Monday, December 22, 2008

Peace on Earth

Cape Cod Weather Today: Cold, clear, 20 degrees. The rain washed much of the snow away, and left a layer of ice on everything, The sky is turning blue, and hopefully the sun will warm things up....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Cape Cod Weather Today: Snowy and 32 degrees outside. About six inches of snow fell in the yard overnight. The snow clouds still linger, low in the morning sky, as if contemplating another snowfall any minute now.

I love snow. I love looking out the window and seeing the snow-covered branches of the trees and the pokey dead grass transformed into a pillow of white. I even enjoy shoveling, believe it or not. Good aerobic exercise, and when you're finished you have something to show for it. Kinda like raking leaves (i like doing that, too.)

But they got our hopes up too high, with flurry of phone calls the night before, and sending the kids home early from school in anticipation. They expected a blizzard. We did get significant snow (on the Cape, anything over three inches is significant), but it didn't even start until later in the afternoon. There wasn't enough to play in until around 4:00. I don't mean to complain, but I expected more.

The kids are thrilled. I'm busy wondering how I'll finish the Christmas shopping, hoping the roads are okay. I can see my road is plowed. Hopefully they all are. And hopefully the kids get their snowman built before the predicted rain comes tomorrow to freeze it all into a solid mass. Or maybe they'll be wrong about that, as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Seven Shopping Days Until Christmas...

Cape Cod Weather Today: Sucks. It's cold, it's dark and overcast, it's windy, and it's raining. What more could you NOT want out of the weather? The dogs may be out of luck for a walk....

Still busy checking things off the To-Do list... went caroling with my Brownie troop yesterday to a local nursing home, made the first of many gingerbread houses with my daughter, finished the shopping over the weekend for all the cousins and various family members, and have gifts for all the teachers. Still have not taken anyone to talk with Santa directly, but I hear the Big Guy is going to be at the Christmas Fair at the local vet, so thought I'd take the dogs and kids all together to chat with him. The puppy probably has the most to say...

Received the next round of edits from my editor on Monday night - I'd already gone to my oldest son's basketball game, snuck out to take the other two to karate, went back to the game, drove another girl home from karate class, dropped he boys at home and took my daughter back out to her basketball scrimmage in a neighboring town (we were late, but 2 other girls never even showed up, so the coach was thrilled to see us at all) Caroling yesterday was a little less hectic... and more enjoyable. Today I really have to work on those edits... I do want this book to be published in 2009! But I still have a bit more shopping to get done... and stockings to be stuffed....

I'm looking forward to Christmas vacation. My son's school team has no practices scheduled - my daughter's team may have one practice. And my other son's band practice is cancelled as well.

What ever will we do with ourselves???

Write, perhaps?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Hectic Holidays...

Cape Cod Weather today: Bright, crisp, and COLD! The thermometer read 19 degrees Fahrenheit this morning when I drove the kids to school... the dogs will have to wait a little longer for their walk because it is just way too chilly out there...

The tree is up, and the myriad Rubbermaid containers are out of the attic (albeit not fully unpacked yet...) I still need to find my collection of antique glass ornaments to hang on the tree, but I promised my daughter I wouldn't do that without her. So I've moved on down the list to find one of the other dozens of things that need doing before Christmas.

When did Christmas decorating and shopping change from highly anticipated and enjoyable to a checklist of chores to rush through?

I remember when I was young (or at least younger) and used to actually like the prospect of Christmas shopping. I didn't have any more money in my wallet then, but I liked to meander the shops (even the mall!) and find the perfect gift for each person on my list. Now it's just one more thing that needs doing in an already busy month.

I want my family's holiday season to be more relaxed, and more magical - but it was an effort to get the kids to even help decorate the tree. Takes too long, I guess, in their world of near-instant gratification. My daughter had fun baking cookies with me for the holiday bake-sale her scout troop held over the weekend, but even then her attention span waned and I was left to decorate the last tray of cookies.

How do you go about slowing the pace and adding more of the magic back into the holidays? This seems especially important and relevant in a year when the economy is so fragile that I don't think many of us can buy our way to happiness... Please feel free to post any and all suggestions - I'm sure I'm not the only one struggling with this issue this year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Jamaican State of Mind

Cape Cod Weather today: Cloudy, cold, and sleeting rain... and nothing like Jamaica...

My husband and I just returned from almost two weeks in the Caribbean, on the island of Jamaica. A tropical depression settled over the island halfway through our stay, but did little to dampen our enthusiasm for our vacation away from kids and the responsibilities of everyday life.

Take a vacation. I highly recommend it.

