Sunday, December 10, 2017

NaNoWriMo Recap

        It started as just a camaraderie thing.  I knew there were several writer friends doing NaNoWriMo and i; e always wanted to write a novel so why not do it in a month?  I'm crazy like that, right?
       Plus, I was spurred on by the adrenaline from the Boston Book Festival.  So, I figured I'd participate, get some words on the page which is notoriously difficult.
         I didn't take it very seriously at first, I didn't jealously fight for my writing time.  I wasn't willing to get up early.  At first, it was just a jumble of moments, no real order or plan but they were all moments that mattered to me. 
          They were all part of my story .  I began to realize in a new way how skewed my relationship with God has been, how much I have not changed since I was a child, how much I refuse to change.  How deep the wounds and brokenness go.  As I'd write I'd wonder, "Has there ever been anyone so messed up as me?  Making deals with God and bargaining a way to avoid my pain."  Then I'd reply (to myself) "SO many, I know, all of us, broken and bruised….human after all.  Only human and him all knowing but how can we ever heal?  How can we ever change?  How can my story be any more than just a mess of mixed up doctrines and false assumptions."
         I decided to start taking things a little more seriously and realized that I love writing at the Library.  I feel so inspired and though the books do distract me for a while, once I set down to work things go much more smoothly, efficiently.  I also notice I don’t watch music videos at the library.  I just listen to instrumental music and focus on the writing.  Sometimes I only put one headphone in so I can be aware of my surroundings.  Music videos seem inappropriate at the library and I suppose they are addicting and distracting even at home. 
     Trying to find the right music added to my guilt over falling behind on my word count.  First, it was wine and then scandalous pop song videos.  But it was also what I was writing.  I felt a guilt that was heavy and demanded healing when I wrote about my ex boyfriend, when I relived sweet moments together, re-imagining them with rose colored glasses but the process also forced me to confront why we didn’t end up together.  It wasn’t just that he smoked weed and drank or didn’t care about women’s rights. A cynic could accuse my husband of those things as well (albeit in the past.)  No, it was that this boy I loved at first,  did not love God more than he loved me.  And to write it off as anything else would be dishonest. 
          And I began to take writing more seriously, I began to take the themes and questions I was wrestling with and weave them into a fictional quilt filled with very true moments.  But then fatigue set in. Each word was like a slow crawl to the finish.  I  could not seem to get my words down and the words I did get down felt cliche and ambling.  I was  annoyed at myself but refused to give up.  I had written so much already; probably more than in the past two years combined or at least equal to it.  There was already so much to edit and to play with.  I think that will be the fun part.  If only I could figure out what music to listen to. 
       Before I could believe it, it was already the last day.  The very last write in on the last day.  I had 5,000 words left to write and so little energy.  The leader of my writing group put these two pins in front of me and told me to choose.  I could continue this story next year or next month or I could finish it in the next 3 hours.  I began to write feverishly.  I wrote and I wrote.  I set my timer and every half hour I'd give myself a cookie...literally.  I tried extending scenes that felt short and adding description where it was lacking.  I was scrambling. 
     Then, at 11:43 with 22 minutes left of the month I finished.  I would not say it is a truly complete novel.  But it is a love story that I am proud of.  It is more than a start it has a beginning, middle and end.  I can't believe how long it took and how hard it was and yet how worth it.  I felt like a winner and when people ask me what I've won, I show them the pin.  Because really that is enough, more than enough. 
        I gave myself  a whole week off.  But part of me doesn't want to lose momentum.  I want to keep "writing like my pen is on fire."  So, I think I will.  I think I will always write.  It is part of me. 



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The hat

 Prompt #2 “He couldn’t take it anymore.  This was the last time he was going to let her”

 “He couldn’t take it anymore.  This was the last time he was going to let her” hurt herself.  The scabs disgusted him. Her perfect porcelain skin clawed into thumb-sized pox.  He’s watch her do it.  Her eyes would start to scan their surroundings restlessly.  She’d shift in her sit, cross and recross her legs.  Then, reach her dirty, ragged nails to the nape of her neck and quickly scratch an imagined itch.  She’d pull her hand down and then thoughtlessly reach up again finding a razor sharp edge to her claws and drag them across her chin or hairline with enough pressure to draw blood.  He’d reach to swat her hand down but it was too late. 

She was hooked now, her hand would surreptitiously search her scalp for dead skin to pull away, old scars to reopen, any way to let the panic inside ooze out.  She’d examine her hands.  Unaware of him now.  He’s hit her again, swatting just hard enough to startle her back to reality.  Once, during a movie he’d asked her to sit on her hands and she had dutifully obeyed just until his attention was riveted back to the screen, then she’d reach back up to her face, digging deeper and deeper pits, aiming for arteries, examining old pus with detachment. 

