Monday, November 8, 2010

Reading Everything

I have long believed that the best way to become a good writer is to read voraciously, read deeply, read obsessively, read what is popular, read award winners, read crap, read outside your genre, read other's evaluations of what you are reading... READ! I will be the first to admit that my philosophy is often my downfall because, in the face of some of the amazing literature I am reading, what I write often falls far short of my hopes. Conversely, some of what I read leaves me grieving for the state of literature and despairing that, if I should ever complete a novel, there will be no one to read it.

For the last few years I have been a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. The Seattle chapter hosts monthly professional education meetings with speakers that range from award winning authors to up and coming literary agents. I never fail to learn something useful at an SCBWI meeting. There is also a small SCBWI group that meets in my town. There are perhaps twenty people who visit these local meetings and the format has evolved into more of a critique group/ social club rather than an educational meeting. I don't see this as a problem. Writers tend to be isolated and most could benefit from an occasional outing with others who are chasing the same dream.

Several months ago this small group was discussing our favorite books or what we read that inspires us and my turn to talk came soon after a woman who told us that she loves the Junie B. Jones series, that she has stacks of JBJ books and her series is going to be just like them. Any book that encourages early readers to pick up a book is a good book, although I don't particularly like Junie B. Jones, so I didn't have anything to say as this woman gushed about the books. When it was my turn I started to talk about my goal of reading the last ten years of Newberry award winners when I was suddenly interrupted by the JBJ woman. "I don't know why you would bother reading those!" she crowed. I stuttered.. I'm not a great public speaker.. something about the idea that reading good literature is the key to writing good literature. "I know a librarian who says that she would never recommend a Newberry winner to a kid because they are too boring!" she said and then went on to further extol the virtues of Junie. I am ashamed to say I that the best retort I could come up with was to mutter about writing for different levels of readers and that there was a market for both types of literature. She sneered at me! "Well you must be veeerrry smart because I tried to read one of those and it didn't make any sense to me! And you think kids are going to read it?"

I've never been back to the local meeting. I'm afraid she'll stomp all over me with her Junie B Jones rainboots. She truly intimidated me. Not because she was right but because she was loud and opinionated and so sure that if she didn't understand something it must have no value to her goal of writing for children. Months later I'm still trying to figure out how I could have handled it differently. Honestly, I could not begin to understand what had motivated her attack on me.

This week I've read two very interesting articles that have given me some insight into the mindset of this loud woman. The first, by Laura Miller, a senior writer for, is a criticism of Nanowrimo and the fascination that people seem to have for writing books while rarely reading them. I so clearly see JBJ lady in this article. She wants the glamour of calling herself a writer but doesn't seem to understand that the goal must be to produce literature that makes people want to read.

"Rather than squandering our applause on writers -- who, let's face it, will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not -- why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? Why not celebrate them more heartily? They are the bedrock on which any literary culture must be built. After all, there's not much glory in finally writing that novel if it turns out there's no one left to read it."
Laura Miller, Better Yet, DON'T Write That Novel

Whether writing for five year olds or adults, quality matters. More importantly, variety matters.. writing for the reader so that they will continue to read. We don't need a Junie B Jones clone. We need writers who understand and love to write for first graders.. or second graders... or precocious sixth graders who need a literary challenge and find it in "boring" books like "When You Reach Me" the 2010 Newberry winner by Rebecca Stead.

The second article I read was in preparation for a SCBWI lecture in Seattle tonight. The lecture is on point of view and the speaker will be referencing essays written by Zadie Smith, award winning (adult) novelist and Professor of Creative Writing at New York University. It was suggested that attendees take the time to read the essays. Oh what a challenge! My poor shrunken mommy brain struggled to comprehend the material.

"All novels attempt to cut neural routes through the brain, to convince us that down this road the true future of the novel lies. In healthy times, we cut multiple roads, allowing for the possibility of a Jean Genet as surely as a Graham Greene." Zadie Smith, Two Paths for the Novel.

In the time it took me to read the essay I became convinced that my brain might be made of quicksand and any attempt to cut a neural route would simply be swallowed by the muck and mire, and quickly overlaid with images of SpongeBob and his icky friend Patrick. It would be so easy to dismiss Ms. Smith's essays with a flippant declaration that I'm not writing for adults and this stuff is boring anyway... Ah.. a new empathy for the Junie B Jones Lady... Perhaps her shrill dismissal of my personal reading goal was simply a symptom of her fear of inadequacy? As I struggled to comprehend the material I faced my own fears. Fear of not being smart enough or creative enough. Fear of failure.

