Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Regret and Goals

My "teacher shoes." I was given these second-hand when I was fourteen, and I've been using them for twelve years. Still haven't found any more comfortable.

When I was fourteen my family started teaching a dance class. Free, Friday nights in the gym at the church, anyone who wanted to come. We didn't know much--just basics of Swing, Waltz, and ChaCha--but the closest ballroom studio at the time was at least two hours away, so our class was a unique thing. Some nights it was just my best friend dancing with my brother and me dancing with hers. Other nights we had 30-40 people.

One night a man in his early thirties showed up. He hung near the doorway, his eyes constantly darting toward the exit. My mom went and welcomed him; she and my dad had met him a few times, but didn't know him well. She knew, however, that his wife had recently died of complications with diabetes.

He said he might just watch a little; that he wasn't sure why he was there. As always, we made it our mission to make sure he didn't run.

He didn't say much as I walked him through the basics, but he worked hard and caught on quickly. Gradually, under a stream of praise and reassurance, he started smiling more and watching his feet less. He also stopped shooting glances at the exit.

He came back the next week, still nervous, but more determined. And then he told us.

"My wife always wanted to learn to dance. She asked me to learn for years, but I never did. Now I'm here." Our dance class was the first non-essential thing he'd gone to since his wife had died. He said, "Maybe I'll remarry. And maybe she'll want to dance. I want to be ready."

Regret. But it led to action.

He did remarry, and while I don't know where they are now, I'd be willing to bet that if his current wife says she wants to try something, he does anything in his power to make it happen.

I've been thinking about regret lately. Things I regret, like times I said something unkind or didn't follow through on a feeling to help someone, but also things I might regret if I let fear or laziness get in the way.

Recently I've been hammering out some writing goals. Word-count goals, submission goals, self-imposed deadlines for when I'd like projects finished by, that sort of thing. Along with almost instantaneous regret for things like wasting too much time on Facebook, I've also run into some unexpected doubts. Not doubt in my work, but doubt in my own desire to publish. This was prompted by a couple things, including reading posts on the Amazon/Hachette battle where authors are being used as cannon fodder, and also reading up on some plagiarism and general nastiness that's been happening on the indie author front.

I've always wondered if I had a thick enough skin to handle things like scathing reviews (I know everyone gets them), but I'd decided publishing would be worth it--but reading up on these and other author issues made me start to question whether I even wanted to bother with publishing.

And then I thought about regret, and what it would mean for me to give up this dream I've had since I was at least twelve. And I don't want that. That stomach-twisting, mind-spinning regret would be worse for me than any number of bad reviews, any comments by trolls, any headaches over queries and rejection letters, any hassles with publishers.

"What if I had" is a question that can't be answered.

So, at least today, I'm not going to ask it. I'm going to let the threat of regret scare me into action.

My current word-count goal is 500/day (these days it's enough to challenge me). This post puts me at 609... but I still need to work on my book. ;-) What goal are you working on today?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Marry the Man

Six years. Though people shake their heads and exclaim I don't look nearly old enough, I've been married to my amazing man for six years. Six years, ten moves, three kids, three degrees... we've kept busy.

Speaking of busy, did I mention we have three kids now? Ryan was able to get about a week off of work right after I got home from the hospital, so I had a week to ease into being a mother of three. Then, the day he went back to his 10-hr work shift--my first day home alone with all three girls--I found this when I woke up.

And this.

And this.

And this.

And finally, this.

I was exhausted, my hormones were wacky, I was nervous--but suddenly, I didn't feel alone. And throughout the day, as I saw those notes, I was somehow able to be more patient, more loving, and less crazy with our three girls.

As I've thought about my husband, our relationship, and all the things I could say for our anniversary, I'm reminded of a post I saw years ago on Facebook that said something to the effect of, "Don't go for the boy who calls you hot, go for the man who calls you beautiful." It was shared by a teenage friend of mine, and it's not bad advice, per se. Ever since then, however, when I've found myself falling in love all over again, I've wanted to offer my own advice to the girls who are trying to decide who deserves their hearts. Here, year by year, are some of those bits of advice.

When we were engaged, I would have said, "Marry the man who makes you laugh."

During year one of our marriage, a year that included some unusual circumstances and PTSD, it changed to, "Marry the man who makes you laugh when you think you've forgotten how."

Second year married, I learned about morning sickness, and would have said, "Marry the man who calls you beautiful as he holds your hair while you puke."

Third year married, I would have said, "Marry the man who calls your daughter beautiful as he holds her while she pukes."

