Excuses, Excuses

It’s been a long time since my last post, and I’ve thought of blogging every day.  Life’s had a funny way of taking me away from my regular blog postings, but I declare today I will blog every day, even if it’s five words, until my book is published.

What have I been doing since 4/20/10?  Let’s see…

Thought about my novel every single day.  I often wrote, revised, made notes on scrap paper, presented scenes to one of my two critique groups, or spent time in the office writing.  More than occasionally, I’d write in my car, at the pool, in a pediatrician’s waiting room, at a restaurant, on our boat, in bed, or on a bench at a playground.

Reconnected with a long-lost friend in April, and it brought me more joy than I’d anticipated.

Celebrated my youngest son’s 7th birthday, as well as my 42nd.

Turning 42 with a Tres Leches cake.

Planned and ran a field trip with my 21 Girl Scouts to a local senior citizens’ home and watched the looks on the girls’ faces — many who’d never been to such a place.  Everyone benefited from the visit, especially me.

Experienced the worst ear/head pain in my life and consequently had my cranium scanned 40 ways to heaven, looking for the reason.  Appears I have a nerve compressed by a blood vessel, so it might happen again.  It makes me nervous, but I now have a great neurologist who’ll help if and when the pain strikes again.

Completely blew off “Tune Out TV Week” because I needed my children to have something to do while I snuck away to my office to write.  I didn’t even feel guilty.  Felt sorry for anyone who’d participated in the event…that’s how much I needed TV as a babysitter.  Call DCFS on me…I’m a horrible mother.

Co-hosted a luncheon for our local U.S. Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky as a fundraiser for my kids’ elementary school.  She’s an amazing woman, and I love that she’s appeared on the Colbert Report.

Planned a party for my daughter’s friend who moved from our town back to her country of origin, Mexico.  I watched my Maggie cry for days afterward, and I ached over the feeling of being completely unable to ease her sadness.

Forgot to call my dear friend Amy and my cousin, Barry on their birthdays in April; I feel terrible about it.

Wrote with Jill Schacter at my house and felt inspired by her indescribable talent.  She’s working on an incredible book that will change people’s lives, and I’m fortunate to witness her doing it.  I’m more fortunate to call her a friend.  Also forgot to call her on her birthday.  I suck at that sort of thing, but I still feel terrible.

Attended an event at Esme’s Book Room in Roger’s Park with my daughter.  Megan McDonald (of the Judy Moody series) was the guest speaker.  I felt kinship like I’ve never known at this event, surrounded by children’s writers and readers and books and creativity.  If you ever have the chance to attend an event with Esme Raji Codell, please jump on it.

Attended the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston’s annual Hat Tea fundraiser with my daughter and wondered what sorts of cool things I could do with my sons like that, one-on-one.  I bid on (and won) a Benefit Beauty Bash at a local makeup store; got to invite a handful of friends to get some beauty treatments done, hang out and be girls.  Planned it for July.

Got my hair highlighted (which I love) and cut short (which I’ve hated and cannot WAIT to grow long again).

Sat for 2 hours dumping my email box of old emails.  At one point, I had 1500 (most of them junk mail) and cried.

Cut lilies of the valley for my children’s teachers during teacher appreciation week.

Put my youngest son’s sandals in the dishwasher because they smelled so horrible, praying they’d come out smelling slightly better. It did not work.

Ran a Girl Scout meeting about trust.

Watched my talented friend Becca perform in a fantastic show in Wilmette.

Decorated my friend Melissa’s house for a mom’s-night-out party, then ended up being too sick to attend. I heard I missed a great evening with neighborhood friends.

Attended my daughter’s dance recital with my family and my own parents. I giggled at my two sons cringing through the entire performance, as if nails were being driven up through their seats.  They squirmed and stretched and rolled their eyes in mock horror as each new ensemble took the stage.

Forgot to move my car on street cleaning day and got a $25 ticket.  I didn’t pay it on time, and now I owe $50.  I cursed the City of Evanston.

Cleaned my home office — dumped tons of old files, sorted piles, and felt so much better.

Begrudgingly attended a Girl Scout campout that my co-leader planned (I hate camping — never had good experiences with it as a child) and ended up having the time of my life.  The girls, every one of them, had a ball, and I got to see firsthand how a night in the woods away from home can transform a young girl’s impression of her abilities.  Many of them were nervous, but they each contributed to the experience in some way (collecting firewood, making dinner, setting the tables, cleaning up, teaching others a craft or a song).  The experience changed my view of camping.  I applaud my co-leader for pushing hard even when I pushed back.  I apologized for not having more of an open mind.

