Thursday, December 29, 2005

Thursday Thirteen - About writing

Thirteen Things Jessica is thinking about the topic of writing!

1. I've been thinking about the topic of writing a lot lately. Probably because I haven't actually been writing. When I don't write, writing is on my mind all the time.

2. I still have lots of anxiety issues about writing. I thought they'd go away - or at least diminish - when I had my short story published. But, to my surprise, I think it's gotten worse.

3. One of the things I have problems with is my internal editor. He just won't shut up. Ever. I know I've blogged about this before (I'm just too lazy to find the link). Whenever I sit down to write - or even think about writing something - he steps in and tells me how stupid the idea is or how I'm just wasting my time.

4. For Christmas I got The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Whenever I'm browsing for books about writing or creativity in general, I come across references to this book. It's been around for ten years and it's supposed to be very helpful for removing blocks to creativity. I'm going to make a concerted effort to follow the program and see what happens. One of the activities the book recommends is "morning pages" where every morning you try to write - long hand - three pages of whatever. It's not a journal, it's not writing. It's more like a stream of consciousness mind dump. This morning I started doing it and my internal editor went crazy because he hates stream of consciousness.

5. When I started this Thursday Thirteen, I thought I'd have no problem coming up with thirteen things to say about writing. I was wrong.

6. My mom is creative - she's an artist. Among other things, she draws, paints, sews, does decoupage and needlepoint. Lately she's been into photography and creating her own cards from photos she's taken. All my life I've compared myself to her in the realm of creativity and I always felt like I fell short. I could never draw like she does. I hate sewing. Needlepoint is too tedious for me. I wasn't any good at the things she was good at. That doesn't mean I wasn't creative - just in different ways. Maybe because my creative outlets were different from my mom's, I didn't value them as much as I should have.

7. I know this sounds cliche but I always worried that a creative career wasn't "practical" enough. I started working at a talent agency after college because I could be close to the arts but still get paid a (not really) decent salary. That's something that Julia Cameron talks about in The Artist's Way - people who dream of being artists but are afraid to take the risks often go into careers associated with the arts. Eventually, I became dissatisfied with what I was doing. I thought it was because there wasn't enough of an intellectual challenge which is why I ended up a law school. Looking back I think I was wrong. I was probably dissatisfied because of the lack of creative challenge.

8. Not that I didn't like law school. It was an intellectual challenge and - in a different way - a creative challenge as well. It involves lots of writing, some of it creative. I wrote some kick ass papers. One of my favorites was a paper about why the enforcement of animal protection laws could violate the separation between church and state because some religions use animal sacrifice as part of their ritual. What made it most interesting is that, at the time, I was a vegetarian. I started writing the paper thinking I would come out on the side of animal protection and ended up on the side of religious freedom - even when it involved something I found personally abhorrent.

9. That's the great thing about writing - for me at least. The act and the process of writing helps me learn things about myself that aren't otherwise accessible to my conscious mind.

10. I started working on a book awhile back and was making some progress (well, for ME a couple short chapters is progress) but I stopped working on it. The idea of writing a book is overwhelming and my internal editor tells me I'll never do it and I'm not sure where the plot is going and I'm not sure I want to go where the characters appear to be taking me and I worry that even if I do write something it'll be so bad that everyone who reads it will laugh at me and I'll feel like I did back in junior high. Awkward and unlovable. Have I mentioned that I didn't really like junior high very much?

11. Here are my writing-related new year's resolutions: 1) do The Artist's Way program, 2) continue to work on the book, 3) write some more short stories and submit them for publication, 4) go over the class notes from the writing class I took and try to incorporate more of those lessons in my current writing, 5) blog more regularly.

12. I've never been very good at keeping new year's resolutions. That's why I tend to keep them to myself so no one will know that I broke my resolution just days after the new year. So now I'm making my resolutions public (at least the writing-related ones). Hopefully that'll shame me into keeping them!

13. I hope everyone has a happy, healthy new year!

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, December 19, 2005

I'm not dead . . . and some unique things about the girls

First of all, let me clear something up. I'm not dead or hibernating (although a good winter hibernation seems like a fabulous idea right about now). I'd like to say that I haven't been writing much because my social life is jam packed with holiday parties. In reality, my calendar is jam packed with getting ready to go to California for the holiday and that pesky little thing I like to call my "job." That's right, the people who give me that nice paycheck every two weeks actually expect me to perform certain tasks they call "work." So, I'm taking my lunch "hour" (more like 15 minutes during which I shove some "food" in my mouth) to respond to Landismom who tagged me the other day to list five ways in which my kids are weird.

To be honest, the word "weird" bothers me. My girls are too young to read this blog but if and when they do read it, I don't want to hurt their feelings by making them feel that I think badly of them. This isn't to say that Landismom or any of the other parents doing this meme are mean-spirited. Maybe I'm just oversensitive about this issue but I don't want to do anything that might embarrass them. Also, unlike other blogs, this blog is not really anonymous and that makes a big difference in how I feel about issues like this. To me, the word "weird" has negative connotations while "unique" is more a celebration of differences.

So - to get to the point (and there is a point), here are six ways in which A Girl and M Girl are unique:

1. A Girl did not like to go to sleep when she was a baby - not for naps, not at night, not ever. (In some ways, it's fairly amazing that we actually got up the courage to have another child after the hell that was A Girl's first year). Pretty much the only way she would take a nap (until she was TWO YEARS OLD) was in her stroller. We would put her in the stroller, take a walk and she'd fall asleep. Then we'd leave her there for the duration of her nap. In the winter, we'd take the stroller down to the swimming pool area and walk around the swimming pool until she fell asleep. Finally, our nanny was able to get her to take naps in her bed but it would only happen if someone actually sat next to her bed until she fell asleep. (And, for the record, I wouldn't say we coddled her, we tried different techniques to get her to sleep. See #2).

2. Night time sleeping for A Girl was another story - we tried the cry-it out method, we tried Ferberizing, (don't even get me started on those things) and nothing worked. She was CONVINCED that she was missing something good and she was not going to sleep by herself. If she had to be sleeping then BY GOD someone else better be there with her OR ELSE THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY IN! THIS! HOUSE! When we were at our wits end, we tried letting her cry it out for a longer period of time (an hour or more). After what seemed like forever, she'd finally be quiet and we'd sneak in her room to check on her. She would be in her crib with her arms stuck through in the slats to hold herself up. She'd start falling asleep and her head would bob but since she was sitting up, she'd never really get into a deep sleep. It would take a very delicate operation to get her arms out and get her laying down without actually waking her up into a full scream again.

3. When M Girl was a baby still in diapers, she would entertain an audience by doing seat drops. She'd jump up, throw her legs out in front of her and drop to the ground in a sitting position. Then she'd laugh really hard and do it again. She pretty much stopped once she didn't have a diaper to cushion her landing.

4. Both girls mix cereals. I know a lot of people do this so maybe it isn't really unique. I, myself, like to mix Grape Nuts and Smart Start. That - in my humble opinion - is a normal mixture. But our girls like to mix pretty much every cereal we have in the house like Froot Loops, Chocolate Rice Krispies, Cap'n Crunch and Lucky Charms - IN THE SAME BOWL. I don't know about you but I think that's gross.

5. A Girl has been wearing an eye mask to bed ever since she was in Hong Kong. Big D gave her one to sleep on the plane and she's been hooked ever since. But lately, she doesn't actually put it over her eyes so she sleeps with it on her forehead.

6. M Girl has her own sense about "boy" stuff and "girl" stuff. There are certain things that she has refused to do on the grounds that they are "boy" things - taking karate for one and wearing baseball hats for another. And yet, she and I take Tae Kwon Do together (to be fair, she thinks of karate as a boy thing because they teach it at her school and she thinks only boys take it whereas I take Tae Kwon Do so it can't be a boy thing.) At a birthday party recently, they gave the kids White Sox hats as a party favor. They had adorable lavender ones with butterflies for the girls. Not only has M Girl been wearing it but she will only wear it backwards.

We should all celebrate our childrens' unique qualities but here are a few bloggers I'd like to see give us a few ways in which their children are unique:

MIM,cmhl, Africableu at pith, marrow and coffee spoons and Sheryl at Paper Napkin.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thursday Thirteen - Mood swing edition

Thirteen Things about PMS Girl (oops, I mean Jessica)

1. I'm totally PMSing today but I am not going to let me stop the Thursday Thirteen from being posted. You lucky people! You get to see what my poor husband and children have to live with all the time (and remember, it's much worse to experience it in person).

