Six Years Later, I Can Finally Smile Again

Six years ago, my mom passed away. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since she had been disappearing into her illness for over a decade. But it was still a shock when I received the call. My greatest fear finally materialized.

Every year since then, I post something sad about missing her. It’s still true. I still have moments where the pain knocks me to my knees. And while time hasn’t healed all wounds for me, it has offered the gift of distance and clarity. I am grateful that I can look back on memories of her and smile.

One memory in particular made me smile this year. I was close to my son’s age, maybe six or seven years old. My mother, the brave soul, took my toddler sister and me to India without my father, who kept working.

I barely go shopping for one hour and keep it together with my two kids, so I can only imagine the horrors of managing two little kids, plus enough luggage for two months, in the airports and plane bathroom for what feels like a two-day flight. By the time we reached my grandmother’s house, my mother must have reached the limits of her large reservoir of patience.

The day after we arrived in the middle of the night, I remember her sitting in the foyer, with a tired smile plastered across  her face.  She spoke with the flood of guests who “dropped in” to see my grandmother’s “American” daughter. And of course, like any other little kid, I kept interrupting her conversations because I needed my mother’s attention RIGHT NOW.

She lost her shit. My poor mother, who was always kind and patient, grabbed the colorful folds of her sari, jumped up from her chair, and chased me through my grandmother’s house in sandals. I was shocked, but amused. I had the same arrogance as my 6-year old son. “Mom will never catch me. I’m too fast.” So I sprinted down the long hall and she followed me. I ran by the kitchen. So did she. I ran through the dining room. So did she. I ran into our guest bedroom. So did she. I thought I would lose her by running across the bed. So imagine my surprise when she jumped on the bed and kept coming after me. I scurried out the door, into the yard, where I left my mother. I can still picture her, standing in the doorway, holding up her fist and shaking it at me, telling me what she’d do if she caught me interrupting her with a guest again. I hid from her for the rest of the day.

And so today, I’m smiling. For the first time since she died, on the anniversary of her passing, I’m finally smiling when I think of her. I love you, Mom. Thank you for the gift of that memory.

Stop Making Excuses And Write Every Day!

A friend of mine alerted me to the job posting.  I saw the message in my inbox several hours after she sent it.  “Hey! Did you apply for that staff writer position?”

I had no idea what she was talking about.  The Snow Day voice mail message consumed my thoughts.  Both of my kids home with me?  ALL DAY?  I was torn about it.  A part of me was thrilled to have both my daughter AND my son home with me.  But I know them.  Dreams of cuddling under the covers with cups of hot cocoa and singing kumbaya weren’t going to happen.  They’d be tearing up the house and trying to kill each other by noon if I didn’t figure out something for them to do.  It was going to be a long day.

“No! I didn’t know about it! How did you hear about it?”  I searched for the posting and scanned it.  The requirement was 2-3 pieces a week.

My response to her was prompt.  “I just saw the announcement. Thank you for letting me know!  I don’t think I’ll apply because right now, I won’t be able to write at that pace.  Maybe once the kids are in school full time.”

My husband walked into the room to get ready for work.  I held out the job posting for him.  “What do you think of this?”

He scanned it and nodded his head.  “Are you going to apply for it?”

“Oh, no,” I shook my head.  “I don’t think so.  Why?  Do you think I should?”

“Yeah,” he replied easily.  There was no hesitation.  “You should.”

“But I can’t write at this pace right now,” I protested.  “I can barely keep the house clean with the kids as it is.  How on earth would I produce 3 articles a week?  Plus, she wants 3 links for a submission.”  I pointed out the date of the post.  “This has been out since yesterday.  She wants to make a decision by tomorrow.  How will I come up with 3 articles that meet those content requirements by tomorrow?”

“You have three articles you could send,” he replied.  “Send those.”

“But they aren’t quite right,” I continued, staring at the job posting.  “And it’s so competitive.  There are hundreds of people applying for this, and all of them are way more experienced than I am.

I saw it on his face.  It was fleeting but present.  Disappointment.  “Okay.  If you don’t want to apply for it, then don’t do it.”  He continued to get dressed and then left for work.

When I heard the kids shrieking down the hall, I tried to put that position out of my mind.  Arguments why I shouldn’t apply filled my head intermittently for the rest of the day.

I’m too tired to do this.

I can’t produce content at that rate.

I wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway.

The kids are little.  Don’t worry about writing now.  Enjoy them, because the time passes so quickly.

