Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Back: My 2010

I know it’s not always fun and/or interesting to read about somebody else’s year, but it’s important for me to reflect on it and write it down, and I’d like to share it with you, my friends. For you were a big part of my past year and I thank you for taking a few moments out of your busy lives each week to read my ramblings (and to comment if you so choose).

2010 was a very good year for me - a year of growth. I went through some transitions which may seem ordinary to some, but they changed my perspective and direction in life in positive ways. I also had some wonderful experiences with my family. I’m so thankful for them and how they love and support me.

The biggest transition for me was going from a stay-at-home mom for 15½ years to a part-time working mom. Someone other than my family depended on me which was scary at first. I've learned so much over my almost year there and love the people I work with. And I won't lie, receiving a paycheck feels great! However, I was forced (not kicking and screaming forced) to reevaluate my priorities and how I spend my free time. How could I get everything done in less time? What is important to me and how can I achieve those things?

The Answer For Me
  1. taking care of my family's needs is my #1 priority
  2. taking care of my needs - physically, spiritually, mentally - not skipping meals, regular check-ups, getting enough sleep, making time for reading & writing
  3. not letting the house fall to complete shambles, but also not freaking out if it isn't perfect
  4. writing when I can and setting realistic and attainable goals for my busy life and NOT FEELING GUILTY if I don't reach those goals in time frame I set for myself

I’m certainly not perfect at these things, not by a long shot, but I try to ask for help when I need it (even though I think I can do it all at times) and to surrender control (very hard after being home for so long). And though I can be hard on myself at times, I’m learning to forgive myself instead of beating myself up.

My mantra to myself: “Hey you’re not perfect, welcome to the rest of the world.”

My Not So Secret Writng Life
I started telling people that I was attempting to write a novel in 2009. My immediate family, some online friends, and a few ‘real life’ friends (for lack of a better term) knew about this from the beginning. I started two novels and put both aside unfinished. I'm on my third attempt and this year I tentatively told a few more friends and some extended family members, and their support has been great. The biggest step for me, though, was to start this blog. The title, My Not So Secret Writing Life really reflects that I was ready to step out from the shadows and announce to the world, “Hi. I’m a writer, too. Nice to meet you.”

I believe in myself and want to do what it takes to achieve publication. Like others pursuing this dream, I wanted to share my journey: to laugh with, learn from, support, and affirm other writers, the published and the unpublished. The writing community is one in which I want to be a part of.

Highlights of 2010

  • returning to work
  • attending the Harry Potter Movie Exhibit with my family
  • reaching out to writing community by following and commenting on more blogs
  • starting my own blog in August and meeting you
  • working on first draft of contemporary MG, Nitpicky
  • brainstorming ideas for a new writing project
  • meeting Laurie Halse Anderson

Thanks, 2010! I can't wait to see what 2011 has in store for me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

In Which Felicity Tells Me Off

*clickety click onto another blog*

Me: Oh, Natalie has a new post today. And so does Donna Weaver. Edit #5? You go, girl!

Felicity: Ahem. A- he-he-HEM!

Me: You really should take something for that.

Felicity: Well, if you hadn’t left me sitting in the cold on a bench in the town square for 2 freakin' months, maybe I wouldn’t have such a head cold.

Me: Oh. Yeah, I did leave you there for quite a while didn’t I? Sorry about that.

Felicity: No problem. Sort of.

Me: I just got so overwhelmed with work, the kids, holiday preparations...I had to take a break, you know?

Felicity: Yeah, I get it. I don’t mean to be “Nitpicky” (ha ha, get it?) but couldn’t you have at least left Ben sitting next to me? And it wouldn’t hurt if he had his arm around me.

Me: Oh, no no no. Ben? No. And btw, yes, I got the Nitpicky title reference. Clever.

Felicity: Whaddya mean, “No.” We are going to get together eventually, am I right?

Me: HAHAHAHA....ha.

Felicity: I fail to see the humor in this situation. So what are you telling me...I don’t get to be with Ben?

Me: My lips are sealed. It’s not that you’re not going to be with him. It’s just that that’s top secret information that cannot be revealed to anyone, least of all you, at this moment in time.

Felicity: In other words, you haven’t figured out the rest of the novel yet, have you.

Me: Um, I’ve been distracted as of late.

Felicity: *gigantic sigh* With her?

Me: Who?

Felicity: The ghost story chick?

Me: Jude? No. Truly, she’s on the back burner for now. I’m finishing your story first. That’s my New Year’s Resolution.

Felicity: Oh great. And will this resolution be as successful as last year’s “finishing my first novel,” which isn’t exactly finished yet.

Me: I did fall short on that one didn’t I. Sort of left you without an ending.

Felicity: Ya think?

Me: Okay. What if I promise that I’ll work real hard the rest of this week. I’m not going back to my job until next Monday. I’ll wake up early tomorrow while the house is quiet and crank out a chapter. Same thing Wednesday and Thursday.

Felicity: Well...

Me: I really care about you and what happens to you.

Felicity: Really?

