Viruses and videos

Today, I’m grateful for something small — really small. A virus. Sounds like a weird thing to be grateful for, doesn’t it? My daughter’s been coughing and complaining that her ears and throat hurt, so I took her to the doctor this morning. (I’m also grateful that she likes going to the doctor. And that we have insurance.) The diagnosis was just a virus, not strep, no bacterial infection, and no inflammation at all in her ears. Yes, this means a few more days — maybe as much as a week — of her having a sore throat and coughing and being just a bit cranky, but it also means that she’ll be fine.

On a related note: I’m also grateful for VCRs, DVD players, and Netflix. It’s nice to be able to let her chill with preschooler-friendly entertainment when she’s home sick, rather than the game shows and soap operas that were on, say, when my older brother and I spent two weeks home with chicken pox.

In gratitude

I’m looking at today, the first Monday of a brand new year, and thinking about how much I have to be grateful for. Good friends, family, health — obvious, but worth mentioning. As I said in today’s earlier post, I’m particularly grateful to my friend Bonnie who helps me with my writing, but there are many others who have helped me through the years with that and who still help me with motivation, encouragement, and feedback — Dawn, Val, Maripat, Margaret, Elizabeth, Beth, Ed, Marcy, Stuart — on and on. My mom encourages me and believes I can do anything. My brothers both encourage me, albeit occasionally through left-handed compliments. My husband and son, even if they don’t love everything I write, are always excited about my acceptances and try to make allowances for the times I write while the family’s around.

What I’d like to do this year is to have a post every Monday talking about specific things or people I’m grateful for. It’s good to remember all that I already have in my life, and it makes me start the week on a good note. Prepare yourself for 52 weeks of gratitude.

Today: I’m grateful for time with my family. Everyone’s home today for a long New Year’s weekend, and it would be easy to be annoyed that I can’t write and everything as usual because of the activity. Instead, right now the kids are decorating gingerbread houses (geodesic domes). Later, I’m taking the girl to get some new shoes, then off to a playground. Might get in some more D&D with my husband and son later, though that’s iffy, since the boy has to go to school tomorrow. (We’re playing Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, for those who might be interested.)

Life is good. Time with family is good. And I am grateful that I have it.

There’s no place like . . .

We’ve been traveling a fair bit recently, and — having a modern minivan — we’ve played DVDs for the kids in the back. Sometimes, we make them use headphones; Looney Toons are fun, but “The Rabbit of Seville” loses a lot if you can’t see it. Other times, we listen to the DVD, too, and it’s given me a lot of food for thought.

As much as I enjoy the movie The Wizard of Oz — and who doesn’t like saying “Lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my!” or singing along with “We’re off to see the wizard”? — I can’t help thinking about how it changes the truth both of the book it is based on and the entire series. (Spoiler warning!)

Not only is Oz real, but it winds up being Dorothy’s permanent home, as well as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s. Yes, it’s an escape from their farm being foreclosed on, but it has its own dangers to face. The big, important thing about Oz for Dorothy (and Trot, Button-Bright, and Betsy Bobbin) is that she has found somewhere she belongs, with friends who understand her, somewhere she fits in.

Looking back on my childhood, I think that may be part of what I loved about these books, almost as much as the magic.

Finding somewhere the characters fit in is a theme in many stories, both in print and in movies. Goonies, the Ice Age series (“We look like a normal pack to you?”), Anne of Green Gables, even the Harry Potter books have it as a theme . . . on and on. As someone who grew up with only a few friends at any time (and rather unpopular with the world in general), I needed stories that said I would, eventually, find my place.

And that’s why I’m going to make sure my children know there’s more to the story of Oz than the movie shows. There is no place like home — but we all need to know we can find somewhere else to belong, too.

What we leave

I saw a post recently by an author that bugged me. I have no problem with him arguing that if you want to be a writer, you write. I mean, that just stands to reason. You don’t get hired as a chef for a four-star restaurant without learning to cook first. You don’t become chief of surgery at the local trauma center without doing a lot of surgeries. And you don’t become a writer — let alone a renowned writer — without putting in the time.

No, what bugged me was his dismissal of any other occupation you might have for your time. As I think I’ve made clear, I don’t believe in burying myself in one occupation to the exclusion of everything else, so obviously I don’t agree with him. I also really don’t like personal opinion being presented as the One True Way. Breadth works for me, but that doesn’t mean I think everyone should be like me (with the exception to follow, of course 😉 ).

Even more specifically, one of the things he singled out as not being as important for his time was parenthood. Basically, he said he provides for his family, they know he loves them, and that should be enough without him making an effort to go to games, etc.

Wow, how utterly 1950s.

I’m not suggesting the other extreme — give up your own life for two decades until the kids are grown and gone, then try to remember who you are when you’re not being a helicopter parent.

Instead, I’m arguing for the middle ground. (Yep, I’m a centrist. Live with it.)

I think one of the most common things middle class parents tell their children is that they can do anything they want to do, that they can grow up to be anything, that they should follow their dreams. Well, look, if you really believe that, there are two things you have to do to make sure they believe it, too:

  1. You need to support their dreams — go to their games, their concerts, their recitals; read their stories; care about what they care about.
  2. You need to live your dreams so they know they’re not expected to put their lives on hold when they have kids of their own.

