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December 2007
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February 2008

Smart Moves

House is torn up, but it'll be warm and worth it when we're done with this project! I'm a few chapters short of my goal to have my novel outlined thru chapter 15 by month's end, since that would be, uh, today. If Baby Chi Chi cooperates I might be able to pull it off but I'm actively working on getting some babysitting help so I can work.

I am also starting to put together my readers group for getting feedback and proofreading help before sending it off to agents. If you would like to help me AND you have time to do it in the next couple months, let me know! I think I'll send it out a couple chapters at a time instead of the whole manuscript at once. It seems that'll work better.

Oh - it occurs to me that maybe I haven't written about my new writing tool - what I once thought to be the overrated outline turns out to be a very, very helpful strategy.

I finally confessed to Matt a couple weeks ago that I really don't know what the hell I'm doing when it comes to finishing this novel. I want it, I've got stacks of pages and revisions and sticky notes everywhere but what do I DO with it all to organize it into something someone would actually read and understand?

Try an outline.

I don't know.

Honey, just try it.

What would it look like, exactly.

You want me to draw it out for you?

Actually, yes.

So he did. And here I am finally on roll again making serious progress toward completion. I've worked out nearly all my holes and roadblocks with this handy little outline. His advice and sample outline were exactly what I'd been looking for in book after book, a formula to get me past my block, a way to take the creative parts and guide me through the complete telling of my story. I proudly showed him my outlines for each chapter. He started laughing when he saw I'd followed his sample to the letter.


Well, it's just that it's not the Holy Grail or anything. I made it up.

Made it up?


Well, whatever. It's working for me. I'm so glad I talked to you about it. I was scared you'd think it was stupid that I was so stuck with the logistics.

No problem. Why do you think so many writers marry English teachers?

Do they?

I don't know but it seems like a smart move.

Yes. Yes, it was.

Jealous much?

Dscf3491 Mine will be the kid who can't move his arms on snow days. But at least he's warm, right?

We went for a little walk in the snow today and came home to find Lucy had dug through the garbage can full of diapers, raw chicken, coffee grounds and other yummy treats. She made a point to shred one diaper in each room. Also, she got Sam's Rookie Bear teething toy and appears to have dragged it through her path of destruction.

Luckily, I'm a scrapbooker so I pulled my camera out of my pocket and took some pictures of the carnage before commencing my hazmat cleanup. Dscf3493 Dscf3494

Bad Mommy Morning

Yesterday I had this fantasy of leaving my husband. With the baby monitor turned up full blast and a note stuck to the antenna. Then, even in my fantasy, I realized I couldn't leave. There's not enough milk.

I can hear it now: You would leave your family!? No. No, I wouldn't. That does not mean that I don't occasionally long for moments all to myself without my Baby Barnacle. I'd love to take a shower and have time to put on deodorant and lotion. Maybe even do something with my hair. And though I know I'd never leave my husband because he is truly awesome, it does not mean I'm not sick of the "who does more" debate which is usually initiated by the "whose job is harder" argument. The aforementioned argument may or may not be initiated by yours truly. The thing of it is, I'm not trying to turn it into some sort of competition, nor do I discredit what he does, I just want him to simply understand that this whole being at home to take care of the baby business is not so much sing-a-longs and joyous sessions of peek-a-boo. It's not watching Dr. Phil and Oprah while the baby sleeps sweetly in your arms. It's also blowouts at the grocery store followed by screaming meltdowns, it's "I'm pretending to be asleep so you start something and then I'll wake up insisting that you stop what you're doing immediately," it's like someone setting an alarm clock and not telling you how long you have before it goes off. And that may not sound all that hard. Unless you've done it. I know, I know it's not Baghdad. But still.

Yeah, sometimes I'm jealous of Matt for being able to hop out of bed take a shower, and leave for work where he then gets rewarded for his efforts in the form of a paycheck. Sometimes I miss my old life. The one before my clothes were separated into piles of "things that fit" "things that sort of fit" and "things to only wear at home because I couldn't get the spit-up stains out." Having said that, would I go back to life before Sam?

No. Even the thought of not having him in my life hurts.   

I live and write in full disclosure mode on purpose. Choice not chance, baby. I know some people believe in operating with much more privacy and that's cool. However, if all of us go around keeping our ugly shit to ourselves, it makes us feel alone in our sadness and stress. It makes us feel like maybe there is something wrong with us since, you know, everyone else seems to be coping pretty well.

So there you have it, notes from a bad mommy morning. The truth with no apologies.

