Thursday, December 31, 2009

Predictable Blog Day

I love the idea of renewal. It's one of those collective human urges that we all share which is why we come together once a year and hope we are going to change. The hard part is, of course, admitting what we need to change because then we have to admit that our behavior is not always perfect. I am going to change things here a little.

I am going to publicly confess three imperfect things about me that I like and that I have no intention of ever changing.

Of course I'll have resolutions. But also only three. Three's a good number: it's one of the numbers of magic and it matches the amount of kids I have.

What Is Never Going to Change:

1. I use chocolate for stress relief. Probably way too often. It's kind of like legal Xanax for me. I carry it in my pocketbook, have some at work, in my car and all kinds of imported chocolate stashed in my desk. It makes me happy. It relaxes me. If I were in charge of primitive culture, I would probably make the cocoa bean a minor diety.

Maybe not so minor.

2. I stalk my kids. I sit in the living room when they are talking to their friends and I leaf through Bicycling magazine. I haven't been on a bicycle in about ten years, and I have no interest in gears or sprockets, but my husband reads it, so it's there for the leafing.

The kids view it as an anti-matter shield. They speak very openly, meaning they think the magazine is magical: it protects them from having Mom hear every word. I love listening to them, especially when their voices get low. It's probably wrong on some level, but since it provides vital information, I justify my behavior along the same lines as that government law that allows them to tap into your conversations to protect you from terrorism. I think there's kind of a parallel there.

3. I am streamlining my social obligations. I used to endure visits from and to people I couldn't stand because I thought, for some reason, the world would collapse if I didn't participate. I don't do certain parties and barbeques and holidays any more because I am a)really busy and usually desperate for time and b)past the age of caring whether or not people get miffed.

What will change in 2010?

1. I am going to write more. I have carved out almost four hours a week (I know, it's not a whole lot, but it's more than I've had recently) just to write. No laundry, no kid activities, nothing -- it's during school hours, and I had to really juggle my schedule, but it worked, and I can't wait.

2. I am going to stop applying mascara on the NJ Garden State Parkway while I am going about 75 mph. It's probably better to actually arrive to work than to arrive looking marginally better.

3. I am going to stop having Internet induced ADD. During those four hours, I am not going to go onto sites for twenty minutes just to say, "Wow, I didn't know whales could do that..." then go look up the history of the lighthouse I saw yesterday when I got lost on Long Beach Island.

And that's it. There you have it. They say publicly stating things enforces resolve, but the only image that comes to my mind is Hester from the Scarlet Letter walking around with the A emblazoned on her chest.

Anyway, Happy 2010!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another Meme

Ok, so this is one of those meme things, but I like it because it forces you to think about writing. Bish tagged me, and if you are reading this blog, consider yourself tagged. There are a lot of questions, and I would love to see Mary and K.C. answer them, but it's also Christmas, so I won't hold my breath if they don't get to it. Here then are the questions for all literary divas:

What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

The last thing I wrote is the seventeenth opening page of my current novel. (And I am not exaggerating; I actually kept track) I still have my diary from the year I was thirteen. It's scary; I was very, very disturbed.

2) Write poetry?

Not anymore, though I did when I walked around thinking I was Sylvia Plath.

3) Angsty poetry?

There's another kind?

4) Favorite genre of writing?

YA, with a smattering of MG.

5) Most annoying character you've ever created?

My children. I think of them as one force, like a character.

6) Best plot you've ever created?

Hmmm, I think my stuff is character driven. Maybe that's yet to come.

7) Coolest plot twist you've ever created?

In a novel that was "recycled" (self rejected because I grew to hate it) five years ago. An arsonist turns out to be a girl's illegimate half brother.

8) How often do you get writer's block?

Never. I have more ideas than time.

9) Write fan fiction?

I have never heard of fan fiction. Seriously. I don't go on many boards or to writing conferences so maybe someone could define that for me.

10) Do you type or write by hand?

I write things like: she knows where/give key/never needs to see the river/who does not get the ticket in the middle of the night by hand. Then I type it into English, and yeah, I know what it all means.

11) Do you save everything you write?

God no.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?


13) What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

My first novel. (This answer is open to change)

14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?

It better be my first novel.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

Umm, that's like what I DO.

16) What's your favorite setting for your characters?

Nature-y places: woods, beaches, rivers.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Two: a YA, a sequel for an MG, and a novel for adults. That's three -- but the last two I have like a page of notes for and nothing else, so I'm counting them as one. (I have my own mathematical system, kind of an inverse of Newton's world)

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Wait - publishing isn't an award? I've been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, but they gave them to people like T.C. Boyle and Joyce Carol Oates.

19) What are your five favorite words?

moon, shimmer, sea, abandon, will

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?

My daughter.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

They sort of talk to me and appear. In another century, I would either be highly esteemed or burned at the stake.

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?

I wrote an entire MG novel about five years ago based on a dream. It was dreadful. Dream doesn't translate well, at least for me.

23) Do you favor happy endings?


24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Yes, compulsively so: I'm an English teacher.

25) Does music help you write?

It helps me when I'm out driving and I listen to U-2 or another favorite group, but no, when I'm writing, a car horn is irritating.

26) Quote something you've written.

"Elizah, sometimes it's good to leave the company of the dead." It's my favorite sentence from my second novel. I didn't realize I liked it that much until I read it over again during the proofing stage.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Character Study With YA Comments

The teenagers who come to our house spend a huge percentage of their time with the cats. That's probably because a) there are five cats to choose from and b) all our cats are crazy.

As you know,I find teen comments very amusing and if you are reading this blog, you probably do, too. (I also swipe their comments freely when I write)I thought I'd put them together to create a YA guide to our cats.

Of course, there are the kittens. Only about six and a half months old, they are the only ones that don't occasionally hide for a nap when the house is filled with teens.
But they are very different; Cami, the one to the right, is "completely emo" -- she nurses on nubby blankets, shatters the fragile peace with the dog by sticking her own nose into Mazy's nostril, and trying to steal food from Jade, the senior cat. She is very, very needy. They call her over by going, "Aww, where's the little emo kitty?"

Her sister, Coco, has been nicknamed Jazz because she's so mellow.

If you remember how BabyCat summered in the wicker basket, she has now found a new spot to hide in which is a little stranger. She jumps to the top of the kitchen cabinets and stares down at us:

She is always paranoid, twitchy and unsettled. The kids call her "Rehab" because she acts like someone who once had an addiction. When I asked to what, they all looked at me with that, "She-doesn't-know-anything-look" and said, "To meth."

Of course.

