Baseball Junkies Anonymous

This is my Baseball Weekend.  It happens once in a while.  We’re going to the Marlins/Phillies game tonight (Hall of Fame Club seats rock!) and again tomorrow in our usual Sunday Season Ticket package seats (section 433, row 1).  I’d even be at the batting cage right now if it weren’t storming outside.  In “Release Point”, Paul can’t stand rain.  The sound of it makes him feel like someone’s tied his hands behind his back because when it’s raining, he can’t play.  Toward the end of the story, Paul and Grace walk through the rain together, hand in hand.  That’s when he’s made his transformation, when he realizes he can have a life outside of baseball.  That’s also when he figures out who set him up, and he gets offered another chance to play, only it means leaving Grace behind in Atlantic City.  At that point, what means more to him, baseball or the love he’s found with Grace? 

Me, I’m a baseball nut.  I love most sports, but baseball’s my game.  I don’t miss a Phillies game if I can help it.  (Twenty-four hours after I shook his hand, Chris Coste knocked in a 3-run homer that tied the game last night.  Coincidence?)  Some day when/if I retire, I’m going to get an RV and go to every major league ballpark in the country (and Canada, because we can’t count out the Blue Jays), and maybe some minor league parks too.  We’d be going to see the Dodgers AAA team in Vegas this August if they were playing at home when we’re there.  Alas, I’ll just have to settle for driving the Richard Petty Experience instead.  🙂 

But right now it’s raining outside so I can’t go hit a few and de-stress myself.  Not that I’m stressed.  I’m working on a new MS, rewriting another one, listening to Garth Brooks, and tonight when the ump says “Play ball!”, I go perfectly zen.  That is, unless it’s raining. 

A Thousand Words

If my usual posts are 400 – 600 words and a picture is worth a thousand words, grab a cup of coffee and sit back.  This may take a while.  🙂 

The turnout amazed Steve.  When I got there at 7, the line was already through the store, out the back, and snaking to the sidewalk.  I guess he underestimated the dedication of Phillies’ fans.  🙂  I told him about the Phestival (this July); it’s definitely an experience. 

Chris was REALLY nice, and I gave him my autism button (“Be patient with me now, and I’ll be kind to you when I write my book”).  I didn’t get to thank him properly for introducing me to Steve, but I’ll save that for July and the Phestival.  As it is, I had SUCH a great time.  Steve kept me company on line so that I barely noticed I was waiting.  My autographed copy of “The 33 Year Old Rookie” is on my shelf of treasured signed books, along with Cal Ripken Jr. and Jenny Crusie/Bob Mayer. 

I came home happy beyond words because in addition to the above, I was still trying to think of the song Kara asks to be her at-bat song, and then Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” came on my iPod.  My story now has a title, and very likely, a theme.  What a great night it was! 

Tomorrow…

“By this time tomorrow…”  Whenever I’m nervous about something BIG coming up, I tell myself that at this time tomorrow, I’ll be (whatever or wherever), because by then the event will be over and I won’t be nervous anymore because whatever it is has already happened.  When vacation is coming, I’ll tell myself, “This time next week, I’ll be on the beach.”  Most days, anywhere but at the office is a good place to be.  🙂

This time tomorrow, I will have met Chris Coste and my agent, Steve Harris.  I’m going to Chris’ booksigning tonight in Doylestown.  I confess, I still see ball players as celebrities, even though last year I had my picture taken with Pat Burrell at the Phillies Phestival, and I found out first hand that he’s as human as the rest of us (and also really nice!  He showed me how to flip bottle caps.  I’m no dummy; I brought 3 with me).  I finished reading Chris’ book, and he’s really very intelligent and witty; the kind of guy who’d be great to hang out with and talk to.  So why do I keep getting palpitations when I imagine myself walking up to his table in the book store and shaking his hand and saying, “Thank you for introducing me to your literary agent.  These past two months have been the best time of my life”?  It makes me look forward to this time tomorrow, when I won’t be nervous anymore because it will have already happened, and hopefully I’ll have a photo to show for it.  (If he doesn’t mind.) 