2. I had a very crabby cab driver yesterday. He swore at other drivers and then got mad at me apparently because I was giving him less than a dollar tip. I usually give somewhere in the vicinity of 10% tip. So if it's about a $5.00 ride, it'll be around 50 cents. Apparently that's not enough for crabby cab driver - I gave him a $10 for a ride that was $4.45 and asked him for $5.00 back. That's MORE than 10% people - I think that's fair and regular practice. Does he expect that I should give him MORE than $1.00 for a three minute ride that he's getting paid for anyway? He angrily shoves my change (coins and all) in my hand. When I said "No, I only asked for $5.00 back." He said "Forget it. I have to get going." Sheesh.

3. On a lighter note, M Girl totally got me yesterday morning. A Girl was finishing her homework at the kitchen table. As I finished making her eggs, I asked her to clear her homework off the table because, I said "It's not good to have your homework there while you're eating." As she was clearing the stuff off the table, I put the plate of eggs down and some of her papers almost hit the plate. I said "See, that's why we don't want to have your homework on the table at meal time." So M Girl says "But Mom, you could've just put the eggs on the counter while she was clearing the table." Duh. I hate it (and love it) that my 5 year old is so much smarter than I am.

4. Back to crabbiness . . . there's someone I work with who is driving me crazy. This person only hears what he/she wants to hear and asks the same question over and over again (especially when this person doesn't like the answers). We're working on a big project that has lots of issues associated with it and this person keeps downplaying the open issues. Worst of all, she/he downplays the open issues to higher ups and then when I (and the other lawyers and sane people involved - not that lawyers aren't sane but . . . ok, maybe some of us aren't). Anyway, when we bring up the reality of the situation - that we're a long way from having important issues figured out - it looks like we're trying to stop the "momentum" of the project. I guess, in a way, we are trying to stop the momentum because we're trying to prevent the public from knowing that - at this point - we don't really know what we're doing. This person is in charge of the project so we can't avoid this person. Because I knew I couldn't be polite, I avoided speaking directly to this person as much as I could and communicated through the assistant (without being obvious about it) and I'm sure we all felt much better for it.

4. Have I mentioned how much I love Tae Kwon Do? Well, I do and I have class tonight and I'm really excited. I've learned my poomsae which is a routine consisting, for my level, of hand/arm movements and turns. At higher levels the routine includes kicks and more difficult arm movements. As the levels progress, the poomsae gets more difficult. Now I have to work on improving my technique. Because I used to be a dancer, I do the movements too smoothly and without sufficient strength and differentiation. I also have some problems getting the arm and leg movements coordinated in the right way. So that's what I'm working on. I've been taking classes for almost two months and there's a two month minimum before you can test for the next belt. I hope he'll let me test at the next opportunity.

5. I have nothing else to grump about except that I'm hungry. I only ate cream of wheat for breakfast. When will I learn that I need to have some protein with breakfast?

6. I made a promise to myself and my family this winter that I wouldn't complain about the cold. I can't change it and complaining only makes me and everyone else more unhappy. So far, even with PMS, I've managed to keep that promise! I don't even complain to myself - well, sometimes I start complaining but I stop myself and accept the fact that we live in a cold climate and this is just the way it is in the winter. Then I feel better and, strangely, less cold!

7. I made a resolution the other day that I would BE more organized. I've realized that this resolution will probably be easier to achieve with respect to home than it will be with respect to my work. This is partly because I don't really love my job. I know I've said this before - I really like parts of it and I adore most of the people I work with (but see #4 above!) but it isn't really what I'd like to be doing with my time. If I had known more about myself (and listened to myself) when I was younger, I probably wouldn't be here now. That's ok, though, because I most likely wouldn't have met Big D, the love of my life, and we wouldn't have our beautiful children. I don't regret my life in the least. But I do wish - sometimes more fervently than others - that I could spend more time on writing and other creative endeavors. And maybe even make a living like that instead of coming to this office every day. So back to my original point, because I love my family and our home, I am more motivated to make changes there than I am to make changes here. But I need to keep in mind that making changes here will help me be more efficient with my time so that I can spend more guilt-free time with my family. I think this is the time when I have to find some mental toughness and just get to it.

8. We have a lovely Christmas tree. Big D put some wrapped presents under it the other day to make it even lovelier. M Girl came to me yesterday and said "Mom! Can we open some of the presents under the tree?!" I of course said "Of course not!" She said "Aww, we have to wait until Christmas?" "Yes, you do. That's what Christmas presents are for." Still trying to get me to change my mind, she says "But Santa might DO something with them." I reassured her "Honey, Santa leaves presents. He doesn't take them." She sighed, defeated.

9. This morning I removed my blog from the TTLB Ecosystem. What started out as a fun thing to include on my blog became a thing of daily concern. Each morning I'd wonder whether I'd moved up or down on the evolutionary chain. It started out silly and just became sillier. I'm obsessed enough with my hit counter and the number of comments (or lack thereof) that I get on any given post. I don't need anything else to obsess over. Plus it was a huge blow to my ego when they changed the way they rank blogs and I plunged from the lofty heights of Crawly Amphibian to lowly Multicellular Microorganism. It was too much to bear for something so non-important. So I eased my pain by not having to know how the folks at TTLB view my blog. If I want to be a Flappy Bird or an Adorable Rodent or even *gasp* a Higher Being, I can be one in my own mind, without someone "official" telling me that I'm not, thank you very much.

10. My husband's cousin who lives on the East Coast has a degree in Deaf Education. Awhile back she started her own business as a translator for the deaf. It's the coolest job. She goes to court, doctor's appointments and important meetings with her clients. She even gets to go to the theater where she, and usually one or two other translators, act out the show in sign language. She gets to do what she likes and is good at, make a living and help people in a very important way. And she's one of the nicest people I know on top of it all. She didn't even get upset with us when we made her significant other seasick!

11. If you're still with me, say "I'm still here!" If you're not, I totally understand. I don't really want to be with me today either.

12. Aside from trying to be more organized, I need to learn to say "no" more often. Big D and I talked about this last weekend. Our kids get invited to so many birthday parties - especially the little one because she still at the age where people invite the whole class to the party rather than just a few good friends. As much as the girls love these parties, when there's two or three in one day, it's just too much for the whole family. Between that and all the things that have to be done on the weekend, there's just not enough time to just relax together as a family. I have the most trouble saying "no" because I feel guilty about it as if we're somehow bad parents and bad community members if our kids don't attend all the parties and bring gifts. I know on a rational level that it's not true. But my irrational level takes over and beats my rational level into submission.

13. Next Thursday we have the girls' school concerts! M Girl's grade still has theirs during the day at school while the older kids have theirs at night. I'll have to miss my company party (again) because they always seem to be scheduled on the same night. But that's ok, I wouldn't trade my company party for a kids' Christmas concert for anything! However, A Girl keeps reminding me that we have to go out and buy her clothes to wear because they're requiring the kids to wear either black or white or both. That's fine except that A Girl doesn't own anything in those (non)colors. I however own everything in black. I got that trick when I lived in NYC - black goes with everything and requires very little thought in the morning before you've had coffee or even any food.

Ok, done with the rambling. Next week will be far more stable. Promise!

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
If you're a Thursday Thirteen regular, go to Leanne's to get put yourself on the blogroll. If you're not a regular or don't want to be on the blogroll, leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!

See my sidebar fo the blogroll of the regulars!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I like praise. I'll be honest - I like when people tell me I'm doing a good job, particularly when I'm working hard at something. After kickboxing tonight, my teacher said "You're getting a lot better." I nearly fainted. Partly because my heart rate was dangerously above my target range. But mostly because during most of the class I felt like a totally uncoordinated moron. I have been working my ass off in that class (although the results are, unfortunately, only figurative).

I was one of only three students tonight and the other two students have been boxing and kickboxing for years. So our teacher made the class harder than usual - more turning kicks and more fakes (which are much harder to do than it might seem). I could keep up but barely. I missed the bag on half my kicks, I nearly fell over several times after trying to do some of the spinning kicks. I just plain screwed up the fakes most of the time. I felt good, I was working hard, but I was wishing I was better at it. So the teacher's words of encouragement really meant a lot to me.

