Sunday, November 8, 2009

memory

It's been ten years since I left Madison County, and I really haven't missed it much. I haven't had much reason to return, and have only been back a handful of times. Faiyaz has been there twice I think...both times to visit a friend with me who lives just off the interstate. I grew up on what was termed 'roller coaster road', as I kid I lost at least ten dogs to teenagers and adults speeding over those two hills. I ran wild through the woods, I'd bike the 5.5 miles into town or the 6 miles to my friend Donna's house. We never had cable TV, and sometimes we didn't have AC in the summer. I wore ratty hand-me downs with bleach stains because that was all I had. I was never popular, actually the opposite. I would never move back to Madison, for a myriad of reasons. The biggest of these is race. Racism is still a major issue there, and that's something I don't want my amazing girls ever to be exposed to.

But as I've worked on this latest book, I'm finally appreciating the other-worldly beauty of the deep south. It's like writing about a foreign country. As I expose my main character, who is a 17 year old who has spend the last 13 years in New York to rattle snakes, swamps, and alligators, and tonight the bizarre practice of spraying hunting clothes with deer urine, I am missing Madison a little. I'm not a country music person, but tonight I've been listening to "Chattahoochee" by Alan Jackson. Very popular shortly before high school, I can remember a group of girls at Pinetta Junior High climbing on a bench and singing this song while dancing to it. I haven't thought about that for I can't count how many years.

Tonight I planned out a scene of my novel to take place on the Swanee river, at Five Holes in Lee. Five Holes is one of those off the charts hang outs you get in small towns. There are five connected sink holes, some with water in them, and a sandy patch on the edge of the river. Back when I went there, a giant rope hung from a tree limb, the end of which was knotted. You'd swing out over the river, and jump off. I remember the day I decided to swim across the river. I could see the far bank, it didn't seem that far, so I did it. The whole time the group I was with screamed for me to come back, I wouldn't make it, there would be alligators, there would be moccasins...after that day, every time I'd go I'd swim across the river. No one ever went with me, it was just my thing. I'm excited to use that place. "Chattahoochee", even though it's a different river and it's the story of a young man, is a great song for my experiences at Five Holes.

I feel like I'm a different person now. I think if I did revisit Madison at this point of my life I'd be more like my main character than someone returning after a long absence. I am glad that I'm recording snippets of what that part of my life was like, and what that place is like.

I just wish I had some photos to share with all of you of Madison. If I ever do go back, I'll be sure to pack my camera.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update (aka: What Was I Thinking?)

Ever since falling in love with the adventures of Meg Dare earlier this year, I've made it to a wonderful place, and into the best writing rhythm of my life. Namely, I always desire and am willing to write. Well, maybe I should rephrase that. I always feel the need and the urgency to write, thereby enabling me to take advantage of all the odd snips of time I can siphon out of a day. If Anjali is zoned out on TV and I'm feeding Nadira in the high chair (she now feeds herself, I just dump food on the tray) then I'm writing. If Anjali is at preschool and Nadira is napping, then I'm writing. If Nadira is napping and Anjali is absorbed in an art project or playing with her doll house, then I'm writing. If they are both in bed and hubby's working late as usual, then I'm writing. It's urgent. I must do it. You get the idea.

So when I found out about National Novel Writing Month, I thought that would be fantastic! After all, my usual word count commitment is 2000 anyway, writing 50k in a month wouldn't be bad at all, right?

I'd forgotten about the other thing that can happen with my little snippets of time I steal. They can all disappear. POOF! Kids can be sick, preschool can be closed, there can be a sudden shortage of sleep, there's an election and we have to go vote (after an annoying round of automated calls to remind us to go vote) the left overs in the frig can run out, roofers can come and bang on the roof right above Nadira's crib during nap time. The dog can chew through the cable wire, taking away the TV for two days and the repair guy can come right when both girls are napping and I am trying to write. He can then require a length explanation of what happened. (See those teeth marks? Hear the barking coming from the laundry room? What do you think happened?) Kids can coordinate waking up all night to ensure that mommy doesn't get a single moment of sleep. And everyone I've ever known can suddenly have the urge to call and catch up. Even mommies can get sick. And all of this, every bit of it, can happen in the first week of November, my first week of this writing insanity.

And because I've trained myself to 'feel the heat' when I give myself a deadline, and I've made this commitment to write this month, I've been pushing on. My house, spotless clean floors and all on Sunday, now looks something like a war zone. I've been blaming it on sick kids and being sick myself, but I think hubby's going to catch on soon that the real culprit is the writing (as usual).

Despite all of this, in four days my novel that I've been fooling around with for almost a month, has doubled in length. I'm now at 26,910 words, and I started at 13,148. Technically, I'm on track for NaNoWriMo, but because we're going out of town at the end of this month, I want to finish early.

So that's my update. That's the story of stolen snippets of time, sleep deprivations, kids dog and fate aligning against the writer, and the writer coming up victorious.

Now to try to get in my 3k for the day before anything else happens...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

So the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month, in this month, the month of November. I've been hyping myself up for this for a while. I'm doing my own variation of this because I want to keep working on my swamp monster book, so my goal is to add 50k to what I already have, which is 13,148. So my goal essentially is to get this book up to 63,148 by the end of the month...Those of you doing NaNo hard-core, don't black list me for this deviation! I jumped the gun a little, but I still plan to do 50k in a month.

So wish me luck...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hush Hush











Here's me and Becca Fitzpatrick's debut novel, "Hush, Hush". Why am I posting pics of someone else's book? Well, she's a new author, I believe in supporting new authors. This was an enjoyable book to read, so I'd thought it would be nice to share it with all of you. Oh, and she's holding a contest. :)
Seriously, contest aside, this is a book I'd be talking about. I think it's safe to say that fans of Twilight would also enjoy Hush Hush. And, most important for any novel, it leaves the reader wanting more. I think Patch and Nora's story, with the inherent obstacles to their relationship, is intriguing. This was a fast read, the action moves the story along at a nice pace, and it keeps the reader guessing.
Some explanation on the in air shots: I read on Becca's blog that the photo used on the cover was taken with the model jumping on a trampoline. So when I was trying to think of interesting shots to take with a book, that's what I came up with. Faiyaz was going to help me cut them, but that just didn't happen. All of you wonderful women who have children can guess the surprise I got upon jumping (I had no idea that was coming!)...yeah, if you've had a baby in the past year, stay off the tramp! I'm laughing in those photos, but believe me when I tell you they were very...uncomfortable...to get. Plus Anjali, and the two youngest of the great friend who let me use her tramp, kept wanting to join me! Don't worry, after three painful rounds of photos, I 'recovered' and let Anjali have a nice long jump. Then at home, Nadira couldn't resist posing with mommy (Anjali was asleep)

So that's Hush Hush, and that's me with Hush Hush. Enjoy the book!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Split Forehead and Split Ego