We returned home almost a week ago, and my parents (who had been taking care of the kids while we were away) stayed for Thanksgiving, and both my sisters came for the holiday as well. But even after having a house full of family and my tiny kitchen inundated with holiday craziness, I still have that Jamaican "No Problem" feeling, and am still running on Jamaica time... which means nothing goes according to any schedule and that's okay.

It drove me a little crazy when we first arrived on the island, because even though the resort posts a schedule of events, nothing ever starts when it should. I don't think they understand the concept of "on time," or if they do, it's merely an American thing. It was yet another wake-up call to me that I need to slow down and enjoy each moment as it comes, and not stress over the to do list or the accomplishments list quite as much.

How many wake-up calls does one get in life?

I had one last fall that did much to slow me down, making me realize what was important in my life... One busy Tuesday, I had carefully planned out my schedule in order to get all the important errands done before an important meeting, and was on my way to Staples when the school nurse called. My son had just thrown up all over the hallway, could I come pick him up? I turned the car around and did the time recalculations in my head as I sped back into the middle of town. I would have to leave out one errand, but I could still finish the rest if I hustled.

Bringing my son home, I tripped on the brick front steps and crashed through the plate glass storm door. Blood was everywhere, and my already pale son turned a sickly shade of green. Luckily, my husband had just gotten home. He calmly assessed the situation, helping to pick the last of the glass from my wounds. I'd sliced through my wrist, but managed to avoid any major arteries. He knew this not because he was a doctor, but because the wound was so large and deep he could see them all exposed, and none seemed to be gushing. He waited while I made a few phone calls to arrange care for the other two kids, and then drove me and my sickly son to the emergency room where I got stitched up and my son threw up again. The pain was incredible, and reminded me for weeks that I needed to slow down and keep it simple.

But then the hustle and bustle of the everyday wears down the resolve to take it slow. The speed of life gradually throttles up until you're running full speed once again, saying yes to everyone who asks a favor.

Not so in Jamaica. They always seem to take the time to smile, to say hello and chat with friends and strangers alike. They say "No Problem" when you ask for something, but they fit it into their timetable, not yours. They always stop and take a minute to admire the sunrise, the sunset, the beautiful cloud formations or sparkling blue seas. Every day is different, they say, and should be experienced and enjoyed for its uniqueness. After a few days living at their pace, you have no choice but to slow down your own pace, and readjust your expectations.

And take the time to admire the sunset. Because it really is beautiful, even when it's cloudy.

I hope I can remember this lesson for a long while. Or at least through the coming holiday season. Slow down. Take the time to enjoy each moment as you live it. Appreciate friends and family, and the love they give you. No Problem.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Writing and Procrastination

Cape Cod Weather Today: Sunny, slightly breezy, blue skies with wispy white clouds floating by my window view. Not cold, but not as warm as yesterday, which felt like Spring! Good day to rake leaves...

Procrastination is one of the tools in the writer's toolbox.

No, really. It's not merely a way to avoid writing. It's a way to let your thoughts percolate, reforming into more coherent sentences and ideas, reformatting the outline which your story is based upon... as I was raking this mornig, I was trying to work out a plot line for my hero's escape from the evil Prince...

Oh, who am I kidding? Procrastination is the bane of my writing life, albeit a large part of my day. I should be writing right now, working on my latest novel. But I'm blogging instead!

I should have been writing all morning, but instead I had to grocery shop, and rake leaves, and make a few trips to the dump, and do laundry...okay, these are all things that need doing. Maybe those are legitimate procrastination tools.

How about Facebook? Legit networking tool, or evil time-sucker? Hard to say....

Okay. Enough procrastination. Time to go free the hero from the dungeon...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Working on the ReWrites

Cape Cod Weather Today: Cold! Cold enough to wear my scarf to the beach when I walked the dogs this morning! Winter scarves in October! It was sunny when I dropped the kids at school, but ominous clouds have been slowly rolling in off the ocean...

After receiving the editorial comments from my editor last week, and downing (several) martinis, I realized something most first time authors probably come to understand at some point early in their careers.

My editor is right.

My manuscript (my baby!) is good, but it could be much better. She didn't say it was ugly, just that it needed some work. There are some places where it drags on, and other places where it could be developed more fully. There are things the characters do that make them less sympathetic that should be cut, and motives that need to be further explained.

So after a weekend away from the computer, busily doing activities with the children and not dwelling on her comments, I was able to come back to the document Sunday night, and start the process of rewriting. And I found something else out.

Rewriting can be fun!

I'm actually enjoying the process of making the story line stronger, writing new dialogue to stregthen motives and alibis. Parts that I must have rushed through in my original quest to reach the finish line (and type "the end") are being given a more thorough development this time around. And it's fun, because I also realize that some of these things I already knew about my characters and never communicated properly. And some of the story lines aren't as integral to the final story as I had thought when I was writing it the first time around.

