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Writing Through the Holidays

Every year the holidays seem to come faster. That is, the days zip past a little quicker, and it’s harder to find time for all the important things like building gingerbread houses, visiting Santa, and yes, continuing to work on the novel. The whole getting-up-at-5am thing is also a little harder, as I tend to drink more. For instance, we had our company holiday party last night. It was fun, and I overslept this morning.

I’m still managing to get up about 4 mornings a week, so I’m still drafting about 2,000 words a week. It’s progress, but it’s slow. I’m really looking forward to January when things calm down a bit. I’ve also set aside the first weekend on January to do another of my own little personal writing retreats. I’m booking a cheap hotel room for Friday and Saturday nights out in the desert. The last time I did this I was able to finish a draft, and since I’m pretty close to finishing the draft I’m working on now, I’m hoping I can use the time to do it again.

I am also saving up my days off just on the off chance that I am accepted to the Hedgebrook Residency program for 2014. We’re supposed to find out before the end of this month. If I’m going I will need two weeks vacation time. I only get the 25th off, and Christmas falls on a damn Wednesday, so it doesn’t feel like much of a holiday, but I don’t want to take any days off, because I might need them. I’m a little conflicted about it. I hope we find out soon – if I’m not going, I likely will take the 24th off, as I would really like to spend it with my kiddos.

Anyhow – that’s the haps. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from Hedgebrook.

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

It took me most of last week to recover from the fabulous ordeal of the Tough Mudder. I thought I was fine on Monday, but the tired just clung to me like a toddler that doesn’t want to take a bath. On Saturday night I bailed on Daniel (we had plans to go hear some music) and fell asleep at 8:30.

Of course, as soon as I started feeling well rested our girl got the stomach flu, so we were up all night holding her hair back, then Daniel got it too. Then we got a flat tire. Then the battery died on the other car. And all that seemed suddenly like small potatoes against the fact that my mother-in-law went in for emergency surgery tonight when her appendix threatened to burst and kill her. Sweet Jesus what will tomorrow bring?

I’m happy, no thrilled, to report that we just got the word that my mother-in-law is now out of surgery and is doing fine.

And as there is currently nobody vomiting in our house, I say things are looking up.

As for the writing, I am back at it, every morning, sticking to my 500 words per day. I’m still optimistic that I can finish the draft by the end of the year, and I’m very excited to say that a recent discovery has changed the entire up-at-5-am thing: my coffee machine has an automatic timer. Hazaaa! These mornings, when I stumble up the stairs, the coffee is already brewed. It is hot, and fresh, and so perfect that the thought of it actually helps motivate me out of bed.

Hey, in times like these you take pleasure in the little things.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day. I know, at the very least, there will be coffee in the morning.

Remote Working

One of the perks of my job is that I work remotely. I have often said how cool it is that I can take my work with me anywhere, but the truth is I never do. Because if I’m going somewhere it’s usually because I don’t want to be working. I’m am not the girl you see sitting by the pool with her laptop.

Except maybe, this week, I am.

My mom has a show opening at a gallery in the desert this Friday and I really want to go. The party starts at 6 and it’s a 3 hour drive (or 5 in traffic), so it would have meant leaving after lunch and using some vacation time, but instead I’m going to flex my remote-worker muscle.

Our thinking is that we will drive out early in the morning. We will leave at 6am, and by 9am I should be happily settled in to some public place with free wi-fi. Eventually I will be in our hotel room, or even (we’ll see) by the pool. Then, come the end of the day, I will put on my art-show-opening fancies and have a lovely night with my momma.

And then Saturday morning I plan to wake up early enough to work on my novel while I watch the sun come up over the desert. I’ve been dying for some desert time. It’s going to be a great (if short) trip.

Here is a sample of mom’s sculpture. You can see more of her work on her website. 

Laguna

Notes on the Northwest

If there’s one thing that can really make LA look like a smoggy pit, it’s 10 days in the Pacific Northwest.

Blast hereThe family and I just got back from vacation. We spent the first five days with my dad in northern Idaho to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday (that’s a picture of him with the cool shirt we got him), and then met up with some great friends we hardly ever get to see to do some camping just east of Mount St. Helens. The air smelled like cedar, and there were so many stars I gave myself a neck ache looking up.

As always, I carried my little notebook with me everywhere to jot down ideas and observations, but the thing is, I’ve realized, I didn’t jot down a single thought. Great details kept catching my attention, but they never made it into the notebook. I kept beating myself up for it, every time I didn’t pull out my notebook, but if guilt actually got things done, there would be a lot fewer to-do lists in the world.

