Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grocery Lust

Holidays always give me grocery lust. I have to stay out of places like A Southern Season, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. Even Weaver Street Market, our local co-op market,  isn't safe.  They are all full of wonderful things to eat that I have never tried and wonderful exotic ingredients for things I have never made. 

If I walk in to one of these stores, I could bankrupt us.  Once grocery lust takes me over, I could end up buying kitchen tools I don't know how to use and ingredients I don't know how to prepare.  Like it goes most of the time when you give in to sheer lust, it doesn't end well.  You gorge yourself. You don't feel well. You get fatter. You hate yourself afterwards.

It's not limited to the stores either. There are ads, cooking magazines, podcasts, emails from foodie websites. It's kind of funny, because I'm pretty immune to advertising. If I wasn't already thinking about buying something, it takes more than a clever commercial to make me want it.  You can send me ads for electronics, cars, toys, books, garden items, etc. all day and never get any of my money.  But food.  That's different.

I think it goes back to spending my 20's in Alaska.  It was my big adventure post-bachelor's degree.  My then-husband and I packed our bags and moved to Alaska. We ended up staying just shy of ten years.  It was a place that demanded much and gave much. There was so much to love about life there--the people, the landscape, the feeling of accomplishment that just living there gave me. 

But not the groceries.

Alaska, especially small-town rural Alaska, is not a foodie paradise.  Going to the grocery store is a study in lowered expectations.  Depending on the weather, even simple staple items like milk and bread may not be in stock.  You cannot rely on fresh ingredients, and every meal involves a backup plan full of cans and boxed items. People hunt and berry-pick, and it's not just a hobby.  It's a way to have something fresh in your palate.

When I would visit my family or travel in the 48, I would go food crazy. I would eat out for as many meals as I could afford, the more exotic the meal, the better.  I would go to the grocery and spend $50 in the produce section alone, then go spread it out on my mom's table and just smell it, hold it, feel it in my hands, giggle over it with my then-little daughter. When I moved to Kansas, my first home in the 48 after Alaska, I hit every farmer's market within an hour's drive.  There were whole days when I didn't actually eat meals, just a string of produce items.

It's the kind of appreciation that can only derive from deprivation.

Even now that I've lived in the 48 for another ten years after leaving Alaska, I still get that kind of grocery lust, that sensual pleasure in good food. 

My now-and-always-husband likes to take me out to eat at least in part because of how much I obviously enjoy my food. I'm that person who is bouncing in her chair and making yummy noises and gets really excited over something new on the plate. I'm asking the wait staff about the ingredients, what kind of tea is in my iced tea and what that new green is in my salad. I can't help myself. At least it makes him smile.

So, I made it through, and only bought a few things this year.  Weaver Street stollen bread for breakfast today.  Tomorrow, it might be safe to go into the grocery store again.  I know I'll never fully control my grocery lust, but I can manage it, by letting it out here and there, for the really good stuff.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not Yet Professional Ballet

If you're thinking of seeing a production of the Nutcracker this holiday season, let me wholeheartedly recommend that you seek out a not-yet-professional production.

I just had the best ballet experience of my life, watching a local youth ballet perform it at a showing for a special needs audience.

I'm a strange sort of ballet fan.  Mostly, I find the storytelling weak, but I'm drawn into the visuals: the costumes, the sets, and, most of all, the athleticism.  As a woman who trips over hallways (just hallways, empty ones, with nothing in them), I admire the things these dancers can get their bodies to do, with grace.

Watching these young people with this particular audience was utterly amazing. 

When you watch a professional ballet, everything looks effortless.  I know that's supposed to be part of the artistry, but it's part of why it doesn't thrill me.  It seems cold.

But this show, featuring young performers who may someday be those professionals, had such heart, such spark!  When an especially difficult leap or lift or landing was accomplished, you could feel the joy.  Maybe it's the teacher in me, or the mom, but I found it very moving to watch these young people reaching new levels of accomplishment.  And they were definitely very accomplished.

And watching with this audience!  I was worried about taking my very active four-year-old to a ballet, even a family friendly one, but I figured the special needs audience would be a little more accepting of any of her outbursts. 

What I didn't realize was that who you watch with can be part of the joy of the show. It was like watching a jazz performance. Instead of waiting politely for the prescribed bowing moments, they called out and cheered when something impressive happened, clapped whenever they felt moved.  And their energy fed the performers' energy and it was magic.

