Saturday, August 29, 2009

No more Girl Scouts for me...

I've officially retired as a Leader.

Hayley is the only girl left in our troop and as much as I want to be her leader, I just can't do it for one alone.

I knew of another troop nearby, though, and the leader is thrilled to adopt Hayley into her troop. Hayley will be the twentieth girl in that multi-level Girl Scout gumbo!

When I first told Hayley-Bear of my decision, the sweet thing cried. She wanted me to be her leader forever. I am so grateful for that! I am so grateful that my almost twelve year old still wants me to participate in her life!

Once she got used to the idea of a larger troop, Hayley was excited about the possibilities of being in a troop with more than three girls. Tomorrow (Sunday) is her first meeting and while she is a little nervous, she can't wait to don her tan vest, hold up those three fingers and say the GS Pledge with a whole gaggle of girls.

I'm sad to be hanging up my GS tab. I've had so much fun with it and I've really loved making a positive difference in the lives of these girls. In an ideal world, I would have a full group, lots of parental involvement and plenty of time to commit to it.

As it is, something's gotta give. And with only one girl left in my GS troop, the decision was pretty obvious.

I have to admit, though, I am more than a little relieved to be letting it go. Leading a troop takes a lot of planning, coordinating and keeping the peace among pre-teen girls. And then there's the insane money-tracking GS Corporate demands and cookie sales. I don't have even a pie sliver of desire to do any of that. So retiring is a good thing, isn't it?

All that's left to do is officially close down the troop, turn in the 12 cents we have in the bank (I'm not kidding about that number) and donate the rest of my supplies. Then I'm done.

And she says, "Good night, Girl Scouts!" for the last time.

An Emma Story

Emma seems to have enter the early stages of tween-hood. May the Good Lord help us all.

Her emotions are all over the place -- one minute laughing, the next screaming, the next crying, the next dancing with joy.

I can't keep up. I try to be mindful of her moods and be as supportive as I can, but it gets to a point where I just run out of sympathy. I'm so glad she's already in bed today. I'm ready to feel the faint hope of tomorrow being slightly easier.

Last night, Scott and I actually went out a date. A different restaurant than usual (meaning not as family-friendly as most places we go) and out to a movie. We saw The Proposal -- sooo funny!

Just as the movie was ending, though, Hayley called. "Emma's hysterical and she won't stop crying."

"Ok. The movie's just over. We'll be there in five."

"I'm sorry to ruin your date, Mom, but I don't know what else to do." Hayley is so sweet!

Sure enough, when we got home, Emma was sobbing and hiccuping and sweating. In short, hysterical.

She didn't know why. I think I caught the words "birthday", "school" and "friend" through the sobs.

So I took her upstairs, cuddled up with her in my bed and read a chapter in some Disney Fairies book to her. She was still crying.

On to Plan B. I laid down right behind her, pulled her close and sang the lullabies I sang to her on those endless, sleepless nights during her first year. (The kid didn't sleep through the night till she was 19 months old.)

By the second song, the crying stopped. By the third song, her breathing smoothed. By the fourth song, I knew she was sound asleep. I kept singing, though, remembering how wonderful infant Emma felt in my arms. Remembering the sweet-smelling, sweaty head snuggled into my neck. Remembering how deeply I loved her even when I was too tired to remember the words to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".

And I love her even more now. Holding her close last night and singing her to sleep reminded me that she's still a little girl in so many ways. Growing up so quickly, but still needing her Mama every step of the way.

I am so very blessed.

Vegetable Haters Anonymous is keeping an eye on me...

I've willingly eaten *spinach* several times recently.

And I ate olives last night!

(I also are a scallop last night, btw, noteworthy even if it's not a vegetable.)

So what's gotten into me, you asked?

Well, apparently I'm exceedingly low in iron. Not anemic, mind you. But low enough for the doctor to recommend iron supplements. He did a blood work-up on me a couple weeks ago to figure out why I've developed random twitches.

You know when you're just relaxing and your arm twitches of its own accord? That's what's been happening. Except it happens quite often, most noticeably when I'm reading in bed.

It's not annoying, just weird, so when I went in for a check up, I mentioned it to the doc. He did some tests and noticed some other weird gross motor stuff -- don't worry, Mom. It's nothing dramatic.

After playing 20 questions with me, he asked, "Are you mentally fatigued?"

