musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “accomplishment”

i won!

Liz Hum is the author of Vampires Don’t Drink Wine, a new collection of short stories that put Vampires back where they belong, in your nightmares doing twisted murderous things – Not sparkling or dating humans while drinking synthetic blood.

She is an excellent and opinionated blogger here and here. She is married to a Viking and the mother of three Viking children in the suburbs of Chicago. Her No BS meter runs in the red zone all. the. time.

I was lucky and won a hard copy in her blog raffle. Please click on the book cover to purchase her book. I bet she’ll buy her neighborhood bike helmets if she sells enough of them. At 99 cents a piece in e-reader format, that’s a lot of books to sell to keep rabble-rousers safe and blood off the streets.

Maybe. She had to get the idea for the vampires from somewhere….

noise

I’m at the library. I’m driving myself nuts.

I am working on a really tough chapter to edit, trying to condense and strengthen an important scene. It’s a kickball game, a hovering bullying threat, a lot of misplaced emotions and misdirected kick in the head.

You would think it would be easier to write than this. I’ve rewritten it dozens of times already.

Summer camps have let loose their wards, about the same age as the characters I am editing, in the stacks. They wander in small gaggles and pairs, some individually. It’s like they all know I am right here and each has to walk within a foot of my work area.

I nearly gave up and packed it in for home, then I realized most of the noise was in my own head. I am too distracted these days. It’s a painful process to be editing this same chapter yet again. But I read it, and it only works about seventy-five percent. The idea comes across, but it’s a little flat. Until the kick in the head. I really need to build the emotional pressure a bit more concisely so that when the kick happens, it explodes like a ripe tomato thrown at a wall. Figuratively speaking, of course. There will be no murders in this book. But there really needs to be spike of the pressure that has been building through the book up to this point. This kick is a minor pre-release to the main confrontational event. It is a nail in bike tire, not the whole crashing flat that comes later.

I am definitely having a moment of why am I still working on this, but it will pass. It kind of is now, as the summer campers appear to dissipate enough that I can hear the air conditioning working overtime against the heat.

Back to it, Cath, that’s it.

But first, I want to share something I read before I left home today to edit. It’s an inspiring account of personal endurance. Grab a cuppa your favorite beverage and settle in. It’s a tad long, but it’ll do wonders, I promise. It inspired me to stick with this manuscript, to stick out this editing session, to stick out writing.

And that’s the least of the inspiration. This is big Life Stuff. Thank you, Max. Vineman 7.3 2011

walkin the dog

It’s hot.
I walked the dog.

What’s that?

Get in for a closer look, but not too close. Sorry, only had the cell phone, again.

 Egret!

Yesterday, on my fence, a lizard skittered. By the time I got the yes, cell phone, out of my pocket, he was replaced by this dragonfly.
And then I found these Kentucky Wonder Beans under the tangle of vines covering my posts. I found quite a bit more than those. I think I’ll cook them tonight. If Toots hasn’t eaten them all in refrigerator drive-by snacking.
Today, I spent a few hours at the library, editing another chapter and a half. I hope to make more good headway tomorrow. I am making good, if slow, progress. 
Kinda like walking the dog in muggy Virginia mid-July.

my other boys

I stayed up way too late last night.

The Red Sox went into a 0-0 16 inning game against Tampa Bay. My endurance gave out in the 15th, before Dustin Pedroia made the winning RBI and then Papelbon’s and Gonzales’s close.

But in the 11th inning, Josh Reddick made a thing of beauty catch against the wall and rolled, keeping it in his glove. That’s just darned good baseball.

I’ve been watching Pedroia play since he was a pup. He still kind of looks like one beside his teammates, but no one in the game has played with more heart and fire than him in the past several years. If anyone was going to bring that endurance match home last night, it was my boy Pedroia. Ellsbury comes close, and now Reddick, too.

And you know what? That is why I love the Red Sox. These guys are highly fallible guys, prone to injury, because they put everything they have into the game. Each moment matters to them in a way you don’t see with some of the other teams. The Red Sox players, individually and as a team, have more heart even than their deepest loving fans of any sport. I give my kudos to Terry Francona for keeping that kind of spirit alive in them from game to game. It’s not just the skill, the talent and the know-how, the calculations and the play. It’s the pure love of baseball.

I love these guys like they’re my own.

five

photo: j. gallo

That’s my guy, Honey and me, five years ago today. I think this was taken right before our first married kiss.

Everyone should be so in love and able to do this. Sure, marriage isn’t all happiness and light, contrary to what fairytales would have us believe, but it is worth the work it takes when you love your partner and can be recognized fully in that, no matter how that love is packaged.

dog day

Does it get any better than this?

