Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mommy Mondays: On the outside looking in

We had a really awesome feature in our first home. It wasn't a four-car garage. It wasn't a master suite. No. It was two half-laundry rooms.

Wow! you say? Let me explain.

Because of electrical/plumbing/gas features of which I don't understand, our washing machine had to be in the basement and our dryer had to be in the garage. This meant lugging dirty clothes from the bedrooms down the dangerously narrow stairs; then lugging wet clothes up the stairs and into the unheated garage; then lugging dry clothes into the house to be folded and redistributed in bedrooms.

It was fun.

But this special home feature isn't the point of this post. So, on with the story.

One day my 18-month old toddled around the kitchen while I went downstairs to bring up the laundry. I carefully opened and closed the stair gate when I went down. I gathered the clothes, came up and headed to the garage to put them in the dryer. I shut the door behind me to keep little hands out of the dirty garage and loaded the dryer. Check.

But my stomach leaped into my throat when I tried the doorknob and realized I had locked it. I panicked. I tore through the garage but found our hide-a-key was no longer hidden. I let myself out of the garage and around to the front and back doors but they were both locked. I went back to the garage and opened the tiny cat door which we had never used. With all my contortionist maneuvers I could not reach the lock on the inside.

It was no use. I was locked out.

And my daughter was locked in.

She toddled over to me, squatted down, and tilted her cute little chubby cheeks to see through the tiny door. Now, there are two things you should know about our oldest daughter. First off she spoke full sentences at 18 months. I promise. (I'll tell you the second thing in a minute. You know, for suspense building and stuff.)

"Mommy come in!"
"Mommy come in!!!"
"Mommy! Come! In!!!!!"

But no matter how smart she was, I couldn't get her to understand what I meant by "Please turn that little line on the doorknob for Mommy."

She cried for a minute but then a toy distracted her and she left goof-ball Mommy peering through the cat door. I glanced across the kitchen and to my horror discovered two things. In my rush to get to the dryer I had accidentally left the stair gate open. And secondly, the "toy" that distracted her was the lit--and not entirely stable--Christmas tree.

That's when I started crying.

Oh yeah, the second thing I should tell you is that although our daughter could speak full sentences, she didn't walk until 16 months. So, her current walk was more of a drunken sailor act then a steady gait. And stairs had not yet even been tried. The narrow flight suddenly resembled a twelve foot drop onto iron spikes. I ran outside in my socks and to the front picture window. With tears streaming down my face I watched our baby with her new found independence and prayed she'd stay safe in the pit of danger I had left her in.

I glanced up and down the road and back into the window and made a choice. I took off running full speed to the neighbor's house. No one answered. I raced to the next house and pounded on the door. An interesting fellow and 15 cats greeted me and let me use his cell phone to call my husband. Of course he didn't answer.

I used the neighbor's phone book to look up Dan's office phone number and called the secretary. This entire thing probably only took minutes, but I felt like I was sitting on a ticking time bomb. The office lady said she'd get a hold of Dan in the field and let him know.

I raced home and to the window again to see our little girl playing with the balls on the Christmas tree. I envisioned it falling down on her, or shocking her, or something worse. I stood there crying as the longest half hour of my life slowly ticked by. There were so many times I considered running back and calling the police instead of waiting for Dan. But I was too afraid to leave her again.

And then finally the rumble of diesel engine came down the street and I prayed it was a work truck. It was. Dan unlocked the door and I rushed in to our baby--who had remained perfectly safe--and held her tight.

This was one of my scariest Mommy moments ever.

Now, if I look at it objectively, I realize that I would probably freak out a lot less if it were to happen these days. I was a very high strung and try-to-be-perfect first time mother. But still, even now, I wouldn't like to go through it again. I certainly wouldn't want my baby to.

But what is it that made the situation so terrifying? The fact that I was on the outside looking in and there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

How often does that happen in life?

Some people face years of infertility. Others experience unemployment for extended periods of time. Sometimes depression makes you feel like there is nothing you can do to change your life.

And after you've done all that you can, the only thing left to do is Wait. It. Out.

And man isn't waiting hard? In these moments I would do well to remember Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

What obstacle has left you feeling completely helpless? Or do you have your own terrifying Mommy moment to share?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Writer Wednesdays: Craft vs. Talent

I have always considered writing as a craft--something that if worked hard enough at, someone would have to eventually succeed...

But I also believe writing is a talent.

To be successful (in the Mommy's-Always-Write-rulebook-of-success (it's only sold one copy (like the parenthesis within a parenthesis within a parenthesis?))) I would estimate a writer should combine about 90 percent hard work at learning the craft and 10 percent talent.

Some people disagree with me. Some people think you can succeed at ANYTHING if you try hard enough--even if you have zero natural talent. I disagree. I simply wasn't built (physically or emotionally) for women's boxing. I simply am too nervous to sing solo in front of people. And let's face it, without some major plastic surgery, I'm never going to walk the runway.

Others think success in something (including writing) is based largely upon your natural talents. In Stephen King's book On Writing, he says that someone can improve themselves from the status of bad writer to mediocre writer by sheer willpower and tenacity but moving one's self from mediocre writer to great writer is impossible without inborn talent. I disagree on this point as well.

