Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I had this cool dream about the universe and music which I know nothing about

That title can't possibly make any sense.

I'm trying to live a simple life here, where I become a writer. Maybe that's my enlightenment.

A simple life of simple pleasures free from self-imposed worries. And writing.

I should live in a cabin. All simple-living writers have cabins.

Writing - but not just 'how to get published' or 'how to make a million dollars.' Those I can worry about after I've finished the book (ha, I know how little most authors make).  Really, it's the space to write, and writing what I am capable of writing, the really good stuff that's buried underneath the meh stuff, the rich rich stuff I have inside that can only come out through writing and writing and writing.

So last night's dream, of course, I dreamt of the universe, and music, and sounds and vibrations.

Of course I dreamt of the universe in a musical way, and I am not musical, but it had everything to do with writing and nothing at all to do with it.

It was a beautiful dream though. Three lines, strings of this universal instrument, and it was all there was. There was one note to play, one note that if you could hear it, and if you could live your life on that note, that note was the one that was deep inside, that could barely be heard. It was the piece of the music in the background that you never noticed while you were listening to it, but, without it, the music wouldn't be music.

In the dream, it was the only note playing, the only string vibrating, the only one that mattered.

I like to think it means I've finally got something right.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Writer unleashed

Hold yourselves back - nothing is more (less) exciting than a writer... writing.

I was having an email chat with another writer friend, who doesn't think she's a writer, but yet writes, therefore making her a writer... but never mind that.

We were talking about writing. 

Writing requires that, while you're writing, you're focused on you know, writing, which means the other things going on around you... aren't the priority. 

Children are fighting. Writing? You won't notice until they either figure it out or knock themselves out. 
Laundry. Writing? Well of course you've forgotten about the load you left wet, in the washer. For two days.
Dinner. Writing? Yes, then you're also hungry, along with your family, who will give up on you because you no longer cook with love and spend more time cooking with frozen foods.
Groceries. Writing? Then you probably didn't get a chance to stock up on frozen foods, so it's pizza night. Again? Right, Chinese this time.
Bedtime. Writing? You missed it. Work is going to be awful in the morning.
Work. Writing? Well, then you're at work wishing you were writing, thinking about writing, trying to write at lunch, and probably, moping about writing.
Angst. Oh, good, you're writing. 

I think the important thing to note about writing is that prior to the writing, there's a lot of procrastination of the writing. Then while you're writing, if you're not on, or you're struggling with a scene or pages, or kind of at a block, well, then, there's things you do to help that, that may look like procrastination, but are really, as I like to call them, 'thinking breaks.' 

For instance, right now, I'm trying to end a dreadful few pages I wrote about a silly pie sale which seems to be never-ending, but surely, it has to end, right? Because pie sales don't last forever, they're not eternal, yet somehow, this one seems eternal... How to get past this, the eternal pie sale, a minor sub plot of a sub plot, that shouldn't take much... the eternal, never-ending pie sale... I need a think break....

Here are my tricks:

  • First, make a bowl of hot cereal, maple and brown sugar, my go-to favorite evening comfort food. 
  • Second, check email. Or Facebook. Why doesn't anyone message me or e-mail me during these times of need?
  • Third, scroll through television. Doesn't work when the show you land on is a show about writers, seeing as I'm a writer stuck on writing...
  • Fourth, blog, specifically about how you're a writer not writing, and the things you do to avoid it.
  • Fifth, Make Tea - ooh haven't done that... 


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Are you ready for the holidays?

Yeah, me neither.

But it's okay, because I have learned a lot about the holidays over many years of holidaying, and I know the recipe for a happy holiday.

Tune out.

Tune into yourself, what experiences do you want, what traditions do you have, or want to start? Keep it simple if you're simple. Go crazy if Martha Stewart is your domestic goddess. Just tune out to what isn't 'you.' 

The ads on TV, the radio, the online ads will all have jingly music, fake snow, ridiculously happy people and abnormally perfect families. The actors will be dipping into what seems to be an endless bank account to buy tons of things for tons of people and they're all so happy about it. No budget worries here! 

