Life is a journey. If you are a writer--and you know who you are--this is one of the most important pieces of information to keep in the forefront of the chaos in your head. There are no guarantees. Enjoy the journey!
It was three years ago this month that I began this blog. November for me seems to be both a time for endings and a time for new beginnings. It has been an amazing learning experience, this little experiment of sending my words out into the world. Something quite unexpected came out of it for me...the impact of the words you all gave back. So, before I forget I want to say thank you for taking the time to share your opinions and hearts with me. I couldn't have come to this point in my writing without your wings.
If I had to pick the most important thing I've learned here, it's that writing is not a solitary adventure. Words and stories are what bind people together, they are how we connect. Stories are the threads between civilizations and generations. They are how we understand...our own souls, our monsters, our gods and most importantly--each other. I have learned the importance of a village, of having roots and belonging, of giving and receiving. This ending isn't about leaving because I will always return--to your writing space or a new one of my own.
But, since my decision to leave myself open to writing about something other than science, I have had nothing to say. Words have left me. The more I tried to write anything else--short stories, poetry or even this blog--the more pervasive and daunting the silence grew.
But in the absence of my own words and my own ideas, in that deafening silence, someone else's story has emerged. Her story is full of myths and legends, murder and magic. I have been listening obsessively to this story lately, trying to put together the mystery of it all and get to know the woman who is telling it. Her words are the only ones that I can hear now.
That's the catch phrase lately and it's very catchy.
I've always been a big fan of change, especially when things aren't working. You'd think that would be a no-brainer, but unfortunately...it's not.
So, this blog and my writing are going to be changing focus. I've been struggling for a while with my writing because of the incompatibility of my style (literary) and my themes (science). I've read a few things lately that have cleared up my misconception that literary science fiction would appeal to anyone but me.
First, I've been reading a bunch of the older science fiction short stories from the masters. I love the way they turn your view of reality and the world upside-down, the way they expand your mind and the possibilities of your life. It's what always draws me to science fiction. But, they are definitely all about the story, not about the writing. Don't get me wrong, I love this, I enjoy reading it--I just can't write it.
Then I read: The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success. (click on the link and you can download it for free...it's seriously a must-read) and I finally got it. Donald Maas says when you try to cross genres, one plus one does not equal two. In my case, I would not gain the audience of those that love literary and those who love science fiction--instead I would have a novel that doesn't entirely satisfy either audience. The most I could hope to gain is the small overlap of people who go to the bookstore and spend time in both the science fiction and literary sections.
When I asked myself how many other people I really think do that, I felt very alone...and heard the proverbial crickets.
People are mostly category loyal. There are exceptions, I know, but if I'm going to be serious about writing as a career, I can't bank on appealing to the exceptions. No agent or publisher is going to take on a writer who appeals to such a small group, especially not in today's market.
My plan right now is to stretch my literary wings. I've been working on some non-science literary short stories and flash fiction and am going to work my tail off trying to build up some publishing credits. I'd like to be able to add science back into the equation at some point in my writing, but until I figure out how it is the literary road I will be walking, stumbling, and running down.
So, that's me. I hope you all are writing and hanging in there!
I love Craigslist. This is the bottom corner of my bookshelf, the new home of over forty new (to me) science fiction books from the 70's & 80's. Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Authur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon. All for ten bucks. Can life get any better? I think not, baby puppy.
Oh, speaking of books, for those of you that are Orson Scott Card fans, fyi: Ender in Exile will be released November 11th! Can you say pre-order?!
So, this is what's up on my current leg of a writer's journey. Whilst waiting for my chapters to boomerang back from the black hole of queryland, I am beginning to get the itch to start a new novel. Just an irritating little tickle that causes my mind to wonder at traffic lights and grocery store lines. I have no subject yet, though. This is the hard part for me. So, I wait...and read. Lots. Read other writers, articles, posters, cereal labels, stranger's minds. (okay, not really) My appetite for reading is bordering on obsessive.
This is where all my lovely new, dusty books come in.
I will be submersing myself in books and science news until I emerge with a new topic worth blowing up into a novel. This is my plan. Hope it works.
Instead of imagining what my third eye would see, I thought this would be a good exercise for one of the main characters in my novel. She's a fourteen year old human-chimp chimera, who has been ostrasized, quarantined, treated like a lab rat and sterilized. Her third eye has shown her, and me, something important about what it means to be human.
Her name is Olivia:
They have done something to me. Something to keep me from having babies ever. The nurses think I’m asleep because I’m squeezing my eyes closed. I can hear their whispers because they have turned to me, turned their words on me. They have to whisper louder because of the masks. My head hurts. Their words are bright and hot on my skin. Is this the same lady who smiles at me when my eyes are open and watching her?
“An abomination. How did we get stuck in here with her?”
I can see the nurse scrubbing her hands roughly. I know what she’s doing. She is being mean. She is mad at me, trying to rub off the places her gloves touched me. No, I can see the colors of her soul. Reds and blacks. She is simply afraid. This makes my heart feel heavy.
“She did not ask to be born,” the other one sighs.
“Pah! She wasn’t born, some freak of a scientist thought he was God. I’d love to be there when he meets the real God.”
