help—part 1

Here’s the thing: when you need help, just ask. I know! Crazy simple.

Lately I have been doing that and let me tell you, I endorse it 100%. Why did it take me this long? Who knows, but don’t make my mistake. When someone says, “What can I do to help?” think of something.

Lately, my most consuming worry, the one that pushes its crummy little self to the front of the line, is HOW AM I GOING TO MARKET MY BOOK? I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO MARKET A BOOK! This one really loves 3:00AM. A lot. Also yelling.

When I know how to do something, I possess endless energy and almost too much exuberance and enthusiasm. (I do know other words that don’t begin with E but these just really seem to work well together.) Conversely, when I do not know how to do something, I freeze. Then worry. Then freeze. Worry. Freeze. Worry. A nice tidy loop of crazy.

But sometimes, my subconscious (who is really very thoughtful most of the time) steps in and solves the problem. I woke up the other morning with the thought, “Just ask for help.” So I did! I sent a simple email to some of my writer friends asking for their most effective marketing practices and they were happy to share. I now have some great ideas and—dare I say it?!—a marketing plan! “Plan” might be an optimistic word, but I have something close to it. I slept well last night. As did my subconscious (I’m assuming).

The great thing about asking for help is that is makes you more inclined to offer help, which seems counterintuitive if you are busy enough to need to ask for help in the first place, but somehow it all balances out. And you get the warm-and-fuzzies, which are very lovely. Also, it’s good karma. Who can’t use a little good karma?

This weekend Steve (not his real name) asked for help in getting the large parts to our new swing set from a truck into the backyard. Parts far too large for my feeble upper-body strength. My brother-in-law and a good friend helped. Also my sister. She’s a lot stronger than I am. But I watched as I ate my breakfast and told them where it should go.

swing_set
swing_set

Here is the swing set. It's not done yet. Or it's the worst swing set ever. But, really, it's not done yet.

Oh, speaking of karma, I have a nice story for you. When we decided to get a swing set, we checked out some of the swing set offerings on Criagslist to see if there was anything good before we just went out and bought new. You know, frugality and reusing, reducing, recycling. Anyhow, I found this great one in a town—that shall remain unnamed—an hour away from us. I spoke to the owner who was moving and needed it removed ASAP. I told her we would be by on Saturday and she said to call her then for the address where to mail the check. Deal! We drove there and she was gone (which we expected) and so was the swing set (which we did not). I texted her to inquire (with utmost hopefulness and faith in humanity) had the swing set been moved to a place where I could retrieve it? No. She sold it to someone else and forgot to call me. That is bad karma. I wanted to send her a nasty text but that would have been bad karma. I wanted to wish bad karma upon her. But that also would have been bad karma. Bad karma begets bad karma. Just like helping begets helping.

(See how I bring these things full circle?)

In the end, as you have most likely deduced, we did find another swing set and the guy managed not to sell it to someone else before we got there. He was even extremely nice AND helped Steve (not his real name) to dismantle and load the parts. I like to think we met this great fortune because we sow good karma. And see? More helping!

Are you wondering why is this “part 1”? Because you never know when you’re going to need to ask for help ... again.

FRIENDLY REMINDER! The Mosquito Hours will be released for your reading pleasure in 2 weeks! Mark your calendars now! (You’re welcome.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

i wanna be a duggar

I think I want to be a Duggar. I have been watching 19 Kids and Counting and the Duggars are so nice. I mean they are just ridiculously nice. (I'm a sucker for nice.) It is really easy to look at people who have 19 kids (or more—I’m not even sure how many they’re up to at this point) and get all judge-y and worry about overpopulation and limited resources (I’m all green myself so I get it), or wondering if it is possible to care for that many children well, or fill in your objection here. But these people really have it together—their life is so mindfully constructed. They’re ultra-conservative and I’m ultra-liberal, but politics aside, I admire their mindfulness. And they are just so nice. Their life is simple and sweet. And, yes, perhaps they do need 11 shopping carriages at the supermarket and wash and dry 180 loads of laundry a week (WHAT?! I do 6 and I am whiny all over the place), but I just might trade in my social media and my fears of tweeting and my DVR and iPhone for their kind of simplicity. It’s like a convenient version of Little House on the Prairie without the failed crops and deadly childhood diseases and bear attacks.

Let me be clear: if I become a Duggar, I want to be one of the kids—I do not want to be the mom. 19 kids (or however many they’re up to at this point) is way too many kids to take care of. I have 3 and I only meant to have 2 and I am maxed-out. What I want to be is a Duggar child. If I were a Duggar child, I could just get in the supper-making assembly line and sleep in a nice bunk amidst all the other Duggar children. It’s just so cozy to imagine. And nice. Really really nice. They might not even notice I’m there if I am quiet and keep myself busy with laundry and cooking. I would, however, retain my belief in dinosaurs; I’d keep it on the DL so as not to upset the family dynamic.

I am genuinely surprised by how much I like the Duggars. I was prepared to think they’re totally weird. They are, but only in a different way from anyone else. It’s a mostly good weird. (Like most of us.)

I have a totally valid reason why I started watching this show and it is research, which I encourage you to do. You can pretty much do anything under the umbrella reason of “research.” But this is bona fide research. I have an idea for a new novel that includes a large family. Maybe not Duggar-large, but larger than average. Maybe 12 kids. So, you see, I must watch the Duggars. It’s professional, people. And if I try to infiltrate their brood, then it’s called “deep research.”

As I watch 19 Kids and Counting, progress on my new website continues. I am very excited about it! I'm still working away and am getting close to finishing it. Or Steve (not his real name) is. Whatever you think.

Here is a picture of me bossing him in my striped bossing pants:

working_on_website

Yes, I have bossing pants. All good wives have bossing pants. Hel-lo. See how he’s just typing away. Well, not typing—clicking and saving and moving things around in ways I could never understand. But I tell him where it all goes which is the really important part. I cannot understand what-all is taking him so long. I am telling him what to do in a timely, rapid manner. I am being as efficient as I can possibly be, people.

If I were a Duggar, I’ll bet at least a few of those kids could put their heads together and figure out Squarespace. Not that I don’t have faith in Steve (not his real name), but he’s only one person. Maybe we should have had more kids ...

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

diy extravaganza!

i am building a new website (or my husband is—you decide)

My memèré steals Lorna Doone cookies for me from the nursing home. Package upon package that she hides in little white plastic bags (also supplied by the nursing home) which she then hands off to my mother to deliver to me. I receive them in the dark of night. This is my stash:

lorna_doone

Technically she is not stealing them—she is entitled to anything from the mobile snack cart any time it rolls by. I’m not sure this is what they intend, however, when they stock the Lorna Doones every morning. This pilfering began when I saw a package of them in her room and innocently mentioned how much I like them. (They are very satisfying with a cup of tea at the end of the day.) Even as much as I enjoy them, I do not encourage Mem in this little cookie mission. Although, neither do I encourage her to stop. Even if I tried, she cannot be stopped. A couple of years ago I asked her to save egg cartons for me so I could do a craft project with the kids. She got all her friends on it. Every old lady she knew in the city. It was a grassroots movement. A lot of eggs were consumed. Actually, no one really knows what happened to those eggs.

(I am still making crafts with egg cartons.)

Anyhow, I stay up and eat the Lorna Doones while trying to get everything done. They are very satisfying with trying to get everything done.

One of the things I have been trying to get done while I eat my Lorna Doones is build a new website. What I mean by build a new website is Steve (not his real name) is building me a new website and I am bossing him around. Also, it was my idea, which is really 99% of a thing anyhow. I would have done it myself, but even though the good people at Squarespace say it is ever-so easy to build a website with their product, for me it was not. It was ever-so baffling and brain-hurting. Which is not to say the good people at Squarespace are inaccurate in the assessment of their product, because Steve (not his real name) is doing just fine with it.

Here are some screenshots of the homepage so far:

Screen_shot.jpg

Screen_shot2.jpg

Pretty, right?

(Totally.)

I wanted to be able to do a little more than a blog is capable of which is why I built this, with help from Steve (not his real name) who contributed about 1% toward the project. (Please see my math-ing above for clarification of this equation. It’s 100% accurate and most likely equals 100. Which is what makes it accurate, I am pretty certain. I am neither good at website building nor most math-ing. But I am honest to a fault which is how you know these things about me.) On my new website, I will have my blog feed, a page for book groups (yes, I DO participate in Skype or FaceTime talks with book groups!) and a page for my freelance editing services (yes, I DO edit manuscripts—and at a very reasonable rate). Also, a page dedicated to The Mosquito Hours. And there is plenty of room to grow.