Then there's Sarah who will cuddle up to you, purr and nap for a few minutes. Without warning, she will hiss and scratch and run off as if you have just poured acid on her. She hisses as she runs. Here is a typical expression of Sarah's:

I think she's bipolar, but the kids call her "D Wing" -- I think every high school has a wing for kids who have broken through the not fitting in category. That's where poor Sarah would be if she were a teen...

Jade, the senior cat, the alpha cat, keeps the other cats in line. Once, when someone forgot to shut the sliding glass door to the deck, we found all five cats outside with Jade up on the railing keeping watch. The dark side of Jade is the reason BabyCat has to sleep in baskets and on top of high kitchen cabinets: Jade has rage issues. She takes most of them out on BabyCat who is half her size. This is Jade:

In fairness, Jade's sister died very young of heart failure. They had been just like the two kittens are now, so everyone gives Jade a lot of room. She's not particularly cuddly or accessible, but she is a favorite of the teens.

What did they nickname Jade?

Kurt Cobain.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Teens and Mood Swings

Most people who work with teens will complain mightily of mood swings, and what they mean is the mood swings of teens. My take on it is a little bit different; I think they cause mood swings in the adults around them. Or maybe that's just me. I do know I have stable moods when I am away from them. Once I am around them, I am as mercurial as any emo friend of theirs.

This weekend, we had our first bad weather. I discovered an infestation of teens in my living room and they were the kind that eat tubes of yogurt and leave the wrappers behind, take fresh glasses for a second glass of juice and open all three bags of crackers because they have to smell them first to see if they will like them. They are the kind that never go home.

Of course, while I was glowering at them, Mazy came up to me and did one of these:

which means she has to go do what dogs do in the wild. Except it was sleeting and freezing out and when I asked one of those healthy, young teens to take her, they all burrowed deeper into their couch blankets. I pulled out the one teen who was mine.

"Dude Mom," Philip protested, "it's too wet even for the dog."

"Think of something," I told him, "you have to do at least one chore around here if you want to keep doing nothing."

I walked away. Five minutes later, Philip came back with the one girl who drives. They had an idea. We would put Mazy in her van, take the extension leash to the bottom of the street, reel it out and let her poop.

I thought about it. It sounded like a no. The wind howled. Mazy howled. "We'll try it."

Yup, there we were, inside the van, letting the dog leash out like fish line. The kids remembered to bring a flashlight so we could witness the moment of truth. Once they were certain Mazy was done, they started singing, "Celebrate..."

I thought they did really well on that one. I picked up the wet socks, food wrappers and soda cans in a fine mood. That was Saturday.

Last night, Sunday, Christopher woke me up around 3 a.m. "Mom Dude, you know anything about MLA format for research? You'll like it. It's writing. Sort of."

I sat up. "Did you start it?"

Dumb question. And another mood change.

He had been playing Halo all day, and apparently all night. I was saying psychically sensitive things like, "So, have they ever done a study that correlates brain tumors with that headset?" and other things like, "You know, this is the kind of thing Howard Hughes would do if he were still alive. Remember, he's the guy who saved his urine?" Christopher kept putting his hand over the mic and whispering to his friends, "Wait. My MOM is here."

So yes, between 3 and 5 am this morning, I had to "help" research his MLA paper because he was involved in a Halo tournament of some kind. ("Help" means he sleeps while I find sources for research and document them) Around 5, Mazy gave her call of the wild again.

Philip woke up, rushed over to me at the computer and bear hugged me, "Remember when you used to call me Little Big Beluga?"

New mood change. Happy one. He walked the dog. I finished the research. I glowered at Christopher until I was at work, looking through some pictures on my phone. I knew I couldn't stay mad at him; he had taken this one of the kittens:

And I don't think anyone could look at that picture and not feel better.

Of course,they're due home any minute. With grades. I'll see how long that picture sustains me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Flaky Preparations and Discharge Systems

One of the weird things about publishing a novel is it thrusts you into a public position even if you resist it. This never happened when I published poetry or parenting essays. Then I was just an anonymous mom who wrote for a little extra diaper money. Every once in a while, I would get a letter (the stamped kind in the mailbox) from someone who liked what I had written: always a mom, always with kids the same ages.

Now I get regular emails about writing or comments on the book, and teenage girls write to me pretty often. I get requests to read and "fix" manuscripts or I am asked to pass them along to my editor or agent. Kids ask me questions to get extra points on their book reports.

I was asked to speak at a luncheon the other day. The median age at that luncheon is around 78 -- I'm going to stand there and talk about an angsty girl who sets fires in the woods and speaks to fish that reside in her head?

The other day I got some books in the mail. At first, I couldn't figure out why anyone would send me books in French. I teach Spanish now and then, but French? Then I looked closer. This was MY book, in translation. (Seeing my own name gave it away...duh)

I forgot they might translate it. I was feeling very international when Emma walked up and looked at the cover.

"You wrote a book about a pink mermaid?" She was very excited.

"No. This is The Shape of Water. Only in French."

"The same book?" (disgusted, disappointed) "I thought you finally wrote something I would like."

So much for feeling international and writerly. This morning, someone found it and sent me the page review in French. I put it into the Google translator and this is what I got:

See availability in branch Flaky preparation nonavailable Summarized more The mother of Magda had always said that the world was filled with strange secrecies and marvellous qu' they only could see. But now qu' it n' was there, the world of Magda found itself bathed d' distresses and of loneliness, even of madness. When an imaginary family of fish quarreling started to torment it, the only discharge system of Magda was to cause splendid but destroying fires in the surroundings of the marshes, close to the house. The form of l' water draws a picture sinisterly lyric and surprising daily newspaper and of l' unreal, in which Magda starts to disentangle the secrecies of its family and to seek a stable place in the world.

I like it; I think it's sinisterly lyrical in its own Gallic way.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Since I am the kind of parent who is up until 2 or 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve, and I wrap birthday presents in the car while my kids are waiting to go inside to the party, I've decided to celebrate Thanksgiving early. I'm never early, but here it is Thanksgiving already on my blog. See? People can change.

So what am I grateful for? I think most of all, I am grateful that my kids are turning out okay. Yes, they slam doors and act like Dracula on a regular basis (dark, brooding, filled with angst), but that's pretty normal I think. Philip told me yesterday that, "You're the kind of mom I'll like again when I'm like 30." But I think the larger stuff matters more.

Over the weekend, we had a birthday party for a teenager whose parents decided she is too old to have a party (she turned 18). We ran around the warehouse store looking for presents since everything else was closed. We came up with flowers, balloons and an enormous pumpkin pie. The girl likes to draw, so we found some art supplies, charcoal pencils and drawing papers. She didn't mind that we wrapped her presents in colored tissue paper and put candles in a giant pumpkin pie. I really liked that the kids worked together to put up crepe paper and get out the birthday tablecloth and some balloons. They were doing all this for someone else -- they couldn't believe parents wouldn't celebrate a birthday.

