musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the month “January, 2011”

rebirth

Duck, NC 1.14.2011
This time of year is so odd. For most of the Northern Hemisphere, and certainly for my own forty years lived in New England constitution, the world lies most fallow, yet there are hints of the promise of spring. The renewal of the land.
In Ireland, it is the celebration of the birthing of the lambs, the burgeoning of dairy abundance, the harrowing of the fields. St. Brigid’s Day celebrates the creative fire that burns within all of us of poetry, childbirth and craftsmanship, esp of iron.
Chinese New Year is now, the time of the seedlings underground, and the promise of abundance crops. The sun is returning, and so the fire within burns a little brighter.
Now, when winter can be so brutal, we find signs in a random clear bright day that assures the sun has not forsaken us after all.
Here, in this most wintery winter since I’ve lived in Virginia, last week I saw robins flocking in the trees. A raven cackled at me from high up in a tree whose branches were tipped in buds. Some of my gardening friends reported daffodil sightings. Mine have not made an appearance.
This weekend I went out to a handful of events, obviously overscheduled. I missed spending time with my family, I missed the rarity of hours spent with Honey. But I took time to pay attention to myself at two different meditations, and to have fun with friends. 
I wore myself out, also because once again Honey and I squeezed in a Home Depot date on Saturday afternoon, too. But I needed to take time to find my focus again and these meditations really worked.  I found my personal strength and was reminded that my personal strength isn’t only for giving away to everyone else.  I need to keep some reserves for myself in order to focus well on my writing and finish the manuscript.
I went through a period toward the end of 2010, in which I started taking better care of myself physically, but let it drop off again, various reasons, the main being that I am allergic to the first gym altogether. Then in joining the local Y, I found I was allergic to their workout room and their yoga classes were inconveniently scheduled during my precious writing time. And then it was too cold to consider waking up before dawn to go swim laps and freeze in the winter morning air with wet hair.
But now, it is beginning to warm up.  I ache all over again when I wake up in the morning, and all day long. This ache will never completely go away, I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and I am aging.  I have a significant lack of collagen to take care of my muscles, even less now that I age. I am more prone to muscle injuries and not so great in the healing department. But when I take the time to exercise, whether I do laps in the pool, or walking around the neighborhood, it makes a huge difference. Not just in my muscles and posture, but in my mental and spiritual wellbeing.
The meditations and the game night Saturday with friends I rarely see, took me out of my daily rut and into my interior to wake up my creativity and sense of purpose.
Honey and I have planned and he started some spring household projects – mended the porch rail himself while I was out and about yesterday. And he did the taxes, which will net us a much needed return. For this, I thank him. He’s my guy.
We’re going to build some storage solutions and a partition in Mr. Cynic’s room in order to move the boys in together, and move Toots into currently Captain Comic’s room. I’m going to milk paint some antique twin head and footboards for Toots, and sew new curtains for both rooms.
Honey and I agree it’s definitely time to move our little miss nearly three year old out of our room.  That decision has definitely begun a sense of renewal for our relationship.
So you can see, not just this weekend, but leading up to it, I’ve been doing some harrowing of the fields of all the acreage of my life.
1. In writing, I am rewriting for the third time, my little novel with the purpose in mind to send it out come spring.
2. Shifting around and taking care of the house –
3. will also take care of Honey and my relationship.
4. The changing of the season is renewing my health needs, mentally, physically and spiritually, not just so I can take care of others and contribute more for their wellbeing – mainly I mean the kids, but that in taking care of my personal strength, I will be giving myself the gift of self-respect and confidence to be who I really am and accomplish what I set out to do. All of it, with a clear head.
Is any one else finding themselves in this place of assessment and focus on change for a better life?
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toots’s fabulosity

This morning I met with Toots’s preschool teachers and Honey for her first Parent Teacher Conference. Thankfully Honey’s work is pretty close to preschool, so he could bop over to the meeting and back to work easily. It’s his first PTC.

We knew she was fun, smart and imaginative already, but it was nice to have official confirmation.

To quote from her teachers’ notes:

…is a delight to have in class. She has strong communication skills. She is very smart and extremely imaginative, especially during free play.

…also interacts well with her peers. She plays well with others, including others in her play. She is always willing to help others.

Of course, she is not perfect, and that is good to hear, too.

…does need to work on following directions, especially during circle time and clean-up time. She also has problems sitting still.

Thank you for sharing her with us.

They also said that her imaginary play has a logic to it.  She’s not wildly imaginative, there’s always a story to it.  The other day, she was in the play car on the playground. She was going to the store, but hadn’t decided yet what she was going to buy when they asked. Then the car got stuck in traffic, and then she accidently drove into the river and had to escape from it before she drowned, completely acted out with swimming across the playground sand to safety.

