Thursday, December 16, 2010

Final update on NaNoWriMo, just a little late

I came here to write a post about Christmas and found this post that I never published.  Better late than never?

December 1st 2010.  National Novel Writing Month is over.  My "novel" is a few hundred words shy of 9000, and a few thousand words shy of the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal.  So what do I have to show for the hours I spent attached at the fingertips to my laptop?

It's called Fan-Fic.  For those of you who've never experienced the insanity that is Fan Fiction, let me explain.  There's a website.  It's dedicated to stories that people make up based on other stories, movies, tv-shows, and any sort of work of fiction you can imagine.

For the record, I've been immersed in fan fiction for many years now, I just never wrote it.  I always liked to make up my own stories based on other stories, imagine alternate endings, or different scenarios.  All these years, I thought I was just weird.

I admit, I am weird, but as I've discovered, I'm sure not alone, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of stories on, which led me to realize that compared to some, I'm relatively sane.  What a relief.

This past summer, I read the Harry Potter series for the first time and promptly embarked on a story of my own.  I decided to give a shot at writing it up as a fan-fic, just to get it out of my head and to practice my writing skills before November. 

I got hooked.  NaNoWriMo went on the back burner.  From a writing standpoint, I'm actually pleased.  Unlike NaNoWriMo, where I was obsessed with producing sufficient word count, with fan-fic I have been focused on perfecting my chapters so I can post them on line, for actual readers.  I've taken 7000 words that comprised the beginning and ending of my story, and have fleshed them out to over 30,000 words.  I have, for the most part, accurately translated the product of my crazy mind into a written document.

My last chapter had over 100 readers within 48 hours of posting.  I have no idea how that statistic stacks up in the world of FanFic, but I'm pleased with it.  Readers.  What more can a writer want?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 Progress

Word Goal as of Nov. 21st:  35,000
NaNoWriMo novel words written: 8,700
Fan Fiction words written: 17,000+ since Nov. 1st, for a total of 27,700
Hours of Tax Classes attended: 25+
Piles of laundry currently on the family room floor: 4
Number of days I attempted to ignore my fan-fic and focus only on my novel: 7
Number of days I succeeded at this: 0
Number of days I was a complete and utter stressed-out bitch: 7

It's all better now.  I've accepted the fact that I will not be completing NaNoWriMo this year.  I will however, be completing my Harry Potter fan-fic.  I hope all those fangirls appreciate my sacrifice.  :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaNoWriMo Continues

I'm not sure if writing at this pace is good for my story or not.  As with last year's NaNoWriMo, I'm afraid I might be overwriting the beginning of the story for fear of running out of words and will yet again, fail to get to the end.

Unlike last year's story, I do not have this one  worked out in my head yet, so I may either surprise myself, or run right into a dead end. 

And that's all for my blog tonight.  I still have to write 4800 words this weekend to catch up.  (NaNoWriMo=50,000 words in 30 days=1667 words a day)  If I can manage 1000 per 1/2 hour I'll only need 2 hours.  But there's a catch, I need breaks.  And I need ideas.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Counting Down to November

A very hasty blog post tonight.  Only six days until NaNoWriMo begins, so I still have time to get my house in order, put the finishing touches on a Halloween costume, (and oh yeah, buy candy), stock the fridge, and make sure all bills are paid in advance for November. 

I had started a marvelous blog entry about multi-tasking, but it requires a little editing and I'm feeling too frantic for that, so you're stuck reading this.  And if this NaNoWriMo stuff is boring you, just ignore me for the next month, because IF I squeeze in time to blog, it will only be because I'm having a writer's block crisis or need to rant about word count.

Must go back to work now on my Harry Potter fan-fiction and hopefully get it out of my system before Nov 1st, so I don't feel compelled to write a character into my novel who writes fan-fiction in her spare time.

Any fellow NaNoWriMos out there find me at  My user name is mommia. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I’ll admit as a stay-at-home mom, I often feel like I’m doing nothing worthwhile with my life. Oh sure, I take care of my two young children, maintain the household, keep things clean and organized (yes honey, I really do, just not every room simultaneously) do all the shopping, pay bills etc.

But to claim that as an accomplishment seems a little like bragging that I brush my teeth every day. (I do, twice in fact, and usually at least once before noon.)

I do this writing stuff, which I’m not sure is anything more than an excuse for me to daydream, fantasize, and think of imaginary people with made-up problems.

And then there’s the four or five months of my other identity, as a working mom, a practical dollars and sense tax professional, focused on numbers, rules, real people, real situations and solutions.

