Friday, December 30, 2011

Who's Teaching Who - Part Two

A couple of weeks ago during the hustle and bustle of the holiDAZE, Pie came up to me and told me she wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love. Pie is blessed with naturally curly auburn hair that has glints of deeper reds and blonds. It hangs all the down her back and is absolutely beautiful. I told her I would take her to get her hair cut during her Christmas break if that's what she really wanted.

Throughout the past few weeks she has never wavered in her decision. Instead, she grew more and more excited for her impending haircut. Today at her appointment she confidently crawled up on the stylist's chair. Pie never stopped smiling and her eyes were dancing with happiness as the stylist cut 10 inches of hair off into a cute chin length bob. I was so proud of her as she sat there so still yet so giddy with excitement. As we left the salon, I noticed an extra spring in her step and for the rest of the day she luxuriated in the feeling and look of her new hairdo.

When I asked her why she wanted to cut her hair off she said she wanted to do it because someone we never met had given Biddle her liver and she thought that was pretty cool. She wanted to cut her hair off so that she could give it to another little kid who didn't have hair of her own. A little kid who she would never meet. A little kid who was battling a disease. She's 7 years old and ready to save the world, one haircut at a time. ;-)






 



   

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Resolving to Build My Resolve...Or Something Like That

Resolution. To me, that's kind of a dirty word. But lately I have come to the conclusion that it's time for me to RESOLVE to get some things accomplished - therefore it is time to light the proverbial fire underneath my butt. 

Eat better. Sounds simple, but for some reason this is difficult for me. It’s not like I’m trucking it to every fast food joint on a regular basis or whooping it up with ice cream every day. But I certainly do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. I always make sure the girls eat their fruits and vegetables. They also love yogurt and granola bars. I make sure to keep those foods in the fridge and pantry. However, I rarely partake of them myself. Breakfast for me is coffee (laced with peppermint mocha creamer), and during the winter I eat oatmeal. Brown sugar and maple flavored oatmeal. Now, I do give a nod to healthiness here because I get the kind with high fiber. Still, I think I could do better. Maybe I should try some fresh fruit for a mid-morning snack. Instead of Chef BoyarDee for lunch (a fave of the 5-year-old and something I do limit), I should be expanding my menu to include a salmon salad with spinach, or maybe a turkey sandwich. I know what’s healthy and what’s not. Yes, I know tater tots topped with shredded cheese and dipped in sour cream (as I hide from the children) is not a healthy meal, but to me, its comfort food. Our dinners our mostly healthy, but I’m sure I can find room for improvement. (Ditch the canned vegetables for fresh or frozen ones more often is the first thing that comes to mind.)

Exercise. Again, sounds simple. After all I have some workout DVD’s – including the infamous P90x (which I have managed to get about halfway through, thankyouverymuch). I also have a Yoga/Pilates DVD and a regular Yoga DVD that I love. I am aware of the benefits of regular exercise (increased energy, weight loss, enhanced mood). As I get older I know my body needs all the help it can get. Don’t get me wrong – at 5’2” and 108 lbs I’m not exactly a tub of lard. But lack of exercise leads to a soft body and weight gain. Not to mention depleted energy levels which leads to inertia which leads to….a tub of lard. So it’s time to get my booty off the couch and shake it like I used to in my younger days. Ok, so I know at age 37 that I’m not old, per se, but I think I feel old sometimes due to my lack of booty shaking. (or exercise, whatever you want to call it.)

Write more. Yes, I write for school on a regular basis and I freelance. Those assignments are (hopefully) strengthening my writing skills and my critical thinking skills (again, hopefully). But I am also working on a novel and have a few short stories in the works. I need to find time EVERYDAY to write for myself – not just to get paid or to complete coursework. That novel and those short stories aren’t going to finish themselves. By daily dedicating a set amount of time to my own personal writing I can hopefully finish the novel by spring time. Then I can let it sit for a month or two, get it out and dust it off for a rewrite before I take to the Writer’s Workshop that I’m doing during the summer. I also need to read more. And again, not just for school. I’ve read at least 3 or 4 novels since I’ve been on winter break since mid-December. I can’t keep that pace up while in school, but I can set aside a few minutes per day to read. It is one of my favorite activities - to be able to step outside my own world and into someone else’s creation is at once relaxing and exhilarating. And who doesn’t need more of those feelings? 

Get over it. And by “it”, I mean fear. I have two different blogs (one of which is linked to the FB so I can post links to it for my friends and family to read. But what I really need to do (and what really scares the shit outta me) is to try my hand at the e-publishing platform (via Lulu.com, maybe?) and get some of my short stories out there. After all, I can do it for free and set a super low price  (also free, maybe) so that anybody with an e-reader (or a computer) can download some of my stories and see how my twisted mind works. That’s scary to me, but how the hell am I going to make a living as a writer if I don’t get my work out there into the hands of readers? I am a big fan of facing fears. (Hey, if I could outsmart the guy that threw me into the trunk of a car and send his good-for-nothing-ass to jail for 6 years, I can sure as hell send my stories into cyberspace.) And I also learned how to drive a motorcycle. Surely that counts for something in the facing of the fears department. Now I need to turn that fearless focus toward writing. 

I’m sure there’s a bunch of things that I’m not listing that could use some improvement. (Notice how I’m not getting into personality traits such as practicing more patience or cutting down on my colorful language or making fun of others or any and all of the other things that I am sure I need to work on.) But I think the things I covered are a good start. What about you? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Love My Writers Group

I joined a writer's group last summer. It happened in a roundabout way, via a friend who currently lives in New Zealand who used to be a DJ and is currently an actor. That friend noticed a few posts I had on Facebook regarding writing. He was nice enough to hook me up with a friend of his who lives in my general vicinity and who happens to be part of an active writers group. The group is an eclectic bunch that includes published authors, talented wordsmiths and academics - did I mention one woman (huge hero of mine) also rides motorcycles and is an accomplished tattoo artist when she's not at her dayjob?  I am truly in awe of these people. Lucky for me, they were willing to expand the circle and let me in.

I was able to go to meetings during the summer, but then I went on vacation and missed a few. Shortly after I came back from vacation I decided to go back to school. One of my classes met on Tuesday nights, which is the night my writers group meets. On top of all that, my other half was away on military duty. Sadly enough, that led to months of missing the weekly Tuesday night meetings. I kept in touch with them via the interweb, yet I wasn't happy about not being able to connect with them in person.

But lo and behold, tonight I finally got to go to my beloved Tuesday night meeting. Ah, what a sense of relief it was to sit around the table with all of those talented writers, exchanging stories and being able to talk about writing with other people who truly understand what goes into creating a short story or a novel. After all, writing is mostly an endeavor in solitude. It can be grueling, time consuming and maddening. However, it can also be a transcendental experience and an eye-opening journey.

Tonight, my group listened to me read from my novel, as they have before. I had employed the edits they so generously gave me all of those months ago. They noticed, and gave more advice. And I realized, in an instant, that their advice was so right, and so spot on, that I began creating the new scenes in my head as I sat around that table, in the busy bookstore, surrounded by people.

I love my writers group.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who's Teaching Who?

My kids manage to surprise me almost every day, in some form or another. Sometimes these surprises are good (Mommy, I got an A on my spelling test!) Sometimes these surprises are not so good (Mommy, I have diarrhea!). There are days when I'm ready to pull my hair out and/or drink heavily. (I am stopped by the fact that I have spent over a year growing my hair out and I have a remarkably low tolerance for alcohol since I became a mother. Don't get me wrong, I like my wine but after a glass or two I am ready for bed.)

During the holidays at Pie's school (the 7-year-old), they offer a shop in which the kids can shop for gifts for friends and family. The kids are sent home with a little envelope and the parents and children decide how much money they can spend per person. Pie and I discussed how much money she would spend and chose the people she wanted to buy things for. I gave her some money and stressed to her that I needed the change back when she came home from school after her "shopping trip."

After school on the day of the shopping trip, Pie was excited to show me her purchases. (Except for what she bought me, that was a surprise.) As she showed me what she bought I noticed there were a few extra items. One of those items turned out to be a gift for herself. The change that I was expecting had disappeared due to the additional purchase. The whole experience turned into a lecture about a.) listening to mommy b.) the importance of money c.) keeping your word. We had a little chat and I thought that was the end of the situation.

The morning after that talk, we were in the car waiting in the long line of cars at the drop off zone at school. I was in a bad mood. (The coffee had not yet kicked in and a minivan had cut me off - need I say more?)
     "Mommy?" Pie says from the back seat.
     "What?" I answered distractedly.
     "I have something for you." I turned around to see her reaching out to me. In her hand was a crumpled up dollar bill. Her eyes had a hopeful yet slightly sad expression.
     "What's this?" I asked.
     "It's your money Mommy. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have bought something for myself. This is my money from the Tooth Fairy. I want you to have it."

