Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And the Girls Met Santa and All Was Good

I miss writing. I love December, but things are pretty uncreative around here if I'm not even finding the time to blog!

The silver lining is that January is usually cold and dark and depressing; the excitement of the holiday season is over and there's nothing immediate to look forward to. By "holiday season," I mean September through December, including my birthday, Ellie's birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. What's not to love?!

Wait, I forgot the lining. After all that excitement, January is a bit of a let-down. But this year I can promise myself that, amidst all the exercising I'll be doing, I will also be taking time to WRITE again, which makes me feel happy and good in ways that nothing else really touches.

So, yay for January!

In the meantime, here's a writer joke.
A linguistics professor was lecturing to his English class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's Time for Christmas Letters

I can't blog right now! I'm writing our family Christmas letter! This year, again, I can't bring myself to write neat paragraphs describing our year. (Sarahlynn likes to read. Paul has a new job. Ellie is cute. Ada was born! The end.) So I searched around online, and I'm trying to write a menu that describes our year, as though we're a restaurant.

For example:

Entrees
Haggis, served family style (we took a 10-day family vacation to Scotland in June)


And so forth.

Do you know that some people think that writing longer things takes more time? Unless we're talking about a novel vs. a postcard, I find the opposite to be true. It's hard, very hard for me to edit, refine, pare down, keep the meaning without all the words. Words, words, words are easy.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Still Giving Thanks

I normally don't post on Friday nights, especially not after writing 2000 words, and after staying up past 2:00 am almost every night for a month. Have I mentioned that my girls get up early and the baby, while great at going to sleep at night, doesn't nap reliably during the day? And we have an extra tonight, though she's been no trouble at all.

A friend just defended his dissertation today, earning his PhD in astro physics (yes, seriously) so we offered to keep their daughter tonight so that he and his wife can have a night off together.

We were all at Blueberry Hill for dinner, and when we left, Paul was leading Ellie by the hand. Ellie was holding onto 2-year-old T's hand, and I was following along carrying Ada. The early dinner crowd was beginning to transition into a live music bar crowd, and we got lots of stares and comments as we walked out in single file with our three adorable little girls, ages 10 months, 2 years, and 4 years old. It's possible that they could all be ours, but whew! As if the past 4 years haven't been hard enough.

All three girls and Paul are peacefully sleeping now, and I intend to follow in their footsteps very soon.

But first, I want to answer the question for the StLBloggers November Blog Carnival: What are you most thankful for this year?

There are a lot of contenders this year.

In 2007, I gave birth to a wonderful, strong, intelligent, healthy baby girl and have watched her grow into an amazing almost-toddler. What could beat that?

In 2007, I have watched my three year old turn four, and develop by leaps and bounds, especially in her speech. She can run now, and carry on conversations with me that I didn't expect a year ago. And she is potty trained. I don't even ask her if she needs to go very often, anymore. I can't remember her last real accident. Amazing.

In 2007, my family was healthy, and everyone did well professionally. We saw each other frequently, my parents took all of us on an amazing trip to Scotland, and Paul started a great new job.

In 2007, I wrote a novel. My first one ever. And since this is what I want to do with my life, the fact that I'm actually working toward my goal is so exciting that I can barely talk about it.

But the winner this year is something of a dark horse, because it's something that, 18 months ago, I never would have thought to question. At the end of 2007, I am still married. I am even - dare I say it? - happily married.

While my life has grown and changed a lot over the past year, my marriage has grown and changed the most, I think.

And, for that, I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Wrote a Novel

Well, technically, I'm about 2/3 of the way done, but I won NaNoWriMo, and I don't feel inclined to stop now!

PARTY!

I'm off to go wake Paul up to celebrate.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pet Peeve

False Tautologies

For example, I say, "I like X," and someone else hears, "Y sucks."

Or.

I say, "X describes Y," and someone else hears, "Therefore no other entities can contain any X whatsoever."

Note: precondition followed by assumption, without platform of fact upon which to base assumption. So annoying, so defensive.

I loved math in school, but if I had to narrow it down, I think that my favorite math class ever was the hard-to-describe course I took my sophomore year in high school. It was Algebra II, but it was an advanced course and we learned other stuff in there as well, including quite a bit of logic and whatever else the instructor was interested in teaching. I loved Geometry, and Trig, and I must have loved Calculus because I took a few years of it, in high school and in college. But Algebra II was one of the most valuable courses I ever took at any level of my education, because it taught me new analytical ways of thinking.

It's all a playful interest on my part, however. I like to exercise my brain with logic puzzles, but I have no desire to live and work in a completely logical world.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thankful, Indeed

Everyone is feeling much better, and I never did get sick. We made it to my parents' house safely. Leftover Thanksgiving dinner was all the delicious fun and a lot less stress than the traditional meal always ends up being.

