What a day!

This morning, I see that there is mouse poop in my pantry. It’s true that I’ve heard the pitter patter of little feet around midnight. They seem to tromp back and forth across the first floor ceiling. I figured that I’d wait till after winter and call an exterminator. But this morning, I sweep up the pantry floor and realize that the dirt there is actually mouse poop, and that there’s more on the cookie shelf along with bits of foil wrap, but not just any foil wrap—Girl Scout Samoas foil wrap. Oh no, Ma’am. In the ceiling next to the HVAC duct is a classic mouse hole or two. So I’m taking things out of the pantry, and throwing a lot away, and taking other items out of their packaging and putting them in reusable containers and wincing because my hip has been hurting.

The phone rings, and it’s the assistant at the doctors, and do I want a 10:30 appointment from a cancellation? Since it isn’t snowing that hard and it’s right around the corner, I jump at the chance. When I get there, the doctor is running 30 min late. Then she sends me for a xray. Then she tries to get me in to see the sports doctor right away (read: 30 or 45 minutes later). Then the sports doctor’s assistant comes out and apologizes and says really, they’ll be an extra 45 minutes. I say I need to go home to eat something, and I’ll be right back.

However, while I’m at home, son #1 calls. He stopped to get me the mouse traps I asked for but they only have poison, which I don’t want, but while he was in the store, he left the heat and radio going for his brother, without keeping the car running, and now the battery is dead and can I come give them a jump.

So I stop eating and get in my hybrid and go to help them. The wind has whipped up quite a bit, and I need to get back to my appointment, and my hybrid hood battery only seems to have a positive point. I can’t make anything happen so I bring the boys home and go back to the doctor.

The sports doc sees me and basically diagnoses that my hip hurts. She has some idea where the pain is coming from, but it’s hard to really tell with soft tissue. Predictably, I’ll need to take ibuprofen or Aleve and find some time in my schedule for physical therapy.

I tell my son I’m on the way home and he says that the AAA guy is headed to the car so come pick him up. I do and when we get to the car, the wind is gusting, and the snow is coming down about two inches and hour. Now that the AAA guy is there, my son can’t seem to pop the hood. He tries, and tries, and finally the plastic inside hood lever breaks off the cable. We are SOL. The AAA guy calls a tow truck and says it’ll be an hour. So I take my kid home and go back to wait the hour and there’s the tow guy! The car is already up on the truck, and he’s about to leave with it. Luckily I intercept him and let him know to take it to the shop and not back to my house.

I inch home in what seems to be a white tunnel. Now I try to stay in the middle of the road so I don’t end up jumping the curb or getting caught in a drift. At home at 4pm, I turn the heat on under homemade chicken soup and pop two marshmallows in everyone’s hot cocoa.

Snow day. Good thing I stayed home from work. It might be nap time.

Edited to add:

I’m making dinner (pesto tortellini, asparagus, and matzoh ball soup) when a mouse “small, grey, and bright eyed” (with apologies to Bonny Becker and the mouse)  scampered across my stove. Did you hear me? Across my stove! I screamed and scuttled backwards which brought in my son and my dog who, upon hearing “mouse,” was ready to rumble. Through a course of events which included fire and entrapment, the mouse ended up in the jaws of Lucy the valiant (or beast depending who’s telling the story.) I will be getting many mouse traps tomorrow. As soon as I can dig out.

The End—Almost

Weighing in a just over 35,000 words, the first draft of my newest middle grade novel is now complete.

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Calm down cute, fluffy, puppy. Complete is a misleading word as there are still many miles to go before it is actually finished.

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No, no. Don’t be a sad panda. Now I’ll set the draft aside to marinade, pickle, steep, sleep (Oh, sorry. That’s what I should be doing now since it is past midnight…). Normally, I’d let it rest for two weeks to a month, but I’d love to get it off my desk by the new year (resolutions and all), so I may speed up the process. Next comes a revision, then beta readers, more revisions, and a thorough edit after that.

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I think so too!

This is what my week has been like on a writing retreat.

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I’ve written more than 8,000 words, and I’m SO close to finishing the first draft of my current novel. I’ve given myself a December 1st deadline which I’m writing here only to give myself some accountability. Away from home and television, I’ve been able to dive into the fictional world I’ve created (which is comforting considering the real world is stranger than fiction.)

I know for sure that next week will be crazier still with a long drive over the river, and through the woods to Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment. Driving from Maine to DC is long on the best day but around the Thanksgiving holiday I’m pretty sure it’s one of Dante’s circles of hell. Limbo? Wrath? Violence?