Me: Really. You know, I reread the whole story today. Up to the part where I left you in the park. I’m pretty happy with it so far. Sure there are weak spots, and it will need a ton of revising, but I like you a lot, Felicity. I want to know how your story ends.

Felicity: Me too. And you’re not so bad yourself.

Me: Let’s do this novel thing then, shall we?

Felicity: *rolls eyes* Whatever. Just get me somewhere warm. And fast.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Tree Story

Take a look at your Christmas tree if you have one. Does it tell a story?

One of my favorite things about Christmas is our Christmas tree. I love when we pull the boxes out of the attic and unwrap each ornament. Around 12 years ago we lost about 75% of our ornaments when our basement got wet (before we had an attic). Over the years my collection grew along with my family. Now I wrap each ornament individually in tissue paper and store them in plastic bins.

What I love about our tree is that it tells a story about our family. Sure there are the glass balls and random pretty ornaments that I’ve picked out over the years. But mingling among those are the sentimental favorites such as Elmo, the Holy Family, and of course, the kids' homemade ornaments. They make me smile when we unwrap them and find just the right spot on the tree.

Here are a few that tell part of my story.

My husband and I bought this ornament on our honeymoon when we went to Hawaii - our first ornament. Year after year we'd forget to put it on the tree because it was stored away with our Hawaii souvenirs. It became an annual joke. When most of my ornaments were ruined by the water, I was relieved that this one wasn't among the others. It was safely packed in its original plastic bag in a plastic box. I think of that every year when I put it on the tree.

These 2 were hung on my husband's family Christmas trees when he was a boy. I was ecstatic when my mother-in-law passed them on to us. The blue silk wrapped ball reminded me of the same ones on my childhood Christmas trees.

My son made this one in elementary school. Go Sox!

I found Harry (shown), Ron, and Hermione one year in a discount store and scooped them up. Our family had just discovered Harry Potter not long before and we couldn't wait to hang them on our tree. They are still our favorites.

Another homemade ornament made by my oldest daughter when she was young.

One of my teaching friends loved Mary Engelbreit illustrations. She gave me this teapot ornament one Christmas. She has since passed away. I think of her kindness and the tremendous support she gave me every time I unwrap this one.

Another favorite given by my favorite snake :)
Do your ornaments tell a story? Which one is your favorite?
I wish a very Merry Christmas to all of you!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Words. An author's greatest tool. But we have to guard against the overuse of words and phrases, and avoid cliches at all cost. Fortunately, we can edit our writing before showing it to anyone. In every day conversation however, certain words and phrases become habit and can drive us (and others) crazy. I'll admit, I'm definitely guilty of this. Sometimes I don't even realize I'm overusing certain phrases. And if you have teens at home, the word "like" can send you over the edge.

At the end of the day, "whatever," is the most annoying word of 2010 according to the Marist Poll . Of course, it's not simply the word itself that's annoying. It's the dismissive tone accompanied by the mandatory eyeroll that grates on the nerves. Having said that, ( or if you prefer) That being said, "like" comes in as a close second. Maybe it's me, but I think my two oldest girls are secretly competing to see who can drive their mother to the brink of madness first by using "like" in their conversation. It is what it is, though. And to tell you the truth, when it comes to talking with my family and friends, no worries - it's all good. And honestly, you do what you gotta do even if that means taking the bad with the good.

Does that make sense?

Now it's your turn. What word or phrase sends you absolutely up a tree?

p.s. Gah! Absolutely is one of my weaknesses. I absolutely overuse it to death!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mountain Memories

Friday night, my daughters, some family members, and I were fortunate enough to spend a “girls overnight” at my sister-in-law’s home in the New Hampshire mountains. Since we arrived in the dark, we had no idea how beautiful the view was until the next morning. And, my oh my, was it lovely!

From the deck I could look down through the leafless trees and see the pond which connected to a lake. Beyond the trees, surrounding the lake, were distant mountains - above, a cloud streaked sky. The most delicate snowflakes floated through the air. Though they didn't stick to any surfaces, it was first snow of the season for me.

Along the back roads, before reaching the main route home, my girls and I could appreciate the true beauty of the area and the panoramic views.
We stopped the car a few times to take pictures, but really, they don't do the natural view justice.

camera shy cows (except for that one in the front)
The trip got me thinking about how I see the world and how that naturally helps my writing. Obviously, an experience which is out of the ordinary routine - like a trip to the mountains - would cause anyone to stop and ponder.
As I tried to keep my eyes on the road which was difficult surrounded by such natural beauty my mind started to wander. I thought of stories I'd read in which a character had to travel long distances by foot through forests and over mountains like Jamie and Claire in the Outlander series or Torak in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. I thought of the pitch dark roads we traveled and the eerie look of the tall pine trunks illuminated by my highbeams as we drove up to the house. What would it be like stopping for the night on the mountains - huddled on a frigid night, camping in the dark?

My senses translated my experience into memory.
purple-blue mountains;
the sky, painted with watercolor-blue brush strokes;
leafless branches, like fingers reaching for heaven
the sharp coldness of the impenetrable night;
the quiet solitude of a simpler way of life

Story fodder for another day.