All in all, it's wonderful to be out of my own house for a little while and back in the comfortable clutter of my parents' home.

And Paul bought me an adapter so that I can power my laptop in the car, which allowed me to write nearly 4000 words on the drive! I'm not a great typist, but occasionally I can look up from the screen, and it was an interesting experience to be living in my fictional world, typing along, and looking out the windows at the dark Illinois landscape rushing by.

"There's a 24-hour Starbucks at the next exit!"

All in all, the weekend has gotten much better, and I am, as ever, Thankful.

And then Georgeanne’s shriek and Coralyn’s giggle brought him back with a blink, and he saw their colorful coats against the white snow and black trees, he saw the rolling hills and icy ponds, he saw Maggie’s face looking up at him, he saw the textures and pieces of his life laid out before him, and his heart felt so full, so full of love and longing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What Year Is It?

I have been so off-kilter for the last few days. I've always been a little skeptical when reading authors talking about their characters taking on lives of their own, changing the stories, talking to them throughout the day, etc. (I know that some writers do seem to experience this, but others do not. I'm in the latter group.) For the most part, I know what my story is before I write it. I know who my characters are, and where their arcs end before I begin or shortly thereafter. The more practiced I get, the more I know before I start writing.

But I have been in a fictional fog for a little while, today especially. My last 20,000 words or so have been set in February 2012. And while the year isn't a huge deal, the month is really throwing me off. I keep looking at the trees and expecting to see preparations for new buds, not dead leaves gradually falling. I am thinking more about valentines than turkey sandwiches. I am looking ahead to our spring break trip rather than Christmas vacation. It's a weird, weird feeling, especially this time of year, when it usually seems like no other time of year can ever exist.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Genre Fiction

I've written before about genre fiction. Here, for example. And here. To sum up: I think that great quantities of rubbish are published by genre publishers (Romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mystery) because they fit the template and readers will apparently buy anything that fits the desired template. This trend is good for getting published, but is bad for fiction in general. And it gives genre fiction a really bad name that it doesn't entirely deserve. There's some really wonderful, exciting, emergent writing going on in genre fiction, especially in SF&F, that's obscured from general readership by its association with the piles of dragon dung. At the core, good writing is good writing, and I'm the sort of reader who appreciates good writing, regardless of genre.

What I might not have shared before is that I've actually done a bit of genre writing, as well.

The first short story I wrote all by myself (without my mother writing the words down for me) was a fantasy story. I was in first grade, and I illustrated the story and taped the audiobook too; I was a jill-of-all-trades. As an adult, the first short story that I was really proud of, that I still think might have been published somewhere if I'd tried a little bit, was sort of a fantasy story as well. It doesn't fit a modern fantasy template, though, and is more Gregory Maquire than Anne McCaffrey.

And my first, failed, novel - to which I still intend to return at some point - was a mystery. I love good mysteries, and have about a dozen of them in my head; I just haven't found the voice yet in which to write them.

What's more surprising, it seems, to those who know me, is that I once thought about writing romances. The fall of my senior year in college was an interesting time for me. I decided that I really needed to break up with the guy I'd been dating since high school graduation before we ended up married. Around the same time, I decided that I'd been on the wrong life path since I was 9 years old. I realized, all at once and with no warning, that I really didn't want to be a doctor after all.

What now?!!

I thought about what I loved to do, and the answer was easy, even then: I love to write. Even when I wanted to be a doctor, I was secretly hoping to be Michael Crichton, publishing popular fiction rather than peer-reviewed studies.

But I have always been plagued by self-doubt, and I didn't think that I could do it. I knew for sure that I couldn't support myself and pay off my student loans by embarking upon a career as a novelist. But, I read up a little on Harlequin romances, and I decided that I could do that and make enough money to live. I just needed to learn the pattern, I figured, so I joined the Harlequin readers club and received my 4 books plus a complimentary gift each month.

I quickly realized that romance writing is not for me (this is that part that's not surprising to those who know me, or who have read any of my writing) but I kept my membership until I had a full set of wine glasses, and those are still the wine glasses we use today as, apparently, we failed to register for any at our wedding.

They're bright green, and they do make a wonderful conversation piece.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Structure

I'm on track to make the NaNo halfway mark (25,000 words) on Wednesday night, if I continue at this pace. That will, not entirely coincidentally, be the halfway point of the book (although lots of what I've already written needs to be expanded; that can happen later, after November) and the main crisis, which has been building since the prologue, will begin to explode.