All this being said, I'm hoping to get the rewrite "right" the first time around.

How often do you think that happens?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pudding Time

Cape Cod Weather Today: Cold and Dark. It's still early yet, so hoping it warms up and brightens up...still have to close that swimming pool....

We drove down to Virginia this weekend to make the Christmas puddings. They have to be made in advance, so they can sit. And ferment. Sound good yet?

There are no plums in Plum Pudding. I need to say this first, because it bothered me as a child. “Where are the plums?” I’d ask. “How can it be Plum Pudding without plums?”

In medieval England, “plums” referred to any fruits that could be cooked or dried to store for the winter. One way to save fruit was to make it into big round cakes, which were wrapped in muslin, boiled for hours, and stored with the salted meat and other supplies, to be eaten mid-winter. Some recipes were better than others, resulting in puddings that would last without getting moldy or crumbly. The best recipes were handed down from mother to daughter for generations. A really good recipe, with just the right ratio of ingredients, was a prize worth keeping a family secret.

My English great-grandmother arrived in America around 1900, still in her mother’s belly. Beatrice was born in New York City, and inherited her family’s prized recipe for “Plum Pudding.” Bea and her younger sister Mae both married and moved across the Hudson River to New Jersey in 1915. They carefully wrote out a copy of their mother’s prized recipe, ripping it in half and bringing the pieces together only at pudding time.

Today, my extended family still gathers each fall to follow the time-honored traditions of English pudding making, muslin and all. The recipe is finally kept in one piece – but with only one copy in existence, in my grandmother’s handwriting. She copied the two faded and stained halves together after her mother’s death. The family joked about “international pudding thieves,” but Bea made her two daughters swear never to share the secret recipe outside the family.

My grandmother and great aunt each had three children, who in turn had children and grandchildren. The family now stretches across America, from Cape Cod to Hawaii, with family in ten states and Germany. And each fall someone volunteers their kitchen, and the rest of us make the annual trek to participate in the “Pudding Party.”

Pudding is an all-day event, starting after breakfast and stretching well into the evening (depending upon how much wine is consumed in the process.) We grate stale bread, zest lemons, pick the hard bits from the suet, measure the dried cherries and yellow sultanas… we spread lard along the insides of heavy mixing bowls, and pack the pudding down on top with inches of unbleached flour… we wrap the puddings in muslin and boil them for hours… and we bask in the family togetherness, sharing stories of our present and telling tales from the past.

One tale from the past is of Sir Thomas Horner. According to legend, Horner was the steward of Glastonbury Abbey during the time of King Henry VIII’s Reformation of the Church. To finance his duel wars with the Catholic countries of France and Spain, the King passed the Dissolution of Monasteries Act, breaking apart church properties and selling them to lords more loyal to the throne than to the Pope. In Glastonbury, the abbot hid several such deeds within a Christmas pudding for safe transport, but Horner stole them and ended up as a titled man of property. The nursery rhyme of Little Jack Horner tells the tale.

Little Jack Horner sits in his corner

Eating his Christmas Pie.

He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum,

And said, “What a good boy am I!”

One of the other families who profited from the Dissolution of the Monasteries Act was the Browne family, who received the title of Viscount Montague. They were cursed by the monks of Battle Abbey whom they displaced. A 1907 New York Times article recounts the “curse of fire and water,” and the various misfortunes to befall the family. After the manor house itself finally burned down, King George granted the Browne family plantations on the island of St. Vincent, where the curse of fire followed them. Their plantations were wiped out by an erupting volcano. Twice.

The curse seems to have lifted when William Browne, the youngest son of the family, journeyed to America and married Beatrice Taylor. Does this have anything to do with the family’s secret Plum Pudding recipe? Could Horner’s Christmas pudding be in any way related to the traditional pudding we still make and wish upon today? We may never know for sure, but it’s certainly fun to speculate.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A New Writing Group

Cape Cod Weather today: Sunny. Beautiful. Period.

I joined a new writing group this fall, and finally made it to a meeting last night. I met the six other women and the group facilitator, and introduced myself. We joked about politics, and touched briefly on the economy, both subjects too nerve-wracking at the moment for anyone to want to discuss in depth...

I listened as the other women shared their week's writing. The first story was about a mother's pain at placing her autistic son in a group home. The second tale was of a cynical againg woman who rejects the chance of new love. The third was a memoir of a woman who grew up in Communist Poland, pre-World War II. Then we took a break to eat a pot-luck bounty provided by the members.