Writing a book should be a simple thing. There are no new stories after all. You simply decide what you want to say and write it down, right? Character A meets Character B, they have a problem, they solve their problem, the story ends. Simple. But characters, like people, are complex and can be difficult to understand. They argue about stupid things, they run away from conflict, they hide in routine, they fight with other people rather than fighting what they fear. I will never have the patience or persistence to argue with the Junie B Jones woman but I think I understand her better now. I have a feeling her character will show up in my fiction someday.

Yes, reading is the best way to become a good writer. Read books, read people, read everything, but don't stop there. Filter it through your own complexities and the unique structure of your compounded experience and fears.. and then.. write.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Words Matter

One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time, one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase - some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse - into the dustbin where it belongs.

~George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," Shooting an Elephant, 1950

Monday, November 1, 2010


November comes,
And November goes
With the last red berries
And the first white snows,

With night coming early
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

~ Elizabeth Coatsworth

I've spent the morning luxuriating in the dim silvery light and soothing sound of a torrential downpour. There may have been thunder earlier; or perhaps it was just the washing machine going off-balance. Soon I will have to shake off my post Halloween lethargy and rejoin the living but right now, this very moment, I am going to melt into the chilly November sky and dream of a sugar snow winter.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Your children tell you casually years later what it would have killed you with worry to know at the time. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

Boys. I think most of us started to realize sometime around sixth grade that boys are not like us in ways that go far beyond just the merely physical. If we are lucky we learn how to communicate with them, eventually marry one, and have wonderful little boy babies. Little boys are just amazing. They manage to embody some of the best things about being male. They are brave and adventurous, chivalrous and funny, they worship their mothers and have delightfully tender hearts. Then they get bigger and we realize that they are weird alien creatures who just don't think like we do...

This morning my friends Debbie and Leeann both have blog posts about their boys and the frustrations of raising aliens. Why do they lie to avoid trouble when they know they will get in trouble if they lie? I don't really have an answer for that question but in the spirit of commiseration I thought I would share a story about my favorite alien boy.

Zane is a fairly quiet young man. He doesn't share a lot with us so I have learned, over the years, to watch him for clues. In many ways I now do this without even thinking about it. I can just tell when something is going on with him. I call it momsense. Sometimes I think something is wrong and, despite having no evidence of a problem, I just can't shake the need to interrogate the boy. A few days ago he left in the morning with a friend. They were going to purchase a parking pass at the college where he is taking classes this year and then go back to the high school for afternoon classes. A few hours later my momsense started pinging.. some thing's not right.. so I checked attendance (I love our computerized school district) and could see that he was in class just like he should be. So I told myself to stop it and went on with my day.. but I just couldn't shake the feeling. When the kids came home from school I asked Zane how his day had been and he said it was fine.. he seemed ok and I had to run Delaney to swimming so I didn't ask any specific questions. Later that evening though the momsense alarm started again... Now I really should stress that the boy was doing nothing wrong. He was in his room doing homework and looking like a model student but I went in and started the interrogation anyway.

"How was your day?"
Vague answer.
"Was the line long for parking passes?"
Vague answer.
"Did you have any problems?"
Vague answer plus "I've got to do homework."
Hmm... this called for deeper investigation..
"Where does the parking sticker need to go?"
"I don't know."
"Oh? Let me see it."
"Uh.. I think I left it in Shaun's car."
"Did you get a receipt?"

Now I know something is up. I stand there not saying anything, waiting. Years and years of telling him that lying will get him nothing but more trouble has led to this point. We both know he is not telling the truth, is he going to add layers to his deception now?

"Ok.. the truth is..."

Well.. on the way to the college, in the rain, the driver lost control of the car and ran off the road. The police were involved but no citations were issued. No major damage was done although a poorly installed radiator shook loose and needed to be reattached. The tow truck driver was kind enough to drop them at the high school in time for afternoon classes. Everyone was ok.. but shaken up.. and my son had decided to hide it from me because he thought I would get upset. Would you believe him? Once they start lying I question everything but he had proof. Pictures of the car on his cell phone, supporting evidence provided by the little sister who saw him return to school very upset (I haven't yet visited the issue of the sister who decided not to tell me what she knew.. hmmm...), and the money for his parking pass still in his wallet.

Why he tries to hide things like this is a mystery to me. I don't lose my mind when mistakes happen, I don't go overboard and ground him for life, I don't even yell, but he rarely tells me when something is wrong. Is he trying to protect himself from scorn or is he trying to protect me from disappointment? This time he gave in and told the truth without it being dragged from him. Maybe because he was shaken by what happened. Or perhaps it's also that he is maturing. Maybe I can look forward to a future without momsense alarms. A future where he will choose to tell me things he knows I might not like because he wants to be honest with me rather than just tell me what I want to hear. A future where I trust him to be a rational adult and he trusts me with the same.

