We Got a DOG!

My husband and I both grew up in families with dogs.  After we got married we inherited a dog, but our apartment was small and we didn’t keep her long.  Then we bought our house and rescued a puppy from rather terrible living conditions.  She had Parvo when we rescued her (we didn’t know that at the time) and she ended up costing us a pretty penny to fix.  The vet told us she wouldn’t last long.  She lasted about eight years before we had to have her put to sleep because she was very sick again.

During that eight year time my son was born (also my daughter, but she wasn’t as attached).  My son became super attached to that dog.  When the time came to say good-bye, it was hard on all of us.  We (my husband and I) said we weren’t ready to do that to our son again.  We took a “no more dogs” pledge.

Fast forward a lot of years.  My son (now 11) started asking for a dog.  He was adamant that he would care for it (feed it, walk it, etc).  Somehow we caved…I’m still not sure how that happened.  But the short version is…we got a dog!  We adopted him and, as my husband says, we won the Humane Society lottery!

His name is Niko.  For the record, I didn’t name him that.  He came with that moniker.  If I had named him that it would’ve been spelled like Nico De Angelo from the Percy Jackson series, I promise!  (Isn’t that a cool name for a black dog who is quiet yet lovable?)  He is well-behaved, smart, and fun.  He listens to us, loves to walk, and enjoys riding in the car.

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but just remember I am probably training or hanging with this cool guy.  You can forgive me for that, right?

The Day I Wore Makeup

Coming up on three years ago I wore makeup as a daily thing for the last time in my life.  Why?  Because I had noticed a bunch of people taking over my facebook talking about the “No Makeup Challenge” or “No Makeup Monday”.  The posts were mixed.  Some people raved about how much they loved the freedom and empowerment that came with the challenge.  Yet others lamented about how tired they looked.  My biggest take-away at the time was anger and frustration.  No one was critiquing men for deciding to wake up and not wear make up.  No one was using a crazy facebook trend to tell men how to wake up in the morning.  Hello inequality.

equality
You wash your face.  I’ll wash mine and then spend 30 minutes caking on expensive product.  Fair?

So I decided to try going without it for a week.  I continued to wash my face twice a day and used my moisturizing creams, but no makeup at all.  I went to a job interview in a new school district without any makeup.  When they offered me the job, I decided this was a great opportunity to keep it going.  I haven’t looked back.

But I have wondered.

Today, I wore makeup again.  I’ve worn just eye shadow once or twice for special occasions in the three years, but today I wore everything.  This was my Makeup Challenge aka the Day I Wore Makeup.  Takeaways:

  • It takes forever.  Seriously.  I’d forgotten just how long.
  • You don’t forget.  I didn’t need to find online tutorials or look up tricks.  I still remembered how to apply it.  It’s like riding a bike.  Something I also may not have done for three years, actually.
  • It’s HOT.  Instantly I felt myself sweating right at the hair line.  Then I started stressing about how the sweat would react with the makeup.  I started sweating more.  It was a dangerous few minutes.
  • Speaking of stress…I spent the entire time worried about accidentally touching my face and ruining everything.  Eating, scratching, wind blowing stray hair…anything could happen!
  • I didn’t look prettier. Honestly, I didn’t.  I didn’t catch myself in the bathroom mirror after forgetting I was wearing it and thinking “dang, I look good.”
  • I didn’t feel prettier.  I felt hotter.  I also got in my car after an event (to be fair it’s Phoenix and it was like 96 today) and I could see beads of sweat on my nose that had mixed with makeup.  That’s not pretty.
  • I could also smell it.  I swear I don’t remember this smell from wearing it daily.  I guess it is a smell you don’t realize you are accustomed to until it’s been gone and is thrust up your nostrils again.
  • Washing it off SUCKED. OMG.  I didn’t remember how hard you have to scrub your face to get that crap off.  It stung.  My pores felt like they were burning.  It was like chopping jalapenos and then rubbing your hands all over your face.  Terrible.  Awful.

In short, I’m glad I made the decision to cut and run from the makeup industry.

Naked face for life.

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How do they Feel?

