Whining or Winning

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” said Rain. She wished they could go back to just sitting in the quiet, not saying anything.

Will stood, fists clenched at his sides before he visibly relaxed, and let his arms hang loosely. Rain expected him to come and sit beside her, or look at her, or say something. Instead, he turned on his heel and walked away into the late afternoon shadows, leaving her sitting there alone on a cool concrete bench in his dead mother’s garden.

***************

At 40,000 words, the rough draft of this novel is about half way through my plot outline. Hmmm. May need to trim a bit. I usually write short and then add. I’m not good at math, but even I know at this rate the story would be way too long.

Last month I took advantage of nanowrimo fever to try and keep up the momentum I established a few weeks earlier after reading Finish by Jon Acuff. One of his suggestions was to cut your goals in half, so at half done I feel pretty good about my progress. Except when I don’t feel good about it. Ha! Do you ever beat yourself up for not being as good, as fast, or as brilliant as someone else?

This morning I told my daughter I was a bit sad and depressed for no apparent reason. I wondered if it was because I wasn’t cranking out the high word counts I saw others producing.

Obviously, I was feeling a little sorry for myself and enjoying some sour grapes when I said, “Other people are getting to be all fabulous because they won nanowrimo and here I am still poking along.”

She said, “But you’re already fabulous, mama.”

We laughed. So much for whining about not winning. I guess maybe I don’t need to “win” at everything. As long as I stay fabulous.

Time for me to quit belly aching and get back to work on this novel.

Stay fabulous, y’all!

By the way, what do you think of the new mini book break reviews I’ve been posting? Do you like them?

Cleaning Day

“I should be mad at you for not letting me take the car,” she says. Her brows arch in surprise. “But I’m not.” She smiles. A small, sweet smile. The one I would sew a thousand tiny doll dresses, go on a million trips to the park, and bake a hundred chocolate cupcakes for. A yesterday smile.

She is mine for a few weeks. She told me so before finals. She said, “I will be hanging around the house for five weeks.”

I know that won’t happen. She already has plans. There are friends, events to go to, and a dance workshop.  There is a boy. There is always a boy.

Her schedule fills up so fast I can barely squeeze in her dental appointments, an eye exam, and a doctor visit. And she really should be evaluated for that persistent weakness in her ankle. She twisted it at school months ago, stumbling on the theater stairs.

“You were right, Momma,” she told me then. “I should have tossed those boots.”

The worn down heels made her ankles pronate. After she fell that day, I snatched the boots away and trashed them, sending her to buy new shoes with her ankle wrapped tight.

It’s summer break. Today she stays home. We clean. The guys installed an exhaust fan in my bathroom, and the white powdery dust from new cut holes and whatever else they did invaded the master bedroom. It coats everything.

We wipe with damp cloths. I wonder aloud, more than once, why they didn’t consider covering my work space with plastic sheeting. She shrugs, grown wise in the ways of women, knowing I need to grumble and fuss at the mess, knowing it will not make the least impact on our men.

First years are hard, and Baby Girl isn’t so special she dodged the common freshman bumps along the road. Stress and grief dogged her, on too many days panting hard at her heels, snapping. More than once with blood-drawing teeth.

Yesterday she came upon me, armwrapping me from the side. “I feel content,” she said. Has she ever said that before? I wanted to breathe it in, cradle her contentment like an infant-holding  momma smelling her baby’s hair. She still has that peace about her, end of semester relief not yet morphing into boredom and the fidgety unsettledness. We rest in this moment, the place between.

We wipe with the damp cloths. It’s so dusty. The rags have to be rinsed, over and over, water turning milky.

I go through the neglected stacks of papers. It wouldn’t be such a chore if I had kept up with the endless flotsam of every day life, but I couldn’t. Clutter accumulated without notice until now. The curtains needed washing, as did clothes left too long in untidy, neglected mounds waiting in vain to be folded away. The washer has been going all afternoon into evening. There are a pile of rags and towels in it now, waiting for tomorrow. It’s too late to start a wash now. Rugs are clean, floors mopped, ceiling fan dusted. The room practically echoes with good, simple clean.