I hope so.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Serenity and Change

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me. ~Author Unknown

Change. It seems we are always called upon to change and no one likes it. No one enjoys the realization that it is time to turn away from the things we know; the habits and routines that we don't have to think about because they are ingrained in who we are. Thursday meatloaf, Sunday morning church and bagels, vacations at the villa in Tuscany... whatever. Eventually everything comes to an end and we have no choice but to change. Find lentil loaf recipes, poetry and coffee, a campground with showers... whatever.

The last few years have brought almost constant change to my life. Some of it I have shared here but most I have kept to myself. Despite my goal to be open and vulnerable on my blog I have frequently failed. Choosing to write about generalities and rant about annoyances instead. Partly this is because my family sometimes reads my blog and I hide things from them, and partly because I have difficulty committing to things, even thoughts, and putting some things in writing makes them real.

Then I met Millie.

It is commonplace, even boring, for middle-aged women to wax poetic about the wonders of becoming a Grandmother. I'm not going to do that. I didn't have time to prepare for my status change. I learned that I was soon to be a grandmother just a few days before Millie was born. At the same time I learned that my son had refused to take any responsibility. Perhaps it seems strange that I would believe the girl on the other end of the phone and yet I did. She wasn't asking for anything. She was offering an opportunity for me to be grandmother to the child that my son was refusing to be a father to.

So many questions. The first, of course, is how do we really know... well that one was answered for me on the day Millie was born. When I met her, spent time with her and her mother, I found myself deeply committed. For better or worse she is my granddaughter and I care about her. I also care about her mother. An eighteen year old girl who I am just getting to know. Who has made hard choices and accepted commitments that many girls her age wouldn't. She's a good mother already and I feel fortunate that she decided to contact me.

This week my twelve year old asked me if it is okay to talk about Millie at school and my answer was "Of course it is! She's not a secret." but then Delaney asked what to say about Ian. Ah.. good question. Do we keep the baby a secret because we don't want to discuss the shame of her father? Isn't that just taking what is uncomfortable to me and giving it instead to an innocent baby?

I have sheltered my son from scorn for twenty one years. I have tried in so many ways to help him find the good inside of himself. I have shortchanged my husband, my other children, my extended family, and myself, in the attempt. He doesn't want my help. He doesn't see anything wrong with who he is. So I am done. He is who he has chosen to be. He is no longer communicating with me and I have decided I can accept that. He will live his life as he sees fit and I will live mine.

For six weeks I have been ruminating on different aspects of this.. the hiding I do, the lack of commitment, the shame about aspects of my life that are imperfect, and my tendency to put far more energy into sustaining the illusion that everything is good rather than accepting change and embracing the future. In the process I've made a few decisions that may seem inconsequential. Decisions about honesty, about writing, about this blog, about setting goals and working towards them. I'm still trying to figure out where this is all going but there is one change that I have already set in motion. I am working, really working, toward the goal of finishing the book I started so many years ago. After that I am going to work on the next book I have outlined, and I'm going to keep working. I'm no longer going to want to be a writer. I am a writer. I'm not going to worry what other people think when they ask what I've written. If I can tell people I raised a son who has become a deadbeat dad then what shame is there in telling them that I'm an unpublished writer too?

Babies are special. Little ambassadors of change they speed toward the future and we, fortunate to be captured by them, follow in their wake and find joy in our new lives.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tiny Blessings

I am fortunate and blessed to introduce my granddaughter.
We welcome her to this imperfect world with joy and a promise.
A promise to love her.
To cherish her unique perfection.
To be a foundation on which she can stand
as she reaches for her dreams.

August 4, 2010
9lbs 5oz, 22 inches

√Čtude R√©aliste
by Algernon Charles Swinburne

A baby's eyes, ere speech begin,
Ere lips learn words or sighs,
Bless all things bright enough to win
A baby's eyes.

Love, while the sweet thing laughs and lies,
And sleep flows out and in,
Sees perfect in them Paradise.