 

As a parent I’ve caught myself telling my kid to think about “how they feel” quite a few times.  My daughter (7) is a bit bossy (people who know her are laughing right now because I said a BIT.  She’s a lot bossy.  Girlfriend needs to be a CEO) and often gets in trouble for trying to micromanage her classmates.  My son (11) think he’s hilarious.  He often gets in trouble for telling jokes at inappropriate times.  So it’s a good idea to try and make them think about the other people in these situations.

“How would you feel if a little girl in your class was trying to tell you how to solve a problem, sit in a chair, or walk in the hallway?”

“How would you feel if you were just trying to do your job and someone busted in and told a joke right in the middle of what you were doing?”

“How would you feel…”

Turns out this old parenting trick is actually a great exercise for writers.  The next time you’re sticking your main character in a scene that isn’t quite working…stop.  Pick a different character.  How do they feel?  Is there something they can do or say that will suddenly make your MC aware of this?  Take that outside character and, for just a second, make it about them.  It reminds us that these people are living in a real world.  They’re not floating around alone.  Just like us, their consequences effect others.

Research

What kinds of things have you researched in the name of writing?

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Whisper it in case anyone is checking your search history

Sometimes it’s harmless stuff: what plants grow in the winter months, when are cucumbers at their best, lunar cycles, google maps locations, hair color diagrams, eye color diagrams, synonyms, color wheels, pictures of stone

Sometimes it’s stuff that probably gets me on some strange watch list: tiny weapons that could kill someone, small sharp things, how to naturally decompose a body

Sometimes it’s stuff that will make someone ask questions: signs you’re in an abusive relationship, anger management tips, signs someone is angry

Sometimes You Need to Let it Breathe

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Since I started this crazy journey, I’ve heard the same piece of advice a lot.  Put the book down and walk away.  Leave it on a shelf.  Let it breathe.  You can come back to it later and really look at it with fresh eyes.

So I did.

I can’t tell you when the last time I picked up my high-fantasy story (readers of the blog will know EXACTLY which one I’m referencing) and its sequel was.  I haven’t looked at the outline for the third book in the series.  I haven’t thought about the characters in awhile.  I haven’t given it much thought at all, actually.  I’ve poured my attention into other (bill-paying) things.

Then my phone rang.  My favorite beta reader (oops, I’m not supposed to admit I have favorites) wanted to make sure she had the most recent copy because she’d been thinking about it and wanted to read it again.

What a good idea.  I think I’ll read it along with you.

The result has been a FIRE rekindled.  We are back to spending lots of time talking about why we love (or hate) the characters.  I’m completely engrossed in how much she talks about their world.  It’s clearly becoming as real for her as it always has been for me and that’s just…cool.

So now I’ll pass that advice on to you.

Do you have a work that is stalled out?  Is it not getting the agent/publisher love that you wanted?  Is the editing turning up small changes when you feel in your heart it may need bigger?  Have you already made a big (ahem-point of view altering) change that you aren’t sure worked?

Let it breathe.

Walk away.

Give it space.

Then read it like it was brand new.  It’s a cool feeling.

Distractions

Social Media

The book you’re reading

Laundry

Housecleaning/Chores

The job that pays your bills

Children

Grocery Lists/Shopping

 

What else distracts you from writing?

Beauty Around Us

Do you ever get the feeling we spend too much of life ignoring the beauty around us?

 

Today I’m attending a training.  I’m in Central Phoenix, a place I rarely attend and certainly wouldn’t call beautiful on normal days.  This is a place where your GPS will calculate that you still have 10 minutes remaining on your journey even though it also tells you that you are 1 mile away.  A place so full of people and cars it literally smells like exhaust when you take a deep breath.  Yet today I am on the sixteenth floor of a building with a full wall of windows.  The table I have chosen is facing one of those windows and I’m completely distracted by the view.  I’m fully appreciating the teacher in middle school who insisted I learn to type without looking at the keys so I can share this thought with you whilst enjoying the scenery.

 

northern-skyline-downtown-phoenix-arizona
This is not my picture or my exact view.  But it’s close!

