Wednesday, October 12, 2016

So you want to be a writer huh? Good luck with that!

"Rarely do you tell the would-be wordsmith: This is a hard road you are taking. Are you sure it is the the one for you? Is there anything else, anything at all, you'd also enjoy doing?
                  If so, go and do it.   Spare yourself the agony."      - Nicki Porter         

The average acceptance rate for a writer trying to publish is 5.087%*.  That means on average, for every 100 stories, poems and manuscripts I send to agents and/or publishers, I will get a hard "No" on 95 of them.  And that is the average rate for those that are firmly in the industry, those that do this for a living. So, I think it is safe to assume that for a writer that has not yet gotten that elusive "yes" the actual rate is far lower.

I've been getting a lot of questions lately, asking why I am not writing on this blog much anymore. First, it means so much to me that you all notice and miss it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. The answer is: I have not had time for writing, because I am writing too much. Not writing here is a good thing, it means I am writing more for real. But, because I value you very highly my beloved reader, I decided to take a small break from writing, so I could write just a bit...about writing. Perhaps not what most of you had in mind, but it's what is on my mind lately.

Warning: This post is a bit sarcastic and dry at times. If that bothers you, don't read it. I mean no disrespect. PLEASE know that I am not writing about anyone in particular. No one I know and love that is, all "you"s are general. I often use sarcasm as a coping mechanism to cover up my deep-seated insecurities. Don't take that away from me!

I first decided that 'when I grow up, I want to be a writer' about 4 years ago when I still had very small children at home. As an escape, once a week after dinner I would go and read in a coffee shop for a few hours alone. It gave me some time to remember who I was, and let my family do without me for an evening. Good for all of our sanity...or the very thing we needed to tip us over the edge? I'm never really completely sure about that one.  Anyhow - one night, instead of bringing a book to read, I brought with me a few hastily scrawled-on pages and a laptop.  I'd had verses of a poem scattering about in my brain, and I wanted to write them down where they would not be lost.  

I sat and wrote for 3 hours. 

What resulted, was a poem titled "I think my mom's a pirate." It was (is, it still exists. I could never destroy my first born) way too long, it had no direction or story-line and some of the rhymes were pushing the laws of meter and rhythm.  But oh I was proud of it! 

While writing, the stresses of my world had not mattered anymore.  I felt an inner joy that I didn't even know existed, a tightness in my chest had released. It was as if I had forgotten to breath for years; writing made me remember, and it was life-giving.  The more I poured myself into the writing, the more I felt was being poured back into me. This, THIS was what I wanted to do. I was giddy when I finished that poem. The world felt like a wonderful place, full of colors I had never seen before.  I'm not exaggerating, I may even be down-playing. It was like a drug, the high was intoxicating.

And so began my insanity. 

Because, really - you have to be insane to do this job.

When my youngest turned 2, I enrolled her in a preschool program that occupied her for 3 hours, twice a week. During that time, I would pack up my laptop and take it to a local coffee and pastry shop. There I started to learn just how this whole "writer" thing works. I would spend some time researching, learning the trade.  And the rest of my time would be spent writing new stories, poems and lists of ideas. I loved it.  The first time I submitted a story to an agent I was physically shaking as I sent off the email.  The rejection form-letter that followed several months later felt like a milestone.
I was doing this for real!

I took a year off when my family moved 200 miles to a new city.  By this time I had about 3 stories completed and several more partials, plus a dozen or so poems of varying lengths. When my littlest went back to preschool in 2015, I was very eager to get back to work. I rejoined SCBWI (The Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators),  I attended several writers conferences, bought books, read magazines, blogs, really anything I could to learn how to be better, how to make the system work for me. I squeezed every bit of "work" I could into those measly hours.  I had to take a break over summer again, I simply cannot write when kids are around. I am a terrible mother and not a great writer when I try, my kids (and I) deserve better than I simply stop when they are home.  It is better for all of us. 

Six weeks ago my youngest child started Kindergarten.  I now have five mornings a week to do this writing thing. I love it more than I can put into words (and that means something!) I now have six completed stories, and a solid handful of poems and partially finished manuscripts.  I started my first novel and I have about nine rejections under my belt, a solid start to my anticipated 95. 

I don't have any "yes" responses yet - though one children's magazine has had one of my better poems set at "in-progress" in their system for over a year now.  That has got to mean something right? At least they didn't mark it "declined" right away like they have for several of my other poems/stories.  So I am hopeful.  Someday I will make money at this, I am just that stubborn!  And according to my research, stubbornness is almost just as important as a talent for writing...almost.

