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Jaws XXIV - Dude, paddle faster!  This does not look like a stress-free tropical vacation! by Blurry Lenses.

No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.  ~Elbert Hubbard

Well said, Elbert.  Not sure who Elbert Hubbard is/was but he nailed it with that one.  I tried to stay up on emails and pay attention to kids’ sports schedule changes and school parties/activities while I was on vacation.  However, when looking out at the ocean and seeing whales breech or listening to the waves crash in the background didn’t help the focus factor. 

Bills need to be paid (didn’t I just do that before I left? WTH?) and kids’ sports schedules are out of control.  The clutter of mail and random articles (you know, grocery receipt, chapstick, kid’s flashlight, one lonely battery, etc.) that seem to grow from my countertop need to be put away. Sprinkle in a few birthday parties and book club planning! ARGHHHH!  Calgon, take me away!

The good and bad of it is that all I want to do is get back to my writing.  The good is that I am glad that I feel the pull to write (I was a little nervous on vacation that I could blow it off so easily).  I hardly wrote on vacation.  I figured a six-hour connection from Phoenix to Hawaii would give ample time.  Between self-berating for leaving the video camera case under the seat on the last plane to getting sucked into watching the worst movie ever (the roller derby one with Drew Barrymore), before we knew it, time to land!

The bad is that  the other” junk” needs to be dealt with first.  Reading Snail mail/emails,  paying bills, cleaning up the clutter, grocery shopping, etc. are the things that I HAVE to do.  Writing is what I WANT to do.   

I lugged my laptop hoping to sneak in some blogging and continue on my WIP.  I brought along my favorite writing book to inspire me (The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass).   The pull of the ocean and beach chair were just too strong.  So now I sit at my computer, trying to get back into the swing of things.  The only problem is that while on my relaxing vacation, my characters and some of the plot lines changed on me.  It creates a whole new problem because now do I go back and rewrite the scenes completely or do I just finish the first draft as is and make the changes with the 2nd draft?  Again, ARRGGHHHH!

While I am thinking about all of this the guilt of not doing what I should  be doing is grinding on me.   My kids are watching.  Not literally starting at me.  But they see what I do and  they will mimic.  If I blow off the important stuff to do the stuff I want, how is that any better than my kids wanting to play outside when their rooms aren’t clean yet?  Then my husband will have more ammo when I complain about the kids not doing their chores!  Being a role model stinks sometimes! 

I have done a little bit of my writing this morning while 10 yr old (home with sinus infection) and preschooler watch a movie.  Hopefully, they have been distracted.  Now on to my other items on to-do list.  Yucko.  But I have to be a role model because it is my job.  The cruddy part of the job, but my job nonetheless. (I am pumping myself up here.  You know like an athlete in a pre-game warmup.)  Get out there girl!  You can do it! (Okay, enough, I get it.)

Any other stressed out writer mamas out there?  Do you write before the kids get up?  Do you write during the day and ignore household duties until later?   I would love to hear from you!

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My view 80% of vacation

Laptop packed? Check.

Fully charged battery? Check.

Cameras charged and ready? Check.

Writing journals, notecards, and Donald Maass book packed? Check.

End of vacation writing progress?  NONE!!!!

Has anyone else ever done this? Gone on vacation intending to get in touch with your creative side?   Thought the beautiful landscape would inspire you? 

I pictured that beautiful Hawaii and its beautiful beaches with endless peace and quiet would equate to an eruption of creative juices.  (Pun intended) Not so much.  I thought of writing just a little but then the beach chair must have some sort of brain activity suction somewhere.  Literally my butt hit the chair and my writing motivation wriggled itself in the soft warm sand right along with my toes. 

I do have somewhat of an excuse.  My children and parents were with me on the first leg of the vacation so many of you mothers  know exactly what that can do for the probability of high brain function .  We can only register so much.  Did I put the 30 SPF in the backpack?   Are the pool toys in my backpack or his?  Where is the lip balm?  Oh, wait.  Let me pack a few hundred more snacks so the kids won’t bug me for another six hours about being hungry nor will I have to take them to the pool side restaurant that thinks their hot dogs must be laced with gold by the prices that want to extort. 

