When I was in the second grade, I was in the slow reading group. There were three of us: a non-native speaker of English (i.e. he spoke only Spanish), a girl who was retarded (this was back in the seventies when people used that term), and me. I mean I was really slow. The teacher told my mother I would probably never read on level and that I just wasn’t very bright. My mother refused to believe that. She bought text books from the school (this was long before the days of Teacher Haven and we were not well off, those books were a huge burden on the budget). She worked with my everyday after school until I was caught up. In the fifth grade we moved to a new school district and I was behind … again. By their standards, I wasn’t “reading on level” until late in my eighth grade year. My mother made a lot of mistakes raising me (don’t all parents?), but the one thing she did right was that she fought for me. She refused to believe I “wasn’t very bright.” She simply didn’t believe that I couldn’t read.
I think about that slice of my personal history a lot. It’s ironic, right? The fact that the girl in the slow reading group would grow up to be a writer? I’ve wondered if all those extra hours spent reading with my mother are what made me into a reader today.
Books have given me so much in life, it’s hard to image what my life would be without them. I met my first boyfriend at a bookstore. My best friend all through high school? I met her at that same store. My two best friends in college–no, three best friends–all people I bonded with over books. And that’s all before I decided to make writing my professions. That’s not counting the endless joy of reading, the travel to places I could never go in real life, the elation and heart break I’ve experienced. Books–reading, writing–have given me the best friends I’ve had in my life. And I count those friends I’ve made here at Jaunty Quills among those “best friends.” I have loved being a part of the Jaunty Quills. I’ve loved being a part of this amazing community.
However, it’s time for me to step aside and let new Quills come foreword to lead the way. But don’t worry. I’ll stop by from time to time and I’ll wrangle invitations to guest blog when I can. I love you guys. This has been my home on line for so long, I don’t even remember when joined. I’m tempted to tell you not to have too much fun without me … but who am I kidding? You guys always have fun!
Okay, let me lay the ground work here. My guy–The Geek–works with robots for a living. (The probably surprises no one since his nickname is The Geek.) In particular, he works with First Robotics, which is an organization whose goal is to turn robots (ie. science and technology) into a spectator sport for high school students to participate in.
This past week, the kids and I went with The Geek to the First Robotics World Championship. Picture 10,000 high school students screaming their enthusiasm. For science and engineering. It’s pretty freakin’ cool. I always get excited when I see teens excited about their learning.
But here’s the other thing that’s cool about going to events like this. My hubby is kind of a rock star there. When I introduce myself to strangers at these things and mention his name, people’s eyes light up. “Oh. Wow! Yeah, I know him from …” It’s very cool to see how valued he is within that community. It’s doubly awesome because it’s a cause I believe in. He’s doing great things for the world and it makes me so proud! (And these kids! Wow, are they impressive! If you’re not familiar with First, you should totally look it up.)
When the kids and I go to these events, it’s mostly just to be supportive of The Geek. Sometimes, whole days go by when don’t even see him. Sometimes we’ll catch a meal or two with him. And I love that the kids get to see their daddy shine.
Despite all the wonderful things about going to things like this, there is a weird side effect. I end up feeling a bit invisible.Like I’m drowning in my role as mommy. This past week, I was wife and mother (and even daughter and granddaughter, ’cause I visited my grandmother first), but I wasn’t a writer at all. The huge thing that’s normally a huge part of who I am, got caught in the undertow and disappeared completely. This week, I was barely a writer at all. It’s weird for me. I came home feeling exhausted and bit unbalanced.
The good news is, next week, I’m heading out to Romantic Time’s Booklover’s Convention. I’ll get to be the writer 100% of the time. That too will be exhausting, but in a different way. But for now, I’m still drowning in mommy.
How do you find balance when you travel?
I’ve been wrestling with insomnia lately. But lately, I mean for the past two or three weeks. I’m not sure what’s up, really. I was exhausted after I finished The Lair back in February and I slept a lot. So maybe I just got all caught up and was even able to file some sleep away in the bank, so to speak. Or maybe my body chemistry is starting to change (I am getting close to that age), Or maybe I just have so freakin’ much on my plate that … well, that I’m stressed out.
Now, insomnia is nothing new for me. I’ve had trouble falling asleep for as long as I can remember. Literally. My first, youngest memory, is of being in my crib unable to fall asleep. Over the years, I’ve developed a trick or two to help me get past it. I do deep breathing exercises and bio-feedback mostly, but lately even that isn’t working as well as it used to. Oddly, in the summer months, insomnia doesn’t bother me. I just get out of bed, grab my lap top and go work in the other room. But in the winter? When it’s so damn cold in the house? No way I’m getting out of bed unless I have to. So I have to weigh my options. Am I more miserable awake in bed than I would be out in the cold of my office? (For the record, I’m a horrible wimp when it comes to the cold. So when I say “the cold of my office” I’m talking about 66 or so degrees. It’s not like I’m risking frost bite here.) Thankfully, spring is here. My house is warming up, so from now on, I can just get up, slink into the other room and put some words on the page. I think, in the end, I mind loosing sleep nearly as much as I mind missing the chance to get things done.