In the past couple of years, I have learned a tremendous amount...and yet I still feel very much like a beginner, perhaps that never really goes away. I think I have learned enough to call myself a writer (a writer that knows how lucky she is to have helpful editors to fix all my grammar faux pas) though I am not yet to the point where I can say I am an "author." I still get a thrill when I imagine the day that will be true.

I have learned enough now, that I feel I am at least semi-qualified to offer words of wisdom to those that think they might want to be a writer someday. Ready?

There are "writers" EVERYWHERE.  It's true. It's an epidemic, perhaps rivaled only by (but in the same stream as) "there are photographers everywhere."  You know the ones, they get an SLR camera for Christmas and take a few "artsy" shots, get some well meant, genuine compliments on their photo's (usually from extended family) and immediately make themselves a watermark, create a facebook page and start advertising themselves as a "Photographer."

You know what I'm talking about.

And honestly, it's great. I am never one to criticize when someone has a passion. But you see, I really am trying to do this for a living. That is my end-goal. that is what I am working towards. Writing for me is not a hobby, this is my chosen career. So, while I may understand on an intellectual level that comments made on, or about my chosen career are not said with malice,  I have had to become very good at smiling and nodding.

Because people are...people.

So! In the spirit of all of us learning, I have compiled a list.  '5 things never to say to the want-to-be author in your life.' Or, alternate title: '5 things you will hear constantly, if you ever decide you want to be a writer.' Or, third alternate title: "So you want to be a writer huh?  Good luck with that!"

5. "You are a writer? That's great! My cousin's, nephew's, neighbor is a writer!  He self-published a book like...5 years ago? I'm sure he would love to help you if you want any advice.  Do you want me to give you his information?"

No. I...I really don't.  It is not that I'm not happy for your cousin's, nephew's, neighbor...really.  But self publishing and standard publishing are very different, especially in the picture book world.  I know how to self-publish, it is really REALLY easy.  And because it is so very easy, it is not especially respected in the big world of author-dom. Sure, there are stories about people that made it big going that route, but there are also stories of street performers being signed to a record label just because an agent happened to be walking by and loved what they heard. It's basically the same thing. I may try self-publishing sometimes, just for the experience and to test out an audience (just as a wanna-be performer might spend his Saturday playing in a park...just to see if anyone will stop and listen).  But ultimately, self-publishing is not my goal. I would consider it a resource at best.

4. "You write picture books? That is great! My niece really loves drawing, want me to see if she would be up for doing the illustrations for your book? She wants to be an artist someday, and since she is in high school, she would probably be really cheap.  You guys could be a team!"

Have you seen the "How I Met Your Mother" episode where there is that one girl they call "Honey" because everything she says is just a little bit...clueless, and it makes you want to response with "Awww, honey!"  People can really be so...helpful?  They have such good intentions, they get so excited, they have such grand plans.  And all I can do is let them finish their fantastical story, smile and say "Awww, really doesn't work like that!"  Even authors that are also illustrators don't usually get to pick who does the pictures for their manuscript, not until they have established themselves fully within their trade. However, my sisters are both artists, so that makes me a bit of an expert on critiquing art...right?  So you can tell your niece that I would be happy to review her portfolio and give some helpful feedback, for cheap! Oh say that having artists in the family doesn't make me an expert? Oh, your niece doesn't have a portfolio yet? Yeah, she should probably get right on that if she wants to be an artist someday...just my "expert" opinion.

Can you tell I get this one a lot?

3.  "You're a writer? That's great!  How many books have you published? Would I recognize any of your books? Do they have them at Barnes and Noble?"

Ummm....thanks for the vote of confidence. Really! It means a lot, it really does.  But won't recognize any of my books because...well, no one but me, my critique group, and a handful of grumpy agents have read them. I love that you assume I have been successful, but it is kinda a rough answer to back into. I get that this is my thing, and I have to learn to deal with it - and it has nothing to do with the person asking the question. But it is still a hard one to hear!

2. "Oh, you write books? That's great! I have thought about writing a book, I'll probably do it someday, you know...when I'm old and I have nothing else to do."

Ok, I may be paraphrasing that last part a bit, but it's what I hear.  And please don't get me wrong, I LOVE to learn that people have a passion for writing. The thing that makes me want to shake my head and groan, is when people talk about it entirely without passion.  As if writing a book is something that wrinkled crones take up as a hobby when there is nothing else interesting in the world to do. Not only that, but it is implied that as soon as they are properly decrepit, their book will immediately be discovered and published.  After all, that is how this all works...right?