I wasn’t born? But I was. I saw pictures. I was born of my mother just like you. I want to tell her this, but I see her hatred of me carries her like a whirl of black smoke into the future. She will not listen.
“She’s still a child.”
The second nurse’s words define her and I see her shape clearly; she is not wearing her mask. She stands fearless beside me and yet my eyes are still closed. Am I dreaming?
“I’m sorry, little one. We aren’t the kindest of species are we?”
I hear her words but I know she has not spoken them out loud. “Maybe you shouldn’t want so bad to join our club, now that you know what we really are. Cruel to those who don’t fit our particular ideas of normal; we fear what we don’t understand, we create boundaries of acceptance based on whatever we are. Anything outside what we are can’t be meant to live, right? Doesn’t deserve to live. Anything different than us must be shunned, controlled, exterminated.”
“A child?” I see her as a shadow in the room now, the mean nurse. I'm scared. I know I will not be able to look at her ever again, not while my eyes are open.“A beast’s child, maybe.”
“Look at her, how frail she is, the needle marks, the patches of skin missing, the stitches in her torn abdomen. We are the beasts. We are the animals.” I see the pictures forming in the kind nurse’s head. Pictures of me healthy, sitting in school, then at a desk with glasses and a coffee cup. She is picturing me normal. Like her. Then my arms morph as I pick up the cup, they are covered in dark hair and as I bring the cup to my lips, I hoot and pull my lips back to reveal large canine teeth. The image disappears as she sighs again.
“Different does not mean a threat.”
These words march around inside her now; she repeats them to herself to keep the images away. I can see her concentration. I can feel something important has happened, something I would feel better if I could understand. Something that would bring me hope. Something that would make me want to live as a human.
The word “choice” circles my head with wings of silver. The wings burst into flame and as the ashes fall, the room grows dark. I can’t see them anymore.
Have you ever noticed how being in a new situation, a new environment, makes you sit up and pay attention? Makes you so much more aware of the daily magic? I've been so enamored by my surroundings that I spend my free time taking pictures again. I found this little lady in our backyard lake, flitting about with her purple, white and yellow cousins. Her posture made me think of you all.
So, I give her to you.
You, who spend your time giving time. Spend your energy feeding those who count on you for survival. Fill your days with nurturing the little ones, feeding the mouths, wiping the tears, polishing the souls you've been given ward of.
And still making time for your own dreams. Making time to move down your own path, one step at a time.
There is an outside world and an inside world in everyone. My outside world here is filled to the brim with new adventures with the kids, evenings of watching the sunset on the beach with friends, arranging our new house into a space that feels like home. It is in one word...heaven.
My inside world has been full of motion. Not the happy, swirly motion that comes with life changes; but the shifting, sliding motion that comes with doubts and the necessary redefining and reshaping of life goals.
Maybe it's the light I've been basking in lately that made me soft, or maybe it's the number forty creeping up on me, or maybe it was the one rejection that really bumped me off my horse for the first time...the rejection from the agent I met in person. No big deal, I know. It happens more often than not. I think it's all of these things combined that created this internal shift, this internal doubt that I can be a writer. A writer good enough that other people want to read, to pay for, that is.
So, I finally asked myself this: At the end of your life, if you have not achieved the goal of being good enough to get published, will you be okay with that? Will you be okay with just knowing you tried your best?
At seriously considering this question, something rose up violently within me, something with teeth and claws that was ready for war, and screamed, HELL NO! And then just for good measure, ARE YOU CRAZY?
Not a nice person, this ambitious me. But, I did learn something from my own reaction that I wanted to share and that is, I don't believe people when they say they've tried their best and failed. I don't believe if I really try my best, I will fail. It's not possible. There is too much potential in all of us to fail at something we really, truly throw our hearts and souls into. Or to say it a less negative way:
I believe in me. I believe in YOU.
I used to believe that you didn't fail until you stopped trying. I no longer believe that's good enough. You fail when you don't try hard enough. It's like exercising-- you can plop your butt down on a bike and peddle for a few minutes, just long enough to fool yourself into believing you're trying, and then wonder why you're not seeing results. Or you can step up your effort...do whatever it takes to see results, to see change. Then failure is not an option. You will succeed.
I cannot imagine looking back on my life and not reaching this goal. It is engrained in my vision of my life; it is not possible to remove it and it still be my life. But, I also know that it is all up to me. It is all up to how much I'm willing to do, how much effort I'm willing to put into learning and growing until the shape and size of my life matches the shape and size of my vision.
I will not be giving that up today. Today I will write.
I have no picture to post. My camera is still tucked away in bubble wrap and lost in the mounds of boxes still awaiting their turn to be emptied. I'm not even sure what to say, really, because everything has been so surreal, so exhausting--and anything I think to write about sounds so self-indulgent I'm afraid you all would sprain your eyeballs rolling them at me.
All I can say is...I'm here and no, I haven't been eaten by an alligator or mauled by a shark. I'm alive and...well--come to think of it--that's exactly what I would say:
The first morning I walked outside and squinted at how bright my world had become, I felt like I had just stepped out of hibernation. I have had no desire to record this past week with either photos or words, even though my view of the world right now is breathtaking, I just want to soak in the moments. I want to live them.
