5 Good Things about Finishing

I’m a born procrastinator.  It was on the Aquarius sign my mother embroidered and hung on my wall when I was a kid, and I think I took it a little too much to heart.  (“Altruistic” was also up there and I think I’m pretty good at that, even if it took me years before I finally looked up what it meant.)  But I’ve learned over the years how good it feels to complete a task, which is what I’m blogging about today.

1.  I finished a knit baby afghan last night.  I started it about 2 years ago, and I was all excited to make progress until the 20-something’th repeat of the same 8 rows, and at some point I needed to start something new and more exciting.  After the move I found the unfinished object (UFO) in a bag, and the thought occurred to me to frog the whole thing and make something else, but I was past the point of no return.  Then I moved the project to my Knit Picks Options needles, and suddenly it took on a new life!  There was also the problem that I wanted to use the same size needles on another new project, so I had twice the reason to finish the afghan.  I’ll post a picture of the finished product…when I remember to take a picture, and when I tuck in the last of the loose ends. 

2.  Isn’t it a relief when you start a project (say, housecleaning) and when you’re done, you can look back at your handiwork and say, “Finis!” and then go find something much more fun to do.  The cleaning doesn’t have to get done again for a while, either.  Unless, of course, you have teenagers or pets.

3.  I’ve heard there’s such a thing as runner’s euphoria after finishing a race or a long run.  Not being the running type, I’ll take their word for it.

4.  Ever sat back after a large, particularly delicious meal and thought, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing?”  Yup, been there, done that.  There’s also the slight regret when you realize you’re going to have to spend an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill–for the next three months–to work off that one meal, but it was worth it, wasn’t it?  (Why am I reminded of that chocolate cake we had for lunch at the NJ conference?  At the time I thought, “So there really is such a thing as too much chocolate.”)

5.  Speaking for myself and probably every other writer out there, there’s something undeniably special about finishing a book.  Not reading, writing.  It’s like childbirth only more painful, and when you’re done, you have this wonderful thing you can hold in your hands (if you printed it) and you can say, “This is uniquely mine.  I made this.  It came from me, from my imagination, and now it’s real.”  I remember one time being so high from finished a WIP (work in progress) that I danced around the house, giddy as a kid on Christmas morning.  My characters were finally alive and breathing on their own.  I probably would’ve felt the same way if I’d just climbed Pike’s Peak, without my feet getting cold.

Unfortunately, when you write The End is really only the beginning, because I don’t know a writer alive who hasn’t finished a book and then gone back and rewritten or edited at least once.  “Release Point” was rewritten no less than four times, and it needs one more pass before it’s fully polished and ready to go.  I have to shift Paul’s motivation a little, since he doesn’t actually know how he tested positive.  In my previous draft, he took the pills on purpose.  In the first draft, Grace’s name was Lily and she was a biker chick.  On top of that, “Worlds Apart” is only 60K words; I need at least 20K more to fully flesh it out, but I’ll get around to that.  Really, I will.


5 Favorite Things

I’ve often wondered what if.  It’s what makes me write, when I ask myself a question like, “What if a ghost were following me around?”  I can then take it a step further:  “What if the ghost following me around was my ‘soul mate’ and we never connected in life?”  From that premise and April Kihlstrom’s Book in a Week course,  “Worlds Apart” was born.  (Excerpt on the tab above, in case you’re curious.)

Another What If has to do with real life, and I’ve talked to people about this one (whereas I don’t usually talk to people about my WIPs).  What If–God forbid–the house were on fire?  Assuming John and the boys and the cats were already safe outside, and I had a minute to run back and grab something(s), what would I reach for?  Which made me think about my 5 Favorite Things:

1.  My laptop.  It contains all the music on my iTunes and all my manuscripts (and a whole lot of knitting/crocheting patterns on OneNote).  In the “For Better or For Worse” cartoon a few years ago, Mike Patterson’s apartment was on fire not long after he finished his first manuscript, and he ran back into the fire to get it.  I understand completely.