What about you? Do you ever have insomnia? Do you have any tips to get back to sleep?
I just finished a book about a week and half ago. It was a long haul.
I mean, sure, I’m a writer. I’ve finished lots of books. (Twenty something now.) So finishing a book shouldn’t be that big a deal. But some books are harder to write than others and this book (the sequel to the Farm) was a bit of bear to write–for several reasons, none of which I’ll bore you with. The end result is that I’ve been writing my little fingers to the bones for the past couple of months.
Once I was done (for now–there will still be revisions and editing and tons more work), I felt like a deserved a much needed break. A chance to kick back and relax for at least a couple of weeks. Here’s how I decided to reward myself:
- Read a good book. Or Six. – Technically, this is still work. I had books to judge for the Ritas, so I had a nice stockpile of books that I really did have to read. I finished those up just tonight. And while it’s still been work, it was loads of fun. I still have a few more books I want to read before I dive back in. I had downloaded a sample chapter of Under the Never Sky a couple of months ago and I can’t wait to get back to it. Plus, I have a book to write a cover quote for. So I’ll be reading that one too. (And I’m super excited about that because it’s going to ah-mazing!)
- Shopping – I needed a new purse. Somewhat desperately, actually. And, this is the first time since kids that I’ve bought a really nice purse. It’s leather and everything. And it doesn’t have pockets for carrying sippy cups. I feel so grown up.
- Getting a pedicure – okay, I haven’t actually done this yet. But I’m gonna. Soon.
- Exercise – you know, that strange thing where you move your body around. Yeah. I did some of that. I actually didn’t gain weight this deadline, despite massive cookie eating. So I can only assume I lost muscle mass during my months hunched over the keyboard. Boy, today, when I was doing burpies, I sure felt it. I thought I was going to have some sort of a asthma incident. And no, I don’t have asthma. Just saying that I could imagine…
- Bake! – my love of cooking and baking is well known. So naturally, I’ve been puttering around the kitchen to my heart’s content. Plus, my neighbor just had a hip replacement surgery, so I’m bringing food over to her. And it’s nice to cook for someone new, you know? My family’s familiar with my schtick. New people are easily impressed and appreciative!
- Clean – shocking, I know. But my car looks like a transient lives in it and my office is worse. Like … there are just no words, worse. So, I’m starting with the closet in my office and working my way out. Progress is slow, but … baby steps, right? Next up is the pantry. Those ten year old spices are going down!
How do you reward yourself when you’ve been working hard? Since I’m suddenly painfully aware of how many spare books I have, I’ll send a copy of my latest two Desires to one lucky commenter.
I’m not going to lie. I’m a foodie.
I’m not obnoxious about it. (At least, I don’t think I am.) But I like to cook and I like to eat good food. I love baking to the point that it’s almost a psychologically diagnosable disorder. I get Cook’s Illustrated magazine (which, The Geek likes to point out, never has any illustrations of actual cooks) and I have a collection of cookbooks that’s almost embarrassing.
Despite my love of cooking, I still struggle with meal planning. I do almost all the cooking in my family. Between family dinners, weekend breakfasts and kid lunches and snacks, I’m responsible for seventeen to twenty meals a week. Sometimes I just want to yell, “Why can’t you people eat less often???”
Plus, planning’s not my strong suit. But I’m trying to get better. I’ve been doing the weekly meal planning thing for a couple of years now. I try to keep it (sort of) simple on week nights. Only cooking things I’ve already made before or using recipes that look easy. But sometimes, I miss the mark.
Last night, for example, I’d picked out a recipe from one of Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute cook books. Something vegetarian with spinach and mushrooms and pasta. Looked easy enough. Ninety minutes later, my kids are crazy and starving, the kitchen is trashed. My husband looked at me hungrily. “Is there anything I can do to help?” I glared at the pile of mushrooms I’d spent a full thirty minutes scrubbing. “That Rachel Ray is a lying b**ch.”
Worse still was the fact that the meal was only so so. I mean, it was fine. It just wasn’t 90 minutes good.
I honestly don’t mind spending ninety minutes cooking. Some people scrapbook or craft. I cook. It’s all good. I just like knowing what I’m getting into. I’ll gladly invest ninety minutes in a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, because their recipes are also amazing. Or something from the Smitten Kitchen blog, because again, her recipes totally rock it! (If you aren’t familiar with the Smitten Kitchen, here’s my favorite recipe of hers: Pancetta White Bean Pot Pies. Yes, they take a while, but holy crap they are so good you’ll want to climb in the bowl and roll around.
So tell me, do you love to cook? If so what’s your favorite cookbook/cooking blog? If you don’t like to cook, what is your hobby? I’ll send a copy of one of my books to one person who comments.