Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rust and Duct Tape

Before I get going on rust and duct tape (and no, this is not a how-to repair your beat-up '67 Chevy), I have to share the darned good news.

No, no word from the editor. Not that good.

But, as I lamented back in Housekeeping!, I needed someone who speaks Lakota and has an Internet connection. And lo, the clouds have parted, the ray of light has shined down, and Jan Ullrich at the Lakota Language Consortium has agreed to translate my dialogue!

So, let me just say a big ol' THANKS to Jan and the entire LLC for all their hard work and friendly helpfulness! I am going to sleep a whole lot better tonight knowing that I won't be honking off a whole tribe of Lakotas for brutalizing their language. And feel free to check out the link to their site and share the love. They're busy people trying to preserve a language. All help is appreciated!

Now, onto rust and duct tape. I don't generally like to talk about real personal stuff, like my health, on this blog because (a) once I get going, I get whiny and (b) no one else cares, unless you're a medical professional being paid to at least pretend you care or you're my mother (Hi, Mom!).

I tell the myriad of medical professionals in my life that I'm being held together by rust and duct tape. They laugh - it's a little funny - and give me that look that says, You aren't old enough to be held together by duct tape.

Then the litany of pounding aches, nagging pains, and problems we won't even go into because some people read this during lunch begins. Maybe I'm a little bit of a hypochondriac, but that doesn't mean there's nothing wrong with me.

Hmmm, they all say, their brows furrowed. Hmmm.

The medical history part usually takes about 45 minutes - starting with the fractured knees in middle school, dancing up to the difficult pregnancy, and then finishing off with what's wrong NOW - leaving no time to actually try to fix anything. Relief deferred, again. And when we're done, they almost always go, Well. (scratch head). Hmmm.

I like to challenge my medical professionals. I'm sure they get tired of the same old, same old. I like to make them reach way back in their medical training while sending them scurrying to the Internet to look up the latest treatments not yet available in my area.

You don't even want to know.

And those lovely medical professionals give it their best shot. Susan, Ruth, Theresa - everyone has a different answer - strengthen this group of muscles, try prolotherapy on those joints, have surgery on that knee, do more stretches (HA! I can't even touch my shins, more or less my toes!), that sort of thing.

And you know what happens?

Something gets better. I have a 12 mm lift on my right shoe now. (I'm on a first name basis with the local cobbler these days.) (and don't get me started on how unsexy it is to have a half-inch heel on a running shoe. Don't.) And that helped my hips.

But for everything that gets better, something else gets worse. My hips leveled out - and the change in posture threw my upper back and neck into paralysis. Plus, the lifts change how I walk in my shoes. Blisters, anyone? (See? I told you. I get whiny.)

I had physical therapy on Tuesday and a dr. appointment. Today, Thursday? PT and two dr. appointments. My life, on health insurance. (And yes, I give thanks for having it. Every damn day.)

This all leads me to a series of inescapable conclusions.

1. I will never be what I once was. I could be better, but it will be a different better. Not the same. Get used to that fact, because it leads directly to:

2. I am getting old. This is just the beginning.

and 3. It beats the hell out of the alternative. Every morning I pick my toddler up and carry him downstairs is a morning I didn't have yesterday. So what if it cricks my back? That 45 seconds of sleepy toddler love is worth it, because those days are short.

Some days are bad. Some days I hurt enough to sit and cry. But that's still a day where my toddler ran to hug me when I picked him up at daycare. That's still a day my hubby kissed me goodbye and said I love you when I drove him to work.

Some days, that's all you need. Hugs, kisses, and another roll of duct tape.

I buy in bulk.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nothing Beats New Crayons

Oh, I love the smell of new, untouched crayons. Remember the pure pleasure of something brand new, just for you?

You may have guessed, but I was one of those kids who mostly LIKED going back to school. Not always, but mostly. And the best part was the new school supplies. If you read the Frugal? Or Cheap? post, you probably figured out that I didn't always get the newest, trendiest school clothes every August. (Which, in hindsight, was just as well. Being in the height of fashion back in 1987 was quite a travesty of style. Frugalness saved me from some of the worst.)

