What Have I Done?

“I’m not doing Nanowrimo this year,” I told my writing group and every writing friend that I have. “I’m going to spend the energy and time on rewriting a story that I love and believe in. But I’ll cheer you on!”

So I opened my Nanowrimo profile and made this cover (because I like making covers even if they look cheesy and are destined for that crappy covers website): Silent Cheering cover

I figured that by re-firing up my profile I could keep up with my Nanobuddies, and when I added new words to the manuscript, I would log them. No way would I hit 50K this month, but I didn’t have anything to prove to myself there. I’ve done it for the last four years in increasingly quick time, with increasingly improved crap going down on the page. But that wordcount graph bar being empty makes me sad.

I wasn’t playing, I was just an active observer quietly cheering from the mist.

But then I saw a notecard sitting on the top of a pile of notecards that I have with story ideas on them. This card has the shortest idea of them all, and it’s not the most recent- but for some reason it’s the one on the top.

It wouldn’t hurt to just start a story, right? I mean, I had no intentions of finishing and reaching 50K- but you know, just to have a little fun. No pressure. The main focus is on the manuscript that I love and am rewriting.

Which I have done. I am kicking ass on rewriting it. I’m kicking ass and having a blast and remembering why I loved it in the first place. I love rewriting. The slicing and the dicing and the neatening and the adding and more word slayings…it’s so energizing!

But…heh heh…I also have got 3K words down on the new one.

Which I’m sort of loving even though I didn’t have more than this on the note card a week ago:

wpid-20141107_123949.jpg

Original notecard, with new one behind it

And I made a cover because I like making cheesy covers.

espadrillecover

Nanoname: EssephVee

30 days, 50K words and a rewrite.

And life away from the keyboard.

uh, yeah…I can do that.

I guess I’m playing.

(Also if I don’t post much on here, that’s where I’ll be.)

EDITED IN DECEMBER- Like a lot of things this past year, I failed to finish. For the very first time in 4 years.. What I  learned: to stick with my first instinct. Plus side: I have an outline, characters and a cute, chick-lit story partially written. Now to finish the sweet, women’s lit that I’m STILL rewriting then I can get back to that one.
Susan

Advertisements

I Freaking Love Voting!

election dayredothreepoint0ne

Today is Election Day and I woke up giddy about it. This is a far cry from my early adulthood when voting terrified me- the process, the pressure to get it right, the chances to mess up. I remember going into  a voting booth with my mom when I was a kid. She voted at our town library, my first library. It was the home to storyhours, rows of seemingly (to my little kid eye) endless books, fundraising spaghetti suppers and the town offices that I only knew as the place where we got dog tags. It was, and is, at the center of the small Connecticut town where I spent my childhood. It was also the only polling place.

minna image

The library of my youth. It’s still there, still smells exactly the same. I went last year and stayed long enough so that my perfume was Babcock Library.(photo credit Minna Reid who has a lovely description of the town here.)

I remember the darkness of the velvet curtain that Mom closed around us, the complex levers of the voting machine- how did she know what to do? Who to vote for? It scared me years later when I had earned the right to vote.

Now I know I shouldn’t have been scared- voting is fun. I’ve lived in many towns and each one had different voting methods and you know what? I easily figured them all out. I learned over the years that it’s okay and perfectly  normal to not know all the judges or elected county officials. It’s nice and makes you an educated voter, but if you simply vote for the party you feel most connected to it’s normal. Hell, even voting only by gender for the ones you don’t know is probably normal. I hope.

In the small Missouri town where I now live our polling place is also the library. It’s my kids’ home for storytimes, seemingly endless (to their eyes) rows of books, a bank of computers and some quiet rooms to study.


smithville library on voting day

The kids are now in school, my oldest old enough to vote for herself and make her own voting traditions, but when they were home with me I used to make a morning of it. We would talk about the process and what the different jobs were. I would have them help me fill out my ballot and we would go for hot chocolate afterwards. Now I have new traditions- I get a cup of coffee, say hi to the people braving the chill or rain to support their candidate, sniff deeply the scent of my present library (as is my lifelong habit which I couldn’t stop if I wanted to), wait my turn, sign the register and vote.

And then I get my sticker as a souvenir of the adventure.

There are many places (including The History Chicks) where you can learn about the battles, struggles and balls of suffragists who made this privilege possible for women. I won’t even begin to talk about that here, but those women alone shouldn’t be why you vote.I won’t even nag on you with, “it’s your responsibility as a citizen to cast your vote”, or, “it’s your civic duty”. You know all that.

You should vote because it’s freaking fun.

