that boys always get more parts then girls because there are less of them.

Last night at softball, I got conked in the back of the head while running to third and managed to pull a groin muscle. I think I may be getting old without the fun of a birthday party. Then today we are trying to paint Jeff's new office but finding ourselves quite frustrated. In fact, Jeff is in there painting while I'm writing this so I'm typing fast because he may justifiably get pissed if he sees me sitting out here typing. That's all for now.

Friday, June 3, 2011

yawn

Trying to cut back on carbs and finding myself cranky and tired. Perhaps I need a new plan. I want to eat more healthfully but grabbing a handful of Pringles is so much quicker than peeling an orange. Any thoughts on eating well?

In other news, tried to find a local writer's group today but the email listed came back as undeliverable so I guess that isn't going to happen. Although, I thought it was crazy even as I did it since I don't have anything to critique. Good news on that front though, I woke up thinking about some story ideas. Maybe this is God saying finish up what I've already given you before trying to move on. Hmm, I'll have to think on that.

Our softball team continues to be undefeated. I strained my groin muscle in last nights game so was relieved that the other team didn't have enough people for tonight's game. We still play tomorrow though. At two, so it is going to be hot. I have to play even though my leg may hurt, just because I am female. It is strange being a crucial player only because of my gender. My skills are less than stellar. So wish me luck tomorrow that I don't end up gimpy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Is there such a thing as Writer's Block?

I never thought so in my past. Whenever the conversation came up I would confidently answer, "it is just a matter of sitting down and making yourself write." Technically, that is still true. I can sit down and type out words on this keyboard. However, the type of block I am experiencing is the ideas. I have always had idea after idea competing in my brain for which one gets told. This is one of the reasons I have about fifty half-told stories on my  hard drive. Another idea comes along and I follow it to it's beginning and then get distracted by another-you get the point. Anyway, since Mom's illness, I don't think any new ideas have hit my brain. It is like a big steel door has been implanted in my subconscious and when I try to visit the idea factory, I am barred.

You might think this is no big deal- so don't write, move on, do something else. I guess I could do that. But there is this feeling of loss. My ideas were what my mind turned to whenever I had open time. Standing in the shower, driving, walking the dog, these times were creative birthing and refining moments. Now, there is nothing there. I don't know if it will come back someday or not. It almost feels like I've lost part of who I am. This is one of the reasons I stopped blogging for a couple of weeks. I thought maybe that writing on here kept me from thinking up other things. But really that makes no sense because I always had other things to do and had to make time for the stories. I have also tried leaving the keyboard and have begun writing in a notebook. Still, I am not inspired. So for now, I guess I will sit down and make myself write sometimes or maybe I won't. Either way, it is a strange world with no new ideas pouring into my brain.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Undefeated (so far)

The church softball team played a double header tonight and we managed to pull off a win in both games. So far, we haven't lost any. I got to run across the home plate three times as well. In the first game, I had it easy as I was an extra hitter and didn't even have to field, sweet. This team is awesome in their support of one another. After the game, I got in the car and desperately wanted to call Mom to tell her how I did. I know she would have given some sort of praise and then told Dad what I had just told her so he could also give me some praise too. They were always supportive about sports things. Not that I ever qualified as especially good in any game. The ride home became pretty teary but the day had been tough in terms of just missing talking to her so it was probably coming regardless. I was lucky to have a friend willing to take that phone call so I could get myself together before walking in the house (thanks Tricia). I know my family is supportive but I just don't think it is a good idea to walk into the house crying. It sets people up for worry.

Despite my faults, I am loving the game. Next week we have games on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I may not love it so much after that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Milestones

I finished my blog for tonight and then read over it and thought it sounded like I was very depressed. I want to clarify before you read on that I am not. I am so thankful for all the good things that are going on in my life right now. Maybe I only come to blog when the melancholy hits me or maybe it hits me when I really sit down to think. I'm not sure. Either way, I wanted to state right here, up-front that things are going well. The kids are loving the pool, and I'm excited about some redecorating we plan to do.

