Thursday, January 31, 2008

Playing Pretend

Imagine two groups of animals - all plastic - sitting on the dining room table. On my side, there are tigers - around 4 of them, plus tiny little kittens, a few dogs, and even a sheep. On my daughter's side, there is a great big moose, a few more tigers, dogs, a cat, a meerkat, and a panda bear.

Me: (holding a tiger and "moving" him while I talk in a funny voice because you can't play pretend with a normal voice) I think we should quit fighting and all be friends.

My daughter: (holding the dog she calls Shackleford who is the leader of her group) Yes, that is a good idea. It's better when we are all friends.

Me: (now holding the sheep and using a 'sheep' voice, whatever that is) Yes, it is. We have more fun together.

My daughter: (holding the moose) Ok. Let's take a vote. All those opposed (yes, she really used this word) to being friends, raise your hand.

Silence. No one raises their hands, er, paws. I try to squelch a giggle. Unsuccessfully.

My daughter (in a stage whisper): Mom, no one's voting!

Me: Um, that's because you said opposed, which means against being friends. Instead, you should say, all those in favor.

My daughter: (another stage whisper), "Ok!" (then in an animal voice) All those in favor, raise your hands!"

Paws shoot into the air.

Later, my tiger is on his way to exercise. (This, I think, is a graceful exit and allows me to nicely end the game on my part.) All the other animals say goodbye to Tiger, and then "Shackleford" has a conversation with his friend, "Moose."

Moose: Why is Tiger going to work out?

Shackleford: Because it gives him lots of muscles. And...that's how he gets a woman."

You try and hold your laughter on that one!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Winter and Writing


Brrrrr! It's cold here! I wish I had a nice, warm dog to cuddle with right about now! Unfortunately, the day job only offers me a cubicle with a window where I can watch the snow blowing and falling. Yesterday we had a taste of spring - low 50's - and today we've been blasted back to polar temperatures.

In the midst of taking care of my poor sick stepson (he has the flu and is miserable) and helping my daughter draw a "winter tree" for her latest artwork, I managed to get in about a page of writing last night on the laptop. I'm enjoying my character so far - she's different from anything I've ever written - and that in itself is a challenge.

A headache prevented me from exercising, but that's ok - I plan to hit the treadmill and weight machine tonight. I think I may detect just a slight loosening in my jeans. Could be my imagination, though!

I actually don't mind too much that it's cold outside. I like cozying up under a blanket on the couch with my laptop, a cup of hot cocoa (if I'm in the mood) within reach. I tend to thrive during the winter months. Maybe I have the opposite of seasonal affective disorder since summers make me incredibly cranky. Too much sun! Give me rain and snow and dark, dreary days!

I know. I'm weird...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Relaxed and Rejuvenated


Nice, relaxing weekend. Just what I needed!

Saturday I spent a nice, lovely day writing. I eschewed the desktop in favor of the laptop and the couch, and in between breaks to watch Hogan's Heroes (hubby splurged and bought the entire season), I got quite a bit done.

Hogan's Heroes is hokey and goofy and totally unbelievable, but our whole family loves it. Since we don't have cable, we only watch DVD's and VHS tapes, and it's been tons of fun to watch this old television series. It's actually rather refreshing. John Banner plays the bumbling and loveable Sgt. Schulz ("I know nuthing!") and Werner Klemperer plays Colonel Klink. Ironically, both of these men fled persecution from Hitler in the years before World War II. That they portray the Nazis as utter fools is poetic justice, I think. ;-)

Sunday I got my work-out in and it felt great. I never thought I would look forward to exercising and *gasp* actually start to enjoy it, but lately, I have. And I actually love working out at home. It's just me and my music, and I don't have to worry about what I look like. I can work out anytime I want (in fact, the other night, I found myself on the treadmill at 9 p.m.!), and I can just hop upstairs to grab a shower.

Now if I can just manage to forget my chocolate addiction...

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Do-Nothing Weekend.

I'm gone all week at work. So when the weekend comes up, I don't want to do anything. To me, it's two lovely days of sleeping in, lounging around the house, getting caught up on housecleaning and laundry, and writing.

There are times I'll have the urge to go shopping or get out of the house for a bit, but by and large, my weekends are my time. And that's how I like it.

If I have a very busy weekend, I don't feel like I've had a proper time to rejuvenate to face the upcoming work week. Those weeks last forever.