I wish the ballet was always like this.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas in FlipFlops

Today, my family and I went to a tree farm and bought our Christmas tree.  The man who sold it to us was full of the right kind of charm, in his flannel shirt and with his well-used tools.  It was a lovely, old-fashioned Christmas experience, very Currier and Ives . . . except that it was nearly 70 degrees.

We get winter in North Carolina. Sometimes.

Last winter, for example, we got to go sledding twice.  We missed several days of school, because even a mild dusting of snow causes mass panic here.  It cracks my older daughter and me up though.  We spent her early childhood in Alaska, where there was a lot of snow, but never a Snow Day.

This winter hasn't arrived yet.  I've worn a jacket twice so far, and only in the morning. Santa, in the Christmas parade, looked a little sweaty.

Mostly, I've enjoyed the milder weather in my new home.  It's rather nice not to feel like I'm taking my life into my hands to walk my dog on a December day.  And I really like having fresh produce any time I want.

But it still feels kind of wrong to buy my Christmas tree in short sleeves and flip-flops. 

My sister spent three years in Hawaii and she always said that Christmas didn't feel very Christmasy there.  I get what she means.  My images of the season have fires in the fireplace and cute hat and mitten sets on my girls.  Hot chocolate really tastes better if you're cold.

Still, when you're in your own living room, and it's dark outside, and the tree is lit, and the carols are playing on Pandora, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least on the inside.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Long Haul

About three years ago, I walked into the Open Eye Café, hoping to find a writer's group. I knew I needed one if I was going to get back on the wagon after the baby hiatus.  I'm not self-motivated.  I need deadlines, expectations to fulfill. Otherwise my writing gets shuffled lower and lower on the huge to-do list I call my life.

So, I was hopeful.  And nervous. For lots of reasons.

First, we were in the Open Eye Café, one of those coffee shops that has a really loyal clientele, the kind that makes anyone new that walks through the door feel like a real intruder, and judges you by what kind of coffee concoction you order.  I didn't know if my potential writer's group friends were regulars, or if this was just neutral ground chosen for vetting new members. I am not a coffee connoisseur.  I always order a skinny raspberry mocha. Always. And drinking one makes me talk too fast.

Second, I hate meeting people. Those first impression moments fill me with tremendous dread (strangely, this doesn't apply in teaching situations--I like meeting new students). And I didn't know anyone in this room. My husband had found the group for me through one of those "make a group" sites--I can't remember if it was gather or meetup or craigslist or whatever.  (I've often teased my husband that I dated him because I didn't have to meet him.  I already knew him when my first marriage ended.)

And lastly, these women wrote NOVELS. And they were serious about it.

Novels are long.

I'd never written anything longer than 75 pages--and that was academic. I didn't have to make it up. There was a lot of quoting. I was pretty sure that novels are longer than 75 pages. And that you have make up every word. Everything good I ever wrote was short--an essay, a poem, a vignette (nice little word for unclassifiable prose too short to be publishable).

I was intimidated as hell.

I've worked with this group for three (or is it four?) years now.  I love them. I know about their novels and their lives.  And I'm still intimidated as hell.  Nearly every woman in the group has actually finished a novel.  Some of them have even published them.

But here, at the end of 2011, I think I may actually finish my novel!  The end is in sight. I think I even know how it ends (if the characters will stop changing things on me).  I'm so excited--and scared.  It's the biggest thing I've ever made that wasn't a human being (and those human beings I made aren't done yet--they're still growing).

But still, I've made it through the long haul (almost).  I, at least, can believe that I will make it through.

Then the real work begins: rewrites!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Problems of Three Little People

This may go without saying (has that ever stopped a blogger?), but Casablanca is a perfect movie.

I had occasion to notice this again, when my husband took me to see it at our art-house/university movie theater last night (see earlier post on my awesome husband). 

Most movies have a false moment.  Something that keeps it from perfection:  a less than stellar bit part performance, a song that doesn't quite fit the setting, a badly written line.  Even movies I love dearly will have a trip-up.  I love them in spite of their flaws.

If Casablanca has flaws, I can't find them.

There's Humphrey of course, amazing in nearly everything he ever made. But nowhere more than here.  He was able to convey so much with the smallest changes in his expression and voice.  No scenery chewing needed.  Sarcastic naivete: "Are my eyes really brown?" Deep wounds hidden beneath breezy banter: "The Germans wore gray. You wore blue."