The sad tone in her voice and the fact that she was offering up her Tooth Fairy money brought tears to my eyes. I smiled at her and told her to keep her money. After I dropped her off and drove away, her expression and her words stayed with me. I thought about how life's little lesson's can happen anywhere, at any time. I thought about how lucky I am to have such great kids, who have taught me so much about love, patience and understanding.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And the Word of the Day is....Procrastination!

This week marks the last week of fall quarter at my esteemed institution of higher learning. To that, I say a resounding YIPPEEEE! It's not like I don't like school, in fact, it's safe to say that  I love school. But I'm ready to be done for a while and explore some other options. Options such as creating another blog via a well-known platform, something that one of my instructors told me to do. Options such as taking on a bit more freelance work so  I can a.) make sure the Spawnderellas have a good Christmas and b.) keep myself fully stocked in the vino department.

Yesterday was the last day for my MultiGenre Writing class and I had to turn into my portfolio. We had to write 2 short stories, 2 personal essays and 5 poems, plus our in-class writing and proof that we submitted a piece of work to someone in the publishing industry. (I chose to submit a personal essay to the Cincinnati Review.) Our portfolios for this class had to be formatted in a very specific way in a 3-ring binder with a table of contents. I finished putting it together um, about an hour before I had to leave for class. Yes, I have a tendency to procrastinate sometimes.

I have one more paper to write for another class, due on Thursday evening. It has to be 900+ words on the importance of "place" within a novel or short story. In this particular class we read authors from Canada, the United States and South America. We are to choose a book from each place and expound on how the place the author chose to set the story in helped to shape their work. Sounds fun, eh? In fact, it sounds like so much fun that I am (again) procrastinating. I thought it would be a good time to set up a Google+ account. And then do a little blog. Maybe a little laundry. But alas, the time has come to actually do some work. The sooner I finish it the sooner I can do something else. You know, like putz around on FB or Google+. Or maybe start my Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You Just Never Know...

I love to read and write. (Why else would I be pursuing a bachelors in Creative Writing and English Lit?) If given a choice, I naturally gravitate toward women's fiction (yes, that includes some chick lit), and I tend to stay away from zombies or vampires. (Ok, I do admit to enjoying the Twilight series, sue me.) But I recently wrote a personal essay about something I feel very strongly about. The reaction that I got from people who heard me read it was overwhelming - in a good way. The encouragement to shop it around to different places, and a request to be interviewed are two things I never expected to happen as I wrote that particular piece. Who knows what will happen? But I was amazed and humbled at the reactions my writing garnered - and it made me feel good to be able to effect people in that way.  

In fact, it made me realize that this educational path I'm pursuing might just lead me down yet another path that I never planned on taking - but isn't that what all too often happens in life? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Perfection....Or Not

Here I sit - at the end of a busy Thanksgiving "break". My break was definitely full of spending time with my family and lazing around in my pajamas. But it wasn't exactly what I would have wished for - because we all got the flu. But even throughout that ordeal, I learned there are a lot of things I'm grateful for - including the fact that the pukefest we endured only lasted from Tuesday through Friday. I'm grateful the man I love held my hair while I puked. I'm grateful to him for cleaning up after Maya (and me) on Tuesday night and cleaning up after Laely on Thursday night. I'm grateful for the dinner my mother cooked on Thanksgiving even if I could not eat very much of it. I'm grateful that no one passed out at the table this year. (What? Like that doesn't happen in your family?)

I've learned that the perfect holiday isn't always something that actually happens, no matter how much you plan for it. I'm grateful for my imperfect and flu-filled holiday, and I'm grateful for my beautiful  life - including all of the challenges we face on a daily basis as a family of four just trying to get through life, happy and healthy. I just have to wonder what in the gay hell is going to happen at Christmas....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just a Thought or Two....

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is generally one of the biggest bar nights of the year. During my 20's, I was often in the thick of the crowd, angling to get a drink or pushing my way onto an overcrowded dance floor. Truth be told, I always had a good time.

But now I'm in my 30's and things are different. Don't get me wrong, I still like to go out and have a good time. But tonight, as my youngest daughter and I are recovering from a nasty bout of food poisoning that hit us last night, I realized that I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than where I am right now. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, and being grateful for all that we have. So I'm sitting here, feeling extremely blessed that I am surrounded by my little family.

And of course, I am extremely happy that the food poisoning has run it's course and I will hopefully be able to gorge myself on turkey and all the fixins' tomorrow. ;-)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reality versus NaNoWriMo

Ok, confession time. I am failing dismally at NaNoWriMo. At this rate, I'll be lucky if I get to 25,000 words by the end of the month. And I don't even know if I'll like those words. Quite honestly, I'm not sure what my problem is. After all, I like challenges and I'm kind of stubborn when I commit to something. I know where my novel is going (for the most part, however sometimes the characters surprise me). I love to write. Hell, I'm a full time student in a Creative Writing/English Lit program for the love of God.

 I have tried to cut the distractions out of my life. Namely, I've (almost) stopped playing Angry Birds and I haven't been a Twitter-holic lately. (I draw the line at giving up Words with Friends, though. Not gonna happen.) And no, it hasn't escaped my notice that I'm sitting here blogging about not writing. I think part of the problem is the word count. Getting 1667 words per day is somewhat difficult. I can easily hit 500, sometimes even 1000. (I actually went a little over a 1000 words while at Spawnderella #1's Girl Scout meeting the other night, surrounded by a gaggle of screaming girls ranging in age from 5-8. Go figure.) 

So what I guess I need to do is to not be hogtied by someone else's lofty goals and just be happy with what I can accomplish. Of course, that doesn't necessarily solve all my problems, but it may help to take the pressure off. In the meantime all I can do is keep writing, a little bit at a time. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Micro-Publishing? Maybe.

Although I am far, far away from ever getting a book published (if it ever happens at all), I am curious about the publishing process. After all, there are quite a few options writers have regarding getting published nowadays. There's the traditional route. Then there's the self-publishing option. I just learned of yet another option, something called micro-publishing. 

A local company hosted an information session at the library tonight and I decided to go see what it was about. It sounds like an interesting process. Micro-publishing doesn't involve agents - instead, the author and the publisher work together. The author pays the publisher up front and there are a number of services offered - editing, publicity, printing, etc. From what I understand, the author submits a manuscript to the publisher. If the publisher accepts it, the author and publisher work closely together to turn it into a book that readers will (hopefully) buy. After the publisher gets it printed, it is then sold on Amazon, B&N.com, traditional bookstores, the author website and the micro-publisher's website. There aren't any book advances offered, and the micro-publisher actually requires their payment up front. (Along with assorted fees along the way.) 

Overall, it sounds like a viable option for getting published - especially for somebody like me who is a relative newbie to the whole process. Of course, authors should exercise due diligence and make sure the micro-publisher is competent and not just full of hot air. The people I met tonight from Gypsy Publications definitely seem like they know what they're doing. I talked with some of the authors they represent as well, and they seemed happy with their experiences. 

So who knows? I am aiming to finish the novel in December, provided I stay on my current writing schedule. (Yay NaNoWriMo!) And per the advice of the great Stephen King, one must let their manuscript sit for at least 6 weeks after it is finished before re-reading and starting the second draft. That means I might actually possibly maybe submit my manuscript to them as early as next spring. That's a scary and daunting prospect to be thinking about right now - but it also gives me a little impetus, a little something to look forward to. 

But first things first - I have to finish the novel....while going to school full-time, being a full time mom, part time freelancer and working on some other writing projects. Not to mention the myriad of other important things I do - like Facebooking, Twittering, playing Words with Friends & Angry Birds....no worries though. I can do it. I think. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Drumroll Please...He's Home!!!

Tuesday did not start out very well at all. I returned home after dropping the elder Spawnderella at school. Then I realized I had accidentally spilled coffee on my garage door opener, rendering it useless. And of course, I didn't have my house keys on me because for some reason I have my car keys and my house keys on two different keychains. So I was locked out of my house. In my pajamas. (Yes, I drop my child off at school sometimes in my pajamas, no judging please - its not like I get out of the car, so really....who cares?) Anyway, the bigger problem was this: Spawnderella #2 must get her anti-rejection meds every 12 hours. I give them at 9am and 9pm. And it was 8:55am. Giving anti-rejection med as little as 15 minutes late can have dire consequences - you know, like an episode of rejection. Not good. So of course, I start to freak out. (Quietly, as to not alert Spawnderella #2 to the gravity of the situation.)  If I can't get into my house, what am I going to do? How the hell am I supposed to break in? And although I live just down the road from the pharmacy where we get the anti-rejections meds I didn't really want to waltz through there in my damn pj's just to see if they by chance would let me buy a single dose of her medication. So I decided to take the damn garage door opener apart to see if I could simply dry the inside of it out using some tissues and hot air. (Just call me MacGyver.) Lucky for me, it worked. (Ok, I also had to take the battery out and dry it off. Then I put the battery in the wrong way and didn't realize it until the damn garage door still wouldn't open. Whatever.) So we made it inside the house at 9am on the dot and I gave her the meds. Whew. Oh and for about 20 minutes afterwards my garage door mysteriously kept opening and closing all by itself. Maybe that's why the Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on the door - perhaps they thought my garage door was possessed and needed saved. I don't know. I just knew that my morning was going to hell in a handbasket and damn, it was still early!!!!