1. And perhaps the worst of all: "You write kids books? That's great!  I am writing/wrote a kids book!  I've been thinking of getting it published, just haven't gotten around to it yet." too.  Just haven't gotten around to it yet....  (I feel like I should have a sad emoji face here. You know, to illustrate the whole curl-up-in-a-ball-and-cry thing that I secretly want to do every time I get another rejection.)

Because you know, just "getting around to it" is all it takes to get published. That's what I've been missing all this time, no wonder no one has published my books yet! Silly me forgot the most important step! Ok, ok, I'll try to cool it on the sarcasm.

Honestly though, I do think it is great that you have written/are writing a kids book. Truly. If I am being honest, I think at the root of it all my biggest fear is that it really will be that easy for you. I am terrified that you will write a book and then you will just happen to have the right conversation, with the right person, in the right coffee shop...and BAM! You will get your book published.  And I...who have spent years researching, reading, highlighting agent's information in books, going to conferences, writing, sending out manuscripts, writing, getting rejected and writing some more will be the one that has to get 100 no's before I see that first yes.

But really - I do understand that 99% of the time, these questions are well-intentioned.  And every time I hear them (which is several times a week) I get to imagine the day when I can answer confidently, as an author and not a wanna-be-writer.

To tip the scale, just a little, I will tell you one of my favorite things to hear when I talk to someone new about writing, being published and what it all boils down to - my hopes and dreams.

"So, are you going to put me in your book?"

The answer is: Oh, probably!  I love learning about people.  I love hearing stories, adventures, watching personalities interact. I love watching body language, how it coincides with what people are feeling, saying, projecting. I love knowing histories, hearing about how people have walked through hard times, easy times, what sustained them and why.  I crave stories, in all shapes and forms. And I think every single person with which I have ever interacted, is knitted together to form every single character I have ever created.

I picture it like a giant spider web, glistening with dew.

Every thread is someone I have met, known, cared about, watched, lived, read, seen, hated, fought and loved. And always, more glistening strands are being imagined. They make up all of my characters; old, new, never forgotten. They are all woven together to create something breathtakingly beautiful, and just a little bit terrifying.

That is why I do this.  Because after all, at the root of everything...

*Keysha Whitaker. The Science of Submission: The Writer.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

She is all of this mixed up, and baked in a beautiful pie

"Words, is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me all my life. So you must simply try to be patient and stop squibbling. As I am telling you before, I know exactly what words I am wanting to say, but somehow or other they is always getting squiff-squiddled around.   - The BFG, Roald Dahl

This week, I have been bad at...well, at pretty much everything.

I'm doing the wrong thing, I'm saying the wrong thing, I'm over-reacting, I'm missing important deadlines, I'm responding poorly to my kids, I am tripping on things and breaking things and I am trying, TRYING so hard to be better...and yet no matter how hard I try, I mess it up again.  I tripped and fell, I yelled at my kids, I accidentally set dinner on fire, I brought out the wrong size silverware to the table. I exploded the coffee pot, I may have terribly offended someone on accident,...but maybe they didn't even notice so why would I bring it up again? So I wallow, and I churn and I mentally pace back and forth. I stumble on my words, I trip over the cat, I forget ice at the grocery store...twice.  My nerves are raw, my head hurts, I forgot the wet clothes in the washer overnight...again.  I feel alone, again.  I am worn out, again. My back hurts, my ears ring, my feet are tired.

I am not handling life well!  Nothing huge and monumental has happened, it's all small, all insignificant, it's just putting it all together into one perfectly wretched week that makes me want to go back to bed and stop talking to people, or seeing people, or dealing with anyone at all anywhere ever again. Because bed doesn't judge, bed understands!  It also doesn't need it's butt wiped, or hair brushed, or floor vacuumed, or laundry folded, or breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, afternoon tea, luncheon, supper, dinner...and it very rarely loses it's shoes.

When I was a kid, my family used to laugh and say that they lived in fear of what I would say next. It's funny, as a kid growing up, knowing you often say the wrong thing, yet never really knowing what that wrong thing was. I remember several situations where there was a hushed, awkward silence centered around me - but I also remember being absolutely puzzled as to what exactly I had said that caused said hushed silence. I felt I should be embarrassed, that everyone around me seemed to be, but I didn't know why, and so I just sort of shrugged, smiled weakly, and moved on. Perhaps I have a terrible memory, maybe I just wasn't paying close enough attention. But apparently, I have a very specific skill that has been continually honed:

I can take a perfectly normal conversation, and make it awkward and uncomfortable without hardly lifting a finger.  It is this skill that is making me more and more of a recluse as I get older. Because you see, I should have grown out of this by now...and while I don't necessarily think that I have gotten any worse, I do think that more and more I am aware of the fact that I don't have great social skills, I just don't get interpersonal cues like I should.  And where I would typically just blunder all willy-nilly into any conversation, often monopolizing the attention of everyone present - I am growing more and more annoyed with myself and simply don't think I am funny anymore.  It's like an old joke that has been told one to many times.

