Out & About Without the Baby

with baby

When you’re out and about WITH the baby, strangers smile at you. Or, rather, they smile at your baby, and you smile back because otherwise it’s just kind of awkward. It’s not like the baby regularly smiles back. Plus, even if you look like hell, you’ve got a twenty-pound excuse on your hip or in your shopping cart, and it’s an automatic pardon for wearing a sweatshirt with snot tracks all over it.

without baby

But when you’re out and about WITHOUT the baby, people ignore you. You’re ready to smile & answer questions about how old he is, or whether he’s talking/walking/doing magic tricks yet, because you’re accustomed to interacting with people in the grocery store or Target or the library or…okay, those are the only three places you go. But nobody looks back at you. You’re in an invisibility bubble. Because honestly, what’s interesting about a frumpy, slightly overweight woman who looks too tired to give a damn?

5 Reasons Why Writers Shouldn’t Drive

Woo! Back from my Social Media Blackout. It was very refreshing. While I’m happy to be back and check in with people, I’m coming away from this with a definite desire to set more limits on my social media use.

A comment a writer friend made got me thinking of…this. Blech. Let’s just jump in, shall we?

1. Fictional Worlds I.

You may think the writer present, noting details about her surroundings. This happens on occasion. But writers are often off in alternate realities. Another time, another place. With other people. Figuring out a plot issue, or having imaginary conversations with talkative characters (SHUT UP!). Suddenly the writer has missed several turns. She finds herself somewhere in Canada when she was trying to get to the corner store (in California) for chocolate.

2. Fictional Worlds II.

There is another, more secret kind of fictional world experienced by that of the writer (indeed, of any daydreamer). That of the fame and fortune that will, of course, inevitably be given the writer upon completion of her book. Imagining various scenarios in which she will be interviewed, how she will spend her humongous paychecks, where in Italy she plans to buy the villa – these thoughts are known to especially distract the writer whilst she drives to whatever mundane location happens to be on the day’s itinerary.

3. The Big Idea.

Ever have a sudden bolt of inspiration that just MUST NOT BE FORGOTTEN? I have. Usually when I’m drifting off to sleep, taking a shower, or driving down the highway. It’s pretty easy to deal with. You stop what you’re doing, grab a pen and paper, and jot down the big idea (or super important rhyming couplet, as was a recent case for me). When driving, this is very important: PULL OVER FIRST. Sometimes pulling over isn’t possible. In which case you’re stuck either a) trying to fumble for a pen and paper and write something legible while driving 70 miles per hour (NOT RECOMMENDED), or b) repeating the bit of dialogue (or rhyming couplet) to yourself over and over until a proper pull-over place is found (NOT FUN BUT BETTER THAN DYING).

4. Words.

Words can be a problem. Specifically, for me, certain traffic directives can either totally get on my nerves, and/or provide more than a years’ worth of imagined debates. Take, for instance, SPEED LIMIT 25 WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT. It’s so ambiguous! Where do the children have to be, to be considered “present”? On the street? Behind the fences at the school? In their houses? In my car? Also, if you see a child, you slow to 25, I was told. What if the 25 mph zone continues for quite some time but there are NO other children? Can you speed up again? People frequently do. My latest beef with that particular directive is I’m trying to grammatically figure out if I have to slow down when there is only one kid. Child. Singular. Or if I have to see two kids (children, plural, as the sign says) before I must slow to 25. Either I’m distracted by the words themselves, or trying to convince an imaginary traffic cop, judge, or my sheriff brother of why I did the right thing. (Lest anyone think I’m an irresponsible driver, let me assure you: if I see a kid, I slow to 25 until I’m all the way through the school zone, end of story. I just like to argue with myself…and the people in my head.)

5. The Thoreauian Desire.

Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a project, or trying to work out a  plot problem, and I just know that if I could get away for a couple days and have total solitude, I could get the thing figured out. It’s sometimes a real danger that on a solo trip to Target, I might take the freeway by mistake and wind up in a nice hotel two towns over with my cell phone turned off. This hasn’t happened…yet. Cancun is also a real possibility. I bet there are margaritas there.

(Total sidenote: Does anyone else ever feel like a total cheater when referencing classic novels they have not, and never intend to, read?)