So there I was, doing laundry, trying to study and watching Maya turn my living room into a Barbie convention from hell......Until I received a text from John saying that HE WAS FLYING IN THAT NIGHT!! Woo-hoo, finally! Of course, my first thought was oh shit I better shave my legs....But anyway, at 9:30 Tuesday night, he strolled through the airport and back into the waiting arms of myself and our two girls....making Tuesday officially one of the best days of my life. He's been home for a few days and its been super - having him home sharing the parenting (and the dishes and the laundry among other things) has definitely improved my demeanor. But I'm not sure about sharing my wine.....;-)

p.s. After the garage debacle I learned my lesson and now I have my keys all on one keychain. Which is great...until I lose my keys.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Writing as a Journey - Learning A Little Bit More Every Day

I love to read. I mostly read fiction and it's also what I like to write. However, the college experience is already broadening my horizons. During the last few years I have wanted to write a non-fiction book about our journey through our daughter's liver disease and subsequent liver transplant. But something always held me back. Mostly I think it was fear of revisiting that horrendously scary emotional point in our lives. So instead, I have been working on a fictionalized version of those events. To me that seemed easier. 

But recently, through one of the classes I'm taking, I realized that now is the time to write the non-fiction project as well. One of my required classes is a memoir writing course. We are reading different types of memoirs ("Born Standing Up" by Steve Martin, "Just Kids" by Patti Smith, "Truth & Beaty" by Ann Patchett to name a few) and we are constructing our own. (And because of these books I have most definitely developed a taste for non-fiction - who knew?) 

We had a wide range of freedom - we could write about our whole lives OR a specific event/time period, etc. We turn in 3-4 pages every week. Dr. S then critiques them and gives them back to us.  I was very nervous, but what I've found is that it's actually cathartic to look back on that time and then look at Maya (and our family) today and see how far we've come. I think I needed that kick in the pants - a structured course that would provide the necessary tools AND a deadline. I like to think I'm laying the groundwork to be able to turn it into a book that people will want to read - a book that might be able to provide not only information but maybe a little bit hope as well. 

Of course, I'm still working on the novel - and that project is also getting a kick in the pants due to the upcoming NaNoWriMo. And there are a even a few short stories being brought to life right now. Besides, I've got to write - what else am I going to do through the upcoming frigid season in Ohio? 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Armpit of Virginia: Also Known as Ft. Lee

I feel the need to preface what I have to say here with this statement: I am grateful for the military and all they do to protect our country. I am also grateful to the people who helped John during this nightmare of bureaucracy. But I also feel the need to say that there are a number of people in the military who probably wouldn't last long in the private sector because they are lazy, stupid, power hungry gasbags. So here goes....

After a week of vague half-answers and laziness on the part of a few sergeants, John finally received some worthwhile information today. Of course, this information came after making repeated phone calls to military personnel OUTSIDE Ft. Lee - namely the Ohio National Guard organization. It seems that he finally caught the attention of someone fairly high up in the military's chain of command and that person promptly called Ft. Lee to find out what the hold up was. Turns out, there was no good reason anyone could come up with for not letting John outprocess and go home. From an outsider's point of view (outside the military anyway), it looks like this whole mess could have been prevented if a certain sergeant (or two) had pulled themselves up, dusted their lazy asses off and actually did their assigned jobs. In fact, after these phone calls were made, a certain sergeant actually threatened to keep him there longer....just because he could. (Well, now he can't because this particular case has been removed from his duties.) It seems that he was angry that someone higher up than him found out that he screwed up and was actually making him do his job. I wonder how long he would last if he had a job in the real world instead of being cushioned and protected by the military.

Anyway, John is going to (hopefully) be able to outprocess on October 25th. That doesn't mean he'll be home on that date. That's just the first available date the lieutenant could give him. Outprocessing isn't rocket science - its an appointment that involves signing a bunch of paperwork and takes about 30 minutes.  After outprocessing, a soldier is set up with a plane ticket home and that's that. Today John was told that his situation was a "discrepancy". Even the military personnel that I spoke to today through the National Guard said they had never seen this before - and it was most definitely NOT John's fault in any way, shape or form.

So that's it - that's our tax dollars at work. Ineptitude at its finest. Thanks alot, Ft. Lee.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And Still We Wait.....

We are going on seven days of being in military limbo. John is still being detained - for no reason other than the fact that the military has not gotten up off its collective ass and issued the necessary paperwork to outprocess him. They did find the "lost" paperwork that created this mess in the first place. They did lift the "flag" they put on his file. Emails and phone calls are supposedly being traded between the appropriate personnel about getting him released - any day now. But we've been hearing that for a week. On top of everything else, a different sergeant was in charge today and he made John (and the unlucky few around him) give up his phone for the day because HE said they weren't allowed to have them. Excuse me, what? Luckily, the lieutenant returned everyone's phones to them within a few hours.

But seriously, enough is enough. John has jumped through all the hoops, passed all the tests and shown that he has what it takes to be a soldier - excelling through Basic Training and AIT. Yet for all intents and purposes he is being treated like a prisoner instead of someone who has enlisted to serve and protect his country. Interesting.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Light at the End of the Tunnel.....Maybe

We are making progress...or rather I should say the military is making progress...slowly, very slowly. After the ruckus regarding the lost paperwork on Wednesday, John spent all day Thursday trying to get ahold of various higher-up muckety mucks to see what needed to be done about the situation. He was finally told that he would have to take the PT test again if the appropriate paperwork could not be located. Finally, he was told to report to the testing area at 0400 hours on Friday. That's 4am for the non-military folks. I call it prime sleeping time because who in the gay hell wants to be up at 4 in the morning (well technically that's the time I used to be getting home especially if I had a really good evening, but that's another story)...Anyway, I digress. So this morning he was up and getting ready to retake a test that he had already passed. Then, miracle of miracles, just as he was getting ready to start - someone showed up with the missing paperwork!!! Woo-hoo! Of course, this saga is far from over. I bet they have to call the President of the United States and get his approval that all the forms are filled out correctly. Then they'll have to make a copy of his approval, and then they'll lose it. Because that seems to be the norm for the military. Oops, I'm digressing again.  Hopefully on Monday the necessary steps will be taken to start the outprocessing process...again. But this is the military we're talking about it - and they certainly have their own timetable. We're still not sure when he's going to be able to come home, but with a little luck it should be some time next week.

But I'm still mad at the military.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Guess What the Military Lost?

I think I'm in a little bit of shock right now. This was the week that John was supposed to come home from military training. Actually, he was supposed to be home on or around October 13th. He made it through AIT and graduated yesterday, October 11th. He has passed all the tests, patiently moving through each part of his specialized training. Today he was supposed to get his ticket and finish outprocessing. Unfortunately, the MILITARY HAS LOST HIS PAPERWORK! Yes, they lost it. Not all of it - but a specific portion that is needed in order for him to be released. They told him of this issue an hour before he was to get on the bus to go get his plane ticket home. The missing paperwork is regarding a PT test he took 3 weeks ago - a test that he passed. The military has no record of him ever taking the test. He took it with 25 other guys, surrounded by all types of other military personnel. They know he was there, they saw him taking (and passing) the test, but they can't find the paperwork to prove it. So because the appropriate paperwork does not exist (according to the military), he has been flagged. Which means he cannot leave until at least 5 days after the flag on his paperwork is removed. However, no one seems to know what to do at this point in order to get the flag removed. Does he have to take the PT test again? If so, when? And what the hell does it matter at this point? He has already graduated from AIT!!!

John is very upset, as are the girls and myself. After all, we spent months planning for this day and talking about how great it would be when we were all reunited. But now that day has been delayed indefinitely. He might be home next week, he might be home the week after next. All because of a paperwork snafu that wasn't noticed by multiple military personnel until the hour before he was supposed to get his plane ticket. Big, fat fail, miltary. Big, fat FAIL.

Sometimes living in the moment isn't all it's cracked up to be. (See previous post, lol.)

