Friday, August 29, 2008

The Bliss Aspect of a Clean House


Even though I was exhausted when I got home from work last night, I noticed that there was a nice caking of dust on my end table in my living room. I am one of those housekeepers that like to have a tidy house, but not a spotless house. Reason? I have three children - four if you count my husband. Keeping a spotless house would take up all my time and energy and only result in frustration since it would stay that way for all of thirty seconds.

I decided to start dusting, and that turned into vacuuming, and then in between all this, I was cooking dinner. By the time it was all finished, my living room was sparkling - clean carpets, dust-free surfaces, and the nice aroma of cornbread filled the air.

Not only did I feel accomplished, but I also felt like everything was right in my world. When my house is in chaos, my life feels the same way - generally because it is in chaos.

However, when my house is clean...it's very easy to feel much better about my life. I feel more organized, more accomplished, less harried, and much more settled. I like to feel settled. I like to feel that I can sit in my living room and relax without thinking, "I need to pick that up. Dust that. Vacuum here."

Now if I can just keep it this way...

On Tap for the Labor Day Weekend
  • Nebraska football on Saturday - Go Huskers!
  • Friends on Sunday
  • Writing
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thunderclap

Not only was it thundering and raining this morning, but I got a big ol' thunderclap in my head last night while working on my novel.

My character had been wrapped up in her new relationship, so wrapped up that she completely forgot about her main goal in life, the very essence of what she needs to accomplish in this story. And so had I.

*Boom!*

When I realized just how close I'd coming to losing the thread of my story, I almost panicked. But then I thanked the Lord for showing me what I'd almost missed. Sheesh!

This only proves how intimate we can become with our story and our characters. Suddenly, we're not the all-knowing writer who can deftly move our characters around like pieces on a chessboard; we're actually in the story. We're feeling our characters' emotions. We're experiencing their lives. We're not in charge.

This can be a good thing and a bad thing.

1) Good because if we're that deeply involved in our story, our reader should be that involved, too (we hope). Good because we're pouring our heart and soul into the story. We're feeling it. And the reader will, too (we hope!).

2) Bad because it's very easy to let our characters off the hook instead of putting them through the ringer. Bad because without conflict and tension, the story is boring.

Solution: take yourself out of the story every once in awhile and look at it with an unbiased eye.

You can do this when you're writing the first draft if you're like me and want to get the story pretty fleshed out (i.e. all the plot points make sense, character GMC's, etc.) before the editing process, OR, you can do this in your editing stage.

Either way, it's essential.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Laughing It Up

I enjoy dark chocolate. My absolute favorite is Dove's Dark Chocolate Promises. They have these nifty little sayings on the inside of the wrapper and I even have one of them taped to my computer: "Keep believing in yourself and your special dreams."

But there's one that I've had three times today (yes, yes, I've had more than one piece of chocolate today. It's Monday, after all!). This particular saying is, "Laugh, laugh, and laugh some more."

Hmmm....

Do I need to laugh more at the frantic pace my life has developed in the past month?

Do I need to laugh more when I see a sink full of dishes, laundry piling up, floors that need to be vacuumed?

Do I need to laugh more when the alarm goes off entirely too early on a Monday morning?

Do I need to laugh more when my kids get into yet another wrestling match?

The resounding answer, if I want to keep my sanity, is "Yes."

And if I didn't need confirmation enough, the chocolate wrapper I just opened says, "Think of something that makes you laugh."

Ok, I will.

I laugh when I see my daughter running around the backyard with Jasper nipping at her heels, she giggling in absolute delight, his tail wagging and his little bark showing just how excited he is to have her as a friend.

I laugh when I see my husband's latest acquisition - a 1984 Nova car that gets something like 40 miles to the gallon. It looks horrible, but it runs - and it has saved him a ton of gas. And he bought it for the low price of $50.

I laugh when I see my two boys playing basketball, comparing notes about their day at school, when they talk about the girls they met, and how they both use a hair straightener now.

