musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “May, 2009”

I did it! I did it! I did it!

I finished the last scene.

The one I once again was so emotionally attached to, I couldn’t write it.

But I didn’t realize it was the emotional nature of the scene that was holding me back –

Until I actually was able to write it.

I wrote it crying, or holding back from crying.

The only thing missing was the swelling background chords.

My main character realizes his triumphs in the end, but better yet, he recognizes all the help he didn’t realize he had along the way.

So here’s to the help I had along the way:

To all the moms, and then some, at

who listened to me whine and encouraged and supported and came up with ideas to help me write around when I was stuck. In particular, thank you to Miranda Hersey-Helin for getting me to a place I could dust this old manuscript off and finish it. It took me a year to finish this first draft, which included many rewrites and edits along the way, after it sat for 4-5 years in a backed up document file and in a file cabinet.

To Joe and Ted, my Boston buddies who have been listening to me lament about writer’s block for over 20 years -and also for being just as excited for me when I was having a good stretch.

To Cathy J, whose friendship from second grade was rekindled about the time I started writing this thing, and who has listened to me whine daily and always been nothing but encouraging and creative through this whole ride.

To all my new and old friends who have offered to read and been excited and encouraging as I worked on this project.

To my boys, who constantly interrupt and inspire. K, especially or being the first reader of the first pages way back when, and saying he wanted to read more.

To my girl for laying me up in a horrible pregnancy and making me realize that while it was tight, we could survive on one income while I healed from her pregnancy and tried to write with less distraction than if I had a job to report to besides the three kids…

To my mother-in-law for putting up with my frustrations and all of the above under one roof while I was trying to write…

And last but not least, certainly not least, as he supported all of us financially, and emotionally me through my awful pregnancy, and after and the manuscript process, which was a lot like the pregnancy, as I whined about how I couldn’t write it nearly as easily as I thought, and generally acted piss poor around the house as I was constantly interrupted, etc…my dear, beautiful sweet, supportive, not much of a reader outside of tech and photo magazines husband, Andrew. Boy did he put up with a lot. I hope he knows how much I really do appreciate him for what he endured from me – because I really had to suck to be around for the past two years.

I’d also like to thank the teacher and 5th-6th grade class where I was a class assistant in 2003-5. Thanks, Emily M and gang! If it weren’t for my time with you, this manuscript wouldn’t even be a thought on the horizon.

Now, onto Draft 2 and the edits!

Cheers, Salute, Chin-chin!

Newest guilty pleasure: True Blood

I’ve always enjoyed offbeat things like sci-fi series and getting involved in a good storyline. I try to keep my TV viewing to a minimum, which I will honestly say, I’m not very successful in doing, because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m pooped. At night, I veg in front of the almighty pixel lit box. However, now that the major TV season and Lost are over until next year sometime, I’m beginning to branch out.

I never used to carry the HBO channel spectrum, because the guys were young and didn’t need even more channels to watch, and I didn’t want to pay for more than basic cable, anyway. Now that we have our internet through the cable company, we have to carry HBO. For a long time, I have been avoiding it, but I recently got hooked into one of their new series. Honey and I discovered True Blood in on-demand. We’re playing catch up before the new season starts in a couple of weeks.

Now, while I love the symbolism inherent in any good vampire tale, I have never become ensconced in the whole vampire fan-base. I don’t read Anne Rice like she’s the be-all end-all of the truth of vampires. I don’t get hooked into every vampire thing since the old Nasferatu or Bela Lugosi Dracula movies. I don’t succumb to the I wish I were a vampire fantasy that so many these days go to great lengths to profess. I don’t cut my hair with a widow’s peak, dye it black, or get my teeth molded into fangs through cosmetic dentistry or even wear Byronicly frilly blouses. I have bought Twilight, the book, but my fourteen year old’s review so far is that it is mind-numbingly plotless, so he hasn’t finished it yet. He says it is a chick book. I do want to read it to see what all of the hubbub is about. I see perfectly reasonable literature reading people going crazy over it like I did over the Harry Potter series. But back to True Blood.

