Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Would Just Twitter This If I Actually Used Twitter

Pin It What I Am Doing Right Now: Sitting in my car in the parking lot of an AT&T store in Las Vegas where there is free wireless, using the internet and despairing over the pages I need to submit to the agent by Monday, wondering why I ever thought I was anything other than a total hack.

A friend once told me that when she reads my blog she gets a mental picture of me running around like a chicken with my head cut-off, all scattered and ditzy, getting into trouble just like Cathy the cartoon character, all "ACK" and "ARG" and "BLECK" and all I can say to that is yeah, pretty much.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Super Hopeful

Pin It One thing I've learned about myself over the last few months is that I'm not bad at handling Big Problems.

Big Problems, like the bankruptcy, or losing the house, are not as hard as you might think to get through - all you have to do is just try to gracefully survive. Problem - Solution - The End. Triumph over short-term adversity and hopefully come out the other side a better, stronger person. Easy-peasy.

The reality of the daily grind of life is much harder for me to handle, because it just never ends.

If you've read my blog for very long at all, you know we worked things out with the bank and moved back into our house. We were so happy to be able to move back to the neighborhood we love, and the friends we adore. It was like a fairy tale.

The reality is less rose colored though. Don't get me wrong - we're so thankful we were able to keep the house, but the mortgage is incredibly high and it will always be an anchor around our necks. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make in order to move back, but it means that I have to work - a lot. Yes, it's from home, and yes it's doing something I enjoy - but doing anything for five hours a day and six to eight hours every night after your kids are in bed will get old pretty fast.

I've been feeling really grumpy and tired and overwhelmed lately - realizing it isn't going to end. For the next thirty years, I will always be pushing this rock up the hill. I try to stay positive and be happy (great husband, wonderful kids, at least you have your health, blah blah blah) but on a lot of nights, I just want to throw a tantrum because I'm so tired of pushing the stupid rock.

Tonight I was sitting on the couch with my husband, telling him I just didn't think I could do it anymore - something had to give. It was time to stop blogging, time to stop trying to write - time to give up everything but the things that were absolutely necessary to our survival.

I kid you not, I had my laptop on my lap, and I'd just tearfully said, "I don't think I can do this anymore," when I noticed I had a new email. I stared at it for a minute and burst into tears.

It was from an agent - a bona fide big-time literary agent. She read my crazy middle-of-the-night query email and wants to see a partial manuscript.

I can't believe it.

Who knows what will happen. Probably nothing. She'll probably read my partial manuscript and pass. That's what agents do - they reject stuff. So it's way too early to get excited.

Still. Hearing about it? Right now? Tonight?

It's something. It's really something.

You know what it is?

It's hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


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Kevin, Holly, Me, Mom

One day when I was about six, my four year old brother Kevin disappeared.

I'm not sure how long he'd been gone when we noticed, but I remember the panic I felt as we tore around the house and yard looking for him - a pit in the bottom of my stomach and a creepy crawly feeling on the back of my neck. It's funny how vividly feelings can stay with you.

Sure he was just hiding, I looked all over the place, carefully checking drawers and cupboards that were far too small for him to fit into - even checking in the silverware drawer, because you just never knew. He was tricky that way.

My mother was doing that thing where you are trying really hard to remain calm, but your anxiety manifests itself in the urgency with which you perform every action - almost slammed doors, clipped words, choppy movements.

In the backyard I yelled out, "STOP HIDING. Come out RIGHT NOW. You are in SO MUCH TROUBLE." And then I burst into tears, because where on earth was he?

We eventually found him around the corner, calmly sitting on a stranger's front lawn, watching with interest as construction workers across the street framed houses. He didn't understand all of the commotion - clearly he'd been right there the entire time. Why would anyone be worried?

I remember giving him a big relieved hug, even as he was struggling away from me. I was very upset by his laissez-faire attitude about the whole thing, and scolded him repeatedly on the way home. "I'm glad you're o.k., but don't you ever do that again, you naughty boy." He made a face at me, because I wasn't his mother, after all.

I don't think I let him out of my sight for days afterward.

When my older sister was fifteen, she ran away. I was in the bathroom getting ready for an early class at school, and when I came out, our bedroom window was open and she was nowhere to be found.