On another note, I have the coolest new shoes for kickboxing! Big D and my teacher suggested that I get wrestling shoes instead of the cross-trainers that I was using. The cross-trainers have too much traction for the spinning and sliding you need to do in kickboxing and I was deathly afraid that I'd blow out a knee or something. Of course, most stores don't carry wrestling or boxing shoes for women. Big D had me try on some totally cool men's wrestling shoes which made me instantly feel like bobbing and weaving. And punching something. It was awesome! They were perfect for class - lighter weight than my other shoes and just slippy slidy enough that I'm not afraid of hurting myself because of my shoes. (I am, however, afraid of hurting myself because of my utter lack of coordination but not even the coolest shoes are going to help that).

Monday, December 05, 2005

The big cleanup

Yesterday we spent the day cleaning out the kids' rooms and re-organizing everything. As much as I tend to dislike that kind of work (which is one of the big reasons why it needed to be done in the first place!), it felt great to do it and get it pretty much done. Big D suggested that we all dedicate ourselves to the task for the day and we did. Although I did sneak off a few times to sip my coffee. And M Girl petered out after awhile and got to watch tv. But she's five, so that's to be expected. But it was good to see what we can accomplish when we really tackle a task full on.

Let me say that all the good organizational decisions were made by Big D - he has a good sense of organization that I just don't have. I am also far too sentimental about stuff and want to keep doo dads and tchotskes that really need to be tossed. Can I pat myself on the back for just one second and say that I spelled tchotskes right on the first try? And also, according to one website, I used the Russian spelling of the word. What's up with that? Anyway . . . moving right along. I did actually assist in the throwing away/giving away of quite a few tchotskes. Without crying. At all.

There are times I wish I was more organized and I do think I'm missing some sort of Organization Gene that my mother failed to pass to me. But if I'm being honest, I'll admit that the reason I'm not more organized is that I'm lazy. Now, because the only people that read this seem to be very nice people that say such nice things, I know you'll all chime in and say all kinds of sweet things to me (and I won't stop you) but it's true - I am lazy when it comes to making (or not making) the effort necessary to be more organized. Either I don't really WANT to be organized badly enough or I have the wrong attitude about it. I'm sure both are true.

My husband, bless him, reminds me (gently) that in order to change, you have to take every opportunity to engage in different behavior. So, if I want to be organized "someday," I need to take advantage of opportunities to organize things and I have to put forth the effort. Instead of blogging right now, I could spend fifteen minutes making some files and clearing off my desk. When I get memos or reports, instead of piling them on my desk until "later," I could actually file them or, if they don't need to be kept, throw them away or scan them and save them electronically. Instead, I want to wake up one day and BE organized without all the messy WORK involved in it. I want to read a self-help book about organization or buy the right software to attach to Microsoft Outlook and find THE ANSWER to all my organizational problems.

In the end, I know that my husband is right. No book or software program can make up for the lack of effort on my part. I know I'm capable of being more organized and I think I really want to be more organized but I don't know what's holding me back. What would be so bad about being organized that keeps me from doing it? Would it make me less creative (not that I'm so creative to begin with but you know what I mean)? Being more organized would mean I'd be able to stop wasting time searching for important things that get lost in all the crap. If I was more organized I might even have MORE time to spend doing creative things.

I've recently learned (from this great book) that often it's our irrational fears and anxiety that hold us back from doing things that the more sane and rational parts of our mind want us to do. So what am I afraid of? Why does the mere thought of being organized make me want to crawl in to bed and sleep for three days? Is it because being disorganized gives me more then enough excuses for not getting things done well or on time and if I was organized, everyone would find out that I'm really not very competent and THAT'S why I don't live up to my potential? Maybe it's because I have the perfect set up - I'm a working mom, everyone KNOWS how crazy my life is. But is it really that crazy? The shameful "secret" I carry is that I'm not as busy as I allow people to think I am. And, if I worked as hard as everyone around me (and half as hard as people THINK I work), and if I was half as competent as people think I am, I could accomplish so much. And yet . . . here I sit, at 5:00pm, in my disorganized office, with work left to do, and a wonderful family to go home to. And I'm blogging about not being organized. Now you see the problem.

So, I'm going to make a New Year's resolution. Yes, you heard me right. Although I have made many such resolutions in the past which have failed before the twelfth bell has rung, I am going to make a resolution to BE more organized going forward. And, since I've already told you all my secret, I'll let you know how it's going. Since there's no reason to wait until January 1st, I'll start now. And although I'm sure I'll be referring to all the stuff I've read and heard before, I'll try to listen to my very smart husband and simply take advantage of opportunities to BE what I say I want to be.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about Jessica

1. You all should check out this site. It's the new site for a wonderful author and fabulous person, Lela Nargi. She wrote a book called Knitting Lessons a few years ago. It's a book about women who knit and what knitting means to them. I was one of the women in the book! How cool is that?

2. Her latest book is about food, women and relationships. She's also a travel writer. What's not to love - she writes about travel, knitting and food. My three favorite things after Big D, A Girl and M Girl!

3. I can tell already that I'm going to have trouble getting to thirteen things today. Here's the irony - normally, you can't shut me up. Now that I have a forum to "talk" all I want, I can't think of anything to say.

4. A Girl is back to work already. She had an audition and a voice over job this week and has another audition today. Busy, busy. She's happy because her piano/voice teacher is coming over today to start lessons again. M Girl even wants to take piano from this teacher (even though last year she said she didn't want to - probably because last year she wanted to take guitar). It makes scheduling so easy - the teacher comes over for 1 1/2 hours and teaches both girls piano and A Girl voice. It works well for all of us - especially because there's no driving involved!

5. I'm taking steps to ease my addiction to caffeine! I started drinking half-decaf coffee in the morning. I thought I'd be able to feel the difference but, in all honesty, I don't. I doubt I'll ever give up coffee completely (I really, really like coffee) but this will help me cut down. Unfortunately for our budget, I really, really like Starbucks coffee. Maybe this will help me save a little money too!

6. I haven't been writing lately. My desire to write goes in spurts. Part of the reason I haven't been writing is that I want to spend time with both girls and with my hubby now that we're all together. It's difficult for me to find the time to write. Before, I would stay up late to write but I know that's not healthy. What I should do (and what Big D is trying to help me do) is go to bed earlier but wake up earlier. He's been doing that lately and he gets a lot done before the morning frenzy starts. Just a 1/2 hour might enable me to get something done.

7. I thought about taking another online writing course because it really helped me be more disciplined about my writing. But with the holidays coming up and with everything else going on in our lives, I decided not to do it right now. Besides, I think it would be good for me to practice the things I learned in the last class before I go into another class. I saved all of the lectures and exercises so (if I'm disciplined about it!) I could just do it on my own. Then once I go into another class, I'll have more experience and can maybe stretch myself a bit more.

8. Speaking of discipline, I'm going to Tae Kwon Do tonight. This will be the first week that I take two classes. I'm really looking forward to it in a way that I've never looked forward to exercising. Maybe it's the fact that I really, really want that yellow belt. I almost feel embarrassed to admit that the other thing I like about the class is the discussions about responsibility and discipline. I need a good dose of those things. I'm not irresponsible, I'm just not as responsible as I think I should be. I never really learned those things as a kid - I think my parents just expected us to pick it up by osmosis or something. Big D is great about finding opportunities to teach these things to our kids, though. And he doesn't just give them a new responsibility and expect them to do it - he helps them by giving them ways to think about the task at hand and how to accomplish it. Just one of the many reasons I love that man! My parents (especially my dad) would give us responsibility and then vacate the premises.

9. Gee, it's lunch time. I'm getting hungry. I'll never get to thirteen if I don't get some food!

10. That's better. I had a big plate of carbohydrates (yummy gnocchi) with tomato sauce and I feel much better. Actually, I didn't eat all of it because the serving was enough to feed a family of four (ok, I'm exaggerating, a little). It really is a shame that restaurants give such big portions. I would gladly pay half for a serving half the size and I would get plenty of food. But like a lot of people, if there's food on the plate, I eat it. Even if the portion size is too big to be healthy. Some places do offer 1/2 orders - I just wish more places did. It's hard for me to leave the food on the plate because I feel like I'm wasting food. I could save it for later but some things just aren't good as leftovers.

11. I don't think I've mentioned lately how much I love my iPod. Well, I do. I've realized that I like having a soundtrack for my life! It is rather unsociable, however. It never fails that there's a great song on and I get into the elevator (either at work or home) with someone I know and I have to take it off because it's rude not to have a conversation. I wish I could listen and have a conversation at the same time but that's rude too. And impossible.

