What Were We Thinking? (And Other Bad Ideas) 2010

So, I’m in Texas, sitting on the floor of my parent’s living room, surrounded by suitcases, diapers, teething biscuits, and Breathe Right strips. My sister is on the couch, texting. Except for the presence of cell phones it feels like my childhood. When I was a kid, we took many road trips to visit family and presidential birth places, and tomorrow we will face a two-day, 1,100 mile drive to UP Michigan and later Detroit for a family reunion. This was hard enough when it was just my sister and I squabbling in the backseat and my parents squabbling in the front seat, but this time we’ve added my seventeen-month-old toddler to the mix. Wheeeee!

On Wednesday Oscar and I boarded a plane for Dallas, leaving Darin behind at home in Flagstaff. I held Oscar on my lap during the flight, which turned out to be easier than anticipated, except for the fact that I couldn’t reach my carry-on and there was an eight-year-old boy inexplicably glaring at us from the next seat.

We spent a couple of nights here in Plano at my parents’ house, my sister and I sharing a bed (yes) and Oscar sleeping in his pack-n-play in the same room.  My sister informs me that I snore (well, Darin has been telling me this for over a decade) so I’ve researched a number of home remedies. I’ll let you know if anything works. You are welcome to leave tips in the comments section, but I am not sewing a tennis ball into the back of my pajamas.

We’ve stocked up on toys, DVDs, and diapers for Oscar; and magazines, snacks, and laxatives for everyone else. Oscar and I have three times as many bags as the rest of the family put together, but when my sister made fun of me I told her it’s impossible to pack lightly for a toddler who lacks bladder control.

My sister and I decided to name our trip, kind of like The Great Depression, and as we were eating Skittles and tossing around names, my step father muttered dryly from across the room, “What were we thinking?”

The Rest of the Story

You asked… (the third and final installment)

I’ve had so much fun answering these questions! Thanks again to everyone who participated. This is the last installment, except for one question that Carrie asked that deserves to be its own post (see below).

Jenny asked: What is your favorite experience teaching at NAU?

Teaching you, of course! Lol! I have to say, seeing my students go on to be wonderful teachers (and parents) is very rewarding. I really like it when old students keep in touch with me. What’s REALLY scary is running into my former eighth grade students and seeing them married with kids. I keep thinking that can’t be possible, but the first group of students I taught at the middle school is now in their mid-twenties.

Kir from Kir’s Corner asked: What is your favorite thing about your hubby?

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that we are not married. We have been together since I was sixteen, so something tells me this is a life-long commitment.

My favorite thing about Darin is that he makes me laugh. He is the funniest damn person I know.  He is also an amazing father.

Loukia from Loulou’s Views asked: What is your favourite part of the day?

First of all, I love that you spelled favorite, “favourite.” Canadians are so cool.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my favorite time of day is in the morning when I first get up. That never used to be the case, but now it’s the only time when I don’t feel pressured and rushed. I love bringing Oscar to bed when he gets up and letting him play and goof around, then we get up and I make coffee and work on the computer a bit while he plays.

What makes your heart melt the most?

Watching Darin with Oscar.

Where is your favourite vacation place?

They have these “lakes” here in Arizona (created by dams–they are man-made) where we used to go camp and waterski. Lake Apache and Lake Powell. I used to love going, but we haven’t gone in years.

Where are you dying to go on vacation?

Last September we had an opportunity to go on a cruise with family and my favorite island was St. Thomas. All I can think about is going back.

Carrie from Heim Binas Fiction asked: Pirates or ninjas?

Both? I love the idea of dressing in black and being stealthy, but I like boats too.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other parent-writers?

This one deserves its own post! Stay tuned…

What is one thing you do really badly, and one thing you do really well?

I do a lot of things really badly. I am terrible at anything requiring physical coordination: sports, dancing, walking up and down stairs…

I think I am a good teacher. I tend to be “in the zone” when I am teaching. I love being in front of the class, making students laugh or explaining a concept. I am a completely different person at that moment.