Today began normal. Faiyaz sweetly made breakfast for the girls and let me sleep an extra 30 minutes because Nadira had be up all night. Then I got up, and he left for work. I doled out more eggs, then went to clean the kitchen up some. Anjali came in and asked for some cheese. I took out the cheese, cut her the usual four slices and put them in a plastic cup, handed it to her and then turned to cut a slice for myself. I had just taken a bit of cheese when I heard Anjali trip and fall on her way to the living room. Considering that Anjali trips and falls at least ten times a day, I didn't react immediately. Then she came into the kitchen saying she hurt her hand. I turned to look, and saw her face covered in blood...her hand was fine, it just had blood from her head on it. Dropping the cheese, I grabbed a handful of paper towels and folded them, then pressed them to the gash. Once the blood was mopped up, I peeked and saw that the gash was about half an inch long...but was split wide. More pressure and a call to Faiyaz. Then as I was trying to get the girls out the door I discovered Nadira had spilt water down her front...it was super cold outside this morning, so I changed her and got dressed. Luckily my lazy gene had kicked in last night, so the couch was buried in clean laundry to choose from, otherwise I would have gone to the ER in my housecoat. Anjali sat in the arm chair with the paper towel to her head while I got Nadira and myself dressed. Fai got here, we loaded up and drove to the ER. By the time she was seen she had eaten half a bag of marshmallows and was giggling at the doctor as her forehead was glued back together. Faiyaz stayed home, and today turned into a family day eating cheese balls in mommy and daddy's bed while watching Mary Poppins. She fell asleep in the arm chair downstairs. It's amazing to me, I'm still in a bit of shock, there's dried blood on the kitchen floor I need to clean up, and she's completely over it. Somehow, I've got to keep that glue dry for five days, but she's fine. Amazing. Kids are so...awesome.

I don't think I'll recover as quickly to my first rejection letter for the new book. It's silly, really. The first book racked up 80 rejections total, and I never felt so...deflated. And this isn't even the literary agent I want, the Big Agent I've mentioned, this is a small agent from an agency that just opened recently but has had good sells so far. I just met this agent in passing, and thought it worth submitting. I'd have been thrilled, of course, if this agent had wanted it, but still...why am I crushed?

It was a good rejection too, not a form letter, a real "this is why I'm saying no". The two problems the agent saw was that it was the first in a series (which from the conference I thought that would be a selling point) and the agent said I did too much telling rather than showing. Of course I immediately printed out the first chapter and curled up with it and a pen. According to "The Making of Shapely Fiction," there's a time and a place for telling. You wouldn't, for instance, spend two pages showing a minor character's personality in scene. However, it's always best to let the reader connect the dots. So I sat there, looking at the first five pages of the first chapter (which is what this agent saw) and thought "that's showing...okay, I tell there, how can I change that? does that need changing? What can that be? (scribble a few possibilities) okay, more showing, some dialogue, showing, oh I tell again-should I cut that or change that?" You get the idea. My conclusion? In those first five pages, I'd say it's about an even split, but those first five pages are a scene and a half. The first scene has people in it, but they aren't important people, they are people on a cruise ship that sinks. The cruise ship is important, the fact that it's sinking is very important. This is third person, in the Captain's POV...I think I give a good glimpse into his head, but not the way I would a main character...he doesn't pop up again after this scene.

My conclusion? I did find places that could be improved upon, that can be sharper, crisper, and more...immediate. More 'showing'. I think the major turn off wasn't showing versus telling, I think the thing that turned this agent off was it's the first in a series...and since I decided to pull a number out of thin air for this, I told this agent it was the first in a series of 8...I think 8 was a scary number. Plus I don't think this agent is a big fan of YA paranormal, when I met this agent I commented that I hadn't seen a lot of it on the list of book publications on the agency's website, and this agent said they did take it...but who knows? YA paranormal is an acquired taste...two or three years ago I'd never have thought I'd be writing it...but it's so much fun!

So my plan of action is to give it another round of editing, tidying up the language here and there (this will be draft 7 for those keeping count) and never again say it's the first of eight. I hope to submit to the Big Agent next week.

Here's hoping...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Making of Pumpkin Pie
















Anjali, Nadira and I made pumpkin pie today. It was a blast! I wanted Nadira to be part of the action, so Anjali explained to Nadira how to mush up the crust and all...A three year old teaching a ten month old how to make pie crust has got to be the cutest thing ever! So I'll let these pictures tell the rest of the story, and then I'm going to go get myself a piece of that pie...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Scene from the Distraction Project

Here's a little piece from page 8 I like...makes me think of home...not perfect, first draft, but still:

Suddenly, something in the dirt moved. It writhed. By the time my eyes adjusted, there it was, a huge snake curled up in my path ready to strike. It didn’t matter that I had no knowledge of snakes, I knew this one. A rattlesnake. Its tail quivered rapidly, filling the still morning with its husky racket. I’ve never heard anything as creepy sounding before in my life. I froze. I couldn’t think. The snake was only two feet away, and the only thing in my hand was the water hose. The snake seemed to realize its advantage. He started to pull back, his bared fangs glittering in the sunshine.
“Step back,” commanded a voice near me. “Slowly.”
I obediently slid one foot back, then the other. Unfortunately I forgot about the water hose for a moment, as I moved back the direction of the water shifted, and hit the agitated rattler in the face.
The snake lunged. I screamed. And from somewhere next to me, an ax came flying down. I was frozen again, my eyes closed tight. I heard a low thud, then silence. No wicked rattle. Tentatively, I opened my eyes.
On the ground at my feet, just inches from my sandals, writhed the remains of the snake, cut it two. Its evil fangs still snapped aimlessly around, clear liquid oozing from its mouth. I assumed this must be the venom.
I felt something on my arm, and jumped. Then I saw him for the first time.
He stood next to me, pulling my arm to make me step back. He still held the ax. Once I was out of the way he stepped forward. Very carefully he put his booted foot down on the viciously biting head of the snake. The rest of its body still thrashed wildly, splattering blood on his boat and his perfect worn jeans that clung just right…a few feet away the snake’s tail still whipped around, but it was starting to loose some of its momentum. I looked up into my hero’s face, it was sun browned with a healthy sprinkling of freckles. His hair a light sun bleached blond. His eyes, blue like mine, studied the snake beneath his foot. He placed the ax on its…neck? I’m not sure if snakes have necks…then he paused.
“Think you can swing this straight and not cut off my foot?” he asked me. His voice…it had a faint twang to it, but it was not unpleasant. In fact I found it rather appealing. I opened my mouth, but no words came out.
He took this as a negative, and dropped the ax in the dirt. Out of his amazing jeans he brought out a pocket knife. He opened it, then bent down to cut off the serpent’s head. I could hear the knife cutting through the snake skin and flesh…the sound gave me goosebumps.
Then it was over, and he lifted his boot. The head still opened and closed, biting the dirt.
“I’d put on some shoes if you’re going to stay out here. He’s going to be snapping like that for a few more hours.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Never Library Hungry...

I'm a book person. I do research on the internet when I have to, and I recognize its merits, but I love having a tangible book in my hands...these too are going digital, but I just can't picture myself with a digital book...I know they can hold up to what? 60? 200? Novels? And yes, that would be so cool to have that many books with me...but I just don't see it. I like to turn pages, I like watching my book marker move through the pages...

So it's no wonder that when I'm worried or stressed or overwhelmed, I head to the library. When we were potty training and things weren't going well, I checked out every book remotely related to potty training...When we moved to Virginia, I got my library card before my Virginia Driver's license...When I did that nanny job in Long Island, I had to borrow my employer's card, but I reread all the Anne of Green Gables books in the three months I had that job...When I moved to Tallahassee the summer before my senior year in high school, I checked out stacks and stacks of books. No friends, but lots of books...