Some of it is my own dwindling confidence in myself.  I have changed a lot in the last few years, some of it has been simply growing up, some of it has been growing down.

My philosophies have changed, how I see myself, how I see other people.  I have different priorities, different passions.  I am a cynic, a realist, an artist, I see the world differently than most of the people around me see it. I have learned this, I have learned I have to be careful because of this, it limits my conversation options with most people. I don't say this to be mysterious or vague, I am simply stating a fact.  A fact that as I age has become increasingly clear.

I have been terrible at life this week - and because at my very core, I am a writer, this is how I fix the broken things inside my head.  I write. I write so that at the end of my writing I can look at myself on paper. This week I have been very blurred, on paper things are much more clear.

I need clarity, so I write.

There is a new musical out - no, not that one.  Another new musical.  It is called Waitress.  I first saw it on the Tony Awards where I'm not sure it won anything, because that other one took them all (fully deserved, just so we are clear).  But it wasn't until it came onto my Pandora station that I actually sat and listened to the words.  The first line of the song?

"It's not simple to say
That most days I don't recognize me..."

I heard it and stopped, it was enough to make me stop.

It's not easy to know
I'm not anything like I used to be
Although it's true,
I was never attention's sweet center
I still remember that girl

She's imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken, and won't ask for help

She is messy, but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up,
And baked in a beautiful pie

She is gone but she used to be mine

I sat when I first heard those words, and realized I had tears streaming down my face.  And then I laughed because I would change the line to say:

 "She is all of this mixed up, and kneaded in beautiful bread."

This song has haunted me, I sing it in my sleep, I sing it during the day.  My kids are fully sick of it.

The mirror that music can paint for us is simply remarkable. There is a part of me that longs for a time when I was younger, prettier, more outgoing, confidant in my belief that x + y = z. Ready to take on the world, never doubting that I could.

A part of me that wishes:

For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew

Ah yes - don't we all wish there was an ending or two we could re-write.  I know that we learn things in life from the hiccups - from the bruises and battles.  But so often there are stutters or even deep deep sorrows that feel so very meaningless. I try to see the bigger picture.  And sometimes I can.  Sometimes I can say that this, this moment taught me a lesson that led to maturity and purpose.  And sometimes, everyone is sitting around in a hushed, awkward silence that I am pretty sure I caused, and I feel like I should be embarrassed and ashamed, but I simply cannot figure out why because somehow, I missed what went wrong and I have absolutely no idea what I am suppose to learn from this situation.

I think, sometimes, it is just a hard week, full of hiccups, bruises and battles that have little to no purpose.  I'll blunder, I'll say the wrong thing, spill the coffee, trip over my own two feet or catch dinner on fire. But I think, sometimes we need a little break, we need to say without guilt and with full confidence, that this week had absolutely no purpose! No lesson, no moral. It was wretched and I want to forget it all happened. I'm not missing anything, nor will I get so caught up in the awkward silence that I forget to look foreword.

It's ok, to learn nothing sometimes.

So I take this moment as it is - no filters. To laugh, to cry, to pray, to sing, to dance, to rest. There is beauty in the bruises, there is magic in this mess, but sometimes we need to forget all that, and just...breath.

I sometimes still miss where I used to be, but I think I'm ok with where I am going.

She is messy but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

Thursday, April 7, 2016

You will blow us all away, someday...

We'll be mad, and explore. 
We'll recline a loft upon the breeze. 
Dart about, sail on with with ease. 
Pass the days doing only as we please, that's what living is for. 
Some things are meant to be, the tide turning endlessly,
the way it takes hold of me, no matter what I do, 
and some things will never die, the promise of who you are, 
the memories when I am far from you.  
- Beth, Little Women (the musical)

Today I am sad.  I do not know why, there is nothing that has sparked it.  But I felt it almost immediately upon waking this morning.  Perhaps a lonely soul is calling out somewhere far away, and somehow my own has heard it, and wishes to ease their suffering by taking on some of the burden.  

Sadness is not common for me. Well, no standard "emotional response" really is common for me. I used to think something was truly wrong because of this.  Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying "feeling" emotions like they were normal and healthy...and I, was awash in a sea of dispassionate reason, completely baffled as to why those around me would get emotionally worked up over what seemed the smallest things in life. I did not look down on anyone for it, it was just confusing.

