Women and Adversity: Lady Deborah Moody

Since moving to South Carolina almost two years ago I have connected with several writers….definitely goes in the + column of making this giant move!

One such writer is journalist and freelance writer Jo Ann Mathews. She has been such a great friend and resource on writing. She generously offered to let me write a guest post on her blog “Women and Adversity.” Twice a month she profiles women from all walks of life, from all different time periods who faced obstacles as they forged their place in the world.

I invite you to read my contribution about Lady Deborah Moody, an English woman who was instrumental in Long Island’s history. I chose to write about her, in part, as a nod to my home state but also because she was a female voice driving and advocating for her community in a time period where women had none especially when it came to public affairs.

I encourage you to sign up on Jo Ann’s website to receive posts right to your email - always an interesting read over that morning cup of coffee or tea!

So I've Gone A Little Crazy

CrazyFace.jpeg

Keeping the crazy in……

If you talk to my kids or my husband they will say I’m always crazy. So how much more could I be?

They aren’t wrong but this type of crazy is exclusive to my writing life.

After not doing too much of anything related to writing for about a year, I’ve suddenly been on fire. If you poke around my website you will see a new page - Freelance Services. I’ve decided that I would like to get a writing business off the ground. I have written a handful of blog posts for businesses but its via Verblio aka BlogMutt which is a content mill blog site. I don’t love it. At. All. But it is a way for me to get the business going. I’m working on a Letter of Introduction and generating a list of contacts. My goal is to send the mailing out in January 2019.

In addition, I wrote an essay that I am almost ready to begin the querying process for and am working on a feature article that I hope to find a home for in the next month or two. Yes, I wrote them first instead of pitching the idea first but hey, I’M WRITING. :)

Around the same time a writer’s group I’ve belonged to for three years, Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) surveyed their members in our state to see if there was any interest in getting together. There was and since someone needs to own making it happen I, along with two others, stepped up to organize this. Our initial meet & greet will happen sometime January 2019.

Due to the above, I connected with a writer who lives about 20 minutes from me! And she connected me with a local writer’s group!

I can not begin to tell you how freaking happy these two things make me. I have been searching for so long to find fellow writers. I’m like the desperate kid on the playground who just wants to be included in the game.

And then tonight, I applied to be a mentee in a mentorship program being offered for the first time by WFWA. Because at the end of the day what I really want to be is an accomplished writer. Creating stories that people get lost in.

Symbols of Commitment

I follow a journalist on Facebook, John Gray, who lives and reports on my old stomping ground in upstate NY. I like his sense of humor, his heartfelt posts and his views in general. Yesterday, he posted a link to this read on Scary Mommy regarding wedding rings. He asked what the women who follow him thought about this woman's point of view. 

I have received three new rings. 

My first engagement ring I returned to my now-husband a few months after he gave it to me. We didn't break up as a couple but simply backed off from moving on to the next step in our relationship. I told everyone we had gotten disengaged. There were reasons, mostly external, for this but the bottom line was it had nothing to do with our commitment to one another.  After almost a year, he proposed a second time with the same ring. This time it stuck :) 

I LOVED the ring he gave me. The only direction I ever gave him was in the shape of the diamond I preferred. He ended up choosing the diamond separate from the band and had the jeweler mount it in the setting. My ring is gold with little tiny flowers and leaves etched around it. It was a surprising choice from him as he is not overtly romantic but clearly he remembered I loved flowers and found a way to combine these two things that meant alot to me. 

We were living with another couple at this time and they became engaged not long after we did. Unlike us, our friends choose to buy the engagement ring together. We went along with them and while looking around struck up a conversation with a sales clerk who suggested we could trade in my diamond for a newer, larger one (paying the difference of course!) My soon to be husband looked at me and said "Let's do it. Old diamond had bad juju." So that's what we did.

Like the wife in the article, my ring has been through some serious sh#*.  House moves, job changes, pregnancies, health emergencies. On top of life moments to lowest of lows - mine, his and ours. Screaming, laughing, crying, singing, late into the night conversations. My ring has flown on planes, sailed on ships, been on long, long car rides. My ring has been in foreign countries and swam in various oceans and lakes. It has created and cleaned and performed the minutia that makes up life. And like the woman who wears it, it shows its age. Those pretty etched flowers have worn away. Only those underneath the wrap that is my wedding band are still visible. 

Last November my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We had just uprooted our family and moved 800 miles. He still works in NY and toggles back and forth between there and here. I picked him up from the airport, drove home and opened up the garage where I had hidden a used Jeep Wrangler. He had one 15 years ago but had to give it up when baby #2 came along. It had been the one thing he talked about wanting to have again, especially once we made the decision to move south. It's not fancy and needs some TLC which he has been happy to give it. 

