Celebrating The Patron Saint of High Fructose Corn Syrup

Halloween: an ancient tradition in which the villagers spend too much time thinking about and making costumes for their kids, running around to all the craft stores in town and neglecting household chores.

Halloween is an interesting holiday, another one of those holidays from Western Christian tradition that was originally a pagan festival of harvests and dead people, two things the pagans really liked to celebrate. The old clergy got a little itchy at the thought of everyone dancing naked in the woods and drinking too much mead or whatever so they created All Saints Day, a holier than holy Christian holiday to make sure everyone dragged their butts out of bed and went to Mass the next day.

I just like the candy.

Look at Aria checking out that candy.

 

Here are pictures of Halloween Days Gone By:

2012

2011

2010

2009

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Perfect Moment Monday: Big Brother

When I found out I was pregnant with Aria my biggest worry was the impact it would have on Oscar. For three and a half years, before Aria was born, Oscar was the center of our lives. He’s always been such a beautiful and funny child, getting attention wherever we go. But when Aria was born his whole world was turned upside down.

At first it was pretty traumatic for everyone. I hated leaving the house without Oscar. I hated it when I was feeding Aria and Oscar wanted me to pick him up. One day I left for an emergency dental appointment and when I returned, Oscar asked warily, “Did you bring home another baby?”

Slowly he became more and more interested and intrigued. He was constantly asking, “Where’s Aria?” and saying, “I want Aria.”

Now that she laughs and smiles at him, every day gets more fun. However, she is still pretty small, cannot sit up on her own, and we have to make sure he doesn’t play too rough with her. I can’t wait until she is big enough for them to play together.

My perfect moment came one morning when I went into Oscar’s room to wake him. I put Aria in his bed, something they both love. She lay there and played for quite awhile, so I left her there buffeted with pillows while I dressed Oscar and got him ready for the day. At one point she rolled too close to the wall and was in danger of falling between the bed and the wall (I wasn’t too worried because that space is crammed with stuffed animals). I decided I didn’t want to take any chances so I scooped her up and was about to carry her out of the room.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, Oscar burst into tears. “Please don’t take her away! Please!”

“But Oscar, she might fall and hurt herself.”

Then he sobbed, “But she’s my friend!”

Oh, man, I immediately teared up and was filled with so many emotions. Happiness, sadness, wistfulness, love. Most of all, I felt complete.

Today, Oscar said to me, “Someday when I’m big I can carry Aria and feed her.”

We have many kinds of moments ahead of us. Exhausting and overwhelming moments, funny and joyful moments, and of course, perfect moments.

For more perfect moments, visit Lori at Write Mind, Open Heart.

My Writer’s Notebook

I think having a writer’s notebook is one of the most important steps to becoming a writer, and one of the most important things about being a writer. I take mine everywhere I go and would be lost without it.

What kind of notebook should you use?

Does a writer’s notebook have to be an actual notebook? Well, I like using an old-fashioned composition book, the kind you can get for $1 at Walmart or Staples.

I like these for several reasons:

1. They are cheap. I find that if I buy a fancier notebook, like those lovely leather-bound ones at the bookstore, I save it for something special. I have a small collection of fancy bound books that I haven’t been able to bring myself to write in.

2. They are a standard size. I fill these up pretty fast, and they are all the same size so they stack well or line up neatly on a bookcase.

3. I hate spiral notebooks. Not only do comp books not have an annoying spiral (more annoying since I’m left-handed), but there is no temptation to tear out pages when you “mess up.”

What do you put in a writer’s notebook?

My writer’s notebook is not like a journal or diary. I try to avoid writing about my day or writing personal stuff about other people. Occasionally I put in a dated entry, or a few thoughts on an issue, but for the most part my notebook is filled with a lot of random crap. Things you can find in my notebook:

  • Lists of books I have read and want to read
  • Lists of books and stories I want to write
  • Possible titles and opening lines
  • Character sketches
  • Cool words and sentences
  • Bits of funny dialogue that I hear people say or that I imagine
  • Funny things my kids say
  • Dreams
  • Admonitions to write more (I need to include less of these and MORE WRITING)
  • Actual scenes for my novel
  • Partial essays and blog posts (some of which never get written)
  • Recipes
  • Inspiring quotes
  • Random thoughts while sitting in faculty meetings
  • Notes taken during conference presentations
  • Freewriting
  • Ideas for teaching
  • Packing lists
  • Poems

What do you do with your notebooks?

I credit my writer’s notebook with helping me come up with my award-winning play idea, Pork Belly Futures, which was based on a conversation I had with my father. I keep some notebooks, especially the ones with partial novels or lists of ideas I don’t want to lose. Sometimes I copy things from an old notebook into a new one. I just recently dug through a pile of old notebooks looking for some teaching ideas I jotted down in 2007. Because I often label my notes at the top (Teaching Ideas, Novel Notes, Novel Scene, Dialogue, etc.) it’s usually easy to find stuff. My goal is to eventually transfer my notebooks  to searchable documents, partly to make them more available to myself and others, and also to prevent a bunch of dusty clutter from piling up.

I have seen some really amazing and cool-looking writer’s notebooks. I would love to see pictures of notebooks or hear about what you put in yours. I’m also considering writing a series of posts or articles about this, including more tips on how to get started and what to include, links to blogs and sites that address this, as well as excerpts from my notebooks and other notebooks.

Tell me what you’d like to read about here, link to any cool resources you know about, and submit pictures and excerpts from your notebooks.