Maria from Bored Mommy asked: What is the one thing you miss the most from your single days?

I miss sleeping in and hanging out. What I loved about high school and college was the way my friends and I would just naturally congregate and sit around for long periods of time just talking with nowhere else we had to be. It was a natural part of each day. Now getting together with friends usually means making arrangements ahead of time, and being “on the clock.”

Would you bathe in a tub of soup if it was really moisturizing for your skin?

Are we talking about a cream soup or a broth-based soup? Perhaps a lovely clear consomme, but I’m not sure about sitting in something that has chunks in it.

What are you getting me for my birthday?

When is your birthday?Anything your little Canadian heart desires, as long as it fits my $5 budget.

By the way, I love that you sent me a Christmas card.

When would you like my address to send said gift?

I think it’s on the Christmas card you sent me, which still on my mantle.

(I don’t really have a mantle but I’m sure your card is around here somewhere).

Jackie from Winded Words asked: What do you love most about where you live?

I love everything about Flagstaff except how much it costs. It’s a strange combination of California prices and Arizona salary. We call it “poverty with a view.”

There Will Be Books

You asked…(part two)

The only thing I like more than reading is eating while reading, so now I am going to tackle the questions about books, reading, and food.

Jackee from Winded Words asked: What’s your favorite book?

Really, I can’t choose just one. That would be like choosing only one of my children as my favorite. Well, I only have one child, but I have many more books (by the way, when I go to someone’s house and there are no books, I think that is weird).

So I will give you my top five:

1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Seriously, if you haven’t read this…)

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

5. The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh

Kristin from Dragondreamer’s Lair asked: Who is your all time favorite author and why?

My all time favorite author is Sylvia Plath. Although I didn’t list any of her books, that’s because I take her entire body of work, which consists of poetry, journals, and letters, and read it again and again. I also love Virginia Woolf and wrote my master’s thesis on her. Yes, both of these women took their own lives. But what I love about them is their writing, which is genius. They killed themselves because they were both clinically depressed during a time when there was no good treatment for depression. They did not kill themselves because they were writers.

Is there anything you like to read that you don’t want to admit to reading?

Oh, I’ll admit to it! I read People and US Weekly and Vogue. I read Dan Brown. I’ve read every single book ever written about the Kennedys.  I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, I will read mindless crap.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Buying and reading fashion magazines.

Corinne from Trains, Tutus and Tea Time asked: What is your favorite food?

I rarely meet a food I don’t like. I will eat airplane food and hospital food and cafeteria food and gas station hot dogs.

However, my favorite would probably be seafood. I love crab legs, scallops, clams, smoked salmon, and sushi.

Carrie from Heim Binas Fiction asked: What is your favorite hot-weather drink?

Coke (regular, not diet) on ice. Or a nice margarita if I’m eating chips and salsa or lounging on a beach somewhere.

Part Three Coming Soon!

I’m kissing my baby, but I really just want to get back to my book.

The Writing Project that Changed My Life

You asked… (part one)

I’ve received so many wonderful questions, and they have been so fun and engaging to answer, that I’m spreading out the answers in a series of blog posts.

Tiffany, who blogs at Aspiring, asked: What has been your all-time favorite writing project to work on and why?

I love this question!

Two years ago I participated in a playwriting workshop on a whim. It was three intensive weeks of writing and workshops for four hours every afternoon.  The experience really stretched me as a writer and a person, because not only did we have to write and workshop one ten-minute play each day, we also had to participate in improv, which was utterly terrifying.

During that time I wrote a play called “Pork Belly Futures.” It’s one of those writing projects where everything just clicks, where the words just flow, as if the events and conversations between the characters have already happened and you are just transcribing them. It was chosen to be performed as part of the Northern Arizona Playwriting Showcase, and ultimately won first prize.