So yesterday after getting my foot x-rayed, I noticed that I was very close to one of the larger libraries...and since I had a babysitter, and could browse without annoying my three year old and without my infant trying to pull things off shelves, I went.

And here's what I got:

A Lonely Planet guide book to Thailand, for research purposes.
2 YA books, one of which I've been meaning to read and one that just looked interesting.
And four books on writing...
-The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer
-Writer Mama by Christina Katz-looks very cute
-Write Mind by Eric Maisel, PhD-This one is full of tidbits like "don't think: I would secretly like to kidnap and torture a literary agent, but do think:Literary agents represent projects they think they can sell. Nothing could be less mysterious or more impersonal" No, I'm not at the wanting to torture someone point, but everyone can use a pep talk every now and then, right?
-And a generic sort of books on what agents are looking for and how to do a query letter. Couldn't hurt...

So seven books, and I'm going to read them all! So far the Norman Mailer book is really good...at least I have three weeks to read them.

The sad thing? I stopped myself from grabbing about ten other books as well...this is why you never library hungry...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Writing...again...

I think all the editing, the proofreading...and the plotting of book 2 has fried my brains a bit. And if I let myself think about it...really think...about what I'm doing and what the next step it...I get this sick sick sick feeling in my gut. And that sick sick sick feeling in my gut makes me think I'm pregnant, so then I run to the dollar tree, buy a pregnancy test, only to discover yet again I'm not pregnant I'm just freaked out about this 'big agent' who has requested my work actually reading it.

I think it's from all the rejections from my first book. Agents have become 'the enemy', the 'killer of dreams' the bizarre yellow sticker on my query letter that reads 'sorry not for us'. As I prepare my manuscript to send off to this 'big agent' my confidence level is 0. I'm just wondering in what form the rejection will come. Sticker? Postcard? E-mail? Months of no communication?

So I edit, I polish, I second guess every scene, character, plot development and setting that I use, and the whole time I have this nagging doubt that this will be yet another rejection. Only this time it's from 'big agent', the agent I really want, the one I've researched a lot, the one I covet...

Because of this, my mind has cracked a little. I'm still researching Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai, where book 2 -Path of the Guardians, will take place. But my mind has fled the building. My brain has turned off to the adventures of Meg Dare, and are instead focused on a character named Scarlett...

The new book, of which there are currently five pages is what I'm calling a Southern Gothic Young Adult Paranormal...where a 16 year old girl from the Upper East Side who just moved to Madison Florida with her superficial mom...there will be a hunky farmer boy and a swamp monster...and it's in the dreaded first person that I hate...Sounds promising? I think so too...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Pity Party

It takes a certain kind of person to fracture a toe by falling down the stairs. I am that certain kind of person.

So this is my pity party, I felt like throwing myself one. There are people from the ward I could call for help, but I just don't feel like asking for help. I want my dad here. Faiyaz has to work, he's nearing some inexplicably important deadline, so since I can't have him I just really want my dad here and that's the one thing I can't have. He can't afford a plane ticket, and we can't either. So here I am. My kids are running wild, Anjali has taken over the dining table with art stuff and Nadira is crawling around pulling books off the book cases and eating crumbs. And here I am, trying to edit/write and it is so not working. I can't think because of the pain, I can't take the 'good' painkillers because I'm still breastfeeding, and if I did get to medicate myself I wouldn't be able to write anyway because I'd be so drugged up! So here I am, throwing myself a pity party. I can't clean even though my house is on the verge of being condemn. I have nothing new to read, I haven't been to the library in a week, so I only have the old familiar titles on my shelves which are usually a great comfort, but since I'm in pain I need something fresh to distract me.

Thank goodness Faiyaz let psycho dog out before he left from work, and then locked him in the laundry room. One less animal to worry about stepping on my toe...the girls of course are still running wild, and seem to like to play dangerously close to my foot...at least nap time is eminent.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

mixed feelings

I'm feeling angry and bitter towards my book. Up until recently, I've had such a blast writing and editing this book, I love the story and I think it has great potential. But recently I've started thinking a lot on the amount of time and energy I've put into it that could have gone to something else, to my home or family or towards a job that would actually pay.

Yesterday was the worst. I actually thought about deleting the whole thing. Then, while I was giving sweet Nadira her bath, I came up with an idea for another book. Yep. Also YA. The whole premise, backstory, characters, plot, even the main character's voice. I need to write the sequel to this book first, but then there this bright shining idea...and the thrill that comes with such an idea...

And late last night I knew that regardless of what happens, I'm going to be writing. I can't stop. I won't sleep well until that bright shining idea is on paper, and then there will always be another one...

There are many reasons why I write. Most basic is that books are so vital to me, so connected to every major even in my life. They've helped me through so much, guided me almost. The best comfort in the darkest hours of my childhood, there at a time when I was completely alone. But that's another blog all together.

So today I'm thinking about multitasking, and I'm thinking about editing.

Editing to me, is polishing. Have you ever seen a raw diamond, fresh out of the earth? It's not very pretty. You know it's valuable, it is after all a diamond. But to get it to the point that others see its worth, there's a lot you have to do to it. Finding the diamond was the easy part. Now it has to be cleaned, cut, polished. Yes, sometimes you add scenes, but for the sake of the diamond analogy, we'll just call the additions the polishing process. You lose things. As you work on your novel, it changes shape, and may lose some of what you love about it. As a diamond is cut, diamond dust and little diamond chips get cut away. But this is necessary to bring out the beauty of the diamond. For me, this process takes much longer than writing the first draft, and I can't do it alone. Recently a writer friend of mine talked about her process, how she does all the edits in one sweep. Amazing. That's part of this too: Every writer has to find the process that works best for them. There is no right or wrong here.

Now multitasking. Here's a list of things I've done while writing/editing my novel:

-eat
-feed Nadira in a high chair
-painted with Anjali
-helped Anjali with puzzles
-nursed Nadira (while writing a scene, not editing)
-used a breast pump (yeah...)
-retrained the dog to sit (he likes to forget that command every few months)
-talked on the phone to: telemarketers, family members, friends, my husband, I have even done editing while on hold with the doctor's when making an appoint...if you've talked to me in the past few months, and I've sounded distant, I was probably working on the book.
-peeled potatoes while editing

I eat all my meals at this computer while editing. This machine comes on first thing in the morning, I'm back and forth to it all day. Rarely do I have uninterrupted stretches to write, but that's okay. I am the queen of the multitask.

That's all for now, I'm sure that's more than enough...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back from Conference and ALIVE!

"New York...can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York...unless he is willing to be lucky." -EB White, 'Here is New York'

New York and I are in the middle of a lucky streak that I hope continues for a long long time. New York is where I met Faiyaz...New York is where I fell in love. New York is where I felt truly my own person for the first time, like I could go or do anything anywhere. I doubt I would live in/near New York, but I love the city. Especially early on a weekend morning when its waking up. Or when she's waking up, I like to think of New York as a woman, I'm not sure why.