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Before I have to get in the car and face Turkey Day traffic, I’m so pleased to enjoy my sons’ high school performance of The Great Gatsby. Their amazing trailer is here.

Finally, I always have on my mind the next action I can take to combat anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry, and LGBTQ hate in the current climate:
Phone calls and letter to my elected officials.
In-person actions: rallies and marches at the state and national level
Update donations to Equality Maine, The AntiDefamation LeagueACLU of Maine, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project.

Even though the election shoved my hope in a hole, this video “Don’t Despair, There’s Work to Do,” from Robert Reich helped me see actions I could take.

Peace to all.
 

 

A Room of One’s Own

When the world is scary my journaling and poetry output soars, but it can be hard to put two creative words together on my novel. Sadly, my NaNoWriMo goals have gone by the wayside this week. Here are some photos of the room that I’m refurbishing behind my garage. Originally, this room was divided into three uninsulated storage spaces with no windows.

This will be my “room of her own.”

That’s my beautiful son helping me lay floated cork flooring.

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That left hand wall will have a book case on it so the green will peek out from around the books.

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I found the windows on Craig’s List. The space beneath the bay window will be for larger sketch pads and paintings.

Bay Window Exterior

Since those pictures were taken we’ve finished the ceiling and electric:

Studio Ceiling

If you are wishing for A Room of Her Own, take a look at the AROHO Foundation. They do amazing work to support women writers and artists.

 

Sexism, language and the difficult job of being an Olympic commentator…

The Olympics are on our home TV most of the time these days and with it has come some interesting and important conversations. My feminist ideology informs my viewing and my commentary of various media and one of my two sons often retorts that I am a conspiracy theorists. Sadly, this Olympics has provided me with prime examples of sexism in reporting.

Sexism undercutting female athletes’ Rio achievements? 

This article from CBS This Morning details the most publicized snafu’s and coded sexism from commentators, explaining women’s achievements in relationship to other men: their husbands, their coaches, and other male athletes. The basic lesson here is that language is inextricably a marker of the systematic inequalities in our society.

Olympics 2016: Battle of the sexes in the unequal language of sport

Those who aren’t convinced can look at this CNN article from Henry Young who describes “new research from the UK’s Cambridge University Press, which has looked at the way we talk about men and women in sport.” How do we talk about men and women? Men are strong, and skilled, women are married, or moms, or have a new uniform designed by X.

Top 10 Most Sexist Things To Occur At The 2016 Rio Olympics So Far

Huffington Post writer Sarah Beauchamp enumerates sexist things ending with the statement from NBC’s Marketing Exec John Miller that (to paraphrase) women like the journey, the narrative of the athlete and not the outcome.

Olympics: NBC exec says women aren’t watching for the actual sports

What does this really mean when the male executives who make our viewing decisions don’t think that women watch sports…for sports?

My son theorizes, in defense of Mr. Miller: He’s probably just going on the demographics data that they have. You don’t like sports?

My response: Why am I here watching the Olympics?

My son: You don’t like watching sports with us other than the Olympics. Like football.

Me: No. I’m not a fan of watching grown men crash into each other violently for three hours with an hour of commercials. I like rowing, and equestrian, and gymnastics, and fencing, and weightlifting. Sports that our US media chooses not to air on a regular basis. Therefore, their demographic numbers are skewed.

My son: But people like football, baseball and basketball.

Me: That’s all they give us.

Son: Because that’s all that’s worth watching.

Me: The decisions to cover and sponsor those sports exclusively came to be when women didn’t have access to sport. Corporate and collegiate money in this country created a pipeline that led to high paying and elite competition for men that was televised.

I didn’t go into the importance of Title IX in trying to alleviate these inequalities. He’s heard it before. The argument continued until I pointed to a prescient comment under one of the articles that observed those who aren’t affected by the inequality often don’t feel the pain of the injury. I recently appreciated a quote,“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” (I can’t find the attribution although I’ve found it used in a variety of posts and articles.) Basically, my son, and the other folks who rail against evidence of sexism in sports don’t see a problem because it’s not a problem for them.

Being a commentator is difficult. People can take words out of context or lack empathy for the fact that a commentator has one minute to fill with only 10 seconds of real info. Still, that’s what a talking-head signs up for, AND…each commentator has an army of producers and researchers literally in his or her ear to give stats and facts.

Tell me how many hours a day the athlete practices.

Tell me more about the rules of the specific sports.

Tell me (and possible future athletes) about the pipeline for these athletes to get where they are today.

Tell me how this athlete was able to raise the private funds to get where they are today and how other countries do it differently.

Tell me how they get a horse to prance in place.

