To My Little Boy

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To My Little Boy:

Today you said goodbye, without a worry or a care. You waved and walked away, while your baby sister tried to keep up with you.

Three years. We have been safe and cozy in the nurturing arms of your preschool for three years. Three wonderful years, when I watched you transform from a needy toddler, who cried out for me from behind the window of your classroom, into a confident five-year old, who is so happy to see his friends that he barely acknowledges my existence when I leave the room.

Even though it is forever etched into my memory, your toddlerhood is gone. Those pinchable chubby cheeks have hollowed out into boyhood. The soft pastel colors and gentle farm animals on your clothes have been replaced by graphic tee-shirts and neon superheroes. I already wonder if I should invest in a farm, because even at five-years old, your appetite occasionally surpasses your father’s.

My mother’s heart is breaking, but I am so proud of you. I marvel at the ferocity of your spirit. The path you are paving for your younger sister is strong and true. She already watches you, soaking up every word and gesture like a sponge. You don’t realize what a wonderful teacher you are, but I do.

She will follow your preschool footsteps this fall, as you begin your own new adventures in a new school. As always, I will be there for you. I will be there when you take your first steps into your kindergarten classroom in September. I will be there to cheer you when you fly high on success. I will be there to comfort you when you stumble in defeat. I will be there as we both travel into uncharted territory. No matter what, we will do this together.

Little boy, little boy, little boy. My little boy. I am so proud of you. I love you.

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A Midlife Crisis Moment: When Chico’s Finds You

 

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Over the weekend, my family went out of town to visit the in-laws.  (That’s a subject for an entirely separate post.)  When we returned, my husband sorted through the mail and handed me a coupon that triggered emotional distress.  It was from Chico’s.

CHICO’S.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you who don’t understand what my problem is, I will take you back to an experience from my twenties.  One day at the mall, after buying a collection of cassette singles and Ally McBeal scarves, I glanced to my right and saw a septuagenarian shuffling out of a store called Chico’s.  This woman wore a floral print moo moo the reached her knees, orthopedic white sneakers, and bright pink lipstick that covered more of her teeth than her lips.  Right then and there, my impression was set for life.  LITTLE OLD LADIES SHOP AT CHICO’S.

Fast forward to today.  I’m forty-two years old.  And while I’m not trying to be messy-bun-yoga-pants cool, I’m also not ready to sip prune juice-Geritol tonic mixers and slip on a pair of Depends.

SO WHY IS CHICO’S SENDING ME A COUPON?

I’m scared that it may be related to a recent moment of insanity.  Two weeks ago, I had a wedding to attend, a closet full of clothes, and nothing to wear.  Naturally, I hit the mall and was excited when the first window display I passed showed promise.  The outfit wasn’t please-poke-me-in-the-eyes-with-a-cigarette horrible.  Eager to know the name of the store that possessed this prize, I glanced up.

Son of a bitch.  Chico’s.  CHICO’S?????  WHAT THE HELL??????

Certain that the world was ending, I wept.  (Just kidding.)  I didn’t cry, but I DID groan (not from arthritis), and hover in front of the store for a few moments.  The voices in my head argued.

Emotional Taara:  I’m not old, dammit!!  There’s no way in hell I’m going in there.

Practical Taara:  The wedding is on Saturday and it’s already Thursday evening.

Emotional Taara (pouts):  I don’t care.  This store is for old people.  I’m not doing it.

Practical Taara:  They may have changed.  Isn’t there some gorgeous brunette in those Chico’s ads?  SHE doesn’t look geriatric.  Plus, she’s always throwing her head back and laughing about something.  Maybe Chico’s is a happy place now.

Emotional Taara (sulks):  Oh, please.  That’s just bait and switch.  No one who looks like her actually wears anything from Chico’s.

Practical Taara (sighs):  Okay, maybe you’re right and she’s just laughing at the people who fall for this marketing scheme.  But we’re running out of time and it doesn’t hurt you to just look.  You don’t have to buy anything.

Emotional Taara (weakening):  I don’t have to buy anything?

Practical Taara (sensing victory – goes in for the kill):  Of course not!  And if you go inside, we can even stop at Starbucks on the way home.

Emotional Taara (puppy-with-a-chewy-toy happy):  Yay!  Starbucks!  Okay – I’ll go inside and just look.