The conference was...rough, but great. Just what I needed. If nothing else, the idea of 'high concept' has been permanently etched into my skull. It wad great to pitch a novel idea, and get to watch/hear those initial reactions. When you send out a query letter, you get the rejection slip but you don't see why. I've seen the why, and if nothing else I can write a better letter for it. I learned more about the pitch, vocal or written, than I ever have before and I've done some homework on it. I also met great people with great ideas, several of which I hope get published. I've expanded my writing network, which is something I'm working on now. Not being in school has limited the number of writers I rub elbows with, and I crave that now more than ever, I crave community and comradeship in writing.

I pitched my novel to four editors and one agent, all reputable, all well-established. One rejected me out right. Two have requested to see it. Verdict is still out on the last two. I'm in editing frenzy once more. I got fresh ideas, and I'm ready to use them. I'm in panic mode, I'm more freaked out than excited. It's so hard to get a request with even a great query letter, and I still doubt my abilities there, I want to make the best of this chance...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Seasons of Change and Possibilites

Anjali is on the verge of starting preschool. I know she's ready, she's bright and engaging and loves social situations. She's strong and self confident, I have no fear that she could be bullied. And she seems to have outgrown our little routine here.

The weather is still cool, although it'll be in the 80s today for the first time this week. I think I can see the beginnings of a yellowish hew in the green leaves.

Nadira is...growing. She's still my little baby, but she's two days away from nine months and she can climb up two steps on the stairs now. I know that we are nearing the end of babyhood, and soon she'll be running around after her sister...sweet and sad at the same time.

I finished the third draft yesterday. So far everyone who has been so kind as to read and give me feed back seems to like it. There's less than a week until the conference, and I am so nervous just thinking about it. I feel this is a good, marketable book, but will someone want to read it? And if they read it, will they publish it? And if they publish it, will the advance be enough to pay off the minivan? And will they want the rest of the series? What if they don't like my book ideas for the rest of the series? Should I have the rest of the series outlined before hand, or at least the next book? Will the clothes I've selected and the business card and the nice CD Faiyaz is burning my book onto, will they show I'm professional and I take my craft seriously and I want it to be a business, or will it say I'm a raving lunatic with too much time on my hands?

There are other things going on too, doors opening, winds shifting, there is change in the air for my life, this season seems to be winding up...the only certainty is that my beautiful girls will keep growing and the leaves will turn gold and orange...for the book and the rest, I will just have to wait and see...

Monday, August 31, 2009

E-Day!

Today is the day I'm going to start that all-important third polish of my Meg Dare book...I'm stalling right now. I'm going to start some laundry, then run some quick errands...not out of laziness, but out of hopefulness...my grandmother's comments are hopefully arriving in today's mail...if not, I'll start without them, but I really want to use them, so if I start today without, I'll have to do a second pass over once they come! I'm feeling Excited to Edit! Like, crazy excited! I've tried to start the outline for the next book, but am too distracted, too consumed with this one.

Today you can feel it, when Fai left this morning and I walked outside with him, the chill in the air...summer is ending, soon it'll be fall. I am sad, but it seems appropriate. I feel that my life is in a period of change, it feels right for the seasons to change too. This year I will take pictures of the beautiful golden leaves...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mommy vs Writer




Here are some pictures I used for inspiration/setting of my novel, Meg Dare and the Bermuda Treaty. These are all in St. George, Bermuda. They're also taped to the wall over my desk...

Another mom was asking how my book was going...and I gave her a brief run down (well, as brief as I ever am when talking about writing) Her reply: I'd love to write a book, but just don't have the time...

A teacher/writer I admire greatly (Julianna Baggot) said in one of her classes to always pay yourself first. It took me awhile to catch on to what that means. As supermoms, we always take care of...everyone else. I wanted to write this book, if I didn't, I'd be unhappy, if I was unhappy, I'm be a bad mom....So here's today, and a picture of me doing both (mommying and writing) We all multitask, I'd like to think I've become a master! (although writing does detract from housework...)

Last night: Nadira scream fest=1 hour of sleep.
6:30 am: Mommy, I'm hungry, can I watch a show?
8:00 am: Family prayer. Microwave pancakes, turn on computer. Start editing.
8:20 am: Stop editing, set Anjali up with watercolors, get more pancakes for Nadira, start editing
again.
9:00 am: Try to put Nadira down for a nap, clean up mess from water colors...find kid music and
less messy art project. Get self bowl of cereal and diet coke.
9:45 am: Continue editing while eating a clemintine Anjali peeled for me....seriously great
moment...
10:20 am: Do silly dance with Anjali, set up to nurse Nadira while editing, have to stop editing
suddenly b/c Anjali picked up closed water colors and they dripped...everywhere...
10:40 am: Find good show for Anjali, open yogart tube
10:55 am: Open another yogart tube
11:05 am: Realize I forgot to let the dog out...
11:30 am: On to second diet coke...and another clemintine...
11:45 am: Finish second draft of novel!!!!!!! Yep, yep. Do another silly dance with Anjali...

Celebration: We go to the post office, mail a copy to my grandmother, then paint the town! We hit the playground, the library, Chick-fil-a for an early dinner and ice cream, the play area at Chick-fil-a, then home again....

And I've discovered to get a tired Nadira to stop screaming, need daddy singing on speakerphone. Planning on making a CD for bedtime...when she out grows it, it can be used for blackmail...

Summer Photos

I think this first picture sums up Anjali...yeah. These are the pictures from Hershey Park and Dutch Wonderland. The Princess, whose name Anjali learned is Princess Brooke, was extremely patient with Anjali, who was on the look out for her the whole day. And what does Anjali think of rollercoasters? She wants more! It always amazes me how incredibly fearless she is, an awesome kid for sure. And what about Nadira? I think she enjoyed it as much as any 8 month old could...












Sunday, August 9, 2009

First Draft Done!

I am on a writing High! I wasn't going to write today, I felt cranky and tired and my baby didn't sleep last night, but my plot kept nagging at me...yesterday I wrote about a thousand words, not much, and from that point I thought I had about two or three days worth of writing to do.

After only two hours of sleep last night, I stayed home from church and sent Fai with the girls, fully intending to nap. I got a text message that I wasn't babysitting today, and so I settled into my comfy bed...

Then I started thinking about Meg, and Read, and my plot, and this and that and next thing I knew I was at the computer. I wrote for a good spell, about 2,500 words in just over an hour, then went to sleep. Then Fai and the girls got home, and we did the lunch thing and everyone went to nap.

And I returned to my desk...and I wrote and wrote and wrote until.........

It's done! My first draft is done! I wrote a grand total of just over 4,000 words today, which is roughly 20 pages, and a big achievement! I feel elated, I feel jazzed, I feel like I want to run around my house screaming....

But everyone is still asleep!

So this is my big Hurray! Tomorrow I'm knocking the most common bit of writing advice, and skipping the cooling-off period and jumping right into my second draft. Mentally, I started my second draft about a week ago. I'm hoping to have it done soon, because I'm going to a writer's conference in New York next month, and want to take a third draft with me...

By the way, I'm currently recruiting readers for my second draft, to look through it and offer advice on how to improve it. Any volunteers?

So that's it, I'm very jazzed....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do I Need To Go Goth???

So I'm back, from an amazing weekend in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania? Yep, Pennsylvania. And I want to go back. Apparently it's a touristy place. We went to Hershey Park, swam a lot in the hotel pool, and then went to Dutch Wonderland, a kiddie-centered theme park. Anjali had a blast, and Nadira seem to really enjoy the carousal and the train ride...pictures will be forthcoming, I hope...

