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Last summer, I blogged about my sweet children driving me insane.  We spend a lot of time together, and a year ago, I didn’t even have work to separate us.

I remember that feeling of, “OMG CAN I READ TWO PAGES OF MY BOOK WITHOUT YOU NEEDING SOMETHING?”  But I also remember taking deep breaths and, for the most part, keeping my swearing only to myself because I knew someday it would change.

Someday, they would have lives.

That day has arrived.

This summer, my son is teaching himself Latin, in addition to continuing his own Japanese IMG_7939language studies.  He spends a lot of time translating Japanese poems and Latin books he finds online.  Starting in a week, he’s working at the UW a couple days a week helping Japanese students.  He’s heavily involved in BloodBourne and Dark Souls , and he’s also watching a lot of Japanese anime, with and without the captions, as part of his Japanese self-studies.  He speaks a lot of Japanese to me, and I either reply in stilted German or bad Spanish.  Not that I know what he’s saying.  But then he doesn’t know what I’m saying, either, so we usually end up laughing.

He walks about 20 miles a week, and he comes out of karate rolling on laughter about inside jokes that he happily tells me, and sometimes I even laugh, but I’m removed from it all.  We used to walk together, and he would tell me all his story ideas and goals for the future.

He used to cry if I left the dojo before his practice was over.

IMG_7953Meanwhile, my daughter has discovered a social life and social media.  She texts her friend travelling in Italy and takes solo bike rides around town. She makes music videos on an app called Music.ally, which is pronounced musically, not Music Ally, OMG.  The music videos are complete with outfit changes, scene changes, sound and video mixing, and sometimes, the dogs’ participations (not necessarily willingly).  I’m horrible at memorizing lyrics. I tend to make up my own.  My daughter remembers everything after hearing it once, and she wants to “help” me learn the real words. But it’s rapid fire, and I am left behind, like I was for years when I would have sworn it was “Amber rain” and not “I’m all right.”

She goes into her room and talks to her friends or stays up until 1 am reading or makes music videos or creates amazing animals out of clay while listening to Rachel Patten, who is her most favorite singer ever.

She still tells me everything she and her friends do together, or what they texted or said and shows me her videos and theirs.  She talks to me about her books in depth and lets me read them and asks me questions that are echoes of questions I have asked her about books down through the years.

Bu she closes her bedroom door when she goes into her room to do anything.

This summer, I am find myself longing for still moment when we can all just sit in the same room for more than 30 minutes.  I find myself wanting to hang out with them and listen to their silly jokes about sex and “out of the mouths of babes” reactions to news, politics, life.

They still annoy me with their lack of understanding for how to put toilet paper on the toilet paper roll or take the garbage bag out of the garbag can before it is so full, it literally explodes when I try to take it out.  They still need me to buy food for them, apparnently, because several independent expeditions I have sent them on have resulted in a lot of not-what-I-asked-for. And they still need me to be there for them when they need me, and tell them everything is going to be OK when they don’t think it is.

They don’t like it when I’m gone too much in one day or too many times in one week.  They miss me when I take a weekend.  They talk to me all the time, and we spend a lot of time together, still, especially given that they are 16 and almost-13.

But.

Last summer, I was still parenting children.

This summer, I would say I am more of a mentor–much loved, I know this– to two amazing people.

And, I hesitate to say this because of all the “DON’T BE YOUR CHILDRENS’ FRIEND” articles out there, but…they are my friends.  Young friends, still.  I still need my own friends, and always will. I still get to make them do things and I have no problem calling them on their stuff.

But…I like them.  As people, as kids…the toilet paper and garbage bag issues aside….I like them.

 

I will be honored if, someday, they choose to call me their friend in return.

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Today, I discovered that my Chapter Thirteen was actually Chapter Nineteen. Aside from the literal number issue, this is a big difference in terms of story arc. For me, it’s a wonderful big difference: I’m in the process of editing what I consider the “middle” of the book, where a few key pieces of information come to light and also a couple of key plot points evolve. And I was trying not to be horrified and shocked and anxious because the “middle” was not happening in the middle.

