Words and stains

My current word count sits at 43,664. The last 10,000 words have been a little like weight loss: At best, hard. At worst, just not happening. There are moments when I look back over a section for reference and think, “huh, that’s not terrible.” And there are times when I look back over it and think “is this a book about snakes or grief recovery?” In other words, it’s easy to get lost in it just trying to get it done. I do think I departed from my synopsis a little, but I think with an editing cycle, I can find my way back. I like my characters and I have loved the project. I do not find myself dreading the task of getting the words down. I find myself dreading the stuff that keeps me from it.

But all that said, today I was in a spot. I really could not figure out what I wanted to do next with a scene. The scene needed something. My 9 year old has been very interested in all of this. She really likes writing herself. So, when I said, “Tell me what happens with Henry and Mort in the parking lot,” she walked out to do some thinking. Then she walked back in 5 minutes later with her finger in the air and pitched me an idea. And I was surprised at the awesomeness of it. Done. I know what happens next. She walked out of my room again and returned again with more details. Her details were even better. They were both horrifying and funny. And now she’s vying to be in the dedication. I’m probably going to have to consider it.

I was really feeling positively toward the 9-year-old until I found her COVERED in purple slime. Do other moms hate slime or is it just Control Freak Me? Borax, Gallon jugs of glue, glitter, food coloring. And after it’s made, there’s the playing with it. Bubble making. Stretching. Oh, and dumping it on your clothes. Shorts AND shirt. So, I told the 9-year-old to shout the shirt and throw it in the washer. This was after 30 minutes of picking slime off the shirt. Use VERY LITTLE detergent I said. I just went to check on the shirt, which was the only thing in the single load of wash we did. I’ve never seen so much soap. Ever. Like, it’s enough detergent to wash everything I own. Twice.

Just went in to check the shirt again. The stain came out. Joke’s on me.

Tonight’s goal: 45,000 words.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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Monday

The current word count for the Nanowrimo novel stands at 34,308 with at least 500 more words pawing at the gate right now. I’m already in bed with my computer. I would feel pretty good about the rest of my evening except for the sounds of the Chinese thumb guitar coming from the room next door. My son bought it in Chinatown in San Francisco over the summer and plays it. A lot. Of all the things he cannot keep track of, he has never lost this instrument. It is yet another joke the Universe plays on me daily. Just in the last 45 seconds, he has learned to play chords on an instrument with only 5 pieces of bobby pins sticking out of it. What are the odds?

The writing over the weekend was abysmal. Just abysmal. I woke up both Saturday and Sunday at 5, but wasn’t disciplined enough to get out of bed and write then. I struggled to find the time, began to question whether my point of view had jumped the tracks somewhere–like 62 pages ago, began perusing grammar websites, wondered if I hate my main character, and rewrote the same paragraph 4 times.

But starting last night, I got over a hump and words started flowing again. I take a lot of hot baths when I’m writing. Steam tends to erode the damage done to my mind by Chinese thumb chords and I can temporarily think straight. If I had a hot tub, I’d probably be halfway through a sequel already. I know. Too much information. If you are bored enough to read this blog, you surely know what you’ll be getting here.

I walked away from the book over the weekend and returned a few minutes later to the following paragraph:

On the ride back, Henry hit the last two neighborhoods on his watch list before he was almost too drained to coast the last of the highway before his final turn. He thought to himself, hmm. He thought a lot. That was what he did. One time he saw a good rooster. He said “ look a good rooster.” He also liked it when his mom made dinner. He liked to eat meals.

When I read it and then looked up, Brady was sitting across the room from me, making eye contact and smiling like he’d just bought a winning lottery ticket with someone else’s dollar. If things go south, I may have to put that paragraph in just to keep my word count.

Tonight, after dinner but before putting the girls to bed, I was typing in the living room when my oldest boy came out of his room and walked in where I was. This boy is special. He’s not like the rest of us. He’s an introvert and very guarded with his things and his words. He is funny, but chooses when and how to unleash his humor. He is extremely organized and never, EVER loses ANYTHING. I can’t tell you how Brady and I wish we could steal just an ounce of whatever that recipe is. He is 16 and learning how to navigate the world of grownups while also trying not to smack his siblings when they violate his personal space or just get all up in his face at the wrong moment. I get a lot of one word answers from Andrew. He is succinct. Our texts, if analyzed, would primarily consist of the words “here” and “ok.” But tonight, when he wandered into the living room, he sat down on the ottoman next to me and said,

“Are you working on your book?”
“Yes,” I answered, stopping what I was doing to pay attention to the exchange.
He looked over my shoulder to see the page I was on and looked over the margins.
“How many words have you done?”
“About 34,000,” I said.
“Chapter 21,” he said, raising his eyebrows. “How many chapters will it be?”
“I’m not sure yet,” I said. “But I’m nowhere near finished.” He got quiet for a second and then said,
“What if it became a bestseller?” He smiled at me and I said,
“That would be so great, right? But I can’t worry about that. Right now I just need to finish it.”