Stay tuned for the big move over to my new URL—www.melissacorlissdelorenzo.com! It will be happening very soon!

I am hopeful that my Wordpress followers will subscribe to my blog feed over at my new website. I’ll continue to remind you wonderful followers of my impending move so that you will be sure not to miss any posts or crucial news that you might should you neglect to follow me at my new website. (You’re welcome.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

diy extravaganza!

it might be behind the door but that’s better than the counter

2014-03-17 14.08.37Wow, now that is a provocative blog post title. Far superior to the last one. First, let me tell you that I put the snow boots down in the cellar. I hope this is not like when the stupid groundhog sees his shadow and now we’ll get that once last March blizzard. If that happens, I apologize to all my fellow New Englanders. I just cannot stand to even look at those boots for one more moment. (My mother just told me that the extended forecast is suggesting snow next Wednesday or something. To be fair, that forecast came out before I put the boots in the cellar. Clearly I am not responsible.)

This has nothing to do with the stellar topic of this blog. I was just excited about the boots.

So, I tried to create a workspace for myself outside of the kitchen. I have tried this many times. In more than one house. But ever since I had kids, the kitchen is just sort of my place. I am okay with it. It doesn't even make me feel less of a feminist. I've even been barefoot and pregnant in my kitchen and still remained one strong broad. (I don't think I'm supposed to say that ... ) In fact, I reclaim the kitchen as a feminist stronghold! Anyway, I can’t ever get out of this room. I try. I can sometimes get about 2 or 3 feet into the living room. I almost make it to the easy chair every day. My forays into other rooms have generally been colossal failures, so I decided to just move back into the kitchen. I mean, I am allowed to sleep upstairs—in a bed, even. I'm talking about my workspace. I created a nice little spot in the “coloring room"—as my kids refer to it—right in amongst my kids' workspace. It was a lovely concept. Didn’t work. I couldn’t get out of the kitchen. I brought all my stuff back in here. (Yes, I am in here now.)

I started out at the kitchen table, but it was such a drag to have to clear all my stuff away every time we had to eat. So I ventured onto the counter, but trying to toast anything, or use the blender, or food processor, pour juice, cut up pancakes—do you get what I’m getting at?—became a hassle with my laptop in the way.

The solution? 2014-03-19 22.41.51

A shelf behind the door! AND I used materials we already had so all I spent was one dollar on this new pad of paper. Pretty, right? And only ONE DOLLAR!

2014-03-19 15.22.41

You would think that the door might bang right into the shelf, right? No! It totally doesn’t! The 2014-03-19 15.24.07red step stool stops it! How awesome is that? (Totally, right?) Now I have everything I need all laid out and pretty and organized. This will change my entire life and I will never be disorganized or stressed or overwhelmed again! (Not true. But toasting things will be a lot easier.)

Also, Steve (not his real name) says this is a very ergonomic set-up. It does make me feel very ergonomic and I'm not sure what to make of that. But I think it's good. I may never sit again. Which is pretty much my life, so it works out perfectly.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

spaces & edits; also battleships

Oh, terrible blog post title. Maybe I will come up with something better. If I do, you’ll never know this happened. If you’re reading this, then that’s as good as it got. (Sorry if that’s how it turns out.) battleshipsI have to keep it short today—I am chin-deep in preparations for the homeschool history fair and things are wacko here. Our topic: the attack on Pearl Harbor. At first it was all of World War II—I said no. Then it was Martial Arts. Then my son said he never said that. (He totally did.) Then it was Tae Kwon Do, since he takes lessons. Perfect, right? No. Then it was back to all of World War II—I said no. Then it was 2 weeks before and I said we have to narrow this down! Hence, the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In addition to the normal homeschool agenda, the homeschool history fair, the substantial (and disheartening) demands of family life right now, laundry (that’s always its own crappy little category), feeding these people (Ohmygod they eat constantly ... well, not my son ... I have to constantly beg him to eat. Ergo, I am constantly involved in feeding these people one way or another. Or not feeding them. That is also exhausting.), blogging and fussing about everything, I am also on deadline for the final edits on The Mosquito Hours. Glad to be on the final round of edits, also terrified because this is the last chance to make sure it is just right. Also on my to-do list: find a place for my book launch party. Of course that wasn't freaking me out AT ALL.

(It was.)

Well, I am happy to say I found a really great place so that little job is out of the way! At first, when I started trying to determine the right locale, I was totally freaked out (I know! Can you believe it?) because it had to be PERFECT or EVERYTHING WOULD BE RUINED! (Yes, I was yelling about it. You would yell, too, if choosing the wrong locale for you book launch party would result in EVERYTHING BEING RUINED!) But then I stepped back and in a moment of clarity realized ... well, I really shouldn’t pretend like I have moments of clarity. I don’t want to lie to you good people. My moments of clarity are more like nanoseconds of clarity, but a nanosecond is indeed a measure of time in which great things are possible. Anyhow, in my nanosecond of clarity (which really does go by very quickly, but not without impact), I realized I should simply have fun with this. It’s all gonna be okay, people.

A good friend led me to a lovely little coffee shop down near the beaches and I must say it is fantastic. The ambiance, the warm-and-fuzzy of the people who work there, the espresso drinks (delish), the big windows and sunniness. They even stream my favorite radio station. It was serendipity! It has the same vibe as my favorite café in Boston, which is exactly what my sister said when she checked the place out! I got the best hot cocoa of my life there this past Saturday. My LIFE, people. The locale was a toss-up between this place and a coffee shop downtown. The places are about the same size but the downtown place has that cool urban feel. The bustling streets outside, the old buildings, the cobblestone. But it’s got a too-cool-for-school vibe. A lot of hipsters. I prefer warm and fuzzy. I am a lot of things but “cool” ain’t one of them.

I would love to share pics with you and there were some on my phone, but I seem to have deleted them in some moment of purging madness so I had to use stock photos to decorate this post. coffee_drinker (That's not even me.)

Oh. Well, look at that. This didn’t end up being all that short. You're welcome. ******************************************************************************

My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

right now

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one looking for the lost socks? The only one who is even trying to find the lost socks even though you keep asking people where the socks might be? Are you beginning to suspect that you are the only one who cares about the lost socks? Lost socks make me nuts. Because who will find them if I do not? No one. Exactly. See what I mean? I’m the only one. Exactly.

I don’t like right now. In fact I really hate right now. I have pretty much hated right now since November. Too many people I love are sick. I cannot seem to balance out everything. I have a kid who has developed a fear of choking and for the last month has eaten nothing more solid than foods the consistency of yogurt. Nothing with texture. Or fiber. Or much nutrition ... Although he did eat a slice of cake the other day. Little known medical fact: it is impossible for a human child to choke on cake. (That is not actually a medical fact.)

It’s been a long, difficult, sad right now. Since November.

I woke up the other morning to more snow, frigid temperatures, van doors frozen shut. I was furious. And discouraged. And enraged. Oh, I was really mad. Because pretty much everything sucks right now. But I carried on. We hoofed it to homeschool co-op even though I was so cranky. (I mean, really freakin’ cranky.) But I sucked it up and put on a happy face. You know, because behaving in a socially acceptable manner is good modeling.

And then we had a really great time. I genuinely felt better.

Afterwards, we went to my friend’s house for our weekly kid-swap and she watched the kids while I got some work done (much-needed). I got a bunch of stuff figured out. Maybe it wasn’t perfect life balance, but it was some of it. As I worked I suddenly felt warmth on the back of my neck. I turned and looked out the window.

sun_is_out The sun had come out! The sun! And then when I got home, Steve (not his real name) pulled together supper and did the dishes so I could do yoga.

Turns out not everything sucks.yoga_candle

(Not even close.)

