November 30, 2009

It's done!

My NaNoWriMo novel is finished.  I'm content with it.  It will take a lot of tinkering (doesn't it always?) but it's there.  Raw, meaty and bleeding.

November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving MeMe

Shelli is posting Thanksgiving MeMe's on her blog so I thought I'd play along.

1. How will you be spending your Thanksgiving this year?
We are going to my Uncle's house.

2. Will you be cooking or are you just an eater?
I'm bringing broccoli casserole and cookies.  We have a big family so it's a light load.

3. Do you watch the parade every year or football!!
The men watch football.  Ugh.  The women talk and get shushed a lot.  Sometimes we watch a movie.

4. Whats your favorite float?
Snoopy is my favorite!

5. Dark meat or white meat? Dark

6. What is your favorite dish besides the turkey?
A family tradition of coconut cake topped with fresh coconut.

7. Homemade cranberry sauce or cranberry sauce from the can? Neither...the whip cream cranberry salad full of grapes and nuts!

8. Do you decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving day?
No, we do it on December 1st.  I refuse to decorate before December.

9. What are some special family traditions?
We try to tell each other what we're thankful for.  Not formally (well, sometimes it is) but more an informal thing.

10. Pumpkin pie or pecan?

11. What is your favorite thing to do with the leftovers?
Turkey pot pie!

12. How long will you spend eating your thanksgiving meal?
We hang around the tables for an hour (not the kids-they exit when they're finished).

13. Are you worried about putting on weight this Thanksgiving?

14. What do you normally eat at Thanksgiving?
Turkey, sage dressing, garden-fresh green beans, potato casserole, black olives, sweet potatoes with marshmellow topping, rolls, pie and lots of desserts!

15. What will you be thankful for this Thanksgiving? 
My family, my home, my friends (including you), great stories, coffee and pens

16. What is your best Thanksgiving memory?
About three years ago when my Uncle had a hayride, pony rides, a four-wheeler...we did more than just sit around that year.  It was a blast!

17. Will you be waking up early to hit the sales?
Yes, it's kind of a tradition.  I don't find as much for the kids as I used to since they're older but it's still fun.

18. Are you planning on going shopping the day after Thanksgiving?
Yes, Black Friday is fun!  Well, when you have sisters and friends to go with.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your time off.

November 23, 2009

NaNoWriMo and the Grand Canyon

My nails are scrawny nubs.  It's the last week of NaNoWriMo and I'm woefully behind.  It reminds me of the first time I met the Grand Canyon....{drifts into a procrastinating flashback}

My family stood overlooking the expansive beauty of the Grand Canyon while I hung grippingly to the furthest rock away from the edge.

"Isn't this something?" my husband asked.

"Umm-hmm," I answered.  Beads of sweat lined my brow.

We hiked up the path and while my children pointed out different aspects of the area, all I could see was the absence of a fence.  Anyone could step off into oblivion.  I made my husband promise to hold the hands of our two younger children, enlightening him on how to secure the death grip.

My eleven year old daughter walked in front of me.  And everytime she crossed an inch over the center of the path, I cried out for her to get back in the middle.

"This is great, huh?"  I said, trying to not seem so controlling.

She shot me a look of exasperation. 

I was making it miserable.  So I swallowed hard and tried not to call out again until she was at least two inches off the mark.  She clicked picture after picture while I avoided looking into the gap altogether. 

My brain buzzed with dizziness and I didn't want to accidentally jump.  Something about being close to an edge always tempts me.  Not that I'm suicidal, it's just an impulse. And perhaps that's why I was so terrified.  I didn't trust myself to keep from skydiving minus a parachute.

After an hour, we reached the top of our hike.  A path that merged into a simple bridge which led to a large, lookout boulder for tourists to take pictures.

It seemed more like a place of insanity to me.  I froze.  Fear stole my voice as my husband neared the bridge.  I attempted to call out but only a sniveling whisper escaped my lips.

He didn't hear me; didn't even turn around.  He stepped onto the bridge.  The handrail was simply two pipes with enough room between them for a toddler to crawl through.  I clinched my fists in terror as I watched my husband pull along my youngest daughter and son.

My eldest daughter hadn't heard me either.  She strolled onto the bridge. 

I thought nausea would overcome me. 

She stopped at the center, pulled up the camera then bent against the railing to get a picture.

Finding my voice, I screamed, "Get across the bridge!"