Of course I burst of laughing. Hhmm, let's see? Book... Proposal... work... summer vacation... kids... house...

Um, yeah. You could say I'm mentally fatigued.

Not that he wanted any details. It was simply a yes or no question to him.

So his diagnosis to the crazy tingling I'd been feeling (another thing I'd mentioned) is that I'm extremely mentally fatigued.

And when he notified me (by mail, of course) of the results of my blood work, he told me to take iron supplements and eat more iron-rich foods. Thus, the spinach. (The olives and the scallop -- well, that was just me being adventurous! LOL)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The last full week of summer vacation winds down...

We're all ready for school to start. Toys have lost their appeal. Bikes are garaged because it's so hot. Bored games? Well, boring.

There are only two things the girls have any interest in doing right now: watching tv and playing on the computer. And considering I monitor all "monitor" time (hahaha), the two of them pretty much wander around the house and bicker.

I'm ready for a school-year routine again. Scott's ready for me to come work in the office full-time. And the both of us would really love a conversation that's not punctuated with "Mommy!" or "She hit me!" or "It's my turn!"

Tonight was Back-to-School night for Emma's school. We found out who her teacher is and who is in her class. We checked out her classroom, but Em refused to smile about anything. Why? Her best friend is not in her class. I feel for her. I remember feeling that same distress and unintentional abandonment.

She'll be fine, though, once she gets started and remembers that a lot of her classmates are also her friends.

Hayley is starting the seventh grade! Holy cow! Again, I remember that so clearly! The night before school started (I guess that was 1984ish?), my mom helped file my nails while we watched a special on the Titanic. During the commercials, I talked about how it was a new year and everything would be different and wonderful.

Well, that didn't happen! Hayley doesn't seem to be harboring any such worries. She had a great sixth grade year and is anticipating an even better seventh grade year.

So here's to enjoying the last few days of summer break!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'd forgotten what a life was acutally like!

I got the proposal in the mail yesterday morning. Yay!!! Weighed just over a pound. That's a lotta words, baby.

Of course, I still have to work 8+ hours a day, but last night and tonight, I've actually gotten to do other things -- guilt free!


Last night, I pretty much laid comatose on the couch. We all cuddled up and watched the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Such a great movie. Then the kiddos went to bed and me and the Tivo had a date. (I won't tell you what I watched 'cause it's down right embarrassing that I watch it. LOL)

Tonight, the organizing bee flew into my bonnet and could not be ignored. I finally tackled the several towering, proliferating stacks of... of... of... ok, don't like this word, but I'm gonna say it... crap. Stacks and stacks of crap. Manuals. Lost school supply lists. Way too many drafts of my book.

Those stacks did not survive the tornado of my organizational insanity. By family room is now empty of the chaos of running a house and writing a book.

Did ya read between the lines in that last paragraph? See that qualifier? I did *not* say the room is clean. It's um... full of other things. Check this out...

It's Emma's "room". It's been entertaining her for a couple days -- and trust me, since she talks non-stop lately, anything that will entertain her is my friend. Even if that means we have to sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair while we eat.

She's even been sleeping in there. She cracks me up.

So now I've gotten a quick reminder of what having a life is like. I still need to do some work tonight, but I think I can handle it now that I've had a little balance. Even if the balance was technically cleaning!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hayley and Emma are watching Twilight...

Oh, how difficult is it not to mock!

It really is the most insipid movie, but the girls are caught in the vampire's clutches.

This is Emma's first time watching it and I was reticent to allow her, but she's doing just fine with it. I think I need to give her more credit than I do. She watched Narnia yesterday without any problem.

I think my baby's growing up! *sniff sniff sniff*

Monday, August 17, 2009

I LOVE my car!

It saved our lives today with its superior handling. My minivan had a great handling, too, but I'm not so sure it would have been enough for what happened...

We were heading up to the mall this morning to do some school clothes shopping. I was driving happily along in the middle lane, doing everything a safe driver should be doing.

The right lane was ending and a car, for whatever reason, had neglected to actually get over. So they stopped. Yup, stopped. On. The. Freeway!!!! Hello???

The car behind that car had to swerve into my lane, of course, right where I was. I then had to swerve into the left lane. As I swerved, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't going to hit anyone. Sure enough, there was a car in my blind spot so I had to swerve right back again into my own lane.

My amazing Santa Fe did exactly what I needed it to. No hesitancy. No resistance. Just staying right with me through the entire three second ordeal.