My novel is divided into three parts, each of which should eventually be about 25,000 words. Part 1 spans 15 years and has a lot of shorter scenes: bam-bam-bam. The pace slows down, but the crisis picks up significantly in Part 2, which spans 2 months. Part 3 stretches out, is more introspective, and covers about a year.

Part 1 is fun, Part 2 is exciting, and Part 3, which I have not yet begun to write, is supposed to be lyrical and haunting. Ah, well, what's the use of trying, without making lofty goals? If I'm going to be a writer, this is the sort of writer I want to be. Can I carry a story on the merits of the writing, without relying on plot? We'll see by the second or third draft of Part 3. In the meantime:

Writing lesson from book club. The Time Traveler's Wife taught me that people can fuck in contemporary literary fiction. My characters, and my narrator, don't say that; though I think it would be interesting to write in a voice that could, someday. There is sex, though. And hopefully there's a little laughter too.
The undulating women, the thumping music, the pulsing lights, it all screamed sex-sex-sex. Mark closed his eyes and moved to the music, feeling fuzzy around the edges, feeling the beat and the lust in his muscles, in his bones, in the very core of his soul. There was no today, there was no tomorrow, there was no Maggie, there was no Mark, there was only this feeling, this being, right now. He was the beat. He was the music, the lights, the vapor of evaporating sweat steaming off the dancers.

Until someone threw up on his shoe.

Tales of the Journey: National Youth Workers Convention

Through the PCUSA webring, I stumbled upon a youth director talking about the recent National Youth Workers Convention. (Aside: there is a fascinating mix of progressive and conservative bloggers linked on that site.)

Anyway, youth director Brittany posted about a keynote speech by Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer, in which he asked the question "Is this dream more important in my life than God?" in response to living his dream and then losing it.

In response to that question, Brittany said,
I realized that my dream really didn't have anything to do with God. It was just my dream. I owned it and expected God to fill in the missing parts. What a backwards idea about God, like I'm the one writing the story. It's easier sometimes to play the part of God rather than letting God be God and me be me.

I think I'm like that about my writing. It's hard not to be, when you want something so much. But I'd like to remind God that I have pledged that 10% of every single penny I make from my writing is tithed. (My tongue is planted firmly in my cheek, here; I'm being flip, not bargaining.)

NaNoWriMo update: I'm at 19,075 words and still liking it. My automatic counter widget (see right) isn't updating as quickly as I'd like.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Still Writing

Friday's Total Word Count: 17,140

I should be proud of what I've accomplished so far, and I am. And I know that Week 2 is when a lot of people hit the wall: it's starting to drag on a bit, and the end is not in sight.

But I am very concerned about running out of material. Given where I am today, I'm afraid that I'll say everything I have to say, I'll tell the story, and find that it's an awkward 25,000 words. I don't mind finishing up after NaNoWriMo is over; I expect that. But I do really care about this story, and in the end, I want to have a novel, not a novella.

Saturday night update: Today's Word Count: 16,908.

Yes, that's fewer words than yesterday, but I wasn't editing, just removing some stuff that will come back in towards the end of the story.

Today's progress: one of the most successful days so far. Worried about flailing, or failing, I spent tonight creating a detailed timeline for the main character and a list of all the scenes in the story, with rough size targets. Lots of words, none of which count toward the NaNoWriMo 50,000 target, although I'm still ahead of where I need to be to meet that target while continuing at a steady pace. The scene outline should go a very long way toward helping me stay on track to finish the novel with the three main sections appropriately balanced.

I've never come this far, and I'm not talking about word count. I think this piece has potential. I'm not afraid to write it anymore.

Blogger Buzz: To-Do List (the book)

Blogger Buzz: To-Do List (the book)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I Still Love Fall

Silly writer. Imagery is the sort of thing you go back later and fill in, after the characters are developed, after the plot's sketched out, after the NaNoWriMo word count hurdle has been met.

The weirdest change about Maggie during her pregnancy, though, was her hair. Mark had always loved Maggie’s thick curly hair, in that hard-to-describe color that was part chocolaty brown and part autumnal orange, all shot through with strands that shone pure copper and caught afternoon sun to turn her head into a burning pile of leaves. He loved to grab her hair in both of his hands and burrow his face into it, almost expecting the scent of crisp fall air and pumpkin pie spices. Maggie tended to choose shampoo based on continuously evolving criteria like price, bottle shape, brand name, ingredients list, and quality of marketing writing, though, so her hair’s perfume changed regularly, though it always overlay a smell that was purely, uniquely, Maggie.

While Maggie was pregnant, her smell changed slightly, and so did her hair. Her tightly wound curls became softer, gentler, still curls but more like paper links in a Christmas tree decorating chain than the springy store-bought ribbon on a child’s birthday present.


