Tuesday, December 29, 2009

By Moonlight

It's not every night a nearly-full moon lines up just right with the skylight in my bathroom to create a glow strong enough to creep into my bedroom. At first I thought I'd left a light on somewhere and I went to investigate. There, like a nearly perfect pearl in the sky, it beamed down into my bathroom and cast a moonlit path that stretched across the floor and then spread like a decorative blanket over a large triangle of my bed. I could have shut the bathroom door to have the perfect darkness I usually need for sleep, but falling asleep by moonlight sounded so romantic.

Trouble is, it was a little too romantic. Literarily speaking.

Immediately my brain went to work advertising all the creative ideas I'd sent on holiday since Thanksgiving. Things I could do for my children. Things I was looking forward to doing with my children--our trip to Florida in February, for one. Books I could be reading. Books I could be writing. And of course: my blogs.

Those of you who know me well already know that sleepless nights are not unusual for me. If I have let the busyness of life take me away from creative pursuits for too long, sooner or later it catches up with me and sleep is beyond reach. Hence the name of this blog, though to be more accurate I should probably dub it: "write by computer-light" since that is typically how it goes down.

When I am caught in a frenzy of creativity, there is little more to do than sneak away from my bed (so as not to disturb my husband who rarely shares this problem) and head for the computer.

Only there can I find relief from the sentences that were forming in my mind moments before. Only then can I hope to find the eventual sleep I will need for the tasks that come by morning light.

So tonight, as the moon now peeks through my office window, it's "write by moonlight" for me.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quote for the Day

If you make your birthday cake with freshly ground whole wheat flour, does that mean you get to eat two pieces?
--Me ;)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Quote for the Day

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."

--Sir Ken Robinson

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quote for the Day

"Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't."
--Jerry Rice, football player

52 in 52

Books, that is. In weeks.

I'm blushing that I haven't posted something in two months. This is more a function of my "not-with-it-ness" than that I've been too busy. Busy, yes. But too busy? Um . . . no. Afraid not. Jim has been gone for much of that time, and I've gotten to experience single motherhood (sort of--it's not like I have to earn all the money too), but let's face it, I still found time to watch Dancing with the Stars, Castle, Heroes, Survivor, and The Amazing Race. Several episodes of each, in fact. For the truly committed, each episode could have represented a blog post or several hundred words in my novel.

But beyond single-motherhood (sort of) and television--which I sneak on my laptop via the internet since we've been "tv-free" since February--I have been busy with another activity.

And I love it.

So much.

I have challenged myself to read 52 books in 52 weeks. My goal coincides with the start of the school year, so this particular blog post should have come out some time in early September. Oh well. Perfection is for the next life.

The real point here, though, is that I have come back to something I love. For the first time in a long time I feel like I am actually being me.

Perhaps you know what I mean. Perhaps you have a kindred tale. Here's a brief glimpse of mine.

For the past 15 years I have been someone's mom--to one, then two, then three wonderful children. And let me be the first to exclaim there is nothing better than that. There is no title I hold dearer to my heart. There is nothing that gives greater joy and there is nothing that gives a greater challenge. But sometimes because of that joy and that challenge and all the other pieces that come together to form motherhood, it is easy to lose track of who you are as a person. When you scrape away all the other parts of your life and it's just you--not your kids, not your spouse. Who are you?

And what parts of yourself have you left behind along the way?

When I answered these questions I realized there were many items on the list.

And in reality, it is not fair for me to blame the loss of all of them on my being a mother and a spouse. Surely time management comes into the equation somewhere. And effort. Determination. Diligence.

As I look back on my life and the sacrifices I've made for my children and my husband there is not one sacrifice I would have changed if I could. In fact, the only thing I would change now if I could would be my own actions in response to a given sacrifice. What did I do with all the dead space in my life? What could I have accomplished if I had been a better steward of that time?

Perhaps the reason I feel so happy now is that I have taken a step towards filling the dead space of my life with beauty. Accomplishment. Intelligence.

So here is my goal.

1. Read 52 books in 52 weeks. By my estimation I will actually read more than this.

2. Read only books I have never read before. I can't go back to my favorites.

3. Read at least 30 books from authors I have never read.

4. Read at least 30 books that are considered classics.

5. Read at least one book recommended by each of my children.

6. Read at least one book with each of my children.

7. Read at least one book from each of the following genres: romance, young adult, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical fiction, children's fiction, British literary classic, French literary classic, American literary classic, Russian literary classic, Chinese/Japanese/Asian literary classic, memoir, self-improvement, poetry, biography, and general non-fiction.

8. Write about what I read.

Here is my first entry that should've been put into my blog.

