7 Things Your Support Network Needs to Hear

It’s me, Colonel Shifty again! (You lucky ducks.) Last week I counseled Support Network Personnel in the things their writers need to hear. This week, the message is for writers. What does your Support Network need from you? Now, I know writers are inherently selfish (at least, one in particular that I know well). However, think of it like this: If your Support Network is drained and resentful, how well can they support you? Nourishing that Support Network is in your best interest, believe me.

So what do they need? I polled* some Support Networks and got the answers for you, right here:

1. Thank you. Put it in the dedication, or put it in the acknowledgments page. Write it in the sky. Write it in a card, an email, or spell it with cookies on a daisy-patterned plate. Or just, you know, say it. Your Support Network needs to know you appreciate them. Please remember, certain methods of showing gratitude will be more effective than others, depending on circumstances of ability on the part of the writer, and tolerance on the part of the Support Network (e.g. Beth, please do not sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” to Homes. You can totally sing it to your mom, though; she’d dig it).

2. Go out! Have fun! I’ve only had twenty-nine different writer-related outings this month. Tonight’s your night! You can leave me with these two short strangers who may or may not be my children. Is it all right if I call them by the names of my main characters? In all seriousness, you writerly types can be downright selfish when it comes to sucking up all the free time for writing. Give your Support Network time to pursue their own passions, even if it might not be your idea of a good time.

3. Let’s talk about you. Some writers I know (cough*Beth*cough) can go on for days talking to their Support Network about their writing. Whether it’s plot issues, or characters, or querying, or agent drama, it can really fill up the conversation, until the Support Network is sitting on the other side of the table (or worse, trapped in a moving vehicle) looking like a blinking piece of haggis. Remember to share the conversation time, writers.

4. What kind of story do you want to read? This is a fun one, and can get you thinking of different genres, or of blending genres. Look out, though, because you might have a snarky Support Network, and you may not appreciate the answer (e.g. “How about a story where your whiny main character drowns on page ten?”). But if all goes well, cool things can happen. If your support network is heavily into magical realism and you write westerns, imagine the possibilities! Naturally, being a gopher, I don’t have a lot of time to read, but if I did, I’d be reading that.

5. Bad day? Help yourself to my emergency chocolate stash. Writers, it may seem like a big deal to give someone the key to your sanity-preserving dark chocolate peanut butter cups, but remember what I said above: Nourishing your Support Network is in your best interest. Who else will run to the store for more chocolate the next time you’re in need?

6. No, the bad guy isn’t based on you. Your mutual love of haggis is purely coincidental. Sometimes your Support Network might wonder, since you’ve stolen every good piece of dialogue they’ve uttered, what else you’re stealing. Their appearance? Their quirk of wiping their face with a napkin every time they take a bite of food? What about their childhood dreams? Are you some kind of psychic vampire, or what? Take the time to reassure your Support Network that this is FICTION and any similarity it bears to any real event or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental (or whatever that legal jargon is that writers use to save their butts).

7. This book is going to Make It Big and then you can quit your soul-sucking job and retire into the life of luxury to which you should be accustomed. As long as your Support Network realizes the minuscule chance of any book “making it big,” no matter how beautifully wrought, this message can give your Support Network hope, and an opportunity to dream with you. As long as these dreams aren’t replacing Real, Actual Writing (TM), use this for the boost in morale it can give you both.

Really, all those other things are great, but no matter what, your Support Network needs a Thank you. (Although rumor among polled* participants has it that massages, favorite foods, and other tokens of appreciation wouldn’t hurt.)

*No participants were actually polled. Sorry, there wasn’t time.

Welcome Home!

Z liked our time in the mountains so much, she decided to sneak some Bug House gravel home with us in her “cooking” bag (see above). (Sidenote: the Bug House is the screened-in building everyone hangs out in. We each have our own sleeping cabins – with bathrooms! a luxury the Hardy Womenfolk insisted upon – but the sleeping cabins are tiny, so the Bug House is the area we can all visit without getting attacked by too many bugs. There was a skink friend, though.)

And the other thing…it never really sunk in, before, that after a vacation, you’ve got to clean your filthy clothes. With one or two people, this isn’t much. With three people, it can get a bit out of hand.

