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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Need Some Motivation

Lagging behind on my NaNoWriMo word count and in need of inspiration/motivation. And, apparently, I feel like sharing so I am plagiarizing NaNo pep talks for my blog this week (It's not really plagiarizing if I state the source, right?).

Here's excerpts from two pep talks that spoke to me. The gist is the same as always: just sit down and write and the rest will fall into place eventually (like in the revising).

Pep Talk from Neil Gaiman:
By now you’re probably ready to give up. You’re past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You’re not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You’re in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more—and that even when they do you’re preoccupied and no fun. You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing. 
Welcome to the club. 
That’s how novels get written. 
You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Entire entire pep talk here:

Pep Talk from Malinda Lo:
Here’s what happens when I sit down to write. First, I turn off my access to the internet by engaging Freedom. (The internet is the number-one killer of writer productivity!) Second, I open Scrivener. (Substitute whatever word-processing program works for you.) Third, I force myself to sit there with my work-in-progress until Freedom says I’m done. (I always set it for at least one hour, and often three.) I don’t allow myself to get up to make endless cups of tea (one will do). I just sit there. That’s all.
How often am I filled with inspiration before I start writing? Pretty much never. Instead, I usually stare at my work-in-progress with a vague sense of doom. I often think to myself: What the hell am I doing in this scene? I don’t understand how to get my characters from Point A to Point B! I really want to check Twitter!
The trick is this: As long as I sit there with my work-in-progress, at some point I will write something, because there’s nothing else to do.
Whatever I write may not be any good, but that doesn’t matter. When you’re writing a first draft—which most of you are doing this month—the most important thing is to keep moving forward. Your first try will be riddled with mistakes, but that’s what revision is for. Right now, you only have to put those ugly, wrong words on the page so you can fix them later.
Read the entire pep talk here:

Monday, November 4, 2013

#NaNoWriMo WHAT?

I am in love. I am all starry-eyed. I am wondering, where have you been all my life?! What has me all a-flutter? A little movement in the writing world called NaNoWriMo.


NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month (which is November).  It’s when crazy would-be novelist such as myself set out to write a novel in one month. Or, at least 50,000 unedited words. It’s a way to stifle the inner critic, the mounting excuses, the list of procrastinations, or the myriad of things that get in the way of sitting our butts down in a chair and writing.

The idea of NaNoWriMo started in 1999 when Chris Baty and 20 of his friends set out to write a novel in one month. (What was I doing in 1999? Still dreaming of one-day writing a novel) On the NaNo website, Baty describes that first year:

That first year there were 21 of us, and our July noveling binge had little to do with any ambitions we might have harbored on the literary front. Nor did it reflect any hopes we had about tapping more fully into our creative selves. No, we wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twenty-somethings start bands. Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists.
Baty goes on to say that in this process they discovered something they hadn't expected: Novel writing is fun.
Fun was a revelation. Novel writing, we had discovered, was just like watching TV. You get a bunch of friends together, load up on caffeine and junk food, and stare at a glowing screen for a couple hours. And a story spins itself out in front of you.
I think the scene—full of smack-talk and muffin crumbs on our keyboards—would have rightly horrified professional writers. We had taken the cloistered, agonized novel-writing process and transformed it into something that was half literary marathon and half block party.

This sounds like college. I’m in! Seriously. This was made for me!

If the idea of cramming in novel writing in one month college-style – with lots of coffee and junk food and friends – wasn't enough motivation, the deal was sealed when I read that Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants during NaNoWriMo. One of my favorite books ever! From, in 2006:
Then we heard about Sara Gruen. Sara had been one of the first participants to sell her NaNoWriMo manuscript, and had since written another NaNoWriMo novel that had become a bestseller: Water For Elephants. When her new project went out for auction in the fall of ’06, she landed a reported $5.2 million, two-book deal. How did she celebrate? She sat down and wrote another book for NaNoWriMo.
Seriously. Deal sealed.

And, of course, Sara wrote a pep talk directly to me: Alright, I don’t own horses, but you get the idea….

So this November, I will be banishing all excuses to write 50,000 words. When I am not blogging, answering my phone, responding to emails, liking statuses on Facebook, or tweeting – I will be writing. When I am not sleeping, I will be writing. When I am not cleaning, I will be writing.

I am not doing this alone, there is an entire NaNoWriMo community to support me. I’m excited. I’ll keep you posted. Or, maybe, I’ll just see you in December

If you want to hear some other authors talk about this crazy idea known as NaNoWriMo, check out:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Feeling Post-Book Blues #Allegiant

Ever since I decided to change the voice of my novel-in-progress to a young adult protagonist, I have been trying to devour any Young Adult book I can, especially teen dystopian novels (like Hunger Games). But none have grabbed my attention quite the same way as Hunger Games did.

Until I read Divergent by Veronica Roth. Roth’s writing style is different than Collins’ but I am not going to critique that here because, quite frankly, 20-something Roth has done way more than 30-something me so there is no room for my critique. Plus, Roth did something in her Divergent series that even literary geniuses have trouble doing – she gave  us a story that propels us through each book and characters that we love and root for. (And, also, I have decided I like Veronica Roth so any holes I may find in her writing are immediately forgiven).

Sunday night I finished the third and final book in the series, Allegiant, and I am still feeling the post-book blues. Yes, my heart is breaking because of the way that it ended (no spoiler here, sob sob). But I am also feeling empty inside because I will no longer be part of Tris and Four’s world. You know a book has something when two days after finishing it, you still feel the loss! At least the first movie is due out in March, and I have that to look forward to… (And, I checked, the actor playing Four is 29 years old so it is not at all creepy for me to have a crush on him).

Of course, in preparation for NaNoWriMo I came up with an entirely new novel idea so am shelving the teen dystopian novel for now. (NaNoWriMo WHAT? – Stay tuned).  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Week That Wasn’t

Apparently Fall is emerging all around me: the temperature is dropping; the trees are changing colors; and Halloween is fast approaching. Last week I missed Fall unfolding itself right in front of me because I was in my own world. A world where corporations suspend production, where hundreds of jobs are lost, where resumes are updated, and words like “relocation” are thrown around. This is a world I had no intention of being in but there I was – life is fun like that.

I tell myself not to stress about things I can’t control. I tell myself things will work out the way they are supposed to. And I believe it, too. I know that our family will survive the closing of my husband’s workplace. That he will find another job in the area quickly and we won’t have to move. Or, maybe, there will be a company that swoops in at the last second to purchase the plant and continue production.

There is nothing I can do, really, except help my husband update his resume.  My life pretty much stays the same for the moment – I still have the same chores, the same laundry, and the same ever-surmounting to-do list. Therefore, the only logical thing for me to do with my time is to imagine how things will play out. To research the state, the city, the school district, the neighborhood, and the very house that we could live in.

So while things were piling up all around me like the fall leaves outside, I was busy playing with the Realtor app on my phone. Not the best use of my time, but it was cathartic and kind of fun….