Tomorrow morning Christopher will graduate from K-5 to the world of the elementary student. Already we have his reading list for the summer along with his math packet. It is also another event that my mother would attend were she still with us. I know I've written this before but it really does seem that my life will forever after be divided into two segments-The before Mom died era and then everything after. I had the end of the year conferences with both kids' teachers today. Kelsey's teacher asked how we were holding up. I started stammering and then finally said, "Ok, you know." Not a very eloquent answer but about all I've got because if I start talking about it at great length I will certainly cry.

I remember Mom still crying whenever she talked about her mother or her brother so I don't guess the feeling of loss ever goes away. I am grateful for the perspective it has given me though. Never before did I feel so deeply for others who have lost their parents as I do now. It is a heightened perspective. We have finally begun working our way out of the mess in our upstairs. In fact, we are ready to paint Jeff's office and I have hired a teenager to come on Friday to begin removing wallpaper. I know this can be our home but it still feels like a different kind of strange to be creating a space that Mom will never visit.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Permission to vege

I did very little in terms of productivity today. I signed some papers, made copies of my drivers' liscense for estate stuff then mailed it, paid a bill, picked up kids and went to the grocery store for some essential items. Other than those things which probably took about three hours, reading a novel consumed the rest of my hours. Nothing literary or non-fiction that would improve my mind but Emily Griffin (who is my current favorite-"Something Borrowed" and this one "Something Blue"). I do not actually enjoy reading material that makes me think too hard. That is probably a commentary on my level of intellect but there it is anyway.

Jeff went back to bed this morning after taking the kids to school. Instead of beginning my daily chores with a righteous indignation, I took my book, climbed into the bed and read/dozed until he got up to get a shower before heading upstairs to work. I laid around for about an hour more before dragging myself into the shower as I realized the extra hours in bed had given my sinuses permission to begin to congeal from allergies, so let me add shower to my list of productive things above. Then after that, I made the bed and sat in a chair in my room and read. It occured to me somewhere during that time that I would never be as accepting of Jeff doing the same thing. He sat upstairs working and as far as he knew I still lolled in the bed. Sure, I can justify it with my grief but it wasn't that I was thinking of Mom and Dad, truthfully I just wanted to finish the book.

About an hour after that, I went upstairs and thanked him for being so laid back. I acknowledged that I would probably never be as good at that as he is. I usually want things done when I want them done including his time. I wonder if it is a male-female thing or if in our case it is personalities. Either way, I'd like to think that remembering how much better this day (and the mountain dew I purchased at the grocery store) made me feel will help me remember that taking some time to do nothing every now and then is okay. Maybe I might even be able to extend that gift to my husband as well. It is a worthy goal.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anniversary dates

One year ago, around his time, we  found out Mom had a tumor on her pancreas. We didn't know what it meant or how much our lives would change in less than a year's time. We are coming up on the date when we discovered Mom's cancer was inoperable, June 1st as I recall, something none of us ever anticipated. I can't believe how far that was from my mind only a year ago. I believe it was May 12th. I was getting a massage because of shoulder problems and had turned off my cell phone or it was on vibrate, I can't remember which. When I checked it, I had two missed calls from mom and three from Sharon. I knew something was wrong but had no idea how wrong it would be. I thought something must have happened with Dad. It never occurred to me it might be my ever giving, completely healthy mother.

Today in church it was Senor Sunday. The choir director who sang at Mom's funeral sang Hallelujah Square, the song he sang at Mom's funeral, then the outreach minister preached and said, "You want to know what living strong looks like, look at the life of Sandra Graves." Just after that, I glanced back and saw Pastor Larry Williams, who did Mom's service, sitting in the pew. The pastor who preached today said one of the last things Mom said to him was about her concern for a person who didn't know Jesus. I think it was the guy she picked up in the freezing cold who was walking to Walmart with no gloves. She offered to buy him some after giving him a ride but he turned her down. She took him home too. No one has been able to find him since even though they have been looking. I wonder, does Jesus still make special appearances? After all, scripture does say, what you do unto the least of these, you do unto me. I know Mom got quite a greeting up there. Here are the lyrics to the song.