The timing isn’t right.  In another two years, both kids will be in school full time.  Then I can write full time.

The list of excuses continued.  But they weren’t powerful enough to squash how disappointed in myself I felt.  In my twenties, I would have stayed up until I had 3 solid pieces to submit.  It didn’t matter how competitive the applicant pool was.  I would have at least thrown my hat in the ring.

What the hell happened to me?

Applications for this position are closed now.  I didn’t throw my hat in the ring, but it opened my eyes to a difficult truth.  Sometimes, we defeat ourselves with our excuses.

If I had been writing every day for the past year, like I said I would in 2016, I would have had plenty of material to choose from.  I wouldn’t have had to scramble to come up with material for a submission.  But I’ve been making excuses instead of making progress for the past year.  And I’ve had it.

I have a lot of writer friends now and I know many of them juggle writing and kids.  This past week, I saw one of them post at 10 P.M. how tired she was, but she had a deadline.  She was going to stay up until she wrote that piece.

That is the type of dedication required to be a successful writer.  So, I need to put up or shut up.

My Thoughts on Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month.  Day 6.  I wanted to write down a few things that have really helped me make progress on my book.

(1)  STORY OUTLINE

The last time I attempted NaNoWriMo, I followed the “pantser” method (a.k.a. wrote by the seat of my pants).  This is the reason I wrote with enthusiasm for 12 days and then struggled.  The story took aimless turns and I ended up with 50,000 words of rambling garbage that will never see the light of day.

This is the point of NaNoWriMo.  To release your inhibitions and just hit the word count.  But this time, I’m using this challenge as a springboard for my series.

Back in August, I outlined my NaNoWriMo story.  It’s bare bones, but wow!  My writing is way better this time around.

(2)  CHARACTER MAPS

Character is king.  I’ve heard this mantra for years, but kind of ignored it.  My focus has always been on the story.

But what is story without character?

A few weeks ago, I sat down and described each major character.  It forced me to really think about the stakes.  What does each character want?  Why is it important?  What is the theme in each scene?  I’m amazed at the sub-plots that have emerged from this exercise.  There’s a new layer of intrigue that I can add to the story.

(3)  WORLD BUILDING

Duh.  I’m writing a  fantasy novel, so you’d think this would be obvious.  But I’ve never actually sat down to think about the details of the world.  What is the political system?  How does the economy work?  What is the currency?  How do the beings sustain themselves?  What is the topography of the land and how does it drive this story?

Questions, questions, and even more questions.  Because the magical world definitely influences the story.  I’m kicking myself for not sitting down and doing this homework before.

(4)  DESCRIBE THE SCENE

I’ve written before about the evils of perfectionism.  It is my greatest nemesis.  I still want to write down and have perfect prose flow from my finger tips.  Perfect description.  Perfect dialogue.  Perfect cliff hangers.  Perfect tension.

Yeah, that hasn’t happened, so I stopped and tried something different.

I’m describing one scene at a time instead of writing it out like a book.  Yeah, I know that goes against what the experts tell you.  “Show, Don’t Tell.”  Blah, blah, blah.

Well, guess what?  I can’t SHOW anything, if I don’t HAVE anything.  And right now, TELLING my story is working.  So, I’m sticking with it.

BOTTOM LINE TO MYSELF:  Don’t take shortcuts.  Do your homework.  And do what works for you. 

 

 

 

Giddyup, pardners…. It’s National Novel Writing Month. Let’s Go.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  That’s tomorrow.

TOMORROW.

NaNoWriMo participants have 30 days to write 50,000 words.  That’s roughly 1,667 words per day.  I actually achieved this goal a few years ago, but will not attempt it this year.

HOWEVER, I will commit to writing 500 words a day until the end of this year.  Or rather, 500 words a day for 60 days.  That will take me to 30,000 words in 2 months.

It’s better than nothing.

For the past month, I’ve been outlining the backstory to my “real” story and it has evolved into a story on its own.  I’m not sure if this should be my first novel, so I want to write it out and see where it goes.

It is based on Indian mythology, so I’m struggling with how much artistic liberty I can take with the story.  For this purpose, I think I will let my creative monsters fly.  (Or in my case, demons fly.)

So, for anyone else who is attempting this challenge, I wish you good luck!  Let the writing challenge begin!

 

Dear Trump Supporter, Thank You For Making My Decision Easy

My latest article on Scary Mommy.  I normally avoid discussing politics, but this election is too important.  Writers aren’t casual observers.  We notice things that other people may disregard.  It’s our duty to speak up when we witness society heading in a dangerous direction.