No Mommy-blog is complete without a photograph of Mt. Laundry

The beer bottle is propped up there so you can get an idea of the vastness of Mt. Laundry. Am I folding? No. The sheer vastness of the mountain discourages me from even attempting to scale it. Instead, I think I will go in my bedroom and cry.

Good news: Z’s exhausted, and my parents are here to help distract her & tire her out. Bad news: I’m exhausted, so less likely to make the most of my sanity-time.

The Best News: It was an awesome weekend. Not only did Husband and I go on some hikes together, but I had plenty of visiting time with both sets of our parents, and I had plenty of writing time – even created a rough outline for the sequel to le manuscript. And Z got to do all the things almost-three-year-olds should get to do in the wilderness…go for walks with grandparents, read stories, eat huge breakfasts, search for the skink, watch Mommy have a panic attack over the Giant Red Spider of Doom, then watch her do it over again over the Giant Red Spider of Doom’s Clone BFF.

I have a lot to say about the Giant Red Spider of Doom, but I’ll save it for a day when I don’t have Mt. Laundry staring at me with its x-ray laser vision from the other room.

And the best thing for kids to do in the woods: play in the dirt with sticks and rocks.

And the little one said, “Roll over, roll over!”

[Image from Hyperbole and a Half’s fabulously funny blog. Click here to get to the original post.]

I know what you’re thinking: we brought this on ourselves. The place we’re at, right now, is a natural, predictable consequence of implementing the Family Bed (of Pain).

But that doesn’t make it suck any less.

See, maybe the Family Bed (of Pain) works great when you don’t mind letting your kid sleep there past age 7. I do know parents of twins who have done/are doing this, along with their new infant. They have a Cal King and pushed a twin bed up next to it.

Well, a) we don’t have a Cal King and, even if we were so wedded to the idea of Eternal Cosleeping that we were willing to buy a Cal King, b) one wouldn’t fit in our room and c) it still wouldn’t be big enough for us and a three-foot-tall person who wants to sleep sideways.

Two weeks ago, fighting gravity and the kicking feet of my sweet, cherished daughter:

Ever-Suffering Mother: [eyes still closed, barely able to sit up on couch, resenting being dragged from bed for the morning’s goodbye-to-Daddy-just-one-more-hug-and-kiss-oh-last-one-wait-one-more-and-one-more ritual] I can’t do this anymore.
Husband and Z: It speaks! What is it?
ESM: I’m the Ever-Suffering Mother. Pay attention.
Husband: [realizes  Z left some pointy toys of the couch that the ESM might use as missiles] Yes dear?
ESM: I can’t do this anymore. Z, tonight if you wake up and want to come to our room, you can sleep on your cot. We’ll move it next to our bed. [looks at Husband] This has gotta work. Please let this work.
Husband: [muttering] This isn’t gonna work.
[Creepy music to foreshadow disaster.]

The Cot of Urine after its most recent hose-down.

Husband was mostly right. The cot, from here on referred to as the Cot of Urine, is only partially successful. Z’s diaper leaked on the second night, so after getting cleaned up, there was nowhere else for her to go (or was there?) except into the Family Bed (of Pain).

Henceforth (what a great, underused word), Z seems to have realized that peeing gets her into our bed. Here’s what I think goes on in her head:

Step 1: Wake up.
Step 2: Say, “Oh no! My Pull-Up leaked!” (Whether or not Pull-Up is wet.)
Step 3: Wait for grouchy parent to take me to the potty and change my Pull-Up. (Whether or not Pull-Up is wet.)
Step 4: Climb into the Family Bed (of Pain). (Even if the Cot of Urine has no urine in it. This is where Mommy and Daddy are weak, lazy parents. If they were smart/less tired, I’d be getting back into my cot (if it’s dry) or back into my bed. Mommy and Daddy are sucker parents and I shall sleep in their bed until I’m 25.)
Step 5: Talk and kick for the rest of the night/morning.
Step 6: Screech with glee and happiness and ask for a snack at 5 a.m.
Step 7: Wonder why Mommy looks like a zombie bride.