Propelled by the thought of a nonfat, no foam, caramel macchiato, I stepped into Chico’s.  My eyes were immediately assaulted by a psychedelic print on a poncho.  (That’s right.  A PONCHO.)  Too stunned to move, I stared into the hypnotic neon swirls.  There had to be a dolphin amid the graphic waves.  There just had to be.

A sales lady of the senior citizen persuasion approached me in my moment of weakness. “Hello, dear.  Can I help you?”

I wanted to run, but it was too late.  “Uh, yes, please.  I’m looking for a dress for a wedding.”

“Hmmmm….”  She looked me up and down.  Her brow furrowed.  “Well, we have some dresses in the back.  I’d be happy to show them to you.”  She led me past more racks of ponchos, to a display at the back of the store.  “What about these?  They’d be cute on you.”

Her definition of cute was very different from my definition of cute.  There was color.  And patterns.  Lots and lots of bright, geometric patterns.  Like something you’d see in a Lego movie or a fever-induced hallucination.  “Those dresses seem a little long for me.”

“Well, you could wear a nice pair of high heels.”  Her voice was encouraging

I barely eclipse five feet tall.  These dresses looked as if they were designed for the WNBA.  If WNBA players draped themselves in floral wall paper from 1983.  “I don’t think this is going to work for me.”

“Well, what about this?”  She walked over one aisle and pulled something from the rack.  It was a FREAKING PONCHO.  WITH FRINGE.  “If you pair it with this, it would work for a wedding.”  She leaned over the jewelry display and held up something chunky and gold.

Why was the universe pushing ponchos on me?  Was I sending out signs that I wanted to dress like a gypsy for the wedding?  I shook my head.  “That isn’t what I had in mind.”

Her lips pursed.  She obviously liked her ponchos.  “Then I don’t think we have what you’re looking for.  You’d have better luck at White House Black Market.”

OH.  THANK.  GOD.  After thanking her for her help, I stumbled past the cast of Cocoon, out into the sunlight, and headed towards Starbucks.  Maybe in another decade or two, I’ll return.  But not today, Chico’s.  Not today.

Writing And The Meme-Ing of Life

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Over the past year, I traveled into the bowels of the internet.  (Like, seriously, I’ve seen stuff about bowels and I can’t un-see it.)  During these forays within the interweb, I discovered “MEMES.”

What’s a meme?  According to the Urban Dictionary, it is:

“an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)

Blah, blah, blah.  In my middle-aged, formerly project management mind, a meme is just a few sentences on a PowerPoint slide.  The best memes contain funny or provocative thoughts or images.

Who cares?  Why should this matter to a writer?

Because these days, every opportunity to market yourself matters.  And memes are a fantastic way to market your writing.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been studying other parenting websites for the past two years.  Memes generate A LOT of traffic on these blogs.  In fact, most of the memes I’ve seen generate tens of thousands of “Likes,” as opposed to hundreds of “Likes” from their 900-word articles on these sites.

That’s right.  TENS OF THOUSANDS versus HUNDREDS of “Likes” on the site.  As writers, we’d be crazy NOT to harness this meme power for our blogs.

I don’t claim to be a meme expert, but I’m learning how to use them.  Here are my initial thoughts on meme marketing:

BREVITY:  My eyes glaze over on long-winded memes.  Especially with teeny, tiny font.  (Okay, this may also be because I need new glasses.  But I still think this point is valid.)  If you want to write an article, then write an article.  But don’t shove a paragraph from your article onto a meme.  No one will read it.

IMAGES:  There are plenty of great memes with just words on it.  But life and my Facebook newsfeed move fast, so memes with funny images are better at catching my attention when I’m scrolling through Facebook.  The greatest challenge is finding images without copyright restrictions.  Right now, I’m taking pictures in my house.  But I’d rather find a good site with free images for public use.  If I find one, I will share it on another blog post.  With a lot of new memes.

BRANDING:  This takes some thought.  If you want to use memes to market your blog, there should be something like a logo that ties all of them together and leads people back to your site.  At a minimum, your name or site name should be on the meme.  Applying the same font size and type to all of your memes is another way to create a consistent brand.  If your meme is branded properly, someone will be able to just glance at it and know that it comes from your site.

BENEFITS:  Why even bother with memes?  Because people have limited attention spans.  (Look!  A cat just walked by!  I’m sorry, what were we talking about?)  A 2-3 sentence meme with a funny image is an efficient way to deliver a customized message about your writing to your readers.  For example, try Googling David Hasselhoff memes…….  I laughed until I cried the first time I saw these.  (NOTE:  For copyright reasons, I don’t recommend loading them on your blog.  Unless you received The Hoff’s permission to use them, of course.)