I laugh with utter delight when I think that I'll be in England in October.

I laugh with joy when I write a scene in my novel that I just love, that I know has everything it needs, that I know will move the reader.



And I laugh with complete adoration and love when I look at this picture of my husband and daughter:



Laugh...love...live!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Playing With Words

I recently left a comment on a blog about which part of the writing process I really enjoyed. At that point, I put that I loved to edit - because that's when I got to play with words and really hone and shape them into what I want them to be.

But last night, I realized that I love to play with words when I'm actually writing the first draft. If my mindset is right and I'm not channeling that evil inner editor, the white space on my computer screen is the perfect opportunity to play. Anything goes. New word combinations. Unheard of similes. Crazy sentence structure.

Of course, if the evil inner editor is in residence, I don't get to play nearly as much. The editor's disapproving frown and finger-waving stops me in my tracks and makes me jump into the safety net of "acceptable" and "boring."

They key then, is to get rid of the evil editor (EE). If I can manage to sneak away to the playground without the EE noticing and maybe jump on the swings and bail out and then do a few tricks on the monkey bars and actually have fun while I write, then I can enjoy the writing process just as much as the editing process.

Here's to playing!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to School

I work close to our local university and I've had the opportunity to be on campus the last few days. Wow. What a beehive of activity! There are parents following their kids around, looking lost and a bit sad while the kids look excited and a bit apprehensive. You can tell the new students from the seasoned professionals by the way they're dressed - the new students still need to make a good impression and the girls are wearing their cute sundresses and have their hair donw while the seasoned ones are quite comfy in their flipflops, cut-off shorts, and hair pulled back into a ballcap.

There's an energy in the air that is just neat to be around. For a split second the other day, I thought, "I want to do this again." But then I realized that although it's a fun-filled environment those first few days, after awhile the newness wears off and you've got to buckle down and get to work. For new students, there's homework, tests, juggling the responsibility of being on your own for the first time, meeting new people, friendships, saying no or yes to the party life, making it to class on your own...in short, life hits you smack in the face.

Hmm. That's sort of like writing your novel - though it's not only for new novelists, but for us all. The newness wears off after awhile, the excitement and anticipation, where everything is fresh and fun and exciting and there are things to be discovered. But then you hit the middle and you're bogged down with plot problems and character SNAFU's and sabotaging thoughts of "I can't do this" and "I can't write, what was I thinking?"

But then, when you get toward the end, just like during finals week, you stretch yourself and write and write and finally, you can breathe a sigh of relief when you type "the end", just like you breathe a sigh of relief when that last final is turned in for the semester.

What a ride.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Finally!

Ahhhh.....

I can't tell you how much better I feel.

I finally, finally, after days of chaos, got to sit down and write last night. Granted, it was 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and I figured I'd only have an hour or so to get a few words down, but I was bound and determined to do it.

I shooed my husband out of the bedroom (poor guy fell asleep on the couch!) and got to work. An hour later, I'd written 1600 words. Woo hoo! My two cats were right at my feet as I typed and I had some great '40s music playing in the background. The only thing missing was my dog Charlie laying next to my bed - but I felt his spirit nevertheless. :-)


Friday, August 15, 2008

One Lousy Paragraph...

Ok. It was a little more than a paragraph. But that's all I wrote last night - about 1/4 of a page. And it happened when I finally had time to sit down and work on it.

The best laid plans of mice and men and all that.

When school starts, maybe, maybe it will slow down. We've got to go shopping for school supplies this weekend, there are open houses to attend on Monday night, and then the "big day" is on Wednesday. Back to normalcy!

And I also hope that it will be back to some regular blogging. I see my visitors have dropped off a bit lately. That's either because a) I'm boring or b) people are busy. Maybe both. Heh.

I think after everything that has happened in my life lately, I need a "me" day. Is that being selfish? I'd love to just go somewhere - even a hotel - and just write all day long. Lounge around. Take a nap. Not worry about puppy poop or rowdy teenagers or cooking or cleaning. Too much to ask?