12. I think I'd probably be embarrassed if someone filmed me while I walk down the street listening to my iPod. I have a tendency to bop to the beat, sing along (hopefully not out loud, though), bounce my head and other odd tics. In the car I do sing out loud. Very loud at times. Especially to Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. I know. I'm weird. And old and unhip. But that's ok.

13. Hurray! I'm done. I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving and that you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. As always, go see Leanne, the founder of Thursday Thirteens for another installment. You can get great Thursday Thirteen codes there. I'm partial to the purple!

2. (leave your link in comments, IÂ’ll add you here when I can!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. ItÂ’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Random stuff

I love kickboxing. It's totally exhilarating. Who knew that kicking and punching the shit out of a really hard bag for an hour would make me feel so good? I'm not even the worst person in the class anymore. I am still the oldest woman, though, and probably will be for the duration. But that's ok.

I love Tae Kwon Do also for similar reasons. I really want to move up a belt. White is just not my color. Not that yellow is any better but it'll be a long time before I get to purple, which is my favorite color these days.

I can't believe it's almost Thursday. I shouldn't say too much here since it'll detract from my ability to write thirteen moderately interesting things tomorrow!

At dinner, Big D was trying to explain to M Girl the concept of thinking about things chronologically. As he was explaining what it meant, M Girl smiled at him and said "Daddy, I can't understand a thing you're saying. But I'm sure it's a good idea!"

I'm still walking on air because our little family is together again. But actually, I feel bad that it took a long separation like this to help me truly appreciate what I have. I hope that I've learned a lesson that I need to count my blessings every day because I have a lot of them!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Back together again

Big D and A Girl got back safe and sound last Monday. I took a little hiatus from writing as we took time to enjoy being together again. (Also, I did A LOT of laundry). We put up our Christmas tree yesterday and decorated it. The girls were so excited. Today, A Girl went back to school for the first time. Her teacher planned a party for her this morning so she'd have a chance to tell the class about her trip.

I think one of the reasons I haven't been blogging this week is because I haven't been able to find the words to adequately describe how good it feels to have our family together again. It would be too pedestrian to say it's "wonderful" or that I'm "happy." Those words can't begin describe the near-bliss that I'm feeling right now. Even calling it "bliss" doesn't really say it right. I guess I'm feeling whole where before some essential part of me was missing. It didn't matter how often we talked (or IM'd). It mattered that we weren't physically present in each others' lives day to day. I hadn't fully appreciated the importance of touch and simple physical presence when it comes to relationships with the people I love. I think M Girl feels the same way, too. She's always been a "huggy" kid but over the past week, she can't seem to get enough hugs and kisses (which is quite all right with everyone)!

I know this is going to sound cliche but I'll say it anyway. This separation has made us all more appreciative of each other. At Thanksgiving, we all went around the table talking about things we're thankful for. We all agreed that we're thankful for our little family and the big love that we have for each other.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Thursday Thirteen - "Fluffy Musical" edition

Thirteen Things about Jessica

1. Last night I went to see The Boy Friend at the Chicago Theatre. Those of you who aren't die hard Broadway musical fans probably haven't heard of it. I was actually in this play when I was at theater camp as a kid. All I remember is that during the song Sur La Plage, the boys had to flip the girls over and I was scared shitless. But as I watched the show last night, I realized that somewhere in my addled brain, I still held the lyrics to most of the songs.
2. I agree with the Tribune reviewer. He called fluffy shows like this "book lemonade" but I call it cotton candy for the mind. The plot only exists as an excuse to sing the songs. And the songs aren't all that good. But from a nostalgia point of view, it was awesome.
3. I went with a friend and colleague who is a singer and shares my love of all things related to Broadway musicals. Last week, she and I were in a meeting together and at the end of the meeting, for reasons I can't recall, we both started singing the songs from Wicked. Anyone who's willing to do that, will enjoy a fluffy show.
4. We cracked ourselves up throughout the show because there are lots of times when it's so predictable that, even if I hadn't been in the show many, many years ago, I would still know what was coming next. But that's part of the charm for me - life is so unpredictable, it's nice to know what's going to happen next, even if only for a couple hours.
5. My all-time favorite musical is Guys and Dolls. I don't think it's totally fluffy but it has fluffy tendencies. The movie, with Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson, is fab!
6. My favorite musical movie (besides Guys and Dolls) is Singing in the Rain. You already know that I always had a thing for Gene Kelly and he's positively dreamy in this movie.
7. There are so many great scenes in Singing in the Rain, if I had to pick the best comedy scene, it would be the one with Donald O'Connor singing Make 'em Laugh. As part of my devious plot to get my children to like this movie as much as I do, I didn't show them the whole movie the first time I introduced it to them. I showed them the Make 'em Laugh scene. A Girl especially loves slapstick so they cracked up.
8. The dance scene with Gene Kelly and Sid Cherise is priceless. Almost as good as American in Paris, but not quite.
9. My second favorite musical (in play form) has to be Lion King because the costumes are simply amazing and I love, love, love the music.
10. Here are other musicals I've seen or been in (in no particular order): Sound of Music (of course!), South Pacific, Oklahoma, Jesus Christ Superstar, I Do I Do, Chorus Line, Tommy, Miss Saigon, Rent, My Fair Lady, Wicked, 42nd Street, Les Miserables, Cats, Starlight Express, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Once Upon A Mattress, Merrily We Roll Along, Pacific Overtures, Sunday in the Park with George, The King and I, Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof, Big River, Showboat, Grease, Camelot, Cinderella, Porgy and Bess, Pippin, Hair, West Side Story, Music Man, The Wiz, Little Shop of Horrors, Sing, Mahalia, Sing, Annie Get Your Gun, Hello Dolly, Bye Bye Birdie, Annie, Oliver, A Little Night Music, Dancin'. Hmmm, I thought the list would be longer!
11. My biggest Broadway musical regret is that I did NOT see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in The Producers while it was in Chicago. I didn't see the show at all and I know I would have loved it. I can't remember what was going on at the time and why I didn't get tickets. In fact, I'm pretty sure Big D even offered to get tickets if I wanted them (he's not a big musical fan like me but he knows how much I love it and he always takes care of me!).
12. I wish that tickets to shows weren't so darn expensive or I'd go see Wicked again. Even M Girl asked to see it again and she didn't really understand the plot, she just likes the music and the fact that the "wicked" witch is green. "For real." She says.
13. Big D and A Girl are coming home on Monday! I simply cannot wait. I will probably break into song when I see them.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Leanne, the mother of the Thursday Thirteen's and fabulous designer of the templates!
2. (leave your link in comments, I'll add you here - if I have time!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Crabby Pants

I haven't posted in a couple of days because I've been Mrs. Crabby Pants lately. I thought I shouldn't post because I have my head in a black cloud and I figured it would be so bleak that all my readers will leave me for less depressing blogs. Then I realized that the point of a diary (public or not) is to express your feelings even when they aren't sunny and bright, or particularly funny. And I know that I'm not alone so hopefully my true readers will stick with me even when I'm in a foul mood.

Have I mentioned before that I hate PMS? Well, I do. It sucks. Big D and I have discovered that I have something that we call "bad egg" month. Just about every other month, my PMS is almost tolerable and my mood swings are fairly minor. But on the other months, my mood swings are like carnival rides. I swear - I am manic/depressive during some months. One minute I'm talking a mile a minute, telling stories, laughing and having a jolly good time. The next I'm lecturing my children in a high pitched screech that only dogs can hear about what ungrateful children they are because they don't listen to me when I ask them to do anything and here I've been so nice and let them have McDonald's for lunch and they whine when I ask them to put their laundry in the basket and I do all the laundry anyway and they don't really even have regular chores like other kids and I'm not their slave you know! Sheesh. As Big D says, no wonder they tune me out. I would tune me out!

Well, it's bad egg month - so here comes the major whining. If you don't like whining, feel free to read the blog of someone who doesn't whine. I'm sure they exist. And for those of you who might feel the urge to psychoanalyze me, I know that I bring most of this on myself. I know that there are many things that I could (should?) do to help myself. But right now I'm too tired, I don't like doing things because I "should" and even if you gave me the best advice in the world, I won't listen - especially if it involves giving up coffee.