Wednesday's Word Total: 13,071
Thursday's Word Total: 15,086

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Writing Poll

Writers,

How do you deal with longer pieces of work-in-progress? Do you keep the entire document in one large, cumbersome file for administrative ease? Do you keep separate files for each chapter? Some chunking system in between?

I've worked both ways, and have not yet stumbled upon a comfortable solution. I like being able to scroll up or down from where I'm writing - I don't always create sequentially or chronologically - to edit or verify a detail. On the other hand, large files are slow, and it takes a long time to move around in them. But it sure is a lot easier to compute things like word count in a single file rather than a chapter-by-chapter approach, and to ensure consistent formatting, page numbering, etc.

What do you do?

Today's NaNoWriMo word count: 11,120 words.

Monday, November 5, 2007

His Dark Materials

No amount of caffeine is keeping my head off my hand off the table, and even I am bored with the short section that I just finished writing. It's time to get some sleep!

Another successful NaNoWriMo day, all in all. My total word count is 9031 words, and according to the little spreadsheet Paul made for me, I needed to be at 8333 words to be on track. If I can keep this up, I might get a couple of days off at Thanksgiving! Or maybe just some lighter writing days to do more research and planning for the harder, later sections of the novel.

This is already the longest work of fiction I've ever written, by a hair. (I've written short stories, the first 5 or 6 chapters of a novel, and a longer pieces nonfiction/creative nonfiction/memoir, but most of my writing has definitely been in bite-sized chunks. I write a lot of beginnings before paralyzing in fear of failure. What seemed to me at one time to be great titles, great first lines, great opening paragraphs clutter my "Writing" folder.)

Moving on.

Have you read Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy? We loved it. And we're all looking forward to the movie of The Golden Compass, opening in December. By "we," I mean Paul, me, my whole family (mom, dad, two sisters, various brothers-in-law), and a couple of good friends.

I'm not sure I want my daemon to be a chimp, though. I mean, chimps are clever, and that's really good. But they're not exactly sexy animals. Maybe you can help determine if I've got the right daemon?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Really Good Guy

The NaNoWriMo website is currently down. This is frustrating, because once I've finished my writing for the "day," I count on being able to log in and input my new total, in order to watch my little blue status bar move slightly to the right.

So far, so good. I have a rough outline, I have a timeline, and at the end of day three, I have 5264 words.

Orange asked me what I'm writing this month. The "it's late and I'm really tired" version is this:

I'm working on a literary fiction, very character-driven novel called The Really Good Guy. The title character is a married-with-kids, 36-year-old workaholic who has always been described as a good person. More importantly, that's how he sees himself. And then he does something that's pretty awful. He has to deal with the consequences, but most importantly, he has to see himself as the sort of guy who'd do such a bad thing.

This story presents all sorts of challenges for me, not least among which are that my main character is older than me, male, and a workaholic while I'm an at-home mom. (That's whole different kind of working hard.) It's hard for me to keep his wife and kids in the background where they belong.

"Write what you know" is good, solid writing advice. And I am writing what I know, just in a different way. Sometimes using a narrator who sees the world from a different perspective can shed interesting light on a story.

It really is impossible for me to write well this fast. It's not, however, a wasted exercise. I might not have a beautiful, lyrical novel, but I often put pretty stuff in later, once the outline of the story is in place. I shade after I sketch. I upholster after I construct, and so forth.

At the end of the month, I don't plan to have a publishable novel. I hope to have 50,000 words, the bones of a really interesting story, consisting mostly of scenes and summary without a lot of connective tissue: a great outline that can be fleshed out and lifted up a bit into something that I can be proud of.

3 days ago, I had a few notes jotted down at the Borders Cafe. Tonight I have more than 5000 words of new, original fiction typed and saved. I don't care which words they are; I'm proud of that.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Give It To Me

OK, I'm disabling the word verification thingie until I get fed up with the spam again. This lowers the bar for commenting. Let's chat!

Second day NaNoWriMo total: 3680 (slightly ahead of the daily requirement to stay on track for 50,000 words in 30 days).

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Write On!

Yo yo yo, it's NaNoWriMo; here we go! In general, I do believe in quality over quantity. But when I'm paralyzed, any movement is a positive development, even if it's just a muscle spasm. And at the end of the first day, I have more than 1700 words on the screen. For the record, Ada does not feel that this is the best use of my time. In turn, I do not feel that being up and crying 3 hours past successful bedtime is the best use of her time either.

Ada did the funniest thing last weekend. I was playing Wii with my sister in the family room while my mom was playing with Ellie in her room, down at the other end of the hall. Our family room and Ellie's room are like the weights on a barbell, with other rooms (a bathroom, my room, Ada's room) shooting off the main hallway to the sides. So it's not like a barbell at all, but the family room and Ellie's room are at opposite ends of a hallway, see?