It was almost like last week didn't even exist. Last week was the week that wasn't. So, back to reality this week! Back to using my time productively (or at least trying to). Back to using my imagination to write stories (since that’s my goal, right?)! Failing that, I have a new book to read – Allegiant (Divergent Trilogy)comes out today – yay!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Daily Tribute Through Reading

My family is big on reading. Take a trip with any member of my family, and you'd better bring several books because that is what we will be doing: Reading. I think my grandmother was the driving force behind our love of books. She was the one who gave us many of the books that we cherish today. She was the one who introduced me to so many books -- books like the Secret Garden or Jane Eyre I read because of her energetic descriptions of them. As I grew up, I loved to discuss books with her even though we didn't always agree (she being conservative and me being, well, not). And try as she might I never got into Wind in the Willows or Little House on the Prairie but did pass these books along to my children.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my grandmom gave me the book, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease -- lauding this book as essential to my child's upbringing. I read this book and refereed to it often while my daughter was little -- reading many of the recommended titles including Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little to her when she was just three years old. Reading aloud to our children continues to be a cherished part of our daily routines. We have read The Little House on the Prairie; The Wind in the Willows; The Secret Garden; Heidi; Anne of Green Gables; numerous Beverly Cleary books; Roald Dahl; almost the entire Magic Tree House Series; The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; and recently we've begun the Harry Potter series.

My grandmother passed away a year ago but when I see the love of reading that my 9 year-old daughter has, I feel my grandmom. That spark was started by her and lives on in my family every day. It lives on when I can't get my daughter to do anything because she can't/won't put her book down. It lives on when the last thing my daughter sees at night are the words in a book and the first thing she does in the morning is pick up her book. My daughter makes a little tribute to my grandmother everyday through her love of reading.

Thanks GGMom for being a wonderful example to your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We miss you and think of you daily when we pick up a book!

(If you haven't read The Read Aloud Handbook I highly recommend it, link below:)

The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Enjoying The Small Things, Soccer Mom Style

We are in full fall swing -- school, scouts, soccer, choir, dance, karate, playgroups, back-to-school nights, open houses, etc. Not to mention the fun stuff you just have to squeeze in with the family: hayrides, apple picking, pumpkin patches, fall fests, jumping in leaves, bonfires, etc. Then there are the big chores to attend to: switching over closets, fall cleaning (if you still do that), yard work, etc. on top of the usual chores. Plus all those "back-to-school" resolutions that may have already been forgotten like my resolutions here which top of my list continues to be WRITE MORE.

For a self-deprecating excuse-airing person like me, fall means I have a lot to beat myself up over like not writing enough. But I am going to spare you the boring blog of whine whine whine, promise to change, then whine whine whine some more (lucky you).


Between all those moments of rushing around too much. Between stacks of dishes and loads of laundry. Between trips back and forth from the soccer complex. I have managed to relax and take a breath. I have managed to stop and enjoy the small things. I have sat back at karate and read. I have enjoyed one on one time with my preschooler. I have watched the sun set over the soccer field. I have stayed up too late with my daughter reading Harry Potter. I vegged on my sofa with my husband and watched useless TV. I spent a Sunday afternoon watching a movie with the kids.

Taking a moment to do these things is no small feat when there is so much to accomplish. I may never be completely on top of the housework. I may never be the perfect mom. I may never cook entirely from scratch. I may never meet daily word counts. And I may continue to meet submission deadlines. But I am enjoying the small things, soccer mom style. Maybe one day all the rest will come.

Sunset on the soccer field

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kindness Confession

I hoard kindness like a skilled card player – I put on my poker face and keep it close to my chest. I play my other cards more freely – sarcasm, whit, frustration, outrage, bias, indifference – I throw them out there whenever I want. But kindness needs to be played more strategically; when you play that card says a lot about you:

Play the kindness-card too soon, you’re too nice/boring/desperate. Play it at the wrong time, you've overstepped your boundaries. Play it too often, you’re clearly naive. Play it on the wrong person, you’re stupid. Play it on the undeserving, you’re gullible. Play it on a foe, you’re a coward.

Why? Why would I allow all my insecurities, prejudices and preconceived notions hinder me from simply being kind? Why would I stop myself from even smiling and saying hello to someone? At the end of it all am I going to rip the kindness card from my grip, hold it up high and declare, “Look! Look how much kindness I saved until the end!”? Certainly not. No, I will regret all the chances for kindness I missed and all the times I was outright unkind.

I knew there’d be a Bible verse on kindness, since that was kind of Jesus’ thing. So, even though I am not the bible-versing type, I decided to Google it. The verse I like best actually comes from the Old Testament, Proverbs 3:3 (being wise was Solomon’s thing):

          “Don't ever forget kindness and truth. Wear them like a necklace. Write them on your heart as if on a tablet.”

The signature line of an email I received recently contained a quote:

          “Be kinder than necessary…”

What wise words! What a wonderful way to live. Not just be kind – but be kinder than necessary.

I think I feel a new mantra coming on….

Friday, September 20, 2013

I Would Like Endless Summer #Reading

My kids tell me that tomorrow is the first day of fall. I am not ready for it. Not that I don’t like the fall, I do, I’m just not ready for summer to end.

I am not ready for summer to leave. Make it stay! How can I make it stay? If I avoid doing the last of the summer laundry, will it stay? Will we still have our long afternoons together reading in the sun? Or will it try to flee unnoticed like a drunken co-ed waking up at some random guy’s beach house? If I keep that pile of beach towels in the corner of the laundry room, will summer be mine forever? If there still is a bathing suit hanging on a hook in a bedroom, does that mean summer is here to stay? If only… I can hope that summer returns for a quick fling in October. Maybe summer will give me an affair-to-remember around Halloween….

Nonetheless, summer and I did have a good time together this year. My only goal was to read...

Here is a quick review of my summer reading with my ratings:

• Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl , ****
• The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Scwalbe, ****
• Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, ****
• The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, ****
• The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar, ***
• Inferno by Dan Brown, ***
• Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia, **
• Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, ****
• Life of Pi by Yann Martel, ****
• Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen, **

I am still holding onto one book I started this summer (Personal Recollection of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain), but it’s not looking good (I am either going to finish it or abandon it soon).  I suppose I will move on and embrace fall…

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It Is Back-To-YOU Time

It has happened once again. Just yesterday we were making New Year's Resolutions (like mine here AND here). Then we blinked and started planning summer activities (whoops, did I forget to do that?). And now we've sent the kids back to school.

Take a deep breath.

It's time to get back into the routine (or find one). It's time to get back to you. Yes, I'm talking to YOU. Ok, fine, I'm talking to ME.

Here's some of my back-to-school resolutions:

     * Do a load of laundry and a household chore at least three times a week.    
     * Exercise after big kids get on bus at least four times a week.
     * Run errands with little kid in tow once or twice a week.
     * Go to the library to write while said little kid is in school three times a week.
     * Write from home the other 2 days (and catch up on any household chores).

But, of course, I am giving myself the first week off so that I can simply catch up on everything I didn't do over the summer like put away end-of-school stuff and tackle the mounds of summer laundry.