But school supplies? Brand new pencils? Mead Trapper Keepers that no one else had ever trapped anything in? Oh, those folders with the built in three-ring brass thingies (guaranteed to shred your paper, if you bothered to try and use them?) I loved them all.

Even today, my hubby has to restrain me when the back-to-school flyers start hitting just after Memorial Day (seriously, it's earlier every year). It can be a little touch and go - now, I have my own credit card and car. He'd never know - at least, not until the bills came due.

This year has been hard, because I've been setting up my own little Virgina-Woolf-room-of-my-own office for months. I can actually justify the trip to Staples by saying, "I need more paper - that last book was 635 pages!"

Now, honestly, I do not need a new ruler/protractor/compass combo, no matter how cute they are in new designer colors. Hell, I never needed them in school, but I got them every year anyway. And I want them now.

Blissfully, I have gotten a little help out in this. The toddler is in a new classroom, the three-year-old room - love the teachers, and they sent home a school supply list.

God bless those daycare ladies - a reason to go school supply shopping!

I bought poster paints and tape, pencils and scissors, markers and crayons. The toddler could have cared less, until we got to the crayons. Then his little eyes lit up, and he wanted multiple boxes. And heck, they were only 20 cents, so I bought four.

He colored with his aunts. He colored at the restaurant. He colors before story time. And now, he's not even peeling the wrappers off like he did last year. When I broke one (on accident, people!), he told me the other crayons were sad.

Maybe by next year, I can show him how to color evenly on all sides to keep them pointy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Yes, that is what I'm doing today. The House of Clampitt, aka my sister Hannah and her hubby Steve, are coming to town this weekend, and my house is one step away from being a FEMA joke punchline. Break out the vacuum!

I've got some authorial housecleaning to do as well. Odd and ends that need tied, cleaning up, that sort of thing.

So for starters, I'd like to call everyone's attention to the fact that Courtney Milan has moved from the Gonna Make It! section of author listings to the Authors You Should Read section, because yesterday, the lovely Ms. Milan signed a two book contract with Harlequin. So, I figure if everyone starts saving a dollar a week now, by the time her first novel, Proof By Seduction, comes out in Fall 2009, we'll be able to buy enough books to put her on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Next on the tidying list: The Best They Could - or what used to be the second novel of the Emerson series. When two readers who've never met and probably don't even know the other exists (Hi, Leah and Don!) point out the exact same flaws with my heroine, you know it's time to scrub up and dive in. So I've broken the novel into two (again - I tried making it one to preserve a traditional Happily Ever After ending, but it just doesn't work. If Janet Evanovich can have a non-traditional HEA, so can I!)

My problem is that the second half - post-Vietnam war - is still The Best They Could. But the first half? No IDEA what the title should be. I am taking suggestions NOW. Brief Plot Synopsis: Lily Emerson leaves the family farm to become a nurse and meets Bobby Hofstetter. He's perfect for her, but Lily's violent ex makes things difficult. Once he's mysteriously dispatched, Lily and Bobby grow closer. When she accidentally gets pregnant, they get married, but she loses the baby (Did I mention my stuff can be dark?). Bobby's love saves her, and it seems like they'll get that happily ever after - until the epilogue, when Lily tells her mother she's joining Bobby in Vietnam (cue segue into the next novel).

What the heck am I going to call this thing?

This is the 12th time I've rewritten the opening. I am TIRED of rewriting this book. It's got such potential to be a real powerhouse, and once it gets going, it goes pretty smoothly. But openings are one of my big weaknesses, and this one is pushing me to the edge. Everyone - Mary, my co-worker, my sister Leah, my mom, and ESPECIALLY my hubby - is sick unto DEATH of hearing about these people. I need to finish and move on. Unless, of course, any lovely agents or editors want to talk edits. In that case, I'll happily get cracking on new rewrites with a smile on my face.

Next on the to-do list: Does anyone out there speak Lakota? Know someone who speaks Lakota with a computer? I need some translation, and I've received no replies to the emails I've sent. A Part of Her is essentially done, except for the translation, and I need to make sure I get it right. I lived in Columbus, Ohio, for two years (Trust me, this fits). Columbus is ground zero for Native American Indian protests of Columbus Day (something about the 25 ft. bronze statue of Columbus in front of City Hall, frequently with a replica of one of his ships docked 75 ft away on the river, makes for good protesting P.R.). I have seen angry Native Americans in person. I do not want Native Americans to be angry at me. So, if ANYONE can help out here, much obliged.

Finally, I'm going to the Fall Harvest Workshop on Sept. 27th in Bloomington, Minn. Now this is going to be something close to a family thing (Hubby and toddler will spend the day at the Mall of America whilst I attempt to schmooze with Donald Maass without sticking my foot in my mouth), so I can't offer to share rooms or anything, but is anyone else going? I get less worked up when I know there'll be a familiar face in the crowd. And I'm already getting nervous about what to wear. But I'm going shopping next week in St. Louis. I may buy a suit. Or not.

Well, I can't put off scrubbing bathroom fixtures much longer. Sometimes, though, it's good to clean house. Perhaps I'll leave myself a mint on my pillow.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Frugal? Or Cheap?

I rarely buy books. And I'm sure it's killing my publishing karma.

I come from good, frugal German stock. Which is another way of saying "cheap" in polite company. I love thrift stores. The only time the toddler gets new clothes is when doting grandmothers buy them for him. And being that my own weight tends to fluctuate so widely, I rarely see the point of buying something expensive if I'm going to gain or lose enough to render it useless by the next season. Plus, I'm a klutz at heart - a problem exacerbated by raising a son - how many tops have been tossed with stains in the last three years? Therefore, I have a cheap disposable wardrobe. (Aside: This drives my hubby nuts. Absolutely nuts. But then, he's been within five pounds of the same weight for about 15 or 20 years now.)

This carries over to books. I have a perfectly good library I support with my taxes - why should I spend money on books when the library has more than I'll ever need? And children's books? Oh, have you seen the barely touched books at yard sales? Given that the toddler invariably destroys them by reading them while playing trucks in the mud (yes, a bookworm in the making, but still a boy), what's the point of plunking down hard-earned money? As Jack Johnson sings, "Reduce, reuse, recycle."

But now, in this new incarnation, I'm at a moral crisis. Why would anyone open their wallets for my books (when they get here, God willing) if I won't do the same? My mother-in-law (lovely woman) will walk into Sam's Club and walk out with three or four books that sounded good to her, just because she was there (yes, the ideal buyer). I had to suck it up to buy Saadia Ali Aschermann's lavish Lines/luscious Lines, even thought I a) love Saadia and b) love her poetry!

So I'm trying to look at this from my hubby's point of view. Buying books is like buying well made clothing. It's an investment - whether you look at it as a karmic investment or from his accounting point of view. If it's something - the next book from Rebecca M. Hale or a really great pair of shoes THAT FITS - that I will read or use over and over, then the cost is amortized (hope I got that right) and it winds up evening out in the long run. (At least, this is how the hubby justifies his extravagances - although he still hasn't talked me into that new TV yet . . . .)

So I'm trying a compromise. I'll probably break down and buy How to Knit a Wild Bikini from Christine Ridgway because I've really enjoyed her chick lit romances (even though everyone who knows me finds that hard to believe). And I'll get Saadia's and Rebecca's next books when they come out (in Sept. and next year, respectively). I like these authors. I like their writing. It's not bad to spend a little money on stuff I like.

For other books - that Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer - I know that I'm never going to read it again. I want to know what happens, but not enough to justify buying all four books. So I requested it at the library. The end result is that an author still sells a book, and potentially builds a bigger reading audience. This works for things I'm just checking out - Blythe Gifford's historicals are on my request list as well. I don't know if I want to own them, but I do want to read them.

And that's all I can ask of other people. Buy it if you like it. Request it at the library if you aren't sure. And tell your friends what you think.