And when all three of these cross paths, my life starts to feel a little crazy. I mean, NaNoWriMo is less than a month away, and I don’t even have an outline.

What DO I have?

1. An idea and a few characters.

2. A rough novel from last year with severe holes in the plot.

3. Twelve completed hours of tax classes and 18 hours to go.

4. At least one, and hopefully two tax certification exams to complete sometime in late November.

5. Two children who take turns being too sick to go to school.

6. A lingering cough thanks to two sick children infecting me.

7. An impressive 7000+ words of Harry Potter fan fiction I’ve convinced myself I’m writing as a NaNoWriMo warm-up and which cannot possibly indicate that I’ve regressed to the level of a 15-year-old groupie, because that would be embarrassing.

Why do I do it? Because I want to. Hoping some of it turns out to be worthwhile. (Not the fan-fic, obviously, I know. I mean the other stuff.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Glue Sticks

If you happen to have a child who eats glue, you’ll be happy to know, your kid might just be onto something. I’ve recently become aware, that apparently glue is a rare and luxurious substance, comparable to caviar.

At least that’s what I have to believe based on the miniscule amount of glue contained in the glue sticks I recently purchased for back-to-school. I sent the requested 8 glue sticks to Kindergarten and kept a few for home use. A week ago I released one from my secret stash, into the eager hands of the girl, age five. A few days later, sweeping the floor, I find (and say) the following: 1) Glue Cap. “Dang it, this glue is going to dry out if you keep leaving the cap off.” 2) Empty Glue Stick. “What did you do?!! Did you screw the whole stick out of this glue? I am NOT giving you any more glue if this is the way you use it!” 3) Nub of the glue stick now approximately ½ inch in length. “Silent Night! What on earth did you do with all the glue? How much stuff did you glue anyway?”

Girl, age 5 finally replies to my rant: “Not a lot, that’s just how much there was.”

Of course I know better than to accept the sorry excuses of a 5-year-old, so I promptly pulled out another glue stick to demonstrate the extent of the glue misuse going on in our home. Here’s what I found:

The purple portion is the glue I removed from a new unused glue stick. 
(Also note the amazing *ahem* quality of a practically new Nikon digital camera)

I am certain that glue sticks used to be fuller than that. I’m not really that worried about the few dollars I spent on glue. But I feel the need to complain about it anyway, for a few reasons.

First, it really annoys me when I feel like some big company thinks they can trick me with a half-full glue stick. Yes, I’m sure somewhere in fine print on the package they indicate the actual ounces (or in this case fractions of ounces). And I’m sure somewhere someone is chortling at how ingenious this is, because, who would ever compare ounces on glue sticks at back to school time?

Second, it seems to me in these times of environmental awareness this company should be focusing its creative efforts on something innovative and earth-friendly, like maybe refillable glue sticks, rather than doubling the output of plastic waste by reducing the amount of glue in each container.

Third, even though this blog celebrates wasting time, I prefer it to be on my terms. It’s bad enough my family has suddenly tripled our milk consumption, requiring emergency “milk-runs”. I don’t need to be going out on unscheduled “glue-runs”.

Am I overreacting? Am I imagining things? Maybe glue sticks always looked like this. Maybe there’s a perfectly good reason for this. Please, tell me if I’m wrong.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Do I hafta?

This blog is supposed to be about wasting time, not about motivational stuff, but all my responsibilities are seriously cutting into my time-wasting, so I need to review an inspiration I had way back in high-school but have kind of forgotten about for a while.

Here it is, my big breakthrough:

You don’t have to do anything.

I’m trying to shift my thinking, and remember this. I don’t have to do anything. There are things I want to do. There I things I need to do, in order to make the things I want to do possible. But there is nothing I have to do.

It’s just a trick of thinking, but it really helps me to focus my efforts in a positive way. So this morning, I need to do the laundry, because I want to eliminate that stinky smell from the mudroom. Also I want to wear jeans again tomorrow. And I want my children to have clean underwear.

I don’t have to do laundry, I WANT to do laundry! Yippee!

Ok, so not always such a dramatic effect--“results are not typical.” But amazingly this morning I discovered a new dimension to my “need to/want to” philosophy. I was on Facebook, mindlessly playing Bejeweled Blitz, as I often do, and I thought, “I sure don’t need to do this. And actually, I don’t really want to do this.” And then I did the unthinkable. I stopped playing! And I decided I wanted to write instead.