Are you the type that needs to have a weekend of nothing, or do you cram in as much stuff as possible on your days off?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

AlphaSmart and Me

I have an AlphaSmart. I acquired it by accident. My mom had it sitting in her apartment and didn't know what it was - a friend had given it to her, yet she'd never really taken the time to look at it.

When I saw it, I was ecstatic. I'd read about others' experiences with it and thought maybe I'd try it out. So I've been using it on and off for a few months now. I love how it's so easy - turn it on and start typing - no waiting for it to boot up, etc.

But last night, I wanted to write and since my office is in the basement (and it gets really cold in our basement during the winter), I decided to write upstairs on my comfy couch. But instead of the AlphaSmart, I got out my trusty laptop.

And I realized why AlphaSmart and I will never have a good relationship.

It would be the perfect little companion if it had a bigger screen. Some people like the fact that they can't see what they wrote other than a few lines of text. But not me. I need that big white screen to look at and chart my progress. And if I don't have that screen, I freeze up. I feel like I'm writing into an abyss.

Am I weird or what?

Definition

I loved all your "definitions" for widdershins! Thanks for playing! Here's the definition according to Dictionary.com:

widdershins - In a contrary or counterclockwise direction: "The coracle whirled round, clockwise, then widdershins" (Anthony Bailey).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Time for a Little Fun


Enough with the serious, philosophical, and/or lofty posts. It's time to have some fun.

And you get to play! Don't worry - it's simple!

I'm going to give you a word (hopefully one that not many people know) and I want you to give me the definition. But I don't want the real definition - make up one that is wacky and weird and wonderful! And if you do happen to know the real definition (or use Dictionary.com!), then make up a definition anyway!

Ready? Here's the word:

widdershins

Leave your answer in the comments. And have fun!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Importance of Patience


For a long time, I walked around with a feeling of immense frustration. It simmered just below the surface and every so often, I could feel it crawling on my shoulders. Whenever I received a rejection letter, it only fueled the fire and there were days I wanted to scream, quite literally.

I wanted to be published. Now.

It was a constant torment. I would tell my husband how much I was ready for a publishing career, how much I wanted it and wanted it right now, not a year from now or five years, but now.

I didn't think I could wait any longer, and neither did I want to. Until this past week. A remarkable change has occured. I don't know if it's due to the fatigue (which has slowly started to abate) or if it's something else, but my focus has shifted.

Yes, I want to get my career started. Yes, I want to be published. But a wonderful patience has taken over that feeling of frustration and released me from its grip. Now, I want to indulge in my writing. I want to write just to write. I want to be sure of my craft and sure of what I want to write about before I am published.

I'm pretty sure my faith has given me this peace. Heaven knows, quite literally, that I have been asking for patience for awhile.

My goal is still to be published. But I'm looking at it from a different angle. Instead of being in a rush to fulfill my dream, I want it to happen when the time is right. And when that time comes, I'll know.

For now, I plan to indulge in my writing and hone my strengths and improve my weaknesses. I want to prepare myself for the day that I get "the call" in every way I can.

To that end, I plan to keep an eye on the publishing world, but it will no longer be my main focus. Instead, it will be the words. The craft. The love. The joy.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm Back (Sort Of)

The doctor visit didn't give me any answers - but they did get some blood from me. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've had my blood taken - and I can tell the good lab techs from the, well, not so good. The gal I had yesterday pricked my vein and I didn't even feel it. She was a good one. :-)

Could be my thyroid...could be anemia (guess I was bordeline anemic last time they did my bloodwork). I'm thinking it's the anemia, but we'll see what the tests turn up.

Yesterday wasn't a bad day to be home since we got a nice snowstorm. So the cats and I cozied up while I took a nap, read, and just lounged on the couch. Today, though, I'm back at work and still feeling pretty darn tired.

Funny thing - in the midst of all this, I wanted to write. I actually got out my AlphaSmart Tuesday night, but was only able to type out a few words about how miserable I felt. Anything further exhausted me.

And can I rant for a minute? I was just getting back on my feet with my diet and exercise program. I'd been hitting the treadmill and the weight machine with great success - and then this. Why does that always happen? I get started again with my commitment to a better, healthier me, feel great, then dive into a bout of sickness. I thought exercise was supposed to make you healthy! Maybe it's just a very sad coincidence.

At any rate, still tired. I did finish a great autobiography of Maureen O'Hara, though, called 'Tis Herself. Very well written. Now I'm reading Dorothy Lamour's autobiography and a book on Hollywood during World War II that is quite fascinating.