September 3, 2009

52 books in 52 Weeks

Last night I was awakened by Annie at 3:38 A.M. It was an "emergency," she said. Lately I've had trouble getting her to stay in her own room all night long. I'm sure this has something to do with Jim being gone again. She has been coming in with grievances or concerns, both real and imaginary, more nights than not, so by way of encouragement I have "bribed" her with earning stars for staying all night long in her room--at least until the sun has been up for awhile. After she reaches a certain number of stars she gets a trip to Build-a-Bear. She's a sucker for all things cuddly.

Turns out it WAS an emergency. Her night light had burnt out. I took her back to bed and turned on the hall light for her.

But then I was up.

I knew what this meant. Still, I tried to deny it. I closed my eyes valiantly for nearly an hour trying to turn my brain off so I could go back to sleep, but it was no use. My brain had decided 4 hours of sleep was enough, and I needed to be up and feeding it or exercising it. Feeding it would have been reading. Exercising it would have been writing. Those are always my choices. As it was so early, and I was still a bit resentful that I wasn't able to return to dreamland, I decided on feeding. I had a smattering of books on my nightstand, all ones I snatch a chapter out of every now and then, but I grabbed the one I had gone to sleep with. It was a recommendation from Mae, which I had started reading so I could go to the movie with her when it comes out in winter 2010. It also happened to be the one I was racing her to finish. She was reading the second in the series while I read the first. I felt somewhat mischievous for reading our race book during the "forbidden" hours of the night. Hours in which I'd never let her read. It gave me a great advantage. But there should be some advantages to being a mom, right?

So there I lay reading for three-undisturbed hours. At one point I had hoped I would get sleepy enough to fall asleep again, but soon the pure joy of having so much time to myself was exactly what I wanted. Sleep. Shmeep!

I reluctantly returned to responsibility at 7:30 and went for a run--one of my goals this school year is to lose 10 pounds. The air was moist and filled with fog. It was refreshing, beautiful, the perfect atmosphere for my imagination, which had just been fed most heartily. The forest was like a snapshot from all the childhood fairytales I had read, and it proved as fertile to my imagination as its soil was to the trees and plants that surrounded me. I thought about my writing projects and my goals as I ran. I thought about the people who had inspired me over the summer with their greatness and goodness. I thought about the close call we had just had with H's health and how grateful I was that everything was okay. It felt like I had been given a second chance at life. I had prepared myself for one journey and had been magically handed another with beautiful and exciting possibilities. All of the sudden, it seemed, I could PLAN.

And plan I did.

Inspired by my sister-in-law's blogs, as well as a summer where "being all you can be" and "bloom where you're planted" and "there's no reason to put off doing what needs to be done" was repeatedly reinforced (thank you Uncle Ben and Aunt Lori), I made my plan.

This day had started with my acting like I hadn't acted in ages--like a girl with no worries for the next day. It would end with a plan to keep doing the same. I couldn't remember the last time I had read the night away. As a teenager it was quite common for me to read 1 to 2 books per week, but as an adult (when I wasn't in school and required to read) I was lucky if I plowed through one book a month. Chalk it up to responsibilities, I guess. Or too much TV. Or just plain laziness. But the truth is, I was living a lie. I wasn't being the person I was meant to be, the person I wanted to be. I was just letting life pass me by, throwing in a little effort from time to time when the inclination (or guilt) hit me, but more than anything, I was not reaching for any greatness within.

I've learned to take my inspiration when it comes, wherever it comes. Sometimes it's in the quiet moments at night when the kids are asleep and I am filling up the last moments before sleep. Sometimes it is in the car, driving from errand to errand. Sometimes it is when I'm busy about performing the duties of motherhood. This last is how my 52 books in 52 weeks idea came about. I had once accomplished this naturally while at school at BYU getting my English Literature degree. As I had recently put off my opportunity to finish my master’s degree due to family and financial needs, I was struck with the thrill of being the master of my own learning.
So, here goes . . .

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ignorance is Bliss

A shot in the behind is not such a big deal, I thought, rather smugly, I might add, as I drove from the Costco pharmacy to my doctor's office. I even smiled at the trepidation in which my eight-year-old would have made the same journey if it had been she who would be pulling down her pants and supplying the nurse with a clear "shot" at her target, namely, my exposed derriere. Oh the drama, the tears (both real and engineered) that would have circulated my mini van had that been the case! But I--I was a pro with such things, I congratulated myself. So I happily performed my end of the deal by picking up the Rocephin shot from the pharmacy and driving the distance to the doctor's office with no more concern than that of a delivery boy . . . er girl, in this case.

Then I got to the doctor's office.