I'm sure I will settle back into writing soon, I always do. But for now, I will be out exploring my new community, enjoying the thing I can only describe as...
Once upon a time there was a girl who dreamed of plopping herself down in the sand to gaze out at the ocean for hours as she wrote the great American novel. That girl has grown up, but her dream is materializing out of warm, tropical air.
(Well, it may not be the "great American novel" but it will be a new novel that hopefully a few people will get to read.)
Times have changed since my first vision of how I'd like my life to play out. I'll probably be using my laptop instead of the more romantic pen and notepad. "Hours" may be pushing it, and--being more aware of sun damage now that I'm wiser (older)--I will probably be sitting under an umbrella instead of basking in the sun. But, I will still be reminding myself to be grateful every day that I get to experience this particular version of my personal nirvana.
So, since making this decision to move camp, lots of things have happened and must happen still. We have sold a house, bought a house, watched my daughter graduate and prepared (as prepared as one can be) to send her off to college, and tried to keep life as normal as possible for the twins in between.
It feels a lot like moving a mountain...only there is some help from inertia. We loosened the first few stones and as they came tumbling down, they loosened rocks, which loosened boulders and now we have to unbury ourselves, pack up the whole lot of rocks and rebuild the mountain eleven hours away.
Needless to say, I will be absent from blogging until I get resettled. Unless I have some really good news from the agent front to share, then I will do so briefly between stuffing/unstuffing boxes. We all need hope, right?
This blog may look different when I return. I would like to gear it more toward the things I write about in my novels. Maybe something like science updates that affect our daily lives, or specifically mother's lives. I'm not quite sure yet. I'll be mulling that over.
Any suggestions are welcomed!
(I will try to keep from feeling so disconnected and visit your blogs as I can. Thanks for reading!)
Last week, life took me treasure hunting. Here's what I found:
--My friend serendipity in the form of a buyer for our house, the day before we left to look for a house in Florida.
--The true definition of courage--being terrified beyond reason and doing it anyway. I've written before about my fear of flying. I've contemplated classes and drugs. I used neither. I was still terrified and said each time we landed at layovers I won't get back on another plane. It took a lot of gathering myself up, holding myself together and letting myself go..alot of not thinking, thinking about something else and breathing through the thoughts that slipped through. I'm not convinced I'll ever get back on another plane...but then again, I know I will.
--Soul gold in the form of an eighty-something year old man named Noel, a retired NY photographer who lives his passion by strolling along the beach every evening photographing families together with their own camera...I think this is the first picture on the beach we've all been in together. I watched this man leave us and move on to the next family and my heart truly had wings.
--Time with a family that has held a special place in my life for the past twenty years. And as timing would have it, I got to be there to celebrate my crazy, sweet, gorgeous friend Lisa's birthday with her. I am truly being reminded lately of the importance of friends, both new and old.
This was a trip about finding not just a house, but a home. And as we sat outside at a little restaurant along the sliver of beach town ten minutes from (knock on wood) our new house, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the treasure that I had found. A place that turned to liquid gold at night, a place whos breeze played with my hair and heart, a place that made me sigh with pleasure...a place that whispered with salty breath in my ear...
It's amazing how far you have to travel sometimes to find yourself back home.
This particular journey began a bit bumpy as we moved through the dark, rainy roads winding their way toward our destination. The clouds were low and packed the night sky, threatening to swallow the distant mountains like a giant anaconda. (Okay, this could have been my overactive imagination, since I really get anxious driving through anywhere that blocks my view of an open sky.) I'll just say here that we didn't drive back home this way.
When we arrived in Pennsylvania, ahem...the next day (don't ask), and drove through the quaint industrial town looking for our hotel, I felt my world expand like a balloon and move full circle back into the cozy warm arms of my childhood. The layout of the streets, the bread shops, the barber shops, the eclectic blend of people and places both shiny and old--I fell back into that place in spirit that can only be described as home.
I experienced this again, when we were welcomed with warmth and smiles at Shawn's house. As you all know, Shawn has become one of my dearest friends, and she is the reason I said yes to this conference. Immediately (while our four 2-year olds got to know each other with the screaming-and-running-through-the-house ceremony) I felt like we'd known Shawn and her hubby for years and fell into that sacred space of sharing stories, laughing and chatting with a fervor only two gals who've been locked up with twin toddlers for two years can do. Just kidding. (sort of) It really did feel like we were visiting old friends. This was the second time the word "home" surfaced in my mind. Home. Familiar. Loving. Safe. These are the things at the heart of Shawn's family and it was an honor to be welcomed into their space.
On Saturday, Shawn and I walked into the Pennwriters Conference with both nerves and excitement. We had no idea what to expect. As serendipity would have it, we had our agent pitch appointments at exactly the same time in exactly the same room. That really made entering that room a whole lot less intimidating for me, although I still had to mostly read my pitch as my nerves got the best of me. (At least I didn't throw up on her shoes). The good news is we both walked out of there with requests from the agents to send them sample chapters. So, it was well worth dealing with a few (million) butterflies.