Anyway, so I cranked up the computer and set to checking my e-mails before opening up my novel and starting my daily writing attempt...

And on facebook, a new friend of mine sent me a link to a new author's website. Her name is Becca Fitzpatrick, and her new novel, "Hush, Hush," will be coming out soon. It's YA, and it's about a girl who falls for a guy who's a fallen angel. So I read about her and her book, and she's got an amazing story, and I can't wait to read her novel. Look her up, I bet most of you would like her too. And on her blog there's this pic of her with one of the ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of her book, putting in on her bookshelf with her other books, and there's all four of the Twilight books. And automatically I saw the connection.

Not only are these books YA, but they are also what I would term a modern form of the Gothic novel. I studied Gothic novels in one of my classes at FSU, basically it's dark and dangerous, with the main character in danger, and the male lead being a dangerous hero...You get the idea.

Here's why I'm bugged:

I love my book, I love my character, Meg Dare is not in danger, she doesn't need a hero, she's strong and independent. I don't want her to be rescued, she's the hero! There is a bad guy who might become a love interest in a later book, but he'll be part of a love triangle, and the good guy will finish first. The story, while rich in suspense and action, is not dark. This is not a Gothic novel, and right now YA gothic seems to be the hot selling ticket. I know they say you shouldn't write to sell, you should write what you love, but honestly I would love anything I'm writing, and I want this as a career, not just a hobby. I want people to read this stuff! And getting a little money would be nice, although I'm obviously not counting on that anytime soon. So I'm in love with writing YA now, I'm going to finish Meg Dare and keep working on that series, but then should I maybe go for YA Gothic? Is there a market for YA strong female lead with high adventure and suspense, sorta a cross between Nancy Drew and Indian Jones, with mermaids and werewolves and other creatures thrown in? Would you read that kind of book? Would you buy it?

There's my writing rant for today, now I'm going to go and try to write...and not spend any more time on Becca's website!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Query This!

I've got a Query for you:

What's large, rectangular, cost about a dollar fifty, and contains about 25 pages of my sweat and tears?

It's a query with partial included! I'm looking at three of them, ready for the mail.

How many have I sent out? Let me count...

80!!!! I've slowed down a lot since I had to start paying for snail mail, but yeah, 80!

Favorite Rejection so far? My own letter, mailed back to me with NO! underlined twice written across the top. Yep, thanks. Some are better. Most are printed form letters. Once the rejection came on a small sliver of paper so tiny at first I thought the envelope was empty.

I hate the time I have to spend trying to sell my self. Those three queries waiting to be mailed took me over an hour to do. To find and read the info in Writer's Market, double-check on-line, and put the thing together and record it in my log. I hate doing queries. Love the writing, enjoy the editing, hate the queries.

Supposedly the first book is the hardest to get published. I hope that's true.

Obsession

I am again in the stage of writing I call Obsession, at the point when all I can think about is writing. The story, the characters, have become almost real. All I talk about is the book, I'm aching for feedback. My kids are blissfully ignorant, I think, but poor hubby has noticed how quick I am to snap at him these days. The house is a sty. The dog is lonely. I need to either join a writer's group, or Writer's Anonymous, or maybe even check into writer's rehab...but not until I finish the book. I think a few people have stopped speaking to me because of the book, one friend now only texts me. Today I am babysitting a friend's kids and the little boy I usually babysit, and I know I'm not going to get to write...and it's driving me nuts!

Do have anything that you obsess over, that takes over your life?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

High Lights

Major Things:

Fai and I celebrated our five year anniversary. :)
Fai's Birthday-one of his co-workers babysat for us and we went and saw Harry Potter.

Baby Things:

Nadira is on the verge of crawling, she is so, so, so close! Today she also started trying to pull up.

Toddler Things:

Miss Anjali took swim lessons, very big hit. She is such a water bug! I wish I could get her in the water more often...

And, Finally,

Writing Things:

For our anniversary, Fai got me a desk top for my writing desk in the living room. I've been working on the laptop, but it's on the verge of death. I'm really liking my new work space, it's working out well so far. There are about seven chapters left of my book, maybe a few more. I think having an area to work on it downstairs will help me get it done.

And that's about it here. Things have just been very busy this summer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Two of a Kind

Yesterday, around 5pm, I found out that we were having friends for dinner, friends from New York that we haven't seen in...almost six years. Yeah. Luckily, when I asked if they'd prefer enchiladas or baked ziti, they said baked ziti, which meant Fai was cooking and not me! Yippie!

So after frantically cleaning the house and helping Fai (and by helping Fai, I mean burning the mozzarella, peeling it off, sprinkling new mozzarella on top and watching it melt...) I thought about the last time I'd seen this family...

It was at Uno's pizza in Astoria, Queens. Their son was four and they'd just found out they were expecting another...

So then they came, with this strapping, engaging ten year old, and a beautiful five year old daughter.

And that daughter and Anjali....yeah. You couldn't tell they were two years apart in age, they were best buds from the first second! We hadn't even made it into the living room before Anjali had showed her the basement and the two of them had started pulling up toys!

And the yelling! And the laughing! And the "I'm not your friend any more!" followed by the making up! Then finally, the hug goodbye....

Two of a kind, for sure!

And I now have a new appreciation for ten year old boys, he let those two little girls jump all over him! (Literally...)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Five little Positive Things

So I've just come out of high-stress mode, and am still adjusting to everyday life. It's like when you've been in a car wreck, even when it's over your adrenaline is still going. Last night, as I was going to bed way too late (like, one in the morning!) I had a random idea. I turned on the light, grabbed the note pad I keep next to my bed, and jotted it down.

Five Positive Things.

Five goals that I though would make life a little happier. In the morning, when I looked at them again, I though perhaps I might have gone a little overboard. Seriously, how could I fit those five things into my already busy day? So I revised, and cut back a little. The same five things, only a little less.

Five Little Positive Things

For example, one of the original five was an hour of exercise each day. That's been changed to a little exercise each day. Today, I did twenty minutes on the treadmill. Not much, I know, nothing compared to what some of the more health-oriented of you do, but for me it's a start.

So far I've done three of my five things today, and I know I'll squeeze in one more today. Tomorrow, I'll strive to do all five. We'll see how that goes. So far, so good!

Little changes. Little things. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Respite

Today I am grateful for little moments of peace.

This past weekend and Monday I moved my mother into assisted living. I also realized that she's developing some sort of dementia along with her MS. I don't think she recognized my sister.

Emotionally, this was a really rough trip to Florida. Financially, it was doubly hard. Our car died, and we had to purchase a new one. Time-wise, it was chaos. Like in January, I spent very little time with friends and family.

Then there was mother's day...

In the morning we packed up my mom's stuff, then went to have lunch with my grandmother and dad. That's when I got the call that she could move into the assisted living facility on Monday.

With all the immediate things cared for, we did something impractical...we drove down to St. George's Island on the Gulf Coast. My little sister, Caroline, who is 15, came with us.

My dad use to call 98 the Redneck Rivera. a winding stretch of highway with breathtaking views of the Gulf. And also of local color. Fishing shacks and piers, little mom and pop sea food restaurants, old motels. There's a restaurant there we're really fond of, we ate there on our honeymoon, it's called "That Place on 98". Yep.