But the fun isn’t in the destination, it’s in the journey, and I’m excited to meet Chris and to get to meet Steve face to face.  I have nothing to be scared about.  I don’t have BO and I’ve never put my shoes on backwards.  Okay, so I talk 90 wpm, but I’m learning to slow that down.  It’ll be fine.  There won’t be any awkward silences because I’m very certain both Chris and Steve have some very interesting things to say.  (If I only get to talk to Chris for 30 seconds before he signs the next person’s book, I better get in my Thank You as fast as I can.)  What am I afraid of?

I’ll tell you how it goes tomorrow.  (Ooh!  I’ve always wanted to write a cliffhanger!)  🙂

Something New

After looking at that title, I wonder if I’m channeling Monty Python.  I’m tempted to write, “And now for something different.  A man with two noses.”  I can even hear the carnival-type music playing in the background somewhere.  (Quick side note.  At my brother’s high school graduation, the exit music was the theme from Monty Python, which I know has an actual name; I just don’t recall what it is.  When the time came to toss caps, my brilliant brother, whom I love dearly, kept his cap in hand and tossed his diploma instead.  One of my favorite memories.) 

I gave myself a June 1 deadline to get Release Point finished, tightened and ready to go, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss it unless the world gives me four more days to just sit in front of the computer and focus on it.  Since that’s not going to happen, I’m extending my deadline to June 10th so I can have the first chapters ready for the NJRW contest, Put Your Heart in a Book.  Since I co-coordinated the VFRW Sheila this year with Robin Kaye, I technically wasn’t eligible to compete, even though it’s one of the best contests in all of RWA.  Something about possible bias and conflict of interest.  Rats.  Anyway, PYHIAB is the next best thing, and I’m not looking to win (even though it would rock), I need feedback.  This story hasn’t seen the light of day since the Gather.com contest. 

The problem is, somewhere between finishing up “Listen to Your Heart” and starting the rewrites on Release Point, I started getting a new idea about what it would be like to be the first woman to ever break through the glass ceiling in Major League Baseball.  Of course, I don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime, but hey, I’m a fiction writer; I can imagine anything I want.  Yesterday, just because I didn’t feel like rewriting RP at the moment, I gave in and scratched out the first scene.  Followed by the second, and the third.  Six thousand words later, I’m in love with the characters already.  Kara has a moxie all her own, crafted by her father who lived for baseball and only had one child, a girl.  He passed his love of the game down to her, and she carries it like a torch from there.  Baseball is her life, almost to the exclusion of everything else, and even though she doesn’t realize it, she’s moving mountains by earning a place on the boys’ HS varsity team and making serious plans for a college baseball scholarship.  I can’t wait to see her sign with a Major League team.  It’s almost like being there when Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson.  (I just finished Chris Coste’s autobio; once I finish the Babe Ruth bio, I’m going to look for a good book on Jackie Robinson.  I read a piece about him breaking the color barrier in Readers Digest a few years ago, but I want to know more.  The stuff he and his family went through still boggles my mind.)

Hard to believe, just a few weeks ago as I was planning the rewrites to RP, I was scared to the depth of my bones that I didn’t have any more stories in me.  Thank God, they somehow manage to find me anyway, anywhere, anyhow.  Life is good. 