I had no room for the “me” stuff.  However, I absolutely loved the time with my parents and the kids.  My kids had never been to the ocean before so their enthrallment with the beach and snorkeling and all things Hawaii made my heart full.   It was like that first time when your kids saw fireworks and I am not talking the pathetic highway stand fireworks.  The ones you pack a picnic basket full of dinner, blankets, chairs, bug repellent, and plenty of cold beverages while you claim the perfect spot for the big show. 

They were so excited that my ten-year old was doing cartwheels down the beach.  My seven-year old ran through the surf as if he was auditioning for Baywatch-The Next Generation.  My four-year old dug in the sand with crappy little plastic toys and found umpteen lava rocks and coral as if each one was truly a treasure.  Those moments will stick with me forever.  We snorkeled, took a catamaran day trip to Lana’i, saw whales and spinner dolphins, shopped, ate, exercised, met new people, hiked a waterfall, oh yeah, and laid on my backside 80% of the time.   Even though I lugged my stupid laptop across 4 time zones for nothing, I think I will have some pretty wonderful memories that can lend some ideas for a story down the road. 

And for those of you that live in Hawaii….I hate you.  I mean that in the nicest way possible. 

Does anyone have any great places they visited and were inspired to write?  Any other writer mamas out there that intended to write but had the same problems I had?  Please feel free to share!!

Mahalo and Aloha,

Hallieieilu (my name in Hawaiian) (I am kidding)

Vigilant.  

The word by itself would have sounded daunting to me only a few weeks ago.  I would have pictured a group of vigilantes storming the streets with pitchforks and torches seeking out the town witch.   However, I am aspiring to be more vigilant about my life.  About my kids, my relationship with my husband, my close family and friends, my writing, my faith; heck, even in my housekeeping.  Now that does sound daunting.

You see, my mother-in-law passed away a couple of weeks ago.  She had liver failure due to years of battling diabetes and taking medication to treat it.  It happened very suddenly and we are still reeling from the shock of it.  She was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver only a few weeks before her death and not once were we given a specific prognosis.  The specialist told her he would give her another medication to prevent further damage, which they would start as soon as she could get back in (which wouldn’t be until the doctor was back from his Spring Break.)  She never saw the doctor.  Why not? She didn’t live that long.  

We had so many “why’s”, “what if’s”, and “why didn’t we’s …” that it made our heads hurt.   Too many unanswered questions to be able to count.

When we finally got home and I was able to reflect on the week, the  word “vigilance” kept popping into my head.  I wished my mother-in-law had been more vigilant in terms of her health.  Why didn’t she ask more questions?  Why did she not try to eat better to get rid of the diabetes?  Why didn’t she let her husband take her to the hospital as soon as she was feeling poorly?  Why wasn’t she more vigilant?  Then I realized I could ask that same question of myself.

Looking deeper into myself, I knew I needed to change the way I lived my life.  We had so many friends and family doing so much for us during that tough time; praying, giving, cleaning, hugging, listening, and just being there for us.  However, it almost made me feel worse. 

Because as I looked inward, I came up short in comparison.  I hadn’t been doing all of those things for others.  I have been living in my little bubble and not really thinking about others like I should.  I go to the gym, get my kids to school and their activities, grocery shop, go to monthly book club, occasionally clean, and then foster my social media addiction.  I rarely call friends, even family.  I despise the phone but I love to talk.  Damnedest thing.  I don’t write letters.  My best communications efforts are making snarky comments on Facebook and Twitter and texting as needed.  I believe in God but you wouldn’t know by attendance at church. 