Then there's the food commercials. We'll see grocery store ads and TV spots with roasted turkeys and hams and casseroles on large dining room tables located in neighborhoods where perfect snow falls on perfect people.

So tune it out, because it'll just stress you out. 

Every year, most of us want to spend more than we have, eat more than we should, bake too late into the night and freak out because we have too much to do.

So tune out of the holiday buzz, fuss and glossy, photo-shopped, video-edited version of what it should be. Make it your own. 

And if you don't know how to do that, go watch A Christmas Story.

This year, I'm about spending time with the family, about making memories. 

I'm excited because I've got it all mostly planned. 
I'm going to help Bear bake, and sew a stuffed monkey with him.
I'm going to do something with Turbo, mostly hang at swim lessons, I think. He's not big on chillin' with me.
I'm going to have tea with Drama Girl more often.
I'm going to take the boys to the Denver zoo lights, Husbear and Drama Girl included.

I'll decorate mildly, and not over-extend.

Christmas presents are budgeted and pre-planned, so there's no shopping stress for me, just Black Friday Fun - and it is fun if you have no mission.

Happy Merry Days!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Baker's gonna bake some cookies

Bear's favorite book is 1001 Cookie Recipes.

I don't know where I got this book, if I bought it, if someone bought it for me or how I ended up with it. All I know is that since before the boys were born, I've owned this book. Drama Girl used to look through it - she always wanted to make the cookie pizza.

All the kids love this book, but Bear looooves this book.  We read it together just the other night... Fudgies II, Galaktobouiriko, Galette Bretonne, Gazelle Horns, German Bon Bons, German Brownies, German Christmas Cookies I, German Christmas Cookies II, on and on...

In the middle of the book, in the I section, because the cookies are labeled alphabetically, is a sheet of paper with a list of cookies, numbered by some order, perhaps of 'order intended to bake.' He wrote this up, and is still adding to the list as he works through the book.

Tonight, we made Gum Drop Cookies. They weren't on his list, but I wasn't up to Creme De Menthe Brownies, Dainties, Date Logs, or Danish Apple Bars.

I let him do everything himself, even sacrificing an egg so I could teach him how to separate the egg from the yolk.

These cookies are the best I've ever baked. Bash the Baker.
Look how proud he is!
He measured, creamed shortening and sugar, added dry ingredients, realized his arm was tired, did ten stretches to loosen up his muscles, continued adding dry ingredients, and rolled the cookies into walnut-sized balls.

Final product: Yummy spiced gum drop cookies
The book said it would yield 60, but they must come from the land of tiny walnuts because we only got 30...

The final result:

One proud, happy Bear, one happy but worn out mom, 30 cookies, ten of which are slotted for his writing group.

Look at that grin, his, look, look what I did on my own, grin.

We might just try this again. Well, according to Bear, we're DEFINITELY doing this again.

Bear is in bed now, tucked into his sheets with the book in hand... 1001 Cookie Recipes, 1001 Dreams for a Little Boy.

There's this thing, that I think is more than a thing - Vague blog post to be followed by vague Facebook status

I believe in mother's intuition. I believe if we listen to ourselves, when it comes to our children, we get little flashes of insight meant to help us guide our children.

We're not always right, but very rarely, when a notion comes into my head that something might be something more than it is, am I wrong. 

So I've got this thing on my mind, and I'm figuring it out, waiting, watching it unfold, because it's a thing where I can only wait, and watch, and be ready.

There will be a time, I imagine, when I find out if I'm right, or if I'm wrong, or if I'm halfway right and halfway wrong, and if I'm right or halfway right, then well, we'll have some interesting years. If I'm wrong or halfway wrong, then I'll wonder how I could have gotten it so wrong ha!

It's not a bad thing or a good thing, it's not a secret boyfriend or girlfriend, or smoking habit, it's just... something... something new I'm seeing, something that has always been there but seems to be creeping up more and more, and is more evident.