Also, well worth the trip was the experience of the conference itself. It truly was like stepping into a three dimensional, technicolor version of a writer's life. You know how we are forced to be solitary creatures by the nature of our craft? (I know, we like it, but that's beside the point) The thing is--going to a conference is like all those things--those things that you read about, research, and try to figure out about being a writer--suddenly coming to life around you. All the terms you've had burned into your brain while trying to figure out this business are actually used by real life people making their living in the writing world. It's real. I think that's the biggest thing I got out of the conference. A solid picture of where I'm trying to go. I highly recommend attending one, although I'm not sure I would recommend a one on one pitch session. It's awkward, nerve-racking and I don't think it shows you at your best--unless you are a robot. It may be better to try and talk to an agent in a more relaxed setting. Like at the bar...when you (or they or both) have had a few cocktails. Just kidding. (Not really)
Anyway, this feeling of being immersed in a world that I have only experienced through a computer screen, the feeling of camaraderie with hundreds of other writers trying to be who they are and what they love--this was the same feeling that threaded its way through the whole weekend.
The feeling of being home.
Of course, we had to have some unabashed fun our last day. Which everyone knows has to include sharks and large quantities of cheesecake. I'll leave you with some images and hopefully some smiles!
"Somewhere over the rainbow Skies are blue And the dreams that you dare to dream Really do come true"
My dream of becoming a writer was born in the sticky, evening hours of a Pennsylvania summer. Well, okay I can't remember the exact season, or day or hour, but I have a vivid picture of lying in my bed as a child one summer night, the crickets serenading me through an open window, reading Madeleine L'Engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME and swooning with that high that only comes from discovering the love of your life.
Words. Stories. Make-believe.
Immediately, she inspired me to create my own world, my own story involving some war between black and white winged and horned creatures that I truly can't remember now, I can only remember the complete sense of euphoria at creating their world, their conflicts and their victories. The kind of joy that tastes like lemon and sugar, the kind of joy that blows everything away like a category five hurricane and leaves only your soul standing there pulsating in exact resonance with the universe.
No, I'm not exaggerating.
Tomorrow, I will be making the long trek back to Pennsylvania to take a more serious step toward fulfilling the dream I dare to dream.
My life somehow is tied to this small strip of land on the planet. My birth, my first kiss, my first best friend, my first speeding ticket twenty-some years after moving away (while just driving through)...and now my first writer's conference and face to face meeting with a dream agent.
I think this state is stalking me.
This also marks the first time I said yes to a friend, an invitation and a chance to take my dream seriously all in one shot. I'll be back next week with juicy details. Unless, of course, I do something completely damaging like throw up on the agent's shoes, which would not be completely unlike me. Then, I will just quietly slither back into blogland and you all will have to pretend like I never posted this.
I'm not going to do a play by play of the query process. I think most of you who read this blog have been there. You know the part that gets hard--the part where nothing happens, the silence, the waiting. Creativity is suffocated, snuffed out in this small space in between. You can't concentrate, you're anxious, you want to start something new, but can't get started because...you're waiting.
This past week I have struggled with the concept of waiting. I have been pre-occupied with this notion--this limbo of life. Because I am in this place--not only waiting for responses on the queries, but waiting on someone to fall in love with our house so we can move...waiting to move, waiting for the weather to warm up, waiting to get over yet another illness from the toxic toddler factory. I am huddling in some illusion of stillness, waiting for the future to arrive.
Today I am finally at that place again where I can remind myself that waiting is just that--a concept, an illusion. Something my mind has made up to separate the place I'm in from the place I want to be in. This space of waiting is a prison, but it is also a lie that I am using to imprison myself. Life flows in one continuous stream, there are no spaces in between. Streams do not start and then stop and then wait to start again.
Why does it take so long to remember this?
Waiting is just another word for opting out, for not participating in life. Waiting is an excuse, a space created to let ourselves off the hook. Waiting for someone else to make the next move in our own life. We think, "I just can't go on, I can't do anything but sit here and wait, I'm so anxious." But, life is going on. Life is moving in its faithful direction...forward. Seconds, hours, weeks, years tick by whether we use them or not.
In reality, waiting is not even an option.
I've been trying to figure out what the opposite of waiting is because it's not necessary movement. Sometimes stillness has a purpose: observing, meditating, resting...but these things have nothing to do with waiting. Waiting is not stillness, it is creativity in motion, only it is creating whirlpools of fear, anxiety and doubt that--if you wait too long--you will drown in.
The opposite of waiting then I believe is trust. Trust that things happen, that there is an eventually and no amount of waiting or worrying or wishing on your part is going to make those things happen. Trust that a response will come or it won't; trust that an illness will pass and that another one will come; that warmth will come and go. Moving forward with life, participating in it, appreciating it, creating when we can, resting when we cannot. This is all we have to do.
What does this mean for me personally? Today it means letting go. Letting go of trying to control the query process by over-thinking it, letting go of the outcome. Knowing that if this novel doesn't make it through the process, I can write another one. Knowing that creativity only stops when we stop...to wait.
In between moments of "Do you know where crazy is, cause you're driving your mother there" and "No, no more goldfish" and "Do you want a timeout?" (Which just proves that I'm already at "crazy" because no two year old is going to take his fingers out of his brother's nose willingly and say, "Why, yes, mother...I think I do want a timeout, thank you) Anyway, the sane moments I have this week are moments I am immersed in THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho.