They greeted me amiably and asked me to sit in the waiting area after I explained my purpose for being there. The visit was all pre-arranged, of course, but that didn't stop the concern and hushed voices that drifted past the front desk and into my hearing as they discussed me. A moment later an aide came up to me and asked for the "instructions" from the pharmacist.


I'm a big girl. It isn't necessarily alarming if the doctor's office needs to brush up on the instructions for administering a shot right? I wasn't sure if I was convincing myself. After enduring 30 minutes in an empty waiting room I decided I wasn't. They were seriously clueless.

I closed my eyes and imagined what website they were using for their crash course.

A few minutes later the nurse called me back. She looked nice. And young. I tried not to consider what she knew . . . or didn't know about shots, specifically Rocephin shots.

I didn't have to wait long to find out.

"This is one of the worst shots you can get. I'm afraid it's going to hurt," she said apologetically. "It won't be from the needle prick, but the liquid I'm injecting is very thick, and it hurts going in. You will probably be sore for quite some time, and you will be worse tomorrow. You may experience some bruising too."

Pain. I can handle pain, I thought. It probably won't even be very long--just a quick prick and then I'm done.

I'm such an optimist. If only optimism could have a more significant impact on reality.

If I were exaggerating I would say the shot took about 10 minutes but felt like an hour. In reality it took about 2, but I felt every second. In fact, I had the distinct sensation that someone (that nice, smiling nurse, no doubt, though it was all a bit foggy) was trying to stretch my skin to enclose an elephant, and while she was at it she might as well make sure to aim one of his tusks into my muscle and wriggle it around a bit for good measure. I felt hot and my face flushed with the pain. And there was something else too--dead leg. My left "cheek" was starting to feel like I had just climbed a mountain using only my left leg. Surely it must be nearly over, I thought after what seemed an eternity. When I felt I would die if it lasted much longer the nurse comforted me with the news that she was "just about half-way done." Uncle!

"Just about 10% left now," she said after several moments more. And then--finally--it was over.

At least the stretching of my skin to enclose the elephant was over. And the elephant had apparently stopped ramming his tusk into my muscle too. Now I was just left with the aftermath of such an experience, which, for me, meant a spasm of pain from my hip to my toes.

And dizziness.

And heat.

I thanked the nurse because that's just the way I am, and I seem to worry more about the rudeness of not offering up my gratitude than the fact that I really wasn't thankful at that moment. Then I gathered my things and launched a valiant effort to leave before I realized I wasn't going anywhere. Seeing my pale yet fevered face, the nurse helped me back to the exam room, and I lay down for a few minutes until the heat flash and dizziness wore off.

And as I lay there (with one "cheek" off the bed) I thought how wise--how spot-on--my daughter is, afterall, to shed a few tears in dread of a shot.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I have spent the past three weeks as a houseguest.

And you know what they say about company and stinking fish.

Well let's just say I felt pretty putrid after I had passed the three-day mark. Sure I spread that three weeks out among lots of different family and friends, but I still couldn't help but feel like the one person who hasn't showered for several days and then has the nerve to push her sweaty way to the middle of a cramped-together summer crowd with temperatures at 100+ degrees.

I think part of this is that I caught a cold one week into the visit. Nothing is more keenly suited for testing the love of family members. One minute they are smiling and welcoming, planning outings, basking in the contentment of togetherness after a long time apart; the next they are discretely shewing their children away from the aim of your coughing, sputtering self.

If I hadn't been committed to staying for the duration of my son's sports camp I would have coughed my way home at the first tickle in my throat. Instead I was faced with the nearly impossible task of being together yet remaining apart.

This is not easy to do when there are a bunch of adorable nieces and nephews running about and you've already suffered a drought from their cuddles.

But I suppose I--and my family--should be thankful. At least I didn't have the stomach flu. Then I would have really stunk. Pun intended.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Today I put on a shirt that makes me look pregnant, thanks in part to the five pounds I've gained (all stomach fat, apparently) since quitting our gym membership a few months ago and the fact that I'm a stress eater. Thank you bad economy!

This shirt plays up the deception though. It has the tight fit through the chest and the loose spread around the stomach. A classic maternity look. But it was $5 at Target and it was white. Need I say more?

Anyway, normally when this happens I take off the offending garment at once and scrounge in my closet for something else. Nothing is worse than having someone wonder, "Is she . . .?" when she decidely isn't. But today the you-look-pregnant look was working for me. I decided to blame this odd phenomenon on my two pregnant sisters--one of which is currently dilated to an EIGHT and huffing and puffing through labor pains as I type. I know she is huffing and puffing because we had a lengthy conversation yesterday about the merits of active breathing during hard labor. None of this "go-to-your-happy-place-and-relax-breathing." No way. Not for that job.