I don’t think I’m tall enough for this ride…

Spoiler alert: I use the word “boob” in this post. You may want to excuse yourself now.

Here’s an old cliche: Life is a roller coaster.

Everything seems up and down for me lately; I live with extremes. One moment I’m savoring a predawn cup of coffee and reading about what Gwyneth Paltrow packs for a flight to London (as if) and the next minute I’m juggling two cranky kids, one of whom wants to be permanently attached my boob and the other who can’t decide whether or not he wants jam or honey on his peanut butter toast.

Today when I left the house there were crying kids and diapers that needed changing, and let me tell you, it was wrenching. Then I drove in relative peace and quiet to my office (the fifteen minute drive to work is the only time I am truly alone). Then I advised a few students, none of whom have the faintest idea what they are doing. Now my office is quiet and I’m boiling water to make coffee. I drink a LOT of coffee.

Roller-coaster.

I sit down at my computer to write. I open the file that contains my novel and get downright giddy as I nail a sticky plot point. Then I open the file containing feedback from my editor on the academic book I’m writing and I feel like jumping out the window. Then an email alert pops up and I see that I have another stupid and pointless meeting tomorrow. Academics love to call stupid and pointless meetings at the last minute. Then I take a peek at a fashion site to see what all of the hip people are wearing this fall.

Roller-coaster.

I used to think of this way. You enjoy the ups and endure the downs. When you’re miserable you think, “This too shall pass.” Then I saw the following quote:

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

If we wait for life to get good before we enjoy it, we will be waiting a long time, and it will be over before we know it.

I felt a sense of peace when my five-month-old woke me at three o’clock this morning. I brought her to bed and smoothed her sweet fluffy head and let her nurse. I was deeply, deeply exhausted. I started thinking about all of the things I have to do, about all of the things I want to do, and about all of the things I will probably never get a chance to do. And then a voice in my head said, “You’re doing the most important thing you could be doing, right now.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I take care of my children. They love me and need me and I will be the center of their universe for such a short time.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I grade papers. My students value my feedback and I have the opportunity to help them become better writers.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I read and swallow the difficult feedback I get from my editor. This will make me a better writer. My editor values me enough to keep pushing me through this project.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I read People Magazine and drink Starbucks. We all need downtime and mindless entertainment.

When we took Oscar to the fair this year we put him on his favorite ride, a little red roller-coaster made just for kids. Last year he loved it. This year he cried helplessly in fear for the first few minutes of the ride. It was so hard to watch! Then something happened. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and endured. Finally, he looked around and smiled. And when he got off the ride, he wanted to go on it again.

There is no such thing as balance

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

Balance:

a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.

I don’t have it, I’m never gonna get it, and I no longer want it.

I know mothers who have it all. They are beautiful, thin, popular, and happy. They have nice houses and bake cupcakes in rainbow colors. They undertake projects that would make Martha Stewart blush. They arrange play dates and act as community organizers.  They have good hair and buy organic and vacation in places with beautiful blue water.

1. They are insane.

2. I call bullshit.

I sat in the audience yesterday at a conference listening to Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, talk about being a writer. She talked about writing and life and anger and childhood and teaching and being yourself. She said,

“Speak the truth, even if it makes your voice shake.”

I had a revelation when I was listening to her. I don’t want balance. I want passion.

Heather Sellers writers:

“Successful book writers are very rarely also:  history society presidents, garden club secretaries, book group members, rumba instructors, feng shui consultants, yoga experts, and leaders of the town’s spring clean-up committee. When you’re writing a book, you do not have time for: meetings, grant writing, sonnet competitions , sprawling vacations, breeding dogs, or renovating the bathroom.” ~from Chapter after Chapter

The subtitle of this is  “Balancing Writing and Motherhood,” but who the hell am I kidding?

The only thing I balance is a plate of cheese and crackers as I ignore cobwebs and crying babies and go upstairs to sit at my computer and write.

The only thing I balance are teetering stacks of ungraded papers on top of books about how to write and novels I love to read and wish I could write.

The only thing I balance is a baby on one hip while I turn up the volume on Yo Gabba Gabba, stir the soup, dodge Legos, step on Cheerios, pour juice for my toddler, and pour myself another cup of coffee.

If you don’t like my house, my hair, the way I dress, the way I parent, or how I spend my time, frankly, I don’t want to know you.

I’m done with balance.

I’m done with waiting to give myself permission to be the writer and the person I want to be.

A Conversation Between Oscar and the Moon

Yesterday evening we were walking and Oscar said, “Look, the moon!” He actually calls it the “moom.”

“Hey Mom, talk like the moom.”

“OK, Oscar. Hi Oscar! I’m the moon. How are you?”

“I’m Oscar! Why are you coming up?”

“I come up when the sun goes down.”

“Why you not turn your light on?”

“It’s still light outside. When it gets darker I will look brighter.”

“You want to come to my house?”

“I can see your house, but I can’t really come there.”

“OK. Just don’t come inside, OK?”

“I won’t come inside. I have to stay up here in the sky.”

“What’s inside you?”

“There’s nothing inside me. I’m solid all the way through like a rock.”

“But who’s driving you?”

“Nobody is driving me. I go around the Earth on my own.”

“OK Moom! Night Night! Love you! Bye bye!”

“Goodnight, Oscar. Love you too.”

“Say bye bye.”

“OK, bye bye.”

[Silence]

“Mom, I miss the moom.”