These are a few…

We’re back from a 3-day weekend in Wildwood.  The boys had a great time (I think), since they each had their own room for the first time since we left New York 7+ years ago.  They didn’t recognize at the time what a wonderful thing it was, but now it’s something different, especially since they’re home and sharing a room again.  They’re back on each other’s nerves.  This led me to think about my favorite things.  Offhand I came up with a few:

1.  Talking to my kids – Once in a while I get a chance to talk to them, one on one, face to face, no distractions, to find out what’s going on in their minds.  (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched them as babies, sleeping peacefully in their beds, and wondered what they were dreaming about.  What goes on in those tiny minds?)  Over the weekend I took Alex to the amusment pier, where we rode the log flume together and I let him ride the rollercoaster without me.  We’d walk hand in hand when it got crowded and I was afraid I’d lose him.  We shared a snack at the Boardwalk Fries stand, and we played a few games.  During dinner, Ryan had a few things to say about his time in Wildwood.  I got to know them better.  They’re fun people.

2.  Writing – I also spent some time over the weekend trying to come up with the perfect motivation for Paul in Release Point.  I think I have it; it’s just a matter of making it fit in.  I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have a story brewing in the back of my mind at all times.  Where would all these ideas go?

3.  Sunsets – Okay, it probably sounds hokey, but I have this thing for cloud formations and sunsets.  They never fail to take my breath away.  Just watching the sun setting, casting a rainbow of earth-toned hues into the sky, never fails to remind me how small I really am in this world. 

4. Music – Something else that takes me out of myself when I really need to be out of myself.  A few times I’d get aggravated by whatever was going on, but I’d put on my iPod and listen to something that somehow just knew when to pop up on my Shuffle playlist, and I’d breathe better.  Even more fun is scouting around iTunes and running into something I haven’t heard in ages, or finding something I’d never heard before and feeling that click between how I feel and how I want my characters to feel.  This is why I have over 900 songs on my iPod, and I’m the happiest girl in town.

5.  Pictures – Yet another of my creative outlets.  I took 2 cameras with me this weekend and half the time I wished I had the other camera with me.  One takes better (and more) video, the other takes better pictures, but I got the pictures I wanted.  Go to www.flickr.com and look up CFaker17 to see our Wildwood photo set.  Those aren’t even the best ones, but I didn’t want to dump too much on Flickr on one day.

6. Dreams – We have plans for this weekend that I won’t share at the moment, but it involves shaking hands with someone who helped me really get my goals in motion.  Every once in a while I’ll think about what on earth I’m going to say to the man; sometimes I think of something coherent but most times I don’t.  If I remember the coherent stuff, I’m going to have to write it down.  At the absolute least, I have to say “Thank you.” 

7. Fudge – We were at the Shore.  ‘Nuff said.  You can’t go to the Shore without getting some fudge.  It’s just wrong.  There should be a checkpoint on the AC Expressway or the Parkway, and if you didn’t buy fudge, they make you go back and get some.  I’ll never understand people who don’t like chocolate.  I know they’re out there, and I accept that they’re different, but I’d love to know what they’re addicted to if it’s not chocolate fudge.  There has to be something.  I hope it’s just as fun.

8. Being Here – I saw a Bud commercial (there seems to be something inherently wrong with connecting beer to this concept) where people are milling about an airport when a small group of soldiers passes through, carrying their duffels.  Bystanders stop what they’re doing and applaud.  I realize that “freedom isn’t free”, and I have my opinions about the war and President Bush, but above and beyond all that, I recognize that at this very minute, halfway around the world, there are people out there who’ve sacrificed the chance to see their child being born or walking for the first time, or have accepted that their child is going to be scared to death upon seeing Daddy (or even Mommy) for the first time in 18 months, or all the other monumental milestones in their family’s life that they’re going to miss, and they’ve done so for us, in one format or another.  I know in my heart that I don’t have the backbone to give that up, and I appreciate that they do.  For all those soldiers walking through the airport or the sand, thank you for being stronger than I am.  Happy Memorial Day.

How did I get here?

No, not that kind of “how did I get here?”  Maybe I have a few philsophical rants left in me.