One joy scatters a hundred griefs. Chinese proverb

Found that quote in my inbox later that same day. I subscribe to Real Simple daily thoughts or quotes or whatever the what-not they call them. Some days I swear they know what I need to hear. If it weren’t so helpful it would be creepy. So I guess that even though the joys don’t negate the troubles, they help. They provide a little balance. And for that, I will remember to be grateful.

more_socksIn the spirit of seeking joy, I think I’m going to join the rest of my family in their disregard for lost socks. There will always be more socks at Target. And if I go to Target, I will have to get a mocha at Starbucks, right? Joy. See? (You’re welcome.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

friday stew—a random collection of unrelated miscellany

2014-03-06 19.03.52 I happen to think granny glasses chains (actual name? seems somewhat insensitive ... ) are cool and useful. My mom refuses to get one even though she often does not know where she left her glasses—she’s farsighted—and then she can’t read her menu or coupons or calendar. I almost always know where mine are since I am nearsighted and they are usually on my face. If I do happen to put them down somewhere besides their designated place, I can’t see to find them. Then I have to employ the assistance of the sighted people around me—usually my kids. They are not very good at finding things. Typically I just feel around until I locate them. Not the kids, the glasses. Sometimes the kids. But they don't feel anything like glasses, so there's no real confusion. Lately I have been taking my glasses off more often because I’ve discovered that I enjoy the world all soft and furry sometimes. It’s so much more relaxing that way. But where to put my glasses? The granny chain! And it’s pretty. And it was a dollar. Yes, I said “dollar.” You read that right. My mom doesn’t like it. But Mem thinks it’s lovely. Yes, she is 89. What’s your point? Steve (not his real name) guffawed when I showed him. He totally likes it.

2014-03-06 19.05.52

I checked this book book out of the library. Because if there’s one more thing I need, it’s another book to read. I LOVE this writer. She is inspiring in the way Alice Munro and Louise Erdrich are inspiring. When I read their work, I am left thinking how did they just do that? Ever read The Interpreter of Maladies? Run out and do it. Speaking of too many books to read and not enough time to read them, I recently subscribed to BookBub. They send you daily deals on eBooks. Most are $2.99 or less. Some are FREE! Because if there is one more thing I need, it’s another book to read. (I totally do not have time for any more books. My book-acquiring habit is a sickness, people. And there is no cure.)

2014-03-06 19.04.32

In our old house, we used to have a lovely breezeway. It was large and spacious and roomy and ample and a bunch of other words you can find in the thesaurus. Now we have this, which the kids call the breezeway but it’s more of a tiny, insufficient entryway. And while it is lovely in its own special way it is also small, cramped, confining, circumscribed, crowded (oh alliteration!) and a bunch of other words you can find in the thesaurus. (Which I did. I love a thesaurus.) This space is always a disaster. I have attempted to employ numerous and extremely clever organizing techniques, but to no avail. This space insists on chaos. Yes, that is a cardboard box. And, yes, that is a big bowl of compost. (It is too damn cold to walk to the mulch pile.) I sort of hate this breezeway. It’s not even a breezeway, for crying out loud.

In the top 5 annoying things in my life, one of them is getting people out the door. I don’t mean Steve (not his real name). He can do it very efficiently. (He is such a good boy.) I mean the kids. (Had you figured that out on your own?) I don’t know if it is a symptom of being homeschooled and therefore not being trained to get out the door at a designated time regularly or what, but it is PAINFUL, people. I have nothing of worth to say regarding this topic. I can offer no advice to those similarly suffering. Only that it is incredibly annoying. Oh my god, is it annoying. Every day, for the love of all that’s holy—more than once some days. It’s terrible. (Can someone just help me?)

2014-03-06 19.05.21

This is the shower that lives in what was once a half bath. The shower was once a pantry which this small kitchen in Mem’s house really requires. But we changed it into a shower when Mem could no longer navigate the stairs up to the full bathroom. I know I will utilize this shower in the summer when we come home from the beach and I do not want salty, sandy, seaweedy children tramping through the house, but right now, we store extra food and beer in here. When we need to grab a new bag of snacks, we say, “Go check the shower.” Or, “Go get the cookies from the shower.” Which sounds nonsensical. But it totally is. Sensical, I mean.

What crazy stuff happens in your house? I’d love to know. Wait—is it only us?

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

60 days

We got more snow the other night. Not much. Just an inch or 2. We’re not even bothering to shovel at this point. Just kicking it out of the way. And to get it off the car, don’t bother standing around in the cold with that stupid brush you are so very tired of at this point—just blast the heat and let the snow and ice melt a bit then use the windshield wipers and copious amounts of washer fluid. Screw anything on the roof of the car. Seriously, just screw it. Pretend it’s not there. Yesterday when I went outside to drive to homeschool open gym, I actually felt hostile about just how cold it was. How DARE it be this cold? I keep thinking that in 60 days the weather will be spring-y! In 60 days I won’t be freezing and I might even be wearing flips-flops around the house rather than my super warm (totally dorky) slippers! In 60 days I will stow the winter crap in the basement and reinstall the beach gear in the trunk of the van!

TMH_cover And in 60 days, my novel will be released! That’s right—60 more days! See how much there is to look forward to?

You can’t wait, can you?

(You can’t.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

days like these

The other day was one of those days in a week that was one of those weeks. Steve (not his real name) came home and we ate supper and then I simply had to get out. Ever notice that sometimes in order to want to come home you have to leave for a while? Like peel-out-of-the-driveway leave? And kickin’ up gravel in a mini van is so totally cool, in case you’ve never had the pleasure. Once I had proceeded into the wild blue yonder and found nothing satisfying on the radio, I popped The Fresh Beat Band CD out of the player and shoved in the first thing I laid my hands on that was recorded with adults in mind. It happened to be Ten by Pearl Jam. I kept turning up—louder and louder. And louder. And—need I say?—louder. I could just feel the tension draining from me. The experience prompted this Facebook status update:

After a day like today (and a week like this one ... ) sometimes you need yoga. And other times it's Pearl Jam blasting in the mini van on the way to Market Basket. Today was the latter. God gave rock and roll to you ...

Life has grown a little too real as of late. I almost didn’t write a post this week because there seems to be gravity every direction I turn and I thought that anything I could possibly say would fall short or somehow trivialize reality. Surgeries and serious illnesses and a child who seems to have inherited his mama’s troubles with anxiety, manifesting in it’s own complex, convoluted pattern. People who are suddenly facing their mortality which cannot help but turn the head towards the fragility of life.

It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead ...
Pearl Jam

I love that line. I love that song. It is fragile. Not only our mortality, but the ways we perceive ourselves and others, our dreams, our hopes, the illusions we hold. Our hearts. The ways in which we hold each other mean everything. The way you hold the ones you love best (who are often those you take most for granted), the friendships that uphold you, the ways we hold our children. That might be most fragile one of all. The ways we hold the strangers with whom we share our communities, our countries, our planet. All delicate. Brittle glass, tender petals, thin skin. How do you hold these?

I’ve been thinking a lot about that.

By the way, don’t be fooled by the narrow glimpse into my life I provide here because I get it wrong all the time—shards of broken glass around my toes. But I try to hold tight to the moments I recognize the light.

candle-at-night

The other night when I had to leave home for a while in order to want to ever be there again, I figured I’d better go ahead and pick up a mocha at Starbucks. I really needed that mocha, let me tell you. The Starbucks kid informed me that they were out of mocha mix. My face must have reflected my dismay.

I said, “Oh, I really wanted one. I have had the hardest day.”

“How bad was it?” he said.

So bad.” That was the most I could muster.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll open up tomorrow’s supply. Shhh ... “

“Really?” I said.

Then he made me a venti and only charged me for a tall. Never, ever underestimate small kindnesses. Ever.

So on a night I had to leave home for a while in order to want to ever be there again, I did go home and I looked at my sleeping children. I fell asleep holding my husband’s hand. I will remember to hold them carefully, I will remember to hold them carefully ... I recited to myself as I fell asleep.

I went home. And I was so happy to be there.

Visit the elders in the hospital, answer your friends’ calls even when you are busy, cook a supper for someone who needs a night off, let the guy take a left even when you have right of way, assume the best in people, look at your children when they are speaking to you, take out tomorrow’s mocha mix for a woman who’s had a hard day. Help each other remember to do these things because if one thing is for sure we are going to forget. It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead ...

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squash pie—part 3

Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

marsh_sunset

Easter morning and the sun moves through orange and pink ribbons into the blue, blue sky. Cloudless.

“What a perfect morning,” says Jean’s mother.

Jean agrees and ties an apron over her pink dress. She smooths the glaze over the ham and pushes the heavy roasting pan into oven.

“Smells good already, dear,” says her mother.

Everyone comes for Easter dinner and the house is as full as it can be. All the siblings and nieces and nephews. The babies. So many children. Jean adores all of the little ones. They strip her of her thorns; render her smooth and sweet.