Thinking about this a little more as I did my laundry. I know it sounds too simplistic. Can everything you do really be traced back to doing what you want to? Today, I really want to take that crummy Nikon digital camera that’s only a few months old, and cram it down Ashton Kutcher’s throat. But then, I also want to continue to live in my home, not in prison, so I guess I don’t want to do that after all.

It does work!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Where's the Chocolate?

Right now, I’d like to trade a week for a week of my single life. Any week. I’ll even take a rotten one like the week after a bad break-up, or one of those weeks when I worked like 60 hours because I was young and dumb and really believed they might fire me if I didn’t.

This time, I’d go directly from breakup to the mall, and drive the 3 hours home with shopping bags on my passenger seat instead of a steadily growing pile of snotty tissues.

This time, I’d give that uptight boss (who was only 3 months less young and dumb than me) a decaf cappuccino for a Christmas present, and go home Christmas Eve not even worrying that I didn’t have everything done. And this time, two days after Christmas, I wouldn’t be redoing and undoing things that he’d demanded, because the “company” decided to change plans.

This time, if anyone confronted me, I’d just say, “In a week, I’ll be in a different life, a different place. Why should I be miserable today?”

Why should I be miserable today? In a week, this will all be different.

Attitude adjustments aren't always easy. Chocolate helps. A night out with friends helps. So do perfectly timed blog posts, like this one:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Might be Deleting This Tomorrow

Am I drinking and blogging? Watching Glee, thinking, Yay, I’m going to write an AWESOME YA novel for NaNoWriMo. WTF. What about my other novel. That awesome one that I haven’t finished. When am I going to do that? (I should really leave all these typeos in just to see how drin,ing I am. Yeah. I REALLY (my fav overused word) need to just finishe my last story. The only thing I need is: ddddddaaaaaadaaaadaaaa. that’s a drum roll if you didn’t know. I just need to write the part wither Emily makes good on her promishe to mindy and drags mindy’s daugheter mikayla to visit her in prision. jUst a few good show not tell kind of scenes to round out the book, and then maybe a “teeney tiney” bit of happitly every after, and then I can give it to my sis Joanne and say Readitandweep.

Yeah and then I’ll be done for a while with that WIP (or POS all depends on perspective), and free to spend Oct. on tax classes and freaking hard tests of irrational thinking, and Nov. on NaNoWriMo and fantastical thinking of my fabulous YA novel.

FYI, I was feeling like this was a Friday, BEFORE I found out Glee was on and before hubby said something annonying wichi I can’t remember but whichi convinced me that rum’n’coke was in order.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Free Time

It’s the second week of back to school and I’m sure you all are dying to know what I’m doing with all my free time*

*free time=2.25 hours X 3 days = 6.75 non-consecutive hours.

So here goes. I head home from preschool drop-off where I exercise, then I shower, dress and makeup, do my hair. As soon as I look fabulous, I head to the mall to meet a girlfriend for some Starbucks and shopping (unless I have a mani/pedi scheduled). I arrive back at preschool in a timely manner so I can bond with other parents and listen attentively to what the preschool teacher has to say about the day’s class.

Oh, wait no, that’s just my fantasy.

Here goes, for real. I head home from preschool drop off and crack open a Diet Coke, to hopefully perk my eyelids up from their current position dragging on the floor. I wouldn’t be so tired, except I was awakened multiple times during the night to deal with “scary fings.” As soon as the bubbly begins to arouse my brain, I have to decide whether to toss the uneaten toast I only made because the boy was “REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, Super-ally-duper hungry”. Or should I meanly save it for his lunch and say “You DEMANDED I make this, now you WILL eat it.”

I realize that I may or may not have eaten breakfast, standing up, and I am in fact, Super-ally-duper hungry. I eat the cold toast. Very unsatisfying. I make some fresh toast, dripping with melty peanut-butter. Cannot exercise while eating toast. Can only log onto computer and check e-mail/facebook. Fortunately, there is a clock near the computer, slowly counting down my precious 2.25 hours before I have to leave, so reluctantly I break the grip of the internet, and force myself to look at my to-do list.

Oooh, I have to make a call to the insurance company. This I can do and still play Bejeweled Blitz. Sadly, regardless of who I call or how long I’m on hold, I will only get to talk to an actual person when I’ve just begun the best game of my life. So after my conversation, (which may or may not have solved the problem, I’ll have to wait and see), I have to play a few more games to try and relive the moment that was cruelly snatched from me.