I guess what is bringing this post up right now are a couple factors:
1. I know so many of you writer friends who HAVE worked your butts off. You've put in long days, long weeks, and long years behind the keyboard. You've been to writer's conferences. You've learned from the web. You've read and bookmarked many craft books on writing. And you've written. You've written novels, and short stories, and blog posts, and many, many more novels. You've edited. You've critiqued. You've worked and worked and worked....
Yet your successes (in the landing-an-agent/signing-a-book-deal arena) have been small.
2. On the flip side, many of you ARE finding success. And in big ways. It seems that every month or so another writing blogger is publishing her "GOOD NEWS!" post where she signed a contract with an agent or landed a big book deal.

So where do the rest of us fit in in the scheme of things?

Personally, I know my time hasn't come yet because I'm not putting in the hard work. I do feel I have at least 10 percent writing talent. (Yahoo for 10 percent!) I do feel I have worked very hard, but it always comes in short spurts for me. At this point in my writing career I am not putting in the day after day after day strict writing regiment that I was doing when my first novel was published.

And you know what? It kind of sucks. Because working hard for something just isn't fun!

And of course there are all those other factors such as right place/right time. Sheer luck and yada yada yada. But I'm skipping over those for today.

The good news is, I feel I CAN make it. Just not right now.
The bad news is, I feel I CAN make it. Just not right now.

So now I want to hear from you. Where do you stand on the craft vs. talent school of thought? Also, if you have "made it" to what do you attribute your success? And if you haven't "made it" what do you think is holding you back?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mommy Mondays: Woohoo

Sometimes I pull myself up by the bootstraps and do something out of the ordinary. I take a break from my normal underachievement and blow even my own socks off. I thought my daughter's Valentine's Day hair qualified as one of these moments. (I got the idea from Pinterest---of course!)

What Mommy Moment have you done superbly lately? Go ahead, pat yourself on the back!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mommy Mondays: A Reminder Why I Never Leave The House

"It's library day," my sister says when she calls. "Do you want to go?"
A quick glance at my disaster house and my tantrum-throwing almost two-year-old tells me, "Don't do it... You've begun a strict regimen of never leaving the house. Remember?"
But my voice says "Sure."

As we enter the storytime room I see myself in the myriad of women who surround me. But it's not the myself I am now. It's the old myself--the one who was cuter and spunkier and only had one child myself. It's the myself from nine years ago.

The ladies present are the myselves who still dress trendy and have baby equipment that doesn't appear to have come from a 1990s daycare center garage sale. They're the myselves with huge diaper bags containing granola bars and bottled water and other fancy lady stuff like medicine and a plastic changing pad and baby wipes.

***I mean if my kid has the gumption to go poop at the library he can handle the ten minute ride home in his dirty diaper. Those baby changing stations weren't made for mothers with lots of children. Mine run around the public bathroom saying "what's this?" while they stare at the condom dispenser and crawling on the diseased tile to go under a locked stall door.***

Those ladies are the myselves who are looking for friendship and camaraderie. They're the myselves who sidle up to other moms and say, "How old is your little one?" just to start a conversation about shots and potty training and oh-my-gosh-he-can-read?!!

If a cute young Mom sidles up to me and says "How old is your little one?" I might just say, "I'm 32. Don't waste your time here." I know 32 isn't old in today's mommy standards, but when faced with a barrage of first time mommies with skinny butts, all I can remember is how OLD I am.

And it's okay that they are that way. Like I say, I was too. I was the 23-year-old first time Mommy who took my youngest to a puppet show when she was two weeks old. I'm. Not. Kidding. We walked to the library EVERY SINGLE WEEK and I often used the "How old is your little one?" line like a schmoozy used car salesman. It was a happy time of life.

These gals are wonderful ladies and moms. So why does the jaded side of me want to say, "Guess what? I know something you don't know."

What would that "something" be? Who knows? Maybe that it's not all going to be easy. That they're not always going to be nice. That they're going to yell. That they're going to feel frumpy. That they're going to cry.

I would tell them it's going to be worth it--yes. It's going to be perfect at times--yes. But growing old and growing from the first-time Mom to the fourth-time Mom is also going to hurt like heck.

But of course they wouldn't want to hear that. I SURE WOULDN'T HAVE! The reality of what they should be told is this--Great job! You are doing an absolutely great job!

Anyway, back to the library: My baby threw a royal tantrum when the Tootie Fruities were dolled out for bracelets (and apparently a paper plate full of free snacks wasn't his idea of enough).

Needless to say, we didn't make any new friends at the library today. But hey, my two middles had a great time, so I suppose it was worth dragging my recently designated recluse self out of the house.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Returning to an old WIP

I've got this craziness (I know, ANOTHER one!) where I work best in spurts.

For instance, a few years back I became interested in genealogy. And when I say interested, I mean obsessed. I spent every free moment on this endeavor. I immersed myself for a couple of months and then quit completely. I've never touched it since.

And that's how most of my endeavors end up. So if I want to finish a book, I do best to get it all out on paper while the coals are hot. Returning to something once my passion is gone is super difficult. That being said, sometimes I DO put a work in progress aside and have to return to it later.

Have you ever returned to a half-written book?

How did you get the creative juices flowing again. Did you re-read and then re-outline the second half? Did you just dive right in?