Lucy has just dug up another mole. She is excited at a job well done in her mind, while the yard has yet another hole in it. But the sun is shining and something good has been scented. She has taken over my chaisse once again.
I took this the other day. Today, I have been all over the yard, digging up dead boxwood root balls, transplanting peonies to where they will bloom, reorganizing the shed, weeding, watering and trimming dead branches. Guess what I meant to do?  That’s right, none of the above. I went out to weed whack the driveway edges and hedge trim the boxwoods in front of the big window. I still intend to make the driveway job happen today, because the whacker and extension cord are waiting for me there, but I’m hoping the forecast rain holds off tomorrow, so that I may trim to where the window is visible again then. I don’t think I can do all of it today. This is me trying to listen to my back. I’m still a little late, but I may actually not put the darn thing completely out.

bravery

When I was a kid and teen, I spent a lot of time on stages in dance recitals and in choirs, specialty choirs, and in a few plays. I had dreams of being a Broadway star or a movie star, or rock star in the way that any fifteen year old girl dreams what she dares to dream.

The drama teacher I had in high school had an approach that was very intimidating for me at that time. She terrified me. She terrified me right off of the stage. I don’t know why I let her get to me so much, well I have an inkling, but I don’t really want to get into here, this is not a therapy session, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of battling my personal demons.

After one play in which I had a decent role, and one background chorus part in a musical my freshman year, I never went back. My mantra for years afterward was, if I have to deal with another director like that, I don’t even want to do this anymore.

I continued to do chorus in college, but didn’t seek out solos anymore. I was terrified anyone would hear my individual voice. I hung around a bunch of bands and musicians, secretly wishing I would just jump in and join them, but I never did. I was a party to infinite jam sessions in college and beyond. I even felt intimidated to learn to play guitar, though I carried one from one dorm room to another, to apartments in Boston and beyond. It was an old one my mother had picked up in a pawn shop in the mid-fifties that never held a tuning.

After college, I still longed to do something like that, but was too chicken. Slowly, I was led back onto  a stage of sorts, reading my poetry at coffeehouses and getting featured gigs. I was still terrified, and anyone who saw me give those earliest readings especially, can tell you how much my leg shook, which was violently. My teeth chattered, too. Not so great an effect when you’re baring your poetic soul into a microphone.

I never did get used to mics. I learned to tolerate the presence of one in front of my face, but, never enjoyed hearing my voice hovering around my words as I spoke them.

I have always sung at home, and in my car. But I’m self-conscious about singing in front of others besides my family. Captain Comic’s sensory sensitivities also put a damper on my singing, as I can’t sing freely, without him suddenly and vehemently saying he can’t take it, stop!

But something happened as I reached my mid-forties. I didn’t care so much about what I couldn’t do anymore. I didn’t care about intimidation I felt when I heard someone with a beautiful voice do a solo on Sunday morning, I didn’t feel particularly intimidated by professionals when I went to concerts. I just felt like I wanted to get up and sing again, after over twenty years without a chorus, only singing in the shower, in the car, or in the kitchen, with someone screaming for me to stop it. I joined the choir at my fellowship. I was comforted and felt the joy of blending voices again. I did a solo line in a song surrounded by them last year, and another, actually the same one, again this spring.

And then the music director said, if anyone wants to do a guest song during a Sunday service, he would help make it happen.

And then I got an Idea. And it grew, and I sent a song to the minister, choir director and music director. And then things started to happen. For Real. It wasn’t just an idea anymore. In the end, it didn’t happen quite how I thought it would, but it happened, this Sunday. I sang a capella in front of an audience, on a mic, with virtually no rehearsal. I faced my fears square on, and loved it. And then my heart did arrhythmic flip flops after the second service performance.

Honey took a bit of cellphone video, and I find it incredibly hard to listen to or watch. I do not have the control of my voice I once had, when I sang with a lot more practice twenty some odd years ago. I think I do, and then I heard this. I am going to share it, because I need to face my fear and embarassment because only through doing so, will I be free of it. Besides, I did sing in front of people. On a microphone. All by myself. If Toots can be proud of jumping off a curb enough to say, “Yay! I did it! I did it! I jumped off the curb!” Then I can be proud of myself, in all my imperfections. Because I faced what most terrified me in my life, and did it anyway.

It’s just a piece of the piece, but this is me, as is.  Thanks for listening.

mayhem, garden, creativity, sing

The blur continues through the week, hence my absence here.