If you haven't read it yet...run, don't walk to the nearest bookstore and read it NOW. Especially if you're a writer. It's seriously a spiritual experience. Okay, maybe that's just me, but WOW. I can count on one hand the number of books that have touched something deeper than my intellect. This is a book that is more like an experience. An experience of seeing the invisible thread that connects us all--to each other, to nature, to the stars, the wind, the past, present and future.
It also is a confirmation for me in some ways. I've talked before about how much I believe in serendipity and how I feel that when you're on the right path (your personal right path) you will know by the way things open up unexpectedly. Like floating down a river, instead of trying to swim up it. Not that there won't be obstacles--mountain-sized boulders and man-eating fish--but that those obstacles won't matter because what's a few bumps, bruises and delays when you are following your dreams?
"When you want something (something referring to your one great desire, not the '69 Camaro you've been dreaming about...or is that just me again?) all the universe conspires to help you achieve it."
Anyway, the book is basically a fable about finding your Personal Legend. Everyone has one.
One of the parts that I liked the most was when the main character realized at one point when he's about to give up, that it didn't matter how long it took him to reach his goal, every step was a step closer.
Isn't that a great thought to ease some of the pressure we put on ourselves? It doesn't matter if two years have gone by between step one and step two. As long as you take that step, you will never fail.
This is such an important point, especially as writers. We are trying to find personal fulfillment in a business that moves at the speed of molasses. A novel can take years to write, years to get published (with odds on forever). But the only way you don't succeed is if you give up, if you stop moving toward your purpose in life.
So, take that step! Step away from the self-doubt and dare to dream. Even if it's been a year...or ten since you took the time out to write, paint, dance, make someone laugh...whatever it is that opens your heart and pours in warm unending streams of sunshine...move toward it. It's a good day to realize you are still on the road to fulfilling your purpose in life.
I hear people say all the time that they wish they could be a carefree kid again. I always nod like I know what they're talking about, but truly I don't. Carefree is not how I would describe my childhood personality. I often wonder how far back I would have to go to find carefree. Five? Three? Two? Do you remember what it was like to be carefree? Before things like responsibility, worry, guilt and fear nudged their way into that space?
This week, I found it. Not by reliving my childhood--as that's not even possible, much less desirable--but by being present for someone else's:
As I studied this little face, so bent on concentration, I saw something so much bigger than the task of putting a plastic bead on a string. I saw that the bead was my child's only care in the world.
Can you imagine? One tiny bead, his only worry. The one slid on the string beforehand was already forgotten; the one he will put on next--not even a thought yet.
Translated into adult language: I can guarantee you he wasn't sitting there letting his mind wander to the playground this morning, torturing himself with thoughts of "If I would have only got to the swing first, I could have rode it longer." Or "If I would have just not thrown sand in my brother's hair, mom would have given me that cookie. I'm such a baby." Or "Maybe I can put these beads on faster and then maybe the next thing we do won't be so tedious. OOO, I wonder what the next thing is?"
That would suck the fun right out of stringing this bead, wouldn't it?
So, go ahead--plan for the future, learn from the past...but give the bead between your fingers some attention, too.
I wonder sometimes--during warm cloudless days when I'm dreaming of the ocean--if there isn't some underlying intelligence to the color scheme of our world. Blue skies above us, if we're lucky. Over seventy percent of uncharted oceans surround us, cradle us and reflect blue back to us.
Blue is supposed to be a calming color. Peace. Salve. Tranquility. Our world is painted these things. Maybe the designer (in this scenario, there is one) knew we would all feel edgy, knew all the craziness we would conjure up and knew we would need to live in a blue world. Maybe blue is nature's prozac.
This used to be my favorite color, but now it’s red.
Red like rubies and blood. Deep red. Red like velvet roses and ugly velvet curtains. Red like lava and Rudolph’s nose. Red with tiny silver beads. Red with texture. Red lipstick that tastes like cherries and red high heels that transport you to magical places of daring and dancing. Daring to dance.
Take me any place but home.
Maybe I am just craving the feeling of being alive, being bold.
Sometimes when you are tired of blue, red is just the thing to sink your teeth into.
I've mentioned before how I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but--thanks to worshipping James Harriot growing up--I also thought I could be a vet. Animals have always been an important part of my life. In fact, there has never been a period of time in my life that I haven't had a dog. My parents had dogs, and when I moved out of their house and on my own at eighteen, the first thing I went out and got was...no, not furniture...but a dog. He was a wild mop of a dog who liked to sleep on my pillow and pee on the pizza man, and--looking back--I can't imagine making it through those hellish, hyper-turmoil years without his cuddling and silent love.
This week, something special began emerging regularly between the boys and our dog. Maybe it's because she's allowed around them more (as they are tall enough now she doesn't run them over) and they are old enough to understand why they can't poke her in the eyes.
They are all beginning to bond. It's an amazing thing to watch now that I'm watching.
I got hooked on this prison show a while back where inmates were given a rescued dog from the pound to turn into a service dog. I fell hard for this show as I watched man and beast melt under the power of unconditional love. It was amazing, not only watching how the attention turned the dog around, but how it opened up the possibilities for hope in the men that grew to care about them.
I'm hoping that's the lesson being given and taken as my boys discover man's best friend.