But damn, he is handsome. So I shall wait.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Life

Summer is long gone and now we are well into fall. It has been about five months since John departed for military training. So much has happened in that time period, both good and bad. I quit my job and returned to school. I have gotten in touch with extended family and sadly, a cousin of mine recently lost her life at way too young of an age. Maya is stable and doing very well, but she is on two extra medications and I have had to make two trips to Cincinnati Children's Hospital with her for some unexpected tests. Laely has been missing her father like crazy, but she is excelling at school and has been a huge help to me. The girls and I went on an adventurous and fun weeklong roadtrip, which also included a pukefest and an epic storm. It has been five months of ups and downs, questions and answers, tears and laughter. But I know we have mostly been lucky. I'm so happy that John is coming home next week. We don't know how long he'll be home because deployment overseas is a real possibility. But for now I'm not going to think about that. I'm going to live (and love) in the moment as opposed to worrying about the future. If the past five months has taught me anything, it is the fact that life is short. It passes by so quickly and we don't always get a second chance. And although sometimes life hands us pukefests, epic storms or other types of tragedies it also gives us love and the capacity to remember the good times.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Privacy. Oh How I Miss Thee....

My girls ask a lot of questions. What I cannot understand is why these questions need to be asked when I'm in the bathroom. At what age will they be before I can use the toilet or take a shower or (God forbid) talk on the phone without being interrupted multiple times by them, asking such gems as....

"Why does Max (the cat) have fur and we don't?
"Why don't you like minivans?"
"What's for lunch?
"What's for dinner?"
"Can we go out to dinner?"
"Can two Barbies marry each other?"
"Can we get a dog?"
"Can we get a hamster?"
"Where are my shoes?"
"Why do you drink wine?"
"When can I get a cell phone?"
"What's your favorite song?"
"Whats your favorite color?"
"Do you remember when I was a baby?"
"Do you remember when you were a baby?"
"Why are babies in bellies til they're born?"
"Why do we burp?"
"Is a fart a burp from the butt?"

Good times. Really.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Five Years Later....

You know how we all have certain dates that are ingrained into our memories? They often include birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones. September 21, 2006 is one of those dates I will never forget. That was the day that Maya was definitively diagnosed with Biliary Atresia. We had been at Cincinnati Children's for 6 days at that point. She had undergone numerous tests including x-rays, ultrasounds and daily blood draws. The surgeons met with us and told us the only thing they could do now was to open her up and do a test called a choliangiogram.

Open her up?
My two month old daughter?
What?

But the alternative would have meant certain death in a short period of time, so off to surgery she went. The choliangiogram proved she had Biliary Atresia so they performed another procedure called the Kasai. It lasted a good 4 hours, which was about 3 hours more than they initially thought it would last. I was a mess.

But let's fast forward 5 years. I look at Maya today and marvel at what she has become. She has gone through so much in such a short period of time, yet she always has a smile on her face. Five years after being diagnosed with what is often a fatal disease, she is still here. We've gone through a liver transplant and numerous other surgical procedures since her initial diagnosis. There have been times when I wondered if she would make it. Hell, there are times when I wondered if I would make it. But we did it. Or rather, she did it. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe how lucky we are.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And So the Journey Begins....

If anyone would have told me six months ago that I would be quitting my job by the end of the summer and returning to school I probably would have looked at them like they had two heads. Who quits a job in this economy to devote time and effort to finish a BA in Creative Writing and English Literature? Oh, that's right, me! But you know what? I'm happy with the decision I've made. I thought about staying at my job and attending school at the same time, but when would I see my kids? Plus I had to think about  all of the money I would spend on babysitting. Changing the amount of hours I worked or my work schedule wouldn't have been an option either, so I basically had to choose between higher education and staying at a job that wasn't really making me happy, a job that offered no room for growth. Once I looked at my options, the decision was easy. Thanks to some freelance writing gigs, I have income. My children and I have health insurance. I have the support of my partner, along with encouragement from many friends.

Of course, there are a few naysayers, a few pessimists that have tried arguing that right now might not be the best time to quit a steady job and embark on the journey of higher learning. My first inclination to those types is to say piss off. My next thought is to ask the question of when IS it a good time to go back to school? We only get one life. Figuring out what makes us happy and then forging the path to that happiness should be something that is high on the list of our priorities. Will this degree lead me down the yellow brick road to riches? Probably not, although anything is possible.  But I do think it will enrich my life in ways that I probably can't even comprehend yet. And really, how is that a bad thing?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Maya's First Day of Pre-School!

Today marked a momentous occasion in this household: Maya's first day of pre-school. She has been waiting for this day for months. I have alternated between sadness, joy and absolute fear regarding the beginning of her school career. After all, this is the child who was deathly ill and spent the first three + years of her life in the hospital due to a rare and often terminal liver disease. This is my little girl who received a life saving liver transplant at 19 months as she was on the edge of death. This is my little girl who was too sick too learn to crawl, walk or talk until she was two years old. This is my little girl who almost died a year after her transplant from the virus that causes pink eye. This is my little girl who has fiercely battled death so many times and has learned to not only endure, but to thrive. This is my little girl, who is growing up so quickly and who wants to experience everything she can. And as of today, this is my little girl - the proud, happy, often zany 5 year old who loves life and is moving full throttle ahead, because she is already well aware that every day is a gift to be treasured.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just a Few Pointers for the General Public

As a former restaurant person (server, bartender, admin, etc) I have had my fair share of dealing with the public. What I've learned over the years is simple: people are crazy. They are also crabby, snotty, mean, spoiled and sometimes stupid. Now, I'm not saying ALL people are that way, but there is a large part of the population who fall into those categories. And I've had the misfortune of dealing with many of them. This post will hopefully be able to educate some people about the different ways to behave in public and what not to do in regards to eating at a restaurant, especially in a fine dining setting.

Many restaurants have policies regarding reservations, seating and menu substitutions. Those policies are set in place for a reason. I worked at a restaurant that would not seat a party until the everyone had arrived. That meant people could wait in the lounge or bar area until ALL of the people they were dining with had joined them, then they would be seated. However, many people did not like that policy. Here's a tip: If you don't like it, then by all means complain to a manager. The hostess and servers do not have the power to change the policy, and treating them badly for enforcing a policy they have no choice but to uphold will not get you anywhere. That being said, if you don't like a restaurant's policies yet you choose to eat there on a regular basis then quit complaining. Instead, maybe you should go elsewhere. After all, if the restaurant is still getting your money then what is their incentive to change the policy? Another contentious subject is reservations. Many restaurants take dinner reservations, but do not offer them at lunch. Even if you call and yammer on about how your Aunt Ethel is visiting from Alaska and she has always wanted to eat at this restaurant.....blah blah blah, the answer will still be no to a lunch reservation. My personal favorite was the time a woman called in to make a lunch reservation for 3 people. When I respectfully told her we do not take lunch reservations, she told me that her friend's husband had died and couldn't we make an exception because her friend really wanted to get a table for lunch. Um, no. Menu substitutions can also be tricky. If one of the menu offerings is Chicken Pecan Salad, that means it contains pecans. No, they cannot be picked out because you don't like them. Order something else.

Another issue I've dealt with when interacting with the public is what I call the "crystal ball questions". This is when people call the restaurant (usually before it's open) and ask if it was going to be busy at noon on Thursday. Chances are, the answer is yes. But unless someone has the ability to pull a crystal ball out of their ass and look into the future there is no way of knowing how busy a restaurant is going to be on any given day. And if that person did have the ability to look into a crystal ball, you can bet they wouldn't be working at a restaurant and fielding inane questions from the general public. Also, restaurants serve food and beverages, they are not to be used as reference guides to a particular city. If you want to know the hours of a store down the street from the restaurant then call the store, not the restaurant. I had a person call me one day and want to know the hours of the store across the street. When I told her I didn't know but she could call the store and ask them she asked me to walk across the street to find out. I respectfully declined, as it was the middle of a lunch rush.

Tipping is yet another touchy subject. Today the norm for tipping is 20%. If the service was exceptional, feel free to tip more. If the service was poor, then by all means tip less and feel free to tell the manager about your experience. If the service was good but the food was not then don't take it out on the server, as they did not cook the food. Let your server and/or the manager know exactly what you didn't like, but again, don't take your dissatisfaction out on the server. And if you say you don't like something but there is nothing left on the plate but a few crumbs, don't expect a free meal. You ate, you're buying it. That's how the game is played. Tipping on carryouts is also appreciated. I'm not saying 20% is needed, but at least 10% should be added to the total. After all, your food has been carefully packaged along with the forks, knives, spoons, napkins, bread and crackers plus all the extra items that you asked for, so showing your appreciation might not be a bad idea.

I could go on, but I think I've gotten the point across. Oh, one last thing - flossing after a meal while still sitting at a table in a restaurant is unacceptable behavior. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of oral hygiene. But trust me on this: NO ONE wants to watch someone floss in the middle of a crowded dining room. Do your flossing elsewhere. Maybe underneath the rock you crawled out from under to go to lunch.

Well I feel better now. Don't you? And aren't you glad I'm out of the service industry? I am.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Day of School!!!