He’d get so mad and she’d cry helplessly.  They even made a pact one hopeful date night.  She agreed that for every time she drew her own blood she’d stick on a huge floppy hat regardless of the time or place. The intention was two-fold to block her access to her most prone areas but also to shame her into breaking the habit.  The next day, he stopped by for lunch and she guiltily let the brim of the hat fall over her eyes as she cried salty tears into the sandwich they were sharing. 

“Don’t you want to stop?” he asked.
“Of course,” she wailed.
“Then, why do you keep doing it.  You know it’s going to get infected.  I listened to a podcast the other day where a girl dug a hole so deep into her own head that they could see her skull.  It was so infected they couldn’t get it to heal.  Is that what you want?”
 She shook her head vehemently.  “I’m so scared that’s what is going to happen.”
“Why?  That’s ridiculous!  It’s your choice, it’s not like it happens without you knowing.  You are doing this to yourself!”  He allowed some scorn to harden his voice.  His eyes flashed and cut her heart.
“It IS like it is happening without me knowing.  Most of the time it’d totally subconscious.  I hate it but once I start I just can’t stop.”
“Of course you can….you’re not a zombie or something.  You can’t stop because you think you can’t.  Mind over matter.”

She rolled her eyes, and scratched an imagined itch by her wrist, she made an X in the skin pressing diagonally with her thumb in one direction and the other with as much pressure as she could muster.  No relief, she scratched absently looking for a more tender spot, an old wound, preferably near some nerves. 
   
   “I’m not really hungry…I don’t feel good.  Do you mind if I go for a quick run?” she begged. 
    “Sure,” he replied. Flicking on the TV.

  She threw on the same thing she’d worn the day before, old sports bra, the Rose Bowl Race for a Cure Shirt and running shorts.  She contemplated the day old socks but didn’t have the energy to go searching for new ones.  She had to get out.  She ignored the smell, pulled them on, dragged her headphones off the dresser in her room and gave Will a quick kiss on the cheek before she scanned her iPod for her running mix.  She walked until she found it, stuck in her headphones, hating the way they felt in her ears.  She began to jog. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Strabismus

Prompt: Write about a time you tried something new. (500 words)

    Leaves were something new.  Her six year old mind marveled at their meticulous veins and arteries.  The overlapping details stunned her senses.  Until this morning she had lived in a watercolor world, trees were topped with green in the summer, orange and yellow in the fall and suddenly were bare branches in the winter.  This spring she’d seen nothing at all. Dr. Tom had explained the procedure with cartoons, diagrams and even an episode of Sesame Street.
    But nothing had prepared her for the reality of waking up; screaming and clawing at a sharp needle pinning the back of her hand.  Worst of all was the total darkness, she flailed to fight that too but her eyes felt taped shut.  She finally drew a breath, and then another that wasn’t a scream.  She kept breathing counting each minute of this eery eclipse. 
    It had been that way for two weeks.  Her cassette player automatically flipped at the end of a side so with eyes bandaged like a war veteran she listened continuously to the first installment of Prince Caspian, picturing it in her mind to stay sane. After another two weeks the bandages were removed but she wore dark glasses and kept her eyes shut most of the time.  As her mom weaned her off these children began to cry when they saw her at her in the park, backing away as if she had scalded them.  She asked about this and her mom reminded her of Dr. Tom’s warnings.  Her eyes would be bright red- blood shot for a few weeks after the operation.

    Then this morning she had opened her eyes and seen.  There outside her window, drawn in sharp focus hung emerald green leaves.  There were more than she could have ever imagined.  It took hundreds to comprise the whole of even one tree’s foliage.  She took time studying the individuals feeling silly and sorry that for so long she had only known them as a crowd. She looked beyond them briefly and was stunned by the sight of the sky.  The clouds.  The clouds were not flat white things painted on the vault of blue.  The sky was so much nearer than she had ever imagined.  She wondered at the varied depths and distances of the air and atmosphere. 
    She lay her head back on the pillow and resolved to ask for only a skylight this summer.  She knew her dad could do it. He was constantly pulling off other people’s roofs and re-roofing them. Besides she knew the ceiling above her was still damaged from the chimney fire over the winter.  She sighed, imagining the perfection of watching the stars pass overhead as she fell asleep.  Perfection.  Perhaps they also held secrets she had never before known.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Boston Book Festival


    It should have been a no-brainer for me to be attending the Boston Book Festival for the years that I’ve lived here.  But no, I regret now that I missed 9 seasons of an amazing and FREE cultural experience.

But that’s what friends are for. 

    While changing over my laundry at the Big A laundromat (Names may have been changed to protect…well….me I guess) Anyway, while carefully shifting armloads of damp clothing careful to not lose any baby socks, I heard a booming voice behind me, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”  I smiled to myself.  Matt of the laundromat, and more importantly Matt the writer.  In short order, I had apprised him of the most efficient dryers and he had convinced me to attend at least the Writer’s Idol portion of the Boston Book Festival.