Several years ago, the year Florida was cris-crossed by three hurricanes, this stretch of the panhandle took a real beating. It's been almost two years since we last drove down that way, and I was surprised that the scars are still there. In years past, that area rebounds quickly. Now there are building still boarded up, messages to God still spray-painted on the boards. Abandoned buildings, long stretches of land for sale, and there among it all, building. New town-houses, new rental property, new luxury vacation communities. The forgotten coast is forgotten no longer.

"This is good," said Faiyaz, "It's going to be great for the businesses around here."

I agree. But inside I miss the old coastline, the one that didn't look like a tourist attraction.

I love St. George Island, I love the sand, not too white, I love looking out at the wide expansion of water ahead, I love the waves, gently, but you can still feel the power behind them. It was late afternoon when we got to the public beach. The water was still a little cool. I thought Nadira would cry, but she seemed to love it. Anjali had a blast. My dad met us later. He cuddled with Nadira, and Faiyaz walked with Anjali looking for shells. I walked out into the water, as far as I could and still touch. I looked behind me, at my beautiful family, then out across the expanse of water. I was filled with gratitude, and sorrow. I thought about my mom, how much she use to love the beach too. About how much I do to help her, and all the things I can't help her with.

And I felt, as I always do in the Gulf, how small I am in this great big world. This is not a bad feeling, it helps me put myself and my petty problems in perspective. I love that kind of insignificance, of just being a spec in the large Gulf. Think of the Gulf of Mexico, it seems so large when you're in it, but when you look at a map, it's a small bit of water compared to the great oceans. So there I was, a spec in a small pool of water surrounded by the great oceans, on our planet that looks so small when you're far out it space. And it felt good. And I lifted up my feet, closed my eyes, and let myself float aimlessly for a few minutes, enjoying being a spec. I had come full circle. I was at the beach I had visited with my parents as a child, I was there as a parent with my children. I am the caretaker of the woman who once cared for me.

I thought about that a lot as I drove home. On road trips I always take the night-shift. I love how the interstate thins out at night, how it's just me and the road and whatever is on the radio. I talked with my dad at 2 am, he told me I'd make a great truck driver.

Confession: I dislike country music, but on long road trips, when I'm driving at night, I always listen to it, bellowing out the song in my own tone-deaf way. I think it's because most country songs have linear story lines that are easy to follow when you're tired, and keep your interest.

Today I'm disoriented. I keep thinking it's Tuesday, or even Monday. Over the past month and a half, I've spent so much time on the phone trying to set things up for my mom, and so much time just worrying about my mom, it feels strange to have that done with. I'm still worrying, worrying how long shell get to stay there, worrying where she'll got next, but I know this is needless worry, and it doesn't have the same urgency.

Soon I'll start working on my book again. Things are going back to normal. There's laundry to fold, dishes to do, and a whole lot of unpacking.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Complaints

So my mom is getting evicted...yep. And guess who has to deal with it? Yep. I'm tired of bailing her out, very very very tired. I know that she's...insane, but right now I'm so frustrated with her. It feels like she's messing things up on purpose. I was just down in Florida, fixing her life for her, making it so she could live in that apartment a little longer, and here we are. All that time and money, thrown down the drain. And all the lies! All the lies! It makes me sick to my stomach just to think about all the lies.

So now I have to find an assisted living facility that has space and takes medicaid. Otherwise, she will be homeless on the street. Yep. If you know my mom, then you understand there's no way at all that she could live with me. None. So here I am. And I have to fix this, she is my mother. In spite of everything, she's my mom, and I have to find a way to help her.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Hard Day in Mommyland

Granted, I really don't have much to whine about, but I'm going to indulge myself in a little complaining nonetheless.

It's been a hard day in Mommyland. Fai, the fearless provider, left early and is working late, which means, in an hour or two, I and the little ones will be tracking it on 95 into Alexandria, so none of us will get to bed earlier than 1 am. (except, of course, the little ones who will sleep in their car seats and be up all the earlier tomorrow) Nadira was up at 1:30 this morning, then both Anjali and Nadira were up at 7am. 7am is early to me. We were out running errands all morning. I signed Anjali up for preschool (she'll be going three days a week starting in Sept) which she is super excited for, then I had to do the grocery shopping and get gas. By the way, grocery shopping today meant going to four different stores. Yep. Two kids, two car seats, four stores. PLUS when Anjali was sick and I washed her carseat, I put the two seat belt halves in backwards, which means to get it in you have to twist the bottom buckle around backwards, and it's next to impossible to unhook. So I hurt my thumb fighting with the silly buckle.

The highlight of my day was the optimism I had-Faiyaz said he'd be home early, and cook dinner. So exciting. I defrosted the chicken as asked, and bought the eggplant. One big thing I didn't have to worry about. And at 8:15 (I thought Fai would be home by 8 at the latest) I called, and found out that he would be working extra late, and here I am with no dinner for him tonight or lunch tomorrow (he always gets left overs for lunch) Granted, not a big deal, but Fai just started a diet, and was doing super well on it, and now who knows what he'll have for lunch? He's fine with this situation, but I'm stressed for him, does that make any sense?

And the true annoyance? Lack of writing time. Anjali and Nadira sense when I'm really into writing, and that's when crisis strikes! ARRRRGH! I feel like I'm being selfish, I know in a few years (longer, depending on how many more kids we have) finding time to write won't be so hard, but I want to write now! I'm in the middle of a project I'm really enjoying writing, it's a light YA piece, nothing important, but it's fun, and I want to work on it! I truely am trying to keep this in perspective. And I do appreciate the stress and preassure of Fai's job. (that's another rant all together) This has nothing to do with him. This is me, trying to remember to be happy in the season I'm in. It's short, I know it is. I got some perspective tonight after I gave Nadira her bath, and I held her close and smelled her clean hair. Nice, very nice. I truly thought the all-day me alone thing would end with Fai graduating and getting this job. Everyone at the USPTO says the first few years are tough, and it is a good, stable job with good benefits and good pay. I see the benefits, I appreciate the demands of a new career, but it feels like it's always going to be 'a few more years' of toughing things out. I'm tired of us toughing it out, I want us to just live and enjoy! I want Fai home at 6, the kids in bed at 8, and the weekends to be stress-free. And I want three hours to write, everyday. Sigh!

I'm going to go cuddle a baby, then I'll feel better.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Truthfullness

I told myself while I still worked in childcare that I would always be truthful with my children. No cute nick-names for body parts, where babies really come from, etc. Not that I've explained sex to Anjali, but she does know that Mommy's and Daddy's love made Nadira, that she grew in Mommy's belly until she was ready to come out, and she knows how she came out. A bit much for an almost-three year old, huh?

so Tuesday, when Anjali was super sick, and we took her to the Dr, and the Dr wanted to have labs done on her, I told her truthfully what would happen. Then, later, when we got the phone call to take her to the ER for fluids, I again told her truthfully what would happen at the hospital. Wow. Poor baby. She was so upset, and when they were putting the needle in, she kept crying "please! please! don't hurt me! please!" Talk about breaking your heart!