Got any back-to-school resolutions (or excuses to avoid them)?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's Been That Kind of Summer

Summer is almost over! How did that happen? I still have a pile of school work from last year to decide what to do with (sadly, I suppose the recycling bin is the option)! Some moments I am excited to see them go: to get into a routine, to have that 2 1/2 hours of child-free time EVERY SINGLE DAY. Then other moments I am sad that it is over - I want them to experience more summer. Some how, even though we seemed busy everyday, I feel like they didn't experience enough. Even though I tried to balance scheduled activities with unscheduled activities, I feel like we didn't have enough of either. Even though it felt like we were running around all summer, I feel like we didn't do enough. Somehow, even though I have piles of beach/pool towels and bathing suits to wash, I feel like we didn't spend enough time at either.

Maybe it's because of my disbelief of how quickly summer ended that I almost forgot to go to my son's preschool orientation day. Maybe it's because my brain has been off all summer that I almost forgot to turn in the preschool paperwork that will give me those 2 1/2 hours every single day. Maybe it's just been that kind of summer. The kind of summer that I triple book myself on a given day and almost forget to do all three things.

Thanks to a Facebook post, I was reminded of the orientation with one hour to spare. Just long enough to beg a neighbor to watch the older kids, send them off on their bikes, shower, scrounge the house for the needed paperwork (birth certificate, utility bill, shot records, physical form, etc), go to the wrong door at the school, and still only be 10 minutes late (that's practically on-time for me). It's been that kind of summer.

And here he is checking out the preschool playground, happy and excited to start school. Note that to prepare him for the day, I threw a collared shirt on top of his bathing suit and tee shirt. He is still wearing miss-matched shoes. It's been that kind of summer:

Friday, August 9, 2013

If Clichés Came In An Adam Levine Package

According to my social media feeds, Maroon 5 was in town this week – stopping at the Children’s Hospital before the concert. Seems like a great time to write the blog that’s been festering in my mind every time I hear a particular Maroon 5 song on Radio Disney.

Every line of the song is a cliché! Here’s the first several:

I know your insides are feeling so hollow
And it's a hard pill for you to swallow, yeah
But if I fall for you, I'll never recover
If I fall for you, I'll never be the same

I really wanna love somebody
I really wanna dance the night away
I know we're only half way there
But you can take me all the way……

Obviously, Adam Levine did not get the memo that there is a literary war against clichés going on? Doesn't he know that any artist worth his salt should avoid clichés? Clearly, he hasn't read my blog on the subject: Cliche Cached Computer. Or maybe he just doesn't care – he is Adam Levine, after all!

Really, what is the big deal about clichés, anyways? If all clichés came wrapped in an Adam Levine package, I’ll take them!

Fine! I am no Adam Levine (or the female equivalent) and UPS will not be delivering an Adam Levine package to me any time soon (maybe FedEx will?). So, I suppose I will continue to avoid clichés in my writing. Pout.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

No Good Excuse?

Clearly I have no good excuses. I must be busy writing away and when not in my fictional world, I must be cleaning or playing with my kids. Otherwise, I'd have written a blog in the last 45 days with some excuse. But, alas, I have none. Pfft.

45 days? That can't even be right! Not good at math, that's a good excuse. No sense of time, that's a good excuse.

I did pen a few blog entries in the back of my mind over the course of these days I have been missing from Blogger.

One was on my takeaways from the Philadelphia Writer's Conference. But that entry never made it to the screen as my energy was completely sapped from the conference this year. I think there is still a pile to be gone through from the conference somewhere as well as the business cards I collected of blogs to follow and people to friend.

I suppose maybe I was going to write a blog about our morning at a My Gym location because it was a free event for bloggers. But, I suppose I wasn't motivated or maybe I was packing for vacation or doing laundry or something uninspiring.

Then, I had a great blog idea titled "Gone Fishin'" in which I discussed my need for an indefinite sign on my brain (and my blog) letting ya'll know that I am out currently but may be back soon. Hang around, maybe there'll be fish. Oh, and here's a picture of members of our family that did go fishing. I did not actually fish, but I did cook it:

But that blog entry fizzled in my brain before it made it to you (or did it sizzle in the pan?).

Last week I *finally* had the perfect entry on excuses and how they suck. Specifically, how we all make excuses not to help people in our community. You know what I mean. There are good people all around us doing wonderful things for the people in our community and we don't even have time to make a sick neighbor some soup. Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a local charity with my daughter and help them sort clothing.

The organization was started by a local teen when she was 12 years old. She saw the need in our community to help families in crisis get back on their feet by providing them with basic necessities like clothing. This now 16 year old girl is working in her community daily to help those in need. Once a month, she offers a "Kids on the Quest" program to give young children a chance to volunteer in the community. I have not made it to a single Kids on the Quest meeting yet. There has always been an excuse. Always. Someone sick once or twice, husband working late, karate class, etc. Last Wednesday I really didn't want to go -- we had swim lessons, I had company coming the next day, my son had karate, I had party invitations to do -- the excuse list went on. But I figured it out. I took my daughter. And, as you can imagine, it was worth it. My daughter was so proud to be helping out. She was excited to meet the teenage girl who has done so much (and happens to share her name). No excuse was worth missing out on a chance to help and to teach my children to do the same. None.

There really is no good excuse for anything. Stick around though, I'm sure I'll try to find some. Hopefully sometime in August. If not, then for sure in September when school starts up again....

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's In My Purse

Hello my dear brave blog readers. Today I am going to take you to a place few dare to go. A place even my husband refuses to enter (for fear he may put his hand into a half-eaten jelly sandwich, pulverized goldfish, or an unwrapped tampon). I am going to take you into my pocket book. Please take appropriate precautions – rubber gloves, hazmat suit, etc….

See, it is time to change purses. And, in the spirit of self-deprecating and humorous excuse-airing I have decided to share this momentous occasion with you. Because, dare I say it, my pocket book is probably some metaphor for my life although, lucky for you, I’m not really going to analyze the meaning now. Instead, I’m just gonna dump it out here on the table so you can have a good laugh at my expense:

  1. A church bulletin. 
  2. 2 sided 8 x 11 florescent green sheet on Daniel 4 and King Nebuchadnezzar’s pathway from pride of self to praise of God and how we too can do this. 
  3. A Thank you card.
  4. A receipt for Marshall’s.
  5. A letter from my son’s preschool dated May 23rd. 
  6. 3 ripped ticket stubs for dance recital dated May 25th and the envelope for the tickets.
  7. 5 x 7 of my daughter that I purchased at her dance recital.
  8. 2 loose Express gift cards I received on Mother’s Day and the two card holders they came on.
  9. Business cards for my local moms club as well as my own personal business cards. 
  10. My cellphone.
  11. My wallet.
  12. Two of my children’s wallets.
  13. A wallet containing all my shoppers-club cards.
  14. My camera.
  15. My Kindle.
  16. Large book light received as a free gift from Writer’s Digest books circa 1999.  
  17. 1 used tissue. 2 pieces of toilet paper. And one questionable paper towel.
  18. 2 almost-dry Sharpies.
  19. 1 yellow highlighter and 1 uncapped blue highlighter.
  20. 2 pens, 1 dissembled pen and 2 pencils.
  21. My daughter’s inhalers.
  22. A Pepcid tablet for my dog.
  23. A travel toothbrush.
  24. Hand sanitizer.
  25. Sunglasses.
  26. A pony tail holder.
  27. An 80 piece bag of gum.
  28. A bank lollipop.
  29. And the trash from 2 lollipops, 1 piece of gum, and a granola bar.
  30. My car keys.
  31. Some sort of doohickey that I keep forgetting to ask the kids if they know what it belongs to.
There you have it folks, a quick peek into my scatter-brain disorganized world. In the interest of full disclosure, I will have you know that I cleaned out my purse last Saturday between Acts at my daughter’s recital.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cliché Cached Computer