These are the questions we run to Google for but if NBC was doing its job, we wouldn’t have to.

I’ll leave you with this link to amazing photos of female athletes at the games. Enjoy!

50 Photos That Show The Raw Power Of This Year’s Olympic Women

Only 24 hours in a day. Or 1+1+1+1=100.

Yesterday I got a notification that my blog was having a banner day–surprising since I haven’t posted in two months–and it reminded me how busy the last two months have been. As readers of Creative Chaos might know, I’m almost two years out from a divorce and the economic insecurities that often accompany divorce can be stressful. More on that in a few…

Over the past year I’ve been pleased to find challenging and satisfying work event planning at Maine Share, doing customer service work at LLBean, and event planning at Bowdoin College. All along, I’ve been volunteering as the Program Director with my local rowing club. This spring, they hired me as their part time Head Coach as well and I’ve spent a great deal of time in the last two months on the water teaching adults and teens to scull and sweep row.

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In addition to the coaching and program directing I’m also SUPER happy to have found a part time temporary home at Islandport Press as their Author Relations and Events Coordinator. In this position I’m able to help Islandport authors with social media, blogs, book them in bookstores and festivals, and help create publicity campaigns and events to sell great books. (Shameless plug: please follow Islandport Press on social media.)

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We now rejoin our program of economic insecurity already in progress…

I love what I’m doing. Still, anyone who has juggled a family, writing, and more than one job knows that the sum of the parts feels WAY greater than it should (ie: 1+1+1+1=100) Part of that 100 number is the chasm of unemployment that looms with temporary jobs. Once the rowing season ends, and the temporary position with the publishing house ends I’m on the search again. It’s a feast and famine sensibility so in the last two months I’ve also written and delivered an article to the new Coxing Magazine (so exciting!), given a presentation to the Romance Writers of Maine, and taught a rowing workshop to counselors at a local sleep away camp. I’m the busy ant storing for the winter.

If there is a positive about the looming chasm of unemployment it is that I might actually get back to my works in progress (a middle grade novel 1st draft and 2 PB rewrites) which wait patiently on my computer. I also might be posting more here at Creative Chaos. I will keep you updated. Cheers!

 

Embracing Self-care

Kvetching and moaning confessional ahead. You’ve been warned.

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Let me start by saying motivation has been low on this side of the keyboard. After working for a couple of years on a project, I hit a major road block. The new piece I started in January and was super excited about seems to have stalled as I’ve reached the muddy middle. My knee has been aching (an injury from a couple of years ago come back to haunt me), and I’ve used that as an excuse not to work out even though working out is one of the main ways I control stress and mood. The job (read income) situation has been spotty at best. Eighteen months out from the finalization of my divorce and the journey of grief seems to be never ending.

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I’m okay! I’m not okay. I’m okay! Nope, not even close.

And don’t even get me started on the weather. It’s 60 degrees and sunny then it’s 18 and snowing. Right now there is some kind of mixed rainy, freezey, ooblecky* crap coming from the sky and I have on wrist warmers while I write. The only thing that has brightened my spirits has been the large number of hits my post about college visits got this week. I have had enough. If I was rich I’d hop a plane to somewhere with palm trees and turquoise waters. Instead, I watched the first three seasons of House of Cards (not a feel good show that one) interspersed with The British Baking Show (much lighter) and surfed the internet for inspiration.

I suppose I could find something on the internet to validate any mood but this week a few things have fallen into my cyber lap and I thought I’d share them with you.

From Seven Scribes and Daniel José Older, this post Writing Begins With Forgiveness: Why One of the Most Common Pieces of Writing Advice is Wrong.

From Robin LaFevers via Amitha Knight, Surviving Nearly There about how hard an extended writing journey can be without publication and the importance of walking away from time to time.

From Jamie Varon via Ingrid Sundberg, To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind.

All of these articles reinforce the idea that sometimes writers need to take time off, that the universe provides, that we are where we are for a reason, that we need to be kind to ourselves. I tend not to buy this line of thinking. If you’ve read Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and rewards) of Artmaking by Bales & Orland, you’ve seen their argument that artists will do almost anything rather than do their art. They call this “resistance” in the book and I seem to have it in spades. My suspicion of self-care is probably rooted in my early indoctrination as a rower. “There is no I in team,” “we don’t say can’t,” “row hard or go home.” As you can see, there’s not a lot of forgiveness or kindness in this philosophy. At this point though, I’ve should-haved and guilted and scolded myself enough and the only thing I feel is that it’s time for a hot bath…

…and another cup of forgiveness tea.

 

 

College Tours: A new chapter in parenting.