He nodded and then said,
“Can I have some ice cream?”

And that was that.

In a pinch today, I blew out the van again with the battery operated leaf blower. It’s my new favorite thing. I probably sacrifice a little on quality, and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost a few receipts this way…but all in all, I’m killing it.

 

 

The current situation

There are days.

And then there are DAYS.

I’ll let you weigh the facts and decide which way this verdict goes.

Here’s the 8 x 10 glossy evidence of my current situation.

Picture #1 is yesterday’s gas station bounty. Todd hates the game I play with myself. It’s one part “how low can you go” and one part “whoops.” At some point, I’ll run clean out of gas on a dark road full of pit bulls and hairy drunk guys, but in 20+ years, I haven’t. So I guess I’d call that a win. Yesterday, I got pretty close. But it was daytime. And there were no dogs or hairy guys around.

currentsitch2

Picture #2 was my situation this morning. After many weeks of abundant paper towel supplies, we ran out. And I’ve been to the store 67 times since realizing there were only 3 paper towels left on the roll, but have forgotten paper towels every time. There were only two super important things on my Target list today: 1) Paper towels, and 2) a 20″ bike tire tube. I came away with the bike tube, but ONLY because my son called me while I was in the store and reminded me. He did not remind me about the paper towels.

currentsitch1

After the longest, least successful, and least fun trip to Target ever in the history of spoiled modern day Americans, I drove home with steaks, which I have no business grilling on my own, and without paper towels, which–as you can see–we badly needed. Fortunately, I have a tribe that loves me and saves me on occasion. And one of my tribe was picking up my daughter not long after.

erin

I now have paper towels. Thanks, Erin.

I know I need to clean my task bar on my phone. Move on.

The final picture is the package of Kings Hawaiian Sweet rolls that served as the buns for tonight’s sliders. The package was open at one end. Like totally. Totally, totally open. It even appeared to be open. There was no way for anyone to think it was not open. And yet, an unknown and unseen child–whom everyone who knows us will guess–ripped into the top of the bag like a puma at a campground.

currentsitch3

Also, my neighbor came over while I was at Target and told my oldest son she needed to see me when I got home. I almost jumped in the river. But I didn’t. And I went next door to talk to her.

Maybe I’ll save that one for another time. Or not.

And after wasting your time and mine on this post of 456 words, I’ll go write 1000 more on nanwrimo.org. Because maybe all’s well that ends well.  And if that’s true, I need to go work on my ending.

 

16,343 reasons not to blog

My nanowrimo word count on November 2 sits at 16,343. I am pretty happy with how the book is coming along. I actually know most of the major plot points and the ending. There is still plenty to make up along the way. My 11-year-old daughter was sitting across the dining table from me today doing homework while I was typing away. She interrupted me and asked, “Who is the book to, Mom?” I thought she was asking what audience I was writing to, so that’s the question I answered. “No,” she corrected. “Who are you dedicating it to?” Then she cocked her head and winked at me and gave me the dorkiest grin I have ever seen.

I guess I’m dedicating it to Lucy. As if we need to worry about dedications right now.

At any rate, I plan to get to 17,000 words before I sleep, which will be a whole lot easier now that the Astros are world champions. For crying out super loud, I got nothing done last night.

Before I could write tonight, I needed to clean off my camera’s sd card so that I could have a clean slate for a school event tomorrow.  So I popped that puppy into my laptop and starting flipping through the pictures. I came upon last Christmas and had to pause and take that in. SO MUCH has happened since last Christmas. My parents moved into a nursing facility so that my dad could better care for my mom. My mom went from communicative, while slow, to almost unresponsive. And last Christmas day was the last time my mother was in my house. It’s really the last time she went anywhere, unless we are counting the hospital. And who wants to count that? On December 29, everything changed.

If I had known everything was going to change—and that quickly—you can be sure last Christmas’ pictures would have been far better than the ones I took. In fact, I only have one of my parents from that day and my camera chose to focus on my dad in the foreground. But though the quality is subpar at best, it is still a picture that gives me pause. And I am still thankful I took it. And it does remind me of when I could speak with my mother and she would speak back.

I had no idea how much I would miss that.

The holidays are approaching. Mine will be vastly different this year. Blessed, still, because God has given me so much. But bittersweet in the sense that Mom is no longer even an echo of who she was. I can’t shop for her. I can’t tell her the latest thing Jenna said to insult me. I can’t tell her that I’m 16,343 words into meeting a really massive goal.