Registered with Craig’s List and Freecycle and unloaded a bunch of household items we no longer need or use.  I figured I should get to know the process of doing that because my character’s family does it.  Unfortunately, I learned it’s not as easy to conduct the “transactions” as one might think.  A mother used Craig’s List to purchase a massive beanbag chair from us; when she came to pick it up, we realized she’d need more manpower to drag it down the stairs, so we had to reschedule.  On Freecycle, I’d offered an aquarium we no longer use, as well as a shelf with baskets.  A couple came to take both, but only took portions of these items, promising to come back.  I held on to the remnants for a month before putting them out on the curb with “FREE” signs on them; all my emails to them went unanswered.

Spent an entire weekend at The Writer’s Workspace, organizing my novel, re-reading what I’ve written, reviewing critiques from my colleagues, and thinking of ways to make the story that much better.  I took piles of critiqued pages and created one master document to begin working from.  Prior to that, I felt overwhelmed carrying around multiple copies of scenes with various friends’ helpful critiques written all over them.  Now I have one central document with those changes incorporated.  Up until then, it had been so hard imagining how many scenes I actually had left to write.  Now I could see where the gaps were and which scenes needed some TLC.   Areas needing lots of work (or even entire scenes) were shaded.  Oftentimes, I felt like schizophrenic Russell Crowe in A BEAUTIFUL MIND…papers, ideas, notations, scribbles, madness.

Sent my daughter for one-week to the YMCA Camp Echo in Fremont, Michigan (about 5 hours away).

One internal stitch and 3 staples put Maggie back together again.

On her last night there, she split open the back of her head by falling against a metal bunk-bed post (and thankfully, we’d just gotten her tetanus shot booster…I love when I can point to concrete examples for getting vaccinations).  Before the bunk-bed accident, Maggie never stepped foot into an E.R.; knowing she’d be getting stitches and staples with virtual strangers in another time zone was like a knife in my heart.  I wanted to drive immediately to be by her side, but my husband and eldest son convinced me to wait until she’d gotten some sleep in the infirmary after her ordeal…besides, I wouldn’t be able to get to her until 3 or 4 a.m.  So, I stayed up all night worrying about her, then left for Michigan at 4am to time my arrival with her cabin’s wakeup call.  I was so proud of how she conducted herself through the experience, how the doctors said she’d asked 1,000,000 questions about the tests and procedures she went through, and how much gratitude Maggie showed to her wonderful counselors.  The 10-year-old we sent to camp came back as a completely matured young lady, and it’s remarkable to watch her newfound confidence having gone through such a tough experience.

Wrote my novel’s “climax scene” and cried while doing it.  My main character surprised me with her gumption and her strength, and as I wrote her actions and thoughts, I literally felt the power of words flowing from my heart to the page.  It was incredible.

Visited my ailing grandparents in Wisconsin and told them both how much I loved them.  My daughter fed my grandmother Jell-O.  We promised we’d come back and visit.  My daughter declared we should make my grandparents fleece blankets to snuggle with.

Went to the fabric store with my daughter and we made the fleece blankets.  My grandmother died before we could give her one.

Despite my sadness, I attended children’s critique group and was beyond grateful to have these wonderful, dependable friends there to listen to my submission.  These writers know my characters’ voices and consistently offer encouragement, pose important and necessary questions and — most of all — the truth about my writing.  I loved diving into THEIR writing worlds, seeing how important even the smallest revisions have made their works stronger, and getting to know their characters more and more.  Being in a critique group puts you in such a dichotomous place:  One of vulnerability and power.  It requires tact, decisiveness, honesty, deep thought (and forethought), a very open mind and the ability to assimilate multiple points of view.  It’s a roller coaster of comfort and challenge, and it was the perfect place for me to be when I was so down.

My daughter put my grandmother’s fleece blanket in her coffin at the wake, calling it a “heaven blanket.”  My grandfather (who was in Intensive Care at the time) now has a matching heaven blanket his next to his bed.

Breathe.  When it rains, it pours.

Confronted and began helping a friend struggling with addiction.  It’s been an awful, emotional, confusing time (more so for my friend, but I feel so many emotions myself:  Worried, angry, sad, betrayed, lost, helpless, and powerless, especially as my friend rationalized some poor choices.  However, I know this person is stronger than the addiction, and I’ve made it clear I’m here for whatever’s needed.  I couldn’t mean that more.

Attended and spoke at my grandmother’s funeral.  Was surprised and humbled that two of my friends drove with their children to Wisconsin on a gorgeous summer day to be there for me.  Watched my father sit next to his critically ill father during the service, wiping his mouth, holding his hand, and offering comfort.  Felt my children and husband put their arms around me when I cried during the service.  Knew that my grandfather wants nothing more than to be with his wife of 67 years.

