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Fifty Ways to [Not] Write Your Novel – originally posted on romancemagicians.blogspot.com
“The problem is all inside your head,” she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically.
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free –
There must be fifty ways to not write your novel…” — based on Paul Simon’s Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover via lyricsfreak.com

1. Look up the proper lyrics to the earworm inside your head.
2. Alternatively, fit your own words to the earworm’s tune to fit a specific reason.
3. Check out tv shows you want to record on your dvr because you’re too busy writing to watch them while they’re on.
4. Delete shows you recorded but watched already while you were taking a break from writing.
5. Log in to Facebook – ‘nuff said.
6. Call your cousin you haven’t talked to in 25 years but just friended on Facebook.
7. Try to figure out Google +.
8. Tweet that you are #amprocrastinating and keep up with the conversation.
9. Try to decipher acronyms like FMTYEWTK, YOLO, NE1, UG2BK, DUST, DGTG, COS, NMP, Def
10. Log in to Pinterest.
11. Follow links to recipe for How to Make Homemade Doggie Deodorant.
12. Check pantry for ingredients. Remember you don’t have a dog; you have a cat.
13. Attempt to engage said cat in play. Or at least, to move off your keyboard.
14. Hunt down canned air. And the phone number to the Geek Squad, just in case.
15. Log in to email.
16. Delete without reading 9 out of 10 emails.
17. Read the remaining one, follow link, contract computer virus.
18. Wonder why the he** your computer won’t stop spouting audio commercials in the background.
19. Google “Why the he** won’t my computer stop spouting audio commercials in the background?”
20. Follow one of five hundred links to computer geek forum.
21. Read ten pages of instructions for removing virus.
22. Break into flop sweat and consider making the Homemade Doggie Deodorant for yourself.
23. Mess around with your security apps and different buttons on your keyboard that have pictures on them.
24. Reinstall what you just uninstalled.
25. Get college kid on phone to walk you through “Restore”.
26. Celebrate restoring/fixing computer: chocolate and a cocktail.
27. Remember the Great Chocolate Purge of Wednesday.
28. Remember the 5 o’clock rule and take a tiny swig of booze.
29. Swig some more – according to that little clock you just discovered on your computer, it’s actually 5 o’clock in Chihuahua, LaPaz, and Mazatlán.
30. Wander around the house, into college kid’s room. Read his favorite childhood book.
31. Tidy up and discover college kid left behind all the notebooks/pens/checkbook/B&N giftcards/self addressed stamped stationery/white socks
32. Find Easter chocolate from 2012 hidden in back of socks drawer
33. Scarf it down, then briefly consider purging. Chicken out.
34. Collect all the garbage around the house as fast as you can (10 calories burned) then haul heavy garbage can out to curb (25 calories burned).
35. Haul it back – pickup is day after tomorrow (25 more calories burned – thank God).
36. Remember Katie’s show is about chronic procrastinators who can’t get anything done and decide to watch it for “characterization research”.
37. Multitask: Cook brown rice the old fashioned way on the stove while watching Katie.
38. Realize nothing’s thawed for dinner and dig out UFF (Unidentifiable Frozen Food)
39. Microwave it so it thaws; discover it’s fish that’s about the same age as the Easter egg from college kid’s socks drawer
40. Fish + Rice = boring healthy dinner. Google Cheese Sauce recipes.
41. Burn the sauce because you watched Dr. Phil and forgot to stir because you were too busy picking your own jaw up off the floor and wondering what the he** people were thinking.
42. Return to computer for writing after inspiration hits between the eyes.
43. Pour out 1,000 words.
44. Edit until they resemble nothing like the story you set out to write originally.
45. Think about outlining the plot.
46. Think some more.
47. Remember the blog you need to write.
48. Read past blogs and wonder what to write about: conferences, volunteering, characterization, Mardi Gras, fixing the computer virus, acronyms.
49. Write about how you came to procrastinate away a perfectly good day of writing.
50. Upload to blog and return to WIP.