Rick never says what he feels or feels what he says. Rick seems so straightforward and direct, yet his every line is full of layers and subtexts.  He is sincerity hiding behind a cynical veneer, his sincerity hidden even from himself. Victor Lazlo pegged it:  "You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't believe in his heart."  Rick tells us over and over again that he doesn't stick his neck out for anyone.  He protests so much that we know it can't be true.

But my celebrity crush on a man who died before I was born aside (remind to tell you about my thing for shoulders . . . and real hats), it's not just Humphrey.

What amazed me this time, my first time seeing it on the big screen, was the small parts.  Every character seems perfectly cast and perfectly performed:  from Sam-the-piano-player to the unnamed pickpocket, from the future American immigrants (What watch?) to Peter Lorre's Ugarte, from Rick's ex-lover Yvonne to the Spanish singer and guitarist.  Corinna Mura, the singer and guitarist, had a moment that struck me this time:  holding her performer's smile in place, tightly, when the German officers walked by her.  The tightness of that smile spoke volumes.

Those small moments are what make the movie for me.  It's not Gone With the Wind, with huge sweeping vistas and huge sweeping emotions.  It's not impressive special effects or innovative camera techniques.  It's not shocking plot twists or red herrings.  No tricks. No games. Just an excellent story about the problems of three little people.

It's perfect.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Peace, Quiet and Other Disasters

            My husband and I just had a little vacation. Nearly three whole days of just me and just him. It’s the first time we’ve done that since our youngest was born, four and a half years ago. I know! When we tell people that, they look at us like we’re crazy. I’m not entirely sure that they’re wrong (see earlier post about fleetness of time).
            We had a lovely first day. Our friend Rebecca hooked us up with a friend of a friend benefit: a gorgeous vacation house we could never have afforded to rent, quite near a state park. The house had balconies and porches everywhere, windows looking every direction and all you could see were autumn-colored trees.
            It was quiet, a luxury that my quiet husband and his quiet wife nearly never get to enjoy: we have two quite loud children and a dog, you see. We couldn’t hear cars, neighbors or children . . .because none of them were there! We slept late, played board games, played other games you don’t write about in respectable blogs like this one, took naps, sat by the fire, ate curry (a favorite when the kids aren’t with us). Heaven. It would’ve been possible to go the whole weekend without seeing anyone else if not for the need to pick something up from the grocery that we’d forgotten. Heaven. Truly.
            Like all the best laid plans of mice and men, well, gang aft-a gley, or something like that. I got sick Friday night. Of course. Probably food poisoning, since it was short lived and didn’t affect T. Probably I gave it myself in the cooking process: handling the raw chicken. Cause we both ate it, but only I got sick.
But being the sunny-side people that we are, we thought, what a luxurious way to be sick! In a lovely setting, with an extra bed so T could still rest, with no children to keep away from Mommy and keep happy without her. No schedules to keep. When I nodded off on the couch for two hours, it just meant that T had to be quiet (see above: the luxury of quiet in a noisy life).
            Besides, we’ve never had a plan go without a hitch. Starting with our very first weekend away together, there was something to deal with each time: a UTI, upset stomachs, small injuries, broken down vehicles. We’ve always thought it showed our strength as a couple that we got through all these obstacles with so little contention between us. We’re a good team. I was feeling better by Saturday afternoon, so we took a Sunday drive a few hours early, happy that it wasn’t another Sunday drive to an Urgent Care Center.
            By the time it actually was Sunday, I was myself again, able to eat breakfast and stay awake and enjoy a short hike that included two waterfalls. Not a bad way to end our quiet weekend at all: holding hands next to a waterfall.
            So now that I’m back in the real world again, already running hard to keep up with groceries and girls, it’s good to remember the quiet.  Here’s to another quiet weekend, before another four and a half years have passed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mother-in-Law Clean

My mother-in-law is a very nice woman. She has been open and accepting of me for all my oddities from the very beginning. I have every reason to believe that she is happy that I and my daughter (from a previous marriage) joined her family, and added another granddaughter to the mix shortly thereafter.

This doesn't at all change the fact that I am in a mild panic because she is coming to visit tomorrow.

I think it's because she's a good housekeeper. I'm not.

Everyone has the level of clutter and mess they are willing to live with. Hers is very low. Mine, much higher.