I had brought four new pages form my mermaid fantasy. A simple children's tale, apges I worried were not rich with enough descriptive details. How could I read such lightweight stuff in the company of these others? Hurridly I ate my salad, worrying all the while. I finished eating first.

The facilitator noticed I had finished, and asked me to read while the rest finished their plates. I protested that it was too light for the group. She assured me it was fine, and might lighten the mood. I took a deep breath and explained the premise of my story. Then I read.

The women laughed in the right places, they asked specific questions about the landscape I had described (they listened!) and they assured me the details were wonderful, rich and colorful enough to paint a picture in their minds.

I exhaled, not realizing I'd been holding my breath. I was glad I had shared, and felt validated by the experience. No one minded that it wasn't heavy and emotional, they enjoyed the story.

And then we moved on to dessert. Cheesecake.

All in all, a succesful first class.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Visit to the Bookstore

Cape Cod Weather Today: Overcast, with ominous dark clouds rolling in from the west... the weather channel is calling for rain today, even though yesterday they swore it would hold off until Monday...

I went shopping yesterday, with my arms firmly crossed against my stomach, determined just to window shop and not spend any money. I held out for the first two hours... and then ended up in the Barnes and Noble... and cha-ching! Of course I had to spend money.

To be fair, one of my missions was to buy the next boxed set of Junie B. Jones books, by Barbara Park, for my 8 year old. Always a reluctant reader, I finally hooked her this summer with Junie B.'s over the top antics and trouble-maker ways... and a Littlest Pet Shop figurine for each chapter book she finishes. I'm not above bribery when it comes to changing a habit or forming a new one.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of drivel being printed, even in hard cover. Tons of witches, wizards and dragons still trying to capitalize on the Harry Potter phenomenon, but books where the writing seems to be rushed and not as carefully crafted as it could have been... just because these are books aimed at kids doesn't mean you can skimp on the writing.

I consider myself an educated reader of middle grade/young adult fiction, and while I enjoy Carl Hiasson, Judy Blume, Louis Sachar, and Lois Lowrey, I really enjoy books with an element of fantasy mixed in. I love J.K. Rowling's style, and all of her books. I've really enjoyed Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series - and actually was sucked in by a huge display for his latest Artemis book in the series, just out in hard cover. I enjoyed Christopher Paolino's first book, Eragon, and dutifully read through the second book Eldest, although I didn't enjoy the second as much as my nine year old did. I was able to resist the huge display for Brisingr... we can wait until it comes out in soft cover, or until the spring book fair at school, where I'm sure it will be featured heavily.

I enjoyed the Magic Treehouse books with my first son when he was a reluctant reader in second grade - those and the Time Warp Trio series, by Jon Szeska, are the books that turned him around and made him into the fantastic reader he is today. The switch from able reader to eager reader comes with discovering the other worlds that books can offer.

I also bought a copy of the Dragon Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima, third in a series that began with the Wizard Heir, and continued with the Warrior Heir. My twelve year old devoured the first two, and made his younger brother read them. I read the first two when I had the flu last winter - engaging writing that makes you need to keep going.

And I shouldn't even have to mention how much I loved reading Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, although they are more YA or teen fiction than middle grade reading. I'm enjoying it for the third time since discovering the series over the summer. The first book was my favorite in terms of writing, even though I've read them all and enjoyed the storyline and plot twists. I didn't like much of the last book, and found myself grimacing my way through it, hoping for redemption or resolution. I also enjoyed The Host, Meyer's adult fiction, although my twelve year old couldn't get past the first "boring" chapter. He also devoured the Twilight series and has passed them along to the neighbor's reluctant reader boys, 13 and 16, who are now happily engaged with Meyer's world.

The book I am currently working on is middle grade fiction, set on Cape Cod. I like the ones with some basis in this world, something to grab onto and relate to, with the fantasy tightly woven into the reality. A book which makes the younger reader wonder if magic really does exist right alongside backpacks, homework, and soccer practice.

Because we could all use a little more magic in our lives.

My goal is to finish it in the next six weeks (in between editing my upcoming suspense novel) and start looking for an agent who specializes in middle grade fiction. Wish me luck... and a little magic!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Hint of Autumn, Beginnings and Endings

Cape Cod Weather today: At this moment, the sun is shining and the sky is finally blue! It down poured at the bus stop this morning, and there was a gargantuan rainbow over the entire town when I dropped my sleepyhead middle child at the elementary school... and now the sun is out and singing. I love this changeable fall weather... and I need to get the dogs up to the beach before it changes again!