Today I passed a woman in the hallway at work.  I’ve seen her for years.  She’s always dressed in the same or similar clothes:  a housefrock (denim or otherwise) and a knit shirt, her blonde hair cut pixie short but not combed or neat.  She never wears makeup.  I’ve always been a little afraid of her because she never smiles; she just hovers down the hallways, one direction or the other, like a hobbit.  To tell the truth, I thought her department was outsourced years ago, so I’m not sure what she’s doing there.  Maybe she’s a ghost and I’m the only one who can see her.

The junctures of the hallways at work usually have a mirror hanging overhead so those of us who get engrossed in conversation or whatever can see if someone is coming from around the corner, and we don’t bump into each other.  Today I happened to look up and see she was coming from the hall to my right.  She saw me, too, and she paused before turning the corner, as did I.  We both poked our heads around the corner and smiled.  I noticed for the first time in seven years that she’s got a great smile, like at one time she was an adorable little five-year-old.  Probably the apple of her father’s eye. 

How did we get here?  I know what I looked like at 5.  I have the picture my mother had taken at the Pathmark photo studio.  I was cute, all long brown hair and blue eyes.  Here I am, 41 years old, looking at myself in the mirror, wondering when that cute 5 year old turned into…me.  With wrinkles and a couple gray hairs and stress lines.  What happened to me between now and then that turned me into this?  Just like what happened to that woman in the halls who became the strange, quiet lady with the brilliant smile? 

I’ve seen emails that say that it’s not the first and last year engraved on our tombstones that matter; it’s all about what the dash in the middle represents.  That dash covers an awful lot of ground, and it makes all the difference. 

I won’t be blogging this weekend.  I’m “going dark”.  (I’ve always wanted to say that.)  Have a happy Memorial Day weekend, and remember that somewhere out there, someone is watching over us all.  Try to remember to say Thank You. 

Where now?

I wondered last night if I’ve used up every philosophical rant I’ve ever considered.  In order to keep this blog rolling, I may have to resort to gossip.  Either that or I need to drink more. 

I should probably shorten these things, too.  Last night’s blog seemed to go on forever.  I could’ve cut it down to just the first and last paragraph, and it would’ve been fine.  I’ve never been one to use 10 words when 100 will do just fine.  It’s what’s making the editing on “Release Point” so interesting.  I’ve decided to cut out one secondary character and integrate his role into another existing character.  They were originally two entirely different people; one was a wizened veteran, the other an Italian-American Brooklyn transplant.  They’d never even met each other, and now Skip and Tony are one, literally.  I never pictured Tony being philosophical and wise, but he’s going to have to figure it out the way I’m trying to do. 

There’s a few things going on lately that have tried to distract me from writing, and at times they succeeded really well, but now that we have the Shriners appointment out of the way, I can focus again.  I’m going to have Book #2 done and polished by June 15th and ready for the NJRW contest if it kills me.  As the saying goes, though, “What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.”  I have a feeling this will be no exception.

That’s Why

One of my all-time favorite songs was sung by Collin Raye.  I quoted it on my wedding invitations:  “All my roads have led me to this night, this love I share with you.”  Rascal Flatts has a similar song, “God bless the broken road that led me straight to you.” 

Ryan had his semi-annual checkup at Shriner’s Hospital today.  I found out from the nurse that we’ve been going to Shriners for 10 years now, with our first visit on 4/7/98.  Happy 10th anniversary.  🙂  Anyway, on the way there I was almost in a panic state because I was pretty sure the doctor was going to recommend surgery for Ryan’s hip dysplasia.  I was worried because, aside from the logistical nightmare of trying to get a 13 year old in a body cast up and down a flight of stairs to our 2nd floor apartment, there’s the concept of rearranging our plans for summer camp, where he’d sleep (certainly not on the top bunk where he is now), and how on earth to handle toileting issues.  But if his hip wasn’t stable and caused him any pain, then certainly, it’s what we’d have to do.  We’d just figure out a way.