Evelyn shows up with her boyfriend at whom she makes eyes. She purrs around him, rubs up close.

“You’d think you were a cat,” Jean whispers to her once they are alone in the kitchen.

“What?” Evelyn snaps.

“You are like a cat in heat.”

“Shut up, Saint Jean.” Evelyn leaves the kitchen, her wedge heels wobble beneath her hips.

Jean hates it when her siblings call her Saint Jean, that old slur. Jean fans her flushed skin with a pot holder.

Helen arrives with two large casserole dishes. She sends one of her sons back out to the car for the pie.

“Don’t forget to grab the Cool Whip,” she calls after him.

Evelyn catches Jean’s eye, raises her eyebrows, smirks.

Jean thinks only, Pie.

“Get these in the oven, Jean, before they get cold,” Helen orders.

“There’s no room in the oven for two nine by thirteen dishes, Helen,” Jean says. “The ham is in there.”

Helen turns to Jean and widens her eyes, “I don’t want them to get cold and ruined, Jean.”

“Well, had you brought the one side dish I requested, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Sorry I wanted to make sure there would be enough to eat. Sorry I wanted to make sure it would be a good Easter dinner for our family.”

“When have I ever not cooked a good meal for this family, Helen?”

Helen squeezes her face starting with her lips, a gesture imprinted in the wrinkles, the shape Helen’s face has come to be. She exhales a lungful, turns from Jean and opens the oven. She struggles to get everything to fit, stands, closes the oven door and stands, red-faced, crosses her arms, cocks her head and says, “Hmm.”

“Congratulations, Helen.”

daffodils_windowsill

This morning Jean found three crocuses pushing up through the dirt near the oak tree. She brought them inside and arranged them in a jelly glass which she placed on the windowsill behind the kitchen sink. It seems the purple of the crocuses sits on top of the yellow of the forsythia through the window. Jean stands in the kitchen alone, the drone of voices muted by the swinging door that closes the kitchen away from the dining room, her gaze on the place where the tall grasses sway to meet the fading blue sky setting sun.

“Marion says that Rosemary is pregnant,” Helen says as she passes the basket of rolls.

“How old is she now?”

“Seventeen,” Evelyn says.

“I remember when she was a baby,” Helen says.

“I used to babysit her,” Marion says.

“Who is the boy?” Evelyn says.

“I heard the youngest of the Tucker kids.”

“No-o-o.”

“Mmm-hm.”

Heat rises in Jean. “Is this appropriate Easter dinner conversation?” Jean pointedly eyes her parents, who eat steadily, their eyes on their plates. “The children,” she says, nodding her head over to the smaller table where the kids eat, their voices and surges of laughter loud.

“They’re not paying any attention to us,” says Marion.

Jean stands with an abruptness that causes her chair to scrape loudly against the wood floor. She tosses her napkin on the chair. “I don’t know why we can’t just talk about something nice!” She shoves open the kitchen door. Exhales when she is enclosed by herself.

She hears Evelyn say, “What’s her problem?”

There is more talk but Jean moves to the window, as far from the door as possible, so she won’t be able to hear them. Their talk makes her feel lighter than is comfortable. It is more than she can bear, which makes it seem as though what they propel upon her is something that carries weight. But the effect is an over-awareness of her insubstantiality. She might float away. She pins her eyes to the marsh grasses, rooted deeply and essentially in the sandy soil.

The door swings open.

“Everyone is done eating. We should start the coffee and get the dessert ready,” says Helen.

Jean does not move to help. She watches Helen at the coffeemaker and then as she removes the pie she brought from the refrigerator. Helen places the pie on the counter right next to Jean’s chocolate cake.

“Pie, Helen? I made the Easter cake.”

“We can have both.”

“Squash pie? It’s not even seasonal!”

“They make it all year 'round, it’s so good,” says Helen.

“Everyone hates that pie, Helen,” Jean says. “Everyone.”

Jean feels the breath moving through her. The bodice of her pink dress rises and falls. Helen fixes her eyes angrily on Jean, then turns and places the Cool Whip near the pie, removes the cover and sticks a spoon into the white fluff. She leaves, the door swings back forcibly.

pie

The kitchen dark, empty.

The flowers from her cutting garden soak up the water in the little jelly glass, in the bigger vases. By morning, the bottoms of the stems will begin to soften; green tendrils leaching into cloudy water. She looks into the flowers, around them, through them. The textures of the petals and stems, one against the other, create entire landscapes. The whites are not white, they are tones of pale lime, there are hints of blue, hues of pink.

Jean rouses herself; there is the kitchen to clean.

She clicks on the light and surveys the counters. Her sisters did a lot of the work, she will grant them that. A few leftovers to spoon into storage containers. A few serving bowls and utensils to wash. She works steadily and comes upon the remnants of dessert. The cake has been reduced to a pile of rubble—nothing left to save. The pie sits, round and, except for one narrow slice, nearly whole in its aluminum foil pan. Jean is sure the one piece was eaten by Helen. She sighs. Just because she knew this would happen doesn’t make it any less irritating. She picks up the pie and begins towards the drawer where she keeps the plastic wrap. The pie will sit in the refrigerator, no one will eat it and she will be forced, uncomfortably, to throw it away in a week. Damn Helen. Damn her.

She picks up the pie and carries it over to the trash. Jean stuffs the pie in. She presses it down with the palm of her hand, smooshes it between her fingers. She shoves the pie down deep into the trash.

It will not be the last. She sees herself at Thanksgivings and Easters to come, pushing the pie that no one will eat down into the trash.

Jean washes her hands.

She looks out the window over the sink. The moon is full. It sheds blued light on the marsh grass, the forsythia. She leaves the house through the kitchen door, steps out into the moonlit yard. The amount of light from the full moon never ceases to surprise her. So much light. Even in the depth of night.

There is always much more to see than at first meets the eye.

squash pie—part 2

Read part 1 here.

forsythia“You know that girl is pregnant?” says Marion.

Evelyn inhales, then breathes out, “No-o-o.” She joins Marion at the kitchen door. They peer out the window together, one head tilted one way, the other the opposite.

Jean is making a three layer chocolate cake. It is the Easter cake. The frosting is chocolate buttercream and contains a pound of butter. She will spread raspberry preserves between one of the layers.

The evening is setting in. It is after supper and her parents doze in front of the television. The kitchen smells of the fish she broiled for supper. The scent of chocolate will replace the fish smell as soon as she can get the cake in the oven.

“I wish you two would let me get this cake in the oven,” says Jean.

“We’re just standing here,” says Marion.

“You didn’t even go to Good Friday service,” says Jean.

“What does that have to do with anything?” she looks back at Jean. “Anyway, I did go. I took my kids.”

“I didn’t go,” says Evelyn. She’s still looking out the window.

“I’m aware of that, Evelyn.” Jean turns to Marion. “I didn’t see you at Sacred Heart. I brought Mom and Dad.”

“We went to Saint Joe’s.”

Jean makes a face. “Saint Joe’s?”

“Yeah, Saint Joe’s. You know Frank’s family’s always gone there.”

“That girl is pregnant?” Evelyn asks, eyes still in the yard next door where the girl pegs sheets on the clothesline.

“Yeah. That’s what I heard,” says Marion. “Why would you hang sheets on the line at this hour? They’ll just get damp and heavy.”

“How do you know she’s pregnant?” says Jean. She cracks an egg too hard and then has to pick shell out of the batter. She sucks her teeth, irritated.

“I just said I heard.”

Jean walks over to the window and looks out. “She doesn’t look pregnant.”

“Well, they don’t start out eight pounds big, Jean.”

Jean goes back to her big sliver bowl. “I don’t believe it.”

“Why not?” says Evelyn.

Jean shakes her head. “She’s just seventeen.”

“What does that have to do with it?” says Marion.

“Everyone does it, Jean,” says Evelyn.

“Do you have to be so crude, Evelyn? Everyone does not do it. I don’t see everyone running around pregnant,” says Jean.

Marion rolls her eyes.

Evelyn laughs. “Some girls just get caught, but everyone is doing it.”

“I don’t believe that,” says Jean. “I’m not.”

“Obviously.”

Jean glares at her but says nothing. She turns the mixer on high. Its loud whirring covers the sound of her sisters’ voices.