Well today was Laely's first day of 2nd grade! She was a bit nervous but way excited. Every year since pre-school I have managed to take a few photos of her in front of our house and in front of school. And by a "few" I mean no more than a dozen shots per camera. (I use both my cell and our digital camera.) Go ahead, laugh. Maybe I do go a bit overboard. But someday I'm going to need proof that I was actually taller than she was.  For a few years anyway.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Stop Bitching and Get Moving.

As I have stated before, I work with the public. It can get kind of stressful, especially during busy times. Trust me, you don't ever want to tell a lady that the particular entree she has driven 2 hours to enjoy has already sold out for the day. (I've seen seemingly sweet little old ladies be as mean as snakes sometimes if they can't get their quiche fix.) Working in a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. It requires thick skin and marvelous acting capabilities at times.

Many people enjoy working in the service industry because of the money that can be made, or they like the hours or because they just don't know what else to do. However, there comes a point in time where maybe it's time to ease out. If you work in a restaurant and you go around cussing out your co-workers or bitching that ALL of your customers tipped you like shit or the restaurant owner doesn't know what he/she is doing, etc....then perhaps it's time for you to move on.

We all have choices in life. If you don't like your job then you have 2 options: A.) You can quit. Or B.) You can stay at that job and take it up the ass. But making other people miserable just because you are isn't something you have the right to do. I've had the misfortune of working with people like that and a few recent incidents have led me to realize that I don't ever want to be "that" person. If you're bitter because life didn't work out the way you thought it would then maybe it's time to regroup. Life is what you make of it. If you aren't happy with your life then take stock of what you are doing versus what you want to be doing and then go about forging the path to what you want. In the meantime, stop bitching. And get out of my way, because I'm following the path to my dreams. More to come on that particular topic later....

Monday, August 1, 2011

Love, Life and Relationships

I've been thinking lately about life, love and relationships. My parents just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Forty years! Can you imagine? I've been with my significant other for the better part of 10 years, but sometimes it feels like 40. Just kidding...or am I? Anyway, I have learned (the hard way) that relationships can be hard work sometimes and care must be given to them so they do not crumble. Love is often about give and take along with laughter and quite possibly some heartbreak. My relationship with John has not always been easy. There was a long period of time during which we both walked away from each other only to realize later that we really do belong together. (It must run in the family - my grandparents divorced after around 25 years or so of marriage but then remarried each other 5 years later.) 

In a weird way, I think John being away for military training has strengthened our bond. For the first few months we had very limited contact, as he was not allowed access to a phone or a computer. We mostly communicated via handwritten letters, in which we updated each other about our daily life and accomplishments. There's something to be said about putting pen to paper and scribbling away the good, bad and ugly about the goings-on of life. I have known John for well over a dozen years and we were friends before we ever dated. But at this point,  I feel as if I know him so much better now (on many different levels) even though he is hundreds of miles away on a military base, due largely in part to the letters we exchanged. 

Having said all that, I am relieved that he is at a point in training that allows us to communicate more. We talk, text and send pics via our cell phones just about every day. I hope to see him in person at least one time before he comes home in October, which means another 500 mile trek (one way!) to a military base, with two kids in the backseat jabbering and singing Katy Perry or Taylor Swift the whole way. Oh the things we do for love....


Monday, July 25, 2011

On Cleaning and Being (Driven) Crazy

So today was officially my last day of vacation, as I head back into the workplace on Tuesday. I'm sure most people would spend their last day of sweet freedom just relaxing and maybe reflecting on the time they were able to spend with their friends and family. Alas, not I. Oh no - because along with the mountains of laundry I did (some of which were bigger than the ones we drove through in West Virginia, I swear), the mopping, vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, dishes, etc....I also decided to clean out and rearrange Spawnderella #2's room. This was a very involved process, as the child has seemingly developed packrat tendencies during her 5 years on this Earth. (I plead the 5th on which parent passed that particular affliction onto her.)

When I moved her bed, I found oodles of items underneath of it that had not seen the light of day for years - some of which were toys and some of which were dustbunnies of disturbing proportions.  I took the vast majority of toys out of her room and after the bed and dresser were in the new spots, I started to bring toys back in.  However, much of the clutter, ahem.... toys, got sent to the far away land of "Donateville" and did not get put back into her room. The absolute faves, like the 1.2 million Barbies, Barbie house, car, etc. did make the cut. Most of her books and creative items also stayed, as did the big pink monstrosity also known as the "hair salon". The majority of her friends aka stuffed animals found their way back into the pet net which hangs in the corner of the room. This was a very long, involved process that took quite some time, as you can imagine. However, I believe the end result is well worth it and Spawnderella #2 just loves her "new" room.

After doing all of that work, I was ready to relax. Dinnertime rolled around and they sat down at their respective places .....and promptly started screeching at one another. Now I realize that I only have 2 children, but sometimes the amount of noise they make rivals the din of the trading floor on Wall Street. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore.

Me: "Please please please can you two just stop screaming at each other. It doesn't matter if Barbie wants to marry Ken or another Barbie. It doesn't matter if she wears white or black at her wedding. I don't care who she marries at this point, but I do know that if you keep up with this noise you are absolutely totally going to drive mommy crazy."

Moment of silence.

Spawnderella #1: "Um, Mommy. I think you're already crazy. But not in a bad way, I just think you're a little crazy. It's ok though. We're used to it."

Gee thanks, kid.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Friday morning dawned clear and bright in Charleston, SC (and hot, but that probably goes without saying). The girls and I made the executive decision to attempt to make the 11+ hour drive home in one day. From Charleston  to home is around 680 miles, which is definitely drivable in a day.....or so you would think. But when you're driving down the highway at 70+ miles an hour in South Carolina and your youngest daughter pukes all over herself it kind of puts a damper on the journey. Especially when the other daughter is giving you a play-by-play of the vomit-fest from her vantage point in the backseat, sitting directly beside said puker. What's a parent to do?

Well, this parent pulled over at the next exit and hosed her daughter off in a Hardee's restroom - hardly the ideal spot but beggars can't be choosers. After Maya's clothes were changed and the car was as clean as I could get it without using a pressure washer, we hopped back on the highway. Needless to say, that incident cost us some serious time, and I was a little worried about Maya. She proceeded to pass out for a few hours until we were in the mountains of West Virginia. That was about the time a thunderstorm decided to hit, and although it was not even 6pm it looked like it was midnight as all light had left the sky. Add in a lot of lightning, thunder and a torrential downpour and throw in some heavy winds and you have my basic recipe for being scared shitless while driving. So we decided to pull over in good old Beckley, WV for the night. (Yay for me that I had the foresight to book a hotel room "just in case".)

I checked into the hotel, hosed Maya off some more in the shower and headed to dinner, as she had perked up a little due in part to napping through multiple southern states. I guess we were boring company though, because she almost fell asleep face down in her pasta. As soon as humanly possible I got her back to the hotel room and she passed out for about 12 hours. When Maya vomits or shows other symptoms of being ill, I kind of maybe possibly turn into Stresserella, or so I've been told. But because she is immunosuppressed and can get sick very easily, I have good reason. I kept putting cold washcloths on her forehead and racking my brain on what I should do if she got worse. Call her doctors? Find a children's hospital? Call the National Guard to Med-Vac her? I was in the mountains of West Virginia, so my options were kind of limited. However, at 7:30 in the morning the dear child woke up and asked if the hotel would give us breakfast. She was completely recovered and had all of her energy back (and then some). So after breakfast we hopped back on the road and made the 4 1/2 hour journey back to home sweet home - where I promptly cleaned out my car with detergent and an industrial vacuum cleaner. The puke smell is almost gone, but I'm sure the memories will last forever.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Charleston, SC

Well today we  made the trek to Charleston, SC. It should've taken us a little less than 2 hours, but it ended up being a three hour tour... from hell. There was an accident on I-26E as soon as we got on the highway. That set us back about a half-hour. Then there was another skirmish on I-95 which again backed up traffic on I-26. We finally reached Charleston to find (yet again) congested streets and people EVERYWHERE. As we were checking into our hotel we found out that American Idol tryouts were being held in town so everybody and their  brother (and their brother's brother) were there for the festivities. Joy.

We grabbed a (late) lunch at Bubba Gump's. Neither one of my girls have seen Forrest Gump, so they might not have fully appreciated the ambience, but they were entertained by the people watching and colorful surroundings. I couldn't get them to try any seafood, but I did snarf down some pretty darn good Shrimp Scampi.

One of the highlights of Charleston was the horse-drawn carriage ride we took around town. The tour guide and Dave the horse were very good at keeping us entertained throughout the hour long tour. The girls were especially enamored with the fact that Dave's mane was blond and braided and he also wore a diaper. I think all you need to entertain children sometimes is just to talk about poop.

After a brief rest, we walked to T-Bonz Gill and Grill for dinner. I had Crab Cakes (when in Rome and all that jazz) and 2(!) glasses of wine. (It is my birthday, dammit. ) Of course, that made me an easy target for the girls when we went shopping afterwards at one of the many tourist traps, ahem, little shops in the area. Oh well.