TO ANYONE READING THIS:  So, what do you guys think?  Have any of you tapped into your meme potential?  Please let me know!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the art of MEME-ING.    

Random Thoughts On Writing, Social Media and Cadence

There’s an ebb and flow to writing that I never really thought about until recently.  This applies to the frequency with which a bloggers posts, as well as the rhythm of the piece of writing itself.

I’ve been studying other popular websites to understand how this works.  For example, I’ve written a few pieces for a popular parenting website called Scary Mommy.  This site just crossed the 2 million followers threshold this past week.  It is staffed by a group of writers and posts new content once an hour.  I’m just one person on this blog (A Writing Mama’s Journal) who can barely stay ahead of the two tiny tyrants who rule my house.  There’s no way I can match that pace on my blog.  But loyal Scary Mommy readers expect fresh content at the start of each hour.

So, how frequently should newbie bloggers post on their blogs?  Everything I’ve read suggests as often as possible.  At a minimum of three times a week.  That’s a hard pace to maintain when you’re drowning in small children.  It gets even more challenging if you’re trying to maintain other social media outlets to support the (WordPress) website.

Let me qualify this statement.  Three times a week is hard to maintain if you want to post something GOOD.  (And you want to sleep.)  I could easily throw garbage on this blog every day.  And while I don’t want to get bogged down by perfectionism AGAIN, I don’t want to gravitate to the other extreme of posting crap.

How do I personally define “GOOD” content?  Based on what I read, choosing topics aimed at a specific target audience.  The content should pull at emotions or at a minimum, spark a discussion.  I’m still trying to figure out how to apply this lesson to this blog.  Am I a mom?  A writer?  What is this blog supposed to be?  Is it a parenting site?  A writing site?  A fiction site?  WHAT?????  Although parenting is a large part of my life, I don’t want that to be the only focus of this blog.

It has been far easier for me to maintain a Facebook “blog” (or site) than it has been to maintain this WordPress blog.  In my opinion, Facebook has a superior format for comments.  I’m always making sarcastic comments about the pictures (MEMES!) or articles that I share with my FB friends.  I do the same thing on Scary Mommy.

Comments are the lifeblood of blog engagement.  Without comments, you can kiss your blog growth goodbye.

So, what to do, what to do…….  These are the things that keep me up at night.  It may be time to open my tight fist and fork over some money for a decent website that makes it easier to post comments.  We shall see……

 

Back To Journaling (I’m Not Ready)

I miss writing for fun.  Earlier this year, after reading a social media marketing book, I started an “official” author’s blog under my real name.  I moved a bunch of content around and made it look more polished than this site does.  It still isn’t where I want it to be, but I’m not ready to actually pay money for a site that I’ll just ignore.  As for writing any NEW content?

I have NOTHING.  Absolutely nothing.

Every time I start writing something to post on the “official” site, I don’t think it’s good enough and then I freak out and stop writing.  Kind of defeats the purpose of being a writer if you stop writing, doesn’t it?

And so, I’m back here.  Just writing off the cuff.  Whatever pops into my head is going on the screen now.

So, what’s going on in my head right now?  This feels like writing in my journal.  Very casual.  Very easy.  I think that’s what I’ll use this site for.  Just my random, frequent musings about life and writing.

If you read this, that’s great.  If you don’t, I’m okay with that too.  I just want to write for the sake of writing in the immediate term.

So, what’s going on in my head right now?  A lot of life changes.  My 5-year old is going to finish his time at the preschool that has been our sanctuary for the past three years.  This fall, he starts Kindergarten.

I’m not ready for this.

It’s bad enough that he doesn’t fit into toddler clothing anymore.  I came to that realization earlier this year, when he couldn’t fit into a bunch of relatively new shirts anymore.  I think the kid literally grew overnight.  Like, one week, the 5T shirts slipped easily over his head and the next day, they didn’t.  I spent a few days trying to convince myself that the dryer must have caused the shrinkage.  Until I actually went to the store and held up a brand new 5T shirt.

Nope.  This kid has grown.

When you’re a stay at home parent to two small children, you live in a swirl of activity that leaves you feeling as if you stepped off of a high speed hamster wheel at the end of the night.  There’s a lot of activity, but no visible progress.  There are some weeks when you have no idea what day it is, or even the time.  All you have in your sight is the next time your kids go to sleep.  Sometimes, if you’re fortunate, it’s nap time.  Other not-so-great days, it isn’t until bedtime.  Those days are LONG.