Standing in our driveway, under a dark sky sprinkled with stars, he pulled out not one but two jewelry boxes from his suitcase. Each one contained a ring. The first was a white gold anniversary band with five diamonds. In the second was my birthstone surrounded by diamond chips on a white gold band studded with more diamond chips. Shaking, his voice trembling, he told me he would not change a single thing. He would do it all over and over and over again. If you truly knew everything he and I have faced, you would completely understand when I say how profoundly moving and reassuring his words were to me.

I had not asked for so I was certainly not expecting this new set of bands. And yet, it was the most perfect gift. New state, new house, new everything. It is somehow apropro that as we started this new adventure in our journey together, the commitment we made to not only make this huge change but to make it work, was acknowledged. 

So yes, I think there are times where upgrading a wedding ring is appropriate, symbolic and deeply emotional. 

But I have not shut my original bands away in a drawer. I, we, would not be where we are today, literally and metaphorically, if it wasn't for our past; therefore I trade off and wear them both. And, even though they are different metals, I even sometimes combine them because the symbolism of them together makes me smile.

 

Rings.jpg

As I was trolling the internet a few days ago I came across an article (see link below the photo) that talked about a phenomenon many people who are close to death experience. This caught my attention because I witnessed this when my great-grandmother was dying from cancer twenty plus years ago. It was my first and to date only encounter with this experience and I found it eerie and unsettling.

My great-grandmother was a constant presence in my life up until the day she died. She lived on her own up until the last few years of her life; then she went to live with her son/my great-uncle and his wife across the river from where we lived. Every few months she would come to our house and spend a week with us. 

Unfortunately, when I was in high school, my great-grandmother developed what the doctor's said was cervical cancer. She ignored her symptoms for so long that by the time she was strong-armed into seeking medical help it was difficult to diagnosis and pretty much too late to try and treat. At this point, she stopped coming to our home so my mom would bring us to my great-uncle's house to visit with her. 

During one such visit, and to my recollection, this was the last one I had with her, we were sitting in her bedroom. My great-grandmother was to my left and my mom was sitting across from me. Mom was asking her questions, making general chit chat, when my great-grandmother shared that she recently had some visitors. When my mom asked her who she gave the names of people that had passed on years before. At first, I was confused by what my great-grandmother was saying. I thought I was missing something or maybe had people mixed up. I remember looking at my mother who had a wide-eyed 'oh boy' look on her face which took me from confused to nervous. I saw her make a split second decision on how she was going to handle this strange turn of conversation. She played along. She began to ask my great-grandmother questions, just as if these deceased people had actually stopped by to see her. The conversation wasn't long and meandered into other, less strange, topics. After we said goodbye and got in the car I immediately turned to my mother and asked her what the heck was that?! She knew what it meant and explained this phenomenon. It was a quiet car ride home.

On the left is my great, great grandmother Augusta with her daughter, my great grandmother Ella. 

On the left is my great, great grandmother Augusta with her daughter, my great grandmother Ella. 

If you are interested in reading the article written by Gary Rotstein on this topic, here is the link. It first appeared in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette on July 2.

Secret vs Surprise

My mom and niece came over the other night for dinner. As family conversations go, we wandered around topics. From a conversation about money we migrated to one on secrets. 

My mother and I both have a secret stash of cash. I think the reason my mom has one is 'just because.' She is a post-depression baby but grew up in a home of very modest means. On the other hand, my secret stash I had earmarked for one of two purposes. But as life goes, I didn't end up using it for either of those choices.

I used my secret stash of cash as a deposit on a Jeep Wrangler for my husband. Our 25th wedding anniversary was coming. When we decided to move from NY to SC, one of the first things he talked about doing was getting another Jeep. He had one earlier in our marriage, between baby #1 and #2. When baby #2's arrival was immient we traded it in for a minivan and he took over driving my Neon.  (The sacrifices we make as parents.....neither of us were very thrilled with our vehicles but we do what we have to do.

I spent weeks looking for a used Wrangler that I could purchase outright with my very meager budget. (Shout out and big high-five to my brother here - he was enormously helpful!!) To add a layer of complexity to this endeavor, I was using a portion of our moving money to pay the rest of what my secret stash of cash didn't cover. And of course, I had to somehow hide or have a cover story as to why I withdrew thousands of dollars from this account. 

Since my niece was privy to all this, when we were talking about our secret stash of cash, she questioned me as to whether this wasn't a secret I kept from her uncle/my hubby. I told her no. The Jeep was a surprise not a secret as I hadn't hidden it from him or bought it without his knowledge for some other purpose. So, this was a secret; a good one. 