Once they finally leave and the cakes sit on wire racks in the darkened kitchen, Jean settles into bed and turns on the small television on her dresser. She can’t seem to listen to any of it, her mind on the girl next door whose name is Rosemary. She tries to relax; she has a lot to do tomorrow. But she keeps thinking about Rosemary, who traipses around in her faded flared jeans, her tight tops. Jean remembers when Rosemary was a baby, a little girl, a gawky preteen. Could Marion be right?

She thinks back on herself at seventeen, cloaked in her parochial plaid. Her white cotton shirt buttoned up to the peter pan collar at her throat. The frowsy and bulky gray cardigan.

She did not do anything like Rosemary might have done.

Her last date—a set-up—had been disastrous. She had not known the right places to laugh. Men were not gentlemen anymore. His expectations came as a surprise to Jean. She was startled; she behaved abruptly at his advances. She was awkward. He did not call a second time.

“What’s the point of a wedding night these days?” Jean had said to her sisters earlier as they peered at the pregnant neighbor.

Evelyn laughed at her. “Oh, come on, Jean! Is that what you’re waiting for?”

Jean refused to meet her eyes, as if this simple gesture invalidated Evelyn’s sentiment.

No one knows the longings in Jean’s heart. That for which her body craves. Any knowledge of that she tucks deep.

Alone in her bed, the blue light from the TV outlining the shadows of her body beneath the blanket, she imagines the tiny seed growing in Rosemary’s belly. And she aches.

On Holy Saturday, Jean wakes early, puts the kettle on for tea for her mother, snaps on the coffee for herself and her father. Then she walks outside to her cutting garden. She surveys, deciding which she will cut and arrange for the Easter dinner table.

Easter is late this year and it has been a very warm April. Her vegetable garden is not yet planted (there may still be frost, all the way through May) but some of the early spring flowers have begun to bloom from the fat papery bulbs she planted in autumn. Tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinth, paper-whites and snowdrops grow at the bases of the trees in the yard, in rows out front, in surprising places she almost forgot she planted while the warm autumn sun shone on her back, the sky that impossible depth of late September blue. Here, there is order. Here, she can nurture, coax, sing softly and there is loving reciprocation. Her eyes move over the delicate petals with their saturated colors, the green of the stems and leaves, and time waits and she hovers in some suspended sphere, happy. Is it happiness? It is a thing that a simple word cannot button down.

Her hands move over the flowers without hurry as she decides which flowers will grace the table, the sideboard. A little jelly glass of which she is fond will sit squarely over the kitchen sink on the windowsill that overlooks the backyard where the row of forsythia is just beginning to bloom.

Then there are the meal preparations to begin before the Easter Vigil Mass.

The potatoes peeled and cut, placed in the big pot and covered with cold water. Carrots, green beans readied for the boil tomorrow. You can’t save all this for the morning; you will never be done in time to place it all, hot, on the table, an offering to the family.

candle-at-night

The Easter Vigil candles glow brightly as the flame moves from person to person through the church. As the flame draws near, she closes her eyes for a moment. Wordlessly prays. She touches her unlit candle to the lit one being offered by the person nearest her in the crowded pew. She passes the flame along.

The world is lit and she, for that moment, believes in the light. Lives in the light, is enveloped. Consumed. She exhales, ecstatic. She lives.

Before bed, she kneads a yeasty dough for rolls and leaves them to rise in the warmest place in the kitchen. Now shut the light, remove the Easter dress worn to the Easter Vigil and hang it up for tomorrow. Sleep.

indecision and also i forgot to write a post for tomorrow

Tomorrow is now actually today. You’re reading this today. Unless it’s tomorrow or some other time in the future. Or as long as the internet exists. Whatever. The point is I realized at 9:30 last night that I had forgotten to write a post for tomorrow (today) so in lieu of something well-thought out, I’ll just ramble. I’m tired, people. That’s what you have to do at 9:30 at night. Ramble. (I’m sorry.)

So, let’s begin with the indecision, then I’ll commence with the rambling. I think I want to build a new website and can’t decide if I should stick with Wordpress or build one with Squarespace or simply do nothing different or maybe wait a while then change or maybe I should just do it now before The Mosquito Hours is published in May. I do not know. This is the rotating soundtrack in my head. Interspersed with songs by The Fresh Beat Band. We found the long-lost CD in the bowels of the van (Yay?) and it has been pretty much on repeat ever since. Also I need to choose a space for my book launch and I have it narrowed down to 47 places. None of which I have called. Because I can’t decide. (It’s probably closer to 4, but it feels like 47 because I can’t decide.) And I need to get sunglasses this week and that frames wall is going to be brimming with choices. I’ll just let the kids decide. I do not want my brain to explode. Or implode. Neither of those is what I want.

(Someone should just tell me what to do and I promise I will do it. Thank you.)

And now the rambles.

2014-02-11 10.01.43

I hyperventilate a little every time I think about Twitter. I’m not convinced that is a normal response to Twitter. I just don’t get Twitter and that will most likely be my downfall. Wouldn’t that make you hyperventilate? See. It is totally normal.

2014-02-11 10.02.30

Girl executing a camel. Not literally. Or maybe literally? Depends on the context.

We have been watching the Olympics. Which for me means figure skating. Steve (not his real name) shows the kids other events lest they think that every 4 years the world comes together to watch a bunch of people jump around on ice. But now the kids want to take skating lessons. Which I fully support. However I have a bad feeling they have been misled about the ease of this endeavor they shall be undertaking. I think they imagine themselves doing camels and spins and lutzes and sow cows by the second lesson. I am no gypsy, but I do not think it’s gonna go down like that.

2014-02-11 10.02.13

No idea what's going on here.

I just read this back to myself and that is some quality rambling.

Also, I am so much more normal and put-together than this post would indicate.

(Not really.)

Please come back Thursday as I will be posting part 2 of “Squash Pie.” You do not want to miss that. I do not want to miss that. (Jedi mind tricks. They work every time.)

squash pie—part 1

pie “I love it. I could just eat it by the spoonful.” Which is exactly what she is doing. She heaps a glossy mound of mayonnaise onto a silver soup spoon while Jean makes the deviled eggs for Easter. The kitchen smells of sulfur. It is Good Friday. She is Jean’s sister, Evelyn. Jean has three sisters and two brothers.

“What did you ask Helen to bring for Easter dinner?” Evelyn asks.

“A vegetable side dish.” Jean does not look up from the bowl into which she measures ingredients.

Evelyn licks the last of the mayonnaise from the spoon. “You know what she’s going to do, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Jean says to her, ready to pounce if Evelyn tries to stick that spoon she just had in her mouth back into the mayonnaise jar. Jean whisks the egg yolks and the mayonnaise together, encouraging them to fluffy silkiness.

“She’s going to bring two vegetable side dishes and something to snack on before dinner. And pie. She always forces that terrible pie on everyone from that bakery she thinks is so great. What was it she brought at Thanksgiving?”

“Squash.” Jean keeps mixing and adds a few spoonfuls of mustard.

“Squash pie.” Evelyn frowns, her eye teeth show. “Whoever thought that would taste good except Helen.”

Jean’s hands keep working and she simply shrugs. That pie is terrible but she would not say so explicitly to Evelyn. Something stops her. An agreement in which she cannot take part, corroborate. A tightening in her chest.

Jean is the serious one. The serious sister. That is what is said. But that is not how she feels. She doesn’t feel serious, although this is the word others choose to describe her. Of all the words, she doesn’t feel it is accurate. But who is she to say?

She doesn’t feel serious. How she feels is as though she is above her surroundings wherever it is she may be. As though her presence in her own life is not required. Why does everyone seem more authentic? Their lives more solid? She suspects these are not original thoughts, which is neither a comfort nor a validation. She is not in color, not filled out, or something like that, as others are. She wonders why she thinks of everyone else as more legitimate.

It’s not as though she doesn’t have plenty to do, though.

The trick to good deviled eggs is to first boil the eggs right so there is no green ring around the yolk and how you do that is to bring the eggs to a gentle boil, turn off the heat and let them sit for twenty minutes. Then plunge them in ice water. Roll them gently on the counter to loosen the shells.

Then you must whip the yolks.

Evelyn moves to dip her spoon back into the mayonnaise jar, just as Jean knew she would. Jean does not take her eyes from the bowl of yolks when she says, “Evelyn, don’t you dare dip that dirty spoon into my mayonnaise.”

“Okay, fine.” Evelyn walks over to the sink where she turns on the water and rinses the spoon.