2.  My Knit Picks Options needles that John gave me for Christmas.  I love these things.  Some day I’m going to work them into a manuscript and then let the Knit Picks people know, so maybe they’ll pay for my book tour (or at least, send me some free samples).  They’re smooth as glass and the tips are perfectly pointed so I can pick up stitches easily.  I used to think Addi Turbo needles would be The Thing, but I was SO wrong.  Thank you, Laura, for letting me test-knit on yours, and thank you, John, for my favorite Christmas present! 

3.  Photographs.  As many as possible.  There’s the picture of John and me in Cozumel, kissing Titan the dolphin, or the black and white photo of my great-grandparents, or the nice pic of my parents that’s in Ryan’s room.  The boys’ baby pictures on the dresser in our room.  The box with all the boys’ school portraits (that I need to hang up one of these days).  So many memories.  I could live without them, but if I don’t have to, I don’t want to.

4.  Yarn.  Sure, it can be replaced, but I’d probably try to throw as much of it out the window as I can.  Yarn is the embryo of something beautiful and useful.  (If you don’t think I’m obsessed with yarn, you missed that picture at the top of this page.) 

5.  My teddy bears.  They’re on the closet shelf right now, only because the guilt was eating at me every time I saw them stuffed in a trash bag on the shelf.  At least now they’re stacked neatly, and even though they sit in the dark most of the day, they still smile down welcomingly when I open the closet door every morning and afternoon.  I just love ’em.  Soft and warm and comforting, always ready to love and be loved.  The world needs more people like that.

Come to think of it, I’d have to grab Ryan’s white bear with the green sweater (with the heart on it), too.  There are more memories wrapped up in that one bear than in any of the cuties I own.  It’s the bear that my friend Barbara in Washington (NanaBear97; bless her sweet heart, she passed away in 2001) sent to comfort us before Ryan had his last major surgery at Shriners.  That bear went everywhere with him the entire time he was in the hospital, pre-, post-op and therapy.  He wouldn’t go anywhere without it, ’til he was known as “the boy with the bear”.  He rarely let go of it for almost 10 years.  It still has a place of honor in Ryan’s room.  I’m not sure who’s more sentimental about that bear, Ryan or me.  Probably me.  But I’m sentimental about the silliest of things.

5 Good Things About Spare Time

It’s a snow day here today, so I slept in a little, logged on to work, and went outside to shovel during my lunch hour.  Since I logged in early, I might log out early too, which leaves me with some time to fill, which made me think of today’s post, 5 Good Things About Spare Time:

1.  Anything is possible.  Do whatever you want, or do nothing.

2.  That time is yours.  Most of us moms will fill it with something useful like laundry or unpacking after a move.  (cough, cough)  How often can you say you have time to decide what YOU really want to do?  Take advantage.

3.  Relaxation is food for the soul.  Let your mind wander.  Meditate and listen to the world.  It really talks to you if you take the time to listen.

4.  If you can’t take the silence, music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.  (Yeah, I know it’s actually “breast” but who knows if WordPress has police monitoring these things?)  Sit back and catch up on the latest tunes.  There’s now 2 soft-rock stations in the Philly area and I like them both.  (Though it’s been the oddest thing; 3 times I’ve flipped stations and heard them both playing the exact same song.  I didn’t mind “Philadelphia Freedom” but “Red Red Wine” is too whiny, and much as I love Faith Hill, there’s only so much “This Kiss” I can take.) 

5.  Go hug your kids.  It can’t hurt to give some of that time to them, getting to know them as people.  All too soon they’ll be asking for the car keys, and it won’t be cool to hang out with Mom.  Know who they are now so they know who you are later. 

As for me, I have no less than 2 manuscripts (in various states of completion) sitting on my desktop right now, and I don’t know which one to work on first.  They’re both calling to me equally.  Since the Crescent Moon contest deadline is now June 1, the paranormal can sit a while so I can work on the contemporary, but then something comes on the radio that reminds me of the paranormal and I open that and remember how much I like that story too.  Decisions, decisions.

5 Good Things about Telling the Truth

This one has a story to go with it.  (Doesn’t everything I ever say have a story?)  I stopped going to the dentist 3 years ago, after she worked on a filling that hurt so bad that I cried for 3 hours.  I didn’t want to go back so when it came time to make my next appointment, I said, “I’ll get back to you” and I never did.  I’ve been bringing the boys back for their appointments but I didn’t make one for myself, and the receptionists being the angels they are, they never asked. 