Later on, as I was thinking about this conversation, I wondered if it was good. In order to get a Jeep that wasn't going to be a money pit, I had to spend more than my original budgeted amount. Plus we have a general rule that any purchases over $200 is to be talked about first.  We hadn't finished taking care of all the expenses that came with moving and re-establishing a home. He could have gotten very angry with me for spending a chunk of the money on this. In fact, when I finally unveiled my anniverary gift to him the first thing he said to me, "Was how much did this cost?" 

On the other hand I saw this as a surprise. We rarely/never before make grandiose gestures to one another. Its not our style. But this was a significant milestone in our relationship. And he has made a huge sacrifice when it comes to our relocation so I also saw this as a way to give back to him; something I knew he truly wanted. Has talked about for years. We already had conversations about buying one, eventually, like a year down the road. I just changed the priorities; sped up the timeframe. I certainly didn't feel any guilt. I was excited for him. 

Secret. Surprise. 

Maybe as Secprise? Or Supcret?

My knight rides a white Jeep!

My knight rides a white Jeep!

Books I Have Loved 2017

Part of my getting back on the horse, so to speak, involves updating my website and Twitter to reflect more current information. Much to my chagrin, when I looked at the Book page of my website I saw it has been 14 months (!) since I updated that page to reflect novels I recommend. So please go check that page out - the fact that I can recall the plot for each one, after all the hubbub of this past year, speaks volumes :)

Here are a few thoughts on each one.......

The Memory Box - I found the protaganist to be so twisted! If you like twisty female lead characters, here you go!

We Never Asked for Wings - the characters and story line represent a situation and ethnic group not often written about. Was really rooting for this family. 

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk - just loved the story line and the fact that the plot was set against a piece of history I was only peripherally aware about.

The Garden of Small Beginnings - picked this up on a whim and could not put it down. The premise of the story is sad but heartwarming. It's an excellent example of people not being who they appear to be.

And as for Faithful, The Rules of Magic and The Night the Lights Went Out, well, I'm a hardcore Alice Hoffman and Karen White fan so anything they write will always be on my list! :)

Hiatus and Horses

I could start this blog by writing something corny. Like "I'm baaacckkk...." or "Hi, it's me again." But I won't be that cliche.

Instead I will say that if you read my blog then you know that nine months ago, which was the last time I posted, I shared that my husband and I decided to relocate our family. That, I am happy to say, has happened and all the planning and hard work panned out well. We have been in South Carolina for six months; in our new home for three. Now we are all on a learning curve, adjusting to the new geography and ways of life. So far so good. 

As we began the process of relocating and all that goes with it, I realized that I had to make a decision about my fledging writing ambitions. I could press on, revising my NF draft, seeking freelance work, continuing to work on the other pieces of writing I had in process. Juggling this against moving my family 800 miles, against keeping the kids' lives as normal as I can and in general just living life.

Or I could hit the pause button. Because I know myself. I know that for every day and week that went by and I did not get to any writing, I would beat the crap out of myself. Who the heck needs that? Not me. So I consciously gave myself permission to not only stop writing but also to not feel bad about it. I am only one person and my priority was to ensure our relocation was successful and my kids were okay during the process. 

This blog post is the first step to re-starting my writing life. The hiatus has officially come to an end.

The horse reference? Well that is both figurative -  "I'm back in the saddle" as far as writing goes - and literal!

That's me taking a horseback ride on the beach thanks to my parents, a Christmas present to our family. One of the perks where I live now! 

That's me taking a horseback ride on the beach thanks to my parents, a Christmas present to our family. One of the perks where I live now! 

How to kill the muse

Wow - so much for my intentions of writing a blog post a month.......

I have spent a good deal of the time I was MIA writing, well, really revising. I think I don't mind the revision process. It was not as arduous as I thought it would be. But that thinking makes me nervous - like maybe I didn't do it right because I didn't find it difficult or awful. Or maybe it was because my revisions were based on developmental editing feedback and not copy editing? Argh! Maybe I should not have such an 'easy peasy' attitude about the editing process yet. 

I suppose I will have another opportunity to explore the editing phase of writing since I decided to have the manuscript go through another developmental editing review. I reached out to the same editor and we worked out a deadline for me to complete the changes and get the piece back into her hands. 

I also made some progress, or rather, attempts at expanding my experiences in writing. I wrote and submitted a mini-essay for an online magazine. The piece was not accepted but I was encouraged to try again.

I applied and was accepted into a content mill type of blogging website. Honestly, I've been on the fence for a mighty long time about tossing my hat into that ring. But for a very particular reason (which I'll get to in a second) I made the effort. The first blog I wrote didn't get picked up which didn't bother me as much as I thought it might. Unfortunately, I got so busy with revising my draft that I had to set the content mill gig aside. 