You can be sure the first thing I did once we were safe again was to say a prayer of thanks to the Big Guy upstairs. Then I praised my amazing car and I will continue to sing its praises.

I know I posted this photo a when we first bought the car, but I thought it appropriate to display it again.

Deliciously Reviewed: "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies"

Sorry I've neglected you all, Delicious Readers, over the past week. In truth, I did start writing a post several times on Wednesday, but I didn't like the post, so I deleted it.

So here I am, ready to entertain you again with the "Adventures of a Bibliophile, Domestic Goddess and Volunteer Extraordinaire."

And on to my review...

Yeah, I know. I'm shaking my head that I'm reading "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies", but it came so highly recommended that I had to! It's the same story as the original P & P, but with zombie stuff thrown in here and there. (I was going to say "thrown in for good measure", but I'm not so sure about the good measure part.)

Here's a quote:

"Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace... During this impatient activity, a bootlace came undone. Not wanting to appear unkempt upon her arrival at Netherfield, she knelt down to tie it.

There was suddenly a terrible shriek, not unlike that which hogs make while being butchered. Elizabeth knew at once what it was, and reached for her ankle dagger most expeditiously... The closest seemed freshly dead... and when he was but an arm's length from her, she plunged the dagger into his chest and pulled it skyward. The blade continued upward, cutting through his neck and face until it burst through the very top of his skull. He fell to the ground and was still..."

It's just so wrong, isn't it? I can't imagine what Jane up in Heaven thinks about this. I mean, it's funny in a way. Random, but funny. It's just not holding my attention. I read a couple pages, then fall asleep. Yes, I'm tired, but I still generally fall asleep with a book open because I just can't put it down.

Not so with P & P & Z. I can put it down, turn out the light and then fall asleep. Oh, I'll finish it alright and maybe it will peak my interest at some point in the next 200 pages. And if it doesn't? Well, hey. At least I've read something out of my norm, right?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Golden Words...

"I'd love to work with you!"

Waahooo! Validation on two years of work!!

Nothing is definite, of course, but the agent I met with late this morning seemed truly excited about my book. She even started talking about spin-off books!!

I left the room walking on air... and haven't come down yet!

I met with an editor/publisher earlier in the day and while my book isn't appropriate for her press, she loved the concept! We had an awesome conversation about all the possibilities -- accessories, marketing, the works. Then she told me that she thought my concept is one of the best she'd heard throughout the entire conference!

What a compliment!

The next step in the lengthy processing of book publishing is to send my proposal. Then she'll read it and let me know if it's a go!

Keep those prayers, good thoughts and positive vibes my way! 'Cause they worked today!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Writer's Conference Update!

Well, we've completed Day Two. Today was easier than yesterday simply because I didn't have any pitches scheduled. Yesterday held three. Tomorrow holds two.

How'd Friday's three go? Well.... could have been better. The editor I met first with tried to push me into the "mom" category and then recommended that I a) self-publish or b) find an agent.

The agent I met with in the afternoon was wonderful. Soft-spoken and sincere. She loved my book and said she'd be absolutely shocked if it wasn't picked up. But (ya didn't see that big but comin', did ya? LOL) she's decided that she no longer wants to represent home reference/how-to.

I totally appreciate her honesty. That tells me she does her job for the love of it, not for the money (because, unless you're JK Rowling, there's just not that much money for anyone in the publishing world). I'd recommend her to anyone.

The third pitch I completely flubbed. The first two went off perfectly -- I didn't stutter or lose my place or forget to breathe. But that third one? I was not into it. Honestly, I was disappointed by the first two. Self-doubt began to creep in. So by the time I did that third pitch, I could barely get through the first two sentences of my pitch.

Pathetic!!! The agent was so kind, though. He said, "Ok, don't worry about it. How 'bout I just ask you questions?" So we chatted back and forth for a minute or two and he said he thought it would best be published by an independent publisher. Fine by me, buddy. I just want it published!

He wasn't jumping up and down enthusiastic, but he didn't have a negative response either. I got his card and will send him my book proposal as soon as I have it ready.

Aside from all that, I've met some absolutely wonderful people and am learning a ton in the seminars. I already have a BA degree in Professional Writing; while the mechanics of strong writing have not changed in the 14 years since I've graduated, the state of the publishing world has changed dramatically! I needed to get up to speed again.

