The Importance of a Day Off

I love my kid with all my heart AND I also truly believe the adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Because I’m really struggling.

Like, a lot.

It helps to make fun of it, find the humor in the situation, but the truth of it all is that this Summer of the No Naps is completely maddening. It’s hard to restructure my routine, especially my writing routine, around this no-napping thing.

So yesterday Husband took Z to his parents’ house for the day. I went out to lunch with a fellow English-nerd friend (she wore these AWESOME earrings decorated with colons and semi-colons). Then I bought six diary books at Borders (a little excessive, even for me, but this IS my favorite brand of blank book, and I don’t know where else to get them, and I don’t know how much longer Borders will be there). Then I had iced tea at a nifty little cafe downtown, and stopped for a nice chat with another friend and critique partner before heading home to write.

I wasted time when I got home. Too much time. It’s what happens when I’m not in the habit of putting my booty in the chair and working on the manuscript. But my friend Seven and I made a pact to write for at least one hour every evening, and that pact should give me the forward momentum I need to get through the remaining 33 days until preschool starts.

So let’s do this. I have some blank books to fill with new manuscripts as soon as I finish revising this one!

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.

Mommy Goes To Los Angeles

My first weekend away from home since Z’s birth deserves a tribute, and Z deserves a new book. So I made one for her. It cost no money and took approximately forty minutes to create. The illustrations especially are an indication of the book’s hasty publishing.

Z has been without her father for weeks at a time (usually for work), so she’s used to him being gone (although she never likes it). Because I’m always around, I thought a book might be a good way to explain what’s going on. I could just tell her, but that would be boring.

Plus, I love making books.

So here’s the text:

Mommy is going to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is a city in southern California. Auntie Dana lives there.

Mommy is going to visit Auntie Dana, and stay at Auntie Dana’s house.

Mommy and Auntie Dana will do fun things, like go out to dinner, go shopping, and tell stories.

While Mommy is in Los Angeles, Z will get to spend lots of time with Daddy!

Z and Daddy will eat together, play together, and do naptime and bedtime. Maybe they’ll read lots of stories, like this one.

Even though Mommy will have fun with Auntie Dana, she will miss Z and Daddy and Clark very much!

But remember, whenever Mommy goes away…

Mommy comes back!

Kids are so easy to impress. She LOVES the book. She especially liked how I used her markers to make it.

Quick bit of blog business (three things):

1) No post on Monday. I have a great book to review for you (Plain Kate by Erin Bow) and I want to do it justice, not, like, write it while I’m in an airplane.

2) Starting in December we’re going down to two author interviews per month. I’ve been missing my free-for-all entries. Starting next Friday, interviews will be shorter.

3) I’m thinking of going down to two updates per week. I need to focus on my fiction, which was the whole reason for starting this blog-website. If the blog is taking over fiction time (or family time), that’s a problem.

Happy weekending, everyone!

We gon’ light it up like it’s dynamite

In which the Ever-Suffering Mother listens to pop music.

Some months ago a friend posted on Facebook that some days, country music is a necessity. I know I will offend more than a few people when I say that country music is only a necessity if your aim is to drive people away. And up until a month or two ago, I would probably have said the same thing about pop.

Let’s travel back in time to see Beth as an Enlightened College Student, rather than an Ever-Suffering Mother. She (ten or fifteen pounds lighter) walks around her flower-bedecked college campus with her diary book, some pens, and a well-read copy of T. S. Eliot’s collected poems. American Beauty, although dead depressing, is the most meaningful movie she’s ever seen. The Enlightened College Student has just discovered Pink Floyd. She never heard such beautiful caterwauling. Such dips and valleys of emotion in a single Shine-on-you-crazy-diamond kind of song.

Pop music blares from the open window of a shiny white Jetta blazing down the street. She wrinkles her nose, distracted from translating her own dreamy/angsty poetry into French, naturellement. Pop music? Quelle horreur. It’s such a cliché. Please. That Jetta-driver is killing brain cells with every beat of the synthetic bass drum.

[Fast-forward sound effects, please.]

The Ever-Suffering Mother needs some pep. She’s sleepy. Unhappy in the mornings. Grouchy. She filled a prescription for antidepressants but was too afraid to take them. She’s tried re-reading all her favorite books, and they are great escapes. But she cannot read them while she’s driving. The Spanish radio stations are fun in their way, but she keeps searching, searching…there. Rihanna’s rich voice sounds from the speaker. The Ever-Suffering Mother turns up the volume. What is this? This is…shallow. Light. Easy to digest.

She is transported into another world. What are these sounds? This is nothing like the alternative rock she listened to as a teenager. Where is the anger, the creepy “give it up to me” the Toadies intoned over and over? It is not here! This is one-second teenage-dream infatuation! Pop stars slinging out slang she will never ever understand: like a G-six? What? The announcer comes on, name-dropping faster than a stuffy literature professor. The Ever-Suffering Mother cannot even interpret where the names end and the song titles begin.

What a great escape! For a few minutes, she pretends she’s in a club, where they go hardcore and there’s glitter on the floor and she’s just dancing dancing dancing (and not looking like an idiot because after all this is a fantasy).

Then a voice sounds from the back seat of her sport-utility Mom-Mobile: “Snack please?”

