Thursday, August 31, 2006

Trucking along...

Well, I'm working at it. If either of the Little Ones would sleep I think I'd be in better shape. Boy is feeling stress over starting school, I think, and not sleeping well. Girl is growing and needs her calories.

Me? I'm writing down everything I eat. Did you know that a measley 2/3 cup of ground beef has 450 calories and a whopping 30 grams of fat? And that's lean ground beef! Yikes.

As for the writing, I want one of those progress-meter-things. If I cross-multiply and divide, seems I'm something like 65% done. That's cool.

Off to write a bit. *yawn*

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Family Therapy

This afternoon I was in a bit of a funk (see previous post), and so I decided to do a little baking. That’s my secret, the thing I love to do that actually looks like work, so people leave me alone while I’m at it. It’s therapy.

Venetian Chocolate Fingers looked like a fun recipe, so I tried it. A light chocolate biscuit, it said, dipped in semisweet chocloate. The dough was piped, so it was a fancy little morsel. I enjoyed making them, though I must say they didn’t really look like the picture. Not much.

Supper came, and look at that, no time. So I served my boys hotdogs and french fries, and for dessert, Venetian Chocolate Fingers, of course. “Cookie, hon?” He gave me a sceptical look that revealed his doubt as to the proper classification of those frilly numbers on the counter. “No, thanks.”

And hey, I spent two hours on those things, and he was having one. So I pretended I didn’t hear him. He took the proffered Venetian Chocolate Finger and dutifully popped it into his mouth. And chewed. “Mmmmmm” He said, pretending to savour it. Then he looked longingly at his empty water glass.

Wait a minute, I realized. He’s not savouring the cookie, he can’t swallow.

In the meantime, Little Boy wanted what his father had. So I gave him one. His speckled little face lit up when he saw the chocolate dip, and he nibbled the corner.

“No no,” said DH, his voice a little muffled, “just put it all in there. It’s ok, this once.” So, of course that’s what Little Boy did.

I watched his expression change from glee to consternation to dismay. Then DH started to laugh, and little boy did too, and there were bits of light chocolate biscuit flying all over the table.

So I took one, and cautiously bit it in half.

“No, that’s cheating.” DH informed me. “Eat it all at once.” So, in went the other half.

That little bugger sucked all the spit out of my mouth in 1.5 seconds. I parted my lips, I think I was hoping it would absorb some moisture from the air, but in the end I had to get a glass of milk. Light Chocolate Biscuits, dipped in semisweet chocolate, yes. And completely inedible.

Oh well. So I didn’t get a scrumptious dessert, but I had a good laugh with my boys. It was worth it.

A really, really bad day

It was a beautiful day yesterday. Blue sky, pleasant back-to-school fresh air. I’ve got to learn not to let that fool me, because yesterday kicked my ass.

I should probably begin with the $2.00 an hour parking, and the lot by the ferry terminal had this funky system that made you pay first, print the ticket and leave it on your dash. How the heck do I know how long I’m going to be? I just fed it all the coins I had, and it told me to come back at 2:01 pm. Allrighty. So I loaded all our stuff into the stroller, and marshalled the Boy into the building to meet mom and my sister.

Ferry crossing, no problem. Gorgeous. On the Halifax side we stopped to take a look at St. Pauls, the oldest church in Halifax. Beautiful. Then we went outside, and I felt something wet land on my arm.

Surely not. Surely it isn’t….yes, it is. Bird poop. Terrific. Well, that’s supposed to be good luck, isn’t it? I asked Mom as she Kleenexed me the best she could. Look on the bright side, and all that.

The thing about the Citadel is it’s a bloody big hill. With stairs. I mentioned the stroller, didn’t I? Mmhmm. And it’s a nice one, very sturdy and safe. So we’re carrying this thing up a bazillion stairs, and I’m remembering to be grateful for the little landings every so often. And then it happened. I picked up my end, and Mom wasn’t ready. Baby Girl slid right out onto the bricks. Mother of the year, that’s me. She was angry but intact, no scratches or bruises, thank you God. So I put her in the sling, wondering why I hadn’t done that in the first place, and upward we went, shook up but otherwise fine.

The 78th Highlanders, complete with drums and pipes, were going on a jaunt through the downtown. It was breathtaking, and as usual, I had to blink back tears as I watched them parade around the square and out through the gate. Pipes make me emotional.