I found things that have been lost for months. It’s good to wipe away the dust, to rest in the inbetween, finding contentment in the stripped down rooms of home.

Pitching at A Writers’ Conference

I was ready. My book was finished, revised, and edited. My book coach encouraged me to go to this year’s writers’ conference and make an agent appointment, so I did.

I bought shoes, got a bad haircut, and actually ironed clothes. This was serious.

Months in advance, I did the research and prepared myself to meet a literary agent or publisher. I wrote a one sheet, printed my first four chapters in correct format, and had lists of questions to ask for the ‘extra’ time left over after my pitch. After reading about the available choices, I listed three, understanding I would get one of them. Since I registered early, I would probably get the first one I listed. In case I didn’t, I continued to read online a bit about each person so I could easily bring up topics to chit chat about. Pleased, I realized I had plenty of conversation fodder. I had this.

Then I got there.

Things were going well at first. Arriving early, I had plenty of time to spare. I felt fine, if tired. Sleep had eluded me, but no worries. Instead of sleeping, I listened to relaxing music and did deep breathing to Paul Cardall’s Be Calm. Who needs sleep? I’d faced bigger challenges on less sleep and succeeded. I could probably even get a blog post out of this experience like other writers do, sharing wisdom I garnered from the meeting.

Finding out I had three appointments threw me for a sec, but no problem. I had planned to meet with anyone, remember? I was prepared.

Another poor soul who was waiting to pitch her book looked as if she were about to come unglued. I felt bad for her. I traded business cards with the other writers in the waiting area. We reassured each other that we would be fine. This wasn’t so tough.

My name was called. Even though I had done my homework, I did not recognize the agent I was directed to. After a few seconds, it became apparent this was the one person in the room who I did not have an appointment with that day. No problem. We exchanged pleasantries and exited the room. It turns out I had been confused with another Donna. No big, I didn’t miss anything because I was early.

My actual turn came. I floundered at the beginning, but I was sure to find my footing soon, right?

Uhhhhh. No.

My brain emptied itself, thoughts completely scattered. My hands flopped around on the table as if I could gather those thoughts back somehow, but every coherent speck of intelligence was gone. Poof. I was tongue-tied, stammering. This from the lady who talks to people in the checkout line and has long conversations with telemarketers.

The agent was exceedingly gracious and kind.

I did not throw up or cry. I did not dump hot coffee on her. So that was good. As a friend told me, the encounter probably wasn’t as bad as a sharp stick to the eye.

I don’t know why I was so anxious, unless it was because my little subconscious was screaming, “This may be a pivotal moment and the next ten minutes is likely to have an impact on your ability to deliver the message God has given you to share with the world of suffering children and the timer is running right over there, numbers flying by.”

No pressure.

Now, I realize this was overly dramatic, but it was my subconscious whispering. It’s hard to reason with such a thing. Realistic Donna understands that my ability, or lack of, in any given situation is not capable of derailing God’s plan. I am simply not big enough to have that kind of impact. To place such importance on self displays an arrogant lack of trust and faith.

Ouch.

I made it through this rite of passage. No one was injured. And she asked to see my work. Maybe she will like it. All I can do now is wait and see.

In the meantime, I plan to trust in the process knowing it will all work out while I happily dig into my next project.

Onward.

Here’s a few pitching tips from Writer’s Digest and The Write Practice. All I can add is: Tell your subconscious self to chill.

 

 

Crappy First Draft: My Smiling Pile of Poo

All writers know first drafts are less than perfect. In fact, they are usually awful. Crappy first drafts are par for the course.

At Walmart one day I was shopping with my son. I saw a Smiling Pile of Poo Bank. Jokingly, I said, “When I finish the rough draft for my novel I should treat myself by buying this to hold all the money I earn when I’m a famous author.”

He took it off the shelf and put it in the buggy. “I’m buying it for you.”

“No, no,” I said. “I have to finish the draft first.”

“You will,” he said.

“What if I don’t?”

“You will.”

It gave me the warm fuzzies to think he had faith in me. The guy must believe I could write a novel if he parted with cash to purchase such a thing.

