About Me

Hi, I'm Debbie. Sometimes, people like ask me what I do. Good question. I'm not always sure how to answer it myself! I'm hoping this blog helps me answer that question, or is at least fun to read along the way.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer's Last Hurrah (Now Let's Get On With It)

This past week, something seemingly simply occurred: my kids played nicely in the backyard with neighborhood friends.  An activity which to me is quintessential to summer--kids playing in the yard--seems to have become a rarity in a time filled with camps and vacations and swim meets and the like.  

The next door neighbor girls have returned from visiting their out-of-country grandmother for a while, and all the kids took to each other as if they'd just re-discovered old favorite toys.  I decided to cap off the week with the offer of chocolate ice cream cones--a much easier thing to pull off than, say, a BBQ--with two other neighborhood friends as well.  It was nice and sweet and chocolate-ty and now I have this to say:

I'm done. 

I've basically hit everything on my summer bucket list.  Road trip vacation, the pool, a trip up North, a fish fry with Amish, Mentos in a Diet Coke bottle, blueberry picking, and now ice cream.  If it hasn't been done by now, f---- it. 

My pedicure (the one I slopped on myself) is long chipped.  It was pool weather this week, so we went, but not with the same enthusiasm as the start of summer and the first heat waves.  We've lost a beach towel; swimsuits may be stretching out; sunscreen bottles are empty.  My phone had a text frenzy of weary mothers who are putting their kids to bed either waaaay too early because they are driving them crazy, or waaaaay too late because their parental resolve is dissolving. 

Back in July--when I was admittedly aghast that it was only July--I bucked up for a moment and created some bribery based system of getting my kids to do things like keep the house clean and practice their reading and math skills; it involved getting paper chain links.  I may have even masterminded getting some girls together for a reading group.  But now, the paper chain link is abandoned; I don't much monitor screen time.  My kids bust me rolling my eyes more than that chick from 50 Shades of Grey. I pretend not to hear questions like "what are we going to do today?"  Sister makes brother cry, and vice versa, for nonsensical reasons.  According to my Facebook account, 90% of the country is back in school.  The other 10% is feeding Pirate Booty and fruit snacks to their children for breakfast. 

I think we are all in agreement: it's time for the kids to go back to school.  Let's get on with it.

In our district, they like to wait until the 11th hour to let us know who their teachers will be.  Meanwhile, my kids have had their haircuts, their new shoes, some new clothes, and all their supplies, including those pesky strong magnets that Target never seems to sell.  My kids are playing nicely right now, but I don't think I'm alone to say this: wait much longer, and I might have an actual Hunger Games on my hands.

Yes, my children are precious little snowflakes, and I hope their teachers hold them dear and well.  I know I'll be excited to see them return off the bus that first day.  But I also hope those teachers are feeling re-charged and excited and organized, because that ship is sailing here.  I'm saving my last bit of strength, like a camels back-fat or that bit of chewed squid penguins hold in their throats, to get through a final week of doctor's appointments and a birthday party.  I'm counting on the teachers for that fresh-faced enthusiasm. 

It's your turn.  Here's the baton.  I think I'll go book myself a pedicure now.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Just One Question: So What Are Your Kids Doing?

These days, I have Stephen King's On Writing sitting by my bedside table.  I've read it before; mostly, right now I'm in a reading lull, so I just grabbed this book one random morning when I felt I needed something to read.  By in large, it's a good read, and a decent book about writing.  Okay, social media and blogging and what-not have taken over the world enough that it feels sufficiently dated in parts--worry about the paper you are printing your work on? why are you printing anything?--but the nuts & bolts part is still pretty solid.

In the meantime, in between time, a friend--okay, Pam again over at Starbucks--shot off a little link-a-doodle about "12 Musts of Blogging."  Currently, I follow about, err, zero of them.  Some are technicalities that I haven't gotten off my "to figure out" list.  Others are things like "be patient" and "be consistent" and "have a focus."  Not sure if I'm nailing any of those right now.

Why do I mention both this Bloggin Guru and Stephen King?  Well, it's that consistency thing.  Both seem to think I should be writing more often.

I'm gonna' make a bold call right now, which might just be an excuse:  I bet both these guys aren't the ones taking care of any kids in the house. 