I’m only six episodes in, but so far it seems like a great character-driven piece of fantasy drama. It has romance, a torn moral vampire (of course) who fits neither with the hedonistic vamps or humans. It has a spunky main character in Anna Paquin’s lead and her brother’s hedonism is unraveling him. There are juicy, bloody murders, and blood-drained ones, and plenty of sexual over and undertones, a requisite in any vampire tale. There are friends with benefits, dirty nasty vampire sex, dirty nasty vampire wish sex, romps of one night stands and unrequited triangles that lay over each other in very interesting puzzles. And then there’s Sookie and Bill. And I am really loving Sam at this point, but I’ve always loved dogs, so go fig. Lafayette has a whole different show going on behind that bead curtain, too, that I would love to see. My favorite character I can’t get enough of is tough talking Tara. I am torn up about Gran/Adele’s murder. Frankly, it should have come later than the sixth episode because she is the single most loveable pure heart character in this guilty pleasure of a show. All of the characters, main and supporting, are something to behold. Yes, they lean toward stereotypes, but I want to get to know them, and have the stereotype fade.

As for Tru Blood, the synthetic drink for vampires looking to mainstream, I can’t help but think of Diet Coke. Having been born in Atlanta and raised on Coke, I’m a bit of a purist and consider anything but the Real Thing to be a poor imitation. I guess I’m more like the bad vampires, in that respect, but like Bill, I’ve lived a long time without the Real Thing, as I try to be healthy, eating and drinking well, instead of supporting the big corporations in their addictive HFCS source of sweetness and orgiastic junk food which is leading us down a hedonistic road toward a national obesity epidemic. But I digress.

In the very interesting title sequence, backed by my favorite Chris Isaak song, if I don’t blink near the end, apparently the series is based on a book series, Sookie Stackhouse…then it disappears…

I can’t wait to watch it tonight so I can find out what that book series is completely called and who it’s written by, so I can go read it.

Not that I’m obsessed with vampires or anything. But if the storyline continues the way it has so far, I just have to get to the source!


A chorus of birds trilling to wake the day

A moment of five a.m. wakefulness later
they sound like grumpy nagging –

a city of mothers stuck sitting on eggs
or tending the little ones, beaks open,
asking asking, asking of her –
she asks, asks, asks papa bird
for just a little help please.

Bring us a worm, can’t you hear them?
Aah! I can’t do this myself!

Or maybe I’m just projecting –
my voice among thousands screaming at the dawn.

Until, done nursing, my baby rolls over,
and I may have another moment’s peace

Before my day begins
asking, asking, asking.

Writer’s Block in the extreme

How do I get from this:

to a complete final chapter?

This page has been staring me in the face for weeks now from the left side of my desk. Behind this page in my mind’s eye, I can see the movie version playing with all the characters I have introduced and their reactions to Felix as he begins his presentation.

I see the principal giving a very-pleased-to-have-this-young-man-in-our-midst introduction. I see his parents settling into the folding chairs proud as parents can be, I see row upon row of classes increasing in grade level to the back of the room, his friends toward the back, his sisters in the front row. I see his difficult sister coming around, and his shy sister, finally without her thumb in her mouth watching him with a grin from ear to ear. I see the school nurse/confidante and the gym teacher who broke up the fight cheering him on with thumbs up on the side lines. I hear Felix’s thoughts as he surveys the room before he begins to speak, moving from nervous exhilaration to knowing he’s had a lot of support all along, if he’d only recognized it, and now that he does, he knows he can do this presentation better than anyone. His solitary nerves disappear and by virtue of his feelings of support from so many he loves and who love him, he realizes anything is possible.

Really, this of all the chapters should be the easiest to write. All the difficulties he’s gone through are over, the good things are securely in place. So how is it I can’t write the words to put him on stage, in front of the audience for the chapter to occur and wrap up this book?

Everything I’ve said above and more I’ve been saying to myself for a very long time. I’ve been saying them through writing much of the rest of the book, through his trials and tribulations, I have had this scene in mind since the first page was written in 2004, maybe even 2003. All I know is the class I was working in at the time and that it was that class that inspired this idea. Sixth graders, gotta love them. Wow, they must be graduating high school now. And I’m still hung up in this book!

Please, does anyone know how to put his feet on the steps up to the stage to start this ending? I’m killing myself here between knowing what I want to write, the lack of uninterrupted time and sleep that affect the work, and the sheer actual words that will put him on stage. The movie in my head seems to have come out before the advent talkies.

Thank you for allowing me to indulge in my inner dialogue. I figured if I wrote it down and put it ‘out there’ I might make actual progress – maybe tomorrow.

Why oh why?