I may ask anyway. Ha!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Goodness sakes alive! I have been super busy lately - and I don't like it one bit! I'm one of those gals who would rather go home from work, have supper, get some chores done, than have three hours in front of me to write, relax, read, spend time with the kids, etc. before I have to head to bed.

But it ain't happenin' right now.

We got a new puppy. I wasn't ready, but my daughter and stepsons were, so now we have an adorable little black cocker spaniel puppy to care of. His name is Jasper and he's a poopin' machine. (Aren't all puppies?) But fortunately,the kids are in charge of taking care of him. I cried when hubby brought him home because, well, it wasn't Charlie and I simply wasn't ready for a new dog. I know that I haven't let myself grow too close to him yet - and that's ok. I think it's too soon for me to feel that way over a new dog. (Will provide pics of "Jasper" soon.)

So we've got the puppy and all that a puppy entails to add to the mix of busy-ness. Then there's the bedroom moving. Since we've got another kid in the mix now, we've had to switch bedrooms around which has entailed going through a lot of my daughter's stuff and throwing away a ton of it.

I've also been on the hunt for furniture since we couldn't very well drive to Kentucky with our gas-guzzling vehicle and spend a fortune on gas to pick up his furniture there. So I've been shopping at thrift stores and looking at Craigslist for items.

And THEN...well, it's almost time for school to start. Paperwork galore! It's driving me a little batty just how much you have to fill out every single year. And when you have to enroll a new student, well. Let's just say that you have to spend more money for physicals and everything else.

In the midst of all this, I've been going on long walks to get my exercise and I've also actually been cooking dinner for once instead of throwing together quick meals like Tuna Helper. Heh.

What does all this busy-ness mean? Besides me falling into bed every night exhausted, I'm also not getting the chance to write. And that has made me very frustrated. I was all set to dive into the manuscript last night, but alas, there's just too much going on.

Tonight, however, I plan to park myself in front of the laptop and get to work.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Two Male Teenagers? Pray for Me...

Somewhere, somehow, my two stepsons have grown into teenagers. One will be a freshman in high school, the other an 8th grader. And my daughter will be in third grade. I honestly don't know where the time has went.

Since my other stepson is living with us now, that means we have two teenage boys under the same roof. *deep breath* Oh boy. Hope our little house doesn't burst from all the testosterone! Since oldest stepson already has girls calling him, I have no doubt that this trend will continue, and I also have no doubt that once my youngest stepson gets started in his new school and makes new friends, girls will be calling him. Let's hope I don't have to install another phone line! But in looking at that picture, I can see why they're calling! They're good-looking boys, all right!

This coming school year should be very interesting...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ready for Fall


It's time.

Time for cooler breezes and cooler temperatures.

Time for football games.

Time for rustling leaves.

Time for bold, vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow.

Time for a jacket.

Time for school to start.

Time for blankets and snuggling.

Time for autumn!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Because Laughter Is Good for the Soul



Calvin and Hobbes can always make me laugh, and I figured my blog (and me) could use some laughter right about now.
Washing machine situation is fixed - we managed to get a free washing machine that works great. I've been doing laundry for two days straight, though!
I also got to sleep in this morning - man, it's amazing what sleep can do for your mood. I feel so much better and more ready to tackle the world.
In honor of my grandfather, I bought me some chocolate stars (Brach's is the best). He always loved these. When I was little, I remember him asking me to go get him some out of the refrigerator. He called them "chokies." So I've been eating those, knowing all too well I shouldn't, but I needed some "comfort" food the past few days.
And now, I'm off to go dive into my manuscript. I have no idea where I left off, so I imagine I'll be spending quite a time reading the last few chapters and figuring things out. I'm quite excited, actually! Writing has always been my refuge, my sanctuary, and I'm looking forward to diving into it again.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Back to Reality

Grandpa and Grandma on their Wedding Day


I'm back home.