I’m not really sure if having this bank represents earnings I will make selling books. Perhaps, being empty, it better represents all the money I have spent attempting to learn the craft of novel writing.

The Pile of Poo sat in a central place. I saw it every day. We all saw it every day. If I had been good and worked on my novel, the face smiled encouragingly at me. On the other hand, on days I could have written but didn’t, I swear that pile of poo mocked me with its big, round bugeyes and sly, silly grin. Plus, now my son was invested, having bought that pile of poo for me.  He is a grown man, but he is still my kid. If he had enough faith in me to buy a ceramic bank with his own money, I had to be worthy of that pile of poo.

poobank

It was about this time last year when I heard back from an agent. My full manuscript had been requested, but in the end was turned down. I wasn’t entirely sure what the issue was, so I hired book coach Sarah Hamer to help me. 

Here we are many months later with about 40,000 words added to the story. Many of these words were written 500 at a time as I kept to my daily minimum goal. Over time I did pick up speed, learning to use speech to text and making adjustments to current challenges.

New characters walked onto the stage, and the plot is better. I decided to change from Middle Grade to Young Adult, and hopefully corrected any major story flaws.

Finally, my draft is finished! You know what that means. Now I get to begin re-writing and editing.

And my Smiling Pile of Poo will be here to encourage me every step of the way.

Oh, and by the way, one of my other boys bought me this lovely first draft notebook, trusting I have another story in me waiting to be written.

poonotebook

 

It’s wonderful to have supportive kids, even if they give me lots of crap, I mean poo.

#AmWriting

baby dress

Baby Dresses

The smell of hot cotton fabric permeates the air. I used to hate ironing. I never could get every crease out. A ready iron in my hands had a tendency to create more problems than I could erase, playing hide and seek with wrinkles until it drove me to despair.

The trick is to iron only cotton fabric, cut into squares . I like the small, well-behaved pieces, the calm way they lay still for me, not like hard to manage shoulder seams that always want to squirm away when you try to hold them flat enough to iron.  Simple, unsewn pieces have no curves and strange corners.

I push down on the fabric, slowly drawing the heat across a multitude of tiny blue flowers. The busier the pattern, the less the wrinkles show. Still, I pass the iron over the field of blooms again and again, until the scent of hot cotton lingers, memories of little girl dresses.

I had other plans for this fabric. I can still picture the dress in my mind, the one I imagined when I chose this fabric. But then life happened. Time got away. The white and blue dress was never sewn.

The iron creaks. I never had the money for a good iron, so I made do. There were irons I coveted after. Maybe if I had owned one of those my ironing would have been more successful. Nevermind.

I whisk my palm across the hot fabric, not resting there, always moving, moving. I am going to put this in the shadowbox as a background for the dress.

I barely finished the dress in time. Last babies. You understand. The final embroidered flower was stitched in place while I was in the hospital bed recovering from my fourth c-section, and she was brand new to this world. Silk roses on a baby dress. What nonsense.

Two of the flowers need repair. I hesitate. Was it really so long ago her hands were small enough to catch the tiny loops and undo all my meticulous work? It was a trial to keep her from unraveling them all. I thread the needle.

White thread and a twist. One, two, three stitches. The thread knots. I take my time and unravel it. When I was younger, I was always in a hurry, leaving snarls and wadded thread behind on the back sides of my stiches, not worried about what didn’t show.  I tease out the tangle and leave a clean, smooth stitch behind.

On her way out she breezes by, her fingers lighting on the dress for two, maybe three, seconds as she walks by. She says, “When I have my baby girl, she will have her picture made in this dress.”

I say nothing, because even though we have said this very same thing a thousand times, I can’t say it today.

Not today.

She opens the door, her hand jiggling the keys impatiently. They hit against each other and jangle.

She has one foot out the door when I say, “Text me when you get there.”

The response is automatic. “I will, Momma.” Her mind is elsewhere, on her to do list.

Before I assemble the dress and backing into the shadowbox, I pass the iron over the blue flowered fabric one more time, breathing in the smell of hot cotton meant for little girl dresses.

