Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Our Blah Humbug Christmas Year

Perhaps it had been our unseasonably warm weather.  Perhaps it had been all the writing with the book and NaNoWriMo and having something that was all my own to focus on.  Perhaps it was the intense heaviness and grief I was carrying about the Sandy Hook tragedy.  Perhaps it was dealing with the all-too-expected-yet-still-unpleasant-and-difficult-to-handle emotional dysregulation of Miles and Keenan caused by the efficient and brutal succession of Thanksgiving/St. Nick/Keenan's birthday/impending holiday gifts.  Perhaps it was all the stress in handling my extended family, many of whom are dealing with personal difficulties of their own extenuating life circumstances.

Whatever the causes, I can honestly say that I had a very, very difficult time getting into the holiday spirit this year.

A public school snow day and 8 inches of the fluffy white stuff falling in a huge storm helped chip away at those Blah Humbug feelings of mine last Thursday.   The kids and I frosted 6 dozen cut out cookies, listened to holiday music, played in the snow, drank hot chocolate, and watched a Christmas movie.

I went to bed happy, knowing that Christmas would indeed here- both in my mindset and in days to come.

* Insert ominous sound here *

I've been flat out sick in bed since Friday.  4 days of fevers up to 103.5 degrees.  Achiness.  Chills that were indescribable.  Crazy dizzy and monster headaches.  And now a cough that has taken over everything else.  No appetite whatsoever.

I have had zero desire to read, knit, watch tv, nada.   I have just shivered and hacked up bits of lung in bed, feeling. . . sick.

By Sunday, Hatfield had come down with what I have, and just as severe.  By Monday morning, it was apparent that Paloma had become infected as well.

The Mister and the boys went off to my Mom's for the family Christmas Eve celebration, and the girls and I stayed home, bundled up in my bed, too sick to eat, too tired to care, and too exhausted to focus on the movie the Mister rented for us.

The only silver lining in it all were that the girls were so sick they couldn't even really feel upset that they were missing Christmas Eve.

I've been up a bit here and now, to help the Mister put name tags on Santa gifts, and to watch the kids open their presents.  Otherwise, he's been the Man in Charge, and I've been the Mom in Bed.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of this post is, or if there is some happy and positive message to end with.  But I guess what I'm trying to do is just document this life.  Give my kids something to look back on and know that they were little once, that they were loved, that they have a story.

And that this year, 2012, their Christmas story is that Mom and Hattie and Paloma were sick in bed. 

That Dad persevered and kept everyone alive- watering and feeding the crew- comforting and medicating and spoiling the sickies-- throwing in a load of laundry or ten - assembling a dozen new toys-  ringleading the Cirque d' Cruz.  

That the Grande Christmas Feast consisted of Dad throwing in a few frozen pizzas and setting out the two leftover platters of cookies while announcing "pizza and ALL the cookies that you can or want to eat!" 

That Christmas Day which was heralded in with a chorus of coughing and Paloma's squeal of joy that she can now live her dream and dine at The Chocolate Fountain Restaurant because she got a gift card to The Golden Corral.

And looking back at it, a day later, you know, beyond the whole intensely sick thing, it wasn't a bad Christmas Day at all, after all.

Merry, Merry Christmas, from Our Family to Yours!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hatfield's Newest Sunday Night Dance Video

Yesterday was our first snowy day this winter, so last night I had two friends and their kids over for a "Soup-er Sunday Supper" (all the teens LOVED IT when I was so darn punny!)

Hattie couldn't resist the challenge of choreographing 10 crazy kids in one music video. 


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

So What's Next?

Last month, I completed a 54,000 word first draft of a novel.

So what now?

To put it in a nutshell, I have 3 (Big and Substantial) things left to do:  Decisions, Research and Re-Writing.

Decisions:  I need to decide once and for all exactly what genre my book falls under.

Different types of writing have different expectations that publishers want to see.  Romance writing differs from suspense writing which differs from crime writing.  So it's imperative to decide what my first book is fall under, so that I can appropriately direct my re-writing and novel elements, thus increasing the likelihood of publication. 

The Mister and I went on a looooonnnngg walk on Sunday, and I detailed my book for him. This was the first time I had told anyone in detail about my book, and I was quite nervous and scared to do so.  What if it was garbage? Or he laughed? Or he said it would likely be best if I just scrapped the whole deal.

Fortunately, none of those things happened and the conversation left me feeling energized and happily optimistic.  He asked great questions, brainstormed plot details with me (his creativity is far zanier than mine, so I found brainstorming with him much more successful than just by myself) and offered feedback (funny, but once I got over my initial fear and just shared it, I didn't feel overly sensitive or worried anymore)

Lesson #1:  Every author needs to find people great at brainstorming and asking the right sort of questions.  Just don't let your fear of embarrassment hold you back.