We had no guests other than ourselves, so we invited the cats, our Malaysian houseguest (who took the house down with Happy Birday - and that's not a typo - things really, really do get lost in translation).

Anyway, there we were, with five cats, Mazy, the German shepherd, the three kids, two parents, a Malaysian houseguest, and a pumpkin pie the size of a pizza with old Barbie candles blazing - and we had a good time. And that brings me to number two: I am grateful that my kids accept weirdness so readily. I mean, they have to, living here, but things don't have to be perfect for them to have a good time.

And I am grateful that they get along so well. This Halloween, Philip wanted to go out as an Eskimo and have Emma attached to him as an igloo - I think that's pretty telling (except once Emma found out what an igloo was, exactly, she protested) But moments like this make me grateful:

and in the rare Christopher sightings:

I am grateful that I have one quieter kid to balance out the other two chatty ones.

And I am grateful that even though I have very little time to write, what I do write seems to get published.

What I like about Thanksgiving is its positive thinking - it's like asking what's GOOD about your life? That's a great question. It makes us forget how dreary November can be.

So tell me -- what are some of the great things about your life?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

CatWheels and Writing

I just finished writing notes on Emily Dickinson for one of my classes. She actually had it very easy: that room in Amherst, a rich daddy, no interruptions. I can't imagine that kind of leisure. Actually, maybe I can. It would be wonderful. She didn't have to work or chase the cats or do anything really. She could spend all day on a single line of poetry if she wanted. Doesn't that sound amazing?

I sat down to write this afternoon. Just a little. Each of the kids had something to do and I had just gotten back from teaching my Saturday morning class, and I thought, Great, I can finally have an hour to work on something. That's when this innocent looking creature:

got together with her equally innocent looking counterpart/sister and invaded Baby Cat's straw fortress while Baby Cat was on watch:

which resulted in flying fur, claws and a wheel of cat spinning across the living room. The other two cats, much older than the kittens, have a feline respect for Baby Cat's spot; the kittens are more like toddlers jacked up on sugar.

After I got Baby Cat back into her spot, and put the kittens into the bathroom to calm down, Emma figured out how to get the Karaoke machine to work. I thought that phase was gone, but then I remembered: it was only gone for the boys. She was still young enough to discover it.

Our Malaysian houseguest is back and he likes to sing. He really, really likes to sing. A World Lit teacher once told me that the Asian culture has an underlying framework of shame; Western culture has an underlying framework of guilt. I thought about that, about shame and all, as he sang the lyrics to Emma's current favorite song, Fun House, by Pink. It sounded like this:

Eet use be fur house
but now it fill with effel cloows

only really, really loud. Over and over. Apparently, his particular area of Malaysia does not function on that framework of shame. The kids could not stop laughing. He then picked up a guitar and added that to the karaoke party. He had to sing that much louder to compensate for the guitar. All this caused our dog, who howls at sirens and other dogs' howling, to howl.

I thought about moving to Amherst. The only problem with moving is I would probably have to take them all with me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Illustrated Halloween

Hope everyone had as much fun on Halloween as we did - Here's A Werewolf Costumed As Teen with Vampire Mom:

Philip as a changeling - from boy to werewolf -

A Glittery Devil:

Werewolf, Glittery Devil and Kitty:

Trend Alert - New YA Motif - Changeling Skateboarding Werewolves -- Hey, it could catch on -- think how silly vegan vampires sounded on the drawing board...

And all is well as BabyCat is still living in her basket and watching it all -

Saturday, October 24, 2009


My oldest son has just begun driving, and when I tell people this, I think this image forms:

For some reason, I am really relaxed about this, and I am not a relaxed mom. I still carry BandAids and Neosporin, and have since my oldest began crawling. I don't let them "chillax" at a house if I don't know the parents - and sometimes they can't go because I DO know the parenats. I still count their vegetable, fruit and calcium servings. But about driving, I am relaxed. Of course, that's probably because Christopher is a reasonable kid. (Come back when Philip starts and people will be sending me Xanax...)

His DAD grabbed the emergency brake the other day. His father is a wreck about this (pardon the pun). That's probably because his father has no history of driving with Christopher.

I remember when he was about five, we went out to the playground after he finally shook a bad cold. On the way home, he asked to sit in my lap and "drive" - we did this pretty often. Because he had been so sick, when he asked to drive in the seat by himself, I hesitated, but let him - only up our long, flat driveway. He was ecstatic. He was doing a great job. Only I had forgotten to teach him a really, really important aspect of driving. When you sit on mom's lap and steer, you don't get too much about the pedals below. So as he drove up and got close to the garage door, I said, "Brake, Christopher. It's time to brake."

He looked at me with his pre-kindergarten face. "What's that?"

I reached over and pulled the emergency brake literally one second before we would have crashed into the garage door.

I think that was the dumbest move I've made with kids in my life. Or at least with Christopher.

I think I'm relaxed about it because I learned to drive in New York City where stop signs are pauses and speed limits are viewed more as recommendations, not laws. Plus, he's the kind of kid who when I call him while I'm driving reminds me, "Mom, it's illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone."

It's such a strange rite of passage to see your kid driving past the house. And like a lot of milestones they pass, it's a rite of passage for the parents,too.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Balloon Boy and Other Parenting Nightmares

The other day, Philip asked me (you already knew it would be Philip, right?) how I could push his buttons so easily. I told him he had to stop watching so much Dr. Phil. He only watches him because he thinks he looks like a human walrus, but still, the terminology wears off.

"Seriously, Mom, how?"

"I can push those buttons because as your Mom, I pretty much installed them."

I do believe that. I also think there is a really serious line between what parents can do to their kids and what they can't. This bothers me a real lot:

I listened to a radio interview with the balloon boy's dad. I tried to be open to the possibility that storm chasing dads are as competent and loving as employed dads who, say, mow the lawn instead of charting the courses of cyclones with their kids in tow. When the comment came about the boy saying he had to hide in garage attic rafters "for the show" the dad took out his harmonica and began tooting it. That's when I knew. I found out later that the whole family had appeared not once, but twice on Wife Swap. That's when I was certain.

I think it's great that the boy's innocence, the compelling element that the family tried to play off of, pretty much trumped in the end and revealed the gritty truth. I also can't imagine growing up in a family that has such visibly crazy parents - at least here we keep our craziness out of the national news.