I’ve got a neat kid. Three of them, in fact. This big imagination stuff with logical storylines must be genetic.

And she’s not even three yet. 🙂  That’s my girl!

Toots in the day after christmas snowstorm in VA

of rainy nights and whatnot

My writing group met yesterday, and though we got off to a late start, I was surprisingly productive on the manuscript.

Not the edits I intended, I seemed to dig a little deeper into the new beginning and edit out a bunch of unnecessary phrases and wrote in a new scene that seemed to take care of some other awkward aspects mentioned in my critiques.

Otherwise yesterday seemed to be kind of awash in just bonechilling dank which was demotivational the rest of the day. But I felt good about what I accomplished at the writing group.

Then it rained last night, hard, and dripped from the overfull gutters onto the awning case for the deck – right outside our bedroom wall, and is still rather drippy, so I am out of it today. Seriously interrupted night. 

This morning I had a meeting with some friends, and we had a very interestingly deep conversation even though we all expressed feeling really out of it with the rain and cold. I was glad for it. I think it made us all feel a little closer.

It’s a weird week, the boys have half days all week and I strangely have more appointments than usual.

Anyway, just a little something when I don’t have much else to say. Some days are just like that.

Life is good. Watch for robins. I’ve seen a bunch this week!


Japanese Maple buds, today about 1pm.

a long week and dreamers’ dreams

It’s exam week for Mr. Cynic, which means it’s half school days for Captain Comic, too.  It’s going to be a long week.

Toots woke up very crabby this morning.  She has been pushing bedtime to the outer outer limits of the night owl-ism and boy is she cranky in the morning. This is the absolute opposite of both the boys, who have always been early to bed and dawn risers. Captain Comic had early childhood sleep issues galore, but since we solidified a routine, he has stuck with it, pretty well, since he was three.  Mr. Cynic is going to bed later these days, but still is the first one up and out of the house thanks to the ridiculously early start to the high school day.

This morning, Toots wanted her hair in a ponytail. I put it in a ponytail.  She wailed and whined, “No not that ponytail, I want the other kind a ponytail!” Not that I could understand her through the whine with two fingers in her mouth, until about the forty-seventh time. I tried to put it in piggie tails, she screamed and whined, through that as well.

After the third attempt to put her hair up, finally I just gave up and said, “fine, wear your hair down, I’m done until you can speak to me in a nicer voice.” She still doesn’t have any ponytail and her hair is flopped over her face as she watches Sesame Street. Periodically she brushes it back, using her entire arm.

It’s going to be a long week.

Thank goodness for writing group on Tuesday.  I think that may be my only chance for escape.

Saturday, after a failed attempt to take a highly resistant Mr. Cynic out for driving practice, Honey and I had a ‘date’ at Lowe’s.  I know, exciting and romantic, right?  Actually it was for us, because we started planning the lumber and tool needs to make a loft for one of the boys, so we could move the boys in together and move Toots out of our bedroom and into one of her own.  This will seriously cut down on household clutter, since all her toddler and preschoolness is spread out in the office and family room, and drifts into the living room and dining room, even the bathrooms. We actually planned a bunch of other outdoor projects as well, the broken railing on our porch from the Christmas light incident; some fence mending and building a new ramp for the shed; resetting the raised gardens higher and shrinking the plot size to more manageable for my back and for the vegs that will grow to grow better.

We found ourselves standing in the miter saw department, sketching room redesigns on the backs of paint samples. We get so caught up in the daily business of things at times, so it was a fun little dreamer’s escape for when the tax return comes in.  So yes, it was fun and romantic for us, since it means, in a couple of months, we’ll have a room to ourselves again after three years. Won’t that be nice?

to elaborate

Yesterday, I posted this picture, while talking about how stymied I felt. I think I was going for a sense of reach and didn’t quite make it, the branches reaching toward the sky.

A more accurate portrayal of my state of mind would have been to zoom in and depict the tangle of branches crisscrossing, high contrast of shadow and light of winter midday sun – to show the ideas and what thoughts are transpiring regarding what to do with weaving parts of the story together better. Um, rather like that sentence. I really like the way that one little branch in the bottom right quadrant is flinging itself our way from the big branch.

I had another thought while looking at pictures I took from the dunes boardwalk in Duck, NC on my walk toward the Currituck Sound.
See how that foreground tree is kind of leaning toward that little grove of sister trees in the distance? I like her.  She’s a nerd.  She’s inquiring. she wants to overhear what they’re talking about. And that’s kind of like my brain trying to listen through the nonsense to what my manuscript is trying to tell me.  It’s just out of reach.
But I’ll get there, soon. 

stymied

“Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” – Henry James


I went on the retreat.