I had to learn early into my teen years how to emotionally respond to things. Well - how to appear to emotionally respond to things, in order to feel like I could fit into the world I had been born to. I learned what my face was supposed to look like, what my body language needed to be. I had to learn, step by step what was a socially acceptable, reasonable and expected response to various life...things.  I'm sure this is why I have always loved theatre so much, it feels like home to me. 

Sometimes this skill was valuable - I didn't get too embarrassed as a teenager and never can I remember caring whether people "liked me" or not.  Mostly because I watched people so much, and was acutely aware of the fact that just about everyone was mostly focused on themselves, which meant that as long as my actions/reactions, words and responses were not louder then their own inner dialogue; their own inner fear of rejection, no one would pay attention to me. I learned how to be loud, only when I wanted to be. I learned how to supplement the inner dialogue of those around me to achieve what I needed. A valuable, tool...though not always a very kind one. 

Sometimes this was more challenging, for instance in relationships. Making friends with other girls was not easy, I didn't get them, they didn't get me.  However, making friends with boys was too easy, but came with a whole other level of complex emotional responses I was not prepared to deal with. 

It is not to say I do not experience emotions at all - music for one, is a great exception. I feel emotion very strongly through music - and have occasionally while watching a show or movie as well. But they are not my own, only borrowed, and I am very aware of that. 

REAL emotions (strong ones anyhow), have always been very physical for me - much like hunger is a physical "feeling." When I am truly sad, I cry - that is how I know I am sad. When I miss someone, it physically aches when I am not with them.  So naturally, I want to be with them so the ache goes away.  When I love someone, I want to protect them, keep them safe. The idea of them getting hurt, lost, sick or worse... feels catastrophic. So when I try to imagine living beyond that catastrophic event, it is like imagining breathing under water. The result of emotions being so physical, means they are also extremely exhausting. Because of this, I try to avoid them as much as possible.  I just don't have the spoons to spare. 

Small emotions on the other hand - such as annoyance, excitement or...umm...I ran out.  What other small emotions are there? I know there are more!  I just can't think of them at the moment....errr...yeah. So anyway, I feel those too.  But it is on an intellectual level.  I know I feel them, or rather, I know I should feel them. So I do...I just don't actually feel you feel me? 

It wasn't until I took an online Meyers Briggs test for the first time, probably 5 or so years ago that I learned that my lack of "feeling" was not because there was something wrong with me.  It was simply part of my personality.  
MBTI. Commonly called "The Mastermind." Often seen as arrogant, aloof, or haughty, but in fact, INTJ's just don't care at all what you think about them. They value facts and logic above all else, and scorn illogical reasoning. One of the hardest things to understand for an INTJ is emotion, and decisions made because of emotion. 
INTJs are direct, and if they have a problem with you, they will tell you. If they think you're not worth their time, they won't try to push you away, they'll just completely ignore you. 
INTJs enjoy thinking about theories, and tearing them to bits, not because they disrespect them, but because they like pointing out what would work and what wouldn't. For the above reasons, the biggest insult you could give to an INTJ would be to completely ignore their theories.
The two hardest things for an INTJ to understand are irrationality and emotions. 
And please, no hugs.
Mind you - that is a small snippet.  But it is a basic outline of what I first read when I randomly took a MBTI test.  

After I read my results, I started researching (as is consistent with the personality...) and was completely shell-shocked with relief that I was not broken after all!  I also discovered that INTJ is one of the rarest personalities for females...which is why I have never felt like I fit into any female group that I have been a part of, and why I have never found books/talks/lists/articles/etc. aimed at women to be something with which I can relate.    

It also explained my need to question all authority, to analyze people and their reactions to life. To research to death anything that scared me, because knowledge is power. It explained why I loved to argue, whether I agreed with my side or not.  That the battle was a part of the process to discover truth.  I love being right, but if I am wrong and you present an intelligent reason why, I will concede my position in a heartbeat and gladly celebrate with you your victory.  After all, the only reason that I am often right in these arguments is because there is a good chance I have spent time researching it - so if you have too, even if we do not agree, you have my utmost respect. However, if you argue something you know nothing about, with "I think I heard it somewhere" as your only resource? I very well may think you are a moron. 

So that is why I was a bit confused when I woke up this morning feeling sad. 

This has been a season of changes.  Good changes, but changes none-the-less.  I think that one of the changes that I have come to recognized is my eldest child exiting her small child persona and dipping her toes into the vast ocean of tween-dom.  
She will be 10 in just a few short days, a whole entire decade. This feels big to me, beyond the shocking realization that I am old enough to have a 10 year old.  That I have been a parent for 10 whole years! 