But I can meet that goal and she is part of every word I type. She is in me. She is all around me. I am proud of that.

I think I know who I’ll dedicate the book to.
But don’t tell Lucy.

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The top of the list

Well.
I almost couldn’t believe that it had been 6 months since I wrote. That seems impossible. Impossible that I’ve not posted since May. Impossible that it’s been almost 6 months since May.
I’ve become a cliche in the way I discuss and lament the passing of time.
I’ve also discovered you can rein it in and make it work for you if you really try. It seems to be all about priorities. What you decide will get done, gets done. Other stuff may not. But the thing you put at the top of the list gets done. I guess it becomes all about what’s at the top of that list.
The top of my list has been a moving target. The kid that needs that day’s attention. Dry cleaning (Todd will disagree that this one has ever made even the top 3 of my list). Scrambling to get to the store because I didn’t pre-plan dinner. Scrambling to make dinner (it’s not my gift). Spending time with various important people in my life. Etc.

There have been goals in my life over the course of the last 20 years that have been super important to me emotionally, but clearly haven’t been at the top of my priorities list. That means they really aren’t that important. It also means they don’t get done. I’ve been “trying to lose 40 pounds” for about 9 years. I’ve also been wanting to get a book published. When discussing the latter dream with Todd, he said,

“You know what you need to get a book published?”

“No, what?” I asked.

“You need a book.”

Huh. Well, that’s oversimplified, but quite a true statement.

I needed a book, but none of this was at the top of the list.

Life went on.

As some know, I lived in the country for 3 years. For 3 years, I drove. And drove. And drove. And I met strange folks and wonderful folks. And a dude named Paul burned what had to be something illegal in burn barrels out front. And I ran into more than 1 angry pit bull. Per day. And I dreamed. As I drove or biked or walked, I dreamed. About who was in the houses I passed. About who would have THAT MUCH trash on their porch and THAT MANY geese in their front yard. About the man who constantly sat out in front of the Shell station in his camp chair with his cooler.

From that, came an idea. That idea turned into a conversation. That conversation became chapters 1-5 2 years ago. And then those chapters got pushed aside.
Not at the top of the list.

3 weeks ago, a college student posted that she was taking the leap and signing up for Nanowrimo.org. That stands for National Novel Writing Month. In the month of November, people sign up to write 50,000 words. You don’t pay anything and you don’t really win anything. The prize is completion. The prize is that you finish something.

When my friend posted that she was doing this, a bell went off in my head. It felt like a sign. Like it was finally time.  So I signed up and pulled out the ideas I had sketched out before. And I started writing again. The challenge runs from November 1-30. Here it is November 1 and my word count is 13,820. This morning I figured out a big piece to my puzzle. It is all I think about right now.

It is the top of the list. It is the entire list. At least until November 30.

Because of that, I get creative with other items on the list. Last week, I cleaned out the van by opening all the doors and using the leaf blower. Because vacuuming wasn’t on the list. And I gotta tell you…it’s not the worst idea I’ve had.

So if your dream is on the back burner, decide if it really is your dream. If it is, rewrite your list and put the dream at the top.

See ya in 35,000 words or so…or in 6 months.

My Mother’s Day Gift

It is Mother’s Day weekend and I’ve been thinking an awful lot about it this week. It’s funny how perspectives change. It used to be all about me. Thinking it was my day and dictating how the day should go with the kids. Would they remember? How would they treat me? How would they act in church? Where would we go for lunch? Silly Missy. I don’t care about any of that anymore. Although I did ask for a $22 pair of binoculars and they’ll get them for me if they know what’s good for them.

Mother’s Day this year is not the same. It feels very different. For 46 years, I’ve had a mother. And while my mother is still alive, this year I do not have her. On Tuesday, I spent the morning watching her and trying to help wherever she needed me. At one point, after getting her settled back into her chair, I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “You know Mother’s Day is coming, Mom. On Sunday.” She didn’t respond. Not a word. She turned her head slowly toward the Price is Right and didn’t even look at me. I sat down in the chair next to her and tried to absorb that moment. I tried to process the fact she literally cannot care anymore. Sitting only 3 feet from her, I’d never felt more alone in a room. And for the rest of the week, I walked through my daily tasks with this hollow feeling inside, wondering what to call it. I finally found the word. Just now.

Abandonment.

For weeks I’ve been carrying around this need to tell her everything I want her to know before she actually physically leaves me. I thought through it. I planned it. I convinced myself the opportunity still existed. And then I searched for it.

