Back To School – Again

In just over 6 weeks I will be going back to school. (Again.)

And I’m scared shitless.

Will I be able to keep up? Do I remember how to take notes? What kind of backpack should I get? Do I remember how to study or write papers? Do students use laptops to take notes or do they still use quill and bottles of ink like they did the first time I went to college? How will I stay awake during the dead space in my schedule right in the middle of my normally sit-on-the-couch-read-and-nap time between oh let’s say 2ish and 3ish? Will I look like a geek on the first day of school trying to find my classes? What if I’m called on? (They don’t do that, do they? Nah, I should be fine.)

And – why the hell didn’t I just sign up for online classes?!? Dammit to hell and my idea that I wanted to actually BE in a classroom with a real live professor. Blah blah blah.

My husband says I’ll be just fine. My family and friends tell me it will be okay and I’ll do great and it’s all like riding a bike – except I haven’t been on a bike since I was a pony-tail-wearing-brace-face-tween. Oh Gawd, what have I done?

I’m taking a language because that and an English Literature class were the only two outside my major of history that I apparently didn’t satisfy when I was getting my first bachelor’s degree. Anyway – a language. I am horrible with languages. Some people have an ear and I don’t. I took seven years of Spanish. I attempted many years of Spanish. Attempted. The highest grade I ever got was a ‘C’ and I skipped for joy at the end of it. But, for some reason unbeknownst to me that class didn’t transfer or I only took a semester when I need a year. (What.Ever.)

Anyway.

I’m taking American Sign Language. All summer I have checked out DVDs from the library to prepare me for sign language. I’m not 100% certain I will have the “ear” for ASL either but it was really my only hope in life to pass a language requirement.

I have an English Literature class and two history courses this semester: U.S. History (Hi, basic-ole-history) and something they call The Study of History – which I am very excited about.

Yes, four classes.

Because I’m a nut job.

And because I want this second bachelor’s finished as quickly as possible so I can move onto/into grad school. If I don’t fail anything (as the History Chair kindly informed me) I should be finished with this degree by the end of next year. I have fifteen classes to take and after ASL and English Literature all the classes will be upper level history.

Hours and hours of history. Ah, bliss…..

As long as I can get past looking like a granny on her first day of school carrying a David Cassidy backpack with matching lunchbox.

Now I am off to order some of my books online from Amazon (golly gee, you can do that now!) so I can start reading them ahead of time. I’m old, aren’t I?

Hi Blog

So, hello blog of mine.

I have not forgotten my love of you, sweartogawd. It’s just been me, not you. You’ve been great, really. Sitting there day in and day out waiting – just dawdling about doing nothing.

I miss this kind of writing which is different than any other kind of writing I do.

But this year started off rather shittily (yes, shittily. New word) when my husband was informed after a two week furlough in January that the budget for his department was cut and the work sent abroad and adios.

Taking. Knife. Out. Of. Gut.

So, yeah, it’s been a lot of that kind of nightmare.

And in between all that lovely living writing here has left me feeling blah and unresponsive and definitely not creative.

But in May he did get another job – but it is a contract job and it is back where he was…long ass (read: boring) story and I will spare you. Needless to say our life is still not quite as settled as I would like it but it is a far cry from those dreadful, dreary, depressing (today’s letter brought to you by the letter ‘D’) winter months.

So, I spent a lot of time planning my garden, reading, looking for work, applying for school, and writing. And praying.

Right now I am spending July working on my 35th 3rd rewrite of my historical Los Angeles novel which is going too strong at over 150k words and my attempt at cutting is not going so well. But the words are so precious… (my red pen says: give me a break. Except it isn’t red but dark green. Anyhoo…)

And I am preparing for college to start next month. And I’m working in my garden. And I’m trying to stay cool after almost two weeks of triple digit Kill-Me-Now temperatures. And I’m swimming almost three hours every morning and every bone in my body is just – tired. Of course, that could be the 6-week visit I had with my mother in late spring/early summer.

Anyway, I’m here. I really am. And I missed you, Blog.