There are so many things I love about the autumn season, the unpredictable weather actually being one of them! I love the end of the humidity so I'm able to throw a sweater on, and not feeling itchy about it... I love walking through the neighborhood at night and not worrying about cars because all the summer residents have gone home... I love the seasonal sports - watching my oldest play soccer, and my daughter play field hockey, and even my sports-reluctant musician plays flag football in the town league after school...

In the garden, autumn is a time for things to die back and go into hibernation for the winter. The colors on the maple trees are beginning to turn from green to red, while the oak leaves go straight to brown. I enjoy watching the leaves on the grapevines turning yellow and orange, thinning out and ultimately falling into the swimming pool...

Okay, I don't like that part so much. I don't like the fact that my husband puts off closing the pool until it actually hurts to put your hand in the water, let alone go swimming! We've had pools for fifteen years of our marriage, and Columbus Day is the earliest we've ever closed a pool. My mom never closes her pool, but she lives in Georgia. We live in New England. It's hard to get the kids into the water after Labor Day...

Fall is also a great time for festivals, craft shows, and road trips - either to have friends visit Cape Cod, or travel off-Cape ourselves. My daughter's Brownie troop is planning a trip to one of those Corn Mazes out in western Massachusetts one Saturday coming up, hopefully there will be time to go apple picking while we're there!

We also have the ever-popular family trek south for the annual Plum Pudding Gathering.... I was asked to write an article for CAPE WOMEN ONLINE about the plum pudding tradition for their upcoming winter issue, for a section about holiday recipes and traditions. I penned 600 words yesterday, and think I might take them to the new writing group I've joined. The group meets tonight for the first time, and should end before the vice-presidential debate begins.

It's only taken me a month to find a new writing group - it was one of my goals for fall. I hope it's a good group of women, and I don't mean they have to all be fabulous writers, but supportive people with good writing skills, and without the cynicism of the last group. Because while I enjoy cynicism and sarcasm (and probably more than the average person), they are skills which don't translate well into every context.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reconnecting with the Past

Cape Cod Weather today: Still pitch black - no sign of even the slightest glimmer of sunrise. Not a good sign for the day. It's already been raining for 3 or 4 days straight, and the pool is so full it's up over the edges...

I went to my high school reunion over the weekend. I went back to New Jersey. On purpose.

I haven't been back there or spoken to anyone since we graduated, really. My parents moved to Vermont when I was a freshman in college. I kept in touch with one or two people - then my best friend died and I didn't want to go anywhere near anything or anyone who reminded me of her.

But another friend called and needled me into it. "If I can go back from Kansas, you can come too," she told me. "My mom still lives in town - stay at my house!"

So I did.

I didn't take my husband or kids with me, I just went. Two other friends met us at this girl's house as well, so there were four of us who walked into the event together, leaving our husbands and kids and current lives somewhere else so we could step back in time for a few hours.

It was fun seeing so many faces from my past - the faces don't really change. The hair changes, the body gets fatter or thinner, but the eyes remain the same (even on the guys who now wear glasses!) The restaurant had a huge outdoor deck with a bar, and dim lighting so as to soften the wrinkles on all our aging faces. It helped. As did the wine and beer, mellowing our fears and smoothing the fractures of time. Making it easier to talk about our kids without feeling obligated to whip out photos, letting people share the sorrow of divorce and loss without the harsh light of day...

Was it worth a total of 10 hours of driving, through pouring rain both days? Worth the $55 admission price, plus hostess gifts, plus gas? Worth all the stress of going through my closet, repeatedly, trying to figure out what to wear that wouldn't make me self-conscious?

Yeah, it was worth it. I would totally recommend going back for your reunion to anyone who asks. High school looms large in the fears of many, as a time in their past when everyone else had it all together while they themselves had no clue. At least, that was me. But come to find out, everyone else felt pretty much the same way. And 25 years later, we've all figured out who we want to be and are there or on our ways to getting there on our own. It was fun to share that with people who are at the same stage of life, going through similar things.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ask a busy person...

Cape Cod Weather Today: It started out sunny and beautiful... I took the dogs to the beach, rode my bike, mowed the lawn, reseeded the front... but the clouds rolled in at lunchtime, and now the sky is overcast and grey. The wind is cold, and speaks of potential storms, which don't bode well for the Cranberry Festival Fireworks we're supposed to attend....

Last night in an interview, John McCain tried to quote an old saying, "If you want to get something done, ask a busy person." He babbled on about busy people being busier and if you want to be busy you'll get something busy and busy is as busy does....

If you didn't already know the saying, you would have no idea what he was talking about.

I do, however, know that particular saying. I live by those words. I am a busy person.