Distracted

I’ve neglected my blog.

I have a million reasons why. I even have finished posts, somewhere, that I intended to put up, but they never made to the blogosphere.

Things around here are in what I like to call a “creative” phase. It’s a period of a thousand project beginnings and me hopping from one to another. It may seem like nothing gets finished, but I hope eventually progress will become evident. I’m banking on it.

There is a lot going on to distract me.

I have been working like crazy on the book-I-thought-was-almost-done and discovered it is a long way from the finish line.

This is our last year of homeschooling and that comes with a heap of things to finish, and quite a few to get into motion. Ready or not, this phase of our lives will soon be over. People always ask, “What will you do?” A friend of mine once answered that by saying, “Clean the house!” That is definitely not the answer I give. Usually I sigh dramatically and say, “Nothing! I’ll be retired! ” and we laugh.

I find myself distracted by the notion of endings quite often.

Baby Girl is, at this moment, practicing an en pointe competition dance. It is a variation on the same dance she has performed on stage since she was tiny. Whenever there has been a space between the last time I watched her dance to this song, Treasure of Jesus, and she practices it again, the tears come.

My very favorite memory of her dancing this particular piece was when she was about eight. It was late, and she was in her nightgown. I had come to tell her it was time for bed.  She didn’t know I was there, hidden in the shadow of the door frame, watching her sway to the music, lost in it, worshiping Jesus. It was one of those catch-your-breath moments that you know are a gift.

I watch her now, a beautiful accomplished young woman, still that little girl blowing kisses to Jesus. It presses on all the tender, hope-filled places of this mama’s heart.

There are so many things to get ready. This is a year of lasts and firsts, endings and beginnings. It is a strange place to be, living in a space over filled with happy sadness.

Forgive me if I’m a bit distracted.

Homeschooling Is Worth It

hsisworthit

This year will be my twenty-third year. That’s a long time to be enveloped by the lifestyle of home education. It will be my twenty-third year, and my last.

In the beginning, I was angry. I wasn’t ready for this. I felt forced into it. I graduated with honors and the inability to do much math beyond the basics. I could not analyze literature to save my life. Home educating was not part of my plan. We had moved to the best school district within driving distance of my husband’s work, but then it didn’t work out and we were going to home educate.

I wasn’t prepared.

It was a large undertaking, and I had a lot of studying to do. We got quite a few head shakes. Most people tried to convince me to quit. They couldn’t understand that I had made a commitment. The promise had been made and there was no going back.

There have been things I have kept to myself. Struggles no one but God has seen. I have kids with learning differences. I have a few myself. Health challenges. Incredible financial burdens. Other messy stuff. There is not enough Samsonite in the world to hold all this baggage, and not enough room in Texas to unpack it all.

But I made a promise. Was it hard to keep? Yes and no. Teaching them was not the hardest part, unless you caught me on a bad day, before I figured out bad days happen. Bad days don’t mean much in the grand scheme.

Teaching them was not the hardest part, unless you caught me on a bad day, before I figured out bad days happen. (Tweet This)

When Baby Girl came along and we knew she would be the last, I added up the years this home educating commitment of mine would take. In a moment of self-preservation to maintain mental health, I immediately forgot. I refused to count the days for a long, long, time. Instead, I decided to make them count for us.

They did.

We have made each other rich. The focus has always been relationships. Putting relationships first has arranged all the elements of teaching into proper place. Our purpose in educating is to give a foundation to fulfill each child’s calling and prepare students to do life. Listen more than speak.

Putting relationships first has arranged all the elements of teaching into proper place. (Tweet This)

My daughter chooses her own path. It is our philosophy to let the student lead. It is my job to provide guidance balanced with respect. Confidence in a student’s abilities and encouragement to do their best has been the method that served all my children well.

Many years ago a mom once asked me, “Is homeschooling hard?” I laughed. It was good I did not answer her that particular day.