We were eating sandwiches when my cell rang.
“Hi,” says DH, “How’s it going?”
“Well, I got pooped on by a bird, and then we dropped the baby. Now we’re sharing a tiny little $4.00 sandwich. How’s your day?”
“I think maybe you should go home now.”
I laughed. “Oh, I think we’re good now.”
“Ok. So anyway, I looked up that rash.” He’s talking about the one that’s on the back of Little Boy’s neck, behind his ears and slowly spreading across his cheeks. “It could be a lot of different things, allergic reaction or some fevers I won’t bother trying to pronounce.” Together we figured it was probably an allergic reaction, maybe to something in our new bottle of Looney Toones vitamins. Whatever.

So we had a quick boo around the museum and then figured we’d better hoof it back to the ferry, or else I’d have a parking ticket on top of everything. We were just in time, except we were about to board when Mom realized she didn’t have her purse. So her and Little Sister headed back up the hill, and I got on the ferry with my two kids and the stroller. (Halifax is the place to leave your purse in the bathroom, in case you're interested. Security had it.)

Good news, we got back to the car at precisely 2:01 pm.

Supper, chicken casserole. Mediocre. Afterwards, Little Boy gets up from the table and says to his Dad, “Look at this!” And pulls out the front of his pants. DH looks down there.
“Um, I think you maybe should go have this looked at. Show Mumma.”
The rash is spreading.
“Ok, I’ll take him in. They’re open until 9.” Oh, look. It’s Know-It-All-Mommy. Haven’t seen her since she slinked away after DROPPING HER BABY.
So of course the clinic closed at 5, and we were too late. We went to the Emergency Center, because by now I’m thinking of a certain McDonalds Birthday Party scheduled for the following morning and wondering if this maybe isn’t an allergic reaction after all.

The nurse looked at it, and she said,
“Well. That’s really different.” Which is, of course, just what I was hoping to hear. She told us we could wait, or we could scurry over to the after hours clinic Right Quick. So we tried to scurry, but the way out of the parking lot was blocked by a computerized arm-thing that wasn’t working. Eventually, we got there.

“You,” peered the doctor, a very kindly Middle Eastern man, “you got to be different, eh? What is this?” In the end, he decided on Hand-Foot-Mouth. Super contagious, if you haven’t had it at your house yet. Perfect for a new baby. “But this,” he waved a hand at the stuff on Boy’s neck, belly and waist, “This I don’t know. Another viral infection maybe. If it doesn’t go away in a week, see your doctor.”
“So, no birthday party?”
“No birthday party.” He ruffled Boy’s hair. “Next week, your friends come. No problem.”

I watched, I waited, certain that It was coming. But the tired, itchy boy with the cancelled birthday party handled it fine. He listened to me scrambling on my cell, calling parents at 9 pm the night before, postponing the festivities until next week. Then I explained to him we had to try not to spead it around. That’s when the tears came. All right, I thought, let’s talk about how sometimes we’re disappointed, and it can’t be helped. But that’s not why he was crying.

He was crying because he realized he wouldn’t be able to kiss his baby sister.

And this morning, when we gave him a present to offset the shitty deal he was getting, he gave the paper to the baby before he even looked to see what the present was.

We are blessed. We really are.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #5

Marry a man who can fix stuff.

That way, when he voids the extended warranty you purchased for all the more expensive things you own - by taking them apart - he at least has some hope of making it work himself.

For the record, DH can fix just about anything. He'd want me to say so, I think. (G)

Monday, August 21, 2006

JUNIPER, revisited

Went back to JUNIPER on the weekend. I've touched up the beginning, and I'm taking a quick run through to get my bearings. It's been a while since I've read it, so I'm on the lookout for things that need to be improved, pinched out or bashed to bits. I've grafted two characters into one, now I just need to decide whether she's a sister-in-law or an aunt to my second protag. Is she a right nasty piece of work, or just a smart woman looking out for her own interests? Both? Hmmmm.

I'm also watching for ways to enrich both the setting and the characters to get more pull. And I'm being less fussy with what I throw in there, a good tip from Vicki.