And then, something like a trip to the store shocks you with the reality of how much time has passed.  And you regret not paying more attention, in the midst of the chaos.  How could I have missed it?  I was there and I still feel like I missed it.

My little guy isn’t so little anymore, and it’s breaking my heart.  Because if I can barely remember where the past five years have gone, how will I remember the upcoming years if they fly as fast or faster?

That’s where my mind and heart are right now.  I’m not ready for my son to go to Kindergarten this fall.  I’m not ready for him to leave toddlerhood behind.  I’m not ready to turn my back on the Toddler section and walk across the aisle towards the Boys section. I’m not ready to leave the pastel colors and sleepy farm animals behind for graphic t-shirts and superheroes.

I’m not ready to leave the preschool that has been our safe sanctuary for the past three years.  I’m not ready for my son to step onto the faster elementary school track and begin Kindergarten in the fall.  I’m not ready for him to be a member of the “Class of 2029.”

I’m not ready for his feet to be bigger than mine are.  I’m not ready for him to stop holding my hand when we cross the street.  I’m not ready to have to tilt my head up to look into his eyes.

I’m not ready, not ready, not ready.  But I don’t have a choice.

So, I’ll continue to struggle and come to terms with this.  But I’m not ready.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Toddler, I Have A Problem With You

Dear Toddler,

I see you.  You’re standing there with your big eyes, little feet, and sticky Hobbit hands, flashing that impish grin at me.  You know that you’re adorable, but guess what?  I’m not falling for it.

I’ve got a lot of problems with you and now, you’re going to hear about them.

You’ve had two years to figure this shit out.  Two.  A person can get an Associate degree in two years.  So, what have you been doing with your time?

Let’s start with an obvious one.  Diaper changes.  We do this EVERY SINGLE DAY, several times a day.  Nothing about it should come as a surprise to you.  So, why do I need an exorcist every time I put you on the changing table?  I CAN’T CLEAN YOU UP when you arch your back, kick me in the face, and scream bloody murder.

If you hate diaper changes that much, then here’s an idea:  COOPERATE WITH POTTY TRAINING.  According to meme studies supplied by online strangers, you’re already behind your peers.  This is your own fault.  You lack focus.  It’s not that hard to aim and drop something into a toilet.  You’ve done it with my phone.  And people train cats to do it.  I know.  I’ve seen videos of cats flushing a toilet.  I’d like to believe that what I begat is smarter than a cat.

Speaking of cats, let’s apply some common sense here.  A tail is not a penis.  Please don’t yank it. And coating the cat in maple syrup and flour will not turn him into a pancake. It will not make him like you. Do you see anyone else doing that?  Don’t be a pioneer. Either pet the cat or ignore him.

Did I just mention pancakes?  Let’s discuss meal time.  Being a toddler is hard.  People always tell you when to play, snack or nap.  It’s a rough life.  But when your Highness experiences meal fatigue, could you please leave the plate ON the table instead of whipping it across the room like a drunk?  You’ve mastered signing AND saying “All Done.”  Why don’t we put these newfound skills to work at meal time?

Now, let’s talk about these tantrums.  I’m going to be brutally honest.  You get upset over stupid shit.  And I know that you think I’m a god, but I can’t control certain things.  Like cloud coverage.  I’m sorry that the sky is too blue for your Majesty.  And I don’t know why the neighbor decided to drive HIS big, red truck to work today without consulting you. But none of these offenses justify your strip show at Target.  I don’t care if you’re a boy or a girl.  Trampy toddlers come in either gender.  Have some self-respect.  Stop flashing your pull-ups in Produce.

Speaking of Target, and the Starbucks attached to Target, and the drive-thru attached to the Starbucks nowhere near Target, let’s talk about coffee.  Being a Mommy requires coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.  I gave up caffeine AND booze for both of you during pregnancy.  That’s a grand total of TWENTY MONTHS.  I’m a saint, so I don’t need your howler-monkey protests now that I’m hitting the ‘BUX again.  Do something constructive while Mommy caffeinates.  Read Dickens.

One last thing.  Do you remember the time you spotted that Calliou doll at your aunt’s house?  And how you asked me for one?  No.  Just, no.  I’ve heard about this bald-headed bastard.  He’s the gateway to whining.  I’m not letting him near the house, so watch PBS instead.  Learn math.  Get a STEM job.