We have several layers of "acceptably clean" depending on who's coming to dinner.

Just us four: If the table has too much on it, we eat dinner on TV trays together.

My sister and brother-in-law: We clear the diningroom table.

My own parents: I change all the bedding and make sure all seating is clear. Done.

A party: Every major surface is clear. I have located and made accessible the appropriate toys, games, etc. A lot of cooking happens.

My mother-in-law: I have never achieved a level of cleanliness for this that relieves all my stress. I think it would require starting over in a new house each time and not admitting the children or the dog.

So, why is that?

I imagine her coming into my house and suddenly I can see how cluttered and dusty we are.

I don't really think she judges me or us for this. She knows how ridiculously busy we (I) am--working full time, feeding everybody reasonably well every day, getting the tween and the preschooler to all the right locations, finding time for my own writing, and sometimes putting my feet up and watching an old movie. I also sleep more than she does.

Is it a kind of competition? That seems silly. But, just because something is silly doesn't mean I don't suffer over it. (Remind me to tell you about how jealous I get over my so-not-a-flirt husband sometime.) Maybe I really do feel like my house has to be as neat as hers if she's going to see it. It's unrealistic: we have a lot more stuff and a lot more day to day chaos. But since when have I limited my desires to what is realistic?

A kinder view: maybe I'm just being a kid. Maybe I need that gold star, that moment when she says (again), "Wow! The place looks great! You must be taking good care of my son and grandchildren. You're awesome!" It's actually pretty funny to imagine her making that speech as she walks through my door tomorrow afternoon.

Still, maybe it's good she comes to visit from time. It makes me strive for that impossible level "Mother-in-Law Clean." My house looks way better than it usually does.

It may even last a day or two after she leaves.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Had we but world enough, and time

I work in a very strange profession. I have a job that most people agree is important, yet is one of the lowest paying jobs a professional can have. Everyone has an opinion about how the job should be done: legislators, religious leaders, parents, people on the street. I can't think of another profession where people with no training or experience in your field think they can advise you on how best to do your job.

Unlike other professions, where a person builds in responsibility with experience and newbies are given time to develop skills on lower-level projects, mine is a profession where you get the full enchilada on day one. Either you survive, or you quit.

Yep you guessed it, I teach. Public school. Middle school.

Every year since I began, I have been asked to do more, with less money, and more importantly less time.

Time is the part that rankles me.

Every single day I produce six engaging, edifying lessons which both push the gifted students and provide support for the struggling students without losing the interest of students at any other level. Each lesson is supposed to help each child become a 21st century learner and foster literacy skills. I utilize a variety of ever-changing forms of technology and teach the children to do so as well. I am maintain contact with 130 families, informing each parent of whatever struggles and problems their child faces in my classroom. I maintain a website that details everything that is happening in my classroom and provides resources students and parents can use at home. I am also my own secretary--making all my own copies, creating my own documents, collating, stapling, and filing. I am my own housekeeper as well, cleaning tables, whiteboards, chairs, etc.

To accomplish all this, I get two "prep periods" a day. This is teacher talk for the time during the day when you do not have supervisory duty (no students in your room). My two prep periods are one hour and six minutes and thirty-three minutes in duration (if I count my lunch, too). However, I rarely get all ninety-nine minutes. There are meetings one to three times a week, too. I try to eat lunch most days.

Because I am utterly amazing, and because I can now pull from sixteen years of classroom experience, I manage to produce lessons that please me more often than not. But I am always always always behind on assessment--paper grading, providing meaningful feedback to the kiddos to help them grow. I am frustrated 100% of the time because of time--99 minutes a day is not enough to do the preparation work at the level it should be getting done at. No matter how efficient I become, the work will never fit in the work day.

When I look at the work days of friends who do not teach, I get very jealous. When one friend is asked to make a presentation (one presentation--I make six daily), she is relieved of her other duties for three days so she can prepare. When another friend was asked to use a new form of technology, he was sent to a week-long training session at company expense and given three day workshops as follow up quarterly for a year.

Gah! What I could do! The amazing things I could do, if my profession had respect for the time it takes to do it well.

Once I had a teaching job with adequate time. It was awesome! I taught for a summer program at Johns Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth. I taught one class of fifteen kids for two sessions a day. I had four hours a day to prep one lesson and do any assessment. Because it was a summer program, I didn't have to maintain a website or keep in contact with the kids' parents on a daily basis. For the first time in my teaching career, I felt like I was doing it justice. I wish teaching could always be like this.

It's not, though. So, why teach?

At its worst moments, it's like . . . spitting into the wind, herding cats, banging your head against a wall, hammering on cold iron, whistling in the dark, fiddling while Rome burns, tiptoeing through a minefield blindfolded, trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

Why teach? Because, at its best moments, it's like . . .touching the future, bridging the abyss, grounding live wires, opening doors, awakening sleeping giants, lighting the lamp that illuminates the world.

Really if you are a teacher, there's nothing else you could do. It's the only thing that feels right.

But I'll continue to wish for more time. I know, I know. If wishes were horses . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The days are long, but the years are short

So, I'm reading The Happiness Project right now. I don't want to write a book review right now, but I will say that the book surprised me pleasantly. I've gotten much more from it than I expected.

What I do want to write about is one line from the book, my title: the days are long, but the years are short. During this time of my life when I'm feeling like time goes so incredibly quickly, I read this line and immediately wrote it down as a Great Truth. Yes! That's it, exactly!

T and I are always having conversations about something that just happened, then realizing that whatever it was actually happened months or even years ago. A few months ago, we had our fifth wedding anniversary. Five years? How the heck did that happen? I'm sure it was just last week that we were trying to decide if we should date.

So, what's making the days so long, but the years short? In short: kids. When T and I deciding to join forces in the good fight, we already had one kid from my first marriage, M. Plus, I have somewhere between 120 and 150 kids each semester. Then there was N, our younger girl. Our hurricane.

My mother told me, when I spoke of having a second child, "You should know, Samantha. Two children is not double the work. It is exponentially more work." I nodded sagely, but, of course, I didn't understand. It's one of those things you can't understand until you've experienced it firsthand, like being in love.

She was right you know. Two children is definitely way more than double the work. But it is also way more than double the wonder, double the joy, double the love. It's fast, furious, crazy, stressful and wonderful.

My legs hurt after a long day of teaching today. My girls told me to put my feet up, made me a cup of hibiscus tea (because it's pink), and then made me the middle of a cuddle sandwich that lasted the better part of an hour. Now that's the way to end a long day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why Everyone Should Have a Meal Plan

So, I've found my little key to calmness in this chaos we call family life: meal plans.

Like every family, we struggle to balance everyone's needs and wants. Mom wants to go to a reading on Thursday, so Dad will have to handle the playdate transportation. Big Sis needs a trip to the library for a school project, so Little Sis will have to be patient and quiet in the "big kid" section.

We're really really really organized about this. We got gmail accounts for all of us (the littlest got one within days of being born) and shared all the calendars, so we can color code everyone's commitments. That helps--at least we can get a clear picture of what kind of chaos we're in for in a given week.

But the key is the meal plan.

It makes me feel a little like Donna Reed or maybe June Cleaver to say it, but you've got to have a meal plan. Having the week's menu planned out in advance saves time, energy and calories. It relieves stress. Plus, everyone gets to eat!

Each weekend, my husband and I shut ourselves away from the children for an hour or so and sit down for the planning meeting. We examine each day and talk through all the commitments, deciding what needs to be cut and what gets prioritized. Part of this is figuring out how to get everyone fed. Who will prepare what and when? Will we get to eat all together? Then the meal plan becomes a grocery list and someone goes shopping.

The planning meeting is a vital part of the weekend for me. It's our guaranteed time to touch base. Making these decisions together is bonding time. I think it's something T started doing for me, because I'm a real plan-ahead girl. Whatever it is, I want to know at least a week in advance. But now, he values the time, too. In taking care of the girls' needs, it can be hard to finish whole sentences and both of us really value this chance to set priorities together, even if it's just one week at a time.

Sometimes, I think it's the only thing that keeps my head above water: I know what's for dinner.

So, any given day, I get home from school, probably exhausted, definitely brain dead. If I had to decide on what to prepare at a moment like that, we would eat a lot of takeout pizza. But luckily, we've already planned it out.

I pull out my iPhone and look at today in the calendar: spaghetti and meatballs, Betsy and garlic bread. (Betsy is a family word for a very simple salad: lettuce, carrots and cucumber. It's named after a friend.) I put the girls on tasks. Big sister can fill a pot with water and put it on to boil. Little sister can get the garlic bread out of the freezer and get Mommy a cookie sheet. I start chopping vegetables. Someone microwaves the meatballs and sauce. And vóila, dinner. It's simple, but not bad for Wednesday night after soccer practice.