National Handwriting Day

It is crazy stupid what motivates me but last night I stayed up working until one a.m. because I wanted to be able to use my new calendar and track my work. I am stuck at outlining chapter six. I'm not sure if I'm stuck because I took a few days off to go to Walla Walla or if I'm really just stuck but either way I've got to figure it out and keep going because I want to be outlined through Chapter 13 by month's end. And you know I'll want to check off that little box on my January Goal Page!

Yesterday, according to my writer's calendar was "National Handwriting Day." Seeing that gave me a flashback to when I was at McCarver Elementary and learning cursive. My mom was in the hospital and Dad was trying to help us with our homework. It was a very frustrating night. Also, my dad did not make macaroni and cheese the Kraft way. Instead, he thought he was doing a good thing by making us a special dinner with baked mac and cheese. We did not appreciate his gourmet treatment and couldn't wait for Mom to get home. Not just 'cause of the cooking thing, though.

I had really sloppy handwriting. Or, I didn't care. Either way, Dad would check our homework before bed and if mine was really sloppy he'd tear it up and I'd be back to the drawing board. I guess it was worth it because I get compliments on my handwriting now. But damn.

Geek, Exposed

Moleskine_planner This might be my geekiest post yet ... my writing calendar came in the mail yesterday and I'm excited to start filling it in with my progress. I've been looking for ways to figure out how to work from home smarter. I know "experts" say you should never have more than one calendar but I've always had a personal calendar and a work calendar on my desk at work to keep track of deadlines, projects and cover my ass kind of stuff. It only makes sense that I stick with that system since it reminds me that the two are separate things. I didn't like my writing goals and deadlines mixed in with things like: get food for Lucy, batteries for swing, mail package to Marlo and finish thank you notes.

If you know me, you know I delight in all things office supply related. Selecting just the right calendar is important to me so I was stoked to find this one online: Bylines - 2008 Writer's Desk Calendar. The Essential Weekly Planner for Writers. It includes: literary holidays, goal planning, monthly task lists, a submission tracker, purchase tracker for taxes and lots of other cool stuff. Most importantly it provides a portable place to track my writing.

And then, I can't believe I haven't written about this already because I was so excited when I brought it home I kept showing it to Matt and Booker who were staring at me like: really? For some people to be this enthusiastic it takes diamonds or Disneyland. Not me, baby. For me it's all about the simple things, like my beautiful little Moleskine planner. I'm using that as one big Post-it to keep track of life's little details as well as all of Baby Chi Chi's milestones - like the first time he "talked" all day long (yesterday), the first time we went to a movie with him (disaster), his shot records, etc.

It turns out I'm not the only office supply, moleskine geek out there. Check out this site if you're into that sort of thing too. How do you know if you'd be into it? Well, you were the kid who secretly looked forward to summer's end so you could buy new school supplies, you are pleased to see that Trapper Keepers are making a comeback and wish you could use Pee Chees at work.

Lucy Brown strikes back

January_17_2008_002 January_17_2008_004 Lucy's been acting the part of a jealous toddler with little passive aggressive moves like waiting until I have my hands full feeding the baby and then taking something out of the trash, going out of her way to show me she has contraband in her mouth and then trotting upstairs knowing all the while that I don't raise my voice while feeding him and I'm not about to chase up the stairs after her.

I'm learning to get things up out of temptation's way before leaving the house. The other day she supervised me folding laundry. We made eye contact when I put Sam's puppy rattle in the middle of the bed where she couldn't reach it. Then she supervised me putting his miscellaneous baby crap in a basket by his swing-crib. Can't you just see her with a visor, clipboard and badge: Lucy Brown, supervisor?

Sam and I headed out to run some errands. Sam had his little playing possum adventure and then we came home to find a series of surprises left by little Miss. Lucy. First thing I see when I open the door is Sam's puppy rattle showing signs of some rough play. Where do you think I found Lucy? On the middle of the bed in place of Rattle Puppy. I saw she rooted through Sam's basket of baby crap. When I went upstairs to my office I saw she'd left some of his things in the doorway. Message received, Lucy Baby.

Do babies play possum?

Do babies play possum or is Sam already developing my sick sense of humor? Because it really is one or the other. In my efforts to stop the "Life is a crapshoot" movement, I develped some {sound of God laughing here} plans and lists to keep things Organized. The new plan includes one errand day instead of going to town every damn day. Sure it'll be good from an environmental and economical perspective but it's also a sanity saver becuase getting Baby Chi Chi in and out of the car seat, in and out of the Bjorn and in and out of store after store sucks. By the way, I apologize to anyone reading this who happened to be at Winco this morning. Sam screamed his way through the bulk food aisle and the only thing I did to stop him was walk faster and cut the list down to "MUST have before leaving the store items." Why didn't you use his cumlik? You might wonder. He spit it out in the entry way and I stepped on it. Back up binks were in the car.