I got excited about shredding my manuscript and puzzling it back together better.

I worked eight hours a day, solidly, for three days – during which, I doubted everything about it, then got back to work.

Then got felled big time by a stomach bug.

Then came home and laid in bed for another two days, on yak prevention duty.

Then I felt better. Then I got excited again, but didn’t have the time and space to get back on the horse – er – manuscript.

I paid attention to my kids. This made me happy, if slightly distracted because I wanted to write. But when with them, I was with them.

I cleaned my desk.

I got excited again.

This morning I had two hours to myself. I spread out the manuscript critiques. I opened the document to where I left off.  I went back to the beginning and started reading what I did during the retreat. I didn’t finish. I was distracted eventhough no one else is here. I have about forty-five minutes left and feel like I failed.

But then I remembered how my writing process works. Fits and starts. And I know I haven’t failed, but it’s frustrating to want to work well and not be in alignment yet with what I need to do. And this is what takes me so long to write. I work internally, while I might seem like I’m doing nothing, or I’m complaining about not having the time and space, I am working on it all the time. Just not on paper, until I do. Then I work solidly for three days, a week, whatever, and then I crash.

And then I pull the start string on the lawnmower that is my mind about seventeen times before the ignition engages on paper or screen and then I am off and running again.  And as long I recognize this is my pattern, I’m okay. Somewhat dissatified, but Okay.

Besides, I can feel it bubbling below the surface which just means, maybe this afternoon, maybe tomorrow…maybe I will shoo everyone away from me when they are all back in the house, and I will write, even amidst the mayhem.

clean desk

When I finally felt better, and had the house to myself for Tuesday morning, I was going to write, but I did this instead:

There’s no before picture, I didn’t think about showing that to the world at large. I should try to describe the sea of papers and household effluvia from blocks and legos to totally random single playing card – queen of spades, I decided to keep her because of this. I figured I needed a reminder from time to time that I am one of those women.

Anyway, the mess was taller than the tape dispenser on one side and where the name book is standing up, it was about half way up the hard drive – a completely nonsensical pile that went all the way back to last spring, with a class autograph book from Captain Comic’s elementary school.  The pile buried the adding machine, half the lamp stand and ramped down toward the keyboard.  Things slipped off and into my mouse constantly. Yes, I keep my mouse on the left side. I am lefthanded. It works better this way.

See all that brown surface? Nonexistent.

So now I can spread out my manuscript critique copies to the right and work on them, I hope. Minus continual interruptions…

On another note – at the writing retreat, one friend and I decided to meet every Tuesday morning to write. I was in a brain fog, sick as I was when we discussed it, and forgot that this first Tuesday was out because she had another meeting. I think that’s how I managed to clean my desk instead, I had allotted the time to writing elsewhere.

So because I was home when I expected to be out, I didn’t quite know how to start here instead, then the mess just made me crazy. There was no where to put my stuff with all the kid crap and junkmail, etc all over.

I think that says a lot about how I am present in my life. Even when I say, “No more crap on my desk!” It happens anyway.

Even when I say, “No this is MY time!” I do for other anyway.

Cleaning my desk was a good reminder to take care of my own priority, too.

No wonder it has taken so long to write this dang book!

list it tues: critique notes

Wednesday night last week, I arrived at my writing retreat, fully prepared to accept a great deal of criticism on my manuscript from five other writers over our first dinner together. 
One of the writers very thoughtfully had given us each little owls of wisdom to see us through, wrapped in tissue paper.  When the critique got going and I became inspired by so many ideas, I started jotting them down on the tissue paper from my wise owl gift, as it was the nearest paper on hand. Funny enough, I actually worked from this for quite a bit of the retreat.
You can really see how much my handwriting resembles a comical old man’s writing.
Then I realized it might help me better if I organized the list of things to do better.
So this is my list to share this Tuesday, though I think I actually made it on Friday at some point. If you look closely, you can see a second list of new chapter headings poking from behind this one. Now that exposes a true fool for lists!
Please go to artsyville to see more creative takes of list lovers around the world! Their links will be in the comments after Aimee’s list today.
Addendum: Aimee has decided that List it Tuesday has served its purpose well, and it’s time to move on.  I think that’s a great idea here, too.  I had fun while it lasted!

writing retreat

My writing group took our annual retreat to Duck, NC in the Outer Banks. This is my second year with the group, and therefore my second retreat, though it is the third year running for them in the same house.
At a bit of a block around midday of the first full writing day, I took a walk along the boardwalk over the dunes to the Currituck Sound, and snapped this of the house on the way. Dreamy, isn’t it?