Random Bits…

  1. It is annoying when you invite people over at a certain time and they are late. Always, always late.
  2. When I get overwhelmed I tend to want to do what I call “mindless busywork”. Meaning, work that just keeps me busy but is totally and completely unnecessary. Case in point: right now I am thinking of separating my “harvest recipes” binder into smaller binders per vegetable so I don’t have to comb through a 3-inch binder every summer/fall for recipes.
  3. On a recent trip back home to southern California I realized something. Sure the weather is incredible most of the year and the sun is shining and the air is smoggy warm but the people there are TOO. BUSY. RUSHING. THE. HELL. AROUND. To even NOTICE the great weather. My gawd my fellow-Californians, to quote an overly clichéd term: stop once in awhile and SMELL THE ROSES.
  4. I don’t like no-bake cookies.
  5. Large, empty swimming pools scare me.
  6. I am going back to school in the fall to study history and get a second bachelor’s degree. I’m scared to death since it’s been a good long time since I sat in a classroom and took notes and did research papers. But I am giddy with excitement! When I walked around the school last week and perused the (almost empty) shelves of books required for my major it was weird to pass by the communications row (my first degree major) and head to the history section. God, I’m SO ready for the challenge!
  7. It annoys me when I watch sports and the players, etc. do not put their hand over their heart during the National Anthem.
  8. I recently had to fill out a Student Health History form for my daughter. At the top they wanted to know how many weeks I was when I delivered her and when her milestones were (crawl, walk, talk). I normally guess because who the hell can remember? And why do they need to know when my almost 14 year-old learned to crawl? I say…..um….8 months. Yeah, that sounds good (enough).
  9. I’m getting ready to write another novel in the month of April and with about a week left before the Camp National Novel Writing Month begins, I have barely a page worth of outline completed. I better get busy…
  10. I love spring. The plants are coming back to the life. The days are rainy but not frigid. The birds are everywhere. And the planning of my garden has begun…

How Was That Done Again?

I think I’m forgetting how we used to do things. I feel like the little girl who is staring at her grandmother and asking, “How did you wash clothes again? Outside on a – what?!?” And, “You didn’t have a refrigerator? Seriously? How in the world did you keep your food cold?”

How is it possible that I have accepted our world of technology so thoroughly that I have totally forgotten how we used to do things?

Like checking books out of the library.

A couple of days ago I was in my local library. These days I don’t even need to talk to anyone – I check my own books out on their machines and I can even pay fines right there at the counter (not that I am ever late or anything). The day I was in there trying to check out my books and pay my fines and their computer system crashed and no one could check out books without having a librarian assisting through some back-up system that didn’t print out a handy-dandy reminder slip of when the books are due.

I tried to remember how in the world we checked out books before computers? Stop laughing, I’m serious. How did the library keep track of who checked out the books? I mean, I remember the little slips inside the books they would stamp with the due date before handing back the book but how did they keep track that it was me checking out that book? Honest to gawd, I don’t remember.

Then, the following day we took the kids bowling and the computer screens did all the work keeping track of our scores, strikes, and showing us how many pins we had knocked down with pretty little graphics. I sat back and asked my husband, “How did we keep score before?” He looked at me as if I had just been swallowed up by aliens and when I said I truly don’t remember he said, “We wrote everything down on a score sheet.”

The little girl came out again as if my grandmother was standing at my side, “We had to manually keep track of every strike, spare, and pins knocked down? Seriously?” (Ugh, how bothersome and time consuming!)

I can picture my grandkids one day inspecting a key and asking, “What in the world were these things used for?” Hopefully I’ll remember.

The Simple Things

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make me feel better. To lift a (bad/sad) mood. To bring a little smile and sunshine to a normally grey, cold, snowy January. Although, these simple things make me happy even when it isn’t a dreary winter day.

1.   Bird Feeder(s). Honestly, I would have bird feeders all over my yard scattered about in an obsessive manner similar to a cat woman with her dozen felines, cup of tea, and needlepoint pillows – if I could convince my husband that feeding the birds is not such a money-sucking-feeding-little-piggies endeavor. My current bird feeder (and one suet feeder hanging from a tree) sits right outside my kitchen window and watching them flock and fight and nibble an entire feeder in less than ten hours just makes me happy. I often stand there and just watch, losing all track of time. I love the birds.

2.   When The Dog Wants To Get Warm. Or, in other words, when she lays with me on the couch curled up so close to my leg that I think I should be burning calories since keeping my leg taut against her girth weight takes serious workout skill. Especially lovely on these cold wintery days when I am sitting there with a book, a blanket, and a cold dog looking for me to provide her warmth. Even better when she rests her cute little head on my leg. I have been known to drink cold coffee and hold off going to the bathroom until a laugh or cough jeopardizes the integrity of my girly-bits – to keep the dog from moving from her spot on top of me next to me.

3.   Scentsy. I am not a consultant nor a shareholder but Scentsy in one word: heavenly. I have about five burners throughout the house that I use on a regular basis. There is something about these scents that make me happy and if I am looking for some simple joy on a blah-feeling isn’t-it-spring-yet day I put a new scent in and light ‘er up and I walk around smiling – or as my husband would say, “whatever makes you happy.” Exactly. Now, go feed the birds, dear.