A mom once asked me, “Is homeschooling hard?” I laughed. It was good I did not answer her. (Tweet This)

Some days it is hard. Very hard. There were days when I considered the cost, hard pressed to weigh out the pros and cons, and days when I thought about taking a different path. There were even a few in-between days when I felt unsure, and reevaluated plans, mulling over options. But in the end, after discussion and prayers, we kept on. My steps were careful. Cautiously bold is how I traveled this way.

In the quiet morning hour, the house is empty. Everyone is living their lives. My senior is at her job, teaching. She says she doesn’t understand why people get frustrated at those who are trying their best. Was this something I taught my children, or something they taught me? The best, most lasting lessons are the ones like these.

I wasn’t prepared for this either, the brilliant gifts that litter the days like gold strewn along an otherwise mundane path.

When I look back I am overcome by the enormity of this job well done, and overwhelmed by gratefulness. I am grateful for the freedom living in this land allows, the wisdom so generously shared by others who went before, and for the grace covered love that carried us through.

If you see me crying in the toothpaste aisle at the grocery, it’s not because I’m sad, or overcome with the prospect of empty nesting, or having a moment of regret.

It is because it’s beautiful.

Here I stand on the other side. Twenty-three years isn’t such a long time after all.

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Because Words Change the World

Today I am guest hosting Literacy Musing Mondays Linkup. Do you have a link to share? Book reviews, writing, anything literacy related is welcome. Please share with us! 

How has literacy impacted your life? This is one of my answers.

I’d heard it often enough, and I knew it to be true. Words have power. A good speaker can motivate, a book open your mind to new possibilities, an essay expand your horizons. Even a small word of encouragement can keep one on course. I knew it and I believed it.

becasuewordschangetheworlddandelion-797997_1280

I used words to try and talk to people. I asked and informed, explained and requested understanding. It was frustrating. Then I wrote a story. I wrote a story about my child’s day. I had no intention of having it published or really doing anything with it.  I need to make it clear that this was no earth shattering prose. It was only a simple, every day essay. The kind you would see on a mom blog.

I tucked my essay into my Bible study book. I don’t remember why the leader asked if anyone had anything to share, but I felt that nudge in my spirit. I ignored it. Speaking out was not my thing. She asked again. No one knew I had that sheet of paper in my book, about my frustration, or my writing. Then she asked again. By this time, people were looking around. I couldn’t read it out loud myself, so I handed it to her and asked her to read for me.

People cried. More than that, my son’s world changed because the story, a plain little story about a little boy who liked things all boys like, had drawn others into his world. So they made room for him in theirs.

There are journeys impossible to fathom unless you walk them, and battles only understood from an altered perspective. Story lets the reader experience connection. Our point of view shifts. Suddenly we can see something we never saw before. Perception becomes clear. Truth is revealed.

Words and story can open hearts. Words can build community. Sometimes, words can simply make a little boy feel accepted.

And the whole world changes.

Becasuewordschangetheworldspring-flower

 

 

Now it is time to linkup to Literacy Musing Mondays. This link up is for all bloggers who love to write anything literacy related such as essays about the love of reading and/or writing, book reviews, or posts about fun literacy activities. All family-friendly posts are welcome. 😉

 

Literacy Musing Mondays

Ashley from www.circlingthestory.com

Ashley @Circling the Story

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Mary @Maryandering Creatively

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Tami @ThisMomsDelight

Blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus

Last Week’s Top Clicked Post!

 

Mary’s book review of Warrior Chicks by Holly Wagner was the most clicked! She is so excited about everyone’s support! She loved this book so check out the review if you have not already done so.

Mary still wanted to feature a great literacy blogger this week; so, she selected the second most clicked post to feature: this wonderful post:

Books About Bears Your Preschooler Will Love

By Carolyn at House Full of Bookworms


Carolyn features some sweet books about bears. I love all of her selections! You don’t want to miss this one either. Plus, it really is worth it to visit Carolyn’s fun site!

You could be next to be featured! Remember, we try to make it worth your while to linkup with us by promoting your posts across our social media networks. We also pin your posts to our Pinterest Board!

Follow Mary Hill’s board Literacy Musing Mondays Linkup on Pinterest.