Fourth year married, we adjusted to military life--something neither of us had ever planned on. "Marry the man who's willing to put dreams on hold to do what's right for his family."

Fifth year married, I was home with two very young toddlers while the military occupied Ryan for 14 hours a day. Recognizing that I was going crazy, he started sending me ballroom dancing every week. "Marry the man who tells you it's okay to have both a family and your dreams."

Now, at six years married, I feel like all those things have come back around. In this year alone, he's made me laugh (even when things were hard), he's helped me through morning sickness again, he's taken care of our sick girls, he's pushed through new changes and challenges with military life (even though sometimes he'd rather not), and he's helped and encouraged me in my dreams (writing dreams, this time).

He got home last night after three weeks away. Our new daughter is only 7 weeks old, and I was checking those notes on the wall daily as I struggled to care for her and remain patient with toddlers who think they're teenagers--who also missed Daddy, but didn't know how best to express it. I can't even say how much strength those notes have given me.

When I was looking for a husband, one of my requirements was, "Marry the man who makes you want to be a better person just because he's around."

Today, looking at those notes, I say, "Marry the man who helps you be a better person even when he's away."

I love you, Ryan. I can't wait to see what this next year brings.

(Photo used with permission from Samantha Rizzo Photography.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Writing Update

I haven't talked about my writing goals much lately, but I've been getting some questions about them on Facebook, so here's a quick update.

  • I currently have one manuscript that I'm querying. It's a stereotype flipping/mocking YA fantasy.
    • I just entered this in Pitch Wars, a contest where established authors help mentor an unpublished writer, who then competes with other mentees for attention from literary agents. We'll see if anything happens with that.
  • In April I completed the first draft of another YA fantasy. That's the one the progress tracker on the sidebar is telling you about ("Shadows" is just the working title--I've been playing with a couple others). I'm excited about this novel, but it needs a sequel, so...
  • I've started working on the sequel to "Shadows." I'm only one chapter in, but I've done a good amount of brainstorming, and I'm ready to get this one written.
  • After I finish the second in the duology, I plan to edit them both and start submitting the first. I feel I can do a better job with content editing/foreshadowing/etc. if I edit them together. 
  • I have ideas for a couple more projects spinning in the background, including a Middle-Grade contemporary novel and another fantasy novel. 

I'm also still planning to take on editing projects again starting in September (I took July and August off), so between that, the writing, and the kids, I should stay busy. ;-)

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reading With My Children

There are lots of reasons I read to my girls. I was going to wax eloquent about memories of reading aloud with my parents, staying up late because Dad was begging to be allowed to read one more chapter, and how that helped lead to my love of books, which has affected my life more than I can say.

But the baby is screaming, and I'm not feeling eloquent, so tonight we're going to skip all that, and I'm just going to give you these brief reading moments instead.

"Skippy Jon Jones 1-2-3" by Judy Schachner

First, it gives me insight into how my children see the world. Mari, seeing this picture of dinosaurs, started naming them. It went like this: "T-Rex! Um... lizard. Unicorn!"

And voila! We now understand that to a two-year-old, anything with a horn is a unicorn.

(See above.)

Second, I'm learning about the role of flow and patterning in learning a language. My girls are obsessed with languages, and Mari loves to count to ten in Spanish, which we always do right after this page in this book. Her counting, however, goes like this: "...seis, siete, ocho mucho poochos!" No matter how many times I correct her, I can't seem to convince her that those aren't the words for 9 and 10. The flow is just too good. 

"Llama Llama Red Pajama" by Anna Dewdney

And then there are the moments that remind me why fiction matters to me. When I read this book, I read it very dramatically, and this page is the climax, so I'm a little over-the-top by this point. Normally the girls are giggling as I whisper, gradually increasing in volume until I'm shouting the last word, 

Llama llama
red pajama
in the dark
without his mama.
Eyes wide open,
covers drawn...
What if Mama Llama's GONE?

But tonight, my dear four-year-old looked at me with big eyes and said, so softly, "Sometimes I feel that way."

Sometimes, we need someone else's characters and words to make sense of our own feelings. Sometimes we see ourselves in books--even books about a llama. 

And sometimes, I see my daughters more clearly through books. There was a little more meaning tonight as I read Mama Llama's reply:

Little Llama, 
don't you know, 
Mama Llama 
loves you so?

Mama Llama's
always near,
even if she's
not right here.

Mama's here. Reading. Cuddling. Being with you. I hope you'll remember.