Their glance might cast out pain and sin,
Their speech make dumb the wise,
By mute glad godhead felt within
A baby's eyes

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Saturday Morning in July

The house is so quiet.
Rain, the sputtering coffee pot, a snuffling dog.
Upstairs, perhaps an occassional snore.
I hope they sleep a bit longer.
It rained all of June and continues..
The cool gray isn't unusual
but, instead of calling for naked sun dances
or raging against the insidious drip,
I am like the dregs of an iced coffee

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quiet Sunday

I woke this morning with the song "On The Willows" from Godspell drifting through my head. Even though I haven't been to church for years Sunday morning pulls at me. While race cars go round and round the track on tv I am sitting on the couch reading poetry and looking for something...

After Psalm 137
by Anne Porter

We're still in Babylon but
We do not weep
Why should we weep?
We have forgotten
How to weep

We've sold our harps
And bought ourselves machines
That do our singing for us
And who remembers now
The songs we sang in Zion?

We have got used to exile
We hardly notice
Our captivity
For some of us
There are such comforts here
Such luxuries

Even a guard
To keep the beggars
From annoying us

We have forgotten you.

"After Psalm 137" by Anne Porter, from Living Things Collected Poems. © Zoland Books, 2006.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Menu Again...

Ah Spring! Everything is growing, I've got tons of energy, and I'm sick to death of cooking. The good news is that in just one month our CSA deliveries will start and I can start planning menus around the fresh vegetables in my box. I really love the challenge of opening the box and figuring out how I'm going to use everything. It's like an episode of Chopped in my own kitchen.. except I'm not a world class cook and my family knows better than to be too honest with their critiques. So in preparation it's time to start menu planning again. Oh, and to make things more interesting, my vegetarian children have decided, after two years of strict vegetarian eating, that they are eating some meat again but are still mostly vegetarian. Which means that I don't know who I'm cooking for anymore. Oh well, we will work it out as we go along.

Here's the menu for this week:

Monday - Breaded Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Corn (no vegetarian option because both of them asked for this meal)

Tuesday - Rigatoni with Marinara Sauce, Meatballs, Garlic bread

Wednesday - London Broil or Portobello Sandwiches, Salad, Chips

Thursday - Bean Tostadas, sliced leftover London Broil, Avocado Corn Relish

Friday - Panini Sandwiches, Chips

Saturday - Bob cooks something delicious

Sunday - Salmon, Frittata, Steamed Red Potatoes, Asparagus

For more menus check out the list at Laura has completely revamped her website and it looks fantastic!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

For the last week we have been working on transforming our front yard. Where we once had a messy, poorly planned (by the builder, not me!), and attention demanding flower bed I decided I want grass and a strictly disciplined rose garden. Usually I'm the last person calling for more discipline but this is a rare case. You see, I'm tired of weeding in the front yard where my neighbors can see the results of my work and, more often than not, comment. There are many good things about living in this neighborhood. Yard work isn't one of them. Especially when I can trust our heavy handed HOA to send out nastygrams if the yard doesn't look good.

So, over the weekend we went from this mess hiding behind the gorgeous girl...

To this...

We dug up a dozen bushes and moved them to the side of the house and I have been transplanting them to planter beds in the back. This morning I had a big bush left to plant under the dining room window at the side of the house. I had raked the gravel out of my planting area and dug a nice deep hole when my neighbor came over. He's an older man who doesn't speak English but always waves and smiles when he strolls past on his thrice daily walks. On Monday he took an interest in our project and stood on the sidewalk watching us roll out sod. He supervised the whole job without saying a word. However, today I was working alone when he showed up. He walked up, grabbed the shovel and, waving me away, proceeded to take over. He planted the bush and, when he was done, he grabbed my hands. Pointing to the dirt on them he shook his head and lectured me in Korean. Then he hugged me, patted my butt, and walked away!

I'm not sure if I should be annoyed or flattered...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Instead of flowers for Mother's Day I got two lovely maple trees!
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! I hope you all had a wonderful day.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

NaPiBoWriWee - Day 7

Seven picture books in seven days. It's an impossible challenge. On the surface it seems easy but it's a lot like spending the week with a four year old who never stops asking questions. On the first day it's fun and you feel special because you know things.. but by the end of the week you really just want some peace and quiet and a whole lot of vodka.

I finished the challenge though and now I have seven rough drafts to work on. Seven ideas that I didn't have on paper a week ago. Seven potential books. That is huge! I can never thank Paula Yoo enough for coming up with this challenge and being a constant source of encouragement this week. I don't know how she did it. Although she was writing her own books, and still working her day job, (she's co-producer of the Sy-Fy series Eureka) she still managed to write a daily blog post with tons of good information and encouragement, plus she responded to posts, did a live twitter interview late, late, one night, and had to deal with website and computer problems. I am in awe of her abilities!