Tomorrow I think we will begin our trek home. Not sure yet if we will drive the whole way through or stop in good old Beckley, WV again, think it'll depend on my mood. Who am I kidding - it will depend on how crazy the girls are driving me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Road Trip Part 2

I've always been a fan of hot weather, but even I can say that this is a bit ridiculous. We arrived in sunny (and did I mention HOT?) South Carolina on Monday afternoon and have had to spend quite of bit of time outdoors, most of it on a military base. The past two days have been a whirlwind. Yesterday John wasn't allowed to leave the base, but today after BCT graduation he was free to go. You'd think since we were on a little family vacation that we might do something fun, but after yesterday's festivities that were mostly outside, we ended up camping out in the hotel room. The girls thought it was great and so did I. I think John was just happy to be able to wear civilian clothes for awhile, after having to wear that lovely camo uniform for the past few months, lol. (I must admit, he did look good in it.)

The BCT graduation was unlike anything I have ever seen and I admit I felt a bit humbled and proud at the same time. I did get to meet John's (female) drill sergeant. I really wanted to ask her how she whipped all those men (ages 18 to 40) into shape and if she could give me any pointers, but John didn't think that was very funny. I think he was scared of the answers she would give, but I'll never know for sure....

So now he is traveling onto AIT and the girls and I are headed to Charleston, SC for a day or two before we head home. And I guess I'm going to be making yet another road trip in the not too distant future to his AIT assignment. Who knows, maybe all of this damn driving will help me develop a sense of direction. But....probably not.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Road Trip!

On the road again, I just can't wait to get on the road again.....Ok, I'm no Willie Nelson. But I am on a road trip to South Carolina with Spawnderellas 1 & 2. Today we drove to our halfway point and we are now in Beckley, WV. Luckily for us there was a little Italian restaurant within walking distance from our hotel. I was stoked about that, as I did not have to plant my ass in the car again. The drive today was only around 4 1/2 hours but I was totally ready to get out of the car and not have to drive anywhere else once we reached our stopping point. Another nice bonus was the glass of wine with dinner.

I'm almost afraid to say this because I don't want to jinx anything but the girls did really well today. Of course the first time I heard "are we there yet?" we weren't even 15 minutes into the drive but I only heard that question about 18 more times before we actually got to our hotel. 

And I haven't had to use the "don't make me pull over" line. Yet. We'll see what happens during the 300 mile trip from here to Ft. Jackson tomorrow.....

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Black Hole, AKA My Closet

Well, the day is finally (almost) here. We are leaving this Sunday to go see John at Ft. Jackson. The girls and I are really excited and totally looking forward to this road trip. However, I'm also in full panic mode.

I'm not worried about getting lost - thanks to Google maps and other assorted apps on my phone that will hopefully keep us from straying too far off the beaten path.  Don't laugh, you never know. We are going to South Carolina via West Virginia and North Carolina and I'm sure some of those areas were the inspiration for the film "Deliverance."

I'm not worried about forgetting anything because I've made a blue million lists that I obsessively (or is it compulsively?) check multiple time a day. I already have the girls bags all packed (ok, slightly overpacked) and ready to go.

Anyway - deep breath - the reason for my panic is the fact that I have NOTHING decent to wear. Really, the contents of my closet are absolutely pitiful. I do have 4 pairs of beige shorts, don't ask me why. A few t-shirts, some wife-beaters (in both pink AND white). I have a few summer sundresses. But the dresses can't exactly be worn with my comfy Vans. And as we are going to be traipsing around Columbia and Charleston, SC I can't exactly be wearing the Steve Maddens platforms with the 5 inch heels. They are awesome, but not very practical.


As I looked through the sad contents (or lack thereof) in my closet, I started wondering what happened to all my clothes. Then I realized - oh yeah, I'm a mom. Most of the cute stuff got puked on (or pooped on) and I eventually had to get rid of alot of the clothing I used to wear because it wasn't exactly conducive to the mommy lifestyle. Of course, my children are way past those stages but I guess I've been a little too busy to replace my cute clothes. I will say this - I am proud of myself that I haven't stooped low enough to buy "mom jeans". I can still wear my favorite Levi's - a fact that doesn't help me at the moment because who the hell wears jeans in July in steamy South Carolina? (Or Ohio for that matter.)

Oh well. Maybe I'll have time to swing through Target before we leave.  I could always buy a 5th pair of beige shorts.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Distractions, Diversions and Excuses Be Damned!

I have a small confession to make: I haven't been writing a whole lot lately.

At first I thought it was because I was stressed out due to changes at work.

Then I thought it was because I was overwhelmed with the day to day activities and myriad of things that I needed to get done at home (you know - take care of the girls, do laundry, shower, clean the house, mow the lawn, do the grocery shopping - all that kind of fun stuff).

Then I thought it was because I am planning a roadtrip with the girls soon and there are a few preparations that need to be done before we leave (booking hotels, mapping the routes, making sure Max  cat will be taken care of while we're gone, etc).

Then I thought it was because I was distracted with my newest addiction - the Words With Friends app on my phone.

Finally I realized something - all of those above "reasons" are actually EXCUSES! I was not making time to write! Aha! Now I should say this: all of those times that I wasn't actually writing, I was thinking about writing - but as a wise person once said "You can wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first". Ok, maybe not the best analogy but the point is THINKING about writing only gets you so far. I have multiple WIPs (works in progress including a novel and a number of short stories) that need my attention - meaning they need me to sit my butt down in my computer chair in my writing corner on my laptop and actually work on them. I need to get back into the habit of writing everyday. I want to write everyday. I've learned that the process of writing is a lot like life sometimes - one step forward and two steps back. I am feeling pretty damn good that I joined a writers group - but I have missed two meetings (including tonight's) because I couldn't find a babysitter. (That is not an excuse - two babysitters are out of town, two more were unavailable and 1 never returned my call, fyi.)

Writing is necessary to my well-being and integral to who I am - it needs to be part of my daily life (kind of like showering, eating and drinking wine). As I've stated before, it is cheaper than therapy, not to mention a lot more fun.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Birthday to Maya!!

Today Maya reached yet another milestone - her 5th birthday! I am so proud of my spunky and vivacious youngest daughter, for she is a true miracle child. She loved her Dora-themed party and all of her gifts.

There was a time when I wondered if we would see her live past the age of 1 or 2, because she was diagnosed with a very rare and serious liver disease called Biliary Atresia at the age of two months. By the time she was a year old her liver was failing and she was placed on the liver transplant list. When she was 18 months old we went to live at Cincinnati's Children's ICU because she was so gravely ill. Liver failure is a scary process and it was absolute hell seeing my baby go through it. There were times when I wondered if we were doing the right thing because she was in so much pain all of the time, but we knew that the only chance she had to live was to get a liver transplant, so we kept waiting for that day to come.

Finally on February 10th, 2008 at age 19 months, Maya received her new liver. The first few years were rocky, and we were in the hospital often. About a year after her transplant, we were again near death's door because Maya was exposed to someone that had pink eye. Her viral count at one point was 10 million and the outlook was not good. However, due to a daring and progressive treatment by Cincinnati Children's (and Maya's fighting nature), she bounced back stronger than ever. (Sidenote: she did not have pink eye that time. But in the summer of 2010, she did get pink eye and a double ear infection at the same time and sailed through both of conditions without any problems or even a trip to the hospital. Go figure!)

As I look back over the past few years and all of the uncertainty and fear that we have gone through due to Maya's illness and surgeries, I can't help but feel lucky. She is a true gift - a sunny, happy child who always has a smile on her face and an opinion she loves to share! Now my "little bittle" is 5, and not so little anymore.  Thanks to the miraculous gift of organ donation, Maya has blossomed into a beautiful little girl who loves life. She is looking forward to starting school in the fall and tells everyone she meets that she's going to be a doctor one day. I believe that she is living proof that miracles can and do occur.



Happy Birthday, Maya!  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sweet Sound of Silence (With a Foray Into the Squeaky Wheel Syndrome)

Silence is golden. I know that's a term we've all heard before but for me, especially today, it really hits home. Today I got to sit for quite some time and write without interruption for a decent stretch of time. The girls were gone and it seemed that my muse was kicked into high gear. (Thank you, muse.) As I've stated before, I require relative silence to write, which usually means I'm writing at the ass-crack of dawn before the girls get up or after they go to bed at night. Neither of those scenarios are exactly perfect for me. I'm not a morning person. And after a full day of work, tending to the house and the girls, etc., my brain is usually fried by the time 9pm rolls around. And I really needed the silence today, not only to write, but to reflect upon a few recent events - some of them good, others not so good.

On a high note, Maya (the soon to be 5 year old miracle child) lost her first tooth - while she was brushing her teeth. It required no effort to pull out, it quite literally fell out as she was happily brushing with her Spongebob toothbrush Saturday morning. That was quite a momentous occasion, and the tooth fairy did make a visit to her. (Actually the tooth fairy was running a bit late, but no worries, it did not get caught, whew.)