Now that I’ve analyzed her way of thinking, I see where we’re going wrong: Step 4. Things are going to change around here.

Somehow. If I ever get enough sleep to have the energy to completely shut down the Family Bed (of Pain).

The Love Shack

This post is long overdue. You see, friends, I have been working on a Secret Project of Joy (in addition to conspiring to send my daughter away to military camp, aka Preschool). My Secret Project of Joy is transforming our garage guest room, the “Love Shack” as we like to call it, into a place I can actually work.

The first step was covering up the orange paint.

I am anything but a designer. Like most people, I enjoy being surrounded by beauty. When I get tired of standing in front of the mirror, I am left to find beauty in my environment. Husband and I picked out this great tile to go in the Love Shack, a terra cotta with blue designs on it (click here to see it up close). (By the way, I don’t recommend this tile unless you enjoy scraping bar codes off the floor. Some genius decided to put the bar codes on the TOP of each tile. As we are a lazy/busy family, there are still tiles with bar codes on them. In fact, the only ones without bar codes are a gift of my mother’s hard work. Thanks, Mom.)

As I was saying…I tried to match the terra cotta tile. And do an accent wall. Thankfully, I can’t find any photos of the old Love Shack, because although people were nice enough about it, it was Ugly. A few months ago I went out there to write, and as I sat on the bed, looking around (not writing), I couldn’t help but notice the pleasing sandy color I’d chosen was orange. Orange!

So on Mother’s Day, I painted the heck out of those walls, to a nice soft Informal Ivory. Now it’s Very Boring, which is better than orange, and I can always kick up the color a bit with the trim. And paint some poems on the walls, maybe some birds and stars. It’s MY ROOM. Yeah, guests sometimes sleep in it, so I don’t want to put anything disturbing on the walls, like these prints we got to enjoy when staying in a hotel room in Nasca, Peru:

Sweet dreams!

Don't let the bed bugs (er, horses) bite!

We weren’t sure which one we liked more, but we think the execution scene really sets the mood for peaceful slumber.

It’s clean and cozy, there’s a full bathroom, and even better: I can get work done in there. I’ve got lots of plans for the room, and the only challenge to my writing will be that I need to sit still and write, not putter about fixing up the place. In the meantime, it’s  a workable writer’s studio. I like to call it my “sink paceuary” (taken from “peace sanctuary” when I was doing the Hypnobirthing CD – don’t laugh).

Finally moved my story board from the bedroom wall to the Love Shack.

“All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point — a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf so famously said. Actually, I’d forgotten about the money part until I looked it up, and I now wish I had left the quote to memory. Anyway. I at least have the room of my own. It’s enough.

ETA: I was inspired to write about the Love Shack after doing Erin Bow’s interview. Her fantastic digs (located in a pole dancing studio!) make the Love Shack look tame by comparison.

Our Busy Busy Calendar

I have been…blessed with an inquisitive child. At times this feels less like a blessing and more like a curse. Like when I’ve heard, “Why,” for the three hundred fifty-second time over the course of one morning. Sidenote: It isn’t even like she wants an answer. I mean, she does, but she doesn’t even ask it like it’s a question. Here’s an example:

Ever-Suffering Mother: Hey, Z, let’s get you dressed for music class!
Z: Why.
ESM: Because even though I’ve let you wear your jim-jams all day long, and in fact, I am still in my jim-jams myself, it is four p.m. and probably time to get dressed. At least just because we’re actually going out.
Z: Why.
ESM: Because…we’re going out?
Z: Why.
ESM: Because people certainly don’t want to see me in my grody sweatpants, and they probably shouldn’t see you wearing your oatmeal from this morning’s breakfast. They’ll think I’m an unfit mother.
Z: Why.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. At least, that wasn’t what I thought I was writing about. Maybe I thought wrong. There’s obviously some untapped potential in that line of rant.

A couple of weeks ago, the questions strayed from WHY (hallelujah) and veered over into the week’s line-up. During one particularly busy week, I answered (patiently, patiently, always patiently) numerous questions about who was coming when.

“What day is Gran coming?”
“Friday.”
“What day is Grandma coming?”
“Thursday.”
“What day are we going to music class?”
“Thursday, if we ever get out of our pajamas.”