Reconnected with a dear high school friend, Desiree C. Scales, who runs a website design firm, Bella Web Design.  We had a conference call and talked about websites…I’d really like to create one, and I think she’d be wonderful to work with.   I have ideas for a website and I’m excited to share them with her.  Moreover, I’m excited to share ideas with my future READERS.

Sat on a beach blanket with my friends, chewing a piece of gum, when half of a molar fell out of my mouth.  I immediately knew it was from grinding my teeth over stress about my friend’s addiction.  Knew I had to do something more than think and hope things would “turn out” okay.  I signed up for Al-Anon (a support group for friends and family of individuals with addictions) to learn how to be more supportive and to understand the power of addiction.  I went to a meeting and was surprised to know someone there — someone whose child I used to teach.  I witnessed a room full of support and understanding, and felt the healing power of empathy.

Planned and held our neighborhood’s 6th annual block party where my kids got to jump in a moonwalk in front of the house (if you’re in Illinois and ever need a cheap  moon jump delivered to your door, go to AMoonJump4U.com) , tossed water balloons, got blasted by a fire truck’s hose, competed in various contests including hula-hooping and thawing out frozen t-shirts, and drank more lemonade than their bellies could handle.  It’s a magical day, one of the happiest days of the year for me.  I never had block parties growing up, and the idea of having an entire street cleared of cars and traffic for an entire day just sounds like heaven.  Inside, I’m still very much a child, and I know I always will be.

I’ve been busy, happy, sad, frustrated, tired and grateful…But most of all, I’m grateful to you, Dear Readers, for sticking with me. I’ve let life get in the way of writing this summer, but I also know I won’t regret any of these powerful experiences I’ve had…they’re what make my life so rich, and I’m confident they’ll inform my writing.  However, I’ve missed blogging so much, and I’m happy to say I’m back.  Thanks for taking the ride with me.

By the way, if you, like me, have found yourself “distracted” by life, what’s been your biggest hurdle?  What’s distracted you from your goals lately?


10 responses to “Excuses, Excuses

  1. thanks for the lovely recap, Christine!
    so manymore than 5 words — now that wasn’t so bad, was it??

  2. I’d ask how you find time to write doing all of that, but I know. It’s because you have to write. I’m quite jealous of your critique group. Still searching for one that works for me. (let me know if you have an opening). Always love Esme’s gigs. It’s so amazing when your own writing and characters make you cry (or laugh).

    You are a good friend and a great mom, and I suspect, a great writer. Looking forward to your daily blog posts. Good luck.

    • Thank you so much, Susan! You’re a GREAT writer, too, and I’ll keep you posted on openings. I’m sure I’m not the only person who constantly wonders how YOU do all the writing you accomplish. I believe prolific is next to your name in the dictionary.

  3. WOW! THAT was amazing! love you so very very much my dear friend…


  4. I read your post about this blog entry in our IllinoisSCBWI email loop and just had to swing by, because I am plagued by distraction too. I’m awed by the number of things you’ve done, and they are all legitimate reasons to be distracted. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother.

    Usually, writing distracts me from my “real” life. But right now, summer is distracting me from writing. With the kids out of school, my writing time has been cut by 90%. I have a few minutes here and there but I need a few solid hours to get into that writing “headspace” that allows me to get lost in my story. I’ve been revising the same chapter of my manuscript for 4 weeks now, and contributing only the bare minimum to my critique group. But my kids are getting older and soon they won’t want Mom to take them to Great America or the beach. I’m trying to neglect my characters for a few weeks so I can enjoy summer with the kids. But boy, am I craving an uninterrupted day of writing.

    • Kara,
      I completely and utterly understand you! Those uninterrupted days are such a gift, and I think having them so fleetingly now will make us appreciate them when our kids are older and needing us less. Mine are now 12, 10 and 7. Yours? My critique group seems to understand the concept of contributing the bare minimum as a HUGE accomplishment during the summer months, which is a huge relief. I bless you with that same feeling: JUST writing during the summer months is a massive undertaking. Good for you! Hope to hear what you’re writing about. I’m always happy to know other writers who are trying to juggle. Happy summer. In the words of a writing mentor of mine (I’ll paraphrase), “When you’re raising kids and writing, don’t knock yourself when you’re spending more time with family. You won’t regret it later.”

  5. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah, Christine!

    Thank you for your beautiful slice of life.

    I’m with Kara– Summer is my greatest distraction. And yes, 90% of my writing time is G-O-N-E. It’s a huge internal struggle.

    More to come… I just got distracted….

  6. Christine,

    I should be packing for our trip, we are leaving for Germany next week but instead I am reading your blog… I am so sorry to hear about your grandparents, the story about the fleece blankets really touched me, what a sweet idea but how very sad for you and Maggie that you did not have enough time to give it to your grandmother. I love your blog, please keep writing.

  7. Loved reading every word. As I’ve said so many times…you have a gift for writing.

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