Anyway, Ada got bored with the way LilSis and I were neglecting her, so she crawled all the way down the hallway to Ellie's room for some more stimulating company. Once she got there, she got up on her knees (tall kneeling!) and looked at me, while defiantly shutting the door. Her reach is impressive, but she is only 9 months old. So she'd push the door a bit, crawl toward it, push it some more, crawl to catch up, etc., until the door finally closed. Until the last possible moment, she stared right at me, meaningfully.

I got the message!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just keep swimming

Last year at this time, my life couldn't have felt much worse. I was in an indescribable amount of pain, though I did try to put it into words.

In some ways, the past year has been the worst of my life. But in other ways, it's been phenomenal. We had a new baby, and have watched Ada grow into the most incredible, wonderful, surprising little girl. We've watched Ellie make some amazing developmental leaps, including potty training! We've refinanced our house down to a 15 year loan, and eliminated all but the necessary debt (fixed mortgage, extremely low-rate minivan loan, and consolidated student loans). We've forged new friendships and taken on new roles in our communities.

We've both adjusted our work lives: Paul to a more family-friendly job and me to staying home full-time and writing more. I've been talking with magazines about some pieces, and I even have published pieces in a couple of actual books. This part is difficult for me, because I am paralyzed by my fear of failure, which often prevents me from submitting and sometimes even keeps me from writing.

Not least, Paul and I have worked very very hard on our relationship, and while we're not perfect, we're in a much better place than I could possibly have imagined. In my wildest dreams and all that.

Here we are, then and now:
Halloween 2006

There are no pictures of me from last October, except for ones in which part of me is captured in a shot of Ellie, but she's adorable enough for all of us.

Halloween 2007

By day we're Mummy, Deady, and two Little Ghouls. By night we're Nemo the clown fish, Crush the baby sea turtle, and two crabs. "Yeah, I saw him, Bluey, but I'm not telling you where he went, and there's no way you're gonna make me."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Silent Pens

This is hardly breaking news, but I'm still feeling a touch melancholy about it.

James Oliver Rigney, Jr., more commonly known as Robert Jordan, died on Sunday. He was only 58 years old. He seemed really happy before his diagnosis with cardiac amyloidosis. And he wasn't done with his life's work; he had so much left that he was planning to do. Very very sad. Lots of people die every day, and there's a war going on. So why does this matter so much?

Perhaps because, as a writer, he touched a lot of people. Sure there are valid critiques of his work. Still, I have read many hundreds of pages of his writing, and so someone I know - however distantly - has died. Too soon, too soon.

Madeleine L'Engle (LENG-el, Mom, I was right) also died this month. She was 88 and died of "natural causes." She had a robust body of work, comprising writing for adults and children, poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction. Her work touched me too, probably more so than Jordan's. L'Engle's husband and son were already dead, and she had moved into a nursing home. Over the course of her slow decline, she had osteoporosis and a cerebral hemorrhage. She accomplished a lot in her life, and did some really interesting things. It's not such a terrible way to end.

I had other thoughts, about the disparagement of fantasy literature and its importance in our society, but it turns out that I don't want this to be part of a larger point. Two writers died. I find myself celebrating the life of one, and mourning the loss of the other. That's your time. Pens down.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How's the writing going?

Well, since you asked . . .

I've been to bed earlier than 2:00 am exactly twice in the last couple of weeks. I can't remember the last time I was asleep before 1:00. This is largely a symptom of my own disorganization and poor prioritization/time management, but, nonetheless, it's exhausting.

Currently, I'm feeling enormous pressure to write (all of it self-inflicted). Simultaneously, I'm so tired that I feel numb and uninspired. As is the way of such things, it's hard to keep perspective and realize that one day I will be rested again, and I will have the energy to write. Because all of this is compounded by crippling self-doubt, where I'm so very afraid of failure that I can't even begin.

I know the correct steps to take to make things better: get more sleep, exercise more, make modest and achievable writing goals.

But if I had an easy time doing those things, I wouldn't be the person who's always running late, showing up with wet hair and bags under my eyes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WE'RE DONE

with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I think the experience of reading it aloud together - although frustrating at times - was vastly improved by the experience of reading it a bit more slowly, and having someone on-hand with whom to bounce around theories as we progressed through the story.

I really really enjoyed it. The magic lasted straight through that last, climactic scene in the Great Hall.

The last remaining unresolved mysteries for me are:
1) What do Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny do?
2) What on earth was Aberforth doing with the goats?

So, what did you think, now that I can finally talk to those of you who finished it weeks ago?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dry Coughs and No Sleep

I'm exhausted, and I can't bring myself to think anymore about sleep and potty trials tonight, let alone write more about them.