I saw a blind man tapping along
He could not see like you and me
I said, Oh mister, I feel sorry for you
He said, When I get to heaven, I'll see just like you

CHORUS
I'll see all my friends in Hallelujah Square
What a wonderful time we'll have up there
We'll sing and praise Jesus, His glory we'll share
There won't be no blind man in Hallelujah Square

I saw an ole cripple dragging his leg
He could not walk like you and me
I said, Oh mister, I feel sorry, so sorry for you
He said, When I get to glory, I'll walk just like you

CHORUS
I'll walk with my friends in Hallelujah Square
What a wonderful time we'll have up there
We'll sing and praise Jesus, His glory we'll share
There won't be no cripple in Hallelujah Square

I saw a beggar, begging for bread
He did not have food to eat, like you and me
I said, Oh, oh mister, I feel sorry, so sorry for you
He said , You see, when I get in glory, I'm gonna sit at the table just like you

CHORUS
I'll see all my friends in Hallelujah Square
What a wonderful time we'll have up there
We'll sing and praise Jesus, His glory we'll share
There won't be no beggar in Hallelujah Square

ROLL
There won't be no blind man in Hallelujah Square
There won't be no cripple in Hallelujah Square
There won't be no beggar in Hallelujah Square

Saturday, May 14, 2011

You know you're hormonal when...

1. An old promo for Superman on your child's dvd brings tears to your eyes
2. You either a)wake up on fast forward with everything needing to be done on your mind or b) can't seem to pull yourself out of bed
3. Everything your partner says makes you want to grind your teeth while rolling your eyes.
4. You're fine with your children watching TV all day, as long as they leave you alone.
5. You feel as if you are marshmallow man fat (real weight gain rarely makes you feel fat).

Fell free to add to the list. The Superman thing got me this morning so now I will try to justify it. Because that is the thing about hormonal stuff. It is all a reflection of how you really feel just amplified. I began to tear with the music. I think one reason Superman is so loved is because he exemplifies hope and that there is something greater than we are out there. In his case, it is, of course, another planet. For most of us, it is God.  Not that Jerry Siegel tried to write about God. He just wanted a character that would impress women since it seems his wooing skills were less than note-worthy http://www.nytimes.com/1996/01/31/us/jerry-siegel-superman-s-creator-dies-at-81.html .That article is on how Superman was created and how he sold the idea for not much money at all. But I digress.

We want a God that will swoop in and fix the problem like Superman does. He is also inspired by his love for one person. The relationship we would like to have with God. If you think about it, he even brings Lois Lane back from the dead. So where are all these good guys now? Everyone has to have angst, a dark side. It seems like any kind of glowing good has to be rejected. Is this because we have become so jaded? Who is it that my son is supposed to worship and emulate? I guess that question takes me back to God again. Our world is increasingly providing "heros" who are only motivated by what they can get out of it.

The problem with that is no one seems to want to be good for other's sake, even if it gets you a kick in the pants. Given that issue, I don't think it is surprising the state our world is in. One critique of the Bible/God is that it is "an opiate to the masses." Certainly, religion has been misused (an huge understatement) through the years but the real message is to love God first (because we were created to worship and if we don't worship God we will worship something else) and then to love each other. The purpose of Jesus is that God is so perfect he cannot be around sin and he wanted us around him so much he gave part of himself (his son) to take our consequences so we can be with him in the end. To be washed in the blood of the lamb is to be made clean of everything that separates us from God. Given that, and the loss of the belief in that in the world at large, I think maybe some shed tears aren't out of place. What began as an intention of a comic peace turned into God thoughts. As a side note, I bought the first season of Smallville yesterday at McKay's and can't wait to start watching it. I do love some Superman.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dream Interpretation 101 or why I shouldn't go back to bed in the morning

I dream vividly. I always have. Usually, the interpretations of those dreams aren't difficult. One of the therapists I saw for LCSW supervison said I had the most concrete dreams he'd ever heard anyone tell about. I don't think he wanted to insult me, although that isn't exactly a testament to brillance, I think he just spoke without thinking about how it sounded. However, this morning a more complicated one came to me. At least it seemed that way, I'm going to put it out here because sometimes ones that seem complicated in my mind are in fact more simplistic than I think. I will put my thoughts about the portions of the dream in parenthesis. It began relatively benign and then moved into scary.