I don't really know about Blogging Guru, but Stephen Kind mentions having two children in his book, and at least has the grace or good sense to make a passing comment about his wife's writing, saying that she'd have broken through if she had 2 more hours in the day, but she has the same 24 as everyone else.  (I believe Tabatha King may have some books out there--and surely, by now, she has some good connections, lol!--but King makes this comment discussing his early, not-yet-mainstream career.)

About 6 months after my daughter was born, I went to a local writing workshop entitled "Writing for Money," or something like that.  (I'm guessing the workshop made the money, at $100 a pop, but I was desperate to get out of the house and feel human, plus there was another published writer there I was stalking, and it was worth it: I managed to get one article published in a local parenting mag.  I think I broke even.)  The keynote speaker was Michael Ruhlman, a guy I'd call a "foodie writer," except really he writes about much more; non-fiction journalistic stuff that reads like a story.  Anyway, I sat next to him with my own copy of Soul of a Chef and had him sign it, so I was feeling pretty cool.  Soon after, he gave the keynote address.

Honestly, I don't remember much of it, lousy listener I must be!  I do remember him talking about his day.  It sounded pretty damn idyllic.  Do some yoga in the morning, have a nice breakfast, write for 4 or 5 hours, break to make an elegant lunch in gourmet kitchen with skills acquired from interviewing Thomas Keller, do a couple hours of revisions and marketing stuff, wind down with a cocktail and some nuzzling with the golden retriever.

Yes, I'm exaggerating.  Some. 

My day at the time looked something like this: Wake up.  Nurse baby and change.  Eat breakfast.  Try solids.  Fail.  Nurse baby.  Start laundry.  Put baby down for morning nap.  Do some transcription from random side-gig I'd picked up.  Baby up.  Nurse baby.  Stick baby in exer-saucer in bathroom and shower.  Get dressed.  Try feeding baby solids.  Eat peanut butter sandwich one handed.  Take call for side-gig.  Turn on the "Wiggles" while doing interview; eventually throw napkins at baby and make funny faces while finishing up on phone to keep her quiet.  Ignore mess of napkins on floor to go play with baby in family room.  Ignore mess of toys in family room and mess of napkins on floor to go fold laundry. 

I'm not exaggerating.  Nope.  Pretty much not. 

So I raised my hand during the Q&A time.  While other folks where asking all sorts of writer-ly questions like "how do you find your material" and "do you like adverbs?" and stuff, I asked this:

"Umm...you mentioned having two kids.  What are they doing during all this?"

I think he said they were in school or camp all day, or discreetly being nurtured by a sexy, off-stage au pair.  We had a brief back-and-forth on the age of his children, and the age of my baby.  Finally, Mr. Published Keynote Speaker said, "Oh, six months?  You won't really have a whole lot of time to write until your kids are around eight."

Eight.  I actually can't recall if that was the exact number, but it was something like that.  Basically, I got redeemed by a professional for claiming (okay, implying) that finding time to write was really, really challenging with young tots underneath.  So no, over the past 9-ish years, I haven't had the Stephen King/Blogging Guru discipline that these pros have advised.  I've been busy.  Raising a family.  But if you are a mother looking to find some time to write--maybe 15 minutes a week, say--here are some tips:

1.   Skip showering.  Your kids probably don't notice, and it's kind of over-rated.
2.   Skip blow-drying your hair or putting on makeup.  People don't see you when you write.
3.   Order pizza.  Cuts down on dinner prep.
4.   Ignore the laundry.
5.   Win the lottery.
6.   Let your kids watch Go Diego, Go!  (If you're really kickin' it, let 'em watch a few.)
7.   Install an iPad keyboard at your sink.  (Let me know how that works.)
8.   Pretend to "color" with your kids, but actually write.
9.   Have your kid dictate stories to you; sometimes they come up with stellar ideas.
10.  Fill the sink with water, pull up a stool, and let the kids have at it.  This will buy you up to 20 minutes.  It might destroy surrounding cabinetry, but hey, it's for your craft!

Until then, to all you genius mommies who periodically ignore their children to write find any time at all to write, kudos to you!  Keep it up--I'm sure you'll go viral or write a bestseller soon!