10 years ago, I faced a whole new chapter in life, full of very real changes that I had never before faced. 10 years ago, I was mentally preparing myself for the world ahead. I was excited, exhilarated, aware of just how monumental it all was, terrified through and through...and interwoven through-out all of that, I found that I was sad, but in a happy sort of way. Sad for a life left behind, sad for a part of me being put aside for the unforeseeable future. Put aside so I could focus completely on a new and very important thing that was all of me and none of me all at the same time. Sad because part of me was going to sleep, so that someone new could wake up.

10 years ago seems like yesterday and 100 years ago all at the same time. 

The memories of the physical pain I endured for months and months while pregnant with her and for months and months after. The process of raising a baby with barely enough money to pay for food (and our $450 a month duplex, that still makes me shudder to remember!), no car or way to get around when I was home alone with a baby 8 hours a day, and no close friends that could even remotely understand. I used to walk for hours, miles and miles almost everyday just to get away - even in 100 degree heat. I relied on my online friends (some of which I still regularly talk to) and my husband because there truly was no one else, at least it felt that way. 

Many good memories, many hard ones.

Was it really 10 years ago? 

This year has been a very interesting one so far. I think I have rather liked it so far.  I have moved onto a new chapter in my life, and will soon be delving deeper into said chapter - and this will mean very real changes. Changes I have never before faced. It is exciting, exhilarating, monumental, terrifying and it is something that I think I didn't expect: It is sad, but in a happy sort of way. Sad because there is a part of me that is being put aside - the part that has been so completely focused on something that is not me and is completely me all at the same time. But guess what - there is another part of me that gets to wake up! 

Sadness is not common for me. Well, no emotional response really is.  My emotions are stunted if measured by normal societal scales, it is something I will likely struggle with for the rest of my life. 

I have in my parenting - been utterly afraid that my lack of natural empathy would somehow hurt the emotional maturity of my kids. While I have done my best to teach an empathy I do not feel, my mediocre acting skills can only go so far. So I had to smile today as my soon-to-be-10 year old happily bobbed out of her room because she HAD to show me a poem she had read. It is found at the very end of the book Little Women (a story we have been enjoying in its many forms lately). She had tears in her eyes as she told me of the poem.  She loved it, completely.  She has already started memorizing it. I asked her why she loved it so much and her exact words were "I love it because it uses big words to express big feelings!"

I had to smile.  My ten year old is already leaps and bounds beyond where I have worked to be for 34 years. How did I manage that? She is emotionally mature, able to express it and control it. She can recognize it in writing far beyond her age range and loves it so much she is compelled to share her delight with me! I can take no credit for this milestone, this was achieved despite me. The girl is truly fantastic, all on her own! She has worked hard to make sense of her own emotional world, and thus far she has done WELL. That makes me so very proud.  

And I must admit, in a way that I didn't expect: It also makes me kind of sad, in a happy sort of way. Sad for a childhood that is just beginning to be lined with the shadows of a setting sun, but oh so very happy because there is a part of her that is just waking up. It is exciting, exhilarating, monumental, terrifying and oh it is so very, very spectacular! 

Happy early 10th birthday my Taylor. You will blow us all away with everything you do someday, I know it. 

Because it has big words with big feelings, here is Taylor's Little Women Poem:

Four little chests all in a row, 
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
All fashioned and filled, long ago,
By children now in their prime.
Four little keys hung side by side,
With faded ribbons, brave and gay
When fastened there, with childish pride,
Long ago, on a rainy day.
Four little names, one on each lid,
Carved out by a boyish hand,
And underneath there lieth hid
Histories of the happy band
Once playing here, and pausing oft
To hear the sweet refrain,
That came and went on the roof aloft,
In the falling summer rain.

'Meg' on the first lid, smooth and fair.
I look in with loving eyes,
For folded here, with well-known care,
A goodly gathering lies,
The record of a peaceful life--
Gifts to gentle child and girl,
A bridal gown, lines to a wife,
A tiny shoe, a baby curl.
No toys in this first chest remain,
For all are carried away,
In their old age, to join again
In another small Meg's play.
Ah, happy mother! Well I know
You hear, like a sweet refrain,
Lullabies ever soft and low
In the falling summer rain.

'Jo' on the next lid, scratched and worn,
And within a motley store
Of headless dolls, of schoolbooks torn,
Birds and beasts that speak no more,
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground
Only trod by youthful feet,
Dreams of a future never found,
Memories of a past still sweet,
Half-writ poems, stories wild,
April letters, warm and cold,
Diaries of a wilful child,
Hints of a woman early old,
A woman in a lonely home,
Hearing, like a sad refrain--
'Be worthy, love, and love will come,'
In the falling summer rain.