My social ignorance hasn’t been intentional.  I just get tunnel-vision and block a lot of things out.  However, my eyes have been opened and I am seeing past my bubble now.  Every day is a gift.  Every friend is a treasure.  Every family member is irreplaceable.  Each person and every situation that comes into my life was placed there for a reason.  It is how I treat the person or react to the situation says a lot about me.

Well, I am going to be vigilant from now on.  I am only getting one shot at this.  What about you?  Won’t you be a vigilante, too? (Think old Dr. Pepper jingle:)

I just saw a post on Barnes and Noble book club blog about the covers of romance novels.   They basically asked if we as readers picked a romance book based on the cover.  Whether it be Highlander, Rogue, or Regency Rake, they wanted to know what we liked best. 

Umm…none of the above?  I am not saying that I am not attracted to those types of characters (are there any other types?).  However,  I don’t want to see it on the cover of the book I am checking out or buying while another mom and four children are standing next to me waiting to check out.   Most of the covers show a scantily clad man and/or woman in some sort of sensual pose.  I find myself inventing new ways to hide the covers.  It makes me feel like an alcoholic trying to hide the booze. 

It seems that I am not alone in my opinion as there were many comments that stated the same thing.  We don’t buy romance based on the cover.  Why not?

IT’S CHEESY!!!

I like to use my imagination and develop the image of the hero in MY mind.  I want to create my own delicious version of Mr. Right.  As soon I pick up the book, there he is, with his bare chest slapped across the cover.   That image is hard to shake after I start reading and I lose a bit of the creation process I enjoy so much.  I think that is the whole point of character development by the author.  If done very well, we should be able to picture the hero or heroine down to the shape of their eyebrows.  I enjoy this.  I delve so much deeper into the story if I don’t have some ridiculous picture of a guy standing on the edge of a  cliff wearing nothing but a mullet and kilt.   Don’t get me wrong, I love the Highlanders but I want to make my own.  I am not a mullet person, no matter how gorgeous he is in the face.  Just can’t do it.  I don’t care if that was all the rage in Scotland in 1700.  My Highlander might have his hair brushing the top of the collar of his shirt (when he wears one) but to see Mullet Man gracing the cover before I have gotten to know him loses some oomph for me in the story. 

Why not show a setting of where they first meet on the cover?  Why not show a prop from the story that serves as a foreshadow?  No wonder the romance genre gets such a bad rap.  How can it be taken seriously with all that fluff?  Other genres have more stunning photography or brilliant artistry to catch the eye.  Have you walked through the romance section in the book store lately?  I took my daughter there last night to pick up a few books for a birthday party and I made the mistake of turning down the romance aisle.  I picked up speed and grabbed her hand, hoping she wouldn’t see the onslaught of naked bodies that were practically moaning their not so subtle  titles at us. 

I love romance novels but it isn’t because of the sex or the pictures on the front that make me love them.  It is the falling in love, the vulnerability of the characters as they confront their feelings, and the path both people take to arrive at the place we can’t wait to get to; the happy ending.   The sexual relations they have in the story are there because of the love they have for each other.  That is the natural progression of love.   The cover of the book has nothing to do with that.  It is just an image and a damn cheesy one at that.  I hope publishers out there take heed to what readers want and don’t continue to do things the way they always have done them. 

Yes, make the covers enticing but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, let’s banish the mullets and bare chests.  My paranoia in the check out lane has reached it’s max.

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Well, I think Spring is here.  I hear the sounds of birds outside my window in the morning, the sun is shining longer, and I am getting restless.   I am itching to be outside, getting some fresh air, and feeling the sun on my face.  Ahh, I can almost feel the sunburn now.  But I have a lot of work to do first.

The term “Spring cleaning” usually refers to the massive overhaul of household and garage, discarding the unwanted and unused.  However, I need it to go a little deeper than that.  Okay, fine.  A hell of a lot deeper.   My physical surroundings definitely need the cleaning, don’t get me wrong.  We have a storage area under the stairs as well as an unfinished room in our basement designated for kids.  It looks like Target, Toys R Us and Hobby Lobby all exploded in a 20 x 20 area.  It isn’t pretty.  Cupboards need to be reorganized, pantry is in shambles, carpets need to be cleaned, yada, yada, yada.