I'm tired and stressed out. I want my husband and my baby home again. I miss them so much it hurts. I have a cold sore and something's causing my right eye to swell up near the tear duct and that hurts, too and no, I don't have time to go to the doctor. I got a haircut and it looks like heck because I need to refresh my perm. I'm not looking forward to winter - I hate being cold and I'm always cold during the winter. At this moment I'm bored with my job - I'm sure that will change once I get through the next three days of god-awful board meetings (which is why I don't have time to go to the doctor right now). I wish I could retire and spend all my free time writing and knitting and just generally being creative but that's just not feasible right now and anyway, it wouldn't be anything like my fantasy. It would require work and I'm just plain LAZY right now. I want to crawl into bed for a few days and not come out until the PMS goes away.

I was hoping that writing about it would make it better. Unfortunately, at least as of this moment, it didn't. I'm now going to go home and crawl into bed. Maybe M Girl can make herself dinner. Or not. After all, she is only five. Ok, I'll reheat some left overs and THEN I'll crawl into bed. Such fun it must be to be my child!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I'm not too bright early in the morning

Early this morning, M-Girl started giving me a shoulder massage . . . while I was still sleeping. Although I appreciate the thought, I still wanted to sleep.
I said, groggily "What are you doing up?"
"I'm awake."
"Why are you awake?"
"Because I woke up."
Oh, ok. Lucky for me, she ended the conversation (and the massage).
"I'm going in the other room to watch TV."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Funny Friday

After last night's gastrointestinal nightmare, I'm just not feeling very funny today. So I thought I'd send you all over to The Scarlett to see her hilarious post about Victoria's Secret.

Do any of you know any REAL women who actually wear this crap? Not to give too much information but my hubby has to deal with me in my flannel jammies. I hate wearing nightgowns and silk just doesn't do it for me. It gets all staticky and it's not nearly warm enough. Ever - winter or summer. Sorry Big D!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about Jessica

1. Eleven days until Big D and A Girl come home! Yippee!
2. I'm plugging away on the book - I'm nearly done with three chapters. Not very good chapters but three chapters nonetheless. Maybe I should have done Nanowrimo but I'm glad I don't have that pressure right now.
3. While I was at kickboxing Tuesday, I was so mad about the possibility that the kids in our building won't be able to play out in front, I think I punched the bag a bit too hard. My hands have been hurting since Wednesday morning! As my instructor warned me, the bag's pretty unforgiving.
4. I had to come home early from work today because I have a horrible stomach ache. I don't know if I'm sick or if it's just stress.
5. M-Girl is so sweet - I've been in bed since I came home and when she needed me to get something for her, she helped me out of bed and held my hand while I walked (doubled over in pain). She said "Sorry I made you get out of bed, Mommy." and "Sorry you're not feeling well." She is the kindest child.
6. Have I mentioned that Big D and A Girl are coming home in 11 days! It's hard to think of much else.
7. I've gotten great advice from landismom and Metrodad regarding the bad situation at my condo building. Any other advice is welcomed!
8. Right now I'm eating Cambell's Chicken Noodle soup. It's good comfort food. Just looking at the can makes me feel better.
9. I know I said this before but I want to mention that Big D is incredible. My mother is going to Hong Kong for a visit next week. He's working his cute butt off trying to make sure that it'll be a good trip for her. He even managed to win her tickets to Cirque du Soleil which is playing near their hotel. (In fact the cast and crew is staying at the same hotel).
10. I ask again - how many husbands do you know that would voluntarily invite their mother in law to a foreign country WITHOUT their wives being there? I'm a lucky, lucky lady.
11. It's going to be really hard to come up with thirteen things - I really need to get back in bed. 12. I need a haircut.
13. M Girl promised to paint my nails this weekend. I can't wait!

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Leanne. Go see Leanne for lots of other Thursday Thirteens!
2. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here . . . assuming I can get out of bed!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

7 things (finally)

Many moons ago (ok, a little over two weeks ago),the wonderful MIM asked me ever so nicely to do the 7 Things meme. And because she's awesome, I'm going to give it a try. Mind you, I am not funny like she is - so don't go getting high expectations! Ok, enough procrastinating.

7 Things I want to do before I die

1. See my children grow up
2. Publish a novel
3. Produce a movie
4. Win an Oscar (for #3)
5. Wear a beautiful emerald green evening gown to accept #4
6. Change the world for the better
7. Get a grip on reality

7 Things I cannot do

1. Waterski
2. The splits
3. French braid hair
4. Streak
5. Keep from eating too many candycorns around Halloween
6. Give up Starbucks
7. Get a grip on reality

7 Things that attract me to the opposite sex

1. Intelligence (seriously!)
2. A great ass
3. Nice legs
4. Romantic nature
5. Beautiful eyes
6. Commitment to family
7. everything else about Big D!

7 Things I say most often

1. We'll see.
2. No fucking way!
3. What's for breakfast?
4. Yada yada yada
5. What the fuck?
6. No, you cannot have candy for breakfast.
7. Oh my god!

7 Celebrity Crushes

I have a acquaintance who says she has a "laminated card" on which there is a list of celebrities that she reserves the right to "do" if the opportunity should arise, regardless of whether or not she is otherwise attached. The only person on her list that I can remember is the lead singer of the band Train. Go figure -to each her own. But anyway, I don't have a laminated card and I don't have a desire to "do" any celebrities. Being famous isn't on my list of things that attract me to the opposite sex. Anyway, there are celebrities that were teen idols in the 1970's that I had kind of a crush on and then there are current celebs I think are cute so that's pretty much what this list is. It's not something I really think about most of the time. In fact, I had to go to various websites to find people to put on the list!

1. Gene Kelly - always loved him when I was a kid, great dancer, great singer and really cute! Seriously!
2. Shaun Cassidy - come on! You know he was a babe in the '70's! And he was so much cuter than David. Totally.
3. Leif Garret - I admit it. He was totally cute with his long girly hair when he was young but he's freakin' scary now.
4. Brad Pitt - He's still cute even though he left poor Jen high and dry.
5. George Clooney - I like the Ocean's 11 guys. What can I say?
6. Matthew McConaughey - total babe
7. Jude Law - Love his eyes although he is a total pig. Screwing the nanny? So cliche.

7 People I want to do this

Pretty much everyone that I would have tagged to do this has already done it. So I'm going to copy MIM and give you a list of blogs I think you should read.

1. MIM and not just to return the favor. You should be reading her blog because she is painfully honest and so funny she makes you spit your coffee all over your laptop.
2. landismom because she's smart and well spoken. She's also one of the few people I know that truly lives her values.
3. Sandra because she's a good writer and you'll learn interesting things about being an expat in Korea and other cool stuff.
4. Mir because she's so funny she'll make you pee in your pants.
5. Sheryl because she's another blogger who talks about her life in a refreshingly honest way but does it in an incredibly funny and loving way.
6. Gio because he makes me think and because I didn't think it was fair that the ladies were getting all the props!
7. Dutch and Wood at Sweet Juniper because they are excellent, smart and funny writers. Also because giving a nod to Dutch helps balance out the boy/girl ratio in this list a little bit.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The worst of condo living

I've lived in two different high rise condominium buildings over the last ten years and one thing that never seems to change is the snob factor. Every building in this area likes to think of itself as a "high end building" and I'm all for that to a certain extent because it helps support the price of our homes. But, as you can imagine, this concept can be taken too far and how far it goes depends on the snob factor in the building.

I found out tonight that we live in a VERY snobby building. Apparently having children around the front of the building on occasion doing awful things like, oh, PLAYING and (horror of horrors) RIDING THEIR TRICYCLES is anathema to the concept of a high end building. God forbid we should have happy children around, it might *gasp* detract from our property values! I'm not talking about unruly, unsupervised children posing a danger to themselves and others. Our building is set back from the street and we have a huge covered walkway that is one block long and is the width of three regular sidewalks. There is a normal size "public" sidewalk between our covered walkway and the street.

(Oh, I'm sorry, did I call it a covered walkway? One of my snotty neighbors said "It's a PORTICO, not a PLAYGROUND." Oh sorry gay guy neighbor with a yippy dog and no kids, I should have known that high end buildings don't have something as common as covered walkways, they have PORTICOs! And I wasn't aware that there is a rule against using PORTICOs as places to play. Apparently block-long PORTICOs are supposed to be huge empty spaces that shall not be used, under any circumstances, for any fun purpose.) But I digress . . . I have been down there with other parents while our children play happily, without running into anyone or getting hurt. When they get out of hand, as children sometimes do, we give them time outs or take them home. They are better behaved than some of the adults that live here!