Now that I have less than 1.25 hours, exercise is clearly out of the picture. So is the mall. No reason now to bother looking fabulous. I am, however, appropriately attired for cleaning the house. Maybe a good day to mop. That’s almost exercise. First I’ll have to sweep, especially the crunchy areas around the children’s chairs. And then there’s the confetti of “art projects” (and supplies) bursting forth from the art table. Should I try to match the caps to the markers? Or do I just sweep it all up? Too many large papers to sweep. Probably should put some in the recycling. Can an art project composed of cotton balls, glitter glue, toothpicks and staples go in the recycling? Are any of these precious creations worthy of a spot on the refrigerator? Is there a spot on the refrigerator?

I realize that the refrigerator is a time capsule dating back to spring. I discard the obsolete dentist appointment reminders, memo about the end-of-school picnic, old party invitations and thank you cards. Take down a drawing so old, I can no longer recognize the “bird” that it claims to be. I must have been impressed by it at one time. Also get rid of last year’s mini-calendar from the real-estate agent, and 2 expired coupons for free kids burgers.

Finally heading to get the mop bucket, I notice that I should have left 5 minutes ago. Rush out the door, hit the preschool parking lot running, to arrive breathless at the classroom door just in time to hear my little boy shout, “Mommy!” as he runs to give me a big hug and kiss.

And that’s what I’ve been doing with all my “free time.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

They Who?

Do you know any tough old guys who think it’s funny to say stuff to little kids to make them cry?

Yeah, I do. Was having a picnic lunch with some relatives over the weekend, and my crazy uncle decides to have a little fun with my 3-year-old and 5-year-old. “Santa Claus is dead,” he announces. “They shot him.”

Thanks so much, Uncle Jack*ss. It’s bad enough my 5-year-old already cries at night, “I don’t want to die, like Noni” (her great-grandmother who passed away last year.) I’ve tried to reason with her that she’s only 5, she could live to be 100 and that’s a long time. I try to reassure her with stories about God and Heaven. It hasn’t really helped. She still has a sobbing panic attack if she accidentally swallows some potentially lethal substance, like part of a strawberry stem, or a watermelon seed.

My lessons haven’t gone unheeded though. She’s diligently taught her 3-year-old brother everything I’ve said, and now he’s totally excited about the concept of Heaven. I’m not that excited however, to hear him say, “I wish I was dead so I could see God and be in Heaven.” I try to be calm, and just say, “Not now, darling, mommy would miss you.” But my nerves really can’t handle this.

I don’t think I have the best skill at teaching my children these concepts in an age-appropriate manner. But I am sure “They shot Santa,” is NOT going to help

Monday, August 30, 2010

Spoiler Alert--This Post is Self-Indulgent

Just got back from seeing “Eat, Pray, Love” and I am inspired.

No, no, no, hold on—I need to explain. Movies have this effect on me, and it has nothing to do with Elizabeth Gilbert’s book. I know some people LOVE this book, but I’m not one of them. I liked it, that’s about all I can say.

On a scale of inspiration, this movie ranked below “Far and Away” but above “Without a Clue." And if you know either of these movies, you now know that I’m easily inspired.

I’ve been riding the crest, because I’ve gone to two movies within the last four days. Before then? It’s been months. Used to be I’d go to a movie every week. If I’d seen all the good movies showing, I’d see art films, or bad movies. But on the big screen, almost any movie can be good as long as you’re willing to accept the premise and get into it.

That’s the key. You must get into it. And to do that, you have to go to the show. Can’t be done at home, surrounded by comfy pillows, neglected chores and the distracting clutter of your stuff. Can’t be done if you can pause for pee breaks and telephone calls and your child having nightmares, because the TV is too loud.

Seeing movies in the theater is one of the few things in life I’m actually passionate about. So permit me a poem. (And don’t worry--I’ll try not to do this too often.)

Into the dark
Every thought of mind


To another place
Every emotion


In the universe
In history

Relived, Relieved, Revived, Reminded.

Movie Meditation by Maria A.W.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cooler than a Mountain

On the way to the library my 3-year-old boy spoke wistfully from the back seat, “I wish I could climb a mountain.”

His *ahem*-year-old mommy in the front seat thought, “I used to wish the same thing.” Then I thought, wait a minute, I still wish I could climb a mountain.

Got me thinking about the limitless future that children see stretched out before them. As a child, you believe that anything is possible, if only you are old enough, and your darned parents quit interfering. Money is no object, practicality is irrelevant and there will always be enough time. You will eat Lucky Charms for breakfast every day, then go climb a mountain, and have a picnic with ice cream for dessert before you sail your boat home to your tree house.