The game has changed now that I have moved into the realm of serious writing. This is no longer jotting down stories on the back of napkins. This is no longer 300 words here, 200 words there – none of which see the light of day. I want the world to read my writing. This is serious. My words suddenly matter. And they better be free of clichés!

I imagine first drafts of all beginning writers are riddled with clichés (I hope it’s not just me). They are so easy to write – they are on the tip of our fingers, they roll off our tongues. When we are revising, we must rework those clichés. Easier said than done (ha! I’m having too much fun.).

But what if my characters are nothing but big fat clichés? What if my entire story is a cliché? This is where I keep finding myself stuck. I come up with an idea for a story that I L-O-V-E. I love my characters. I love the plot. I can think of nothing but this story. I write a draft. Then I read it. And think, what a cliché! I fall immediately out of love with my story and my characters. I move on to the next one.

Heck, I’m a cliché: Suburban housewife turned wannabe novelist, penning dystopian teen novel from Starbucks while children are at school.

I know that I am doing myself a disservice by not staying committed to my writing, by not working out the clichés. I know that clichés can be worked through by developing my characters more, or by adding an unpredictable twist to the plot. But my excuse du jour is: I’m stuck in cliché-land! My computer holds nothing but a cache of clichés! I will keep going so this thing called writing will work out for me. But today, I’m hating.

Are you finding yourself penning a pile of clichéd crap like me? Here are some articles I found on Writer’s Digest that could help:

How To Prevent Predictable Plots
12 Cliches All Writers Should Avoid

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Worth The Move

Two years ago today we were packing up our first home to move about 50 miles away over the bridge and into another state.  It was hard to do – to leave the only home our children (and dog) knew; to leave our friends, our church, and our support system.

I do love where we moved – I love our house, our neighborhood, our bucolic town. We've made some good friends, and we are starting to get a social life. But sometimes I still pine for my old friends – the ones to go places with even if it’s just the grocery store, or the mall, or the park; the ones I can call in a pinch for anything; the ones that will have lunch with me after school; the ones to have dinner with when our husbands are out of town or working late. Sometimes I wish I could go back. Not all the time, though. There are days when I am confident we made the right decision. Days like Monday.

Monday, my Writers’ Group came over for a coffee and critique session. We are a small group of five women writers that meet for coffee and discussion on writing twice a month. When we formed, we were only loosely connected – a few of us never even met before. We weren't sure what this writers group would look like; we weren't sure if it would last; we weren't sure if we would all click. But our little Writers’ Group (we call ourselves the Moonwriters) has exceeded expectations. We all have become invaluable sources of information, inspiration, and support. We have become friends.

We sat around my kitchen table on Monday talking about our writing and our lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly. After they left, I felt a rush of gratitude. If I hadn't moved, I never would have met them. I love these women. They are so worth the move. I look forward to years of celebrating our writing successes, supporting our writing failures, and sharing our lives.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Used To Be The Best Mom

I used to be the best mom. I used to do everything right. It was so effortless -- I followed my instinct or, when that failed, I followed the advice of an expert which would work perfectly because they were the experts and I was nothing but a mom in the trenches.

I look back on those days of my perfection fondly...

When everything was sterile, controlled, mess-free.

The days when my children napped in their beds according to the schedule I put them on. They nursed every two hours, exactly 20 minutes per side.

At night, they would stir to nurse at the same regularity  I would lift them gently out of their beautiful bassinet, nurse, then gently place them back in -- never falling asleep with them in bed because that could be dangerous. My children never co-slept with us -- for the dangers as well as the boundary issues.  

I used only cloth diapers. My babies never drank cows milk. I made my own baby food.

They certainly never had candy, junk food, juice boxes, or happy meals. It was all organic whole foods for us.

None of my children spent time in front of the TV or other electronics. We spent our time doing educational activities and crafts. My children embraced puzzles, games, crafts, writing. Their toys, always gender neutral, never included weapons.

I never yelled at my children because they respected my authority and listened when first requested. Failing that, I had a system of positive and negative reinforcement. I never needed to resort to punishment. I remember those days fondly. I remember when I was the best mom. Then, of course, I had children.

And now I am just a mom doing my best like all the rest. Hope you had a wonderful mother's day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You Don’t Really Want a Gift, Do You?

I appreciate you all. I really do. I appreciate all you good people in the world that strive to make this world a better place. I appreciate you under-appreciated – you teachers, you bus drivers, moms, dads, all service professionals. I do. But do we have to have a day to show our appreciation? Does it make us feel more appreciated? Do you really want a flower pot with my child’s finger print on it? Do you want a cute picture of my kid in a homemade picture frame? Do you want that spread of food you shouldn't eat two weeks before the start of summer?

We should do better at showing appreciation every day. It’s a shame that as a society we need to have appreciation days and awareness months to celebrate the often ignored.

I shouldn't need Teacher Appreciation Day/Week to make my child’s teacher feel appreciated. I should send my kid to school prepared. I should raise my child to value education and respect authority. I should take my family vacations in the summer. I should respect her experience and opinion in conferences. Does he really want my handmade gift to show my appreciation? At Christmas, in May, then again in June – how many coffee mugs does one teacher need?

Are these gifts even out of appreciation or are they just another example of over consumerism? Are we just trying to pin the best picture on our social media walls? Are we just trying to throw a band-aid on a broken limb? I know it sucks to be a teacher in a society that doesn't value education, here’s a doughnut. I know it sucks to be an ignored minority, here’s a month. I know it sucks to have cancer, here’s a pink pin.

You don’t really want a gift, do you? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just an uninspired gift-giver and an unappreciative gift receiver – focusing too much on the stress both cause instead of the joy. After all, nothing is more priceless than the look on a kid’s face when he gives a gift made out of love. Maybe that’s the idea for next year – skip the made-in-China soon-to-be-trash trinket and make a video diary of kids telling the teacher why they love him and appreciate her. I’m gonna pin that! (I mean, I would if I knew how.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wow! Wow! What?

I love to learn about the authors of books I've read. I love to hear about their educational backgrounds, employment history, their age, the age of their children, and whether those children had colic (you know perfectly normal cyber-stalking stuff but nothing crazy like looking up addresses and driving by houses).