Startled, she threw a scowl at me and hurried across.  Hindsight told me yelling probably wasn't the best decision.  Trembling, I sat in the crevice of a large rock as far away from the edge as I could.  I tried to focus on the little tree diagonal from me to gain perspective and calm my beating heart.

Two older men came up the path.  I kept my eyes on the little tree.  When they got directly in front of me, they paused to take photos.  The buzz in my head grew stronger and the world began to swirl.  I blinked quickly.  One of the men took hold of the tree trunk I was gazing at.  He used it as leverage, leverage, and backed off the path.

Were there no limits to this insanity?

He took another step.

With authority, I said, "Please, step away from the ledge!"

The two men chuckled.  But then they caught sight of my panic-stricken face, and sobered.  He pulled himself back to the path and gave a little nod.

"Of course, Ma'am.  I can see someone has a fear of heights."

A desperate noise like broken laughter escaped my lips.  They skirted along the path quickly as if narrowly escaping the insane woman on the rock. 

I heard my little boy's laugh.  He was chattering excitedly about what they'd seen.  When they reached me, my husband laid his hand on my shoulder in concern.  "Are you okay?"  I knew my ashen face and mascara-smeared eyes were telling.

"I'm fine," I lied, trying to sound brave but coming out garbled.

"Why didn't you go with us, Mommy?" my son asked.  He studied me a moment.  "Were you scared?"  He drew out the last word as if calling me a chicken.

"A little."

He took hold of my hand.  "You won't fall," he said, giving me a squeeze.  We walked down the sloping trail together.  He kept glancing at me to see if I was enjoying myself.  And for him I attempted, with great effort, to admire the view.  He was right, it was gorgeous.

But despite the allure of the famous Grand Canyon, the most beautiful sight I saw that day was our car waiting patiently at the bottom of the path.

{Back into reality with blank screen looming in front of me.}  I suppose this story has a moral.   If I can survive the Grand Canyon, I can survive NaNoWriMo.  Right?

November 22, 2009

Sunday Scribblings 190: Beauty

At the school near the crosswalk, one side of the street is a drop off and the other side is not.  Friday morning, a car stopped on the wrong side stopping the flow of traffic (which sometimes happens to those who don't know the rules).  The mother jumped out of the passenger side and opened the back door for her student.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, they don't like you to drop off on this side--" I began, as I gripped my crosswalk stop sign.

"I know."  She snapped, and pulled her little girl from the car.  "But thank you for telling me..."

For a second I thought she was being sweet.  I smiled and nodded.

"Because I wouldn't have known if you hadn't TOLD me," she finished sarcastically.

My face fell.  I'm not a person who hides my feelings easily.  My face is sort of a neon sign for my emotions.  I really hate that.  She stomped past me marching her daughter to the school doors.  The person driving her vehicle turned around and came back to retrieve her on the proper side.  I thought of several choice things to say to her as she passed me again, but refrained.  However, I did allow myself to daydream I was a policeman handing her a hefty ticket.

I hate to admit that it bothered me all day.  Which bothered me that it bothered me.

That afternoon, I stood at the crosswalk again.  A beautiful woman holding a sweet newborn baby waited in a van a few feet from me.  I've seen her often. She walks past me almost every day to pick up her children and we always exchange pleasantries.  That day she went the extra mile.  She rolled down her window and began chatting.  She made the effort to find out my name.  She asked if my kids went to school here.  How did I like crosswalking?  Things like that.  She was...kind.

It was soothing.

And probably because her kindness stood in contrast with the hateful woman earlier that day--

It was beautiful too.

November 21, 2009

The Thing About a Mudman is...

My kids invented the mudman (above) when breezes were hot.  When they longed for snow and sparkling winter days.  They filled an empty flowerbed with water, stirring the dirt inside with a stick until it was nice and gooey.  Then they formed the lumpy-looking man.

He doesn't have a scarf or carrot nose or a corn cob pipe.  His name isn't Frosty.  He's completely unknown, and made of mud.  Odd, misshapen, strange and unique.

But the thing about a mudman is that he doesn't have to follow convention.  He is what he is.  He may never be recognized as great.  Most may see him as average at best.  But he doesn't mind.  He stands there with leaf eyes and billowing torso.  As tall as a mudman can stand.  He isn't hiding or wishing he was a snowman.

He just is.

Often (especially when plowing through the muck of my novel) I wish and dream of being something or someone else.  Someone whose writing comes easier.  Or who waxes more poetic.  More comedic.  More famous.  Brilliant.  Oh, and beautiful.  And organized.  AND able to keep her house pretty all the time.