What I can’t figure out is why I’m the only one who’s noticed.  There are (hold on while I pause to look around) about 20 people in here right now.  Two of them are the trainers, so I can assume they see this view often.  But the rest?  The rest are presumably teachers, like me, who spend entirely too much time sitting inside the walls of a school with only small windows to the outside world.  How are they not appreciating the small grassy area loaded with trees just to the left of all this craziness?  The mountains at the edge of the valley, with the white clouds just kissing the tops?  The planes taking off and landing just along the horizon, so small they look fake?  The twinkling of the rising sun over the steel that litters our capital city, looking like tiny twinkling lights on a tree?  Even the building directly next to us…the one so close I can almost see the people inside there also not enjoying the view…that building has patios wrapping around it on every single floor and has gorgeous pink flowered potting plants and adorable tables all around.

 

As we draw closer to the training start time, people are starting to notice.  But it’s not for the reason I would like.  Instead of basking in the beauty that is the landscape, they’re complaining about the sun coming into their eyes.  One woman saunters to the windows and twists the blinds closed.  I watch as the trainer approaches her and proceeds to help her completely block of the view.

 

I’m left wondering, what was the purpose of the windows?  We have effectively made it the same environment here as we would experience in our own classrooms with minimal access to the outside world.

 

I’m not blaming anyone, or judging anyone.  In fact, I probably focused better once they were closed and I stopped watching the scenery.  Instead, I’m merely asking…do we miss the beauty of the world around us?

 

Disappointment

My 11 year old son loves hockey.  

He lives and breathes hockey.  He watches it, talks about it, and plays it.  He studies it, dreams about it, and quotes statistics.  If you can relate it to hockey, he gets it.

He’s actually been ice skating in leagues or formal skating lessons since he was three.  He’s been ice skating since 2.  He’s been playing hockey since he could walk.  

In May of 2016, he did something he had never had to do before.  He had official tryouts, where he may not make the team, for a travel hockey league.  In preparation for the tryout, we signed him up for the defensive clinic with the coach and other players so they learned who he was.  We paid the fee.

He didn’t make it.

Actually he made the “alternate” list.  

“What is that?” he asked.

“If someone else doesn’t want their spot, they give it to you.”

“They wouldn’t have tried out if they didn’t want the spot.”

“That’s a good point.”

I cried with him.  I cried for him.  Then I talked to him about resilience.  It was a message he received in ways that amazed me.  He returned to the final day of the clinic with the same kids who had made the team and the coaches who didn’t choose him.  He decided to play on the house league again, and make the best of that time.  In fact, his team won the championship this time around.  When tryouts were advertised for the All-Star team, one he actually played on last year before you had to try out, he asked to participate.  

We paid the money.

I saw the hesitation the second he took the ice.  There were 22 kids out there skating.  You could almost see the moment he realized that meant some kids wouldn’t make it.  His first pass along the ice wasn’t his fastest, he was hesitating.  But then he must have shaken it off.  The kid continues to impress me with his ability to keep going.

I wish I could tell you this is a story with a happy ending.  I wish I could say this is a story about a kid who worked his little tail off, didn’t give up, and made the team.  

He didn’t.

He actually was named as the alternate…again.

Today I get to explain it to him.

We will talk about Thomas Edison and the attempts that weren’t lightbulbs.  We’ll talk about JK Rowling and her rejection letters.  We’ll talk about Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team. We’ll talk about one of his cousins and hockey idols, who didn’t play travel hockey until he was older than my son.  We’ll talk about Stephen King, who kept his rejection letters on a nail and filled it.  Maybe we’ll even talk about my file of rejection letters.

Then my son will have to make the decision to dust himself off and keep playing, again.

My 11 year old son loves hockey.  

He lives and breathes hockey.  He watches it, talks about it, and plays it.  He studies it, dreams about it, and quotes statistics.  If you can relate it to hockey, he gets it.

The hardest part of parenting is helping him through those moments when he is reminded that hockey is just a sport, it can’t love you back.

#1linewed 12.28 Edition

A line from a work in progress using the word finish.

“He’s in the news like all the time. He’s super famous. Kind of like…”
He doesn’t finish the sentence. He doesn’t have to.

A comfortable silence wraps around the room as we finish our meal.

“I could just tell the truth.”  My fingers start moving around the letters, typing one at a time.

 

A line from a work in progress using the word start.

She tips her head toward the ground in the start of a bow.  “Don’t do that.  I’m not a Royal any longer,” I chastise.

I’m actually in my car with the air conditioning on before the tears start.