And don’t forget your souvenir.wpid-20141104_091142-1-1.jpg

Here is a link to Find Your Fucking Polling Place where you plug in your address and get not only the spot, but the ballot so you go in knowing what you are going to vote for.

Also, just saw this! Being afraid to vote at first is also a very normal thing! John Green’s post about it!

“How are you?”

In the last couple of months I have gotten this question a lot. Not once have I been upset by it, not once have I been embarrassed although every single time I struggle with what to say. I know what they want to know, and depending on my relationship with the person, I might play with them a little.

“Why? What have you heard?”

“Can’t complain, how are YOU?”

“My shoes are pinching a little but otherwise good.”

And the one that I default to, the one that shows them that I really do understand what they are asking:

“You mean as the area’s poster child for mental illness?”

And they laugh and nod. To a one.

Since I publicly admitted a couple of months ago about my struggles with depression I have had a surprising response. Actually, “surprising” doesn’t really describe it. More like “overwhelming”. In the first week I received more emails from readers than I had in the almost four years that I have been writing a column COMBINED. When I add in the number of people that I personally know who sent notes, called, stopped by or wrote social media personal messages- the number humbles me. All of them were encouraging, many thanked me for putting their own struggles into words, and several said that what they read sounded like what they, themselves had been experiencing but- like I did for a long time- kept telling themselves to suck it up and move on.

All of them boosted me and made me realize that -as uncomfortable as I was sharing what was going on- I did the right thing.

So, how am I?

I’m really good.

After a few weeks of adjusting meds I finally started feeling more like myself. That was when the article came out. I wasn’t strong enough to do it before that.

In the time since, I have to work hard to remember the pain I was feeling just a few short months ago. I have the memory, I can begin to feel it and can use words to paint of picture of those feelings- but I can’t recreate them. I can’t get myself to go back there. Which is probably a very good thing and maybe I’m a bit foolish for trying but it’s sort of like when you break your ankle. Once the cast is removed and enough time has past that you are back to your former activities you can still- sometimes- feel a shadow of pain. A memory of it. But it is nowhere near how it felt when you were begging the ER doc for drugs.

I can poke the scar and feel something but it’s not pain like before. I get sad and mad and panic…but nowhere near the levels I did before.

I’m sure that the road ahead is still rocky, but I am walking it very grateful and stronger for all that has happened in the past few months.

So very grateful. Quite a bit stronger.

How am I doing? I know that I am loved, I know what happy feels like again, I know what hopeful and productive and strong feels like again.

I’ve lost all the weight that I had gained self-medicating with food and alcohol, and the scale is still going down.

When I smile it’s deeply sincere, and when I acknowledge that I am having a moment of sadness I know that it is temporary and the appropriate response to whatever is happening.

I’m getting out of the house and seeing friends; I’m living in the moment and feeling hopeful for the future.

I’m doing really well.wpid-20141018_171855.jpg

I May Have a Problem

I knew I had a problem after I bought my first diaper bag in 1996. I suspected it before that when I was working and had an unusually high number of female sized brief cases, but the diaper bag situation really solidified my suspicions– I have a bag problem.

I purchased a diaper bag before my first baby’s birth.  In the store I was dreaming of sashaying about town with this stylish diaper bag over my shoulder and an adorable, clean and perfectly behaved baby in my arms.

When the baby arrived and I realized that the cute diaper bag was only good for short runs to- maybe- the mailbox, not for full hour long adventures to such exotic locales as Target and the post office. (also if I had any chance of a clean baby, I needed more stuff than that stylish bag could carry)

So one diaper bag lead to an entire wardrobe of Not The Perfect But Really Cute and Suitable For Certain Situations Only diaper bags.

This problem remained semi-dormant after the diaper bag years, probably because I rarely shopped for myself. My purse collection which was stashed on a closet shelf , was a jumble of discount store grabs, flea market finds, mother-in-law hand-me downs  and a very rare, sweet leathery splurge. I carried the same black bag to church for over 5 years, used a cross body most days until it looked like hell then replaced it with another; I had one clutch that I found at a resale shop when my daughter was buying jeans.

Then I spotted a Vera Bradley purse.

Actually, I spotted a torrent of Vera Bradley purses. Not being one to follow a fashion trend or purchase something for the label- I silently mocked those carrying them.

“Pfft, Please. Everyone and their 11 year-old daughter are carrying these things. Talk about a uniform,” I would say as I scrolled through the Vera Bradley website.

But then I fell victim to the colorful fabrics that added whimsy to  my friends outfits; sunshine to a dreary drop-off lane.