It's like I'm on alert because I think the balloon in the air will pop soon, and then everyone will startle.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Today I spoke as a writer

The single best thing about today was talking to a small group of middle school students about writing. The students are in a writers workshop in the school where I work, and randomly, and I mean randomly, the teacher mentioned they were doing NaNoWriMo for kids this month. I randomly mentioned, oh how nice, I was doing it for adults. Then we chatted about writing and she invited me to talk to the kids just as someone who was doing the process. Then we chatted about my writing past, as in, you know, my writing career, because as it turns out, and I think I've mentioned this before, I'm a bona-fide writer, because I've always made my living writing. 

The thing is, I got to talk about my favorite subject in the world -- writing. It was the best thing because each of the students had a specific hurdle they had encountered in their writing, and because I happen to be a, you know, bona-fide writer, I was able to give them something to do that would help them. 

We talked about techniques to get out of writers block - potato chips and soda... just kidding. We talked about the danger of outlines in the rough draft of a story - what if your story wants to move? Your outline can be a prison.. danger, beware! We talked about the importance of knowing the ending, and in one student's case, knowing the character. 

I told them the only thing necessary in a rough draft was the beginning, the end, and a strong character.  Some might disagree, but remember, I"m talking stories, fiction, and in telling a story the most important thing to do is to get it all on the paper. Like most good students, they were trying to follow a structure, rules, an outline, and of course, were fixing grammar... in a rough draft... the horror.

I told them about the 'inner editor,' that harsh critic that says what we write is silly and we should give up - I know it's not just me, every writer writes about this! 

We talked about the experience of reading something and liking it, that small nugget that's on your page and you think,  did I write that? and that is what happens when you write - you write beautifully - you just have to get out of your own way. I said grammar does not a good writer make. I said write horribly, embarrassingly, awfully, fearlessly,  but to get it all down. I told them how to just write through their problems... the monster came crashing through and then.. I don't know how - figure out how - but it ended up smooshing a dwarf.. and that's how we all met Ed... Ed was a diminutive creature... etc etc.

I asked them about their stories, and what challenge they were stuck at. They all had good stories in different genres. The ideas were great! The characters believable.

And then something happened. The interview ended (I did talk a lot, hopefully not too much) on a pause, and then, they just... got up... went to their chrome books and .... started writing.... The teacher and I just looked at each other, I didn't know what to think. She said I was inspiring.

I just hope that whatever I said that reached them, they can hold on to, because writing, when done right, is hard!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

PKS: Perfect Kid Syndrome

There's this social disease we have going on, and we've had it for a while.

It's our perfect kid syndrome,  our belief that a kid is only going to be as good in their entire life as they are when they're a kid, a kid who hasn't achieved anything in sports, well, not going to the Olympics boy, now are we? Don't have a 4.0 in 4th grade? Second-rate college for you little girl. What you do when you are 8, 9, 10? Sets the tone for the reeeeest of yeeeer life... so put your back to it, get your head out of your little butt and get cracking on those spelling words.

Aaaagh. It's not enough to be just a kid. It's not enough to have the goal of running home so you can go play outside/on your console/with your friend/just get home and have a snack  and plop down in front of a cartoon dang it, you have to achieve something real, something notable, something the average adult hasn't even accomplished in their entire lives... but, oh.. no, the best kids, well, they're not mine, they haven't invented anything, not yours, haven't composed anything.

Are you in competitive soccer? What? No? Why not, is he in baseball? What? No? It'll affect his game when he's 12.... say it with me... aaaaahhhh.

Oh. Well, what languages does your child speak? Oh, they're just starting Spanish?  My child, smarter than yours. In the highest level origami group, and speaks Mandarin Chinese, as well as French, fluently. We take things seriously in our family.

The thing is, the thing we know as adults because we've been through it, is it all resets. They stop doing the things they did just to make us happy, and do their own thing, around the time they hit high school and sometimes, middle school.

Kids are like the training tutorials. It's all nice in there, and the rules are fairly easy and well explained, and the little diagram boxes pop up to help you understand how to use the combos on the controller, and there's lots of training fights, but then, you leave the tutorial room, and your kid is no longer in your protected space.