But I also wonder how they get their kids to cooperate with that kind of thing. I remember trying to take pictures of my kids at their birthday parties and they would slide under the table to avoid it. When I would ask them to please, please not tell the teacher that I had actually gone to the bakery and bought the other dozen cupcakes to mix with the homemade ones, the teacher would greet me at the party and ask which ones had I made since the homemade ones were always so much better. They could never really be controlled to that level. In fact, control is the biggest issue in our house.

Emma has a teacher who makes them walk to lunch in a really straight line. (All I could think of when she described this was the children's book, Madeline, and that chant about walking "in two staight lines"). The other day, while the teacher was heading up the line, Emma began a silent version of the Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance and most of the class followed her moves. (I blame her father for those genes) They did this all the way to the cafeteria. She told me she's "kind of famous" in her school now.

I can't imagine asking her to crawl up into attic rafters even for five minutes let alone hours.

Kids that age are pretty innocent. Emma and Philip used to do things like this:

That family damaged that little boy, and I really hope someone other than me notices and steps in to check on the welfare and stability of those parents. It's too bad they can't find more positive ways to bring attention to themselves.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Organizing, The Sequel

I am in a stage of organizing to organize which means I have to get rid of the first layers in the house to see what we actually have. Emma has big plans for a yard sale - which I secretly dread since I would have to talk to my neighbors. I'm not actually sure I want to move beyond the wave stage.

I know how awful that sounds, but remember where I live, and know that these guys would fit right in at the decoy show:

Yup, we had a duck decoy show last week, sort of like a festival celebrating wooden duck decoys. The folks there made the Walmart people look glamourous.

We do have some normal neighbors. One family is really organized. They put their garbage out at 5:45 on Tuesday afternoons. We're more like, "Wait, is today Wednesday? Quick, I hear the garbage trucks. Hurry up!" Everything in their yard looks pretty much like this:

They have two little girls who play together in the yard, doing things like hanging birdfeeders and planting butterfly gardens. I was outside, trying to untangle the herb garden I started that seemed like such a great idea in May. Now I have this wild scraggle that grew like oregano on meth. I tried untangling it, but it gets really scratchy and my hands were getting all cut up.

The little girls were on their swing outside. From my house, all you could hear was Lady Gaga chanting "Poker Face" and the sounds of Philip showing his girlfriend his latest discovery: he learned in science that methane ignites. He then realized that he is a very reliable source of methane and there is a candle lighter in the kitchen drawer. His girlfriend squealed with delight as he demonstrated (yes, this is early teen romance - not exactly like Edward and Bella). Except there was, as there always is with fire, a backdraft problem and his jeans now have scorch marks on the rear.

I watched the lovely little girls help their mom put pumpkins on the stoop. We tried to grow pumpkins, but the boys and their friends quickly realized that pumpkins are amazing targets for BB guns. The splat factor is very big in the boy world.

I'm wondering if organizing is a personality type rather than a matter of habitual neatness. Maybe there are certain families who have to have everything in order or they feel kind of crazy. And maybe some families are the opposite. When I cleared off the kitchen counter, Christopher looked at it and commented, "Why does that look so weird?"

Friday, October 2, 2009


At 5:52 this morning, Philip leaned over my bed and said, "Hey, Mom, did you know that if you give a cat a mint, it sneezes for like twenty minutes?"

I sat up immediately. "And how did you find this out, Philip?"

I listened to a story involving Sarah, one of the already crazy cats, a perfectly timed cat yawn, interest in the texture of a cat tongue and a mint Tic Tac. You can fill in the rest. (She's fine by the way, and is safely sleeping right now on a basket of papers on my desk)

Papers on my desk lead me to announce my latest plan: I am going to get organized. It occurred to me that when I went through some of my writing titles that I don't really have records of sending my stuff out. I get emails from aspiring writers who can tell me, "I sent this to 17 publishers, 4 agents..." and go on to tell me dates and times and responses.

My system is more like, "Wait. Where did I put chapter two?" or "Ok, let me send John the editor an email to make sure he got this rewrite. Did I finish that rewrite?"

It's so aggravating when editors don't publish my stuff just because I haven't sent it yet. You would think they could anticipate more.

It's not that I haven't tried organizing. It's actually that I have tried organizing one too many times I write things in different notebooks or I save them under different file names and then misplace the notebooks and forget the file names.

I teach people how to organize their writing. I start by explaining there are only two types of organizers: internally organized people and externally organized people. Internally organized people can write, do taxes, compose a libretto with a messy desk, cats, and piles of laundry all around them. (That's me) Externally organized folks need spare, neat space, the rug vacuumed (preferably with all the swirls going in the same direction) and the dishes done before they can put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Part of the problem is that I write in short breaks between work, house and kids. I am going to try to organize my time as well. I might even change the layout of this blog. I want to have one of those WIP bars with my daily word count. I have never even thought of doing such a thing, probably because I like to work on different novels and types of writing simultaneously.

I told the kids this morning. Emma looked at Christopher. "It's like all 'o' things today - organizing, October..."

Christopher added, "Odd.."

Then he went on to explain that Cami, our insanely mischievous kitten, had just swallowed a piece of string that had broken off Emma's YoYo string. He had tried to pull it from her mouth, but she growled and went under the sofa until she had eaten it.

I can't tell you how happy I am that I am internally organized.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Normal Problems

This morning (it's Friday, but my computer is refusing to allow me to post anything to blogger or even comment on other blogs, so this will have to go up later) I was doing my frantic change the sheets, put on the dishwasher, general clean up and I was listening to a radio show called, "Is My Child Normal?"

Now, right after I finished my domestic diva duties, I went hunting in the basement for material to make a Halloween costume. When I came back upstairs, the folks were still talking about what constitutes normal. I was holding some old feather boas, yellow crepe paper and glue. Nothing wrong with gathering some material for a Halloween costume, right? Except this is to make a giant chicken costume for Philip. Somehow I have to figure out how to make size 13 chicken feet.

We could buy a chicken costume, but Philip is the only one of my kids who still likes to make them with me like when they were little. As I was putting the boas in a box, Cami, one of the kittens, ran past with a beaver skin that Christopher has had in his room for a few years. I was still thinking how to make chicken feet as I wrangled the beaver skin away from Cami. She was panting under the dining room table because she thought she had caught some big African game.

When I came back, the other four cats were frantically attacking the feather boas and the feathers were floating in the kitchen. I forgot I had put Emma's dress up boas down there because the cats were getting into them all the time.

I looked up at the time, but I remembered we don't have any clocks downstairs. There's the microwave clock, and a clock built in to the stove because Emma finds the sound of ticking clocks unbearable. It reminds her of bombs.

My computer clock, and the weather, is set for Los Angeles because Emma is completely crazy for anything LA. She has done this to all the computers in the house. We are constantly adding to the time to see what time it is where we are.