My Beth! the dust is always swept
From the lid that bears your name,
As if by loving eyes that wept,
By careful hands that often came.
Death canonized for us one saint,
Ever less human than divine,
And still we lay, with tender plaint,
Relics in this household shrine--
The silver bell, so seldom rung,
The little cap which last she wore,
The fair, dead Catherine that hung
By angels borne above her door.
The songs she sang, without lament,
In her prison-house of pain,
Forever are they sweetly blent
With the falling summer rain.

Upon the last lid's polished field--
Legend now both fair and true
A gallant knight bears on his shield,
'Amy' in letters gold and blue.
Within lie snoods that bound her hair,
Slippers that have danced their last,
Faded flowers laid by with care,
Fans whose airy toils are past,
Gay valentines, all ardent flames,
Trifles that have borne their part
In girlish hopes and fears and shames,
The record of a maiden heart
Now learning fairer, truer spells,
Hearing, like a blithe refrain,
The silver sound of bridal bells
In the falling summer rain.

Four little chests all in a row,
Dim with dust, and worn by time,
Four women, taught by weal and woe
To love and labor in their prime.
Four sisters, parted for an hour,
None lost, one only gone before,
Made by love's immortal power,
Nearest and dearest evermore.
Oh, when these hidden stores of ours
Lie open to the Father's sight,
May they be rich in golden hours,
Deeds that show fairer for the light,
Lives whose brave music long shall ring,
Like a spirit-stirring strain,
Souls that shall gladly soar and sing
In the long sunshine after rain.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Failure is always an option...

Failure is always an option
- The MythBusters

Oh yes, I went there.

A new year is upon us.  2015 is done and gone, the world is new and bright (and at the moment very wet with a much needed rainstorm).  My first writing day of the new year has already been half spent writing to my property manager about the 4 roof leaks we have so far discovered with the aforementioned rainstorm...and vacuuming my living room so if she stops by she will not think we are total animals.  I have a terrible headache and my coffee is almost gone.  In celebration I will post my grumbley day poem, since I wrote it so I can.

 Today is a grumble-y sort of a day
For crossing my arms in that sort of a way,
for stomping my feet and shouting and yelling
for glaring and smirking and outright rebelling

Today is a day that is good for hurumph-ing
for closing my eyes and slugging and lumping
for making a mess on the newly cleaned floor
then running as fast as I can out the door!

Today is a wrong sort of terrible day
but not in a tangible, regular way
It just feels like everything I do is wrong
its hard and its weird and it takes far too long

So though it may seem just a little cliche
childish, self-centered and rather passe
I'm staging a protest, I'm finished, I'm through
At this point there's nothing that I plan to do

I'm done being useful, I've come to the end
I'm too tired, even, to try to pretend
I'm done being grown-up, I'm going to quit
It's been slowly coming, I have to admit

So if you might need me I'm going to be
Up high at the top of a very tall tree
I'm making a fort, and that's where I”ll stay
All through this hurumphing-ly grumble-y day

So if your day's grumbly and sluggish and lumphy

Come join me, my tree-fort is really quite comfy

There.  I feel better now.  And since one of my "resolutions" last January was to write more things in rhyme, I am going to cross that one off my list as "completed" or "not-failed at."

Keeping with the idea of going back and looking over the last year, as we are apt to do at the beginning of new ones of them - I am curious how many of my "resolutions" I successfully didn't fail.  
Shall we see? 

#1 - Eat chocolate whenever I REALLY want it.  

Check and check.  Who in their right mind wouldn't succeed at this resolution after all.  Though this year I have decided to change things up a bit.  This year, I resolve to drink coffee every single morning that I feel like drinking coffee.  I expect a similar success level as I go into 2017.  I am just that good. 

#2 - Purchase a pair of nice high heeled shoes and learn to walk in them.


It was a stupid resolution anyway.  

#3 - Use my twitter and Instagram accounts,  

Well, I use my Instagram.  Twitter, not so much.  It just seems rather redundant.  But, this year it is my goal to establish my online presence so that potential agents and/or publishers can find information on me if they happen to be looking.  So I suppose that will be a continued resolution for this next year,  

#4 - brew a successful batch of Kombucha Tea.  

I did that!  Lots in fact.  I should pull out my scobys again.  They are all sleeping in the fridge at the moment.  I stopped last year as soon as the weather warmed up because I didn't have to time to keep up with it, and a few of my batches got VERY strong! Since I was going for tea, and not liqueur - I put them all away.  But I got very good at it if I do say so myself.  Quite enjoyable! 