Besides revising my draft, the other big thing that has taken up much time is all the stuff one has to do when they decide to sell their house! Yup, my husband and I have chosen to pull up our roots and re-plant them about 800 miles away.....and because the way we like to roll is to make things as complicated as possible, we are building our new home.....let me point out again this is 800 miles away.

We have had to de-clutter our home to make it more appealing to potential buyers. For years my husband has talked about how we need more 'artwork' to hang on our walls. I asked him if he still felt this way as we bubble wrapped and packed what had to be 60 pieces of wall hangings - family pictures, kids artwork that we framed, and various other pieces. And we have had to grow thick skins pretty quickly when we read the feedback from people who have come to look at our house. Not to mention having to run around, stashing kids toys under beds and couches, shoving papers laying on the counters into kitchen drawers, collecting all the electronics and taking them, our dog and ourselves out of the house whenever we've had a showing. There has GOT TO BE a better way. 

So, getting back to the content mill blogging, I thought it would be a good time for me to start to generate a bit of income. Even if it is just enough to pay for groceries. Or the cost of hiring an editor ;)

Amid all of this, we celebrated my baby's 5th birthday. I am so grateful for his presence in my life and I am loving this time of his childhood. He is bright, curious, funny and a chatterbox! He has been my constant companion and I already mourn the time I will lose with him when he starts kindergarten in the Fall. 

Is it wrong that I encouraged people to give him gift cards so I wouldn't have to pack up yet another truck/train/jet? 

I have not had any creativity zipping through my head since we started what has to be the biggest project hubby and I have undertaken in our marriage, outside of having children and raising them. 

Power, responsibility and my manuscript

Ah...the doldrums of January. After the sparkling, frantic days of November and December, January is downright dull. How do I add a bit of excitement to this month? By reading the developmental editing analysis from my writing coach, of course. 

It took me five days to work up the nerve to read the eight pages of feedback. So on a dreary cold day, I gave my four-year-old a tablet to watch Youtube videos of jets and diggers, poured a glass of Reisling and got comfortable on the couch. 

It wasn't too bad. The first thought I had after I read it was "Whew, she didn't pan my writing." This was immediately followed by the thought "There is way more editing work than I want to do." 

I took a few days to think about what I wanted to do. I realized I had three choices: keep the structure and complete the suggested edits; change the structure of the manuscript and complete only the edits that pertained to that; and quit.

While mulling my options it suddenly hit me. I have total control over the direction that my manuscript could take. Now I know that sounds like a crazy thing to say because duh, I wrote it. It is my creation. But I didn't really 'get' the power that came with that control. I am master of its destiny. 

Of course, the flip side of this control and power is that if I used it incorrectly, if I made a bad decision regarding the direction of my manuscript, I was sending it down the wrong path. Whoa. I am a novice writer. I am feeling my way along this process. How can I make this decision? What criteria do I use? 

What I ultimately used to guide my decision was my own interest in completing the work. If I choose to keep it as is I dreaded doing the revision. Like I had zippo interest in continuing on. It was overwhelming and would take out the joy I found in writing. However, if I choose to strip out a certain element and then work the revision, I was excited about that challenge. Also, I had made such an investment, with my time and financially, that I really didn't want to shelve this project. 

I emailed my coach with my thoughts on her analysis (which was spot on and easy to understand) and told her what I was considering doing. She encouraged me to pursue that direction. So that is what I've been working on, how I'm filling the long middle days of winter. 

I also asked my coach for any last words of advice before I dived back in. She said, "Writing is only the first step; rewriting is where you discover your story." (These are words from her late mentor Arnold Madison.)

 

How my 2016 goal inspires my 2017 goals

2016 is almost history. On Facebook I've seen many people post how they can't wait for the year to be over. I haven't reflected too much about what kind of year this has been. Mostly because I've been so stinking busy. But today I started to think about it.

I don't normally make goals or resolutions as part of my new year celebration. Mostly because I know they will be something I won't follow through on. For me, the start of a new year does not equal a time to make a change. That has always come from my internal clock, based on when I have been ready be it emotionally, financially or the space has become available in my life. So it was early in 2016 when I put a screensaver message on my laptop. Know what it said? "This is my year." After thinking over where I was in my life, where my family as a whole was, I choose to be very determined that I was going to make something in my writing life happen. I wasn't sure what it was going to be - freelancing or writing a novel. 