  • 5 Colleges
  • 3 Hotel Nights
  • 2 Nights in Extended Family Guest Rooms
  • Too many meals out
  • 3 Meals at College Cafeterias
  • 800 Miles
  • 1 Urgent Care Visit
  • 2 Sets of Antibiotics and Meds

I have entered a new chapter in parenting called The College Search and Application Process (C-SAP?). Some college search and application information and many skills can be passed from family to family and taught by agencies and organizations. Still, each child and parent/child relationship is different therefore each journey is individual. For me this is going to be a journey of learning to back off.

For instance, on the one hand, a young adult might be able to eloquently ask questions in a tour and talk to students easily but when faced with an admission counselor behind a desk that same young adult might only give one word answers. This could be difficult for the parent who knows that a more in depth answer would show what a marvelous, committed, unique and talented individual that young adult is. (All hypothetical. Of course. But you bet your a** I jumped in and started asking more specific leading questions.)

Here’s the thing, a child of 15 or 16 is almost ready, wanting to be ready, to make big decisions about his/her life and they are also, and at the same time, a parent’s baby. Nothing illustrates this dichotomy more clearly than the sick young adult. In the weeks leading up to this trip the snot had been flowing. We’d gone through miles of facial tissues and plenty of antihistamines. I’d been hoping that the crud would magically disappear when their vacation started. Instead, it multiplied and I had two sick kids. Nothing doing. They’d sleep in the car and finally get some rest away from constant homework, play and music rehearsals. We’d soldier on and do the tours anyway although I was apprehensive about how son #1’s sample voice lesson would go.

We were fine until that moment at college #3. There we were in a standard double dorm room. Two desks, two bureaus, two dressers, two beds and about twenty five parents and their children. That’s when I looked over at son #2 and saw that although he was in a winter hat and coat, he was shivering and had turned a shade somewhere between mauve and mint. We had already visited the urgent care office at the behest of my cousin who, after hearing both boys blow their noses and hack up a lung for two days convinced me that one could never be too careful. That’s how we found out that son #1 had sinusitis and that son #2 probably just had a bad cold. That hadn’t stopped the Drive-thru Doc from prescribing both kids a cocktail of antibiotics (just in case), allergy meds (?), and steroids to help with the inflammation. The group and son #1 continued the tour while I took son #2 back to the admissions office, wrapped him in a blanket and started him on the antibiotics. Good thing I did because the lab result for strep came back positive.

Once the antibiotics kicked in, both sons were leap frogging from one hotel bed to the next and having pillow fights but I was left wondering, how are these children (for whom I fill the bathroom with steam and rub their chest with vaporub and make sure they take their meds and give family medical history) going to be okay without me? They just are, and I know it. I know it from letting them go every other week as I share custody with their father. I know it as we leave each other for travel to camps and schools and conferences. I know it in the eyes of the accomplished and sensitive young men they are becoming.

My ability to back off, however, is less assured.

 

Birthday Soup

If you do not worship Maurice Sendak I will not unfriend you but know that onward, I will consider you deeply damaged. These are childhood copies of Sendak books that I have kept (not sure about my Where the Wild Things Are copy but now I’m on the hunt.) The Little Bear books, written by Else Holmelund Minarik, were some of the first I read on my own and each book is loved with nicks, frays, and rips.

Yesterday was my birthday. I invited friends over for a dinner of soup, bread, and salad. After the eating, we would go outside into the cold, woods on snowshoes under the bright no-longer-quite-full moon. What a wonderful idea for a story, I thought (as I often do.) That’s when I remembered that the story of my birthday had already been written.

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I spent the day cleaning (like Little Bear) and preparing for guests who would taste my Butternut Squash, Apple, Curry soup. While no cat, duck, or hen was in attendance, I too found myself surrounded by loving and supportive friends. In Little Bear’s story, he searches for Mother Bear who is absent. My mother and father are, thank goodness, far away from the snowy north and the recent storm. I am currently without partner or spouse. My children are with their father this week. My friends’ discussion of me having to make my own birthday dinner was laced with sympathy and pride, but I have gotten used to and most of the time enjoy my solitude. I didn’t imagine the evening any other way. Plus, I was able to create just what I wanted without any convincing or compromising––Birthday Soup.

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At the end of Little Bear’s story, Mother Bear arrives with the cake that she secretly created. That was why she had been absent all along. For me, that magic happened before the guests arrived. My sons came by to bake me a cake and decorate it.

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When we get together later this week, we will celebrate together… all over again.

Chocolate cake with peanut butter, caramel icing and chocolate covered pretzels.
Chocolate cake with peanut butter, caramel icing and chocolate covered pretzels.