I started thinking about all the stuff we’ve had to do that we didn’t really want to do, but after we did it, it turns out that the experience served a purpose.  I know my “girls in the attic”, my Muse, has a story in mind for me to write about autism after the years since Alex’s diagnosis.  Ryan’s time at Shriners has its purpose too.  He had his BIG surgery here when he was 3; we stayed at the hospital for a week.  When the cast came off, we came back for two weeks while he took therapy and relearned how to walk.  I spent a lot of time talking to the nurses and therapists and doctors and interns, and I realized that I really liked the people here.  When I drove home with the windows open, the air smelled sweet and clean, unlke the air around Staten Island (permeated with the aroma of Fresh Kills landfill in summer).  I know people in Philly who would laugh their butts off at that idea, but live within 10 miles of Fresh Kills and you’ll appreciate Center City.  Eventually I realized I really liked it here, and when my marriage broke up, I knew where I wanted to go.  It wasn’t fun at the time, but the experience served its purpose.

On the drive today I came to the conclusion that even if we have to go through surgery at this time in Ryan’s life, it might not be fun but if it’s what we have to do, we’ll do it, and I’ll trust that there’s a reason behind it.  Maybe I’ll meet a therapist who has information I need, either for Ryan’s therapy or for a story I’ll be writing at the time.  Maybe the time at home, taking care of him, will inspire me to do something, either writing or to help someone in need, or even to crochet something.  (I’m overdue for a Project Linus donation.)  Whatever it is that we have to do, I’m pretty darn sure that somewhere down the road it’ll make perfect sense, even if it wasn’t what we really wanted at the time. 

As it turns out, we bought a six month reprieve.  He’ll go for a CT scan in October and see the doctor again in November.  I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to put it off much longer than that, but with any luck and God’s grace, we’ll be in a house by then, and the boys will have their own rooms and Ryan won’t be on a top bunk anymore.  Best-case scenario, we can wait ’til next summer and plan our 2009 summer months accordingly.  Whatever it is we need to do, we’ll get it done and trust that somewhere down the line it gives us something that we need, in one format or another.  It’s all about keeping the faith.

Sometimes bad things happen and we wonder why.  I haven’t yet had a bad experience that I didn’t eventually learn from.  My car accident at 18; getting fired from JC Penney’s; the failure of my first marriage; every rejection letter and “this needs help” critique.  You name it, it hurt like crazy at the time but it was meant to happen so I could be who I am now.

My Biggest Fan

Over the weekend I finished reading Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”.  Years ago I had a friend who said it was baloney, that you couldn’t learn anything about writing from it.  I’m not surprised I stopped talking to him because I can see now that he was mostly full of sh*t.  He had some very smart things to say and he was a great friend and mentor, but looking back, I’m seeing that some of the stuff he believed as gospel was all sound and fury.  (One of my favorite Shakespeare quotes:  It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.) 

Anyway, at the end of “Bird by Bird” was a mention that publishing can’t be the be-all, end-all of writing, and that one who writes should do so for the sheer joy of it.  (On the concept that the rest will follow, and even if it doesn’t, the reward is in the writing, not the publication.)  I can’t imagine a wannabe writer out there who lies back in bed at night and thinks, “I want to write something that never leaves this house!”  We all want to see our names in print, followed by flowery prose extolling the virtues of our exceptional talents.  But when you think about it, of the millions of people in this country right now who at the very least THINK they can write a book, maybe fifty percent will start to write one, and ten percent of them will actually finish it.  Of that ten percent, five percent will go through the rewrite and editing process before sending their Magnum Opus off to an editor or agent, and a fraction of those people will get a positive response.  The odds are spectacularly slim that we could ever make a living as writers, but we dream of it anyway.  (Bear in mind that I have no idea if these statistics are true; I’m just taking a wild guess but I’ve heard the odds of being published are about as bad I’ve said they are.)