I'm going to bed now and tomorrow I'm going to relax and not worry about writing. I might do the same thing on Sunday... But on Monday I will be back to work. I have some serious rewriting to do!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NaPiBoWriWee - Day 6

Day Six?! I can't believe I'm almost done with this week. One week ago I was griping that I had no inspiration, no motivation, that I didn't know what to do and motivation jumped up and bit me!

Today I wrote an outline for a story but didn't actually write the story because the outline was over 3000 words. Obviously I need to rethink this story but I really like it.

Tomorrow is the last day and it's going to be a busy day for me. I am meeting a friend for coffee in the morning and we have tickets to see "Ragtime" in the evening so there won't be a lot of extra time for me to goof off or waffle about what I want to write. I just need to sit down and write the final book!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NaPiBoWriWee - Day 5

Brain Drain

Brain Drain is the working title for book number five and honestly the title is probably the most creative thing in it. I am so terribly tired... who knew that writing simple little picture books could be so exhausting? Truthfully, I had a suspicion that it would be a lot harder than it looks from the outside but I decided to do this, and I'm sticking with it, even though I feel as though every ounce of creativity has been sucked down that picture book brain drain.

I'm going to bed and praying for a bolt of inspiration or a miracle dream about a fully written story.

Day 5 - four and a half books written. (Book number four never did fully gel and I have decided to let it sit for a bit longer)

Happy Cinco De Mayo

To my favorite seventeen year old birthday boy!

Even though you have grown up (and your hair has grown out!)I still catch glimpses of the little boy you used to be. You still have the same smile, the same sneaky sense of humor, that makes me laugh, not just at the joke but with amazement at your brilliant wit. Sometimes I miss that little boy, because he was so cuddly and sweet, but I am very proud of the man you are growing into. I love you Zane.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NaPiBoWriWee - Day 4


Today was tough. I just had too much to do and didn't manage to finish my fourth book. However, I have the idea outline and the book half written. Tomorrow I will finish it and move on to the next one.

Today's book is about seeing beauty in the routine of every day. Children are so good at this! The story is inspired by(but not about) an experiment that The Washington Post conducted. The article just received a Pulitzer Prize and is a really interesting read if you have the time. For me the most wonderful "revelation" in this article was that children are far more observant than adults.

Ok.. I'm off to bed. Four days down... 3 1/2 books written... 3 1/2 to go!

Monday, May 3, 2010

NaPiBoWriWee - Day 3

I feel different. Is different okay?

Either I'm doing something right or I'm doing something very wrong! This morning I got the kids off to school, ate some heavenly strawberry and honey Greek yogurt, poured myself a cup of coffee and then wrote thirty lines of rhyme for my NaPiBoWriWee day three picture book in thirty minutes. The book came together so fast that I just now realized that my coffee cup is still full and stone cold.

It's odd how debilitating self-doubt can be. From the time we are small children we are told that we have to work hard to be good at things. "Practice the piano, you'll never get good if you don't work at it." "Try harder!" "It takes work to learn the basics of a sport." "Don't give up!" "No pain, no gain!" But what about the things that we are naturally good at? For some reason I have discounted skills that seem too easy to master, placing little value on anything that just comes naturally to me. These skills seem suspect. How can what I wrote this morning be any good if I didn't struggle with it? Well, I guess I am struggling, in a way. I'm struggling to give myself permission to be good at something without hating it. Do you know that the only writing I've been paid for was stuff that I hated? I hated every minute of writing it, I hated the finished product, I hated myself for using words to sell stuff. But I got paid for it which gave it value and the suffering just proved that it was legitimate work, right?

Well, whether it's a natural talent or a load of crap, I have managed to write another picture book today. We are almost halfway through the week. Three down, four to go. Tomorrow I think I'll write about finding something you are good at.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

NaPiBoWriWee - Day 2

I didn't think I was going to manage to get a second book written today but at 10:30pm, sitting in bed with my laptop, with Bob snoring slightly and the dogs making themselves way too comfortable, I managed to write a truly pathetic picture book about making blueberry muffins. I don't care how bad it is because it's just a shitty first draft and it doesn't have to be any good.

Two down, five to go...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

NaPiBoWriWee - Day One

I am excited and invigorated and even a little proud to report that on the first day of NaPiBoWriWee I have a teeny tiny, slightly slimy, and very rough, draft of a picture book written!

Now I need to get dressed, take Delaney out for lunch as promised, get her glasses repaired, buy hair dye for Taylor, come home, dye Taylor's hair, watch hockey, figure out dinner, cook, do some laundry, work on my list of chores that never gets done... blah, blah, blah.