Hope to get by your blogs soon!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fatigue


Short post today - I'm battling an extreme case of fatigue. So extreme, in fact, that I am headed to the doctor this morning to see what's up. Something is wrong when you have a good night's sleep, wake up at 8 a.m. to eat breakfast, then go back to bed and not wake up again until 2:30 p.m. That was me yesterday and I didn't like it one little bit. When the simplest activity leaves you exhausted, it's not good.
Could be the thyroid, could be the hormones, but whatever it is, all I want to do right now is go to sleep. The kitties have been good company, curling beside me on the bed. Nice to have them around.
Catch ya all soon...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Courage

Pietro and Domenica Ricco Amateis

These are the names of my great-grandparents inscribed on a wall at Ellis Island. When my dad recently took a trip to New York, he took a snapshot of their names. And when I look at them now, I'm in awe of not only my great-grandparents, but all the people who made the trek overseas to America in the early 1900's.

Can you imagine the courage it must have taken? In the days before the internet, before cell phones connected us all, before we could google a place and learn all there was to know about it, embarking on a journey across the ocean to begin a new life must have been terrifying.

My great-grandparents came from a small village in northern Italy called Volpiano. It's still there today and in fact, there are lots of people with the surname of Amateis still living there. I recently got in touch with one of my Italian relatives and through the miracle of email, I was able to send her pictures of her relatives in America (and thank goodness she speaks English because my Italian isn't so great!).

But when I think back to what Pietro and Domenica must have went through to make the decision to leave everything behind and journey to America...it just blows me away. And they didn't even have the luxury of taking a plane to their new home, but traveled on a ship with hundreds of other immigrants. I can just hear the noise of different dialects and languages, the weeping of some who already were homesick, the excited conversation between others who couldn't wait for the new opportunities America provided.

I feel very blessed that my great-grandparents made the decision to come to America. But I wonder if my great-grandmother ever wondered if she'd made a mistake; if my great-grandfather ever worried if he could provide for his wife and family; if they knew that they might never see Italy again. My great-grandmother never did go back to the "old country" - my great-grandfather made the trip a few years before his death.

Today it's so hard to fathom what that must have felt like - to know that you might never see your family again because you lived half a world away. Letters would be your link to home. Photographs would help ease the pain of loneliness. And the promise of a better life might be the only justification you'd ever have for leaving it all behind.

But in the end...it was worth it.

Thanks, Pietro and Domenica, for making the trip. We'll never forget it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Getting Personal

I took the evening off last night from exercising and writing (partly because I was tired and partly because I was brain-dead) and instead immersed myself in a good book. I've been reading autobiographies of film stars lately - I finished one on Gene Tierney a few weeks ago and tonight I started Maureen O'Hara's. It's excellent and gives me a great view of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

I know that autobiographies may not be the most reliable of information - they're probably not very objective, after all - but I enjoy them immensely. And when they're well-written, that's just icing on the cake.

Do you read autobiographies, memoirs, or biographies? If so, which format do you prefer?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Odds and Ends


Out of Mama Kitty's last litter of four, we have one left - the one pictured above. She is a girl and as adorable as can be. She already has a home to go to, but the gal who is taking her is in the midst of moving and asked if we could watch the kitty for a few weeks. I had no problem with that! Especially when she's as cute as this little one!
And Mama Kitty has an appointment at the vet on Friday to get spayed. Yay!
I've been keeping busy with exercise and writing, in that order. I'm determined to get this extra weight off that I accumulated over the summer, and then continue shedding pounds. Thankfully we have a great place to work out in our basement - we just reorganized it over the weekend and it's nice and open with a treadmill, a great weight machine, and a weight bench.
Chapter One is done on the novel! I'm excited to keep moving forward. That pesky voice is making a steady retreat!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why I Love Blogging

I had a post written last night. But then my cat was chasing one of those bouncy balls you get in the 10 cent vending machines, and it bounced under the desk, he went after it, and then BAM. He pulled out the cord to my computer. Everything shut down.

"Slick!!!!" I yelled. He just looked at me innocently (or as innocent as a black cat with green-yellow eyes can look), so I grabbed his bouncy ball and threw it down the hallway, and he bounded after it. I was too tired to boot up my computer again and I prayed that blogger had saved my post. It didn't.

Anyway...