I remember wandering around the house, puzzled, looking outside, looking in the bathroom again, checking our room and our tiny closet. After about thirty minutes, I woke up my parents, who exchanged panicked expressions and sprang into the same quiet, tense, anxious activity I remembered so well.

Over the next few weeks, I repeatedly fought the urge to check silverware drawers and the tiny cupboard under the blue hutch. I remember posting flyers and fighting the urge to yell, "STOP HIDING. Come out RIGHT NOW. You are in SO MUCH TROUBLE." And then crying every night as I went to sleep in the room we were supposed to be sharing, because where on earth was she?

After she came back home for good, I had a hard time letting it go. I know in the after school specials they have that one big discussion about it, and then everyone is happily-ever-after o.k. with everything, but that wasn't what happened. I kept bringing it up, over and over again - "Yeah, well you ran away! For three weeks!" - hitting her over the head with it whenever we had the slightest argument. It seemed much easier to continually scold her for leaving than to tell her - I was so scared. I'm so glad you're back. Please don't leave again.

I wonder if she realized that my obnoxious, self-centered, judgmental behavior was actually poorly expressed worry, fear and love for a sister who I idolized in spite of all of our differences.

These days, when my children do something dangerous or especially foolish, I find myself needing to fight the urge to overreact. I may be absent minded and oblivious in the middle of the day-to-day stuff, but let them do something even slightly risky and it's an entirely different story. The caution signs in my brain start blinking and I let fear and anger completely run the show.


- paired with the always handy -


Faced with anything scary, I totally freak. Unfortunately, any lesson I'd meant to teach about the danger of their behavior is lost, obscured by the dramatic delivery of my message. After all, watching mom's head spin around is way more interesting than thinking about what they've done wrong. A day later, they don't remember that time they almost lost an eyeball - they just remember that mom completely lost it.

I sometimes flash forward a decade, to a time when I'll have a 14 year old, 16 year old and 17 year old. It scares me. Not just the idea of being around so many teenagers (who terrify me on principle), but the idea that I might get stuck in continual worry-wart scolding mode, and that we won't ever be able to talk about anything important because they know mom will totally freak.

I can already see a future version of myself, stuck on repeat, worrying them into silence, and somehow I don't think the fact that I was born this way will be much of a consolation to any of us as they stalk sullenly out of the room.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm Raising My Kids Amish

Pin It For the most part, I'm not a strict mom. I tend to be pretty lackadaisical about discipline. I'll send them to their rooms for a punishment sometimes, but then I forget I've done it. They usually come out after a few minutes and tell me "I'm ready to be good now," and I nod and smile and try to remember what on earth they are talking about. (I tried using a timer, so that when it rang I would have to remember - oh yes, Abby is sitting on her bed. But mostly it would just ring and then I'd stare at it for a while, completely flummoxed about why I'd set it in the first place.)

Luckily they're pretty well behaved kids, other than being somewhat slow to listen and a little distractable. (My husband is very quick to point out that I don't get to complain about that, because it's totally genetic). Sarah's last report card said she was "a joy to teach," but needed to stop humming during class. That pretty much says it all.

Despite my somewhat absent-minded parenting, we've managed to mostly dodge the naughty children bullet. I mean, they're normal kids - they fight and get irritable and have periodic meltdowns - but it's mostly just normal stuff. (Although when my kids are tired - hooooo boy. The tears! The drama! The inexplicable rage!)

(Man. I wonder where they get it from! Ha. Ha ha ha!)

(Awkward silence.)

There ARE some things I'm completely a mean mom about though.

I only let them watch a half-hour of TV a day, and only on the channels I pick. My husband and I only watch TV after they're in bed, so for a long time they had no idea what commercials were. When my husband finally convinced me to unclench a little and let them watch something on Nickelodeon (Commercials! SpongeBob! The path to irreversible brain meltage!), Abby would cry whenever there was a commercial break. "They're stopping the show AGAIN mom! I don't like this show about Moon Sand."

Of course, this means they're complete suckers - they believe everything they hear on commercials. Abby and Sarah are constantly copying down toll free numbers for toys they see on TV, and then reminding me to hurry so we can qualify for free shipping. "We're not buying that." "But it's just three easy payments Mom!"