#5 - Give away more essential oils

Oh I always do that.  And like last year, I always have them.  So if anyone ever wants info and/or samples to try then please just let me know!  I truly enjoy researching this stuff.  And with new FDA regulations on what words can and cannot be said, it is getting harder to find correct info online.  Most of us that are working to bide by the regulations have taken down our blogs and resource pages, and so what is left is fear mongering and those that are not informed and/or following correct language protocol.  So be very careful researching Essential Oils online! There is still good info out there, but it is getting harder to find.  

#6 - Learn to make good homemade soap.  

So yeah, that hasn't happened yet.  It is still on my list to be sure.  But I will admit that after researching it, the dangers involved (i.e. LYE) have made me wary.  Perhaps when all three children are in school full time I'll have the time to explore the process.  But as long as there is a chance of a small one running up and hugging my legs while I am dealing with potentially explosive material...yeah not so much! 

Last on my list for 2015 was simply writing.  I did not do that enough, but I have high hopes for this year.  Because come August I will have 3 kids in school!  That means that 5 days a week, I will have 5 hours every day to devote to writing!  I am excited beyond words.  Truly.  I cannot wait! 

HA!  I just submitted a 4 line poem that I wrote in under a minute to Cricket Media.  Therefore catapulting myself into my new "resolution" which is to submit at least one item for either publication or representation once a month.  Now, it wont usually be a tiny 4 line poem.  But I felt the need to start the year (and my first day of writing for 2016) right.  

I also checked on the statues of a longer, better poem that I submitted last August and it is still listed as "in-progess."  I hate the waiting game.  Guess I need to resolve to get better at waiting while I am at it...

Honestly, this year I don't feel very "resolute." So while I do have several goals, as I have mentioned - I feel like in many ways, this will be a year to give up some things.  Perhaps it has to do with getting older and re-defining what is and is not important in my life. I think I tend to hang onto ideas that have always been...for no other reason than that I have never considered doing it otherwise.  I want to break that.  

So - here is my list of things I am Giving Up in 2016:

1. Mommy-groups.

I...I think I've out-grown them.  Not that they are a bad thing, at all.  They fit a very real need in my life for many years.  But my kids are older now.  I am not home with a baby that cannot talk or exhausted by multiple toddlers and needing a moment to just exchange war stories with other moms. I get a full 8 hours a of sleep a night (assuming I go to bed in time).  It is time to bow out gracefully. I realized this as I attended a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) meeting last fall.  I looked around and realized that this was no longer for me.  The stories, the encouragement - it is all for moms with babies and toddlers.  I don't have that anymore.  So while I am so very thankful I had it when I needed it...I am now giving up my spot at the table for those that need it more than I do.  No more MOPS, no more mommy and me classes, no more hosting group play-dates.  My kids don't need them anymore...and weirdly enough, neither do I. 

2. Doing ALL of the housework.

Yes, along with not having small kids anymore.  I am giving up some chores around this house.  This means, I will be giving up un-loading the dishwasher, putting away kids laundry, sweeping and wiping down bathrooms.  From this day, henceforth - my minions will take care of these things.  

Prepare yourself, there will be great wailing and gnashing of teeth...and I will ignore it to the best of my abilities while I sit, relax and drink a glass of whatever the hell I doth please! 

3. I am giving up trying to achieve total control over my health.  

I know, it sounds weird.  But I am coming to grips with the idea that I have a chronic illness that is not going to just go away if I make the right diet changes or take the right supplements.  For 4 years now I have actively battled Hashimotos. And I mean battled!  I have put in countless hours of research, I have experimented, I have "advocated for myself" a.k.a, bullied doctors into giving me the tests I need; I have been bullied by doctors that told me there was nothing that can be done, changed doctors until I have found ones that would work with name it. 

I'm tired. And I am tired because I have a thyroid that is trying to kill me. And not in a small way. My antibodies are off the charts and nothing I have tried (and trust me, I have tried just about everything) has changed that. So I am taking a much needed break. I will continue to educate myself, I just bought a new research book yesterday...but I will stop feeling like a failure because no matter what I try, nothing truly changes - in fact, sometimes it gets worse and I have to raise my medication again, which feels like another failure.  But you know what?  I may never get the "old me" back. And I need to be ok with that. Because the new me is VERY important.  And constantly denying that by trying to get back to where I was, just makes the new me feel like a failure.  And that is not ok. So I am giving up my old ideas of what is "healthy" and creating some new, more attainable ones. 

Oh goodness my time is up.  I don't feel like this list is complete.  Perhaps I'll write more later...perhaps not.  But for now - Happy new year! 

May your 2016 be all you hope it will be.  And just as a general warning to you all...I will only say this once: