Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Okay, I don’t have any real leftovers because I didn’t cook this year, but here’s a hodgepodge of thinly related stuff from the past week.

And before we begin, can I just say, it's FREEZING in Arizona? It was 29 degrees when I came downstairs this morning. I stopped running because my nose was burning so bad I thought it was going to bleed. No moisture in the air. All right, I know, I'm a wimp. It'll get up to close to 60 today, which is still really, really cold to me. And all of you who don't live in California or Arizona have no sympathy for me, I know. But I'll take 115 degrees in July over winter cold anyday.

This is the family picture we took Thanksgiving day at my in-laws. Everyone is actually looking at the camera, a first for us.

A note of bragging. I bet not too many of you went swimming on Thanksgiving. I didn’t either, but my daughter did. Eighty-five degrees in Palm Springs at my in-laws house. They heat their pool so the girls all went swimming. So the bitter cold today is just doubly insulting after such gorgeous weather.

And on a sad note: What is the world coming to? This next generation may already be lost. Thanksgiving Day at my in-laws, we were watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special (forget the official title, I know that’s just terrible) when my niece asked her dad the names of all the characters. She only knew Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Now that’s just sad. I’m going to have to talk to Paul about how he’s raising his children. Surely he’s depriving him of great American culture if they don’t know the whole cast of Peanuts. Sheesh. It’s pretty bad when the adults are into the cartoon more than the kids.

Finally, one definition of insanity: taking your kids to the day-after-Thanksgiving sales. We stood in line for 45 minutes at one store. They were actually pretty good. And I got some cool new running shoes (which is what I went for) and finished a good portion of my Christmas shopping (an added benefit).

And next week, I might actually have something interesting to say.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Can I Get Some Directions?

Hey, if this fiction writing thing doesn’t work out, I could get a job writing instructions. Somebody needs to. I’ve been underwhelmed by the instructions I’ve read lately. I’m a reader. I figure I can learn just about anything I need to know by reading about it. But that presupposes someone can write clearly and intelligently about the subject. That might be asking a lot.

I was replacing the windshield wipers on my minivan, hoping for some great insight on how to perform this task without slicing my fingers to shreds like last time. The illustration is vague. The instructions say: Remove old wiper blade. Install new wiper blade. Brilliant. I had already deduced that, but thanks anyway.

So I keep reading. Ah, there’s hope. It says: turn over for more instructions. So I turn over. It’s the exact same instructions!

Someone needs a definition of the word “more.” It is not synonymous with “same.”

I figured it out anyway. Without blood loss.

Wish I could say the same about my adventure replacing our leaky kitchen faucet last weekend. I managed to bloody my lip on the garbage disposal. After banging my head on it. You’d think I would have remembered it was there. Big black thing hanging under the sink. Hard to miss.

All because I was trying to follow the first instruction: remove old faucet. That’s it. No clue on how to do that. So, using maneuvers that would have done a contortionist proud, I tried to use a flashlight and crescent wrench at the same time. You know, I’m just not that coordinated.

But despite my lack of plumbing skills, I managed to get the old faucet out and the new one in. The installation instructions were actually not too bad, until I got to this oxymoronic phrase “tighten loosely.”

Hmm. Okay. Being the girly girl that I am, I probably am only capable of tightening loosely. At least the diagrams were significantly better than the windshield wiper ones. And I managed to accomplish the job without flooding the kitchen. And now I have a faucet that doesn’t spray in three directions at once.

Think I’ll stick to writing. Seems safer. Less blood loss, at least for me. Can’t say the same for my characters.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Motherhood, Writing and Cupcakes

One of my biggest challenges is balancing being a mom and being a writer. Some days I do it better than others. So I was quite touched when I ran across this quote by GK Chesterton. Just ignore the references to British government.

To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.
(What’s Wrong with the World, quoted in Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, Nelson Books)

The last two lines are my favorite because, especially when my children are small, I am everything to them. I am their world, and the import of that can be staggering.

One of the main reasons we moved to Arizona was to be able to live in a place where our kids could have a yard to play in, sidewalks to rollerblade on, and streets for bike riding. Because we had decided that I would stay home with the kids, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that and remain sane if there wasn’t enough space to expand the massive amounts of energy my kids seem to generate. Wish they’d transfer some of that energy to me.

And over the past three years as various people have asked us if moving to Arizona was worth what it’s cost us, I’ve been able to say yes, if only for the sake of my kids … and my sanity.

My writing hasn’t been hurt, either. In California I had written zero books. In Arizona, I’ve just finished my third.

But for now, I’m going to go make cupcakes with my boy. Gotta celebrate finishing book three.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The California Adventure

We visited the motherland the other week. California, there we went. We took the kids to Disneyland and its related theme park, California Adventure, as an early Christmas present.

And it reminded me of all things I don’t miss about California:
• The traffic.
• The marine layer, that thick layer of clouds and fog that might burn off for an hour if you’re lucky. This time of year, Arizona weather beats California hands down. Now, ask me that again next July, and I'll have a different opinion.
• Snotty rich people who hate anyone with an out-of-state license plate. I really wanted to tell this one woman I had probably lived in California longer than she had, Arizona plates not withstanding. But I restrained myself.
• The traffic.
• Lack of Christian radio stations. In Orange County you have the Fish. That’s it. Here in Arizona I have KLOVE, AirOne and the Source. Don’t have to listen much to commercials. Yes, my minivan doesn’t have a CD player. I am deprived.
• Not being able to see the stars because of the marine layer and light pollution. The sky actually stayed the color of mercury vapor streetlights.
• Did I mention the traffic?

Things I miss about California:
Disneyland. When we lived in California, we had annual passes so we could go for a couple of hours, watch a parade, go on some rides, eat dessert and take sleepy kids home. Now, to get our money’s worth, we have to do the endurance version, 12-13 hours. Not so much fun. Still, the kids had a blast.

And, I never thought I’d say this, California Adventure. This is Disney’s attempt to encapsulate all that is great about California. It didn’t open to rave reviews, and in the beginning there wasn’t much for little kids to do. But this time around, I liked it better than the real thing. The Redwood Creek Trail replicates the redwood forests of northern California where I went camping with my family as a kid. And nostalgia, real or imaginary, is what Disney does best.

They also have this ride, Soarin’ Over California which is a hang-glider ride combined with an IMAX-type movie over the best parts of California. Reminded me of what I loved and missed about the state.

As long as I forgot about the traffic.

Still, I wrote 1,000 words between Redlands and the OC. Guess traffic’s good for something.

And last, but never least, I miss my old in-person critique group. One of my closest writing friends, Peg, met us at Disneyland, and she and I talked about writing for three hours while saving places to watch an amazing 50th anniversary fireworks show. Way cool. Almost as much fun as talking about writing.