Here's a great example:
A moment of time-out transformed into heaven for both parties.
Oh, and this may be cheating, but since this peace and bonding at our house this week was the highlight of my week, I'm using it as my weekly F-U-N posting!
Two things fueled my daily grind with the twins this week. One is, I've been reading this book THE GOOD SON by Michael Gurian to try and figure out how their little minds work, because really--I don't have a clue. I know they came from me...I was there. But, I don't understand them at all. Why do they have to bite and hit and stare at me daringly while they do it? Why, when I give them a new book, do they find some way to use it as a weapon? Why is stuffing cheerios up their nose an acceptable form of competition? Maybe if I can understand them, we can all survive toddler hood.
I won't go into all the nitty gritty details of the book, but I will highly recommend it if you're raising your own tiny Rambos. Basically boys need space to run, they need healthy competition, they need to be taught empathy (this is apparently not pre-loaded software), and they are more physically aggressive than girls by wiring default. Channeling that aggression is mom's job (cuz the ex-marine dad in our house just encourages it).
The second thing was mindful F-U-N. A challenge thrown down by Between the Lines Twim Mama to make mothering a different kind of f-word.
For our first activity, I thought, what a better way to kick off the carnival of fun than with balloons! Who made up the rule that balloons were just for special occasions? We began our party and here's what I learned:
It takes exactly eight times for a twenty six pound toddler to kamikaze you will an orange balloon for it to pop and illicit a severe giggling fit from said toddler.
It takes exactly four point two seconds for second toddler to realize he can create his own challenging game of mad frustration by throwing balloon over a gate where he can't reach it. Why is this game worth playing twelve-gazillion times? Again, the male brain at work. (Actually, I sort of recognize this in my own life. Maybe I can chalk this one up to DNA)
Ah! Now this unabashed swatting was fun! (Channeling the aggression was a bonus!)
Then it was time to calm down and break out some sit-down fun, which in our house means strapped-in.
They were supposed to be painting paper plates with primary colors, artsy fun with real learning value. Ha. So here's what I learned:
When you mix these colors together, you get...mud...that you can then paint on your body in some primal need to blend in with the environment so the prey doesn't see you coming. The dog didn't, anyway.
1) I have found so many amazing, inspiring people through this wonderful, wacky medium of blogging. One of those woman is Bella, who has introduced us to her friend Jenni Ballantyne, a woman who is living with terminal cancer. She is a single mom with a six year old son, Jack. She is bravely sharing her journey with those who are brave enough to step through the looking glass and be with her. If you'd like to help her and her son out, a group of friends are organizing a fund-raiser, click HERE for information about the ebay auction or other ways to show some love.
2) On a lighter and so much less important note: I have rewritten the parts of my novel that needed to be rewritten, added scenes, fixed grammer, dots, lines, stupidity...I'm sufficiently satisfied with the results and sufficiently tired of looking at it, so I've jumped on the query-mobile. As always, out of ignorance or the over-achiever gene, I've aimed high and sent out the first five to my dream agents. Sooooo...cross your fingers, light a candle or kiss a fairy for me. I'll just be here clicking my heels together and obsessively checking my email.
3) And last but not least, is my rekindling interest in photography. Maybe it's because finishing such a large project is giving me a bit of creative breathing room, or maybe I'm just catching the enthusiasm bug from some of the photography blogs I've been discovering lately, but I've decided it's time to stop thinking of photo shop as the digital equivalent of cheating. I've been wrestling with learning layers these past few days...and by wrestling I mean being pinned to the mat by these mind-bending suckers. But, I'm not down for the count yet.
So, donate, pray, stop by Jenni's blog and leave some light and kind words of support...time is love.
For the next thirty seconds you will be reading a cop-out. Because I am living in a flu-fog this week and can't even read an email and get it to make sense, I'm going to just share a really, really cool fact I ran across last week about one of my favorite subjects--butterflies.
It is simply this: memory survives metamorphosis.
Apparently when the caterpillar turns into bug soup within the chrysalis--with the help of eroding digestive juices (yummy)--the components of the brain that retain memory remain intact.
They apparently learned this by exposing caterpillars to the smell of nail polish remover and at the same time giving them a mild electric shock. The older the caterpillar was when exposed to this combination, the greater his chance of remembering to avoid the smell of nail polish after the metamorphosis.
The one thing that is fascinating about raising twins is you can see, by comparison and because they are being raised in exactly (almost) the same environment at the same time, what is truly passed down to them through genes. Jayden is so much like his father, with his fearless love of life and jumping into any situation without looking. Tye is the reserved one, sticking a toe in a situation by watching it first and for a long time before he's comfortable enough to stick a real toe in. That's me.
Seeing this in him both fills me with wonder and with dread. I don't want this insecurity and fear about the world that I've passed down to him genetically to be fed by his environment like mine was, making it an out of control force to be reckoned with all his life. So, I started thinking back into my childhood, something I rarely do anymore, trying to find the events that enforced my insecurities about myself and the world, moments that maybe could have given me confidence instead of more fear. One in particular stood out, even though it was a small event. I can't even remember how old I was...probably six, maybe seven.