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18 Hours to Home

It was a beautiful Monday – a bright and balmy 50*. The weatherman on my news station said there was a a possibility of a wintry mix, a dusting of snow from the monster storm to our west. But it was heading across the gulf coast to the south of us. I shrugged it off and planned for a ho-hum, run of the mill Tuesday.
That was my first mistake.
5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning my radio alarm went off with the news station’s weatherman saying, “We won’t know what’s going to happen until it happens. We’re watching this system closely, but it’s too close to call.” The tv weatherman announced a “wintry mix, a light dusting”. And the traffic patterns were green, and green means go, right? I poured coffee in my insulated mug and took off for the Y’s pool and aquaerobics.
Sometime around 10 a.m. another mermaid in the pool (we call ourselves mermaids ‘cos we can) announced “Look! Snow’s here!”

Nobody panicked; we didn’t think this “light dusting” of southern snow would stick. We continued with our cardio and those who were done for the day left the pool. I stayed another 90 minutes for laps and Tai Chi. And a shower. And I had to dry my hair – it’s cold outside!

When I left the Y, I could tell from the stormy sky and the flying snowflakes and the slow moving train of automobiles struggling up the slight incline that a) I needed to pay better attention to the weather and b) I had to get home asap and finally c) this was going to be s l o w. First I called my husband to get himself on that bus and git home!, and then I called a friend who had heard a different forecaster say this would be bad but went into work anyway.

Here in Atlanta when you’re talking about snow, it’s just like my radio weatherman said – you don’t know what will happen ’til it happens.

Well, this time it happened.

It took twenty minutes to make one block and turn left onto the highway – and I didn’t stop to wait for the green arrow. I made a snap decision to take a secondary road – a short cut through a neighborhood that could leave me stranded or get me closer to home faster.
I was lucky.
I managed to follow school buses and trucks with monster tires (thank you redneck neighbors) that cleared lanes on the snow covered asphalt. But my windshield wipers were icing up; every swipe smeared ice across the windshield.
I didn’t realize that I was driving on a sheet of ice covered with snow until it was almost too late.
The highways leading to my house vary from well traveled two lane throughways with turn lanes in the center, woods and ditches to each side, to commercial multi-laned highways (that had clogged with traffic by now). I crept up to the crest of one familiar road, peering through the clearer part of my windshield down to the parking lot of cars ahead.
They sat. As in, They. Didn’t. Move.
In either direction.
No doubt that line of cars contained parents picking up students from the middle school there. But not all – some of us were fighting the same streak of ice that had my rear tires fishtailing. I pulled my emergency brake, put my car in reverse, and pulled out of the ice onto the opposing lane.
I stalled out in the middle of the street.
Let me tell you, the sound of a spinning rear tire, the sideways slip and slide of my Kia, the image passing through my mind of tripping off the shoulder and falling assbackwards into a ditch, makes me sweat in freezing temperatures.
I admit it – I turned into a cussin’ and crying, panicky puddle. There’s no telling what I would have been had I not done Tai Chi an hour earlier.
And then I straightened up and urged my car off to the side.
My next effort on the main road produced the same result – ice patch, spinning wheels, slipping backwards, tears. A young man walked up from behind and approached my window. “You’re okay,” he said.
“No I’m not! I’m slipping backwards!” boohoohoohoo….
Honestly, this was my very first time driving in snow. Southern here. Cut me some slack.
Calm Guy walked around to take a look. “Naah. Y’got plenty of room.”
Another young man approached from out of nowhere and exchanged words with Calm Guy. Together they put shoulders against my Kia’s tail lights and pushed. My Angels.
Now I was on another sheet of ice, but I managed (read: gripped the steering wheel, pushed my body forward, and yes-I-admit-it-I-yelled-out-loud-to-my-car to MOVE!) a controlled slide this time, in the right direction to the intersection where I finally gained traction.
It took three different tries at three different routes to finally make it home. When I pulled into my garage I’d never seen a prettier mess.

The tv news showed one high schooler’s car sunken in slush after crashing into a fire hydrant, school buses in ditches, and streams of red tail lights on parked cars on all the interstates that criss cross Georgia. Tired teachers with four hundred children stranded in school gymnasiums overnight, panicked parents looking for their kids, frustrated truck drivers fussing about the lack of roadsalt.
All. Night. Long.

At four p.m. my husband got on his regular bus headed out of midtown Atlanta. (We call downtown “midtown” and midtown “Buckhead” here. That’s not necessary to the story but I thought you’d like to know.) Thank Jesus he has the motto of a Boy Scout ingrained in his mind – Be Prepared. He’d bought a bottle of water, a pack of crackers, and a blueberry muffin.
And another reason to thank God – a good friend sat next to him. Company.
We stayed in contact through the night – well, until he told me at 2:58 a.m to quit texting so he could sleep.
Now I’ve learned he was really out of the bus to take a pee break. Hey, human stuff – You spend the night on a public transit bus, you get real human.
It was 7 a.m. when the bus driver managed to move the wheels forward again. Semis and tractor trailers ahead had fishtailed earlier, forcing authorities to close exit lanes. Cars were abandoned in the center lanes with engines running, as if their drivers had been raptured.
They were really walking to the nearest gas station for warmth and water and a restroom. Not necessarily in that order.
I’d like to thank the skilled bus driver for keeping his wits under eighteen hours of pressure, keeping his passengers safe and calm, and taking a back road to skip over an iced interstate bridge that could have left them still in the bus and on I20 with half a bottle of water and a smushed blueberry muffin.
Hungry, thirsty, and buttnumb.
For my husband to get home it took a total of eighteen hours – including an hour for a normally fifteen minute trip home from the park n’ ride. He had to park at the top of our hill to avoid an abandoned car that was snuggled up to a fire hydrant and walk the rest of the way home.
I met him on the sidewalk, halfway to our house. I took hold of his tired face and kissed him, held his hand, and together we walked through the snow.
Home.

Back to Normal?

It’s a New Normal at Maison Mason.
The boys are back at school, the schedule is back to what it was before the holidays threw up a sackful of glitter and tinsel in my house.
(For some more on how good it feels to see my baseboards again, see my short essay at The Southern C: (The Southern C. )

Some weekend reading for the next time you flirt with stepping on the scale and touching up those roots — Kristen Lamb’s got a couple of blogs on “Refusing to be homogenized”( ) in a world of matchstick jeans and refusing to listen to the online bullies who review (?) fiction. Fill up your inspiration and encouragement well.

And now, in the interest of following one of BlogHer’s predictions for 2014, I shall follow one of their points and keep this brief.

This mermaid’s gotta get back to the pool and back to her fiction.

What are you doing this weekend to reset to a new normal?

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The List

I, for one, am ALL TOO HAPPY to leave 2013 behind. It was a sad year, a bad year (well, parts of it were good), and I didn’t complete anything on The List.

Bet you’ve got The List too.
Come on… even if you don’t have one written down titled “Resolutions” or “To Do”, you’ve still got one running through your head. Every December and August (well, it used to be September, but now that school boards have kids going to school year round with week long vacations interspersed throughout the year, like September and February, summer is a mere dot on Universe Vacay) The List rears its messy, guiltridden, unorganized and impossible head.

Late at night when the house is quiet and dark The List climbs out from under my bed where Insomnia throws parties and shouts at me. “What did you DO today? And Facebook doesn’t count! Nor does clicking on links or reading other peoples’ work! What was your wordcount? How many pages did you fill? And did you manage to buy groceries/do laundry/swim a mile/meditate?”

More monsters – Guilt, Anxiety and Overwhelmed – join in, and before I know it, there’s a Ruckus in my room.

The only way to restore peace is to forgive myself and promise to start all over again in the morning. But today I’ll go one step further, in the interest of being a helpful sort.
I’m identifying a Plan for The List.

1. No more smartphone first thing in the morning. Invariably I check email, check Facebook, check Twitter… and then I’m late for everything else all day long.
2. Daily morning exercise. I belong to the Y, where I swim, take aquaerobics and cycling classes, and walk. Chlorine and sweat make me see clearly.
3. Daily pages. Here. There. Everywhere.
4. Offload some of these ideas onto index cards when a thought, idea, or concept strikes to catch the inspiration, or a web address is mentioned on television or a magazine. (If anybody knows where to find the post with this plan please post in the comments. I’ve already lost too much precious time researching my browsing history and then Facebook to find it, so this is not original, but I can’t cite the source).
5. I’m brillant with characterization and motivation. It’s the conflict that plugs up my creativity. So now I’m going to dig deep and become vulnerable to mine my scars for pain. And if I feel embarrassed about sharing with the world, I’ll think of Bryan Cranston in his tightie-whities on Breaking Bad. Thank you Mr. Cranston, for inspiring me to be courageous.

What is on your List? Is the Ruckus happening for you too? Ready to quiet it down?
Offload your thoughts and ideas here.
We can hold each other accountable. August is only two hundred one days away.

Reinventing … Again?

I learned how to reinvent myself early in life. When we moved from New Orleans to  her drier, Baptist, more genteel sister city Mobile , I was shocked to see girls in high school wearing pony tails!

With ribbons!

And the southern y’all was drawled out much more than my N’Awlins’ yaw’ll pronunciation.

I saw how different I was – not a good thing in ninth grade – and adapted. By the end of high school I was slimmer and had grown out my boy cut. I have a drawer full of grosgrain ribbons I saved for my own daughters, who turned out to be sons. Fingers are crossed for granddaughters in the far – very far – future.

But adapting and reinventing myself didn’t bring automatic acceptance. I was always “Pam – y’know, that girl from New Orleans…?”               no matter how much drawl I put into my y’all.

After several attempts throughout my life to fit in – pseudo-preppie in college (I really was too artsy for that), glamorous working wife morphing into  business owner raising two babies (is the Enjoli jingle in your head now?), harried working grad school student – I’ve come to a place post 50 where I’m able to discern the difference between adapting myself to be something I’m NOT…

versus reinventing myself to be WHO I TRULY AM.

Instead of trying to be something I’m not, or taking the word “REinvention” to mean transforming into something so new as to be unrecognizable, my meaning of reinvention is to enhance what makes me… ME. (And you…YOU.)                                         Find your passion… make your work your play… make your comeback… start living your life the way you wanted to live it in the first place…  BE YOURSELF!

Of course this comes hand in hand with fear. Because… What if my friends all up and leave me? What if I don’t make new friends? WHAT IF NO ONE LIKES THIS NEW, REAL, REINVENTED ME?

In My Case funnily enough,  new friends – face to face and online  friends whom I’ve yet to meet  - all ‘get’ me. Reinvented Me is more ME than those ‘Me’s ‘ I tried to invent myself into being just to … fit in.

I don’t have to “fit” anymore.

I hope you give your own Reinvention a whirl.

More takes on Reinvention are on Generation Fabulous’  bloghop. Take a look!

And come see me on The Southern C – Southern recipes, travel, and southern cuisine: How Does Your Y’all Drawl?

http://www.thesouthernc.com/profiles/blogs/how-does-your-y-all-drawl?xg_source=activity

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Two More Days…

There’s a song by Burt Bacharach that’s run through my head every day this summer – my constant earworm. And lately it’s been getting louder and louder as I close in to Operation Empty Nest:

 One less man to pick up after… I should be happy. But all I do is cry.

— One Less Bell to Answer

Well, I shout and whoop for joy sometimes too, like when I realize I’ll be able to walk around in my jammies without having to mummify myself in the fluffer-robe…,

If only I looked so cute

If only I looked so cute

but mostly I sniffle and choke down the lump in my throat.

Two more days, and Wings moves into his apartment style dorm. Four guys with their own bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and living area and – YES! – their own washer/dryer (which I’m sure will be the tiny model that fits one pair of man-sized jeans , but hey… it’s one pair of clean jeans, right?

Wings has been collecting my cast off kitchen things: the yellow strainer that’s too small for a 3man-sized spaghetti dinner , that plastic set of tongs that somebody used in a hot fondue pot (don’t ask) so the fork prongs melted, the skillet with the mystery – food tattoo that nobody knows how it got there.

This might be the source of the food tatoo

This might be the source of the food tattoo – roasted tomatoes

 

And while I’m happy with the extra space his pilfering has brought me, all of those things – and everything that’s left – carry with them memories of endless pots of spaghetti when I went to grad school at night or odd casseroles that used up the leftover bites of this and that in the fridge (because thanks to my Depression era parents it’s a sin to throw food away). Outside of his room at the end of the hall is his pile – more like a tower – of groceries, linens,  pilfered kitchen items and beginner plastic furnishings.