But I don't care how many chores there are on it today because I put the one that really matters to me first.

Thanks to gribley for the perfect photo.

Friday, April 30, 2010

What do you want from life?

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
Winston Churchill

What do you want from life
An Indian guru
to show you the inner light
The Tubes


I find it comical, really. Every single time I complain about my inability to motivate myself, or my lack of progress toward my non-existant goals, or whatever "poor me" crap I'm dishing out, I am almost instantly presented with opportunities. It's as if the universe is just waiting for me to get pissed off so that it can prove to me what a whiny little dingbat I really am. So, of course, after ranting here and then spending the rest of yesterday feeling lousy about it, I got up this morning to find in my email a notice about a group working on a picture book project and an announcement of a children's literature summer school class at the University of Washington. I should emphasize that these notices were not forwarded to me by someone who read yesterday's post. Both emails came from impersonal sources, newsletters actually.

Hurray, yippee.. just when I'm questioning myself and admitting that I know I have a problem pushing to set goals here is a golden opportunity to do just that. In fact the picture book project is perfect because it's so simple. It's a support group similar to Nanowrimo designed to jumpstart picture book writers. The goal is deceptively simple; Write seven picture books in seven days. And it starts.. tomorrow.


What do you want from life
To get cable TV
and watch it every night

That's not going to work for me. Any other week would be so much better. The first week of May is really not a great time to commit to a major project. You see I've got my regular stuff that needs to get done, plus a stained glass class on Monday, a writer's group meeting on Tuesday, Wednesday is Zane's Birthday, and Friday we have tickets to see a play. I've already committed to babysitting a few hours and I'm pretty sure I have a dentist's appointment in there somewhere too..

Pathetic isn't it?

And the other thing? The class at the UW which I know will be inspiring and fantastic and I would love to do? It's $500, two nights a week, sixty miles from home, and I might have to meet people or let them read what I write...

What do you want from life
To try and be happy
while you do the nasty things you must

Hey, Gina, what do you want from life?

Well, you can't have that, but if you're an American citizen you are entitled to:
a heated kidney shaped pool,
a microwave oven--don't watch the food cook,
a Dyna-Gym--I'll personally demonstrate it in the privacy of your own home,
a king-size Titanic unsinkable Molly Brown waterbed with polybendum,
a foolproof plan and an airtight alibi,
real simulated Indian jewelry,
a Gucci shoetree,
a year's supply of antibiotics,
a personally autographed picture of Randy Mantooth
and Bob Dylan's new unlisted phone number,
a beautifully restored 3rd Reich swizzle stick,
Rosemary's baby,
a dream date in kneepads with Paul Williams,
a new Matador, a new mastodon,
a Maverick, a Mustang, a Montego,
a Merc Montclair, a Mark IV, a meteor,
a Mercedes, an MG, or a Malibu,
a Mort Moriarty, a Maserati, a Mac truck,
a Mazda, a new Monza, or a moped,
a Winnebago--Hell, a herd of Winnebago's we're giving 'em away,
or how about a McCulloch chainsaw,
a Las Vegas wedding,
a Mexican divorce,
a solid gold Kama Sutra coffee pot,
or a baby's arm holding an apple?

Oh good grief... thirty years later and I just now found out that "a baby's arm holding an apple" is a penile reference. That explains why I can't find an image to fit with the lyric. Thank you urban dictionary. The song is stuck in my head and has been since my senior year of high school but I've always pictured those adorable ceramic baby arms that were so popular in the 80's. You know the ones? They hung on the wall holding the strings of adorable ceramic ballons? I've always thought the song said I was entitled to something pure and simple, albeit a bit childish and useless, but actually it says I am entitled to dick.

That figures.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


People often say that motivation doesn't last.
Well, neither does bathing
-- that's why we recommend it daily."
- Zig Ziglar

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about motivation, primarily because thinking about it helps me to avoid actually doing anything about it. I've never been very good at motivating myself. Motivation most often comes from external forces in my life. Instead of deciding what I want to accomplish and working towards it I tend to clear large patches of time in order to be able to do whatever needs doing.. and people recognize this and ask me for help. But why am I like this? Why do I want one thing, (for instance, to spend time writing) but work for another (having nothing scheduled so that I can help when my neighbor asks if I can watch her daughter while she has some "me time"?) Why do I choose to do nothing on the off chance that I might be needed rather than do something productive, that would make me feel better about myself, to avoid the risk that I might have to say "No" to a request for my time? I used to think that it made me happy to be helpful but this is a lie. I am resentful. For a time I thought that my role in life truly was to help others reach their potential but now I believe that I was fooling myself. To most people I help I am nothing more than a crutch, interchangeable with half a dozen other people who support them.