Fast-forward to Thursday when the composite over a ridge in one tooth falls off, and I know the time has come to bite the bullet.  I went in today and came clean about my lack of courage to Dr. Sara, who was SO understanding, I almost wanted her to adopt me.  She patiently explained why the filling had hurt (and why the vicodin I took for the pain didn’t do anything) and why I needed a crown over the tooth with the missing composite, rather than just doing an ordinary filling.  Bottom line, I have 2 appointments next month, one for basic hygiene and updated x-rays, and one a week later to get the crown process started.  Dr. Sara even knew I was nervous about it (I have 2 crowns already) and she promised, she’ll either give me something to reduce the anxiety before I get there, or she’ll give me gas when they do the work.  I opted for the gas so I can get myself home afterward.  I’m not sure there’s enough nitrous oxide on the east coast to keep me calm, but I’m willing to try it if she is.  (You know what I mean.) 

Which brings me to my 5  Things for today,  5 Good Things about Telling the Truth:

1.  It’s easy to remember.  No having to recall what I told to whom.  As long as you remember what actually happened.  🙂

2.  It clears the air.  No hiding my real feelings; just come out and say what’s really bothering me.

3.  It feels better inside.  No nagging doubts about “Did he believe me?” or “That didn’t make sense.”  No worries about being caught in a lie.  (Did you hear that, Capitol Hill/City Hall?)

4.  Trust.  I have complete and utter confidence that when I told Dr. Sara I’d been too afraid to come back, she wasn’t pissed.  She’s a dentist; she’s been here before.  

5.  Connection.  Opening up one’s soul to another person usually means the other person will respond in kind.  It’s why Laura and I are such good buddies, or why John and I work so well together; they knows things I don’t tell a lot of other people.  They probably know a little too much about me.  (I better not leave them alone in a room together.)  Like the saying goes, “To have a friend you have to be a friend”, and that starts with being honest. 

Shout-out to Dr. Sara at Cooley-Bentz Dental in Norristown.  You rock!  🙂

5 Good Things about Monday

I could leave this blog blank because right now, so is my imagination.  After all, it’s Monday and I only have 1 cup of caffeine in me now.  There are days, especially on Monday, when I think I just need a mocha IV inserted directly into my arm.  But there are good things about Monday, such as:

1.  “24” is on.  My weekly Jack Bauer fix.  If ever there was a popular character that could teach me about writing conflict, that’s him right there.  I can’t help but question if there’s a connection between President Palmer on 24 and Barack Obama getting elected.  Hey, if there is a connection, amen. 

2.  There’s a whole week ahead, full of the potential for productivity.  Even better when there’s only half a week ahead.  I’m working remote part of tomorrow, around a mid-day dentist appointment, and there’s a serious possibility of a snow day on Wednesday, so in this case, less is better (if I’m only going to be in the office 3 days out of 5).

3.  Did I mention “24” is on?

4.  I’m not as tired on Monday as I will be on Friday, after 5 solid days of waking up at 5:30.  Of course, as the saying goes, those who don’t believe the dead come back to life haven’t seen my office at 5 on Friday.

5.  Oh yeah, “House” is on too.  Love the dialog on that show. 

Not that Tuesday is a whole lot better, but things will be better by, oh, Thursday.

5 Best Things about Friday

I originally had another subject in mind, but it slipped away when I remembered today is Friday.  My most favorite day of the week.  Here’s why.

1.  Friday afternoon, when I get out of work, the weekend has SO much potential for fun and productivity (depending on what you have planned).  It’s a glorious blank slate, just waiting for me to paint some bright colored yarn across it.  For just a few hours, I know I have the next two days to do (or get done) what I will.  Unless, of course, it involves driving for an hour or more.   Then…ugh.  But a bad day of shopping still beats a good day at the office.

2.  Sleeping in on Saturday and/or Sunday.  Rolling over and looking at the clock at 5:30 and saying “Bite me,” then curling back under the covers.  (Turning off the alarm on Friday morning is a glorious ritual for me.  Because it’s a total b*tch if I forget and the stupid alarm goes off at 5:30 on Saturday anyway.) 