There is a certain amount of virtue in having completed the job itself.  (Which of the Hollywood production companies uses the slogan, “Ars gratia artis”?  I think it’s MGM.)  I used to dance around the dining room after I wrote The End, and I’d be so excited, I could barely sit still for the rest of the day.  Once I toasted to my characters’ future, after the story, with a cup of tea on my grandmother’s china.  There’s an incredible amount of pride in conceptualizing the story and seeing it through to its fruition, so that publication could almost be something of an afterthought.  The icing on the cake, as it were.

But damn, isn’t the icing the best part of the cake?

Something Lamott said in “Bird” rang true with me.  I can’t recall the exact quote but it was something along the lines that you should be happy with yourself before you’re published because you’re going to be exactly the same person after you’re published.  It makes a lot of sense to me, and it can be applied to every other “I wish” situation as well.  If you think you’ll be a better person after you get that new car or that better computer or that perfect haircut or you’ve lost X amount of pounds, and THEN you’ll like yourself, why do you have to wait for that thing to happen?  Why can’t you like yourself, and who you are, now?  What’s stopping you?  What difference is that thing going to make in how you see yourself? 

The approval we’re seeking can’t come from the outside, though it’s really nice when it does happen.  (Publication, a job promotion, a bigger house/nicer car.)  On an everyday basis, though, we have to approve of ourselves.  No matter what happens, no matter who in our lives comes and goes, we’re going to be with ourselves for the rest of our lives.  We might as well make friends with ourselves, and be our own biggest fan. 

 

When the Wrong Thing is the Right Thing

I admit it.  I blew my diet, but I couldn’t help it.  I had that same shaken-pop-bottle thing going on, except it reached a different level to where I was searching the kitchen like a starving person, only I wasn’t starving.  I ate a cup of strawberries, followed by two slices of cheese, followed by a cup of low-sugar bread-and-butter pickles.  By the time I got to the car to take the boys to NJ, I was pretty sure none of this food was going to stay with me for long, but at the same time, none of it really satisfied me either and I was still jumpy and anxious.  I’d looked up “anxiety disorder” in WebMD and I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify.  I do, however, qualify for pre-perimenopausal, so I took an Evening Primrose capsule too.  (That’s almost as much fun as finding I’m in the next age bracket UP when I take a survey.  Thanks for the reminder, guys.)

By the time I got the boys to NJ, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I decided I’d never experienced this before and it had to be connected to my change in diet, therefore I needed to break the diet if I was going to make this feeling go away.  And I did.  At the end of a small french fries and one chocolate chip cookie, I was smiling again.  The edgy feeling faded considerably, too. 

I went home feeling miserably guilty but hey, the last time we were on South Beach, I allowed myself two dark chocolate (with almonds) nuggets per day and I was human throughout it all.  I decided I’d have to pick up some more of those and see how I did, and in the mean time, I’d just go to the gym with John and work off my transgressions.  I accept that I did something wrong and I have to pay the price.

Then I got on the scale this morning and found out I’d LOST 2 pounds.  That was grin-worthy.  🙂  I think the weight I took off was the monkey on my back.  I seriously suspect what I had was a case of withdrawals.  For the last 12 days we’ve had no bread, no pasta, no sugar, no potatoes; other than vegetables, no carbs whatsoever.  I sat in front of McDonalds with the boys and I admitted, I didn’t really want to go in because I knew the smell of fries and delicious, absurdly unhealthy food was going to make me crazy.  Ryan suggested I have a salad but I’ve had so much salad this last week, I feared I might grow long ears and a fuzzy tail.

Most of the diet resources I’ve seen say it’s okay to admit you’re human and you’re going to slip once in a while, but you should just suck it up and get back on track.  That’s what I plan to do.  I’m even saving my Graham Slam ice cream treat for next week in Wildwood, not tomorrow at the ballgame. 

PS, Congrats to Chris Coste for going 4-4 on Wednesday night!  In an interview he said he’s 8-8 when his wife is in town.  🙂