Instead, I'll say that the Paul & Sarahlynn Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows couples' read got off to a rocky start, with Paul falling asleep in the middle of the big escape/battle scene at the beginning, and not being able to stay completely awake through the end of that chapter the next night, either. We rallied tonight, however, and are up to Chapter 8: The Wedding. For the record, the correct reaction to Voldemort flying beside Harry - broomless! - is not a sudden and unintentional head bob.

I'd also like to compliment the wonderful, thoughtful, selfless administrator who decided that it would be a good idea to start school in the middle of August. I'd forgotten how much easier it is to have just one child for a few hours in the morning. Especially as the other child comes home afterwards exhausted and wanting to - nap!

Before I go, a word on my mad mothering skillz: I can now multitask. Specifically, I can sing familiar lullabies to a baby who needs soothing while simultaneously reading. Reading Newsweek, that is. I do tend to stumble and miss lyrics when I read something startling or distracting. But still, it's a pretty cool skill when dealing with a rough patch. I've long been able to perform various parenting skills at once, like nursing Ada while reading to Ellie, or dancing to music while holding a baby and picking up scattered toys, but this new skill allows me to have something very like leisure time. Huh.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

'arry Potter

Some of you might have noticed our obsession with all things Harry Potter. I am aware that Rowlings's books are not exactly high art, but they are fantastic nonetheless. Perhaps the prose isn't always magical, but the storytelling is wonderful and the world she's created, well, it's hard to beat for creativity and blessed escapism.

Paul and I read the aloud books together, and we regularly host parties. Here's a shot of the invitation to the last Potter party we hosted, at my parents' house for the release of the 4th movie.

Not the aged parchment, complete with burned edges. I also sealed each envelope with wax stamped by a lightening bolt.

We enjoyed the 5th movie a great deal last month, even more than the small feast we had afterwards comprising butter beer, pumpkin bread, banana bread, Bernie Botts Every Flavor Beans, licorice wands, and a dark chocolate cake shaped like a castle.

We're behind on our reading this year, though. With the addition of children to our social schedule, and the books getting longer and longer, it's increasingly difficult to find time to read together. We haven't begun book 7, so we're assiduously avoiding spoilers and hoping for the best.

A few days before the new book published, I started over reading Book 1. On our way up to Iowa for Paul's family's reunion, we started listening to Book 6 on CD. We're still not quite done with that, but I'm up to Book 5 rereading independently, and we should be ready to start Book 7 in a week or so. We're very excited.

I've given up several things to make room for all this Potter (note that Harry himself is one of my least favorite characters). Like another of my obsessions, Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Also, sleep (see next paragraph). And I've spent so much time lying on my right side nursing Ada and reading lately that I developed painfully blocked ducts on the left. (Better now, but I'm back to nursing while sitting up for a while.)

All that background and I lost my point. Alas.

Instead, I'll ask an unrelated question. They're not the owls on Privet Drive from Book 1, but we're a bit over-run by cats here. We have some neighbors who let their cats run free about the neighborhood, which frustrates me. And it seems that perhaps some of these pets are not spade or neutered, because there's a young litter of kittens living across the street, and an older litter hunting in our yard, chasing our cardinals. Last night, they broke into our screened in porch. My next door neighbor (like me, not a cat person) complains that just outside her front door smells like a litter box, and she's got a point. I'm getting annoyed. What should I do about this cat problem?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is Good News

Regarding tonight's new blog post that isn't: it's a very good thing!

I might have mentioned an anthology that published earlier this month, in which I have an essay?

Well, an editor from a major parenting magazine read the book, liked my essay, and asked me to submit a piece for her magazine. I sent two. I like this thing where people ask me for stuff and I send it; it cuts down on some of the rejection I'd be experiencing if I were actually sending out unsolicited manuscripts like I should be!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wanna Buy a Book?

Several months ago, I got a comment on my blog from a writer who was compiling an anthology of essays by mothers of children with Down syndrome. She suggested that I submit an essay. I did so, and it was accepted. The book, Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives, publishes today (from Woodbine House). It's also available on Amazon.com.

From what I've heard, it's a very good read. I certainly support its purpose: to help educate people about what it really means to have Down syndrome or to have a child with Down syndrome.

As I've said before, I believe that too many women, when faced with the unexpected and unwanted diagnosis of a fetus with Trisomy 21, choose to terminate their pregnancies because of fear of the unknown and overly negative assumptions about what life will be like with and for a child with a disability.