On the other hand, work has been beyond stressful lately, with lots of changes - and the promise of more to come. Some of those changes have been sad, hopefully the upcoming ones will not be that bad. Either way, those changes have made me aware that absolutely no one is indispensable at their job - at any point in time all of us can be expendable to our so-called bosses. Years of service and dedication can be flushed down the toilet in the blink of an eye. You know what else I've noticed about many workplaces (this actually pertains to life in general, not just work though) - the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. It seems as if the people that bitch the most and make the most noise and basically just bully other people get what they want - whether it is fair or not. I've also found that many people like that are liars and only out for themselves and will step on anybody in their quest for....well, whatever it is they want. At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, why does it have to be like that? Whatever happened to rewarding the people that do their job, without complaint every day - especially those that go above and beyond and do more than what is asked of them? I'm thinking that karma will eventually have to intervene....Wow, that was a tangent I didn't expect to go on. Anyway....

I'm thankful that I had a few hours to myself to recharge and relax. I have to admit (here comes the parental guilt) it is nice to get a brief break from having to act as a referee, nurse, short order cook and maid, even if just for a short period of time. Today's silence is due in part to the in-laws taking the girls for a few hours, something that doesn't exactly happen on a regular basis due to a plethora of reasons. However, this is not the time or the place to go into those reasons - because, as we have already covered....sometimes silence is golden. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Fun and Slightly Wild Father's Day

Well today was Father's Day, but due to being hundreds of miles away doing the military thing, John was unable to be here with us. The girls were a little sad about it and I didn't want them to sit and dwell about missing him, so I decided to take a walk on the wild side. Unbeknownst to me (until recently- thanks to www.MyMiamiCounty.blogspot.com), our little neck of the woods is home to a rather interesting attraction - a petting zoo filled with some interesting and exotic animals. It's called the Idle Hour Ranch and is home to a plethora of animals both big and small - including (but not limited to) a giraffe named Sam, llamas, camels, goats, birds, an anteater, wolves and kangaroos. An added attraction this weekend (and a few more upcoming weekends) are the elephants. The animals are very interactive with their visitors - especially when they are eating food directly from your hands! How cool is that?



Because Maya is immunosuppressed, she was unable to pet or feed the animals, but she was excited to be so close to them. Both of the girls were thrilled with the antics of the animals - Peaches the bird was especially vocal today. Sam the giraffe was a big hit - he ate bread straight from Laely's hand and had beautiful and expressive (and big) brown eyes. (He also pooped while we were feeding him, an observation that Maya was all too happy to point out to everyone.) There were goats running free around the farm that were very friendly and curious. The llama we saw (and fed) was also an interesting character.

Elephant rides were offered, but Laely didn't want to ride without me and since Maya couldn't partake in that particular activity (again due to immunosuppression issues - animal bacteria, etc.) we passed on that. Laely was thrilled with her pony ride though. The kangaroos were fun to watch and the Pot-Bellied Pigs were a big hit with the girls as well. The beautiful cougar was also an breathtaking sight to see up close and personal.

Overall, the trip to Idle Hour Ranch was a great way to spend Father's Day, and I'm hoping the girls remember the fun we had instead of focusing on the fact that they couldn't be with their dad. However, we did get a phone call from him today after we got home, which added to the excitement of the day. I'm not sure what made them happier - the 10 minute phone call from Daddy or the afternoon spent at a petting zoo, but either way I'm happy just because they are.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

Well, it's official - I am now the mother of a seven year old. It's been quite the whirlwind of a day...mostly happy but still tinged with a bit of sadness....my firstborn is growing up. Sometimes it feels as if it's all happening at warp speed. I still remember the day Laely was born like it was yesterday. The pain of labor (especially back labor) was almost unbearable (until that lovely epidural kicked in). I remember the tense silence in the room as the doctor realized the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck - then the sweet sound of her lungs filling with air and the loud and beautiful sound of my baby's first cries. Within a few short minutes of her birth, I was holding her and I looked into her bright and wondrous eyes as she slowly focused on her surroundings. I realized that this precious gift was mine - and that a piece of my heart would always be with her. I remember the awe that both John and I felt that day (and every day since).

Now, she's a spunky and curious seven year old girl who loves to read, write and dance. She has changed my life (as children tend to do) in so many unexpected but positive ways - and I believe that she (and Maya) are two of the best things that have ever happened to me. As I watched her enjoy her ice cream cake tonight, surrounded by friends and family, I found myself smiling yet I also felt tears in my eyes. I'm so proud of the way she is growing up and love to watch her evolve as a person, but at the same time I wish time would slow down.

After the party was over and the friends and family left, we talked about her day. She told me it was the perfect birthday - she missed Daddy but she was excited to get his letter, she loved her presents and all the fun things she had gotten to do throughout the day. Then Laely told me that she loved me and that I made her feel like the luckiest girl in the world. And I'll take that compliment from my girls as much as I can get it - because in another 7 years when she's a teenager I probably won't be hearing that too often. And I'll probably still be wondering where the time goes.....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Another Week in the Life....

Ok - things have been a little hectic lately. Between shooting a commercial, working on several different writing projects and FINALLY buying a car I seriously have been feeling like a chicken running around with it's head cut off. Technically I have been car-less since March, when my 12 year old Honda finally bit the dust.  I have been driving John's car, seeing as how he doesn't need it until October. However, his car (which is also a 12 year old Honda) has almost 200,000 miles on it and leaks oil and other unidentifiable fluids.  Another recent issue with his car is the fact that if you drive it at a speed above 60 miles per hour it tends to shake, shimmy and convulse more than a Pentecostal during Sunday church service. (And don't even get me started on the odd noises coming out of the car's engine.) For the past few weeks, I have been dragging the girls all over hell's half-acre (aka lots and lots of car lots), searching for the perfect car within my price range and budget. Finally, I got what I wanted, made the deal and drove my sweet little SUV off the lot. (Here's a shameless plug for KIA of Dayton and my credit union - they rock!)

Writing has been going particularly well - I think? I finally grew some balls (so to speak) and submitted a  short story in a writing contest. (I did this at the urging of a fellow writer - never ever would I have had the courage to do it on my own. I wanted to enter a contest earlier in the year in order to help gain a spot at a local writer's workshop but totally talked myself out of it. Maybe next year though.) Anyway, I've also been working on the manuscript, finished another short story and have been working on an article for a local website/blog. It's odd, I have been writing for so long but talking about it still makes me nervous. You know the feeling - like when you have that nightmare that you're giving a speech naked in front of a bunch of people you don't know and they are all laughing at you?

Oh well, I guess I'll keep slogging through and making progress putting words onto paper. Writing tends to help me calm down when I'm stressed. I've found that I can find inspiration even in the most asinine situations. (I work with the public - I run into those crazy situations on an almost daily basis.)  Plus, it's cheaper than therapy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Simple Things in Life

Sometimes (especially lately) I feel as if I'm being pulled in too many different directions. I realize that multi-tasking is a part of life, but I kept feeling as if I was just going through the motions and not really giving all I had to all I needed to do. Raising two girls,  working 30-40 hours a week, writing and keeping a household running are just a few of the things I have to contend with. Since hiring a butler or spending a bunch of money on a tropical vacation aren't viable options for me at this point, I had been wondering what I could do to infuse a little bit of simplicity and relaxation into my life (and hopefully make me a better parent, a stronger writer and happier employee). The answer I came up with was refreshing and slightly educational (sh, don't tell the girls) - we made a visit to a little place called Brukner Nature Center. It has multiple hiking trails, a picnic area and a wonderful facility that is home to  different types of wild animals, many of which are on display. It also has a restored cabin that was built in 1804. The girls loved learning about the animals that are native to this part of Ohio. They were in awe while looking at the log cabin and how people lived their daily lives 200 years ago - without smart phones, without television and without Nintendo Wii's or Barbies. We walked along a trail and found shady spot with a bench that overlooked a pond. Then we just sat for a while and talked - about anything and everything that popped into their heads -and therefore out of their mouths since (like most children) they don't have filters and just say whatever comes to mind. We talked about Daddy being away for military training and how much we miss him. We talked about their upcoming birthdays. Then we just sat for a while and listened to the birds and the sounds of nature surrounding us, holding hands. It was one of the most beautiful and fun afternoons we've had for a long time. And finally, for a little while at least, I relaxed.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Using Fast Food and Bribery as Effective Parenting (and Writing) Tools