When we first moved into this house our kitchen dining set was our plastic patio table and  lawn chairs. A fun adventure for 6 and 3 year olds, a money saver for cash poor new homeowners.

I guess that stuck with Wings.

Photo by AJC Staff Photographer, John Spink: © Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Photo by AJC Staff Photographer, John Spink: © Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Sometimes I wish I were a panda mama like Lun Lun at Zoo Atlanta. Because if I were a panda mama I’d have no problem with letting go I think. I wouldn’t have these crazy memory attachments on pots and tongs and plastic furniture. I’d be okay with letting my panda cub go off into the wilderness to forage and survive without advice on how to not to overstuff the washing machine and avoid flooding the apartment.

But then I wouldn’t have those crazy memories to hang onto for myself, would I?

I wonder… Do panda mamas recognize their offspring after they’re full grown and off into their independent lives?   I hope so, if only to give them something to look forward to, like weekend visits and (ohgodplease!) phone calls.

More importantly, do panda sons… I mean, cubs … recognize their mamas after they’re grown and come of drinking age and discovered girls… and girls have discovered them back?  At least at times other than the holidays and Mother’s Day and shopping trips to stock up on wine and Limearitas?

I have a good support network of women who have done this before me, and goodness knows it’s time for this cub to go. So I’ll wear my big Hollywood sunglasses to hide my tears and hug him tight and enjoy my memories and more spacious kitchen.

Until the next day, when Fins leaves for his dorm.

 

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Here’s to the next 31

31 years

In 31 years we’ve raised 2 sons, loved and lost our mothers …. We’ve had 6 homes, 12 cars, 15 bikes, 1 motorcycle and 7 pets (not all at the same time). We’ve gone through soccer, baseball, cub scouts, boy scouts, JROTC, marching band and grad school … 18 camping trips and 22 vacations… 18 jobs, 10 computers, and 5 careers. We’ve had the flu together twice (let’s not do that again).
If I could, I would tell my 21yo bride self to run – don’t walk – down that aisle.
I can’t wait to see what the next 31 years will bring.

The night before we got married the heavens opened and the rain poured.  I had to walk on plywood laid on the ground to get from the house to the waiting limousine, with my bridesmaids holding my dress up all around me. I was so nervous walking down the aisle I almost tripped, and my daddy cried when we got to the altar.

My flowers had been cut fresh that morning from a lady’s garden, and arranged in borrowed silver champagne coolers. A friend’s uncle took photos and a neighbor lady baked our wedding cake in her kitchen. Our architectural history professor who was also my good friend’s father read from Corinthians. Our priest happened to have grown up with my father in New Orleans. And my sister-in-law’s sister sang the most beautiful Ave Maria in her classically trained alto voice that I have ever heard.

At the reception, Jeff’s boss’s wife let us use all of her silver, china and crystal, and cooked delicious food, all while dressed in heels and pearls. My parents danced to the jazz quartet we’d hired in the front room, and my friends danced – less conservatively – in the back,, near the food. And then I changed out of the veil and lace and left with my new husband.

A new dress, a new name, a new life. The beginning of us.

It doesn’t escape me that it all sounds so old fashioned compared to weddings that happen today. I gasp at Say Yes to the Dress and Bridezillas and Rate My Wedding on TLC. We spent less on our whole wedding than those brides spend on their dress, and it was just as beautiful. It was an uncomplicated ceremony and party with friends and family. And it was paid for in cash, so we didn’t start out with debt hanging over our heads. I hadn’t graduated college yet, and Jeff was working his first job. But we scraped and saved our pennies and we used hole punchers to make confetti from colored tissue paper (!), we stuffed our own favor bags and we scoured the city for people who baked cakes in their home kitchens and arranged bridal bouquets in their living rooms and took wedding photos as a home business.

And maybe it was all still beautiful because everyone we hired gave of themselves from a place in their hearts. Maybe they saw a couple in love who didn’t have much money but wanted the best they could afford and would be proud to share. Because people have goodness, and sincerely want to give their best to others. Because it’s a nice thing to give young people as good a start in life as possible.

It also doesn’t escape me that I have a fairy tale for my story. I have friends who are scarred from divorce, illness, and death. I can feel the ache of loneliness and helplessness, their tiredness from overwork. If anything, social media has given us all an outlet to reach out and share our pain as well as our triumphs … and it’s taken away our excuses to ignore their hurt.

We got lucky. It’s not the Powerball — it’s better than that. It is solid and blessed.

Tonight, I hope you eat cake or buy yourself some flowers …  wear something new or do something that makes you feel pretty. You are special.

Thank you for helping us celebrate our day.

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How Do You Jump Into the Pool?

Okay… if you know me, you know that my whole life is wrapped up in my family.

I left home at the ripe ol’ age of 17 – accelerated high school and went to college three hours away from my parents and got a job (actually two) and got married and a degree. A little out of order but it worked for me. There was no turning back once we said “I do”  — gasp! — thirty-one years ago. And I couldn’t be happier.                  (Well, okay I could be happier with a big house on an island and a bicycle to ride everywhere, but everything brings along its own set of problems doesn’t it? So yeah, I could be happier but then… I couldn’t. You know what I mean.)

And then we had our family, but there are all kinds of families — the family you’re born into, the one you raise, and finally the family you choose to adopt into, identify yourself with. Kinda like taking on a new last name or dyeing your hair a completely different color, or losing weight and going down a whole size and trying on clothes you’d never considered for yourself before….

Yeah, that hasn’t happened for me in a long time either. Anyway…

Wings — my older son whose head is in the clouds — and Fins — my younger, very serious, scuba diver son — are packing up to move to their dorms. Operation Empty Nest happens in two weeks. And OMyGoodness TWO WEEKS FROM FRIDAY I WILL HAVE AN EMPTY NEST ! At least until the holidays. I think.

I have been assured that this will be a good phase for me by my adopted sisters in several of my different adoptive families. What I’ll need for this new phase include wine, chocolate, and options to explore, combined with an exercise plan and a support network to combat the effects of alcohol and chocolate on my menopausal metabolism.

Now, about the wine. I am not a Pinterest Foodie and neither am I a Wine Expert. If it’s in a wine-type container – bottle, communion chalice or cardbordeaux – it’s all fine with me. I plan to try out some recipes for sangria and granita — a summer ago I ripped a watermelon-wine granita recipe out of an old O magazine. And since that magazine was from the dentist’s office I guess I owe them a Sangria-Granita party. Maybe with a piñata filled with chocolate.

My latest exercise fixation is an aqua aerobics class at a public pool. My knees can’t take the pounding from running anymore and I’d like to walk as long as possible in my old age and also if I ever go on another cruise I want to be able to swim like Shelley Winters did in the Poseidon Adventure. Just in case.

I’ve noticed that everybody’s got their own ‘jump-into-the-pool’ style. Those of advanced age with weightier bodies and stiffer joints, too much food or too much pain from illness and injuries tend to take the stairs and tentatively walk from the shallow end to the deeper end. They stay where it’s comfortable, keeping their head and shoulders dry. Those who are more athletic and more confident of their bodies’ abilities step right into the water at the deeper end, unafraid of going under or hitting bottom, sure they’ll bounce right back up like a buoy.

Children jump. Willy-nilly, full-in, with or without arms to jump into. And then they laugh (usually). Trusting that they’ll surface… that the water will be a friend.

Is the difference from knowing how much there is to lose? Do the athletes feel more comfortable in a physical situation because they have more confidence in themselves and their bodies? Do we shy away from immersing ourselves into what’s unknown or uncomfortable because we’re afraid we won’t surface? Are we afraid no one will catch us when we fall?

I  am a hopper — I sit on the edge and put in my feet and then hop in somewhere between shallow and deep, immersing only half of myself, keeping my head dry until class begins. And then I get totally wet, but only after testing the bottom, testing my support system, testing myself.

I’m ready to step into the deep end of the pool now.

What’s your next phase? Your jump-in-the-pool style? Do you trust yourself? Or do you trust the water will be a friend, buoying you back up?

Or do you have family, people who will help you surface if you hit bottom?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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To Wings for your Commencement Exercises

Dear Son,

You are much too grown up for your own age.

Here I am at fifty-two, seeking ways to make my work the same as play and to make every day a holiday. My knees hurt, my baby fat simply won’t budge no matter how many laps I swim, and all the peroxide in the county won’t cover the silver at my temples. I blame it on my genes.