Post for today. Why I love blogging.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm always behind on the latest trends. Some of those are for self-imposed reasons. I don't ever want a MySpace or Facebook account because, well, they're too "busy" with all those graphics and music and pictures and I don't like the format of the pages, plus I already have enough time wasters that I don't need to add more. I also don't have an iPod and have no desire to have one. That may change in the future, though.

But blogging is a trend that I wholeheartedly endorse. The support and sense of community is just, well, awesome. And as a writer, I appreciate it immensely.

Case in point. The comments on Saturday's post helped me more than you could possibly know. Just to know that other writers experience the same thing makes me breathe a sigh of relief that I'm not alone. I love how writers support each other, how we encourage and understand one another. I know professional jealousy exists, but for the most part, since I've been in this writing business (quite a long time now), I've seen the positive side of things. Writing is such a solitary endeavor and is so personal that we need to reach out to others to keep on going.

So. Bottom line, I love to blog because it's introduced me to a whole new community of like-minded people, and the support we give each other is incredible.

On Writing

I also happened to be working on the novel when Slick pulled out the plug, so I hope it all got saved. I just kept on writing last night and started to enjoy the process more. In fact, at one point, I wrote a paragraph in the middle of the chapter that went something like, "This is crap because you're so worried about the editor in your head so just write like no one is ever going to read it but you!"

Ah, the joys of being a writer. ;-)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Put 'Em Up!


Have you ever had these thoughts enter your mind? "What if I can't do it anymore? What if I can't write anymore? What if those two novels I finished were all I had in me?"

Welcome to my world.

I've written a few pages on the new novel, yet in the back of my mind is this tormenting little voice. I've tried to ignore it, but I feel it sitting on my shoulders, whispering in my ear.

You can't do it. You had it once. The magic is gone.

I've had these moments before and always gotten past them, but this time, it's a bit different. It's stronger, more powerful than before. Why, I'm not sure. Maybe because it's been so long since I've worked on a new novel. Maybe if I just plow through and keep writing (which I will do anyway), it will go away.

Have you experienced this? Any words of wisdom for how to vanquish this voice?

Friday, January 04, 2008

We Have Only Just Begun


Chapter One has been started.

It happened last night at approximately 11 p.m. Kids in bed. Hubby snoring. Cats romping around upstairs.

I couldn't wait any longer. I thought about starting tomorrow, when I was fresh and ready to go, when I had my music playing and my candles lit.

Instead, I started when my eyelids were drooping, when my body cried out for sleep, when the noises of the basement accompanied me and nothing else.

Don't think, just write kept going through my mind. Prayers were sent. Again and again. Please show me I haven't lost the ability to write. Please show me I can still do this.

And those prayers were answered at 11:00 p.m. Words flowed. Imagery emerged. Characters spoke.

Ahh...bliss.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Brainstorming


I looked a lot like this picture yesterday. I sat and stared at my computer, then stared at the calendar on the wall, then stared at the cats who stared back at me.

My goal for yesterday was to finish figuring out the major points of my novel. I struggled with it all day, and no amount of chocolate helped. (I limited myself, though!). I fought the problems all morning and afternoon until about 3:30 when my husband declared we needed to get out of the house. We headed to Target because it was too darn cold to take a walk.

I wandered around the store, picked up Ocean's Twelve for $6 because I love the Ocean's 11 movies, ignored all the delectable desserts in the bakery section, and vowed to boycott low-waisted jeans. But I was no closer to figuring out my plot than before.

I hit the computer again when we got home, but I still struggled. I have seven pages of notes - yes, seven - of aimless thoughts, of questions I'm posing to myself, of half-formed ideas and concepts.

And wouldn't you know it - the one thing that opened the flood gates was something that not only is good for the mind, but excellent for the body - exercise. I plugged in the treadmill, popped a big band CD in, and got to walking. After a few minutes of working out (and I ask you, how can you not move when you're listening to swing music?), the gears started churning. The solution suddenly presented itself, and as I kept on walking/jogging/and doing sit-ups (darn low-waisted jeans made me realize I needed to really target that area!), I kept going over the angles. Everything fell into place.

So. There you have it. When you're stuck, exercise. Move. Stretch. Allow your mind to wander. You'll feel better physically and emotionally when you're done. I'm sure this isn't new to many of you, but it's definitely worth repeating!

One Day at a Time

I've always tried to live with this mentality: One day at a time. Unfortunately, when I implement it, I fail spectacularly. But for this...