Then I discovered my counting error, and the heavens opened and the angels sang.

Briefly, because then I realized that the END was coming up…soon! And I could no longer delay it by playing around with my overall “big picture” arc on the excuse that my middle wasn’t in the middle.

I want to put this book to bed more than anything, and yet I am terrified of what comes after even more than anything.

What in the hell will I do when this book is done?

Don’t tell me to relax. I’m not good at that.

Sure, I have two more book ideas hanging out in my head: one I’ve already written half of, and the other I have an outline for. But I’m not going to be able to go to either of them right away. I’m going to mourn, for a bit of time. This book and the characters in it have been part of my every waking thought–and often dreaming thought, too–for several years now. I’m tired of them, and I want to be done with them, but I will miss them, too.

They’re like my best friends, if me and my best friends went vacationing in a teeny tiny cabin far out in the middle of nowhere and got snowed in for several years.

It’s not even about the time it will take to hear from any agents I’ve submitted to. After years of submitting short stories and poetry and not hearing from editors for up to a year, waiting doesn’t bother me. I just tuck all of that away and pretend it’s not happening, kind of like how I don’t see the dirt on the living room rug when I don’t want to. But thinking about the days when my imaginary best-ies are gone from my daily rituals is both a relief and yawning wide open with quiet desperation.

A good friend of mine, who is the president of the PTSA at our kids’ school, assured me she could find stuff for me to do, if necessary.

I’m glad I have something to fall back on.

For now, I’m off to continue muddling through the middle while not thinking about what comes after.

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I know, I know–I cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die promised to start writing more frequently once the kiddos were back in school.  That was August 27, I think, when I made that promise. And here it is, four days short of a full two months later, and….yeah. I haven’t blogged since then.  At least, not unless you can read my mind, because in my head, I’ve been blogging a lot. Of course, in my head I am also a hip-hop dancer, rapper, amazing marathon runner, competitive hanglider, 1940s detective, Pulitzer prize winning photographer, and last but not least, a fabulous cook.

If you ARE in my head, more power to you, because it’s really busy in there.

In the real world, I’ve been very busy, too, and NOT just with daydreaming about all of the above. This time I have several honest-to-goodness legitimate reasons why I haven’t blogged.

1. I’ve been working on this new blog site. D’ya’ like it? It’s still a work in progress. My end-goal is to have separate blogs–one to track my writing life and one for my so-called parenting blog. From the feedback you all have given me, there are definitely two groups out there: one which wants to hear more about what I’m writing, how I’m writing, when it will be available, and excerpts of what I’m working on, and the other group who could care less about my writing and wants me to blog more about life with kids. I can do both–I just need to get there. I also have my own domain name now (marketing, marketing), and just as soon as I remember to ask my IT guy (my husband) to help me, I’ll be porting all my former posts INTO this blog and changing the domain name to a simpler one (so you can remember and tell friends!). It’s really just a matter of getting the tehnical stuff down.

2. I’ve been writing. Monday through Friday, 9-3 for the most part, with exception of Wednesdays when I stop at 145 because the kids have Early Release, I’m WORKING.  And actually making progress.  It’s quite amazing what one can accomplish writing five hours a day (I do stop for food sometimes, and there are a few daydreams in there–I won’t lie).

Am I done yet? Not quite. But I can totally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and provided there are not natural disasters, I am very certain I will be D.O.N.E. by Thanksgiving, and submitting to agents by December 1.  

I’ve had a few setbacks, like several days lost to a really bad bout of food poisoning. And one day given up to help my son’s class tie dye tshirts as part of a morale booster/teamwork kind of thing (it sounds nuts, but it was actually a lot of fun, and I like getting to know all the players in his world). Then there was most of this last week, where I spent trying to write one damn chapter, trying to ignore the fact that I couldn’t write it and trying to write around it, and then, last night, while I was reading Magic TreeHouse #656 (that’s not really the number, but there are so many, and I lose track) to my daughter and simultaneously paying attention to my son in his karate lesson, the angels sang and I realized I didn’t need this chapter at all.