Well, I hope this helps you get your shit together.  Here are some GMO-filled Cheerios.  Or maybe they don’t contain GMO’s anymore.  I don’t know. Just eat them and fend for yourself for a few minutes without falling down the stairs. Mommy needs to hide and stuff her face with gluten-filled goodies.

With much love,

Your adoring underpaid servant

To the Man Who Called Him A Retard: His Name Is Landon

Earlier this week, a friend of mine expressed outrage over a comment posted on her friend Courtney’s Facebook page. I stared at the words of the forwarded screen shot:  

“Hey, sorry ur kid is retarded, but God works in great ways.  🙂  Enjoy.”

My heart plummeted. I immediately flashed back to the first time I heard this word. A little boy named Ricky stood alone under the monkey bars. He was surrounded by a group of boys who were pelting him with pebbles and throwing dirt on him. The chant, “RETARD, RETARD” echoed across the playground.      

I was six years old at the time, so I didn’t really understand the situation. I went home, chanting with delight, “RETARD, RETARD. Ricky is a retard.” My normally sweet, gentle mother turned on me with anger. “What did you just say?” she barked at me.  

I didn’t understand her scowl. “Retard. There was a retard on the playground.”   

“Don’t use that word. It’s a very mean word,” she said, bending down to my eye level. I cringed under her direct gaze. “He’s a person with a name.  It’s Ricky.”

My mother’s voice echoed in my head as I pictured Courtney’s beautiful little boy in the same situation. His dirty blond hair covered in filth and his crystal blue eyes streaming with tears as a group of kids torments him for being different. Is this his future?  

Courtney’s little boy has a name. His name is Landon and he is five years old. He has autism, but he’s more than his diagnosis. Landon loves Minecraft and is an epic Lego builder. Landon is brilliant with numbers and has the makings of a future engineer. Landon asks his mother what’s wrong when she’s sad and comforts her by telling her that he loves her.

Landon. His name is Landon.    

People who use the r-word may tout the “free speech” argument. They may ask, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a word. Retard. DON’T BE SO SENSITIVE. IT WAS A JOKE.”

There was nothing funny about the little boy on the playground. Standing alone in the center of a ring of spectators. LIKE A CAGED ANIMAL AT THE CIRCUS. Mocked. Humiliated. Alone. No one should be treated like this. NO ONE. Especially not a small child. And most definitely not by an ADULT who should know better.

Words have power. They can convey messages of hate or love. Your message is your choice.      

I don’t want see Landon or any other child suffer for being different. I didn’t help Ricky back then, but I can do something about it now. All of us can. We can choose our words with care. And we can stop being bystanders.

There is a website called “R-Word” (http://www.r-word.org). Its mission is to eliminate the use of the “r-word” for several reasons:

The r-word ISOLATES people with cognitive differences. It implies that they are not fit to associate with the rest of the population due to their differences. Obviously, this is absurd.

The r-word DEHUMANIZES people with cognitive disabilities. It is easier to bully someone who doesn’t even have the dignity of a name. Cruelty thrives on anonymity.  

The r-word HURTS people with cognitive differences. It implies that anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability is stupid and has nothing to offer to the world, which is beyond ridiculous. So why even use it?       

Visitors on the R-word site have the option to make the following pledge:  

“I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”

My choice is clear. I choose Landon and Ricky. I made this pledge the day I finished writing this piece. What is your choice?

 

When Life Knocks You Down, You Will Find The Strength To Go On

In and out.  In and out.  Gasping.  Rasping.  In and out.  The sound of my mother’s breathing broke the silence of the hospital room.  I shivered and pulled the chair closer to her bed.  Her room was always freezing.  I understood the reason.  Cold keeps the germs at bay.  But it was already difficult to sleep through the night in her room.

She was awake.  I knew it without even looking at her.  Her breathing changed.  That rough, rhythmic pattern was replaced by wet gurgling.  With mixed feelings, I paged the ICU nurse.  Someone entered the room, took one look at my mother struggling for air, and briskly slipped on a pair of gloves.  “Okay, I’m going to suction you,” the nurse said calmly, and adjusted the dials on the tubes that traveled down my mother’s trachea.