The day I went to school with my cousin instead of to my own safe, familiar school. To a school on a giant hill with classrooms with real wooden floors and long sticks of soft chalk and a teacher that seemed both mysterious and sweet. A teacher I was instantly enamored with.
I remember pressing my wet palms against the unfamiliar desk, trying not to look at the other kids, who were staring at me with that rude curiosity we learn to tame as we get older, when the teacher announced we were going to play 7- Up. The kids seemed excited. I was horrified. I didn't like games. Games were for outgoing people, competitive people, people who enjoyed winning things and the attention that came with winning things. Worse was...I didn't know how to play this game and no one bothered to explain it to me.
So, we began.
Put your head down on the desk and close your eyes. I could do this. Darkness, anonymity, closed eyes. This game was fun so far. I don't remember the point of the game, I only remember the point of the game that made me want to bolt through the door and back down that big hill.
I lifted my head. Slightly, to see what the other kids were doing, to see what I was supposed to be doing.
"Hey!" I heard a boy cry to my left. "She peeked! She cheated!"
I felt the soft presence of the teacher to my right and turned my head to her, still trying to keep it on the desk.
"Did you cheat?" she asked quietly.
"No," I stammered.
"Did you peek?"
I wanted to explain that I wasn't actually peeking. I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. But, in her eyes I saw that all knowing disappointment as if she were peering into the mystery that was me and had already found her answer. Disappointment. She didn't know me, didn't know I wasn't the kind of child that would cheat. Or maybe I was? She seemed to be entertaining the idea and she was an adult who understood things, who knew about things. Maybe she knew something about me I didn't. I could feel my face burning. I couldn't speak because I was too busy trying to swallow tears. So, I just shook my head yes.
"Well, you can keep your head up then. You can't play this round."
I had to pick my head up. That was hard. I stared at the desk, feeling disappointed in myself, feeling that I would never understand the world and how it was supposed to work.
This is a feeling that hasn't quite gone away, maybe that's why this memory is so clear. My first taste of it. The feeling that you are always in over your head, in a game where you don't know the rules.
Can I save my shy, sensitive son from knowing this feeling?
I've written here once in awhile about how well...we'll just call her offspring A...is going to be heading off to college in a few months and how I've had a few pointed moments of realizing just how much of "her own person" she really is. Most of these moments were touching, bitter-sweet and ones I want to remember.
This weekend, despite protests, bribes, lectures and tears...she did something to "express herself" that made me feel like I have failed her as a parent.
And then I blamed her father.
She got a tattoo.
Now, I'm not against tattoos totally. I've seen small ones that I admired, ones that people thought long and hard about, that expressed a philosophy or engrained a permanent (permanent being the key word here) memory of something important to them. But, what my dearest, only female offspring has chosen to do to celebrate being eighteen is get giant mutant flowers covering BOTH of her feet. BOTH. It seriously looks like vandals attacked her and dipped her feet-first into a bucket of graffiti.
It took me a few days to stop being physically ill over this and luckily it took her a few days to return from Georgia with her father where this crime took place. So, I had a lot of time to consider my reaction after the initial text picture she sent me, because my initial reaction was to forbid her from ever leaving the house or making another decision on her own.
By now, you must be wondering, considering my violent over-reaction, what exactly it was I said to her when she walked in the door and said "don't you want to see them?"
Well, I looked into her beautiful blue eyes first and found my little girl, then I looked my little girl's feet and tried to just picture the soft pink baby toes I had kissed and watched grow into my own shoes and I simply ask if they hurt.
Eventhough she knows I don't approve, I haven't expressed the extent of my horror and disappointment to her. I just don't see the point. It's done, it's something she's going to have to live with...apart from me. Something she's going to have to learn that she will be judged by.
Hell, I love her more than any other person on this earth ever will, but even I can't help but feel my confidence shaken a bit in her ability to make good choices about her future.
Then again, if this is the worst mistake she makes, I will consider myself lucky.
This is called sharing just because I feel like writing.
At the gym this morning I was dropping off the monsters in the monster room when I overheard a pregnant woman behind me laughing and saying something to the effect of "yeah, I'm so glad to be off of bed rest now, I hit thirty eight weeks so they let me come back to the gym." They let her come back to the gym????! And she did???!!
Seriously, when I was on bed rest, I would have been happy if they would have let me walk to the kitchen for my own ice-cream, but if they said "hey, you're about ready to drop that baby anyway, so go ahead and go back to the gym," I would have had a monumental laughing fit and...probably the babies.
Now, for those of you who have never been on bed rest, it is not something you jump up from, get in your car and run back to the gym with a big smile and even bigger belly. Your muscles atrophy, your joints ache, your spirit is basically broken. My bedrest lasted four months and it has taken me exactly two years to jump (struggle) into the car and run (struggle) back to the gym with a small smile and a small-ish belly. But here this woman was--glowing, beautiful and standing without passing out after getting off bed rest!
I have to say, the accomplishment I had felt at even leaving the house this morning in twenty degree weather turned into something small and slimy that I wanted to shake off of my finger.
The moral here I guess is not to compare yourself or what you can handle in life to others but sheesh...