Another more accomplished writer might have figured this out in an hour instead of over a period of several days. But there you go–now you know why it’s taking me so long (well, one reason; reasons two, three and four are ages 7, 10 1/2 and 45). I do feel OK about my subsequent time-suck of self-pity after I realized I wasted a week trying to write something I didn’t need: I have it on good authority from other writers–some of whom are more accomplished–that we writers often sink into time-sucks of self-pity for the smallest reasons. And, to my credit, my bout with self-pity this time around only lasted half a day, and I didn’t even need to resort to alcohol or cake to feel better.

I won’t make any more promises to write more consistently. I will try my bestest best, as my daughter says. But I’ll be honest: you can help me out, if you really want to hear from me.

Leave comments, message me, Facebook me, Tweet me (@savagewriter01)….tell me you want to hear from me.

I’m may not be the greatest with promises, but I can honor reminders and requests.

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Where Am I?

A friend asked me this question today….it’s a good question, to which I feel I should have a good answer: a date, a deadline, a sure-fire reply with facts and figures to back me up. But I don’t. If there’s anything I’ve learned while writing my first book, it’s that writing is a lot like parenting: you start out with a great idea–let’s have kids!–but the ideas themselves take over pretty much within a week or two of having life–just like kids.

For me, writing a book is like peeling an onion layer by layer and finding a peach pit in the center so you have to take a look at all the layers and figure out where you went wrong. Or making a quilt, patch by patch, but the design for the quilt shifts when you’re not looking. Pieces add themselves; others disappear.

Maybe it’ll get easier the more books I write. Maybe.

For now, I do have a complete manuscript, but I won’t call it “whole.” I do have goals: get it whole, get it out to agents by year’s end. And in between being a mommy and a wife and a friend and a human being who needs to sleep (apparently) and eat (probably not quite so much) and laugh (definitely), I am working.

I will finish this book. I will. I finally know where I’m going, I can feel it. But my biggest, most important goal? That my kids will not suffer for my ambition.

I’ve never managed to finish a book before, much less found the confidence to attend a writer’s conference and actually pitch my project to agents and editors. All of the patience, the confidence, the “openness” I needed to get this far–I owe to my kids and my husband. They have taught me to stop, look and listen. To accept constructive criticism (hey, if I can be told five days out of seven that dinner looks “gross like cow farts” and still eat it with a smile on my face, I can listen to you completely pick apart my writing with a smile on my face) and most of all, to believe in myself.

My kids and my husband are my biggest fans–of me as a mom, and of me as a writer. They’re not star-struck, wide-eyed easy fans–they don’t always buy what I’m selling–but even when they don’t like my decisions as mother, or where I’m going in a story, they hear something in what I’m saying or doing or reading that I only thought I heard myself before.

For them, my success is not even a matter of belief: it’s a matter of knowing.

So, for them, I will not wear myself out so that I can’t go canoeing with them, or have the energy to play Polly Pockets with my daughter or listen to my son tell me his latest ideas for his own stories. I will try to the best of my ability to put dinner on the table at least five nights a week–although that isn’t exactly a strength, even without the writing interfering. I will blog more consistently when they return to school and, for the first time in eleven years I am home alone all day, and I will be able to work on the book consistently.

Until then, during then, I do the best I can.

Where am I? Still here: being a mom and a wife and a friend, laughing, writing when I can, balancing, living. I might take longer to get wherever I’m going then some, but I’ll get there. I always get where I’m going.

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It’s been awhile, I know but here’s the deal: I’ve been writing a novel. A real, fiction, murder-type mystery novel. I even have a “contact” on the local police force, and a lawyer friend who helps me with stuff. To be perfectly honest, I started this thing over ten years ago, when I was struck with what would be a scene from the book while visiting a friend from high school. In an instant a character was talking in my head. Nothing new, really–I’ve got people talking in my head all the time. The difference was, she wouldn’t go away.

Before we go on, a disclaimer: I am not insane. Really! I have a therapist, and he assures me I’m not insane. Creative, he says, and “tuned to a different rhythm,” (whatever the heck that means), but definitely not insane.