As a writer, I need to work in relative silence. As a parent, I never get that silence unless I'm up before the girls get up in the morning or after they go to bed at night. However, today after work the compulsion to write was distracting the hell out of me. I decided to bribe the girls into being quiet so I could get some much needed writing time in during daylight hours. Our normal Friday night fare is carryout pizza from one of the local pizza joints here in town - but since Laely had consumed pizza for lunch at school today and the previous day, I told the girls they could have McDonald's. (As many parents know, the mere mention of McDonald's causes young children to become giddy with happiness.) I made them promise to be quiet and play nicely for a while both before and after dinner - and if they started to get too unruly there would be CONSEQUENCES (that word said in the right tone can still stop them in their tracks, even if I'm not specific as to what those CONSEQUENCES are). However, things went very smoothly between the two of them as they played with their 2 bazillion Barbies and I was able to write well over 1000 words. One would think that would make me happy. But I realized (even while I was writing) that probably half the words were just crap. I was working on the backstory, which is important to any novel. However, I tend to overwrite and give too much backstory and that's exactly what I believe I did tonight. You'd think that since I am aware of this writing flaw that I would be able to correct it. But nope, that hasn't happened yet. And I know that re-writes and edits are part of the process and nothing is ever perfect in a first draft (that little fact was again pointed out to me tonight by a very wise fellow writer - thank you) - but I don't like not liking what I'm writing. Does that make any sense? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I wrote tonight. And I know from experience that not every writing session is going to be peaches and cream. Maybe tonight's botched session was karma's way of telling me not to bribe my children with fast food? Hmmm. I don't know. I guess tomorrow I'll have to find something else to bribe them with so I can squeeze in an effective writing session before work (unless I get up at the ass-crack of dawn and that plan doesn't always work out). Any ideas?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Redneck and All

Well, I guess it's official. I'm a redneck. And not just because I live in a little town just north of Dayton, Ohio. (I think that's where alot of the pictures from PeopleofWalmart.com are taken - just saying.) Anyway, I am a redneck because I spent most of this glorious Sunday outside. And managed to get a sunburn on the back of my neck. The girls and I took a leisurely stroll in the early afternoon to go buy the Sunday paper - I needed to make sure the world was still turning after the much anticipated Rapture. Turns out it is, whew. Anyway one of the real reasons I wanted to get the paper is for the coupons. Yes, I admit it - I sat around last night and watched "Extreme Couponing" on TLC. How do those people get all that stuff for free? And do you think that maybe if they had jobs they might not have to waste all their time cutting coupons? Now don't get me wrong, I am a fan of coupons. But who needs to buy 96 bottles of mustard,  72 bottles of soda and 100 bottles of pain reliever in one shopping trip? (Not to mention the 50 sticks of deodorant and 36 boxes of cereal and a whole plethora of processed foods.) I think it's entirely possible that we will see some of these same people on "Hoarding -Buried Alive" some day.

Ok, enough with the tangents - here is the real reason I literally have a red neck - I finally got to finish planting my sunflower seeds. (Side note: sunflowers are my all time favorite flower.) But first I had to weed the area that I had designated for this endeavor. That meant getting on my hands and knees in the hot sun with a pair of gardening gloves (okay, two pair), digging in the dirt that was full of creepy crawlies. And just for the record - I don't like creepy crawlies and other things that live in the dirt. However, sometimes you have to dig in the dirt in order to cultivate something beautiful. Hmm....in many ways I guess gardening is kind of like life - it can be unpredictable and filled with creepy crawlies but the beauty of it is well worth the effort that is put into it - red neck and all.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One Week and Counting

Wow, I can't believe it's been a week since John left for training. In some ways it seems like forever since he's been gone and in other ways it feels as if he just left yesterday. During the first 48 hours we had some limited contact via text before they took his phone and he was allowed to make a brief phone call to us on Sunday but overall communication has been severely limited. Strangely enough, I'm okay with that. Yes, I do miss him. And I'm looking forward to taking the girls on a roadtrip in July to see him. But I think the next few months will be used for self-reflection and a certain amount of solitude. Its not like I don't have plenty to keep me busy - the girls, writing, work, my friends. I've already made progress on my novel and signed up with one of the companies that used to net me alot of freelance work. Do I miss the daily interaction with the significant other in my life? Of course. After all, we never have gone more than 5 days without speaking since we started dating in 2002. And yes, I know that by him joining the military means there is the potential for us to go months or even longer without communicating. But I am taking one day at a time and putting on foot in front of the other while looking ahead - which is all anyone can do no matter where they are or who they're with.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Making Decisions and Following Dreams

This past week has been both busy and bittersweet - mainly because John left on Wednesday for military training. Unbeknownst to me (at least until about 6 months ago), he had been harboring a long-time dream of being in the military. It was something that he thought about doing when he graduated from college over a dozen years ago, but never followed through with. But times they are a'changing, so last fall he started talking to a recruiter. He then dutifully jumped through all the hoops to join the National Guard and is now part of our country's armed forces. Bizarre as that may seem - especially to people that have known him during the past 10+ years, he seems happy with his decision. (Although I don't know how happy he really is going to be about getting up at 4:30 in the morning to do PT and competing with guys that are half his age, that just sounds hellish to me - then again, we already know I'm not a morning person. For the record, neither is he but the military doesn't give you much choice in the matter.) He probably won't be home until October because he is doing his basic training then going straight to AIT.

I've had alot of emotions in regards to him leaving for the military ranging from fear to pride. However, I believe he is doing the right thing for himself and therefore for our family. Will I miss him during the next 5+ months? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Is his absence going to be difficult on myself and our children? Yes. But can I fault him for following his dreams? No - and his life-changing decision to do so has yet again made me realize that it is never too late to follow your dreams.  You have the ability to set your sights on what you want and then take the necessary steps in order to achieve your goals.  So many people just talk about what they want to do with their lives but never really take the steps to follow through with what they SAY they want. And there's no doubt that following your dreams can be difficult. But isn't it worth it? Aren't you worth it?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Obsess Much? Maybe....And That Might Not Be A Bad Thing

I'm the type of person that tends to obsess about things just a teensy bit. (Ask any of my friends - they can certainly attest to this personality flaw). But is this trait actually a flaw? Sometimes, I just don't think so. As a parent, I constantly think (obsess) about the safety and happiness of my two children. As a woman, I often think about my health/appearance and how to improve it (or just keep the status quo as gravity keeps doing its job). And as a writer, I am constantly thinking about how to improve my techniques, finding time to write on a regular basis and (gasp) get published. I often think about writing while I'm at work and have had more than a few epiphanies in regards to my novel as I have been standing behind my bar bantering with my patrons. In fact, one of my short stories was inspired by a single comment made by someone sitting at my bar one day.

Do I wish I had more time to devote to my writng rather than just obsessing about it? You betcha. My main project now is to finish the novel I started writing last year. At the beginning of April, I vowed to write 1000 words a day. Lofty? Yes. Impossible? No. Did I follow through with it? Again, the answer is no. BUT I did make some great headway that I'm very proud of.  As I stated in my last post, I have a cleaning schedule. (Don't laugh - it works for me damnit.) So it only makes sense to have a writing schedule. I work around 30 + hours a week and I'm a full time mom, plus I have a needy cat named Max. As I looked over my calendar, I realized the best time for me to work on my novel is early in the morning BEFORE the girls get up and we start our respective days. I have always maintained that I am not a morning person. However, I have found that getting up at the ass crack of dawn to a quiet house really is kind of invigorating  (after I've had some coffee, of course). And as any parent (and most writers) know - sacrifices must be made and sometimes we just need to get out of our own way in order to accomplish what we want in life.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Messiness of Life

I have always written. From the time I was young, I journaled almost obsessively. When I was 8 years old and I thought my parents were treating me unfairly, I journaled what was happening so when I was an adult with my own children I wouldn't make the same mistakes I perceived them as making. Precocious and egotistical - maybe. But I was 8 years old. I have also always been an avid reader. In fact, there are times in my life that reading books and writing about life have proven to be more of a support to me than almost anything (or anyone) else. I have found that I'm better able to deal with the messiness of life if I write it down.

Having said all that - I don't like messes. Before I sit down to write, my house must be relatively uncluttered and clean. I have a cleaning schedule that I try to adhere to every day. Unfortunately for me, I also have the cold from Hell. This cold (and my work schedule and taking care of my girls) has severely depleted my energy levels. So right now, there are dishes in the sink (yes I do have a dishwasher, but there are still things I need to wash by hand) and laundry on my bed that needs folded. The kitchen needs mopped and the carpet needs swept. But here I am, starting a blog. Why? I think it's because I feel pulled to write. I feel as if my writing must be put on the same level of importance that I place on taking care of myself and my children. My writing is a part of me - and I need to take care of my needs every day as well to truly be at my  best as a mother, etc - so why shouldn't I take care of my writing every day? Does this mean that my house will go to hell in a handbasket while I work on my novel and/or other writing projects? No, probably not. But the cold from Hell has reminded me to slow down and take care of ME - which means the damn dishes can just sit there another day. And hopefully I'll remember to turn on the dishwasher before I go to bed tonight so we have clean dishes and utensils for tomorrow.