With three kids, each going in at least two directions at once, I'm a busy mom. Soccer mom, band roadie, Brownie leader, you name we've tried it. I also have two dogs whom I seem to be the primary if not only caretaker for, as well as a husband who travels constantly if not more. So I'm the one who mows the lawn and takes care of the pool and gets the oil changed and rode my bicycle to the mechanic's shop this morning to pick up my husband's truck (after the brakes went out on me when I was taking his mother's couch to the dump...)

And I write. I recently received an offer for a contract on one of my completed novels. Hurray for me! "The contract should arrive in the next two weeks, but in the meantime, here are the style guidelines to fit your manuscript into as soon as possible..." and tomorrow was the first day of school for the kids.

But hey, they were off to school. And I finished formatting and sent the manuscript back again.

And then my mother called with a project for me, to update the family history that I'd put together eleven years ago (and two children ago) The reunion is the weekend after Columbus Day (when we'll be hosting friends for the weekend with their four children and Yellow Lab)

Of course I said yes. Why not?

But I've been working on a manuscript that plays off this family history as well - haven't done much over the summer, but was going to get back to it. So now my dilemma is: Do I try to rush and finish the manuscript to include in the history we hand out in four weeks at reunion? Do I include the first 50 pages which I've already completed, and summarize the rest in the preface?
Or do I leave it out entirely?

I'm having trouble focusing, but leaning toward handing out what I already have written.

I think I'm too busy to do a good job on creating right now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Good Bye Summer!

Cape Cod Weather Today: Beautiful. Low humidity, cotton candy clouds, blue sky... and the visitors have all gone home.

Summer is officially at an end. Today is the first day of school in our town... and the kids are just as happy about it as I am. Well, almost as happy as I am.

I remember as a kid I really looked forward to the first day of school sooo much. The new outfits, new sneakers, new pencils, new teachers, new friends, new ideas and new situations... I still feel like I start the New Year on the first day of school rather than on January 1st.

This year especially my children felt the same way. They were all done with each other and all of their togetherness. They each need their own group of friends to hang out with, interact with, laugh with, argue with, etc., etc., etc.

Me too.

I need to find a new writing group, to have coffee and share new ideas with. It's been great having my 10-year-old be my test reader all summer, but I'm feeling the need for more adult input and validation. And coffee. Always more coffee.

So, here's hoping that it will be an exciting and productive new school year for all of us - my three kids, my husband, and myself. Individually and all together.

But without all the togetherness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Winding Down and Gearing Up

Cape Cod Weather Today: Cool, clear and calm, after wild thunderstorms that rolled through yesterday. Wispy white clouds on a pale blue sky the color of this font...

We had a visit yesterday from old friends, the Websters. From when we lived "off-Cape." They were passing through, and were only here for the afternoon so their boys could hang out and catch up with my boys. I baked a cake.

For some reason, seeing these boys they used to ride the bus with every day reminded my kids that summer is really almost over. Hit them over the head like a ton of bricks. After our guests left, the boys were scrambling to find their supply lists for school, and worrying about how many days of summer are really left on the calendar (although my ten year old still refused to even touch the summer math packet he got back in June...)

I really thought they'd be scrambling for old photo albums, or mementos of the past. Instead they were anxious and eager to move forward.

Why is that?

Why when confronted with memories of the past do we become more eager for the future?

These were their best friends from Kindergarten, lived around the block from us, and grew up together. Yet I got no questions about why we had to move away, when would we be moving back closer, could they come to visit again soon... nothing I expected. "Where is my supply list for seventh grade?" was the anxious question. "How many days until school starts?"

My boys have grown tremendously in the last two years. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. Seeing the Websters may have made them realize just how much, as well as realizing they didn't want to go back to who they used to be, or how they used to see the world.

My ten year old is in a rock band now. He's played concerts in front of hundreds of people. He writes stories that make me jealous of his creativity. He draws fabulous sea creatures that his art teacher frames for him. He isn't the kid who gets pulled out of class for writing support or physical therapy anymore. And he doesn't want to be.

My twelve year old is now six inches taller than his old best friend, and already been through puberty. He's been hanging out with more independent and mature kids all summer. He has different interests than he used to. He'd been talking about seeing this particular friend all summer (coincidently) and was able to ask him all the questions about all their former classmates... so and so is still a bully, that guy became a real loner computer geek, the other kid is still hyperactive... which he rattled off to me after the Websters left. I think he just wanted to confirm he didn't miss anything important.

I did kind of the same thing. Asking about different neighbors and friends. I was assured our old house looks exactly the same. The biggest news was that our old bus driver was fired on the spot one day. He let up on the brake pedal too early at pull-out, and bumped the bus in front of him. No tolerance policy. The old superintendant finally left as well, but that writing was on the wall long ago.

