Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mapping Out My Creative Life

The beautiful layer of snow we were graced with yesterday melted off today. I did take a long walk during late afternoon yesterday to enjoy the snow covering the trees and the trail, so I didn't miss out on seeing its beauty. I had the trail to myself. Not another soul was out the entire time I walked. Today, Ado and I took another long walk earlier this afternoon, after the snow was gone, to enjoy the heat of the sun. This time, we weren't alone. Lots of others decided to take advantage of the lovely afternoon warmth.

After my walk yesterday, I sat here and bought my ticket to see Hamilton! And I have my train tickets to get to Chicago then home. Now all I need is a hotel for the night. I simply cannot wait to go. Last year at this time, I couldn't find a ticket for less than $300, and that was for a seat in the very back of the balcony, the view blocked. I do have a balcony ticket, but the view should be fine, and while I had budgeted $200 for my ticket, I was able to find one for nearly half that. Score! To go along with the musical, I've decided to spend the following day in the city. I have the Art Institute on the list, along with the American Writers Museum, which is a newer museum. I am so excited about this upcoming trip.

My writing has diminished quite a bit since returning to work. I'm still journaling every day, just jotting down ideas, and I've been revising the work that I did complete during sabbatical. New pieces, though, aren't happening. Dealing with student work, writing center work, writing across the college work -- these all take up so much space in my brain. I feel like I don't have any space left for creative work. I find I get annoyed if I sit and think about not being able to put the time into just writing like I was able to during the fall. That five months of nothing to think about and do but creative work showed me another way of living/working that I want all the time. I have to find a way to carve out time to focus and make it happen.

Right now, writing this blog post is my way of not reading/responding to the student papers I have waiting for me. I'm almost done with one section, and I have a second section I need to get finished up. When both sections are completed. I'll have about a week before the next wave of papers come in. That week is set aside for new work. I do have an idea that's been poking at me, and I think it's the idea I'll try to get going properly. It involves the maps I used while cycling the TransAm, the NorTier, and the Pac coast, but that's all I'm going to say for now. I've still got some figuring out to do, but just thinking about this idea is getting me fired up. Now I'm ready to get back to the student papers, so I can get them done and concentrate on my own creative work.

I love looking at the maps and remembering the days riding the black/red roads. This was the day we cycled to the Olema campground, and that night the raccoons wreaked havoc on anything left out for their grimy, little paws.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Snow Magic

I held a red-bellied woodpecker in the palm of my hand today.

Snow swirled down, and I could hear the flakes whispering against dry leaves at the edge of the yard.

The woodpecker's claws clung to the skin of my hand as it gathered its bearings.

For about ten minutes, I watched the bird. I could feel a vibration from its body against my fingers and palm.

When it was ready, the bird with the bright red cap and muted red belly feathers flew up into the cedar tree.

It was the most magical moment of my year so far.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Happy Ending to January 2018

Well, January was fun! If the rest of the year goes along as January did, I'll not be sad.

Monday my youngest turned 19. While memories of the day he was born have blurred around the edges, I still remember being in the delivery room, way beyond ready to give birth to the little guy who was nearly two weeks overdue, and feeling incredible relief once the ordeal ended. This guy came into the world at ten pounds nine ounces. A big boy. My doctor had estimated him in the nine pound range before all the action began, so I decided to go with a natural childbirth since I'd delivered Funny Delightful Son naturally, and he'd weighed in at just over nine pounds. I figured I could do it again. I did, but it wasn't fun by any stretch of the imagination. Thankfully, all turned out just fine, and that big boy is now a tall, lanky young man who can't get enough to eat.

The four of us went out to eat for Angel Baby's birthday dinner. He absolutely hates going anywhere that might give me the opportunity to tell the wait staff it's his birthday and they end up singing to him. Just hates it! So much so that he initially said no to a birthday dinner out. We kept pressuring him, though, and he finally relented, choosing a place he knew had no wait staff to sing Happy Birthday to him.

From there we visited a game store downtown so he could pick out a new board game as a birthday gift. He selected Small World, which is basically a combination of D&D and Risk. When we returned home, we settled in around the table and played into the evening. The goal is to take land and make money, the one with the most money in the end wins. I focused more on invading and conquering, so I didn't make much money along the way. I did, however, enjoy amassing my Skeletons and slaughtering whoever was in my way!