One Small Banana to the Head…

…One Giant Leap for Mommies Everywhere

So I promised I wouldn’t name any names. But I heard the greatest story last week, about a mommy who threw half of a banana at her husband’s head.

First, applause to the mommy, because the banana actually made contact (I would have missed and would have had to clean smeared banana off the microwave door).

Second, I in no way advocate the use of bananas as projectiles in domestic conflicts. And neither does Mommy X (like Madame X, get it? No? Whateva.) (Although, a banana isn’t the worst choice of things to throw.) (A tomato might be better. I’ve got ’em in spades, and some have gotten kinda soggy.)

Mommy X didn’t say why she got so angry she was driven to throw the banana. And it doesn’t matter. Haven’t we all been mad enough to throw a banana at some point? What’s important is that Mommy X was enraged. Enraged enough to hurl something at her husband’s head (lucky she was holding half a banana and not, say, cutlery). We’ve all been there, right?

The rest of the story, if you’re interested (and even if you’re not because this is my blog), is that the Banana’d spouse thought she was joking around at first, and he chuckled a little bit. Then he saw the look on her face and said something along the lines of, “Oh, I get it….”

So, confession time: have you ever been mad enough to chuck something at your Significant Other? Or (I can’t resist) – have you ever gone bananas?

What, you want me to go first? Fine. Yes. I threw my cell phone. But luckily Husband wasn’t actually at home. That was the problem – I was trying to call him at work and couldn’t reach him. I was very upset at the time, obviously.

I was rewarded with a new phone.

(For an interesting Parenting article, “Mad at Dad,” you can click here. And here’s the follow-up article.)

Poo To Do

I really don’t see how this would be of interest to anyone except myself, but my to-do list (all forms of it updated, categorized, fretted over, and so on, since high school) is on my mind right now, so I think I’ll work with it.

Also, I’m sorry yesterday’s entry didn’t show up until late; I hit the “Save Draft” button instead of the “Schedule [to publish]” button. It’s better than today’s entry, so you could just read that instead. Really.

Poo To Do:

1) read and comment on Ana’s manuscript

2) read and comment on writing for the Sacramento Writers Group (it isn’t posted yet, but since I’m the person who posts them, I can get the head start I desperately need in order to procrastinate until the last minute)

3) rough character sketches for The Black City. Can I please, tonight, NOT get bogged down browsing through 100,001 Baby Names while selecting monikers for my invented people?

4) pick up library books on hold. They haven’t arrived yet, but they should soon. One book I’m especially excited about it Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. No, I’m not obsessively checking and re-checking my library account. Nope, I haven’t memorized my 14-digit library account number because I’ve been typing it in so often. No, I didn’t actually pack Z up and take her to the library to investigate my holds status in person.

5) stop lying

6) turn Z’s car seat around so she isn’t scrunched up like a jack-in-the-box during our many trips to the library

7) pick some lettuce to make a salad for dinner tonight. LOVING my mini-garden. I’ll post a picture on Friday.

8 ) replace batteries in sound monitor for Z’s room

9) figure out what to write for blog post tomorrow–I need to compose these in my mind early (you think all this witticism shows up on the fly? Oh, no: “…and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments…I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.” -Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice)

10) talk to Husband about painting bedroom walls

11) clip back the blackened, frost-killed bush in front of the bathroom window–there’s green in there somewhere–it’ll make it!

12) check, re-check, and check again the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards site to see if my novel made the first cut. For the first cut they just read the pitches. You can click here to read mine.

There’s more, of course. But I’ve gotta go, need to check that ABNA site again.

Slug Love

On Wednesday night I enjoyed my very first salad made with lettuce from my own garden. I felt so in touch with the earth, with nature, that I enjoyed it while watching an episode of “Bones” on hulu. In all seriousness, though, I enjoyed that salad. My hands (and my mother’s) put the seeds into tiny trays and delicately covered them with soil, then I watered them and obsessed over them like my daughter’s first breaths, counting each little seedling as it sprouted. I gloried in the leaves growing bright bright green, reaching for the sun.

I did not glory in the slugs.

Okay, so I’m the girl who cried when my brother salted snails or held a magnifying glass over ants. It just seemed cruel. I didn’t even want to hear him talking about such things. Now I find myself wondering how to take care of these garden pests. Geoff Hamilton, the author of Organic Gardening, recommends dropping these little guys into a bucket of kerosene. While probably an instant death, it also sounds A) cruel, and B) dangerous with a toddler wandering around the backyard, managing to get into everything. For awhile my compromise was to launch them over the back fence and into the yard of the empty, bank-owned house next door. Now that people actually live there, it seems wrong. Especially because those people are nice. If they were mean, I’d probably do it anyway. Okay, okay, I threw a couple of slugs over there yesterday, and I feel really bad about it, okay? I’m not going to do it anymore.

My new compromise is probably worse than the instant kerosene death or the slow torture of the salt, but I bet it makes the little suckers happy in the short run. I stick ’em in the yard waste bin. It’s full of damp, decaying vegetation. Slug’s paradise, right? Yeah, until summer when that thing heats up like a slow-cooker.

If my slug-compassion gets too intense, I can always just plant arugula next winter. Bleh. That stuff is so bitter, even the slugs don’t want to eat it.