Can’t I write my final scene which is already laid out pretty well in a spiral notebook which has been open on my desk for a couple of weeks or so now?

Can’t I write the essay that should be the result of the interview I conducted a couple of weeks ago?

Can’t I clean up my room from the buckets that should be switched seasonal clothes and back in the attic for a few weeks now?

Can’t I get it together to practice tai chi, yoga, take my walks, or engage in any regular form of exercise?

Can’t I plan a dinner beyond the five minutes before I cook it?

Because I’m pooped, that’s why.

Because I can’t keep one strain of thought going when I turn around to leave the room to go do that thing, what was it – I was going to leave the room to do.

Because I’d rather read a book, even if I can only manage three pages at a time.

Because I’d rather cuddle the baby who kept me up all night again, as she drowsily skips her nap, again.

And that’s why I’m so pooped.

Land of the Lost

I’ve been up all night – since about 1:30am with a squirmy, not quite sleeping toddler. I’m feeling a bit lost today.

This reminds me of yesterday’s Sci-Fi Channel marathon of old Land of the Lost episodes that I grew up loving.

I talked my 14yo son into watching an episode for the sheer 70s campiness of it.

the following conversation ensued:

K: Wow, 70s TV really sucked. I can’t believe they actually photoshopped in the raft to a trickling stream!

DH: Photoshop had not been invented yet, kiddo.

Groucho Marx

The other day, I spoke with my twenty years and running friend back in Boston, Joe. Every so often, when I do, I can’t help but think of Groucho Marx. Groucho has always guaranteed a laugh from us both. Even in his ridiculous statements, the grain of truth is liable to get stuck in a tooth.

So in the interest of making me shut up upon occasion, enjoy some Groucho-isms:

Before I speak, I have something important to say.

Humor is reason gone mad.
I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.

One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

And last, but certainly not least, the following always puts a smile on my face for days and days, especially when I can find someone with whom to sing it aloud. Watching it again also reminded me of my lifelong infatuation with Harpo. How can anyone not love Harpo?! Harpo has a stellar autobiography, by the way: Harpo Speaks.


I‘ve spent so much time thinking how odd it is that K will be starting high school next year, that the entire concept that he’s graduating middle school has completely by-passed any mental space I have leftover after S’s day-to-day- functioning and Baby C’s needs. That’s what I get for having one independent kid. Poor guy, I’m so busy handling the others and musing about his future that I completely miss his present. We’ve been discussing college options since he was four, but I haven’t even bought a sport coat that’ll fit him for three weeks before his arms hang like ape arms out of the sleeves. I just know the moment he walks across the stage to shake hands with the principal is going to hit me like an oncoming Mac truck. I’m certain to burst into blubbering sobs because I have given myself absolutely no emotional preparation for this. It was just last week that his graduation even made an appearance on the horizon in my head.

This is going to be big – mondo! This is my first child’s first graduation experience since preschool. I hate to say it, but I can’t recall a preschool graduation per se. I think I remember an end of year party. I asked him, and he doesn’t remember it either. I don’t think there are any pictures. What happened? That’s a real shame. I don’t think his class had one for kindergarten and I moved him from a K-6 school to a district with a middle school starting in 6th grade at the end of his 5th grade year. He’s been ripped off.

I don’t know how he flies under my radar so much in an average day of our lives. I am pre-occupied with finishing the manuscript, and with his younger brother and sister. He’s pretty quiet and keeps to himself a lot. Mostly he’s reached an age and gathered friends in the neighborhood so that his primary activity is the ubiquitous teen requisite: hanging out anywhere as long as it’s away from adults. Sometimes, when he’s in my vicinity, it suddenly occurs to me that days or weeks have gone by with nary a hug. When he was little, he was the biggest cuddle bunny, constantly against me in full body leans, and taking my face in his little hands to tell me he loves me. Now I walk up to him in the kitchen, put my arms around his lanky frame, and usually have to take his limp arms and wrap them around me in a bit of tragicomedy.

