Archive for December, 2007

All right, admittedly, I have a few. But they’re the usual, the ones I have throughout the year: write more. Make more of an effort to play with my kids. Eat better, exercise, be kinder to myself. Me, me, me.

This post from Cranky Mama made me sit up and take notice, especially this part:

Because, when I was a poor kid (and I am aware that my situation was much, much better than some) there were times – months, sometimes – when we couldn’t afford propane, and that meant no stove (we cooked everything with an electric frying pan), no heat, no hot water. Bathing in cold water? Not a hell of a lot of fun, especially in winter. Did I wear my hair in a ponytail for the better part of seventh grade so that no one could tell I hadn’t washed it? Yes, yes I did. Did it work? Uh….

I don’t know why that got to me. Maybe because I read it just before Christmas, when we’d already gotten the kids their toys and we knew my in-laws had their usual half-a-living-room’s worth of presents for all of us (but especially the kids).

I knew poor kids when I was little, the kids with unwashed hair, and I wondered how they could stand their scalps itching, because I sure couldn’t. Well, now I know.

This year I’m going to try harder to help the poor. We’ve done token efforts in the past. The ubiquitous end-of-year clothing donations, for one. (Ah, the incentive of a tax break.) Our grocery store lets you tack on an extra $5 to your bill to donate to the Salvation Army, and puts out brown bags of dry goods for the local food pantry, which you can buy for $10 each. We’ve done that. But as people in food pantries and shelters point out, the poor aren’t just poor at Christmas.

I was shocked when I read this on the food pantry box at church: food stamps do not pay for many essentials, including toilet paper, laundry detergent, shampoo, soap. Soap. WTF?

We’ve struggled in the past trying to pay our bills, and we’ve been able to rely on the kindness of family and friends to make it work. We’re still not in such great straits, but it’s better now than it has been (the price of home heating oil in New England notwithstanding). And even though I’m trying to save more, I think I can manage to spare a few bucks a week to buy some essentials for the truly poor.

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Christmas stories

A new story of mine is up at Shred of Evidence: Silence in Ramah is sort of a Christmas story, though dark, as usual.

Also: this story has been available for awhile, but it’s stayed with me. Go read Sean Doolittle‘s The Grift of the Magi – it’s one I believe I’ll have to print and reread each year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Blessed Yule to those who celebrate those holidays. May this season bring peace and joy to your hearts.

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2 for 2

Both my interviews this past week went great. The police chief was as forthcoming as any of my best sources, and I think the article will be a good one. Also, it looks as if I have a new blog job – along with opportunities to write articles for a new regional parenting publication – upcoming in the new year. Thanks for all the good thoughts!! I’ll keep you posted.

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The secret

Don’t clean. Allison Brennan says so.

Seriously. Asked how she raises 5 kids (FIVE!) and still manages a full-time writing career, including her blogging, Allison wrote: “First, I gave up cleaning. It was a huge sacrifice, but it had to be done. My minions, er, children pitch in and help….”

It’s true. I don’t do much cleaning either. In fact, I put a system in place wherein Hamlet must earn one of the thousands of toys in our basement (thanks, Grandma!) by helping me out in some way. Often, that way is cleaning.

Allison’s interview at Murderati also instills hope in me: her children are in school full-time. Mine: not. So I can’t feel that bad about hardly getting to write, and I have something to look forward to: “Afternoons during the week and Saturdays are usually full of kid stuff and lots of driving.”

Oh, and there’s lots of great writing-related material in there too, especially Allison’s description of “pantsing”. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

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Opportunities… and danger

Okay, I admit it: I am thinking of that borderline cliche in the corporate world, the one about the Chinese word for “crisis” being made up of the characters for “opportunity” and “danger.” It’s late and I’ve had a long week (yes, on Monday). I deserve to think in cliches! (I deserve to think, period, but that’s another rant.)

All right, anyway. I’ve been bitching to several people in my “inner circle” (my husband, an editor, and a writing mommy friend) about two things. First, I miss having a life. Post-Hamlet and pre-Puck, I realized that I could seriously recharge my batteries by heading on down to the city to walk around and write in coffeeshops. I did that about once every month or two. Bliss. And now it’s been more than a year since I was able to do that.

Second, I miss writing articles. These represented my social world outside of mommyhood; I got to talk with adults about more than missed naps. Also, I got to use my brain. I still use my brain for what I’m doing now. It just isn’t consistent.

Within the same week, opportunities popped up that would help me deal with both problems. I got interest to blog for a new website that will launch early next year (yikes, does that sound familiar?) and the guy putting it together wants to meet with me. In person, in the city. Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to interview the police chief in the town where I lived for 12 years – the site of a recent major incident. I was a police cadet there when he was a patrol sergeant 15 years ago, so I know both the town and the department pretty well.

So: serious opportunities. And serious danger, at least that which exists in my head. This meeting in the city? I’m excited, because it will mean dressing in something other than mommy-clothes and talking business. Partly mommy business, yes, but business. In the city. I hope to all that is holy that I sound at least reasonably intelligent, because most of my business happens over email, and any face-to-fact conversation consists mainly of “Sweetie? Please don’t sit on your brother’s head. He really doesn’t like that” or “Dear, would you please not let him watch SpongeBob? I really HATE THAT SHOW don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Which brings me to opportunity #2: The Police Interview. I haven’t done one of these in an even longer period of time than I haven’t talked business. I’ve stayed current, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be as quick on the uptake as I used to be, directing an interview with a source who, by the way, remembers me from the Acne Days, when I was still a girk playing cop. What was I thinking?

My main source of comfort is, oddly, the memory that my brain used to shut down on interviews before I had children. Then, I could usually get away with, “Sorry. My last thought just went clean out of my head” and frantically scouring my notes for inspiration. Most sources were pretty understanding; after all, doesn’t that happen to the best of us? The ones that weren’t so understanding – well, I found it didn’t matter so much in the end, as long as I did my best.

(There. Full circle. I began and ended with a cliche. Gotta love ’em – especially when your brain isn’t working.)

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The cool people

PT-LawMom has this really funky way of reading my mind. Last month it was feminism, right when I was writing about it (even if I wasn’t posting). This month it’s girk-dom.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being the girk on blogs written and commented upon by “the cool people.” You know – published authors. They all seem to have this knack for socializing that I don’t have… so when I leave a comment, I’m all, “Oh crap. What a stupid thing to say. Can I delete it? Should I delete it? I’ll look hypersensitive if I delete it. But now I just look dumb. Crap. I’m going to stop commenting altogether and hope they all forget about me….” And yet I continue to comment on the cool people’s blogs.

I know at least part of it is the agent hunt, which is messing with my head, even though I have more than enough to keep me occupied while I wait. But I’m sure that even if I get signed, I’ll continue to feel like a poser… which I’m assured that most published writers do, even among each other. Is it possible?

Meanwhile (I can’t believe I forgot to tack this on in the first draft I posted!) J.T. Ellison blogs about social networking at Murderati, with the most salient point of all in comments: “I still believe that spending your time making your work the best it can be will always trump interaction.” It’s a great point, and if I can remember that, I might just come up with some semi-cool comment!

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