Do I ask too much?

Sometimes I forget to just be.

November 19, 2009

The Hope Chest

Mom called yesterday.  They're dividing everything at my Grandparent's house.  I couldn't help but think of the chest Papaw re-finished.  I sat with him for hours as he labored in the garage.  I loved that chest.  I talked about it so much that my husband bought me one for our first anniversary. 

Papaw was playful and told spellbinding stories. He was so much fun.  I missed saying my last goodbye to him by thirty minutes.

"I got you the chest," Mom said.

I choked. 

She continued, "I don't think they ever used it."  Tears began pouring down my face.  I pictured way Papaw had lovingly cared for it.

Now it's coming to me--a gift from him.  Never used.

I know it's just a thing.

But I can touch it.  And it'll be like touching him again.

November 16, 2009

To Jump or Not to Jump?

Ever want to jump ship?

When I get half-way through my story, there's always a new idea perched on the bank beckoning to me.  It's so tempting...and fresh.  Looks like it has so much more potential than WIP.

So I start thinking.  I could write much faster with THIS idea.  The ending would be so climactic...or the characters are so unique...

I'm feeling that lure right now.  A good friend called me today asking how my NaNo novel was going.  I told her I liked it but didn't love it.

"When do you ever love it?" she said, laughing.

I puzzled over that.  Did I never love my stories?  Maybe they're dying from a lack of love.  Oh no!

So I went back and re-read this.

Don't worry little novel.  I won't give up on you!  I'll stay on this ship.

November 15, 2009

Tears and Dish Cloths

I'm having such a good visit with my Grandmother.  Every night I tuck her into bed and we talk for a little while.  Each time it ends with her teary eyes as she thanks me for caring for her.  I can't help but get choked up along with her.  It's so SWEET!  AND THEN, to top that, there are only a few things she can still do for entertainment.  She does word searches, reads and knits.  Yesterday afternoon, she told me she wanted to give me something.  Out of her little knitting bag she pulled out a perfectly finished dish cloth.  "I want you to have this," she said.  I about cried.  Even with Alzheimer's, she's still so grateful and giving.

Maybe that's what it means to get older and wiser.  You understand what's really important.

I might add a character like in her in my NaNoWriMo story.  Perhaps that'll give it the boost it needs to get over the 25,000 word hump.  Of course that's nothing compared to Stephanie Perkins 14,000 in a DAY!  Zoowie!!

November 13, 2009

To Write Love on Her Arms

"With the increasing number of people suffering from anxiety and depression, it has become important to find ways through which people will be able to lead a happy life and prevent themselves from attempting suicide or causing self-injury. On Friday, people in different parts of the world will take part in the non-profit movement “To Write Love On Her Arms”."

I think TWLOHA is an outstanding organization and I just wanted to give a shout-out.

November 12, 2009

Crosswalk Police, Grandma and Writing

I called the police about the crazy maniac driver.  They came to the school and sat in an out-of-way place fully hidden.  I was so excited that someone else would see this!  Then she came barreling up the side street where I could see her but they couldn't.  She almost ran the stop sign except a van cut her off.  She paused--long enough to spot the police.  UGH!  So she drove slow, staying in line and behaved herself.  I don't know whether to be frustrated or grateful.  Maybe she'll drive better knowing there COULD be policemen sitting there waiting. 

I can hope.

On a happier Grandmother is here for a visit.  My sister, uncle and I take turns watching her for a week every third month so my parents can have a break every month.  My Grandmother is such a sweet person.  Having her here reminds me of fudge, gum in cookie jars and great stories.  She doesn't talk much anymore but I can sometimes get her started when I bring up a memory from the past.  I hope I'll be as pleasant and peaceful as her someday.

Still working on my manuscript situation and trying not to worry that I'm behind on my NaNoWriMo word count.  Still, as challenging as it can be, I won't lie...I love the thrill of it.

November 11, 2009

My Main Character's Doomed!

I'm 17,000 words in.  I'm not re-doing.  Perhaps sleep would restore my creativity (the ultimate procrastination).

I froze this time last November.  What is it about the second week of NaNoWriMo that makes my brain cease to work? 

My main character's stuck in a precarious predicament and I have no idea how to get him out.  Poor little MC, he's doomed!

Must.  Get.  More.  Coffee.

November 10, 2009

Crazy Killer Driver

Every morning at the crosswalk (I'm the guard), I watch this one crazy lunatic driver speed in.  She passes all the other cars--barely missing most--and screeches to a stop at the front door.  She's almost side-swiped too many cars to count. 