I slightly begrudge authors with MFAs from Harvard and debut novels before the age of 25. I love to hear about struggles with drafts. Conversely, I don’t like to hear about a novel taking 10 years to write. I do love to hear of rejections. Again, though, I like to hear about the author who made it despite the odds. I love when an author has a background I can identify with.

Sara Gruen, author of my beloved Water for Elephants, was a laid-off technical writer home with three children when she wrote her first novel.  Jodi Picoult also has three children although her oldest was a baby when she wrote her first novel so I do slightly begrudge that just as I slightly begrudge J.K. Rowling sitting in coffee shops with sleeping babies writing Harry Potter (my own babies barely slept long enough for me to throw in a load of laundry and take a shower let alone write a novel).

I just finished rereading Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins didn't write Hunger Games with beautiful flowery MFA-prose but with edge-of-your seat brilliance. She expertly described scenes, carefully crafted characters for us to love and hate, gave us perfectly placed and paced dialogue and wrapped it all up in an unbelievably believable plot.  

Before writing Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins was writing children’s television for Nickelodeon. She was a staff writer for Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. She also penned multiple stories for Little Bear and Oswald. She was the Head Writer for Clifford’s Puppy Days, and a freelancer on Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!

Wow! Wow! WHAT? With the exception of Little Bear and maybe Clifford, I can’t stand those shows! But I loooovvveee that – I love that Suzanne Collins wrote something as brilliant as Hunger Games in the same lifetime as she wrote about some weird bouncing creature and his nerdy friend Widget. It humanizes her.

It makes me feel like my dreams are attainable. I might write a crappy blog today but maybe tomorrow I’ll write something that someone thinks is brilliant…

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Need To Put My Butt In A Chair

There is a lot of writing advice out there. Hordes. It’s an entire genre all to itself. It is daunting. But the one pervasive message is also the most intuitive: just write. Doh!

But how do I start? Sit down. Get a pen and a notepad or open up a Word document and begin to type. Should I write an outline? Just write what comes to your mind. But, what about grammar? Can’t edit what you don’t write. What if I don’t like what I wrote? Rewrite it. But how do I get it published? Can’t publish what you don’t write.

Everything else you can work out but nothing else matters if you don’t sit your butt down and write. Every. Single. Day. Whether you are inspired or not.

I know all this. I understand this. But I can’t always follow through.

One way I've tried to work this out is by going to the bookstore coffee shop the few hours a week all of my children are in school. Some days my little fingers type away effortlessly and I don’t want to stop. Some days I don’t know where to begin and I find myself staring at the screen, struggling to write a paragraph, watching the clock. But, in the end something is written which wouldn't have been if I didn't sit down and write.

Yesterday was one of those uninspired days. My head was foggy; my eyes were heavy. I was tired from a late night of reading. There was no inspiration coming out of my brain. I sputtered out my coffee order like a rookie – forgetting the difference between Tall and Grande, mispronouncing “macchiato” and quickly interjecting “Skinny. I want that skinny. You know, with Skim Milk.”

I sat down. My mind was blank. I opened up the latest chapter of my novel. I put my fingers on the keyboard. I typed. Words materialized out of the fog and appeared on my screen. New words. Words that never would have appeared there if I hadn't forced myself to sit down and write.  Yay, me. All I needed was a chair with my butt in it and just write. I feel a mantra coming on. After all, you are what you do not what you mean, right? If I want to be a writer, I must write.

And, if I must sit my butt in a chair and write this would be my preferred chair:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Am No Runner

I am no runner. Occasionally, I dabble. Or, rather: trudge, stagger, gasp, wheeze, redden, and drip. I prefer to befriend (or marry) runners. I am not going to analyze how long I've been doing this or why. Mostly, I suppose, I admire runners and the principles behind being a runner – I just lack the motivation to actually be a serious runner.

I am no runner but I admire runners. I admire their commitment to stay physically fit – waking up early or running into the night to train, pushing their bodies to the level of fitness they were built for. I admire their ability to set a goal and to achieve that goal – running 5 Ks, 10 Ks, ½ marathons, marathons, pushing themselves to do better each time – to work harder, faster, stronger. These are traits I wish to emulate, at least vicariously while drinking coffee and eating a doughnut.

I am no runner but I can imagine what it is like to train for any marathon, especially one as prestigious as The Boston Marathon. I can imagine what it is like to run the fastest, farthest, and hardest you've ever run before – pushing past fatigue and discomfort – to approach the finish line after hours of physical exertion only to find out that you've inexplicably entered a war zone. In an instant, what should have been the proudest moment of your life became the most horrifying.

I am no runner but today I feel like running. Running to represent what the sport means to Americans – we are not gluttonous, over-consuming, fat, and lazy – we are people that work hard and achieve our goals. We run because we can – even if it is hard, even if it means we have to overcome physical and mental obstacles.
 I am no runner but my heart goes out to them today – to the people who worked for weeks, months, years to run in The Boston Marathon, to the spectators cheering their friends and family on, to the people of Boston. I pray for them. I pray for us all.

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's Almost Time to Register!

I am a few days late on writing my weekly blog post. Again. Story of my life. So I'm just writing this one on the fly. I'm not digging into my never-ending list of possible blog ideas. I'm not composing this in Word and analyzing it obsessively before I publish it. I am just sitting here writing what comes to mind. Sorry.

So, what comes to mind?

Right now I am thinking about my writing life and my perpetual see-saw between "I Rock" and "I Suck." Right now I am feeling like "I Suck" because I sat down to write on this beautiful day and got nowhere. I read some blogs. Googled a couple things. Sent a few emails. Went on Facebook. The usual wasting-time dance.

I got distracted by an email in my inbox reminding me to register for the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. I can't believe it's time to register already. I am psyched to attend this year's conference but also terrified. I know that I have come far in my writing life in the past year but I have so much farther to go. I still have nothing to pitch to agents and editors. I still have nothing to share to workshop leaders. I still have no idea what to say when networking. I still do not have business cards.

It's almost time to register yet I still have not clicked that Register Now button. I will. I know I will but I am procrastinating. For a change.

I know by the end of the conference weekend all this fear I have will be washed away and replaced by exhilaration  That's how it was last year.

Wanna read about my experience last year? I wrote a blog about it:

Read Us. Know Us.: The Philadelphia Writers' Conference.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It’s How I Was Raised

The other day I was folding laundry and watching General Hospital (a guilty pleasure I allow myself a few times a month) when it hit me: I know what’s wrong with our society – we were all raised on soap operas!

What? Not you? Oh, come on, you didn’t rush home from school and sit down with your mom and watch One Life to Live followed by General Hospital followed by Oprah? You don’t know characters and plotlines of All My Children, Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live, General Hospital, and Guiding Light? How about Dallas? You don’t know who shot (or didn’t shoot) JR? Your eyes don’t well up when you think of Phillip and Beth? How about Frisco and Felicia?

Fine it’s just me then (even though I think you are about as deceptive as Lucy Coe Jones or Tina Lord Roberts or maybe Sami Brady!).

