musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “December, 2010”

i diiiid it! oh yea, i diiiiid it!

I now have a completed Second Draft.  Of course this means it is actually about draft number 5,432.

But, I locked myself away today, and it’s done.

I love Chapter 24’s dialogue the best.  It subtly brings the themes and stray plot threads together.  And it’s funny.

And guess what?

The ending still makes me cry.

I think I’m in love with it all over again. 

Now to print it and hand it to off to my writing group on Tuesday, and hope they can cruise through it in time for the writing retreat in another week or so. I know, asking for critique in that timeframe is a lot, but it’s only 118 pages of middle reader material. Double spaced.

Strangely, I feel like I’ve just given birth, again.

Happy New Year, indeed.

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one resolution, 2011

Tis the season for new year’s resolutions and the blogosphere is rife with them.  This year is about focus for me so I am going to focus on one thing and one resolution:

In 2011, I will finish what I started.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  But if it were that simple for me, I would not have to make a resolution for it.  I would have finished the umpteen first novels I’ve started that are languishing in file cabinets and old document files as outlines and first chapters galore. 

But there’s this one.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know about it.  If not, here’s something like an introduction:

In 2003, I started writing a middle reader novel about a kid who is being bullied and a few exciting things happen along the way. He confides in his dog, keeps the bullying from his parents and any other authority figure.  He questions his parents and friendships. He discovers a comet, is thrown into a media frenzy, and eventually gains the confidence to be able to confront the bully. In the end he recognizes all the support he really had all along, when he was trying to handle it all by himself.

Not the best start to a query, but that’s what I have for a summation at the moment.

I had many adventures along the journey of writing this book, such as dealing with schools and IEPs, and dealing with Captain Comic’s Asperger’s Syndrome at home, too. I took a while to divorce the boys’ father – that was quite a journey in itself, in which, of course, both the boys were incredibly affected.  I worked three part time jobs from classroom and learning disabilities support to retail in order to support the boys. I met Honey around the same time I started writing the book, and because of him, I was able to modulate into one fulltime position in a high school in learning disabilities support. Life started to seem perfect, I loved my job and my vocation (the book), him and the boys. In 2006, we got married and promptly followed a decent job lead for him to a more affordable area of the country. We bought a house with the help of his mother, we all moved in together. I started privately tutoring. I got debilitatingly pregnant three times, once lasted and became Toots when I was 42 – largely because I stayed in bed for the entire pregnancy. I was unable to move or think, ill beyond belief and her pregnancy wrecked me physically.  I slowly am still climbing back from that and surgery, and she will be three come April 2011.

In the meantime, through Miranda at Studio Mothers (we had gone to college together and ran into each other many years later in the toy store I worked in when my life was more mayhem than it is now), I met many other woman who were trying to balance life with kids and creativity. Miranda, Brittany and I were all pregnant at the same time and bonded well over their births and the early baby struggles with older kids. I think a few other moms, like Liz Hum, and Kate Hopper and Kristine Koblitz were in that baby and writing boat, too. Kelly Warren, Lisa Damian, Jennifer Johnson and E.Beck were among the other creatives who gave excellent encouragement.  I opened my manuscript back up and cranked out the ‘first draft’ in fits and starts between 2008 and Summer 2010.  I hope I’m not forgetting anyone…I know there were many more women involved in that website over that time, and their names are coming to me, but these, I think were my main cheerleaders. As well as Jacqui Robbins, I stumbled across her through Studio Mothers, too, though she wasn’t a contributor.  I had other supportive friends back in Boston and Connecticut who cheered me on and were first readers. Thank you to you all.

I am now finishing the second draft.  I really want to get it done before the end of the year, the next few days, in order to get it to my local writing group before we head to our annual retreat in mid-January.

Toots is still sick but getting better and Honey is off work tomorrow, so I may be able to hand her off to him and Grandma for the day, and lock myself in the bedroom with the scribbled upon manuscript and the laptop to made some headway for a few hours.  I hope. 

Anyway, back to my one resolution. 2011 is to really actually and truly send that puppy out, after one more draft.  This draft will happen in the earliest part of the year, starting with that four day retreat in the Outer Banks. Then I will send out that draft, whether or not it is perfect. I think it nearly is. But then again, I don’t really believe in perfect, do I?

Spring, baby.  Agents, here I come.

the call of the pathetic

From the room with the tv, I hear a plaintive plea,

“Mooooommyyyyyy!  I neeeeeed yooooooou!  I got booooogerrrrrrrs!”

Just in time for the boys to be out of the house for a week, Toots has contracted an epic cold.  She has amazing projectile snot powers.  It’s been ten years since I’ve had a toddler full of mucus, and I had forgotten what a surprising amount of volume and velocity those little bodies can mani-infest.