At what age or milestone do people stop believing that anything is possible? We get so wise, we start dismissing dreams because they are unrealistic. But isn’t that what dreaming is about? Just because you have a firmer grip on reality as an adult doesn’t mean you have to stop believing in possibility. I believed that I would have all the skills and freedom necessary to climb a mountain, once I turned 13—my magic age. If I could believe that, why can’t I believe I could climb a mountain at, oh, 83? Maybe that can be my new magic age.

I’ve seen mountains, I’ve driven in them. Haven’t climbed a mountain. But if my little boy is going to climb a mountain, I’m going to be climbing too.

A mountain is his ultimate standard of comparison. If something is tall he wants to know if it’s taller than a mountain. If our destination is far, he asks, “is it as far as a mountain?” His oatmeal is hotter than a mountain. He even said the book he found at the library was “cooler than a mountain.”

I don’t know about that. Mountains are pretty cool.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Day

Today was my one day between "vacation" and "real life" and boy oh boy did I have big plans for it, much to the dismay of my family, who just wanted to do puzzles (kids), take naps (husband) and otherwise be unproductive. I assigned projects to hubby and kids, and while they were re-arranging carseats in preparation for the Kindergarten drop-off zone, I got started inside.

The bad news first: I did not accomplish everything I wanted to.

The reality check: Wanting to organize the entire house in one day was probably over-ambitious.

The good news: I did manage to get the desk cleaned off, just in time for tomorrow's deluge of last week's mail which I'm anxiously awaiting--and I do mean anxiously. Have you ever noticed that sometimes people say "anxiously awaiting" when really they should be saying "eagerly awaiting"? I read that just today in a letter from the pre-school teacher. . . hmmm. . . maybe she did mean "anxiously". That's how I'd feel about seventeen 3-year-olds.

By the time I had whittled down the stack of school-related papers, sending about 75% to the recycling, I realized that between Kindergarten, pre-school, dance classes, and my tax classes, my wimpy little daily planner was not going to cut it. So I had to take a shopping break to buy a new planner capable of holding the 25% of memos I need to keep. Then I had to transfer infomation from my old calendar to the new one. And since the new planner has handy to-do list spots, I had to fill those up.

Other than the school papers, the other big stack on the desk was all the medical bills. Doesn't that sound dramatic, like I'm wallowing in debt due to some dibilitating disease? Thank God I'm not, because it took me two hours just to research and cross-reference these bills related to a simple foot surgery. (Minus the 10 minutes I spent eating the sandwiches I ordered for dinner from my dear husband.) I did however, discover what seems to be a $95 billing error, and I diligently added it to my new planner/to-do list, allocating 1/2 hour to deal with it on Tuesday. I know that's optimistic, but that's just the way I am. Remember? I was going to organize the whole house today?

I forced myself to take a Dairy Queen break with the family. And then I managed to clean out a closet while my very patient husband gave the kids a bath before bed. I can now cross shampoo off the shopping list. Need to add to the to-do list: tell mom to stop buying me cute bottles of wonderfully-scented lotion, before I end up on "Hoarders" with the world's largest lotion stockpile.

Last, but not least, I write. Not bad for my "one day".

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


It’s August. Which means I’ve missed a deadline for a monthly newsletter that I was supposed to complete by July 25th. I’m not a slacker (well, maybe), I just thought that I had already done it.

I’m sure you’re wondering how I could have imagined I created a whole non-existent newsletter. Pretty simple—I just have a bizarre form of dyslexia when it comes to the months June and July. Basically I’ve never learned to distinguish them as two separate months.

You have to admit it’s easy to get confused. They’re both four-letter words that start with “J”, they’re both summer months, and for the first 22 years of my life, they were summer vacation. Months with no dates, deadlines or goals. Nothing but playing, camping, reading, watching TV. Then August arrived with its “A” and back-to-school ads, and panic attacks. (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that August starts with “AUGhhh”.)

Never mind how many years I’ve had since college to figure this out. It’s just not happening. I can’t count how many times I’ve mixed up dates or paid bills only one of the two months. I bring checkout lines to a standstill, staring at my checkbook in a daze trying to remember what month it is. And heaven help me if I have to write the date in numerical format, because even if I’ve figured out the correct month, I’m still not sure if it’s 6/ or 7/. Even a national holiday called “4th of July" doesn’t help me get it right.

Since summer in Michigan is way too short to cram in all the swimming, biking, vacationing, gardening, and day-trips I’d like to do, I’ve come up with a great idea. Let’s just officially declare June and July to be one month—Juny. There would be only one month’s worth of bills, deadlines, work and responsibilities, but eight wonderful summer weeks to get it done. No more missing events because I wrote it on the wrong month of the calendar. Juny will be a confusion-proof 61 day month. (Sorry 4th of July, you will now be 34th of Juny).