It also means that they have no idea how to use the remote. To them it's a magical stick that unleashes the power of the TV, but ONLY FOR MOM. Sarah's tried to figure it out a few times on the sly, but she never gets anywhere because she doesn't know the secret - you have to press the satellite button first or you're totally hosed.

In the car we mostly listen to the IPOD. When I lost it for a few weeks we had to listen to the radio. They had no idea what was going on. They'd hear a song and ask me to play it again.

Me: "I can't, it's the radio."
Abby: "Put on Nobody's Perfect!"
Me: "I can't. We just have to listen to whatever is on."
Them: (generally perplexed expressions)

I gave them a rambling and perhaps somewhat technically inaccurate explanation about the concept of radio - there's a guy sitting in a room somewhere who chooses what we get to listen to, then sends magic space waves out through the air until the song eventually arrives in our car - but all that did was freak them out a little.

We don't have video games either - I'm not morally opposed or anything, I just figure we have enough ways to waste time already. When Sarah went over to a friend's house a few months ago, the friend didn't understand how this could possibly be true. You would've thought she'd said she was an orphan. The friend bought her a Webkinz for her birthday with a note that said, "I hope your parents will let you use this. Tell them to call my mom and she will talk to them." (Because those Amish, they don't like Webkinz.)

I'm never going to win any awards for parenting - I'm a terrible cook, a very marginal housekeeper, and I get entirely too distracted.

Sarah: "Mom. Listen to me."
Me, staring off into space thinking about ponies: "Yeah."
Sarah: "Do I have to practice the piano? Or can I go play?"
Me: "Sure honey."
Me (two minutes later, noticing she's outside): "Hey - what are you doing? Get in here and practice the piano."
Sarah: "ARRRRRGHHHH!!!!"

So it's nice to feel like there is SOMETHING I'm doing rightish, even though I fully recognize there is nothing particularly magical about the half-hour limit we've set. Back when I had a 3 year old, 2 year old and an infant, PBS Kids was on constantly, and nobody was scarred for life, not even a little bit.

Anyway, I'm curious about what your TV/video game rules are? Where do you draw your lines?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How To Be Stupid

Pin It Usually when you're ready to start looking for an agent, you typically:

a) have a completed manuscript that has been edited and critiqued,
b) have worked hard to produce a well written and engaging query letter, and
c) have identified specific agents who would be a good fit for your work.

But - me, I'm a rebel. Here is the process I suggest:
  • Write a query letter at 2:30 in the morning, when you are sleep deprived and punchy. This letter will seem HILARIOUS at 2:30 in the morning when you are taking a break from writing technical documents, but not quite so hilarious in the cold light of day.
  • Email your hastily written query letter to a few of the top literary agents in the industry before you really think it over. Because hey - why not? What's the big deal? It's JUST YOUR FUTURE.
  • If you haven't actually finished your manuscript, that just makes the whole thing more exciting. Basically you want to set it up so that the best you could possibly hope for is a rejection.
I don't know. Sometimes I think I must have a brain tumor.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Crocodile Tears

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A few nights ago my husband and I had a bit of a spat - one that was mostly my fault. He left and I stomped around the house muttering to myself for a while. I threw myself down on the couch and started flipping channels and eventually stumbled onto Titanic - the part right after they've hit the iceberg and it's all starting to hit the fan.

I'm not a huge fan of Titanic - I mostly just like the excitement of the ship sinking and the ensuing fight for survival, but near the end I always get misty (when that mother is reading to her children inside the sinking ship it kills me every time).

By the time my husband wandered back in an hour later Jack was already frozen. We did that thing married people do after a fight where you sort of glance at the other person to see if they are looking at you, and to see if they look sorry, or mad, or neutral.

He looked like he was tired of arguing, so I choked out an "I'm sorry," through my tears. The tears sealed it, and he came over and sat down next to me and gave me a big hug. I hugged him back and sniffled a little.

We sat there for a minute and I watched as old lady Rose tossed her diamond into the sea. (So dumb - give it to a charity or something Rose. Sheesh.) My husband looked at me, then back at the TV suspiciously.

"Wait a minute. Did you apologize because you were sorry or because Jack just died and you needed a hug?"

DANG it. He knows me all too well.

PS: Work allowing, I'll be announcing the entries that will be included in the NieNie book at the end of the week.
PPS: Please check out my friend Annie's latest project: Project Twilight