However, none of those reasons are why it was my favorite writing project. The day after the showcase, when I still coming down off the high of seeing my play performed in front of an audience, I felt a little weird, so I took a pregnancy test. I didn’t expect it to be positive; I had taken countless negative tests during the past two years.

You know the rest of the story…

It was the happiest day of my life.

Q & A

Several of my favorite bloggers have been doing this lately, and I’ve enjoyed reading the results, so I decided to be brave and take a chance on a question/answer post. Here is your opportunity to ask me anything!

I will post the answers this Thursday, July 8th.


Independence Day without the aliens…or Will Smith

Today was a good day. No parades or fireworks. No traveling.

When you grow up in a state where wildfires ravage the forests and deserts every summer and there is a perpetual water shortage, fireworks are not the norm.  In fact, they are illegal. One of my fondest memories is of spending the 4th of July in the back of a pick-up watching fire trucks drive up the side of a burning mountain.

We never celebrated minor holidays before we had Oscar, and we didn’t have big plans for the day, but every day is a holiday with Oscar around.

I envy my blogging friends who post pictures of cookouts at the lake, fireworks, and parades on tree-lined streets. Today was business as usual. We worked, we played, and we took our evening walk around the block. Oscar even took a bath to celebrate America’s hard-won independence.

Oscar did have a 4th of July outfit, but he peed on it. Which means he’ll probably grow up to be a flag burner.

Later on we made our own party, a cookout just for three. Hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips and pasta salad.

There were no fireworks, no marching bands, no sparklers or star-spangled banners. Instead we listened to the sounds of the wind in the pines, of music coming from speakers propped up in the open window, and of the voices and laughter of our little family.

Juggling Multiple Writing Projects

Why You Should Have Multiple Projects

If you are like me, you probably have at least two or three writing projects you are currently working on. I used to feel guilty about this, and hopelessly overburdened, until I realized that there is a plus side to have a number of irons in the fire.

If I’m working on a long, book-length project and get become stuck or paralyzed, I can often jump-start my motivation, enthusiasm, and energy level by finishing a shorter project that is already on the verge of being done.

Why Writing Projects Are Like Credit Card Debt

Suzy Orman, among other financial gurus, recommends the snowball method of paying credit card debt. The snowball method involves paying the minimum payment on all cards except for the one with the lowest balance. You put all of your financial resources into that one card until the balance is zero, and then move onto the next card.

I think this works with writing projects as well. I will focus all of my energy on either the shortest project or the one that causes me the most dread and anxiety. Once I have that project finished, I carry that momentum over into the next project.

How Many Projects?

I never have a shortage of ideas for new projects and have the terrible habit of starting and not finishing dozens of projects. I can’t relate to people who would like to write but don’t have any good ideas.  I’ve heard the advice to have no more than three writing projects going at one time, but for me the key is what type of projects I am working on. I find that I can easily juggle multiple projects if they different enough. For example, right now I am working on two book-length projects, one is academic non-fiction and the other is a novel. I also usually have a variety of short projects going at one time, such as academic articles, freelance essays, and poetry.

Row, Row, Row Your Projects

When singing a round, like “Row Row Row Your Boat,” each group of singers waits until the first group has completed a verse before they jump in and begin singing. I find that this rhythm works well with writing projects as well. I usually have one project that is still in the brainstorming and outlining stage, one project that is deep in the drafting stage, and one project that is completed and either awaiting feedback or undergoing revisions or editing.

Beware the Siren Song of the New Project

My name is Sandy and I am addicted to starting new projects.

In her book  Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication and Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams, Heather Sellers calls this “The Sexy Next Book.” She says, “Every book in your head seems easier than what you’re doing now.” I couldn’t agree with this more. I try to avoid getting lured into a new project, but I do keep a notebook where I can jot down ideas when they strike me. That way I know those ideas will be waiting for me when I have completed my current project or projects.

What are your strategies for juggling multiple projects?