As an indirect result of my essay in Gifts, I was interviewed by a New York Times reporter for a piece in Sunday's paper. This was exciting (I get a chance to speak about something I feel very passionate about) and flattering (someone wants to hear what I have to say!). It is also a little scary because, unfortunately and ironically, a few of the people who are most ardently "pro-life" are scary and violent. I've been harassed by anti-abortion trolls before, so being public like this does make me feel a bit uncomfortable, largely for the sake of my children.

But the risk is small and I think it's worth it for the opportunity to continue this discussion publicly. I'm glad that people are talking about prenatal testing, abortion, and morality. I hope that the discussion continues, loudly and with enthusiasm, for many years to come.

Clarifying my position on abortion and genetic testing:
I believe that abortion should be legal, safe, and accessible. I do not believe that it's for me, any religious group, or the government to decide what a particular women or family can bear. I believe choosing to continue my pregnancy with Ellie helped me feel invested rather than trapped/resentful.

I believe that there are serious moral concerns with regard to abortion, and especially abortion of specific fetuses (e.g. those with non-fatal traits that the parents deem undesirable). I believe that we don't do any favors for the pro-choice movement when we decide not to discuss the nuances of these issues.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Thinking Blogger



Many thanks to the wonderful, and incredibly strong, Emily Elizabeth for the nomination.

The Thinking Blogger Award rules here.
    I am flattered.
    And am embarrassed to admit that lately I haven't sought out blogs that make me think. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I've been keeping up with very few blogs, and those I have been reading have been more of an occasional "I wonder how my friends are doing" sort of read than a search for thought-provoking writing.
    My time, my brain, my new baby, my marriage . . .
    While even my "I wonder how my friends are doing" reads often challenge me to think, I'm just nominating one blogger today, because her blog really stands alone in terms of the way it stretches me, challenges me, and leaves me with much to mull over for days and weeks after I've read her.
    1. Blue at The Gimp Parade

    Monday, March 5, 2007

    Did I Mention?

    Ellie loves to put her hand up beside her mouth and "call" for one of her parents. She often does this in public places, sometimes when she's holding daddy's hand and mommy's only a few feet away. She thinks this is hilarious (and she's right).

    Lately the game has a new twist. She now calls her daddy "Paul" when she's calling for him. And there's nothing more adorable than Ellie at church, calling down the long aisle for, "Paul! Paul!"

    Oh, also, I didn't get into my first choice grad school. Alas.

    Wednesday, February 7, 2007

    Hidden Pictures, Unmarked Exits

    When left on my own to process, eventually I can come to terms with pretty much anything. I think this is the same skill that makes me a writer, the same skill that I'd be using if I were in politics. It's finding the story, creating the spin, bringing the facts together to make a pretty picture.

    Unfortunately, reality sometimes intrudes.

    Every time Paul and I hit a really low point, where I'm pretty sure we won't be able to make it, after a couple of days of reflection and waiting on my part, I look up and see the way out of the trough. It's a well-lit, obvious path, and I wonder that I didn't notice it earlier.

    Then we try to talk again, and I realize that my pretty pictures, my ladders up out of the low places are fictions created in my mind, the mind that so desperately wants to believe that we can do this, we can fix this, we can continue on - if not as before, well, at least tolerably well. And he never understands what he's doing that's hurting me so.

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    40 Weeks

    This morning, after dropping Ellie off at school and enjoying my weekly visit with my OB, I took my writing sample to School #1 - application complete. A few minutes later, on the way to pick Ellie up from school, I put my writing sample into the mail for school #2 - application complete. Applications for schools #3 and #4 are due a few weeks from now, so . . . pressure's lessened! I can take a couple of days off. Perhaps to labor and deliver, for instance.

    Today was my due date, which is of some importance because my doctor is reluctant to let me go too far beyond it. Fortunately, our talk of an induction next week quickly became talk of a non-stress test and ultrasound for size instead. He acknowledges the concerns with both tests, but feels they do offer some value.

    And . . . there's some concern about this baby's size.

    See, apparently most women measure about a centimeter a week for fundal height during pregnancy (from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus) until about week 33 or 34. Around then, it starts tapering off.

    Not only have I been measuring ahead of dates, the growth rate has not slowed significantly. My freakishly large belly has continued to grow so that I'm currently measuring 42 weeks. I do have a family history of measuring large and having normal sized babies. But there's still some concern here. So. Maybe a big baby, maybe just a really really big belly.

    I had some professional pregnancy photos taken recently, and they are amazing. I mean, this belly . . .

    At church last week, a woman sitting down the pew from me suggested that I take my belly up for the Chat with the Children, because surely it was big enough. Hah! No, really, it was funny. Another woman congratulated me for having the nerve to wear plaid (a skin-tight jumper, because even my too-big-everywhere-else maternity clothes strain over this belly). For the first time ever, my belly button is actually an outie. It's impressive, amazing, and commented on everywhere I go, all day, every day.