You will have until Saturdays at 12 p.m. now to link up! So come back often. :)

Literacy Musing Mondays

Linkup Rules:

  1. Include a link back or the blog hop button linked to this hop on your posts.
  2. Link up the urls to your posts not to your blog.
  3. Please remember this is a family-friendly linkup. We reserve the right to delete any posts that are not family friendly. We love all kinds of literature and genres including family-friendly inspirational romances, fantasy, or scifi. We do not welcome anything with excessive sexual content or cursing.
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  6. Tweet about the link up too.

Home Invasion|The Visit Continues

We were driven out into the night to seek shelter at my son’s house a week or so ago as I wrote about in an earlier post.

When we got here, you could tell it was definitely a guy’s house.

pizzaboxes

 

But soon, his sister made her mark. I thought the man of the house finding this in the cabinet was hilarious. He was not as amused as I.

wighead

 

The master bedroom did not have a bed yet and was used for office space.

smalloffice

 

He used one of the smaller rooms that he had bought a mattress for, intending to rearrange things as he acquired more furnishings. The closets are spacious, but he kept his clothes here.

clothes

Perhaps this was more convenient. I resisted hanging up his clothes. I did find clean sheets and left them on his bed, simply as a suggestion.

Being a good sport, my son has adapted somewhat to being invaded by not only mom, but sister as well. Brothers have often been here and require little adjustment. Girls, on the other hand, are different. There have been purchases of things boys have no need of, like extra silverware, baking pans, first aid supplies, laundry booster, and fresh fruits and veggies.

I am happy to report the bathrooms and kitchen were fairly clean. Almost shockingly so! Warms a mother’s heart to realize the endless task of teaching does pay off.

I worried about crashing in on him, but he keeps assuring me he likes us being here . . . most of the time. He grumbles at times. It would be nice if his sibs loaded the dishwasher. You would be proud of me, Mommas. I say nothing to that, nor do I gloat. (By the way, the sibs do contribute to upkeep and mess management.)

We were talking about how nerve wracking it can be to have family around all the time and he told me he wasn’t bothered by my being here at all.

“Because,” he said, “You’re not judgmental.”

For some reason. every time I think of that it makes me tear up.

How has your summer been so far?

 

 

How I Became A Middle of the Night Houseguest

If you follow my blog you know my son recently bought a new house. I had only been to see it once since he bought it, and that was a very short visit. Unbeknownst to any of us, that lack was soon to be remedied.

It’s been raining quite a bit. The Texas flooding spared us, but the rains have been steady. When it rains a great deal without stopping, many things can cause problems. What went wrong at my house was not a tragedy. It was a septic failure, one of things that can go wrong and drive you out into the night.

I tried calling my son several times as we were stuffing clothes into bags and grabbing toothbrushes and pillows, but he did not answer.

I have an emergency key. This was an emergency.

We startled him awake. A particularly boring episode of something on Netflix had sent him to dreamland as he sat in his only real chair. The one I gave him.

2015-06-01_21-13-22_847

It was parked in front of the T.V. his brother gave him, which is on the T.V. stand his new neighbor gave him since she was throwing it out. Do you sense a pattern? He doesn’t have a lot of furniture. He doesn’t have a lot of anything, except room.

To give you an idea, here is rest of the living room furniture. (Wait a minute, we brought the red camp chair. Come to think of it, we brought the blue throw that is in the red chair,too.)

seating

We also brought sleeping bags, towels, and various other supplies. I knew he had a new mattress and one set of sheets he bought for the guest room, so that was good. No way can I sleep on the floor anymore, as I explain in my cipro story.

He let us in and welcomed us, even if he was a bit fuzzy headed. Can you imagine your mom showing up in the wee hours with a goodly portion of the family in tow?

My husband and eldest son are at home now, and await estimates. While they wait, there are a few things to take care of. Looks like I may be getting some remodeling.

In the meantime, we will enjoy the visit. We will probably make messes for him to cleanup instead of the other way around, and he can stop missing us for a little while.

And we wait for the rain to stop and the work backlog to subside. We are not the only ones with septic woes.

raincrpped

 

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