The truth. I am not kind, or thoughtful, or concerned with helping others be all that they can be. In reality I have found the perfect disguise for my fear and insecurity. I won't fail if I never try and I can't try if I'm always too busy taking care of other people. Yes, it's perfect, except for one small detail. I hate it and that hatred is poisoning my life.

So my question to you is this; What do I do to fix this? It's a serious question. I know many of you are very good at organizing your lives, accomplishing your goals and still managing to be good friends, citizens and people in general. Give me some advice. Don't feel as though you need to make me feel better. I don't want to feel better. I want to change.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My hairless cat...

... lived in my master bathroom because he simply could not adjust to the move to Washington. He was fourteen, incontinent, anxious, and yowled loudly all day and night. When he was out of the bathroom he yowled to get back in, when he was in the bathroom he yowled for company, when we stood in the bathroom and visited with him he would lie in his heated cat bed and yowl anyway. A few days before I had surgery I found out he had kidney disease and rather than prolong his life I chose to have him put to sleep.

Yeah, that's kind of how it feels....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Museum of Glass

On a recent visit to the Tacoma Museum of Glass we saw
rainbows over the outside exhibits.

Gorgeous glass flowers

And some awesome architecture.

I wish I had remembered my camera!

Sometimes a cell phone just isn't good enough...

Monday, April 5, 2010


Tears are the biggest change in me since I lost my uterus. Despite the fact that I still have my ovaries and therefore have no viable excuse for the waterworks, the floodgates are open and I have cried more in the last month than I have in the last ten years. Perhaps the tears come because I am pain free and can finally relax, release my grip on the safety bar that has kept me from jumping out of the car and onto the tracks of my decrepit carnival ride of life. Or maybe I'm just losing my mind.

Not to belabor the point but pain has been a constant companion since my teen years. Pain that didn't make sense, that was too large for diagnosis, pain that caused me to stop asking questions because there were no answers and doctors tend to get annoyed with patients who keep complaining. I had the first surgery on my reproductive organs when I was seventeen years old. Then, despite the fact that I was told I might have trouble getting pregnant, I managed to do it seven times. Each pregnancy had complications that weren't easily explained, or, unfortunately for the fetus, survivable 43% of the time, but my body insisted on being fertile despite all attempts at contraception. Go figure. The ovaries worked fine but the uterus didn't always cooperate.

For thirty years I have felt as though there was an enemy living within me but finally it is gone. The pathology report shows that there was indeed something wrong, pockets of endometrial tissue growing within the uterine muscle, that possibly explains a lot of my history. Or possibly not. I will never truly know. But, now that the uterus is finally gone, there is an empty spot in my abdomen that seems to be filling with joy, and releasing, inexplicitly, a flood of tears.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Already?

2010 is a bit of a fog for me so far. Getting old isn't much fun and my girly parts have decided to rebel against the idea. Despite all efforts to convince them that we can age gracefully together they refuse to cooperate. So, after months of trying to quell the rebellion, it has been decided that the damned malcontents are just going to have to go. I've written and rewritten this post several times and have trashed it because I hate whining but I did want to let you all know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth or given up blogging. Unfortunately, with vicodin as my new best friend, I find I have very little to say... my life is as interesting as late night commercials minus the cialis ads. We have had a lovely, mild winter and I want to get out and weed my garden beds, ride my bike, walk the dogs... Next Thursday I will have surgery and I am determined to be back to normal by April.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010



Today is the beginning of the One World, One Heart give-away. This year I will be posting contest information on my art blog Taffeta Moon. I hope you drop by and enter to win!

Taffeta Moon

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Best Gift

There is nothing more wonderful than opening a gift on Christmas morning and realizing that your husband really does know you very well... and that he loves you and your craziness too. For Christmas and my birthday (which falls in the same week) Bob gave me a very special gift. On the surface it was a little odd.. a cardboard box filled with tissue paper and bits of glass and metal but hidden at the bottom was a receipt for six weeks of classes at a glass studio. I have always wanted to learn to work with stained glass but years ago I decided that it probably wasn't ever going to happen and I moved on to other obsessions. But Bob didn't forget.

My first project was a little rough but I was so proud of it that I had to show it to everyone.

I had several projects I needed to complete for homework. I have to use a gigantic soldering iron that heats up to something like 6 million degrees (actually it's 600 but it helps to keep the kids away if I use really big numbers) and the only safe work area for something that hot is in my kitchen. Zane, the kid who refused to eat anything I cooked for two weeks after seeing "The Sixth Sense", was convinced that I was contaminating his food with lead solder. But by the end of the week I had finished my homework without burning down the house or sending anyone to the hospital.