But I have a bigger task than that.  Since I have started writing a manuscript, hoping one day be published, I feel like I am a multiple personality, bipolar, dementia patient waiting to happen.  One minute I am Mom, the next I am reading one of the six novels I have on my nightstand (or under my bed, in my gym bag, stashed in my car console), then writing on my manuscript, all the while completely neglecting my email and updating the family activity calendar.  Did I mention that I have three kids?  Oh, yeah.  Pretty sure I am neglecting them as well.  The list goes on.  I might do a load of laundry, fix a meal, then back to reading a book about writing.  Then I’ll jot story notes down in a journal, redo my pathetic outline (which is why I really don’t do outlines-I am changing it every two minutes), then hop up to take a shower.  In between this are trips to the grocery store, gym, school, kids’ practices/games, swimming lessons, and God knows what else. 

I feel like I am drowning.  Hmmm…wonder why?

Big news flash to self!

I have no schedule.  I head to the gym sometime in the morning.  I eat when I can.  I shower when I can.  I clean, barely.  I read at night before bed, staying up until ridiculous hours or while waiting  for kids in the car line, or even doing cardio at the gym.   I write in snippets.  Half an hour here and half an hour there.  Sometimes I write after the kids go to bed but then I am neglecting my “just us” time with my husband.

Sounds like I should be accomplishing a lot since I am doing a lot but the only thing I seem to achieve is the elevated stress levels that only a current Toyota CEO could understand.  Enough stress that I am grinding my teeth at night; grinding so hard that my fillings are breaking off and I have horrible headaches in the morning.  It all sounds so stupid because I am a stay home mom, for God’s sakes.   I KNOW my husband thinks I have the life of Riley (not sure who Riley is but must have had it good for the phrase to stick around for so long) and for the most part I do.  I have brought all of this stress on myself because of the chaos I have created.  If I am going to survive writing a book that actually makes sense and won’t burst into flames at first review, I need to get my stuff together. 

What I have gathered from successful writing mothers, is that  relentless organization, meticulous time management, and strong self-discipline are where it is at if you are going to really make it to a great final manuscript.  That is where I need to  be.  However, it seems like that is as within reach as world peace at the moment.  But I am determined to make a go of it.  If not, you might see me on the national news as the next “mom gone crazy” (think shaved head Britney Spears kind of crazy).

I hope Spring also gives you a renewed spirit as well as a swift kick in the butt.  Think of it as God’s way of saying “Get off your ass!” in the nicest way possible.

As I mentioned in my little bio page, I live in La La Land.  Pretty sure you have heard of the term. But this la la land is an actual place.  It is in Johnson County, Kansas.  More specifically, the Blue Valley school district. 

We have great schools, great youth sports programs, affordable housing, and easy access to a little big city, Kansas City.  A lot of people around here say “oooh, you live in Johnson County” when I tell them where I live, like I live in the Beverly Hills of Kansas City or something.   If that is the case, there must be a trailer park in Beverly Hills that I haven’t heard about yet.  I haven’t lived many places, only 4 cities to be precise, and the ones I have weren’t affluent, just REAL. 

Let me back up a little and tell you about my childhood community so you can understand why I am frustrated living here as a parent, trying to raise three happy, healthy, and grounded children. 

I grew up in a community of roughly 10, 000 residents that varied in socioeconomic status to a certain degree as well as a race, just a little bit.  The richest person in town was a practicing lawyer as well as owner of a local trucking company.  There was a section of town where the “rich people” lived  and your family was considered loaded if your house was over 2,500 square feet and had a 2 car garage.  The kids that had it good were the ones with basketball hoops in their driveways and finished basements.  We actually had a finished basement via my father and one of his friends that was in the construction business.   We felt we were on the cusp of greatness!  