“Use soap,” Jean says without bothering to turn, because she knows Evelyn isn’t. She doesn’t have to look.

She hears Evelyn sigh and Jean listens for proper washing sounds. Jean is surprised it hasn’t occurred to Evelyn to get a new spoon out of the drawer rather than wash the used one. Evelyn’s laziness knows few limits.

Jean fills the concavity of every impossibly smooth and shiny half egg with a dollop of spiced yolk. She uses a pastry bag fit with a cake decorating tip. She makes beautiful globes of fluted yellow and dusts each with paprika, red-orange brilliance. Eggs for rebirth. Red spice the redemptive blood. It feels holy to her. Her petite homage. She covers the eggs with some waxed paper and places them carefully in the refrigerator. She cleans up the dirty dishes.

Evelyn watches her work while she licks another spoonful of mayonnaise. Jean screws the big round blue cover securely over the mayonnaise jar and places it in the refrigerator.

“I need to get ready for church,” she tells Evelyn as she removes her apron and folds it.

Evelyn makes a sound at Jean which means she thinks it is stupid to go to church today.

“It’s not even a Day of Obligation,” Evelyn says.

“I have never understood why the day our Lord died should not be a Holy Day of Obligation,” she says. “Of all days, you would think this would be one.”

“But it’s not. And it’s such a depressing service.”

“Well, Evelyn, of course it’s depressing. It’s the day Jesus was crucified. Would you prefer a disco ball and DJ?”

Jean is not trying to be funny but Evelyn laughs. She misses the point as usual. “Now that I might go see. Disco at Sacred Heart! Father Graves boogying on the alter!” Evelyn shakes her hips lasciviously and laughs from her belly. Jean rolls her eyes and goes to the bathroom to fix her hair and freshen her lipstick. There’s a good chance Evelyn will still be laughing when she leaves the house. Maybe even when she returns.

But when she gets home from church, Evelyn is gone. She looks in the sink and, yes, there is Evelyn’s dirty spoon.

marsh_sunset3

Jean lives within sound and scent of the dark heaving Atlantic. The smell of the ocean wafts into the house at unexpected moments. Even though she has been here always, it still possesses the power to surprise her. The house in which she lives was built at the edge of a salt marsh. The house is almost one hundred years old; the salt marsh primeval. She lives there with her mother and father who have begun their descent into old age. Jean’s brothers and sisters all moved away and Jean is the one left. She wakes up in the morning, sets the kettle to boil for tea, scoops the coffee grounds, taking a moment to put her nose close to inhale the scent, and presses the button on the machine. She stands in the hushed kitchen, her gaze on the place where the tall grasses sway to meet the purpling sky rising sun.

And she waits.

Waits for her parents to awaken, for the coffee pot to fill, for the work day to begin, then end, to come home and fix the supper, clean the dishes, shut the light, Johnny Carson’s monologue, sleep.

Please come back next Thursday for part 2!

a box of notes

2014-02-03 22.03.18 Since high school, I have saved a cardboard box of notes. All are written on either spiral-bound notebook paper—with the frillies still attached on the left—or that pulpy newsprint on which they made us do math. (I never cease to get excited by the fact that I won’t ever have to do math for credit again. Or labor. Labor or math—never have to do either of those again. For the record, I was much better at labor.) I have carted these notes around for years. They were passed in class or in the hallways of my enormous high school. Many are from my sister. In every single one, she is A) talking about some boy, and B) starving. That poor kid was never not hungry. Or never not thinking about some boy.

At any rate, these notes live in this closet:

2014-02-03 22.03.09

This closet is that place in the house where crap is simply shoved and the door closed with no regard to tidiness or organization or anything but the idea of worrying about it later or when you need something that’s in there at which time it is very difficult to unearth the thing and you swear you are going to clean it up. (But you won’t.) The shelf contains (a generous use of that word) kind-of-folded-up spare curtains. That pink bag holds my wedding gown. Empty organizing containers and baskets of all kinds live in here as do the fans and a spare vacuum cleaner. And lots of other random crap. Here you will find the box of notes. I finally pitched the cardboard and upgraded to a plastic container.

2014-02-03 22.03.36

Why did I keep these? And why am I rambling about them? Alright, I’ll tell you.

First let me say that I am not a saver in general. I am more of a compulsive purger. One of my great loves in this sweet life is getting rid of crap we don’t need. I love it so much. Almost too much. Steve (not his real name) might just say I love it too much. He would be likely to say it especially when I force him to participate. Especially when it's his crap. I am not particularly sentimental about objects and I have no trouble parting with things and I mostly don’t save stuff “just in case.”

But I could never toss these notes. They are a way for me to look back at myself—at parts of me which I pretty much forget about until I read them again. And the language! It is the prose of a teenager. Of a teenager in the 80s. Vocabulary my brain cannot simply conjure now. They are sweet, smart, funny.

I could never let them go.

In The Mosquito Hours, there are 3 main characters: Vivian and her 22 year old twin daughters, Tania and Guin. Tania finds her mother’s old diaries—which contain Vivian’s musings as well as pasted-in notes from friends—and secretly begins to read them. So when I was thinking about material for Vivian’s diaries and notes, I remembered: the box! I cobbled together many of my favorite parts of those old notes as well as my own diary material (holy crap, some of that shizzle is embarrassing!) to create Vivian’s. Those real words and events and feelings add such a sweet authenticity to Vivian's fictitious diaries.

Even though I have been tempted over the years to pitch the notes in the recycling bin, I am glad something held me back. I am shredding those old diaries at some point, though ...

Okay, confession time: I did not finish the edits on that story I promised you for this week. I said there was only a 50-50 chance I would come good on my promise, so don’t say you weren’t warned. But I am serialing a short story called “Squash Pie” that was originally posted on Her Circle Ezine a while back. The main character is in one of my novels-in-progress, so the story gives a little glimpse into one of my future works, in which I am fooling around with female archetypes. So, look for that on Thursday!

still cleaning

2014-01-28 17.54.28

Putting things together hurts my thinker a little. (A lot.)

I am STILL cleaning.

Not really. But I did just finish up a few hours ago. To be fair, I accidentally moved from normal housecleaning mode to obsessive need-to-reorganize-the-socks-or-the-world-will-end mode. I never know how that happens. But it does. And it’s terrifying. I’m okay, though. I emerged and the house looks much improved, if I do say so myself, and there is no dust anywhere and if anyone dares to drop even a cracker crumb on the floor, I will have a fit. Just kidding. (No, I’m not.)

So, here are our assembled cubbies! I decided to put them in front of the window seat instead of under the work tables. Why? Who knows. I cannot be held fully responsible for what I do whilst in the clutches of obsessive need-to-reorganize-the-socks-or-the-world-will-end mode. It's like labor: you can pretty much say or do anything and get a free pass.

2014-01-30 16.42.47

2014-01-30 17.05.20

And look:

2014-01-29 13.18.10

only all this was left over! Also some glue may have been utilized that was not included with the hardware because these (non)directions

2014-01-28 18.24.17

I don't understand this.

are pretty much indecipherable and super-glue totally is—decipherable, that is. So I used the Force and I am certain these are fully operational! And completely safe! More than likely. These were probably just extra parts even though Steve (not his real name) says they never give you extra parts. And can I share with you the deal I got on the storage pieces?! Let me start by saying I went to Home Depot and Target and found some nice canvas cubes. But they were too tall. So I hit the Dollar Tree and grabbed some little bins. But I really wanted some baskets or canvas cubes, too. So I went to the Christmas Tree Shops and found all these things and they were insanely cheap! The boxes were $2.50 and the canvas cubes (which possess the PERFECT dimensions for these cubbies) were—Are you ready? NO you are not! It is a trick question as you never will be ready because it is so crazy amazing!—ONE DOLLAR A PIECE! I am still reeling. Could be an inner ear infection but I think it’s the crazy amazing deal.

2014-01-29 13.40.13

2014-01-29 13.40.07

ONE DOLLAR A PIECE! See—I was totally telling the truth.

So, I have been diligently working away at the short story I promised you. Or maybe I am totally lying and have instead been immersed in obsessive need-to-reorganize-the-socks-or-the-world-will-end mode. (It’s the second one.) But I will have that story ready for next week—this I promise you! Pretty much. At any rate there is at least a 50-50 shot at it. I never know when a thing like obsessive need-to-reorganize-the-socks-or-the-world-will-end mode might strike and I am still editing The Mosquito Hours, but I do promise.