In the second class I learned how to cut glass and miter corners.

There isn't really a sufficient way to express how much I appreciate my husband. He constantly encourages me to try new things, consistently compliments my efforts, and truly believes in me. HE is the best gift!

Monday Menu

This is week two of semi-single parenthood for me. January always seems to be a busy travel month for Bob and I'm not going to complain about it because I know how lucky he is to have a job to travel for. However, it is a little bit difficult for me to get excited about cooking when he is gone. The kids just don't appreciate my culinary expertise as much as he does. So, faced with a run of days that are going to be gray and husbandless I am seriously tempted to repeat Soup Week.. but the kids have threatened to run away if I do. So.. here is what we will be eating.

Monday - Fried Chicken, Mushroom Fritatta, Cheesy Mashed Potato Casserole, Salad

Tuesday - Veggie Lasagna, Italian Sausage (Turkey or Vegetarian)

Wednesday - Beef Stew, Lentil Stew, Dinner Rolls

Thursday - Breakfast for Dinner

Friday - Daddy is home and he wants Meatloaf!

Saturday - Chili and cornbread

Sunday - TBD.. maybe leftovers

More menus can be found at Check it out!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Soup Week!

Like Shark week with fewer fins!

Winter seems to have returned to the Pacific Northwest with a vengeance. Unfortunately it's not the pretty white version but the evil gray, sloppy, drippy version of winter. So, since the weather is awful, and my husband is escaping to nicer climates for the week (uh huh.. he says he has to work.. right), and our January budget could definitely use some help, I've decided that the menu for this week is going to be soup.. lots and lots of soup!

Monday - Corn and Potato Chowder, Debbie's Beer Bread

Tuesday - Tortilla Soup, Nachos

Wednesday - Chicken and Dumplings, Veggie Stew and Dumplings

Thursday - Shredded Beef and Potato Soup, Vegetarian Chili

Friday - Homemade Pizza

Saturday - Steak, Mushroom Barley Loaf, Potatoes, Asparagus

Sunday - Leftovers, snacks, cereal or whatever Bob wants to cook

Check out for more (and probably more creative) weekly menus!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I'm reading this week

By some strange coincidence I find myself reading Martha Stewart's Housekeeping Handbook, the ultimate instruction manual for creating order, while also reading two works of fiction about the fall of modern civilization. The combination has left me with an irresistible urge to build a chicken coop and convert my flower beds to vegetable gardens!

Into the Forest tells the story of two teen aged sisters surviving at the edge of the state forest in Northern California while society collapses. As, piece by piece, they lose everything, electricity, community, parents, goals, they learn how to depend on themselves, each other, and the forest's provision.

How I Live Now is the story of a New York City girl who travels to visit her Aunt and cousins in rural England, which would have been culture shock enough, but shortly after she arrives London is bombed and suddenly the country is at war, adult supervision is gone, and five teens are on their own in a war torn, enemy occupied country.

Both books left me with a deep uneasiness about the fragility of the things we depend upon. Yet they were both filled with hope and the inspiration of the human spirit rising above the ruins and moving on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One more...

I don't make resolutions because they just make me feel guilty when I break them. I don't make commitments because I'm afraid of disappointing people if I don't live up to them. I don't make plans because plans just make God laugh at me.

But I do choose words and I try to choose them carefully. The word I chose for 2008 was "No". It was a bit negative but it needed to be said. The word I chose for 2009 was "tenacity". It was a good word. It may not have been a very active word but it kept me hanging on.

2010 has been waiting for it's word while I have been wrestling with my defeatist tendencies. I wanted a word to inspire me to plan, to encourage me to commit, to strengthen my resolve... Hmm... I think I just heard an angel giggle...

So, my slightly cryptic but ever so inspiring word for 2010 is..actually two words. "One more"

Can I write a blog post every day in 2010? Probably not. But today I can write one more. Can I lose 80 pounds? Unlikely. But I'm sure I can lose just one more. Will I finish a book? Let's focus on one more chapter. Will my children ever listen to me? Maybe if I say what's in my heart one more time.

One more healthy meal, one more patient word, one more kind deed, one more dollar saved, one more happy day lived...

One more year.. 2010 is going to be a good one.

Monday, January 4, 2010


This is the first Monday I am 45 years old...

It's the first Monday of the month, of the year, of the decade...

It seems like I should do something momentous to mark this moment in time.