I cringed as my mother turned her gaze to me.  Her brown eyes welled up with tears as she gagged.  I held my mother’s hand and looked away through my own tears.  I hated this.  Watching her get suctioned felt like a punch in the stomach.  I felt like retching myself.  I hated feeling so God damn helpless.  There was nothing I could do to ease my mother’s pain.  All I could do was sit beside her and hold her hand as the nurse vacuumed the thick mucus that was slowly suffocating the life out of her.  It was just part of life on the ventilator.

After the nurse finished, my mother’s breathing returned to its former rhythm.  In and out.  In and out.  Gasping.  Rasping.  In and out.  Both of us knew that it would only be a matter of time before the mucus accumulated and I would have to call the nurse.  Again.  But until then, we tried to get some rest.

I’m not sure how she did it, but my mother actually fell back to sleep.  Maybe it was a side effect from her medications.  And there were plenty of them.  I created a spreadsheet to track all of them.  Actually, I created color-coded spreadsheets to track everything about her case.  Blue was for medication.  Green was for physical, occupational and speech therapies.  Yellow was for hygiene and miscellaneous items.  And Pink was for tracking meals and feeding tube maintenance.  It was the only thing I could do that gave me some sense of control.  But the truth was that I really had no control.  None of us did.  We were fighting against nature and losing.

After watching my mother’s chest rise and fall for half an hour, I finally felt comfortable enough to close my eyes.  But sleep didn’t come easily to me that night.  Between the rock hard chair and the bone-chilling cold, I had a rough time getting any sleep in the hospital room.  The moment I drifted off, my mother’s liquid coughing woke me.  Two more rounds of suctioning, followed by intercepting my mother’s team of doctors as the stopped by her room for their morning rounds.  After grilling them and filling in my spreadsheets, I had one hour to sleep before my father arrived for the “day shift.”  But another problem prevented me from napping.

I started cramping.

After several years of marriage, my husband and I finally decided that our wait was over. We wanted to be parents.  At thirty-six years old, my odds of having a healthy pregnancy were decreasing with each passing day.  Despite my mother’s illness, I couldn’t put off having children any longer.  We had to try.

The cramps grew worse.  It felt like someone was ripping out the walls of my uterus.  I gritted my teeth and swore that I would see a doctor about them after I left the hospital.  The moment my father arrived, I kissed my mother on the cheek and hurried out of the room.

Once I walked down the hall, I felt something wet trickle down my leg.  I ran to the bathroom and saw that it was blood.  In tears, I called my husband and told him to meet me in the ER at the hospital.  I was almost seven weeks along.  I stepped into the elevator and headed downstairs to ground level.  The receptionist immediately made me sit down in a wheelchair and an orderly whisked me off to a room where I began the slow process of losing the baby.

It continued through the day.  I was grateful that it ended in time for me to return to my mother’s bedside the following evening.  I was devastated, but I couldn’t afford to indulge myself with the luxury of mourning.  My mother needed me.  I said nothing to her or my father, but I felt like dying inside.

People have asked me how I did it.  How did I push down my own sorrow to be there for my parents?  I don’t know the answer to that question.  I don’t claim to have more strength or resilience than the next person does.  I’m not looking for a pat on the back for something that I think anyone else in my situation would have done.  I am writing this for people who are going through the most painful experience of their lives.  My hope is that you will find comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone.  You will find the strength from someplace within and get through whatever brought you to your knees.  The source of that strength may be your faith.  It may be your family, or it may be something completely different.  But that strength will rise up and carry you through every painful minute of every painful day.  And you will do what needs to be done.  I have faith in that.  And I have faith in you.

 

 

Oh, Is Today Valentine’s Day?

Yeah, I know.  How unromantic.  But I’m in my forties with two small children.  I have a great husband whom I love dearly.  So, I don’t need candlelit dinners, moonlit beach walks or any grand sweeping gestures.  Maybe it’s awful, but this is what I really want this Valentine’s Day:

TIME ALONE:  This is what I asked my husband for Valentine’s Day.  I’m so excited, because today I have full hour to myself in a quiet house.  My toddler is napping and my husband took our son out.  I am sighing with contentment.  Life is good.

A HOT MEAL:  Eating reheated scraps from my children’s plates over the kitchen sink doesn’t count.  I’m talking about a hot, fresh meal that I can savor as soon as it’s ready.  I don’t even mind being the one to cook it.  As long as I can sit down and eat it without jumping up every two minutes because someone needs something, dropped something, threw something, or has to go potty.