I did manage two library sessions of over two hours a piece. Tuesday, I finished edits to the chapter where I had left in the middle, a longer one, and Wednesday I edited the following, shorter chapter. I left after that because a man joined me at the table where I sat and proceeded to attempt games of footsie with me. I would have thought that the 5th time I kicked his foot way and said excuse me in a very annoyed manner, that he would have gotten the hint.  Dude, I may be friendly, but I’m not THAT friendly. And there were plenty of other tables in the room. But I finished editing a whole chapter, regardless, and feel like I won that little confrontation.

In the garden this week I discovered snap pea pods, and Toots and I have been enjoying them straight from the plant, in the hot sun. She eats them like some people eat Oreos. She peels them open, eats the peas out then consumes the pod sides individually.

That’s another thing, it has been super hot here, very demotivational when there is so much going on. I feel for my little black dog, whose fur feels as hot as stove burner to my touch. I have been sheathed in sweat when outside for very short periods of time. Summer has arrived early and fierce. Somewhere is a piece of paper with a poem half-written about it, written upon my steering wheel outside of Mr. Cynic’s bass lesson.

Speaking of Mr. Cynic, last night an awards banquet was held for his school choirs. His teacher/choir director has a great relationship with his students. The seniors saying goodbye to him called him a second father figure. In his words to them, he had to pause from the emotion of sending them off. Of course, it didn’t help that his daughter is one of the graduating seniors. I am very happy that Mr. Cynic will be under his tutelage for his whole high school career. Everyone should have a teacher who loves and lifts his students as much as Mr. P. I hope in my years in public schools that I was half that for mine. Some of the toughest ones thanked me, and that means a lot, and will for the rest of my life.

At some point this week, I found a forgotten piece of Memorial Day’s events in my purse:
Captain Comic discovered the free photo booth at the WHRO tent at Town Point Park in Norfolk. It took a while for him to warm up, which of course just makes it funnier. He also folded and stuck his in his pocket.

And then he tried out some ninja moves:

And then he told me about it and some of us got very silly, while he played it straight. He always has to do the opposite. 

 And then Toots had to do it herself. The woman running the booth expressed she probably wasn’t tall enough without my lap, but that didn’t stop her, the little nutball. It took a minute for her to realize it was taking her picture.

Yesterday, I fell in love with my garden. Sorry, cellphone again, batteries still dead in other camera.
There is something very sexy about bean plants tendrilling up poles, especially when I grew them from seeds. Every gardener knows what I am talking about.
This weekend is over-scheduled, too. Next weekend, I hope I can quit this. Part of this week’s mayhem was a two day scramble session to get things in place for my solo singing this Sunday morning. The pianist got sick, we hadn’t rehearsed together, turns out the music I scrambled to get was in a different key from the recording, which Mr. Cynic, on bass, and I had practiced. His bass teacher kindly and late one night, after receiving a flurry of panicked texts from me,  transcribed three different keys for him just in case, but in the end, I am going to do the number a capella.  
I am going to get up and sing in front of two ‘audiences’, essentially, naked – without accompaniment. 
The reason I never became a rock star is I was too chicken to sing by myself in front of an audience for the past twenty-five years. I have no trouble as long as I stand with a choir. I’ll even sing a solo line as long as I am surrounded.
But my voice, alone?  
And then I turned forty-five, and no longer feel chicken, just a bit nervous and excited, and that’s a good thing. Wish me luck. Please.

before & after

It was a process that took days, and woman hours, and a few man and kid hours, too.

I had another over-scheduled weekend to try to squeeze the most important thing to me into – because, really I should have done this about a month ago.

I moved the shadiest garden plot to the sunny side of the yard. a 4×8 plot.

Before:
Here is where it was:

Of course I took the before shot when the plot was in its sunniest hour of the day. Those birch trees, and others absolutely cover this plot in shade for most of the day, especially the back end of it.
Yuck, right? All the grass and crap growing under the plastic is largely because once upon a time, I bought a truck load of dirt from a guy. Turns out it wasn’t good garden dirt. And then I was on bedrest pregnancy, and recovering from it, and had surgery because of it, and so forth and so on, and it sat in my side yard growing things I had no intention of growing in it for a couple of years. Even after I’ve been weeding it mightily and feeding it mightily for few years, it still just likes to grow crap, not so much what I try to plant in it.
Target, sunny side of the yard. That chaise is where you can find me for a little while most sunny days. And Toots likes to picnic there for lunch. The plot is going to move in next to the plot you see to the right. the wisteria is finally filling in, wall like, after the bloom cycle, to the left of the frame.

During:
I tried, but couldn’t loosen the frame. I couldn’t get it to budge at all. Honey did it by himself with a proper lever system he rigged up. Flipped it right over. I love when he gets all manly.

Then he had something going on and I tried to move the frame across the yard with my bad back and ankle and reluctant Mr. Cynic. We couldn’t budge it, except to get it up on its side.