So not much time for blogging or nary else. I must cuddle, coddle a limp little swollen eyed one and have plenty of tissues at hand.  Amazingly, she only raises a very slight temperature in the evening, so I can hold off on the doctor unless what is still coming out clear, if goopy, starts to grow colorful in the yellow to green spectrum.

Happy parenting!  Someday I will edit those last thirty flipping pages.

oh yea….

I think I skipped something the other day. 

Something about a day that started well before dawn looking like this:

Actually, considering he woke a couple of hours earlier and could be heard stirring throughout the house in something above a pitter-patter, Captain Comic waited very patiently for the the rest of us to stir.  I think I took this from the top of the stairs, sometime around 5:45 am.  Don’t place bets on my guess, though, all I know for sure is that he already had been in my room about twelve times trying his darnedest to be quiet. 
Not long after, my visiting parents, Grandma and Honey roused out of bed, the coffee was on and we were all done opening everything under the tree.
Toots didn’t quite bing awake like him.  Neither did Mr. Cynic.  But they both did ‘wake’ quickly to get down the stairs around six, at my knock on the teen’s door and shoulder shake of the little one, who enthused, “Santa came?! Is he stiw hewe?!”
At the sight of the above, Toots was beside herself tired and excited.
And Mr. Cynic…Well, let’s just say he’ll love me for posting this shot:

white out

Predawn, of course. I do love that boy.
Christmas was a blur of a whirlwind. My parents were going to leave yesterday morning to head back to Connecticut from our little Southern Virginia corner, but Mother Nature had other plans.
A little later in the day.

Toots lifted it out a little, it was actually at the red foot marker when I stuck the measuring tape in for her to hold steady.

Our shed at the 15 inch mark on the roof.  We discovered that sometime in the past few years that we’ve lived here, the snow shovel was moved out to the shed from the garage. Because we never needed to use it on the driveway. I trekked across the yard to rake the snow from in front of the shed door to retrieve the snow shovel.  Something is wrong with that picture – I used the rake to dig snow to reach the snow shovel.

This is the beginnings of clearing off four cars. Snow is taller than the broom head.

This is my parents’ car yesterday afternoon.  Grounded. They are driving Mr. Cynic and Captain Comic to visit their father up North.  The boys were so disappointed to not leave.  But they head out shortly. Packing the car now. I know, I sent Honey out there.  Look, I started the driveway and car clearing yesterday and my fingers paid a hefty frostbite price because I do not have good weather gear anymore, because I live in the South. But I had fun, I love this stuff, even if my circulation doesn’t.
That’s right, I said it, I love shovelling out the cars. I may be alone in my joy, but it’s mine.
So, yesterday afternoon and evening we played games and looked at old family pics my cousins posted on Facebook. My mother was cracking up at all the old memories. 
1974, My mom is the babe front row right in the serious navy and red print polyester, next to their mother, with all her siblings. Her brother behind her, and her sister in red to the left are the only ones still living besides the baby, my mom. That sweet little grandmother in the front next to mom gave birth to everyone else in that picture, starting with the twins in back.  She also rather raised quite a few of her 26 grandchildren.  She was da bomb. I miss them all.  Daily.  We sure had a lot of fun together at family gatherings coming up.  We lived the farthest away, so saw them maybe once or twice a year for about a week or two.  But boy, that was a crowded, boisterous house full of fun, food, love and family.
I walloped my mother and mother-in-law in Scrabble, and they conspired against me in Apples to Apples later.  They both usually kill me in Scrabble. It was payback.  But we had lots of fun. Even Honey and Papa played Apples to Apples, and Capt. Comic for as long as he lasted, which was pretty long for him. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Well, they are on the road now.  I forced a kiss on Capt. Comic’s cheek while he sat in the car. “URGH!  You know when you kiss me, Mom, I imagine the microbial bacteria multiplying right away and I have to wipe it off immediately!” 
If only he felt the same way about showering and brushing his teeth….
So the house is quiet.  Maybe tomorrow when everything in town opens again, I’ll be able to start cranking on my ending edits and get my manuscript out to my writing group.  Grandma said she would take Toots out with her in the morning on her usual exercise excursion.  Time to get back to the routines now the gluttony time has passed!  Oh yea, I should do that, too….

Merry Christmas to you all.
May it be spent in love.
Peace.

cookie finale and holiday suchness

Sugar cookies accomplished a bit during Toots’s nap

Which is also when I recruited Mr. Cynic to help me hang the outdoor lights.  His foot made the discovery that the porch rail had rotted. I’m just glad he didn’t find that out by leaping to stand on the top rail.

Later, I spied this beautiful wintery sunset beginning when I went to pick him up at his friend’s house.  Taken in the driveway, did not play with it in the computer.

When we arrived back home it was dark enough to see the lights we strung earlier.

Mom: do they look chintzy?
Mr. Cynic: Not chintzy, like a little portal to Christmasland.