A NAP:  My husband rocks.  He let me nap yesterday afternoon.  It was an awesome experience.  I expressed my gratitude by buying him cheesecake, because that’s how we roll in this house.  I may have to ask him for a nap for my birthday too.

TO READ AN ENTIRE BOOK:  This is a selfish request, because reading an entire book requires a few hours.  Unless it’s a comic book.  But I have a long queue of unread books sitting untouched on my Kindle.  I would love to spend an afternoon, drinking coffee, and reading books at Barnes and Noble.  Maybe this is my birthday gift request too.

CHOCOLATE:  This isn’t really a Valentine’s Day request.  It’s more like a daily staple.  But I can’t forget to add it to the list, lest I forget to eat chocolate today.  (NOTE:  Tomorrow is even better for chocolate, because it will all be on sale!  70% off!  Woo-hoo!)

HUGS AND KISSES FROM MY FAMILY:  Well, naturally I had to throw a sappy one onto this list!  There’s nothing in the world like feeling little arms wrapped around your neck and having wet kisses planted on your cheeks.  And hugs and kisses from my children and husband are good too.

Wishing you all a wonderful, chocolate-filled Valentine’s Day!

Star Wars Story Structure

 

Outlines, outlines and more outlines.  I’ve spent the past few days mulling over major milestones of several well-known stories.  I wanted to jot some of them down, because this exercise is helping me feel the cadence of writing an entire novel.

STAR WARS (A New Hope):  I can’t do a post about story structure without discussing STAR WARS!!!!  There are MANY, MANY posts on this topic.  I’ve skimmed a bunch of them and chosen the points that make the most sense to me.  Here goes:

HOOK:  Most of the posts I’ve read online have stated the hook in Star Wars is that Luke Skywalker is a bored young farm boy who longs for adventure.  Now, as a new writer, who am I to question the experts, right?  But as a movie spectator, this was NOT the hook for ME.  What hooked me was Darth Vader storming Leia’s ship and taking her hostage.  I wanted to find out what happened next.  Isn’t that the very definition of a hook?       

INCITING INCIDENT:  This story never would have happened if Luke Skywalker had left R2D2 alone.  But Luke’s adventure begins when he accidentally triggers Princess Leia’s distress message in R2D2.  

PLOT POINT #1:  I always think of this milestone as the “point of no return.”  The hero must make an important decision at this point in the story.  In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker CHOOSES to go with Obi Wan Kenobi to fight the Empire.

PINCH POINT #1:  Ah, yes.  The antagonist makes his presence known in this part of the story.  Luke Skywalker narrowly escapes capture by Imperial Storm Troopers when he tries to leave Tattooine with the droids.

[NOTE:  ENTER THE ALLIES – Luke Skywalker picks up allies (Hans Solo and Chewbacca) who help him escape being caught in this pinch point.]

MIDPOINT:  The story COMPLETELY changes when Luke Skywalker shows up where the rebel base is supposed to be and discovers that the entire planet of Alderaan has been blown up.  Well, if THAT isn’t a game changer, then I don’t know what is.  Oh, wait.  There’s more.  He and his new friends are pulled into the Death Star.  They discover Princess Leia is on the ship.  NEW PLAN!!!  Rescue Princess Leia!

PINCH POINT #2:  Avoiding death by garbage compactor and then escaping the Death Star was a pretty big pinch point……  And let’s not forget the infamous “All Is Lost” moment:  Obi Wan Kenobi dies.  Luke loses his mentor.  This is definitely the bleakest moment in the story.

PLOT POINT #2:  This milestone was a little trickier for me to see clearly in this story.  It’s supposed to be the point when the hero finally attains the final object or piece of information that he or she needs to achieve his or her goal.  After several attempts at trying to detonate the Death Star, Luke finally decides to trust his ability to manage “The Force.”  He shuts off the computer on his ship and just lets The Force guide him.  So, to me, it isn’t that he finally ACQUIRES something – he finally USES something that he always had.  So maybe he acquires confidence?  I’m not sure.

RESOLUTION:  Yay!  The Death Star is blown up and everyone is saved.  Of course, there has to be tangible recognition of the hero’s victory.  What better way to tangibly acknowledge the hero’s victory than an award ceremony?  Princess Leia awards Luke and Han with an award and everyone in the large audience claps.  Woo-Hoo!

Well, that was fun.  It definitely gave me some ideas for the cadence of the Charlie Weaver story.  I hope that this post helped some of you out there too.  Thank you for reading!