Spending the entire evening with my kids has become our routine these days. Most often, whoever begins cooking dinner is like a signal that everyone should gather in the kitchen for the evening. We sit at the table, talking and sharing our days. Even after dinner, we just sit and talk, with a lot of laughter thrown in. Many evenings, I look over at the clock once we begin clearing the dishes and cleaning up, and it'll be after 9 pm. Hours have passed but it always feels like minutes.

Today marks 8 months into our year of figuring things out. Four months remain for the lease of the house, and I know in a month or so I'll have to make a decision about staying in this place or finding another. It's looking more and more like Lovely Beautiful Daughter will be heading off, most likely to a larger city which is her preference, and Funny Delightful Son will be transferring to a four-year university a few hours away. It'll be just Angel Baby, me, and Ado. We don't need the big house we're in, but I absolutely love it and the location. I really don't want to leave it, but I keep thinking I should find something smaller. The next month or so will be a lot of thinking through the best course of action.

In the meantime, I'm going to focus on spending every available moment possible with these three young people who have helped me through these past few months. Before I know it, they'll be setting off and my evenings will become much quieter. I'm not sure I'm ready for that.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Day Well Spent

My year of embracing opportunity continues!

Today I said yes to the Museum of Science and Industry, an early dinner at a hole-in-the-wall near the University of Chicago (the food was great), a trip to a 57th Street Books, and a jaunt through a bit of Chinatown. Just when I didn't think the day could get any better, I scratched off the last number on a $3 ticket I bought when I paid for a lucky cat I found for Funny Delightful Son.

The image of a money bag appeared, and underneath it was $100.

The. Last. Scratch.

I very seldom buy lotto tickets, and each time I do I never win anything. Hence the not buying tickets. This win was that cherry on top of the whipped cream of a wonderful day, one that I'll savor for a long time.

At the museum, the first exhibit we visited was the U-505 submarine. We walked through and were given a close-up of what life was like on the sub. At one point, our tour leader played a tape of what it would have been like to be on the sub and hear depth charges dropped into the water. I simply cannot imagine the fear the men on the subs must have felt as they waited for the charges to detonate.

Outside the sub, I interacted with a computerized exhibit that showed how the Enigma worked. What an amazing piece of technology. When I finished, I emailed the message to myself.


After finishing up the U-505 exhibit, we went upstairs to take a look at the model train. Then the Art of the Bicycle. The Black Creativity art exhibition. The race cars. Ships Gallery. Science Storms. Genetics and the baby chicks hatchery. Extreme Ice. And so much more. Everything made me marvel at what humankind has accomplished through the years.

Colorful bicycle saddles

Foucault's Pendulum exhibit: I stayed until that stake on the left next to the pendulum was knocked over. It took a while, but I was mesmerized by the pendulum swinging back and forth.

Bunks inside the U-505 sub

Friday, January 19, 2018

I Could Use A Little Whiskey . . . Please

My husband tried to guilt me into going to dinner with him this evening. I stood my ground, though, and politely declined.

The invitation came via text, asking me if I'd like to join him for an evening I would regret. Seriously? Why in the world would anyone say yes to an invitation like this? I replied, basically asking why would I do this to myself? Then I said thank you for the invite, but no.

The next text suggested I needed to have dinner with him for his health. Wow. My response was just, "Nice." He replied by saying, okay, it was for his mental health. Again, wow.

I didn't respond to his last text. I figured I was only going to continue receiving texts designed to make me feel guilty. I refuse to take on that burden.

When my husband brought Ado home after having him over for the day, he asked me again to go to dinner with him. I said no. He went on to bring up the communique he has received from the hospital so far, which hasn't included any bills yet, and mentioned when he does get the bills they'll be enough to give him another heart attack. During this one-sided conversation, he asked me how much I think the overall cost for his hospital stay will end up being. I shrugged, not saying anything. He pressed me a bit further, to which I said I have no idea. Because I wouldn't engage, he turned to leave and said very sarcastically, thanks for going to dinner.

Passive aggressive much?

I really want a clean break. Late March will mark the one-year being up of my decision to separate and my agreement to try to make things work for at least a year. I knew in September things just weren't going to change, and since that time, I've felt myself moving further and further away from him. I've told him this, yet he clings to the idea that I will return to him. I've told him with these words -- I do not want to be with you --but he still believes we have something together.

All this on the heels of two rejections this week. Sigh.

Such is life. All I can do is keep on keeping on. And maybe it's a good evening to let some whiskey wash away my worries.