But I couldn’t carry a bag like that, too flashy.

So I bought a wallet.

I love this wallet.

I love this wallet.

 

I love that wallet. Perfect size for my stuff, it holds my phone and has a wrist strap if I ever need it. Which I do.

I loved that wallet so much that I got a messenger bag.wpid-20140922_080928.jpg

Perfect size to schlep books and all the file folders I use when we record podcasts or the materials I use when I talk to classrooms. Plus, that pattern! It says, “I can function as a mature adult, but really? I’m not all that serious.”

One day I was in a store and a cross-body  bag not only leapt into my hands, but it flopped itself down at the cashiers counter, grabbed my credit card and then, mysteriously, my purse contents were quickly organized in the many pockets and slots inside. (I think my friends, the birds and mice did it all while I sang.)

I have no idea how this ended up in my  possession.

I have no idea how this ended up in my possession.

 

“STOP!” I told myself. “You have enough. No  more Vera “I’m One Of Them Now” Bradley purses or wallets or eyeglass cases. NOTHING!”

Apparently I listen to myself about as well as my kids do.

It matches 80% of my wardrobe. Really, how could I not?

It matches 80% of my wardrobe. Really, how could I not?

 

Before I would allow myself to unwrap this one I went through the closet shelf that was overstuffed with bags. I collected the totes, the cross-bodies, the clutches and the wear-on-my-arm bags of many styles. I thinned the collection down to just a few favorites and gave the rest to a group collecting women’s clothes and accessories.

There are more bags here than this innocent photo suggests.

There are more bags here than this innocent photo suggests.

20140913_171232 - Copy

The pile of junk retrieved from the pile of purses. (What? You can’t be far from a tampon when you need one, you know?)

 

And now, I am done.

 

I think.

 

 

 

I Can’t Leave You, Summer!

This summer was, in a word, crappy. I dragged myself through it self-medicating with liquor and food- earning myself 10 extra pounds and a spot deeper in my hole of depression. My kids were miserable that I was miserable and we all climbed Mount St. Summer trying to reach the summit but arriving at plateaus to only seeing more effort ahead, no reward.

But then Mom got better. Ish. I could finally function at pretty close to my original, upbeat settings…but it was too late. Summer was over. The kids went back to school, life became one night of bleachers after another as the days became shorter, the temperature dropped to pants wearing weather and fall approached.

But summer is my season! I like hot weather and sunshine and all that comes with it (except for the slipping around with sweaty thighs on the leather minivan seats- that’s just gross).

Pretty soon I’m going to have to say good-bye to the annual flowers that brought me moments of happiness (or the closest that I could get) and bring the rest of the plants inside for the winter. Most years I am ready. I eagerly retire the aquas and pink accent colors in favor of rusts and oranges; I dot the front yard with mums and pumpkins.  At this time of year I am usually sipping warm beverages that taste of pumpkin spice and baking apple crisps.

But this year the mums and fall colors aren’t drawing me in, I’m burnt out from years of pumpkin spice benders and while I lost the 10 lbs that I gained this summer, I have a long way to go so I’m not making any desserts right now.

But I did buy a couple pumpkins. While it’s not much, this is my one, tiny concession that I will soon say good-bye to the summer I fucked up and never quite made amends with.

Sorry, Summer. I’ll do better next year.

 

OOH! That’s What It Is!

“Well, this is a pretty easy one to figure out,” my doc began and then it all made sense.

This crappy summer, the crappy spring, the gloomy winter- it wasn’t entirely life, it was also my chemical make up. Why? Sure life struggles played a role, but also (I gulp before admitting) peri-menopause and maybe it’s just the way I was made.

I didn’t feel better by being diagnosed, and I didn’t feel better by popping one pill- actually I felt worse for a few days. Stoned.

Out of it.

Sad.

Tired.

But then, all of those started to float away. I’m on my third week of meds now and feel so much better. Lighter. I’m getting shit done. I have a novel that I had been working on last fall then just about abandoned over the winter although I really, really liked it (“loss of interest in activities once pleasurable you” Oooh, that’s what it means). It’s a story about the power of women, the deep love that is our friendships and Blackberry Mead told through the adventures of two women who bear a remarkable (yet contemporary) resemblance to a couple of very important, very real historical figures. Women! Booze! Accomplishments! Hi-jinx and History! Weston, MO! (which is quite lovely, if you don’t know it you should google it) And I just abandoned it.

Last weekend I opened the document, started at the beginning…and revised six full chapters. Happily! With a sense of both delight and accomplishment. This is huge.