I’m already on board with this plan. Just need to e-mail all my elected government officials to see if they’ll go along with it. Hope you’ll join me!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Whip it Good

I’m writing on this blog to 1) brush up on my writing skills 2) procrastinate and 3) force myself to get motivated. My sis (who will be my first and perhaps only reader of my 1st novel attempt) has been pestering me for the finished product. But my 65,000ish words are far from a finished product. I need to first, and foremost, WRITE THE DAMN ENDING, which is the hardest part. I also need to go through and eliminate all the redundancies and contradictions and stuff that says “need a better word for this.”

But instead, I re-read my favorite parts, sprucing up the spelling and punctuation, tweaking a word or two here and there, chuckling at how awesome and clever I am. Then I skim over all the kind of iffy parts, make a few revisions. Then I accidentally read one of the really, really, bad parts, and do stuff like gag audibly, or slam the laptop shut and literally run away.

I then read some real, published book, and use it to berate my book. “Book, why can’t you be more like (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice)? That book is interesting, has vivid descriptions, entertaining details, and a plot with an ending. Why do you have to be so lazy and boring? When are you going to make something of yourself?”

Oh Book, I know you’re not really to blame. You just lack discipline. Me too.

So in an effort to be more disciplined, I’m trying to write every day, even if I just end up writing a blog post. I started writing this post a week ago, so as you can see, it’s been slow.

But good news. Today, I wrote 1,200 words of my WIP (that’s work in progress--don't I sound all smart with my new-found writer jargon?) I also made a decision to tone down an aspect of the story that I have never been thrilled about writing anyway. And I felt a little hope that I can whip this WIP into something I wouldn’t be ashamed to let people read.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Write Now

Why am I writing a blog? Well, because I am a “writer”. Right. I guess that all depends on how you define the word “am”. It’s been 20ish years since I decided that was my career goal. A few less since I pursued my goal on a daily basis with college journalism classes, writing for the college paper and writing radio commercials. Things which convinced me that “doing what you love” for a job, was a sure-fire way to make you hate what you love. (By the way, that’s also my biggest fear about being a stay-at-home mom.)

About a year ago I met a lovely lady who was starting a writing group (check out her blog I thought, “Now is a great time to get back into writing.” Not really, actually I thought, “hey, she lives in my neighborhood and she’s a mom. Maybe our kids can have playdates.” I realized I was way out of my depth, when she talked excitedly about the book she wrote for “NaNoWriMo” as if everyone knew what this “rhino” creature was.

“NaNoWriMo” turned out to be “National Novel Writing Month”, an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. A couple of the other women who attended that initial group meeting came back the next month enthusiastically stating their intention to “do it.” Me? I thought, that’s nuts. But I did our writing exercises, and that crazy NaNoWriMo thing kept charging around my head. Because the thing was, I actually had a story in my head again.

I’ve always had a story in my head, since I was five years old. Back then, the story was that I got the red ruby slippers. With a matching headband and barrettes. And a purple room, with a purple telephone and a fluffy purple rug. And the kid with the cowboy hat was my friend. Don’t worry, the plots have improved since then, although color coordination did play a major role for way too long. Mostly it was an escape mechanism, but I figured I could turn it into a real success, if only I’d develop the skill for getting the stories out of my head, onto paper for others to enjoy.

But the years went on and although I always had time to think of these stories, I never seemed to have the dedication to writing them. As I grew older, busier, less in need of escape, the stories came more slowly. Then something happened to turn them off altogether (long pause for dramatic effect).

I had a baby.

This sweet, fussy, crying, demanding little girl suddenly became the thing that occupied every spare brain cell I had. And even some of the non-spare essential brain cells, like the ones that allow you to place dirty dishes in the dishwasher rather than in the refrigerator. After a while, Crying Little Girl and I worked out a compromise. I would devote 50% of my brain to her, and that would leave 50% for normal human function. This plan was working great for 2 years, and then along came sweet, cuddly, hungry little boy. Now I wanted to give him 50% of my brain. And how could I give Little Girl anything less? Which left nothing. One month of zombie life later, enter plan B. 25% brain to Little Girl, 25% to Little Boy. 25% for functioning. 25% to guilt over not being able to give 150%. Zero, Zip, Zilch to creative daydreaming.

Eventually, the Little’s demands eased up a bit. I chucked the guilt on the compost pile. In place of guilt, a story was creeping in. Nothing too deep—just a combination of a dream and an actor I had a minor crush on. Said actor’s career seemed to be going nowhere, and in frustration at the lack of good film material, I decided to give him a leading role in my NEW STORY.