2014-01-28 18.21.26

I might, however, be busy picking away at the outrageously sticky and ridiculously fall-apart-y stickers required to tell the pieces of the thinker-hurting furniture apart. Seriously.

proof!

Wanna see something? 2014-01-27 10.13.50

2014-01-27 10.14.00

2014-01-27 10.14.13

This is my house. There is this joke I saw on Facebook and it goes like this. A husband comes home from work and the house is a complete disaster. Dirty dishes are piled up out of the sink, toys everywhere, floors grime-covered, baskets overflowing with laundry, kids’ paint splotched all over the floors and walls, no supper on the table, filthy kids running wild. The husband finds the wife upstairs lounging in bed. (If it were me, there would be books. And wine.) He says, “What happened?” She says, “You know how you’re always asking me what I do all day?” He says, “Yeah.” She replies, “Today I didn’t do it.”

Here are some close-ups of the disaster.

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2014-01-27 10.14.44

I never realize how much cleaning up I do all day until I have a couple days of not doing it. I think I do the picking up and wiping down unconsciously, like a tick.

But believe me—I am not complaining this time. Because wanna see something else?

2014-01-27 20.39.01

My book! The proof copy came in the mail and I spent the weekend proofreading. And being totally amazed that I held my book in my hands. It was definitely worth the several days of cleaning I was sure to face afterwards.

Steve (not his real name) was a serious hero. He dealt with all the big issues: from Ponies to Nerfs to Minecraft to endless sharpening of colored pencils and even more endless requests for food. (You cannot imagine how often these people want to eat.) He even took the kids—and when I say that I mean ours and my sister’s—out for pizza and to the movies. He’s still twitching a little. So, in the spirit of transparency, this mess is worse than usual because it was committed by twice as many rotten kids. I choose the word “rotten” with utmost affection. And Steve (not his real name) is nothing like that guy in the joke. He never asks me why the house looks like a cyclone hit. He just cheerfully steps over the rubble. He’s one of the good ones, that Steve (not his real name). I do always feed him, though.

So, what is it like to read your own book? Pretty unbelievable. I hadn’t read this particular draft since July, so it has had a good long time to ripen. I started writing this novel in 2010 (I think ... ) and this is draft 8. Yeah—that many. And it will probably go through at least one more. Although, the heavy-lifting is done. Now it’s more of a gentle whittling. Tweaking. I could probably do this forever—every writer could. Obsess over a word here, consult the thesaurus over another word there. But at some point—when you know in your gut that it is tight and it has been edited professionally, I might add—you have to let it fly out into the world. But reading the novel now, I am so happy with it. It’s better than I remembered, to toot my own horn. Which makes it sound as though I thought it kind of sucked before now. But when you’re the writer, it can be difficult to focus on anything but the self-perceived flaws and worries about shortcomings. So this is a lovely, lovely thing—to read your book and feel excited and proud and ready to share it!

Believe it or not (if you’re a mom, you can), I am still cleaning. And I have several loads of laundry to fold. But toggling between proofreading my book and scrubbing the floor—my 2 vocations, homemaker/mom and writer—today I feel nothing but lucky!

glass bottles; good deals on cubby storage; the 90s

What a terrible blog post title. I’m sorry. When you can’t think of a good blog post title, you come up with a lousy one and just apologize for it. (There’s a nice blogging tip for you. You’re welcome.) But all that stuff is indeed included in this one blog post, so at least the title is perfectly descriptive. Let me start things out by saying holy crap I got such a great deal the other day! Which doesn’t make up for the terrible blog post title, but nevertheless, it was such a great deal. None of this correlates, but no one said I had to make perfect sense all the time. glass_water_bottle

One of my glass bottle water bottles. They have silicone sleeves in an array of rainbow colors.
They're like heavy, breakable Skittles!

So, here’s how the great deal happened. A while back I bought a 6-pack of refillable glass water bottles for my kids. No worries about BPA or phthalates or any of that junk—glass is about as inert as it gets! Brilliant. I am, I know. But do you know what happens to glass water bottles when you give them to kids? Yes. You’re right. They get broken. As of the other day, we were down to 2. I have more kids than that. Had I only had the 2 kids I meant to have we’d still be in good shape. But the egg split and so 3 we got. Also, guess who gets to carry all the water bottles? Yes. You’re right. Me. And them suckers get heavy. So, the other night I set out on a quest to find some nice BPA and phthalates and any other junk-free plastic, lightweight, unbreakable water bottles. But them suckers get expensive and I am cheap. Not cheap—frugal. Which is a more nuanced word for cheap. Anyhow, I thought I might check our local Christmas Tree Shops for a deal on some. If you don’t have one of these around, it’s like a mish-mash of weird stuff all in one place at very cheapie prices. Some of it is even useful. Most of it is the kind of stuff people buy impulsively because although they never needed anything like it before—had never even conceived of its existence on this great planet—suddenly life without it is unimaginable. And at those prices, who can say no? This never happens to me, by the way. That's not how I know about it. At any rate, I did not find water bottles, but I wandered into the furniture area and found some great storage pieces for our art supplies. But they had none in stock. Then, I spied this:

new_storage

It was originally $129 marked down to $59. Pretty good. As I am contemplating it, a lady with a walkie-talkie saunters over and says, “Those have been marked down further. Let me get you a price.” Into her walkie-talkie she says, “Cathy-Cathy, what’s the price on these cubby storage units?” So Cathy-Cathy comes on and says, “Sheila-Sheila, they’re $26.97.” Totally random price, and they say each other’s names twice for some reason, but that was too good a deal to pass up. So I bought 2! Also (you’re not going to believe this) I had a coupon for 20% off an entire purchase which brought them down to (you’re not going to believe this, either) $22 bucks a piece after sales tax!

price_tag

Holy crap!

Please examine the following pics to understand why I wanted some new storage to go underneath the work tables. You will see that it is too messy under there. I don’t like messy. I like tidy.

storage2

storage1

Note how the light is totally different in these two pics. That's because when I went to load them onto my computer I realized this one was totally blurry and hours had passed since I'd taken them so I had to turn the lamp on and snap a new one. But it was totally intentional. Note that there's a kid up there. I asked her to go on top of the table so she wouldn't be in the shot. Also totally intentional.

But now I have to put these damn things together and my time is already limited, so I am thinking I might serialize some short fiction again. Free up some of my time to build this furniture. I could do a few excerpts over the next few weeks. Shall I?

I discovered on my hard drive (do we still call it that?) an old story I started writing in my 20s. I am debating picking up where I left off. I thought of (another) novel idea the other day—I have, like, 7 going in various drafts—set in the 90s and this piece might be a good jumping-off point. Is it too soon to write a novel about being in your 20s in the 1990s? I have a nice little 90s mix in my Spotify account. Think I’ll go turn that on right now for inspiration. I have entitled the playlist “the 90s.” Good, huh? Perfectly descriptive. I also have a title in mind for the novel. Better than the mix one, I think. Can’t tell you what it is just yet.

(Oh, I love this Matthew Sweet song that just popped up in my “the 90s” mix! The 90s were awesome.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRF_qOJfaDs

I ended up getting the kids some very reasonably priced nice BPA and phthalates and any other junk-free plastic, lightweight, unbreakable water bottles at Target. Also, since I was there, I got a Starbucks. It was a stellar night overall.

So, want me to post the story or what?

the secret to having life balance!

Wanna know what it is? You can’t. Not know, that is. Have it. You can’t have it. You cannot have life balance. That is the secret. Not because you don’t need it, deserve it, or are not bright enough to achieve it. It simply does not exist!

Seriously. It doesn’t. I just figured this out. Today. And I must say I feel better. Relieved, even. It’s nothing I’m doing wrong that I can’t “get” this. It is simply not possible.

What is life balance? I think it’s something different for each person seeking it. Which is another reason why it can’t be pinned down. There could never be a single formula. For me, it means having all areas of my life—homemaking, homeschooling, fiction writing, blog writing, business—organized and executed with precision, control, and harmony. Planned and carried out smoothly. I don’t even mean “perfectly”—I mean somewhat efficiently. But real life never allows this. The little—and big—fires always creep in.