Off to work!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lead me not into oblivion

Well, I turned on my computer at 10 pm last night, I checked a few blogs, then I turned it off and went to bed. I just couldn't, too tired. I was supposed to make some notes on the new, emerging structure for JUNIPER, detail story problems and character motivations, maybe make an outline. I have to decide whether I want to salvage the 53K I've got, or if I ought to start over from scratch. Writing FOR KEEPS, I've learned that I'm a bit better than I was five years ago, (cough), so I just might clip out a few of the scenes I think are the best, and rewrite. It's not the writing that took five years, after all, it was the learning and getting stuck and rewriting and learning some more. I think this story is still alive, and I'm not ready to let it go, but I need to shake these people up. They're as bored as I am.

So, last night wasn't the six hours of uninterrupted zzz's I was hoping for. I was up five times, and awake from 3 until 4:30, so tonight's not looking like prime writing terrain either. Maybe a good night to snuggle on the couch with that man I've been feeding for ten years (next month) and finish watching The Fog. So far, it's disappointing, but it might get better.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How children learn through disappointment

The Boy is in the tub. His mother, passing by the door with a load of laundry, hears a thunk, and ducks in to investigate.

Her cherished Strawberry Body Scrub is lying on the floor, a good five feet from where it lives, on the shelf in the tub. The Boy is scowling at it. His arms are crossed. She bends to pick it up, hiding a smile in her cheek.

"You tasted it."

The scowl now belongs to the mother.

"Um, I think you did."
"NO, I didn't."
"Then why are you mad at it?"
"I just. Don't. Like. It."

So, it's true. It really does taste like soap. Good to know.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Scenes, Set Pieces, Sequels, Segues


I've been reading Elizabeth Lyon again, and I'm trying to gain some insight into what she means by these elements of storytelling. I write using all of these elements, but perhaps a closer inspection will improve my understanding of just what it is I'm doing. Maybe you want to ponder them, too.

I tend to think of stories and writing in terms of scenes. Long or short, busy or quiet, conversational, pensive, descriptive. Everything is a scene, regardless of content or what it is intended to show. So these terms really just refer to different kinds of "scenes".

By Ms. Lyon's definition, "scene" refers to action. To her, a novel or story is a patchwork of Scenes (action) strung together with other segments, ie Set Pieces, Sequels, and Segues. (Also Subtext and Shortcuts, which I'm leaving out.) The idea is that you use each element as needed, of course.

I'm not quite at my Eureka moment with this, as you can see. But here's what we know:
"Scene" refers to an action sequence.
"Sequel" is a section that shows a character's reaction to a scene, in terms of both emotion and thinking, and winds up with another action based on whatever decision is reached.
"Segue" is a transition between two time frames or two types of action.
"Set Piece" is a moment of high tension, which seems to occur at a turning point in the story.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #4

Well, now you're a Mom and you think you can clean anything with a casual swipe of the thumb.

Today's tip:
The thumb-swipe is not the best way to remove burning brown sugar from your stovetop. If you should make this mistake and the inevitable happens, that is, the burning sugar adheres to your screaming flesh, DO NOT stick said digit into your mouth, you'll burn your tongue.

If you wanted, say, to invent new curse words, following this procedure might be a good idea.

Friday, August 11, 2006


The momentum I had on this new WIP seems to be slowing, but I'm still here at my keyboard as often as I can be. OK, fine, I did finish watching the second half of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone last night when technically, I could have been writing. But aside from the occasional hour spent half-conscious in front of the TV, I've been working. So the slow-down isn't caused by me, it's my life.

Today I didn't even try to write during the day. I did crafts and stories with Little Boy, had floor time with Little Girl, made a stew for supper, folded some clothes. Cleaned a few feet of bathroom floor. Baths. Dishes. Days like this make me wonder how the heck I ever fit any writing in, which brings me to my point. Or rather, the thing I'm still mulling over.

There is no question that the time I spend writing while the kids are awake detracts from the time I spend with them, from the quality of their day. An hour, an hour and a half, whatever passing moments I'm able to corral - I could have been teaching Little Boy to read, or ride his bike. So am I wrong to take that time? Is it truly mine to take, or did I forfeit that time to him when I had him?

Yes, sometimes I feel guilty. Sometimes.