    So I asked my doctor which home-grown induction methods actually work. He suggested only one that is at all proven. So. Paul's brushing his teeth. This belly and I better go intercept him before he falls asleep.

    Tomorrow we'll try Mexican food, Splenda, and probably more of the doctor's orders, if things don't get moving on their own. Pleasant dreams!

    Sunday, January 7, 2007

    No News is Good News

    Ellie was due on Wednesday, and I went into labor the preceding Friday evening. New Baby is also due on Wednesday, so it wasn't a big surprise when I started having unmistakable signs of labor late Friday night. After an hour or two, I woke Paul up.

    I wasn't ready! I told him. It really hurts! I told him. I need to go into the office for just and hour, and nail down the recommendations for my grad school applications, and . . .

    Drink some water, he told me. Then he walked around the bed, picked up my glass of water, added a straw, and held it to my lips until I'd done so.

    After we'd talked for a little while (who to call in the middle of the night to watch Ellie? How inconvenient that my mom was unusually far away that night, up in Michigan with my also-pregnant sister) the labor, surprisingly stopped.

    And I slept. And all was well.

    On Saturday, I had my pregnancy massage (ahhhhhh!) and went into the office for an hour. I accomplished everything I needed to accomplish, then headed home and worked hard on grad school applications. I've completed the online application for 3 of my 4 schools (one school's online application is down this weekend but it's not due until February 1, so I'm not concerned yet). I just need to read over my personal statement, write a teaching statement for one school, and polish my writing sample. Then it's all ready to go.

    Which means that . . . I'm about ready to go!

    Except, perhaps . . . I do have a project at work that I should do more on. And I need to send out a postcard notifying my neighbors of the upcoming annual trustees meeting. And I am behind on thank you notes and . . .

    Well. I don't think it's ever possible to be done, or ready, do you?

    Friday, January 5, 2007

    2006 In Review

    This is the first sentence of the first post of the month thing.

    January: First thing: housecleaning!
    February: I used to go see Ani Difranco twice a year, in Chicago and in St. Louis.
    March: OK, I have a queue of draft post ideas as long as my arm, but they're going to have to continue to wait.
    April: I have been off my game for a while.
    May: I made a low-carb chicken pot pie for dinner tonight.
    June: I sometimes take my childhood for granted.
    July: One of my favorite things about Ellie right now is her generosity.
    August: I went to the mall today with my mom and Ellie.
    September: We'll consider this one prep work for our upcoming Disney trip.
    October: Paul has started feeding Ellie All Bran in the morning, which I think is hilarious.
    November: This morning, thanks to wonderful friends keeping her up late for us last night, Ellie slept in a little.
    December: Yesterday, I passed a new pregnancy milestone.

    Clearly, I need to work on my first lines. I think it would have been more interesting to look at the titles of the first posts for each month. They told more of a story.

    In other news, I am 40 weeks pregnant, Wahoo! My due date is a few days from now, and I don't think I'll go too far over it. (My official due date is Wednesday, though the perinatal specialist gave me a due date of this Sunday.) Ellie too was due on a Wednesday, and I went into labor on Friday night for a Saturday morning delivery. We'll see what happens this weekend!

    I took the GRE this morning. I didn't love the experience, especially since my intended 3 weeks of study in early November became two intense nights of study in early January. And there was a mix-up about the testing center that involved me arriving at the "wrong" place then having to drive across town and start more than an hour later than planned.

    It will be interesting to see how my essays score; I feel like they went pretty well. I enjoy writing, as always, and have missed it of late (hello, blog!) The Verbal section was fun, though a bit rushed at the end, and I scored well on it (700 out of 800, 97th percentile). The "Quantitative" section, however, was a bomb. I mean, a real bomb.

    With little time to study and no practice test, I gauged the time all wrong, only answering 18 out of 28 questions (and not even having time to fill in all Cs at the end - I just left 10 questions blank!). I remembered enough elementary math to bang through many of the problems . . . given enough time, which I clearly didn't have. For example, I needed to find the length of a line. I could make it into a right triangle, and I knew the length of one side and the measure of one angle of the triangle. It was a 30-60-90 triangle, and not enough information to use the Pythagorean Theorem. I remember just enough to know that there's a formula for the length of the sides of a 30-60-90 triangle, but not the actual formula. I mean, seriously! This is relevant how?!! I'm all about a test of quantitative reasoning, but remembering formulas from Jr. High School is just not where it's at, folks.

    So. The GRE is done. I'm due soon. And now I'm about to approach a few people, hat in hand, to ask for last-minute recommendations for last-minute applications. Perhaps I'll learn something useful to assist me in the reapplication process next year.