The first night, two of us arrived just in time for dinner, while the rest had arrived and worked earlier in the day. We found a great pizza place called Cosmo’s, recommended by locals, if you’re ever in the area. Be aware, though, there are two unaffiliated Cosmo’s Pizzas. The one that serves an Alla Bianca and something they call The Percolator is the one you want.

Since this past summer, two of our group have moved away from our local Historic Triangle, VA area to parts far and wide, Nebraska and Alabama. It was great to see them both and to hear their input on my manuscript. One of these women, AV, very sweetly gave us each the gift of a wise owl to watch over our writing. She had wrapped them in tissue paper and when we were done stuffing ourselves with pizza, we unwrapped them and oo’ed and aaah’ed at the cute little Peruvian critters.
My fat little owl has a perch on my dusty bookshelf now, in front of my theater and plays section. He looks right over my left shoulder as I type.
Then I said, “Bring it on…” and boy, did they!  Funny, most of what they had to say, I was ready to hear and it mostly confirmed what I already had instincts about but had been ignoring.
The owl’s tissue paper came in very handy, when the critique and ideas were popping.
I restarted the manuscript, pretty much from scratch to take care of some technical problems I was having and to simplify making the sweeping changes from earlier drafts.
I’m tired of trying to just make cutting and pasting work. I need to write again, make the flow of the words work better, renew my drive through the story. I am cutting huge aspects of it out, and reformulating aspects I previously felt were set in stone. I have a new motivation for the bullying part, for one, which made for a need for yet another new opening to the book.
So I am reinvigorated about the manuscript, even though what I started at the retreat has a very low page count. But it’s the beginning of the book that needs the most work anyway.
To break up the tension and monotony and to stretch out our hunched-over-laptops necks and backs, etc, we took walks.  There was no wind which was a nice change from last year when the cold was truly brutal and windy. This year, we had nice brisk walks, usually around four in the afternoon.
First some Sound side shots from my solitary midday walk mentioned above.

The boardwalk over the dunes leads straight out to this peer, which was locked, but I enjoyed the view, especially these shadows playing on the water. In the distance you can see mainland North Carolina. There were some swans on the water in the distance, but too far to get a good shot.

Flotsam and footprints under the peer, off season presence of a less human nature.
Oceanside, approximately four thirty in the afternoon. The ocean’s roar was huge!

The views from the house are stunning. I may have been the only one enjoying pink sunrises, but we all took in these gloriously deep-hued sunsets near the end of our writing time each day.
We deeply appreciated the time and space together, to hold each other accountable and to encourage each other in our editing and writing endeavors. We also deeply appreciated each other’s cooking, as we each were responsible for a meal other than opening night’s pizza run.
Of course we appreciated the wine and hot tub under the half moon and stars on deeply clear nights, below freezing air and the steam rising off of us.
I am sad to share that for the last day of writing, I awoke at 3:30am from vivid dreams and with stomach cramps. By the time real morning arrived, I was nauseated, and worse, dizzy and needed to stay horizontal. I managed to make it upstairs around lunchtime to eat some soup, but skulked back down to my bed.  It was a shame, so much writing I wanted to do before packing and leaving later in the afternoon.  Poor JD had to pull her car over on the ride home for me, too.
I felt lousy all through that night, all day yesterday, and still have remnants of the yuck today. Turns out the stomach ache Captain Comic had last week, that kept him out of school for a couple of days wasn’t a fake or stress-induced. It was an honest to goodness virus that I may have spread throughout my fellow children’s authors….For their sake, I really hope I haven’t. I’ve already apologized profusely.
But otherwise, the retreat was exactly what I needed and at exactly the right time.
I highly recommend finding a good creative group for whatever your art may be. My writing group is all working on children’s books at the moment. One is a Young Adult novel, and another is currently undecided whether hers is more YA or middle reader, leaning toward making her protagonist 15 rather than 13, based on aspects of her story. Our styles and genres vary widely, but we all are able to give relevant critique, and loads of encouragement. We typically meet twice a month. We have these annual retreats in the winter, as renting off-season in highly desirable summer vacation spots is vastly inexpensive, especially when split six ways. We also do a ‘writing camp’ at one of our homes in the summer time. For one week, we come together every day from 10am-4pm to write.
When it comes down to it, those of us (mothers for instance) who find it difficult to find uninterrupted time on a regular basis can really benefit from this type of experience. It’s been of monumental importance to me.  Mostly just knowing we are not alone – we have others to share the struggles and triumphs of our creative lives with can make all the difference in the world.
I know it does for me. And the retreats and camps are a major therapeutic bonus to my mental state. As much as I adore Honey and the kids, it’s good for all of us when I get away once in awhile and focus on just writing.


wish me luck

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