Migraines: So Much Fun

Now that I’ve had five or so, I guess I belong to the Migraine Club. For awhile there, I worried about how much I was missing out on migraines. Great excuse to lie around in bed all day with the blinds drawn, possibly weeping on a fainting couch and moaning, “Oh woe.”

Actually, I didn’t think about migraines. At all. If someone told me they had a migraine, I’d make sympathetic noises and promptly forget about him or her (ask Homes – I’ve never been a good sympathizer with the sick).

Shortly after I turned thirty, I had this fantastic visual disturbance. It looked like a ferris wheel – but only half the ferris wheel, going around at night, with little green and red and yellow lights. And I could only see it on the left, and only with my left eye.

Intrigued, I went onto my health insurance member’s page and followed the little symptom checker until I discovered I was probably having a stroke.

So then I called them to ask if I was really having a stroke, and the advice nurse asked me all kinds of inane questions, like, “Are you breathing right now?” “Do you know your name?” (Okay not really, but when I’ve called in about a minor rash for Z, they have asked, “Is she turning blue? Has her tongue swelled to fill up her mouth?” and really? I’d be calling 911, not the advice nurse. But I guess sometimes the answer must be, “Yes, my child is blue,” otherwise why would they ask and then my hope and faith in the world just plummets. I’m a little depressed as I write this, can you tell?)

After making sure I still had a pulse, the advice nurse asked if I had a headache. I thought about it for a minute. “Yeah, a little one.”

“Oh,” she said. “You could be experiencing an ocular migraine.”

Well, that sounded fancy. And it didn’t really hurt. Thus reinforcing my belief that migraine sufferers were a bunch of whiners, on par with Frodo:

I got my eyes checked and got some rockin’ reading glasses, while Homes made jokes about me getting old & gray & needing glasses (because I’d just turned thirty, see. No, I didn’t find it funny either).

Fast forward to my latest migraine. Probably my fifth or so, but I’m not exactly keeping tally with hash marks on my fainting couch. And I couldn’t keep tally because…

I WAS INCAPACITATED.

I’m sure I could purple-prose us all to tears with my vivid and melodramatic description of the pain I suffered, and my martyrdom that I still sat up to breastfeed Maverick, tears splashing down my face to land on his little fuzzy head. The valiant Homes, making our bedroom as dark as possible (it can get damn dark, and it wasn’t dark enough), and darling Z, whispering on the phone to her Gran,  “Mommy has a really bad headache.” And the doting Gran, distracting Z as long as possible so I could rest.

But the truth is, lots of people get migraines. And they’re horrible. And if I could go back in time and slap 29-year-old, pre-migraine me, I totally would. Actually, I wouldn’t slap her. I’d just wish a migraine on her.

Oh my gosh. That’s totally what happened.

I brought this on myself.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

The set-up: An airplane carrying Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant contestants crashes on a deserted island.

Main characters’ goals: I think a better question here would be “Who are the main characters?” because there are SO MANY. I’m not knocking it – it’s unusual and fun. But it’s hard to give specifics. Basically, the girls’ initial goal (collectively) is to get off the island and get home.

My reaction: In all honesty, I will admit this was not a fast read for me. There could be a number of factors here – revisions on my own work-in-progress, being sick, and whatever. But I think the main reason is my personal preference for singular point-of-view stories. I don’t generally enjoy dipping into the heads of many characters; I don’t like how it interrupts the flow of the story.

That said! Bray writes this story VERY WELL. The multiple viewpoint works for the book. We are expected to be torn out of the story line periodically, because this narrative has commercial breaks – yes, commercial breaks! – scripted into the book. So even though multiple (or is this omniscient?) POV isn’t something I always embrace, the approach works here.

Also, as the cover promises, it is very funny, very satirical, and overall enjoyable.

Of interest to writers: Again, commercial breaks! Satire! This is a unique story, told in a unique way (there are also footnotes, which I love). Even if you don’t want to read the whole 390-page book, it’s worth a peek just to see how Bray presents the story. The writing and plot are surprising, and “surprising” is a very refreshing thing in YA literature.

I always read Acknowledgements pages, and must also say, the Acknowledgements in Beauty Queens are hilarious.

Bottom line: Commercial breaks!