    And so sitting in a room jammed packed with aspiring and perspiring writer’s I calculated the chances of my first page being read and analyzed by the agents at the front.  250 submissions, and 20-25 to be read.  It was certainly better than playing the lottery, or not submitting anything at all. 

    As piece after piece was read, I gathered some important insights.  For example, I was quickly schooled about cliches I didn’t even know were cliche.  Sure, after reading thousands of pieces of middle and high school writing I knew better than to let “the sun shimmer” or the “water sparkle.”  But I had less of an idea that I should avoid starting a submission with: a dream, the weather a flashback, how the post office works, a therapist’s office. 

    The most important thing of all is to write.  And I’ve realized that it takes a village to do just that.  So, I’m back in blogosphere, giving a big shout out to each of you amazing readers, the author over at https://candidsandwanderingwords.wordpress.com and to my writing friend’s from TMWC.  So very many thanks!  Now to try NaNoWriMo….

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Ward Wedding Toast...Two weeks later

            I discovered a pretty surprising fact two weeks ago today.  It’s still fresh but I think I’m ready to write about it…  I am not good at wedding speeches.  It’s bit embarrassing to tell the truth.  In case you were unaware, I TAUGHT public speaking for almost 6 years, so you’d think I had this in the bag.  But when I grabbed the mic that Friday night, “My mind just drew a blank, like ‘La-La-La.’”  (Anyone? The Game, early 2000s?  No?! anyway….) 
But Hunter and Jane deserve better than that.   And it is not too late!  So, this is what I wish I’d said even though I definitely would have gotten choked up…maybe have had to hold up a shaky hand and ask everyone to wait a minute while I pulled it together….but this is what I would have said if I had the guts.



Photograph courtesy of http://www.markspoonerphoto.com
            Jane, I love you.  I have loved you since the moment you were born.  I have loved you beyond all reason and cherish every moment with you.  I am so sorry I have tried so hard to be your mother.  I am sorry I have tried so hard to be “cool.”  I am sorry I did not figure out sooner how to be more transparent and genuine with such an extraordinary little sister.  
I’m sorry that I taught you how to skinny dip and streak around town forest….well mostly I’m just sorry you got caught ;)
         I am not at all sorry that we are hardcore Disneyland fans, that we love hiking to Heublein Tower, writing each other letters, and reading the Baudelaires aloud (that was like my first sign that Hunter was “the one” for you.  A die hard Lemmony Snicket fan is a true gem).   
I am grateful for the way you cared for James when I was sick but had to go back to work.  I am grateful that you love each my kids like your own.  I am grateful for our mutual love of ice dancing and Downton Abbey.  I am grateful that we have finally found our groove of being genuine kindred spirits, best friends and sisters.  I feel blessed beyond all measure.  I feel like the luckiest.
---------
And Hunter….let’s be honest….you are the luckiest;)  I kind of feel that Scout should give this part of the speech since she adores you as purely as only a three year old can. She knew from the moment she met you that you were a good man; that you were her friend; that you were family.  
Photograph courtesy of http://www.markspoonerphoto.com
She has told me that she loves “how you play games… that you are funny and ….your beard.”  I think that is a pretty good list.  But I want to add some qualities that are so admirable about you.  And I’ve found there are a lot of things to admire.  I admire your humility, especially about your skill at lacrosse.  I admire your insight into athletics and the arts.  I’ll never forget how much you seemed to just “get” Jane’s artwork at her senior show.  You didn’t just politely glance at it, you analyzed it and appreciated it deeply.   
I admire your flexibility -both literally and figuratively.  (I mean I’ll admit I was dumbfounded when I heard you could bend over and touch your forearms to the ground…that’s, well, just incredible.)  But more than that, I admire how when you came to visit Jane and she had to go to an Artsbridge thing, you spent the whole day helping me with the kids.  Seriously, THE.  WHOLE.  DAY.  And it wasn’t like one of our best days, when the kids are angelic and I’m like extra sweet super mom.  It was like a real day in the life.  And you were so helpful and gracious.  
I admire how you always notice when Scout and Hadley reach new milestones.  You are always one of the first to celebrate me when Scout overcomes a speech hurdle or Hadley takes a wobbly step.  
 
Photograph courtesy of http://www.markspoonerphoto.com
So, with all those amazing qualities wound together, it’s no surprise you are an incredible couple.  My hope and prayer for you as you enter into the adventure of marriage together is that you always see  each other as God sees us, or to make it a little less daunting…try and see each other kind of like how I saw Jane the first time I held her as a baby…noticing each tiny detail, wondering at her unique personality,  and utter gratitude that her miraculous life was tied to mine.  I am utterly grateful again this time that I get to experience a newborn marriage of two people I love grow and mature.  






PS I think I need to give a shout out to Nick’s speech at the rehearsal dinner because it has now become James’ presedent for HIS obsession with eating frosted mini wheats without milk???!!!

PPS Anne and Pedro you are next.