By the time Raleigh and the traffic in between lets us have Daddy back, we are ready to eat, at the table or on TV trays while we watch The Avengers cartoon series together.

I lean back and sigh. Yep, we made it through again. Dinner is served.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Problems with Television Shows

My husband (T) my older daughter (M-age 11) and I are always looking for TV shows to watch together. It's really difficult to find anything that pleases all three of us. Not too scary or too "adult" for the 11 year old, not too dull or hackneyed for the adults. T and I are not easy to please with television. We have little patience for cliche or poor writing. We are a pretty critical audience.

So, we've been watching Castle for the past couple of seasons. The violence and sex are within M's comfort zone. It has Nathan Fillion, an actor we all enjoy (Dr. Horrible, Firefly). It has been clever, but not over my M's head. When it has fallen into predictable patterns (like when the killer several times in a row was the person you met early in the story but thought wasn't important), it righted itself quickly.

We just watched the first episode of season 3 last night. My husband and I, and to a lesser degree, our daughter, had been really disappointed with the ending to season two. For my husband and me, the issue was all the cliches. The show had successfully avoided falling into a lot of traps, but suddenly in the end of season two, we had a main character turn out to be a traitor and one character's personal tragedy morph into a major conspiracy. We thought "Oh, no. There's been a focus group." The disappointment continued into the start of season three. M felt cheated by the love plot line. A lot was promised, then it was snatched away at the last minute.

As we talked about it afterward (the best part of watching TV--talking about it afterward!), I wondered if maybe the problem is with the medium. The writers need to build a long arc tension in the romance department, but ratchet it up enough episode by episode to keep us involved. That push and pull of when to get the male and female lead together (if at all) has been the bane of many a TV show. Shows have just fallen apart when the leads get together. No one seems to be able to write through that transition from "should we?" to "we shall" and beyond.

So, I think it's about pacing. In a movie, or a novel, the writer knows how long she or he has to play with. In a TV series, the writers don't know if the show will run half a season or twelve seasons, so if they let the couple get too close too quickly, they have to keep pulling it back and if they don't go quickly enough, they might not get there at all. They have to create new roadblocks and believable complications, sometimes in the space of just an episode or two, when the build-up took an entire season.

Sometimes, it's smooth. At the end of season one, Kate almost told Castle how she felt, only to find him on the arm of his ex. Opportunity lost. Poor timing. That played well for me.

Season two into season three, however, we had her nearly die. He confesses his love when he thinks he's going to lose her (cliche!) and she pretends not to remember it and doesn't talk to him for three months. In face, she behaves so badly, that all of thought that Castle should dump her. Kate was crossing that line from "I've got history" into "scary damaged goods." Castle is too good a guy for that.

So, Castle, you've got two more episodes to win us back. Or we'll move to other shows. We're worried you might be damaged goods.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Let's try this again

I like the idea of a blog. As someone who aspires to be a novelist, I should be writing all the time. In a way, I am. But the kind of writing I do in my teaching (lesson plans, explanations, classroom website, etc.) doesn't touch the same parts of my brain as my creative writing.

I like that part of my brain. I'd like to be in contact with it more often. It's a nice place, where unexpected connections pop up and fill me with a glow of epiphany. Like when I realized that Kirk and Sherry (protagonists in my novel--working title: His Other Mother) were dealing with many of the same issues that ended my first marriage. I had no idea, until I read a scene aloud to a group of writings I was spending a weekend with and was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness for Kirk and Sherry, the kind of sadness that is more personal than fictional. See, I don't need therapy--just some writing time!

Obviously, I have not, thus far, written much here. I'm hoping to change that. It's nearly Rosh Hashanah. A new school year has begun. This is the time of year that I feel the urge for new resolutions and self-improvement. So, here's the goal this year: write once a week. Here. About anything.

It's not like I've lacked ideas. I just haven't blocked out the time to do anything with them. I have always believed that the key to success in any endeavor is time invested: practice. So, if I want to get more out of my novel-writing time (a few hours every couple of weeks, assuming everyone in the house is healthy), I need to exercise that "creative writing" part of my brain, keep it strong and functioning.

I like me better when I've been writing. I bet other people do too.

So, let's try this again.