Then they taped it down, and Anjali laid in bed, looking at her hand. Slowly she stopped crying. Moments after that, she seemed better, and started chatting happily and telling us about the 'water' going through the IV into her hand.

Maybe I shouldn't have told her what would happen at the lab, or at the ER. Maybe the build-up and the tears in the waiting room could have been avoided. At the ER waiting room she kept saying over and over again that she wanted to go home.

The plus side of this truthfulness is that while we were in the ER and she was getting fluids, Fai and I, feeling extremely guilty, promised to get her a present, that she could pick it out. And she remembered. And so, at three am, we were at Walmart, in the toy section, and despite mixed feeling on my part, Anjali got her very first Barbie doll. Yep, we've entered the world of Barbie. And because we felt very, very, very guilty, she now has a total of three Barbies and one Ken. One of the Barbies is a Pediatrician, so that's kinda cool. They had an Astruanaught Barbie and a President Barbie, but she wasn't interested in those.

The next day, after the ER, we went to check out a Preschool near our house for her. As we got out of the car, and Anjali looked at the unfamiliar building, she asked, "Will they hurt me?" and so I explained where we were, what we were doing, and that no one here would hurt her. She immediately felt secure, and held my hand as we walked up to the school. I don't think it would have been that easy if she didn't have confidence that I would be truthful with her. It's a tough one, do we sugar coat the world for our kids, or do we tell them the truth even when it's a little scary? I'm going to keep being truthful, even though it means that when we're in the grocery store and someone stops to admire Nadira, Anjali will proudly explain how she grew in Mommy's belly, and came out of her 'gina. (thank goodness most people don't know that means 'vagina'!)

Yawn!

Rough week, poor Anjali had a stomach virus, and we ended up in the ER with her. She's pretty much at the top of her game again, thank goodness.

Nadira spent the last two nights in the crib in Anjali's room. Soon I'm going to dismantle the bassinet. She slept until almost 8 this morning, and happily played with her toes while I gave Anjali a quick bath (someone had an accident last night.)

New book is going great, I've cleared a hundred pages and am about a third of the way through the plot. My writing has slowed down a lot with Anjali being sick, but I'm going to try to pick up the pace some today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Virtual Life

The main reason I hate Virginia isn't the stinking cold, or the income tax, or all the harassment before the election. The main thing I hate about Virginia is the not having friends here part.

As most of you know, it takes me a long time to get close to people. Most of my friends now I knew for years before we actually became friends. There are, of course, a few shining exceptions, people I just clicked with automatically. Thank goodness for the internet, so I can keep up with everyone. Between the blog, e-mail, myspace, and facebook I've been able to keep up with everyone who matters. Unfortunately, that's all I seem to have right now.

And the one thing I hate about being a stay at home mom is the lack of contact with the outside world. There are no outlets to meet people. No coworkers to get to know, no classmates to go out to lunch with after lecture. Even at the playground, you might chat for a few moments, but that other mom is focused on her kid (as are you) and most likely already has a life and friends so the stranger in the park isn't a priority for befriending.

And then there' s the women at church. Don't get me wrong, I love church, but when people at church are nice to me, I'm always wondering if they are nice because they're interested in me as a person or if they're being nice because they are supposed to be nice. I don't want to be someone's pity friend. I have wonderful friendship qualities, I'm loyal, I'm funny, I listen well. I am not pity-friend material!

I think I'm going to have to take a class or join a book club or something just to get some adult interaction besides Faiyaz. And with anyone I meet in that kind of setting, if they try to befriend me at least I'll know it's not out of pity.

Other than that, I'm doing great. The new book is chugging along. Anjali is smart and fun. Nadira is growing so fast it makes me want to cry. Soon I'm going to be packing up the 0-3 month sized clothes, she's getting too long for them. It feels like she's growing up faster than Anjali did. I think that's because my time is divided between the two.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Scratching

Sorry for the title, but if the desire to write is an itch, then doesn't it follow that the act of writing is then scratching?

I feel on fire. I didn't get to write this weekend, poor Fai had to work, but yesterday and today have been good. I successfully coordinated the nap times of the girls, and last night I sat up till almost midnight working. I'm writing hot and it's coming out good!

I'm finishing off a collection of essays on writing, then I'm going to force myself to finish King's "On Writing" (the beginning didn't really interest me) then I'm going to reread "Letters to a Young Poet" and then "The Power of Myth". Basically I'm emerging myself in everything that makes me want to write more. I've also got out my Rumi poems, and I might be watching "Little Women" soon.

I'm living it, and breathing it, and eating it. Life is going on around me and I'm in that too. I'm snuggling Nadira and I'm reading to Anjali. I'm keeping the house {relatively} clean and I'm doing the errands like salting the sidewalk and going to the post office. I'm alive and functioning and on fire with words. When I'm not writing I'm planning. I think I'm on the verge of what Julianna Baggot once told me. She told me her writing process is interuption. In one of her classes at FSU, she commented that if a writer said they were going to India for a year, their friends would say "wow, what a great book you'll get out of that" but when a writer has kids, other writers look at that as something that will somehow detract from their writing. Julia is relatively successful as a commercial writer, a literary writer, and also as a children's writer. She's one of my role models, she wrote her first two novels as a stay at home mom while her husband worked as a lawyer. Now they live off of her writing. They have four kids. I love that.

So there's my obsession. Whether or not it's publishable is yet to be seen. My goal is a first draft by April 1st. April is national write a book month. I'm turning it into my edit a book month.

"Woman is a ray of God.
She is not that earthly beloved:
she is creative, not created."
-Rumi

One day I will go outside and read Rumi at the top of my lungs completely naked. That is how good poetry should be read.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cliff Jumping Dog and a New Itch

I've been waiting for Fai to put pics on the computer, but they'll just have to come later.

Monday Fai thought he had an ear infection, so he called out of work and made a doctor's appoint. The doctor couldn't see him until after four, so we had the whole day together. It was unusually warm, it made it up to 68. So we loaded up the kids and the dog and headed to the State park near our house. Because we are in a Honda Accord at the moment, Langston (the dog) had to ride in the floorboard between my legs.

I put Nadira in her sling, and we went down one of the walking trails. The park was desserted except by the river where people were fishing. So once we were well down the trail, we let Langston off his leash. He looked like a horse galloping through the leaves and the undergrowth. Then we came to a deep ravine. A sign said it was from where the railroad had cut a path through a big hill. The railroad was long gone, and what was left was an almost verticle drop of at least fifty feet. We followed the path along the edge up to a sort of look out point from which we could see the river. As we started back, Langston walked right along the edge. And then he fell. We rushed over to see Langston calmly walking on the bottom. He saw us, wagged his tail, and ran up the steep wall. We were amazed. We walked on, Langston still near the edge. Suddenly he just jumped off. In this area, however, the wall of the cliff was clay. Before it had some stuff growing on it and trees and leaves and things to get a foothold on. Now it was just clay. Langston tried to scramble up for close to half an hour. He'd start up, chunks of clay flying off behind him, and then slide back to the bottom. Finally he followed me back to an area with footholds, and he made it up.

It was a wonderful, beautiful day, the kind in which nothing mattered but being together. It was a two mile walk. We also played at the playground and walked along the Potomac.