Everything I know in life, I learned from Soap Operas:

1. No death is final. 
If your husband dies, chances are that he will come back to life after you've fallen in love with the person who killed him. He will look like an entirely different person because he had to have extensive reconstructive surgery. He was gone for three years because had amnesia and was living a double life on some island. When you've left his killer to reunite with him, a daughter that he fathered in those years he was gone will appear as a voluptuous teenager bent on destroying your marriage and reuniting him with her mother but instead she’ll marry your son from a previous marriage which will very likely result in pregnancy.

2. One night stands always result in pregnancy. 
If there is someone you hate, you will be trapped somewhere with that person until you two sleep together. This one-time encounter will result in a pregnancy. Your best friend will be pregnant at the same time. You both will go into labor in a remote cabin somewhere but only one child will survive. This child will be switched at birth which will be discovered some months later.

3. Children raise themselves.
No matter how many children you have, you will never be responsible for their upbringing because this child will only be seen as an infant. A few years later, the child will return as a high school student dealing with some moral dilemma. You will then be able to demonstrate your great parental prowess by helping said child through the crisis. The crisis will probably somehow result in pregnancy, making you a grandparent at the age of 35.

4. Bad guys have a heart of gold.
Every town must contain a bad guy you love to hate or you hate to love. He will be a sexy stranger that sweeps you off your feet, professes his undying love to you and swears off his life of crime. Don’t stand too close to him, though, because very likely his arch-enemy will try to kill him but you’ll get in the cross fire.  

5. If multiple people are in the same location, a disaster will occur.
If you are on a train with many people you know the train is certain to derail. On a bus, it will drive off a cliff. In a car, it likely contains a bomb. If you are at a charity event, very likely all attendees will be held hostage. In a warehouse, clearly it will catch fire and explode. At dinner in the same restaurant, drive-by shooting.

I could go on but I think there is a General Hospital marathon on SoapNet I must DVR.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Wasn't Prepared For THIS!

I thought I was prepared for children, back when I was a stupid 27 year-old. I was a big sister, a babysitter; some of my friends had kids. I managed to squeak out a degree in Psychology with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. I read mommy-manuals. Besides, I liked kids. I understood kids. I knew they’d be messy. I knew they’d be loud. I knew they’d be unruly at times. But I knew how to handle it all, I was prepared.

Insert a big-fat mommy-guffaw here: HA!! Hahahaha!

This morning I awoke to my third consecutive morning of snotty, hacking kids which means following children around with tissues, hand sanitizer  and Lysol, trying to sound motherly and soothing while I have kid-snot on my hands and spittle on my face.

Ha! Snotty Lottie seemed like a joke! Joke's on me!
Why was I not prepared for this amount of bodily fluids? Where were the warnings on how to handle the volumes of bodily fluid I alone would be responsible for cleaning?

So here you are, mommies-to-be. Here you are, all those contemplating procreation. Here are the warnings you will not get anywhere else:

Become one with pee, because it will be everywhere.
You will hold your beautiful newborn daughter in your arms. Reveling in how angelic she is, your heart will expand in ways you never thought possible. You will start to feel warm all over. Oh, wait, it’s wet and warm. It’s pee! Because somehow those little infant diapers are unable able to hold your daughter’s pee! Every single time she pees she will very likely pee straight through the diaper! Every single time your sweet newborn son wakes wailing in the middle of the night (and it will be often), he will be wet. The little wisps of hair on his head will be matted down with piss. The tips of the booties that his feet are swimming in will be soaked with urine. His bassinet, soaked through the waterproof pads straight to the mattress.

It won’t stop at potty training, either, just so you are aware. Your son will RARELY make the toilet even if you have him sit, his little KINDERGARTEN voice will come from the bathroom, “Mom, I accidentally peed on my pants again!” as the bus pulls up in front of the house. And girls! It is actually possible for a girl to miss. No lie. You’ll sit there in front of your little 2 or 3 year old excited for her as she pee-pees in the potty and it’ll shoot out and hit you in the face. WHAT?

Oh, there is an end in sight. My doctor told us that boys can stop wetting the bed at 8, even as old as 12!

So, you've got a handle on pee. You tell yourself that pee really isn't all that bad, it’s supposedly sterile anyways…. But be prepared for poo:

You will see, analyze, and discuss poo more than you ever imagined.
Do you remember having real discussions with your spouse? How you discussed the universe and your place in it? You discussed the meaning of life and religion. You discussed politics. Well, no more. Now you will discuss poop. From the very first black-tar meconium poop that you have to scrap off your infant’s tiny tushie to the green and mustardy breast-milk poo. You’ll hold the poo up to your computer screen and compare it. You’ll sniff it. Discussing the smell, “It’s kinda sweet, isn't it?”

You’ll be amazed at how sometimes the poo manages to blast right out, missing the diaper and heading straight for the baby’s back. You will name the poo-types, laying claim to them – “This one is a rock, I’ll take this one.” Or “Oh, this one is a blow-out, you handle it.”

You’ll change your baby’s diaper, prepared for the pee to shoot out because you've already made one with the pee, when your baby makes a cute little bunched up face and a big fat fart-poo will shoot right out at you.

Again, it will only get worse with potty-training. You’ll be getting your little three year old daughter ready for bed, pull down her pants and out will roll a big fat turd. And she’ll just smile at you. Your three year old son will hold his poop for a week rather than poo on the potty but one day while he is in the bathtub it’ll slip out in a fury. And continue slipping as you lift him out. Plop onto the floor before your foot has time to react and squish, you've stepped in human feces.

But it won’t stop there, you’ll sort your 8 year-old's laundry and put your hands in something and throw up a little in your mouth because you know no matter how many times you wash and sanitize your hand the rest of the day it will still smell like shit!

Speaking of throwing up in your mouth, those with a weak-stomach need not apply to this job of parenthood because, you guessed it:

Get used to vomit!
You’re slightly prepared for spit-up – you were given all those spit rags and bibs at your shower, even that cute little pink bib that says “Spit Happens.” Where’s the mommy version? The one that covers your shoulders arms and back – because that’s what you will very likely need! Spit happens alright and rarely does it happen on the cute embroidered spit-up rag. It happens down your back, in your hair, or straight over everything onto a pile on your floor. Sweet.

You’ll get used to the spit-up; regardless, it’ll stop at about the age of one. But one day while your child is just a toddler you will be awakened in the middle of the night and find her covered in an implausible amount of thick, chunky, vomit – in her hair, in between her fingers, down her jammies, puddled in her crib, and oozing out the slats onto the carpet. She’ll be utterly distraught at what just happened to her, you’ll want to scoop her up and comfort her but you have absolutely no idea where to begin. As the stomach bug goes racing through every member of the household you will find yourself hunched over the toilet wishing for the days when all you had to clean up was some projectile milk spit up.

Should I stop there? Or should I relay some more snot-stories? I haven’t even touched on pet messes! How about you? You got some good turd-tales? Any vomit sonnets? Any poo-parables?