Then in the Spring, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a set a goal for myself - that I was going to finish the first draft of my manuscript. WHICH I DID. I had set a goal to have it completed by the end of September but I didn't make that deadline. I pushed it out two more months which meant the end of November. It came down to the wire but I got it done! I passed it on to my writing coach, asking her to do developmental editing. I knew sending it to her that there are flaws. But now that I'm just a couple of days away from receiving it back from her with her comments I'm getting nervous. How far off the mark am I? Will I have to do heavy editing or a complete re-write? 

While she has had the draft I worked on creating a list of 100 agents who may be interested in the piece. I know there are hundreds more out there but I stopped at 100. I was also going to draft a query letter. I started reading up on how to write one which led me to read about how you query a non-fiction book. Book proposal, book summary, outline, author bio. And agents often want you to have marketing and online platforms. What? 

So now I find myself feeling like I did when I decided to pursue writing the draft. Overwhelmed. Unsure. Not feeling smart enough. How do I know if these supplemental documents I need to write are any good? I don't want to look like the novice I really am. Should I pay to have these pieces reviewed too? Screw this, it's too much. There is a pile of books I want to read. Organizing the house to tackle. This year's uncompleted Christmas presents to make for next Christmas.

But I won't. I will figure out how to write these pieces. I will query. This is, in part, my 2017 goal (along with those Christmas presents!) I also plan on joining a critique group and attending a writer's conference. Oh, and writing. I'm moving on to fiction; I have three story ideas circling around inside my head. They have been patiently waiting their turn. 

I think it's kind of cool that my 2016 goal spurs on my 2017 goal. I've never had that happen before.  

 

 

Children's Book Review: LITTLE MOUSE'S SWEET TREAT

Recently, I was asked by an author to review her first ever children’s book. The book is titled LITTLE MOUSE’S SWEET TREAT by Shana Hollowell, a Virginia based writer.

I found this book to be a ‘fast read’ which is a great feature as the age group the book is geared towards isn’t known for their patience! The author uses simple sentence structure and short paragraphs in an effort to keep her young readers’ interest. The author also uses rhyme, repetition, and onomatopoeia to help her young readers predict what will happen. She does a nice job using questions to create a journey for the mouse and thus move the plot along. The problem in the story is spot on - what child doesn’t like sweets - and therefore children will be able to identify with mouse’s dilemma easily. The mouse shows persistence which is an important trait for children to learn in order to accomplish goals. I also loved the illustrations! The colors were soothing and didn’t make the pages busy. 

If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can do so through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

 

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Sue Meyers

I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a bit. I am SO GLAD that I read this book. From page one, it held my attention.....I was annoyed at being interrupted while I was reading it. Always a good sign that I’m loving the story!

Ben and Maddie have been married 15 years. They have three children; their oldest being 14 year old Emma. Like any couple that has been in a marriage for a while, the day to day domestic have to’s have taken over and battle against their careers for time. Ben is the head honcho in the Public Defender’s Office; Maddie is a social worker. Ben's behavior is becoming more disturbing, making Maddie and the kids very uneasy when he is around. There is a horrific accident and Maddie is irreversibly injured. Ben has to step in to Maddie’s shoes and step up as a parent and a husband. He struggles all the way around. When Maddie learns of his actions, both pre and post accident, she must decide if Ben can be part of the new life the accident has foisted upon her and the family. 

Ben and Maddie are two strong, well defined characters. I vacillated between liking and hating Ben but ultimately I rooted for him. Because the author writes the novel from the perspective of three characters - Ben, Maddie and Emma - a reader gets to see inside Ben’s head. He is egocentric but self aware. He knows his behavior is horrible and wants to be better to his wife and kids. He struggles to control his anger but it isn’t until he is on the brink of losing his family that he is desperate enough to be apologetic, humble and willing to change. I actually found Maddie harder to like. She is in denial that she is in an abusive relationship. Yet, she spends a great deal of her time in social work counseling women who are in abusive relationships. I understand her reluctance to see her reality but am frustrated that she didn’t take a firmer stance with Ben prior to the accident. It’s when she is physically at her weakest that she finds emotional strength, making some tough choices about the future of her marriage and family. 

The perspective of Emma, their 14 turned 15 year old daughter, is realistic and valuable. The author captures that exterior toughness teen girls like to throw off but also exposes the insecurity and child like tendencies that still exist on the inside. Her entire family, including grandparents and aunt, leans heavily on her. This forces her to feel like she needs to be much older than she is and that conflict leads her to make some choices that are not in her best interest; they mirror some of the things her parents have done. I found her to be the only honest voice about how freaked out she is about her mother’s condition and how ambivalent she feels about her mother being home. 

While I am happily married, I found I was able to identify with this marriage in so far as my husband and I have found ourselves at points in times not as attentive to one another as we should be. The tasks of every day life have, at times, clouded our ability to appreciate the family we’ve created. I think this is reality for a lot of couples and families. This story can definitely be viewed as a cautionary tale to be mindful of safekeeping relationships with these important people.  