So tomorrow at 7:30 am, I will don my SuperWriter cape and hat (sorry, guys, no skin tight clothing for this superhero! LOL) and conquer the publishing world!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Have you hugged your Support staff today?

I've been answering support emails at work for the past couple weeks. Hhmmm... what's more fun? A root canal, maybe? Kidney stones? 18 straight hours of CSPAN?

People are so mean! They say horrible things. "Call me so I can talk to something with a pulse" and "You probably won't answer for days" are two of my favorites. I can't even mention the worst ones. They are not fit to repeat on a clean and respectful site like Delicious as Pie! LOL

These emails are personally attacking, even though all of us at the company are simply trying to provide a much needed product. We are all working insanely long hours (it's typical for Scott to work an 18 hour day) to make the best product possible.

But it's software, people! Bugs mysteriously happen! There is absolutely no human way that any piece of software can ever be completely perfect. Or, I should say, can work for every human who *refuses to actually read instructions*! ARGH!!!!

Now, don't get me wrong. I get frustrated with software, too. We all do. A couple years ago when the newest version of Microsoft Word came out, I hated it. It was too complicated, too confusing, just too much everything.

But once I got used to it, I loved it. In fact, I'm still constantly discovering new features! "That is so cool!" is a frequent refrain of mine.

Never once did I write in to Support attacking them, insulting them or declaring my hatred of the product. Why do people think it's okay to do that? *It's not!!!!*

Support staff are people, too! Next time you talk to a support person, be it software, utility or city employees (yes, I know that's a hard one), thank them! Just a simple thanks for doing a hard job. Thanks for dealing with angry, spiteful people. We appreciate your patient efforts.

Have you hugged your Support staff today?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The short pitch is written!

Today will not go down in history as a great writing day. 'Cause it wasn't. It totally sucked.

I spent way too much time on the short pitch, stressed out completely and almost threw in the book-writing towel completely.

But you know what the problem was?

I was trying too hard. I was trying too hard to get too much information into two hundred words.

Finally, I realized that I had to regroup. I did some additional research and went back to ground zero. Started over completely.

And it worked! Within 45 minutes (minus the time I spent emailing back and forth with Mom), I had the pitch written and I loved it!

Once I had it down, it was suddenly so clear to me that I'd been wearing a prom dress to a picnic.

Huh? (I know, I know. But the analogy works, I promise...)

My original drafts were so formal and so tight that there was no room to breathe. I daresay... painful in a way. Well-written, don't get me wrong. But entirely wrong for the occasion.

It was a good learning experience, though. Remembering to focus on the venue is sometimes more important than focusing on the outfit.

5 days and counting...

My writer's conference starts next Thursday evening. I vary between feeling pretty good/fairly prepared and freaking out because I am SO not ready.

Is anyone every truly ready, though? I don't know. Maybe.

I was able to spend last weekend in its entirety working on my book, proposal and pitch. Supposedly, I have 10 minutes to spend with each of the four agents/editors I've signed up for. So it makes sense that I prepare a pitch that lasts 6-8 minutes, right? That's what the information I've researched says anyway.

I've prepared a pitch that length and I'm pretty pleased with it. But I've also heard that I actually only need to talk for two minutes and they'll ask questions for the rest of the time. So I need to compose a shorter version.

I actually kind of did that while driving to a writer's meeting this past week. I took a couple hours off work (I logged in 46.5 hours of work this week, btw) to drive into Portland and listen to a seminar on what editors look for in press releases. Very informative and I'm glad I went.

But while I was driving (and in between the insanely painful nerve-induced stomach cramping), I came up with the beginnings of a shorter pitch. And I actually like it a lot! It feels really natural and conversational.

My job now is to expand upon it and practice, practice, practice until I've memorized it and can recite it backwards and forwards without stuttering. (I stutter when I get nervous.)

And once I've conquered that, I need to finish writing my proposal (almost done), keep polishing the first three chapters and print out several copies the proposal in its entirely.

So my heart is pounding like crazy right now. No prob. So my hands are shaking. No big. So I'm sure I'll break down in tears at least twice before the weekend is over. Whatever.

But I have no doubt that I can do this and will do it well. A favor, though? Please say some prayers for me. Let the words come and the nerves go. Let the confidence shine and the nerves go. Let the focus stay and the nerves go.

Haha. Nervous a little? LOL! I'll keep ya'll posted!