Long story short, I decided to make this short story long, and turn it into a NaNoWriMo attempt with no greater goal than to say I did it. And since I’m very goal-directed when I actually have a goal, I did do it. I wrote the required number of words, of my novel, in the month of November.

Best of all, I loved it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cottage Cheese

One of the things I love about “Up North” in Michigan is the view of a Great Lake glimpsed from the highway between all the trees and little cottages. As a child I loved those cute cottages, painted pink or blue or green, with their little porches, lawn ornaments and decorative mailboxes, and of course the “cottage sign” with clever wordplay of family names, like ‘Sand Castle’ or ‘The Footes’ on a foot shaped sign.

In my mind these cottages were for the rich people. My family vacations took us to the state parks, in the tent, or better yet, the van. No luxurious pop-up campers for us. Since then, I’ve actually been inside a few cottages, and rethought my notion of wealth. But I love these itty bitty houses, with a kitchen where you can cook and clean while standing in one spot and bedrooms that sleep five with four on bunk beds, one on a cot, and nowhere to walk. The walls and fireplace mantle festooned with years of souvenirs, beach combings and yard sale finds, in every style from country to coastal, and every era from the 60’s on.

Recently though, the trend has been to demolish these little cottages, and build new behemoths in their place with picture windows as large as the original house’s foundation and grandiose architectural details like turrets, towers, and pillars. Goodbye cute, adios charming. Welcome home, pretentious.

Not trying to fault the owners. Perhaps like my husband’s family, the house now belongs to several generations of families and they’ve outgrown the space. Or they’re simply trying to maximize the value of their property. And some of the homes are lovely and tasteful. Well ok, maybe only one or two. But somehow, that strip of land between the highway and the lake, with trees taller than its width, just doesn’t blend with lovely and tasteful. Something about those scraggly pines and random tree growth needs those shabby, tacky, wacky, cottage cheesy houses.

I do have to admit that A/C would be nice. I’m outside on the deck at our itsy bitsy natural-air cottage. It’s much cooler out here, so I’m writing at a laptop computer and being anti-social. (Not really, everyone else is just watching random TV, and while they may be missing the witty sarcastic comments I frequently direct at the inhabitants of the screen, it’s also possible they’re not.) I don’t want to go back inside with the heat—I doubt I could sleep in that stifling bedroom at this hour with the amateur fireworks that use loudness to compensate for what they lack in size. Especially with the beam of the neighbor’s lawn lighthouse flashing in the window every seven seconds. But I’m about to surrender, because the glow of my computer screen is drawing in flocks of winged insects and I keep thinking I’ve made typos, when really it’s mosquitoes. So, goodnight little buggies. Go check out that lighthouse.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Petunia Purslane Salad

Thanks to the late night thunderstorms we’ve been having, I spent several hours weeding my flower garden. I didn’t plan to spend that long, but I have been neglecting it due to recent foot surgery, so there was no shortage of material to work with. I am glad to be getting back to normal activity, but my excitement at how those weeds were coming out so easily with beautifully intact roots is probably a little extreme. Thanks mom and dad, you did it to me. All those summers of being forced to weed the half-acre we casually called a “garden”, I am now officially obsessed with the art of weed extraction.

But this wet weather is great for a perfectionist weeder, so I spent an afternoon pulling purslane, small and large, with passionate satisfaction at seeing all those lovely roots coming right out, no digging required. There was nothing to stop me—the kids were playing in the kiddie pool without too much violence, it was a windy day, not too hot and not a mosquito in sight. Just me and the weeds and deep thoughts about how I should get up early every morning to weed and meditate, as a rejuvenating summertime ritual. Of course I don’t know much about meditation, but I think you’re supposed to clear your mind, which is impossible for me to do. So my meditation went like this: The petunias look great this year. I’m sure it’s because I’ve diligently trained the children to run out into the yard with their best monster screams whenever any type of wildlife sets nose, paw or wing into the garden. It’s so cute the way they shout “Don’t eat mommy’s flowers! Raarrrgh! Bad Bunny!”

Afterwards, I was pretty proud of my weed free garden. Unfortunately my obsession had a few unintended consequences. I didn’t get dinner made—despite having harvested several piles of purslane (yes, it is edible, and no, I’ve never tried it, haven’t ever been that hungry, thank you Lord.) I got sunburn on my lower back, which was exposed because I’m still unable to crouch (see foot surgery). So instead I had to crawl around the perimeter of the garden, stretching to cover as much territory as possible, much like a dying person crawling through the desert croaking “water”. Or possibly a zombie emerging from the grave craving brains. (“Weeds, I must have more weeds.”) Got the picture? Attractive, right? My tan line’s going to be pretty hot, too.