Would we go back to our old town? Probably not. It's a great town, and I still keep up with friends there. But the kids are different people now for the experiences they've had since moving. Going back would feel like going backward.

But it's still nice to visit with old friends.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lobster Roll Cruisin'

Cape Cod Weather Today:
The day started out iffy but soon turned sunny and bright... and humid. Which was okay, as long as the lawn dried out enough to mow. Which it did. And the sunset should be beautiful...

My oldest son went to his first semi-formal dinner dance tonight, aboard the Lobster Roll Cruise out of Sesuit Harbor in Dennis. Shirt and tie were required for the men, coat was optional.

My son is twelve.

He didn't have a "date," none of the kids did. This is the Junior Yacht Club's "Commodore Ball," an annual event which this year is being held on a dinner cruise. He was excited, and scared, and thrilled in a way he didn't understand.

Me too.

It's so hard as a parent to start letting go. To not sign up as a chaperone for every single event, as I've noticed some of the JYC parents do. But that's not why the kids are involved in the JYC. They are there to gain some measure of independence from their parents.

Which includes me.

Which is why I'm sitting home writing about it instead of on the dinner cruise, watching him try to eat a lobster on his own without making too much of a wreck of his new tie. Or talk to the girl next to him without feeling too stupid.

Two summers ago, we went on a different sunset cruise, with just my husband, myself and the three kids. We borrowed my sister-in-law's boat, and sailed out to a low tide sandbar not too far from the mouth of the harbor in Chatham. The kids ate roast beef sandwiches and chips, and my husband fished for blues. It was a wonderful night, and a great memory for us all.

Tonight's sunset cruise will be only in his memory. Not mine, not my husband, not his siblings.

Just him. And that's part of what makes it so special.

As he walked up the gangplank an hour ago, dinner ticket in hand, I could see how decked out he felt, and how grown-up he looked.

Except he forgot to put on a belt with his dress pants.

Sigh... I guess he still needs a mommy after all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

Cape Cod Weather today: Beautiful!!! Sunny, blue skies, very low humidity (there is always Some humidity this close to the Ocean) First rays of sun already sparkling on the clear pool water outside my writing window... teasing me...

Summer is finally in the homestretch... the "dog days," as my father used to say, though he never explained the phrase to me properly. The dogs seem just as happy now as in July.

The kids however are another story...

My oldest finally admitted this week as we were driving past his school, "You know? I kinda miss that place." There was an element of shock in his voice even as he spoke the words.

"What is it you think you miss?" I asked.

After a pause of consideration, he answered, "I miss my friends, I guess." Now, he's seen a bunch of his best-est school friend this summer at basketball camp, hung out with the neighbors XBoxing on many of the myriad rainy days, and made a nice group of new guy friends in the sailing program. Even befriended a cute girl or two along the way.

I think he just misses the familiarity... the daily routine... even the learning he claims to despise.

I know I do.

The "dog days of summer" must be when the novelty of summer vacation has worn off its shiny exterior, leaving a dull feeling of "been there, done that" left sticking to the roof of your mouth. Because how can you knock summer vacation? So you laze around like a dog, whining at your mother that there is nothing fun to do.

I know I'm ready for school to start!

But not before we go to Vermont next week to visit my little sister's farm. The kids and dog and I had so much fun last summer, that my husband is actually going to brave a 6 hour car ride with the kids to join us for the long weekend. I hope the trip doesn't disappoint, and does something to relieve the ennui that has set in amongst the children.

But I'm still ready for Back-to-School shopping!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Much Ado about Not Blogging

Cape Cod Weather today: overcast, with the sun trying to peak out from the clouds, but the air is quite humid and still. The forecast calls for thunderstorms, but not sure about that...

Lying in bed this morning, I contemplated deleting this entire blog out of existence. I created it on a whim, but haven't been able to fulfill my plan of writing a little each day, creating a record of my writing life. Hell, I can hardly find the time to write, let alone blog.

How do other people keep up with it all?

With the kids out of school, and busy with sailing, and swimming lessons, and drama classes, and basketball camp, and guitar lessons and band practice... yes, I really do only have 3 kids... there feels like so little time for me left in the week, let alone each day.


I perused a fellow NEC writer's blog this morning, and realized she only had 12 posts for the year so far, and was in much the same position as me for the moment - not keeping up with the kids out of school - so I took a deep breath and relaxed about it all. Now granted, she has a book coming out in September and has been guest blogging and writing other things to promote her new book... but I think I'll stick with my little blog for a little longer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hot Fun in the Summertime!

It's June - and we're having an official Heat Wave on Cape Cod!