There is lots of great writing advice floating around out there, but since I've been tagged with two Memes by my twin-toting, writing gal pal Shawn, who I can't deny anything, I'll add mine to the mix. Here are a few things I've learned this past year about writing:
Join the Club: Writers tend to be introverts. Let's face it, you have to enjoy spending a good amount of time locked up with yourself to be a writer. We sit around chewing our pens, our fingers hovering over the keyboard in moments of anxiety feeling like we're alone on our make believe planet. The thing I've learned is, it's healthy for us to realize we're not alone. So, join other writers. Join online communities, join local clubs--form connections, friendships, fall in love with other writers, laugh with them, complain to them, rejoice with them. They are your kindred. You are not alone in your nightwalking, your insecurities, your love of words. These are the people that understand you and your goals, your successes and your fears. How great is that???
Be Fearless: I'm still working on this one, but when I say fearless, I mean in life too, not just on the page. One of the things I regret, because it does affect my writing is not having enough life experience. Not getting on that plane or talking to the stranger crying on the sidewalk, not taking the scuba diving class or the chance to learn a new language. You can be the most talented wordsmith in the world, but if you have nothing to write about, no interesting experiences, no first-hand details to weave into your stories they will lack not only substance but authenticity. So live. Be a writer, but don't be just a writer.
Embrace the Struggle: It's not going to come easy, success in this business. I've stopped wanting it to. Did you know--
It’s the struggle against the crysalis that sends blood into the butterfly's wings so they will be strong enough to navigate the wind. Without that struggle, the wings would come out, but they would be deformed and of no use. There is beauty and strength within the struggle--as long as you don't give up.
As for the second Meme...here's the rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages) 2. Open the book to page 123 3. Find the 5th sentence 4. Post the next three sentences 5. Tag 5 people
The only book I have on my desk at the moment is Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. So, even though these aren't very exciting lines, here they are (cuz I play by the rules, I can't help myself)
In writing class, painful things come up--the death of a husband, throwing the ashes of a dead baby into the river, a woman going blind. The students read the pieces they just wrote and I tell them they can cry if they need to but to remember to continue to read.
Her point here is-writing is the goal. She goes on to say that writing gives us a chance to take these emotions, even the hard ones, and give them light, color and a story.
Light, color and a story. We have all the fun, don't we?
If you want to have some fun, and haven't done these yet, try it!
Last night I went to let the dog out and was shocked to see big, juicey wet flakes tumbling through the moonlight. In this city, we see snow very rarely. In fact, the news called it “snow shock” because no one knew it was coming. Within minutes the ground was covered and we spent the next few hours watching the magic show as buckets of glitter fell from the sky; swirling in gusts of wind and piling up on cars, bushes and lawns in a thick, fluffy shimmering blanket. We were inside our very own snow globe.
Besides covering our little corner of the world in white, I was most enchanted with the idea that it was unexpected. When did I stop expecting the unexpected?
Well, in a sense, I haven’t, it’s just that when I think of the unexpected, I think of sudden disasters…car accidents, freak lighting strikes, bombings, a bridge collapsing. You get my point, basically, all the things brought into our livingrooms and minds by the daily news.
The thing I realized is we try to make our world so predictable--so padded, strapped in, secured--that we think we have a handle on what happens within the span of our day. But, then something falls from the sky and we realize we don't have control. We have illusion.
So, the real question is…when did I stop expecting the unexpected to be soft and beautiful and kind?
Expect the unexpected. Sometimes it is truly a gift.
Thought I'd post a few bits of good news here. First, I have officially typed the last sentence of my novel! I would like to say I've finished it, but with all the editing and filling in of details ahead of me, that would be a big fat lie.
It does feel incredibly good to have it all down though, the whole plot--beginning, middle and end--unfolded and complete. I can now look back at the seeds of its beginnings over three years ago without anxiety over whether I will ever find the time to finish it, find the perfect ending, find myself staring at the words: THE END.
Because I have found all of that and more.
The writing life is good!
On a second happy note--we have made the official decision to move back to Florida this summer. Our house will go on the market in March. Soon sand will replace the hard red clay beneath my feet; a wide open sky will replace monster scrubby trees on rolling hills; balmy breezes will replace frozen toes and saltwater will be my new therapy. I'm going home.
Of course, now we have three weeks to complete a three thousand item list the realtor has provided to get the house ready for sale. I'm sure my euphoria will wax and wane during some of the scrubbing, painting, packing...(what, we have to install a garage door opener?) part. But, right now I am enjoying the joy. Looking forward to the change. Trying not to hug and kiss strangers--that kind of joy.
Some things about me. I’m addicted to words. I’m more about quality than quantity. I am a gypsy at heart. I want a Wu Li tattoo but can’t even commit to a bumper sticker. I believe in both evolution and the power of love. My children are the only things I am sure about in this world. My favorite wine at the moment is Tilia Merlot. When I’m upset I hit the bookstore or the shower. I am an earth sign, but I feel most at home near the ocean. I have a white golden retriever who owns my heart. I can’t commit to a belief system because that means I’ll stop searching. I’ll freely admit I always have more questions than answers. I love physics and hate math. Florida is my adopted home state. I believe in the power of yoga, meditation and our own thoughts. I love storms but have a tornado phobia. My life dream is to travel and live in hotels. I am afraid to fly. I am a walking contradiction. Welcome to my humble space.