So here I sit in my fairly comfortable chair, wishing I could be there with her, but the thirteen-hour drive and responsibilities with my own children (whom I could also blame for the bulge around my middle) keep me here.

Love you Em. Happy Huffing. Soon you will be skinnier than me. ;)

Monday, June 8, 2009


Yesterday I needed a nap.

Annie didn't.

When my eyes were drooping she was busily making necklaces and bracelets from the leftover green and brown pipecleaners from her Tropical Rain Forest project. Not the most popular colors for personal jewelry, I know, but she was making do with what she had, I suppose.

On the rare occasion I do get a nap, it is my custom to make sure the kiddos are set up with something quiet to do. The older kids were on the computer. Annie was, as I said, making "jewelry."

A lot of jewelry. Some part of this nagged at me since it seemed like she was "wasting" the pipecleaners. I mustered a feeble "don't make too many," but there was no punch to it. I realized it didn't matter and I would probably have "saved" the pipecleaners for another project but never remembered I had them, or if I did, they would still be the wrong color, etc.

"Well, maybe you could "give" them away to your friends tomorrow at school."

"No Mom. I want to sell them for charity."

Okay. Hands rubbing temples. I couldn't deny that this was an incredibly noble idea. I loved her tender heart for it. But I also couldn't help but think . . . "She's my daughter, and I think these necklaces are . . . well . . . less than pretty. Nobody will want to buy these." Granted--I would buy one or two. I would even wear them (around the house), but I had a hard time thinking anyone else would want to buy them. However, this was a problem that was too difficult for my sleep-deprived brain to concentrate on. I needed a delay. Then I would figure out a pleasant compromise. Maybe I could help her make some jewelry . . . you know . . . with colors (and product for that matter) that people might actually use.

She unwittingly gave me my next move when she said, "I was going to go door-to-door to sell them." Oh No! That would never do. Too dangerous for her and too embarrassing for me to go along with her. Sorry. But that's the glaring reality of my lack of perfection as a mother.

The nap was still calling. "No, that's not safe for you to do alone, and I need a nap." Then, knowing Annie, I added--"You need to stay home while I'm sleeping."

"Okay Mom." I knew the wheels in her head were turning. She had a determined attitude I could tell, but I literally couldn't do anymore. I had not had enough sleep the previous week--mostly due to being a single mom while Howard had been out of town. My body was shutting down. My brain had already initiated the "shes-finally-going-to-let-us-sleep" process, and my body wasn't going to let me back out now. Annie's disobedient preparations were just a foggy sensation that, like Scarlet O'Hara, I was going to worry about "tomorrow"--or at least after my nap.

I awoke about an hour later to Mae's giggles sounding from the front door. Annie had already earned close to $10 from her "jewelry" sales. She had set up a table at the end of our driveway and solicited sales to passersby. Mae was laughing because some teenage boys from next door had just come to purchase some jewelry. They were quite enthusiastic in their delight. I'm not sure which of my daughters "delighted" them more--the quiet teenage beauty, or the outgoing, never-to-be-stopped-or-intimidated eight-year-old.

I've got to learn to stop TRYING to stop Annie.

Any good ideas for a charity?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Northwest in Springtime

Today on my morning run I realized I live in paradise. Only colder.

I mean it though. To a desert-grown gal the lush Washington spring seems to be out of a fairytale, and I cannot fathom a more beautiful sight--even when that beautiful sight comes along side a busy street, as is often the case for my walks.

We have numerous walking trails near our home--winding, mostly paved, up-and-down trails--lined with giant trees on either side and sprinkled with pine needles year round. This creates a natural effect that makes it easy for me to pretend I'm far away from everything and everyone. But in the spring the vines and low-cut bushes creep out to narrow the path. The leaves fill in the trees with a deep green, a healthy green that--thanks to the clouds--is unbleached by the sun. And the spring blossoms pop out in deep colors like the forest's own fireworks. Then I know I'm in my own little paradise.

And maybe I don't mind the cool air. Heat can be overrated.

There are rules for these trails though. Little hints that society has taken over. The most predominant one is directed toward four-legged trail patrons--and their owners. It is assumed, and perhaps decreed, that all four-legged patrons must be accompanied by bag-toting two-legged companions who will promptly confiscate droppings and place them within the confines of the aforementioned bag. To make it easier to comply, the trail is marked, at intervals, with wooden boxes (in keeping with the natural theme of course) that house designer disposal bags in earth tones (also in keeping with the natural theme).

The result of this societal interference? On all my walks over the year in which we have lived here I have seen numerous, loveable, four-legged companions, but I have NEVER seen their droppings.

Yep. I live in paradise.

Now if only we could do something about the ducks. . . .