We have a new management company running the building. The woman assigned to our building has reprimanded the babysitters of two families for allowing the children to play in front. The babysitters (and some parents) were apparently told that children aren't allowed to play in the "common areas" of the building. For those of you who don't have to deal with condo-speak, the common areas are areas of the building that we all own together. Although the condo board hasn't adopted any such rule against children playing in the common areas, this snob of a woman has taken it upon herself to rid the common areas of the scourge of happy children. At a condo board meeting tonight, the board members said that they will be proposing a rule that will be put out for comment by the residents. If not enough residents OBJECT, the board will pass the rule. There is one board member (the only young one) who seems to be on our side. He said he'd work with us to try to get the rule drafted in a way we can live with. My guess is that he'll be overruled by the older men on the board who are well past their child rearing days and don't give a shit about the kids in the building.

I understand that living in the city involves certain inconveniences with respect to getting your kids outside play time. I've always had to bundle everyone up and take them several blocks to the park to do that. However, in this building we're blessed with this SPACE - it's huge and it's perfect as a place for the kids to play. It doesn't happen every day and it's not for more than an hour or so when it does happen. I find it to be a huge waste of space and just generally . . . well, curmudgeonly to say that kids can't play out there. Are they going to tell the cranky guy in the wheelchair that he can't do his physical therapy out there? Will they tell people that they can't stand around talking out front while their dogs pull on their leashes and yap ceaselessly? Doubt it.

When we lived at our old building, I was on the condo board. Once Big D brought A Girl to a meeting when she was about 2 1/2. He's entitled to come to the meeting and we shouldn't have to get a babysitter just to be able to participate in the governance of our building. They came after the meeting started and she ran up to me and sat on my lap for a little while. Then she ran back to dad. After the meeting, a cranky old man came up to me and said "You're daughter is very cute but it isn't appropriate to have her at a meeting. It's distracting." Once I picked my jaw up off of the floor I said "If you were distracted, I'm sorry but she has just as much right to be here as you do. If you don't want to be around kids, move into a senior community."

Ok, I'm going to get off my soapbox soon. But I'm really pissed off. It was bad enough that they passed a rule that kids under 12 are not allowed in the work out room. My kids are really unhappy about that. They loved coming to exercise with me and Big D. They would stretch and do sit ups while we did the stair master and treadmill. Sometimes they just sat and watched the tv in there. Maybe people objected to having the Disney Channel on - but I objected to having Fox News on. So what? We live in a community that includes people of all ages. I wish people would stop feeling that it's appropriate to treat the children in this building worse than they treat the dogs.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Be gone irritating voice in my head!

Ugh - There's this person who lives inside of me who simply does not know when to keep his mouth shut. Don't ask me why I think this person is male. It's probably gender discrimination because I always listen to the girl who tells me about the yummy coffee cake sitting in the kitchen.

But this guy - I think I'll name him Edgar (if MIM can name her pimples, I can name the annoying voices in my head). Anyway, Edgar comes around whenever I'm trying to do something creative and says stuff like "People are going to HATE this. It makes no sense at all. It's drivel. I think you should stop. Let's watch TV." I hate him. Sometimes I can drown him out with music but beer is usually more effective, albeit more fattening. Edgar likes to sleep, though. That's why I can write at 3:00 a.m. without having to hear his constant criticism. But I can't keep that up for long. I like sleep, too.

I'm trying to follow the Nanowrimo idea of just getting something down on paper, no matter how bad it is and then going back to revise and make it better. Maybe what I need is more practice ignoring Edgar and his all-consuming need to watch reruns of Law & Order. I need willpower! Mental toughness! Cookie dough! (Oops, did I say that out loud?)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Major cuteness

Here's M-Girl in her Tae Kwon Do uniform, freshly hemmed by Grandma Juju. I know that I'm biased in a major way but she is just.too.cute. Don't you think?

She had a great practice today. I swear, the uniform makes M-Girl feel stronger and more able. She was less tentative today than she was before.

I even had a good class today despite severe sleep deprivation. I was up until 3:00 a.m. The good news is that between 1:30 and 3:00 am, I wrote an entire first chapter of a book and turned an already started short story into Chapter 2 of that book. I didn't know I was writing a book until it occurred to me that I had finished something that looked an awful lot like a chapter. Although I'm not doing Nanowrimo this year, something in me must feel like I should be doing it! Let's hope I can keep the momentum going (and that I can get myself to do the very, very necessary editing.)

Friday, November 04, 2005

The writing process

For a long time I dreamed about writing but was too afraid to put pen to paper (so to speak). There was also the not-so-minor issue of having young children and a full time job which left me with little time and energy for writing. But now that the kids are more independent and thanks to encouragement from Big D, I've started writing more or less regularly.

Recently, I've learned some interesting things about the writing process. Or, at least MY writing process.

I used to feel like I needed a fully realized plot or story line before I sat down to write. That was part of my fear of writing - I could never come up with a perfect story so I'd never actually write anything. I also don't particularly like revising - I'm lazy and I like to get it right the first time (or, more accurately, get it good enough the first time). But that doesn't work very well because the first draft is never very good. It's actually inaccurate to call anything I did before as first drafts because I never really did a full draft of anything. I would start writing a story and never finish it because the beginning wasn't good. I would start and stop different stories and never even try to realize whatever potential they might have had.

Now I realize that writing a story is an iterative process. And, for me, the story doesn't come out until I start writing. I start with a small idea - a first line, a character, an idea - and then start writing. The story opens up and the character takes on a life of her own, doing things that I couldn't have imagined before I started writing. It's like that game show where the goal was to remove tiles on a board in order to reveal a puzzle underneath. The first contestant to correctly solve the puzzle would win. As I start writing, the story and characters underneath the idea materialize.

I also learned that what materializes first is not necessarily what the story or characters must end up being. I tend to get stuck on an idea and keep trying to make it work even when it obviously doesn't work. I recently learned to let go and change things - even if it meant changing the story's direction and tone. Sometimes the characters themselves have to lead the story and sometimes the story defines the characters. I can't allow myself to get too attached to anything in something I'm writing. If I get invested in it, the revision process is that much harder because I'm less willing to change something.

Big D will agree (heartily, I imagine!) that I have a hard time admitting when I'm wrong. That's probably one of my issues with revising. If something needs to change, doesn't that mean it was "wrong" to begin with? When my ego gets involved, big problems ensue. Between my ego and my constantly critical internal editor, it's a wonder I ever get anything written. I'm working on getting my internal editor to shut up during the initial writing process and hopefully learning to enjoy (or at least tolerate) the editing process.

There's an irony to my recent realizations. When I was in college, I took a Shakespeare class. The professor was right out of central casting - tweed jackets with suede elbow patches, zip-up leather ankle boots, twinkling eyes with slight crows feet and just the right amount of gray hair. He even smoked a pipe. His assignments drove me batty. "Pick a phrase, a word or a concept from the play and let it open up for you and give me a four page paper." He'd say in his scholarly manner. I'd think, what the hell does that mean "let it open up?" How the hell am I going to get a four page paper out of a word or a phrase in the play? I even went to his office to ask him and all I remember is him saying "Think about the phrase you've chosen and what it means to you. Then start writing." I don't remember anything I wrote about in that class but I know I struggled.

Twenty years later and I think I get it now. You can't wait until you have everything figured out before you start writing. You have pick something that has meaning for you and let it happen, let the writing flow. If you try to control everything, it'll be like pulling teeth. I always thought writing was about imparting wisdom that you already have. And sometimes it is. But now I know that the writing process itself teaches me.

Now that I've edited at least one piece and made it better, I should have more confidence in my ability to do it. The piece that was published in Mosaic Minds started out in a totally different direction. But after getting great comments from Big D and my writers' group, I understood that the ending didn't work at all. So I sat down and started to rework it. Suddenly I came up with a different ending that worked much better. That's when I remembered my college crush and was able to reflect on the lessons I learned from that situation.

I'm currently working on something that is making me think about the things that influence who we are and who we become. I don't learn much from simply pondering an issue. But if I write about characters that are dealing with or impacted by the issue, that's when I learn. I have no idea what I think about this topic right now but ask me once I've finished writing something. Then I'll have an opinion!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Thursday Thirteen - Jet Lag edition

Thirteen Things about Jessica

1. I probably should have done this in the middle of the night when I was wide awake when I should have been sleeping. Now all I want to do is sleep but I'm at work and falling asleep at my desk would be bad form.