I’m here, writing this! Not just to make an excuse for why I don’t post often! Not filling the page with pictures of flowers! But content! Also huge.

If you want the version that appeared in The Kansas City Star Click Now. If you found me because of that article- hello! Nice to meet you! I love email. 

For anyone, if you google “signs of depression in women” this is what you get:

depression signs

From the National Institute of Mental Health

I should have googled it a few months ago, I had all of those. If you do, or you suspect that you may have any type of mental illness PLEASE talk to your doctor. I don’t even mean find a psychologist or psychiatrist (that is in your area, accepts your insurance, comes recommended…yeah, that’s a lot of effort for a person who has fatigue and decreased energy)- I first talked to my primary care physician and she got me going down the right path. It was hard and I wasn’t very eloquent but I got it out.

And then I said, “OOH! That’s what it is!”

And here is a picture of a daisy, because I can’t help myself.

10570455_10202447962027593_4092651370551820019_n

I had such great plans…

I love summer. Not so much a fan of the cold, spring is too muddy, and I get sad in the fall when all the leaves start to turn and I know that it will be gray and brown for months.

But summer…this is my season. My hair gets natural highlights, my energy level shoots up and I want to be outside all the time. For a few months I turn into a more experienced (and currently landlocked) version of the beach girl I was in my youth. I can garden and cut back on the regular food pyramidy meals we eat to indulge my families cravings for sweet corn and chips ‘n salsa dinners.

Winter makes me sad, but still lifes like this make me happy.

Winter makes me sad, but still lifes like this make me happy.

I had really high expectations (probably because I have a crappy memory and forgot how ready I was for it to end last August). I planned things for the kids- camps and sports and organized outings. Middle son informed me that 4 out of 5 mornings he had to go to the gym to workout for football, but that was cool. I was ready.

Now the kids have been out of school for two full months.

Uncle.

It’s been a non-stop mom-taxi fest. All that stuff? They had to GET THERE. Older child only had her driver’s permit so I had to be in the car, middle child had to get his permit…so I had to drive him back and forth to the testing center (he didn’t test all that great). Once he passed, we had to begin logging his hours behind the wheel.

Kid one at the wheel

Kid one at the wheel

Kid two at the wheel

Kid two at the wheel

I got to drive for 4 hours-TWICE- so eldest could attend Girl’s State and all I could think of was that at this time next year, she will be packing to go off to college.

In her dorm room...for a week. But it's foreshadowing, isn't it?

In her dorm room…for a week. But it’s foreshadowing, isn’t it?

I got to race several thunderstorms during baseball season and was just told that we will be playing fall ball, too.

wpid-20140623_205238.jpg

We went to watch others play baseball, and played so much ball in the yard there are worn spots in the grass.

The boys fished. A lot.

20140604_070752 redo

I created the Drunken Kumquat (Kumquat poked with corn skewer + whipped cream vodka in a bottle in a cool place for a week); I ate a lot of Drunken Kumquats.

With some of the soaking vodka and lime sparkling water.

With some of the soaking vodka and lime sparkling water.

In sangria

In sangria

I got to drive people place, get people ready to go places and then pick them up when they were finished. In theory it’s the last summer I have to do this, but I’m not sad about giving taxi duties for all up. Maybe I will feel differently at this time next year.

Maybe.

So the kids are having a really great summer and I am sliding around on the sweat that happens when nekid thigh meets hot leather mini-van seats.

I still love summer…but because we couldn’t swing a vacation this year and I feel that we are overstaying our Staycation- I’m ready for it to be over.

Since it’s not, I’ll go back outside take some pictures of my garden and remind myself why I love summer.

I made a fairy garden this summer.

I made a fairy garden this summer.

 

My Green Passenger

I’ve been on a Dexter Netflixbender lately. Dexter Morgan is a serial killer with a code, a created conscience in his psychopath’s brain that helps him pick his targets- usually always someone who had murdered, slipped through the cracks of the legal system and will murder again. Kind of a sick twist on Robin Hood- steal the life from the bad, so the good survive. He calls the part of himself that has the need to kill his, “Dark Passenger.”

I have a Green Passenger.

Unlike Dexter’s she is about life, not death.

She sleeps most of the winter, content to keep alive the herb garden of planters that I bring inside before the first frost. Water, pinch back, fertilize, repeat. All winter. Sometimes she tends to the plants overwintered in the garage and saves eggshells in a container under the sink for fertilizer, but mostly she’s quiet…dormant.

Then it turns warm. The grass begins to green, buds and tiny shoots of dormant plants appear and she comes out of her slumber.

She wants to get her hands dirty.

She needs to get her hands dirty.