Reminds me of: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (because of the utter bizarreness of the premise)


The Cold – A Tragedy in Three Acts

Act I

The Ever-Suffering Mother isn’t suffering quite so much. She has a lifetime supply of peanut M&Ms in the cupboard, a loving husband (who buys her M&Ms) and a darling daughter, and lots of writing time during the day. But by the endof Act I, she develops a sore throat. This can’t be good.

Act II

Like any valiant heroine, she attempts to help herself through lots of naps, liquids (milkshakes count, right?), and more naps. (Medication is, given her pregnancy, pretty much out of the question. Further helping us define the meaning of “suffering.”)

Despite her valiant efforts, the sore throat has grown into a Sore Throat of Doom.

By the end of Act II the sore throat has gone away (hooray!) only to be replaced by copious amounts of snot. Act II is plagued with phegmatic and lethargic dialogue, lots of adenoidal voice-overs, mouth-breathing, and we’ll throw the World’s Shortest Rejection Time on a Short Story in there as a subplot (5 hours 11 minutes).

Act III

In Act III, the Ever-Suffering Mother overcomes the rejection, but not the snot, and the Cold replays itself for other beloved members of her family, compounding its effects through sleeplessness, irritability, and general malaise.

The End.

Time Out!

If a one-year-old gets one minute time-outs, a two-year-old gets two minutes, and a three-year-old three minutes (and so on), it stands to reason that a 30-year-old should get 3o minutes for each time out.

Am barricading myself in my bedroom now.

She’s out there, though. “Mommy!” … “Mommy?” … “Mommmeeeeeeeee!”

30 minutes. I’d rather spend it reading, or working on le manuscript, or napping. A nap would be good. Instead, she’s pounding on the door like a body-snatcher, or a zombie or, even scarier, a hyperactive three-year-old. Might have to further retreat into master bathroom.

So here I am, perched on the counter next to the sink, armed with a bottle of hairspray from 1988 and a toilet plunger. Not the time-out I needed.

The Three Faces of Z

To be fair, she has more faces. And not all are as extreme as these. The Timid is another face that comes to mind – that’s the one she whips out in large groups of people, when I suspect she is only half timid, half I-want-my-mommy-to-pay-attention-to-only-me. There’s also a whiny face, but whenever I talk about her whining, I sound like I’m whining. So we’ll just avoid that today, and focus on the following three faces.

The Focused

When Z has a job she wants to do, she brings out her FocusedFace. She focuses completely on whatever “job” she’s created for herself, whether it’s putting every single one of her stuffed animals to bed, listing their genealogies, or tearing construction paper into tiny, impossible-to-pick-up-without-tweezers scraps. Whatever she’s doing, she’s intent and quiet. I love to watch her like this, hear the conversations she makes up with herself and her stuffed friends.

The Crazed

This is, perhaps, the most frightening incarnation of childhood I will ever witness. At least, I hope it doesn’t get scarier than this. The words “inside voices” mean nothing. The word “no” means nothing. Pogo sticks sprout from the soles of her feet. She has to do whatever it is she’s set her mind to do, whether or not doing this thing will result in an eternity of time-outs, e.g. picking up the cat and hurling her to the floor, slapping/pushing/spitting (yes, my child occasionally does these things. If yours doesn’t, wipe that smug smile off your face and trade kids with me). The Crazed Face is the one that has me calling Husband, vowing that This Is The Last Day I Will Be A Stay-at-Homie, Here Is My Resignation, I’m Driving to Mexico for Margaritas – Alone – and Nobody Can Stop Me.

The Helpful

One of my favorite recent Z-quotes happened at the dinner table the other night: “I’m going to be the calmest person. I’m not gonna cry, I’m not gonna scream, I’m not gonna make Daddy say I can’t have stories. I’m going to cooperate!” The Helpful personality of Z will often manifest itself in hyper-exaggerated gestures of politeness. She’ll often even help me recognize this face by saying something like, “I feel like a grown-up” or “I’m being polite.” The Helpful Z works to earn approval, and smiles angelically up at me from time to time. She does her chores, she cleans up her toys, she surprises me with random, gentle hugs or back massages.

What kinds of faces did you have as a little kid, or what faces do you see on the kids around you?

PS: I think she just fell asleep during Quite Play Time. YES!

PPS: By the way, if you haven’t played Killer Bunnies before, you’re missing out. I’ve been looking for an excuse to work them into a blog post for over a year now.