Toots awoke from nap and I got started on the cookie icing. This is when I discovered, I still do not possess a good sifter and what that clear vanilla I saw on the shelf in a store earlier this week was all about.  Usually I use lemon oil, but I was out and switched to vanilla.  warmly brown vanilla.

My little helper helping

with sleepy piggy tails.

Toasted last batch. I always seem to do that to the last tray of cookies.

 Abundanza sugar cookies await icing.

They clearly will not be perfectly lovely cookies a la home magazine covers at this time of year.  But they were made with love and will be yummiest cookies of all.

“Yike dis, mommy?”

Have a joyous holiday, with much love.

later the same evening

Have I mentioned before that I had a brief stint as a professional baker?  After a couple of months trying to manage the biorhythm shift to go to sleep at four in the afternoon and wake up at half past midnight while mothering a kindergartener and a toddler with unknown as of yet form of autism, I realized I really couldn’t handle it.

But I did learn one very important thing while stirring batters and rolling doughs at a stupifying hour: baking is not for improvising.

I forget this now and then. Witness:

Many years ago I made great spiralled snickerdoodles one christmas because I followed a recipe. A friend emailed me a recipe for them last week and it gave me an idea.  Rather than print hers, I improvised with the usual Better Homes recipe for standard snickerdoodles, and put the cinnamon sugar mixture you’re supposed to roll little balls of dough in, along the top of the rolled out sheet of dough, then rolled it into a tube and refrigerated it, as I recalled doing previously.  They were huge and fell apart. Not very snickerdoodly, and while tasty, they just don’t measure up in presentation.

For years, my gingerbread men have been minis, about an inch and a half long. Great little mouth poppers, but I wanted real gingerbread men.  My hand cramps every year from cutting scads of guys out of dough with my crab claw tip of the fingers grip. Honey brought home a beautiful standard size copper cookie cutter yesterday.  I love him.  I love Toots, too.  She’s cute. She does some things on cue.
Unfortunately, as I bemoaned yesterday, I screwed up measuring as I doubled the recipe. Then I attempted to fix it in a rush, didn’t add enough corrective sugar and wound up with these puffy fall-apart-if-touched, pale for a spice cookie cuties.
Today, I have a holiday lunch with my writing group, during which I will hand back end chapters sections of two critiqued manuscripts that I stayed up way too late trying to focus on last night after the all day cookie (and laundry) extravaganza.  I was exhausted – concentration nearly nil.  But I enjoyed the stories.  They’re good.  I’ll let you know about them when they get published.
Anyway, after that, I will make the icing and bake the sugar cookies, the dough of which awaits in the fridge. It was the first dough made yesterday, and the last dough to go.  Thankfully, I did not improvise or mess it up to begin with.  Then I will ice them and the gingerbread men.  Maybe the icing will save the poor little guys. Save their arms and heads falling off as well as boost the sweet factor. 
My adult family members always complained my cookies were too sweet anyway.  Let’s see how they like these.
Perfection was always overrated in my book, anyway.

teaser

All the best things of life start with butter and sugar.

My good little helper, Toots cracked the eggs vewy cawefuwy.

Toots: Can I have a big taste?
Mom: How about a little taste?
Toots: Okay, just a yiddo taste.

Sugar cookie dough, done and in fridge now.

 Time to start round two:  gingerbread cookies. See the spices in the foreground?

MMM…smellavision – spicy goodness.  But wait, it looks a bit too ….buttery!  I accidentally quadrupled the butter when I was doubling the recipe!  Or at least I think so.  I still have my doubts about this, but I ‘fixed’ it in a haphazard manner because I was so fed up with myself for messing up recipes lately, like the brownies I did similar to last week.

So now it sits in the fridge, looking more like dough than that batterish stuff there. I wait for them to be ready to roll out, cut and bake tonight.

Mr. Cynic wants to make snickerdoodles for his “Spontaneous Cultural Gathering” at school this week.  They’re not allowed to have parties. He likes making snickerdoodles. Maybe I’ll get him to double his and I’ll make the spiral wheels version of them to hand out around the neighborhood,etc  with the sugars and gingerbread men.  Now to go make the icing.  I bought some new Wilton red….I’m ready for anything.  Right after I switch a laundry load and eat some lunch.

comic

It’s been a while since I shared Captain Comic’s …well, comics. He’s branching out into color.  I can’t tell you how many black and white similar works have been balled up and thrown all over his room.  He seems to be taking color seriously now.  He even kept the page in the spiral notebook while he drew it.  Like he could save it in an organized manner rather than just toss it to the flotsam of spiral paper worms and balls of abandoned ideas.
I particularly like his orange sky sunrise rays and lettering. I also think he has a great eye for use of space. Now as to what is going on in that space, that’s another matter entirely.  And quite the never abandoned theme.

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