But on Tuesday, I finally accepted the fact that we are past that point. That ship sailed and I’m standing at the shoreline, wishing I’d done things differently. I wanted to tell her I’m proud of who I am and thankful for her part in that. She taught me so much. She made me strong. She gave me my faith. What better gift is there? I wanted to tell her I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the times I made the angry face behind her back or trashed her to my best friend on the phone. I’m sorry for not trying harder to bridge the gaps between us, when they presented themselves. And I wanted to tell her I love her. She was a good mom. She gave us everything she had. Everything she had.

She can’t have this conversation with me now. And she can’t receive from me what I so badly want to give her.

I had to just let that sink in. I had to just sit in my house and accept all of that. And I cried. All day. When I had to go out, I put my sunglasses on and hid nothing from anyone, though I gave it a shot. The pretense made me feel slightly more in control. At one point, sitting in my parents’ parking lot, I grabbed two warm, dirty pennies from my cup holder and stuck them on my eyes. My internal self-talk from that one was fun. What did I hope to accomplish with that? Tea bags might work. Frozen cucumbers might work. Warm, dirty pennies won’t work. They are not a swollen-eye remedy. All you get with that is smelly, puffy, copper eyes. Nice.

Wednesday continued like that all day. I functioned when necessary, but whenever the world got quiet around me, I cried. Again. And I went to sleep that way, sinking into an exhausted slumber with puffy eyes and an aching head.

At 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning, my lungs filled with air and my eyes snapped open in the dark. I had awakened from a dream. But it was more than that. I had been visited. Comforted. I sat up in the pitch dark bedroom and wrote it down using the light from my phone. I couldn’t risk waking up an hour later with no memory of this dream.

I was sitting in a circle of people. We were in a tiled classroom, sitting in yellow, plastic chairs like you see in every elementary school cafeteria ever. We were studying the Bible. A man was in the center of the circle facilitating but I couldn’t see his face because he didn’t matter to the dream. My mom and dad were in the circle, as were my children. My mom, who knows the Bible better than anyone I’ve ever known, raised her hand to make a comment. After she said her piece, she raised her little New Testament in the air and said, “Missy gave me this Bible.” It was the navy blue bible I had given her over 10 years ago. And then she stood up, walked over to me, and wrapped her arms around my neck in one of those hugs you don’t let go of. Like we both knew it was good-bye. It was the good-bye I needed. It was the conversation I’d been hoping to have, but couldn’t.

“I love you, Mom,” I said, still holding onto her.

“I love you, too,” she replied.

And that was that.

Today, life goes on as yesterday, except for one thing. I had a dream. And that dream gave me peace. Now I know. And I’m counting on the fact that somehow, some way, she knows, too. So, while Mother’s Day is different this year, I received a very special gift: the perfect goodbye. It would never have been my choice, but it’s enough. This year, it’s enough. (Plus the binoculars.)

Open Letter to the Pet Owning World

Two weeks ago, we got a dog.
In general, that statement generates a variety of responses. It varies from “OH! CONGRATULATIONS!” as if you have just adopted a brand new baby to “Way to go, imbecilic stupid-head. Good luck with that.” which is how I used to greet such news. Until I WAS the news.
I have said the phrase, emphatically, on countless occasions: “I will never share my home with a beast.”
I said that.
Many times.
That’s a quote.
What I meant was, “I will never share my home with a beast….until April of 2017.” I now share my home with a beast named Buttercup. In all fairness, she’s less Beastly than Brady by far. BY.FAR.

So since I live my life in a rather outspoken, opinionated fashion, sometimes those opinions find their way back to me and get shoved down my throat like a cyanide-laced bandana. I’ve been told by the Informinator (and she’s never wrong) that I probably ought to apologize. To the world.
So here it goes.

Dear Pet-Owners, Past and Present, of the Universe:
Hi.
I’m sorry.
Sometimes I still judge you. But I’m no longer better than you like I clearly used to be. I am one of you. I found myself out of town last weekend, gloriously alone and blessed to attend a writers conference. When I had 90 minutes in which to buy souvenirs for the children, the first store I walked into…the FIRST ONE…was “Love Dogs and Cats Too.” And I went straight to the counter, told the store owner my dog story, and promptly spent $16 on a new tag for her collar, complete with my phone number. First $16 spent on vacation went to the dog. I’m sorry I did that. I’m sorry to the world.

Everything that is wrong with me can be summed up in this one picture:

I mean, even the sunglasses atop my head are stupid. But there I am, just moments after returning from Georgia, napping on the couch with my dog. I’m spooning the dog.

Yeah, I guess I have to be sorry if I’m going to spoon with a dog.

Well, I mean. Sure. Probably my dog is less beastly than your beast and probably this apology is totally unnecessary.

Yeah. Never mind. My dog rocks and I’m not that sorry.
m