Perfect Moment Monday: Big Brother

When I found out I was pregnant with Aria my biggest worry was the impact it would have on Oscar. For three and a half years, before Aria was born, Oscar was the center of our lives. He’s always been such a beautiful and funny child, getting attention wherever we go. But when Aria was born his whole world was turned upside down.

At first it was pretty traumatic for everyone. I hated leaving the house without Oscar. I hated it when I was feeding Aria and Oscar wanted me to pick him up. One day I left for an emergency dental appointment and when I returned, Oscar asked warily, “Did you bring home another baby?”

Slowly he became more and more interested and intrigued. He was constantly asking, “Where’s Aria?” and saying, “I want Aria.”

Now that she laughs and smiles at him, every day gets more fun. However, she is still pretty small, cannot sit up on her own, and we have to make sure he doesn’t play too rough with her. I can’t wait until she is big enough for them to play together.

My perfect moment came one morning when I went into Oscar’s room to wake him. I put Aria in his bed, something they both love. She lay there and played for quite awhile, so I left her there buffeted with pillows while I dressed Oscar and got him ready for the day. At one point she rolled too close to the wall and was in danger of falling between the bed and the wall (I wasn’t too worried because that space is crammed with stuffed animals). I decided I didn’t want to take any chances so I scooped her up and was about to carry her out of the room.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, Oscar burst into tears. “Please don’t take her away! Please!”

“But Oscar, she might fall and hurt herself.”

Then he sobbed, “But she’s my friend!”

Oh, man, I immediately teared up and was filled with so many emotions. Happiness, sadness, wistfulness, love. Most of all, I felt complete.

Today, Oscar said to me, “Someday when I’m big I can carry Aria and feed her.”

We have many kinds of moments ahead of us. Exhausting and overwhelming moments, funny and joyful moments, and of course, perfect moments.

For more perfect moments, visit Lori at Write Mind, Open Heart.

My Writer’s Notebook

I think having a writer’s notebook is one of the most important steps to becoming a writer, and one of the most important things about being a writer. I take mine everywhere I go and would be lost without it.

What kind of notebook should you use?

Does a writer’s notebook have to be an actual notebook? Well, I like using an old-fashioned composition book, the kind you can get for $1 at Walmart or Staples.

I like these for several reasons:

1. They are cheap. I find that if I buy a fancier notebook, like those lovely leather-bound ones at the bookstore, I save it for something special. I have a small collection of fancy bound books that I haven’t been able to bring myself to write in.

2. They are a standard size. I fill these up pretty fast, and they are all the same size so they stack well or line up neatly on a bookcase.

3. I hate spiral notebooks. Not only do comp books not have an annoying spiral (more annoying since I’m left-handed), but there is no temptation to tear out pages when you “mess up.”

What do you put in a writer’s notebook?

My writer’s notebook is not like a journal or diary. I try to avoid writing about my day or writing personal stuff about other people. Occasionally I put in a dated entry, or a few thoughts on an issue, but for the most part my notebook is filled with a lot of random crap. Things you can find in my notebook:

  • Lists of books I have read and want to read
  • Lists of books and stories I want to write
  • Possible titles and opening lines
  • Character sketches
  • Cool words and sentences
  • Bits of funny dialogue that I hear people say or that I imagine
  • Funny things my kids say
  • Dreams
  • Admonitions to write more (I need to include less of these and MORE WRITING)
  • Actual scenes for my novel
  • Partial essays and blog posts (some of which never get written)
  • Recipes
  • Inspiring quotes
  • Random thoughts while sitting in faculty meetings
  • Notes taken during conference presentations
  • Freewriting
  • Ideas for teaching
  • Packing lists
  • Poems

What do you do with your notebooks?

I credit my writer’s notebook with helping me come up with my award-winning play idea, Pork Belly Futures, which was based on a conversation I had with my father. I keep some notebooks, especially the ones with partial novels or lists of ideas I don’t want to lose. Sometimes I copy things from an old notebook into a new one. I just recently dug through a pile of old notebooks looking for some teaching ideas I jotted down in 2007. Because I often label my notes at the top (Teaching Ideas, Novel Notes, Novel Scene, Dialogue, etc.) it’s usually easy to find stuff. My goal is to eventually transfer my notebooks  to searchable documents, partly to make them more available to myself and others, and also to prevent a bunch of dusty clutter from piling up.

I have seen some really amazing and cool-looking writer’s notebooks. I would love to see pictures of notebooks or hear about what you put in yours. I’m also considering writing a series of posts or articles about this, including more tips on how to get started and what to include, links to blogs and sites that address this, as well as excerpts from my notebooks and other notebooks.

Tell me what you’d like to read about here, link to any cool resources you know about, and submit pictures and excerpts from your notebooks.

I don’t think I’m tall enough for this ride…

Spoiler alert: I use the word “boob” in this post. You may want to excuse yourself now.

Here’s an old cliche: Life is a roller coaster.

Everything seems up and down for me lately; I live with extremes. One moment I’m savoring a predawn cup of coffee and reading about what Gwyneth Paltrow packs for a flight to London (as if) and the next minute I’m juggling two cranky kids, one of whom wants to be permanently attached my boob and the other who can’t decide whether or not he wants jam or honey on his peanut butter toast.

Today when I left the house there were crying kids and diapers that needed changing, and let me tell you, it was wrenching. Then I drove in relative peace and quiet to my office (the fifteen minute drive to work is the only time I am truly alone). Then I advised a few students, none of whom have the faintest idea what they are doing. Now my office is quiet and I’m boiling water to make coffee. I drink a LOT of coffee.


I sit down at my computer to write. I open the file that contains my novel and get downright giddy as I nail a sticky plot point. Then I open the file containing feedback from my editor on the academic book I’m writing and I feel like jumping out the window. Then an email alert pops up and I see that I have another stupid and pointless meeting tomorrow. Academics love to call stupid and pointless meetings at the last minute. Then I take a peek at a fashion site to see what all of the hip people are wearing this fall.


I used to think of this way. You enjoy the ups and endure the downs. When you’re miserable you think, “This too shall pass.” Then I saw the following quote:

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

If we wait for life to get good before we enjoy it, we will be waiting a long time, and it will be over before we know it.

I felt a sense of peace when my five-month-old woke me at three o’clock this morning. I brought her to bed and smoothed her sweet fluffy head and let her nurse. I was deeply, deeply exhausted. I started thinking about all of the things I have to do, about all of the things I want to do, and about all of the things I will probably never get a chance to do. And then a voice in my head said, “You’re doing the most important thing you could be doing, right now.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I take care of my children. They love me and need me and I will be the center of their universe for such a short time.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I grade papers. My students value my feedback and I have the opportunity to help them become better writers.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I read and swallow the difficult feedback I get from my editor. This will make me a better writer. My editor values me enough to keep pushing me through this project.

I’m doing what I should be doing when I read People Magazine and drink Starbucks. We all need downtime and mindless entertainment.

When we took Oscar to the fair this year we put him on his favorite ride, a little red roller-coaster made just for kids. Last year he loved it. This year he cried helplessly in fear for the first few minutes of the ride. It was so hard to watch! Then something happened. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and endured. Finally, he looked around and smiled. And when he got off the ride, he wanted to go on it again.