The next day, Honey got back on it and after a failed attempt with positioning on the flat tire wheel barrow, 

we recruited Captain Comic and the three of us worked with cinderblocks and my garden supply Radio Flyer.

It worked! 

And then we maneuvered it into place on the barrier tarp over the grass.

Then we went out to Lowe’s for more good dirt and some garden path stones, and stopped for Hawaiian Ices with Captain Comic and Toots. Mr Cynic was working on a school project at a friend’s house, but I saved him some of my ice and he thanked me.  Toots climbed her first tree while The Rapture did not come except for me, because I was always up a tree as a kid. That’s my girl!
When Mr. Cynic came home shortly after we did, I drafted him to move the dirt and stones from the van to the plot. I told him he could count it as a work out for his independent gym credit. Six bags of dirt and four concrete stones.

Then this morning, I finally got back to work. But my bad back and ankle did not like me before I did, and even more so now. 

That’s some good dirt.
Apologies for the awkward angle.

After:
It’s still a bit shallow. but I planted watermelon seeds toward the back, yellow straight neck squash seeds in the middle, and a tomato and a cucumber seedling in the front. The fat rain drops began to pelt me. But I decided I could plant one more thing and get all the tools, etc back into the shed in time.

And I managed to plant a pepper in the new plot with good earth. And I believe that completes my plantings for the year.

But of course now I am dreaming about bulbs…..

asperger’s syndrome and bikes

Asperger’s Syndrome presents some unusual challenges as a parent that most parents never have to deal with. Certain things most parents accept as a given can never be assumed to operate in the same seamless and joyful sense.

Bike riding is one of these things. It involves both fine and gross motor skills, quick and accurate reaction time, muscle memory, and a wide variety of other things most people take for granted. Most neurotypical kids learn to ride a bike by the time they are six years old. Usually it involves one parent secretly letting go from behind and tricking the kid into the ride alone.
In my conversations with many parents of Aspies, I have found typically, if ever, they put together the pieces of learning to ride a bike when they are about twelve to thirteen years old. Captain Comic is that now. Some parents have found alternative bikes, like the leaning back three wheeler, a better way to go for their kids. Some never learn to ride, some learn to ride via an attachment to their parents’ bikes, but Captain Comic had gotten too big for that. 
He has recently made friends with a couple of boys in our neighborhood who tool around on their bikes and scooters quite a bit. Yesterday they came knocking, and asked him to join them. 
I was arriving home from the second trip to the dump with loads of branches that I, Mighty She-ra of Yardwork had trimmed from the big weeping birch on our corner. 

This post is not about me, it’s about Captain Comic, but I had to share that I singlehandedly trimmed the entire tree’s bottom rungs of branches that reach to the ground all by myself by hand, old school with clippers and handsaw. My friends on Facebook know this already. I was quite braggadocious about my muscley feat over there. I made Mr. Cynic hang from a particularly large branch over my head that I was sawing, so that he might pull it down quicker – all ninety-five pounds of my sixteen year old son. The pipsqueak, I love him.
But enough about me.

So as Honey and I arrived home from the dump, Captain Comic was bursting through the front door, with a bike more suited to Toots’s size than a kid who is practically my size, with training wheels and flat tires.
Later when I asked him what his friends thought of that first bike, and his riding along with them on the tiny, flat tired, training wheeled thing, he replied, “They were cool with it. They didn’t care.” 
This makes me very happy: as nutty and oddball as he is, there are peers right here in our neighborhood who accept him just the way he is. sniff

But back to the topic. After inflating the tires on another dusty old thing in the garage, I didn’t give up on him, even when he gave up on himself and the process. I threatened and cajoled, as nicely as possible for him to just keep trying. I whipped out Nelson Mandela’s tale when Captain Comic declared he was, “Hopeless, I tell you! HOPE-LESS!” And he fought and yelled and fell and threw the bike and ran away, and I threatened no screens (tv, computer, videogames) unless he tried into a side cul-de-sac and back to the house.  
And then the magic happened. He stopped fighting me. He stopped fighting himself. He stopped fighting the bike. He listen (sort of) when I talked about feeling his core muscles tell him how to correct the balance. He told me to stop talking and he kept trying, past our house, across the busy intersection and into the other cul-de-sac, and then back home again. 
He is this close (fingertips together) to taking off in freedom and speed around the neighborhood.
Witness:
If you turn the volume up you can hear him tell me to stop speaking, and what happens when I say okay, then sorry.  He’s so funny. I love this kid.
Nothing is hopeless. Not even a child with a form of autism learning to ride a bike. All you have to do is keep trying.  


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