Wow. It's been a very emotional, hectic, and altogether hard few days. The funeral for my grandfather was this morning and my family and I returned home this afternoon - my very dear husband made the drive twice in 24 hours. He and the kids came for the funeral last night and arrived in western Nebraska after 10 p.m., then we hit the road again about 2 p.m. this afternoon.



I'm exhausted. I have so many thoughts jumbling through my head that I'm not sure that I'm ready to put them into words yet, but rest assured, I will. I've had memories of my grandfather swirling in my mind ever since everything happened. Every time I close my eyes and go to sleep, he is there.

I was very fortunate to be able to stay with my grandmother throughout the last few days and help her where she needed help and just be with her so that she wasn't alone. I absolutely cherish the time we had together and I think our bond is stronger than ever. She is one of the strongest women I know - an absolute inspiration to me.



I never knew all that was involved with planning a funeral, but now I do. I never knew how you can be remembering your loved one with a smile and a laugh one second, and be crying the next. I also never knew how much you could accomplish on so little sleep and still have a smile on your face. :-)

Here's the thing, though - I don't think I've properly grieved yet. I don't think I've had the time to really be by myself and cry. And that's something I need to do. But I need to be alone to do it. That's how my grieving process works. So I know that some day soon, when the adrenaline has retreated, when I start getting back to the "normalcy" of life, I will cry and sob and wail. And that's ok. Like my sister-in-law (another incredibly strong woman) told me today, "It's ok to cry. Let yourself cry." And I know I will.

For now, I'm just trying to regroup. We got home and found that the washing machine had conked out, one of the cats had snuck into the bedroom and gotten trapped while hubby was gone, so there was a mess to clean there (and NO WASHING MACHINE), and then my cat decided that he was waaaay too excited to see me and had to show his love by upchucking in my office.



Ah...life.

I also know that getting back to reality means getting back to the diet and exercise. I ate way too much bad food while I was at home because people generally do not bring healthy food by to the family when a loved one passes - they bring cake and cookies and rolls and donuts...and I didn't have the will power to say no. Thus, the treadmill will be put to use very soon.

For now, I'm planning to ease back into things, to allow myself the time I need to grieve, and the time to get back into the day job, the writing, and being a parent. The kids start school soon and there's all sorts of things to do for that.

One day at a time...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Grandpa Shorty: 1925-2008


My beloved grandfather passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on Saturday. He had been unwell for a long time, but things came to a head this week.

I can't quite put my thoughts together yet to really describe what an absolutely wonderful man he was. He was a huge part of my life and I have so, so many memories of him. The bottom picture is how I remember him best: with his jeans and blue shirt and that smile.

Grandpa would never say "goodbye" - it was always "so long." And when I was a kid, every time my brothers and I left his house, we had to "give him five" and "make it pop." When we played the card game, Slap Jack, with Grandpa, no one wanted to get caught by Grandpa's hand because your own hand would hurt for days after!

He never called me Melissa. It was always "Lis." I can still hear his voice saying, "Hello, Lis!" I hope I never forget it.

I've been looking through tons of pictures since his passing and each one has never failed to make me smile. He was always there for me. And now that he's not, it's so surreal. I know that he is in a better place - his poor body simply couldn't hang on any longer. In a way, his passing was not a big shock because we have all been expecting it for some time.

But still...how can you prepare for death? How can you wrap your mind around the fact that someone you dearly love and who was always, always there in your life and in your thoughts and in your memory, is no longer here on this Earth?

There was never a time for me before Grandpa Shorty. Never. He is in my earliest memories. He is there throughout every part of my life - childhood, high school, college, marriage, motherhood. He was always there.

I miss him desperately. But I won't say goodbye because Grandpa always said that if you said "goodbye", it meant that you'd never see each other again. And I will see my Grandfather again.
So long, Grandpa Shorty. I love you so much. I will see you in Heaven. Save me a ravioli.

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...