Back to the point, life was simple back then.  We walked to school (11 blocks), we ate what our parents fixed for dinner or we didn’t eat, and we played outside CONSTANTLY.  The only things I couldn’t have done without were my bike and my books.  They were crucial to my freedom as well as my social life.  I didn’t have a phone in my room (the equivalency of cell phones for preteens now), no t.v., and no computer (were they even invented yet?).  My books were my escape from a not so happy home life.  I loved to transport myself through the stories I read.  I lived a different life in my imagination.  That was all I needed.  That was 1980ish.

In 2010, in the suburb I live in now, most kids would consider those poverty-like conditions.  Unbearable.  Horrific.  Cruel even.   I want to yell at them and tell them to get a grip!  When my husband and I moved here twelve years ago, I expected the area to be a little more metropolitan than where we had lived before, another Midwest little big town.  C’mon, let’s face it-we are still smack dab in the middle of the Midwest.   Uhh, wrong.

Yes, we picked to live here.  It is just that I think most of the way people see things here is skewed.   The kids around here wouldn’t know “the real world” if they ran it over with their BMW’s.  (It might be their parents’ but it doesn’t matter.  It is still an effing BMW!)  I am not sure if it has always been like this since I didn’t grow up here.  However, since I have kids that are now at an age where their friends are beginning to influence them more, I am fully aware of the rampant dysfunctional parenting styles I see around here.

 My oldest child is in 4th grade and some of the children have cell phones already.   A couple of the kids had them last year even. Who in the hell are they calling?  I understand if they are walking home from school and need to have a way to reach someone in an emergency.  If there were kids walking a mile to get home, I get that.  None of the kids have to walk more than 4 or 5 blocks, at the most.   At this age, we are with our kids 99% of the time, minus school time, and when we aren’t there, they are with a friend and THEIR parents.  Okay, maybe the cell phone was free and the parents don’t have any major cost associated with it.  That isn’t my point.  It isn’t necessary!!  Cell phones are needed for communication when access to a home telephone is not available.  You know that thing that plugs into the wall and transmits voice.  Novel idea, eh?

I know that cell phones aren’t just for talking anymore.  Hell, I have an iPhone and talking is probably the function I do the least.  However, I am also an adult that pays for it.  It is my organizer, GPS, yellow pages, newspaper, etc. all rolled into one.  When I was a teenager, my parents finally gave in and got my sister and I phones for our rooms.   I think I was fifteen, close to sixteen when this monumental event happened.   This wasn’t a cool cordless phone or even a cute Garfield one that opened and closed his eyes when you picked up the receiver.  But I didn’t care.  It was a phone!!! My mom sprung for call waiting when she realized how much time we spent holed up in our rooms talking to our friends and how many calls she was missing as her sisters and friends kept telling her how our phone always seemed to be busy.  Pretty sure these days around here, having a phone in a teenagers’ room isn’t a request seen often.  Probably not even on the radar screen.   Now, cell phones replace that one and if they get to text, ooh, that is like if got an extra phone line for call waiting in my day.  Jackpot!

My next pet peeve is ALL THE CRAP kids have around here.  It borders on obscene.  Let me explain why it bothers me so much.  It isn’t necessarily the stuff but at how young the kids are when they get it.  Motorized scooter at age 6. I have seen first hand kids that are 7 and getting the Razor motorized dirt rockets.   The appropriate age the manufacturer gives is 13+!   What?!  Again, go back with me in time.  In my elementary school days, the fastest things I had were my bike and my roller skates.  All propelled by my power.   You might as well give the kids now a couple of Twinkies as he or she zooms down the street just to make sure they don’t burn any calories steering.  And these are the same parents that are puzzled when their kid complains at soccer practice about having to run, or kick the ball, or just… stand there.  I have seen it first hand.  Drives me up a wall.   Just heard about my neighbor giving their daughter an iTouch and she is 9.   I have another neighbor that put flat screens in all of their kids rooms, ages 9, 7, and 5.   The thing that kills me is not the kids asking for all of this crap.  It is the parents that give it to them! 