I suppose it doesn't really matter, my warnings, because I know the truth: You, expectant parent, will not believe me. You will think me silly. You will think I am exaggerating. You will think that it will never happen to you. You will think that you are prepared. Furthermore, I will soon forget myself. One day my daughter, with her belly bulging, will look to me for advice. I will tell her about the wonders of holding her newborn infant in her arms. The milk-drunk face with tiny drops of spit on his lips, falling asleep in her arms still making sucking noises. I won’t talk of projectile vomit or poopy blow-outs. Even if I did, she will look up at me with those same big innocent brown eyes she had as a toddler and say, “Not my baby.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I Am Inspired

There is nothing more exhilarating for a writer than felling inspired. When words and ideas flow from you. When you type away with energy for hours without wanting to stop. It is fun! It is exciting! THIS is why I feel like I can and will succeed in this thing I am trying to do!

To continue going, to plug along when not inspired, takes discipline. I am not the most disciplined of people out there. Not at all. But I am going to try. I really truly do not want to have over 365 excuses for why I failed at this. I want to see something I start to the end, a published piece.  

Back in 2010 I started a novel and got about 100 pages in then it just sat there. After attending the Philadelphia Writers' Conference last year, I committed to writing short stories. I've written almost 6 and have another half-dozen few line ideas to follow up on. But they too just sit there. I know why. I am not happy with the voice, with the way they sound. I am trying too hard to write in a style that isn't congruent with my own voice.

Over the last few weeks I had an idea of reworking my novel idea with a new voice -- one more like my own. And I am inspired! Yay! While working everything out -- my outlines, my characters, my timeline, a few scenes - I have been jumping up and down excited. Yesterday I was shaking as I typed. Now that feels good!

So, blog readers (you know who you are: my mom, my sisters, a few my friends), I am letting you know that I am working on a novel. I am excited. I know this won't last long. I know I will have bad days. I know I'll have tons of excuses. But maybe if YOU know I am working on it, if I don't do it in secret (like the last one) then I'll prevail...

So, what's my excuse today? I was inspired, my kitchen counter - not so much:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I’ve Been In Survivor-Mode

I've been stuck in survivor mode without even realizing it. We've been plugging along, surviving the days. We've been just fine. When you are just fine, it’s hard to identify that you’re also not great.

Then the other day I had one of those moments when I felt like an utter failure. This is not how it was supposed to be like, I thought. I was not supposed to be this kind of parent. I felt like I had given up and given in. I felt like I was walking through a perpetual cycle of lunchables, happy meals, electronics, and screaming in the most fish-wifiest voice, “IF YOU DON’T STOP FIGHTING YOU ARE ALL GOING TO YOUR ROOM!” And them screaming back, “YOU HATE US!” I felt my heart breaking and my children are still little. What is it going to be like in ten years? I felt like lost my daughter to some mommy-hating teenager and she’s only 8. I felt like I’d lost my vegetable eating children somewhere in the McDonald’s play area.

Then something happened right around dinner time, the witching hour. Nobody was pulling on me. Nobody was whining for snack food. Nobody was begging to play Wii. The boys were playing with actual toys and imagination. My daughter was up in her room taking her punishment. I called the children to dinner. They sat down to plates of Black bean taquitos, mini chicken and bean tamalitos, Edamame, and oranges. Nobody whined. My daughter sat there popping Edamame with vigor that is usually only reserved for Sun Chips. My son tried four then politely concluded that they taste like a cross between eggs and green beans, so he’ll pass. My three year old ate numerous. They divided the seconds of black bean taquitos amongst themselves without incident. They finished their milk with minimal coaxing. They showered and got ready for bed as instructed. My daughter discussed how she was going to handle Day 2 and Day 3 of her punishment without any you-are-the-worst mom in the world angst.

Whew. We did more than just survive the day - there may have even been some good lessons learned there! I know it’s not the end. I know that we have to keep actively trying, not just putting out fires and surviving. I know that we need to work on a better positive reinforcement plan. I know that punishing my children for bad behavior isn't the only answer. I know they won’t always eat their vegetables but I don't have to give in. I have to actively raise my kids to be healthy adults with good character not just survive their childhood until they grow to be semi-competent grown-ups with high cholesterol.

Heading off to Daddy/Daughter Dance:
She didn't want to go, she didn't want to wear a dress. But she went and made some good memories 
It doesn't hurt to try. Isn't that what we tell our kids? The worst thing that is going to happen is it doesn't work but you won’t be any worse off. Sometimes you make a plan to nip a behavior in the bud with a severe grounding and you think it isn't going to work, but it does. Sometimes you put a strange vegetable in front of your children and they eat it! Just never give up on yourself or your children. Maybe you’ll find you’re not such an utter failure after all.

Maybe one day I’ll extend that just try attitude to my writing life. Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Because One Day The Kids Will Be Grown

one day there will be
no Cheerios under foot
clean floors - lamenting 

sibling cease fire
quiet rooms will soon abound
mayhem now - relish

empty lap and arms
no more attention demands
time ownership – weep

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Need Some Obsession Up in Here

You know what we need in my house. We need some good old-fashioned UHB-sesh-uhN. I’m not talking about going all sociopathic with alters and candles. No candles involved, that’s just unsafe. Nor am I talking about boring habits or passive addictions. Habits are formed. You become addicted.

Obsessions are not passive. Obsessions require motivation. Obsessions require activity - over and over and over again. Obsessed people get sh!t done!

Normal middle class people, we are not obsessed. We are watered-down versions. We keep things in check, we do everything in moderation. We don’t let our kids obsess. We take away their binkies, blankies, and dirty old bears. We don’t want them to put all their eggs in one basket. We sign them up for swimming, soccer, basketball, baseball, scouts, and piano. We make sure they are well-rounded. We send them to elementary schools where they jump from subject to subject. We want them to be safe and happy. We allow them to flick on the TV, DS, Wii, Computer or whatever.

Let’s talk about the obsessed.

Rapper DMX. Obsessed. (If the title of this blog did not put his song “Party Up (Up in Here)” into your head, please insert it now.) A quick peek at DMX’s Wikipedia biography shows you that he has had NUMEROUS personal issues starting at a very young age but that did not stop him from releasing repeatedly successful albums, being nominated for like 10 Grammy’s and winning one.

Also, according to Wikipedia, you know who likes to listen to "Party Up" before races? Michael Phelps. Now, he’s obsessed. You don’t win 18 Olympic gold medals hanging around the house watching TV.

Taylor Swift. So obsessed with starting a country singing career she convinced her family to move from Pennsylvania to Nashville when she was 14. She didn't sit at home and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Obsessed!

People obsessed with eating right? Skinny. People obsessed with exercise? Fit. People obsessed with order? Organized. People obsessed with germs? Clean.

Me? Obsessed? Eh. Not so much.

How about you – Obsess much?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Trapped by Suburban Safety Net?

The Green Day musical, American Idiot, is coming to Philadelphia. I half-watched a commercial thinking that I may like to catch a show when I heard something to the effect of “…follow their dreams or retreat to suburban safety net…” I’ve been pondering this statement over the last few days. Is following your dreams and living in suburbia mutually exclusive? Why do they have to be? Why does living in suburbia have to mean that I’m some sort of artistic sell-out? Am I trapped in a suburban safety net?