Dr. Phil - God love him - would say I can't give away what I don't have. This is the balm for my guilty conscience. Yes, the time might have been spent with a child who is growing up too fast. Or it might have been spent cleaning the floor. So I walk a line, perpetually negotiating with my conscience, always weighing my priorities. Play dinkies, bathe the baby. Forget about mopping, write instead. Throw a load in the washer, read a story. Stick a frozen meal in the oven. Write.

I think a lot of writing moms must do it this way. It's gruelling - what it lacks in actual sweat it makes up for through emotional conflict. Two for them, one for me.

The thing is, regardless of the gnashing of teeth, this lifestyle meets all my needs. I need to be here for my kids, and I am. I need to write, and I am. I hate to mop, and I don't. I want to set an example to my kids that you can do what you dream, but it probably won't be easy. It's work.

At the end of the day I take a deep breath and let the guilt go, and smell their hair as I kiss them, sleeping. Tomorrow, depending on the day, I will either feel guilty for writing or for not writing. It's just a part of the job.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #3

Never buy a 1 kg bag of chocolate covered raisins unless you intend to eat a 1 kg bag of chocolate covered raisins.

See Tip #1.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #2

It's ok to say "Neato, Mosquito" to a four-year-old. It's not so much ok to say it to a grown-up. Don't do it. You'll be embarassed, and the other grown-up will know you're a dork.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #1

Never look at your ass in the mirror. Ignorance is bliss, ladies. God put that back there as an act of kindness, step away from the mirror, er, tree of knowledge. Nothing to see here. Just move along.

Baby Steps

Well. I passed the 10K point on my new WIP yesterday, and I'm feeling good. I'm surprised just how much good the change-up has been for me, and I have a lot of idead as to why the other WIP, JUNIPER, hasn't been moving.

With JUNIPER, I used the chunk method. That's good, it worked for me for a while, but what it didn't give me was a sense of how to build tension over time, or how to fit those chunks together. This time I'm writing in a more linear fashion, and it happens that the scenes I'm seeing are the next ones, not something way off down the line. So it's working this way, too, but as I go I'm getting these wonderful moments where things suddenly become clear to me - all the lessons, techniques and methods I've learned and recognize are magically inserting themselves into the work. I'm still waiting for the final scenes, and the theme is not 100% clear to me just yet, but I know it's there, spinning and twirling in the dark, growing from the embryonic to the fetal stage. One of these days I will feel it will kick.

And I know now that I'll go back to JUNIPER, when the time comes.

We all know Tetris, right? That's how I feel about JUNIPER right now, it's a Tetris game going on in the back of my head. The pieces fall, I turn them, they fit. Another piece comes. There are lines at the bottom with holes in them, I fill the holes, they fall away. And the funny thing is that it was all there the whole time. The first one-third was enough. If I strip away all the things I was trying to make happen, the things that were part of real history, the sh*t I made up is the better story. Go figger.

Friday, August 04, 2006

When Little Boys Grow Big

The world has shifted this week, and it's left me unsure of my emotional footing. There are tears coming (am I moody, or what?) but I'm not sure just when they'll arrive. I might induce them with sad music in a private moment, just to ease the weight in my chest. I'm far too sentimental for my own comfort, sometimes.

My baby brother (all right, he's an engineer now, and 24 years old) moved out west yesterday. I'm feeling all sorts of irrational things about that. Like, how could he leave my kids? How could he leave the family? We were all here, parents, children, siblings and significant others - we had big family dinners every couple of weeks. Now there's a pair missing, and it matters to me. I'm worried he won't come back. I know it's his life, and it's good for him to go and do this while he's young and unfettered. Well, not exactly unfettered, he takes with him a wonderful girlfriend who is also from the Maritimes, so if anything, she may be what brings him back in the end.

Then there's my Little Boy. He starts school in a few weeks, and I can't help but be aware of how fast he's growing up. I see his long legs and hear him talking to himself as he plays, and I marvel. He takes my breath away. Who is this beautiful little brown creature who argues with me at every turn, defiant and dauntless in his quest for independance? Where is my curly-haired, short-legged, grinning toddler, who loved his mother more than anything?

I know he's there, because he visits me in odd moments. He comes to me for a hug when my hands are still, and lays his head - hair cut too short for curls, now - on my shoulder. He touches my cheek when I'm having my turn with the toothbrush. He will cuddle up for a story whenever I want. And his neck still smells so good.