2. At least blogging looks like work.

3. Will someone please tell me why my Amazon link to Devil in the White City suddenly changed to a travel guide for Macau? And then when I refreshed the page, it changed back to Devil in the White City? Weird.

4. MIM - I promise you that I will do that meme, just as soon as I'm able to keep my eyes open for more than two minutes at a time.

5. There are apparently certain places in Hong Kong that have a problem with picture-taking. I can understand why the vendors at the markets don't want pictures taken - they don't want any evidence of their rampant trademark piracy. But, I got in trouble taking pictures on three occasions that seem odd to me . . .

6. This is the departure area for the helicopter to Macau. They have lots of food and a cool espresso/coffee machine. Right after I took this picture, one of the ladies ran over to me and (nicely) said "No pictures." What's interesting in this post-9/11 world, is that we were able to take as many pictures as we wanted inside the helicopter. We sat right behind the pilot and took a bunch of pictures of the controls and no one said a thing. It could be that the pilot had no idea that we were taking pictures considering how noisy it is in there and he had the standard huge headset on . . .

7. I thought it was interesting that every Starbucks in Hong Kong looks exactly like every Starbucks I've ever been to, with only a few exceptions. First of all, of course, there's Chinese lettering on everything. In this picture on the left, you can see a basket of small, white napkins - apparently some people don't like the brown napkins that Starbucks uses. You can also see the bottle of sugar water on the right that some people prefer to granulated sugar. As soon as I snapped the picture, the barista waved her hands at me hissing "No pictures!" Someone suggested that maybe they don't want competitors taking pictures of their set up. But this is Starbucks, people. It's not like they can't protect their trademarks and it's not like competitors don't know what every Starbucks in the world looks like.

8. Here's a picture of the girls in a big, comfy chair in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon. We went there for high tea - it's on the list of things you need to do before you die. After tasting the pastries, I can see why! Again, after I took this picture, someone admonished me. Some people have suggested that it's an issue of people not wanting their picture taken because it steals their soul or something. But that's clearly not it. This is a picture of my own kids and the other two pictures are of inanimate objects.

9. Maybe it's an issue of courtesy to others. Hong Kong is an incredibly crowded place. I can see where it would get annoying if you have tourists taking pictures all the time. If you have a basic prohibition on picture taking, you can at least keep it to a minimum.

10. Since I'm on a roll with the pictures, here is one of my favorites. It's a fish monger showing the girls a live fish. Right after this was taken, one of the fish tried to make a run for it and jumped out, landing on Big D's foot.

Before we went to the Chinese school, our hosts walked us through a traditional Chinese market where we spent time walking through the fish market. It was amazing. Every stall had live fish flopping around in pans of water. You select your fish, give it to the fish mongers and they filet it in front of you. In some stalls, they had freshly filleted fish on ice - they were so freshly filleted, the hearts were still beating. Seriously. It was unnerving. We passed a stall where a woman was preparing frogs. When she skinned a frog in front of us, one of the boys with us gasped. The woman (and the people in the surrounding stalls) thought the squeamish Americans were hilarious.

11. Now that I had a story published, you would think that I'd have more confidence in my writing. In fact, I have less confidence. I have ideas bouncing around in my head but whenever I sit down to write lately, I freeze. Even blogging has been more difficult. Granted, I haven't had much time for writing and I'm out of sorts from jet lag. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. Maybe I should tell my internal editor to shut up.

12. One thing that struck me about Hong Kong was the clusters of identical high rise buildings. Driving in from the airport, I was amazed at the clusters of 8, 10, 12 identical 60-story-plus towers huddled together along the highway. It's like they decided on a building design and they just keep replicating it. Knowing how small the usual Hong Kong apartment is, the number of people living in each group of buildings has to be staggering. Hong Kong is easily the most crowded place I have ever been.

13. Seeing A-Girl on stage was incredible. I know I sound like a total stage mother when I say this, but that kid is talented. Seeing her back stage getting ready for the show was even more incredible.

Here she is preparing for the second show last Sunday. She's getting her microphone ready. I followed her around as she prepped herself. No one had to tell her where to be or what to do. She went to "hair" and then got her leotard and shoes on and then got her mic and then went back to the hair guy to get her mic taped on. I'm 41 years old and half the time I have to be told where to be and when. And I'm still late most of the time. She's 8 and she knows what she needs to do and where she needs to be. She's somethin' else.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Leanne
2. Jen
3. Sleeping Mommy
4. Squashed Toad
5. interstellarlass
6. Renee

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted! (Even though I have no idea what pings are).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It's official!

My first short story has been published! I would be doing a happy dance around the house but with the jet lag and all, I'd probably hurt myself.

I have lots to write about from our fabulous trip to Hong Kong but writing just this much has totally sapped what little energy I had left. Hopefully by tomorrow my fingers will be working again and I'll regale you with tales of seeing A-Girl on stage (saw the show FOUR times and LOVED it!), shopping in Stanley Market (twice), taking a sam pan around Aberdeen Harbor, eating yummy chow su bao (I know I spelled that wrong) bought from a street vendor and, of course, going to Disneyland Hong Kong (I have the t-shirt to prove it).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thursday Thirteen - Hong Kong edition

Yes, it's technically Friday here in Asia but it's still Thursday in the states so my list still counts as timely! I've been using local time for my posts since I've gotten here but this time, I'll make an exception.

1. I know you all want to hear about my trip but first things first. My first short story is going to be published!!! It'll be in Mosaic Minds in November. So check it out!

2. Our trip to Asia is great but it's going so fast. We love being a family again and I'm glad it'll only be three weeks until they're home again.

3. Two days ago we went to the New Territories which are on the Kowloon side close to the border with mainland China. They're still part of Hong Kong, kind of like suburbs. We were "sponsored" by a family of expats that are here working as missionaries and English teachers. They have four kids in school here.

4. We went to the school that their kids attend - it's a Chinese school, not an expat school. Four of the kids from the cast, including A-Girl were there. The school organized a big assembly for them and the kids sang a few songs and had the whole school sing along with Do Re Mi. Then the school gave them gifts - they each got a picture painted in Chinese style by one of the kids from the school and a beautiful placemat/chopsticks set.

5. We were able to talk to the school children during their recess and the kids were so excited to talk to us. They had the kids (including M-Girl!) signing autographs. I was even asked to sign some! M-Girl was a little overwhelmed - the kids would crowd around her, touching her hair and asking her name. She got used to it after a little while. Things were even better when one of the teachers gave her a "juice box" with chocolate milk. Chocolate milk is universal, I guess.

6. Because it was a Lutheran school, all of the kids had "Christian" names like Tiffany, Joanne and Ellen. One girl discovered that she had the same name as A-Girl and was so excited that she grabbed A-Girl's hand and pulled her all around the playground telling everyone that they had the same name.

7. I was surrounded by a group of girls when another girl came running over with a look of pride on her face. She held up a piece of paper so everyone could see. On it, she had the email address for one of the boys in the cast. He's a cute boy but I'm sure he doesn't get that same kind of attention from the girls back home!

8. The hallways have green and pink tile. The pink tile is in a line down the center. Teachers walk on the pink tile, children walk on the green tiles around the center - girls on one side, boys on the other.

9. We got to walk around the school and see the classrooms. We sat in on a Chinese language class, too. The teachers don't have desks in the classrooms. Instead, they all share one room that has three or four tables that run the length of the room. These tables are divided into small "desks" for each of the teachers. They have no private space. They have very little space at all!

10. Speaking of space, or lack thereof, we went to the expats' house for a brief visit. Pretty much everyone in this "sub-division" lives in one half of a duplex-type home. This family has four children, two boys (7 and 13) and twin twelve year old girls. The two boys share a bunk bed in a room that fits only the bunk bed. The two girls share a room that is essentially in the attic. The ceiling is so low, they can't stand up. M-Girl couldn't stand up straight! I am totally serious when I say that every single inch of space is used.

11. Yesterday we went to Aberdeen Harbor and Stanley Market. At Aberdeen, you can take a tour of the harbor on a Sam Pam, a boat that can fit 10 people max. Before you get on the boat, you have to negotiate the price with a weathered old woman in a woven hat. The man running the boat was nice enough to let me take a picture of him with the girls. He even let M-Girl help steer for most of the ride. She likes to be an active participant in things. We saw many fishing boats and we also saw where the boat people live. It's hard to believe that people live under those conditions but on the other hand, are government sponsored housing projects any better?