No! Sure, it’s easy to fall into a suburban complacency when you are nestled in a cookie cutter development between a Walmart and a Target. It’s easy to drive from soccer to cheer, make dinner, watch a sitcom while folding laundry, go to bed and do it all over again the next day. It’s easy to happily stay in your comfort zone and never take any chances. But this isn’t even using a safety net.

Safety nets are for taking chances. Safety nets are for soaring high above the crowd without the risk of breaking your neck.

I’m not a sellout because of where I have chosen to live. I am a sellout if I don’t do anything with the opportunities I’ve been given. I am a sellout if I don’t take advantage of this huge safety net below me and soar.

I was going to put a clip of American Idiot or maybe Boulevard of Broken Dreams in this blog but as I watched the video mingled with the background noise of Team Umizoomi I thought, "I am too old for this much angst and so is Billie Joe – wash the eyeliner off, man!"

Maybe I am a little bit of a sellout, but f* it. Here’s a clip:

Have the time of your life – use your safety net, seat belt, helmet, knee pads, whatever – just do it!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I’m Busy Communing

Writing can be fun, exciting and joyously exhilarating. It can also be hair-pullingly frustrating, tedious and exhausting. Writing is lonely – sitting lost in your own thoughts, writing for hours on end but unable to share until your story is ready. But as I sit here at midnight rewriting a story I have been laboring over for a month now, I take pleasure in imagining great authors of the past doing the same exact thing (minus getting distracted by Facebook) – looking at a story, knowing it’s not working, trying it a different way and saying with great excitement “Aha! This is it! THIS is the story I wanted to tell not that pile of crap I produced before!”

There is a scene in the movie “The Hurricane” in which Denzel Washington’s character, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, says of writing:

“Writing is- It's magic… When I started writing, I discovered that I was doing more than just telling a story…. Every time I sat down to write, I could rise above the walls of this prison…  I could look out over the walls all across the state of New Jersey, and I could see Nelson Mandela in his cell writing his book. I could see Huey. I could see Dostoyevsky. I could see Victor Hugo, Emile Zola. And they would say to me, 'Rube, what you doin' in there?'  And I say, 'Hey, I know all you guys.'  It's magic…”

My laundry is piling up, my toilets are getting funky, my floor is sticky, but I am busy creating magic over here. I am busy communing with writers around the world and throughout time.

Oh, and I dyed my hair:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Will Write for Jeans

I’m on a quest to rid my drawer of any jeans that can be remotely construed as “Mom Jeans.” When you are a mom of a certain age this quest is increasingly more important and, unfortunately, increasingly more challenging.

The mom jean. How do we even end up with mom jeans? Sometimes we may be gifted a pair from, say, our moms. Maybe we try them on and find that they are comfortable so we wear them around the house but then we wear them for a quick trip to Target and it’s all downhill. Or maybe we buy ourselves a pair in a desperate attempt to find something, anything, that fits in that horrible postpartum stage of loose flappy belly fat. Maybe a well-meaning friend hands them down to us when we are pregnant with our first child and she’s lost all the baby weight from her last.

Sometimes mom jeans just evolve. Our drawers are filled with jeans bought at the right stores. Jeans that once were the exact right color and had the exact right fit but we moms are tough on our jeans. We crawl around the floor playing trains or Barbies. We finger paint in our jeans. We crisscross applesauce in our jeans through mommy-n-me classes. We clean up potty accidents in our jeans. Our children use our jeans as napkins, hand towels, and snot rags. Our jeans are washed and dried daily. They fade, they lose their shape, the knees wear thin. We eat one-too-many peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and BAM, mammas, we are wearing mom jeans! Yikes. I dread that I may be rapidly approaching this if I don’t intervene soon.

I want a really good pair of jeans – one that will stick with me during this messy stage of momhood without turning into mom jeans. I imagine these jeans will cost more than I feel comfortable paying as a stay-at-home mom. But… maybe if I edit, submit, and sell a story or two for just a little bit of money (I’m not greedy) then maybe I can purchase, without guilt, a cute (dare I say sexy) pair of jeans.

I WILL WRITE FOR JEANS (and maybe a cute pair of shoes to go with them)!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I Didn’t Plan on It

Yesterday my moms group had Cristie Ritz King from Real Live Wellness NJ speak. She was wonderful! I am so grateful that she didn’t look on a map before she agreed and drove the 90 minutes to come speak to us. I’m grateful I showed up too.

I have to admit if I wasn’t President of our moms group I very likely would have skipped this meeting.  First of all, it was during my precious childless two hours. Second, I *know* what a nutritionist is going to say: Eat more fruits and vegetables, buy organic (or at least buy the dirty dozen organic), avoid processed foods, eat more fiber, eat more whole grains, no juice, no fast food, no school lunches, less sugar, no artificial colors or flavors, etc.

I think I do a fair job, maybe I’d give myself a C or D but that is still passing (C’s get degrees), right? But I didn’t plan on being just a “C” mom. I didn’t plan on being just a “C” anything, it just happened that way.

One of my failings is I can’t seem to come up with a good snack solution. My immediate response is to just limit snack which works when my kids are home alone. Or I offer snacks I feel are better but in all honesty aren’t much better like goldfish or dried cereal. Rarely, do they eat fruit and veggies. But it’s hard when they need a snack for school, they want an afterschool snack, they demand a snack in the car, they require a snack at scouts, a snack at soccer, a snack for the beach or the pool or park, then there’s the playdate snacks, and the birthday party snacks, and on and on and on. Don’t even get me started on birthday parties! There’s a birthday every week. And holidays that require candy all year long.

If I do a “Kitchen Makeover” like Cristie recommended then I won’t feel so bad when my kids eat junk somewhere else because at least I know the rest of the time I gave them the best.  Like if I make smoothies or parfaits or homemade ice cream or homemade anything instead of carbs and processed foods.

As far as meals go, again it isn’t necessarily new, but she put it in such an easy to execute way that I might actually follow through. She said to keep it simple (duh!) – have lemon chicken and steamed broccoli every Monday if they’ll eat it. And, if you make only one dinner per night and don’t offer anything else (like a peanut butter sandwich or chicken nuggets) they will eventually eat it (one day). Cook what you like and know is good for the family just plate it differently if you have to. Maybe they don’t eat a lot at dinner, maybe just a little of each item. Maybe they eat more at breakfast (something tells me she doesn’t mean Fruit Loops. Gulp.) or lunch (again, something tells me not school lunch. Oops.). Think of what they eat over the week not just in one day. Maybe one day they don’t do so well but the other days they do better.

Get the kids involved in the entire process – the menu planning, the shopping (maybe even pick-your-own), and the cooking – they’ll be more excited about eating it. Which again is something I may have known but don’t always do.

It’s more than *knowing* what to do it’s about actually doing it. As Cristie says on her blog, The Right Hand Mom, it is never too late to be the person you wanted to grow up to be. No excuses (or at least I’ll try to limit them!).