3.  Chaps Taproom only serves lobster bisque on Friday and Saturday.  Lobster bisque is proof that God loves us and wants us to eat seafood.

4.  Wishing everyone at work a good weekend.  Unless it’s month- or quarter-end, everyone’s in a good mood on Friday.  Today is the day we’ve been working 4 days to get to. 

5.  Picking up the boys on Friday afternoon.  Just like us, they’re deliriously  happy to be out of school and eager to get to the weekend.  They smile and laugh, and sometimes they even talk to me.  Trying to pry a conversation out of a 13 year old is like trying to herd feral cats, but on Friday nights (and especially if we’re on the road to NJ and visitation), sometimes Ryan tells me all about the book he’s reading in school and how he feels about the characters.  Inside that 13 year old brain is an adult getting ready to spring forth into the world, and once a week, I get to visit with that adult before he retreats back into his shell on Monday.  It doesn’t get much better than that. 

And there’s also the mocha I get at McD’s while we’re waiting for Phil to show up.  At the end of a long week and there’s still driving on the turnpike to be tackled, Caffeine is Life.  Happy Friday, everyone!

5 Best Things about Yarn

It’s Thankful Thursday, whatever that’s supposed to mean.  I don’t even remember where I read that.  Maybe it should be Forgetful Thursday.  Then again, that’s me everyday.

I’m at work but I’d rather be home knitting, so here’s my 5 Favorite Things about Yarn.

1.  It makes such nice stuff.  Even crappy yarn can be made into something pretty if you find the right pattern.

2.  Yarn (and accordingly, pattern collection) is a semi-healthy addiction.  You don’t see a Betty Ford Clinic for addicted knitters.  Why try to cure us?  We revel in our addiction.  From it comes some wonderful things.

3.  Other than the occasional knot, yarn cooperates with my plans, as opposed to some teenagers I know (and it doesn’t claim it’s sick when it has a math test it’s not prepared for). 

4.  It comes in such pretty colors and softnesses.  Laura and I spent an hour in FrouFrou last month, petting all the pretty skeins.  I haven’t heard so much delighted “ooh”ing and “aah”ing since the last time I stood outside the nursery observation window. 

5.  It makes such wonderful things.  Though I was dead tired, I very nearly stayed up late last night to finish my K1P1 gray and blue scarf.  (The infamous Noro Silk Garden scarf, adapted for Simply Soft Shadows.)  I’m only a few yards from finished but I couldn’t see straight anymore, and I’ve come too far to screw it up now.  It’s going to be long and soft and gorgeous, and the way the color changes gradually…it’s just so cool.  I’ll post pictures when I’m done, but I’m not sure when that will be.  (Got things to do tonight.)  But when it’s done I can wear it with pride (or give it away with pride) knowing that before I picked up those skeins, that yarn was just an amorphous bunch of string.  With my hard work and dedication, it’s become something that will last.  Unless, of course, the boys take it.  Then I can probably kiss it goodbye. 

My next project to finish is the Moda Dea Dream scarf.  It’s in raspberry and it’s fuzzy-soft so I’m pretty sure I’ll be the only one wearing it.  Then there’s the multicolor baby afghan (I’m 7 repeats away from finished), the red and white afghan for Melanie, and then the scrapghan I started some time last year.  Somewhere in between there’s the gigantic Irresistible Afghan in day-glo orange.  None of this would be possible without yarn.  My addiction, my passion, my friend.

Top 5 Best Things About the Inauguration

Please tell me no one missed the inauguration yesterday.  I know the internet feeds went down from high traffic at some points; that’s why John and I went to the cafeteria to watch it.  I was disappointed that more people didn’t applaud when Obama took the oath of office, but I suspect we’re working in a Republican nest here.  I know a few people who are holding a wait-and-see attitude but me, I’m excited.  Yesterday was a day I’ve been waiting for for eight long, LONG years. 

With that in mind, here’s today’s Top 5 Best Things About the Inauguration (besides the fact that I can spell “inauguration”):

1.  People came together, not just to get Obama into office, but to see him take his place there.  DC Police reported not one single arrest.  How often does that happen?  I’m sure it wasn’t a happy time getting on the trains/roads to go back home, but I’d bet people were still smiling.