Emma also believes there is a ghost who is attracted to the scent of her conditioner. Whenever she is in the shower, as soon as she opens the conditioner, the ghost knocks on the wall. Three times. (This is in addition to the ghosts that haunt her classroom bathroom)

The radio people were talking about fearing birthday parties. The Zen-sounding psychosomething said this was just a little social anxiety. My kids never had normal problems like that.

Christopher seems normal, probably the most normal, but then again, he moves around the house like a stealth bomber. I'm not sure how he could hang around with us all these years and actually be normal; I think he's just learned compensatory behaviors.

Then again, he decided in kindergarten that he would wear nothing but jeans, and he has lived it for the last dozen years. That can't be right.

The next radio problem was a child's reluctance to try new foods.

I remember giving Emma a bowl once, she looked at it, looked at me, and said, "It's too blue. I can't eat from that."

Philip once slid under the table at a Chinese buffet and refused to come out because "the food is too shiny here; it looks alive." That was an interesting cultural exchange between me and the ultra polite Chinese waiter.

I thought about calling in.

Or maybe I should just write a parenting book, "Raising the Paranormal Child," -- or something along those lines.

I'll bet it would get picked up by Time Warner.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Corridor of the Undead

It's like a rite of autumn around here: the back to school nights in schools, with nervous teachers explaining their policies and parents sitting there smiling, silently judging them.

I used to be the teacher up there; now I'm the parent. I try not to judge them. Last night, I got there five minutes late (which is pretty good for me) and I had to stand next to the cafeteria doors. I think all cafeterias look the same in schools everywhere - something like this:

with the student area resembling:

although that is a much nicer cafeteria than I remember from grade school. I remember broken benches and stains that we all decided were from some gruesome event that had befallen previous students -

of course, there is generally someone who looks like this:

encouraging you to eat the meal that looks like:

The sinks in my daughter's school are large enough to slaughter a cow in. And the kitchen is made of cinder blocks with dancing vegetables smiling from the walls. The onion looked a little like Osama Bin Laden.

The evening opened with a speaker from the county health department. You can bet I was listening to a forty minute presentation on the H1N1 virus. I only heard the part about 91K being spent on installing hand sanitizing stations. So then, swine flu is a virus that isn't airborne? I didn't quite get that, then again, while she was speaking, I was imagining the onion with a turban.

I can't think of a whole lot of writing that has taken place in school cafeterias, yet it's an experience we have all shared. More so than say sports which I completely bypassed in high school - yet there are lots of books out there involving sports or where the protagonist is involved with a sport.

I had forgetten all the memories I had of my grade school cafeteria until I stood in front of the window last night. I remember a lunch lady standing over me when I tried to slide an untouched lunch into the garbage can. She stopped me and ordered me to try a Swedish meatball. I was in the second grade and she was straight from the corridor of the undead. She picked up my fork and held it up to my mouth. I was too scared not to eat it, so I swallowed it and nodded, then ran. To this day, I have never been able to try Swedish meatballs.

I also remember a tremendous amount of gossiping at the lunch table. We exchanged notes, hair barrettes, phone numbers and party invitations. That time, even though it was probably only about forty minutes a day, was the best time of the day.

I'm trying to think of children's books that involve the cafeteria. Is it one of those places that you stop remembering once you get past college age? I can't think of a single title...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

They're Baaack....

My kids all fell asleep in the living room last night in a big heap of end-of-the-summer-exhaustion. The boys have to be out the door at 7 am which, after long afternoons of summer slumber, is like the middle of the night to them.

Emma has to take "orders" from people who "are only taller, not any smarter" than kids. (Yes, that's how she put it)

I actually got almost, not quite, but almost caught up with the wash and I had all my papers in order when I got to campus. I even had on matching clothes and earrings. I hope my students don't get too used to that.

And I'm starting a new novel. I keep saying that, but I keep changing the way it opens. I think the problem was the voice just didn't sound authentic to me. I put books in the heap after about three pages if the voice doesn't hook me. Kids do, too.

That being said, here is a sampling of real voices from my kids on the first day of school. Voice really is character.

When I asked Christopher, he said, "Mom, everything is all good." He pushed the rest of his sandwich into his mouth so he couldn't say anymore then high tailed it to his room.

Philip reminded me, "He knows if he tells you too much, you'll call the school or something." When I asked Philip which of his teachers he liked, he smirked and said, "Mom, no one likes teachers. They're not likeable; they're just all control freaks.You tolerate teachers; you don't like them."

Right. I forgot.

Emma had the most descriptive assessment of the first couple of days. Her "friend" L. got a new haircut so now she looks like a "fuzzy pumpkin." I put friend in quotes because L. is one of those people we talk to, but never truly befriend. I should say that L. sees ghosts, carries tarot cards, and could use a little help in the hygiene department. She came over once, and Emma decided she needed to remain a school friend.

Anyway, L. informed Emma that the bathroom in their classroom was haunted. Not only did several ghosts inhabit it, but the janitor is somehow involved in maintaining the ghosts' secrecy. (I felt a little guilty when she was explaining all this; I couldn't help but see the huge difference in the YA mind and the MG mind)

All day, Emma and L. listened to toilets flush when no one was in there, lights blinked, faucets ran and there is a low creaking sound which is, of course, how the ghosts speak to one another.

"Could it be the water running in the pipes?" I asked, "the school is pretty old."

"It's not water," she explained (barely hiding the exasperation in her voice), "water sounds wet. This is more like wind."

"So how is everything else?"

"I almost fell asleep during history. What's the point in learning about the colonies? Aren't all those people dead?"

"Maybe they're the ghosts," I suggested.

She looked at me for a second. "No, I don't think so. That would be interesting. And there's nothing interesting about school."

So much for the first three days...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Happy Labor Day!

It's Labor Day weekend - the last weekend of summer.That's a picture of our backyard, and it already looks empty to me.

I'm never sure what to do on holidays like this. I could invite my neighbors over for a barbeque, but they tend to like to catch what they eat from the lake or the woods so I think I'll pass. We'll probably go shopping for school supplies, but none of the schools here tell us what the kids need until the first day of school, which is Wednesday. We try and guess in the middle of the store, big binders? small, vinyl ones? book socks or paper bag covers? It seems like everyone else has these neat lists...

When the kids asked me why we have Labor Day, I told them it was an extra day so they could start their summer reading.

They always remind me I don't really have a job, except a few days a week at the college. They see me writing on the computer, but they associate computer time with fun and socializing.

The weird thing about being a writer is you kind of feel that you don't really have a job, or are part of the labor force because you are usually home when you are writing. Plus, you could always be working. Always. It's kind of like having perpetual homework.