But other than clearing out flower beds and starting seedlings, there isn’t much she can do.

So I’m trying to appease her, trying to quiet her roar.

Yesterday she drove me to the nursery. There wasn’t a lot out to look at, but I found some succulents for a bowl I’m planning for the porch.

I caught myself caressing these babies like they were a…err…nevermind. I like plants. But not in some weird fetish kinda way.

I swear.

Nursery succulent haul

Nursery succulent haul

My Green Passenger also had thrown a few small houseplants into my grocery store shopping cart a few weeks back. They have been in their original containers, but displayed in a pretty bowl on my dining room table. My Green Passenger didn’t want to empty the dishwasher and change light bulbs this morning, she wanted to transplant them.

So we did.

wpid-20140404_104746.jpg

But even that wasn’t enough. She wanted to do more. The succulents aren’t ready to be transplanted yet, but we could get the containers ready, right?

Pretty pots that I want are usually beyond my budget, so I try to think outside the pot. I’ve been using baskets for years- line them with Press and Seal Wrap, poke a couple holes in the bottom and fill with potting soil. A few years ago I found how easy it was to poke holes in metal containers: nail+hammer=hole. Combined with painting clay or plastic pots (there is spray paint for plastics) , I’ve been content with the found planters I’ve created.

This year I added a new material and have been on a melamine bowl bender. (It seems I may have a bender driven personality?) They make colorful, unique planters and are cheap enough that swapping them out when I get tired of the current color scheme doesn’t hurt one bit.

And it’s super easy.

Tape over the inside and outside of the bottom with  tape- I've used painter's and duct with great results.

Tape over the inside and outside of the bottom- I’ve used painter’s and duct with great results.

Drill, Baby, drill!

Drill, Baby, drill!

Bigger bowls need enough holes for drainage

Bigger bowls need enough holes for drainage

 

Add to the stack of other planters ready to be filled and decorate my porch as soon as it gets warm enough.wpid-20140404_110537.jpg

My Green Passenger is eyeing all the bare roots and summer bulbs that she managed to squirrel away as winter went on and on and on. I don’t really know if I can hold her back.

I don’t know if I want to.

 

 

Conflicting Zones

wpid-20140401_131304.jpg

I know what being in the zone feels like. I know the high that comes from doing things I love, of pouring myself into them and pushing my reserves until they are drained. I know what it feels like to fall into bed aching from a day of fierce gardening, or with my brain a sponge twisted dry from taking a vague thought and giving it access out my fingers.

I know that feeling and I want it now.

This minute.

But it’s not here.

I can’t garden today because I have inside work; I can write but my eye keeps glancing out the window.

At the greening grass.

wpid-20140329_125904.jpg

Hello, Robin.

At the decay of the blooms that brightened my earth last year and now stand like dried flags trying to get my attention. “Tend me!” “Care for me!”

Some days I get to pick my high, but some days my high is picked for me. And today’s has been chosen.

sukie eli

 

Hello, Spring

1004847_10201690944542629_1736338557_n

I knew, in my brain, that it was coming- but my heart (and toes) had a different idea. This winter was long, and cold and seemingly endless.

But end it must.

The first day of spring arrived. The very moment that it did, I turned to the woman next to me, “It’s spring! Would you like to wave “good-bye” to winter?

I was hoping that I had a flipping-off partner, but alas- the Walmart cashier wasn’t up for it.

So I celebrated in my own way.

I stocked up on these. Anyone with a decent flavored vodka collection knows that these are pretty good mixers...and they are water so rehydrated WHILE cocktailing. doublewin.

I stocked up on these. Anyone with a decent flavored vodka collection knows that these are pretty good mixers…and they are water so rehydrating WHILE cocktailing. Doublewin.

20140320_163500

I started stocking up on porch reads a while ago. It’s still too chilly to read outside, but the time is coming. And I’ve almost finished one of these from the couch. Like I could wait to read that…pfftt- no.

20140320_163358

The seed collection is growing, these are ones I put in every year.

Okay, sure I'll have to take them inside when it snows or gets really cold (this weekend) but for one glorious 70 degree day- it was spring and, damn it! I was going to get my hands in some dirt and plant something.

Okay, sure I’ll have to take them inside when it snows or gets really cold (this weekend) but for one glorious 70 degree day- it was spring and, damn it! I was going to get my hands in some dirt and plant something.

My toes are still cold and I have yet to pedicure them, but it will happen soon. I bought strappy sandals a month ago and I’ll be ready to wear them as soon as the piggies defrost.

Happy spring, wanna wave “good-bye” to winter with me?