Everything about a child, their hopes, dreams and wishes gets analyzed and occasionally tossed out the window.  In the game of growing up, the rules are tested and personalities, interests change, begin, or are lost.

In High School and beyond suddenly, the dreams are theirs, the goals are theirs and they're not interested in soccer, they stopped doing Mandarin Chinese homework, they can't remember French and they are now majoring in sleeping in and no longer interested in being an engineer or whatever they were convinced they were going to be at 12. At 10, I was going to be an army combat doctor,  surgeon specifically, I'd have a combat helmet and be running around on a field being all cool combat chick with a surgical kit. Or maybe a scientist because all I did was devour books on planets and stars. I knew the compositions of all the planets in the solar systems by heart. I was going to go to the olympics for roller skating - I had a silver star! -  and somehow, in my world, roller skating was going to be cooler than ice skating.

I was also going to be rescued from this planet by my people, who lived on another planet and had been looking for me, their long lost warrior princess, for 11 years. I remember the palace I created in my imagination. It was on a beach by a beautifully tropical ocean with a pink sunset that lingered for hours. Every now and again, I look up, hopefully...

Of course I was also going to be an archeologist, geologist and explorer.

So when I hear people talk about their child's achievements, about how amazing, brilliant, wonderful, athletic, smart, genius-like, driven etc etc, how they'll grow up to be engineers, professional soccer players and this, that, the other thing, or how they have a natural gift,  I smile, how wonderful.

I also know it's not going to hold true throughout their lives, because at some point, these kids   are going to have opinions, pick up friends, stop going to soccer practice, and hopefully, hopefully, will just be kids.  Hopefully, they''ll stick to their natural gifts, and follow their passions.

The truth? We all get tired of it, us parents, we don't want to hear about it. If we're a parent, your child's brilliance, amazingness and specialness is nice, but it is nothing compared to our child's own version of brilliance, amazingness and specialness, even if your kid is headed to the youth ice skating championship of the world before headed to their world chess league games conveniently located in China, where your child can also practice their foreign language skills.  And I'm not fooled. I know it's exaggerated, the nice bits of the kids polished up, the rough spots covered with a tacky blanket from grandma. I know that under that veneer of parent boasting, under the PR sales pitch, your kid is just a kid.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Peach Cobbler - coulda wrote it better

I spent a thousand words writing a scene including peach cobbler in the novel I'm writing.

Of course, now I want peach cobbler.

A hazard of writing I suppose.

One thousand words, and though the scene isn't strong yet, it has good stuff in it, so when I go through on an editing pass, I know it'll be 'realer' and 'funnier.'
The first draft is always so fun, but also so frustrating. It's really just a fast outline where you're putting words on a page in the order you feel they'll probably be, or just writing bits and pieces you know will be somewhere. But they aren't finished, polished and smooth. The important details in one scene are left out completely while in the very next chapter too much detail has been included. One chapter is a struggle to complete because you know this chapter will be in the finished book, and it's important, but none of the characters seem into it and the writer (me) is dragging them onto the pages because hey, they haven't come up with something better themselves, and then you write four pages where everything flows smoothly and sounds brilliant, and you wonder why doesn't all of it flow smooth and sound brilliant?

The characters are all there, but it's like they're reading the script for the very first time for a part they've never played before.

The first draft is never great, or rather, it is great, and terrible, and horrible, as well as wonderful. It just depends on which part of the draft you're reading!

Go Write Me!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thor. Doctor. Dyson.

I'm heading out to the movies today with the boys to watch Thor 2. We'll do a nice matinee so that they can be loud with all the other loud boys and girls.

Kinda excited to see Thor 2. I love Loki. Obviously, he's just misunderstood.

I'm mostly excited to see the Day of the Doctor ooohhhhh.... it's playing at our movie theaters, but none of my friends are dorky enough to see it with me. Le sigh. I mean, it's David Tennant and Matt Smith and John Hurt... how could you not see it?

I'll be home that Saturday, watching it by myself with popcorn, clearly.