I immediately went home and started writing. Although I knew, even then, that it was a novel-length thing, the idea of writing a novel terrified me. So, I tried really, really hard to squish my voice’s story into a short.

It didn’t work. I’ve spent the last eleven years alternately working on it, tearing it up, starting over, etc. etc. all while having babies and trying to manage a household.

Not to mention the whole husband-wife relationship in there.

Turns out, writing a book is haaarrrrdddddd. Especially when I’m supposed to be nurturing and naturing two kids, a husband, three cats, a dog, a gecko and fish, too.

For me, it’s what I think jumping off a cliff must be like. My brother sent me photos of him doing this very thing when he was in the Air Force. Of course, there was ocean or a big lake below him, but still. The idea of diving off a cliff, of giving up complete control of your body, of giving over complete faith that you will land safely without crushing your spine or smashing your head on a rock…..for a long time, every time I started this book, I thought of his photos and tried to jump. It didn’t work. I just couldn’t take that leap, give up control of my life and the lives of those around me, give myself up to a faith that it would all be OK.

That I would be OK. Even if all I did was to prove myself NOT to be a writer, after all.

For the last year, I’ve been making steady progress, with the help of a good friend who made me give her weekly reports. I missed my first self-imposed deadline, and I will miss my second coming up here in three days. But I’m OK with that. I’m making progress: I have 178 pages and am 200 words short of 100,000. I know what I’m doing–well, more then when I started–and better yet, where I’m going.

Even though I have been writing steadily for a year and four months, it took me an entire year before I actually found the courage and strength to jump off that cliff. But once I did….it is like nothing I have ever experienced, including (shhh) seeing my children for the first time. It’s not that I like writing over them. The two cannot be compared. All I know is…if I have the chance, the opportunity to write another novel, whether anyone ever reads that one or this one, I will take it. I can’t imagine giving this up anymore then I can imagine giving up my children.

Of course, in the process of taking that leap, chaos has, as I suspected it would, ensued. All for the better, I think (at least, that’s what I’m going with).

My children have become remarkably self-sufficient. My son gets most of his own snacks, and usually helps my daughter get hers, during the times I set aside for writing. They have also become used to my “Ummmm…….I forgot to take the dinner out of the freezer. Who’s up for Breakfast-for-Dinner/McDonald’s/Forage Night?” To their credit, they are good sports and happy to play along, although my son does has started asking me “What’s for dinner…..in three days?” to help “remind” me. They have also been good sports about the whole grocery shopping thing, since I often choose not to do it when I can be writing, instead.

My daughter’s response to finding out we are out of yogurt again (one of her main food groups) is a cheery, “That’s all right, Mommy! We’ll get some probably before I’m old.”

Probably…..

My husband, also, has been a remarkably good sport, learning the nuances in my voice or facial expressions that tell him I am not in the mood to be a wife–in any way–that evening because
I have words in my head that need to get out.

I figure I must be doing a good job of balancing all that because otherwise he’d be complaining, or having dates with call girls or something. And I’m almost 100% certain he’s not.

To be honest, I’m not sure I would care, right now. There was a time when I was driving this project. That time has passed, and this project is driving me.

It’s 2:32 a.m. right now. I finished working on the novel half an hour ago. My fingers ache, and my eyes are crusty with sleep-longing. And yet, my brain isn’t done. In the background of this blog, it’s going on and on about the next step, the next twist and turn….

It might totally suck. I might totally suck. But I’m beyond caring. It’s not for anyone else, anymore. I jumped off the cliff awhile ago. I will hit ground by March, if not before. And I’m already planning my next leap.

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Hello, my name is Elena, and I am a FB addict. I just can’t help myself: when I should be doing other things, fulfilling other commitments, I just need my FB. I decide to go in for a quick look, a tiny peek, and then I get tangled up in statuses and profile pictures and applications that tell me what Starbuck drink I am. I lose time to saving the planet by sending people pretend flowers. I burn breakfast accepting friend requests and tagging people on my “Notes About Me” page. When a friend recently apologized for not accepting my friend request because he had been so busy, I wondered what on earth could he have been doing? It had been TWO WEEKS! I can barely stay away from Facebook for two days.