So, this is me speaking up.  I wish all of you well.  Be safe.

http://www.scarymommy.com/donald-trump-supporters-making-decision/

 

 

A Writer’s Prayer

I have been swirling on the responsibility that comes with being a writer.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  We see things that the casual observer misses and then it is up to us to capture that moment with our words.

There are moments that I am struggling with in the upcoming election.  I am scared to write about what I see, but feel compelled to do so.

I’m not a religious person, but I do believe that there is a higher power that guides all of us through life.  These words have been in my heart for the past few months and I will post them so that I can remember them and recite them when I feel weak.

Lord, Guide my pen.

Give me the courage to write my fears.

Give me the strength to combat cruelty with kindness.

Give me the insight to read the minds of men and women.

Give me the artistry to paint the story.

Give me the wisdom to choose words that will reach the hearts of humanity.

Give me the power to be a light in the darkness.

Amen.

To My Precious Snowflakes: Mommy Loves You

To My Precious Snowflakes,

Mommy loves you very much. You are the organic apples of my eye, the gluten-free sprinkles on my SAHM sundae. I cherish every cup and kick aimed at my head. It all goes so quickly, especially when I duck for cover. My heart swells each time I think of your delightful shenanigans. 

Bless your little hearts for cleaning those brand new books in the bathroom sink yesterday. Dirty Elmo board books have no place in our humble home. Your stealthy teamwork saved us from the scourge of bookstore filth. And siblings who wash books together, play together.   

Little Boy, I admire your curious mind. Not every child would remove a vent cover to drop his LeapPad down the heating duct. Of course you wanted to find out what would happen. Who wouldn’t? Mommy was honored to spend thirty minutes fishing it out of the duct in the name of science. 

Darling Son, your burgeoning artistic abilities amaze me. Especially when you showcase them with permanent markers on the canvas of your face. Unfortunately, I didn’t give you enough paper. So, why should you have to walk across the room to get more? Your baby sister was right there. It made perfect sense to continue your Jackson Pollack scrawls on her.     

Little Girl, your theatrical flair leaves me speechless. No one can knock food to the floor like you can. There is no better way to tell Mommy that you’re all done. And of course, fork color matters. Silver is bad, blue is good. I should have read your mind, but I failed. Poor little thing. You tired yourself out by shrieking bloody murder for forty-five minutes. I gave you the blue fork, but it was too late. That terrible silver fork touched your lunch. Of course you couldn’t eat it. The pasta was ruined.   

Sweet Angel, Mommy can be a monster. It’s cruel for me to give you a red cup when you ask for it. And all those times you asked me to drive you home and I did. What was I thinking? I don’t blame you for screaming during the entire car trip. Who does Mommy think she is, giving you exactly what you wanted?

Driving around town with both of you and listening to the soothing chorus of “WHY, MOMMY, WHY, WHY, WHY?” from the backseat is the highlight of my day. Especially just as I’m about to make a left turn. Why should a delivery truck traveling towards us at fifty miles per hour during rush hour traffic hold my attention? You need to know how to spell “milk” RIGHT NOW. I don’t blame you for yelling at me while I’m mid-turn. Mommy’s heart palpitations aside, nothing trumps the question of a curious child. Nothing. 

Each night, we wrap up our long days with a spirited two-hour discussion before bedtime. Your favorite book is “The Ten Little Monkeys.” We’ve read it SO MANY TIMES that Mommy sees it in her hallucinations. Oh, those crazy monkeys! Look at them jumping on the bed and getting hurt! And how creative of the two of you to act it out EVERY NIGHT RIGHT BEFORE BED! 

Thank goodness you didn’t pick up your toys from the floor like I asked you. You saved your strength. Using the couch like a trampoline takes a lot of energy. And how brilliant of you to add your own spin to the story. You literally spin yourselves dizzy before running towards the fireplace. And what makes running towards sharp edges even better? Doing it with your EYES CLOSED! And almost face-planting on the coffee table! You sure showed Mommy and Daddy how creative you can be! 

Thank you for sharing those howler monkey protests when Mommy and Daddy throw each of you over a shoulder to haul you upstairs. They would follow me into my dreams if I slept at night. But I don’t want to miss a moment with you. So I spend the rest of the night watching my snowflakes breathe.

I love you always,

Your Devoted Mommy