But I feel like we should all probably think about what we do during Labor Day, or something connected to what we do for a living.

In the spring, there was an article in The NY Times that I have thought about for a while now. It talks about the responsibility authors have in choosing what to write about, especially authors who write YA (and probably MG) It's sort of an old question I suppose, but do you think writing about things like cutting, anorexia, shoplifting, all those behaviors encourages it? Or just exposes it? Should those topics be avoided? When we write about drinking or drug use, does it give kids ideas? Or do they just see a reflection of what they already know?

I remember sneak-reading a book (during algebra which might explain a lot) about these two girls who ran away from home and experimented with everything I had never done - or even come close to doing. It was my favorite book for a few months, far more interesting than the Boston adventures of Johnny Tremain. Sin is far more compelling than compliance. That book was a hot topic at sleepovers, yet I still have never done any of the things those girls did.

I don't have an answer to this. I do know that we can't write for the mentally fragile. I also know there is a fine line between avoiding topics and censorship.

In the end, at least for me, I think writing has to reflect what is true. If it's not authentic, it's just not interesting. And when I write, I don't want to feel parental since it's really one of the very few things I do that doesn't involve my kids.

I also know that my answer isn't everyone's. Do you avoid topics that are controversial? or ones that go against your personal beliefs? Do you think what kids read influences them so easily?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Three Deadlies

The best aspect of being a published writer happens when someone writes to you and says how much they liked your book and how it has helped them in some way. It's also very handy when I am grilling one of my boys and he responds by saying, "Geez, Mom, what are you doing -- writing a book?"

As a matter of fact...

So there has to be a darker side, and there is: you get swamped with requests to read other folks unpubbed manuscripts. Initially, it's really flattering (and there are maybe two in your inbox in a month) I am the first to say writing a novel is

a) hopeful


b) hopeful

Of course I can't read them anymore. Most people who write, work, and have a family don't have the time to critique entire manuscripts, and I'm no exception. But I have read a few pages of them recently, just the first ones,because it's August and boring. There's a lot going on in the good department with writing, but the teacher in me has picked out three really consistent mistakes an awful lot of writers seem to be making. In random order, they are:

1. Dullness. Yikes. Death sentence. And the most common of the three deadlies.

Kids give you fifteen nanoseconds to interest them. Start in the middle. Let the school explode, then talk about how Doug had been bullied one science class too long and had always had an interest in dynamite. You can always go back and fill in the backstory later. You have to get them to WANT to know the backstory. And you have to do it fast. That may not hold true for adult stories, but YA/MG audiences are not known for patience.

And dullness goes for the writing, too. For some reason, maybe writers are striving for a casual approach in the dialog, there's a lot of "good as gold," and "black as night." Boring.

Here's a sentence I still remember from last year that Emma told me. "Mom, you have to cut off the crusts on these sandwiches. They taste like balloons." I remembered it because it's surprising.

If there is no fresh language and there are lots of cliches, no one will want to read it. Coat the characters and the actions in layers of irrelevant details and it will send everyone running, including agents and editors. You don't want to be a word slut and show everything you've got in the first few pages.

2. Beige Settings.

So much of YA takes place in the mall or the school, and it's THE MALL or THE SCHOOL, the generic one on the Disney channel. Give the place flavor. All schools and places have their quirks, strange characters, weird smells, an abandoned factory, a crazy neighbor, something along those lines. It helps the kids "see" the place. And they are still young enough to really, really like engaging all their senses to "see" --

3.Writer as Pastor.

I'm surprised at how common this is.

I did this once, and I thought it was soooo subtle. An editor at Carolrhoda picked it up (this was maybe five years ago) wrote to me and told me the story came close, but in the end she could sense the "lesson" through the story -- and she was sure kids would, too. It never works unless you are writing for vacation bible schools.

Right now, I'm reading Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson, and I think as long as you have a sense of humor and have seen a few B movies and you want to write with more freshness, that's a great book to start with. It is sort of strange and surprising, but I'm reading pages of it to my balloon-bread daughter and she thinks it's "not so bad for a boy writer."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teradactyls Over D.C.

We just got back from Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, Virginia. I really think the colonists had it easy compared to traveling in a mid size car with three kids in the middle of an August heat wave.

After a few hours of arguing, I began pointing out, “Look, see those nice families in the car next to us? They’re talking together and playing games with license plates and state capitals. Why can't we be normal like that?"

Philip interpreted this observation as a request to teach his younger sister the sound a teradactyl makes. Teradactyls used to be Philip’s favorite animal, back when he was seriously interested in dinosaurs. Emma, being a girl, missed that phase and was bored enough to make the screeching sounds along with her brother. (Christopher, amazingly, slept through this, though he was listening to his Ipod)

I forgot new batteries for the camera, so I handed Philip my phone and asked him to take pictures -- but he had to stop the teradactyl noises. We got some great shots this way:

That's the road we were on, or it might be The Baltimore Tunnel, and here's a bridge:

But at least the prehistoric screeching slowed down and we stopped arguing long enough to reach the hotel. They had a rooftop pool which the kids and I loved. Most of the people around us were speaking French or German and the kids were amazed that we were the only English speakers.

After the pool, while everyone was getting dressed, I decided to go down to the lobby to get some restaurant menus. I had on new clothes (no stains! no cat claw holes!) and I had just come from swimming, so I was feeling pretty cool in that elevator. I was thinking how we could pass for a normal, maybe even a civilized family. Elegant folks all dressed for dinner got on at each floor.

That’s when my phone rang. Except it didn’t ring: it screeched like a teradactyl. Right there, with all the international people in their evening wear, in a small, urban elevator, I heard Philip and Emma going ARRRRRRHCCCCCCCCARRRAGHHHGARRR or something like that. The sound came right from my new black purse that I had bought to go with the new clothes. I had forgotten how he liked to change his ring tone every ten minutes. I fumbled for the phone. No one said a word. They just got off the elevator and walked away. Actually, they walked a little fast…

Human Teradactyls:

Williamsburg was better. We had a bigger space which is always good for family harmony, and there was enough history and canons and things along those lines to interest everyone.

I did escape a demonstration on colonial weaving by sneaking off to this bookstore. Christopher got this shot as I broke free:

I really did want to buy some books and a lamp as souvenirs. I explained to Christopher the style I wanted to get, how it would look colonial, and we would have a reminder of the trip.

Christopher looked at me for a long minute. "Mom," he reminded me, "the colonists did not have lamps."

He thinks he's so smart.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nature Girl Meets Her Nature

Since it’s August, most of us are thinking about vacations. We live on the Jersey Shore, so it’s not like we don’t see vacationers all around us. They are the families who look really, really stressed at the beach with little kids running around and plastic toys spilling everywhere. Since we live here, they are kind of a seasonal oddity to us along with ticks and mosquitoes.

Of course, we want to go on vacation, too. While I was teaching and working on fall syllabi, I decided the kids should have some kind of vacation until we leave for Virginia in a few days. There’s a campground a few miles from us, so I went on a mining expedition in the basement and found a brand new tent. I remember buying this tent about ten years ago while in a postpartum haze with Emma strapped to me in one of those cotton papoosey slings. I had no idea what I was thinking at the time since I can barely stand in the yard for fifteen minutes before the bugs and the humidity get to me.

“What is that?” Christopher asked as I dragged it up from the basement.

“A tent. I think we should go camping.”

“Camping.” He looked at me for a second. “Mom, do you sit around and think up these ideas for us? And don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s like you’re getting early dementia. Your ideas are getting worse and worse.”

“I don’t have dementia because I want you guys to get close to nature. It would be good for you to leave your computer and video games for a night. I think you should consider it.”

“So now, exactly why do you want us to pretend we’re homeless?”

I never looked at camping in quite that way. But I decided to put the tent up in the backyard. Maybe if they fooled around with the tent back there, they would want to go to the campgrounds.

Now I have never put up a tent before, and this slept four so it wasn’t that big. Emma had a couple of friends over and we took the box and some poles out to the backyard.

We struggled for about half an hour. One of the girls looked at the box. “There’s a door!” she exclaimed, “I don’t see a door on this tent.”

“Maybe we have to cut a door,” the other girl suggested, “you know, just cut it out.”

“Really?” I asked, “I never saw anyone do that,” I said. "They just zip them, don't they?"

“I think the door appears magically once the tent is up,” Emma suggested hopefully. "Remember the closet to Narnia?"

I looked at Emma. “I think I better see if there are directions.”

Of course there weren’t. The box was nearly ten years old, and it had been snooped in a few times and there were no directions. I stared at the box for a few minutes trying to figure out what went where.

We were still out there without a tent when Philip and a friend came into the yard.

“Oh,” Friend said, “we used to camp all the time. I love putting tents up!”

After a few minutes, Friend looked at me. “Umm, you know why this isn’t working?”

We all looked at her blankly.

“You guys are putting the tarp up. This is only the piece you put up when it rains. This isn’t a tent.”

We did find the tent in another part of the basement. Philip and his friend put it up. No one went near it. It's still out there, now being used as a trampoline for our psychotic squirrels. I am waiting for that friend to return because I have absolutely no idea how to disassemble the thing.

We have found a lovely hotel in Virginia where you slide a card into a slot to get to your room.

I think that’s a really good idea for me.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

What Kind of Day at the Beach Are You?

The other day, we got our first chance to go to the beach this summer. I am admittedly at odds with this area and its Nascar-loving, small animal hunting denizens, but when I go to the local beach, I don’t want to live anywhere else. These are pictures of the beach about fifteen minutes from us:

I remember getting so annoyed when my adult relatives asked me to look at the sand dunes. Who wanted to do that when there was a beach with an ocean right there? I tried pointing out how amazing these places are to my kids. They responded with such a blank stare that I could hear mental tapping and the low whisper of: “When will she be done talking about sand?”

I think you can tell a whole lot about folks when you see them on the beach. My husband, the engineering type, is a logician. He reads the table they post about water temperature, tidal patterns, and the danger of rip tides before even putting the blanket down. I’m not sure what difference any of that makes; I figure out the water temperature and currents once I’m in the ocean - if I remember to think about that stuff.

Of course, he grew up inland so the beach isn’t home to him like it is to me. I grew up on a beach and never remember, not even once, having any kind of scientific table to consult before swimming. Then again, if people like me ran the world it would be a whole lot messier and way, way more bridges would collapse. I usually dump everything in a kind of territorial scatter and plunge into the water. Son #1 is like that, too. He heads straight for the water, only now, he makes sure he is really, really far from the middle aged lady in the bathing suit. When we bump into each other in the water, he nods at me and paddles away as if he has just spotted my dorsal fin.

Son #2 has become a herrmit crab. Angry that he could not spend the afternoon redesigning his myspace page, he sat with towels covering his head. I think he was texting under those towels, but he refused to budge off his spot. I did slide a juice box and some snacks under the towels which were silently accepted. (Please tell me that some day he won’t be fifteen anymore; I think he‘s been this age for three years…)

Emma is an arts and crafts beachcomber. She collects shells, “great rocks” (meaning weirdly shaped or super flat ones) and anything glittery or interesting. These usually get made into weird sculptures that she puts together with gorilla glue and acrylic paint. They look like mini gargoyles when she is done and we put them in the garden to keep the psychotic squirrel at bay. (He’s a squirrel who swings down from the branches and sits right near us when we are outside -- then he leaps back into the tree without warning and makes a screeching sound -- we never knew squirrels made sounds. They shouldn’t make sounds in case you’re wondering what he sounds like)

But most of the people on the beach are barges. I never understood this behavior, and I still don’t. They come down to the water in bathing suits, set up an umbrella and just sit there and watch everyone. I guess they watch crazy people like me shivering in the water. Occasionally, they turn their lounge chairs to or away from the sun, but they don’t get up too much. I guess everyone likes the beach, even non swimmers.

So what kind of beach visitor are you? A barge, a beachcomber, a plunger, a logician or a hermit crab?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Are You Smarter Than MY Fifth Grader?

I am a television grump: I can't stand most tv, and I'm always nagging my kids not to watch it. I say subtle things like, "Do you want to maintain ANY kind of visual imagination?" and I point to ditch diggers on 90+ degree days and say, "He used to watch hours of television and now..." The kids roll their eyes and say things like, "Right, mom,'cause it's not like he was dumb to start with." They are so sarcastic -- just like their father.

Anyway, I was on the couch recently, and I wanted to read, but I couldn't focus enough from the a) pain and b) the pain killers. So I watched tv, at least for a little while. And my kids showed me some of their favorite shows:

16 and Pregnant


South Park

Family Guy

I sort of liked the first two since the first was scary and the second was actually funny sometimes. The other shows just seemed mean and uninspired. They reminded me of jokes I heard when I used to supervise a time out room in a terrible high school.

Then Emma, a fifth grader, put on the show, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? I, thinking the obvious, said to her, "Are these questions you get asked in school?" She started laughing. "No, Mom, they're so easy. It's the adults who are dumb." I didn't believe her. Then I watched it. Is it possible to be given a drivers license and not know there are seven continents? I mean, could there be nine? Or did one melt? Good Lord.