Of course.

clock3

Ever lose a library book? We do all the time. (Note: It’s always a kids’ library book.) It’s the kind of thing that makes me lose my shizzle. It’s a time eater—looking for lost library books is a time-consuming monster. It is made more maddening because it is utterly unnecessary—if only they would simply put the books back in the designated library book basket it would never even happen! But noooooooooooooo. So then I must rant and rave about the lost library book. I mean, I don’t get mean or holler at them. But I do that annoying mom sing-song voice of reproach. You know the one. “If we could just put the the book back where it belongs, then this wouldn’t happen. I make a special place for all our stuff but everyone just drops everything wherever they want. And why are your markers all over the floor? And your Lego? This is how things get lost. Or broken. Or lost and broken. Or broken and lost. Bleh bleh bleh...” It goes on longer but I don’t want to give you a brain bleed imagining what it sounds like. You already know if you have a mother and were ever a kid. Or are a mother. (If you are innocent of this practice, I will personally sculpt a statue of you and lay flowers at its feet every Mother's Day.) As of now, I have not yet found that book. And, no, I have not stopped sing-songing. I’m trying. I swear. (Not really ... But I know I should and that’s the first step.)

library_basket

The freakin' designated library book basket.

This sort of thing makes me nuts because I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO LOOK FOR FREAKIN’ LIBRARY BOOKS! Yes, I am yelling. (Sorry.)

clock2

Time is such a pain in the tush. (That’s Portuguese for “butt.”) There is never enough time to get everything done. Even when you try to plan it out, those little—and big—fires always creep in to screw up everything. Of course. In spite of planning, I never achieve everything in a day that I hope to. And I don’t generally over-plan—I truly do not. I try to keep the plans/to-dos moderate and draw on experience to set goals I have an actual chance of accomplishing. And even with this mindfulness, achieving the daily goals remains a challenge. Which returns me to the topic at hand which is life balance and the fact that you will never have it. Not until you are elderly and then you will probably feel like you have nothing to do. So what are we supposed to do about this?

I don’t have an answer but I do have an idea! Want to hear it? It’s kind of brilliant.

Reframe.

Just change your attitude. Yeah, I know—easier said than done. But it works. I know that I cannot plan effectively because there are simply too many variables and too many individuals with their own ideas of how time will be spent. For instance, sometimes a person simply must cry for 20 minutes about a paper cut whilst recovering in my lap. And any plans I made don’t matter an iota. Sometimes things like this happen several times a day. And no one can actually get out the door when Mom wants them to so that we can say on track. There is always one more drawing that MUST BE FINISHED or socks to be put on and someone is always starving and then everyone realizes that they are starving as well. Also, something is always lost. Always. Do you get where I’m going with this? So I adjust my attitude. I reframe.

clock1

On Sunday, I decided to sleep in a little which ended up being 9:00am (WHAT?!) and then I needed to make breakfast and clean up the kitchen and get supper going in the slow cooker. Then I wanted to visit Mem at the nursing home and Dad in the hospital (yes, he is back in there ... ergh ... but on the mend, so no worries), all of which took up a ton of my day. Yet, meanwhile, I imagine hours and hours of unfettered time unfurling wherein I can accomplish oodles and oodles of work. There has been no day like this since I have birthed these children that would indicate that such a day is likely. Except when they are not here. Except they are pretty much always here. Why do I think it will happen today? I am unnecessarily frustrating myself. Instead, maybe I could work in the time I do have available to me and adjust the tasks as needed. And most importantly, accept reality for what it is.

I know when the kids are grown and the elders have passed that I am never going to regret one moment I spent with them. So to lament “lost” time is the true waste of time.

This is a work in progress, people. I share my good ideas and then I fumble around attempting (and often failing) to execute them. It’s about trying. Although Yoda says do or do not, there is no try. Hmmmm ...

found_book

This kid just found the book! It was in the couch, although I could have sworn I checked there ... several times. She suddenly remembered her brother was reading it to them the other day. I shall sleep well this night.

thursday stew—a random collection of unrelated miscellany

iPhone I got an iPhone. My sister talked me into it. I had been against the idea of getting a fancy phone for fear of turning into one of those people always staring at their phone. Also always checking email and Facebook, therefore perpetually available. Also I am cheap and the idea of paying for a data plan went up me sideways. Also my old phone was easy and learning new technology is haaaaaard. But then my sister MADE ME and now I shudder when I recall life before it! This phone is actually making my life easier. I can stay on top of email and all my homeschool forums and Facebook pages. I can tweet. (Well, in theory.) I can watch shows on Netflix. I can check the weather. I can get un-lost. I can play podcasts and Pandora when I can’t sleep. Also when I am awake at appropriate times. I can listen to NPR in the shower. I can meal plan. I can write notes and reminders. (That I will forget to read.) I can do all kinds of things that I don’t even realize I can do since I'm typically aware of only 7% of my devices’ capabilities! My iPhone is so lovely in her blue Otterbox. I love her. Existence without her would possess no meaning. Oh, the precioussssssss ... my precioussssssss ... Wait ... what did I just say?

new_cup

Did I tell you I broke another Starbucks cold cup? Well, I did. It fell out of a backpack in which is was not properly secured and smashed into my sister’s driveway. Luckily, my green tea did not spill forth—but the cup was irreparably cracked. As there is no Starbucks in my city nor is there one in any surrounding city (WHAT?! I know ... ) I was left no choice but to buy a non-Starbucks cold cup. Isn’t she pretty, though?! Look at her stripy straw! She’s like a carnival! Without the nauseating rides and annoying crowds.

to-be-read_shelf

This is my shelf of books I haven’t read yet. I also have a folder on the Kindle app on my iPhone (you can even read books on these things!) called the “To Be Read” collection. 33 eBooks in there. 27 on the shelf. (2 on the night table ... ) I do not do mathing or adding and such, but I think it might be a lot. And no, I did not just buy several more books yesterday. (I did. We won’t tell Steve (not his real name) that I did that.)

target_starbucks

Grocery shopping is really just an excuse to get a Starbucks. Just kidding. (I’m not.) I don’t have a Starbucks in my city nor is there one in any surrounding city. (WHAT?! I know ... ) There is one in the Target, though. It’s not quite as good, but I force myself to drink it down anyhow. I am a giver, people. I figure out what to feed the family, I go out, I get all of the ingredients, I bring it all in the house, put it away, and cook it. With unending amounts of infused love. I swear it’s not only to get a Starbucks. (It is.)

snaggle_tooth

Toothless children—seriously is there anything cuter than a snaggle-toothed 6-year old? I have 2 of them! One of my girls lost a tooth one day last week and the Tooth Fairy generously brought her a dollar. Then she lost another tooth the next day and neither Steve (not his real name) nor I had another dollar. We couldn’t leave our debit card under her pillow so I took the dollar from the night before and left that instead. The kid has NO IDEA how much money she has, so really this was a win-win for all involved. Steve (not his real name) and I are problem-solvers. It’s a skill we hope to pass along to our children. The lying and lack of handy cash we hope to stop right here.

dirty_dishes

Dishes. I just freakin’ hate them so much. My parents made me and my sister do dishes all throughout our childhoods. It was horrible. I hate doing dishes. I always have. I can’t wait until I can make my kids do them.

Happy Thursday! How’s your week going?

The Mosquito Hours book cover reveal!

I have been blogging for a bunch of years now. First for The Writer’s Life on Her Circle Ezine, then for a site called Lifeables and now for my own blog. I have come up with 30 billion (almost) topics about which to write. At one point between the 3 sites, I was writing 5 or 6 posts a week. And yet I have been staring at this screen for HOURS (almost) trying to think of something to write. It appears that focus continues to elude me...

What is that thing they say about forming a habit? It takes blah blah number of days and something something else. Blah blah. I think that’s it. Something like that. (What? I could have simply looked it up? And provided you with valuable information? Using this very computer? Wow.)

Anyhow, evidently it takes a bit of life crisis, coupled with the Holidays, and generalized anxiety to undo a habit. It seems I have undone my blogging habit and I might need a little more time to get on track. So today in lieu of anything resembling coherent written thought, I am going to reveal The Mosquito Hours book cover!

TA-DA!

TMH_cover

This week I will be getting a proof copy in the mail and I will hold my book in my hands and see it in the flesh (so to speak). I do want to share more about this process—when I can once again string words together in a sense-ish manner. That skill is bound to return to me. I think. I am pretty sure that will happen.

I promise to write something brilliant for Thursday so please come back. It’s going to be fantastic. Might even change your life.

I mean it. Probably. Definitely most likely.