I have also spent the last week or so reading different books and researching different writing genres.

I've come to the conclusion that my book is a Romantic Suspense.

With the first draft complete, I'm at a point where I with the next draft, I could turn the book into a Romantic Suspense, or a Suspense/Thriller.

After a lot of thought and reserach, I've decided that my book is a Romantic Suspense.  One, because the book is essentially a love story (all romances have a Central Love Story and an emotionally satisfying ending) with a mystery as an integral part of the plot. 

In turning it to a Suspense, I would have had to lessen the love story and beef up the mystery part.  Both of which I do not feel I want to do with this particular story.  That can be another book for another day, but this one just isn't it.  I really like my characters in this book, and I love the whole process of them falling in love.  

Lesson #2:  After your first draft, there is an entire "business" side to polishing your work to make it suitable for publication.   I learned the hard way that spending an entire morning and early afternoo on the computer researching can make you feel utterly overwhelmed and defeated.  Best to learn a little and process it, bit by bit, no despondency required. 
So, that was very exciting(!!!) to decide on a genre.  Out of my three things left to do (and ooohhh, if they were only three simple things!), I can put a big Check next to Decisions.

Now that I've done that (Check!), I'm moving to the Research and Re-Write/Editing stage.

 I need to research several details within my novel, like a characters' career, a university degree path and finalize some details to ensure consistency through out the book.

Armed with the research, I then need to re-write, re-organize and edit.    With a genre in hand, I need to make sure my book moves along and contains the elements that publishers want to see (I need to crank up the heat a bit, since it's a romance!).  I also have a lot of cleaning up, smoothing out and tying together to do.

At times it seems very overwhelming, but you can only eat an elephant a bite at a time (does that analogy creep anyone else out as much as me?  I just wanted to write it down to see if I could feel okay with it being in my work. . ahhhh. .  nope!)

I don't have any idea if this book will be publishable material, and honestly, I'm okay with that.  I am very much enjoying the entire process.  Someday, yes, maybe something will be published-- this or something entirely different.  But each step is a step in the right direction, and I intend on making the most of it.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Winterbourne vs. Summerbourne

Several years ago, the Mister and I realized that we needed to work on reconnecting throughout the week.

All because at some point, unbeknowst to us, our toddlers grew into kids and developed lives and schedules of their own.  It snuck up on us, but it was undeniable:  we reached a point where our 24/7's were taken up by jobs and kids and schoolwork and housework and carpooling and email and pets and grocery store runs for one item and individual hobbies and bedtime routines where at least one of us fell asleep with the kids due to sheer exhaustion.

We realized that we needed some "us" time and some "thing" that was ours alone to share (beyond the obvious.  Sheesh.)

Our list of "Our Thing" qualifications:  it had to be free-ish, it had to be something we could do at home, and it had to mutually agreed upon (I'm neither going to take up UFC watching, nor is the Mister gonna pick up knitting needles.)

Enter the Trashy Cable Series, which we could watch in succession at our leisure.   In our home.  At little expense.  That we both enjoyed.  With no kids (who are tucked in bed.)


We've been doing this for 2 years now, and it's been a great thing.  We've run through Breaking Bad, some of The Sopranos, True Blood,  The Walking Dead, and now we're through Season 2 of Justified (and for the love of God, will one of you girls please watch this show so we can gush about Timothy Olyphant together?  Because gushing about him to the Mister just isn't working for me!)

It's been a great time for us.

Granted, we've had our Hits and Misses with this endeavor.

Like the time when we were drinking wine while watching The Walking Dead, and we were like, "Hey! Let's play a game like Strip Poker, but instead we strip an article of clothing each time a zombie gets killed!"

Sure, it's all fun and games until you find yourself completely naked about 4 minutes into the show because there's that much zombie killing.

And then you realize there's 41 minutes of show left to watch.  I don't know about you, but watching all that zombie killing while naked just didn't do it for me.  Go figure.

One series that has been a total "Hit" for us has been The Game of Thrones.

We didn't start off with the tv show as our introduction to this series.  A while back, the Mister and I started reading George R. R. Martin's novel The Game of Thrones, which is the first book in his Fire and Ice Series.

Which, Holy Hell, this book series is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  Abso-freaking-lutely Epic.

A funny side story:  We had checked out one copy from the library, which we shared and co-read.

How does sharing and co-reading work as a married couple?  Like this:

The Mister's Turn:  Reads at the kitchen table while eating a meal (multi-tasking) with his wife pacing behind him saying, "Are you done yet? Can you read any faster?  Don't tell me what happens?  Does so-and-so die? No, don't tell me?  Can't you hurry up?  Your dinner can wait you know!"