Oh, also, our vacuum cleaner broke, anyone have a Dyson they want to send me?

Saturday, November 09, 2013

November Saturdays

There's something about them, the Saturdays after Halloween and before Thanksgiving. It's a quiet time for me though I know most people are out and about, preparing to be frantic over the holidays. I saw it today, driving Drama Girl around to pick up costume clothing for her school's musical - the roads were packed, the stores were crowded, and oh, the decorations are up.

Tis the Season! Tis the Season! It might as well be 'Batten the Hatches' or 'The Redcoats are Coming' because Tis the Season! harks a period of frenzy that is less cheerful and more survivalist. It's like the grocery store before a winter storm, the airport when everyone is running later than the planes, the road trip to grandma's when you're supposed to be on the road but the cats aren't fed and your kid didn't pack, Grimes and posse getting the group the heck out of dodge when the zombies come to the farm...  

It's just as intense and crazy, but, with Tis the Season! you have to pretend to enjoy it. Oh, and don't forget to shop a lot, more than you want to, more than you need to. 

Tis the Season! Sing! Smile! Shop! Bake! Ugh! 

This is why I'm savoring these November weekends. I enjoy the nice, warmish Saturdays when we have them. I browse through cookbooks and imagine the winter stews and soups I'll bake when the Sundays are cold. I pitter, I patter, I plan a hike, just the one, I promise, kids, just one hike this month, I clean a bit, and I don't feel pressured, because, why?

There are so many things that are stressors in life, a time to be joyous shouldn't be one of them. Which is why, this Saturday, behind me, to the right, is an area of the house overtaken by clutter. I will attack it today, but I can't right now, because I"m blogging, and drinking coffee, and because it's quiet in the house right now.  I haven't had my me time yet what with all the driving Drama girl around and cleaning the coat rack, and browsing through the How To Cook Everything Vegetarian Cookbook for clues on how to get the family acclimated to an expanded palate that doesn't involve meat (we all have our dreams).

The bigger challenge I face, is how to teach my family that Tis the Season! isn't necessary. We can be merry and happy and pleasant this year without the frantic stress, because the stress defeats the entire purpose.

I know there are people who thrive on frenzy and celebrations and the Tis the Season!ness of it all, and that's fine. I'll catch up with y'all in January!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Another new thing learned

It's funny how I'm going through this really forced process of looking at my life and seeing how to ensure that writing becomes a permanent fixture in it. It's also interesting to see the things that are around my writing that are important to my writing but have nothing to do with the tools or art or act of writing - mindfulness, running, my morning tai chi (i'm so cool, everyone will be tai chi'ing soon... right?) my coffee, my pacing... my friends (sigh, yes them too).

The one thing I tell everyone with writing is it's hard to find the time.

For the longest time, I said I didn't have time to write. It was hard to find the time, and everyone knows we have no time, but then I kept reading about how time is never the problem. So I looked and tried - really tried - to find the time. I found the time. I have the time. Yet, still, I didn't.  Even though I had time, it seemed empty and useless... I was tired, wound up, still had my head somewhere else etc etc.

It's true in the sense that it's hard, but finally, after a week of having returned to my habit of spending 5 to 10 minutes with my little mindfulness app (never have zenness masters been so accessible... thank you technology) it suddenly hit me.  It's not time I need, it's space... whoa... time and space are two different things, but they are wholly related...

(Dear friends who know me, no, no this has nothing to do with any of my Dr. Who watching... the time and space I'm talking about are not the time and space he flits about in, okay?)

I had the time, so looking for it is silly. What I need to find is the space. I don't mean physical space, either, I am someone who can write anywhere. I need the space that lets my mind go to that place where my words and characters and stories live. I need the space that lets me be ridiculous on the page. I need a calm state of mind, so I can withdraw into that place freely, without fret or worry or, lets face it, emotion.

It's so liberating to know what it is I need, because now I can make sure I have that space.