A bright spot: I noticed the sun is rising earlier and setting later. Already I am thinking about summer, heat, cycling, long walks with Ado, and sitting on the back deck. I really miss sitting on the back deck with my morning coffee.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nourishing the Writer in Me

Well, the feedback on my first erotic short story was positive. I was told my steamy sex scene was quite brave and forthright. Overall, the readers enjoyed it and thought the story holds a lot of promise. I went in and made the suggested changes, which were definitely what the story needed, and now it's up for another round of critique. Who knows, maybe I have a new career in front of me!

I've realized one effect from my sabbatical is how all I think about now is writing. For years I pined for time to write. I tried several times to set aside an hour here or an hour there just for writing. I got up at 4:30 am several years ago, to write before heading off to work. When that fizzled out after two weeks (I absolutely hate, hate, hate getting up before six am), I changed my writing hour to 9:00 pm. That didn't work out because I was always so tired after a long day of work, the kids' activities, and other things going on. The writing was hit and miss for many, many years.

During sabbatical, writing was my job. My days were spent writing. I learned during those five months what it means to be a full-time writer, and I really, really liked it. I know I won't have the same amount of time to put into it now that I'm back at work, but I've made a huge change that is helping me fulfill my writing desire -- I have almost completely stopped watching TV. 

We don't have cable, so we can't just turn on the TV and start flipping channels. We do have Netflix and Hulu, but I've found I've become really picky about the kind of show I want to watch. These shows are few and far between. With so little that strikes my fancy, I've simply stopped watching. When I do decide to sit down and watch something, it's late and the program usually causes me to fall asleep. I then just stumble off to bed.

The time I have now I use for writing. After dinner with the kids, after cleaning up, I settle in and write. I don't set an agenda so much as I just begin wherever I find myself. This evening, I revised the short story. After finishing it, I critiqued two pieces on the website then moved to revising one of my poems I've been struggling with (thankfully, I received some wonderful suggestions after posting it for critique). From there I wrote an email to my cousin, and now I'm writing here. This is what I want for myself now. It took too long to get to this spot in my life, and there have been some rough spots along the way, but I know now I can make the writing happen.

Tomorrow I don't have anything scheduled as a must-do other than getting the oil changed in the Jeep early in the morning. After that is finished, the day will be mine to write. My goal is to get a few new pieces going. Really new, as in going a different direction altogether. Should be interesting.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Taking On Another Challenge

I wrote my first ever erotica short story. And let me tell you, writing erotica -- good erotica (at least my hope is my attempt is good) -- is not easy.

I sat in this chair, at this computer, for nearly ten hours making sure the one lengthy sex scene in the story didn't come off as cheesy, silly, or over-the-top. My desire was that the scene was sweet, rang true, and showed two people who knew each other's wants and needs. I guess you could say I was going for tasteful (if that is even possible in the world of erotica). Now the story is in the hands of those who will critique it. I did ask that they be gentle since this is my first time.

As I was working on the story, Funny Delightful Son came in to chat. He asked me what I was doing, and at that particular moment, I was reading a page about the female anatomy, complete with images and labels. I pointed to it and explained what I was doing. FDS laughed and said, "Okay. Glad I asked."

"It's for another contest," I said. "And if I get any good at it, I'm going to go the erotica route. That's what people really want to read."

"Sure, Mom," FDS said. "Sounds like you're selling out."

"Nope. Just accepting the reality of things," I said.

"Well, I'll leave you to it," FDS said, standing and leaving me to my work.

Not long after his visit, Lovely Beautiful Daughter came in. She sat in the chair near my desk, and over the next few minutes, I had the same conversation with her, though she didn't call me a sellout. She just laughed. She did say, however, that this is one piece of my writing she absolutely will not read. Fair enough.

If nothing else, writing in a genre I'm totally unfamiliar with was a challenge. The guidelines for the contest are that the piece include a steamy scene within a story of 1500 words or less. The story I've had in mind for a while. The steamy scene? Nope. To be sure I built a scene that can be considered erotica, I did some research to be sure I wasn't crossing any boundaries. Now I'm hoping those who offer feedback can give me further guidance to tighten the piece even more.

One thing I noticed about myself while writing the steamy scene was how uncomfortable I was with the language when I started vs how comfortable I became by the time I had finished. Yeah, I find this really interesting.

So, that was my day.