A year ago, I had no Facebook in my life. Was I happy? Was I content? Did I have enough friends? Yes, yes, and definitely yes. True, I felt very isolated some days. Being a stay-at-home mom is not the life of luxury I imagined as a kid. With newborns and babies, time is one long moment during which you might not speak to anyone else even close to your age for several days. Toddlers are a bit easier: you have a little more energy, and you start to take the kids places and meet friends for coffee…but then you decide, when your child presents you with a wilted dandelion after a very long week of Terrible Two temper tantrums, that it’s time to have another baby. And you’re back to Square One.

Since my eldest entered preschool, I’ve felt my days are bits and pieces, snips of comings and goings and clock-watching to make sure he was picked up even while making sure my daughter didn’t nap too long or miss her meals .

Now that my eldest is in elementary school, and my youngest is in preschool, some days I spend almost the entire day in the car, running back and forth, shopping for groceries in between dropping one off or picking another up, squeezing dentist appointments in between soccer practice or pony class.

Yes: now I do have time to have lunch with friends, or get to the gym or just sit and read, if I ignore the rug that needs vacuuming. Of course, doing any of that (even the vacuuming) means I also need to ignore the itch at the back of my neck that tells me I need to work on my writing projects every day.

So, am I really so bored that I need to give up fifteen minutes to the writing “25 Things About Me,” or five minutes to finding out what song I am?

Not so much.

But here’s the thing: I’m having the best time doing all of that, and an even better time having all my friends in one place. I always wanted to live in a place where I and my family and all my friends and their families—old, new, liberal, conservative, Lattes or Skinny Mochas—could co-exist happily. Sounds like a Peter, Paul and Mary song, I know. But that was my dream, and look! Here we are: in my own little cyberspace town, having a common bond, at the very least.

It’s not as if I’m choosing my kids over FB. Yes, I’ve burned their breakfast a few times because I was checking statuses, but the truth is I’ve been burning bacon for years without Facebook’s help. Bacon takes awhile to cook, and I get…distracted. Sometimes I even forget I am cooking bacon and start to take a shower (that only happened once, and I was tired that day).

My point is, my Facebook addiction isn’t hurting anyone. It helps me feel connected, it gives me somewhere to go for a few minutes when it’s difficult to get out, and I REALLY need to talk to someone who isn’t asking me where their book is or what do I have to eat THIS week. Some would argue it’s a one-sided conversation on Facebook. I see it as a conversation with a time lag.

No, I have to say: this is a much, much, much better addiction then when I was addicted to carb-free ice cream (and just so you know? Even though it’s carb-free, you can’t eat a giant bowl of it every night and not put on weight, or not have crying jags the next day from the artificial sugar giving you insomnia and mood swings).

So, never mind. I take it back. My name is Elena, and I am proud to be a Facebook-er.

Welcome to my little town.

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You might have noticed my absence the last few months. Turns out it’s difficult to write when the kids are out of school. Of course, me being me (unrealistically optimistic, or a “Fruitbasket,” as my husband affectionately calls it), last June I envisioned us all sitting around and democratically agreeing when it was time for fun together, and when it was time for Mommy to go work on her computer. The kids were very willing to let me go work on my computer….just not during the day. Or when they were awake. Or….well. Reality intruded, as it always does, and I found myself cracking open my laptop at around 10 p.m. every night only to fall asleep over my own words (not a great ego-booster, let me tell you).

So, I’m working on getting back into the posting groove. I even have a rough draft on Word right now. And I will get to it in the next few days. I will! But for now, I thought I’d share with you a couple of the many fabulous, eye-opening, intelligent and often hilarious conversations my kids and I had this summer. It was a fabulous summer–it really was.

In the car, out on a Sunday drive, noticing all the pretty churches….we don’t go to church. Not for any particular reason, other then I don’t want to spend our sometimes only day all together listening to someone else talk while my kids spend an hour being babysat by other people and given information I don’t necessarily agree with. But I DO like to say things, sometimes, just to see what response I’ll get.