Against my better judgement, I went back to bed this morning after the children went to school. I dreamed, as I usually do. I faded into this dream talking with the doctors about my mother. Somehow she was back but in the hospital again with a heart attack. I asked her, "How long will you stay this time, Mom?" The question was in regard to how long she would live not her hospital stay but she doesn't answer. (this portion of the dream was probably triggered by a friend of mine's husband being in the hospital. He was not having heart trouble but has in the past. I'm not sure about the question and  her not answering unless it has to do with Mom not answering so many questions about the estate that we are having to try to settle right now).

Most of my dreams have blurred edges and fade from one moment to the next which can be in a different location. In the next segment, I was on my cell phone going back to the hospital talking with Blood Assurance, telling them that my mom might need some blood. I wanted them to be fawning all over her because she had been so dedicated to giving blood in her life so felt frustrated that they were not. Finally, I shouted her name at the person on the phone, "Sandra Graves, O+, Sandra Graves." The person faded out as I reached the double steel doors that led to the patient area. I pressed the automatic open button. (this portion likely has to do with my fear that Mom is being forgotten. There's also the possiblity that having trouble getting the blood could stem back to blood being symbolic of life. )

This next part is where it gets weird but stranger things are to come. The doors swing open and both my sisters are sitting in plastic chairs looking at something, my nephew and his wife sit there too but aren't looking at whatever Cindy is holding. As I walk in I hear my oldest sister say, "We won't show this to Nancy." Rage fills me as I turn to walk into Mom's hospital room.

Before I go in, I spew at them, "I hate you. I hate you. You can never come over again." Then I turned and looked at my nephew and niece and said, "You can still come over." (I have no idea what this is about unless it is a fear of abandonment by my sisters so I will reject them before they can leave me. the most obvious theme is that my sisters are keeping something from me. But I have no idea what that would be or that they are protecting me from something, also don't know what that would be. When I woke up I felt pretty shaken by what happened next in the dream but also by those words. I adore my sisters, both of them. I can't imagine ever feeling that way about them. The nephew and niece thing is kind of funny since I think that comes from me inviting them to come swimming on facebook and my niece saying we'd get sick of them and me assuring her we would not. Although I'm not sure why they were there at all.)

Now comes the part that made me come awake with my heart pounding. I walk into Mom's room, Jeff's with me. Remember I have just yelled at my sisters so I throw myself across the bottom of Mom's bed hugging her legs and crying. Then I realize she is naked except for the sheet I am on so I get up and look at her. I realize then that she is in arm restraints. "Mom?" I say and she opens her eyes but they aren't her usual green eyes, they are black and very liquid like dark blood.

She spreads her arms wide crucifix-like and says, "I am Sandra."

I back away and say, "You aren't my mom." She laughs and tries to grab at me but the restraints keep her from reaching me. The cords cut into the soft part of her upper arm. She struggles against them. Her skin is very white next to the dark eyes.

"I'm Sandra," she rasps.

"It's a demon," I tell Jeff and then I wake. (I don't get this part at all or maybe I am just too close to it. Sometimes dreams are just runoff from the days events but I haven't been reading any demon stories. I wonder if I fear my grief is going to somehow become a type of false God to me. Jeff, my former therapist husband cleared it up. You always know when you have hit on the right dream interpretation because it usually makes the person cry.

He said, "I would wonder if you were having some kind of faith crisis."
I said,"But how does that make sense since if I'm believing in demons I have to be believing in God."
He said, "Well, taking this a bit further, how could such a good Christian woman be stricken with a demon like that."

It hit me at that moment. The cancer, the demon that takes so many of us. The tears came then so I had to admit, "That's it." It was a simplistic dream after all. I'm still struggling on some level with how God could have allowed Mom to die of cancer. Why she wasn't healed. Apparently, my conscious mind wasn't able to deal with the existential issue s my subconcious had to come knocking to remind me it was still there. Geez, sometimes, it would be nice to process things without having to have the images in my head first. Oh well, any thoughts, alternate explations?    