Ultimately, this is the story of family who didn’t appreciate that they were a family. It took a tragic event for all to open their eyes and see what they have in one another. The question of whether there has been too much of the proverbial water under the bridge to repair the relationships is what the characters and the reader need to decide.

What's going on this year

It's been awhile since I've written anything about how my writing is going. The good news is it is going.....just not exactly the direction I thought it would when I decided to go for it 18 months ago. 

First, last fall I took a three night workshop on how to break into writing for magazines and other publications aka freelance writing. The author who taught the class is someone who has fingers in many different writing pies and a list of articles as well as a few books to her credit. And she is a great speaker - I could have listened to her talk about writing for many more nights. I signed up for this workshop because I've had an idea for an article brewing in my head for months. The article is based on an experience I had several years ago and I just have a strong feeling like I should 'speak' about it. I'm very glad I took the classes because I definitely would have approached writing in this area all wrong. Fast forward to this past weekend. I just sent my first query letter out. It took me three months to research what publications may be interested in my idea, line up my expert, and draft and revise my letter many times. Now I sit and wait; this publication keeps queries for six months. I'm opting to only query one publication at a time since I'm more comfortable dipping my toe as opposed to just jumping into the deep end. But I do have other publications lined up in case the response is "No thank you." 

On the last night of this workshop, the speaker quickly mentioned a new emerging area in writing that she herself had just taken a class on - content writing. Loosely, it is writing content for websites, helping them better populate their pages with information. She suggested that this might be something for us to consider down the road, after better establishing our freelance writing careers. I immediately thought of a local organization where I know the director very well and whose website needed a lot of revamping. I hemmed and hawed about approaching her for two reasons. One, I wasn't sure how, if at all, this fit in my vision of myself as a writer. Would I get sucked into doing this kind of writing and not have time to do the writing I want to do? Two, I was wary because she has wanted me to come work with her for a few years now. We've had conversations about it but each time I ultimately declined the position. I was pretty confident that, based on this history, if I reached out to her to offer my services in this way she'd gladly take me up on the help. Ultimately, I decided to not pass up this opportunity since I have no idea if another one would be pretty much handed to me and reached out to her. She said yes and asked me if I could help edit some documentation too. 

So here we are: one query letter pending and my first freelance content writing and editing gig. I'm feeling very excited and nervous!    😟

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Really loved the book! As evidenced by the fact that I did nothing that I wanted to get done yesterday because I sat on the couch reading………This was a dark, depressing and at times creepy novel. Pacing was fast; characters are incredibly flawed and ragged. Rachel has to be one the saddest, most pathetic characters I've ever met. It wasn't until almost the end that I started to suspect who the bad guy was. The author did a skilled job of planting seeds of motive in all of the suspects so the reader could see how they all may have been committed the crime. This is a cautionary tale to not take at face value things that we see. 

I have a great deal of admiration for authors who can tell a story seamlessly from the perspective of three different characters. Being able to keep character personalities consistent, the plot lines, and in this case the timing, straight takes a lot of attention to detail. Getting the inside scoop on more than one character, how she thinks and feels about people and situations, gives the reader the opportunity to be invested in more than one character and thus way more engaged with the story. 

It isn't romantic

The other day, as I was folding the never ending laundry, I was watching a crime show. One of those real life ones where the true story of a (crazily stupid) group of people was being profiled. The law enforcement person was discussing the crime: a woman set her husband up to be murdered by her teenage lover and his BFF. They went to the movies and afterwards she told her husband she wanted to go to the local park to have a "romantic encounter." Now, this is not the first time I have heard this phrase used as an euphemism for sex. But for whatever reason, it struck me that this was an odd use of the word romantic. Of course this got me thinking.......

Off the top of my head I came up with four different definitions of the word romantic. There is the one that involves images of flowers and moonlight. Another that calls up the word love. The third one is an idealized notion and lastly, according to law enforcement, is sex. To see how close to accurate my various understandings of this word was, I then hit up Merriam Webster. They list six definitions; besides the ones that I came up with the dictionary associates hero and imaginary with this word. Okay. I can see those. 

I then took a side trip to look up the definition of romance since the 1st definition listed under romantic was "consisting of or resembling a romance." Number one definition of romance is the literary one; associated with romance novels or medieval tales which often include heroes and adventure. There is also the romance with a capital 'R' for the Romance languages. Interestingly the 4th definition given for this word is "love affair." Since this was in blue indicating a hyper link I clicked on it. Finally, I was brought to a definition that meant a sexual relationship, usually between people not married to each other.