The thing is my kids are still young enough that I have to keep a pretty close eye on them, especially when we’re out in the wilderness, or by a lake, or a road, or well, really anywhere that isn’t our home. The only time I don’t have an eagle eye on them was when they’re strapped into their car seats (but I get really car sick, so even if Daniel is driving that’s not a good time for me). I continue to carry that notebook, but it’s always so buried under diapers, peanut butter sandwiches, and random lego pieces that I just don’t ever bother to dig it out. Instead, I keep telling myself I’ll write it down later, but I never do.

Like everything else in this life, I’m starting to realize that taking notes is a matter of practice. Just like exercise or eating well, you have to keep doing it, or the inclination to do it at all will slowly fade.

It’s not like I need another thing to do, but this is important. It’s those little details that make stories great. Writing them down is a way of not only reminding myself to be a keen observer, but also for remembering them later.

The details are already starting to fade (sadly), but here’s one little gem I will always remember: At one point my step-mom was describing a friend of hers that we were heading out to visit and she said “just wait until you see how she walks.” I thought that was such a funny thing to say about someone, but you know what – her friend actually did have a lovely walk.

Concerned Parent
or Low-Life Hacker?

A computer geek friend of mine has a daughter who just turned ten. She asked if she could have her own email account, so he help her set one up, and then, without telling her, he adjusted the settings so that he would be bcc’d on every email she sends. It’s a big scary world out there, and he just wants to keep an eye on who she’s emailing with, and what she’s saying when she does.

I’ve been mulling this over since he told me about it a few weeks ago. My daughter is only 6, and has not, as of yet, expressed any interest in email. When she does, I know I will worry about who she is emailing and what she is saying. We (my friend and I, and well, everyone we know) didn’t grow up with email. Introducing it to the lives of our young ones is admittedly scary, but does that give us the right to invade privacy, to betray trust? Am I being overly dramatic?

When I was in sixth grade my dad got a word processor, a Brother, with a giant body and a tiny little screen (ah, the eighties). He set up a file for me and told me it was my personal, private file. He encouraged me to write every day, to record my thoughts. Even back then I loved writing so I took right to it.

The first thing I wrote about was how much I hated my teacher. She was pregnant and prone to outbursts, followed by tears, and I think I used the words “fat cow.” I know, I know. But I was 11.

Anyhow, I finished that first entry, saved it to my private file and went about my business playing with my sister. Not two hours later my dad came in to talk to me. He was concerned about the language I had used. How would my teacher feel if she knew I had called her that?

My face burned and I felt so embarrassed. It took me years to come to the realization that I was not the one who should have been embarrassed. My privacy had been invaded. I had been set up. (Dad, if you’re reading this, I  love you, but that was lame.)

To this day I don’t store my thoughts digitally. I write in a journal that I keep with me at all times, and if I want to call someone a fat cow, I do, because it’s my private journal and it’s nobody’s business anyway.

Which brings me back to hacking your kid’s email. On one level I totally get it. On the other I really think no good can come of it. Emails are private, unless of course they’re not because you accidental reply all or your ex forwards them on to your friends.

It’s a complicated life. Parenting is hard.

Any thoughts out there from parents of kids with emails?

Wrapping up the Crazy
Just in Time to Write

Ahh, summer… with the lazy days around the pool, the deepening of my LA tan, and the- wait, what?

Man, I miss summer vacation. I no longer get to lay by the pool, but I do get to figure out how to juggle my hours at work so I can drive two kids to preschool, swim camp, soccer, and music, and that’s all before the first of July.

The first half of July is always a little crazy around here. There’s the 4th, of course, then our anniversary, then our daughter’s birthday, and this year, just to make it all a little more interesting, throw in the wedding of one of our best friends, in Chicago, which meant we had to fly both kids to the Bay Area first to stay with their grandparents, and then just try to fly back to San Francisco a day after a major plane crash. Just try. In fact, try doing it with a raging hangover. That’s even more fun. When we got to the airport Sunday morning our flight (which was scheduled for 11:30) had “5:45″ written next to the flight number and I actually turned to my husband and said “what do they mean 5-4-5? Is that code for something?” As it turns out, it was code for canceled.

Anyhow – all this is to say how super busy things have been the last two weeks, but I’m happy to say we are nearing the end of the crazy part.

This Friday I head out for a weekend with my writing group. I’ve been prepping for it (on the few mornings I’ve been able to get myself up early to write). I know what I want to work on. I will have two solid days, and half of Friday, to write, write, write. Historically these types of things go well for me, but I always feel nervous leading up to them. I so desperately want to make good use of the time that I have to remember not to psych myself out.

Just go. Write. Sleep. Write some more.

Wish me luck.