Today, I found that space. It was at my son's appointment where, for an hour and a half, I sat in a waiting room blissfully writing out the characters and the state of mind they were in after this one 'event' occurred in their lives. I had to write their emotions, their moods, their feelings, their essence, but to do that, I needed to leave behind mine... I needed that space.

And I wrote.

That makes it a good day!

Monday, November 04, 2013


Pre-writing is an interesting process for me. It's not just 'brainstorming,' it's more than that. It's about 'what am I doing with this story, is it saying anything?'  I don't mean that my writing has to make a statement, but it should have a story to tell, about people, and how they interact with one another, which is basically, every story ever told. But how it is told is what matters.

Going through this writing pre-section I always go back to the stories I've begun, started or thought of in the past. Normally that works. But this time, something has changed... and the stories I worked on don't work for me now. Between now and then, I changed inside, and so, the stories have changed. This is what happens when you take too long between writing stories.

That's really all there is to say about it!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Run! Tai Chi! Write! Chocolate beer! Neurosis! It's all in here!

I love running in fall. Today, in Colorado, it was around 67 degrees out, and while I had every intention to take the boys out for a hike this morning, I didn't actually plan for it, and the boys weren't ready, I wasn't ready and so that didn't happen - next week, we'll be ready!

Instead, I bee-bopped around the house getting stuff done so the house could maintain a sort of, well, you could see if you really looked, I mean, well, order, if you squint, and close the left eye and don't look down, and dont look at any surfaces, then you'll see there's some order... there's even a tablecloth on the table... there is a semblance   if you look really closely, and I'm hoping that one semblance will last through the week.

I did go for a nice sunny run though! It was awesome! I love running through leaves. One of the sections of my run was so covered with leaves I couldn't see the path at all! I would have lost my way if the creek wasn't on the right and the park on the left...

Thing is, I'm noticing that since I've started Tai Chi, which I am still thoroughly enjoying even though I'm horrid at it, and I'm convinced the instructor is judging me and I will never join them for meditation because I dislike meditating in groups (I don't know why, it's just a thing, I prefer my mindfulness app in the privacy of my own head)... yes, so... lets try that again.

I've noticed since I've started Tai Chi, that more things are sore when I run. In other words, though there's not a lot of you know, strenuous effort in Tai Chi, apparently there's juuussst enough effort to make running suck a bit. I mean, I have a groove, and a good run length that I can easily attain without worrying about being overly sore, it's 3-5 miles, easy peasy, no pain unless I push myself for speed or run up a hill, but even then it's okay. Now, there are these new little... somethings... that suddenly seem to be protesting my runs. The only thing I've changed is Tai Chi. My body will adjust soon, I just think it's odd. I like to pretend it's because all these 'micro muscles' or 'mini muscles' as I like to call them, are beefing up, and preparing to be an integral part of a newer, leaner, Tai Chi'ing runner me that can leap tall buildings and sprint up mountains and stuff.

I desperately want to take a picture of my Shake Chocolate Porter, because I'm convinced that more people read blogs when there are pictures, and this... this is just decadent. Okay. Here you go.

My new yummy decadent chocolate porter. And a bunny stuffy.
Because it helped fill the frame.  Yeah. This'll totally
increase my readership!
It's November Nano-Writing month, and for many people, it's a fun challenge to try to write a book in a month. BWAHAHAHAHHAH. I mean, of course it can be done. I'm altering it, though. I'm making it allll about meeeeee. 'Cuz it's my blog and I can if I want to, can if I want to... I'm making it November Nanner Nanner Write Every Day Month.

So that's what I'm doing. I wonder if I should count blogs? Or the article I'm half-writing for my writers workshop (worst workshop participant evvvveer)?

I did use the word neurosis in the title, but I think I'm using it wrong. I think, currently, neuroticism is trendy, and the inner voices inside our head freaking us out with their incessant nagging and constant reminders of how much we suck because no one else likes chocolate porter dork, how lame we are, and how we're probably going to sprain an ankle during Single Whip Tail somehow, and all that, is not actually neurosis. But it's currently trendy. I'll have to look up neurosis.

Be happy peeps, tomorrow is Monday.