Since I live with a fifth grader, here are Emma's two latest questions that she asked during a long car trip:

What shape is the universe?

She has not been able to accept Dad's answer that it has no shape. We are at a loss on this one.

The other is this:

Since I'm here now, where was I before I was born? Was I a spirit? Not after I die, but before I was born, what was I doing? And WHAT was I?

That's the show I want to see.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Losing Time

I haven't been around these past week or so due to dental surgery that I thought would be just annoying. I didn't realize it would be so extensive and that I would have to take pain pills that left me an insane person, living on the couch and jotting down outline notes like this:

birds, with the field, not within the scope, seven isotopes

At the time, I explained to anyone who stopped by my cushion how this was going to be an amazing novel, very similar to the writing of Bram Stoker.


He wrote Dracula which is the only horror book I ever read that I liked. I have absolutely no idea what I was talking about.

I had to spend more time on the couch than I liked (which is none; I am kind of the opposite of a couch potato), but the kids were great. They made tortellini dinners with Ragu and I am now not sure if I can ever eat a Lean Pocket again. Ever.

I alos made some great discoveries about American tv -- I now know -thanks to late night infomercials - that there is a new science termed YOUTHOLOGY. Seriously.

By now, I'm down to one pill a day and a sore lower jaw, and my writing notes make a bit more sense. We've had some fun, though. Baby Cat (aka Cara) the one who went to live in a basket after the arrival of the kittens -

They are so cute; here's just one more:

Anyway, Baby Cat decided she had had enough of not being the baby any more, and she decided to make a break for it when one of the kids' friends opened the door. We all ran after her, and ended up on the lawn of the Squids.

The Squids are our neighbors, the ones in the scary house that is always dark (hence, like a cave) and Emma claims the tree in their front yard is shaped exactly like a squid. We've never actually SEEN the Squids, but Baby Cat ran onto and then under their porch and we all followed. I stood right in their yard and yelled over to the kids, "The Baby is under the Squids' porch." This sentence must have sounded very strange to anyone who heard it, and I would not have hollered that right there in their yard had I not been a little assisted in my loss of inhibitions. Maybe it was thinking about Dracula, and standing there under the moonlight that made me howl that. That, plus the narcotics.

After hearing this, Emma backed away from me without bothering to turn around and Philip ran very, very fast away from all of us. But Christopher ventured under there, coming out with a dried spider attached to the shoulder of his t shirt (this discovery caused Emma to shriek when he came back inside the light), but he did have Baby Cat in his arms.

And I wonder why the neighbors think we are odd.

I can't imagine how folks who dabble in pharmaceuticals get anything done. That sense of losing time makes me feel so defeated; how do you write under the influence of anything? But I'm back. I had a lot of help in recovering:

Philip's about 175 now. Guess I'm going to have to develop stronger leg muscles.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Bish was nice enough to nominate me for this award, and even though I am late, I will play. I am supposed to nominate other folks, but I think we are in something of a blogging clique here -- all female writers of children's literature. So we know pretty much the same people and I will be double tagging them. If you haven't been nominated, and you want to play along, send me an email and I will happily nominate you.

The other piece of this is to confess seven things about you that folks might find curious or that they didn't know. I have so much ample weirdness in my life that it was hard to narrow it down to seven. That's probably not good. Anyway, here goes:

1. I am constantly thinking about moving. We haven't exactly blended in the natives here who watch Nascar all day and carve decoys for the annual duck hunting decoy show. I look at real estate markets all over the East Coast. I am currently considering Virginia, Princeton and northern Manhattan. Of course, money plays no part in these fantasies.

2. I still haven't bought curtains for our windows. We have these sheets of linen tied at the bottom (I can't even cut fabric straight let alone sew). Every time I walk into one of those curtain shops and the domestic divas start discussing "window treatments" I get panicky and flee. Maybe installing window treatments would help imbue a greater sense of permanency to our house.

3. I think cats are connected to some kind of mystical energy that is invisible to humans. I won't say anything more about this belief or I will have to move to L.A. - or at least Oregon.

4. I write several pieces at once even though most other writers are baffled by this habit. I absolutely have to be in the mood for a certain character or I end up looking at seven bedroom homes in Alexandria. (Those virtual tours can be compelling)

5. I steam organic vegetables for dinner and when the kids are done, I sneak outside with half a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

6. I worry that I like to read blogs now more than talk to actual people. Bloggy people never ask me to bake or watch their kids, and I can think about what they wrote before writing anything back. They demand so little...

7. I can't decide whether I like or don't like the Internet. I really can't. It's probably the only area of my life where I don't lean a little more to the yes or no area. Sometimes I think it's wonderful and sometimes I feel lost when I'm online --like there's this big party that's been going on and I just arrived. It's exactly 50/50. In fact, the older I get, the less able I am to make decisions in general, but this one is the only one that's still completely yin/yang.

Those are the first seven that come to mind, but I'm sure if I dug a little, there's way deeper and stranger stuff. For now, I'll just let this stuff float out there.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Return from the Zone of Non Presence

I have been swamped lately, and not with work which has been wonderfully part time. We had a lot of family stuff going on involving hospitals and a few other other huge life events.

I couldn't access the Internet at all for most of the time because we had, as the guy who just left my house termed, "intermittent connectivity" -- I love that phrase. I'm sure the cable guy didn't realize I was thinking that's pretty much a perfect phrase for describing how it is to raise teenagers.

I secretly like being unable to use the computer because it forces my kids to spend more time with me. I also got a lot of writing done because I can still access my WIPs without the Internet. I suffer from Internet-induced ADD: Wow! I can find out exactly how falcons communicate! Is THAT what Emily Dickinson's room looked like? Maybe I can figure out how to clean the bathtub without using get the idea.

Anyway,since I'm back now, I would like to first thank Bish for awarding me this very cool award:

It's probably too late to play along, but I appreciate it!

In other news, my kids found out about the cat colony that lives in and around the Atlantic City Boardwalk. We already have four animals, so I explained to them how, as much as we wanted to help, we are already so busy and the vet bills, how I still owe money for Mazy's Lyme disease and they really understood. So here is Coco, relaxing in our living room. (Her sister is under the sofa)

They are incredibly cute, but one of our older cats, Cara, has now taken up residence in a basket used to hold school papers. Good thing the school year is over.

I am really scared that I am going to be one of those old women living in a house impacted with books and cats. I am so headed in that direction. Here is another one of Coco. She has a weird eyelid (it's flipped out) and may eventually have to get her eye removed. We knew that before we adopted her. Anyone remember Poe's story, The Black Cat?

I just heard Christopher say to his father (who has a tendency to undercook meat), "Hey Dad, do you think my appendix still works?" Think it's time to see what's going on.