My mom always supported my dreams; she still does. And she had dreams of her own — I remember studying Italian flash cards with her when she went back to school to finish up her bachelor’s degree. I also shared the college commute with her when she went back to work on a second degree. She taught me by example, and I hope to do the same for my kids.

Yes, there are millions of mothers out there, and not as many writers. On the other hand, my kids only have one mother and can read any book they want. It’s a balance.

. . . and now I need to get back to this book I’m writing.

J is for juggling

When people think of balance, they often think of a static situation — a pair of scales, equal weights on both sides. Dynamic balance — the kind you need to ride a bike or walk on a tightrope — isn’t usually what people are striving for in their lives. There’s this idea that you can get everything together and cope for once and all with everything you have to do.


That’s why I prefer to think of juggling. When you’re juggling, the more you’re juggling, the more is out of your hands. If you’re doing it well, things fall into place, right in your hands. And occasionally, balls get dropped, but it’s not the end of the world. That describes what I live with.

There’s the personal — wife, mother, manager of family finances, cook, washerwoman, gardener, and more.

There’s the professional — copyeditor, indexer, proofreader. Running the business, dealing with finances, finding new work.

There’s the writer — um. Current count of projects on my list for the next couple of months? I’ve got one short story now, but I’m hoping to participate in the Story-a-Day challenge on Forward Motion in May. I’ve got the Mayan book I’m working on for Moongypsy Press, and Daniel’s book (under Doru’s name) that I promised to have up by the end of this month. I have four other books in various states of completion that I want to send out to NY publishers, at least 2 of which I’d like to get done in the next month or two. I have another project, Bridge, which I started this month but really won’t talk about until December or January. I have the steampunk adventure stories. I want to write another novella to submit to the UPC Science-Fiction Award this year. I just got an idea for a new series yesterday, and I was reminded of an old idea for a series that I probably won’t get to before next year. Oh, and then there are the short stories already written that I keep sending out to markets (occasionally selling one), as well as the ones I’m considering putting up for sale.

So, yes. Juggling.

No balls dropped so far today, but the day is young.

F is for family, friends, freelancing, and fiction

I had an epiphany this morning at 5:00, but I can’t use “epiphany” because E was yesterday. I suppose I could have used “F is for five o’clock,” but the time isn’t as important as the content. I was awakened by the girl fussing (she got herself back to sleep), and I started to complain to myself that I was just barely going to fall back asleep before it would be time to get up and get the kids ready, then start on my day — same old, same old. That’s when it hit me — I chose this life.

Okay, that may be obvious to others. Epiphanies do tend to be personal, after all. Still, I’m going to explore what I mean.

I chose marriage and children. I chose work that I could do anywhere we lived because I didn’t have to look for a new employer. I chose to start telling the stories in my soul. And, if it comes right down to it, I choose to do our taxes because I’m a bit of a control freak.

Every part of the day before me is a direct consequence of something I chose, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m married to a wonderful man whom I love, we have incredible kids, and my work allows me to be who I am.

There are downsides — the only family here is the one my husband and I have made; our closest relatives are several states away. I don’t have any close friends where we live, though certainly part of that is that I’m not good at reaching out. With the Internet, though, I’m in touch with friends and family that I haven’t seen in decades, and I’ve made several excellent new friends through on-line communities (especially Forward Motion).

This is my life, and I’m grateful for it.

reading time

I come from a family of readers. My parents’ living room had a bookcase my dad had made to cover one wall. It must have been twenty feet long and ten to twelve feet high (cathedral ceiling), and even so, there were shelves where the books were two deep, plus other bookcases scattered around the house. I married into another family of readers, and books flow back and forth, borrowed, returned, recommended.

With this family background in mind, it should come as no surprise that our kids love books. I would have been surprised by any other result, in fact.

Our son at three could recite Green Eggs and Ham from memory. Our daughter at nine months would sit up and carefully turn pages in books, babbling with varying tones as if reading them. For a lot of the summer, bedtime was mostly an advisory number, with the understanding that if our son got into bed by then, he could stay up reading pretty much as long as he wanted. Now that school’s back in session, he generally only gets to stay up late reading on Saturday nights, and even then, not indefinitely.

So it should not surprise me that our daughter wants to go to bed with a book and have me leave the light on. She doesn’t have school (although she does get up early for daycare); thus, my feeling is that if it keeps her in bed and quiet until she falls asleep, I’m all for it!

Yes, my attitude is almost certainly influenced by the fact that my parents never let me stay up to read, whether I had anything to do the next day or not. I’d sneak out of my room and read by the light filtering down the hall. I got caught, of course, but it was worth it, just to get a little farther in the book. So much time wasted on early bedtimes when I could have been reading!

Now, of course, I rarely have the energy to stay up late reading, so I have to sneak it in at random intervals, and I just can’t read as much as I used to. How about you — do you stay up to read? Or do you make time elsewhen in your schedule?