12. Stanley Market is incredible. We just didn't have enough time to do a lot of shopping. We're going to go back this weekend. I got some gifts for people and the kids got some clothes and the prices are amazingly low. A-Girl has grown about two inches in the last two months so she needed new pants! We had gone to a couple of other markets in central Hong Kong but most of the stuff there was cheap quality. Stanley Market is much better quality and there are also a few places to buy art. Big D and I have always bought at least one piece of art everywhere we've visited so we'll definitely get something there.

13. I saw the show from the audience on Wednesday night - I sat in the front row which wasn't bad at all because the stage isn't really high up. I can't describe the feeling of seeing A-Girl on the stage. My face hurt from smiling so much. The show is really good - I wasn't sure what to expect but the two leads are incredibly good, especially Jennifer Semrick who plays Maria. She's also a very nice person and has helped A-Girl (and the other kids) feel comfortable on stage. A-Girl loves her. A-Girl is doing well here but I can tell that she's really tired. Having us here has thrown her off of her schedule. She's been waking up earlier than usual, too which doesn't help. When she gets back from the show, she needs some time to wind down before she goes to bed. So she doesn't go to sleep until after midnight most nights. With M-Girl and I here, she gets up early but can't make up for it by going to bed earlier. This is a tough gig for an 8-year old. I was so proud of her, seeing her on stage putting on a great show with energy and enthusiasm, knowing how tired she is. I ask her every day if she likes it and if she's ok and she tells me how much she loves it. And she was so excited for me to be in the audience. I think she only wishes that M-Girl and I could be here with them full time. Maybe I could win the lottery . . .

Ok - I stretched my Thirteen to the breaking point. This was the first time I didn't have trouble thinking of 13 things to say! I promise to post pictures at some point - probably not until I get home, though. In the meantime, go check out other Thursday Thirteens, starting with Leanne. If you do a Thirteen, post a link in my comments and I'll come visit!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Jet setting

Hello from Macau! I'm sitting in the waiting lounge of Heli Express waiting for our helicopter ride back to Hong Kong. Big D and I took a whirlwind trip to Macau last night. Macau is Asia's answer to Las Vegas. We had his/hers massages last night, dinner at midnight at the Westin resort, a lovely buffet breakfast and then his/hers facials this morning. Now we're back at the heliport, waiting to get back to the kids. We're sooooooo relaxed.

The only sad thing is that we didn't have more time to spend here. We had a lovely ocean view room with a private veranda. The spa was awesome and the work out facilities looked really nice as I hustled past them on our way to check out. This would be a nice place to take a family vacation - there's a nice looking kids' club at the resort. It's a bit far from Chicago, however (but Sandra, if you all have time, it's probably not too far from Seoul!)

Well, time to go finish drinking my cappacino and eating the homemade Portuguese pizza. They also have pastries, sodas, ice cream and actual fresh cooked meals - all for the price of the helicopter ticket. Granted, the helicopter is quite a bit more expensive than the hydroplane or the ferry but takes only 15 minutes. The boats take 1 or 2 hours, respectively. This was totally worth it (and Big D, as usual, got an awesome deal by getting a heli/spa package that essentially got us 1/2 off the cost of the helicopter). I feel like a princess. Albeit a relatively old and slightly wrinkled (but very relaxed)one.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Starbucks worldwide

I'm blogging from the Starbucks across the way from the hotel. It's just like home - there's a Starbucks on every corner. They really are taking over the world. No joke. Not that I'm complaining. I'm sitting in a comfy chair with my grande skim latte, nice jazz music, my computer and free internet access. What could be better? The design of the store, the feel of the place, even the taste of my latte, is exactly the same as home. Even the prices are the same (after translating to US$). The only difference is that there is Chinese writing on everything along with the English. Go figure.

So - our visit is going great. It's really nice to be a family again. I keep staring at A-Girl. She's changed so much in two months! I imagine Big D feels the same about M-Girl. It's not a cliche - kids really do change fast at this age. When A-Girl first saw me in the lobby of the hotel, she ran to me and jumped into my arms, squeezing me half to death. I would have stayed there for eons but M-Girl was a little upset that A-Girl wasn't giving her a hug too. So I bent down and squeezed both girls for god knows how long. A-Girl had just gotten off the bus after the show so some of the rest of the cast and crew were standing around. It was a little overwhelming to M-Girl. We had just traveled for 15 hours to get there, barely had time to catch our breath and all these people were crowding around, wanting to meet us and ask us about our trip. We said some brief hellos and went back to our room. Like I said, it was awesome being a family again!

I saw the show for the first time yesterday but I got to watch from backstage. I was so proud of A-Girl. I couldn't really see everything from the wings but what I could see was amazing. She's so comfortable out there. She's also very professional. We didn't know that I was going to be backstage until the last minute so she had no idea I was there until she saw me before going on stage. She gave me a little wave and then went to work - no running to me, or getting out of the groove. She had work to do and she did it.

That's all I have time for now. We're meeting with Big D's relatives from Taiwan who came to visit. We're going shopping and for high tea at the Peninsula Hotel. Then Big D and I are taking a helicopter to Macau (which I keep calling "macaw" like the big dork that I am). We're getting lots of spa treatments and spending some much-needed time alone. M-Girl keeps asking why mom and dad need time alone. I told her that when she's grown up and a mommy she'll understand.

More when we get back!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Greetings from Hong Kong!

Just a quick note to say that M-Girl and I arrived in Hong Kong safe and sound. It was a really long flight but M-Girl did great! She's quite the world traveler already.

I can't even express how amazing it is to see and hold Big D and talk in person instead of on IM. It's overwhelming, really. Two months is a long time to be away from the love of your life, that's for sure. We're waiting for A-Girl to come back from the theater. M-Girl and I simply can't wait to see her!

Once we get our fill of family hugs and we get a little sleep, I'll give more details. The hotel is cool and there's lots in Hong Kong to blog about!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Thursday Thirteen

1. This will be very quick because M-Girl and I are going to Hong Kong today. Yippee! We can't wait to see Big D and the A-Girl. I am sooooo excited! There's good internet access there so I'll be blogging from Asia pretty soon. How cool is that?

2. I'm almost done packing but not quite and we have to leave for the airport in about two hours. Even though I know that it's not a good idea to leave things for the last minute, I still do. Maybe I'm addicted to the drama of the last minute.

3. I'm bringing three books with me to read on the airplane and whenever else I have time. I'm bringing Look Closer and The Night I Got Lucky by the nicest author I ever met (ok, she's really the only author I've ever met but she's really nice), Laura Caldwell. I'm also bringing Devil in the White City which is supposed to be fabulous and I've wanted to read for a looong time. I'm really excited to see my hubby and my baby girl!

4. I wonder if three books will be enough? The Laura Caldwell books aren't really long but Devil in the White City should take awhile. I'm also bringing two volumes of The Writer magazine. I love that magazine - it has so many great tips on writing.

5. I'll also spend some time on the plane working out the characters in the novel I really want to get working on.

6. And I should sleep a little too! But that might be hard because I'm sooo excited!

7. I won't forget M-Girl's "B", that's for sure. She also wants me to bring a fairly large squishy pillow for her. It'll probably be a pain to carry. When she asked if she could bring it, what do you think I said? That's right - "We'll see."

8. When I said "We'll see" what do you think M-Girl's response was? "You always say that!"

9. It seems like it would be a good idea to stop using those words as a crutch.

10. Did I mention that I'm really excited about this trip! Well, I am.

11. I might have to start doing the Thursday 10 (although it doesn't have quite the right ring to it) because thinking of thirteen things taxes my brain!

12. On the plane I hope they have a movie that M-Girl likes because I'm bringing my tablet PC and I don't have a disc drive on it so I won't be able to play her any movies. I kinda like it that way because then I can use my computer on the plane. But now that I think about it, my tablet has a great drawing program on it that she loves to use. So I guess I won't be able to use my computer unless she's sleeping. Or unless I can convince her to work on the coloring books and workbooks we've packed in her backpack. M-Girl's teacher was fabulous and put together a folder of stuff for her including math, writing practice and other fun stuff for her to do. She even put a box of colored pencils in there!

13. Gotta go get ready! I am soooooo excited!

Thanks for reading! Now go over and see Leanne for a list of other Thursday Thirteens. If you join us in the Thursday Thirteen fun, remember to post a comment with a link to your list here and we'll all come visit!