Hot, hazy, and humid... just like when I was growing up on the Jersey Shore. The seaweed is piling up on my beach, though, with the wind coming off the ocean. Feels (and smells) like August, suddenly.

The book I'm currently working on is set on Cape Cod, actually right off the coast and mostly under the water - mermaids and such, for middle readers to young adult. I have been perusing the young adult section, and there are plenty of vampires and wizards but no mermaids.


I've been working on it for a year now, though, and need to finish before someone else beats me to it. Just like I have my Cape Cod romance novel - and now all the chatter on the NE-RWA site is about Cape settings.... and Kristin Higgans (who I love her books, BTW) was nominated for a RITA. For her book set on Cape Cod.

At the moment, though, my Cape Cod dream home is hot, humid, and smells of low tide.

Not the most romantic of settings!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My son's band played at the Cape Cod Mall over the weekend.

I used to go to shows. I used to date guys in bands. I went to Dead shows all over the East Coast and survived "festival seating" at a Pete Townsend concert in Brixton... and saw the Who's first and third "farewell" tours. Yellowman played on my college campus.

And now my 10 year old is in a rock band.

I don't know whether to feel old or pumped. One of the mom's from my Brownie troop went to see the Cure over the weekend, and said she and her husband went to the concert with the same couple they last went to see the Cure with - 25 years ago. I bought the Cure's greatest hits for my 12 year old this past Christmas.

What music do we listen to now? In the Minivan? Snow Patrol, Counting Crows, Entrain, Wilco, the Shins, the Spongebob soundtrack, Nickelback, James Blunt, Jack Johnson, John Legend...
and the Cure. The kids don't so much like the Who, and it makes me feel old to listen to it, oddly enough. But in the summer we still break out the Dead and Bob Marley.

What do other moms listen to - especially those who eschew American Idol.... ? Lemme know.

I need some new CDs in my minivan.

Friday, May 9, 2008

My First Award

I've been reading a lot of postings lately about awards my fellow writers have won... Have been nominated for... Have led to finding agents and signing publishing contracts. I admit it, I'm really jealous. Last year I entered the "Fool for Love" contest and didn't even final.

So I was Thrilled last night, when I received the Very First Award garnered since beginning my quest as a Serious Writer. And yes, it was for writing. Unfortunately, not for writing fiction. It was for being quoted on an international website, and promoting the cause of Girl Scouts to a wider audience.

It was a Girl Scout award.

But still, it was for writing.

I'm a Brownie leader for my daughter's troop. For Girl Scout Thinking Day this year (2/22), my girls participated in an international poster contest sponsored by "Nature's Voice, Our Choice," a really cool NGO promoting water awareness and access issues around the globe. The theme of the contest was "What Water Means to Me," and the deadline was World Water Day (3/22).

I wrote a letter describing our Cape Cod Brownies and how we as leaders incorporate water use and the oceans into our curriculum. I enclosed a picture of our girls on a field trip we took last September to a barrier island off the coast of Chatham that has since been reclaimed by the sea. The places we had visited six months before were now far below the ocean's surface, without a major hurricane, typhoon or natural disaster. Simply the power of the ocean.

None of our Brownies won the contest, in fact only one out of the twelve winners was even from the U.S., but in the press release announcing the winners NVOC quoted from my letter - as the closing quote to the press release no less. I was thrilled, and apparently so was my local Girl Scout Council.

So it's not a prestigious writing award - but I have the certificate and was applauded by my fellow leaders at the meeting last night. So I feel pretty good about it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Welcome to My First Blog!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

After thinking about it for a while now, I've decided to just do it. I'm writing a blog. Now, for many of you reading this, I'm sure you're thinking "So? What's the big deal?" For a woman who lives by a color-coded schedule of which-child-has-to-be-where-at-what-time-and-why, it feels a lot like another commitment in an already overloaded schedule. And this is something just for me, not for any of the kids, or my husband, or the dogs, or my Brownie troop.... Then I look at the blogs by so many other busy writers and agents, and figure if they can find the time, I probably can too. And if I can't, there's always the handy "Delete" button.

The thing I have been doing "just for me" in the last two years is writing fiction. I have two finished manuscripts: the first started as a chick lit and has since morphed into a romantic comedy, and the second is a paranormal suspense. While still working on my second manuscript last summer, I promised my middle child I would write something he would like (my two older boys are avid readers; I still have hope for my daughter). I'm stuck on that one with just under 100 pages written... I know what I want to happen to the characters but can't seem to get them from Point A to Point B. So I put it down for now and am working on a historical fiction.

I know.

All over the place.

I'm still searching for my niche. And still searching for an agent who will decide she or he is passionate about my writing.