2.  We have an intelligent, educated man in office.  BIG contrast from the last eight years.  (I still have nightmares about 9/11 and W sitting in a kindergarten classroom, reading a book about a goat.) 

3.  The world trusts Obama as much as we do.  News reports last night showed people around the world watching the Inauguration and smiling.  I still remember the headlines in Europe after W’s second election.  Yet another BIG contrast.

4.  Enlightenment.  Like the man said, it’s a sign of the times when a man whose father, 60 years ago, might not have been served a meal at a local diner, can be sworn in as President of the United States.  Maybe our darkest times are behind us in that respect.  We can only hope.

5.  Speaking of hope, there’s HOPE in this country again.  I realize there are skeptics out there who don’t think this is going to make a difference.  Maybe he’s a placebo to our problems or maybe he’s the real deal, but just believing we can get out of this mess puts us halfway to winning the battle.  It’s like buying a lottery ticket.  You’re pretty sure the odds are against you, but if you don’t try, you know you don’t have a chance at all. 

Kind of like my stalled writing career.  It’s easy to say this is going nowhere and I’m giving up, but if I quit now, I know I won’t get published.  If I don’t quit, there’s still a chance.  Obama said yesterday that it’s time to make some hard decisions, and mine is that I’m not giving up, even when giving up would be the easy thing to do.  Getting slapped on the face with another rejection will sting but I’m going to keep taking it and taking it until the timing is right and the Muse smiles on me and someone out there says, “Where the F have you been?  I’ve been waiting to find you!  Let’s go sell some books!”

Top 5

I haven’t been here in a while; sorry about that.  My mind seems to have washed itself of any ideas these days.  Maybe that has something to do with giving up my main (and favorite) source of caffeine since the start of the new year.  Seriously, there’s a connection.  Last week I drove home from NJ and my mind was a flurry of ideas on how to move my latest WIP, “Her Angel Gabriel” forward.  Fortunately I also got stuck in traffic on the Turnpike so scribbling notes as I drove 2 mph wasn’t that difficult.  My apologies to the annoyed drivers who had to put up with my dome light for 5 miles.

I do want to keep writing, though, because even blog writing keeps the Muse going.  Just a few words, even if they’re forced, reminds her that I’m still alive and still thinking.  Lately she’s been more focused on knitting, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but if I start one more UFO, I could fall asleep under them and no one would find me for hours.  On the other hand, that’s not a bad idea.  🙂 

Anyway, as I watched the 3 inches of snow coming down around our house yesterday, I started thinking of my favorite things.  (I haven’t seen “The Sound of Music” in 20 years.)  I’d make it a top 10 list but Letterman already has that covered, and anyway, I couldn’t be as funny.  But in keeping with my intention to “put some gratitude in my attitude”, I want to remind myself regularly that there are 5 good reasons to…and then I have to drum up what the “to” part was. 

So here it is, my 5 Favorite Things About Snow.

1.  Alex is crazy about it.  He’d go out and play in the snow under any circumstances, and to have him eager to go outside is always a good thing.  Our first snow this year, both the boys went out to play, and it reminded me all over again why having our own house is such a great thing. 

2.  The silence.  Just before I started shoveling last night, I stood in the back yard and listened to the peaceful isolation of the snow whispering to the ground.  It’s like the entire world gets reduced to just what’s around you.  While that thought might make some people claustrophobic, for me it’s relaxing. 

3.  Everything in the neighborhood is pretty right now.  Snow blankets the trees and porches and yards.  In the James Joyce short story, “Evaline”, snow is the great equalizer.  It covers everything equally.

4.  It was “warm” enough to snow.  Last week when we got frigid temperatures, it was too cold for snow.  We’re expecting 40’s later in the week and I bet it’ll feel warm by comparison.  We’re only a month into winter; 2 more months ’til spring, and less than a month ’til pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

5.  I didn’t fall on my butt.  Given that I’m wearing my dress shoes this morning, it was almost a foregone conclusion that I’d land on my butt at some point, but I cleaned off the car, got my stuff into the back seat, returned the trash can to the house AND got into the office without once losing my dignity.  That’s always a good thing.

Tune in tomorrow for the next Top 5 List.  🙂