So how did the word romantic evolve into meaning sex? How come law enforcement and any other entity that uses that phrase "romantic encounter" just don't say sex? What's wrong with using the word sex? These words aren't synonyms for one another.

No wonder people confuse sex with love.

 

Tempting Fate by Jane Green

In the teaching profession, there is a school of thought that the way you get reluctant readers to read is to provide them with literature they can relate to. Not all students can identify with the works of Shakespeare or Hemingway. You need to provide students with pieces that are not traditionally taught in a classroom, like BRONX MASQUERADE or CRANK. When I finished this book, what immediately came to mind was that, maybe for the first time ever, I really understood this argument from a reader’s perspective.  

I absolutely LOVED this story. I related to all of it, except the one night stand aspect. Having said that, I totally understood Gabby’s motivation for engaging in the flirting and letting it escalate to the inevitable one night affair.   We are the same age, married about the same amount of time, relocated with no family close by, letting go personal ambitions for the family. I appreciated that the author gave Elliot’s, Gabby’s husband, reaction and subsequent internalization of the affair and its consequences. She made him a good guy but not a saint and I found I was interested in him just as much as I was interested in Gabby. She also extends the impact of the affair to the friendships Gabby and Elliot had. The author didn’t make their best friends’ reactions cookie cutter or expected. They didn’t take the high road; they too made choices that had unpleasant ramifications. The novel is genuine.

For me, it is one of those books that stick with you, that make you think, and that maybe even make you keep a more open mind towards a person who commits adultery. Marriage is many things but it is never a 50-50. And it does happen in a marriage that some major decision gets made by one partner without fully caring about the other partner’s position or feelings. Sometimes the motivation for an affair is less about sex or the thrill of getting away with something and more about what is going on with a person emotionally at a particular period of time in their life. And that moment in time is the accumulation of events and decisions up to that point and the way these have impacted/influenced the person. 

 

Wait…is this college or kindergarten???

I had the pleasure (?) of taking our oldest to her one day college orientation. I question how pleasurable it was because, quite honestly, she had the biggest puss face I've seen on her to date. The whole researching and applying to college is a miserable process. Especially if you are having to drag said HS senior by her long blond hair through the whole thing. Since she will readily admit that she wants to go to college (because, as she will also readily admit, she likes the benefits of her life style which is a result in part of her parents' college educations) you would think she would have shown more enthusiasm for the whole thing.  

Anyway, as I was sitting in the conference room with a whole slew of other parents, listening to people from the various areas of the college speak, it dawned on me that sending daughter #1 off to college is a lot like sending a child off to kindergarten. 

1 - Buying school supplies. We haven't begun to stockpile a thing for college. We've talked about the things she will need and the things she would like to have. And, thanks to Pinterest, she has pinned I don't know how many ideas to her board. (This, by the way, is the area she has exhibited the most interest in when it comes to college.) As you can guess, we are talking about way more  than some new clothes, a folder with her name on it, and a backpack. She certainly didn't get a brand new room to decorate. I can already see the dance to be done here in balancing her vision of what her room will look like (again, thank you Pinterest!) with the financial and practical reality of a budget and that there is only so much that is going to fit in my SUV, and that includes putting the car top carrier on.

2 - Visiting the school. When she started Kindergarten, the school was open the last week in August for students to come in, walk around, find their classroom and maybe even see the teacher as she/he was in there prepping for the start of the school year. To date, daughter #1 and I have been to the campus three times. And, at the orientation, they told the parents we could come by again if our student felt they needed another walk around or a peek at their dorm. While I appreciate the openness of the administration/campus, I'm hoping this offer wasn't communicated to our kids as the college is over two hours from our house, I have two other kids to run around so the likelihood of this happening is pretty much nil.

3 - 1st day jitters. Or, in the case of our daughter, the whole year before jitters. I don't remember her being very nervous about going off to Kindergarten but I do CLEARLY remember her nervousness about going from elementary to middle school. All of 5th grade was spent in angst over going to 6th grade. First, she wasn't going. No way. When it became clear she had to (I vaguely remember telling her something about being physically picked up, put in the car, and dropped off - in her jammies - if she didn't cooperate. The choice was hers……), she told us she would go but she wasn't doing anything (it was never clear if she meant school work or extra curricular activities). So I don't know why I'm surprised that she is freaking out about going off to college. She is a homebody so sleeping in a bed that is not her own for more than a week is going to be a giant adjustment for her. I overheard her tell her dad that she will be texting me every day and probably calling. She is trying to get me to make a commitment to sleep with my cell phone.