My Turn:  Takes the book, runs a bubble bath, locks the door and leaves the children and the dishes for the Mister.

Seriously, why the Mister puts up with me, I don't know.  I'm horrible!  (But I suspect it has something to do with my willingness to play Strip Zombie Killing after a glass of cheap wine on a Tuesday evening.)

Anyway, side story aside, after we finished Book 1, we decided to watch The Game of Thrones cable tv series.

Seeing the characters come to life has been awesome, and now has given us a whole new "us" thing to share.

 *** Side Note:  I think every couple should have fun "us" things to share with one another to make everyday life more enjoyable.  One example I've blogged about before is the important role Chuck Norris plays in our marriage. 

Lots of side notes in this post.  I have a wandering sort of mine, today. ***

If you are unfamiliar with the Game of Thrones, it is an epic tale of a land in (maybe) medieval times.  Martin deftly and beautifully weaves a tale of three principal families and the land that they live in.

Of the three principal families, one is of the North (the Starks) one of the South (the Lannisters/Baratheons) and one is near-extinction, outcast to an outside land (the Tagaryens).  That's the simplest way I can put it.

I love the the northern family, The Starks.  Their family motto is:  Winter is Coming.  They are a strong, honorable, noble, hard-working and rugged.

The more Southerly family, the Lannisters and the Baratheons, well, they are more refined.  Beautiful, devious and dastardly, the men are a bit on the . . . I guess if there were such a thing as a metrosexual male at this point in time, that's what they would be.    They value possession, cunning, luxury and power. 

Within my own marriage, I am the Stark (northerner.)    I was born on January 25th in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The average temperatures on January 25th in this part of the world are a high of 24 degrees F, and a low of 9 degrees F, wind chill not applied.

Hence, I am Winterbourne.  I made up that title and gave it to myself.  Fancy, huh?

Now, if I, the northerner, is Winterbourne, you can imagine what the Mister is.

For background, my Mister was born on January 8th in Tamuning, Guam, where on such a day, the average high temperature is 85 degrees and the average low temperature is 75 degrees, and where there is no such thing as a wind chill.

Hence, he is Summerbourne.

We now have this huge running joke whenever the subject of cold weather or general heartiness applies:  the Mister will tease me that I'm a Stark.  Although I don't really take it as an insult, because to me, the Starks are all pretty bad-ass.

For instance, every morning, regardless of the weather, I take the dogs for a walk.  Earlier this week, it was quite cold around the 20 degree mark, and the Mister, on his way to work, pulled over, unrolled his window and announced loudly:  "Good Lord, it's snowing out.  You Stark Women are batty!"

(Really, he means:  You are a bad-ass northern woman! Whoohooo!  I wish I could be as tough and awesome as you!   He just might not know that's what he means, but I can decipher the code.)

Whenever he acts, well, not Winterbourne, I tease him that he is Renley Baratheon, who is a bit of a dandy.

An example:

The Mister:  I really wish sock suspenders would make a comeback.  Now that's style!
Me:   Whatever, Renly!

For the record, I'm not joking.  The Mister has declared this, and often, throughout our marriage. 

Yet, alas, the poor unfortunate soul known as the Mister somehow got trapped in a cruel twist of fate, and married a Winterbourne maiden.

He held out hope against hope that his children, who so clearly were born of his Summerbourne looks, would also be the bearers of  some Summerbourne tendencies.

But look at that Mini-Mister!
Is it a photo from Cliff's childhood,
 or is it Atticus?  
Hint:  If the person in the photo is having fun in the snow, 
it's Atticus!

Winterbournes let their babies play in the snow,
to the shock and disdain of Summerbournes.

He further held out hope that his sons born of Haiti, a Summerland, would be Summerbourne in character.  Yet fate dealt another blow.

Winterbournes at heart.

A man as refined as the Mister could trust that a petite, dainty canine creature like a papillon named Trixie d'Belle would surely be a Summerbourne dog?

Fierce and Winterbourne. 
A direwolf in disguise, I do believe.

Poor, poor Mister.  It looks like he and his friend Colonel Sanders are the only Summerbourne people around up here in our neck of the Great North Woods.

Yet one would think that if he can't beat them, he could join them?  Certainly a solid dozen years in the Frozen Tundra turn this warm Summer spirit into a hearty Northern Soul.

  One would think. . .

 Summerbourne to the core.  
Perhaps another dozen years will see progress. . . 

PS to the Mister:  Renley would like to know
where you got your dashing sweater and matching cap.