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day m'lady

The Renaissance Faire in Atlanta provided the appropriate amount of entertainment and exercise to keep me from getting maudlin today. I also got wished Happy Mother's Day in British accents with various degrees of excellence. The first one coming from my sister-in-law Louise who is from England so was spot on with the accent.

Other than that it didn't feel much different from the kid's days we usually have. In that, we went to the shows the kids wanted to go to, bought the kids the things they wanted, and rode the rides the kids asked to ride. However, I guess that is what being a mother is so I truly experienced a "being a mother" day.

Our pool liner is now finished so I think we will be able to fill the pool this week. I am very excited about that. It looks beautiful. Although I may have to change the color of my kitchen because it looks right out onto the pool and the kitchen color seems off now for some reason. I think there is a possibility that next mother's day may actually be harder than this one. Right now, I am missing Mom intensely every day so the fact that it was Mother's day didn't make me miss her anymore. Next year, I may have moved more into the habit of knowing she isn't around so it might actually be worse. We'll see. I had many wonderful friends wish me well for they day and send me texts to make sure I was doing okay.

My flowers that Sharon sent me on Friday had bloomed and were a beautiful greeting for me when I walked in the door tonight. Overall, the weekend went well. When I got home, I found out a good friend of mine's husband had to go to the hospital for observation. I can not imagine how sucky a mother's day that was for her. Still, she was checking on me when she sent the email. I do have very kind friends and family. I hope you all know that you are appreciated.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Getting out of Dodge err Ooltewah

Tomorrow, my family and I load up the hybrid and head to Hot lanta or for us married with children folks, a simple Atlanta. I think it is a good call to get out of town for Mother's Day. I have been woefully weepy the last few days. I don't know if it is the holiday, just more regular grief, or hormones. That will probably be my question from now until I wait outside the pearly gates. Jeff keeps asking me, "What's wrong?" when I say I'm sad or if he sees me crying. I keep saying, "just assume it is because my parents died unless I tell you differently." I think some part of him is hoping for a problem that he can solve so he keeps asking. One of my wonderful sisters, Sharon, sent me flowers today. There was no card which had Jeff asking if I was having an affair. But when I spoke with Sharon (trying to find out if she got flowers so I would know it was family) she said a card was supposed to be in there that said, "In honor of our mother and the mother you are." I wish I could execute doing nice things like that for other people. I think of nice gestures often but rarely do they reach fruition.

The puppet show went well on Thursday which I didn't even realize was Cinco de Mayo until I got on facebook. Too late to plan for that then, oh well. Today, I have just returned from Nashville where I visited the Hermitage along with my daughter and the rest of her third and fourth grade schoolmates. They had 150 slaves at one time to run that plantation. Can you imagine never knowing if your family was going to be complete on any given day or if someone was going to decide to sell them. At least when we lose someone to death we know it is because God has a better place for them to go and that He knows the ultimate plan. They just had to hope their family members weren't getting beaten or raped in their new "homes." It was a grand estate but I don't think I would want to live in a house that big. I'll let you know if I ever make my millions and decide to buy an estate. Although I think I would want to avoid one built on the backs of slaves. Have a happy mother's day all. Talk to you again later.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tomorrow is National Day of Prayer

My sister Cindy and I are doing a puppet show for the younger kids tomorrow at school for the National Day of Prayer. Jeff has been helping me learn my lines. I hope that goes well. I am having some mom guilt because Kelsey is going on a field trip to Nashville on Friday and I am not chaparoning. At least, I don't think I am. She is still wearing me down. It will be the first field trip either of my children have ever gone on without me. Although, I do know Mom didn't go on every field trip with me and I still miss her quite a bit so maybe it won't be the end of our relationship. I may still fold, we'll see.

Turns out I didn't have to worry about Jeff getting home last night. He got caught on 1-75 between Cleveland and Chattanooga for about two hours due to a traffic fatality. I didn't hear anything about it on the radio which is sad knowing someone died and it didn't even rate a mention. I hope I remember that in the National Day of Prayer. I wonder what that will look like at a Christian school. Make a comment if you want prayers and I will pass it on. I hope you all feel peace in your hearts today.