So I thought, she can recognize a stop sign, three letters, and numerous species of birds. She can recognize and respond to the various expressions of annoyance that show up on my face every day (“You’re very angry right now, aren’t you Mommy”). Why couldn’t she recognize and “read” a big weekly calendar?

Whipping out poster board, construction paper, and a fat black marker, I made her a weekly calendar. She worked in tandem with me at the kitchen table, making “calendars” for Husband and me. I put the calendar up on the basement door next to her room and voila!

Did the calendar solve the questions problem? No. And I hope nothing ever does. The most guilt I feel at this point (well, after the guilt I feel for making her play on her own while I write these rants/blog posts) is if I crack and say, “No more questions!” Because I want her to always, always ask questions. Even annoying ones.

But maybe she could direct those questions to someone else occasionally? Like…her preschool teacher when she starts in August?

Excuse me, I have to go revive The Dance of Joy.

The Birthday Breakdown

Holy Age-Defying Facial Moisturizer – is that another wrinkle?

As many of you know, yesterday was my birthday. It was also my little friend C’s second birthday, the birthday of my friend L, a friend of a friend, T, J’s mom’s birthday, and the birthdays of, get this: the Nugget cashier’s brother, cousin, and friend. April 3rd is a very popular day.

Because of me, of course.

So, here’s the breakdown of highlights, including getting carded by the Nugget cashier (YES!).

As a nod to my earlier years, I requested hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for my birthday dinner.

My in-laws brought princess cake from Victoria Pastry for dessert.

Princess Cake!

If you haven’t had princess cake before, I suggest you march on over to Victoria Pastry and get yourself some. It’s got marzipan icing covering triple-sec-soaked sponge cake, with whipped cream, vanilla custard, and raspberry filling. My mouth is watering. Z’s distracted. I think I’ll just sneak over to the refrigerator with my fork and…ah. Goodness. (Such goodness we couldn’t refrain from chopping it up and eating it before I could get a photo of it intact. Well, this way you can see the middle.)

Even though I thought my laptop was my Christmas-and-birthday combo present, Husband has spoiled me again, with this antique ring:

The moonstone is surrounded by the prettiest lavender gemstone…and he can’t remember what the lavender stones are called. I’m not complaining!

I even snuck some writing time into the day, and am nearly ready to submit my manuscript to my critique partners for their hawk-eyes to read and their hawk-beaks to rend to pieces. Gulp.

It was an awesome birthday, and while Husband guessed my birthday candle wish was a book and movie deal for my manuscript, it wasn’t. Because I’m not superstitious enough to stop myself, I’ll tell you what my wish was: for more birthdays just as happy as this one.

It’s a blurry shot, but you get the idea. Husband will never stop teasing me for “getting old.” That’s okay. As much as we complain about getting older, the alternative is not perfectly fabulous, either.

Happy Birthday, Everyone!

Parenting Soundtracks

Anita Renfroe had the right idea when she created “Momisms” and sang it to the tune of the William Tell Overture. The problem is her song condenses everything, so we can’t use it in place of real parenting. Which got me thinking: I could totally use a Parenting Soundtrack (patent pending) to get me through the days where it’s just me and Z. I’d be free to read another book, or think about the plot of my current manuscript. She’d be free to ignore me (which she often does anyway). We’d be happy as clams.

See how happy we are?

Here we have a demonstration of the Parenting Soundtrack “Fine Dining.” Other available soundtracks include:

  • Pleasant Potty Training: “Pee and poop go in the potty!”
  • The Great Outdoors: “Run as fast as you can! Burn off that energy before naptime!”
  • Beautiful Bedtime Routines: “You may choose two stories and two songs.”
  • Responsible Clean-up: featuring that all-time favorite “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!”
  • Fantastic Freeplay: “Be gentle! It’s good to share.”
  • For Parents of Two or More: “I give up. The bigger one gets her way.”

As soon as she wakes up, I’m going to get started on recording. My studio? Wherever it is I find myself needing to remind my daughter of the rules. So I guess that’s the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, family room, the backyard, the car, the grocery store…