After our grocery adventure, I got him buckled back into the truck and let him cry since his new thing is crying because he's super tired and won't give in to sleep without a proper fight. As I pull onto the highway, he's silent. I can only see from his nose down in the mirror. His cumlik is hanging out of his mouth like a cigar. How sweet, he passed out. I enjoy the silence for one stop light, pull into the bank parking lot and get a bad feeling. I turn around to look at him and see that his eyes are actually WIDE open and he is dead still. But not blue. He'd be blue if he was dying, right? Right?!? Oh my God! Something is wrong with my baby! Sam! Sam! Sam! I'm screaming now, tugging at his arm and stopping the truck in the middle of the lot to get into the back and rip him out of the car seat. Just as I'm pulling him out he gives me a slow, sly smile and leans in for a cuddle. I'm standing in the middle of the parking lot crying and cuddling him. How crazy I must've looked. But, thank you to NO ONE for stopping to help. If you're going about your business and notice someone freaking out, screaming their baby's name over and over again, go ahead and offer to help. Though I suppose you, my friends, don't need that reminder. 

Some strange thoughts that came to me during that panicky minute: I should've paid more attention to the baby CPR tape at the hospital; I didn't wash my hands after the grocery store I shouldn't put my finger in his mouth, but then again he could be choking; When I first realized something was wrong I lost it for a second and got all fumbly with the door lock and something inside me kicked in to calm me down and remind me to stay level in order to help him. Once I knew he was fine, I broke down. My leg was shaking so bad I couldn't drive for fifteen minutes afterwards.

We went about our business after that: bank, library, Lowe's for pellets, post office and finally Home Sweet Home. Where Lucy Baby had a little surprise waiting for us. More on that later, Baby Chi Chi calls from the crib.

Goodbye Maternity leave; hello work-from-home mama!

MosaicnakedbabyThe whole "everyday is a crap shoot" thing wasn't working for me anymore. And we haven't exactly gotten a thank you note from Visa yet, but it's really time for me to get back to work for both money and my sanity.

It's been 3 1/2 months and you guys keep telling me it'll get better so I trust this will work. Here's the thing: I have to treat this exactly like a "real" job but then balance that treatment with the fact that it's a unique job in the sense that my commute consists of climbing the stairs and I am technically available. I've been thinking about how to make this whole writing from home thing actually work. Not just dream about it and plan for someday but to make it my reality. Today. Here's my list so far:

  • Take a page out of Matt's book. He would never stick around and chat in the morning to see how I'm feeling or visit with people who stop by, no matter how much he likes them, if he's on his way to work. Me? I don't want to seem rude so I am polite at the expense of my time to write. I mean, I used to be. Now I realize I have to risk being rude to finish my book and get Nathalie's Notes profitable.
  • A schedule. So 9-5 isn't going to happen but couples make all kinds of situations work. Matt and I made a commitment to give me time to work from 6-8 p.m. at least three nights a week.
  • Be organized. In order to honor the above commitment I have to do some things differently to be ready to actually WORK those hours.
  • Let some shit go. Okay, lots of it. For example, I haven't finished Christmas cards. I am officially done with them anyway. If I haven't sent yours yet, I'm going to have to play the Newborn card here. Sorry.
  • Remember that as a writer, I am always "on the clock." I take notes all day long on article ideas, scenes to develop in the book and snatches of conversations I've overheard - I think it's called eavesdropping if you're not a writer.
  • Give in to Baby Chi Chi's desire to be a happy naked baby. See above pictures. I figured out the other day that if I put a towel and pile of diapers on the floor and am willing to do a little extra laundry, I can have a very happy baby beside me while I work for nearly 20 minutes at a time. This includes some pausing for playing "hide the kikili."
  • Admit that I was afraid and stuck. Out loud. Which amazingly helped me get unstuck and Matt worked with me to develop a writing plan that is working so far. It includes, if you can believe it, setting realistic goals, being accountable for them and sitting my butt in my chair to work toward them.

He's got the look

January_2008_037 January_2008_026 Oh, Come on!! and Are you kidding me with this?

That's what I think Sam is thinking in these pictures. I was trying to do the Baby Yoga DVD with him. It was going okay until the chanting started. Naga Chamu Ungu.... he looked at me like "Um, mom? This isn't really our thing." And he's right. Instead he watched and laughed while I did jumping jacks and jogged in place with Lucy jumping along.