I suspect you will too, sometime in the next forty years.

Last week you graduated from high school. You already have a good peek into your future: first paycheck, first car, first love, first time living away from home. Not all  firsts are so exciting and happy. You’ll have your first tax return, first flat tire, first heartbreak. We won’t talk about last week’s spider incident, but that should teach you to keep the apartment clean, or else you’ll have another not-so-nice first.

I know… I’m raining on my own holiday.

But I can’t stop the rain, and I can’t stop you from living your life and growing away from me.

I have more life lessons for you, like don’t overload a washing machine or use dish soap in the dishwasher, and do always wear clean underwear. Stand up for yourself and be loyal to your friends but don’t be a doormat. Study hard and get your sleep during the week. Party on the weekends — but be smart and keep it legal.

It all boils down to those four words I say to you and your brother every so often:

Don’t do anything stupid.

We’ll be four hours apart, but for me it may as well be four lifetimes. I know you’re not one to boomerang. Next summer if I’m lucky you’ll come home for a few weeks’ summer break, and maybe we’ll be us again — but you’ll be visiting, careful to not make promises you won’t be able to keep about visits and holidays and calling more often. (Okay-Okay! I’ll figure out Skype!)

Somehow I knew the first time I held you against my shoulder and you held your head up by yourself that you were independent and I wouldn’t get to hold onto you for long. Less than an hour after you were born, and I could tell you were already an old soul. Stubborn. Able to stand alone and apart from your peers. Your own person.

And oh how you prove it — you with your bowtie and suspenders style. You’ve started a fashion trend among the freshmen, breaking out of the saggy pants crowd.

More advice you don’t want: never assume. Always be honest and grow a thick skin. Speak up and keep your head down and work hard. Have the integrity your Dad and I have worked hard to instill in you. Don’t forget that there are cameras everywhere, so again—

Don’t do anything stupid.

You’ll do well if you remember everything we’ve taught you. You’ll do fine if you forget. By now you’ve figured out that your parents are not superheroes; just ordinary people who try always to do our best. Now it’s your turn.

Do YOUR best.

I have faith in you.

Love,

Mom

Aside

How to Stay Out of the Temple of

How to Stay Out of the Temple of Padded Walls and Win the Writing Game

There is something magical about a quiet morning, a full cup of coffee, a computer and T I M E –

Time to explore and to finally look at instructions.

That’s what I did one morning, tooling around Windows 8 and discovering for the first time –

Microsoft Blogs!

Voila! Wonderful instructions, one lesson at a time, one application at a time. Word. Excel. OneNote.

Now, maybe you’re the kind who reads directions on the back of the game box and goes forth confidently into Microsoft Candy Land, but I am not. I’m the kind who sets up the board, dumps out all the pieces, throws the dice and lands on “Go directly to  Padded Cell”. I jump in with both feet, start to write… and write… and copy/paste into a new document… and loses her words because she didn’t press save… and writes some more… renames the file… adds to the file….

Totally unorganized. I’m lucky to find my files and last night’s doc.

Well, maybe not that bad – if I were any worse though, I’d never get anything done.

Anyway, here’s the link for Word’s blog, which offers up spiffy webinar videos on things like:

Setting Margins in Word, Tricks from Word Expert [and Editor] Hilary Powers (author of Making Word Work for You, a handbook for Editors), Change the Footnote and Endnote Separator (Oemgee I think this one will be a lifechanger for us!) and more.

Maybe it sounds silly and trivial and gee whiz Pamela what are you doing reading tech’y blogs again when you’re in the middle of writing your great American novel?

But you know what…?

If you’ve ever been on Facebook in the middle of  procrastinating and another writer posts a frantic SOS to tell them how to delete a page break line that’s sitting right in the middle of a  contest entry or query or requested submission and minutes are ticking down out loud and way too fast… you’ll understand. And now you can be a hero and point them to this post.

Oh okay… bookmark the Word blog instead and point them to that and be a hero. Just don’t forget where you got your green lantern. If I say it a third time it’s a “Pay Pamela $200 in 10s and 20s kind of thing. Heh…I used the control K shortcut to do that.

Tomorrow: Lessons from the App side – OR – What the heck is a third party app on Facebook and why do I need one?