Later that evening, after shoving together some leftovers and pretending it was my plan for dinner all along, I was cleaning up and glanced out the window to see a rabbit munching on the petunias. I’m not good at reading rabbit expressions, so I’m not sure if he was pissed off that all that edible purslane was gone, or if he was just happy someone cleared the way to the flowers. I meditated on that for a second and decided that throwing shoes at rabbits will be my rejuvenating summertime ritual.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sail Away

I’d like to dedicate this “Wasting Time” post to Abby Sunderland age 16, for her efforts in making a totally unnecessary solo sailing trip round the world. Talk about a waste of time….oh yeah, that’s right, everyone is talking about it, and they seem to agree, that Abby’s parents are irresponsible idiots. What strikes me as strange though, is the absence of media scrutiny and outrage when she began this trip. I didn’t even know about her, or the other young sailors who had attempted this same goal. I guess nothing succeeds like failure.

If I had heard about Abby before the accident that cut her trip short and required a dangerous rescue, the long-lost 16-year-old within me would have thought “That’s pretty damn cool.” And as a parent, I can only hope that I’ll have inspired my children to pursue their goals by the time they’re 16. I feel encouraged by the Sunderland family, that someday, I will eliminate the whining “I can’t dooooo it!” from this family’s vocabulary.

To those people who feel that Abby’s family has deprived her of the chance to live a safe, average life, perhaps you can find a teenager closer to home who needs help being average. Sixteen-year-olds give birth, commit murder, do drugs, join gangs. There are sixteen-year-olds whose parents abuse them, neglect them, kick them out. There is no shortage of causes worthy of public outrage. The real waste of time is worrying about parents who didn’t buy their kid a bigger boat.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Introduction to Wasting Time (written at 2 am while wasting time)

I’ve wanted to write a blog ever since the good old days when I was single, having dating disasters and romantic wreckage on regular basis. Now I’m the mom of preschoolers, so naturally my blog should dwell on the pitfalls and pratfalls of motherhood, and the wit, charm and mess of kids. Right?

But sadly, I find that by the time I have a chance to write down their precious stories, I’m not in the mood. In the free moments I snatch for myself, I find, as always, I just want to waste time, and I really don’t care. I can’t even bring myself to feel guilty about it. In fact the only emotion I’ve ever felt regarding wasting time is regret when I don’t get a chance to do it.

I probably should clarify what I define as wasting time. First there are the obvious suspects: watching TV (although planned TV does not qualify--my DVR recordings of Glee and Gray’s are actual important activities, not to be confused with wasting time). Wasting time TV-style consists of channel surfing, reruns, movies already seen, and VH1’s “Top 40 Heavy Metal One Hit Wonders of 1988.” Then there’s the computer timewasters--games, surfing the Internet, reading random blogs, and most (but not all) of the time spent on Facebook. And finally, napping. Napping is the perfection of wasting time.

Then there are the less obvious activities—those that on the surface seem like perfectly acceptable choices, but are subtly transformed into wasting time. Reading the newspaper, for example is a pretty normal thing to do, but can easily be improved into wasting time simply by reading EVERY SINGLE ARTICLE, even the ones that are advertisements masquerading as articles (Did you know that the Amish make this amazing space heater?) And then there’s bathing. Of course a person needs to attend to hygiene. But when the urge to waste time strikes, then it’s time to linger in a bubble bath. Or to put the finishing touch on freshly shaved legs by meticulously inspecting and tweezing all hairs of micro-millimeter length that managed to escape the razor because they are virtually invisible.

Making a to do list is a good organizational tool, but if you’d rather waste time, follow a tip I learned from my dad. DON’T WRITE IT DOWN! Instead, just THINK about what you need to do. You can do this for hours, as I witnessed first hand when I’d head down into the junk heap of a basement, to see my dad leaning back in a chair. I’d ask what he was doing and he’d say, “I’m thinking about how I’m going to put those cabinets up.” I love to waste time thinking about how I’m going to redecorate this house once it’s no longer infested with sticky people.

Lest you think that because I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’m living a life of leisure for all this wasting time, I’d like to clarify, that before I became a mom, back when I had a full-time job working 48+ hours a week, I had WAY more time for wasting time. Now I have to give up sleep to do it. But that’s okay. I can always waste time with a nap tomorrow.