The truth of the matter is that, while I feel like I’ve always been a parent, he is growing up faster than I could have imagined. His milestones are more and more like adult milestones, and so my reaction isn’t what is for his thirteen month old sister. His milestones are normalized against his brother’s, which can seem monumental. And because, even as a little kid, he’s had such a sense of adultness about him, that his milestones come off as givens rather than what they are, which should be remarkable. Oh, he recognizes the need for common good. Oh, he’s waxing poetic on the existential nature of God. Oh, his feet have outgrown mine. Oh, didn’t I just buy those high water pants last week? Oh, wait, is that the first hint of a moustache?! Oh, he’s actually interacting with his baby sister. Oh, he’s consciously choosing to not take this opportunity to fight with his brother. I should be doing much more than having passing thoughts of his capacity to be a kind, to consider any question of spirituality, to grow like the Bermuda grass in my gardens beyond my control.

And maybe that’s it. The idea that he is graduating from middle school has come on so suddenly and sharply, because I know the next handful of years will be spent just trying to balance between allowing him to experience the freedoms that come with self-sufficiency, and keeping him safe. Like his toddler sister running to and fro with not enough sleep bonking her head on furniture, I just want to hold him close, not let him fall on his face as he figures out the world of being a young man for himself. Hopefully I have prepared him well to go at life with abandon, but not so much that he runs headlong into trouble. And maybe, just a little bit, behind all this wondering about his independence, I’m a little fearful, that as he becomes a man, I know him less than I did when I could easily scoop him up in my arms; that there may be those in his friends, who may know him more.

Tai Chi, schmai chi

Why am I not skinny yet?

Maybe it’s because my dear Honey, who I roped into the class with me, and I aren’t practicing outside of our early Saturday morning class.

Maybe it’s because after a weekend of intensive gardening, on Mother’s Day weekend, I haven’t done much else, and my back is still stiff. But stiff is still better than out, so that’s a start.

Maybe it’s the carb-loading pasta dinners with extra bread – and second helpings.

And the ice cream and chips and salsa snacks in the afternoons while folding laundry and watching Oprah.

But I really didn’t appreciate Master Ko telling us this past Saturday that it takes about two years to really get comfortable with Tai Chi. “Like tennis or golf or any other sport.” he helpfully pointed out.

We’re on our third class.

Those Dexatrim commercials are beginning to look attractive…

So I’m no John Updike

When John Updike passed away recently, Charlie Rose aired a great retrospective of his handful of interviews with Updike and I watched absorbed, as I have always loved Updike, and Charlie Rose fairly gushes when interviewing him. One stand out moment for a writer watching enraptured as I was – and I’m paraphrasing the wondrous Updike here – he said “If I’m not writing at least six hours a day, six days a week, I feel like I’m faking it, that I can’t call myself a writer.” He equated it with a carpenter and other professions showing up to the grind.

I caught the message, and while I do sit here for some extended hours of the day, I don’t write six hours worth of steady writing a day. My first thought when I was watching as he said it was: Yeah, well where was Mrs. Updike during those six hours, six days a week? For many years, I imagine, raising his kids, doing his laundry, making his meals, etc., while he got to wile away his time in front of his notebook and typewriter, blissfully alone with his thoughts in order to write them down.

I have a strong work ethic that plants my butt in this chair in front of this computer everyday. But it’s a highly interrupted work ethic as I still manage the household from my seat as well as watch the baby and the guys, and garden and laundry, and well, you get the idea. While I am writing, or not writing as the case may be, I am still managing S’s special needs with his school, which currently involves shooting emails to his teacher, but not much more, thankfully. It was a rough couple of years there. I’m still trying to figure out the better ways to manage his development positively at home and keep tabs on the teen and the toddler who is generally in my arms or getting into the wires underfoot.

In the meantime I’m constantly sketching scenes in my head when I’m away from the computer attending to life, and often find myself quite divided and making very slow progress on the manuscript. Nevermind, being so close to its end that I’m leaping ahead mentally to other ideas… really can’t wait until I I finish this manuscript, so that when I am listening to my kids, I am present. When I hug them, that is all I am doing, not mentally writing a possible scene variation at the same time.

Is this ADD? Is it simply the limitations of a brain functioning on a minimum of sleep for several years now? Is it is just the thoughts at this stage of a manuscript for any writer who also happens to be a mother-wife-you name your hyphenation here. I have lots of them. I choose all of the above particularly that last bit. I am too busy having a life and managing so many others, that I can’t have the old Virginia Woolf Room of One’s Own experience. Neither can any of the other writer-mothers I know. I feel torn in many directions all the time, but mostly between the kids, my husband, and writing.

So I’m no John Updike. I do however really miss his articles in the New Yorker tremendously.

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