A few days ago, I stopped her and had a talk.  She was very agreeable and told me she'd be more careful.

But this morning she outdid herself.

Two pedestrians were walking across the parking lot.  She raced in at about 50mph.  I don't think she even saw them.  She SWERVED to miss one lady and almost HIT the other one.  It was SO CLOSE!! 

I am done with her recklessness.  I'm calling the police.  Tomorrow morning I want them waiting for her.

November 9, 2009

Feeling Painty

I don't know what it is about cleaning my house that makes me want to paint, but it does. I want a big, fat canvas to brush color on.  The only glitch is...I want it to be amazing on my first try.  Is that asking too much?

It should be colorful and fun.  Adventurous and daring.  Not too overdone.

But I'm not a painter.  I just dabble sometimes because it seems so romantic.

Maybe I'll buy an ugly picture at Goodwill and paint over it.  Think I saw that done on a home improvement show.

November 6, 2009

The Set-Up

I've been thinking lately about how we set ourselves up.  I have several different "set-ups". 

When I think of my parenting skills, I compare myself to MY Mom.  She's a born organized person that keeps her house and life in great order.  Decorates for each season; takes tons of wonderful pictures; and always looks polished.  I, on the other hand, consider a room with a path to walk in clean; tennis shoes and jeans are my staples; and I inevitably FORGET my camera.

As a writer, I tend to compare myself to the likes of Laini Taylor who is colorful and fun.  NOT to mention her amazing books.  I love her writing and imagination.  Mine is much simpler.  Or Jane Austin.  Her wit and artistic words astound me.  If be as timeless as she.  Or Rick Riordan.  I love the "voice" of Percy and all the exciting action.

As a wife, I compare myself to several friends (of whom I won't mention here) who always seem to do it better than me.  More intimate dates.  More romantic surprises for their mates.  Letters of love.  And so forth and so on.

So I set myself against these people and look rather dim.  Why do we do that?  Why do we compare?  Is it a born competition?  I don't know.  But I've been stewing over that fact and coming to a decision that I want to let go.  Stop the set-ups!  After all, I will never be that other person or live their journey.  I can only be myself.  Flawed, unique, bumbling, excited and climbing forward.  Me in all of my me-ness.

November 3, 2009

Crosswalk Characters

I'm the crosswalk guard for an elementary school.  And don't tell anyone, but I LOVE it!  It's full of adventure and cuteness everyday.  Not to mention the amazing characters passing by.

There's the sour-looking boy with long hair who never looked at me the first ten times I said a cheery hello.  Then, one week on Crazy Hat Day, he ventured to wear a tall, blue and white, Seuss-like hat.  I chuckled and told him I loved it.  He grinned.  I gasped and almost dropped the stop sign.  From then on, he said hello every morning.  Sometimes before I could say it to him!!  Double gasp.

Then there is the fragile, petite boy with huge glasses.  He mutters quietly to himself and when I greet him he seems surprised.  Like he didn't notice I was there.  Then he smiles an innocent smile and returns my greeting.  I have to resist the urge to give him a big squeezy hug.

One little girl strolls by who is full of purpose and direction.  She's the kind of child all the others listen to.  She's dressed impeccably everyday--though not in a snobby way.  It's more...a unique fashion all her own.  She looks me in the eyes and talks to me like we're both adults.  She smiles politely and tells me how she loves my rain boots but she wouldn't like standing in the rain.  She has the confidence I'd love to own.

And then there is the little girl who seems too young to be walking alone but never seems afraid.  She notices the world around her in magnified form.  She giggles at everything I say to her and always tells me a tidbit from her day.  "This is the pumpkin I decorated today.  It's a girl clown."  Things like that.  And I have to wonder if there's anyone listening to her anywhere else.

But that brings me back to why I love being a crossing guard.  Who could resist being among such interesting characters?  Even if these little ones don't get a smile for the rest of the day, I'll give them one after school and the morning after that, and the afternoon after that. 

Sigh.  I love guarding the crosswalk.

November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo Has Begun!

What a rush to know writers all over the world are starting their novels!  Even more fun is imagining a novel complete in just one month.  Well--the rough draft anyways.  But that's the hardest part!  Plunking away through the jungle of a story is the most thrilling AND the most intimidating.

Anna Myers says the rough draft is where people often quit.  So...if I actually write 50,000 words this month, then I'm ahead.  Right?

Of course right!

(Only 45,432 words to go.)