Critique Writers

For years I have dabbled about with fellow writers. I spent years in college among fellow fiction-writer hopefuls. I’ve been to a few writer’s workshops and I have had my share partaking in a writer’s group or two. 

When I was in one of my writer’s group I stumbled onto a woman who seemed to edit the critiques line by line. After a few chapters of trying to do the same in return I just became overwhelmed and felt it sucked entirely too many hours of my time. When I sat around a table of fellow writers the critiques were a bit of a hit or miss and only occasionally helpful. Maybe it was the fact that 99% of the writer’s in the group at the time were all science fiction writers and I was probably as lost among them as they were in the middle of my manuscripts. In the end, it simply wasn’t a good fit. 

Then I spent several NANO months in April and July in what they called “cabins” among fellow writers. For two of the sessions I suggested being partnered with people my own age. This last time I thought maybe I should go with people who write in my same genre (historical fiction) and found it to be a more enjoyable experience.

At the end of July a few of us had bonded and we shared our Facebook and Twitter pages and I stumbled onto one of my fellow cabin mates Facebook page. A post she had prompted me to private message her and ask her a question. That led to a back and forth discussion and a spark about critiquing each other’s manuscripts. 

An idea was hatched. 

We instantly hit it off via emails and attaching chapter after chapter. Her critiques are always spot on. The exact parts I struggled with editing she nails as a part that needs tweaking or adjusting. She makes suggestions that I never would have thought of and yet make perfect sense to meld my story better. She makes me want to keep plugging along with this manuscript that is almost as part of me as one of my fingers. Sometimes it feels like I will never have this thing completely edited and rewritten – and yet I see light at the end of the very long tunnel at last. And I have my writing partner to thank. 

She has been blunt where I have struggled and patient as I stumbled about like a third grader trying to form readable sentences. She has lifted me up to the point that when I am finished reading her emails I am instantly motivated to tackle that chapter I just can’t seem to get right…or a POV problem I simply can’t rewrite another minute more.  

She lives in the south and I am in the pacific northwest and I have never spoken to her nor seen her in real life and yet as I am editing and rewriting I swear I can hear her voice in my head telling me to keep my POV in one person. 

I feel incredibly lucky and thankful to have found this gem of a fellow writer friend who is willing to tackle my 150k+ manuscript one chapter at a time and offer an honest and uplifting critique to the point that it gives me the one thing writer’s always seem to struggle with, at least I do: and that’s HOPE. She gives me so much hope I want to jump up and down every time I get an email critique back from her.

That Pesky Elf

My kids were already too old by the time this whole Elf on a Shelf phenomenon began. I’m not gonna lie: I’m glad this kooky trend came to be when my kids were already in at least middle school. 

My newsfeed on Facebook is inundated with the antics of this little stuffed Elf who apparently does everything else BUT sit on a shelf.

Maybe I don’t get it. What is the point of the elf again? Is he there to keep watch of the young kids and report back to Santa whether they’ve been good or bad? And the one rule is you can’t touch the elf?

For starters, the elves I’ve seen have been mighty naughty themselves. Who is reporting back to Santa on THEIR awful behavior? Leaving peppermint poop in the toilet and getting into the flour and making a fucking mess? I wonder if there is some hair-pulling-talking-back ten year-old out there who is lying in bed one night thinking, “Wait a minute….”

And why can’t kids touch the elf? Oh no, there is nothing frightening about THAT.

Is it just me or does this seem like a future psychiatrist’s dream in about twenty years? (You see doctor, my parents had this elf visit from the North Pole…)Hello little children, welcome to CrazyTown where stuffed Elves get into trouble and then sit in judgment night after night watching YOU!

I can’t even imagine keeping up with this silly elf for the entire month of December. Oh dear gawd, someone hold me. I had a hell of a time remembering to play Tooth Fairy once in a while. If I had to do this every single night I would have either a) strangled the stupid dim-witted elf a few days into December; b) failed terribly causing me to come up with some excuse why the silly elf is still knee deep in toilet papering the house or spelling out words with mini-marshmallows to find more chaos to create (or the always handy ‘the elf/tooth fairy doesn’t work on the weekends’ which was my go to); c) thrown the elf against a wall until the stuffing came out of his arse. (Mother of the Year, that’s me.)

Why do parents (moms) put themselves through MORE craziness during the holidays and the month of December? Isn’t shopping, cooking, baking, crafting, school plays, holiday photos, sending Christmas cards (after you’ve taken the perfect, everyone matches photo), entertaining relatives, wrapping, decorating the house, going to holiday parties, and visiting Santa at the mall – ENOUGH to do?