 

4 - Making new friends. A huge stressor for our daughter has been who her roommate will be. Will this person be respectful? Will they be friends? Will they touch her stuff? Will they be okay with her asking them to use the giant bottle of hand sanitizer she plans on keeping in her room…..she's kind of a germaphobe. I view this stressor as an 18 year old's version of "who will be my best friend in class." I want her peers to like her and I worry about the same things I did when she went out the door to Kindergarten - will she be liked? Will they see what a gentle, sensitive soul she is? Will someone take advantage of this and hurt her? Will she stand up for herself? Let's not forget that she goes from sharing a bathroom with her sister to sharing a public-like bathroom with approximately 18 other girls….this is the same girl who avoided the bathrooms at high school and made a beeline for one as soon as she came home from school. If there is any situation that will make or break the newly formed bonds of friendship it will be how these girls share that space. 

 

5 - Parent anxiety. My daughter has no idea how much her dad and I are struggling with what is going to happen over the next 7 weeks. First, we need to get through her high school graduation. As I've already shared in #2, she doesn't always handle transitions really well so we aren't sure which child we'll get: the bundle-of-nerves-which-shows-itself-by-the-degree-of-puss-face-she-wears or the giddy chatterbox. And what will early August bring? No doubt both she and I will be increasingly on edge as her departure date gets close and the dining room becomes piled with the items to be packed/squished into the car. Our squabbling will mask the nervousness as we ask ourselves have we taught her all the right lessons so that she can advocate for herself, make good choices, and be brave? Not unlike when we got ready to send her to Kindergarten - did she know how to ask for help? Can she choose right from wrong all by herself? Will she feel comfortable enough to try and take risks? Then there are the practical things: did we pack everything she needs? Does she have enough of it so she does not have to worry about getting to a store in those first weeks? Again, the Kindergarten equivalent of does she have enough pencils and the right type of crayons. And then, we have to leave her there. Leave her to navigate a strange place and fend for herself. Leave her trusting that the professors, academic advisors and RA's on campus will guide her and have her best interest at heart. 

This can't be any tougher than putting her on the big yellow school bus, watching the doors close and the bus lumber down the road, crossing my fingers that the other children will be nice to her, the teachers will help her do what she needs to do and she has the confidence in herself to be successful…….right? 

Little Signs

I give up. I quit. I can not do this.

I was so motivated when I last posted. We were on vacation, far less responsibility then if I was home, and I felt like I could sit down and kick out some serious wordage. Nope. That lasted two days and then I got distracted (but I did write 2,763 words). You know, doing fun stuff, exploring the area, shopping. I came home very well rested but disappointed in myself. I certainly didn't establish new BEHAVIORS. And once we got home I didn't make the writing a priority. So after berating myself night after night over not making time for this I decided I'd just let it go. Perhaps it is not the right time for me to try and shove it into my schedule. I am smack dab in the middle of raising a family and my husband runs a company which takes up gobs of his time. Something has to give. God knows I have enough other junk to feel guilty about without heaping this onto the pile. I admit once I made this decision I felt a lot better. I suddenly felt I had some space….odd isn't it since my perception was that my lack of writing was due to a space issue! But I was also mad at myself for giving up. That's not like me. That's not the example I want to set for my kids. 

But a funny thing happened. I got what I view as signs that I should not give up. First it was the trickling in of people deciding to follow me on Twitter. Not those bots either. Real people who write. It really made my day when that happened. The second sign was a link that Alice Hoffman (one of my all time favorite authors) posted on her Facebook page. It was to an interview done by the Boston Globe where four authors talked about their writing careers in relation to motherhood.  (http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/04/21/writers-who-are-also-mothers/cR5vtbbIuFlsjuVh3zWXHI/story.html). It validated that it is indeed hard to do! I'm not missing something in this process. 

And then the biggest sign. Back in January I had volunteered to be a blog contributor to the Book Blog, a blog hosted on the digital edition of our area's largest daily newspaper. The managing editor emailed me back and said he'd like me to come on board. But then I heard nothing. For months. Out of the blue, last week he emailed me again, said the Book Blog was ready to get running again and asked if I was still interested in being a contributor. I told him I was in! So I've been busy writing my first post. Then I hopped over to here and started writing this post. The renewed enthusiasm I have for sitting my keister in the chair and writing has been huge. Like I haven't felt guilty that I haven't done anything else today except write two blog posts and run two loads of laundry. What is even more reassuring is that once I started writing each post the words just came and I was in a happy place :) Here is the link to my first post:

http://blog.timesunion.com/books/hi-my-name-is-lynn-and-im-a-book-addict/2481/

Maybe I can do this. Maybe I'm not a quitter. Maybe what I need to quit is the self imposed deadline I have in my head and just let it happen as it will.