That writing itch, it's back. Still no publisher for the first book, but I've almost finished my character sketches for my new book. Three more to go. Then I'll do my outline, then my working outline, then I'll start writing! It's hard now with two kids and Faiyaz on a somewhat regular work schedule, but I'm sneaking in a minute or two here and there. If Fai gets done everything he needs to at work today, he's going to take over with the kids all tomorrow, after church on Sunday, and all Monday for me to get a jump-start on my first draft. I'll only have to stop to eat and feed Nadira. He offered to give her bottles, but then I'd still be stopping to pump, so I might as well feed her, right? Well, that's if he gets everything done. If he doesn't, then he'll have to go to work tomorrow and all, and it'll just be me and the girls. Either way, I'll find the time. This book is going to be YA, a genre I didn't think I'd write in, but I've got a good idea and I think it'll be fun to write. Just doing the character sketches has been a blast. And my sister, who is turning 15 this month, has agreed to read it when I'm done, so I'll get the opinion of my target audience. :) So we'll see how this goes. I love this writing itch! This all-consuming desire to get it down and get it down just right.

So that's all. I'm now planning a bungy-jumping trip for Langston, he liked cliff diving so much I'm sure he'd love it!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Frozen Diaper Wipes

Ever since Anjali was a baby, I've always left the diaper bag in the car. Always. That way, it's always there when I need it.

Last night it got down to 6 degrees. So today when we got all bundled up and went to the bank, and Anjali had unidentified sticky stuff on her face, and I pulled the wipes out of Nadira's diaper bag to wipe her off, I found a pack of frozen wipes, a diaper wipe brick, if you will. When I pulled one out, diaper wipe ice chips flew out of the bag.

I hate the cold.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Anniversary I Forgot.

I'm shame-faced this morning, seriously.

This morning Fai and I woke up this morning before the baby and before the alarm clock. We laid in bed and cuddled. It felt so warm and safe under the blankets with Fai, I was just about to doze back off when he said...

"Do you know what today is?"

"Hmmm? Thursday?"

"Do you remember what we did on this day?"

I started wracking my brain. Married July 10th, Met April 20th, what other anniversaries did we have? Baptized Dec. 28th, just different years....

"Look under your pillow."

Under my pillow I found two lumpy red packages. I unwraped them, and one was a red knit hat, and the other a red knit scarf.

"Today is our anniversary."

I looked at him, the wheels turning in my mind but not making the connection.

He laughed at me. "Four years ago we were sealed."

If I were on the desktop, I'd put up the pictures from our sealing, but instead I'll share a few of my favorite memories of that day.

We'd been married six months. We still lived in that little apartment on Park. We were in that glorious stage of newlywed life known as "broke broke broke". We drove to Orlando in the wee small hours of the morning on the 14th to recieve our endowments.

We didn't have escorts, so President Austin had his in-laws, the Belnaps, escort us. I was nervous that I didn't know them, but Sister Belnap immediately treated me like an old friend. We spent the night at their home, and the next morning we went to be sealed. Dan and Marianne were there, and Marquesas and Drew, although Marquesas had to wait outside. It was a typical Janurary day in Orlanda, in the 60s. After our sealing, we all went out to eat, and then everyone else headed home and Fai and I went back to the temple to do another session. It wasn't a busy day, and I remember how sweet it felt sitting next to him in the Celestrial room. we didn't have any deep conversation, or an incredibly spiritual experience, but rather we sat and smiled and whispered softly.

So this morning in bed in freezing Virginia we smiled and whispered softly, enjoying a few moments together before he had to hurry off to work and I had to get up with Nadira. After he left, as I laid there feeding Nadira I thought about first experiences, and how different going to the temple will be for Anjali and Nadira. They won't drive there alone, the experience will be a family one. I'm glad that I will be there with them, and I'm so glad they're growing up with the gospel in their lives. At the same time, I'm a little sad for them. I know they'll one day have their own testimonies, that they'll have to discover it for themselves, but at the same time they won't have that same experience of discovering the gospel, of knowing what life is like without it, and then to suddenly have it there.

Next time I leave my nice warm home(assuming I do so before June), I will wear my hat and scarf. I think they'll look really good with my cordoroy jacket...

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Power of Rant

So I've had lots of friends talk about endurance, patients, tolerance, acceptance. And I've heard talks at church about enduring to the end. Now I do agree with this. I do believe that it's important to bare our trials with patients. However, I also believe that when we're at that breaking point, when we're completely fed up, we have to have humor about our trials as well. How do we do that? How do we laugh at our problems, when we're in the middle of them? A good rant.

I believe in the power of rant, and I use it. When I'm just so frustrated that I can't take it any more and I'm at my breaking point, I call a good friend, and I rant. This rant will last five, ten, maybe fifteen minutes, and usually ends with both of us laughing at the problem in question regardless of what it is. That's when I can stoically pick myself up and carry on with the processes of "enduring to the end".

What is a rant? It's just getting stuff off your chest. It's getting to the point where you can start a fresh. Frustration builds up like steam in a pot of boiling water, eventually it has to come out. Once the steam clears out some, then you can see the humor in the situation.

Brief example of a rant:

So when I lived in Florida with roommates, we went out west for a wedding. The reception was in Idaho, we left at like ten pm. It was May. May to me means the beginning of summer, good time to go to the beach. Yeah, we drove through a blizzard for TWELVE HOURS. Then we had to walk through the snow to get to the bathroom at the rest stop. We were all wearing FLIP FLOPS. Yeah. Then in Kansas, we had car problems, and ended up walking through a Super Walmart for SEVEN HOURS. Did I mention that we had to be home by Monday? First day of the Summer semester (yeah, that's right, SUMMER, not the time for blizzards) plus we all had to be at work on Monday. So we're in Walmart, and one of my roommates buys some strawberries and offered me one. It was moldy. It was just that kind of day. So finally we're on the road again, and everything going fine until Alabama. In Alabama two of my roommates got into a huge screaming match in the middle of the parking lot, and we all were tempting to just get out of the car and let the owner drive home by herself. Then we got back in the car, and drove the last five hours in dead silence, no talking, no radio. The worst road trip ever. When we finally did get home, everyone scattered and I locked myself into the bathroom for a three hour bath.

After having a good rant about this experience, it became one of the funny stories I like to share. Faiyaz is sick of hearing me tell it.

The theraputic power of rant is not reserved for bad experiences that are over, it's also good for problems that are ongoing. I've ranting about potty training, house training the dog, problems with the cat, moving problems, money problems, school problems, disagreements with Fai, problems with my mom, etc. All you need is a good friend who's willing to listen, and a few minutes. Let it all out, find the humor, keep in mind that almost all problems are temporary, and "this too shall pass".

You can even rant about things that annoy you, like political issues or humidity or the cold. Just a couple of minutes to get the frustration out and laugh at what's bothering you.

So there's my rant on ranting.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More Nadira

So here are some more pictures of Miss Nadira. I can't believe she's a month old already! Her blessing was this past Sunday (hence the pics in the white dress) As Faiyaz sat back down with her after the blessing, I watched him hold her. It struck me what a wonderful bonding moment a blessing is for a father and baby. I wish I had more pictures of Faiyaz and the girls. I should have taken some last night, after dinner. Fai was holding Nadira in the arm chair, and Anjali climbed up too. It was one of those sweet, sweet moments that always have me close to tearing up.