Flat screen t.v. for your room? Sure, son!  Wouldn’t want you to have to be down here spending quality time with the family.   ITouch? Sure, honey!  Wouldn’t want you to have to read a silly old book when you play, play, play on your cool gadget that you are either going to lose or step on and crack within the week.  Cell phone with unlimited texting?  Sure, darling!   Wouldn’t want you to have to walk five feet and get tired having to use the vintage house phone.   The more they whine, the more they get.  It is unbelievable.

THIS is why I call where I live la la land.  These children are going to grow up even lazier than they are now and expect the world to hand them everything.  The work ethic is atrocious and they are just elementary school aged kids.  Wait until they get to middle school and the dramatics and mood swings kick in.   Ugh! 

The sad thing in all of this is that I am the minority.  Rarely do I find another person that hasn’t already done these things for their kids or hasn’t talked about doing them.   I just want my kids to have  strong core values and have a few close friends that share them as well.  My job as a parent is to teach them humility, love, compassion, empathy, manners, and too many other values to list.  I only get one shot at this and I am desperately trying to not screw it up.  This is why I love the Midwest.  Most people are simple and down to earth.  What you see is what you get kind of people.  Life is about the relationships you have with others and becoming the best person you can be.  Not how much crap you can accumulate.  A ton of people around here attend these massive congregation churches we have and I see “I love Jesus” plastered on their Facebook bulletin boards.  Then, they turn around and have every brand name clothing item from Nordstrom (as if they would shop anywhere else) and buy their kids everything under the sun. 

Maybe I am seeking reassurance that there ARE others out there trying to teach their kids the same things I am.  I pray there are and that I am not too stuck in my old school ways to realize that this is just the way things are now.  I wish parents here would comprehend that saying “no” to them now will give them so much more later on in life e.g.  appreciation, gratitude, and a strong work ethic.  

“Just Say No” is no longer just a drug campaign slogan; it is also a Parenting 101 class.  See you there !

Valentine’s Day woes

 

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Today is the day where I get the standard card from the munchkins and a sweet card from my husband.  I did get a gift rom him this year (it is usually hit or miss) and I don’t get him much because whatever he wants he goes out and gets for himself.  I am so over the gift thing because usually it is a quick just grab something so she/he knows I was thinking of her/him.

I don’t know if it is because it isn’t my money (yes, it is OUR money even though I haven’t contributed to it for 7 years now) so I feel weird buying him things.  He also checks the account regularly so there is never any way to pull off  a surprise.  Well, those are my excuses anyway. 

My middle child has asked a few times these past couple of days why we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  My canned answer is “it is a day we set aside to tell the people in our lives how much we love them. ‘  He understands we exchanges cards, give hugs and kisses, and that’s about  it.   End of celebration.  Kind of boring seen through a kid’s eye, and I have to say, mine too.

I think Valentine’s day has changed for me.  I really just want a true, heartfelt expression of love-a simple gesture.  So as I sit here, with no tangible gift for my husband, I think of what gesture I could do to show how much I love him.   Something that would mean a ton to him.  Something that would show him how much I love and adore him.  Then, regrettably it pops into my head.  With an audible groan, I try think and think of other ways to show my love.  (Well, THAT one is a given.  C’mon.)  Knowing that I have already found the one gift he would love, love, love, I let my shoulders slump in defeat. 

I have to clean the house….blech!  But that is what my husband would love.  Our house isn’t by any means a candidate for the next episode of Hoarders but it is somewhat a cluttered mess of kids’ crap, mail, and random bits of stuff.  Oh yeah.  I need to clean our bathroom, vacuum, and dust.  Crap!  That is the last thing I want to do on my Sunday, double crap!  Grrrr, he better damned well know how much I love him. 

Now where in the hell are those stupid yellow rubber gloves?