Me: Look at that church! Maybe we should start going to church.
Liam: NO!
Autumn: What do you do at church?
Me: We go and listen to people talk about life and living.
Autumn: What TV shows do they have there?
Liam begins giggling.
Me: Oh, you don’t watch TV there, sweety. Not usually.
Autumn: What movies do they show? Do they watch Cinderella?
Liam’s giggles blow up into full fledged laughter.
Frank is silent in the driver’s seat, but his smile tells me he enjoys watching me step into my own mud puddles as much as I enjoy doing it, although probably for different reasons.
Me: You normally don’t watch movies at church, sweety.
Frank: At least not the kind of movies you’re thinking of.
Liam is still laughing.
Autumn: Can you shop there?
Me: At church?
Autumn: Is it like a mall?
Me: Nooooo….you know the Bible? And when we talk about Jesus and God?
Autumn: Like at Christmas?
Me: Yep. That’s what you do at church: talk about Jesus and God and how to be a good person.
Autumn: But are there churches in malls?
Me: Nooooo….
Liam is about to have an aneurysm he is laughing so hard.
Frank: No, but that’s a good idea, baby girl. Churches in malls…..
Me: No, church isn’t really about TV or movies or shopping, sweety.
Autumn: Well, then, no thanks. I don’t think I really want to go.

Another conversation in the car–many of our best talks take place in the car, probably b/c no one has to meet anyone’s eyes. On this occasion, we were coming back from a large meal, and Autumn was sticking out her belly to express how incredibly fat she was.

Liam: “Autumn, you are SO fat you might be having a baby!”
Autumn: Ooohhh, a baby! Here comes a baby, squeezing out my belly button!
Liam: Ooooohhh your belly button is gonna’ pop open with that baby!
Shrieks and squeals and laughing chatter about babies coming out of belly buttons and suddenly it turns to ME squeezing them out of my belly button. Partly because I do believe in teachable moments, and partly because I believed babies DID come out of belly buttons until I was twelve and the truth was a shocker, and partly just because I like to say things (see above), I said,
“Actually, babies don’t come out of belly buttons. They come out of a woman’s vagina.”
Dead silence. Frank, again in the driver’s seat, rolls his eyes and smirks.
Liam, in a small voice: You mean the hoo-hah?
Me: Yes, but you know the hoo-hah’s real name is vagina.
Autumn: We don’t like that name.
Liam: Yeah
Me: Yeah, I don’t either, really.
More silence.
Liam: So, the mom squeezes out the baby from where she pees?
Autumn: Ewww.
Me: Not exactly. Girls have two holes in their vagina. One for peeing, and one for pushing out babies.
Autumn, wide-eyed, looks at her brother and then bends at her waist, trying as much as possible while still in car seat to examine herself through here clothes.
Liam: Isn’t it a little….small? To squeeze out a baby?
Autumn: Mine is DEFINITELY not big enough for a baby.
Me: The special hole gets bigger to accommodate the baby.
More silence. I can see the wheels spinning in their heads, and I gear up, realizing I’ve stepping into a gold mine of questions along this line–as in, “How does the baby get IN there?” But there is only silence in the back seat. They look back and forth at each other and to Autumn’s “hoo-hah” area with wide-eyes.
Liam: But you said you didn’t have us that way.
Me: No, I had to have a c-section with both of you. You were both too large for me to deliver vaginally. That’s what it’s called–vaginal birth. Most women give birth vaginally.
Autumn: By their hoo-hah?
Me: By their hoo-hah, yes.
Liam, finally snapping out of his trance, shaking his head: And once again, I am SO glad I am NOT a girl.
Autumn: I don’t think I will EVER have a baby. You can have a baby, Liam.
Liam: Autumn, I am a boy. I do NOT have a hoo-hah to squeeze out a baby.
Autumn, who has an innate sense of the facts of life more so then her brother: Well, you can go get a woman and have a baby with her, Brother, because I am NEVER doing that.
Liam: As long as I don’t have to watch her squeeze that baby out….

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